The floor beneath her was rigid and wet, doing very little the sooth the chill in her bones. Her skin ached to feel the kiss of the sun, the warming of a ray of light and the smell of fresh air. The dungeons in Malfoy Manor were as far away from her dreams as they could be. There was no warmth here, no visible light other than the swinging lantern that hung haphazardly beside her cell. Luna could no longer tell how long she had been there. It could have been weeks or months; she knew it had been a long time, so long that her days and nights had merged into one monotonous blur. How she longed to be free of captivity, to stretch out on a bed of soft grass and feel her toes dig into the fresh earth. Tears welled in her eyes at the thought. Luna sniffed quietly wiping a shaking hand under her nose and blinking the tears back from her large, blue eyes. Now was not the time for crying.
A creak from overhead made her willowy frame jump in fright; the stairs groaned under heavy footsteps. Luna held her breath hoping one of the less horrible Death Eaters was descending the stairs. She didn't think her body could withstand another attack from Greyback or the Lestranges; the thought of her last encounter with Bellatrix Lestrange left a burning sensation in her veins. Shuffling footsteps echoed throughout the cavernous dungeon as a figure stopped in front of her cell. Not a word was said to her as a metal plate was thrown under the bars, half of the contents spilling onto the filthy stone floor. Grabbing the tray once the figure had lumbered up the stairs, Luna separated the stale bread from the questionable slop on the tray. She pushed herself up onto wobbling legs walking to the corner of the cell where Mr. Ollivander was curled up, his thin grey hair wild with matted dirt and blood. Placing the tray next to his diminishing figure, Luna wished for the millionth time since her abduction that she had her wand if only to cast a warming charm on the rapidly cooling food-like substance they had been given; at this point in her life, warm food seemed like a luxury.
Tearing off a small piece of stale bread, Luna placed the provision delicately on her tongue. She pretended it was pudding, rich dark chocolate and topped with a hefty dollop of whipped cream and black cherries. Another piece was warm mashed potatoes with chives. Then it was sweetened oatmeal with brown sugar and cinnamon, vegetable soup, a treacle tart, sweet potato pie with toasted pecans on top; with each small bite, Luna pretended she was back at Hogwarts piling her plate full of delectable food at the welcoming feast or in her childhood home where her father cooked unconventional meals only the bravest of souls dared to try. She would give anything for a morsel of one her father's concoctions at this very moment or anything other than stale bread to be quite honest.
The thought of her father nearly brought the tears back into her eyes. Luna often thought of her father and hoped he was doing well, though she knew he was probably a mess knowing where she was; that is, if he knew at all. She knew he would do his best to aid Harry Potter and have her returned safely. Her eyes started drooping from exhaustion; life in the dungeons was not befitting to Luna or any human for that matter. She could feel her body weakening and breaking down. Her once soft blonde hair was brittle and breaking from the lack of nutrition, her skin was always peeling and cracking from the harsh conditions, and she knew that she had lost weight causing her normally thin figure to resemble a skeleton. Her clothes, which she had been wearing on the day of her abduction, no longer fit properly. The red turtleneck hung loosely, the once snug neck wilting pathetically towards her jutting collarbone while the dress she wore over it seemed to weigh her down, as the fabric was always somewhat soggy. Luna closed her eyes unable to fight against the exhaustion as she dreamed of an overflowing, warm bubble bath.
Two floors above, Draco Malfoy was pacing in his room; the tapping of his shining shoes against the dark wood floor echoed impatiently throughout his cavernous dwelling. His wand was in his hand twitching nervously at his side as his other hand clenched his white blonde hair in frustration. He contemplated his life and how it had ended up being such a catastrophe. It was never supposed to go so far; people weren't supposed to be dying in his home staining the floor he'd played upon as a child in blood. No matter what room he was in, he could feel the blood running through the veins in the wood floor; it pulsed beneath his feet nearly bringing him to his knees on several occasions. It was sickening. His home used to be his haven, but now, he wanted nothing more than to escape.
Draco knew people were in the cellar or what used to be so; now, instead of an open cavern, cells had been formed and sealed with magic insuring that the people locked in would have no way to escape. His stomach rolled at the thought. He was just as much a prisoner as they were, only he got a warm bed and food everyday. He wondered what was worse: being a prisoner or feeling like one in your own home. He didn't have time to resolve the new question in his brain, for two hard rasps sounded against his door.
"Draco," his father's voice sounded slightly muffled behind the heavy oak door.
"You may come in, Father," Draco said with a newfound composure.
The door swung open revealing Lucius Malfoy, his long white hair billowing slightly along with his black silk robes as he glided into the room. His father stood before him looking as sure and certain as he had in a long time, but Draco could see the frantic fear and desperation to please the Dark Lord in the silver eyes he had inherited. Draco knew what ever his father was about to say was not going to be pleasing.
