This is very much a prologue-so much so, it has very little to do with the actual plot. More like setting the scene. Enjoy. Thanks to my betas Lillies and Remains and Kjrsten.

Disclaimer: I own only the plot. The characters belong to J. K. Rowling, Warner Bros., etc. I am not making any money. Unfortunately. The Revel is something appropriated from KazVL's Falling Further In.

NOTE: At the time of writing this, it was not revealed that Blaise was male, and some theorized that he could be female. This is a very old fic, and changing ToD!Blaise into a boy just won't work.

Prologue: A Day in the Life of Severus Snape

"Mr. Finnegan, what color did I say the Inside-Out Solution was supposed to be?"

"Uh... dark green, sir."

"And what consistency ought it be?"

"Thick, like honey, sir."

"Precisely, Mr. Finnegan. And, pray tell, what is the color and consistency of your solution?"

"Cyan and watery, sir."

"Ten points from Gryffindor for failing to accurately follow directions and for that eye roll. Mr. Thomas, I expected better of you. I would advise you to aid your partner rather than drool over Miss Brown. Five points... Ah, Messrs. Weasley and Potter. I don't seem to recall allowing a ludicrous amount of overtime for completion. If you find it so necessary to socialize, I feel it my duty to take off fifteen points each... Wipe that smug look off your face, Miss Granger, don't think I didn't notice you did all the work. Five points off, Miss Patil for not doing your share."

The rant had become routine by now, and Severus Snape barely thought twice when commenting before each Gryffindor cauldron. It did not half bother him that he usually could not find anything wrong with Miss Granger's potion-she had become remarkably sensitive at just how long she could brew the potion quickly, but not too quickly to arouse his wrath, as well as keep very quiet. She had slowly restrained herself from raising her hand so much in his class. He did not know how other teachers faired, but he found it a relief. He usually made up for the lack of points taken from Hermione's potion by taking extra points from Potter's and Weasley's potion, with whom he usually found a myriad of mistakes but could only realistically punish one or two at a time.

"Now here, Messrs. Potter and Weasley, is the way a potion should be brewed. Note, Mr. Finnegan, the dark forest green and precise consistency. You are free to bottle, Mr. Malfoy."

How he hated licking Lucius' son's boots. And the boy had no talent of his own in Potions. Draco only made a point to keep Miss Granger within his line of vision, then copied her motions. But Mr. Malfoy did have one redeeming quality, and that was his deviousness. The boy knew how to cover his tracks, even under the sharp eyes of the Potions Master.

A sudden explosion behind Snape made him freeze, then sigh. As suspected, the cauldron had been contorted as it tried to bend inside-out. Neville had made the potion far too strong. Now the floor was trying to bend...

"Mr. Longbottom, perhaps we should be keeping records of how many cauldrons one person can destroy in seven years. You will stay after class and clean the mess you've made. You are incredibly fortunate that the solution was volatile but not corrosive. No, Mr. Longbottom! Put out the fire first, you fool of a boy! Use what microscopic common sense you have!"

There was a smattering of sniggering from the Slytherin side of the room, and Snape whirled to face them.

"Is everyone finished? Fine. Leave your cauldrons here. I'll store the solutions and cauldrons for next class myself. Now get out of my sight!"

Students scurried from his presence; even the Slytherins knew when Snape's patience was being tried.

It took only a short time for Longbottom to clean his mess, and under Snape's menacing glare, Neville scrubbed double time. Then, like a little mouse, Longbottom fled the room, leaving it mercifully empty.

In the absence of anyone else, Snape exhaled heavily. He was spy for the Headmaster, uninformative spy for Lord Voldemort, whipping boy for Lucius and Wormtail, whose head was so bloated it could be mistaken for a dirigible-and Hogwarts' resident actor. Having to maintain a dual fa├žade of the biased Slytherin favor for the students and the cold but calm exterior for the teachers was no easy task, especially to fool both the Headmaster and McGonagall-who knew him better than a mere passing acquaintance-into believing he was coping.

