A/N: Yes, yes, I am aware that this type of story has been done before, however I would like to try my hand at a more realistic approach as to why this might happen, as well as explore the musings of a girl flattered by such an odd, yet very pleasant experience. This is not a love story, simply a little thought of mine mixed with one of my favorite songs.

The song in this oneshot will be Carol of the Bells, by the Trans Siberian Orchestra. I highly recommend listening to the song as you read in order to get the full effect of the story. And just so you know, IF you choose to listen to the song while you read, start the song at the beginning of the paragraph that says that the music changes to her favorite Christmas song. THEN and ONLY THEN will the song match the words I've written.

Take My Hand, Lonely Child

Why on earth must matters of the heart be so difficult? Why can't emotions be simple? And why, of all nights, did she have to find herself in such a sad state?

It didn't seem fair to her that she obviously wasn't allowed to have a good time at the Yule Ball. She had expected to dance with her date, to talk with friends, and to be merry on such a joyous occasion. It was Christmas Eve, and although her night had started out beautiful and promising, she now found herself sitting alone on the steps, crying because one of the people she cared about most had turned her world upside down with a few hurtful words.

Was she really that pathetic?

Oh Ronald, how ignorant you are, she thought bitterly. You silly boy, can't you see I was only trying to impress you? Viktor asked me to this ball, and I accepted because I knew you'd never pluck up the courage to do so yourself. But I had hoped for just one dance…

Apparently that seemed too much to ask. She had had a good time with Victor Krum that evening. The two had danced, and although he was a man who didn't talk much, she had found his company quite enjoyable. And, she supposed she had to admit that he was dashingly handsome in his courtly attire. But she hadn't felt anything more than a simple kind of affection for him.

Why she had tried so hard to get the attention of Ron Weasley was beyond her. But that had been her goal of the night. She had hoped to turn his head-hoped he would ask her for one dance. She had daydreamed for weeks of the two of them, sweeping across the Great Hall in a flourish of gown and dress robes. She'd imagined staring into his eyes, and hearing him say the words every fifteen-year-old girl wants to hear.

"I love you…"

Of course, the stubborn git hadn't given her a second glance, and instead, had treated her with scorn and anger, as if she'd done something wrong. He'd accused her of fraternizing with the enemy! How dare he say such a thing! He had no idea of the many thoughts that bombarded her each day and night. He had no inkling of her deepest, most private desires. He had no right to judge her.

And yet, here she was, giving in to the hurtful words he'd spoken to her. Here she was, lonely and weeping on the stone staircase in her elegant pink dress while everyone else was enjoying their Christmas Eve dance, filling the Great Hall with merriment and laughter and music…

Oh, what a dreadful night…

x-X-x

Two of his favorite things surrounded him now: the snow, and the darkness. He could call both elements his companions. The snow was icy and cold and numbed the world, causing the plants, the life, the joy, to fade from the earth and crawl away until spring decided to show its colorful face once more. The darkness instilled fear and could make one feel isolated, cut off from the rest of creation.

Yet solitude was his friend, not his enemy. He'd rather be left alone than forced to deal with the happiness that was currently consuming the Great Hall. He wouldn't quite call himself a Scrooge, for he secretly enjoyed the spirit of Christmas. But he liked to far remove himself from the crowds and the cheer and the flood of hormones that always seemed to erupt within everyone around the holidays.

As he walked around outside, checking the carriages for inappropriate activity, he was grateful for the quiet of the outdoors. He could hear the music faintly, which helped him to keep track of the endless hours of the night, but he was actually enjoying himself. What was not to be enjoyed? He got to bust teenagers for PDA, and he could silently laugh about it as he did so.

So when Minerva found him, disrupting his peace and his quiet entertainment, he was less than pleased.

"Severus, I have a brief favor to ask," came the accented voice of the Scottish witch from behind him.

He turned slowly round on his heel, not really interested in whatever it was that she had to say. He stood silently, waiting for her to continue.

"Most of the staff has retired for the evening, leaving few chaperones at the ball. I'm in need of someone to fill in for me briefly while I escort a student to Madame Pomfrey. It seems she's grown rather dizzy."

As much as Snape wanted to remain outside of all the festivities, he relented. Five minutes wouldn't kill him, although it might kill some other unlucky soul.

"Fine." He nodded his agreement. "Go on and take her up. I will keep an eye on the rest of the students."

