The halls of Hogwarts (and classrooms, and broom closets, and bathrooms, and any other place you could fit more than one student into) were humming with excitement. Students slacked off in class, ghosts gossiped in the halls, and one unbelievably irritated Potions Master was ready to hex the next student who spoke. (It would later be said that it was indeed a strange coincidence that Colin Creevey's cauldron had exploded the minute he opened his mouth.)
The cause of all this kerfuffle went by the term "Yule Ball".
Technically, it hadn't ever been a Hogwarts tradition, but this year, the Triwizard Tournament was being held, and the Headmaster had decreed that every student and every member of staff was to attend. Severus Snape had never been so sure in his life that Dumbledore had a personal vendetta against him until that moment.
He was contemplating the likelihood of Dumbledore believing a story about a "Secret and Most Urgent Death Eater Meeting That he Absolutely Had To Go To" when there came a knock on his door. Armed with the knowledge that no one could trace the Creevey incident directly to him, Snape opened the door.
Minerva McGonagall waltzed in.
"Oh, Severus, have you heard? The Yule Ball is tomorrow night!"
"What type of fool do you take me for, Minerva? Of course I've bloody well heard! I can't go five minutes in class without hearing about it all over again!"
"And aren't you excited?" Minerva had clearly gone insane. She was acting like one of the students, for Merlin's sake!
"Excited? Of course not! You think a school full of adolescents trying to dance and converse in the same room is something to be excited about!" Now Severus was looking at Minerva as if she had grown an extra head.
Minerva bristled. "Well, if you're going to be unreasonable, then fine, I'll leave."
Severus raised an eyebrow, "Were you planning on asking me something?" he asked, his voice cold and distant, "because if you're hoping for a favor, insulting me is certainly not the best way to go about it."
Color rose in Minerva's cheeks as she stammered "I-I was going to ask you if...if you wanted to dance with me."
Severus couldn't help it anymore. The very idea of Minerva asking him for a dance was preposterous! He scoffed, "Are you really so concerned with such trivial things? Perhaps for your birthday next year I should get you some fancy hair ribbons?"
"Why, you--!" Minerva never finished her sentence, choosing instead to storm angrily out of the room. Severus was left to contemplate the seemingly insane tendencies of the female species...and to deny the emptiness he now felt.
The Yule Ball was a grand success... for the most part.
The Champions looked splendid in their dress robes, standing tall and proud. The other students also seemed to shimmer and sparkle with life and joy.
Severus Snape felt decidedly un-sparkly that evening.
He sat in a corner off to one side of the Great Hall, scowling at everything, and gripping his glass of fruit juice so hard his knuckles were white. Minerva's words from earlier were niggling at the back of his mind. He cursed the Headmaster for forbidding alcohol on the premises.
In the meantime, Minerva McGonagall was twirling and flitting about the room , gallivanting about with one...Albus Dumbledore. It wasn't fair! Severus cursed said Headmaster again and forcibly reminded himself that Potions Masters such as he did not throw tantrums in public places.
It was well past midnight when the dancing ended, and the students dispersed to their common rooms. After a few hurried cleaning spells, most of the staff did the same.
At last, only two people were left. Minerva McGonagall sagged into a chair, sipping her (freshly transfigured) whisky. Severus Snape stood in the shadows, watching her. Would she still be mad at him?Finally, Severus decided to approach her. "Did you have a good evening, Professor?" he asked, in lieu of proper conversation.
His mocking tone annoyed Minerva, "Oh, you saw the whole bloody thing, Severus. Why don't you tell me?" she demanded angrily.
"You seemed to be having a fine time with Albus," Severus couldn't help the feeling of...jealousy? he felt when he pictured Minerva and Dumbledore dancing.
"Yes, well you'd know all about that, wouldn't you?"
"Well, if you'd just give me time to say something---"
"I haven't been interrupting you, you know!"
"Yes, you--! Never mind."
"Oh, don't do that! Whatever you were going to say, say it, would you!"
There was a moment of silence. Severus looked away.
"Well...?" Minerva was clearly getting impatient.
"I...was going to ask you if -if you would like to dance...with me."
Oh. It was Minerva's turn to pause, her previous ire forgotten. And then: "Why Severus, I would be honored." She reached to take his hand, he pulled her to her feet.
"A waltz, I think, would be best here," Minvera mused aloud. "Or maybe the tango?"
Severus blanched. "Please let us go with the waltz," he murmured. "The tango is incredibly passé."
"Very well," Minerva smiled impishly up at him, "the waltz it is."
Soft music began to play, as Severus spun Minerva round the dance floor. They twirled and dipped in harmony. The dance seemed to last forever. Severus wondered if his life was doomed to be a total cliché.
As the music finally ended, Minerva (Severus suspected it must have been very strong whisky) pressed up against him. And kissed him softly. Severus was speechless.
"So, Severus...about those hair ribbons."