Not to mention his headaches from feigning twenty-twenty vision. He was lucky he had such an acute sense of smell, a Potions university-level requirement, otherwise he would have a time of it running into desks and cauldrons and students.

As was his habit between classes, he retrieved his glasses from the bottom left drawer of his desk, polished them, and set them on the considerable bridge of his nose. They were rimless and rectangular, similar to McGongall's, but thicker. Cruciatus left its mark in more ways than one. He supposed he was lucky to even be able to see. There were rumors that some of the followers lower in the ranks than Death Eaters, like the notorious Black Dogs and Cats' Paws, were completely blind.

Between hours, with his glasses on, he took his chance to painlessly read essays. Ravenclaws (and the occasional Hufflepuff and Gryffindor) despite their lack of depth, if not imagination, were often the most accurate to read and were corrected less often. When he wanted to relax, he usually chose one of these. Slytherin essays were the most entertaining; a virtual cornucopia of original ideas comparable to Ravenclaw profundity of established ideas made for enjoyable afternoons, but only if he was prepared for prolonging his headache. Too many times the ideas discussed were off-topic, ranging from slight digression to completely out of the Quidditch stadium. It was enough to make even the most laid back of professors frustrated, and Snape was certainly not laid back.

Ravenclaw essays, that's what he needed today. And his next class was seventh-year pre-university levels, with seminar and potion theory coupled with communal brewing. Easily his most enjoyable class. Doubtlessly, a majority of them called him a bastard to their friends, but he was confident they unconsciously appreciated the challenges he forced upon them.

However, late afternoon class was first-year Hufflepuffs, and though a more eager class was never found, their everlasting pokable bubble of positivity and never-ending optimism was relentlessly stifling at best.

A murmur of footsteps began echoing in the classroom, and Snape put down his quill and hid his glasses. When the first seventh-year walked in the door, Snape was leaning against the front of this desk, arms crossed, leering, and ready for his next performance.


Dinner was always a difficult affair. On his left was Flitwick and to the right, Hooch. Hooch was manageable, preferring the conversation of Sinistra to her right rather than risking disdainful rejection, but Flitwick, despite his tiny stature, had a surprising strength of will and perseverance that even Snape could not waver. Snape had many times told Flitwick he could put his dialogue up his arse, but in vain.

"One of your students, Severus, made a remarkably astute observation in my advanced Charms class today," Flitwick squeaked. "He pointed out a discrepancy in my usual lecture on inanimate object curses. I gave him twenty points, of course, and adjusted my curriculum. The things about your Slytherins is that you wonder whether no one ever noticed the discrepancy or they just didn't have the courage to enlighten me..."

As Snape tended to do, he tuned out, turning his thoughts inward. Tonight, all second- and fifth-year essays had to be graded and next month's lessons had to be more specifically planned. Also on the list, he included several potions he had been meaning to brew for some time.

A sharp, glittering silver stab of pain exploded in his left arm, and it was all he could do not to grunt from the effort of masking the fire.

"Flitwick," he managed to say through clenched teeth, "I regret that I have to leave you. I seem to recall an engagement I had previously forgotten. Tell the Headmaster I will meet with him later tonight as planned." Snape knew the code would be comprehended by the Headmaster, and Dumbledore would be waiting for him in the private study off of the Headmaster's office when Snape returned.

One of the staff rumors was that he had a woman who he consistently visited weekly. Lord Voldemort would be highly amused at the assumption.

He took the usual back staircase in which he stored his Death Eater cloak and mask. The way led him quickly out of Hogwarts protection so that he could Disapparate.


Lord Voldemort sat on a throne of carved stone, proud and malicious. His eyes flashed when he saw his personal traitor. But the Dark Lord was flatteringly convinced that he provided Snape with more challenge and intrigue than his arch-nemesis. Lord Voldemort had made the fatal error of underestimating Severus Snape.

