**I don't own Snape, just Amelia and her mom :) **

*Inspired by the song 'Hello World' by Lady Antebellum*

*I'm not trying to force my beliefs on anyone. This is just a fun little story that I wrote for Christmastime and I just wanted to incorporate my faith :) *

Hello World

The soft glow of the tiny strings of shimmering lights was enough to make Severus Snape's stomach churn. He was not sure how long he had been wandering the streets of inner Muggle London, but he did not really seem to care. It certainly was not as if somebody were waiting for him at home. The snow was just deep enough to soak through his black trousers at the ankles, and he cringed as the icy wet chill met his bare skin through the fabric. He passed by shop after shop, each one teeming with more faux Christmas trees and ornaments then the last. The warm scent of gingerbread tickled at his nose, and he paused to peer curiously into a small shop window. He shrugged, the typical uncaring mask once again plastered to his pale face, and was about to continue on his way when a stray cat skittered across the roof of the shop, sending a generous amount of snow over Snape's head. Snape bit back a snarl and furiously swiped at his shoulders and black hair, muttering angrily to himself all the while. Blasted holiday.

Severus had never exactly been very fond of Christmas. While the majority of his friends had spent the joyous time of year baking cookies or opening gifts before a roaring fire as children, Severus' holiday experience was much different. Horridly so. He recalled his father stumbling through the rickety door of the house they struggled to keep drunk each Christmas Eve. He would wave a bottle of awful-looking amber liquid erratically over his head and shriek holiday carols until his voice was hoarse or until he simply passed out at the kitchen table. No tree, no lights, certainly not any gifts with what little money they had already going toward the house payment. No, Christmas had never resonated with Severus' soul like it had with so many others. As far as he was concerned, everybody made a bigger and bigger fuss each year for no reason that he could place his finger on. The whole idea of 'Christmas' was simply nothing more than a tremendous waste of time.

Gritting his teeth against the bitter chill that had settled in due to the now-melting snow over his jacket, Snape charged onward down the street, intent on returning home before anything else dared to further put a damper on his not-so-jolly Christmas Eve. A soft noise from an alleyway stopped him, however, and when curiosity took hold, he peered carefully into the darkness. He listened intently for a moment, dark brows drawing together in concentration against his forehead, and he nearly went on his way when the noise came again. A soft, trembling gasping sound drifted from behind a large trash can. An uncommon sense of concern swept the curiosity away and Severus quickly made his way into the dark alley, stopping at the trash can to cautiously peer around the side.

A little girl, blonde and shivering, sat in the snow crying softly to herself, hugging a well-worn stuffed dog to her chest. Snape's steel heart softened a little. She could not have been more than five. Why on earth was she here, of all places? Snape cleared his throat softly, instantly regretting the noise when the little girl gasped and jerked away from him abruptly, tears flowing more quickly down her pink cheeks. Severus rushed to reassure her, and for a moment, wondered where this sudden compassion had come from.

"No no," he called softly, sinking into a low crouch so as not to intimidate her with his size, "I'd like to help you. What is your name?" She studied him with wary, blue eyes for a moment.

"Amelia," she replied shyly, still sniffing back a few tears.

"Hello, Amelia," Severus replied as he tried to offer what he hoped was a kind smile (after all, he hadn't intentionally extended kindness to someone in a very, VERY long time…). "My name is Severus. How did you get out here?"

"My mum and I were out Christmas shopping," she explained calmly at first. But then her wide eyes clouded with more tears. "And I g-got l-l-lost….I-I-I d-don't know w-where she i-i-is n-now!" She burst into another flood of tears and Severus felt a small tide of panic rising in his chest. He quickly retrieved his handkerchief from his coat pocket and leaned forward to gently dab at her eyes.

"There, now," he said softly when the tears had been wiped away. "Why don't you come with me, darling? We'll see if we can find your mum." He offered a large pale hand to her, but she ignored it and reached up to him with both arms instead. Severus hesitated for a moment. Sure, he liked little children, but holding one…? The thought made him shudder inwardly. He was never one for human contact, not that anyone had ever wanted his touch anyway. He turned back to the little girl, who stood at his feet, arms outstretched and wide, blue eyes pleading with him. He sighed softly in resignation, and stooped to lift her into his arms. A small smile graced her tiny face and she clutched her threadbare dog to her chest. Severus stepped carefully out of the alleyway and shifted the girl in his arms before turning to speak to her again.

