These Accidents of Faith
Written for the 2009 Clever Claws Fic/Art Exchange
by Kihin Ranno
December 20, 1997
By the time Draco arrived home from the station, he was weary from the tips of his eyelashes through to his bones. He was not tired, he was not exhausted, he was not even dogged – he was weary. He'd thought he had pushed his body to its limits one year ago by not sleeping and locking himself up in the Room of Hidden Things to get that damn cabinet working. He'd nearly fallen apart on that horrible night in the Tower when his favorite teacher killed his headmaster, when Professor Snape's silken voice had turned rough and course and "Run!" had coursed through Draco's body like a baying wolf. He'd run, and he swore it had nearly killed him, but he'd survived.
And to think, he'd done it all just to return to a Hogwarts that was more prison than school. He'd done it all so that Crabbe and Goyle, who had never been good at anything, could discover they were very good at hurting people with the Cruciatus Curse and other Unforgiveables. He'd done it all to wake up in the middle of the night to hear students screaming, then to simply roll over and try to block it out, hoping it was one of theirs and not a Slytherin. He'd done it all to feel trapped in a war he'd never meant to fight. Weary was the only way he could describe how he felt. All he wanted to do was bury his head in his mother's arms and let her smooth her hands through his hair until he fell asleep for a week.
Since he was now four inches taller than his mother and this did not seem like appropriate behavior for anyone over the age of five, Draco realized he would just have to settle with sleeping for a week.
"Oh, our poor little Draco."
Draco could not keep his lip from curling at the sound of that throaty, creaking voice attempting to coo at him. But as he turned, he evened his mouth into what he hoped appeared to be a warm smile. "Auntie Bellatrix."
Draco's one consolation in returning home was that, although it was still used as a base of operations for the Dark Lord and the Death Eaters, most were so busy with the war effort that they rarely made appearances at the manor. Most often, people would stop off to nurse wounds, eat, sleep, and be on their way, according to his mother. She rarely saw many of them. However, following the disgrace of the Malfoys, Bellatrix had fallen in Voldemort's esteem considerably, which left her more or less permanently holed up at the manor. His father, wandless and equally downtrodden, was not so lucky. Draco had no idea what Lucius might be doing without his magic to sustain him, but the Dark Lord had obviously thought of something. His father hadn't been home since before Draco went off to school. And all Draco could do was force a smile despite this supreme unfairness and deal with his aunt, who perhaps thought of the Malfoy heir as a ray of hope for a crumbling family line.
She moved forward and held his thin face in her hands, smoothing over his cheeks with thumbs tipped with fingernails filed to a point. She painted them red, though sometimes Draco thought quite seriously that they were permanently stained that way from blood. He hoped this wasn't a symptom of an impending nervous breakdown. "Did the ruckus on the train disturb my dear little nephew's trip home?"
Draco had no idea what she was on about, but then he usually didn't. Most days, he just tuned her out, nodded constantly, and occasionally threw in something about hating Mudbloods and his devotion to the Dark Lord. It hadn't steered him wrong yet.
"I slept the whole way," he explained, feigning a yawn so that Bellatrix would stop touching him. "Was there a Gryffindor uprising? That Longbottom has been quite the upstart, along with that wench, Weasley."
Bellatrix's eyes lit up like a manic Christmas tree, and Draco regretted whatever he had said to make her look at him that way. Her nails dug into his shoulders and squeezed like a vice. "Then you don't know!"
"Er, no," Draco said, scrambling for a tactful way to extricate himself from the embrace. "Mother and I came home at once what with… things." He waved his hands vaguely in a sad attempt to encompass the war, the Dark Lord's insurrection, and the rising body count.
Bellatrix smiled at him like a knife flashing in the dark. "Do me a favor, dear nephew. It's nearly supper time, and our… guests downstairs will be needing their food. Why don't you take it to them?"
Draco couldn't stop from wrinkling his nose. "Don't we have house elves for that?"
She chuckled and patted his cheek, but with enough force to warn him that it could have easily become a slap. "Just do it, Draco. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at what you find there." Then she released him and slithered away, moving along the white halls of Malfoy manor like a twisting shadow.
Draco didn't suppress his shudder of disgust once her back was turned. "I very much doubt that, Auntie Bella."
Still, he followed her instructions to the letter. Given her relationship with the Dark Lord and her propensity to kill her own flesh and blood if given a reason and the opportunity, he didn't have much of a choice. He went straight to the kitchens and, after explaining the situation to the very confused house elves – and then assuring them that no, it was fine, they needn't fret over not being asked to do this particular chore, and would they please stop groveling all over his nice shoes – took the tray down the dungeons. He was dismayed but not particularly surprised to find that there was a second set of hastily assembled food and dingy water crammed onto the tray. He had suspected from Bellatrix's intimations that someone had been taken from the train. Doubtless it was a classmate, and probably someone Draco did not get on with. There was no shortage of those this year.
The most obvious answer to the question was Potter, but of course that was ridiculous. Bellatrix would have been foaming at the mouth from delight if they had Potter in their clutches. Besides, he was off with Granger and Weasley on a death-defying quest to do Merlin only knew what. Save the wizarding world, he supposed.
Other than Potter, there was no one Draco could muster up the energy to hate. Certainly, there were plenty who weren't thrilled with him. It was no secret who had let the Death Eaters into Hogwarts. During the decidedly awkward first dinner in the Great Hall, Ginny Weasley had stridden over to the Slytherin table and punched him in the mouth. Not even Pansy Parkinson could blame her. Everyone knew about her brother's face.
No one else hit him, mostly because he was clearly under the protection of Amycus, Alecto, and Prof – no, Headmaster Snape. But he did not miss the whispers, the furtive glances, or the way he seemed to get bumped viciously in crowded halls by mysterious passers-by.
Draco shook his head, clearing away the cobwebs of resentment. He was home now. Home, where he couldn't be subtly bullied, where he didn't have to watch torturing become part of the daily disciplinary regime, where he didn't have to listen to Pansy soothe hysterical first years who were terrified they would be next, Pureblood or no. It didn't matter who Bellatrix had brought home or why. It wouldn't change a thing.
This is what Draco told himself. He held to it as he finished descending the stairs, as he looped around the labyrinthine twists that comprised his family's dungeons, and as he rounded that final corner that led him to the cells where their "guests" were staying. He held to it as he looked at Ollivander curled up in the corner, catatonic as always. It lasted right up until he saw a pair of dreamy grey eyes staring into the middle distance, hovering over a set of blood-stained Ravenclaw robes.
Then he promptly dropped the tray, splashing foul-smelling food and water all over his trousers.
"Damn it!" he swore, shaking them out.
Luna Lovegood tilted her head to the side, and as the light fell onto her face differently, Draco could easily make out the bruise forming over her right eye and the haphazardly cleaned, dried blood surrounding the other. "You're surprised to see me."
"Obviously," he snapped, yanking his wand from his pocket. "Scourgify!"
She was still giving him that look – the one where he didn't actually think she was looking at him, but somehow through, around, and behind him all at once. Her eyes had always unnerved him. "Why would they not tell you it was me? They wanted to surprise you, but it's not a very good surprise. It's not as though we're friends."
Draco wanted to laugh at the madness of the situation and of her, but he was afraid she would take this as an overture that he was willing to join her in a cult of people with deficient mental statuses. "My Aunt Bellatrix has a strange sense of humor."
Luna's eyes turned frosty, like a distant winter storm. "Bellatrix Lestrange is a terrible woman. She drove the Longbottoms mad."
Draco had absolutely no idea about this, and he didn't want to know. He couldn't say he was all that surprised. "They should count themselves lucky she didn't kill them."
"No," Luna said with cold certainty. "They shouldn't."
Draco stared at her, at those eyes that perpetually focused on nothing and everything all at once, and shivered. He comforted himself with the knowledge that the dungeons were not well insulated. "What are you even doing here, Loony? I thought it might be one of the Terrible Trio, Longbottom, or Girl Weasley at least."
"Her name is Ginny; he's Neville," Luna supplied. "And I'm Luna."
Draco rolled his eyes dramatically. "I know."
She shrugged, unperturbed. "I sometimes wonder if people get so used to nicknames they forget people's real ones." She stood and walked to the other end of her cell. Draco saw she was limping. "Anyway, I don't know if they wanted Ginny or Neville, but they wouldn't have gotten them. Ginny's brothers – Fred and George – came by and picked her up in a flying car some time ago. I'm afraid I can't tell you where Neville is, but then I don't know exactly myself." She paused. "He's very brave, you know."
Draco wondered how anyone could bear talking to her without wanting to ram their head through a wall. "That doesn't explain why you're here."
"All they told me was that they need my father to do something," Luna said, sounding a little sad. "I expect I'm leverage. He'll do whatever they ask. He loves me quite a bit."
"Good for you," he muttered irritably. Then he turned and prepared to advance the stairs. "I'll send an elf down with food for you two."
He walked exactly three steps before Luna's voice flew through the air like a soft breeze.
"Why did you drop the tray?"
He glared at her over his shoulder. "I told you. I was surprised."
"You knew someone would be down here," she surmised. "You admitted as much, just as you admitted that you were not expecting me specifically." She tilted her head to the other side. The dried blood against her white skin blazed like holly berries in fallen snow. "Are you disappointed because I'm not as much fun to make fun of? Because I don't get angry at you like the others?"
Draco stared at her, and Luna stared right back. He gritted his teeth, sputtered, and then tore out of the dungeons like a man with a mission. After barking orders at a tittering house elf, he continued stomping through the manor, walking briskly and with purpose. It was not long before he fulfilled his purpose and found his mother.
"Loony Lovegood is in the cellar!"
Narcissa Malfoy looked at him through the reflection of the mirror on her vanity, arching a platinum eyebrow like a pale Mona Lisa. "I fail to see why you feel this deserves such shrill exclamations, Draco."
Draco saw his cheeks turning pink in the mirror. "She's my classmate!"
Narcissa exhaled quietly. She never sighed; she thought it was unbecoming both a Black and a Malfoy. She spun in her chair with the grace of a swan and said, "Is she in Slytherin?"
"No," Draco muttered, knowing where this was going.
"Is she in your year?"
"Have you had any dalliances with her that would make social interactions at all awkward?"
"No—What? No!" His pink cheeks morphed into scarlet. "Why would you even say that?"
His mother shrugged as if to say that it was not her concern what boys did with their raging hormones and wandering hands. "It was merely a question. At any rate, I fail to see why you are so unnerved by this."
In truth, Draco wasn't entirely sure himself.
