Be kind and gentle to the frog,
And do not call him names,
As "Slimy-Skin," or "Polly-wog,"
Or likewise, "Ugly James."
Snape heard voices in the corridor and braced himself. Slytherin and Gryffindor seventh-years, two weeks from graduation. There were times when he was nostalgic for the battlefield.
Potter's voice first, doing a passable imitation of Sibyl Trelawney's breathy, singsong tone. "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder will be especially troubling to those of you who are sensitive, dear ..."
"Sodding sensitive!" That would be this year's Weasley, his voice tight. "Like to see her call you sensitive when you were casting the bloody killing curse on that sniveling little --"
"Ron!" Granger's admonition nearly drowned out Potter's flat "Don't."
"But sensitive. I mean, he's a bloody hero. A year from now they're going to be celebrating Harry Potter Day --"
"Sod off, Ron," Potter said. They were at the door now, and he lowered his voice a bit, but not enough. "I'm changing my name." He flung his bag on the floor beside his stool.
Granger placed her books in a neat stack on the table beside him. "I know you hate the fame, but think how useful it could come in. Now that all the ... you know ... bad things are over with. You could go anywhere when you graduate, anywhere at all."
"I don't care where I go," Potter spat, "as long as it's not bloody here."
Snape had initially prepared a lesson in the magical properties of sulfur, which had applications ranging from deflecting curses to serving as the basis for simple chemical poisons. Regrettably, though, many of its compounds were somewhat volatile, so he had been forced to substitute an advanced healing potion. The students were quite explosive enough.
He looked around the classroom, noting again the empty seats. Patil, one twin dead in battle and the other catatonic at St. Mungo's. Malfoy ... well, the less said about that family the better. The boy's two pet neanderthals, uncertain what to do now that their leader was dead, had attached themselves to Pansy Parkinson. She was red-eyed and tight-mouthed, and had refused to remove her cloak, which was clasped at the throat with a rather gaudy brooch displaying the Malfoys' axe-and-serpent family crest.
Longbottom's right arm was immobilized by a bonesetting spell, but he was showing an uncharacteristic calm as he added ingredients, left-handed, to the cauldron he shared with Granger. Whatever he had been frightened of before, he had undoubtedly seen worse in recent days.
Potter, as usual, had worked himself into a state of high agitation. His eyes were flickering from the cauldron to Weasley's hands to Snape's face in a way that seemed calculated to draw attention to both of them. How he could be so obvious here and still make himself so invisible on the Quidditch pitch was a mystery to Snape. It was fortunate, for the boy and for the world at large, that in the end his battle had been more similar to a Quidditch game than to a Potions lesson.
Undoubtedly he was finding it difficult to make the transition from warrior back to schoolboy. Just like all his classmates, though naturally it wouldn't occur to him that by showing a little more grace he could make things easier for them.
"Mr. Weasley," Snape said in his most smoothly terrifying voice, "I distinctly remember mentioning that the poppy seeds were to be crushed and added gradually, not thrown whole into the cauldron as though you were making a cake."
"He did fine," Potter said hotly. Potter said everything hotly. The energy the boy wasted was appalling. "I'll prove it to you. I'll drink it myself."
"Your loyalty is beyond question, Mr. Potter," Snape replied. "I wish I were as confident of your intelligence. The Rejuvenatus potion is a powerful systemic healer containing three dozen ingredients, each in a specified state, and any one small substitution could --"
Potter had already tipped up a ladle full of Weasley's potion and swallowed it.
For a moment, nothing happened. "You see?" Potter demanded. "You were so sure Ron had made some deadly mistake, but it's you who --"
There was a whoosh of air, and Potter disappeared. Someone gasped in the silence.
Snape walked over to where the boy had been. In his place was a pile of clothing. Sitting on top of it, blinking through a pair of miniaturized spectacles, was a large green frog.
"Quidditch," said the frog.
"What do you mean, you can't?" demanded Weasley.
