To Ginny’s dismay, Slughorn scheduled her next round of detentions for mid-February with the last one falling on Valentine’s Day. Between Quidditch practice, her development school applications, and tightened security due to Voldemort’s return to power, it was difficult for her to get much time alone with Dean. They’d tried to return to the Astronomy Tower a few times since their last visit only to find it already occupied by another couple–which included one unsettling encounter with Filch and Madam Pince.
Slughorn was in a jovial mood when Ginny entered the potions classroom to begin her second week of detentions.
“Ginny, m’dear! Good to see you!” he said cheerfully. He enthusiastically motioned to the a seat at the table nearest him, his velvet-covered belly bouncing as he moved. His shiny bald head and great silvery mustache gleamed in the lamplight like the golden‘ buttons on his waistcoat.
Ginny gave him a weak smile as she took her seat near him. At least one of them was excited for her detention.
She wondered if Slughorn was lonely in the dungeons. Despite his pleasant personality, he was rather vain and tended to play favorites in the classroom. She wouldn’t be surprised if that made it difficult for him to build relationships with other faculty members, such as Professor McGonagall.
“I must say that I was quite astonished that a talented young witch such as yourself ended up with an entire week of detentions! I told Dumbledore that I could not imagine you capable of committing a misdeed grave enough to merit such a harsh punishment!” said Slughorn emphatically as he set a box of bottles and parchment on the table in front of her.
Ginny nodded silently, grateful that not all of the faculty seemed to be aware of her situation. She would not set Slughorn straight. Dumbledore would have told him if he needed to know.
“Such rumors since the holidays,” he continued, raising his eyebrows at her. “Of course, I refuse to believe them.”
Ginny had the distinct impression that Slughorn did believe the rumors, but wanted her to confirm them. She didn’t care what the rumors were about her. Besides, she suspected Slughorn was exaggerating to goad her into talking. She doubted many students or teachers took an interest in gossiping about her disciplinary record.
“Yes, it’s best not to believe everything you hear,” she replied evenly. She was spared more inquiries from Slughorn when the door opened behind them.
“Harry, m’boy!” called Slughorn, positively beaming. Ginny turned to see Harry closing the door gently behind him. He gave her a small smile as he headed toward the two of them.
“I was even more surprised to hear that you of all people would be joining us today,” said Slughorn. Ginny was thinking the same thing. How did Harry get into detention with her?
Her stomach lurched as Harry took the seat next to her, briefly brushing his leg against hers. She clenched her fists, hoping to quell the sudden shock that went up her leg.
“I guess I was late for Herbology too many times,” said Harry with a shrug. Ginny immediately wondered exactly how many times he had been deliberately late to earn a detention.
“Ho ho!” guffawed Slughorn jovially. “I daresay that even the best of us can’t always be on time, especially someone whose time I would imagine is in quite high demand.”
Harry said nothing, but Slughorn did not seem notice. He moved on without waiting for a reply.
“Very well!” said Slughorn, clapping his hands together. “This week, I will need to have all of the potions and ingredients cataloged and organized in the store room.”
He motioned to the box on the table in front of Harry and Ginny. “Here is the first box of potions that needs to be cataloged and placed on the correct shelf in the storeroom. There are several more boxes on the floor in the storeroom.
“Harry, you will help Ginny for today, but Ginny will be responsible for completing a full inventory and ensuring everything is in its proper place by the end of the week.”
Harry and Ginny nodded silently. Slughorn placed a piece of parchment that must have been over a foot long in front of Ginny.
“This is the inventory list of all of the potions and ingredients in the storeroom,” he explained. “I need an exact count recorded for each item.”
Ginny leaned over to read the first item on the list. In Slughorn’s ornate script, it said: Amortentia.
She picked up one of the bottles from the box on the table. It was filled with a light colored liquid with a mother-of-pearl sheen.
“Is this Amortentia?” she asked cautiously.
“Indeed!” said Slughorn. Ginny dropped it back in the box abruptly. She didn’t want to be anywhere near such a dangerous potion.
“And, of course, I wouldn’t mind if you used a bit of time to work on your essay as long as you’re done with the inventory by the end of the week,” Slughorn continued, shooting Ginny a wink.
Without waiting for her reply, Slughorn turned on his heel, whipping his velvet robes dramatically behind him. “I’ll be in my office if you two need anything.”
His office door shut with a snap.
“So what’s your essay about?” asked Harry, as soon as Slughorn was gone.
Ginny turned to him, startled by his question. “Oh–er, we have to write about how love potions work and then explain why they cannot create real love.”
Harry nodded seriously. “That’s a heavy question.”