Though Luna had seemed fairly certain.
Draco tossed the thought away violently. "I just wasn't expecting her. Aunt Bellatrix sent me down there…. I thought it would be someone else. Not Potter," he added hastily. "She wasn't nearly pleased enough for that. But I…." He shook his head and sagged. "I'm sorry, Mother. I have no idea what I'm saying."
He heard Narcissa's velvet robes rustle as she rose from her seat and crossed over to him. Draco felt as if the world stopped turning when she took him in his arms. He tucked his nose into her shoulder, even though it was liable to leave a crick in his neck, and closed his eyes as her fingers wound their way into his hair. He felt as though she unwound the knots in his back just by standing there, and he was overcome by the childish instinct to never let go of her.
"It's all right, Draco," she pacified. "I know things have been… difficult at school."
He laughed dryly. "Mother, I had no idea you had such talent for understatement. Really, I think we could sell tickets."
She rapped him gently on his ear. "At any rate, I understand how unsettling it must be to see one of your classmates, however distant, locked up in our home, even if you knew prior to going down there."
Draco felt cheered by this suggestion.
"I wish I could tell you that you could go about things as normal here without ever thinking about either Mr. Ollivander or Ms. Lovegood—"
Draco groaned. "Oh, but I am so blissful and happy in this moment. Why must you spoil it?"
"But," Narcissa pressed on, "Bellatrix has suggested that you take care of looking after the prisoners. Which includes food delivery and other such tasks." Narcissa raised her eyebrows meaningfully, silently communicating all manner of bloody tortures Bellatrix would have delighted in.
Draco felt very much like crumpling into a tiny, pale, Pureblood ball, plugging his ears, and singing "Weasley Is Our King" at the top of his lungs until the war was over. In reality, he simply released his mother and asked, "What gave her that idea?"
"You know how she is," Narcissa said, dismissing her sister's psychosis with an artful shrug. "She thought it might cheer you up."
"This may come as a surprise to her, but not everyone's life is made better by making small children cry."
"Yes, well," Narcissa murmured, brushing imaginary dust off Draco's shoulders. "Don't tell her that, Draco. No need to upset her."
Recalling what had happened to Peter Pettigrew the last time that rat had upset his aunt, Draco felt inclined to agree.
"Fine," he growled, cracking his jaw loudly. "I'll do it. But I won't enjoy it."
"All right," his mother crooned, giving his shoulders an extra squeeze. "But do try to pretend. I don't need to tell you how insufferable Bellatrix is when she's cross."
"Insufferable," Draco repeated, shaking his head. "My mother, the Queen of Anti-Hyperbole. Shocking that I never knew."
Narcissa seemed torn between frowning and smiling. She settled with sending him on his way, informing him that dinner would be ready shortly, and that they would likely have to deal with the ever-present Pettigrew but no others. He paused in the doorway, his fingers circling the cold doorknob like the Snitch he'd never caught.
"Hm?" she asked, distracted by running a brush through her exquisite hair.
"I heard something about Aunt Bellatrix and the Longbottoms."
The hairbrush clattered to the ground, and her hand held nothing but the empty air.
"Don't talk about it," Narcissa whispered, her voice intimating secrets and nightmares he could not yet imagine.
After everything he'd done, after everything he'd seen, Draco had no interest in learning something worse.
"As you wish," he answered easily, pulling the door shut behind him, shivering, and wondering why the house elves couldn't keep the house at a temperature fit for human population.
December 22, 1997
For two days, Draco shouldered the responsibility of delivering food to the family prisoners valiantly. Upon seeing Luna on the first day, he had scowled at her. She had merely continued to stare.
"You didn't drop the food," she'd said, forever pointing out what was obvious.
"I don't want to talk to you," he'd snarled, deciding to take just this one queue from what was obviously a crazy person.
The she'd smiled at him! "Okay, Malfoy."
Impossible. The girl was impossible.
On the second full day of having the prisoners in his care, he broke his silence. He hadn't honestly thought he would make it through the rest of Winter Break without talking to her – after all, Draco did have a rather nasty habit of running his mouth off – but he had hoped he would make it more than forty-eight hours.
But seeing a girl with her back bent and her body forming a human bridge was the sort of thing that begged for comment.
"What in the name of Circe's loom are you doing?"
"Hello, Malfoy," Luna sang out, her voice straining what with her body bent up in a rainbow. "Give me a moment, will you?" She began to rock back and forth, switching her weight from her feet to her fingertips until she managed to displace it so much that she actually straightened up, her face flushed and hazy eyes bright. "You're talking to me."
Draco felt his eyebrow twitch violently. "Yes, well. I'm not quite used to walking in on people doing… whatever it was you just did."
"It's called an ashtanga dropback," she explained blithely, as if this was an enlightening enough explanation. He was going to demand more, but then she kept talking. "It's a yoga pose that helps develop core muscles."
Draco wondered if it was natural to feel so completely lost talking to a Ravenclaw, insane or no. "Huh?"
"It's a series of posing and stretches that are associated with meditative practices in Hinduism and Buddhism," Luna supplied. "I find it very relaxing."
Draco couldn't help but gape. "My spine is weeping just thinking about what you did."
"Spines can't think, much less weep."
Draco would have slapped his own face if he hadn't still been holding the tray. He sighed and shrunk down the food so that it could pass through the bars. Ollivander didn't seem to be aware of anything when he was down there, but Draco always found the tray empty on his next trip to the dungeons. Luna sank down to the ground, folding her legs up underneath her, and set about eating as if she was at a picnic.
"You might want to give yoga or something similar a try," she suggested suddenly, breaking apart her stale bread.
Draco looked at her with unconcealed horror. "And break my neck? No thank you. I know a plot when I hear one."
Luna smiled at him in that disturbing way she had about doing everything, up to and including breathing. "Draco, I'm not plotting to kill you. I think I'd let you know if I was."
He had no idea what she meant by this, so he just let her keep talking.
"There are far simpler yoga poses," she continued. "I can only do that one because I've been practicing for years. But the simple art of stretching your body in meditative silence can be quite the stress reliever, which I think you need." She popped a tiny morsel of bread into her mouth and chewed it thoughtfully. "You're obviously very tense."
He did not know if it was ironic that he tensed at her observation, but he had a feeling it was not the reaction his father would have approved of. "I don't know what you mean."
"Funny," Luna said in that soprano-songbird voice of hers. "So many people say that to me."
Draco had had his fill of her nonsense for several lifetimes. He turned to go and ignored her calling out that she would see him the next day.
He prayed he would not catch her in another backbend.
December 25, 1997
Christmas at Malfoy Manor had always been Draco's favorite part of the holidays. He loved being at the center of attention when it was just him and his parents. He loved his mother fussing over him to see if he was happy. He loved hearing his father proudly explain the reasoning behind the more adult gifts and how they would help Draco become a better man and a better Malfoy. And he loved the annual party his mother threw.
That is, he'd loved it through his Fourth Year. After that, everything was different.
During his Fifth Year, his father, mother, and all guests in attendance for the soiree had danced as if they were trying to avoid broken glass. So many groups had wandered off into corners to whisper in high, frantic voices, eyes darting about for unwanted eavesdroppers. He and the other Slytherin schoolmates who had attended hadn't been able to enjoy themselves in the uncomfortable atmosphere. They had all noted at least one of their parents, uncles, brothers, aunts, sisters, and cousins rubbing their left forearm. No one mentioned this aloud, refusing to acknowledge its significance.
During his Sixth Year, there had been no party. With his father in Azkaban, his mother hadn't been able to bear the thought. Draco hadn't blamed her. He was too exhausted to think, much less be sociable. He'd spent the first five days of Christmas vacation laid up near his mother, and then he'd promptly returned to Hogwarts to continue his mission.
This year, Draco found himself to be the sole child amongst a sea of Death Eaters. The air did not feel as repressive as it had two years before, and in some ways, this was worse. Every member of the dark order strutted around with assumed confidence, assured that they would win and certain that their Lord would find and kill the upstart Potter boy within days, if not hours. It would be the perfect Christmas present for him, after all. And they all knew how the Dark Lord disliked Christmas.
The idea of a megalomaniac dark wizard who hated Christmas seemed so ludicrously predictable that Draco would have laughed if only it were fiction. As it was, he found nothing at all funny. Not about anything.
His one blessing, he supposed, was that the Dark Lord was not in attendance. He wished Pansy or Blaise were there so he could make a joke about Voldemort being a huge buzzkill. He would have wished for Crabbe and Goyle too, but they never got his jokes. And the lack of former Professor Snape stung as well, though he understood the necessity of his absence. The Headmaster of Hogwarts in the best of times could not be away from the castle around Christmastime; the Headmaster of Hogwarts attempting to reign in the mad Carrows while adhering to the Dark Lord's edicts was a task that required constant attention. A Malfoy gala's frivolity, however important to social standing, paled in comparison.
But other than that one reprieve, there was nothing he could even pretend to like about the party. It was just as it had been before he'd left for school. Murderers and deviants all around him, and he had to kowtow to them all, lest they think he wasn't grateful for surviving the Dark Lord's disappointment. Bellatrix's too-loud cackle echoed across the vaulted ceilings of Malfoy Manor, no doubt recounting some past glory in hopes of ascending the ranks. He imagined he could feel her nails scraping against his back and drawing blood each time he heard her.
His father had returned from whatever mission the Dark Lord had sent him off on that month. He looked far more frail than the last time Draco had seen him, wasting away before his very eyes. He imagined that everyone there joked that Lucius would not live to see their glorious ascent to power.
Worst of all was his mother. He stared at her from across the ballroom, memorizing the lines forming around her red mouth and the way her face seemed frozen into a proud smile. He knew how much it hurt her to keep her back straight and her head tall while her so-called friends danced around them, not daring to offer a kind word or sympathetic touch for fear of earning the Dark Lord's ire. He knew how much she wanted to rage at them and tear the ballroom down brick by brick until she crushed each one of them beneath the stone.
He felt the same way, after all.
After just three hours making forced small talk with patriarchs attempting to court him without making promises – in case he rose above his father's mistakes – and Death Eater wives whispering drunkenly in his ear, attempting to slip their hands in his trousers, he couldn't take it anymore. He'd slipped away quietly, hoping that no one, particularly his aunt, would notice his absence. He was contemplating returning to his bedroom so that he could feign a headache if anyone asked, when he saw a house elf toddling off in the directions of the dungeons.
The elf leapt and spun to face him, trembling at the sound of his voice so that the cutlery on the tray clanged loudly against the metal. He wished he could say that the war had affected even house elves, but the truth was that they'd always been this pathetic. "Y-yes, Master Mal-Malfoy?"