Snape rubbed his left eye to stop it twitching. "I mean, Mr. Weasley," he said, "that you have inadvertently succeeded in the very difficult task of creating a per anni tempus transformation with your potion. Most likely this was the result of using smilax seeds rather than smilax blossoms, in addition to your unfortunate habit of slamming together ingredients with unseemly haste --"
"But Harry! What's going to turn him back?"
"Time, Mr. Weasley," Snape said. "Time will restore your classmate to his former state. At sunset on the day of the autumnal equinox, to be precise."
"In September?" Granger cried. "But he won't be able to take his N.E.W.T.s!"
"He's lucky he didn't become a newt," Parkinson sneered. On either side of her, Crabbe and Goyle snickered. Snape felt a brief pang of loss for Malfoy; brat and traitor though he had been, he'd been the only one of his house whose wit had advanced past the obvious.
"Oh, Harry," Granger cooed to the frog. "Are you all right?"
"He isn't an animagus, Miss Granger. He's a frog." Really, you'd think the girl's incessant reading would have uncovered this fact. "He can neither comprehend you nor answer you. He thinks as a frog, he speaks as a frog, he understands as a frog."
"Quidditch," the frog said.
"Really, Severus, this is most irregular. And you say there's no way of disenchanting him?"
"Minerva and I have done our best, Albus, but frog he is and frog he will remain. Until autumn at least."
"I suppose this, too, may be a manifestation of the legendary Potter stubbornness." Dumbledore pushed his spectacles up and regarded the frog. It regarded him in return. "Well, well, my boy, we can't let you out and risk having you eaten by a heron or some such, but we shall make you as comfortable as we can."
"Quidditch," the frog said.
"Quite right." He turned to Snape. "Moist air, minimal sunlight, protection from the elements, et cetera -- "
Snape saw what was coming. "I'm sure there are a number of places where the creature could be kept. Hagrid's hovel, for instance --"
"I believe, Severus, that the most suitable place for him would be your quarters," the headmaster went on, as though there had been no interruption.
Snape rubbed his left eye. "Yes, Albus."
Snape set the frog on the table in his sitting room. It regarded him through its ridiculous spectacles.
He fetched the largest shallow bowl he could find, washed it well, and filled it with water. He lifted the frog in. It splashed into the shallow water and looked at him expectantly.
Snape sighed. "Accio housefly," he said, tapping his cupped palm with his wand.
The frog sat in the water and blinked at him. Oddly, the spectacles appeared to have lost their earpieces in the transformation. Just as well, as the creature now had no ears. Through the tiny lenses, the frog's green eyes looked at him moistly and without complaint.
"Hmph," Snape said aloud. "It's an improvement, if you ask me."
Snape raised his eyebrows at Weasley, who was standing in the doorway of Snape's sitting room, wringing his new dress robe in his hands. Granger was half-hiding behind him.
"What's going to happen to Ha -- to the frog?"
"We will keep it safe over the summer, Mr. Weasley. When Mr. Potter has been restored, we will give him his wand and pat him on the head and wish him a fond farewell, as we have just finished doing for the rest of you."
"Only I was thinking," Weasley went on, "that he -- that it could come and stay with me at Mum's for the summer."
"Ah, let us see," Snape said, pretending thoughtfulness. "A summer spent in the Weasley family home -- which is rather cozy, is it not? A vacationing dragonkeeper hatching salamander eggs in the hearth, two insane tricksters in search of an experimental animal, a teenaged war heroine flush with victory, an overworked junior ministry official on the verge of a nervous breakdown, a widowed witch attempting to preserve some minimal level of order, fifteen chickens, eleven ducks, several dozen feral garden gnomes, and ... well, yourself, Mr. Weasley?"
The young man winced, but didn't attempt to argue with this description of his home life. He looked at the frog. The frog looked back at him.
"Your friend is, at the moment, in no condition to appreciate your company," Snape told him. "In the autumn, when he is restored to his human form and is able to resume preparations for his N.E.W.T.s, you may come and visit him. In the meanwhile, I wish you the best of luck at the Ministry --" He shook Weasley's hand. "And you at university, Miss Granger --" He shook her hand as well. "And I wish you good day."
