Severus Snape woke with a start. The darkness in his bedroom felt oppressive as he worked to control his erratic breathing. He sat up and walked into his private sitting room while trying to push the images of his dream from his mind.
Severus dressed and swept out into the hallway. He walked quickly as if trying to escape the thoughts that threatened to overwhelm him. He finally stopped at a window, watching as raindrops splattered against the glass. His treacherous mind strayed back to his dream and fixed his attention on a young woman. Severus frowned thoughtfully. Why on earth would he have such an odd dream about her?
"Severus?" said a voice behind him. He turned to see Minerva McGonagall watching him in concern. "What are you doing up and about at this hour?"
"I might ask the same of you," Severus said evasively.
"A second year Gryffindor was muttering incantations in his sleep and managed to ignite his bedsheets," Minerva said in an exasperated tone. "Why the fool child was sleeping with his wand, I'll never know."
Severus shook his head and muttered "Imbecile," though his expression was one of amusement.
Minerva smiled slightly before the look of concern returned. "Is everything alright?" she asked gently.
"I don't need you checking up on me," Severus snapped fiercely.
"Don't be ridiculous," Minerva retorted. "I was just worried."
"Worried about what I might be up to?" he suggested with a deadly glare.
"No, I was worried about you," Minerva replied, her tone softening. "I trust you Severus. You just look as if something is bothering you."
Severus sighed heavily. He was well aware of what Minerva assumed he was thinking of. His mind stopped analyzing his dream and went back to the day that he had killed Albus Dumbledore. Albus had insisted that Severus go through with it, to prevent Draco Malfoy from committing a murder and for other reasons that didn't seem worth it to Severus. Severus had declared that he would prefer to die from breaking the Unbreakable Vow than to kill the headmaster, but Albus simply refused to allow it. He insisted that Severus remain alive to protect Harry Potter and to help the Order.
Once Minerva had entered her new office as headmistress, she had found a letter on her desk. It was in Albus Dumbledore's handwriting. The letter was a proclamation of Severus Snape's innocence. Minerva had immediately explained the letter to the Order and summoned Severus to return to the school.
"I'm fine Minerva," Severus said flatly. He sighed when she placed a hand on his arm.
"Would you tell me if you were not 'fine'?" she asked with a small smile.
"Of course not," he said gruffly.
Minerva smirked. "Was it a bad dream?" she asked curiously.
"No," he said dismissively. "Yes," he corrected himself with a shake of his head. He scowled at her. "It was just odd."
"Odd in what way?" Minerva pressed him. "Were you wearing Gryffindor colors? Did Sibyll Trelawney make an accurate prediction?" This brought an amused snort from the brooding man at her side.
Severus considered Minerva for a moment. "I had a dream about a young woman," he said slowly.
"Anyone I know?" Minerva asked mischievously. When Severus glared at her she sobered. "Sorry. Go on."
Severus rolled his eyes. "It was odd because ordinarily, I cannot stand the little know-it-all," he said with a sneer.
Minerva's mouth fell open slightly and her eyes widened. "Miss Granger?" she asked in bewilderment.
Severus grimaced, making it clear that he had not intended to let that information slip. "It was Miss Granger," Minerva said with a knowing smirk. Severus rolled his eyes and didn't respond, turning back to the window. Minerva scrutinized his blank expression for a moment while he stared at the rain coursing it's way down the window pane. Choosing her words carefully, she said "In this dream, what was the nature of your relationship with her? Was it more on a more personal level?"
Severus made no move to respond but his entire body became more rigid. He stubbornly kept his gaze on the window. "Come to my office, Severus," Minerva said gently. "There are some things I need to tell you, and I have something that Albus wanted me to return to you."
Hermione Granger sat at the Gryffindor table, completely lost in the book she was reading. She finally looked up when a piece of toast hit her squarely in the forehead. "Did you just throw your toast at me?" she asked the red-head across the table.
"Yes," Ron said with a grin. "Why don't you stop reading long enough to eat breakfast?"
Hermione picked up the offended piece of toast, which had landed on her lap, and took a bite. "There," she said simply, returning to her book.
"What's with Snape?" Harry asked suddenly.
"Professor Snape," Hermione corrected his absently, not bothering to glance up from her book.
"Professor Snape then," Harry amended impatiently. "Look at him."
Ron and Hermione looked up at the head table, immediately spotting the potions master. He looked tired and slightly disheveled in comparison to his usual appearance. His eyes scanned the Great Hall as he ignored his breakfast. After a moment, his eyes drifted to the Gryffindor table and his gaze locked with Hermione's. His face held an expression that she didn't understand and then he looked away, appearing cold and indifferent once more.
"Well, that was weird," Ron commented, glancing curiously at Hermione. "Why did he look at you like that?"
"I have no idea," Hermione replied, frowning. She thought over the way his face had looked. She couldn't recall a time that she had seen him look so exhausted. His expression had been truly baffling. It had almost seemed as if making eye contact with her pained him. But, why would that be the case? He had been ignoring her, as usual, just the day before.
"Want to play Wizard's Chess before class?" Ron said, startling Hermione out of her thoughts.
"Sure," Harry replied. "Want to come watch Hermione?"
"No," Hermione said absently, standing up. "I think I'll go read by the lake."
"Alright, but don't get too caught up in your book," Harry said. "You don't want to be late for Potions. Snape is already in a strange mood."
"Hermione nodded and offered them a quick wave over her shoulder as she left the Great Hall. Once she had arrived at the lake, she set her bag down in the grass and stretched her arms over her head. Just as she went to sit down, she heard the grass rustle as someone approached.
She turned to see Draco Malfoy walking toward her. To her annoyance, his wand was pointed at her. Hermione reached into her robes to grab her wand, but Malfoy shouted "Expelliarmus!"
The wand flew out of her hand and landed with a soft thud in the grass. Hermione swallowed hard as Malfoy smirked and lifted his wand again. He muttered a quiet phrase and made a wide arc with his wand. A second later, Hermione vanished. Malfoy grinned evilly and hurried away from the lake to go to Potions.
AN: I know it's a little weird. You'll understand what's going on in the next chapter. It'll get better, I promise. Please review and tell me what you think.