However, Snape's 'loyalty' to his Dark Master did not hinder the abuse that regularly came his way.

Snape knelt and crept to Lord Voldemort's boots. He kissed the left sole-something only he, as a traitor, was forced to do-then slunk to the side, slouching sulkily. The Dark Lord had not kicked him tonight. He did not know whether to interpret this as a good sign or not of the events to follow. Lord Voldemort seemed distant, and it was several minutes after all the Death Eaters had assembled before Lord Voldemort looked up and addressed them.

"It has come to my attention that festivities in Malfoy Manor traditionally follow our meetings." He paused. No one replied, but waited for the Dark Lord to continue. If he had wanted an answer, he would have asked a question. "And at these festivities, you 'borrow' Muggles and Mudbloods as toys, disposing of evidence as soon as you're through with them. It has also come to my attention that you have not had one in months. And yet you have never told me of any of this. Are you ashamed of it? Do you think it counterproductive? Do you think I would disapprove? How do you presume to know Lord Voldemort?" He sat back with a lazy smirk. "Why have I never been invited, Lucius?"

Lucius Malfoy bowed quickly. "My lord, I thought you were otherwise occupied and would not like to waste your time frivolling."

Lord Voldemort bored his glittering red eyes into Malfoy's. Malfoy shifted uncomfortably under his glare. "You accuse yourself of wasting time? You know how I punish idle workers. . . . Yet, I do not find this messy self-indulgence unprofitable. Did it never occur to you that I did such things before the founding of the Death Eaters?"

He gestured toward an open door. "In that atrium, I have five young Muggle girls and one Muggle boy-child. I wish to observe your ways with them. I'll tell you if you should be ashamed of them or not."

Avery and MacNair shared a lecherous look, then joined Nott in passing into the hall. Bellatrix Lestrange was not far behind.

"Aren't you joining us, Severus?" Lord Voldemort asked, outwardly pleasant, but his words were underlaid with unblemished steel. Snape did not even move an inch.

"Snape never joins the fun," Lucius explained, anticipating a sharp blow for Snape.

"I see," Lord Voldemort murmured, raising an eyebrow. "Any reason you wish to share with me?" The tone suggested that he answer.

"I catch my own food," Snape said quietly.

"It would not hurt to take one only one time, Snape," Malfoy argued. "You spend all your time with those potions of yours. What are you working on now, old boy, a potency potion?"

If Malfoy was looking for an indignant retort, he was mistaken. Unfazed by the insult, Snape stood still where he was and refused to move.

The Dark Lord laughed. "In that case, I have another assignment for you, Severus, if you are not planning to entertain yourself with us. I find it tedious myself, but torture never ceases to wonder me."

Lord Voldemort handed Snape a rolled parchment.

"Deliver this to the recipient personally," Lord Voldemort commanded before leaving Snape there alone.


Snape stumbled into his quarters well after three in the morning. He had belatedly decided to join the torture of the Muggles to avoid the Dark Lord's piercing scrutiny as he explored the fortress in which Lord Voldemort had barricaded himself, and the effort of casting so many energy-driven curses exhausted him. Then he had reported to Dumbledore, telling the Headmaster the names of the girls being tortured and other new little details Snape had managed to collect. These little bits of information were the only things that kept him alive, that made him feel he was still worthy to live. Dumbledore had given him a verbal punishment well enough when he had first turned back to the Light, and his quiet disappointment, even when Snape had been a student, had always been far more effective than his loud anger for Snape.

Snape fell into bed without removing his outer garments. He had a class next day, but he could not bring himself to grade the essays for the remainder of the night.

So with that, Snape fell into a trouble sleep and dreamed of fat unicorns, hands raising, and books piled to the sky. His face was drawn and haggard, and he tossed in his sleep.

