I got involved in a discussion recently regarding the frequent comparisons between Harry Potter-style Potions, and either Chemistry or Cooking. I’m of the opinion that it is more akin to Chemistry–where something small could make things go horribly wrong, but my debate partner maintained that it was more like cooking–an art–that could come out good or bad, with degrees in between.
Well, we see enough of Neville utterly destroying cauldrons, but I also admit to once destroying a pot (and almost our glass cook top) while trying to boil water (I was 12. Shh.). Nevertheless, food rarely explodes (half-boiled eggs in microwaves hardly count) and you generally don’t cook up Veritaserum in your kitchen. In a chemist’s lab, however, we’ve gotten things like aspirin (Pepper-Up Potions?) and anti-venom (Beazors?).
Severus Snape himself describes Potions-making as a “Subtle science and exact art,” so in deference to the Potions Master, I will concede that it is both? That leaves us with no simple muggle metaphor, though, which makes writing fanfiction far more wordy than it needs to be.