"The Dark Lord has requested for Wormtail to accompany him tonight," Lucius said with a look of disgust as he spat the cowardly rat's name. "He said you must keep watch in the dungeon for the next few evenings."
Draco resisted the urge to scoff. Prisoner duty appointed to a Malfoy? The idea alone was repulsive. Draco could tell by the look of disdain on his father's face that the older Malfoy agreed with his son's internal feelings. To be chosen to take over Wormtail's position was insinuating that he and Draco were interchangeable, on the same level of respect in the eyes of the Dark Lord; in other words, he was disposable. Draco opened his mouth to protest, but the sharp look his father gave him caused him to snap his mouth shut soundly.
"You will do this without any contempt or question. The Dark Lord has requested you to do something; see to it that you do it well and complete your task this time," Lucius said with finality to his tone that left no room for argument.
Draco nodded his head; the message was clear. Because he had failed with his task to kill Dumbledore, he was being demoted; he was a disappointment to his family name. He was equal to, if not less than, a traitorous rodent. His pale cheeks flared at the thought. He was Draco Malfoy, the Slytherin Prince, and now, he was taking over duties for Peter Pettigrew who was more mouse than man. The thought alone made Draco's stomach roll with a combination of disgust and fury. He didn't want to see the people who were held prisoner in his home. He knew they were there, but seeing them made it real. He heard their screams, but it was easy to pretend he didn't know who they were when all his heard was screams of agony. Seeing their faces, Draco knew, would change everything.
After a dinner spent in silence where Draco forced a few bites of steaming roast and scalloped potatoes into his stomach, the young Malfoy begrudgingly made his way down the dungeon stairs holding a tray of a strange substance barely passing for food and half a loaf of stale bread. His face was still burning from the jeers and comments made to him by the older Death Eaters.
"Ah, there he is in his rightful place," Greyback chuckled as Draco retrieved the tray from the kitchen bustling with frightened House Elves as the filthy werewolf bared his sharpened teeth. "Oh how the mighty have fallen," he cackled joined by Macnair and Dolohov.
Draco wanted to comment on their inhabitation of his home and why they saw it fitting to keep company with the servants when they clearly were not invited to join dinner with the others. He wanted to comment on Greyback's filthy appearance and his status as a half-breed, but Draco bit his tongue. Instigating them now would only cause more trouble; though it pained him, Draco knew when to keep his mouth shut.
Pushing open the door, Draco released an embarrassingly shaky breath; his fingers began to chill as he descended the creaking staircase. Though not quite autumn, the air in the dungeons held a frost year round. Beneath his comfortable home, it smelled of filth and despair; it was sodden and the air was unfiltered and heavy. Draco suddenly found it hard to breath; the disgusting air felt as if it was stuck in his lungs sticking like glue to his organs.
At the end of the staircase, Draco felt a splash of freezing water seep into his trousers chilling him even more so than before. Cursing himself for not doing so before, Draco pulled the dark, hawthorn wand from his robe pocket casting a silent lumos after ridding his trousers of the chilled liquid. Now that he had a light, Draco was able to maneuver around the puddles in the floor; he wouldn't allow himself to entertain the thought of what the puddles might contain as he could still feel where the puddle had splashed upon him despite the fact that he cast it way with magic.
With his wand before him, Draco was able to see clearly and walked until he saw a small lump of a person curled up in a corner. He turned pointing his wand directly at the crumbled up body, the person's grey hair was sticking up in all directions and his skin was filthy. Draco shuddered in disgust. Bending down, he gently slid the tray under the bars of the cell careful to not disturb the disgusting mush in fear that it would land on his silken sleeve. Turning away, he nearly yelled in fright as his wand illuminated upon a shockingly large pair of misty blue eyes.
Luna looked at the person before her; there wasn't much she could make out due to the bright light emitting from the wand pointed directly at her face, but the shockingly white hair upon the tall figures head told her all she needed to know. At last, Draco Malfoy had ventured into the basement. He lowered his wand, with the light still shining, and peered at the girl before him. He knew who she was as soon as he laid eyes on her: Luna Lovegood. He noticed her typically unkempt hair was even more atrocious than usual; it was matted on one side and excruciatingly dirty; he couldn't help but cringe at the sight of her. She was skeletal, her clothes looked as if they weighed more than she did. Her emaciated frame made her impossibly large eyes seem as if they were protruding from her face. Despite her ghastly appearance, Draco noticed the spark of life, though dim, shining in her blue orbs.
"Have you come to kill me?" Luna asked calmly; the gentleness and dreaminess in her voice made the question sit dumbly in his head until he was able to understand what she was asking.
"What?" Draco asked.
