Written for Minerva McTabby's Blame Someone Else Challenge. A response to Scorpio Grudge's story idea:

Snape and Marcus Flint discuss teeth during an evening of drinking, then hunt down Hermione to ask her opinion.

I blame her for this. ;-)

Teeth

by Luthien

It was the night of the victory feast celebrating the final, utter, complete and irrevocable downfall of Lord Voldemort. The dark lord was gone, his death-eaters were no more and it was a warm and balmy night close to midsummer. In short, there was much cause for celebration and it was the perfect weather for it. Noticing this, Dumbledore had decreed that the victory feast would be held out in the large field in the castle grounds, rather than in the Great Hall at Hogwarts. This was a practical decision as much as the whimsical notion it appeared to be on the surface, since even the Great Hall was not large enough to hold all those who had worked on the side of good over the years and thus earned a place at the feast.

Dumbledore had caused dozens of tables to be set up in the field, including one long one set above the others on a dais, reflecting the layout in the Great Hall. There were seated the greatest heroes of the war, all of whose names and faces were well-known to avid readers of the Daily Prophet. They included Dumbledore himself, Harry Potter and his friends, Sirius Black, various Hogwarts professors, all manner of Weasleys, and Draco Malfoy.

Snape eyed them all from his seat at one of the very back tables, set in the shadow of the Forbidden Forest. Next to him sat Marcus Flint, onetime captain of the Slytherin Quidditch team, sometime follower of Voldemort, and, most recently - and just in the nick of time, as it had turned out - convert to the side of good. Their table was one of the 'out of sight, out of mind' tables, a fact of which Snape was very well aware. The sneer remained fixed to his lips as he knocked back glass after glass of Ogden's Old Firewhisky and the feast dragged on and on. The consumption of so many glasses of Firewhisky in such a relatively short period of time would have left almost any other human being reeling drunk and lying in a heap under the table, but Snape had been drinking the stuff in large quantities for years and so remained sitting perfectly upright in his chair, only a slight flush to his normally colourless cheeks betraying the fact that he had drunk perhaps a little more Firewhisky than was usual for him.

The feast was over now, the formalities done with, and quite a number of people had risen from their seats to take part in the dancing on the platform conjured for that purpose. Others were mingling at tables here and there, gossiping and drinking and catching up. Snape, who had not moved from his seat in the shadows since he first arrived, let his eyes run the length of the high table before they came to rest near the middle of it, where Draco Malfoy sat in apparent deep conversation with Harry Potter. Flint, with whom Snape had been engaged in sporadic conversation throughout the evening, followed the direction of his gaze and sighed.

"Our problem," said Flint morosely, "is that we're just not pretty enough."

Snape turned to look at him, eyebrows raised. "Speak for yourself," he said haughtily.

"Well, why aren't you up there, then?" Flint asked, nodding in the direction of the high table. "You did more than most of them during the war."

"Dumbledore thought it best that I not draw attention to myself just yet," said Snape, doing his best not to speak through clenched teeth. "I was a double agent for a very long time."

"Oh yeah? Well what about Malfoy, then? They don't seem to have any problem drawing attention to him. He didn't change sides until the last minute, and there he is in a place of honour, right next to Potter. It was just the same when he was working for Voldemort: pretty looks, nice manners, never lifting a finger to do any real work, and suddenly he's the right-hand man!" He cast a sidelong glance at Snape. "It was just like being back at school again."

"Oh, get over it. You must have realised by now that favouring Malfoy over everyone else was part of my strategy to keep his father's trust. There was certainly nothing else behind it. Not everyone's taste runs to insipid blonds," Snape sneered.

"Potter's certainly does," Flint observed. "Look how close he's sitting to Malfoy. I swear he's been edging that chair nearer and nearer all evening."

"Potter never did have much taste."

"You mean he never went for the dark, greasy-haired, sallow-skinned, hook-nosed look?"

Snape ground his teeth. "At least my grandmother never slept with a troll," he pointed out.

