Author's Notes: A very Happy Birthday to tooweaktocureyou. Many thanks to the illustrious elucreh for her help, her encouragement, and her many commas. Any remaining errors belong to me.

And Things That Go Bump in the Night

Draco Malfoy considered himself a victim of circumstance, with a particular stress on the word victim.

He could count at least a couple dozen times in his life when he was forced to do something he really didn't want to. He could count another handful of times he was purposely placed in danger by forces outside his control (or highly inconvenienced, which could be just as bad depending on the circumstances). There had also been about a thousand times he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This particular circumstance had the distinction of being a result of all three.

If someone had told him that a noise in the corner of his bedroom would have led to his hiding in a field of three-foot tall grass with Luna Lovegood he would have laughed ...or had him shot - the poor bugger had to be delirious, after all, it would have been a mercy killing.

But there he was. There she was. And the grass was giving him a rash.

He couldn't sleep.

He tossed and turned and sighed and whined and cursed and all he had to show for his troubles was a tangle of sheets and a crick in his neck. It was the same thing every night, every night for well on three months, this horizontal mambo that had nothing to do with the good sort of activities that used to keep him up at night. He probably wouldn't have minded much then, but this…. this was not acceptable.

With a grunt he sat up and headed for the bathroom where he kept a variety of sleeping draughts. He was careful to never use the same one two nights in a row and often abandoned trying to sleep entirely to keep himself from getting addicted to the concoctions. The bags under his eyes and the lines on his face were getting more prominent as the weeks passed. He was growing anxious and jittery, and had developed a twitch. None of which was doing much for his social life.

The bottle of his Quiesco sleeping draught had about a dose and a half left, and while he was usually very careful about administering the medication, tonight he would take all of it. He had the next day off from work so he could sleep in, and he needed the extra bit badly; it had been a particularly difficult week, and considering his abysmal year so far, that was saying something. He was looking forward to a long weekend away from everyone and everything that was most likely the cause of his persistent insomnia, and the bottle of liquid gold in his hand would go a long way to kicking off said long weekend properly.

He was shuffling back to bed when he heard it coming from the corner of his darkened room, a low mumbling as if a score of tiny gnomes were having a conversation. His breath hitched and his spine tingled and his palms were sweating, again all things that would have otherwise been acceptable had he been performing the more enjoyable types of activities that kept him up at night, but this was not acceptable…not even a little.

"Who's there?" He tried to sound confident, but the high lilt in his voice conspired against him. The mumbling ceased immediately which, despite being exactly what he'd wanted, did little to calm his already stretched nerves. He remained rooted to the spot for another few minutes before deciding that he was just hallucinating from the lack of a good night's sleep, and headed back to bed. This couldn't continue, not if he wanted to stay out of St. Mungo's Ward for the Incredibly Mental, or whatever they called it. Without giving the incident much more thought he threw back the contents of the vial and allowed the potion to do its work.

The next day, when he stirred at about half past 3 in the afternoon, he remained in bed for some time trying to convince himself that he had only dreamed the glowing red eyes and voices calling his name from the corner of the room.

His sleeping patterns only deteriorated from that point on. Every night he heard the muted voices coming from the corner of the room, and several times he could have sworn he saw glowing red eyes watching him. He stopped taking all draughts, convincing himself that they were causing damage to his psyche, but it didn't help; the lack of sleep only increased his paranoia.

He tried inviting people over, hoping that having others in his house would help, but soon found that he really didn't like having people in his home so he quickly looked for other solutions. Next, he tried sleeping at their homes, but that didn't help, as their homes were not places he really enjoyed spending a long amount of time. He tried sleeping at hotels, inns, and one bed and breakfast in the country because everyone went on and on about how lovely it was. He tried opening windows, leaving the lights on, and counting imaginary diricawls as they jumped over a fence. Nothing made any sort of difference. As the weeks progressed, the voices got louder— though he still had no idea what they were saying— and the red eyes had become purple.

