The dress was perfect. A shade of stunning red, made of the lightest possible cotton material. The dress fitted around her body perfectly – molding to her figure, but not exaggeratedly tight. The sleeves fell gently against her shoulders, the neckline plunged in a V. The fabric fell down to her ankles, swirling as she walked. The material was not covered in excess beads or designs, unlike many of the other girls attending the ball, but Hermione loved it anyhow. It was just elegant and attention-drawing enough to suit her taste.
As for the rest of her, she had pinned her hair to the top of her head, curls spilling out loosely. Her shoes were red flats, much more comfortable than those high heels she knew Lavender would be sporting. It was a Masquerade Ball, so of course she had also fashioned herself a mask. It was the same pure red as the dress. The eye-mask fitted against her face gently, the upper half of her face obscured. Her eyes peeped out from cat-eye holes.
Placing the mask securely against her face, she descended from her dormitory and towards the Great Hall. The tables were gone, replaced with an endless open space for dancers. Off to the side was an orchestra, playing away a jaunty number, and punch and food were set up on the other end. Hermione noticed that even the teachers were dressed for the ball, as the unmistakable body of Flitwick wandered past, as though his black mask could disguise him. She giggled slightly.
"And how does thy lady fair?" said a pretentious voice near her ear. She turned to see Harry, green eyes sparkling from behind his deep blue mask. "Wanna dance?" he asked in his normal voice.
Her eyebrows raised slyly. "What about Ginny?"
"She's over by the punch, and told me to do my friend a favor instead of leaving her standing alone."
She huffed, feigning hurt. "So you're only dancing with me because you've been ordered to?"
He laughed, taking her hands and pulling her towards the other dancers. "Something like that," he teased, spinning her around.
The two friends danced through a waltz number and several more up tempo songs. It was at this point that another person interrupted, lightly tapping Harry on the shoulder. Hermione expected to see the petite form of Ginny Weasley, but instead a masked figure clad in black stood there.
"Might I cut in?" he inquired, speaking to Harry but fixing a piercing gaze on Hermione.
"Sure," Harry replied, stepping away and joining Ginny with a crowd of her friends. The man moved closer to her. His ensemble was black dress robes, fancy silver clasps adorning them. His mask was black as well, fitting over his entire face and covering his hair as well.
The man offered his hand to her. Charmed that someone other than a friend wanted to dance with her, Hermione accepted the presented hand. She rested her other palm on his shoulder, he put his on her waist. They maneuvered together across the dance floor. She was surprised at how easily he moved, dancing formally and swiftly, gracefully leading her in swirling patterns.
"Do you dance regularly?" she questioned.
"Of course. The dance that is known as life is a frequent one." Black eyes beamed into hers, with an intensity not matched by anything else. She shiver a little under the piercing gaze. She felt pinned to the spot, and was a little surprised to feel that her feet kept dancing beneath her.
"Well, you're very good at it," she praised. "Dancing, I mean."
One corner of his mouth flicked upward, as though the rest of his mouth was too lazy to mold into a smile. "I try."
He seemed oddly familiar… "Do – I know you?" she asked tentatively.
"In what sense?" he reciprocated.
"In the sense of have we met before?"
He spun her around slowly. "In a sense," he demurred, still smiling in the same lazy way.
Trying to keep her patience, she quipped, "In what sense?"
A tiny smirk of approval flickered across his face. "In the sense that our paths have crossed, but nothing more than that."
She gazed up huntingly into his face. Black orbs gazed back, but did not reveal anything. Mystified, Hermione did not speak. Instead they merely danced across the floor, stepping in unison. They whirled around for countless songs. Finally, tired after so much movement, Hermione paused her fancy footwork and placed a hand on her forehead. "I'm a bit hot," she said. "Care to step outside?"
Her dance partner nodded, so they moved into the gardens outside the castle. With no music to occupy their bodies, Hermione suddenly felt the urge to speak, but could come up with nothing. So they merely stood next to one another among the bushes, the moonlight spilling over their features.
"So, Mystery Man," she said after awhile, turning to face him. "Are you a student at Hogwarts?"
"Does it make a difference?"
"Well, no, I suppose not, I just…"
"Then why bother with the inquiry?"
"That little concept will only get you so far."
"Well, I just wanted to know, is all. I mean, you know who I am, don't you?"
His eyes seemed to hold her gaze fixedly throughout the conversation. "In what sense?" he said quietly.
They stared at each other silently for a few heart-beats. Abruptly, he reached out long fingers and took the thin piece of fabric covering her shoulder. She quivered a little, but not from cold. "A lovely dress," he commented in a low tone. "Striking color, this red." His fingers caressed the material, eyes scanning. "This shade perfectly matches all other striking red things. A rose. An apple. A Muggle stop sign. The planet Mars." He paused, and slowly took his hand away, contemplating it. "Blood." He lifted his other hand, and made a sharp gesture with one finger. A cut appeared on his other thumb. He took the cloth across her shoulder between his fingers again, pressing the cut thumb to it. She gasped a little; his eyes shot to hers. His fingers released the fabric, falling to his side. She looked down at the sleeve where his touch had been only moments before. He was right; blood was the exact same color. She couldn't see the mark at all.
Her eyes drifted towards his again, and he looked back at her with just as much force. And suddenly she felt like she was falling, falling into those black tunnels, farther and farther and farther, plummeting head first into their depths…
But just before she had lost herself, just before their mouths had met, he whispered, his breath warm on her lips, "I don't think that's wise, Miss Know-It-All."
And then she was falling backwards, faster than the speed of light, farther and farther and farther, as she realized that her dance partner was a wanted criminal. A wanted murderer.
But before she could react, before she could scream for help, before she could hex him into oblivion, before she could rip off his mask and expose him, Severus Snape smiled at her – and Disapparated.
A/N: Thank you for reading my first attempt at Severus/Hermione! I know it's not very romantic, but there ya go. I'm actually not a fan of the pairing, but this bunny just begged to be written. Let me know what you thought and leave a review:)