In Which Harry and Hermione Learn Something About Love
“Amortentia, Harry? Really?” Hermione scoffed at Harry’s childishness.
“Oh, come on, Hermione. The effects are vile, sure, but the smell does tell you who you love.”
Hermione slapped a hand to her head. Some days, she really had no idea why she was friends with someone so immature. “It doesn’t.”
“Yes, it does. That’s what it says in our textbook, and Professor Slughorn said so, too. Even you said it.”
“No, I didn’t. I said it smells like what you’re most attracted to.” Hermione stopped there and let Harry finish that train of logic on his own. It would hardly internalise itself in him if she held his hand the whole way.
Harry frowned, and his brows furrowed as he sunk into thought. “Do you mean attracted to physically?”
Oh, so close, but yet so far, Hermione thought to herself. “That can play a part. Amortentia does work with romantic love, not friendship love. But no, not primarily. Imagine everyone in the world is turned into a number, put into a set, and amortentia picks exactly one element to present to you. How could that go wrong?”
“Well…I suppose if there are duplicates, how would you distinguish between them?”
Oh, how Harry was dancing around what Hermione was trying to tell him. She had to wonder if he was really missing the point, or if he was just teasing her. “That could be a problem, but suppose it’s not. It is highly unlikely that you’re attracted to two people in exactly the same manner, after all.”
“The set could be empty?”
“Is that a question or an answer?”
“An answer I want to know which of right or wrong it is,” Harry said, rolling his eyes.
Despite how annoying this topic was for her, Hermione chuckled at that. “Okay, sure. You could be the last person in the universe, but I suspect you’d have more pressing concerns then than finding love.”
Grinning, Harry said, “At least I’d finally have some peace and quiet.” It was Hermione’s turn to roll her eyes. “If not that, then is it that love isn’t static? But then you could just smell the amortentia again every few days, though.”
“That is a good point, but not what I was getting at. With your earlier idea of duplicates in mind, instead of having to distinguish between them, you’d have to pick one amongst several choices who could all be equally valid but constantly vying for number one.”
“I’m pretty sure neither of us are in love with multiple people, though.”
Hermione actually turned to a wall and banged her head on it, but only after casting a cushioning charm on herself. Why was Harry always a single step away from the right conclusion? Finally, she spun around and snatched the vial of amortentia in his hands away and shoved it right under his nose. “What do you smell?”
After a moment to get over his shock, Harry answered, “Treacle tart, a broomstick, and… I still can’t figure out what that last one is. Something flowery, probably from the Burrow.”
Pinching the bridge of her nose with her free hand, Hermione marvelled at Harry’s thickness. That was obviously Ginny. Not because he held any particular love for her, of course, but because of the one big reason amortentia was worthless that he kept missing.
Well, unless Harry was hiding something about himself. That would break more than one girl’s heart.
“Okay, so you really don’t know what that last thing is?”
“Yes…” Harry said, hesitantly. Then, he realised the obvious. “You know?”
“Of course I know. I’m not nearly as slow on the uptake as you.”
“Oi!” Harry accompanied his protest with a weak nudge to the arm. Oh, how far he had come from that tiny eleven-year-old who was afraid of hugs. That, at least, brought a smile to Hermione’s face. “If you’re so smart, who do you smell?”
Hermione’s smile fell off, and she clenched her teeth. “Someone who drives me spare.”
“Malfoy?” Harry shouted in pure, unadulterated shock.
“Of course not, Harry. Don’t be daft.”
Harry let out a sigh of relief. Once done, he asked, “Who, then?”
“It really doesn’t matter. Honestly, it doesn’t. Like I said, amortentia doesn’t reveal love. Not unless it’s already obvious.”
“Like it is for me?”
“No, Harry. You’re still missing the point. Yours is obvious for the same reason that mine is obvious. Anyone with half a brain can use deductive reasoning to figure it out.”
“Once again, oi!”
Despite her laughter, Hermione gave Harry an expectant look. He took the hint and got to thinking.
After an almost embarrassingly long time, Harry, rather confused, said, “Ginny?”
“The boy can learn!” Hermione said in mock celebration. “Do you love Ginny?”
“Er… Not really.”
“Of course not,” Hermione said. From the look on Harry’s face, he was finally just starting to get it. “You don’t even know what…” She cut herself off there before she said something that could easily be misinterpreted as terribly hurtful by an abused kid. “Look, Harry. You’re not expected to be in love with anyone, or even to really understand love much at all yet. You’re sixteen, male, and you’ve only ever been on one date that you left early for me.”
Just now, Hermione realised that she had never properly apologised. “Sorry about that, by the way.”
Harry shrugged. “It’s fine. Cho wasn’t the girl for me, anyway. Now, you were saying?”
“Oh! Yes, well, do you even have a crush on Ginny?”
Harry placed his thumb on his cheek and cupped his chin with his index finger, stroking his rather unimpressive stubble thoughtfully. “Maybe? I mean, she’s Ron’s sister, but she is pretty.”
“That doesn’t matter. You don’t really know, so my point is made. Tell me what’s wrong with using amortentia to find love.”
Argh! This – this boy! Hermione wanted to tear her hair out. He still was missing the point. Frustrated beyond belief, she set down the vial of amortentia in her hand, grabbed Harry by the tie, and snogged him senseless. Once done, she shoved him away, stuck the amortentia under his nose again, and waited for him to recover from his daze.
Finally – finally – Harry got it and, although still very out of it, said, “If you’re not in love with anyone, it just picks whoever you most want to shag at the moment.”
“Correct!” Hermione shouted, victorious at last. If all those numbers – all those people to choose from – were arbitrarily close to zero, then amortentia could only produce error results. As far as maths analysts were concerned, numbers that small were zero. “Love isn’t something you just find, nor is it something a bottle can direct you to. It’s something built on friendship, and trust, and affection over time. You’ve talked to Ginny more since she stopped stalking you, but a strong relationship is built on a solid foundation of friendship, which isn’t something you much seem to be pursuing. And I don’t really see you trusting her with anything the way you trust me and Ron.”
“I suppose so…” Harry said, oddly contemplatively.
“Great, now are we done here, or do I have to knock some more sense into you?”
Harry just stood there staring at Hermione with an expression she was having trouble placing. While she could usually read him easily enough, this was something new, something entirely foreign to his face.
“What is it?”
“I think you’ve knocked more sense into me than you expected.”
Her head cocked to the side, Hermione asked, “What do you mean?”
Harry grinned and stole back the vial of amortentia. He held it up to Hermione’s nose and asked, “What do you smell?”
Her mouth only made it halfway open to tell Harry that it was none of his business what mean, emotionally shallow, vile boy her hormones had decided all on their own that she liked the appearance of, but the scent was different this time.
Finally, she understood, and she blushed.