Draco found himself torn between wanting desperately to sleep and being terrified of allowing it to happen. While it was making him miserable, it was at the same time benefiting him at his place of employment. He was apprenticed to a kindly apothecary who was one of the few people who didn't mind Draco's previous indiscretions and appreciated his ability with a caldron. His recent troubles had caused him to come to work early and stay late, which meant he had caught up on a rather extensive backlog of orders.

"Go home, Draco," Mr. Primrose said imploringly.

"I'm fine," Draco insisted. "I thought I'd get a jump start on the busy holiday season."

Mr. Primrose 's lips turned down in a small frown. "It's August, Draco. We barely have a dozen orders this far in advance."

Draco continued to dice Arethusa roots. "Yes," he began, "but we always get those last minute orders that we have to decline because they take months to prepare. I thought I'd look over old orders and see which were the most popular and get a few started in reserve…."

He felt a hand rest on his shoulder. "I know things have been difficult for you lately, but you're working yourself ragged. It wouldn't do either of us any good to have you collapse from exhaustion. You haven't take any time off in months and -"

"I'm fine," Draco interrupted.

"So you say." The Potion maker looked at his assistant with sadness. Draco couldn't bring himself to look up. He didn't want to see those eyes casting their piteous gaze upon him.

"I insist you take the next week off." He raised a hand to stop Draco's imminent refusal. "You've earned it and a promotion, I think. You were never an apprentice to begin with, too talented by half. You will officially become a junior associate and with that title comes a fair raise…. a raise you will only get if you take the next week off."

This was an example of Draco's 'victim of circumstance' woes. Draco worked long hours because he didn't want to go home. Working long hours got him recognition at work. For him to reap the benefits of this recognition he had to go home. It just wasn't fair.

Draco could think of nothing to say. Mr. Primrose seemed to understand this. "Whatever has been troubling you doesn't seem to be going away, Draco, if the bags under your eyes are any indication. I suggest you spend the next week trying to figure it out. Let me know if you need more time... or if you need anything from me to help you sort this out." The old man gave Draco one of the infuriating smiles that he didn't know quite how to react to.

Draco knew he should say thank you. He wanted to say thank you. But he couldn't bring himself to say much of anything, so he simply nodded his acquiescence. He spent the next several hours finishing up some things so that the shop would be fine without him.

After he closed up for the night, he went to a local pub and got something to drink; a few pints would help bolster his courage quite nicely. And yet, when he finally arrived home, he couldn't bring himself to enter his house. Even with a significant amount of alcohol running through his veins. Instead he sat on the stone steps in front of his door and wondered what the hell he was going to do for the next week. He was considering a trip to the St. Mungo's Ward for the Incredibly Mental when a page from a newspaper that had been carried along the wind slapped him across the face.

He pried the grimy, wind-tossed paper off and was about to throw it across the street when a headline on the bottom corner of one of the pages caught his eye:

A Quibbler Exclusive: Beware the Dream Catchers

By Luna Lovegood Owner/Editor/Chief Reporter/Photographer/Typesetter/Caterer/Dog Walker/T-shirt Designer

A swarm of dreaded Vinklewrips have left Malaysia, traveled up through Indonesia, taken a detour to Madagascar (where they holidayed for several months) before taking a boat to Greece, and finally finding their way to Britain, where they are wreaking havoc on the sleep patterns of hundreds of unsuspecting people.

The Vinklewrips, or Dream Catchers, are identified by their constant and indistinguishable chatter and their glowing eyes, which change color as they gather strength. They are known to try on their victim's shoes and reorganize their sock drawers. They slowly drive their victims mad by first making it impossible for them to get any real sleep and then …

Continued on page 6

And then what? Draco blinked at the short excerpt. It couldn't be. It just couldn't be. He turned the paper over only to note that he didn't actually have page six. Where the hell was page six!

The paper was dated three weeks ago. No shop would still have an issue this old. He blinked a bit more, and then reread the few paragraphs a dozen times.

He ran up to his flat and threw open his closet door. Sure enough, his shoes were strewn about the floor, taken down from the shoe rack that held them. He then ran over to the sock drawer.

Utter mayhem.

