Hey guys! I know it's been something insane like 4 months since my last update so unfortunately I'm not doing review responses this time. I'm having a duditz moment and can't figure out how to get to my reviews so I can read them! Sorry! Anyway, I hope this chapter satisfies you guys, it was giving me grief towards the end and I had some hellacious writer's block! And I think it's the longest one so hopefully it makes up for the lack of an update lol. The song I was listening to while writing is Ware, Yami Tote... by Dir en grey. This song doesn't have an English version, it's all in Japanese but if anyone wants the English lyrics I'd be happy to send them to you. Thanks for being patient with me, please feed the muse on your way out! ;)

Hermione and Draco hung back from their friends on the way to breakfast.

"I just wish I could understand him better," Hermione whispered.

Draco gave her a lopsided grin. "Love, I've known the man for years and I still don't understand him. He's an enigma."

"I know, but he just seems... different somehow. Haven't you noticed?"

He regarded her for a long moment. "Honestly, no. He seems pretty much the same to me."

Hermione's brows furrowed. "I can't pinpoint what exactly is different, but..." A thought occurred to her and she abruptly stopped speaking. She gave Draco a small smile. "Maybe you're right."

"Don't dwell on it too much, yeah? We don't need you becoming more insane than you already are," he said, as he bumped into her playfully. She stuck her tongue out and shoved him a little in jest. They entered the Great Hall laughing and both were still chuckling when they took seats at their respective tables. Unbeknownst to them, Professor Snape had watched their entrance with curious eyes.

Hermione was busy filling her plate when she felt something on her shoulder. Turning her head, she saw a bird made out of parchment paper, definitely the work of Draco. She gingerly plucked it off her shoulder and opened it.

"My godfather has been staring at you with this strange expression on his face since we came in. Maybe there is something to what you were saying earlier." Hermione's eyes widened and her heart fluttered a bit in her chest. Stop it, you silly girl, she chided herself. She quickly wrote back.

"How can you be so sure he's looking at me? Perhaps he's trying to smote all the Gryffindors with one of his famous glares." Upon reading Hermione's response, Draco did something very unbecoming of a Malfoy; he snorted. He smirked as he sent his reply. Hermione read what he wrote, her jaw nearly hitting the floor.

"Maybe he fancies you." Draco nearly laughed out loud at her reply. He could just picture her facial expression.

"Don't be ridiculous! What would he, a grown man, possibly see in a girl like me?"

As Albus Dumbledore watched the origami-style missives going back and forth between the Slytherin and Gryffindor tables, an idea occurred to him.

"If I could have everyone's attention please," he said, as he stood from his seat at the staff table. "I would like to propose a new idea. I know that many of you have friends in other houses. Therefore, tonight at dinner, please feel free to sit anywhere you like. I believe this will make it easier to talk to your friends who would normally be on the other side of the room and you won't have to invent other ways of communicating," he said, with a twinkle in his eye. "Have a good day of classes!"

When the Gryffindors met up with their Slytherin friend, Hermione was giggling and Draco was wearing his trademark Malfoy smirk.

"We're such trendsetters, Mia," he sighed, as he draped his arm over her shoulders.

By the time Potions rolled around, Hermione was exhausted. No one knew it, but she was dealing with some post-war trauma of her own. She had vivid nightmares. Sometimes, she dreamt of things that happened, and other times, she dreamt of horrors unimaginable. She was fortunate to not have lost anyone she was terribly close to during the war. Some of her friends were not so lucky and that's why she never told anyone about her nightmares. They seemed to pale in comparison to losing a loved one. Her body sagged into Draco's as they walked into Potions class.

"Hermione, are you alright?" She looked up into Draco's concerned face and began to nod, but without warning, the room began to spin and everything went black.

When she awoke, Hermione was in the hospital wing. She noticed Professor Snape was seated in a chair by her bed.

"Professor, what happened?" she asked, whilst rubbing her eyes.

"You fainted. Do you care to tell me how long you've been having trouble sleeping and why?"

Hermione pushed herself up into a sitting position and stared into her lap. "I've been having nightmares since the end of the war," she said quietly. She could feel his eyes on her, but she didn't dare look up.

"Have you ever tried Dreamless Sleep?"

"No, it's addictive and I was worried I would become too dependent on it."