Draco couldn't help but scoff. He advanced toward the terrified servant and practically yanked the food out of his clutching hands. "Idiot." Then he made his own way downstairs.
To his supreme relief, Luna was not at this moment contorting her body into any unsettling poses. Unfortunately, his relief evaporated when he saw that she wasn't moving at all.
Cursing, he discarded the food and ran. Without a second thought, he spelled the door open with an incantation only a Malfoy descendant could recite, and then crouched down beside her. When she'd been brought to the manor, it was clear she'd been beaten, but he'd assumed it had been incidental to her kidnapping. And it had clearly been superficial, what with her anathema backdrops or whatever she'd called them.
He'd seen this before. He knew it as he knew the scents of his dreams. Bellatrix had been here.
"Loony?" Draco asked, gently pushing against her shoulder. She didn't stir. "Loony, wake up."
His hand slipped from her shoulder to the flesh of her neck, and he immediately panicked at the chill. He'd seen people die. He knew how cold they became once their life slipped from their final breaths. His stomach twisted.
He grabbed her by both shoulders and pulled her upright, shaking her with violence. "Loony Lovegood, if you are dead, I am going to beat you senseless."
He didn't like this girl, didn't even know her, but Draco Malfoy had had enough of death long ago. He didn't want to see it happen to her, even if she did set his teeth on edge.
She moaned quietly, but it was like sweet music to Draco. He softened his grip on her arms, but kept her propped. He vaguely remembered his minimal knowledge of first aid, and it occurred to him that a cardinal rule was not to move the injured person in question.
"So you do know my name," she murmured, eyelashes fluttering like tiny butterflies dipped in ink.
He nearly laughed at this ridiculous comment, but he feared if he started, he'd never stop. "Of course I know it. I told you I did."
"You've never used it before."
Frequently, Draco felt at a loss as to how to respond to the things Luna said. This was yet another instance where he felt awkward and hesitated to speak. What could he say? 'Yes, you see, I think Loony is a genius nickname that I may or may not have come up with myself, so of course I call you that. It is rather catchy.'
He settled for, "I suppose it is uncharitable not to use your given name, seeing as you've been tortured."
She made a sound that might have been a chuckle, but it was so strangled by pain that he couldn't be certain. "You say very strange things sometimes."
"Pot. Kettle. Black," he quipped. He then started to look up and down her body, checking her limbs for obvious breaks or signs of any truly serious problems. "Did she hurt you very badly?"
"The Cruciatus Curse is very painful," she said, as if he hadn't learned that first hand ages ago. "But that's all she did. She was quite drunk and couldn't focus her intent very well. I suspect it could have been much worse."
Draco remembered his mother's face after he'd brought up Neville Longbottom's parents. "It's probably ludicrous of me to ask this, but I don't suppose she gave you a reason for… doing it?"
He felt Luna's muscles stiffen beneath his hands. "She brought down a few people from the party you're having. I assume they were Death Eaters, but they weren't wearing their masks."
Draco tried to swallow, but his throat was dry. "They don't bother anymore. They think they're going to win."
"They're wrong," she informed him matter-of-factly.
Alone as they were with only the nigh-comatose wandmaker to witness their conversation, he didn't dare respond.
"She said she was going to give me a Christmas present," Luna murmured. "Then she pointed her wand, and—"
"I know," Draco interrupted, his voice ragged. "You don't have to tell me the rest."
Luna nodded, shifting her weight slowly. He was neither surprised nor offended when she rested her head on his shoulder. He knew how hard it was to keep your eyes open after being at the business end of Bellatrix's wand, much less sit up. She still felt cold as death. "She doesn't give very good Christmas presents, does she?"
Draco snorted. "Not especially, no."
"What did she give you?"
"A serrated knife. She explained to me that if you stab someone with it in the right spot and then pull it out, you rip out their entrails. And that doesn't even kill them." He paused. "I'm sorry. You didn't need to know that."
"Why?" she asked, genuinely curious. "I asked. You answered. It only would have been wrong if you'd given me misinformation."
He found himself smirking. "That seems like a very Ravenclaw thing to say."
"The Sorting Hat didn't hesitate for very long before it placed me," she informed him, sounding a bit sleepy. He twitched a bit to keep her awake, vaguely remembering something about concussions resulting from the seizures the Cruciatus Curse sometimes caused. "I do think I would have done all right in Gryffindor though. I've been quite brave."
Draco reflected on this. He didn't favor courage as a virtue to strive for, but Ollivander, a grown man, had spent his first month of captivity sobbing, pleading, and soiling himself before retreating into his own dream world. Luna had treated her imprisonment as something mildly unpleasant at worst. He hadn't even seen her cry, though he saw evidence of it now after Bellatrix's treatment. She'd cried, but he hadn't heard her scream.
"I suppose you have been," he admitted grudgingly. "But please don't talk about that house in my presence. It offends me."
"I don't really want to talk about it either," Luna said. "It reminds me of Ginny and Neville and how much I miss them. I just like being brave."
He noticed that she didn't mention Potter or his two-member fan club. He wondered if this was her attempt at tact.
"I didn't even know it was Christmas." Something about her voice reminded him of the silver bells on sleighs, though he hadn't ridden in one since he was a child. "I tried to keep track of the days, but I'd blacked out for awhile before you came down here. I didn't know long it had been for."
He sighed ruefully. "I'd say Happy Christmas, but that doesn't feel very appropriate."
She nodded in agreement. "Are you having a nice Christmas, Draco?"
He snorted. "I don't think anyone is this year."
"At least you don't have to worry about getting snatched or attacked just because of who your parents are."
He winced at the sting in her words, but her tone was as soft as ever. He knew she wasn't trying to hurt him. She simply stated the truth. He guessed no one had ever had the heart to tell her how painful her honesty could be. "No. No, I don't."
She furrowed her brow, forming thin creases in her skin, paler than the moonlight. "But that doesn't mean you're happy either."
Once again, he couldn't bring himself to answer.
"I appreciate you helping me," Luna said, "but I'm very tired, Draco. Do you think I could sleep? I didn't hit my head at all."
He nearly mentioned something about mind-reading, but decided against it. "You should eat something."
"I wouldn't be able to keep it down."
He looked away, staring off into the depths of the hallways. It looked as if they were being swallowed by darkness, and not even the strategically placed torches with magicked fire could fight against it. He wondered if it had always been so, or if this too was a symptom of the war disease. Everything seemed to be different now. He used to believe in everything his parents told him and was once certain that they would always be there when he needed them. He knew better now, and this was one of many aspects of life he no longer believed in absolutely. The atmosphere of war colored everything, and it spread like the Black Death.
How funny that from what little he knew of Luna Lovegood, he believed that she hadn't changed at all.
"I can't let you out," he muttered.
"I didn't ask you to."
"But you want me to."
"Of course I do," she whispered on an exhale. Her breathing was deepening; she was already starting to fall asleep. "I've looked for an escape and figured out that it's quite useless. But I know you can't help me. I know what they'd do to you."
He scowled at the empty corridors. "Potter would let you go."
He had no idea what had possessed him to say that.
"I don't expect you to do what Harry would do," Luna told him reasonably. "You're not him."
Normally, he would have thanked Merlin for that, but even though he still hated Potter, which would naturally mean that he didn't want to be him, he was no longer so sure about either assessment. Certainly if he were Potter or even like Potter, he wouldn't be in this position.
Of course, he would probably be dead, and that wasn't any better.
"Don't worry about letting me go. I won't say I don't mind staying here, but I can be patient. I don't expect anything from you." Her breath whistled in and out. "It's all right. I know you're not brave."
That was the last thing she said to him before she fell asleep.
He stayed there for the better part of an hour, listening to the sound of her sleeping. She talked, mostly about Nargles, Snorkacks, and some other made up creatures. Sometimes she said things he couldn't understand, maybe answers to past riddles that had let her in Ravenclaw tower. Once she said something about her mother.
After awhile, he rose to his feet and deposited the food in the prison cell. He began to walk away, casting a warming charm over her robes as an afterthought. Then he shut the door of the cage, spelling it locked. And all the while, her words echoed in the back of his mind.
It's all right. I know you're not brave.
December 26, 1997
The next morning, Draco was given another unwanted surprise.
"What do you mean, I'm not going back to Hogwarts?" he demanded, pounding one fist against the breakfast table. It occurred to him that this bordered on a tantrum, but he decided he didn't care.
Narcissa took a slow sip of her tea, her pinky extended as daintily as ever. "I was unaware something in my statement was unclear."
Sometimes, Draco swore that adult-aged Slytherins like his mother, father, and Snape had all been taught a certain kind of diction purposefully meant to drive the children in their care up the wall. "I know what you meant of course, but I think I deserve more explanation than 'I said so.'"
She gave him a dangerous look but answered him easily enough. "Did you know that Alecto and Amycus Carrow were in attendance last evening?"
The blood in Draco's body pooled somewhere around his feet. "No. I… I didn't see them."
Narcissa stabbed at her breakfast with unusual vehemence. "You'd already retired to your bedroom due to your… headache. And thankfully, they did not stay long."
Draco's eyes darted around the room, seeking out all of the hidden corners. Bellatrix may have still been abed, nursing her hangover, but that didn't mean that she hadn't enlisted the house elves or other spies to eavesdrop. And there was always Pettigrew, who was useless save for his Animagi capabilities. "Mother—"
"Your aunt knows how I feel about them," Narcissa informed him with icicles in her voice. "For the few minutes they stayed, I was regaled with a number of stories about the 'improvements' they have made to the curriculum as well as to punishment practices at your school." She slammed down her knife and fork with an uncharacteristically inelegant movement. "Why didn't you tell me about the extent of this?"
Draco's eyes fell away from her steel gaze. "I didn't want to worry you, so I… left out some details."
"Details?" Narcissa spat. "Fiendfyre? Unforgiveables? Curses from Romania and Russia and the Ukraine that I cannot even hope to pronounce – though I must say, I can easily regale you with their effects in startling detail. You consider these mere details?"
"They have never used them on me," Draco insisted through clenched teeth.
Narcissa curled her fingers in exasperation. "Of course not, Draco. You were responsible for getting them into Hogwarts to begin with, even if you did not complete your entire mission as instructed."
Draco gripped his chair to keep from leaping out of it. "I told you not to bring that up."
