Happy Christmas, Severus

(baby it's bad out there)

say what's in this drink

(no cabs to be had out there)

i wish i knew how

(your eyes are like starlight now)

to break this spell

baby it's cold out side

"Yes, Molly, I promise! I will owl first thing in the morning if Remus isn't any better. Now hurry on, and be careful. It's getting terrible out here.."

Nymphadora Tonks let out a relieved chuckle as she closed the door after Molly Weasley, then leaned against it for a moment, listening to the howling wind and the sound of the snow hitting the windows. A storm was coming, and from the sounds of it, it was going to be a bad one; Dumbledore had been right in his decision to cancel tonight's Order meeting.. Shivering, she shuffled back into the drawing room and added a few more logs to the fireplace, then decided she should check in on Remus. She climbed the stairs carefully, avoiding the loose one near the landing, and quietly slipped into his room. He laid amongst the tangled sheets, his body covered in a thin sheen of sweat. She placed a light hand on his forehead, causing him to shift and mumble; he was still burning up with fever.

"Remus?" she whispered, gently shaking his shoulder. He jumped and came awake with a start.

"Tonks?" he mumbled, grabbing a blanket and covering himself "What are you doing in here?"

Tonks rolled her eyes and pushed him back forcefully onto the bed.

"I'm just checking on you, you're still burning up. Don't worry, I'm not going to attack you; you've made yourself quite clear on that point.."

Remus frowned at that, pulling the blanket higher up his body. "Tonks.."

"Now" she talked right over him "Take your potion like a big wolfie and Healer Tonks will leave you be"

She poured a smoking goblet of Pepper-Up potion and handed it to him, stifling a giggle as his ears started to steam. He set the empty goblet on his nightstand, shook his head as if to clear it, then slumped back onto his pillows.

"Alright then" Tonks smoothed the blankets over him, unable to resist brushing his damp hair off his forehead. Remus caught her hand as she pulled away, giving it a small squeeze.

"Thank you" he said softly.

"Anytime.."

They stared at each other awkwardly for a few moments, then Tonks turned and left, closing the door lightly behind her. She couldn't stand the look of pity in his eyes.. He didn't want her, fine. It was bad enough that they still had to live together, but she didn't need his damn pity. Annnnd now she was all strung-out. Perfect.. She stomped down to the kitchen, deciding she could do with a mug of mulled wine. Soon armed with her prize, she started to make her way back to the drawing room with the intent to curl up with a good book, when a furious rapping was heard at the front door. Startled, she set her mug down on the hall table and grabbed her wand, cautiously approaching the door.

"Who is it? Who's there?" she hissed, trying to sound threatening.

"Babbitty Rabbitty.." a familiar voice drawled sarcastically.

"Severus?"

"Yes, very good Nymphadora.. Now let me in!" Severus growled.

"Now just a minute, Mister.. No one in their right mind would be out on a night like this. How do I know it's really you? Let's see..Ah! What did my cousin say about you on the Marauder's Map?"

"Stop this foolishness, Nymphadora.. I order you to let me in this instant!"

"Not until you answer the question" She had to giggle to herself; this was fun..

"Fine! Mr. Padfoot would like to register his astonishment that an idiot like that ever became a Professor. Satisfied? Now let me in!"

"I never get tired of hearing that!" Tonks laughed as she deactivated the wards and swung the door open.

Severus swept past her in a swirl of black robes, icy wind, and snow. Shivering, she quickly closed the door after him, reactivating the wards, then warmed her hands around her mug. Severus stalked forward a few steps when whirled around to face her. She took a sip of her wine, arching her eyebrows and grinning at him over the top of her mug.

"So, to what do I owe this pleasure? Did you miss me that much?"

"Noooo" he sneered "I am here for the Order meeting, of course. Where is everyone, I don't have all night"

"Oh" Tonks set her mug down, honestly surprised now "I guess you didn't get Albus' Patronus, then? He tried to contact you; he decided to cancel the meeting because of the storm. I'm sorry.."

"No, I didn't receive anything" Severus gave an exhausted-sounding sigh and leaned back against the wall "But, I was at a..different meeting. So that is not surprising. Very well then, I should go"

"Are you mad?" Tonks grabbed his arm as he passed her to the door "It's bad out there, Severus.."

