Standard Disclaimer: I do not own the universe of Harry Potter. Furthermore, I am not making money off it.
Other notables: The story was written in the summer of 2006, a year after the release of the 6th book, but it takes place after the 7th book (not yet published) and makes assumptions about the outcome of the series.
Light of the Moon
In the dark hours before dawn, thin wisps of gray clouds obscured most of the sky above the empty grounds of Hogwarts. A bright silver moon glared balefully behind the veil, like the unblinking eye of some monolith creature hulking in the shadows of space beyond the Earth.
Draco Malfoy shivered in the chill air. Already huddled on the ground beside a stone bench that looked out onto the grounds, he clutched at the sleeves of his black Wizard robes and pulled his knees in closer to his chest. He sat on the stones of the undercover walkway rather than the bench itself, and wished he could disappear in the small shadow cast by the arm of the bench under the light of the moon.
He felt small, smaller than he had ever felt in his life. It seemed to him that he had spent most of his life struggling against something larger than himself, making noise to be heard above a din and seen as more than a small, scurrying shape among many larger, more impressive forms. Now he just wanted to shrink into nothingness, to disappear into obscurity and never have to endure the misery of infamy.
Why had he wanted to be a Death Eater so badly, to become a great Wizard, master the Dark Arts, and turn them against the weak and impure doomed to die? He wasn't great. He wasn't much more than an average student at best. And he wasn't very dark. That was the real crushing blow.
In hindsight, it was a pretty stupid dream. The war was now over. Voldemort was defeated and Harry Potter had received most of the credit. The Death Eaters were all dead, imprisoned, or on the run. Only Draco had been released without much formal interrogation. It was understood by everyone that he had genuinely reformed his wish to be a Death Eater, that he had been "rescued" by the Order of the Phoenix, that Harry Potter of all people had stuck up for him, and that he was to be given some time and space to digest all that had happened in the relative safety of Hogwarts during what remained of the school year.
He wished to God—if God even cared about him—that Dumbledore wasn't dead. He wished more fervently that he hadn't been the one largely responsible for his death. His chest tightened painfully when he thought that at one time he had been proud of being given the opportunity to bring about the fall of a Wizard he admired, one that had been great even by Voldemort's estimate, and kind to him besides. Like much of his bravado, it had seemed a lot more gratifying in fantasy than the nightmare it turned out to be.
He hated Voldemort. He hated his father for worshipping Voldemort and making him feel like it was right and natural to do the same. He hated Harry Potter for always besting him, Draco, at every turn, and then for finally besting Voldemort too.
It was all over now, but the thought of rebuilding his life from scratch terrified him. Voldemort was gone, the war was over, but everything about Draco Malfoy was in shambles.
This last year would have been his seventh year at Hogwarts, but he hadn't been able to attend. School was almost out, and he had missed most of it. He had always professed to hate school, believing that he was certainly meant for bigger, better things, but it was not until he was forced to leave and live the life of a Death Eater—one scorned and abused by other Death Eaters no less—that he realized how much he had loved his school life and depended on it. He had been surrounded by teachers and students who cared about him, some of them doing so no matter how nasty he was, and even his enemies had been a source of comfort to him—probably because they were actually nice people. Nicer at least, than anyone he had spent time with in Voldemort's company.
After school got out, there would be no place for him in the world. There would be no place for him anywhere.
He shivered again, this time not from the cold. He was virtually an outcast now. By an unforeseen turn of events, his former enemies were now his only allies. He was more indebted to Harry Potter (he hunkered lower at the thought) and his motley bunch of friends than he would ever be able to repay. It was decidedly painful to admit, and worse because everyone else now treated him like a disease. Draco Malfoy, son of the once great and powerful Death Eater Lucious Malfoy, had become—at last, ha!—known throughout the entire Wizarding community as an infamous Death Eater himself…only to discover he was actually little more than a selfish, fawning, cowardly child.
He was at best a victim; at worst, an ignorant, pathetic fraud.