"That was never proved!" Flint exclaimed hotly. "My grandfather-"

"Yes, yes, I know," said Snape irritably, reflecting that given everything he'd ever heard about Flint's grandfather it wasn't beyond the bounds of possibility that his grandmother might have sought solace in the arms of a troll. "The point is-"

"The point is that Malfoy is up there, with all the other beautiful people, waiting for the Daily Prophet photographer, and we're way back here, out of sight."

"I would hardly call Potter beautiful," said Snape, glaring balefully – almost out of habit – at the victorious hero. Even in adulthood, Harry Potter cut an unprepossessing figure. He had grown from a puny-looking boy into a man of barely average height, he continued to wear a pair of plain round spectacles, and his hair was still as messy as it had ever been. No, there was nothing beautiful about him at all, even if he did have skin that gleamed white in the moonlight and-

"Well, I certainly wouldn't call Granger beautiful," Flint sniggered, looking further along the high table to where Hermione Granger sat, giggling as Hagrid topped up her goblet from a familiar-shaped bottle. "Remember those teeth of hers? They wouldn't have been out of place on a rabbit."

"You're hardly in any position to cast aspersions on anyone else's appearance, particularly their teeth," said Snape, looking pointedly over Flint's hulking figure, Neanderthal brow, broken nose and heavy jaw before his gaze settled on the man's prominent teeth.

Flint blinked in surprise.

Suddenly realising that that had sounded very like a defence of the monumentally annoying Granger, Snape added for good measure, "Not that her teeth weren't… remarkable before they were cosmetically altered. Particularly right before they were cosmetically altered." He smirked at the memory. There. That was better.

"Not as if you're in any position to cast aserp-, asb- make fun of anybody's teeth, either." Flint giggled unattractively into his mug of Ambrose's Amazingly Alcoholic Apple Cider.

"There's nothing wrong with my teeth!" Snape said indignantly. "They're a perfectly normal size and shape."

"They're crooked," said Flint. "And yellow."

"I'd take them over those tombstones of yours any day!"

"Yeah, you might, but would anybody else? You're never going to be in the running for Witch Weekly's Most-Charming-Smile Award, are you? No wonder no one's ever seen you with anyone." He stood up, swaying slightly, and smirked down at Snape in what he obviously considered to be a superior manner.

Snape jumped to his feet. He stood close in front of the other man, remarkable nose to remarkable nose. "I'm with you right now," he pointed out in a dangerous voice.

"Not 'with' like this." Flint sighed in irritation. "I mean 'with' like this." Without further ado, he took hold of Snape's shoulders and kissed him.

As kisses went, it definitely fell way down on the unpleasant end of the scale. Flint's natural bad breath somehow managed to penetrate even the strong, horrifically sweet taste of the cider on his tongue, the tongue itself was clumsy and unskilled, and those teeth were everywhere that the tongue wasn't. Snape's lips were well on the way to being bruised by the time he recovered enough from the initial shock to wrench himself away and take a hasty step back.

"Yeeeeuch!" The exclamation came, surprisingly, not from Snape himself but from Flint. "That was disgusting. No wonder you're always alone."

"I am alone through choice, Flint," Snape replied frostily. "Unlike you. I imagine no one's ever made it past those teeth of yours to discover what horrors await beyond." Snape made a face and spat into his handkerchief, but the taste of cider mixed with Essence of Flint was still strong in his mouth. He reached for his glass and flooded his mouth with Firewhisky. The other taste mercifully receded.

"Better than those slimy teeth of yours. They were just…" Flint appeared lost for words which would adequately describe the experience. "And that blasted Firewhisky. Merlin! How can you drink that stuff?"

"I could say much the same for that… drink you've been consuming all evening. Firewhisky, on the other hand, is a beverage best reserved for those properly able to appreciate it. Much like my teeth in that respect."

Flint spat out a mouthful of cider. "You think your teeth are better than mine?"

"I don't just think, I know they're better than yours."

"I'm beginning to think that the Gryffindors had a point."

Snape stared at him, surprised, if anything, that Flint hadn't reached the point of incoherence sooner.

"When they used to say that you were biased," Flint explained.