Just then a particularly violent wind howled, causing the door and windows to rattle and the lights to momentarily flicker.

"Ok, you're not going anywhere" Tonks pulled on his arm "It's not safe to Apparate, you're staying here tonight"

Severus looked at her as if she'd suddenly sprouted a troll head. "I will do no such thing! I'm perfectly capable of making my way home. Plus, how do you expect me to endure a whole evening in your company?"

Tonks snorted a dry laugh, pulling back the heavy velvet drapes and standing aside. Severus swallowed nervously; just in the short amount of time that he had been here, the snow had already piled rather high against the windows.

"Now" Tonks regarded him with her hands planted on her hips "What's it going to be? Spending the night in a dry, warm house with my charming company? Or going back out there and freezing your wanker off?"

Severus took such an amount of time to answer, that if it would have been anyone else Tonks would have been insulted. Instead she simply tilted her head to the side, allowing her midnight-blue waves to brush against her silver jumper. She smirked as the gesture seemed to actually make him look slightly uncomfortable.

"Fine.." he snapped at last, pushing forcefully past her and striding into the drawing room.

"Make yourself at home then Severus" she retorted, sipping from her mug and strolling after him.

She watched him as he silently paced the room, noticing that he walked with a slight limp.

"Severus, are you injured?"

"What?"

"Are. You. Injured?" she repeated slowly, inching closer to him.

"It's nothing" he said sharply, shifting away.

She focused closely on his legs as he turned from her. Sure enough, there was a wet patch on one of his lower calves that she would bet her wand hadn't been caused by the snow.

"Severus, you're bleeding. Let me have a look.."

"I said it's nothing!" he snapped, whirling back to face her with his piercing black eyes.

She crossed her arms and stared right back at him. 'Bloody stubborn man..'

"Fine then. Lose your leg to infection. I'm sure Your Lordship has plenty of uses for a one-legged Death Eater.." She saw a muscle twitch along Severus' jaw.

"Very well" he ground out between clenched teeth "But make it fast, I would like to go to sleep"

"Well, lucky you!" she chirped "First-aid spells happen to be one of my specialties. Accio first-aid kit!"

Of course, the kit missed her hand altogether and hit Severus in the shoulder.

"Yes, lucky me.."

"Sorry" she mumbled, bending over to retrieve the kit and hide her embarrassed flush "Here, sit on the hearth; I'm sure you're still freezing"

Surprisingly he obeyed without comment, sitting down gingerly and stretching out his injured leg. She flicked her wand at the fireplace, increasing the heat, and settled on the floor in front of him. Taking his leg, she carefully rolled his trousers up, hissing at the deep gash on his calf. It was positioned in such a way that would have made it difficult for him to treat himself.

"Turn a little so I can reach it better"

"How bad is it?" he asked quietly as he turned his back to her.

Tonks swallowed hard; the gash was very deep, cutting through almost to the bone.

"Nothing I can't fix!" she replied, trying to keep her voice sure and cheerful as she rummaged in the kit for some antiseptic wipes "Now, this'll sting a little, sorry.."

She cleaned off the gash as gently as she could, wincing as he drew in a sharp breath.

"Sorry" she whispered, blowing lightly on his leg to help ease the stinging. He stiffened slightly, but remained silent.

"Ok then" she patted the wound dry and reached for her wand "Ready?"

"Just do it" he grunted, gripping the edge of the hearth.

Taking a deep breath, Tonks pointed her wand to his leg and murmured "Episkey", watching in fascination as the muscles, ligaments, and skin drew itself back together and healed, leaving only a dark pink scar. She ran her hands lightly over his calf, making sure everything felt right. He trembled slightly, from the pain she assumed.

"Do you want something for the pain?" she asked softly, waving her wand to clean up the soiled bandages and such.

"No..no thank you. I will be fine shortly"

"Alright then" she smiled gently.

She took everything back to the kitchen, figuring he'd like a few minutes to compose himself. Sure enough, when she came back he slowly walking the length of the room, carefully testing his weight on his injured leg.