"Thank you, Severus," said a very grateful McGonagall before she scurried off to fetch the girl who had become ill.

Snape watched her leave before marching inside with an inward sigh. It wouldn't be much longer before the party came to an end and students and staff could return to their chambers for a short night of rest before Christmas morning would greet them. Not that he himself had anything grand to look forward to the next day. His holidays were usually spent alone, a few gifts from Albus, Minerva, and other teachers waiting for him on the coffee table in his private rooms when he awoke.

Often times he would walk about school grounds, thinking back to his years as a student. They were not fond memories, but he had a few snippets of what once was that he always held close to his heart. Funny how most people seemed to assume he had no heart: that he was entirely cold and dark and a loner by choice. The truth of the matter was that he'd been forced to make that choice to become a loner. He had tried so very hard to be a friend long ago. However, eventually, that friend had left him, alone and forgotten like a once treasured toy that had lost its intrigue.

Since then, the bitterness had taken over, and he'd allowed himself to become cold and hard and unfeeling-at least on the outside. He decided to never open up to another soul again, with the exception of Albus Dumbledore; his mentor; his savior.

Entering the castle and making his way toward the Great Hall, his waistcoat flapping about him, he was met with a sight not unfamiliar to him, but still attention grabbing. Hermione Granger sat on the stairs, her pink skirts billowing up around her slender form. Tears fell from her eyes, although she was trying desperately to dash them away.

Now why, he asked himself, would a young lady as beautiful as she, who had entered the ball on the arm of the Quidditch World Cup Champion, Viktor Krum, be sitting by herself on the cold stone stairs, crying? He rolled his eyes. No doubt it was due to some ridiculous teenage drama that he did not care to fathom. She had probably been rejected, or hadn't heard those three little magic words that women always expected to hear on occasions such as this one. Even if his guess wasn't dead on, he could guess it was something close enough to the truth.

Snape had known the bitter sting of rejection, the pain of heartache that lasted a lifetime, but he had grown to realize very quickly that life was not a fairytale. He was no prince charming, he was simply a toad who had had no chance of winning Cinderella's heart. So he'd given up on such silly ideas long, long ago. Looking at Granger at present told him she needed to learn the same thing; that life wasn't fair, love didn't come easily or quickly-if at all-and one would endure much heartache throughout the course of their lifetime. She also needed to learn that one simply had to move on out of necessity.

After analyzing the situation fairly quickly and easily, Snape found himself momentarily sympathetic to the girl. She had not asked for what had happened to her. She'd merely been dreaming-a crime he had been guilty of in his youth, and even though he wasn't one who cared to involve themselves in the personal affairs of others, he understood her pain.

He slowed his steps and strode over to her quietly, wondering why he chose that moment to care about how this one girl felt. Whenever he saw girls or boys bawling over a "lost love" or the "betrayal of a friend," he'd simply turn away and give an inward groan at the ignorance of the young. At that moment, however, he felt the need to at least ask after the little witch's wellbeing.

Stopping in front of her, his gaze came to rest upon her flushed cheeks and red, puffy eyes. He stood there for a moment or two, wondering how long it would take her to register his presence. At last, tired of waiting, he broke the silence.

"Miss Granger," he addressed formally, as if it were an ordinary day and her world was not falling down around her.

Hermione's head shot up as she realized someone had spoken to her. She swiped away the last of her tears when she realized that it was her potions master.

"Oh! Professor, I'm sorry, I didn't see you-"

"No need," he said, cutting her off before she could ramble an unnecessary apology. "Why, may I ask, are you sitting here…all by yourself? Or did you not know there was a Christmas ball going on next door?"

He knew she didn't need his biting sarcasm, but he couldn't keep it out of his voice. It had become a habit. That, and he couldn't let anyone know that he actually felt something beneath his cold, hard exterior.

"I-I know…" she stammered, her mind whirling as she tried to collect her scattered thoughts that had been blown in all different directions with the arrival of Snape. "I just…I'm not feeling well…"

He lifted a brow at the her very unoriginal excuse. Then he said in a calm, yet wise voice, as if he were all-knowing: "Just so you know, Miss Granger…It is not the end of the world."

Hermione looked up into his eyes now and saw that he knew exactly what was wrong with her, or close to it anyway. But of course he would understand how silly a teenage girl could be! He was a teacher and had seen many a girls crying over a boy. Now Hermione felt ridiculous. Was she that predictable? Was she just the same as every other silly girl out there?

