Disclaimer: Characters from the Harry Potter Universe belong to JK Rowling and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud.

Author's Notes: Many thanks to my fantastic beta amightypenguin. This was written for bewarethesmirk for the Yule secret drabble exchange on The Quidditch Pitch using the prompt 'snow'.

This story contains Harry/Snape SLASH so if you do not like it - or don't know what it is - then DO NOT READ. Thanks :o)

Winter Chill

Emotionless black eyes looked out across a landscape blanketed by a crisp carpet of snow. Trees, long bereft of their autumn foliage, stood like gnarled sentries, lining a driveway that had heralded no visitors for many years.

It was night, yet the sky, pregnant with heavy snow clouds, made it light as day.

Not that Severus Snape noticed.

For he may have been looking, but he was not seeing the world before him; he was lost in memories of the past.

With his long black robes pulled tightly around his body, his arms folded against his chest with hands tucked into the folds of the fabric, he was as standing deathly still as the trees. The only sign of life the gentle puffs of chilled breath.

He was thinking of the choices he had made and the lives that had been lost. How had he, Severus Snape, been allowed to survive the war they had fought? Was it right that he - a murderer, traitor, liar - had survived those far more valiant than he had ever had the courage to be?

He truly thought he'd die a meaningless death at Voldemort's hand, an inevitable consequence of playing the deceitful role he had for many years. In truth, it would have been a fitting death, no more than he deserved for taking the life of the greatest wizard the world had ever known.

But that greatest wizard had foreseen all events that would transpire after his death, and had left a letter for that tiresomely wilful half-blood, who had immediately rushed headlong into matters he should have left well alone.

Risking his life for a bitter Potions professor, battling Voldemort when he should have been safe within Hogwarts completing his schooling, or at the very least readying an army to fight alongside him.

That he had survived, that they had both survived, had little to do with skill, and more to do with Dumbledore finally giving the boy the information that he had hidden for so long.

But that was years ago, now. And yet the regret would not go away, and the feeling that this life was in some way undeserved was something he could not shake off.

A sound from behind, the creak of an old wooden door opening, broke the muffled silence. Light spilled around Snape's shoulders and his shadow stretched out before him, long and thin, tainting the snow at his feet with darkness.

"Bloody hell, it's freezing out here."

Snape turned slowly to see Harry Potter perched on the door step in stocking-clad feet, tugging the sleeves of an over-sized jumper over his hands; the hand knitted red monstrosity a Christmas gift from the Weasleys.

Harry stared at him, his eyebrows knotting. "Are you finished feeling sorry for yourself yet? 'Cause I'm getting seriously bored in here, and you promised me some eggnog."

"I did not," Severus said, trying to fight the smile that threatened, still unused to how readily it would appear whenever Harry was around. "I believe I said I would instruct you how to make eggnog."

"Same thing."

"No, there is quite a distinct difference. One involves me doing all the work, the other involves you doing exactly as I tell you to, when I tell you to." The heaviness was lifting from his chest with each word, and he turned fully, stepping back towards the small cottage and it's warm, welcoming entrance.

Harry grinned. "As if I ever do what you tell me to." He waited until Snape was within arm's reach and grabbed the older man's robes, pulling him close. He darted his head forwards and pressed his lips against Severus's, pulling away with a challenging smile. "You'll need to make it worth my while."

Severus took a step over the threshold, following the younger man into the house. "I'm sure I can think of some way to convince you," he said. "We have time, after all."

"Well, until five; Ron and Hermione are flooing over, remember?"

"How absolutely delightful," Snape said, sarcasm dripping from every syllable. "I should hate to disrupt their Yuletide visit."

The door to the small cottage swung closed, cutting off the sounds of Harry's laughter.

Outside, it began to snow again. Fat, full flakes falling from the sky, the traces of footprints quickly vanishing under a layer of fresh, new snow.