"You being such a disinterested and unbiased party yourself, of course."

Flint scowled. "We need to get someone else to judge whose teeth are best."

"If we're going to the trouble of doing that then we may as well make it worth our while. Fifty Galleons says that my teeth are more attractive than yours."

"Make it a hundred."

"Done," said Snape.

"So long as we find the right judge," Flint added, grabbing a fork from the table and picking carefully at his teeth with the tines.

"A completely independent adjudicator," agreed Snape, shuddering slightly at the sight. "Someone who's not biased in favour of either of us."

"A Gryffindor, then," Flint muttered.

"Someone who knows a thing or two about teeth," Snape mused.

They looked at each other, obviously struck by the same thought simultaneously, then turned as one and stared at the high table, where Hermione Granger still sat in her place just along from Harry Potter, between Ron Weasley and Hagrid.

"I'll get her," said Flint. "Just stay right here - and don't try to do anything to your teeth while I'm gone. No cleaning spells! I remember exactly what your teeth are like," he winced slightly, "and I'll know if there's any change."

"The same goes for you." Snape felt like wincing, too, but didn't.

Flint plunged off in search of Granger.

Snape sat back down in his chair to wait. It was a rather old and uncomfortable chair. Typical. He was sure that those at the high table didn't have to put up with this sort of thing. They would be sitting back in comfort as well as glory. Of course, those at the high table had also been forced to sit through all of that sickening fawning over Potter at close quarters, and they would have had to endure all the dignitaries droning on and on without any opportunity to take a quick kip unnoticed. Whatever he might say to a nonentity like Flint, however, and whatever justifications he might make in the privacy of his own thoughts, the fact remained that Snape's contributions and sacrifices over the years had not been officially or publicly recognised. Snape felt the cut of the slight most keenly, and it wasn't something he planned to forget.

He took another generous sip of whisky and looked over towards the high table. Flint had reached Granger's side. This ought to be good. He watched as Flint started talking, gesturing first at his own face and then over in the general direction of where Snape was seated. He inclined his head in acknowledgement, then sat back, nursing his glass in both hands. Flint was talking quite animatedly to Granger now, and after another minute or so the girl got to her feet. Weasley was nowhere to be seen, Hagrid appeared to be engrossed in singing some drinking song with Flitwick, and Harry Potter didn't seem to be taking in anything around him beyond Draco Malfoy, so no one questioned Granger about what she was doing, or tried to stop her from going off with Flint. Snape smiled thinly. It would be the easiest hundred Galleons he'd ever made.

He didn't have long to wait before Flint returned with Granger, who looked very much as though she was trying to keep from laughing. Snape eyed her coolly, aware that he didn't quite achieve his usual effortless and intimidating stare, perhaps because the dim lighting made it difficult for him to focus properly. Granger certainly looked as though she was having some trouble focusing herself. He wondered how many times Hagrid had topped up her goblet with Firewhisky in the course of the interminable feast.

Hermione Granger had grown from an annoying, plain-looking schoolgirl with too much hair and too-large front teeth into an annoying, plain-looking young woman with too much hair, who knew more about teeth than your average witch. Actually, she knew more about most things than your average witch, or even than your above average witch. Yes, she was very, very annoying, all right, but she would at least be useful to Snape this once. That would make a nice change for her.

"Miss Granger," he said.

The formal mode of address seemed to be her undoing. She burst out laughing.

He continued to stare at her, unamused.

"Professor Snape," she gasped out after a moment. "Do you really want me to judge your teeth?" She bit her lip.

"It's a simple enough request," said Snape. "We require an independent judge to determine whether my teeth are superior to those of Mr Flint. Is there some reason you feel yourself to be unequal to the task?"

"No I- I can do it, but you need to give me- What basis do you want me to judge on?"

Snape considered that. It was a fair question. Not that he planned to tell her he thought so, of course.

"The criteria," he began. "The criteria should properly settle the question central to our argument."

Flint sniggered. Granger looked at him suspiciously before turning back to Snape.