"Have you come to kill me?" she repeated with the same delicate tone. "I thought it might be coming soon; I hoped it wouldn't, of course, but…" she trailed off with a delicate shrug of her shoulders. Draco studied her face, calm and serene. She didn't seem upset about the fate she assumed was coming; she looked peaceful as if this was a normal conversation she'd had several times.
Maybe she has, Draco thought to himself, after all, she is a friend of the self-sacrificing king himself: Harry Potter. Maybe they learned lessons about it during their secret meetings in the Room of Requirement.
"No, I'm not here to kill you, Lovegood," he sneered at her. "Though if you start talking, I may reconsider."
"I don't think you will," Luna sighed picking at the piece of bread she took from the tray. She pulled a small piece off and placed it on her tongue; she imagined blueberry crumble.
"You should eat something other than that pathetic excuse for bread," Draco said harshly after she'd eaten half of the stale portion. "You look as if you're about to die from starvation."
Luna looked at the questionable mixture in the metal bowl and sighed wistfully. "I'm not quire sure what it is," she said as her fingers traced the rim of the bowl; the action hypnotized Draco for a moment before a scoff escaped his mouth.
"I don't think you're in the position to be choosy, blood traitor," Draco sneered. "You should be thankful you're being fed at all."
"Oh, I am, Draco," Luna said pleasantly placing another piece on her tongue, rhubarb pie. "It's just, I don't eat meat."
"You don't eat meat," Draco said slowly. "You're a prisoner, Lovegood; you can either eat it or die."
"Somebody already did die," Luna said sadly looking at the contents of the bowl.
"Not somebody, Lovegood, something, a worthless animal," Draco huffed. "Who cares?"
"I care," Luna whispered softly yet with a tone of certainty. "Besides, I'm doing fine with just the bread, honestly. At this point, sunlight would do me better than any sort of food," she sighed longingly. "Would you tell me about the weather?" she asked the sullen boy softly; her sweet voice laced with hope.
"No," Draco said moving away from her cell. "I don't wish to talk to you any longer," he stated bluntly as he walked back towards the stairs where he sat on a chair, his chin resting in his palm as his elbow sat upon his knee.
Draco sat in the uncomfortable chair at the bottom of the staircase for what seemed to be hours. He fought internally with himself for speaking to the loon. Even if they were not, and would never be, friends, he didn't want to see her in such a state. She looked as if she were on the verge of death; other than her bright eyes, her face was frightening. Her cheekbones jutting out and her full lips cracked with dehydration created an image of a corpse. He supposed it was her own fault; she wouldn't eat anything other than the bread because of her refusal to eat meat, but at the same time, he couldn't place her entirely at fault. After all, she wasn't here by choice; hell, he wasn't even here by choice. For the first time, he wanted to return to Hogwarts, if only to escape his home that had been transformed into Death Eater Headquarters. He hated them; he hated everything that had taken place over the last few years. He hated the life he was forced to live and the effect it had on those around him, even the freaks like Loony Lovegood.
Dropping his forehead into his hands, Draco tried not to groan loudly. Why did he care about her life? Shouldn't he be trying to keep his own afloat before feeling any sort of sympathy for another person? He was the one who deserved sympathy; he deserved to be happy, and right now, he was so far from happy Draco didn't know what it would even entail. Sighing to himself, Draco leaned his head back against the stone wall and closed his eyes. A soft voice broke him from his attempt to relax.
"Thank you, Draco," Luna said as her fingers wrapped around the slick metal bars. "You've shown me something I've yet to see since being here."
"And what might that be, Lovegood," Draco huffed annoyed.
"Kindness," she smiled weakly; the movement felt foreign to her muscles. "All the others curse me or refuse to look at me as if I am a pariah or less than human, but not you."
"Don't confuse my acknowledging you for kindness," Draco barked darkly. His heavy tone echoed off the stone walls. "You're worse than a pariah; you're a blood traitor, filth."
"Maybe so," Luna said dreamily as if she hadn't heard a word Draco said. "But that's not how you treated me. Good night, Draco."
With that, Luna placed her head on the stone floor and closed her eyes wrapping her arms around herself in a futile attempt to keep warm. Draco stared at the spot where her pale fingers had gently wrapped around her cage of confinement. He wanted to scream at her, to cry and yell until she understood that he was not kind nor did he care about her or her current state. She was nothing to him other than a nuisance. If it weren't for her, or the heap of a human on the floor beside her, he would be in his warm bed rather than sitting on an uncomfortable chair in the dingy prison beneath his home. With that thought, he closed his eyes resisting the urge to slam his head into the wall behind him.
Sometime later, once he was relieved of his belittling duty, Draco trudged upstairs, and after a steaming shower to rid himself of the filth and grime he felt embedded in his skin, he crawled into bed where he flopped down in an exhausted heap. He fell asleep almost instantly, and the next morning, he was none the wiser of the curious, wide blue eyes of which he dreamed.