"I mention it only to remind you why they have not turned on you," Narcissa said crisply. "But don't think that this means you're safe. You know your father's position. The Dark Lord keeps him around as an amusement, his own white peacock to gawk at – a human house elf to torture!" Narcissa's eyes glittered with tears, but Draco knew they would not fall. Throughout everything, she had never once cried in front of him. "Should your father fail the Dark Lord again, they may very well turn their wands on you. Or worse, they will order Vincent or Gregory to do it. Perhaps Pansy, though I was not told of her prodigious talent for their methods."
Draco felt like he might be ill at the thought. "They wouldn't. They're my friends."
"Your friends care for you. I know that," Narcissa whispered fiercely. "But above anything else, they will want to live. Should one of the Carrows order them to torture you, do not delude yourself into thinking that their love for you will stop them."
Draco ducked his head. He could not look at her anymore.
Narcissa did not speak for a few minutes, but when she did address him again, her voice was less hard. "I don't say this to hurt you. You deserve the truth. It would be worse if I lied to you."
There was something both disheartening and absolutely hysterical about the fact that his mother and Luna Lovegood shared views on anything, least of all honesty.
He heard the rustling of fabric as she rose from her seat and crossed to him. "You need to be prepared for this reality. In normal circumstances, I would trust your friends with your life. Slytherin loyalties run deep." He felt her hand on his shoulder. The weight of it felt unbearable. "But it does not supersede a Slytherin's will to survive. If you were in their position, I expect that you would do this as well. I have raised you that way."
He recognized the pride in her voice and could not decide how he felt about it.
"Leaving you in that school is a risk I am not willing to take. After they left, I spoke to the other parents. Not all of them share my views, but they are not in our position." She hesitated. "I did hear from some that Slytherins have not been wholly exempt from their punishments."
He closed his eyes and remembered the screaming. "Usually we are. We're smart enough not to attract their attention. But some of the First Years haven't been around for very long."
Her grip tightened, and he realized that his mother and Bellatrix had the same hands.
"He'll know why I'm not there," Draco muttered. There was no need to ask to whom he referred. "He won't even need Legilimency to see why."
"Let him," Narcissa said brazenly. She bent down and wrapped her arms around him, holding him with a possessive air that would have frightened him if he'd had the strength. "Let the Dark Lord know what I will risk for my son."
Once he'd finished his breakfast, Draco made the now routine trip down the dungeons. In light of Luna's condition, he'd added a few extra items to the tray outside of the watchful eyes of house elves. He'd been expecting to find Luna still curled up on the floor of her cell, but the Sixth Year continued to defy his expectations. When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he saw Luna, amazingly upright and walking. He watched her move back and forth over the same small patch of ground and noted that her limp had gotten worse and that each action seemed to cause her pain.
"Must every woman in my life seek to drive me to my wit's end?" he muttered darkly, deciding not to dwell on the realization that Luna Lovegood was officially "a woman in his life."
Hearing his voice but obviously not what he'd actually said, Luna turned to him and waved. "Good morning, Draco."
"I won't ask how you managed to stand," he drawled, gliding forward. "I will ask why, though I suspect I'm going to regret it immensely."
She sank to the floor, tucking her legs underneath her as she always did while Draco sent the food through the bars. "I was doing a walking meditation."
He arched an eyebrow and sank into a crouch. "I thought you needed to sit for meditating. You know, make that funny hand gesture and say 'ohm.'"
"It can be like that," Luna answered. "But there are many kinds of meditation. I decided to walk to try and work out my muscles a little. Yoga would have been far too intense." She gazed down at her tray, her eyes widening slightly. "You've added things."
"Yeah," he said, trying to sound as casual as possible. "I shrunk down a few blankets. If you get caught with them, just blame it on a house elf. And I've added some chamomile and peppermint tea packets; I've heard they help with pain. That tea cup is spelled to refill with hot water once you're done. Don't worry; it'll stay hot if you're not ready for it."
It wouldn't be true for him to say that he'd never seen her smile before. He was quite familiar with that strange expression, as if she was forever dazed and caught in some pleasant living daydream. It would have been equally untrue to say that she smiled at him now; she beamed. It was as if the moon turned into the sun. "Thank you. That's very sweet."
In addition to driving him insane, it seemed Luna had the talent to embarrass him as well. "Yeah. Well. Don't mention it." He paused. "Really."
"I inferred that already," she said pleasantly, ripping open a packet of the chamomile and dipping the bag into the piping hot water.
He could have gone. Really, he should have gone. But if he did, he had a choice between seeing his mother, who he was angry with, coming across his aunt, who terrified him, or sulking alone in his room. Even visiting with Luna Lovegood seemed to be a better alternative.
"How do you meditate while walking?"
His nonsequitor did not faze her. "The same way you would sitting. You try to empty your mind of extraneous thoughts and worries and give yourself some time to recover from your own life."
Draco sniffed with some derision. "I can't imagine that working for me."
She nodded. "I found it difficult myself when I first started. I like thinking."
He couldn't help but roll his eyes. "Bloody Ravenclaw."
She ignored him. "I finally decided to begin reciting a mantra in my mind. It's a phrase you repeat to yourself over and over again so you have something else to focus on."
"It changes for me," she explained, taking a bit of burnt toast. "Sometimes it's a line from a song or something nice someone said to me. That doesn't happen often." She swallowed, allowing time for him to hide his embarrassment by proxy. "Lately it's been 'Sabbe Satta Sukhi Hontu.'"
"It means 'May All Beings Be Happy.'"
He pondered this for awhile. "Seems like a waste of energy to me."
She tilted her head to the side. "In what way?"
"Wishing the whole world could be happy," Draco explained, wrapping his arms around his knees. "No matter what, someone's going to be sad. It's just the way things are."
Luna stared at him without blinking. It probably didn't last longer than thirty seconds or so, but it felt like hours. Hadn't anyone ever mentioned to her how creepy that was?
"I think that's a valid point," Luna said in her faraway voice. "But I don't think that's the purpose of the mantra. It's not like prayer or asking for something to happen. The act of wishing is important. It's about the words, not the results."
He spared her a small smile. "Is this how it is in the Ravenclaw common room?"
Luna's eyes grew wistful, and he regretted the question. "Sometimes. Most days it's quiet since a lot of students do homework there after the library's closed. But there are debates every now and again." She reached up to tuck her hair behind her ears. He noticed she only had one of her radish earrings in. "I don't usually participate. When I offer my opinion, they tend to stop."
This came as no surprise to him.
"Should you still be here?" she asked suddenly. "Won't your family miss you?"
Draco closed his eyes. "My aunt's still sleeping, and my mother and I had a bit of a row. She's not letting me go back to Hogwarts."
"Did you really want to?"
In all honesty, he hadn't considered this. "I don't know. Maybe I just resented being ordered. It's not as though I'm popular right now, but… I liked being able to watch out for my friends."
"I understand." Her tone somehow made this statement more profound than it really was.
"What about your father?"
The mention of Lucius Malfoy made Draco's hand convulse reflexively into fists.
"He's out working for the Dark Lord again. He left early this morning."
Her hand reached out through the bars to cover his own. He stared as if her fingers were completely foreign to him, and he supposed they were. She was cool, no longer freezing cold to the touch.
"I'm sorry," she said. He didn't doubt her sincerity, but he did wonder at how she managed it.
"Why?" he croaked.
"Because you miss him."
He continued looking at their hands and then chuckled, feeling strangely repentant. "I never knew you were this perceptive."
"You didn't know me at all," she reminded him.
"No. I didn't." He took a deep breath and worked to relax his hands. Once he managed it, she pulled her hand away. Part of him wished it would return. His recent downswing in esteem among his classmates had left him a glutton for physical contact. Ginny Weasley's slap did not count for obvious reasons. "Anyway, no one will miss me if I stay down here." He paused. "I almost prefer to be here right now."
She smiled at him again. He found it was growing on him. "I'm glad to have the company. Mr. Ollivander isn't exactly a stellar conversationalist."
Draco looked askance at the eternally prone wandmaker. "No, I don't suppose he is."
"I'm a little glad you're not going back to school."
He snorted. "Something else you and my mother agree on. What is the world coming to?"
December 31, 1997 – January 1, 1998
The next few days passed in much the same way. Draco continued to deliver food and various odds and ends for Luna (and Ollivander too, though only because she asked him to and he didn't much feel like alienating the only person left in the Manor he actually wanted to speak to). He usually walked in on her latest meditation technique, but she always stopped when she saw him and they would talk. More often than not, he'd leave when he couldn't suffer her nonsensical ramblings anymore. She still hadn't caught on that the moment she mentioned Nargles, he remembered something he had to do.
On December 31st, Draco made a late-night trip down to the dungeons. For once, Luna's look of surprise seemed genuine.
"I'm glad it's you. I was afraid it was your aunt with a New Year's Cruciatus demonstration."
Draco shook his head. "No. She's out."
"Another Death Eater party?"
Draco thought back to bidding his aunt and the other resident Death Eaters goodbye a few hours before. She'd told him exactly what her plans were for that evening. Listening to her talk, he could almost hear the shrieks of agony that were likely to fill the night, masked by the sound of Muggle fireworks, noisemakers, and drunken renditions of Auld Lang Syne. He'd been sure if he went to bed, he'd awake with the taste of blood in his mouth.
He thought Luna could tell he wasn't being entirely truthful, but for once, she didn't call him on it.
"I didn't know Voldemort's followers were so festive."
He didn't bother to hide the flinch at the sound of the Dark Lord's name. "As far they're concerned, it's the last New Year. Bellatrix has decided that when the Dark Lord wins the war and kills Potter, they'll make that the new New Year. We'd start over at Year One."
Luna frowned. "But then no one will be able to party in 1999."
"There's a song where you're instructed to party like it's 1999," she explained. "Muggle music, obviously. I did a report on popular music for my Muggle Studies class, you see."
Draco flashed back to six months earlier. He saw Professor Burbage spinning above the assembled Death Eaters on a tilted access. He saw the flash of green and the light go out of her eyes.
"Anyway," he said a bit too loudly, "I thought you could do with a bit of festivity yourself." He enlarged the spelled champagne bottles and held them up for her inspection. "Not the best, but it'll do the job."
"Getting us plastered."
Luna never giggled, but she came very close then. "Did you bring any for Mr. Ollivander?"
"I don't think he needs any."
"Probably not," Luna agreed as Draco popped the cork on the first bottle. She took it from his proffered hand, stepping away from the overflowing fizz that spurted from the neck. Then she took a quick swig and passed it back to him. "It's nice of you to come down here. I know you'd rather be out with your friends."
He knew better than to deny that, but he took a long drink from the bottle to give himself time to contemplate his next statement. "I don't think they'd have me."