Chapter 1: Challenge

Chapter 1: Challenge

Hermione, Ron, and Harry trudged up the hill to Hogwarts after Care of Magical Creatures.
Ron's hands were trembling violently and his eyes were bugging out like a dragonfly's.

"Spiders. . ." he murmured to himself. "If Hagrid wants us to take care of them next, I'm getting myself expelled. Or better, killed. I'm sure Snape wouldn't mind giving me a fast-acting poison. An Acromantula? . . . What was he thinking? . . ."

"Oh, Ron," Hermione said, rolling her eyes, "it wasn't that bad. It was actually pretty interesting. It's only a baby, after all. And they're supposed to be really intelligent, they move at cheetah speed. . . honestly, they're fascinating. They're better than Skrewts. What's so wrong about them anyway?"

Harry interrupted, "Right now, I just want some dinner." The wonderful smells the house-elves were concocting promised some fine stuffed Cornish hen and mushrooms.

"Scared, Weasley?" sneered a voice from behind them.

All three whipped around.

"Malfoy," said Harry. "What do you want?"
"I wanted to know whether fire-head boy here was scared of those cute little spiders. I might actually consider breeding them myself, just to see the look on your face."

"I wasn't scared, Malfoy," Ron said through clenched teeth.

Malfoy shrugged nonchalantly. "You just went pale, staggered back and nearly vomited on the cucumbers. I have no idea how I thought you were scared."

Ron lunged at Malfoy, his face transitioning from paper white to a furious shade of maroon in three seconds. Hermione and Harry grabbed him from the back of his robes.

"You'd better watch out, Malfoy," Harry said calmly. "One of these days, we might let him loose."

"Your Gryffindor nobility wouldn't allow it," Draco replied, beckoning to two figures behind him. Pansy Parkinson joined him at his side, smiling maliciously. Blaise Zabini stepped forward but remained insolently and indifferently in the background.

"Where are your bodyguards, Malfoy?" Hermione said coolly. "I'd think you'd be a bit more wary after last year."

"I propose a challenge with you three Gryffindors," Draco said, "versus us three Slytherins. A battle of wits that results in humiliation, pain, shock, and sometimes insanity. Crabbe and Goyle wouldn't be able to handle it. Your only benefit is that we get the same treatment."

Ron narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "Just what are you proposing?"

Draco smiled. It was nasty.

"Wizard's Truth or Dare."

While Harry and Hermione just looked confused, Ron's entire face transformed in recognition and surprise.

Draco folded his arms and said, "So the little people can understand what I'm asking, let me explain. Wizard's Truth or Dare is approximately equal to wizard duels in sobriety. A spell, an unalterable spell, determines who challenges whom and whether you will be challenged with a truth or a dare as well as the order of the challenges. You have to swear to do what your challengers decide to do. The spell is impartial. Well, what do you think, Potter. . . Weasley. . . Granger?"

"I thought the person being challenged gets to choose whether they get Truth or Dare," Hermione said.

Draco shook his head. "That takes the fun out of it. So, what do you say?"

"I'm in," Ron volunteered immediately.

"Ron!" Hermione responded sharply. "Can't you see he's baiting us?"

" 'Mione, our honor is at stake," Harry explained. "What else can we say but 'yes'? I'm in, Malfoy."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "I can think of plenty of things to say in response to that: No way, no, nuh-uh, nix, nada, not this millennium, do you think I'm stupid, but since you two are so bent on killing yourselves, I suppose someone sensible should go down with you. Count me in, Malfoy."

She rubbed the bridge of her nose and groaned, "This is going to come to haunt me, I know it."
Draco was grinning more than ever now. "Great," he said, rubbing his hands together. "Meet us tonight in the empty classroom next to Charms. Quarter 'til midnight. Bring your wands. See you tonight."

He pushed past them and entered Hogwarts.

"Hermione?" Ron asked, bewildered. Her face was contorting into awful shapes, like she was going to cry or scream or both.

