"Jesus!" Snape staggered back from the alcove.

Harry Potter moved as if lightning had struck. His hands went for his glasses and he stood with the swift speed of a…highly mortified teenage boy.

Luna Lovegood, however, had not moved an inch. "You're blushing, Professor Snape."

Snape was so very rarely speechless that he'd almost forgotten the sensation. He managed to wipe the ghastly expression of repulsion from his face and almost struggled with his words.

"For God's – Potter! Highly inappropriate and disgusting! 50 points for nauseating behavior in the halls!"

"Nauseating? You weren't nauseated," said Luna thoughtfully, past the mumblings from her Gryffindor paramour that she Shut it before we get it worse. "It was anger more than anything. I saw it in your aura. Bright puce." Luna nodded her head.

Snape felt the shock bleeding out of his shoulders, the anger that had so consumed him releasing its hold. "Thank you Miss Lovegood," he said nastily. "That is plenty from you. Ten points."

Luna stood up from the cold marble floor, and brushed dust from the back of her robes. "Very well. We'll just have to find a new place, I suppose."

Snape was about to respond when Harry pulled Luna's arm toward him. "Nothing like that, Professor. We'll stop immediately. Never do it again."

"Oh, Harry. I know you don't mean that."

"Sure I do." Potter sped her quickly away.

Snape was looking thoughtfully at the bust in the alcove. He hesitated for a moment, and then called out. "Potter! A word!" Snape snapped his head toward the boy. He was satisfied to see Potter's shoulders curl, even as he turned toward him and whispered a few words to Lovegood.

"Sir?"

"This is a very quiet alcove. Very quiet. So quiet that I am surprised that you would even be aware of it."

Potter nodded. The moron.

Snape rolled his eyes inwardly. "I should think you better served if you didn't go poking around parts of the castle that are best left alone."

Potter nodded curtly. "Yes, Professor." He clearly longed to be dismissed.

Snape would not let him off so easy. "What gave you the idea to come back here?" Why did this matter so much to him?

Potter stammered, clearly struggling for a lie. Snape lost his patience. He would not have done if he'd had a proper sleep the night before, but that was of no matter. He delved into the boy's mind, searching for any other sign of…

"Oi!" Snape felt his subconscious pushed out, and Snape was staring into a pair of green eyes. "What the hell's that about?" Potter looked extremely insulted.

"Excuse me?"

"I mean, where do you get off using Legilimency on me? I know we've argued in the past, but all that's over now."

"I am still your professor," countered Snape.

"Yeah, okay. And I still saved your arse from Cruciatus. And you nearly killed my best friend, you twat."

"Ten points," said Snape nastily, but somehow it didn't have the same ring to it.

Potter looked at him and shook his head. "Alright, Professor. Have it your way. I'm your peer though – d'you get that? Remus does. So does Minerva. Everyone but you. But then again, it always did take you longer to Iget it/I.

Potter turned on his heel and left, the sun finally breaking fully into the hallway.

--

"Mm," Hermione stretched her arms lazily and yawned, looking very much like a satisfied Crookshanks. "Lovely brekkie, wasn't that?"

Ron, who hated the mornings, shrugged. "Just like any other, I guess."

Hermione sighed, and fiddled with the strap on her bag. "If you'd had your first good night of sleep for the better part of the school year, you'd agree with me. Honestly, I feel…lovely."

"And I feel asthmatic."

Hermione crinkled her nose. "Do you even know what that means, Ronald?"

"Not a clue. Heard about it on Muggle telly at your place last summer." Ron brushed crumbs off of his lap. "Where's Harry?"

Hermione was suddenly very busy with her bag again. "Not sure."

"Hm. Oh well," said Ron dismissively. "Shall we?"

Hermione and Ron stood and walked out of the large doorway into the Great Hall. Swooping in as they exited was Professor Snape, looking extra pale, cross, and tired.