Someone had been in his home. Going through his things. This was the last straw. Interrupting his beauty sleep was crime enough but no one - no one - touched his shoes.

Draco didn't even attempt to sleep that night. He sat guard by his violated footwear and waited for morning. After a cold shower and a vat of hot tea he made his way the local book store to see what he could find out about the Vinklewrips. He went through every book he could find on magical creatures, both light and dark. He looked in history texts and in extensive volumes on folklore and mythology. He looked in every section of the vast store and found nothing. After an inquiry of a few of the stores personnel led to three blank stares and one bout of hysterical laughter, he left.

He spent the afternoon making floo calls to several libraries in varying countries including the one where these creatures where supposed to have migrated from in the first place, but no one could help him. No one had the foggiest idea what he was talking about. There seemed to be only one person who might be able to shed some light on this, the Owner/Editor/Chief Reporter/Photographer/Typesetter/Caterer/Dog Walker/T-shirt Designer of the Quibbler. Ms. Luna Lovegood.

The offices of the Quibbler were located in one of the more upscale parts of town. It was easy to locate due to its unusual trapezoid shape and the sign in large gold letters above the front door exclaiming quite definitively that it was most certainly 'Not the Offices of the Quibbler', which Draco assumed was Looney's attempt at confusing the Muggles that resided in the area. The name was also glowing out of one of the windows from a delightfully tacky neon sign. Draco imagined the neighborhood got together regularly to pray for lightning to strike this eyesore down.

He walked through the front door to find a rather subdued looking office containing actual desks with very official-looking people sitting at them. He was rather impressed, as he had imagined a roomful of monkeys flinging poo at each other.

"Can I help you?"

Draco looked down to find the shortest women he'd ever seen, wearing thick glasses and a small frown, staring up at him.

"Good day. I'm looking for Luna Lovegood."

Her eyes raked over him suspiciously. "Do you have an appointment?"

He gave his best 'humble and apologetic' look. "I'm sorry, I don't. I'm an old friend of Luna's from her days at Hogwarts and I wanted to surprise her. Can't I just sneak into her office for a quick moment? I promise not to take too long."

She continued to scrutinize him. Draco thought she probably recognized him but wasn't sure from where. These people probably avoided the Daily Prophet; otherwise she would have known who he was right away. His picture had appeared there more than once. This year especially.

"Ms. Lovegood is currently conducting tests in her office and asked not to be disturbed. You should come back -"

"I can't," Draco interrupted unable to keep a slight panic from his voice completely. "I'll be leaving town tonight…for a ten year expedition…. we're looking for a three-headed…. one-eyed…. purple striped...flibbertigibbet. Yes, that's it. And I need to see her before I go."

The diminutive frog-eyed witch's face lit up. "Oh, how fascinating. I'm sure Ms. Lovegood would want to talk to you. She's been looking for that creature for years. Her offices are located on the second floor in the room marked 'Not the office of Luna Lovegood'.

"Thanks," Draco murmured, and he walked up a long flight of stairs to the place where Looney's office wasn't located.

Draco gave a quick tap on the office door and entered without waiting for any sort of response. He found himself standing before a vast room with a machine operated by no one, cranking out what appeared to be this week's issue. Across the room was a desk with several cauldrons with differently colored fluids bubbling away inside. Behind them, with a clipboard and quill perched in her hand and a pair of goggles big enough to be worn by the Hogwarts' gamekeeper, Hagrid, over her eyes, was Luna Lovegood.

Her blonde hair was twirled atop her head and held in place by a pair of crisscrossed wands with errant strands popping out and framing her face. Draco found himself oddly pleased that she still wore radishes for earrings. There was something almost comforting about it.

"What color do you think that is?" she asked.

Draco just stared at her. "Pardon?"

"Do you think this is a bluish green or a greenish blue?"

"I think it's pink."

Luna lifted the goggles off her face and perched them on her head just in front of the crisscrossed wand so she looked like some sort of giant bug. "Not from this angle."

Draco moved around to her side of the desk, and sure enough there was a turquoise colored potion inside. He swept around again to the opposite side where it was a bright pink.

