This is actually a deleted scene from a longer Dramione fic that I'm 'working' on…(in this case 'working' means that it's sitting on my hard drive taking up space because I can't think of a way to end it). This scene stuck out like a sore thumb and didn't work with the storyline, but it was so sweet I kept it. It made me smile.

Hermione was in the common room when Draco came in. She had three books open while she frantically scratched notes. He smirked at her.

"Do you ever sleep?"

She nodded. "Of course I do."

He walked up behind her. "I'm kidding Granger. Why are you working so hard anyway? You have half the ministry falling all over themselves to hire you, no NEWTS required…same as Potter." He didn't mention the Weasel King, he didn't want to see her get upset. The git had broken up with her via owl only two weeks before. War heroes are not, the Weasleys had absolutely no taste.

Hermione looked up at him and raised one eyebrow. He felt a sudden surge of pleasure…She'd gotten that expression from hanging around him. Of course, the pleasure left as soon as she opened her mouth. "Why are you working so hard? You don't have to have NEWTS Draco, your family still owns practically half of Great Brittan…why are you putting up with all of this just to be here?"

When he didn't answer immediately, a sly smile spread across her face. "I'll tell you my reasoning if you tell me yours…"

He didn't want to share, but he couldn't resist getting more information out of Granger about her motivations.

He looked her in the eye and nodded, sealing the deal.

Hermione huffed like she hadn't expected him to go through with it. He smirked and plopped down on the couch beside her, ignoring her personal space. She glared at him but didn't move, and he enjoyed the feeling of her warm thigh pressing on the outside of his.

"So…why do you work so hard?"

She sighed. He suddenly realized that he might not enjoy hearing this.

"Partly, I just love learning. I enjoy it. I'm a little greedy when it comes to information…it's the only thing I really covet." He filed that away for later. It was an interesting way to think about it.

"But the flip side of it is that there are a lot of people who don't think I can do it. A lot of people who will treat me like a second-class citizen if I don't exceed expectations all the time." Her hand ran over the scar that he knew she hid under her robes.

He ran his fingers over it as well. "I think you've proven yourself to everyone except you. The war was never about anything but power, and one man finding a way to get it. I know you haven't been out much since the war…we were busy turning a war zone back into a school…but they aren't calling you the 'brightest witch of the age' for nothing. You have to understand Hermione, they are comparing you to Dumbledore. You don't have anything left to prove to anyone."

She looked at him with a kind of embarrassed awe.

"It wasn't like that…it wasn't heroic…or anything…"

He smiled. "I bet Dumbledore felt the same way when he fought. It's never heroic if you're the one standing there, even when you do manage to make the right choices."

She nodded, somehow following his unspoken thought.

"Harry always did say that you wouldn't have killed Dumbledore."

Draco rolled his eyes. "Much to my father's dismay. Potter can be right, occasionally."

She smiled at him out of the corner of her eye. "Your turn."

Ah…time to pay the piper. But it wasn't all bad; she was still sitting beside him.

"I don't want to be my father. I think that by coming here and facing the music…dealing with the people I've harmed, trying to make amends…I'll be less likely to be a copy of him."

She was shaking her head.

"Draco…you're nothing like your father."

He was shocked. Everyone knew he was just like his father. The physical resemblance alone was a little nauseating.

"Your father joined the Death Eaters all on his own, with no family to encourage him to do it. He didn't have a problem with killing and torturing long before he joined."

He thought back. That was true. His grandparents were dead before his father left Hogwarts. No one had threatened his father…he'd sought the bloody Dark Lord out because his 'cause' suited his prejudices and over-all temperament.

He looked at her. He needed to find a way to say something, and it wasn't going to be easy.

"Look, I know I was an ass…"

She laughed and nudged him. "You were the amazing bouncing ferret."

He could feel a slight blush rising on his cheeks and he groaned. "I'm never going to live that down."

She smirked at him. "Nope." But then her look softened. "But even with the pressures that were applied Draco, you tried to do the right thing in the end. And now you're free to be anything and everything you want to be."

She pulled her feet up on the couch and curled around a pillow. Then she summoned a tray with a couple of cups of steaming tea.

She handed him the one with milk as she added real cream to her own. "So what do you plan to do with all this new found freedom?"