"Good morning, Professor." The words were out of Hermione's mouth before she could stop them. Ron winced at her mocking, singsong tone.

Snape stopped walking, turned his head just slightly. Enough that Hermione could see the sunlit outline of his profile.

His words were barely a menacing whisper. "Is it?"

"Quite." She tried to tone down the mocking in her voice, but instead seemed to have replaced it with a confrontation.

Snape paused for a moment before sweeping into the Great Hall.

Ron shook his head at her. "I don't care if he's not your professor anymore, Miss Metal-charmer…you're asking for it."

Hermione rolled her eyes and was about to tell Ronald that he was being unnecessarily dramatic when she was interrupted by a loud hoot.

"Rotty Potty's gone and snogged a Loon! Potty Loon Pantaloon!"

Hermione covered her ears and her eyes squinted at the screech. Peeves should have been booted out long ago. Hermione felt Ron's hand poking her shoulder, and she slowly eased her eyes open.

"Umagod, Hermione…lookit that." Ron sounded dazed.

Harry Potter walked into breakfast with cheeks aflame, holding tightly to the hand of Luna Lovegood, who seemed to think that nothing at all was different about today, thank you very much.

--

"Sorry to deplete your supply, Poppy." Snape continued to pile the small bottles into his plain, black leather bag. "Found something wrong with the cauldron I brewed it in. I want to avoid any risk."

"That's not a problem, Severus. It seems that I've needed less of my Dreamless Sleep supply since Voldermort's finally been off'd." Madam Pomfrey changed the sheets on one of the cots, pressing crisp corners into the mattress.

"I'm out of svellerweed, not sure when my next shipment from Sweden will be in."

Poppy waved her hand. "That's fine. I've only got one student using it at the moment, anyway. I can always order some up from Hogsmeade, if necessary."

"Should I alert this student to stop using it?"

Poppy looked at him. "That's kind of you, Severus, but I'll handle it. It's just Hermione Granger having a spot of insomnia. I think she's letting the stress get to her. Poor lamb, she's seen a lot in her time."

Snape did not reply.

--

"You didn't look surprised!" Ron stage-whispered in History of Magic.

Hermione frowned at him, and wrote in the margin of the book they were supposed to be sharing.

Shh. I wasn't. Harry told me last night.

Ron's eyes widened and he scribbled furiously. Why? Did you catch them at it?

Don't be silly. No. I found a note that Luna'd written him. He's been writing to her all year using Carolina Pelly's Instant Message Parchment. Remember? That pad of parchment we've all seen him writing in?

Juicy bits of it, please.

I didn't READ it. God.

Then HOW did you KNOW. I HATE IT WHEN YOU HERE THINGS BEFORE I DO.

Hermione impatiently began to correct his spelling, when Ron scoffed and pulled the book away from her. Hermione sighed. Ron so often felt that he was being left behind, and she didn't know quite what to do about it.

Ah, well. She'd sleep on it tonight, and surely come up with a solution. One more night of that lovely, Dreamless Sleep, and she felt like she'd be able to conquer the world, just her and her wand.

--

He watched her.

She was sitting on a rock, on the stone shore of the lake. The sun was setting, and the wind was blowing softly. Her knees were under her chin, and her Hogwarts robe was wrapped around her.

"You're doing this," she said softly. "I know it. I can feel it when you're here."

"No."

"You want me to suffer and be miserable."

"Wrong again." Snape walked forward and stood several steps behind her. She still had not turned.

"Before you were here, I was in the Battle again. I saw the blood. I was there." Finally she turned to face him.

He kept his face from betraying anything.

"But then you came, and now I'm here…and so are you. The real you." She turned back to stare at the sunset. "You're doing this. I don't know why. It can't be random. I just don't know why."

Snape did not answer her because he had none. He simply sat on one of the rocks, still behind her. They sat like that for ages, staring straight ahead.

The sunset looked like it was burning through her hair.