"If they end up making me fail my classes, it will be entirely your fault, and I will kill you, Ronald Weasley!" she cried. Then she ran into the Entrance Hall. She would not talk with them for the rest of the evening.


"He'd better not pull that stunt he did first year," said Harry, leaning wearily against the dusty wall.

"I really wouldn't be surprised," Hermione replied from her position lying on the floor, head rested against her arms, "but you've got the map, don't you?"

Harry nodded and checked his watch. Hermione had given him one for Christmas last year. "He's ten minutes late."

"Don't worry, Scarhead, I'm here," Malfoy said, slipping through the doorway, followed by Blaise and Pansy. "Filch nearly caught us, and I needed to transfigure a water cup into a rat before Mrs. Norris would leave us alone."

"We're all in tears, Malfoy," Ron sneered

"Sod off, Weasley, and give me your wand."

"And watch you break it, yeah, right. . ."

Blaise exhaled impatiently. "Any wand made after '95 is equipped with an Anti-breaking spell. Grow up, Weasley, and give him the stupid wand."

So surprised was Ron at hearing the normally closemouthed Blaise speaking more than five words, he surrendered his wand without further ado.

"What do you need our wands for, Malfoy?" Harry asked, in a tense attempt at being polite, reluctantly yielding his own precious wand.

"Part of the spell, Potter," Malfoy answered, arranging all their wands into a six-pointed star. "Now stand at the tip of your wand and hold the hands of the people next to you. Happy hour, everyone."

Ron pulled a face at the prospect of holding hands with Pansy, the one whose wand was to the left of his own, but he obeyed, flinching at her touch.

"Look, Weasley," snapped Pansy, "this isn't a bed of roses for me either, so lighten up and let's get this over with."

Hermione was on Ron's other side, but Malfoy was holding her right hand. His fingers were strong against hers, and cold. He gave her a mischievous look, then turned back to the center of the circle. Harry was on his other side.

"Now, everyone stay as quiet and still as they can, and I'll begin:

"Truth or Dare - Truth is the foundation of all beliefs, lies pose themselves in its name. It is everything beautiful and despicably ugly; it bites and soothes; it is sharp as a knife and as smooth as honey. In our honor, we honor Truth.

"A dare is the foundation of character. Dares let us go through life, taking risks never taken without the promise of adversity. It builds and tears down; it creates and destroys; it exults and profanes. In our honor, we honor Dare.

"We yield ourselves to these fates. To the Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, we pledge our promise to consummate our challenge. Our circle seals our pledge. Stars, if you judge our pledge worthy, begin our game." And he was silent.

Hermione never realized Draco could be so eloquent or serious, or that a simple Muggle game could be so solemn and complicated in the wizarding world. She felt like laughing, but when Draco closed his eyes, she was once again imbued with the sense that she was in over her head. She desperately wanted to withdraw from that circle of friends and enemies, from that circle of quickly concentrated power, glowing from the center of the star of wands. But she couldn't move under Malfoy's direction to stay still. She did not know what would happen to her if she did.

But she seriously wondered whether the consequences would be worse than not doing anything at all. Her feeling of dread augmented tenfold.

The globe of power exploded outward, halting just before hitting them, and disappeared. They wands suddenly levitated and started twisting around madly, like thin Sneakascopes. One by one, they floated to another member of the circle and spouted a hovering green or red number.

"Grab the wands," Draco whispered, and they all dropped hands and took the wands.

Hermione took Blaise's wand from in front of her. It was only nine inches long, made of a darker wood, but pliable and obviously very handy at Charms. The number two, tinged with crimson dissolved once her hand touched the grain.

"What ever number you had is the number in which you challenge the owner of the wand. If the color is red, the challenge is a Dare. If the challenge is a Truth, the color is green." Draco broke his untypical sobriety and smiled malevolently. "I'm Daring you last, Granger. You just wait; this is going to be interesting."

