Author's Note: Yes, yes, I KNOW, another fic. Yes, I'm still working on Guilt and a Smile. Yes, I will finish Guilt and a Smile. This should be a quick one, and I started it for Christmas, but haven't quite finished it yet (Through ch9 completed). By the way, did you know plot bunnies bleed pink when you squish them? Just wondering. Fast little suckers, too.


He exhaled harshly, rocking his hips and grinding his cock into the soft mattress beneath him.

Another. Fucking. Dream.

Another night of waking before he could come. Another night of aching to be touched and desired. Just another fucking dream of Hermione Granger...and tomorrow (tonight?) was the fifth annual Order of the Phoenix Christmas Eve party.

Which meant he'd see her. In person. With those bright eyes and curls and...

He heaved himself over in bed with a soft groan. Severus wasn't sure whose grand idea it had been to start the fucking Christmas Eve party tradition; he'd happily missed the first one. Being in a magically-induced coma to purge his body of snake venom was not, apparently, conducive to attending Christmas parties.

Or your own trial, for that matter.

Waking up in a panic only to find your throat layered in bandages as a nurse tried to calm you - "Don't talk, Mr. Snape," "It's alright, you're at St Mungo's," "Will you hold still?!" - and to find Harry fucking Potter standing at the end of your bed with tears in his eyes, ready to read you your freedom from what had been a rather elaborately-worded pardon before it'd been crumpled by the boy-who-could-not-leave-well-enough-alone-and-let-me-live-my-life had been both annoying and gratifying.

He'd warily let Potter get through his pardon, but when the boy fidgeted with his visitor's pass and started to apologise, he'd made the rather spectacular discovery that screaming at the boy to get out and leave him the bloody hell alone would tear his throat back open and all that would come out was a garbled growl and blood.

Well, that was certainly a bloody hell.

Then he spent another few weeks in another sleep, before the Healers woke him to say that they couldn't make his neck stop oozing blood.

At which point, they'd gotten a rather abrupt lesson in why not to get between Professor Snape and a cauldron when dunderheads were, apparently, trying to kill him...even if said Professor was clad in a rather short hospital-issue bathrobe.

If he could have muttered under his breath about their utter lack of anything more than empty air between their ears as he made his own damn tailored coagulant, he would have.

The second Christmas Eve party – his first attending – it had been Minerva who'd dragged him from his home in Spinner's End, completely and entirely immune to his glares.

She'd ignored his rather pointed gestures that suggested just where, precisely, she could put the "warm welcome that had been extended to him".

"Even if you spend the evening in the library, Severus," she'd told him crisply after thrusting his cloak at him, "you will come this year. Last year, you had an excuse. This year, you do not. You're one of us, whether you like it or not."

So he'd snagged a sheaf of parchment and a self-inking quill from his desk, then swirled his cloak around his shoulders before following the tartan-clad witch out the door.

Somewhere between the chorus of "PROFESSOR!" (never mind he wasn't "Professor" anymore) and the apparent need by most Order members present to try to speak at him, he'd finally escaped to the library. He didn't need their pity. He didn't need their apologies or questions without a chance to even try to put quill to parchment.

The library was cheerfully silent. Well, perhaps not silent, but certainly blessed quiet. He'd gotten used to that, though; the subtle sounds of crackling logs, the creaking of an old house, the soft footsteps and distant noise of people who genuinely care about their festivities.

Severus perused the collection of books, appreciative of what had to have been Miss Granger's endeavor to help reclaim Grimmauld Place from the dreary pall of the Black family. The books were clean, several repaired, and, most important to his mind, sorted.

He selected his tome, a rather droll collection of Wizarding anecdotes of the Muggle world that, for some peculiar reason, rhymed. He'd always wondered if it had been authored by an ancestor of the Lovegood girl – her essays had been positively hysterical upon occasion.

He discarded his cloak to the ottoman and pulled the collar of his jumper away from the raw scarring on his neck. When brewing for Hogwarts, he wore what they expected to see him in: unrelieved black frock coat, full cape, boots - a mere scowl and any students (and once Mrs Norris, that had been delightful) between him and the infirmary bolted for cover. But at home, he found he preferred the Muggle garb he'd grown up seeing. No need to pad his neck with gauze, for jumper collars now were lower, and it was apparently acceptable now to wear a mere tee-shirt beneath, rather than a proper collared one. Oh well, it suited him to not have to resist digging his fingers into his neck when the pain or itching drove him nearly mad.

He settled into his book, and was peaceably a quarter through the bit on undergarments and their relation to the Muggle need to pretend the world was on fire when there came a soft tap of the library door.

"Pardon, sir," came Miss Granger's voice, giving him a moment to turn to see her.

She smiled at him, pushing the door open with her foot, hands occupied with a tea tray.

"Sorry to disturb, Professor, but I thought I'd bring you a spot of tea, since you've missed supper." That would be the fault of the Silencing Charm I placed outside the room, girl. She set the tea tray down on the ottoman, careful not to spill on his cloak. "I think I've got all your favorites, and the tea's a lovely black. I wasn't sure on cream or sugar or lemon, so I brought a bit of all, along with honey."

She straightened once more.

"Happy Christmas, Professor. I'm glad you're here with us." Then Hermione Granger smiled at Severus Snape, pressed a slim box into his hands, squeezed his shoulder gently, and exited the room before softly closing the door behind her.

He hadn't needed to say anything to her brief visit, and he was astounded at her simple gestures. A gift. With a card, even. Just a simple "Happy Christmas, Professor/From: Hermione Granger". Tasteful paper in a rather pretty silver-on-white, and a curled green ribbon, the type of curl you could get with – ah, yes, there it was, the press of the edge of the scissors, she'd wrapped it herself... and inside the paper he so carefully peeled away was a plain little box, but in the box was a scarf.

Gently, Severus lifted the scarf from the box. It was lightweight, but a deep, deep green, almost black, and looked to be soft as cashmere. It was clearly charmed for a proper temperature, to be worn in any season, but what struck him most was that it was charmed for softness beyond the material it was made of. Soft, gentle, comfortable, and entirely unable to bother his neck in the slightest. Her simple kindness struck him speechless.

Which was fine by him. He hadn't been able to speak since the battle.

Please don't hate me for running two stories at once, alright?

Enjoy as this goes on, and all reviews are welcome. :)