When the students left for the summer, most of the teachers left as well, though only a few said honestly that they were bent on frivolity. The others maintained the ridiculous fiction of the Witches' Sabbatical, and no one would say anything when they returned from a supposed research journey to the Arctic heavily tanned and wearing coral jewelry.
Snape generally took advantage of the summer quiet to pursue research projects, catch up on his reading, and brew the bases for the potions used throughout the school. The peace was even more welcome this year than usual.
The silence of the laboratory was broken only by the bubble of cauldrons and the scrape of the mortar. The frog sat placidly in its bowl, occasionally jumping with a plop into the deep water, then climbing out to sit on the rim and observe him.
Snape summoned it a dragonfly. "Not that you'll appreciate the effort," he said.
The sun came out briefly on the fourth day after the end of term. Snape walked across the grounds and strolled along one of the streams that fed the lake.
He returned with half a dozen smooth, flat stones of various sizes, which he placed in the frog's bowl.
The frog immediately hopped onto one, sitting half in and half out of the water.
"Variety, I'm told, is the spice of life," he told it.
On the night of the new moon in July, Snape neglected to shut his bedcurtains, and was awakened by the ghosts of Lucius and Draco Malfoy appearing in a recess in the wall. They glowed faintly as they glowered, Lucius at Snape, Draco at the frog.
"My boyhood friend," Lucius sneered, as soon as he was confident of Snape's attention. "Companion of my youth, turned traitor at the last ..." He swooped at Snape, hands outstretched and dripping with blood -- a theatrical touch, as he had been cursed quite cleanly without ever shedding a drop. Snape shuddered as the ghost passed through him, then readied itself for another dive.
Draco, meanwhile, was advancing on the frog, ghostly wand in hand. "You destroyed me," he whined. "Not even out of my teens yet. The great Harry Potter, killing children for fun ..."
"Oh, come now," Snape said. "This is a little melodramatic even for Malfoys, don't you think? Exadigo." The two ghosts vanished.
He lay down again, but sleep eluded him. After chasing it bootlessly for half an hour, he rose, went into the bath, and filled the tub with warm water. Then he carried the bowl into the bath and set it on the floor. The frog shut its eyes politely as he removed his dressing gown.
For a long time the two of them sat, immersed in water.
"Quidditch," the frog said morosely.
"I agree completely," Snape said.
Snape poured the Inapparatum potion into a large bottle and stoppered it. "We renew the wards at each new moon," he said. "A few students are aware that Apparation is prevented at Hogwarts, but almost none of them know when and why the policy was put in place."
"Riddle," the frog said.
Snape gave it a sharp look. Without changing expression, it snapped up a passing cricket.
Snape tipped a spoonful of hartstongue into the cauldron and stirred, counting under his breath, until the salve began to thicken.
"Fennel," the frog said.
Snape raised an eyebrow at it. "Only if you want the injured skin to grow back purple."
"Accio housefl --"
"Minnow," the frog said.
Snape frowned at it. "Oh, very well," he said. "Accio minnow."
The first week of school was always a busy one, and Snape began spending long hours in classes and House meetings, returning only late at night.
After the third day, he moved the frog's bowl over to where a small amount of fresh air and sun came in through the arrow loop. Might as well give the creature something to look at.
"Quidditch," it said.
The evening of the equinox, Snape placed the bowl on the floor as a precaution against mishap, and placed Potter's wand next to it. Then he leaned against the wall, crossed his arms over his chest, and arranged his face into his most menacing scowl.
He had worked on his "welcome back" speech for several days, and felt a certain quiet pride in it; it was his most demoralizing work in years, if not decades. He intended to have the first, last, and only word in the ensuing shouting match about whose fault it was and what was to be done about it, and then he intended to terrify the wretched boy into the corridor and slam the door shut in his face.
As the last rays of the sun faded, there was a hollow pop. Potter, naked except for his spectacles, stepped out of the bowl. "Accio chocolate," he said, tapping his hand with the wand, and then greedily unwrapped and gobbled the resulting chocolate bar.
"Brilliant. Been craving that for months," he said happily to no one in particular. "Oh, hello, Professor. Seen my clothes?"