Hermione shot a murderous glare at Ron and Harry as she sat down, cross-legged, on the floor. Everyone else followed suit until that sat in a circle matching the one they had previously made.

"You first, Pansy. Give Potter his wand back, if you're finished holding it." Malfoy snickered at his own humor. Harry ignored him and retrieved his wand, breathing an unconscious sigh of relief that it was safe in his care again.

Pansy sat back on her hands, gazing at Harry as she contemplated the Truth the incantation had assigned to her.

"Make it good, Pansy," Malfoy hissed. Blaise just looked bored.

Suddenly, Pansy's eyes lit up, and she said with relish, "In your dreams - your night dreams, I mean - who have you had sex with?"

Draco raised an eyebrow at the thought. "Not what I was expecting, nor as scathing as I wanted, but it's still good. Go on, Potter, tell the Truth."

Hermione watched Harry blush, his eyes shifting from behind his glasses.

"Come, Potter," continued Draco. "You know what happens if you don't answer a Truth in ten minutes? You won't be able to sit again until you answer. Now, enlighten us all."

"Shut up, Malfoy," Hermione said, "you're just making it worse. Besides, Harry's Daring you; I wouldn't be so cruel if I were you."

That shut Draco up.

Harry gave a relieved thanks in his eyes to Hermione, then resumed his brooding.

Finally, he mumbled something into his lap.

"What was that, Potter?" Pansy said cheerfully. "We couldn't quite hear you."

"Cho Chang, Hannah Abbott, Julia Roberts, Lucy Liu, Hermione, McGonagall, Hooch, and in a completely off dream, I dreamed I was this girl named Mary Sue and I was shagging Snape. But I woke up and vomited right after it," he said quickly over the Slytherins' laughter.

Hermione muttered weakly, "You've slept with me in your dream?"

Harry threw up his hands. "It's not like I have a whole lot of control on my dreams, Hermione. We were in the middle of a duck pond and you had a rubber ducky in your mouth. I'm telling you, it's not like we were in a water bed or you were covered in whipped cream or anything. It was a dream."

Hermione nodded, but the horrible shock that one of her best friends had dreamed of shagging her definitely scarred her. She looked imploringly at Ron, but he was looking anywhere but her.

"Oh, Ron, not you, too!" she cried. "Tell me it was in a duck pond as well!"

Ron continued to avoid eye contact. Pansy howled.

"Oh, that is just too sweet," Draco crowed, wiping tears from his eyes.

"My turn," said Hermione angrily. "I get to Dare Blaise."

It took a while before everyone was able to quiet down and stop breaking into sporadic giggles, but eventually the fidgeting stopped.

Hermione pondered the cruelest cut she could afford the cool Slytherin. "Not much affects you, does it?" Hermione asked. Blaise shook her head, grinning slightly.

Hermione hummed random notes as she thought.

Then, "I Dare you to come home with me on winter holiday and stay with my Muggle family. No magic, courteousness, and no other conditions on your part."

Blaise was visibly shocked, finally breaking the apathetic composure. "I can't do that! My honor..."

"You have to," Hermione said, the beginning of a smile gracing her lips. "I Dared you, and you swore to execute your challenge."

Blaise opened her mouth to protest, but nothing came from her tongue. Suddenly, she sat back insolently and pouted sulkily, her dark eyes treacherous. Hermione felt it best not to tempt Blaise's temper, notorious during those rare times she slipped into her emotional side. She silently urged Harry and Ron to do the same.

"I accept," Blaise said grudgingly. "At least I get to Truth Weasley."

Ron turned decidedly green.

Blaise's hard countenance softened as she automatically started the challenge. "Gods forbid that I break the Truth or Dare long-standing tradition like Granger by not asked anything about sex. But I won't be as merciful as Pansy." Blaise ran a tongue along the edge of her teeth.

"Tell me, Weasley, how far have you gone with a girl? And if you've gone all the way, how many times, and was it good for you?"

