DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Professor Severus Snape glared at Vincent Crabbe, the Slytherin responsible for this latest potions fiasco.
"What were you thinking?" he bit out in a whisper, surveying the damage wrought by Crabbe's inattention in class. "Or were you thinking at all in the first place?"
Contrary to popular Gryffindor belief, Vincent Crabbe was in reality a rather decent potions student. Although Snape's favouritism over the members of his House ensured that the Snake House had greater learning resources in the study of potions, Vincent's friendship with the academically gifted Draco Malfoy also guaranteed that he benefited from Draco's study sessions, much to the gratification of his Head of House.
Therefore, Vincent's potion accident that occurred that afternoon made the professor all the more furious for his actual competence at the subject.
"I… I… " The beefy young man could only tremble before the dark, surly man. It did not matter that Vincent Crabbe at seventeen was half a head taller than his Housemaster, or that he was twice the mass of the Professor; to each student in the class, Professor Snape had that nightmarish quality which enabled him to reduce any Upperclassman to a snivelling firstie.
"What did you do?" The quiet whisper threatened more than any loud ejaculations the professor could have made. The entire class of Slytherins and Gryffindors visibly winced at the professor's tone, even as they gave their full attention to the scene before them.
"Speak up." The professor narrowed his eyes.
"I… I… took the wrong book…" Crabbe trailed off, pointing to the text he used. "Page 239 was… was correct… only—" he winced "—only it was the wrong book," he ended quietly, gulping. "Draco… um… Draco left that—" he swallowed nervously, then thought better than to blame a Malfoy "—um… er… he… er… I must've taken it by… by mistake."
The professor picked up the familiar tome, flipping it to the front. Moste Potente Potions. Flipping it back to page 239, he read the top – "Maude's Curse".
"Imbecile! Did I not tell you to brew the Mood Enhancement potion?"
At this, the class murmured, and Gregory Goyle, Vincent's potions partner, spoke up. "But Professor, you just told us to brew the potion on page 239 of our text. You did not mention the Enhancement—"
"Did you not notice, Mr. Goyle, that your partner had the wrong book?"
"No… no sir," Goyle backed down from the fury radiating from the professor.
The attention of the entire class was now drawn to Lavender Brown, who was pointing to the two piles of clothes in the aisle between the Gryffindor and Slytherin tables. Two tiny uniformly orange coloured frogs climbed out of the messy woollen materials.
Immediately, Ron Weasley's hand shot out to grab hold of the one that emerged from the set of Gryffindor robes, only to be pulled back quick as a flash by Neville Longbottom.
"No, Ron! Their skin is deadly poisonous! One touch of the phyllobates terribilis' poison, and you'll be dead before you can say 'Godric Gyffindor'!"
The silent tension in the class escalated. All that could be heard in the room was the long trill which one of the frogs made.
There you are, my love!
You are a vision in loveliness.
I've pined for you for so long,
Put me out of my misery…
Poisonous frogs. Severus Snape sighed, pinching the ridge of his crooked hooked nose as he pondered the situation, sitting in the Headmaster's quietly humming office.
Fortunately for him, that pathetically inept potions student of his – Longbottom – was an Aficionado of All Things Amphibious, and knew how to care for the vile creatures. He shuddered to think how much more complicated it could possibly be if Weasley actually died because of a frog's touch. Thinking back to that moment in the classroom, if the situation were not so desperate, Longbottom's lovingly long lecture following his 'rescue' of Weasley, regarding the phyllobates terribilis – The Poison Dart Frog, in layman's term – was so uncharacteristic of the bumbling seventh year, it could almost be described as amusing.
Fortunately, the lengthy lecture was cut short – Severus had to re-assert his authority once more to stop the verbal diarrhoea that "Professor" Longbottom wished to inflict his potion students. Twenty points from Gryffindor for Neville's interruption of his class, and a detention for Crabbe's potion disaster seemed just about right, he smiled deviously. After meting out the very just punishments for their disruptions to his class, he had quickly levitated the two frogs into a large jar, given the frogs to Longbottom, and charged him with their survival whilst he consulted with the Headmaster.
Why on Earth couldn't the two of them be transformed into a more common breed of frogs? He pursed his thin lips in consternation.
"It seems, Severus," the Headmaster said, once he read through page 239 of Moste Potente Potions, "the only way to break the enchantment would be for Miss Granger and Mr Malfoy's True Love to kiss them."
Great. That's a simple enough solution to the problem.
What else could go wrong?
The mind of a simple creature was simple. To ensure that the circle of life continued, instincts dictate that a mating call must always be answered.
And how terribly poetic was that divine creature that sang to her! She sighed, moved beyond words.