“What is?” asked Ginny, confused. Her heart rate quickened again and she began to feel warm. She didn’t want to be talking about love potions with Harry. Her brothers liked to joke about her slipping Harry a love potion, and she found the idea so abhorrent that she took great pains to distance herself from all talk of love potions.
“What is real love...” he replied slowly with his brilliant green eyes on her face.
Ginny was not sure if he was making a statement or asking her a question. It was difficult to concentrate with him sitting so close to her. She was suddenly acutely aware of his body. His knee was pressed against hers, sending waves of heat through her body. He was turned toward her with his arm hanging over the back of his chair, his eyes boring a hole through her.
She nervously twirled a lock of hair around her finger and exhaled the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. “I–er, well it’s hard to say…” she started, trailing off.
Harry furrowed his brow. “No, I mean...it must be difficult to write an essay about what real love is.”
Ginny felt her face redden as she realized what he was saying and was grateful to see him turn away. He picked up a bottle of Amortentia. Ginny automatically recoiled.
“I wonder what makes it mimic love,” he said quietly, turning the bottle over in this hand.
Eager for something to distract her, Ginny reached into her school bag and pulled out her potions book. Her half-completed essay was inside, bookmarking the chapter on love potions.
She opened the book and slid it toward Harry, who leaned in. Ginny felt the hair stand up on the back of her neck as she caught a waft of his hair. It smelled like soap and mint.
Ginny shook herself, trying to ignore him. “While our potions books don’t provide a specific recipe, we do know that love potions create an uninhibited, reckless obsession with the brewer. From what I can tell, the potion inflames the drinker’s brain and induces confusion and recklessness with lovage, Scurvy-grass and sneezewort…”
Harry nodded, so Ginny went on. “Then, it ignites a feeling of passion with a combination of frozen Ashwinder eggs and pearl dust. It sharpens and focuses that passion to the point of obsession with Runespoor eggs, which enhances mental ability.
“Yet it keeps the drinker peaceful with Valerian root, lavender, and powdered moonstone, which is supposed to have relaxing and calming properties. I suppose that’s how you keep their obsession from turning violent.”
Harry nodded again and added, “So it creates the feeling of an intense crush.”
“I suppose,” said Ginny, slowly. Then, with a playful smile she added, “I wouldn’t know.”
Harry smirked. “What? You think I do?”
“Aren’t you the constant target of love potions these days? Nobody’s managed to slip one by you yet?” she asked, only half jokingly.
Harry shook his head vigorously. “No way! I use constant vigilance!”
Ginny giggled, imagining Harry drinking out of a hip flask like Mad-Eye Moody. She closed her book, returning it to her school bag.
“So, in your essay, what are you going to say is missing from the love potion to make it real love?” asked Harry suddenly. Ginny was taken aback again. Why was Harry so interested in this?
“What do you think is missing?” asked Ginny. She’d deliberately left her essay unfinished to give herself time to ponder the question.
“You’re not just trying to get me to tell you the answers?” asked Harry, with a lopsided smile.
“No, I would ask Hermione if I wanted the correct answers,” she said teasingly.
Harry laughed, but must have seen through her deflection because he did not respond. Sensing her heart fluttering again and eager to ignore those particular feelings, Ginny spoke to keep her mind focused.
“There has to be intimacy for it to be real love,” she said in a rush.
Harry’s face flushed pink and Ginny heard a sharp intake of breath. “You mean...physical? Are you and D–”
“No!” exclaimed Ginny, feeling a shock of red hot humiliation run through her body. She felt like her face was suddenly on fire.
“Oh, er–sorry, I didn’t mean to imply…” stuttered Harry, turning tomato red in the face.
“I meant emotional closeness,” said Ginny hastily, desperate to make her meaning clear. “I mean you really have to know someone...so both people can feel comfortable enough to be honest and vulnerable with each other.”
Harry nodded, looking down at the table. Ginny could see his ears were still red.
“But you’re right...you have to want to kiss each other, too,” she said with a giggle, trying to lighten the mood. Harry looked up at her and chuckled. Her eyes automatically went to his lips as the idea of kissing him sprang into her mind unbidden, and she felt her face heat up again.
Harry bit his bottom lip, his eyes roving over her face. Ginny looked away abruptly, feeling like he’d read her thoughts.
“So...we need to count the Amortentia bottles and store them in the correct place,” she said in what she felt was an unnaturally high voice, picking up the inventory list.
Harry did not protest, and soon he was hauling in boxes of potions and ingredients from the store room. Ginny counted and recorded each item while Harry carried them back into the storeroom and placed them on the correct shelves.
Harry didn’t speak again until he dropped a box full of golden bottles in front of her.
“Liquid luck,” he said matter-of-factly.