Draco cocked his eyebrows. "You're not going to ask 'with whom'?"

"That's not my point, Draco. He can choose to divulge it if he likes, or if Granger forces it from him."

Now Ron's face was a flaming red comparable to a burning building. He looked down, avoiding Hermione's gaze with even more fervor, if possible.

"Ron!" Hermione shrieked.

"Sorry, 'Mione. I've gone all the way. But it was only once, and it just happened."

"While or after we were going out," Hermione demanded, bracing herself for the answer she was expecting.

"During," said Ron weakly. "It was Fleur. She was on a job, and she felt like Ron for dinner, and she turned up the charm, and. . . well, she got me into the room above the Three Broomsticks, and she, well. . ." Ron began spluttering, torn by the hurt on Hermione's face.

"You forgot to tell us whether it was good for you, Weasley," said Draco, thoroughly enjoying himself now. Ron nodded.

"We can't hear you," sang Pansy.

"It was my first time," shouted Ron guiltily. "Of course I liked it."

"What was the best part?" Blaise asked.

"That wasn't part of the question, so I'm not answering it," Ron said. "Besides, I'm going to Truth Pansy right now."

"Don't be impulsive," Hermione warned. "That'll just wasted a good Truth."

Hermione had caught him just in time, and Ron chose his words carefully.

"How exactly, if you were given Veritaserum and just started spouting off information, do you feel about Malfoy?" he said.

Pansy froze at the challenge, then lowered her lashes and began speaking at record speed:
"Draco's dad and my mum are old friends, and they arranged our marriage eleven years ago. We met on the first Hogwarts train, and I kissed him for the first time. I could tell he didn't like me then. But since then, I've grown a bit." She ran her hands deliberately over her voluptuous breasts and curvy hips. "But he certainly likes me now." Draco followed the trail her hands made and swallowed compulsively. "I think he's goodlooking, if selfish, conniving, if insolent and whiny at times, and he's a great caresser. You can't imagine what his hands can do." She closed her eyes and arched her back at the memory. Draco smirked at Ron's enviousness and stroked Pansy's leg. "I'm going to have to be obedient to him, and I'm going to hate that, but there's not much I can do, so I might as well enjoy something."

Hermione's eyes were clenched shut, and she had put her hands together as if in prayer. She was whispering reverently, "Thank you, thank you, thank you I wasn't born pureblood Slytherin."

"It's not that bad for most of us," said Blaise defensively, still irritated about the Dare. Both Draco and Pansy glared at her.

"My turn," Harry said with quiet glee. Ron gave a toothy grin and Draco blanched.

Rather than face the poisonous glowers of the Slytherins, Harry walked calmly to a corner and leaned against the wall, sliding down to the floor. He tucked his legs up and hid his face, shutting out destractions, like he was on his broomstick above the Quidditch field, searching intently for the Snitch. After a full fifteen minutes-fifteen minutes of Hades for Draco-Harry grasped his prize. He sauntered over and sat down on Draco's right side where he had been positioned before. He leaned back on his elbows, smiling broadly. Draco was fidgeting with his nails.

"I Dare you, Draco Malfoy..." he paused, savoring the moment of terrible anticipation. "I Dare you to do one of two things within the rest of the school year: either kiss Filch - with tongue, like he was Pansy-or... kiss Mrs. Norris' backside. Whichever one of these you choose, you have to do it in front of the entire school, probably during dinner. Oh, and a nice long kiss, Malfoy, so that everyone in the Hall can see you."

Draco was as tight in every muscle as a wire. He looked up and caught eyes with Harry. There was anger in those cold, gray eyes, and fear and humiliation, but there was also... could it be respect?

"What do you know?" Draco said tensely. "Who would have thought you'd get it up by watching me do that, Potter?"

Harry just shrugged. "You can hardly expect me to make it easy for you, Malfoy."

