AN: Because the last chapter was so short here's another, much longer one! I hope you enjoy this belated Christmas present. This turned out a bit fluffier than I had planned, but I like it anyway so whatever.

Usual disclaimers apply. Song is "Winter Wonderland" by Felix Bernard (composer) and Richard B. Smith (lyricist).

Chapter 49: Winter Wonderland

It was Christmas, and as usual, Severus was off hiding somewhere so as to avoid the general cheer that filled the hallowed halls of the great castle. The students that remained were off doing things that Hermione had absolutely no interest in knowing, while the professors were all in the staff room sipping eggnog and chatting away by the fire about the year's events. She was supposed to be there herself, but Minerva had sent her off to find the potions master (for what reason she couldn't fathom). Maybe it was just her but she was starting to think that perhaps someone had spiked the eggnog, because Minerva had been awfully pushy in the way she had ordered Hermione about.

Shivering slightly the witch wished that she had thought to bring her cloak with her to go searching for Severus. Because although she loved the dress Ginny had sent her for the holidays she could hardly say that it was warm. In fact it was rather skimpy. Gritting her teeth against the cold she rounded a corner and came face to face with two students making out in the shadows under… her eyes raised to the ceiling and yes, just as she had suspected, there was some mistletoe. Whoever had thought it would be a good idea to put stuff like that up in a school had been wrong.

It was the holidays though so she could hardly take points away for inappropriate conduct. Especially considering the fact that she was almost positive that within an hour's time at least two of the other professor's would be doing the same exact thing. Shaking her head Hermione continued on, not surprised when the students didn't even notice her presence. Now, if she were the potions master she would have headed to his private study to down a glass of firewhisky and start reading a good book. Actually that sounded rather appealing to her as well. A nice warm fire, a blanket, a wonderful story and a nice glass of wine… it was almost enough to make her turn around and head to her own room to enjoy just that. But no, as much as she wanted to she knew she couldn't actually do that.

Not when the thought of the bitter man spending Christmas by himself made her feel queasy. Yes, she felt sorry for him. But there was more to it than that. If it were only that she wouldn't bother because she was more than aware he didn't want her pity. But what else there was she wasn't sure she was ready to admit to herself quite yet.

Finally reaching the portrait that concealed his study door she sighed. This was not going to be pleasant, no matter how much she wanted to tell herself otherwise. Well, she might as well start it off with a bang. Muttering the password to the portrait she entered as it glided inward. And just as she had predicted, there was the man. Book open, half-empty glass in front of him. She walked towards him, picked the glass up and sniffed, wrinkling her nose at the smell.

"Really Severus, firewhisky? Wouldn't you rather come and join us upstairs for some eggnog and stories?" Hermione's eyes glowed with mirth. "I think the eggnog is spiked so you can still drink."

The man frowned up at her, reaching for his glass, which she held just out of reach. "And just how much of that eggnog did you drink? You know how I detest such frivolities."

He had a point, but she wasn't going to concede that easily. Placing the glass down just past his reach she stared at him, hands on hips. "This isn't healthy. You almost never leave the dungeons anymore. I swear if Minerva didn't threaten you we'd never see you at meals either."

"I like my privacy."

"So do snaggle-toothed hermits with long beards living in caves."

"I dislike eggnog."

"So does most of the population. We drink it anyway because it's festive!" she countered, eyes narrowing.

"Minerva and Sybil live to make my life difficult."

Yet again he had a point. "Sybil makes everyone's life difficult. Suck it up and deal with it like a man. You don't see me hiding from her, do you?"

"You're not a man."

Hermione groaned. "That's not the point!"

"You're not me."

"That's not the point either!" Throwing her hands up in the air in exasperation she groaned again. "Why can't you at least come down for a little while? I know everyone would be happy to see you out and about. And if you don't want to do it for them than do it for me. I need a sane person to talk to!"

He looked pensive for a moment before standing. "Very well. One hour. Then may I return to my book?"

"Yes! Thank you." She smiled brightly. "You're not going to regret this."

"Yes I will," he muttered as he came around the desk.

Hermione raised her head up so she could continue smiling at him and telling him that it wouldn't be so bad when she happened to spot a certain green object hanging above their heads. Blinking she stared up at it, not quite believing that it was there. "Severus… do you see a-"


"How did it—"

"I don't know."

"Do you think it's enchanted?"

"Most likely, knowing my luck."

"Want to test it out?"

Severus stared at her. "Woman are you drunk?"

"No. I only had a glass of that stuff and I feel fine. I'm serious!" He opened his mouth and she glared at him. "Don't even go there. Come on, why not? It's a tradition."

He blew out a sigh. "Very well." Swooping down he captured her lips in a brief, but entirely too smoldering kiss, before striding away.

Hermione shivered again, this time not from the cold. "S-Severus… you know, I don't think we have to go to the Christmas party after all if you'd rather stay here and… um… have a more intimate party."

The man smirked. "Miss Granger, your mind is in the gutter."

She flushed in embarrassment. "That's not what I meant. I just meant we could talk by the fire. Maybe have some snacks sent from the kitchens or something."

"I believe," he began, black eyes on hers. "That is a very good idea."

He smirked as he watched her close her eyes smiling. Severus – 1 : Staff Christmas Party – 0.