"Where did you last see your mother, darling?" he asked patiently. She worried at her bottom lip for a moment before turning to look at him with such hope in her eyes that it made his heart clench.

"Jesus in the barn!" she replied eagerly. Severus felt his brows creeping together again in bewilderment. He pondered her words for a moment. He knew that Jesus was primarily a Muggle figure, although a good number of his students were avid followers themselves, but what did a barn have to do with Jesus? Severus desperately tried to recall what little he knew about the story of Jesus, and suddenly, it clicked.

"Do you mean a 'Nativity Scene', my dear?" He asked quietly, relieved when she grinned and nodded 'yes'. "Very well. Which way is this Nativity Scene?" Amelia pointed a tiny finger straight ahead and Severus quickly continued down the street. Amelia yawned softly and shivered as a brisk wind tousled her blonde hair and the raven black hair of her rescuer. Severus felt the small body tremble and tightened his arms around her slightly in the hope of offering her some warmth. He gazed upward into her innocent face to find her studying his face with a soft smile, and he suddenly felt self conscious. She was likely considering the abnormally large size of his nose or the paleness of his skin, or perhaps even the blackness of his small eyes. The thought made him cringe inwardly. He had never been an attractive man, not in any sense. If his appearance failed to push others away, his personality sent them packing without fail every time. A twinge of sadness pricked his heart. He never wished to be cruel or to hurt others. Sure, he enjoyed a snarky comment or two….or six….every once in a while, but his intention was never to cause harm or much humiliation.

He risked another glance at the little girl locked securely in his arms. Still staring. He wondered what sort of thoughts might have been running through her head, and how much lower he might sink if he ever heard them.

"There it is!" Amelia shouted suddenly, startling Severus out of his thoughts. A soft glow was just ahead, and the pair quickly made their way to the miniature spectacle. Severus stopped for a moment to look around, hoping to find the girl's mother clamoring to have her daughter back at last, but the square was silent on all sides. Amelia glanced about frantically, and Severus caught the trembling of her lower lip before the tears began to fall once more.

"Don't you worry, darling," he said, "We'll just wait right here and see if your mum comes back, all right? I'm sure she'll be around looking for you in no time." The little girl nodded and fixed her gaze on the neon stable before them. Severus watched the way her eyes sparkled with youthful wonderment as her gazed passed over each figure from the donkeys and sheep to the baby Jesus Himself. She heaved a contented sigh and rested her little head against his for a moment before she spoke.

"This is my very favorite story," she whispered.

"What story?" Severus asked sincerely, "This one?" He felt her nod against his black hair and chuckled softly. "I don't believe I've heard the full version, Amelia," he added, knowing full-well that he knew some details, but he was always in the mood for a good story. Amelia pulled away to stare at him, mouth agape.

"You don't know the story of Jesus?" she asked in disbelief. She did not bother to wait for his reply; she simply launched into her own telling of the famous tale. "Well, Mum always says that the world was really bad back then. Everybody was really angry, really sad, or just plain lonely, and they were all doing bad things that God didn't like. But instead of getting mad like Mum does when I sneak an extra cookie from the jar, God wanted to help everybody." Severus nodded, relishing her childlike innocence and the loving way in which her story unfolded.

"So God decided that He wanted to come down here to talk to everybody about why they were sad and angry and doing bad things and to teach them to live in a good way. He talked to Mary, that one right there," she explained as she pointed to a young girl kneeling next to the manger, "and He told her that she was going to have a baby named Jesus. So Mary and her husband Joseph went to Bethlehem, but they didn't have hotels there, so they had to stay in a stable for the night, and Jesus was born there." Severus nodded and offered her a gentle smile.

"That's a lovely story, Amelia," he smiled.

"But it's not just a story, Sev'rus," Amelia explained, "It actually happened! That's the best part!" Doubt clouded Severus' black eyes and he hoped she would not see the disbelief that colored his face.

"I'm not sure, Amelia," he began gently. "I just don't know how this could ever-"

"Nope, it's real, Sev'rus," the little girl chirped matter-of-factly, "Jesus loves everybody and that's why He came. The world's really bad at loving each other, Sev'rus. That's why He had to come." Severus nodded, still unsure, but a pang of sadness tore at his heart.

"Well I'm just not sure that Jesus would ever love somebody like me," he chuckled, expecting her to laugh along with him. When her tiny arms snaked around his neck and held on tight, he was caught completely off guard. And when he felt her press a kiss into his hair, he was speechless.