Malfoy snatched his wand from Harry's clutches. But before he withdrew, he hissed at Harry through clenched teeth, "You've made a grave mistake, Potter. Oh, that was a good one, and Truths are limited anyway, so you got off easy. But I get to Dare your girlfriend here."

"Hermione isn't my girlfriend," Harry retorted, but his face was suddenly stricken of its smugness.

Draco smirked, then sat back and observed Hermione through half-closed lids. "Hmmm," he mused aloud, "what would top Potter's Dare for me? Far be it from me, like Blaise said, to digress from the sex tradition. But what should I make you do?" He continued to contemplate. Ron and harry shared a very worried glance, then turned to a very sickened Hermione.

"I've got it," said Draco, eyes lighting up. "You know, I don't know if you've noticed, but we"-he nodded to Blaise and Pansy-"and the rest of the Slytherins are always concerned about the well-being of our own."

Draco ran his tongue against his lips, drawing out Hermione Hermione's apprehension, even terror, to excruciating torture.

"Someone we know has been working his arse off. He always looks exhausted, irritable, and he's even beginning to take it out on us, which he's never done before. I've been thinking lately, maybe we should give him a gift to cheer him up a bit, excite him. What better gift than a young Mudblood girl that can actually look good when she cleans up?

"Granger, let me assure you I'm being nicer than I had originally decided. . . .

"I Dare you. . . to seduce and screw Professor Snape."

"What?" shouted Ron. Harry looked green at the gills. Hermione just looked dead.

Draco nodded, arrogance completely regained. "And that's not all. Let me emphasize exactly what I expect from you. Come closer." He slipped an arm around her shoulder. She didn't even react, but looked blankly ahead of her in shock.

Draco raise his wand. "Visio. Here's what I want, so you can't indirectly disobey my Dare. I want you to seduce him. I don't want you to go to him and expect him to do all the work. I want you to lead." A vision of flesh on flesh appeared on a burst of vapor that issued from Draco's wand. Wordless moans escaped the mouth of an anonymous girl. But the hair of the male, that familiar greasy, oil-colored, unkempt hair, made him all too familiar. "And after you have the initial sex with him, you will do whatever he asks of you." Another vision, fuzzier than the other, this one of a masculine hand pushing a female's head down below his waist. Hermione flinched. "And after he's had his way with you, you are to spend the rest of the night with him in his bed, against him, not on the other side. I want Snape to have all the pleasure he requires in one night. And you can't use magic: Enchantment Charms, Love Potions, stuff like that. Besides, that would take away half the fun. After all, all work and no play. . ."

He lowered his wand and the visions disintegrated. Draco gave Hermione a little squeeze around the shoulders, released her, and whispered, "I want this done within the school year, and I want confirmation that it took place directly from Snape himself. You got everything?"

Hermione nodded.

"Good." He got up and stretched, yawned. "Well, good night. It's late. Have pleasant dreams, Granger." He began to leave; Blaise and Pansy got up to follow him.

"Don't forget your Dares, Malfoy, Blaise!" shouted Harry weakly.

Draco pulled a face, then exited the scene.

"Hermione?" Ron said warily.

"Just go away, Ron," Hermione whispered.

"But. . ."

"Just go."

" 'Mione, we're sorry we dragged you into this," Harry muttered, running a hand through his hair.

"You, too, Harry. You go away, too."

Harry and Ron inched around her. Harry accidentally tripped over her wand, making it skitter across the floor.

More than guilty, like condemned men, Harry and Ron went back to Gryffindor Tower. It took them too long to get to sleep, and it seemed like mere minutes before Dean's alarm clock went off.

Hermione stayed prone on the classroom floor, tears-hot and shameful tears-streamed down her cheeks. She fell into an uneasy sleep and missed her first morning class, advanced Transfiguration, the next day because both Harry and Ron felt it would be dangerous to get her.

Next class that afternoon was Potions.