"What was the question central to your argument?" she asked, suddenly sounding a trifle wary. She really must have had a lot to drink, Snape decided, if she hadn't asked about that straight off.

"We were arguing over two factors," said Snape. "The first was appearance."

"Well, that should be easy enough," said Granger briskly. "Show me your teeth," she ordered Flint.

Flint complied, baring his teeth in a hideous grimace which he obviously believed to be a fetching grin.

"Hmmn," said Granger, tilting her head to one side as she stepped up in front of him for a close inspection. "They're quite large and-" She choked.

Cider fumes could do nothing to help Flint's cause, Snape thought smugly.

Granger swallowed hard, then continued gamely, "As I was saying, they're quite large and they stick out quite a lot." Flint frowned. "Let me have a good look in your mouth. Open up!" Flint obeyed, stretching his jaws open as far as possible and looking for all the world like a troll getting ready to bite someone's finger off. Granger appeared unfazed by the sight, though. Wand in hand, she murmured something under her breath and a small, reed thin beam of light shone into Flint's mouth. Granger moved closer to get a better look, then stopped and swallowed hard, apparently trying not to gag as another cloud of fumes hit her. She took a quill from the pocket of her robes and quietly transfigured it into a short metal stick with a small, round mirror attached to one end. Pocketing her wand, she stuck the mirrored end of the stick in Flint's mouth. He grunted in surprise, but Granger merely grabbed hold of one meaty shoulder and held him fast while she continued her assessment of the contents of his mouth. After a final hard scrutiny of his front teeth, she moved back out of range of Flint's breath, shaking her head.

"Yes, well," she said, sounding disapproving. "You've got several quite bad cavities back there. When did you last see your dentist?"

Snape remembered, belatedly, that Granger was the offspring of a pair of Muggle dentists. It explained quite a lot about her, now that he stopped to consider the matter.

Flint mumbled something, looking a little guilty.

"You should make an appointment as soon as possible," Granger told him sternly. "Some of those might need to come out if you leave them any longer."

A fleeting look of terror crossed Flint's ugly features, quickly replaced by a thunderous scowl. "Just get on with it," he growled. "What's your decision?"

"Well, your teeth aren't really in very good order, are they?" she said. "And they're not really neatly arranged, and totally out of proportion for your mouth and, ah, other facial features. Well, most of your other facial features," she added, casting a glance at his craggy brow. "I'm afraid I couldn't give them more than three out of ten at most."

Flint did not look pleased with her pronouncement. "Now do his," he said shortly, gesturing towards Snape.

A smile tugged at the corner of Granger's mouth as she turned to Snape, who remained seated in his chair. "Give me a great big grin, Professor," she instructed.

With effort, Snape refrained from scowling at her, instead forcing his lips apart and revealing his teeth in a mockery of a grin.

Granger leaned in close to take a good look at his teeth, so close that he could feel her warm breath against his cheek. To his surprise, her breath smelled far from unpleasant. It was certainly more appealing than Flint's, though that was, admittedly, not saying much.

"Open wide and say 'ah'," said Granger.

Snape complied. Granger leaned in even closer, and peered into his mouth. For some reason, Snape's breath caught in his chest, and he snapped his mouth shut, swallowing hard.

"Hey! I haven't finished yet!" said Granger.

"That should have been more than adequate time for you to have a good look at my teeth," said Snape.

"Do you want me to do this for you or not?"

"If Granger can't make a decision then that means I win by default," Flint crowed.

"Take another look," said Snape grudgingly, and opened his mouth again.

Granger seemed to take quite a while as she poked about in Snape's mouth with her little mirror-stick and her narrow beam of light to guide her. Finally, it seemed she'd seen enough.

"You can close your mouth now."

He did so, turning to her immediately and demanding, "Well?"

"I couldn't see any cavities," Granger replied. Flint's frown deepened and Snape could barely hold back a superior smirk. "But you don't take very good care of your teeth, do you? They've looked yellow for as long as I've known you, and they're badly worn down and even chipped in places." It was Flint's turn to smirk. "And your parents should really have made you wear braces when you were a child."