Freedom. What a concept. And it was true. He was free of Voldemort, free of his crazy Aunt and his father…and he'd managed to throw off all the pure-blood nonsense…mainly because of her. For the first time in his life his future wasn't on a one track course that he couldn't escape…instead infinite paths were in front of him.

He took a long drink. "I'm going to finish my NEWTS, and give you a run for your money for the top spot in potions class…" She chuckled. "And then I'm going to find a way to redeem the family name."

She nodded. "But what do you want for yourself Draco? You've spent the last several years protecting the people you love…and now you need to find out what you love to do…"

He smirked down at her. "Well…there is a list, and most of it requires the aid of a beautiful witch."

She laughed and smacked him playfully with a pillow. "Come off it Malfoy." He mock cringed, but he saw she was serious.

He discarded the playful tone. "I'm not kidding. The main thing I want for myself is to marry whoever I fall in love with. You are right, the war freed me…because now I won't stand for an arranged pure-blood marriage to a woman I don't know or don't like. If I can't find someone that I can love and who loves me then the damn name can die out."

Hermione looked a little shocked…maybe at his honesty…maybe at the statement…or maybe because she didn't really understand.

He smirked. "You don't know how much the pure bloods envy people who can just marry wherever they want to. You don't know how lucky you were, growing up in a home where your parents loved you…"

She looked at him oddly.

"How do you know they loved me?"

He rolled his eyes. "C'mon Granger. You couldn't be the person you are if someone didn't love you…besides, I saw you with them once…right before second year, at Diagon Alley. They were so proud of you…my father was with me, and when I saw you with your parents…and with Potter…that's the day I called you the foulest thing I could think of…because even then you made me wonder if my perfect pure-blood life was the best way. All of you looked loved and happy. My father had just healed me after he knocked me around. Broke three ribs in the name of Quidditch practice." He looked fixedly at his coffee when he told her that…and why had he told her that in the first place? "I'm sorry I took it out on you. You didn't deserve it."

She patted his hand. "I forgave you when I saw your face…you know, when Bellatrix…" she cleared her throat. "I saw your face…I saw you fingering your wand…and I knew you wanted to do something…"

He wondered who else on Earth would be so bloody observant while they had a lunatic carving up their arm, but he didn't say that out loud.

"I was a coward. When she said that Grayback could have you though, I knew I would have to do something. I knew he'd take you somewhere else, and I was planning to follow…" He shuddered again.

She was rubbing the scar on her arm as if she didn't realize what she was doing.

He reached over and stilled her fingers. "They did their best to break you Granger, and they failed."

She looked up at him and whispered "Only because it stopped."

He nodded. "Anyone would eventually crack…and most of the ones who like to hurt people would crack long before someone like you would."

She gave him a watery smile. "Someone like me?"

He wrapped an arm around her. "Oh you know, all that Gryffindor rot about being selfless, brave, and true…wait no, most of them aren't selfless…that's just you and Potter."

She rolled her eyes. "I'm not selfless Draco. I can be as selfish as the next girl."

He tucked her into his side and she let him. Originally, invading her space had just been fun, but he did it now mostly for the comfort of having her beside him.

"You don't see yourself very clearly." Then he had a brilliant idea. "Wait here."

He got up and rushed to his room to find a spell book and a small mirror (well he had to have some way to make sure the back of his hair looked good, didn't he?)

He plopped back down on the couch, grinning.

"I read about this spell…I've never tried it, but I think I can manage…"

Hermione raised her eyebrows. "I think I know what Ron and Harry were going on about for all those years…what are you talking about?"

"This is a spell to see yourself the way other people see you. Do you have a lock of hair from anyone? We need a hair for the enchantment."

She shook her head.

"I don't make a practice of collecting other people's hair."

He smirked. "You wouldn't have survived in Slytherin. You don't have anything of Potter's or Weasley's that might have some hair on it?"

She grabbed the small beaded purse that had an extension charm on it. "There might be some in the tent…I mean we cleaned it, but I don't think that Harry's housekeeping spells are all that thorough."

She pulled the tent out of her purse and set it up in one corner of the common room. She ducked in and within moments she came out triumphantly wielding two distinct hairs.

He grinned as he took the hairs. "We need to get some other people's hair as well…maybe McGonagall or one of the other teachers…but we can start with Potter and the Weasel King."

She glared at him for the nickname but she didn't say anything.