"That's extraordinary," he said in astonishment. "I've never seen a potion react that way. How did you do it?"

"I didn't."

She didn't elaborate and Draco didn't bother to inquire further. She continued to take notes and he waited patiently for her to acknowledge his presence. After half an hour had passed, he spoke up: "I see you're busy, and I won't take up too much of your time, but I needed to ask you about one of your articles."

"Are you a subscriber?" she asked.

He thought about lying for a moment, figuring she might be a little more willing to talk to him if he was regularly paying reader (he knew he was always more attentive when money was involved), but decided against it. He was too tired to keep up any sort of façade. "No, but I did come across a recent article, or part of one to be precise. The one on the….Vinklewrips….the Dream Catchers."

Luna stopped what she was doing and looked up at him, but still didn't say anything. Draco suddenly felt like an idiot, and that was no small feat considering his present company. "Can you tell me what you know about them?"

She turned her head to the side. "You've seen one, haven't you?"

"No, it couldn't…I might…I'm not sure what it is," he said in defeat. "But there is something there. Something in my house. In my sock drawer."

Luna's bright eyes widened. "Tell me everything."

Lack of any chairs in Luna's workspace meant that they sat on the floor, while Draco recounted his torment of the last months. It felt good to be able to let it all out, all the ridiculous feelings, all the irrational fears. She sat listening rapt to his story, absorbing every word, never laughing or even looking at him with anything other than keen interest. He talked and she listened. Draco felt at that one moment that he could tell her anything, anything at all, without being mocked or ignored or analyzed. He had never felt that way with anyone else in his life.

"You've definitely had an encounter. All the classic signs are there. We'll have to set a trap for them!"

"So they're real, these things." Even after all that he'd been through, he couldn't quite believe they really existed. "They're not in my head."

"They exist, and they are in your head. That's how they attack you, by getting in your head. But just because they're in your head doesn't mean that they are any less real."

Draco wasn't sure what that meant, but he reckoned he wouldn't understand her anyway, so he didn't bother worrying about it. "Why are you the only one who knows about them? Why hasn't anyone else seen them?"

"Lots of people have seen them, but Vinklewrips usually don't stay for more than a week. People assume they are having a rough time sleeping because it's really not a strange thing to happen, is it. They think they're just overstressed and just take some potions and forget about it."

Draco shook his head. "But if people sleep why do they stick around?"

"But people don't sleep. They only think they do. When was the last time you felt truly rested? When was the last time you dreamed?"

Draco had never considered it. It has been years since he felt rested. His dreams were never good, so he really didn't miss not having them. On the contrary, he was grateful to be rid of them.

Luna's expression remained blank as she continued. "Vinklewrips like to attack people who are really stressed because their defenses are already low, making them easy targets. It's easy for them to remain hidden because nobody knows they're there, as the victims are too harassed to realize that there's something else going on. When the source of the strife is gone or forgotten it's harder for them to get in your head, so they just leave. They are innately lazy creatures."

"Why can't I get rid of them? It's been months and they won't go away."

"If the strife never truly goes away, they linger for a long time. They grow stronger. Your life's been in turmoil for years, since school. I'm surprised they haven't gotten to you sooner."

Draco stiffened. "What do you know of my turmoil?"

"I know that this year's been tough, with your father dying in prison and your mother going mad. It must have been at its worst when the Ministry seized your family fortune, leaving you with nothing."

Draco just stared at her. "How do you know all that?"

"You've been in the Prophet a lot lately."

"I didn't think you read that."

"It's my business to know what the competition is doing, even if they ignore the more important stories." She stared her focused, unblinking stare at him. "You seem upset. Was it supposed to be a secret?"

"No, thanks to the Prophet it's public knowledge," he said bitterly. "Everyone knows, they're just courteous enough not to mention it."

Luna remained taciturn. "I don't think it's very courteous to ignore your pain and pretend that there's nothing causing sadness in your life. It sounds like the most discourteous thing a person could do."

