AN: For Mavennica - thank you :)

Nighttime

Late nights were often wrought with tension. Hermione tossed and turned, and Severus tossed and turned, and they both huffed and threw off their blankets, giving up any hope of a good night's sleep for a twilight walk through the grounds—or they stared blankly up at their separate ceilings, resignation taking over their righteous anger.

Was she not a hero?

Had he not sacrificed enough?

One night was all they asked for, yet it appeared the universe wished to keep them up and miserable each night, with the stars that Hermione had once fallen asleep counting and whose blurred forms Severus had once fallen asleep squinting at through the depths of the Black Lake now nightlights or torch lights, or spell fire… nothing was as it used to be before the war stole away with their loves, their anchors—and of course, their sleep.

Their haven, Hogwarts, had been misused, and she was still healing, but she still offered protection and a calm like no other when they went wandering around her grounds. Perhaps that was her plan—to make them both meet on a midnight stroll. Indeed, their hushed interrogations of each other felt soul-searching, a desperate hand in the darkness feeling for something just like them—like her warm embrace.

Severus' warm embrace these nights were what helped Hermione fall asleep, and the magic of the old, ancient stars remained in her eyes. They shone so brightly, and when she told him she was lucky to have found him, her eyes watered in a way that made her light eerily reminiscent of those that had lulled him to sleep all those years ago.

And sometimes, when they still couldn't sleep, they whispered things.

Hermione whispered of her lost friends, and Severus reminded her she still had some here, now. Dwelling on the past, on lost loved ones, was dangerous; he should know.

And he whispered of how he had pushed those he loved away, and it was no one's fault but his own. He was repulsive; he couldn't love. It was here where Hermione stopped him, letting out a silent hiss like she had been burned, and he shrank away, thinking that he had pushed away yet another whom he had overwhelmed with his biting tongue.

But instead, she pulled his chin down so he was looking into her bright, vibrant eyes. They held an escape, but he was unsure if he was going to be granted access through her guarded soul.

She told him to hush. She told him that she had pushed people away so cruelly he might not believe her. She told him what she'd done, and she sobbed, the tears spilling from her eyes as she recounted snatching away memory after memory and sending a couple away to the other side of the world.

He saw now, with the tears gone, that there was no barrier between him and his escape; her eyes were clearer than they had ever been, and all there was to offer was raw honesty—and he held onto that like a man deprived of truth… Oddly enough, he liked to think he was. He spoke, and he told her that her actions had been ones of love, not evil intention, and she was so pure and beautiful that even the nicest things appeared corrupted in comparison, and perhaps that was why she felt the way she did.

And she told him that the healing of a man she had once thought broken strengthened her and she curled her fists in his robes in frustration when he smirked wryly and told her he still was broken—that even her light could not fully heal the wrongs he had done.

She asked what good her light was, and he told her that her light and presence moulded him and shaped him like the fusion in stars, so that perhaps, one day, he could be born anew.

She said he was perfect just the way he was, and he reminded her that she was, too.