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Pine Needles and Perfume

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February, 1959:

Ted glanced between his cauldron and his textbook, baffled as to where exactly their potion had gone so wrong. In an effort to be festive, Slughorn had the sixth years brewing Amortentia in the lead up to Valentine’s Day. And while Potions was hardly his strongest subject, Ted knew enough to know that he and David MacMillan’s potion should not be a burnt yellow with the lingering smell of old gym socks.

David obviously realized this as well, as he kept prodding at their concoction with his wand, making it emit small blue sparks.

“This can’t be right, can it?”

Ted scratched his head, re-reading the ingredients list to be sure they hadn’t missed anything.

“Dave, if the smell that most attracts me is manky old socks, then this potion is the least of my problems.”

David’s chuckling is cut off by the arrival of their professor.

“Oh my, boys, it seems you’ve overdone it just a touch with the billywig stingers.”

Ted gives David a concerned look; he doesn’t actually remember putting any billywig stingers in.

“Er, professor,” he starts, “how would it have turned out if we’d put in none at all?”

Slughorn looks momentarily concerned, and the reason quickly becomes apparent, as Ted and David’s cauldron gives a great belch, before expelling its contents violently in every direction.

The mess is quickly taken care of by Slughorn, who looks only mildly put-out.

“Well, Mr. Towns, I believe you have your answer. Please clean out your cauldron and join the class around my desk in a moment for a demonstration of the preferred outcome.”

David is snickering at both Ted and their professor as he starts on their cauldron. Ted has long since given up on correcting Slughorn about his name.


When they join the rest of the class around Slughorn’s desk, Ted has the sinking feeling that he hasn’t quite been able to rid himself of the smell of the failed potion. The way some of the Slytherins are turning their noses up is a decent clue, though not foolproof. Could just as easily be a dig about his blood-status. Frankly, Ted is more bothered about the potion smell; he long ago stopped caring about all that pureblood nonsense.

Slughorn shushes the remaining chatter and bustles behind his desk importantly, bringing out a silver cauldron with a sealed lid.

“Now class, who can tell me a sign of a successful Amortentia?”

“You’re not fucking wearing it, first off,” the comment from one of the Slytherins draws chuckles from the green-robed side of the desk.

Ted still doesn’t especially care about his potion, but isn’t thrilled that Andromeda has witnessed his very public failure. She’s a potions whiz.

“Five points from Slytherin for your language, Bole,” Slughorn interjects, “though you are correct that one’s potion should remain in the cauldron – as a rule of thumb.”

More chuckling from the Slytherins. Ted rolls his eyes.

“No, a mark of a correctly brewed Amortentia potion is its unique and pleasing aroma.”

David gives Ted a look. Clearly he too can still smell the unique aroma of their own creation.

“The aroma of Amortentia is personalized to he or she who smells it,” Slughorn continues, “and will reflect what one is most attracted to or enamoured by. As a general rule, a well brewed potion will elicit upwards of three unique aromas per individual, though if one has stronger or more genuine feelings for a specific object of affection, this number will be smaller and the aroma more precise.”

Ted glances towards the Slytherins again, and Andromeda quickly looks away when he meets her gaze.

“Now,” Slughorn moves toward the silver cauldron, “when I remove the lid from my own cauldron, I want each of you to mark down what it is that you smell.”

Slughorn removes the lid with a flourish, and Ted is hit with the overwhelming scent of Andromeda’s perfume. He takes a minute to see if he can smell anything else – he cannot possibly write Andromeda Black’s perfume on his parchment – but finds that there is nothing.

He is pulled from his musings on what exactly it means that he smells only the one thing by Slughorn’s voice, sounding entirely too pleased.

“Excellent, excellent,” he claps, “MacMillan, what is it that you smell?”

Ted is momentarily horrified – he didn’t expect Slughorn to go round asking about what each of them finds most attractive. David doesn’t seem terribly bothered though, and reads out his own list.

“Lemon zest, broom polish, freshly cut grass, and lavender.”

He notices Pippa Abbott and her friends giggling to each other, apparently pleased with David’s list. Slughorn beams.

“Wonderful, m’boy! And you, Miss Warrington?”

Ted tunes out as a series of his classmates give their answers – everything from treacle tart to motor oil – but finds himself unreasonably interested when Andromeda’s name is called.

“Wonder what the freshly spilled blood of muggles even smells like,” Hamish Diggory mutters to his left.

“That’s enough Mr. Diggory, twenty points from Hufflepuff.”

Ted makes a point to stand on Hamish’s foot as the rest of the Hufflepuffs grumble.

“Go on then, Miss Black,” Slughorn prods.

Andromeda looks uncomfortable, and her voice is clipped when she speaks.

“Earl Grey tea and pine needles.”

Slughorn beams again.

“Anything else?”


The word seems to pain her as she spits it out, but Ted has to fight to keep an immense grin from his face. Whenever the two of them sneak out to the kitchens together after curfew, Earl Grey is their drink of choice. Initially Andromeda had chastised him for it, claiming that he would be up all night if he didn’t have something weaker, but somewhere along the way she had given in to his pestering, and now it was all they drank. And the pine needles, well, that evokes a memory that Ted tries not to think about in public, lest he embarrass himself. They had snuck off into the forest together during a trip to Hogsmeade, and he knew for a fact that Andromeda had been finding pine needles in her hair and clothing since. He can’t help his smile, and forces himself to look at his shoes.

“Mr. Towns?”

Ted looks up, his smile disappearing. He definitely can’t share what Amortentia smells like to him. If Andromeda didn’t murder him, one of the other Slytherins definitely would.

“Er,” he hesitates, not missing the continued laughter from the Slytherins, “perfume?”

“Perfume, Mr. Towns? Would you care to be more specific?”

“Um, ladies' perfume?”

Slughorn looks disappointed, if somewhat bemused.

“Well yes, I would imagine so,” the Slytherins aren’t even attempting to stifle their laughter anymore, “moving on then. How about you Miss Belby?”

Ted zones out again, ignoring his classmates. To him, Amortentia smells like Andromeda Black.