However, the sudden flight the female frog was sent on caused her great fear and confusion, and then, to her joy, she was put into a strange confinement with that fine specimen that sang to her!
But he wasn't singing to her anymore.
Ronald Weasley and Pansy Parkinson were called into the Headmaster's office, along with Longbottom and the frogs.
"But how are we to know which is Granger and which is Malfoy?" Snape bit out in quiet frustration.
"That's just the problem, Professor," Longbottom rolled his eyes in exasperation. Obviously, the presence of the Headmaster at this meeting gave the usually nervous young man the courage to be impertinent. "I was going to tell you to put them into separate jars with labels when you simply levitated them both into the same jar. The thing is, unless Malfoy gives the mating call, no one will be able to identify their sex. He's stopped giving that call when you levitated them.
"Anyway, I've separated them into two charmed jars. The minute Malfoy sings, his jar label will turn blue."
Again, Longbottom's done it again, Snape sneered. He wasn't able to brew a simple potion, but give him a frog or a toad and he's sufficiently motivate to use that brain of his. Harrumph!
The humans in the Headmaster's office and the portraits all took a sudden interested look at the frogs, as if by their curious stare, one of them would start trilling that all important call.
He couldn't sing her. He had sung to her, but it had cause a strange wind to lift them both into a strange space. He couldn't risk singing to her anymore. He would never knowingly put her in danger.
She was perfection personified. She was beautiful beyond words or song.
The perfect mother for all his babies.
His heart's mate.
He was in her presence, and just as he was about to sing to her, they were separated by that strange wind once more.
This time, he was put into another strange space – a torturous place. A place where he could still see her, but he couldn't scent her. A place where he could still see her, but he couldn't be sure if she could see him.
He was frustrated. He was depressed.
He wondered if she could hear him and come to where he was. He wasn't sure. This strange place he was in echoed his breath hollowly. He wasn't sure if she could hear his love song.
"While waiting for Draco's performance," Dumbledore said with a benign smile, "let me explain to the two of you why you are called here."
Gesturing to the seats before him, he continued once the students sat down. "It appears that Mr. Crabbe had brewed Maude's Curse. This was the same potion used long ago by Maude of Monteville to transform a prince into a frog. I believe muggles have immortalised this story as 'The Frog Prince'."
The Headmaster's eyes twinkled brightly at the seated students, who failed to see their Potions Master's shudder. Snape was well acquainted that the Headmaster's eye twinkle – enough to know that what was required of the students would possibly involve embarrassing conditions.
"According to that story," the Headmaster continued, "the only way to reverse the effects of the potion would be for the potion victim's True Love's kiss to break the enchantment."
Staring intensely at the stunned Gryffindor and Slytherin before him, he added ominously, "And this is where the two of you come in."
The confining area was warm and moist. There were two crickets with her. She supposed she could eat them, but at the moment, their inane chatter was comforting.
She did not understand it. He had called her. She heard him clearly. His voice was warm and hypnotic, and she had recognised her heart's mate deep within her. Was this the thing she was desperately trying to remember?
"You want me to kiss a deadly poisonous frog?" Pansy's gratingly high-pitched voice rose even higher.
"Miss Parkinson… Pansy," Dumbledore gentled his voice into what he hoped was a sufficiently grandfatherly and comforting tone, "We're quite sure that your love for Draco would overcome the effects of the spell. You would not come to harm."
"But… but… to kiss that slimy, little, poisonous thing would be gross! Not only that, I might even die from it if it turns out that I… that I'm not his True Love!"
"Ah, but Pansy, the path to true love is not without risk," Dumbledore nodded sagely. "Besides, it would be just like kissing a chocolate frog."
"I eat chocolate frogs. Not kiss them!" she retorted, enfolding her arms and leaned back into her chair, confused, angry and worried.
Would she dare to risk her life to see if she was indeed Draco's True Love? She knew she was infatuated with the snarky, handsome Slytherin since their first year together. But Draco had never given her any indication that he loved her more than a friend. Did she dare gamble with her very life to see if their current relationship was enough to break the enchantment?
No. She doubted that she inspired anything more than friendship to Draco. Draco was not the type of person who would hide his feelings from her, knowing that she had a crush on him. He would have declared himself to her already – but his heart was not easily touched.
Pansy's face settled into a grim mien, her shoulders slumped. Dumbledore knew then that Pansy was a no-go.
He then turned to Ron with a little more confidence. A hot-blooded Gryffindor would certainly step forward bravely to rescue a damsel in distress. It was only a single kiss, after all. Moreover, Dumbledore had seen the protective way young Weasley behaved around Miss Granger; he was quite sure that Mr. Weasley's kiss would be sufficient to break the enchantment.