Flint burst out laughing. Snape maintained his composure - barely - but only because he clenched his hands so tightly that the fingernails cut into his palms. It was a moment before he could speak.

"And your verdict on my teeth, Miss Granger?" he bit out.

"Three out of ten at most," she said, her face straight.

A draw! Flint looked slightly downcast, but Snape was ready for that result. "So the outcome will depend entirely on our scores in the second half of the assessment," he said silkily.

Granger's eyes flew to his face as he spoke. So she remembered that tone from her schooldays, did she? Snape feigned an innocent look.

"Just what do you expect me to base the second assessment on?" she asked, eyes narrowing.

"As I told you, there were two aspects to our argument. The first was the general appearance of our teeth, on which you have already judged us - and found us both wanting." His lip curled.

Granger sighed ostentatiously. "Yes, so you told me. What's the second?" Flint sniggered again, and Granger shot him an irritated look. "Well?"

Snape considered how best to word it. There were a hundred golden reasons why he didn't want to scare her away before she had a chance to make her final decision. However, he couldn't think of a gentle way to phrase the request, and Snape didn't think he would have been able to think of one even if he'd been the sort of person who customarily made gentle requests. So finally he simply said, as delicately as he was able: "It is a question of... kissability."

Granger stared at him blankly for at least three seconds, and then the meaning of his words penetrated her brain. "You want me to kiss you?"

"Both of us. Once each should be quite enough," Snape said in his most businesslike manner.

"Why were you arguing about that in the first place?" she asked, frowning.

"That doesn't matter," Snape said quickly, not looking in Flint's direction. He looked at Granger instead. She was still frowning, but not through anger or disgust. Not yet, anyway. He could almost see her turning the question over in her mind, trying to puzzle it out. How typical of her to seize on the question of why he and Flint had been discussing the subject in the first place. The first reaction of any other young woman in her place would have been horror at the thought of being asked to kiss anyone - let alone two ex-death-eaters, one of them the nasty Potions master - as a means of settling a wager. "So, will you do it?" he prompted, when she remained silent.

"I-" She paused. "You really want me to kiss you?" she asked.

"Yes. It is needful in order to settle the question of whose teeth are superior," Snape explained with exaggerated patience, as though he were speaking to a particularly thick-headed student. "There is no other motive involved," he added. "If you're worried about being seen, you need not be. The trees offer more than adequate cover."

Granger looked at him steadily for a moment, then she looked over where Flint sat, gulping down cider, and then she looked back at Snape. Snape returned her stare.

"If it were almost anyone else, I'd think there was some ulterior motive," she said seriously. "But I honestly can't imagine that you would want..." She paused. "All right. I said I'd help you settle the question, and I will. Who's first?" She bit her lip, but it was clear that she wasn't trying to hold back a laugh this time.

"No reason to change the order from last time, is there?" asked Flint, getting up.

"Let's get it over with then," said Granger, looking as though she'd rather be anywhere else.

Flint wasted no time. He took hold of Granger's shoulders, much as he'd done earlier when he'd planted that disgusting kiss on Snape, and proceeded to slobber all over her. Snape fancied he could almost hear the grinding of Flint's teeth as he tried his best to impress Granger with his dental adeptness.

After a short time, Granger tried to pull away, but she seemed to be having some difficulty in doing so. In fact, Flint appeared determined to keep going for the foreseeable future. Snape stepped forward and pulled them apart. Almost immediately, he was assailed with a gust of Flint Breath. He choked back a cough and turned to check how Granger was faring. She looked decidedly green, he thought. No wonder she was speechless. Kissing Marcus Flint was a quite indescribable experience.

"So, what do you think?" Flint asked anxiously. "Good, eh?"

"I- I-" Granger cleared her throat loudly and looked at the ground. Snape thought that she might be about to dissolve into a coughing fit, but after a moment she looked up bravely, her eyes only a little watery. "I'll reserve judgement until the end this time," she said.