"Did you ask?"
He shook his head. "I didn't want to see the look in their eyes. They want us to be all right, you see. They want to forgive me for what happened, for letting the Death Eaters in. It's just hard right now."
Luna leaned her cheek against one of the bars. "I'd wondered if the Slytherins were having a difficult time as well. Everyone said I was crazy, but they always say that, so I didn't pay them any mind."
Draco frowned. "Bloody idiots. They're not the only ones suffering."
"You don't make it look that way."
He scoffed and took another drink before handing it back to her. "It's better for us if we act like we're going along with it." He hesitated. "Sometimes we are, but not always. Some of the younger ones don't know when to keep their mouths shut." He wrapped his fingers around another of the bars, watching as his knuckles faded to parchment white.
She touched his hand again. He'd never have guessed Luna was so physically affectionate, but then he supposed she was in a similar position as him, being stuck somewhere alone. In that aspect, they were kindred spirits, even if he was her jailer. "They'll forgive you. It just might take awhile."
"What makes you say that?"
Her eyes were wide, but not the least bit naïve. She looked at him not with the earnestness of a child who still believed in Father Christmas, but someone who believed things whole-heartedly, with faith like a sane zealot.
How odd that he'd compared her to a sane anything.
"Friends are friends," she said assuredly. "No matter what house they're in."
As was so often the case, he had nothing to say to that. He simply raised his bottle in a mock toast. "Cheers, Luna."
January 20, 1998
When Draco was not dealing with the insane girl in the basement and her comatose cellmate, he spent most of his time wandering around the upper floors of the Manor, trying to avoid his aunt. He'd moved on from being frustrated with his mother and would have been happy to spend time with her, but Bellatrix had decided that she wanted to engage in some sisterly bonding. It left Draco hiding from his mother just to hide from Bellatrix.
He would have attached himself to his father to give him some small comfort, but his father wasn't at home. No one knew where he was. Or if they did, they refused to tell him.
Draco couldn't understand this reasoning in the slightest. As far as he was concerned, the only reason to keep him in the dark about his father's whereabouts would be if they expected Draco to go after him. What did they take him for? A Gryffindor half-wit who would serve as little more than cannon fodder in their war for supremacy? Did they think he'd turned into Potter when they weren't looking?
They should have known better. No matter what the danger, Draco would have never gone to his father's aid. After all, Lucius was the adult. Certainly he could take care of himself. Maybe he was a little fragile, a little ragged, but he wasn't helpless. There was nothing Lucius couldn't accomplish in the end. It made no sense for the son to ride out and rescue the father; the father was supposed to rescue the son.
And Draco didn't intend to need saving. He'd keep his distance from danger. His mother was correct. She'd raised her son to be the sort of man who kept his head down and lived. The Malfoys were survivors.
Not heroes. Not saviors. Not brave men.
Stupid of them to expect anything else from him. Stupid of them not to know him by now. Even bloody Luna Lovegood knew him better.
It's all right. I know you're not brave.
Then again, perhaps they were just being cruel.
Suddenly, Draco felt overwhelmed by the stench of something rotting. He inhaled the remnants of dried blood, and Draco knew this cologne of violence in an instant. He wanted to run, he wanted his mother, his father, even his aunt, anyone but a Death Eater more wolf than man. It was panic and not courage that led Draco to reach for his wand, whirl around, and aim it between a pair of nightmare eyes.
Fenrir Greyback just smiled. Bellatrix smiled like a knife, and his mother like thawing winter. Fenrir always grinned at Draco and at everyone else as if they were his next meal.
The werewolf batted the wand hand away, reminding Draco of a kitten and a ball of yarn. But when Fenrir grasped both of his shoulders to pin him against the wall, it seemed far more like a lion pinning down his prey. And Fenrir kept grinning at Draco as if he were the wounded gazelle.
"If it isn't the littlest Malfoy," Fenrir crooned in his rasping, snarling timbre. Draco could smell human decay on his breath, and he swallowed bile when he realized bits of flesh must be caught between those pointed teeth. "Pulling wands on me?"
"I-I didn't kno-know it was you," Draco stammered, hoping Fenrir lacked the intellect to see through this lie. By smell alone, Greyback could never be mistaken for anyone else.
The wolf-man growled, leaving Draco cold and trembling with fear. "I reckon it's odd, you pulling your wand out in your own house. Who are you thinking of running into to duel with in the grand Malfoy Manor?"
Draco's mind reeled desperately and landed on only one possibility. "We've prisoners in the basement. The house elves have been caught helping them before – giving them blankets and things. If they helped the prisoners escape, they'd attack me. I've been their caretaker."
Even in his hysteria, Draco had to commend himself on the excellent falsehood. Even someone not driven entirely by bloodlust might have mistaken it for the truth. No doubt Greyback was dull enough to believe this without question. Draco began to release a breath he hadn't realized he held even as the werewolf relaxed his grip.
"Your aunt had mentioned something. Said she had a bit of fun with one of them." His dry, cracking lips split open into that same smile and a tiny river of drool fell from the corner of his mouth. "A little blond girl."
What happened next, Draco would later put down to some kind of psychotic break.
"No!" he snapped, shaking off Greyback's now loose hold. "She's not one of yours."
Greyback let out what could only be described as an enraged howl, and it was made all the more horrifying by the mixture of human and lupine noises. He lunged for Draco. The first time, Seeker reflexes kicked in, allowing Draco to dance out of reach. The second time, Fenrir grasped his left forearm and squeezed. The bones threatened to crack.
"What's this, then?" he hissed, jaws snapping. "The little cub thinking he can lay claim?"
"I'm not in your bloody pack," Draco wheezed, longing for the strength to pull his arm free. He suspected if he tried, he'd wind up with a broken arm or a dislocated shoulder. He didn't do well with pain.
A horrible, rumbling sound bubbled up from the recesses of Fenrir's barrel chest. "But you could be."
"She's not to be harmed," Draco spat. "Those are my orders."
Fenrir's laugh was as awful as his howl. "And who'd be giving you orders? 'Sides, I don't put much stock in orders. Sometimes I get carried away…."
Draco remembered the stories of the Montgomery boy. He'd been five. He'd never be anything but five. Draco fought the urge to be violently ill.
"Who do you think y'are anyway?" Fenrir rasped. "Seems I recall you trying to tell me something I didn't like before. Remember how that turned out?"
His grip on Draco's arm tightened. It trembled between Fenrir's dirty fingers.
Draco swallowed again and looked Fenrir in the eye. "Not. Her."
Fenrir's eyes dilated and his tongue began to slip out of his mouth. Draco wondered for a moment if he'd be as lucky as the oldest Weasley, and then remembered that Billius hadn't been lucky at all.
Draco's and Fenrir's heads both snapped to the sound, and for once, Draco was thrilled at the sight of Bellatrix and her wild eyes.
She clicked her tongue at Fenrir, sounding for all the world like a disappointed professor scolding her brightest pupil. He imagined Fenrir squeezing into a desk in Bellatrix's torture dungeon classroom, and he let out a hysterical laugh.
"I've told you before. Draco isn't one of your toys," she said, ignoring him.
Fenrir growled. "I don't take orders from cubs."
Bellatrix's eyes narrowed dangerously. "My nephew is not and never will be in your pack. You may not take orders from him, but you do take them from me."
It was a standoff between titans. Draco pictured the battle that could play out between them. Bellatrix with her favorite Unforgivable, Fenrir with teeth that sank into flesh and bone. He imagined the floor growing slick and crimson, heard the high cackles and the baying rage.
He did not think of who would be the victor. Even now, he didn't know who he'd want to live.
Thankfully, he did not have to find out. Fenrir released his arm, and though it sang with pain, Draco realized it appeared to be intact. He cradled it to his chest, letting the warmth begin to work against the ache and throbbing.
"There's a good puppy," Bellatrix teased, heedless of Greyback baring his teeth. "Come. Narcissa and I have things to discuss with you."
Draco's heart sank like a stone in standing water.
Greyback lumbered away from Draco, still gnashing the teeth he had filed sharp at the start of the first war. He cast one final look over his shoulder, snarling, "Just wanted to play with his little poppet."
Bellatrix's eyes bulged horribly, her gaze wrenching from the wolf to the boy. He felt her measuring him and this piece of information. He remembered the shrieks that had echoed up and down the manor's halls while she tortured the house elf who had been blamed for providing comfort to the prisoners. Even a creature conditioned for servitude and bred to bear pain had begged for it to stop.
"It was my understanding she wasn't to be harmed," Draco explained, fighting to keep his voice steady. "He only knows how to harm."
Bellatrix continued to stare, and he felt pinned more by her eyes than Greyback's brute strength. The struggle to keep his body taut felt like his own private war. It seemed like an eternity before his aunt nodded and swept out of the hall, Fenrir following at her heels.
Draco waited until they rounded the corner and collapsed to his knees. He shook so violently he could have been having a fit. He curled in on himself, still clutching the wounded arm to his chest. Then his mouth fell open, and he emptied his stomach into the nearest house plant.
Finished, he toppled so that he lay on the floor, letting the marble floors cool his feverish skin. He remained there, breathing heavily, tears pricking at his eyes. Then he pushed back the left sleeve of his robe and stared at his arm.
When Potter had grabbed him in Madame Malkin's robe shop over a year ago, Draco knew the sod had immediately assumed that he was marked. After the invasion of Hogwarts, Draco suspected that most students agreed with him. A few people in his house knew this was not true, simply because he'd told them that he would be rewarded with the mark on completion of his mission. Since he hadn't fulfilled all of the parameters by allowing Snape to kill Dumbledore, the mark had not been bestowed. After witnessing the mark given to several others since then, Draco couldn't say he was disappointed.
Draco may have technically been a Death Eater, but he was not so prized as to wear the skull and snake. So Potter had been wrong about that much. And no one – absolutely no one – knew what the real cause of his pain had been that day.
He stared down at the crisscross hatching of scars that stood out against his white flesh, still angry and inflamed as they had been the day Greyback had given them to him. He'd mauled Draco's arm with teeth and nails thick as claws. No one had been there to stop him. Draco still didn't know how he'd emerged from that disastrous meeting alive. But after a full minute of Draco crying and begging, Fenrir had released him. Then he'd given Draco a horrible pink smile.
"Just a warning," he'd said. "With my mark."
A warning, given only when Draco had told Greyback he doubted he could get the cabinets fixed in the original timeline set by the Dark Lord. Because he was nervous and apt to say things he shouldn't when he was nervous, he made a bad joke that he might not be able to fix it at all. For that, he'd been given cursed wounds.