Or "Gape-a-Grin," or "Toad-gone-wrong,"
The frog is justly sensitive
To epithets like these.
News about Potter traveled as quickly as ever. Less than an hour after Potter was restored to human form, Black appeared in the fireplace of Snape's sitting room. "Harry! Just tell me you're all right."
"I'm all right, Sirius."
"I mean, really, really all right." Black glared at Snape. Snape went on correcting essays.
"Don't I look all right?"
"Blast it, you spent the entire summer in a bowlful of water!"
"Better than spending it in a soft room at St. Mungo's, wouldn't you say?" Potter said mildly.
Black was silent for a moment, and when he spoke again, his voice was softer. "I suppose they've told you that you've got an Order of Merlin."
"Mm." Potter trailed his fingers in the water of the frog bowl. "That was my favorite stone, that one there. Lovely texture."
"And that bit you did with the platoon of hags?" Black mimed an athletic left-and-right feint, a swing of the wand. "They're calling that the Potter maneuver."
"As soon as you're well, the new Minister has a ceremony ready. They want to give you a Golden Eagle, Harry. Not even Dumbledore has got that."
There was a long silence.
Snape pointed to another stone. "He liked that one a great deal as well."
Snape looked up from a first-year's unforgivably sloppy composition to see Potter sitting in his second-best armchair. He managed, with difficulty, not to show any sign of being startled.
"Just had a meeting with Albus," Potter said. He was wearing Snape's clothes, his own having proved too small. Snape's indigo waistcoat favored his coloring rather better than the garish shades he usually wore. "He says I can't take my N.E.W.T.s until this year's seventh-years take them. He also says that since I'm now a graduate assistant, I have to call him Albus."
"Does he." Snape considered, then wrote at the top of the paper: Even the fatuity of your premise does not excuse the shoddiness of your research.
"So can I --"
"Don't even think about it, Mr. Potter."
A chime sounded obediently at midnight. Snape shook off an indistinct dream, full of the smell of blood and spent magic. He refused to permit himself to look for ghosts in the recess in the wall.
In the silent workroom, he added powdered larkwort to the cauldron and carefully stirred the potion clockwise for the time it took to recite the Order of Merlin pledge twice. Then he spelled out the flame and covered the cauldron.
There was still a flicker of light in his sitting room. He opened the door and found Potter asleep on the couch.
He covered the still form with a blanket, removed the spectacles, and laid them on top of the stack of books. After a moment's thought, he summoned a cup of cool water and set it beside the spectacles. Then he pinched out the candle and went to bed.
He woke, as usual, before dawn. The cup was half-empty, and Potter was still asleep on the couch.
Sighing in exasperation, he levitated the sleeping youth, blanket and all, and directed him to the bed. He sent the cup and spectacles trailing obediently behind. Then he sat down on the couch to get some grading done.
It was close to ten in the morning when Potter stirred. Snape went to the door to find him groping at the nightstand for his spectacles. " 'm in your bed," he said, stopping in mid-sentence for a jaw-cracking yawn. "Why?"
"Because you were in the way on my couch."
"Oh." He yawned again. "Think I'm nocturnal now."
"Lazy, more likely." Snape summoned another cup of water. "If you've no place productive to be, get dressed and start cleaning cauldrons."
Potter spent the entire afternoon casting cleaning spells, sharpening knives, and meticulously crushing preying shrew bones into powder -- the latter a job that was especially annoying for having to be done without magic, unless one wanted to risk a nasty explosion.
Around dinnertime it occurred to Snape that Potter hadn't said a word beyond things like "Over here?" and "Is this the consistency you need?" and "I'll save this one for someone's detention, shall I?" -- this last with a crooked grin that reminded Snape vividly of the frog.
They paused for sandwiches at nightfall, eating in silence, and then Snape continued work on the base for all the ingestible healing potions. Potter, without being told, began rubbing dried sage leaves between his fingers until they were the proper consistency for salves.
Snape watched him as he crushed the herbs, looking for the frantic uncertainty that had so disturbed the serenity of his lessons. Potter looked up and raised his eyebrows quizzically. His fingers went on pulverizing sage.