"Your nightmares are that terrible?" he asked softly. His voice was filled with such tenderness that she had to look up to see if his facial expression had changed as well. His eyes were soft, curious. She quickly tore her gaze away, fixating once more on her hands in her lap.

"Sometimes, the things I see are so horrifying that I am both afraid and unable to go back to sleep." She heard rustling and looked up to see Professor Snape pulling a vial out of his robes. He placed it on the table next to her bed.

"I was able to modify the Dreamless Sleep potion and make it non-habit forming. I'd like you to give this version a try." She looked from the potion to his face and nodded, giving him a small smile. He cleared his throat. "I find it surprising that Mr. Potter let you carry on like this, suffering with such little sleep that it causes your body to shut down."

"No one knows about my nightmares," she admitted quietly. "They seem so trivial compared to what some people have went through."

"Your self-less to a fault."

"I hope you don't take this the wrong way sir, but I believe that's the pot calling the kettle black," she said, with a shy smile.

"I simply did what I had to do."

"You didn't have to do any of that. A lot of people owe you their lives and some of them don't even know it." Professor Snape swallowed thickly and Hermione quickly back-pedaled. "Forgive me sir, I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. It's now or never, Snape thought.

"Miss Granger, I believe it is I who owe you..." At that moment, Madamy Pomphrey came bustling over and the rest of Snape's sentence died on his lips.

"Oh good Miss Granger, you're awake. I need to take your vitals before you go back to sleep." Hermione looked up at Professor Snape and he answered her silent question with a shake of his head.

"We can finish our discussion another time, Miss Granger."

"Oh I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt. I can come back later if you'd like," Madame Pomphrey said. The moment was brief and Snape found he had lost his nerve.

"No that's alright, Madame Pomphrey, it's nothing that can't wait. By the way, I left some of the modified Dreamless Sleep for Miss Granger."

"I'll see that she takes it Professor Snape, thank you."

Snape gave her a curt nod and turned his attention back to Hermione. "Hopefully this will help you rest a bit better this evening. Good night, Miss Granger."

"Good night, Professor," she replied with a smile. Nodding briefly at both women, Snape turned on his heel and exited the hospital wing. Hermione watched his billowing robes until they melded with the darkness, and he disappeared.

With a few flicks of Madame Pomphrey's wand, Hermione's vitals were checked.

"Well, Miss Granger, everything seems to be in order but I'd like you to stay here while you sleep just in case you have a reaction to the potion."

"Of course, Madame Pomphrey."

"If you need anything, I'll be in my office," the medi-witch said, as she headed in that direction.

Once Hermione was alone, she stared at the vial for quite some time before she uncorked it. With a pensive look on her face, she swallowed half and set the vial back down. In her last moments before sleep took her, she wondered what Professor Snape would have said had they not been interrupted.

Hermione awoke a few hours later at approximately two in the morning. "Madame Pomphrey?" she called into the darkness, not expecting a response.

"Yes dear?" the medi-witch peered around the corner at her.

"I was just wondering if I could go back to Gryffindor Tower now. I think I'd get better rested in my own bed."

"Of course, Miss Granger. Just let me check you over and you can be on your way."

Once Hermione received a clean bill of health, she headed back towards her room. About half way there, she turned and headed for the dungeons instead. She stood and stared at Professor Snape's door for what seemed like an eternity before she finally raised her hand and knocked. When he opened the door, Professor Snape was shocked to see Hermione on the other side.

"Miss Granger, why aren't you sleeping? The potion shouldn't have worn off yet."

"I only took half of it."

"Why?" he drawled slowly.

"I wanted to know what you were going to say earlier before Madame Pomphrey interrupted us."

"So you decided to deprive yourself of sleep so we could finish our conversation." When he put it that way, it made Hermione feel like a moron. She knew the curiosity would eat away at her during her waking hours though. It was then that Snape noticed her shivering and inwardly cursed himself. Placing a hesitant hand on her back, he ushered her inside and over to the fireplace. "Forgive me, Miss Granger. I sometimes forget how cold the dungeons can be to someone who isn't used to them."

"It's quite alright, sir."

"Would you like some tea?"

"Tea would be nice, thank you." Hermione did her best to hide her surprise as she watched Professor Snape walk over to his small kitchenette and put on a kettle for tea.

"Do you like Earl Grey?" he asked, and half-turned to hear her reply.

"Yes, it's my favorite."