Well, he'd gotten the cabinets to work, hadn't he?
Draco whimpered, hating the sound of it echoing across the vaulted ceilings. He wanted his parents so badly to tell him it was all right. His father was gone, and now his mother was caught in Bellatrix's spider web. Before long, she'd be tangled up, stung, and trapped in silk stronger than steel. She'd never be able to get free. None of them would if the Dark Lord won. They'd be trapped with him and Bellatrix and Fenrir for the rest of their lives if Potter and his sidekicks failed to win the war. And just how long could the rest of their lives possibly be?
He didn't want to be alone in the face of his own stark fear. He couldn't stand to listen to himself, couldn't stand to envision a future for himself, couldn't stand himself. And he knew there was only one person in the whole manor left for him.
Without weighing the decision, Draco clambered to his feet and hurried away from the hall. He half-walked, half-ran from the scene of his latest humiliation, retracing the now familiar steps down to the prison cells. He threw open the door, nearly fell down the steps, and emerged in the dimly lit stone chamber.
Luna was there because she was always there. She sat with an erect spine, legs tucked beneath her and hands folded against her ribcage. He wondered if she was this reliable when she wasn't a captive. He let out that stupid, mad laugh again, and her eyes flew open, instantly alert.
"Draco?" she asked, rising to her feet in one fluid movement. She hardened her distant gaze, and for just a second, he could have sworn she met his eyes head on. The moment passed, and the dreamy look returned, but she was no less focused. She held a hand out to him through the bars, beckoning. "Come here."
He didn't hesitate. He stumbled forward, tripping over his robes and then falling against the front of her cell. He grabbed the bars to hold himself upright. "I let him in."
"You let who in?"
"I didn't know he was coming," Draco whispered in a high, manic voice. "But if I'd known he was coming, what would I have done differently? Nothing! I couldn't have changed anything. I couldn't do anything. All I could do was fix that stupid bloody fucking cabinet to let them in. But I didn't know, I swear I didn't know Greyback would be there."
"Don't tell me it's all right!" he bellowed. "It's not all right! Do you think he would have cared what color the robes were? Do you think he would have even noticed? All he'd see was a child, a child to turn or to kill or violate. He would have torn them apart just for being young."
He squeezed his eyes shut and felt hot tears fall down his cheeks, but he didn't care. Let her see him cry, let her tell all the Ravenclaws just like Potter had certainly done with the Gryffindors after the bathroom. Or let her just tell Ollivander, let that be the thing that would rouse him just so he could laugh at his pitiful jailer.
"They hated me for it. They still hate me for it," he rambled. "Ginny Weasley wasn't the only one who hit me. Pansy nearly ripped me apart once she heard he'd been there. She kept screaming at me, furious that I hadn't asked her for help. She said she would have thought of something better than letting a fucking werewolf into a school. She just kept screaming and crying and no one pulled her off, not even Crabbe and Goyle. They let her do it, and I can't even be angry. They were right to let her.
"But what was I supposed to do?" he shouted, pounding his fists against her cell. "They said they'd kill my mother and father. I couldn't let that happen." He pushed his forehead against the steel, and it bit him back with cold. "And it didn't even matter. My father's alive, but they keep running him ragged. He's sick, and they know it, but he's always on a mission. He's never home, and if one of yours doesn't kill him, he'll kill himself for the Dark Lord's sake.
"What will my mother do when he's gone? She's already turning to Bellatrix because she's her sister, she's blood, but she's mad! There's madness in my blood; how is that supposed to be pure? How can anything be right when my father's dying, my mother can't help me, and I'm left crying to a girl from school I don't even know who I've got locked up in the fucking basement!"
He had no more words. Spent, he kept standing there, his face pressed against the bars and tears coursing down his face. He felt like he was choking, drowning in the open air, and there was no one to save him.
Luna's hands smoothed away the wetness from his skin, her touch light and cool. He opened his eyes and found himself staring into her own. They were the softest silver he'd ever seen. Then she pulled away only to gently extricate his fingers from her cage. She pushed her flat palm against his and then interlocked their fingers, holding his hands with tender strength. She sank to the floor, and he followed, mirroring her movements unbidden. He sat like she did, kept his back straight like she did, and closed his eyes when she did.
"Just focus on your breath."
And so he did. He thought of each breath as it wheezed in and out, striving to think only of the air filling and exiting his lungs. After awhile, it became easier. And bit by bit, the urge to cry went away, the weight in his chest lifted, and he no longer felt afraid.
After the better part of an hour, he opened his eyes. She smiled at him, but she didn't let go of his hands.
He was surprised to find that he didn't want her to.
January 24, 1998
He looked up from his book, raising an eyebrow at his aunt. She'd been gone for several days on some errand with Fenrir of all people, allowing him some time with his mother. He'd been expecting her back that day, but he certainly hadn't anticipated being sought out.
"Yes, Aunt Bellatrix?"
Her thin red lips curled like a wilting rose as she made her way over to him, taking the seat next to him by the window. She wound her arms around him in an embrace that left him feeling as much of a prisoner as Luna. In a way, he supposed he always had been.
"I wanted to apologize on behalf of the little feral pup," Bellatrix said, pushing his hair out of his eyes and scraping the skin with her nails. "Sometimes he doesn't know when to heel."
What was he meant to say to that? He could hardly say it was fine. He settled for, "Don't worry over it."
"But of course I worry over my darling little nephew," she crooned. "No matter who his father is."
Draco held on to the book more tightly, but said nothing.
"Though I do wish you'd told me about the girl right off."
He froze and hoped he was pale enough that she didn't notice the blood draining from his face. "What?"
"Granted, I should have guessed it, seeing as you spend so much time in the dungeons, and it isn't as if you can do anything with that wandmaker."
Panic set in like an infection, spreading up from the base of his spine. He hadn't been careful enough. He'd assumed no one would pay attention to him, the son of a fallen Death Eater. He'd been stupid, so stupid to think that Bellatrix would not see, that she wouldn't notice. Now someone else was certain to die for his weakness. Perhaps this time there would be two.
Bellatrix pinched his cheek so hard he thought she'd punch a hole in his flesh. "Just remember, we need to keep her breathing. We do need to send her father proof of life on occasion to keep him cooperative." She rolled her eyes at what she obviously considered to be a great inconvenience. "But you're welcome to do what you like with her otherwise."
Draco's mouth went dry. Now he understood, and for the first time, wished he wasn't so clever. "Of… course, Aunt Bella."
"And don't forget that casting Imperius too much can make them hollow after awhile. I know one's needs must be satisfied, but the girl's already addled."
He bit his tongue and prayed for divine intercession.
But Bellatrix just pat him on the cheek, hissed, "My little prodigy," and went on her way.
The next time he saw Luna, she asked why he couldn't look her in the eye.
February 9, 1998
"Tell me again how you talked me into this?"
Draco looked down at his attire, which was so Muggle that he felt rather like a blood traitor just by wearing it. Luna assured him that "work out trousers" as she called them were far from the epitome of non-magical clothing, but Draco was not convinced. Besides, he doubted his aunt, family, or the odd Death Eater hanging about the house would see the difference. His eyes swept the corner for a rat with a shiny appendage.
Luna finished wiping at her skin with the cloth and basin he'd snuck down for her, wringing out black water. "Because you feel guilty for something you won't tell me about, and it's made you amenable to a great number of my requests."
She straightened and pushed the bowl over to Ollivander. Not surprisingly, the wandmaker didn't acknowledge it. She fluffed her damp hair and looked at him with her characteristically wide gaze. "I'm only teaching you some basics to help you deal with the stress. The meditation worked for you once, but all other attempts have failed spectacularly."
Draco's frown edged near a pout. "I don't know about spectacularly…."
"As I told you then, the point of silent meditation is to be silent."
"I only asked you for a mantra suggestion."
"After ten minutes of pointless babbling. And then when I gave you the suggestion of using a song lyric—"
"I still contend that you brought that entirely on yourself."
"—you began working all of Prince's lyrics into your sentences."
"Boo hoo. Is this what it sounds like when the doves cry?"
"I regret teaching you those songs more than I can possibly say."
"I never meant to cause you any sorrow. I never meant to cause you any pain. I only wanted to one time see you laughing. I only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain."
"Enough," Luna said, her inflection momentarily reminding him of Flitwick's squeaking instructions. She then stood with her feet together and her hands hanging at her sides. "We'll start with a Sun Salutation. This is Tadasana or Mountain Pose. It looks like you're only standing there, but the first step of any sequence is to get your body into alignment. Bring your weight evenly onto all four corners of both feet. Tuck your tailbone under and draw your stomach in. Elongate your neck."
Draco did his best to follow these instructions, hoping that she didn't notice the furtive glances he cast of his shoulder to make sure no one would see him in this position.
She swung her hands out to the sides and then upwards, extending her arms until they were straight. "Urdhva Hastasana." Then she brought her hands down until they rested in front of her chest folded like a Muggle child in prayer, fingertips pointing at the ceiling.
'Bloody Muggles and their unpronounceable nonsense words,' Draco thought.
"Bring your arms out like you're swan-diving," Luna continued, "and fall forward from the hips, keeping your back flat. Bend as far as your flexibility will allow." Draco winced as his hamstrings stretched to accommodate his position and wondered in what alternate universe this was supposed to calm him. Then he noticed that Luna had her palms flush against the floor on either side of her feet. His hands hung somewhere near mid-calf.
"Now push your right foot backwards," she said, moving into a lunge. He noticed now that she'd closed her eyes, which meant she couldn't track his movements at all. He straightened, rubbing his lower back as he watched her go through the rest of the sequence.
She went through the movements gracefully and with ease, the mark of a well-versed practitioner. There was something impressive about all of this, even if it did stem from a culture he wanted nothing to do with.
"Then you go into Downward Facing Dog."
Draco's eyebrows rose towards his hairline. Clearly, he had not given Muggles enough credit. Luna was essentially bent over with her hips lifted high into the air. He was beginning to enjoy yoga a great deal more than he would have thought possible.
"Come forward into plank."
Draco silently mourned the loss of the dog pose. For about ten seconds.
"And then you go into Moving Cat, into Low Cobra, and into Up Dog."
Draco felt quite certain that he popped a blood vessel watching her. He could only describe her actions as 'undulating,' bringing her chest and chin to floor and pushing forward. The rest of her body followed through, a snake writhing. Then she straightened her arms and pushed off, leaving only her legs below the calf touching the floor. And because he was a seventeen-year-old boy, he really only noted her arched back and the resulting chest.