It was Snape's turn. To his surprise he found that he was unaccountably nervous. Perhaps it was because he had, much to his chagrin, failed to outdo Flint on the first assessment. He rather thought he was possessed of more finesse than Flint had just displayed, but really, who could say for sure? The fact that Flint himself had reacted less than positively to Snape's 'kissability' was a large part of what had led to this situation in the first place.

"Professor Snape? Are you ready?" Granger was standing a short distance away from him and beginning to look impatient. No doubt she wanted to get this last test over and done with as quickly as possible. Well, she could scarcely be expected to be looking forward to kissing him.

Snape closed the distance between them and stood before her, close but not quite touching. He looked down at her face; she was quite a bit shorter than he. He'd never really taken note of the fact before. She placed her hands on his shoulders, and looked up at him, sighing in resignation. He took hold of her chin, quite gently, really, but she stiffened and started to pull away.

"I am merely attempting to find the best angle to accommodate the difference in our heights," he said, unable to quite keep the snap of irritability out of his voice.

Granger nodded slowly and tilted her chin up. Snape put his arms around her loosely and bent down. Gently, he told himself, gently. He could do this. He might have his faults but he was certainly not as boorish as Marcus Flint. There were a hundred Galleons with his name on them that said so.

His lips brushed lightly against hers. Gentle. Soft. Don't repulse her. There, that wasn't too bad, if he did say so himself. He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, smelling the familiar scent of Firewhisky on her breath and the slightly acrid smell of wood smoke that clung to her hair. He opened his lips slightly, and she followed suit. Soft. Wet. Warm. His mind catalogued the sensations one by one. A heightened taste of Firewhisky curled around his tongue and then-

Then he was tasting her, whisky and smoke and her, all mixed up together, and he couldn't get enough of it, couldn't get enough of her. His mouth moved against hers and his hands were suddenly hard on her back, pulling her close, and he could feel her, all warmth and soft curves pressing up against him. She felt nothing like Flint, thank God. In fact, she felt nothing like anyone else he'd ever-

She gave a tiny whimper, deep in her throat, and his eyes flew open. His heart was pounding hard in his chest, so hard that it was hurting him, as he waited for her to pull away.

She shifted closer, and deepened the kiss. Her tongue slid slowly along his upper lip then moved on, exploring his teeth and-

Oh. His teeth. That was the whole point of it. That was why they were here. To assess his teeth and so settle a bet. Nothing more. A hard, heavy weight settled in his chest.

He pulled back and quickly turned away.

"So, who won?"

Snape very nearly jumped. He'd completely forgotten that Flint had been standing close by the whole time.

"What?" said Granger, sounding confused.

"The verdict," said Flint impatiently. "Whose teeth were most kissable? Who wins?"

Granger didn't answer immediately, and finally Snape turned to look at her. She was staring straight at him. Their gazes met and locked. Her eyes were wide and startled and her chest was moving up and down rapidly. She looked surprised and confused, but she didn't look disgusted. The heavy weight in his chest lurched back into life.

"I'm sorry, Marcus," she said, not taking her eyes off Snape, "but your teeth… I'm sorry, I really can't award you more than two out of ten, and that's mostly for effort."

"What about him, then?" asked Flint. "Is his kiss worth more than two points?" Flint wasn't going to give up his hold on those Galleons until he absolutely had to, that was clear.

"I- I'm not sure how many points to give Professor Snape," she said, speaking directly to Snape.

"Surely I deserve to know whether that kiss was… adequate," said Snape. "If only to settle the question of teeth once and for all."

"It was unlike anything I've ever experienced before," she blurted out suddenly.

"Is that good or bad?" demanded Flint.

Granger continued to ignore him, and kept her eyes firmly on Snape. "It must be the whisky," she managed after a long moment. "I'm not really used to it."

Snape nodded. "Yes, it must be the whisky," he agreed, but refrained from adding that he was more than used to it. "It's probably a fluke."

"Perhaps we'd better try again, just to make sure," Granger suggested.

"Good idea," said Snape. "We need more data."