"Just wondering," Snape said, "if we'd see this sort of improvement if all our students spent the summer after seventh year in amphibian form."
Potter's lashes fell and rose again in a way that somehow communicated amusement. "Well," he said, "at least it'd keep the flies down."
When Snape emerged from his bedroom at dawn, there was a familiar lump of blankets on his couch. He lit a candle. The lump stirred, and Potter half sat up. He was wearing one of Snape's nightshirts.
"Don't you have rooms of your own?"
Potter rubbed his eyes. "Too dry," he said hoarsely.
"Oh, very well."
Potter gave him a brilliant smile, gathered up his blankets, and brushed past Snape into the bedroom.
Snape shook his head. "Duco spectacles," he said, sending them floating after their owner.
Snape was beginning to think of luncheon when the armchair gave a bit. He looked up over his shoulder and found Potter, looking rather better groomed, leaning over the back.
"Need 'ny help?"
Snape looked down at the scrolls he was grading. "I am not yet so overworked that I would consider permitting you to undo my teaching."
Potter came around and sat on the couch. He'd chosen the celery-colored waistcoat today. It didn't bring out his eyes quite so well as the darker ones. "Get you some lunch, then?"
"You don't want to eat in hall?"
"Not really. Noisy." He took the lid off the floo powder jar.
"Watercress sandwich, then," Snape said. After a moment, he added, "Thank you."
When Potter moved to get the spare blanket out of the chest again, Snape scowled at him.
"This is not a youth hostel, Mr. Potter," Snape said. "I would prefer not to have foreign bodies cluttering up my sitting room."
"Oh. Right," Potter said tightly.
"Perfectly ridiculous," Snape went on, stalking into the bedroom and leaving the door open behind him. "There's more than enough room to conjure a decent bed on the other side of the aumbry."
It was rather like being back in the dormitory to open his eyes and find his usually bare nightstand cluttered with Potter's wand, his spectacles, two glasses of water, and four back issues of Quidditch Illustrated. Snape permitted himself a moment of uncharacteristic nostalgia, then reached for his own wand and murmured a reshape spell.
In becoming large enough for two, the nightstand somehow developed drawer-pulls shaped like dragons' heads. Snape began to return them to round form, then decided he rather liked them.
"Advanced Spell Theory is fascinating, Harry, and I'm just getting the hang of Ancient Greek," Granger said, her tea untouched in her lap. The scars on her cheek had paled enough to be barely noticeable, especially in light of the nose ring and the henna-spelled cornrow braids. "And, Professor Snape, you've got a whole chapter in 'Potions, History and Theory.'"
Beside her, Weasley was mechanically shredding a copy of the Prophet between his fingers. His hair had been ruthlessly charmed into submission, and he was wearing his Gryffindor stripe tie with a waistcoat that had obviously seen much longer government service than had its owner. "Ministry's a shambles," he said. "Least they tossed Fudge out. Wouldn't think he had the brains to make this much of a mess. Percy's looking like having another breakdown."
"I told you you should be in some sort of stress reduction program, all of you," Granger said. "You can't judge them all by Trelawney. Yoga and meditation are doing wonders for me and Lavender."
"Don't even ask her about aromatherapy," Weasley told Potter out of the corner of his mouth. "Phew." Potter grinned at him but said nothing.
"So, Harry, what was it like being a frog?" Granger said hesitantly. "Was it awful?"
"Not at all," Potter said. "It was lovely. Lots of time to think."
"What did you think about?"
Potter smiled dreamily. "Flies, mostly," he said.
The outer door clicked shut as Snape was starting the long stirring of the Pepperup base. A moment later, Potter appeared at the workroom door.
Snape continued counting strokes under his breath, and Potter slung his bag on the table, found a pair of rubber gloves, and began seeding and chopping mirchi peppers.
At the two hundredth clockwise stroke, Snape removed the spoon from the cauldron. Potter pushed the bowl of mustard seeds within reach, then lined up the garlic, the vinegar, and the freshly chopped peppers. "Started remedial Apparation lessons today with Madam Hooch," he said. " 's why I'm late."