"So does my work pass muster?" she drawled, leaning against the doorway.

"I suppose it's well enough in a pinch. Now, is there a room around here that I may use, or am I going to be forced to sleep on the couch?"

"Hmmf, right.." she huffed, turning towards the stairs "Follow me"

She led him up the stairs, with a warning to avoid the loose one, to the hallway of habitable rooms. She paused at one, Severus moving ahead.

"This is Remus' room. He's sick, so I'll have to ask you to keep the loud music and partying to a minimum, alright?"

"I will try" he deadpanned, pausing and casting a withering glance over his shoulder.

She grinned, and then the most amazing thing happened: he grinned back. Sure, it was only a slight upgrade from his usual smirk, but it was the closest thing to a smile she had ever seen from him. He was actually almost..handsome..when he smiled.. Shaking her head, she moved on with the tour.

"My room's around that corner, and this one you can use"

She opened the door to the room that Harry and Ron usually stayed in, breathing a silent sigh of relief that it was for once clean. Severus slipped passed her, regarding the room with his typical disdain.

"I supposed this will do for one night.."

"Stop now, Severus, you'll make me blush" She did a quick take of the room; it was more than clean, it was spotless, meaning Molly had worked her own magic in here sometime during the day. "Ok, it looks like the sheets have been changed today, and the bathroom's right through there, towels are on the shelf. Can I get you a, uh, robe or something from Remus' room?"

"I would rather not wear anything that reeks of werewolf, if it is all the same to you.."

"Right then.. Ok, well, goodnight"

Instead of replying, he simply stood and stared at her. She stared right back for as long as she could stand it, then lowered her eyes. What was he playing at? She was starting to inch backwards for the door when his shoes appeared in her line of vision. She looked up to see him only a few feet away from her, a hand tentatively extended.

"Thank you" he said with careful sincerity "For healing me, and for letting me stay here"

"You're welcome" she whispered, placing her hand in his.

He gave her hand a surprisingly gentle squeeze, and sudden warmth radiated through her body as his warm fingers closed over her cold ones. He let go of her a moment later, and she continued her backwards quest for the door, only faster this time. Of course, she was now flustered and didn't realize..

"Watch out!"

Severus' arms suddenly shot out, grabbing her around the waist before she backed hard into the wall. He released her too quickly though, causing her to stumble against his chest. His hands were at her waist again, holding her steady for a moment before releasing her more slowly. Taking a shaky breath, she looked up at him, expecting him to be furious. But he simply gazed down at her with the oddest look in his eyes..

"Sorry about that. I guess I should go easy on the mulled wine, huh?" she chuckled.

"That would most likely be a wise choice.."

She smiled, then turned and walked out the door, pausing right outside to whisper a soft 'goodnight' over her shoulder. She didn't hear him close the door until she was at the stairs..

Several hours later Severus Snape found himself back in the drawing room of Number 12 Grimmauld Place, trying to concentrate on the book in his lap. But all his mind wanted to do was wander over the events of the evening.. His aching leg had forced him out of an otherwise comfortable bed after only perhaps two hours of rest, and now he was wide awake. And all he could do was think about her: Nymphadora, framed against the front doorway of the house, looking like some sort of punk Snowflake Queen with her ripped jeans, thin silver jumper, and deep blue hair.. Nymphadora's soft breath blowing over his feverishly warm skin, trying to ease his pain.. Nymphadora's gentle hands running over his leg to make sure his wound had properly healed.. And then, in the bedroom, the feel of her small body as she'd stumbled and fell against him. He had been overcome with the sudden desire to kiss her, just to wrap her tightly in his arms and kiss her until they were both breathless. But why would she want to kiss him? Oh, and she had smelt wonderful too, all of comforting fireplace smoke and spice from the mulled wine. If he closed his eyes tight enough, he could almost still smell her..

"What are you doing? Isn't it easier to read with your eyes open?"

"Nymphadora!" he started, jumping up and wincing as the heavy book fell from his lap onto the floor with an echoing thud. He grabbed it and sat right back down again, feigning annoyance at her intrusion.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you. Couldn't sleep?"

"Obviously.. And you?"

"Obviously" she grinned, mimicking his drawling tone almost perfectly.

