A/N: This is a one-shot that takes place in the Hogwarts Infirmary where Draco is recovering after the Sectumsempra incident in the boys bathroom.
Draco drifted between nightmare, and comfort he could not describe. He heard voices; some dispassionate, some concerned, only one that he recognised.
He woke one night to a hand stroking his brow, cool fingers touching his cheeks, soft cloth wiping at the tears his eyes constantly leaked.
"...please, professor, I don't want to hurt him! I'm concerned about him!"
"As you were when your friend nearly killed Draco, Miss Granger?!"
Draco recognised Snape's voice. It was at its worst with a sneer of outright dislike. Miss Granger... Hermione the Mudblood... such a Gryffindor. She would not back down or even voice fear in front of Snape.
Draco drifted back into sleep. When he awoke again a soft hand held his, and fingers carded soothingly through his hair. He wondered if it was clean. He hated dirty hair.
"'Mione?" Draco's eyes fluttered at the sound of the worry in another voice.
"I told you to go away, Harry!" Hermione snapped with righteous anger.
"I said I was sorry!" Potter bleated.
Draco felt ill as he recognised the voice of the Boy-Who-Lived.
"You apologised to me, and to Ron, and god know how many other Gryffindors, Harry. It wasn't me you nearly killed in your stupidity but Draco. Have you apologised to him?" Hermione's voice made Draco think of that actress in the opera Wagner's The Ring that he liked. He felt his heart swell knowing she was there protecting him.
Draco forced himself to stay awake. He wanted to hear what Potty-Potter had to say for himself.
"No," muttered the stupid Boy-Who-Wouldn't-Go-Away. "Can't do that until he's awake."
Draco smirked within. He was NEVER going to wake up! And so, he slept.
"Draco," fingers lightly tapped his cheek, and then his forehead. "Come along, Draco. I know you are awake," chided Snape with a gentle voice. "Open your eyes."
Draco did so and felt a shaft of sunlight stabbing at his eyes. He moaned, and closed them again.
"Obscura Luce," Snape's voice said softly. "There we go. Try again, little dragon. Open your eyes."
Draco did, and was glad that all the light in the Infirmary was dim. He was also so very pleased to see his Head of House at his bedside.
"I am most pleased to see that you are still with us, Draco," stated Snape.
"Father?" asked Draco hopefully.
Regret touched Snape's dark gaze and he shook his head. "The Dark Lord will not permit him to come. Suffice to know that your father has been terribly worried, as has your mother, and they both send to you their love."
"There's more, though," croaked Draco, and he sipped at the water his teacher held to his lips. "What aren't you telling me, Professor?"
Snape closed his eyes, almost pained, and then opened them to reveal himself to the nearly grown boy. "The Dark Lord... he told me to tell you not to forget what you must do."
Draco gulped, but nodded. Even in the deepest of his unconsciousness he had known that he was still given a task to perform in order to prove himself, and to keep his parents alive. And, himself, too.
"I won't let the Master down," Draco whispered hoarsely.
"I can help you..." began Snape.
"NO!" Draco's voice broke with sudden hysteria. "I can't... no one's help... no one!" Draco turned his head to the side to hide the tears he could not stop.
Snape's lips thinned with empathy, and frustration. His only consolation was to put one of the boy's hands in his. Still not looking at his teacher, his mentor, Draco tightened his hand around Snape's.
The quiet was long, awkward at times, but neither wizard broke it until a small voice asked, "Is Draco awake?"
Snape glanced up with a sneer for the Gryffindor girl. Draco turned his head towards her so quickly he could hear the bones crack in his neck in protest.
"Granger!" Draco's voice cut off dryly and he began to cough. Snape helped him to more water.
"Draco," said Hermione, "I'll go if you want me to but I just wanted to be sure you were all right."
"Why?" accused Draco. "Don't you want me dead?"
"No, I don't," Hermione said firmly. "Harry was stupid, and he is very lucky Professor Snape was near and saved your life."
Wordlessly Snape Summoned a chair for the Gryffindor. He remained, wary of her reason for being here - and for each time before.
"Thank you, Professor." Hermione seated herself. She knew that Snape was not going to leave. He never did the two times she had visited while Draco was unconscious. So, doing her best to forget the teacher, she spoke only to Draco.
"I know we're not friends, Draco. Most think we're enemies just for being in Gryffindor and Slytherin." Draco sneered, but did not vocalise a reply. "It's just... well, I don't believe you're a bad sort but I have eyes, and I know you're caught in something that is bad."
Draco stared at her suddenly; his gaze suspicious, but oddly hopeful. "What are you babbling about, Granger?"
"I've been thinking about a lot of things lately; it's just how the times are, and one of the people I've been thinking about is you." Draco frowned as he was not sure what she was attempting to say to him. "I can't stop whatever the future holds for any of us, Draco, but I think you should know that at least one person you think hates you, or thinks you the enemy, doesn't."
Draco made a scoffing, 'pffft' sound.
Hermione grasped his hand, and with her eyes she caught his. Her voice was firm, and unwavering as she repeated, "You listen, Draco Malfoy, and let this stick in your head. I think you are a good person. No matter what you do, even if you hurt someone, I know in my heart you are good. And, you need to know that I believe this with all my heart."
For a long moment Draco stared at Hermione. His mind was frozen. He had no idea what to say, and his natural inclination to insult her, or quip sarcastically at her expense, had flown. He almost felt afraid in that moment; not of her but for her.
Hermione smiled at him, and Draco felt his heart trying to freeze and protect him from her kindness. It was in that moment, in front of his Head of House, that Hermione swiftly leaned forward and touched her lips to his. For a very brief moment she did not pull quickly away but lingered just enough that the kiss would remain one that Draco never would forget. She then squeezed his fingers, smiled again, but the smile was now accompanied by a lovely blush. Rising from her chair, she nodded to Snape, and left.
Draco's fingers touched his burning lips as he watched the young woman go. She was a part of his memories; the cherished memories, and she would never leave. Instead of this frightening him, it warmed him. It also made him a little less afraid of the task the Dark Lord had set for him.
"Professor Snape?" Draco asked very softly. "Hermi... G-granger wasn't lying, was she?"
"Gryffindors can be many things, Draco, but that one..." Snape paused, "She has never been one to lie to anyone. Insufferably honest, I would say," he sneered but there was not the acid in the expression he often expressed towards the Golden Trio as a whole. "Miss Granger cares about you, Draco. No matter what happens."
Draco sighed heavily. He would do what he had to do to save his parents but somehow the nightmare that would be, all the turmoil he had suffered, was momentarily quieted with the thought that Hermione Granger thought well of him.
No matter what.
A/N: I had a thought of Draco after Harry had cursed him in the bathroom at Hogwarts. I had no idea where it was going to go, and so this little ending was a bit of a surprise to me. I hope you enjoyed it.