"I hadn't noticed," Snape said. He added the garlic. Potter levitated the empty bowl to the washing-up sink. "Still having the same centering troubles you had before?"
"Nope." Potter placed a whisk at Snape's right elbow. He smelled strongly of peppers. "Can't think why it was so rough before, 's dead easy. Just like being a frog, really."
When Snape returned from trying to prevent any tragedies in the Dueling Club, he found the bowl full of water on the table in the sitting room. There was a large green frog in it.
He looked at it for a moment, and then he pointed his wand at it. "Animagum restituo."
Potter, clothed this time, stepped out of the bowl. "Oh, thanks," he said, jumping down from the table. His bare feet smacked against the floor. "Have to talk with Minerva some more. Thought I'd got the hang of changing back."
He looked down. "Oops. Sorry."
Snape looked down, too, and saw the water puddling around Potter's pale and oddly high-arched feet. By the time he thought to say a drying spell, Potter had already done so.
"Madam Hooch says I can help her coach the Quidditch team," Potter said. He gave a high-pitched imitation of the matron's voice: "You spend all your time bothering me, Potter. You might as well make yourself useful." He slung his cloak over a table, glanced at Snape, picked it up again, and hung it on the coat tree.
Snape measured ground nutmeg into the cauldron. "Plan to build a career on being underfoot, do you?"
Potter walked along the counter where the ingredients were laid out. "Candied citron, cinnamon, raisins --" He picked up a bottle and squinted at Snape's handwriting on the label. "Apple brandy? I don't know this one."
Potter's mouth opened in surprise. After a moment he shrugged and summoned a chopper. "How fine d'you want these walnuts?"
At midnight, when the chime went off, Potter's bedcurtains were still open. Snape rose from bed, squeezed two precise drops of clover dew into the sleep draught, covered the cauldron, and spelled out the flame.
Potter was collapsed in a heap on the couch in his shirt and trousers, spectacles still on his face. His Apparation text was open on his lap.
Snape murmured one of the gentler carry spells, then walked into the bedroom, trailing Potter's supine form behind him. Settling the sleeping youth on the bed, he carefully removed the spectacles. The dark lashes rose.
Potter squinted at him, eyes flicking down to his nightshirt's open collar and back up to his face before taking a groggy look round the room.
" 'm not in your bed." His eyes drifted closed. "Why?"
Snape considered. "I've no idea," he said. The tightness in his chest felt almost like fear, but not quite.
"Good night, Professor," Harry mumbled.
Snape rubbed his left eye. "Good morning, Mr. Potter," he said, and went to prepare his day's lessons.
When Snape returned from his afternoon classes, the sitting room smelled of broom polish. Harry was rummaging around in what had until recently been a spare cupboard.
"Oh, hello, Professor," he said indistinctly as he pulled a silver Quidditch official's robe over his head. His face, when it emerged from the fabric, was grinning. "Coming to the match?" He gave Snape's upper arm a squeeze in passing. "We're going to flatten you," he added, and swept out the door.
"That remains to be seen," Snape called into the corridor. He put his hand over his upper arm, which felt strangely warm.
Snape had just drawn the bed curtains and lit the candle for a few minutes of reading in bed when he heard laughter and shouted congratulations in the corridor. A moment later, he heard Harry moving through the bedroom to the bath.
The sound of running water made him drowsy, and he laid down the book just as he heard the door open. There was a rustle of fabric, and then his bedcurtains rattled open.
The light of the candle touched Harry's eyes with shadow. He was naked. For a long moment he stood with his hand on the curtain, like a wizard who has taken the lid off a boiling cauldron and knows enough to allow the pressure to equalize before proceeding.
"All right?" he said at last.
Snape swallowed. "Yes."
Harry pressed him back against the pillows and kissed him slowly, tasting every part of his mouth. Snape's arms came around Harry's shoulders and pulled the warm weight down on top of him, and Harry sighed into his ear, and he shuddered and lifted his mouth for another kiss.
He worked his hands down Harry's broad warm back while Harry kissed his cheek, his jaw, his neck -- and then Harry undid the top button of the nightshirt and pressed a fervent kiss to the hollow of his throat, and Snape pushed up suddenly and rolled on top of him, kissing him fiercely.