The fiery-haired boy looked up from his thoughts with a frown. "I'm sorry, Headmaster, I don't think… that is, I…"
Snape gave an exasperated snort. "What is the matter, boy? Don't you love her?"
Riled by the Potion Master's bluntness, Ron stood up, hands clenched and face as red as his hair. "Love her? Of course I love her! I love her like I love Ginny! Frankly, I don't think that's enough, do you?"
The Headmaster leaned back in his chair, his twinkle gone, his shoulders slumped. "And Harry?"
"Harry's… Hermione's our best friend," he stated simply, knowing that that wasn't the answer that would help Hermione in the least.
"But you're not in love with anyone else, are you?" Snape sneered. "Miss Granger would be quite a catch for you, if you manage to break the enchantment."
"I… I…" he bit his lips, looking at the Headmaster, Pansy, Neville and then the frogs in the separate jars. Very softly, so softly that he hoped Pansy and Neville would not hear him, he whispered, "I can't be her true love… I'm in love with Luna."
"What? That loony Ravenclaw?" Pansy shrieked out in laughter. Neville, who was not able to hear Ron, raised his eyebrows at Pansy's remarks. This was definitely grist for the Hogwarts mills.
Ron blushed a deep scarlet – part embarrassment, part anger. "Her name is Luna, Parkinson."
"Ooh, protective, aren't we? I'm sooo scared," she taunted, Draco's predicament quickly forgotten.
By the end of dinnertime, no doubt the entire school would know of his secret love, Ron groaned inwardly.
Could he call her? Should he call her?
She looked so lost and so sad.
He was a leaf climber, not a jumper, but he could try getting out of this place. Perhaps if he hit the walls with enough force…
"This is a pathetic farce!" the Head of Slytherin mulled, rubbing his temples, eyes closed.
The Headmaster merely stroked his flowing white beard, ignoring the younger man.
"Mr. Weasley, Miss Parkinson, you are both rather close to Miss Granger and Mr. Malfoy. Would you know if they harboured feelings for certain other persons in school?"
Pansy shook her head and shrugged.
Ron, who had re-seated himself, ran his hand through his hair and replied, "None that I know of…"
"We must therefore conclude that if they had a tendre for anyone in school, it was kept secret from us," Dumbledore sighed. "Well, Severus, I think we've done all we can for now. Perhaps time is what is needed before Mr. Malfoy and Miss Granger's True Loves are found. Certainly in the muggle tale, it took the Frog Prince some time before his princess broke the curse."
"So what are we to do with them?" Snape nodded towards the two jars on the table.
"I think their parents ought to be notified. Mr. Longbottom, I'd need you to prepare for me two parchments on the care of the phyllobates terribilis for the Grangers and the Malfoys. Goodness knows that if not for the enchantments on the jars, these delicate tropical creatures would have easily died in our Scottish environment."
"I'll do that immediately sir," Neville nodded enthusiastically.
What was he doing? He seemed to be jumping wildly against the barrier! Was he mad? He just couldn't be!
Oh, but how clever he was! His confinement was moving! Was that how a frog moved the barrier? Perhaps if she did so as well…
The owls were dispatched, with the owl heading for the Granger home listing aside with the heavier parchment attached with a Portkey.
"Since we've decided to take this course of action, I think the only thing we can do now is to wait for the parents to come claim their children," Dumbledore announced with a heavy heart. "Come, it's nearly dinnertime. We should all adjourn to the Great Hall."
"What about the frogs, sir?" Neville asked, reluctant to leave such rare specimens behind.
"We'll leave them here. Their environments are enchanted, and it's certainly more peaceful here compared to the Great Hall. My office is a much safer place than the dormitories – curious younger students might accidentally release them, not to mention the even more curious familiars that roam our school for unsuspecting preys. Worry not, Neville, they will be safe here."
"What about Fawkes?"
Dumbledore smiled. "He won't eat them. He knows better. No, Fawkes will watch over them."
Assured, yet saddened, the five left the office, with Dumbledore doubling the ward just in case.
A/N: Written in April 2005. Which means that at the time this was written, Half-Blood Prince wasn't published yet. So please don't review telling me about how wrong it is that Dumbledore is alive or that Hermione didn't go to Hogwarts in their 7th year. ;) The story was 75% finished and in need of heavy editing, but I've blown off the dust bunnies on this one and I think it'll take a couple more chapters to complete it.
Hardy, E. 2001. "Phyllobates terribilis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed August 13, 2004 at http: / animaldiversity. ummz. umich. edu /site /accounts /information /Phyllobates_terribilis. html. (remove spaces, of course.)