Ginny lifted a small bottle out of the box. It was much smaller than the other bottles–there must have been only two tablespoons of golden liquid inside.
“Felix Felicis?” she asked, holding up the bottle.
“Yes, there’s probably about 12 hours worth in each bottle,” he said. He set a smaller box on the table, which contained about a dozen vials with the same golden liquid.
Ginny picked up a vial and examined it. “These might last about 3 or 4 hours then.”
Harry nodded. “I won the 12-hour bottle in class.”
Ginny smiled. “Yes, I’ve heard all about it from Ron and Hermione.”
He smiled back at her, but said nothing. Ginny knew that Ron and Hermione were upset that he’d won, but each for very different reasons.
“Have you decided what you’re going to do with it yet?” she asked, remembering their conversation at Slughorn’s Christmas party before the holidays. Harry had said he had been waiting for ‘the right time’…
“Not yet,” he said, shifting uncomfortably. He paused, and Ginny said nothing, anxious to see if he would elaborate.
Finally, he said slowly, “You know...it would be a shame if one of these vials went missing…”
“I bet Slughorn would never know,” added Ginny, wondering if Harry was implying something mischievous. There were thirteen vials in the box. She could easily write down twelve on the inventory list and knick one.
“You’d be long gone on an exciting adventure before he noticed a thing,” said Harry with a small chuckle.
Ginny’s stomach lurched again as Harry’s words from the poker game floated through her mind.
Chocolate, Quidditch, and adventures.
Ginny immediately pushed this thought away, refocusing on the task at hand. There were eight bottles of the Felix Felicis in the first box and thirteen vials of Felix Felicis in the second box. She lifted her quill and wrote the number eight next to “Felix Felicis (12 hours): on the inventory list.
She paused, her quill hovering over the next item–“Felix Felicis (4 hours):” as she imagined what she would do with the lucky potion.
“Are you done with these?” asked Harry, pulling Ginny away from her thoughts. She abruptly set the quill down and looked up.
“Oh, yes, you can put them both away,” she said hastily. Harry carried the boxes into the storeroom as she looked back down at the inventory list. The line for the vials of Felix Felicis was still blank.
Suddenly, Slughorn’s office door banged open. “Alright, you two?”
Slughorn had returned. Ginny looked at her watch, realizing that her detention must be over. Harry emerged from the storeroom.
“Yes, we’ve nearly made it to the letter G on the inventory list,” he said.
Slughorn beamed. “Excellent! Harry, m’boy, it was a such pleasure having you today. I hope your next visit won’t be because a detention brought you here,” he said with a wink.
Without thinking, Ginny stashed the inventory list in her bag.
“I’ll hold onto the inventory list since I’ll be back here every day this week,” she said in what she hoped was a casual voice.
“Wonderful! I’ll see you at the same time tomorrow!” replied Slughorn.
After bidding Slughorn good bye, Ginny made a beeline for the door. She would decide how many Felix Felicis vials to record by the end of the week.
Ginny spent the next three days in detention working her way down Slughorn’s inventory list. It was much slower work without Harry there to take care of placing all of the items on the shelves in the storeroom.
But the work wasn’t difficult; it was merely tedious. So Ginny spent most of the time thinking about her essay on love potions and her conversation with Harry about the nature of real love.
Had she ever felt real love before? She thought about her feelings for Michael and Dean. At the beginning of their relationships, she’d felt something closer to the obsessive love associated with love potions. She had thought about them all of the time, wanting to share every moment and every experience with them as if she couldn’t get enough. They had seemed perfect in every way, and she felt lucky to have their affection.
But then, over time, the intensity faded and it became easier to acknowledge their flaws. Michael had broken up with her before she could come to this realization, but Dean…
She still felt a strong attraction to Dean, but it was different now. His flaws were more apparent and she was comfortable with more distance, but she still cared for him. Is this what falling in love was like?
Ginny turned her thoughts to her family. Without a doubt, she loved them more than any other people in the world. What was different about her love for them versus Dean?
If she removed physical attraction from the equation, the biggest difference was exactly what she’d told Harry: emotional intimacy.
She’d known her family her entire life; she trusted them more than any other people in the world. She could be herself around them, and she trusted that they’d never stop loving her no matter what.
They knew her deepest, darkest secret–her possession by Tom Riddle and the awful things she’d done under his control–and they still loved her. If she ever decided she was ready to talk about that dark time in her life with them, she knew they’d listen and they’d still love her afterward. Maybe Ron would say something tactless, Fred and George might tease her, and her mother might worry about her, but it wouldn’t change their love for her or her love for them.
This trust must be the bedrock of real love. Did she trust Dean? Could she tell him her deepest, darkest secret?