He twirled the wand the way it said to in the book and spoke the incantation.

Then he carefully added the very red hair.

"Let me look first. I'm sure the Weasel King thinks highly of me." He snickered

Looking back from the mirror was a caricature of a sneering, cowardly Draco Malfoy. His face was even paler, and the dark mark on his arm took up over half the mirror. He looked exactly like his father.

He found himself looking down as Hermione pulled the mirror out of his hands. "I think I know why you found this spell in a dusty old book."

He nodded, still not looking at her. What had he expected? The man he saw in the mirror every day? Of course the Weasel King would see him like that. He'd gone out of his way for years to make sure that he did.

He looked up when he heard the intake of breath.

Looking out of the mirror was a faintly pretty Hermione, but her face was stern, she was surrounded by piles of books, and she was looking out of the mirror with a rather obviously superior expression. The real Hermione was looking at the image, horrified.

Draco snorted. "Stupid git. That's not how you look at all."

He undid the spell with a flourish.

He looked down at the black hair. "Let's see if Potter's eyesight is better than the Weasel King's." On the bright side she didn't correct his use of name calling,

He added the back hair carefully, and the face that he saw wasn't much different than what his mirror showed him everyday…the expression in the eyes was lost, hurt, afraid...alone. Utterly alone. He felt his bile rise, and he turned the mirror away from him.

Hermione was quick to take her turn. Draco looked over her shoulder. In the mirror was a girl who glowed with good health. She was laughing, her hair extremely bushy, but her eyes sparkled with good humor and knowledge. Again she was surrounded by books, but she wasn't really paying attention to the one in her lap, she was outside and lightly tanned.

Draco studied the Hermione in the mirror.

"Potter is better than Weasley, but it's still not exactly right. That's not how you look either."

He ended the spell and pulled out one of his own platinum blond hairs.

He handed the mirror to Hermione.

"Here…this is what you look like."

She studied the image for a moment with her mouth open.

"Draco…this is how you see me?" The tone of her voice alerted him that there was something amiss.

He looked over her shoulder.

He nodded to himself. "Yep, that's exactly what you look like."

The image was just the normal Granger. Her hair framed her face and moved with her, like an extension of herself. Her eyes (chocolate with specks of caramel) were warm and filled with secrets. Her face was beautiful, with the delicate heart-shaped features that set her apart from other girls their age.

Her posture bespoke courage and her innate poise, and the set of her mouth was exactly the way it looked before she came up with something clever. She was holding her wand, with a stack of books to one side. She looked confident, self-assured, and sexy.

Just the normal, every-day Granger.

She had a strange expression on her face.

"What, mine is defiantly more accurate than the other two…"

She laughed and hugged him. "Well, it's the most flattering of the three, but it doesn't look much like what I see in the mirror every day."

He snorted. "Then you should look in this one. At least it's accurate."

She shook her head and then looked up at him…almost shyly.

"Would you like to see you the way I do?"

He froze. Did he want to see that? The images from both Weasley and Potter had been rather painful. Did he want to know how Hermione saw him?

His mouth opened without his permission. "I'd like that."

She pulled out one softly curling hair and he put it on the mirror.

The image that came up was a bit like Potter's…there was a tightness around his eyes that indicated stress or loss, but he carried himself well…he looked more aristocratic that he thought he did In real life…and there was more forbearance than he actually displayed.

The strangest thing was that she was him as brave for coming back to school to face everything…and the set of his mouth was kind…no one saw him as kind. That was just ridiculous.

He blinked at her.

"You may need to see an optometrist. This isn't me at all."

She smirked. "Don't be silly Draco, t looks exactly like you."

He snorted.

She raised a brow. "You know, you may think you see me clearly, but you made a bunch of mistakes…I mean it was very flattering…but I'm not like that at all."

He frowned. "Like what."

She rolled her eyes and bit her lower lip.

"You made me look beautiful and even sexy…powerful and confident…"

He laughed.

"I told you that you needed to see yourself the way everyone else sees you…"

She looked at him.

"That's not the way that everyone sees me Draco…that's just the way that you see me."

He felt his eyes widen.

"I just see what's there."

She crossed her arms. "Well, that's just what I see too."

He put the platinum hair back on the mirror and reworked the spell.

"Here…just in case you forget what you really are."

Her eyes were glowing as she said "Thank you."