He hadn't been in favor of having a staff Secret Santa, but he'd been overruled. It was with ill grace that he drew a name out of the Sorting Hat.

But then he looked.

It was her name.

The idea came to him immediately. And just as immediately, he dismissed it. Not private enough. And about 15 miles out of his comfort zone.

But the idea kept coming back, needling him, prodding him, stirring him to action. Because it was the kind of grand gesture she would love.

Most people perceived her the same way they perceived him – tough, strict, no-nonsense. There didn't seem to be anything soft about her – even physically she was all angles and straight lines; tall, dark, and bony. But after more than a year together, he knew that Septima Vector's angular exterior held a secret romantic's heart.

And so he found himself at the Christmas party, drumming his fingers nervously while Pomfrey unwrapped a cross-stitched panda, Flitwick a set of juggling balls, and he himself – suppressing a grimace – a gift certificate to Slug and Jiggers. How original.

But then Minerva pulled that package out from under the tree. For a second, he felt a strong temptation to just whip out his wand and perform a quick Vanishing spell. But he resisted. It would have been a great waste of resources. Instead, he held his breath, his heart starting to pound.

Septima carefully tore off the wrapper and raised her eyebrows at finding a black velvet box inside. "From Brilliants and Baubles?" she muttered. "Hm. " With a precise gesture, she flipped open the top – and gasped. A one carat diamond ring sparkled in the glow of the fairy lights. Her eyes flew up, startled, meeting her not-so-secret Santa's.

There was a moment of collective silence.

"Well," Bathilda Babbling said disapprovingly. "I thought we had a five Galleon spending limit."

And then he was somehow standing, his arms around Septima, her face smiling a wobbly smile at him, while a happy babble of voices erupted around them.

"About time one plus one made two." "So glad you finally figured out a common denominator!" "Seems Vector found her complement." "I didn't think she'd ever get him to toe the line – I hadn't a ray of hope left!" "Me neither. But I'm glad he finally got to the point." "Congratulations! May your happiness over the years increase exponentially!" "I add my felicitations!" "Septima and Severus Snape - now that'll be a finely named pair!"

But the only thing he wanted to hear was her voice. And the answer to his whispered question.

"Oh, I most definitely will," she whispered back. "And Merry Christmas!"


A/N: For those who've never heard of it, a "Secret Santa" is a gift exchange where you don't know the identity of your gift giver. And I contritely apologize for the bad math punnage.

Reviews make me happy. :0)