Her cheeks flushed even further as she began to feel like a fool to adult eyes. She averted her gaze, trying to hold back new tears of embarrassment. Why, of all people, did it have to be Snape who had come to point out the obvious flaw in her so-called "maturity?"

"You're right…I'm sorry. I'll…return in a moment."

"Very well," he said, turning to walk away from the distraught, young woman. But something held him back, halting his steps.

Would she really rejoin the party? And if she did, would she really enjoy the rest of her evening? Would she dance? Would she participate in the festivities? Or would she return to the ball and retreat to a far off corner to continue her weeping out of the sights of potential onlookers? Or would she simply go back to her room?

Why should he care? Why should he give a second thought to the happiness of a young, know-it-all, Gryffindor witch whom he didn't even really care for? In truth, he couldn't stand to have the girl in class. She always knew all the answers, and she always seemed intent on showing off her brilliant mind-and bragging and boasting were not very becoming traits in Snape's own opinion. In fact, it was downright annoying.

But something called him back to her, something deep inside of himself that took Severus back to his time at Hogwarts as a student. He remembered specifically a dance much like this one in his seventh year. He had tried to appeal one last time to the love of his life-had asked for just one dance…

Only to be rejected. She had favored another, and Severus lost all hope of happiness after that. Funny how the one person you looked to for a smile could be the one to leave your entire life in ruins.

For some reason, even with as bitter and angry as he was, he couldn't let someone else fall into such misery. For some reason, this one opportunity called to him out of all others, and he simply had to try to save a heart from being destroyed.

Slowly, and quite hesitantly, he turned back to the pathetic, miserable creature that sat upon the stone stairway, her heart obviously having suffered a terrible blow. He stepped toward her once more, reaching out his hand as his left foot came to rest on the first step.

Hermione lifted her head and stared at his hand, unsure of what to do with it. Should she take it? Was she in trouble and wasn't aware…? She didn't have anything to give him if he meant for her to hand him an item of some sort. Surely he wasn't asking…?

"Take…my hand…" he said calmly, assuring her that everything was alright. She raised her eyes to meet his, black as night to match his feathery hair and dark attire.

She couldn't even blink, her mind was spinning so quickly. Snape was offering her his hand? Why? Surely not to dance-surely! And surely that emotion in his eyes couldn't be sympathy, nor understanding, let alone compassion. Was she dreaming? Was she delusional? She had to be-she simply had to be.

Even so, she lifted her hand to place it cautiously in his. His fingers, still quite cool from being outside in the chilly air, enclosed around hers, and he slowly pulled her to her feet, stepping back to lead her down the few stairs until she reached the bottom. He did not speak as he turned and led her back into the Great Hall, decorated to look like a winter wonderland as the band kept up its playing, and Hermione dared not to say a word. She felt more than a little awkward on the arm of her surly potions professor, especially as people swiveled to stare in their direction, evidently just as speechless as she.

She spotted Ron and Harry across the room, their mouths agape, their eyes wide in utter shock. She felt her face heat all over again, and she quickly averted her eyes and looked strictly forward. No doubt she'd be gossiped about for weeks after this. How embarrassing!

She tried very hard not to look at Snape as he led her, to her horror, to the center of the dance floor, the song changing to, oddly enough, one of her favorite Christmas songs. She lowered her eyes as the crowd parted to give them space (the entire floor). Unfortunately, when Snape stopped her, she was forced to turn toward him and meet his black eyes once again. His left hand grasped her right one, while his right hand rested lightly, but firmly upon her waist. It was too late to escape this now. That was the thought that was running through both their minds at that point.

As the music's first upbeat note sounded through the Great Hall, Snape raised their hands higher in a perfect dancer position. And when the bells began to sound, he began to lead her about the floor in time with the carol. To Hermione's surprise, he had already taken her breath away. She found herself immersed within this very new, very sensational experience.

As the chorus began, the two spun together in time with the music until it hit the higher notes, at which point, he lifted her into the air, spinning with her one rotation before setting her on her feet again in order to take her hand and twirl her several times, first one way, then the other. While the piano and the guitar took turns performing on a downward scale, the two were swept up into a series of complex movements. Snape ended the little succession by spinning Granger around him as he remained stationary, motioning her to move outward as she came back around to face him.