Draco had never thought of it that way. It always seemed the polite thing to do, to ignore the blathering of fools and their newspapers. But this wasn't rumor or gossip. His father was dead. His mother was insane. There was pain and sadness, wasn't there? And wasn't she the first person he'd ever met to acknowledge that?

"We need to catch it," she said suddenly.

"What?" he felt slightly dizzy. "We have to what?"

"Catch it. Find its den and catch it before it strikes again. Otherwise, you'll never have peace."

"We can do that? Catch it?"

For the first time he saw her expressionless face change, as her lips curled into the slightest of smiles. "We can do anything."

Luna told Draco that she would meet him at his place later that day, after she had gathered some supplies. She showed up at his home several hours later wearing a rain slicker and fisherman's boots, along with a pith helmet onto which she had affixed a magnifying lens that covered half her face. She carried a satchel that looked like a small forest was trying to break free from it, and Draco was almost sure he saw it move.

"A few supplies?" he asked, with a smile he couldn't repress.

"I could only find one Nargle." She reached in her bag and pulled out a squirming ball of fuzz that was chewing on a piece of mistletoe.

"Do we need more than one?" he asked as he wondered what that thing was supposed to do.

"I would have liked three."

Draco looked down at the ugly puffball. One seemed like more than enough to him. "Come in," he said.

She entered the house and instantly dropped to the floor, where she crawled around poking his furniture with a parsnip she pulled out of the satchel, smelling the carpet as she went from room to room. He thought of asking her what in blazes she was looking for, but didn't bother. This afternoon's discussion had proved to him that he was way out of his league. This was Luna's show, and if he wanted to get on with his life he'd leave her to it.

After an hour of her poking and sniffing she stood up. "They haven't left the bedroom, which is good. Once they move on, they take over your entire house. When they are through with your sock drawer, they go into your bathroom and poke holes in your tube of toothpaste and lift the toilet seat during the middle of the night. They then go into your kitchen and put salt in your sugar bowls and replace all your candy with healthy snacks. Yours haven't progressed that far yet."

Draco supposed it was good news, but the thought of these things anywhere near his toothbrush made him vow to replace everything in the bathroom immediately. "Now what?" he asked.

"If they haven't left the bedroom yet, it means they haven't moved into your home completely. Most likely they are coming in from the outside. We have to find their nest. We'll hide in the grass behind your house to see if we can find where it's coming from."

She spoke so authoritatively Draco almost forgot she wasn't wrapped too tightly. "There is no tall grass behind my house."

Her expression remained unchanged. "Vinklewrips always nest in tall grass."

He huffed. "Well then we have some metropolitan Vinklewrips, because I live in the middle of a city with concrete sidewalks and no tall grass. The nearest grassy patch is a park about two miles away."

"Then we'll wait there," she said plainly.

His first instinct was to laugh because she couldn't be serious, but as he looked at her, he realized that she was never not serious. His next instinct was to tell her to stuff it. This was not reserved for Luna, he told most people to stuff it, but the fact was he had little choice. No one else seemed to be able to give him any useful information, and he needed these things out of his life.

Draco grabbed a blanket and some supplies of his own and headed to the park with Luna Lovegood in tow.

If Draco had to admit it, ('had to' as in 'because a wand was pointed at his privates'), he would have said that it wasn't completely horrible. It was a nice night, a little chilly but it felt good to be wrapped under the blanket with a breeze that brought with it the scent of honeysuckle. The sky above was dotted with stars, and he was amazed how many constellations he remembered from his school days. He sighed as he thought of this.

"Are you all right?" Luna asked.

Draco found the questions odd because he didn't think that Luna ever noticed such things.

"I'm fine. I was just thinking about Hogwarts."

"Why?" she asked, scanning the ground with a telescope with three lenses that forked out like a tripod's legs, with a propeller on the top of the middle section.

He turned to her with narrowed eyes. "Why what?"

"Why are you thinking of Hogwarts?"

He seemed taken aback by the question. "Am I not allowed?"

"I just didn't think that would be a happy thought for you."

"Well it is," he said defensively. "I liked it there."

"That's odd."

He stared at her for a full minute before speaking. "Odd? You are saying I'm odd?"

