Disclaimer: I'm not even blond, let alone JKR.
A/N: Some of you demanded a second chapter and I know it's been ages, but I never really felt like writing it. This is simply the same thing again, only in Draco's POV. Personally, I think it's better written than the first chapter, possibly because it's always easier for me to get into Draco's head than Hermione's. But anyway. Have fun!
Dark (Part II - Draco's POV)
Draco's steps echoed in the long hallway. Dragonleather boots on cold stone, one step after another. He couldn't hurry. His illuminating wand tight in his grip, only very little of the moist, used up air around him appeared to accept it. He'd never found out how much of the darkness was magical.
The way down to the dungeons was his least favorite in the entire world, but what – or who – was waiting for him was worth the darl desperation the narrow path of black held. It wasn't that he liked seeing her like this, he simply liked seeing her, period. It was bitter and it made his heart ache for her, but for those few minutes, he felt as if his life made sense. He was there for someone. She was waiting for him, expecting him, depending on him. She needed him.
Had someone told him he'd ever feel the need to protect Hermione Granger of all people – a need that could not be overcome – sixteen-year-old Draco Malfoy would have laughed at them, called her a "pathetic mudblood", "annoying know-it-all", perhaps even "Potty's little whore". He'd been incredibly stupid, believing she meant nothing to him. Maybe it was the passion with which he had loathed her that made him undergo the long way down to the dungeons every single day.
He'd noticed he couldn't find pleasure in harming her when he'd first laid eyes on her broken body. She'd writhed on the floor in agony and pain under several 'Crucio's at the same time and her screams hadmade him want to turn around and walk away. Run away and forget the sight of the blood she was covered in, bleeding from endless wounds. The laughter of the Death Eaters that'd had or would have their share of Hermione's body.
He'd tried to hide his repulsion behind the usual cold Malfoy sneer, but something must have shown on his face – or the mask that his face currently was – because Severus had quickly and quietly guided him outside the room. Draco couldn't help but empty his stomach. His godfather never made him talk about it.
He'd read to her for about two years, then she'd told him to stop and he'd actually started talking to her, only information, facts and still only for a few minutes. He didn't know why he'd spent so much time of his life down in a slave's dungeon, with someone who'd eventually have to die, someone he couldn't save, not even protect.
Severus – during whose shift he was allowed to see her – had asked him, only once, why he kept doing this to himself. Draco had answered:
"Because it keeps her sane."
Which was true. The first time she'd smiled at him, when she'd stopped tensing up whenever he entered the room and had seemed relieved, grateful instead... He'd actually felt as if he'd accomplished something. The look of trust, her relaxing around him... She'd never expressed her gratitude, but there was no need to. Words could never tell half as much as he experienced every day. He knew. And the truth was, she kept him sane, too.
He didn't want to be a Death Eater. He wasn't happy that the Dark Lord had triumphed and every hope for a civilized world was gone. He'd even tolerate not hating Saint Potter anymore, but he was dead as well and that was that. Draco was deeply disgusted by the life he was forced to endure and perhaps even with himself, because he was too much of a coward to kill himself or join the small groups of rebels that'd be exterminated eventually. He was ashamed to say he wanted to stay alive more than give in to the small amount of morals that had built up along the way.
His feet had carried him to the small door to her cell. Severus nodded at him and let him pass. Draco mentally warded himself for what was waiting behind that door. He should be used to it by now and a part of him truly was – that cell, the person it it, these few minutes of comfort had become his only home – but her horrible tate shook him every time. Hit him in the face, more like.
He remembered her the way she'd been in Hogwarts, beautiful, vibrant and alive, humming with energy – and in his presence often with anger as well. Now she was a mere shell of who she'd been, half-dead, her body and soul broken, often delirious with sickness, malnourished, hardly able to move on her own and passice, oh so passive... There was no fire left in her; she'd given up completely. And seeing this in her blind eyes was worse than the expression of peae on her face whenever she heard his voice.
Draco was not sure she'd still be anticipating his visits if she knew who he was. He knew she had no idea and she'd never asked. She probably didn't even want to know – which was horrible in itself – protecting herself with the lack of information. It had something to do with pride as well. But it somehow bugged him that he thought of her as 'Hermione' and if she ever spared him a thought, he wasn't 'Draco', but 'Malfoy'. And he knew he should, but he held no pride in his last name anymore. He wanted to be Draco for her, just Draco. No fancy pureblood family, no ridiculous prejudices and a history of bullying at school. Just Draco.
But he couldn't be Draco for her. He was just a voice she could rely on, a shadow, a thought. Her only comfort in the never-ending darkness. And that had to be enough.
Draco Malfoy was not a man easily satisfied. He desired many things and nothing was ever enough in these times, constantly craved more and still felt like a suffocating man. But this, this one thing, simply had to do. It had to be enough.
He stepped throught the door and once more he felt a strange aching somewhere in his chest upon seeing her lying on the floor motionless. Her skin scrubbed raw with dirt and many wounds from their latest 'interaction' with her were wide open. He drew his wand and silently closed the worst of them. He wished he could provide food for her just as easily. She could easily pass as a skeleton.
He helped her sit up. Her body felt almost weightless.
"It's the 25th of May, but you know that.", he finally started saying, "It was your birthday, yesterday. There's not much going on out there, except the usual. Rape, murder, violence. You know the drill. Do you remember Padma Patil? She was in your year, a Ravenclaw. I believe her twin sister was with you in Gryffindor. Anyway, she killed McNair before the rest of them brought her down. The Dark Lord is still trying to figure out what to do with her. Oh, and it's snowing outside. Can you believe that? Snow! In May!", he chuckled a little and was happy to see her smile at that.
"I found Dragonsweed growing outside, by the way, remember that?"
"'Herbs and Weeds of 16th century witches', page 228.", a weak smirk of pride, because she could actually still remember, "Only known cure to Dragonpox."
"Smart girl.", he smirked.
"Would you kill me?", she replied.
There was silence for a few moments. He could pretend he was shocked or offended by her question, but really, he was simply sad it had come to this. He knew she'd just swallowed the last bit of her pride and given herself over to him completely. She trusted him. In any other situation, that would have felt good. But he was selfish enough to not want her to leave him alone here. After a moment he stated, feeling somewhat old and vulnerable:
"I've been waiting for that question for a very long time."
"Would you?", she insisted.
"I'd do it."
What choice did he have, really? The only way she could get out of here was death. How could he deny her that?
"Whenever you feel ready."
He silently prayed she wouldn't answer.
He hadn't wanted her to say it. He didn't want to have to do this, even if it was for her and not to her. He did not want to put her out of her misery, because her misery was the last thing keeping him human.
"Your face.", she said very quietly, "I never saw it. Who are you?"
"You don't want to know, Hermione."
And from one second to the other, her face changed so completely he wanted to cry. Her entire posture. Just for this moment, he could see Hermione Granger again, the living, breathing, laughing little girl from school.
"My name... You know my name."
"Yes, I do."
He just wanted to hold her close and never let her go.
Draco couldn't help it. He hesitated briefly, then put a trembling hand on her cheek, careful not to make her flinch. He just had to. Had to give her, give himself that single tender touch.
One last look and she was gone. Along with everything that had mattered about him.