Okay, this is a small Christmas ficlet I thought to write. It's a good break from my other fanfiction, A Second Chance, and I'm glad to write something that takes place in Hogwarts instead of Napa Valley.

Disclaimer: The Yule Ball, Potter, Weasley, Miss Granger, and the resident Potions Master do not belong to me. Neither does the Dark Lord.

She sat there, her arms around the knees that were brought up to her chest. Of course, sitting in that curled position did nothing to ward off the cold as she was sitting directly on the snow, but she hardly cared. She had only thrown on a long overcoat over the dress she had worn for the Yule Ball, yet she didn't seem to notice the cold. She sighed. The Yule Ball. Full of festivities and happiness…she didn't feel an ounce of cheer in herself at all. Staring off into the Forbidden Forest, she self-consciously wiped the river of tears running down her cheeks by nuzzling her arm, the thick wool soaked from her tears and the cold.

What was there to celebrate anyway? The Dark Lord was still on the rise, and people were being killed in their homes, probably right this second. Voldemort. How she hated that name. Everyone would be so happy, living normal lives, if it wasn't for one powerfully deranged Tom Riddle. What was normal, anyway? Certainly not a know-it-all bookworm, and Harry Potter's muggleborn friend at that. Sometimes, she wondered if magic was the stranger evil, rather then not having any magic at all. Why couldn't she just be, well…a normal, happy muggle?

Where was the fun in that? Well, she thought bitterly, she would still have her parents, and that dear kneazle, and somewhere to return to tomorrow. Hogwarts was a haven to her, just not home. Sniffling, she tried to banish any thoughts of loneliness, trying to enjoy the snow glittering in the moonlight.

She was about to dry her cheeks on her arm when she felt a presence behind her. Freezing a moment, she relaxed when she realized it wasn't threatening or dangerous. Strangely enough, it felt…comforting. Still staring at the trees in front of her, she didn't give the person a single glance as they sat down. It was silent for a while, both staring at the trees for a long while before one turned to speak to the other.

"Miss Granger, why are you out here alone?"

She gave a start, recognizing the low voice of her potions professor. Turning her head, she watched him for a moment before returning her attention to the calming scene before her. "No reason, professor."

Feeling his eyes study her for a moment, she tried not to fidget under his gaze. "Potter and Weasley, perhaps?"

She had to bite back a smile. Typical Slytherin. "No. Actually, they're off minding their own fun. I'm thankful that they aren't bugging me again."

"Really?" He leaned back casually on his elbows, staring at the sky. "About what?"

She hesitated, not sure if she should answer or not. It didn't seem like he was asking for any special reason, and besides, he was a professor. She could tell him…couldn't she? Being a professor meant that he was suppose to help his students (in most teachers' cases anyway), but what if he reported to Dumbledore? She didn't need the headmaster to meddle, to be truthful.

"Well?" She turned to see his eyebrow raised, expectant of an answer.

She worried her lip. She could trust him, she decided. "It's just…" She took a deep breath. "Nevermind."

He was scrutinizing her again, with that intense look that could scare anyone into submission. Except for her. She wasn't going to give in. Concentrating on the Christmas music she heard in the background, she ignored him.

"Nevermind isn't an answer, Miss Granger. I would have thought that after hanging out with Potter so long, you'd have a touch of what the Headmaster calls 'Gryffindor bravery'."

"Gryffindor bravery is often underestimated."

"As is Slytherin pride," he replied dryly. "Answer the question, please."

Nestling her chin in her arms, she was quiet for a moment. "I just wish that my parents were here again. I never got the chance to tell them Merry Christmas. And Crookshanks never got his present." Her voice was soft, reminiscing.

"At least you got to tell them good-bye."

She was startled by his voice. It wasn't flat and emotionless like it was in class, but held a tinge of regret and remorse. She stuttered an apology.

"I—I'm sorry, sir...I—"

"It is through no fault of yours, Miss Granger." His voice cut in smoothly, and she immediately shut up.

It was silent again for a moment. He resumed talking when it was apparent that she wasn't going to say anymore.

"You aren't the only one who's lost their family, Miss Granger. Think about Longbottom, or Potter. They don't mope about, or distance themselves…overly much. The war is not something you can avoid, and casualties are but a small part of it. But you still have to keep fighting if you want to win. Standing alone might not be…preferable, but it is not a wall to keep you from what you want to be."

She wanted to say something about him, how he could say things like that when he had distanced himself from others and still talk about it like it had never happened. Instead, she asked, "Why are you telling me this, sir?"

His reply was crisp. "I do not want to see my students turning into me because of something they've lost, Miss Granger. Some things are too valuable to waste. Life is one of them."

She turned, studying him in turn. She noticed he was not wearing his billowing teaching robes, but rather something more…dressy? It was a formal ball, after all. A knit black sweater had been pulled neatly over a white dress shirt (silk, she guessed), and he was wearing a pair of black slacks and shoes that were now covered in snow. On top, a black dress robe, embroidered with the emblem of Salazar Slytherin on the side closest to her. She thought it strange that he should have pinned a neck cloth to the dress shirt, mixing muggle with wizard, but kept that thought to herself. She couldn't deny that the pin was beautiful, a swirl of S's and emeralds reflecting the moonlight. And for some reason, she thought he looked…less intimidating, if not handsome, without the scowl on his face. Flushing at the thoughts, she quickly turned her attention back to the much less interesting trees, reciting the ingredients of the Felix Felicis potion in her head.

"Perhaps you should like to return inside? It is a bit cold sitting on the snow."

She opened her mouth to say that it was fine, but felt the wetness of the snow on her bum. Feeling embarrassed at the thought that her backside now contained a huge wet stain, she looked back at him to come up with a different answer to find that he was standing up, hand out-stretched to help her up. Shyly reaching up her own hand, she stood up also, self-consciously dusting off her backside. He looked amused.

"Forgotten you're a witch, have you, Miss Granger?"

Hurriedly, she muttered a quick drying spell, then slipped her wand back into her sleeve. "No, sir."

"Well then, I suppose you make your way back up to the Great Hall before I deduct house points."

She fumed, wondering how he could be sentimental one moment, then a complete git the next. Nodding quickly, she stepped through the snow, pausing after a couple of steps.



"I…just wanted to say thank you. Merry Christmas, Professor."

"Merry Chrismas, Miss Granger."

She couldn't help but smile to herself later as she accepted his hand for a dance, leaning on his shoulder as they both moved to the last song of the night.

Hope this was a sweet little bit, and Happy Holidays!