Anonymity was his plan for his last year at Hogwarts. Being forced into attending an eighth year with people that despised him and all the things he did during the war was not pleasant. He could not protect himself, only being able to perform magic within the classrooms, but at least his punishments so far were minuscule. Simple jinxes weren't too troublesome, though there was still that underlying fear that someone would attack him with something worse.
He didn't blame them. It's not like he didn't deserve it. He had actually expected it, so to protect himself, he became a wallflower. He kept quiet in class, and kept his head down in the hallways. He ate early before most arrived in the Great Hall, and left just as quickly. He kept his comments to himself, and avoided everyone except Pansy and Blaise, though it didn't help that he could always feel Potter's eyes on him, waiting for him to slip up. All he wanted was to get the year over with.
Stepping out onto the grounds, Draco let out a sigh. The cool air of mid-October wrapped around him comfortingly. He'd already ate, and now had a few hours before curfew trapped him within the eighth year dorms, under the scrutinizing eyes of his fellow students. He wanted to avoid that situation for as long as possible by spending his time alone.
"Wonderful weather for a walk." Draco started at the sudden intrusion, but in fact, he was the one walking up to someone else. Glancing down, his eyes fell upon Luna Lovegood. "Don't you think?" Her dreamy, distant eyes unsettled him.
"I didn't see you there, Lovegood," he said as a form of apology, voice low as he tried to walk by her. She was one of the ones Draco tried specifically to avoid since she'd been held captive in his home.
"Luna," she said when he was a few steps below her. Draco looked back at her confused. "My name is Luna." If anyone had the right and desire to hurt him, Lovegood had every reason. Yet here she was trying to be friendly. Was this some sort of trick? Would she curse him when his back was turned? "Is it alright if I call you Draco?" She asked, head tilting to the side with an ever present smile upon her face.
"I guess," he responded, but still quite unsure of the whole situation.
He watched her stand and dust off her robes. With slow, graceful steps, she stopped beside him. "Shall we go for a walk, Draco?"
They'd be alone. It was the perfect moment for her to exact her revenge. He should be smart and leave, but it would just be a matter of time before Lovegood found another way to get ahold of him. "Sure," he said after a brief moment of hesitation.
"Wonderful." Lovegood linked her arm in his. "There's still quite a bit of time before curfew. Why don't we walk by the lake? I hear it's lovely at night."
Draco didn't know what to make of it all. "Lead the way," he eventually said, and she did just that. Lovegood was being oddly relaxed around him, and dare he say it, kind. Not even Pansy showed this level of comfort, at least not since the war, and here was one of his past enemies doing just that. Maybe it was to draw him into a false sense of security, but he didn't think Lovegood was like that and he couldn't defend himself even if he wanted to.
They slowly made their way around the lake, making idle chat as they went. For the first time since arriving back at Hogwarts did he feel welcomed. It was a shame she was going to turn on him.
Lovegood stopped walking once she reached the far side of the lake. With eyes trained on the Forbidden Forest, she said, "Let's go there."
So she wanted to take him there. It was away from prying eyes, and she could do whatever she wanted without worry of being caught. Knowing he deserved whatever anger she hid behind those eyes, he agreed. "Sure." They began their walk. Might as well get it over with, he thought bitterly.
"Here is fine," she said once they were far enough that they couldn't see the edge anymore. Draco waited for her to draw her wand, but it never happened. Instead, she sat on a fallen tree. "You know," her eyes wandered around the small clearing. "I always liked this place. It's quiet and peaceful. I come here whenever I want to be alone." Draco remembered coming here in his first year of Hogwarts. Unlike Lovegood, his associations with the place were not so pleasant.
Time passed He waited and waited, but Lovegood never made her move. Her very expression was the opposite of anger and hatred, and he would know since so many looked at him like that. "Oh! There they are!" Lovegood smiled, getting to her feet.
Draco turned around, expecting to see his classmates that wanted to hurt him, but he came face to face with a horse-like creature with leathery, black skin and wings. It stared at him before making its way over to Lovegood. It sniffed at her robes, making her laugh. "Sorry, friend, I don't have anything with me today."
The creature stopped sniffing, but allowed Lovegood to pat its side. "What is that?" Draco asked, feeling uncomfortable in its presence.
"A thestral," Lovegood smiled at him. "After what Harry told me, I had a feeling you'd be able to see them. They're wonderful creatures. Come," she held out her hand, "he'll let you touch him."
Draco never had good luck with magical creatures, though he had been the reason most of the time, and he wondered if Lovegood was telling the truth. He made his way over cautiously, but the thestral didn't seem to mind him. He placed a hand on the leathery skin and had to repress a shiver at the feeling.
"Isn't he magnificent?" Lovegood asked dreamily. Draco could only nod, feeling the creature move beneath his hand.
They stood there in silence, patting the creature. He looked at Lovegood, who had a content smile on her face. "Why are you being kind to me?" He finally blurted. "Don't you hate me?"
"Why would I hate you?" She asked, tilting her head to gaze at him.
"Because…" He stopped short. There were so many reasons for her to hate him that Draco didn't even know where to start. "I've done horrible things, and I should have helped… I just stood there…" He couldn't quite put it into words because if he voiced them, it meant confirming that he was as monstrous as he felt. He'd feel so much better if she would just hate him like the rest.
"We were both prisoners in that place." Her eyes remained gentle, but her features faltered just a bit at the memory. "There's nothing you should feel guilty about."
But there was. Guilt ate him alive some days with all the things he regretted doing or, in some cases, what he didn't do. He looked at the younger witch before him. He remembered the Lovegood before the war. The distant gaze was still there, but it wasn't as prominent. The war and her capture had changed her greatly. "I'm sorry, Luna," he whispered, managing the words that he had wanted to say for so long. It was hard for him, giving up his pride like that, but it made him feel just a bit lighter.
Luna placed a hand on his shoulder. Warmth spread through him like Fiendfyre when she gave him a light squeeze. "I know." Draco wondered if Luna knew how much her words healed him. There was no indication on her face, but he could never really understand her anyway.