"Don't ever say that, Sev'rus," Amelia pleaded. "If He didn't love you, He wouldn't have made you."

"Thank you, my dear," Severus managed to say. "But I'm afraid you just don't understand. I've been hurt a lot in my life, and I just don't see how that goes back to love…" Her tiny arms squeezed a little tighter around his neck.

"Bad stuff happens sometimes, Sev'rus," Amelia explained. "But that's people's faults, not God's. He lets us choose and sometimes people choose the bad things. That's why He needs people like you and me to be nice to people who need it. He needs us to show the sad and angry and bad people how much He loves them." Severus' heart ached at the innocence of her words and returned her embrace for a moment.

"And what makes you so sure that all of this is true, hmm?" he chuckled gently.

"I feel it in here," Amelia chirped, pointing to the left side of her chest. Much to his surprise, Severus felt tears prick at the backs of his dark eyes and he turned his face away from her for a moment so she would not see his tears. Once fully-composed again, Severus turned back to his insightful companion and gave her a warm smile. The two of them stood in silence for a while longer, staring into the soft glow of the miniature stable until Severus felt the weight of Amelia's head rest firmly on his shoulder. He risked a quick look at his charge and when he found her fast asleep, he smirked to himself and raised a hand to rest against the back of her blonde head. He stood before the little stable, swaying ever so slightly as the little girl on his shoulder slept soundly, and he pondered her words to him that night. Could he really be that loved by someone he had never met? What could God possibly want with him? Although she would not be able to fully answer all of his questions, Severus could not help but admire the girl's steady faith. He stared at the miniature baby Jesus and wondered how it all fit together. Did God really care that much that He would come down here, where it was filthy and horrific at every turn? When a silent 'yes' resounded in his cold heart, he smirked wryly. Well, that's what Christmas was truly about, wasn't it? He gazed up into the starry night sky where the snow continued to fall in flurries, and when Amelia shifted against him in her sleep, he offered a silent prayer of thanks for the little girl he held tightly in his arms. What a blessing she had been to him this night.

"Amelia? Amelia!" a frantic woman's voice called from down the street, and Severus turned to see a very worried woman sprinting toward them, in heels of all things. Her auburn hair was a mess from the cold wind and icy snow, and her eyes glimmered brightly in relief as she caught sight of her daughter in the man's arms. She opened her mouth to call out to her child as she made her way toward the unlikely pair, but Severus raised a finger to his lips and glanced at the sleeping child on his shoulder. Her mother smiled thankfully and closed the distance between them.

"Thank you, sir," she gushed in a whisper. "I was so worried…"

"It's no trouble at all, really," Snape explained in his own baritone whisper. "She's honestly a joy." The woman smiled her thanks and took the sleeping girl from Severus' arms. He winced as the cold air swept over his empty shoulder. As soon as she left his embrace, Amelia's eyes fluttered open, and upon seeing her mother, they widened with glee. The two hugged and kissed one another, and Severus, deciding that it was likely his time to leave, turned with a gentle wave of his hand to start off down the street and back to his lonely manor. He stopped, however, when the sound of tiny footsteps sounded behind him. He turned just in time to catch Amelia in his arms and give her one final embrace.

"Happy Christmas, Sev'rus," she whispered as she planted a kiss on his pale cheek. He smiled affectionately at her and lowered her to the cement once more before locking eyes with her mother, who was watching with a lone tear running down her cheek. Severus smiled kindly at her, noticing for the first time how beautiful she looked, even with her auburn hair strewn about and soaked through by the wind and snow. She blushed when she realized that he was smiling at her, and she sheepishly dropped her gaze to her boots. Suddenly, though, she glanced at her daughter, and then back at him.

"Amelia," she began, "why don't we ask this kind gentleman to join us for Christmas tomorrow? I think we should give him a proper thank you for taking such good care of you tonight." Severus' heart fluttered wildly in his chest and he leapt in surprise as the little girl locked his right leg in a fierce embrace.

"Say yes, Sev'rus!" she squealed, "Say yes!" He chuckled and reached down to ruffled her blonde hair.

"I would like that very much," he smiled politely, obediently following the pair when Amelia's mother beckoned him along. As he walked with the two of them, the littlest of the two clinging tightly to his large hand and practically dragging him along, he could not help but wonder if this would be a Christmas that might change everything. And when he turned his gaze skyward and caught the shimmer of a shooting star, he offered another silent 'Thank You' to the God that maybe, just maybe, had been planning this night all along.