Epilogue: Draco's Dare

Later that week in the middle of the Great Hall, Snape was having trouble eating. He wanted to check Hermione's welfare, but after telling the Headmaster of Hermione's Dare, the Headmaster himself was stealing glances at Snape. So he had to completely avoid the left half of the Hall and stare pointedly elsewhere.

Professor Dumbledore had taken the news surprisingly well and had expressed his amazement that the Dare had not been initiated before. He had developed what Snape recognized as the distress line in his brow, but Dumbledore also agreed with Snape that there was nothing they could have done and that it could have been worse. The only caution Dumbledore urged was not to tell Filch or Mrs. Norris of Draco's Dare.

Snape was watching Filch now. The caretaker was stroking his cat and glaring bitterly at the laughing and jocular children around him. When Snape caught a Slytherin standing in his peripheral vision, he did not see the characteristic white-blond hair immediately. As the white-blond head approached Filch, Snape nearly recoiled. Now? Draco was going to do his Dare now?

Draco, a grimace of revulsion and brilliant red cheeks painting his face, tapped Filch on the shoulder. When Filch responded, Draco took Mrs. Norris from his arms and threw her to the floor. Then he put both hands on either side of Filch's face and planted his lips on Filch's mouth.

Those who had not heard Mrs. Norris yowl could not ignore the ripple of laughter that progressed in a tidal wave through the room. Filch's bulging eyes coupled with Draco's beet red face as the latter initiated some major tongue action was priceless, and soon the entire Hall had laughed themselves into a hernia, or at least to tears.

The teachers were just speechless. Flitwick had dropped his chicken leg into his steamed peas, Hagrid was looking positively scandalized (unbeknownst to Snape, a disgusted flicker of comprehension flit in his eyes), and McGonagall was rushing behind the High Table to intervene.

Snape pushed his chair back to impede her attempt.

"Severus, you can't possibly allow--?" McGonagall sputtered.

Snape stood. "Watch me," he said simply and sat down again.

McGonagall turned to Professor Dumbledore, who was trying vainly to hide a twinkle in his eyes on an otherwise solemn face. Hagrid stomped out of the room, the contents of his stomach about to escape.

By now, Draco had detached himself from Filch and had fled the Hall in shame. Filch looked thoroughly bewildered, nauseated, and ready to blow up the school. Snape felt now was the time to offer his condolences. As he went down the stairs to the student level, his eyes unconsciously turned to the Gryffindor table. Hermione was laughing with everyone else, but only Snape could discern the subtle discomfort despite her obvious mirth. Her eyes locked with his, and he knew their night had faded enough that she could let go of it as much as she ever would. He chanced a cynically raised eyebrow.

She grinned and shared the rest of clearly sweet revenge with Harry and Ron, who were still in stitches, doubled over from the pain in their sides.

So Snape let her go.

He led Filch into the Entrance Hall and explained. A severely sick Hagrid walked past them, murder in his eyes.

Filch rolled his yellowed eyes heavenward and wiped his mouth for the umpteenth time. "Again?" he asked.