Which of course was a signal for Luna's eyes to open.
"Ah," she said, still holding her pose. "There's a euphemism for this." For the first time, she gave him a different smile altogether – she smirked. "Draco Malfoy, you are checking me out."
She may as well have lit his face on fire. "I am not!"
She narrowed her eyes. "Really? I'm quite sure you are."
Draco, who prided himself on his ability to articulate, stammered for a full minute without once stumbling upon a verb.
"Granted, I'm not what you would call well-versed in this situation," Luna continued, apparently seeing no reason to come out of her current position. "When most people look at me, I rather suspect they're wondering if I'm 'all there.' If they're not embarrassed or afraid, which I think is rather silly. There's nothing frightening about me, is there, Draco?"
"You're doing this on purpose," he snapped, trying his very best to maintain eye contact. "I was not… I am not attracted to you." He flashed back to a similar incident with Daphne Greengrass at the Yule Ball that had ended with him getting a bowl of punch dumped over his head. "I mean! I mean, you're attractive, just not… to… me. Because that would be inappropriate, all things considered."
They both shot a meaningful look towards her cell door.
"I wonder if there's such a thing as Reverse Stockholm."
He frowned. "That's a Muggle thing, isn't it?"
"Stockholm Syndrome refers to when a captive becomes emotionally dependent on his or her captor because of the physical dependency that results from such imprisonment," Luna explained. "I think you have the reverse, though I don't see what you'd be dependent on me for." She paused. "Perhaps company?"
His entire body launched into one giant twitch. Then he reached for his robes and threw them around his body, making sure any evidence of Muggle was covered. "You're. Insane."
"And you're a breast man," she said, finally emerging from that blasted pose. "Which is surprising. I would have assumed leg."
Draco swept out of the room with a flourish and a particularly nasty curse, punctuated by the sound of her laughing.
February 21, 1998
Nothing much changed over the next few weeks. Draco continued to stay as far away from the various and sundry Death Eaters as he could manage. The Dark Lord continued to be conspicuously absent from the assembled patronage, and both Narcissa and Draco prayed that their luck held out in that regard. His father also rarely came home, and when he did, he seemed to be advancing closer and closer to collapse. And Draco also continued to make an average of thrice daily trips down to the dungeon, which left him enduring Bellatrix's knowing looks across the dining room table.
That morning, when he ventured down with his usual tray, he had already come up with no less than three separate ways to deflect her continuous mentioning of the yoga catastrophe. He thought them very clever and particularly biting, and he could perceive no way that she could possibly combat them (as she had done all times previous).
But when he finished his journey down, he saw that now was not the time. She was curled up on the ground in the fetal position, holding her knees to her chest, with her hair hiding her face. His mind instantly leapt to Christmas night nearly two months before, and he panicked. He dropped the tray as he had not done in ages and rushed forward, convinced that Bellatrix or someone else had come when he'd dared to turn his back. "Luna!"
She flipped her hair away when she heard the crash. He immediately skidded to a stop. The swiftness of her movement and the lack of bruises disproved his assumption. Unfortunately, it still left him with this very odd display.
"You really ought to be more careful," she admonished in an oddly sour tone. "You might have woken Mr. Ollivander."
One day, surely, he would be able to tell when she was joking.
"Sorry," he said, ignoring that he wasn't at all. "I only thought…."
She glanced down at her own position. "Ah." Luna then pushed herself upright, though it seemed to take her considerably more time and effort than he remembered.
He raised an eyebrow and very nearly asked her what the matter was. Then he remembered she'd been stuck in a room for two months with little light, no heat, and minimal nourishment, and he realized how idiotic such a query would have been. He turned to see what he could salvage of the food.
As he gathered up the spilt items, he gave it a bit more consideration. In those two months, Luna had been nothing short of remarkable. He knew if he were being held captive in Potter's camp, he'd be a wreck. Actually, it was more than likely that he'd be dead at the hands of those horrible twins, but Luna had been downright friendly with him despite her situation. She didn't blame him for her imprisonment, nor for his inability or unwillingness to end it. She took everything in stride and treated him almost as a friend.
He looked over his shoulder and did his best to read her face. Even though the size of her eyes left her looking permanently startled, he could see now that there was something different about her. Something in the slope of her shoulders or the curve of her mouth that was not as he remembered from the day before.
"You're sad," he murmured, borrowing her penchant for directness.
She merely nodded in agreement.
"Do you want to… meditate about it?"
Luna shook her head. "It won't help."
"Oh." He frowned. "Would talking?"
She sat there for a full minute, simply breathing. He could almost believe that she'd fallen asleep. Finally, she said, "It's my birthday."
Just like Christmas, the usual sentiment seemed wildly inappropriate. "How old?"
"Seventeen. Same as you."
"Ah," he concluded, wanting to kill himself over the awkwardness of this situation. It had been ages since this particular brand of uncomfortable had existed between them. He felt regressed and continued to flounder around the breakfast mess.
Then he had a brilliant idea.
"This is useless," he concluded, vanishing the items with a flick of his wand. "I'll try to bring some more."
He didn't wait for her to answer before ascending the stairs. He made a bee-line for the kitchen and immediately happened upon who – or more accurately, what – he wanted to find.
Only one of the house elves had been mistakenly blamed for the little luxuries that had found their way down to the prisoners. Draco had been more careful after that, not out of pity but because it would have made no sense for the creature to continue in its sympathies following Bellatrix's treatment. However, she had made an error in leaving the little slave alive. Ever since then, Draco had noticed something a little off about that particular house elf. It had taken him the better part of a month to figure it out, but when he had, he'd filed it away as a bit of useful information.
For this house elf had begun to remind him very much of Dobby.
Draco strode over to the house elf in question and commanded in a very loud voice. "I need more food for the prisoners. We had something of an incident."
Anyone listening could draw their own dark conclusions from that and be satisfied.
"Yes, Master Malfoy," the house elf answered with less deference and a little more attitude than Draco would have normally cared for. He leaned forward, snarling, making it seem as though he was about to deliver a threat or a blow.
Instead, he said, "How would you like to do something my Aunt Bella wouldn't like?"
The smile the little elf gave him was all the answer he needed.
Draco had delivered lunch to Luna and Ollivander as usual, but he had not spoken with the Ravenclaw as he normally would have. She didn't seem to mind or even notice, lost in her own little world in a way that differed from her norm. When it came time to deliver their dinner, Draco met up with the duplicitous house elf at their agreed location, offered it payment in the form of one of Pettigrew's socks, and watched it Disapparate to freedom. Draco prided himself on this little bit of espionage, and of a little mini-revenge against the resident Animagus. True, he had no proof Pettigrew had been spying on him, but if he could turn into a rat at will, he knew what he'd use the talent for.
He took the normally prepared tray, hiding the shrunken addition courtesy of the AWOL house elf underneath an overturned tea cup, and departed. When he reached the dungeons, he took extra care to cast a Shield Charm over the door of the dungeons. It was a precaution he normally would not have dared to take for fear of alerting anyone to the presence of unexpected magic, which would lead to a number of questions he didn't care to answer. However, he was quite certain everyone would be too distracted after sensing the departure of the house elf. His alarm ward would go unnoticed in the following pandemonium.
Luna didn't even look up when he entered, just as before. Draco had tried to think of something to say before performing his gesture, something that might soften her to it, but ultimately decided that for once, actions should speak louder than words. He tossed the tea cup away, and with a bit of wandless magic, unshrunk the concealed item.
A birthday cake decorated in blue icing sprang upwards, seventeen candles blazing on the top of the third tier. It was probably more extravagant than what was called for, but he was a Malfoy. He never did anything halfway, even now.
Luna gasped at the sudden appearance of the cake and for the first time all day, as far as he knew anyway, rose to her feet. She covered her mouth with her hand. "Oh my."
He rolled his eyes. "Of course. I give you sugar delivered through a particularly impressive bit of double-dealing, and you offer me a monosyllabic response in return. Typical."
"I would ask how you managed this, but I think I can guess. I'd prefer not to have the confirmation since you could have very well gotten yourself killed over a cake." She was flustered, visibly flustered, and Draco positively beamed because of it. He'd never managed to ruffle her in the slightest during all this time, and now he'd absolutely floored her. He was the king.
"It was nothing," he shrugged, puffing his lacking chest out. "Besides, it's your birthday. I know I can't stand it when people don't acknowledge mine. So… voila."
She stared at him, then at the cake, and then back at him again. Finally, she smiled, her pale lips curving into a look he'd found himself missing the entire day. A knot of tension in his chest that he hadn't consciously noticed relaxed. "You're very sweet."
"I do what I can."
She leaned against her cell, pushing her too-long bangs out of her eyes. "You did this all because you knew I was depressed."
He shrugged. "And my methods gave me a chance to piss Bellatrix off. I expect we'll hear her bellowing any time now."
Luna plucked at her empty earlobe nervously. "You shouldn't have done this."
"Really, I'm exaggerating the danger here. It was all the house elf."
"No," she maintained. "You don't understand…. You see, I wasn't really depressed because it was my birthday."
Draco's cheeks suddenly began to ache. "What?"
"Well, that's part of it," she continued, tapping her finger on her chin. "Of course I'd prefer not to be here, but I don't attach the same sentiment to birthdays as other people. I understand why it's a milestone for some people, but I haven't felt that way in years."
"Ah. So, I… profoundly misread this situation… how?"
"My mother died today."
Draco was intensely reminded of his inaugural meeting with Potter at Madame Malkin's when he'd informed little Draco that his parents were dead. Astonishingly, Draco was unable to come up with any pithy responses now in spite of having previous experiences with people dropping this exact type of bombshell on him. "Oh."
"It was nearly ten years ago," Luna clarified. "Of course I don't know anything about who's alive or dead right now."
"I for one would like to go curl up in a corner and die right about now," Draco muttered.
"Please don't," Luna said smoothly. "My point is, the reason I'm depressed is because normally, my father and I spend this day together. While I've been in school, he always comes up to Hogsmeade and I skip my classes so I can be with him. We talk about her, look at old photographs.... I was just sad that I couldn't be with him today." She frowned. "He still hasn't really moved on from losing her. I can't even begin to imagine what he's going through today."
Draco frowned. "So you are… over it?"
He struggled to imagine a world in which Lucius Malfoy was not there, a world that was rapidly becoming a reality. All he could see was his parents' bedroom turned into a tomb, cobwebs hanging in the corners and darkness seeping in the windows. He tasted ash and tried to swallow it away.