Harry's hands came up under the nightshirt, and Snape knelt up, straddling his thighs, and lifted it off over his head.
Harry lay back against the pile of pillows and looked up at Snape from under his eyelashes. He raised a hand, and his fingertips traced a slow, ticklish path inward along Snape's collarbone. Feeling extraordinarily vulnerable, Snape stayed on his knees while Harry's eyes drank him in and Harry's fingers feathered down his chest, thumbed a nipple carelessly, slid over his belly to draw a circle around his navel before tracing the curve of his hipbone.
At last Harry ran one cool fingertip up his cock. He drew a shuddering breath as Harry explored him gently with his fingertips, eyes never leaving his face.
Harry firmed his grip and Snape gasped, hands going to fists on his thighs. Harry's own breath was coming faster, and Snape felt a sudden fierce desire to touch him, kiss him. He pushed it away and stayed where he was, letting Harry look at him.
Harry saw his surrender and smiled breathlessly, tightening his hand further and beginning to move -- just the sort of slow, steady pressure Snape used on the rare occasion that he indulged himself. He had the sudden nonsensical conviction that Harry knew, and it made him gasp and push into Harry's now-slick fist as pleasure uncoiled in his spine.
Harry took a fast breath through his mouth, and his hand moved faster, harder -- perfect -- and Snape closed his eyes and threw his head back and climaxed violently over Harry's chest and belly, over his still-moving hand.
Harry's other hand stroked up over Snape's thigh, trembling now, to his hip, and pulled him down. Snape went, still pushing into Harry's fist to chase the last spasms of sensation, and kissed and kissed him while Harry thrust convulsively against his hip and clutched his back and gasped. And Harry was climaxing too, all over both of them, and it was messy and slippery and clumsy and perfect, perfect, perfect.
At midnight, when the chime sounded, Snape was still in an undignified sprawl over Harry's chest. He rose on one elbow, touched the sleeping face with a fingertip, and then pulled his dressing gown from the hook and went to the workroom to tend to the night's task.
The headache draught was thickening nicely. Snape added the motherwort leaves and began stirring counterclockwise.
The workroom door clicked open softly, and he heard Harry's bare feet on the stone floor. Glassware chimed somewhere behind him as he counted under his breath.
When he reached two hundred strokes, he turned. Harry was holding four layers of cheesecloth tightly over the wide mouth of a glass jar. Snape poured the liquid slowly through, straining out the leaves and bits of bark.
When the last drop went through, Harry gathered up the cheesecloth and looked at him questioningly.
"Wring it, but gently," Snape told him, and levitated the cauldron to the sink while Harry did so.
The young fool was naked and probably freezing. Snape left the cauldron in the sink and wrapped his arms around Harry from behind. Harry sighed, dropped the bundle on the counter, and turned in his arms to rest his face on Snape's shoulder.
"Cover it and come back to bed," Snape murmured. "The cleaning can wait until morning."
"Let's have dinner in hall," Harry said when they finally got out of bed.
Snape raised his eyebrows. "No one who takes a close look at either of us will be in any doubt as to how we spent our Saturday."
Harry just looked at him. After a moment, Snape went to the wardrobe to search out a high-necked dress shirt. "Oh, very well," he said. "But you're not to get horseradish sauce on my plum waistcoat again."
"Y'know," Harry said, dipping his fingers into the water in the shallow bowl, "we could probably owl-order a frog from Belloc's Amphibiary."
"Do I resemble an animal lover, Mr. Potter?"
The wretch was smiling. "Course not. My mistake."
Snape sniffed. "I should think not." He took a jar of spurge leaves down from a high shelf. "However, if you find it unbearably lonesome without some wildlife about the place, I suppose I could find it in me to tolerate it."
"Good of you," said Harry, filling a cauldron with water. "Simmer or boil?"
No animal will more repay
A treatment kind and fair.
At least so lonely people say
Who keep a frog (and by the way,
They are extremely rare).
- Hilaire Belloc, "The Frog"