It smelled fresh, like he was standing on the edge of a cliff looking out over the world, a little like a cold shower or a sharp laugh or the sizzle he heard in his Alchemy class when the molten metals touched the cool water and found their shape. That is, if any of those things could have a smell to them. His head felt dizzy and elated and overwhelmed, though he supposed that was sort of the point of the strongest love potion known to wizardkind. Professor Martell had said that most people could narrow the sensation down to two or three distinct smells, but it usually took a second sniff to focus the mind enough to pinpoint them.
Flowers, ink on parchment, and ...cold? He didn’t know that temperature could have a smell, but if he had to describe the third element of the potion, it would be similar to a cool breeze, a refreshing and bracing rush, like opening a window on a hot day.
There was something uncomfortably familiar about all of it. Was that normal? Surely he hadn’t met the love of his life already - he was only sixteen! Gendry didn’t have time to worry about some nice-smelling girl - he had a must-win match against Slytherin this weekend and he was behind on his Charms essay. Besides, lots of girls probably smelled like flowers.
Anguy made a humming noise beside him and grinned. “Smells like roast duck, if I’m honest.”
Wildflowers, he realized as he lay in bed. The smell wasn’t easily recognizable like rose petals or lavender - it was grassy and sweet and wild.
He thought about Margaery Tyrell smiling up at him, batting her eyelashes as she asked him to visit Hogsmeade with her. She had smelled sort of like roses. And when Tyene Sand had kissed him a few weeks ago, she had smelled sort of like lilies, he supposed. Neither had been unpleasant.
But the potion had smelled different, less like perfume and more like an unkept field on the side of a mountain. Gendry tried to picture them in his head and the image of Arya Stark with little flowers woven into her hair appeared.
He scowled as he flipped onto his side. Arya Stark had nothing to do with this. She was pretty and good at quidditch and she had worn flowers in her hair once - that did not mean he was in love with her. Hell, he didn’t even like her. Except for the way she played quidditch, of course. That was different.
“I’ll be there,” Arya Stark snapped, turning away from him and storming off, no doubt to go complain about his tryouts to her friends. Gendry rolled his eyes. She really was difficult. There was something about her eyes - they were so grey that looking at them for too long felt as if he had been plunged into the sea on a rainy day. She was cold, he decided. Even her hair, flipping past his face as she spun away from him, seemed to have an iciness to it.
He hadn’t thought about his love potion in months. He spent the spring busy fuming over Ramsay Bolton’s continued existence and he spent the summer working two (and a half, if he counted babysitting the younger kids at the foster home) jobs. And then Arya Stark gone and offered to proofread his Herbology essay.
Gendry watched - he had nothing better to do - as she bit her lip, tapping the page with care, the ink rearranging itself on the parchment. He had been surprised by her offer, but appreciated her help. He hated proofreading his work, scratching out his mistakes and fixing his spelling. Arya seemed to be taking her task seriously, her brows knit as her eyes scanned his work. Her hair was half pulled back, a few strands falling loose by her ear. The evening light coming in through the window lit her up slightly golden and she looked softer than he was used to.
She really was pretty. It was too bad she was so difficult.
“I like what you say here about hellebores being used in both love potions and severe sleeping draughts,” Arya said, rousing him. She tapped the parchment lightly, adding a dot of ink. “They’re so beautiful, it’s sort of cool that they can be deadly.” He stared at her, vaguely aware of a confused humming noise that had left his mouth at her words. She looked at him funny and came to his senses.
“Oh, yeah,” he said, “They’re very pretty.” Sort of like her. He swore for a moment that he could smell hellebores, mingling pleasantly with the ink drying on his parchment. Wait, no.
It was in his head, probably. A fluke - she happened to be holding his parchment, upon which he had written all about wildflowers and it had reminded him of the Amortentia. A coincidence.
But the rush he had felt in his Potions class last spring seemed to have slapped him across the face rather than drift in like a memory. No. Absolutely not.
He rifled through his copy of Advanced Potion Making until he found the page on Amortentia, hoping for some note about the potion’s smells being temporary, easily changeable. Thinking someone pretty was not the same as loving them. No potion could actually create love, and surely the smell would change as soon as he got over his unwanted attraction to Arya Stark.
It has a different aroma for everyone who smells it, reminding each person of the things that they find most attractive, even if the person doesn't acknowledge or is unaware of their fondness for the object of their affection themselves.
He slammed the book shut with a scowl.
Myranda Royce smelled like cinnamon and vanilla and any sane guy would have savoured every second he spent kissing her and would not have become distracted thinking about how good Arya Stark’s lips might taste against his.
Fuck it all, he was going to go mad.
Gendry groaned internally when he saw the flowers in her hair. Paired with the silky pink dress and the blond prick on her arm, he decided immediately to stay as far away from her as possible all evening. He knew that would be far easier said than done.
Being hugged by Arya Stark took the wind right out of him. Her head was against his chest and he couldn’t help but breathe her in.
He hadn’t asked for any confirmation, but the cool, fresh, flowery scent that wrapped itself around him and made his heart speed up probably said enough.
He thought it rather impressive, really, that he had held himself back from kissing her. On Baelish’s balcony, in the Room of Requirement, at New Year’s Eve - they had been so close to each other. Arya Stark was irresistible, smelling like a field of wildflowers, like a much-needed drizzle of rain, like a love letter - and he had resisted her.