She pulled the Nargle out of her pocket and fed him the parsnip she used to poke at Draco's furniture. "I thought you were happier now. You're a nicer person anyway."

He huffed. "I'm not nicer. I'm half comatose from lack of sleep."

"You used to be pompous and arrogant, cruel and selfish. You were a royal bastard, if I remember correctly." She paused to look through her telescope again. "Or is it more courteous to ignore that as well?"

Despite himself Draco laughed. Perhaps, that's why he had been happy - he was very good at being a royal bastard. "It was a simpler time," he began, though why he felt compelled to answer at all was beyond him. "It was easier."

"Easier for who?" Luna asked.

"Just easier," he said defensively. "There was less to think about. Less to worry about."

"Just because you chose to ignore what was happening around you or not care about it, doesn't make it an easier time. All it means is that you didn't bother to think for yourself, which is probably why you thought it was easy. You were really just lazy."

Draco snorted. "You're surprisingly mean, you know that?"

"Don't forget discourteous," she added.

He laughed again. Perhaps, this wouldn't be as bad as he thought.

The next several minutes were spent in silence. Luna was stretched out on the grass, keeping watch with her telescope. The Nargle was asleep next to her. At least, Draco assumed it was asleep, as it hadn't moved in some time. It could have very well have been dead, but he'd rather not think about it.

"I'm sorry about your dad," Luna said suddenly. Draco felt his mouth go dry. He stiffened and remained silent. Either Luna didn't sense his discomfort, or she had chosen to ignore it. "My dad died this year as well, that's why I'm running the paper."

Draco had wondered about that. "Well, there's something we have in common then," he said softly, hoping that was the end of the conversation. .

"My mum didn't go mad though. She died years ago, which isn't as bad, I suppose."

Draco couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Not as bad. How can being dead be not as bad?"

"She can't suffer. She can't remember. She can't be in pain. How is not being dead better that that?"

Draco felt his insides churn. He didn't know if she was really crazy, or mean, or just the stupidest person he'd ever met. "You have to stop it," he nearly growled.

"Stop what?" she asked, still searching the grounds with her telescope.

"Talking. Stop talking." His hands were shaking. "Stop saying whatever the hell comes into your dim little mind. Stop talking about things that are none of your concern. Stop pretending you understand me when you understand nothing."

Luna put down her telescope and sat up, her bright wide eyes pointed at him. "I understand that you spend your time ignoring the things that are bothering you. That you are so intent upon not speaking about it, that it is destroying you. That a group of magical creatures that usually only spend days at one location have so much fodder that they have remained for months."

She never raised her voice. It never wavered a single decibel. She spoke as if she was casually commenting on the weather. Which was probably why Draco felt he had to scream. "They are the reason I can't sleep."

"You said your trouble began over five months ago, but you only noticed these creatures two months ago. They aren't the cause."

"So what is?" he demanded.

"I don't know," she said plainly. She sat back and got comfortable. "Why don't you tell me?"

And he did.

Draco erupted, a list of every thing that had happened in his life for the past several years spilling from his mouth. Once he had started, he couldn't stop and it all came out in a rush. His taking the mark under fear of death, his turning spy against the Dark Lord to save his mother's life, his father disowning him for his betrayal.

His mother suffering trying to keep her family together, only to fall apart when her husband died in her arms, still refusing to acknowledge their son.

His friends dying and his not being able to do a damn thing about it.

His inability to support himself, forcing him to take a job he was vastly over qualified for; working for a man who treated him so kindly it scared the hell out of him.

The loneliness. The emptiness.

The Ministry seizing his family's property, leaving his mother unable to pay for her own care. And his feeling that he had failed her over and over again.

Draco was screaming or crying or dying, he could no longer tell the difference. All he knew was that he was that was empty. Blissfully empty. And without a single thought running through his mind, he fell back into the tall grass. The last things he sensed as he slipped away from consciousness were a pair of warm lips placing a soft kiss on his forehead and a low voice bidding him sweet dreams.

Draco woke some time later in his own bed; the Nargle was sharing his pillow.