No one wanted to be anywhere near him. How could they? He wasn't inspiring anymore. He wasn't meant for "great things" someday. He had been awful to everyone he knew and he didn't know anyone who was good enough to forgive him. He would have to learn to live alone, without sycophants, without friends, without anybody. Except that he hated being alone. He didn't know how to live with himself in solitude, knowing that everyone was mocking him, hating him, pitying him! Worst of all, he feared to endure the scorn and ridicule he had once inflicted on others.
The sound of soft footsteps coming toward the bench stopped his thoughts short, and he froze with indecision. At this time in the morning, he ought to have been safe from discovery. Everyone should be in bed.
Since the figure was approaching from behind his back, Draco stayed where he was and settled his chin on his shoulder, straining his eyes to angle around a corner to see who was coming. He couldn't see quite as high as the person's face without craning his neck and revealing himself, but he could see that the figure swathed in black robes was decidedly feminine. She moved with an airy quality, and for one delirious moment, a panicked Draco was reminded with sharp and sudden longing of his mother. Only whoever it was clearly was not coming to either scold or comfort him.
In fact, she didn't seem to notice him at all.
She sat down on the bench inches from his head. Draco could see that she held what looked to be some kind of cheap, Muggle-made magnifying glass in her lap. She also carried a rather worn looking newspaper. She propped it on her knee, and as the leaves opened, Draco caught sight of the title printed in the top margin. "The Quibbler: Special Edition!" it read, and below the byline there was an extensive article about something called dew sprites. Taking a risk, Draco shifted his weight just enough to be able to look up at the face of the person occupying his place of privacy.
It was Luna Lovegood.
His first instinct was to laugh. A moment ago he had been lamenting his fate at being alone, ostracized by his former friends, pitied by his enemies, and ignored by the rest of the school. Now the Fates had sent him the least desirable companion imaginable to mock him in his loneliness.
Well, he could get rid of her easily enough.
Sneering, Draco sat up and extended his legs out on the walkway as if he had merely decided to sprawl here and might deign to allow someone unworthy to sit near him provided they approached him about it properly.
After several minutes of silence, Draco was forced to conclude that Luna still hadn't noticed that he was sitting there.
"Well, if it isn't Loony Lovegood," he said.
Luna looked up and around before her large, luminous gray eyes came to settle on the top of Draco's head. "Oh. I didn't notice you sitting there. I've been very absorbed in this article. It's very fascinating."
There was a moment of awkward silence when, much to Draco's surprise and annoyance, Luna promptly turned back to her copy of The Quibbler.
Draco was used to people reacting to him these days even more than in the past. He was getting used to receiving sneers, quips, insults, the occasional fearful glance and the frequent quick retreat. He was becoming used to being left alone, shunned, ignored, or given hints that he ought to leave. Only a few people seemed inclined to tolerate his company, and then tolerate was the strongest word he could give it, and always it was awkward if he remained.
Luna's apparent nonchalance took him aback. He was at a loss for what to do. He had been trying to convince himself for some time now that he could eventually get used to a solitary existence, living nobly alone and forsaken with nothing but a past stained with darkness to cling to. He fantasized about taking up residence in some dark tower, perhaps by a raging sea, and spending his days wrapped in isolation and mystery. The idea had something of a romantic element to it, but when Luna didn't bolt up and run away he was reminded, once again, how romanticizing had gotten him in all this trouble in the first place.
The truth was that Draco liked company. His insecurity required others to react to him. He preferred pathetic, needy company, people who would worship him in ignorance that he wasn't such a hotshot. He made fun of people he thought he could best, and put even more effort into making fun of people who intimidated him. The more he professed to hate them, the more evidence it was that he was intimidated: Granger, for example, with whom he could never match in wits or spells in any subject, and Harry obviously, for reasons uncounted. Even Weasley, whose large, teasing, loving family contrasted bleakly with the cold inhospitality and impossible expectations of his own.