Her body was pressed up close against him and her arms twining around his neck before he had time to say another word, if he'd been intending to keep talking - which he wasn't. He was ready for the impact of the kiss this time, but somehow it came as just as much of a shock to his system as the first. His senses swam. He'd never felt anything so compelling in his life. She squirmed against him, fitting her body against his. A small sound which might have been a chuckle came from her throat as she felt his instantaneous response – a response that he probably shouldn't have been capable of, given the amount of alcohol he'd consumed tonight. He tensed, wanting to pull her even closer, wanting to touch her properly, but remembering just in time that they were not alone.

"Well?" Flint demanded as they broke apart. "Do you have enough data now?"

"Ten," Granger breathed. "Professor Snape's kiss gets ten points."

"Not fair," complained Flint. "He got two chances to get it right. I only got one. It's not over until I get another go."

Granger blanched.

Snape stepped into the fray at that point. "I don't think so, Flint."

"You're not getting my money. It wasn't a fair competition."

"Keep the money, then," growled Snape. "I'm withdrawing from the contest."

"Then I win by default," said Flint.

"No, you don't," said Snape, glaring. He might have just enough vestiges of honour left to withdraw from the contest rather than let Granger – or anyone short of a death-eater, for that matter – be subjected to the horror of Flint's kiss again, but his Slytherin pride demanded that he not lose his money to someone who employed such very transparent tactics to win. He wasn't paying up without a fight.

"I win," protested Flint. "That's the way these things work."

Things were threatening to get very ugly, very quickly, but before they had a chance to deteriorate further – most likely in the direction of a slanging match and hexes and possibly ending in a formal duel or an all-out brawl – Granger lent a hand. Moving quickly over to where Flint stood, she took a deep breath, lifted her head and pressed her lips against his. She kissed him quite hard – there could be no dispute about whether she'd done it or not – but it was over very, very fast. The two men gaped at her.

"Sorry, Marcus," she said, shaking her head sadly. "That's still only worth two. Or maybe even only one, since there wasn't as much effort involved this time, so I declare Professor Snape the winner. I hope you've got the hundred Galleons ready."

Snape wanted to laugh out loud, but didn't, which was probably just as well since the sight of him laughing almost certainly would have sent both his companions into shock. All in all, the evening was turning out rather better than he'd expected.

"I'll have it for you tomorrow," Flint muttered sullenly, all bravado suddenly gone. He skulked away, and abruptly Snape found himself alone with Granger.

She was watching him again.

"Well," said Snape.

"Well," said Granger.

"I've never liked you much," said Snape, taking a step towards her.

"I haven't had much cause to be all that fond of you, either," said Granger, also moving closer.

"I used to think you were an insufferable know-it-all when you were a student," said Snape, letting his left hand fall against her hip.

"I know. I used to think you were a slimy bastard," said Granger, moving her right hand up to cup the side of his face.

"I still think you're something of an insufferable know-it-all," he said, almost managing to sound scornful, but his hand moved around to caress her backside.

Granger gave a little purr of pleasure. "I know. I still think you can be a bastard," she said, and started stroking his neck. "But you're also a fantastic kisser."

He pulled her into his arms then. By the time they finally broke apart again some minutes later, both breathing hard, he was fairly certain that he'd proved her right.

They stood there in silence for a while, not sure quite what to say next but not wanting to stop touching either, shrouded from view by the once-menacing but now oddly friendly-seeming trees on the edge of the Forbidden Forest. Snape's hands were running up and down Hermione's back and her head was resting against his chest while her fingers tangled in his hair when they finally spoke again.

"We're probably going to regret this in the morning," he said at last.

"I know," said Hermione.

"Morning is still some hours away," he felt obliged to add.

"I know," said Hermione, "so let's not waste them."

Snape swallowed hard. "I have some rather good Firewhisky in my quarters, if you'd care to come back with me and join me in a glass," he offered.

Hermione smiled. "What a good idea," she said. "And after that, whatever happens… happens."

"Whatever happens, happens," he agreed, and took her hand.

As they walked off towards the castle together Snape couldn't help looking back at the high table for a moment and smirking just a little. Clearly, being pretty wasn't everything.