The idea of it terrified her. She wasn’t sure she would ever be able to tell him. Her inability to share all of herself–to be vulnerable–ultimately sank her relationship with Michael. Would it be the same undoing for her and Dean?
And then, unbidden, she wondered, Do I trust Harry?
She clenched her fist, trying to banish the thought. She was with Dean, not Harry. And it was wrong for her to continue thinking about Harry when she was with Dean.
Ginny’s stomach growled loudly as she sat in the potions classroom, counting bottles of wormwood and recording it on her inventory list. It was still early, but she was already famished after a long day of classes.
She sighed, taking solace in the fact that today marked the halfway point in her four weeks of detention. She hoped she would never have to spend another minute cataloging potions ingredients in this gloomy dungeon again, especially not on Valentine’s Day.
Her heart fluttered a bit as she remembered the holiday. Dean had said he’d planned a special day for tomorrow. They’d agreed to celebrate on Saturday since Ginny had detention and Harry had scheduled Quidditch practice for after dinner today.
She thought back to her Valentine’s Day with Michael last year. He’d taken her to the Three Broomsticks where they’d talked avidly about her first Quidditch match that had been only a week away. Umbridge had banned Harry for the rest of the season, so she’d been asked to take his place as Seeker.
She smiled to herself. At the time, it had been the perfect day. She’d spent the afternoon drinking Butterbeer with a cute boy and talked about her favorite thing–Quidditch.
But there would be no visit to Hogsmeade for Valentine’s Day this year. Ginny suspected that the visits would be canceled for the rest of the year due the growing danger around Voldemort’s return.
She felt a rush of anticipation as she wondered what Dean had planned. Would they go for a picnic by the lake? She ruled out this option immediately because it was still quite cold.
Would he take her to the Room of Requirement and magically recreate a place outside of Hogwarts? She found this unlikely, too–not many students knew about the room, but she doubted she was the only person who’d have this idea. She cringed at the thought of running into Ron and Lavender there.
Perhaps Dean would take her on an adventure in the Forbidden Forest? The forest was out of bounds, of course, but a walk around the outer edges wouldn’t be too dangerous.
Suddenly, she found herself wondering what Valentine’s Day would be like with Harry. Would they go flying? He loved flying just as much as she did. She imagined a flight over the Forbidden Forest, and then a quick jaunt through the Hogwarts tunnels to Honeydukes where they’d sneak a few Fizzing Whizbees and Chocolate Cauldrons (and leave a Galleon or two in the till, of course).
Her stomach growled again as she thought of Honeydukes. She looked at her watch, relieved that she had only five more minutes left of her detention.
Checking the inventory list, she saw that wormwood was the last item. Shoving the list in her pocket, she gathered the bottles of wormwood into her arms and carried them into the store room.
Once in the store room, she placed them on the bottom shelf, next to the wolfsbane, careful not to mix them up. Wolfsbane could stave off the effects of lycanthropy, but wormwood could be deadly.
She stood up and pulled the inventory list out of her pocket to check her work. She scanned the shelves carefully, referring back to her list to make sure she’d accounted for everything.
When she reached Felix Felicis on the list, she realized that she’d never recorded the number of vials. She paused at the shelf where Harry had set the thirteen small vials of the lucky potion. Slughorn would never know…
Slowly, she picked up one of the vials, watching the golden liquid slide around as she turned it over in her palm. With the list and quill still in her other hand, she unstoppered the vial and sniffed. It smelled like summer days, chocolate, and mint.
Suddenly, she heard the door open behind her. Without thinking, Ginny poured the lucky potion down her throat and dropped the empty vial onto the floor. It shattered, sending small shards of glass everywhere. She hastily scribbled the number twelve next to “Felix Felicis (4 hours):” as she bent down to clean up the glass, her back still to the door.
“Oh!” she gasped in mock shock, sinking to her knees and setting the inventory list on the ground while she gingerly started to pick up pieces of glass.
“Oh my! I’m sorry for startling you!” said Slughorn, coming up from behind her and waving his wand to Vanish the glass.
Ginny rose cautiously, still looking at the ground. Then, slowly but surely, an exhilarating sense of infinite opportunity stole through her; she felt as though she could do anything in this moment. It seemed ridiculous that Slughorn could possibly discover that she’d stolen the potion.
Slughorn picked up the inventory list and quill. “Which one was it?” he asked, raising the quill to edit the list.
“Oh, it was just an empty vial,” she said dismissively, confident that Slughorn would not doubt her.
“Ah, well that’s good news,” he said, as he scanned her list. “This looks in order. You’re welcome to head to dinner now if you’re so inclined.”
Ginny smiled, brimming with confidence, as she bid him goodbye and headed to the Great Hall.