He was the strongest person in the world, probably. If they had played a quidditch match on the first of January, he might have felt capable of sending a bludger to Wales.
As they yelled at each other in the rain, he told himself that the bracing rush he felt through every vein in his body was from the cold wind and icy raindrops needling at his face.
He didn’t give a shit what some potion hinted at, there was no way he was in love with her. She could carry on snogging Ned Dayne, it was nothing to him.
Her eyes were like the ocean, cold and unforgiving and breathtaking.
Ned Dayne hadn’t liked the flowers Arya wore in her hair.
Ned Dayne hadn’t liked the flowers Arya wore in her hair!
Ned Dayne was certifiably mad and perhaps the stupidest prick in the school. Gendry lay back on his bed and closed his eyes, taking a deep and content breath.
“Normal stuff,” Arya said casually, “you know, flowers and sweets and all that. How about you, Quentyn, did you smell anything interesting last year?”
Gendry stared at her. Flowers? He wondered what sort of flowers she smelled. Surely loads of people smelled flowers in a love potion. He wondered what kind of sweets she liked. She had devoured more than half of his gummy worms - maybe he should keep a supply of the worms handy, just in case she really liked them.
He tried his best not to think of Anguy and Tom’s faces if they found out that his efforts to woo Arya Stark were currently based around a bag of Honeydukes Writhing Worms. God, he was sort of pathetic, wasn’t he?
“So what does Amortentia actually smell like for you?” She said, rolling to avoid a bludger before popping back upright. He considered her cautiously. Why does she care? The fact that she was even asking made his stomach flip.
“Wildflowers,” he said after a moment, “and some other stuff.” He flew off, hoping he hadn’t said too much, hoping he might have said enough.
Gendry had received a handful of ‘O’s before, but this one felt special. The five-foot essay on Nux Myristica and its uses in neurological therapies in both wizard and muggle societies had been a nightmare to write, with so many complicated Latin words and muggle medical terms. He grinned at the paper, at the places where Arya had scrubbed a section of his scratched-out misspellings. The textbook she had given him had up-to-date information on muggle herbal remedies that Professor Smallwood had circled approvingly in her marking.
His research had been so careful, his arguments so convincing - it would have been a waste to see them diminished by his difficulty with letters.
When he saw Arya, he couldn’t help it. He swept her into a hug, grinning against her hair as he wrapped his arms around her.
The scroll of parchment in his hand, the flowery scent of her hair, the rush of exhilaration that ran through him - at this point, there was no use in pretending he wasn’t absolutely enamoured with her.
He should have kissed her in the library. She would have sighed against him and he would have been able to answer every question he had asked himself about why the coolness of her aura felt like a warm embrace. She probably would have tasted like gummy worms.
When she tapped his ear and a sprig of baby’s breath tucked itself into his hair, he thought he might faint. They matched now, flowers in their hair. He hadn’t had any firewhiskey, but he figured that Arya Stark putting baby's breath in his hair would probably give him a better rush than any amount of alcohol could ever offer.
Nothing could have prepared him for the feeling of Arya Stark’s lips on his skin, nor the overwhelming effect of her pulling her body tightly against his.
She had been drunk, it wouldn’t have been right, and besides, she had called it a mistake only moments after the act.
God, she had smelled good, though.
“Okay, so Gendry passed by me on that narrow staircase in the Astronomy Tower the other day and Katie, he smells ah-mazing,” the girl seated behind him in Transfiguration gushed. Katie sighed and Gendry winced. Surely they knew he could overhear their chatter.
“Keep your voice down, Luce, he might hear us," Katie whispered, "What did he smell like, though?”
“Like, sort of woodsy. Warm and cozy,” the first girl said dreamily. “I can only imagine how good it would feel to be swept up in his arms.” Her friend sighed again and Gendry felt his face heat up. What use was being “woodsy” and warm and cozy if the only person he wanted to sweep into his arms thought of him only as a friend and hardly seemed willing to talk to him anymore?
Imagine breathing in the most appealing, irresistible scent in the universe. Now take that sensation and multiply it by infinity. Kissing Arya Stark was the most overwhelming and hyper-stimulating thing Gendry had ever done. It was amazing. She was intoxicating. He never wanted to stop doing it, except perhaps to look at her or move his lips to a different part of her or, when absolutely necessary, breathe.
Gendry was certain, now, that he was the strongest person on the planet. With Arya’s hands on his belt buckle, he had stopped her, not wanting her to lose her virginity in such a rush in a dirty, dusty locker room.
“I want it to be comfortable for you,” he had said, “And not in a room that constantly smells like sweat.”
As if he could smell anything aside from Arya.
“What?” He asked as Arya giggled at him. She reached over and plucked a buttercup out of his hair before laying him back down in the grass and kissing him again.
The sex was imperfect and awkward and sweet and mindblowing and he swore he could have drowned in the afterglow, her hair splayed out on his pillow and the sprig of baby’s breath tucked back behind his ear.
She tucked pressed flowers into every letter she sent him. Even when she was miles away, her words on the parchment and the dried petals were enough to give him that same sensation, as if he was standing on the edge of a cliff, heart racing, more than happy to dive headfirst into the cold, grey sea.