"Luna?" he called out, his voice low and raspy. He waited a few moments and called out again. When he finally convinced himself he was alone, a fact that bothered him more than it should have, he got up out of bed and trudged to the bathroom.

His body ached, and he was exceedingly drowsy; he had known it would make a while to get back to normal, but he hadn't expected to feel this beaten up. After a long hot shower, he dressed and headed to his kitchen, intent upon eating every bit of food he had in the house. He was scanning the contents of his sadly bare cupboards when he heard the front door open. Luna walked in with several bags of food hovering behind her.

"Finally awake, I see," she said, as the she set the bags to empty themselves on the countertops.

"Yeah," he mumbled, as he hungrily eyed the food. "How long was I out?"

"About two days."

Draco's gaze broke from a pie that was practically calling his name, and turned towards Luna. "Two days?"

"Just over. Do you like eggs? Omelets are the only thing I can cook well."

Without knowing what else to say, he simply shrugged. "An omelet would be wonderful." He watched her crack eggs in a bowl. "I'll make tea."

"You'll make toast too."

He gave her a smile. "I'll make toast too."

They set about putting away groceries and making breakfast in silence. Draco had heard talk of comfortable silences, but never actually experienced one before. It wasn't such a bad thing, and he thought briefly that he could get used to it. He used the time to steal glances at Luna, and thought quite suddenly that he liked the curve of her nose.

"I suppose you feel sort of battered," she remarked, cooking mushrooms for the omelets.

He nodded. "I suppose that's a result of prolonged exposure to the Vinklewrips."

"It's more likely a result of several years worth of emotion being released at once. You went on for some time."

Draco gave his head a small shake. As hard as it was for him to admit, he finally got Luna, understood her. She wasn't mean, not intentionally. She wasn't stupid, not even a little. She was honest and how that honesty affected someone else wasn't her fault.

She was one of the most open people he'd ever met. There were no walls to break down, no masks to get past. There were no games, no pretenses, no expectations, no false fronts. She showed you exactly who she was and either people accepted it or moved on because she wasn't going to change. Not for anyone. He was thankful for that, for her ability to believe the unbelievable. If it wasn't for her….

He found himself suddenly full of affection for the peculiar girl standing next to him. She had helped him when others couldn't. When they wouldn't. She was the last person in the world he had thought he'd ever turn to, and now he found himself saddened that the adventure was over.

It seemed to him that anything with her would be an adventure, and maybe he'd like a little more of that in his life. He wanted to tell her so, but had no idea how to; so he did the first thing that came to mind. He took a page out of her own book and just spoke exactly what was thinking.

"You are, by far the oddest person I know, but against my better judgment and for reasons I can't explain, I really like being with you. I like that you're true to yourself above all else, and that you are genuine whether people want you to be or not. And while you have appalling taste in apparel and your hair really needs some work, I think you are very pretty. I'd like to get to know you better."

It felt amazing to be that honest, even though there was a better than good chance that she would reject him. Knowing that he had said all the things he wanted to say, despite how another person might react, was exhilarating, and he suddenly felt like he couldn't stop.

"I realize that I am no prize at the moment, but I think I can get my life back together now that I've finally let go of some things. And let's face it, you already know everything about me so there's no chance of discovering something later on that you mightn't like. You know things I didn't even know before last night…or two nights ago.. whatever. The point is – "

He never actually got to the point because that was the moment that Luna chose to shut him up with a kiss planted firmly on his lips. He pulled her closer as her arms reached over his shoulders and her fingers weaved through his hair. If it hadn't been for the smell of burning toast, he might never have let her go.

They pulled apart, and he retrieved the toast before the house filled with smoke. He turned back to her to see she was smiling, and he was surprised at how happy that made him feel. For the first time since this whole ordeal had started, he found himself thankful that had come into contact with the little dream-stealing beasts.

"Did we ever catch a Vinklewrip?" he asked as he set the blackened toast on the table and went for some butter and jam.

"No, but they won't come back."

He wanted to ask how she could be so sure, but he didn't. He believed her and that was enough to be going on with.