Disclaimer: They don't belong to me, but to J.K. Rowling. I'm only borrowing her toys, and promise to return them... eventually.
Note: The title is taken from the very lovely Christmas carol of the same name.
Aurora surveyed the Great Hall and beamed, cheerful and slightly tipsy. As fires crackled and fairy lights twinkled, students and teachers were merrymaking, revelling in good company.
Voldemort was dead and they were all enjoying the happiest Christmas in years.
Almost all, she realized, spotting a dark figure hiding in a darker corner—unnoticed, excluded. Armoured in black wool, he stayed his distance and stared at the celebration.
Perhaps it was only from the wine, but Aurora’s heart felt very full.
He was always so alone… it was Christmas, for Merlin’s sake—
She rose from her chair, but he’d already fled.
She found him in the gardens, still and black as midnight. His head bowed and fists clenched as the wind ruffled his limp hair, his face as bleak and desolate as any wintry moor. The charmed rosebushes surrounded him, heavy with flowers, blossoms blood-bright against the snow.
“You’ll catch your death,” Aurora chided.
“One can only hope.”
“Severus, please come back…”
“Why? I have no cheer to offer. My presence wasn’t noticed; it can hardly be missed,” he snarled.
She caught his freezing fingers. “You’re wrong. I noticed. I missed you.”
His hands were cold, but his lips were warm.
She held him close in the moonlight, trying to thaw his chill.
She worried that perhaps the frost went all the way down to the core of him.
“Why?” he murmured into her hair. He sounded dazed and oddly young.
She patted his back, feeling the sharp, fragile bones beneath all his layers.
“Because I like you. Because it’s Christmas. It’s the season of hope, Severus.”
He shuddered. “There’s no hope—not now…”
Aurora looked at the jewel-like roses, beautiful and vibrant despite the unforgiving winter.
“It’s never too late to hope,” she whispered, pressing a kiss to his forehead.