"Mine as well." He turned back towards the stove and placed the tea on a tray. He carried it over and placed it on the table between his chair and the one Hermione was seated in. Snape watched as she added milk and two sugar cubes to her tea and waited until she had taken her mug off the tray and took a sip before he took his own. When he looked up at her again, she was smiling at him from around her mug. He raised an eyebrow at her.

"You reminded me of my father just now. He always waits until Mum and I have our tea before he will take a single sip of his. He also takes his tea plain, like you."

"Any decent gentleman always lets the lady sample her tea first," Snape replied, somewhat stiffly.

Her smile widened. "I know. Mum and I like to give Dad a hard time about it sometimes, and that's always his response as well."

"I see," he replied with a smirk.

"The tea is excellent, by the way. Thank you."

"You're welcome," he said quietly, as he turned his attention to the fire crackling in the hearth. Hermione watched him for a moment before she turned her gaze to the fire as well. "I owe you an apology, Miss Granger."

"An apology for what, sir?" she asked in a confused tone, as she turned to look at him.

"For my reaction when you asked about the details of my condition the other day. My outburst was uncalled for."

"It's quite alright, sir."

Snape went on as though he didn't hear her. "You must understand that I'm not used to people expressing concern for my well-being. Very early on, I learned to accept such behavior as weak. However, there are certain people who are teaching me that that is not always the case." He paused and gave her a meaningful look, something that wasn't lost on her. He set his empty mug on the tray and turned towards her fully, finally looking her in the eyes. "I'm sorry, Hermione."

Hermione studied Professor Snape. His eyes were full of sincerity and warmth, but just beyond that she saw an intense fear. She wondered what he could possibly have to be afraid of.

As the agonizing minutes ticked by, Snape felt his resolve crumbling. His heart thudded loudly in his chest and he could hear his blood roaring through his veins. He felt like a teenager again, reliving the only other time he had apologized to anyone, and how horribly wrong it had gone. His palms were sweaty and it felt like all the air had been sucked from his lungs. He faintly heard someone calling to him. A somewhat violent shake pulled him from the hellish memory. When he looked up, Hermione was grasping his shoulders, worry etched all over her face. What he did next almost floored her. He grasped her wrists and took her hands in his.

"Hermione, do you accept my apology? Please, I need to know." His face took on a desperate look, his eyes pleading. She tried to tell him yes, that there was nothing to forgive, but she couldn't find her voice. Instead, she squeezed his hands and smiled while nodding. When Snape saw her beaming smile, he felt his entire body sag in relief. "Thank you," he murmured quietly.

They stayed with their hands entwined, each lost in their own thoughts, for quite some time. Hermione was the first to come out of it, and cleared her throat nervously.

"I should probably return to my room, Professor."

Snape looked up at the clock on his mantle that read almost four in the morning. "That would be best. Forgive me for keeping you so long. Before you go, there's something I'd like to give you." Standing, he looked down at Hermione, then at their entwined hands, before somewhat reluctantly letting go and heading towards his private stores. He emerged with a vial, which he handed to her. "This is more of the modified Dreamless Sleep. It would put my mind at ease if you would get a decent amount of rest before classes resume on Monday."

"Of course, sir."

"In order to accomplish that, one must drink the entire vial, not just half."

She gave him a sheepish grin. "Yes, sir."

"Good." He regarded her for a long moment before he opened his door so she could leave.

"Sir, it seems as though you were going to say something else."

Snape cleared his throat. "I was considering escorting you back to Gryffindor Tower. It's quite late and I don't want Mr. Filch giving you any grief as a result of my detaining you for so long."

"That's very considerate of you, Professor. I would appreciate it." The walk to Gryffindor Tower was quiet but not uncomfortable. When they reached the portrait, Hermione gave Snape a small smile. "Thank you for escorting me, sir. Thank you for the apology as well, it meant a lot to me."

"It meant a great deal to me that you accepted it, so thank you as well, Miss Granger. Remember to get rested up this weekend because I'd like to do some brewing for Madame Pomphrey Monday evening."

"I will, sir."

"Enjoy the rest of your weekend, Miss Granger."

"You too, Professor." She waved back at him as she entered the portrait hole.

As he made his way back to the dungeons, Severus Snape couldn't deny the fact that something in him had changed, nor could he deny the fact that he felt lighter than he had in many years.