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The love potion: a guide to Hogwarts’ most intoxicating tonic

The power of love in Harry Potter is unrivalled. But its deceptive double has a chillingly similar effect and dangerous repercussions. Here are a few times love potions popped up in the story…

Ron helping Ron after he has taken love potion
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

First love
Love potions are tainted with falsities. So it’s no surprise that first mention of one came from a man quite familiar with falsehoods, Gilderoy Lockhart, when he suggested Professor Snape brew some on Valentine’s Day. As you may have guessed, Snape was not in favour of this plan.

Decorating the Great Hall for St. Valentine's day.
© JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.

Romilda Vane
Love potions come up most memorably when Romilda Vane sends Harry potion-spiked Chocolate Cauldrons, after dozens of girls are itching to go with Harry to Professor Slughorn’s party. He leaves them idle for a while, and poor Ron Weasley ‘falls’ for Romilda.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Laughter and lies
Molly Weasley, you dark horse. Hard to believe but Mrs Weasley admitted to Hermione and Ginny to making a love potion in her younger days.

Rita Skeeter also mentioned the amorous draft in her column during the Triwizard Tournament, when Pansy Parkinson suspected that Hermione was using it on Harry. Like most things written by Ms Skeeter, it was entirely false.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

What would Amortentia smell like to you?
Horace Slughorn taught his students a thing or two about love, or at least the potion that mimics it. In his classroom, students learnt that Amortentia has a ‘mother-of-pearl sheen’, ‘steam rising in characteristic spirals’ and is ‘supposed to smell differently to each of us, according to what attracts us’. Hermione said she could smell ‘freshly mown grass and new parchment and –’ Well, we might be able to guess that last part.

Slughorn never failed to teach a potion without a warning:

‘Amortentia doesn’t really create love, of course. It is impossible to manufacture or imitate love. No, this will simply cause a powerful infatuation or obsession. It is probably the most dangerous and powerful potion in this room – oh yes,’ he said, nodding gravely at Malfoy and Nott, both of whom were smirking sceptically. ‘When you have seen as much of life as I have, you will not underestimate the power of obsessive love …’
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The absence of love
Love is a recurring theme in the Harry Potter series. The unconditional love of Lily Potter; the unrequited love of Severus Snape; the almost motherly protection Molly gives Harry.

But so is the misunderstanding of love, or its absence. Dumbledore suspected Voldemort was probably conceived under a love potion. Voldemort’s mother Merope Gaunt was said to have used Amortentia on his father, Tom Riddle Sr – a Muggle, who later abandoned her once she stopped using the potion on him. She hoped Tom would fall in love with her after all. Alas he did not, and Merope died shortly after Tom’s birth and we’re left to wonder how he might have turned out with a little more love in his life.