He couldn't help but smirk back, and opened his book again. But he merely pretended to read, instead watching her intently as she poked at the fire then strolled over to look out the wide bay windows. Her hair was in what he assumed was its natural state, falling down her back in a riot of rich brown curls, and she wore an oversized emerald green shirt and the most ridiculous pair of pajama pants, with little gnomes dressed as Christmas elves. But she was beautiful.. Why had he never noticed before how beautiful she was? Just as he thought this, she pulled the curtains open wider, and was suddenly illuminated by both the moonlight and the glow of the fireplace. He felt the book starting to slide down his lap again as all he could do was stare..

Tonks stood enchanted at the sight before her: heaps of snow covered every surface, glittering in the moonlight. Sometimes nature had its own special magic, didn't it? As she opened the drapes wider to get a better look, she caught Severus' reflection in the glass. He was staring at her again, with that same odd look in his eyes, something between fear, confusion, and awe. She stared back, a funny feeling stirring through her body. She had come back downstairs for a book and another cup of mulled wine to bring back to her bedroom, but suddenly she had no desire to leave this room. Or him.. She pulled herself away from the window, approaching him cautiously.

"So.. If you can't sleep, and I can't sleep.." He jerked towards her, nearly dropping his book again. "Fancy a game?"

"What sort of game?" he asked dubiously.

"Chess, of course.." she nodded toward the antique set on the table behind him.

"Of course. Yes, that would be lovely"

He sounded very stiff and formal all of a sudden, as he placed his book back on the shelf and pulled out a chair, gesturing for her to sit. Was he..trying to be gentlemanly? She supposed she wouldn't know, never really having dated one of those.. She situated herself carefully and waited until he was seated before setting up the board.

"Do you know how to play Muggle chess?" he asked suddenly.

"Yes, my dad's a Muggle, and taught me. It's been years though.. You?"

"Yes, but it's been years for me as well. My mother taught me.. Shall we see what we still remember?"

She nodded silently, stunned by this slight admission of parentage. It had been a running joke when she was a student that he was hatched from an egg and raised by dragons or something, he was so vicious. But he looked anything but vicious right now, gesturing with a small smile for her to start.

Severus was not finding Nymphadora all that attractive anymore.. It didn't take him long to realize that she was the very worst sort of chess partner, the kind that never stopped talking and would burst out with the most random observations at the most inopportune times. At first he thought it was some sort of strategy, meant to distract him, until he noticed that she caused herself to mess up a few times as well. He was finally forced to come to the conclusion that she was simply bonkers..

"So then I told Kingsley that if Scrimgeour expected me to do something like that, just because I'm a Metamorphmagus, than he had better be prepared to pay big.. I mean, can you believe the nerve of that man?"

Severus leaned his head on his hand, waiting for Tonks to finish some story she started three years ago and make her move, when she all of a sudden fell silent. He looked up to make sure she hadn't passed out, but not daring to get his hopes up..

"You know what we need?" she suddenly chirped excitedly.

'To get you a muzzle?' he thought.

"Music!" she announced decidedly "Music and mulled wine! Interested?"

"Absolutely not, and no thank you.."

"Fine, be that way" she stood up and leaned over the board, and he had to force his eyes away from the sudden peek of cleavage that her loose shirt gave away "Checkmate!" she said brightly, then actually stuck her tongue out at him before skipping to the kitchen.

Severus crossed his arms on the table and let his head fall heavily on them. Of all the people to be stuck with, with no means of escape.. Just a couple of happy insomniacs forced to entertain each other. Fan-bloody-tastic..

"You sure I can't interest you in some music?"

He quickly raised his head as she made her way more carefully into the room, cradling the steaming, fragrant mug to her mouth. He tried to force his body to not respond as the spicy scent hit him, and he was once again flooded with memories of her against him. Turning his attention back to the chessboard, he made a noncommittal noise and gesture towards the wireless.

"Cool!" she set her mug down on the coffee table and bounded over to the wireless, which was of course right behind him on the fireplace mantle.