Now they stood further apart, his left hand holding her right one as they bowed to one another in a courtly gesture. They began to move slowly in a circle like this, their bodies slowly straightening as the bells chimed, bringing them closer together. Their eyes were locked, and although Snape's face was expressionless, Hermione was fighting the strong urge to smile. Her heart felt strangely warm and light as she danced in the arms of a man she'd thought she detested. That upbeat note sounded, and he took hold of her in that perfect dancer position again, his dark eyes piercing her, as if he were looking into her soul.

When the sound began to built toward the crescendo, he led her swiftly around the floor. They twirled together as the chorus began again, Hermione feeling as if she were simply gliding along with Snape's surprisingly fluent movements.

At the crescendo, he stopped, they stepped apart, and he pulled her back. He twirled her one way, then the other. Then they stepped apart again and began the complex movements once more. The onlookers stared in amazement and disbelief, completely in awe of the spectacle before them.

When the higher notes came again, they resumed the waltz position and sashayed about the floor. They spun once. Then twice. Then they pulled apart, stepped together, pulled apart again, their hands still joined as they danced around each other, switching sides, then switching back, their feet moving in deft, complicated motions. As the music reached its fast point leading up to the end, the complexity of their movements became a whirlwind.

She lifted onto her toes, and he spun her and let her go so that she twirled freely. Then she stopped, facing him. He took her hand. He pulled her to him. They spun round one rotation. Then he stepped back, his hand still clasping hers, and bowed as the music came to a stop.

She was breathless as she stared back into the dark depths of his seemingly empty, emotionless eyes, wondering what had just happened. Her face was flushed and their chests heaved slightly from their exertion.

He let go of her hand and let his arm fall. Hermione was slightly disheartened by the break in contact, hesitating before slowly lowering her own hand. The proper response would have been to curtsy, but she was too astounded, and her mind too scattered to think straight. She didn't look away from his eyes, searching for something. For what? She wasn't sure. But she was searching for something…

She never had the chance to find it. Expressionless, Snape turned and walked away, the stunned crowd parting for him as the quiet, speculative chatter began. Something within Hermione seemed to sink. An unfamiliar, welcome sense of joy, pleasure and peace turned instantly to disappointment as she watched him go, leaving her alone in the center of the room where many curious eyes stood watching her.

Had she been wrong about Snape all this time? Had she been wrong to detest him? To dislike potions class simply because the bat of the dungeons was the teacher? Had she judged the man unfairly?

Now she seemed to think so. He had plucked her from the staircase and pulled her from her misery in order to show her a good time. He had tried to make her night-the only Yule Ball she would ever see-worth while. And he had. In fact, even as each person in the room stared at her as if she were a circus animal who'd just done the most astounding trick, Hermione knew that this was going to be one of the most memorable moments of her life.

And it was all thanks to Professor Severus Snape.

Hermione blushed and smiled to herself, a warm, endearing emotion taking over within her as the man in dark robes and black, feathery hair swept from the room, taking her heart with him.

x-X-x

As he headed toward the doors that lead to the cold darkness of the outside world once more, he tried not to admit to himself that he had enjoyed that little excursion. It was only a dance after all. But, on the other hand, he couldn't deny that it did a lonely, aged man's heart good to see light within a young girl's face again.

"Severus!"

He froze, immediately frowning at the clipped voice of his coworker.

"Why-what was all that about?" she sputtered, just as flabbergasted as every other person who had witnessed the spectacle he'd made of he and Miss Granger. The fact that Snape could dance, let alone would dance-and with a student-left McGonagall utterly dumbfounded.

Slowly, he turned only his head to look at her over his shoulder. He lifted a brow, his expression otherwise flat. "Don't…look too far into it, Minerva. Miss Granger simply needed…a hand."

With nothing else said between the two, Snape faced forward again and walked briskly back out into the night.

A/N: Tried my best to keep them in character, although….no, this would never actually happen. Snape would probably never care-EVER! But I gave a reason why he MIGHT care in some other universe. Anyway, in case it wasn't clear, by the end of this, Hermione now has a…girlish crush on Snape. But let's face it; if you were a girl, sitting all alone and crying, your heart may be taken a bit by a guy if he came ease your pain in some way. And if he danced with you like that-WOO! Oh buddy! XD I'd be in love if a guy if he could dance like that. WELL thanks for reading this little one shot. Hope you enjoyed it. Please review!