And now here was Luna Lovegood, who by popular opinion was possibly the only person of his acquaintance more pathetic than he was, and Draco was horrified to discover the he hoped she wouldn't leave. He was that desperate for companionship.
"So…What are you reading about?" he ventured, mulishly forcing derision from entering his tone. As a result, his voice came out a mumble, bordering on a squeak. He cleared his throat and tried again. "What's fascinating about it?"
She turned to look at him. She still held the magnifying glass over one eye so that it looked four times as big as it was naturally (an eye the size of a Bludger was a most unsettling sight) and Draco started so violently that he fell over backward, almost knocking his head on the ground. When he got used to the enormity of her one eye, he noted that her gaze registered mild surprise at being addressed, but from the way she seemed to look right through him, Draco didn't think his address in particular distressed her much.
She lowered the magnifying glass, much to his relief, and blinked her gray eyes owlishly. "Oh. It's an article about dew sprites," she said seriously. "They're related to pixies, you know. They appear in the dark hours before dawn and carry off drops of fresh dew to use in making potions."
She sounded so certain that Draco asked a follow-up question before he stopped to think about the unsupported bunk to which he was replying. "Why do you need a magnifying glass?"
"Because they're very small," she replied matter-of-factly. "It takes a dozen of them to lift one drop."
The idea of miniscule, winged creatures congregating on the lawn in the light of the moon to steal dew was so fantastic to Draco's largely neglected imagination that he just stared at Luna for a few moments in silence, completely dumbfounded. He did not believe in Luna's nonsense (everyone knew she was as mad as a hatter), but he did not reject the image of the idea. It was entertaining, and besides, he didn't want to anger her. It was nice to have someone to sit with, even someone as batty as Luna Lovegood.
After all, he thought nervously, it wasn't like there was anyone around to see.
Shrugging, Draco got to his feet and moved to sit beside Luna on the bench, which was a bit more comfortable than the stone had had been squatting on. He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees and looked glumly out at the grass, ignoring Luna as she likewise leaned forward, peering through her magnifying glass as strands of dirty blonde hair spilled over her shoulders to tickle her wrists.
"See anything?" he asked after a time.
"No," she said, and sighed audibly.
The sound was so explosive with regret, that Draco turned to look at her. "What?"
"I don't know," said Luna. "I can't see them. I've been looking for days. Tonight I thought I would even try the Muggle method of scientific observation. There was an article about it recently and it sounded interesting, if maybe a bit nutty."
Draco was thrown a bit by Loony Lovegood referencing Muggle methods as nutty, and couldn't decide whether or not he agreed with such a statement. Truth to tell, he didn't know all that much about Muggles. "Why?" he asked instead. "Why do you want to see them yourself, I mean?"
"Well, lately, I've been starting to wonder if maybe not everything my father talks about is true."
Draco's mouth felt dry. "Yeah," he said fervently, more to himself than to her. Thoughts of his own father sprang to his mind, imposing, exacting, unforgiving, and always so coolly disappointed in his son. It had always been like that, ever since Draco could remember. His father had wanted a son that would live up to the family name and never failed to remind Draco exactly what that entailed. He had wanted a powerful son, one who was physically striking, mentally unmatched, dapper and ambitious and manipulative; a son that was a credit to his blood purity and would be a worthy servant to the Dark Lord. Draco has always sensed that the recognition and attention he craved from his father was just out of reach, that it would be his as soon as he could prove himself, but he never managed it; he never even came close.
Luna continued on as if Draco had been thinking about her father instead of his, her voice meandering though the air as if lost in a fog. "Yes. Well he's clearly right about some things, like the Snorkacks for example, but I'm starting to wonder about some of the other stories. I've always believed everything he told me was the absolute truth, you see, because I admired him so much. I wanted to be just like him."
"Yeah," Draco said again, and found it eerie that he was not only agreeing with Luna, but talking about (or at least around) a subject he had always been afraid to discuss with anyone. "I think that too. About my own father, I mean."