He stared so hard at the chessboard that his eyes started to water. He did not smell her again, he did not glace over just as she reached up and see a glimpse of the smooth porcelain skin of her back. And he most certainly did not feel her thigh brush his shoulder as she stood on her tiptoes and briefly wavered. Finally she seemed to find a suitable station at sat back down.

"Whose move is it?" she asked as she reached over and took a long swallow from her mug.

"Mine"

He tried his best to concentrate, but his brain was over-tired and his head was full of the scent of mulled wine and the sight of smooth, fair skin. Just as he was starting to pray for a brick wall to bang his head on, she gave a gasp that made him jump.

"What is it? Did you see something?" he grabbed for his wand in alarm.

"I love this song!" she cried, grabbing her mug and swaying to the music.

The particular song in question of course one of those infernally cloying Muggle holiday ones, this one about some idiot not wanting his love to leave because of the snow. The irony did not escape him..

Tonks drained the rest of her wine in one long careful gulp, then jumped to her feet and extended her hand to him.

"Dance?" she asked, her eyes full of mischief and challenge.

He considered her for a long moment; she was obviously expecting him to decline with some snide remark to mask the fact that he didn't know how to dance. But little did she know that he could dance, very well in fact. And as annoying as she had been in the last few hours, he considered himself to be perfectly within his rights to call her bluff. Suddenly she became much more attractive to him.

"I would be most delighted" he stood and took her extended hand with an exaggerated bow, reveling in the fact that he had at last stunned her speechless.

She gaped at him for a few heartbeats, then grinned with a hint of nervousness.

"Ok then"

She let him lead her to the center of the room, lifting her free hand to place it lightly on his shoulder. He wrapped his own around her waist, and they started to slowly move to the music. Severus couldn't help but noticing that for all of her clumsiness, there was a certain grace in the way that she moved. In fact, they seemed to sway together effortlessly, neither of them missing a single step. As they eased into the next song, he forced himself to look down at her for the first time, and couldn't hold back a chuckle. Nymphadora's eyes had not left the floor, and she was very obviously counting steps under her breath.

"Nymphadora" he murmured "Look at me"

"I can't.."

"And why is that?" he asked, lowering his head and trying to look at her face.

"If I look up, I'll fall. Trust me.." she answered, his voice quiet and almost embarrassed.

He let go of her hand and curled a long finger under her chin, lifting it up. Grey eyes, unsure and guarded, met his as she flushed a most becoming pink.

"I won't let you fall" he whispered "I promise"

She gave him a tentative smile, then placed her hand back in his and allowed herself to be led once again. They ambled along quite easily for a while, until the song changed for one with a faster tempo, and he stupidly decided to lead her into a simple but unexpected twirl. She gasped as her foot became tangled in her pant-leg and she stumbled heavily, slamming against his chest for the second time that night.

"If you ever try that again" she seethed, brushing her hair back as she struggled to right herself "I swear I'll freeze your wanker off myself!"

She glared at him for a long moment, then they both burst out laughing.

"I am so sorry, truly" he gasped "But you should have seen your face.."

"I could have broken my leg, you bloody prat!" she cried, swatting at him.

Still chucking, he grabbed both her wrist easily in one hand and pulled her toward him. He was overcome again with the urge to kiss her, only this time he wasn't going to squash it. He released her wrist and cupped her face in both his hands, leaning over and pressing his lips lightly to hers. She gave a strangled sort of gasp and stood stock still for one second..two seconds..three.. He was just about to drop his hands and make a hasty retreat when she suddenly started to slowly kiss him back, her arms coming around his neck. He wrapped his arms around her tightly, pulling that soft, warm body flush against him, and hesitantly deepened the kiss. All of a sudden her tongue darted into his mouth, then they were snogging passionately and stumbling to the couch. He lowered her blindly on to it, only knowing he'd hit home when her head made contact with the carved wooden arm.

"Ow" she muttered, sitting up slightly.

"Sorry" he whispered, rubbing her head. He Summoned a pillow and placed it behind her, then lowered her carefully back down again "Better?"

"Yeah, thanks"

They just stared at each other for a long moment, then she reached up and touched his face, sliding her fingers into his hair.

"Happy Christmas, Severus" she said softly.

"Happy Christmas, Nymphadora" he replied, then bent his head to kiss her again.