"Yes, well your father's not very nice," Luna said without the slightest hint of hesitation. "He's a rather cold and unfeeling person, isn't he? And you're quite sensitive. I'm glad you're not like him."
Draco swallowed uncomfortably. When he didn't respond, Luna turned her vague, dreamy eyes on him, and suddenly they didn't seem vague or dreamy at all. They pierced right through him, nailing his heart to the bench behind his back and stripping his soul to the bare, fragile skeleton that shaped it. It wasn't that she seemed suddenly sharp or interested; it was just that she seemed to see everything when she looked at him.
"Will you quit that?" he demanded. It came out a half strangled shout. He leaned away from her protuberant eyes and didn't consider whether or not she would understand that he meant her to stop looking at him.
"Oh, sorry," she said, and just like that her attention unfocused, gazing dreamily around at the scenery once more.
He breathed for a moment in silence, feeling weak and nervous and exposed.
"You know," Luna continued. "A lot of people don't like you very much. But you're not so bad really."
Draco didn't know how to respond to this. He was conscious of how he enjoyed making fun of Loony Lovegood, to anyone who would listen, and how great it had made him feel to insult her and anyone else he thought was beneath him.
"A lot has changed," he said lamely, and didn't know what else to say.
"Yes. You used to be quite mean. You were one of the people who first started calling me Loony. I remember."
Feeling even more uncomfortable, Draco looked down at his shoes and said nothing. He was half inclined to apologize, but too much of a coward to form the words, and not entirely sure he meant them. He thought of several nasty things he could say to get her off his case, but something about her round, knowing eyes gave him pause.
"Do you want to be friends?" he asked instead, and could hardly believe the words coming out of his mouth.
He regretted it as soon as the suggestion was uttered. He was mortally afraid that she was going to pity him, just like all those other saps that used to hate him but now felt sorry for him. He was about to tell her never mind, to sod off for all he cared, that he had been making fun of her by even suggesting it and to let her know that he didn't need any friends, especially at her level, when she put down her paper and beamed at him. Her eyes glowed with innocent friendliness; her whole body seemed to radiant light.
"Sure!" she said. "I'd love to be friends."
"Uh, okay," he said, and racked his brain for what to say next. He had no idea as to the consequences of what he had just done. He tried to imagine himself palling around with Luna, but quickly abandoned speculation before his pride could interfere. He supposed he could always get rid of her later if he needed to, that there were dozens of things he could do and say to make her despise him if it came to it, but the feeling in his chest at the moment was decidedly warm. It was the first warm feeling he had felt in some time, a kind of hopeful feeling that wasn't strung out by high expectations and an obsessive need to prove himself to everyone. He didn't think Luna would notice if he tried to prove himself anyway. Despite her sudden curiosity in Muggle science, she seemed to put more stock in the things she chose to believe than in any reality revealed to her. If she believed they could be friends, despite all evidence to the contrary, then maybe they could.
He sat in silence, staring at the grass while Luna turned back to The Quibbler, reading it now with the magnifying glass. He felt absolutely nothing; no guilt, no fear, no worry, no shame. The moon bathed the grounds of Hogwarts in a soft, shimmering glow, and in the wraithlike light of the predawn, he noticed the dew glistening on the individual blades of grass. A rising wind tousled the hair on his head and fluttered through the blades of grass with a soft, airy whisper. Overhead, the clouds stirred and broke apart, scattering like clumps of dust across the sky, revealing twinkling stars and the silver effulgence of a swiftly setting moon. In the stillness that followed, Draco relaxed.
"You know, you have an attractive smile when you're not sneering," Luna said absently.
A/N: When it comes to experimenting with a new fandom, I have a habit of making the first fic a sort of introspective experiment. I like to try and understand someone else's character and then try to see if I can work that character to relate with my writing style and with other characters in a way that is both interesting and natural. These characters and this fandom are both firsts for me. Please let me know what you think!