"More so than he is," Luna explained. "I saw it, you see."
He felt as though he'd been punched in the chest. Part of him wished it was out of sympathy, but most of him was preoccupied by the image of his emaciated father, fallingfallingfalling into a black pit forever. He stood at the edge of the pit watching. He did nothing.
He shook the vision away, surprised to find she was still speaking. "We were having a birthday party. I was turning nine. It was mostly my family, but I remember the Diggorys came as well. We lived next door to one another, and Cedric never made fun of me like the other children who lived nearby. My mother was working on translating a book of spells that had been uncovered in a recent archaeological dig and determining their applications. She was having particular trouble with one spell, and I went to tell her to stop and come up to the party. She said she just wanted to try one more thing. She rushed the incantation, and there was an explosion."
He saw his father vanishing in a storm of fire and smoke.
"I'm sorry," Draco murmured, closing his eyes, unsure if he was offering sympathy or apologizing for his selfishness.
"I'm fine," she insisted. "My mother died, and when I was younger, I thought that meant the world would end. But it didn't." She paused. "Do you suppose the world is ending now?"
He couldn't answer her.
"I'd better be getting back," he said, staring at the food awkwardly. "Should I just get rid of this then?"
She shook her head. "You risked yourself for it, and I am grateful. Besides, it'll be nice to have something else to eat for a change."
"Yeah. I guess." He transported the food into the cell after casting a Disillusionment Charm over the cake. "No one will be down here with all this ruckus, but just in case."
"I can still make out the edges," she assured him, blowing out the candles that could barely be seen.
"I'll be back tomorrow," he assured her.
She smiled. "I know you will."
February 28, 1998
He doesn't have feelings for her. It's idiotic of her to intimate otherwise.
How could he possibly? She may technically be Pureblood, but she's not from an old family. She's not Slytherin, and while Ravenclaw may be the most acceptable of the other houses, it does not wholly excuse the difference. She may be clever, but she's insane, may be insightful, but she's infuriating. She may have faith and strength in her convictions, but they're the wrong ones, not the ones he was brought up in. Even if he has doubts now, even if he's forced to admit what he really believes about the side he's on, there are too many things he can't agree with her on.
And the people she associates with. Granger, Weasley, other Weasley, Longbottom. Potter. She counts these as her friends, speaks of them with pride and admiration they don't deserve, crediting them with achievements that cannot possibly be true. He won't allow them to be true, because after all they've done to him, after all the wrongs and all the slights, perceived or intended, he cannot forgive them. And then how could he forgive her for loving them?
She says things that make no sense. She makes up creatures and refuses to admit they aren't real. She doesn't understand the art of the white lie, much less any other sort. She's supposed to be intelligent, but how can she survive in the real world if she'll look a person in the face and lay them bare? How can anyone stand to be around her and her unyielding honesty?
There's so much wrong with her. Too much wrong with her. In another time, another place, it wouldn't even be a question or a possibility. He'd be sitting at his table like a king on a throne, laughing at the latest in a long string of tales of one Loony Lovegood. She'd be sitting at her table, with both radish earrings in. And she'd be alone.
He doesn't have feelings for her. It's idiotic of her to intimate otherwise.
He can't have feelings for her.
He refuses to have feelings for her.
(But she has the softest eyes he's ever seen and a laugh like silver bells. Her voice speaks to him like a distant dream. She smiles at him like he's worth something.
She held on when he broke down. She didn't mock his tears. She didn't patronize him by saying that his sins did not matter.
She's kept him sane in this house of madmen.)
He watches her sleep underneath the firelight, thinks of how she might look underneath a moon and stars, and whispers, "I don't love you" over and over again while she dreams.
It has become his mantra.
March 3, 1998
As it went with nearly all of his brilliant plans, in one aspect, Draco miscalculated.
He'd supposed that people would be so focused on the disappearance of the house elf, the one who had all but turned traitor on them, and that it would be enough to completely throw any lingering suspicion off him. He'd guessed that no one would question his late arrival to the gathering that followed this exit, that the Death Eaters in house would accept his explanation that he had gone to see if the prisoners knew anything of the incident. He'd hoped that his participation in torturing Peter Pettigrew, which Draco hated even if he couldn't stand the filthy rat, would solidify their trust, not damage of it.
He had put his faith in false assumptions, and that night, he paid for it.
He had been unwilling to risk using a Shield Charm, save Luna's birthday. Even if he had been more daring, what good would it have done? Protego was ultimately just a word, even if it was a spell, and a word would not hold back the Death Eaters in all their fury forever. There was no way to escape– no way for a wizard to Apparate, no Portkeys, no chimneys connected to the Floo Network, no brooms, and no windows. Even if there had been, it would have only delayed the inevitable. But at least it would have delayed it.
Bellatrix swept into the dungeons with the fury of a demon god. Draco immediately leapt to his feet and pulled out his wand, turning it not on his aunt but on Luna, hoping the ruse would be enough.
Bellatrix turned her wand on Luna as well. She cast the Cruciatus, spitting out the incantation with more than her usual venom. Lacking any distraction, she was able to pour all of her effort into the spell. This time, Luna began to scream, but she sank her teeth clean through her lip to choke it down, and blood spurted down her chin.
A moment later, she pushed the wand against his throat.
"Foolish boy!" she snarled. "You dare number yourselves among our kind? You dare to proclaim your love and fealty to our lord and then sneak down here to pander to one of Potter's allies?"
He gulped, wincing as she drove the wand in harder. He was not surprised to discover it came to a point. "I don't know what you're talking about," he hissed, denying her, hoping she would not hate him for it. "I don't care what happens to her."
"Silence!" she screeched, casting a silent Cruciatus on him. He cried out in pain and started to fall, but Bellatrix grasped him by the hair and held him so that he knelt before her while his body shook from agony.
"I taught you Occulumency to use against that Half-blood Snape," she spat. "If I had known you would use it to conceal your own weakness, your own sympathies for the Muggles and Mudbloods, I never would have taught you its secrets. I never would have thought you were my sister's only hope to return her precious Malfoy name to some measure of glory."
He finally stopped shaking and looked her directly in the eye. "I am not a blood traitor."
He howled again, and this time she cast him to the ground, leaving him squirming and tearing at his own flesh.
"You think I don't know how well you lie, boy?" she snapped. "You're a Malfoy and a Black. It's what you were raised for. But never were you supposed to lie to me!" She curled her lips horribly, showing her teeth. "I never thought this family would be sullied with another Sirius Black, but there you are. Do you know what I do to people like him? People who dishonor my family name? Do you think it was coincidence that I drove Sirius before that veil? That it was an accident that he fell through it? One man died that day, and he died at my hand so that he could pay for what he did to us!"
She hit him with the curse again. He hurt so much he thought he would die from it. He wished he would.
"Please," he whimpered, knowing it was weak and not giving a damn. "I'm not him. I'm nothing like him."
Her black eyes narrowed, gaping holes in a skull face. "I don't believe you." She stepped forward, aiming her wand directly at his face. "Avada—"
"NO!" Luna shrieked, throwing herself forward and spraying blood across the dungeon floor.
And just like that, Bellatrix crumpled to the floor, her eyes rolled back up in her head. Draco stared at the fallen body for a moment, his mind refusing to grasp the situation. Then he looked up and saw nothing but pale blue and white.
There stood Narcissa, the avenging angel to the demon god.
"Mum," he whispered, using a word he'd given up when he first went to Hogwarts. "Mum, she—"
"I know what she has done," Narcissa ground out. She did not look at her son, keeping her eyes and her wand trained at her sister. It trembled in her grip. "And I know what you have done."
Draco glanced back at Luna, bleeding and still trembling from the aftereffects of Bellatrix's curse. There was no use denying it now. Not to his mother. "I won't apologize."
"Of course you won't," Narcissa countered coldly. "Stubbornness runs in the family."
He did not delude himself into thinking that she said this with any pride. "Mum—Mother, I—"
"Do not waste your breath with me, Draco," Narcissa strained. "I care little for your reasons and less for forgiving you right now. You put your father and I in danger for this girl, something you risked your life a year ago to prevent, and she's not even in your house. She isn't even your friend. You could have killed us all for her. What could you possibly have to say to explain yourself?"
He exhaled roughly, trying to ignore the physical pain and this emotional burden. She was right. What did he have to say for it?
"Maybe I wanted to be a different man than the one you raised me to be."
Narcissa's gaze at last snapped from her sister to her son. Her eyes blazed with ice-blue fire. "Then you are more of a disappointment than I thought."
Draco bent his head but said nothing in response.
"It was Pettigrew who gave you up," Narcissa explained. "After all, he certainly knew that he had not released the house elf. He followed you and then went to Bellatrix." She narrowed her eyes. "It was petty and foolish to include him in your ruse. You ought to have known he would retaliate."
"I didn't know who else they'd believe it of," Draco muttered. "Besides, he's an idiot."
The soft line of her jaw continued to sharpen. "You underestimated him. Like so many others before you. When will the world learn that even for a fool, Pettigrew is a dangerous man to cross?"
"Then he isn't dead." Draco was a little sorry.
"Of course not," Narcissa snapped. "Should anyone die at the Manor, we would fall under immediate suspicion. I have erased their memories of your little transgression. Bellatrix's Occulmency will keep the Dark Lord from discovering it, and he too does not give Pettigrew proper credit. He rarely ventures into his mind."
The fact that Narcissa did not seem concerned about her own mind betraying her confirmed Draco's long-held suspicion that Bellatrix and he were not the only Occlumens in the family.
She bent to her knees and grasped his face, holding it tightly. "Now you will listen to me, Draco Abraxas Malfoy, and you will do exactly as I say. You will go to your room, and you will stay there. I will say you are sick, and you will not emerge until I give you an indication that you can emerge. In case it is not clear from these instructions, you are not to come near these dungeons or this girl ever again. The ghosts of memory remain even after a Memory Charm is cast. There is no telling what could cause them to remember, and I think the results of such a recollection should be painfully obvious."
Draco surprised himself by immediately launching into a protest. "You can't do that! Who else will take care of them if not for me? They'll die down here!" He took care to include Ollivander in this proclamation, deceiving even now.
"What on Earth makes you think I care about her life?" Narcissa shouted back at him, not falling for his subterfuge. "Have you not learned by now what I would do for your sake? If I had the power to end this world to save you, I would do it, and I would have no regrets." Suddenly, her face relaxed, but a creeping chill settled over his skin. He half-expected to find that the dungeon covered in a thin layer of ice, such was the strength of her cold fury.
"Of course, if you do not feel that you have the strength to keep your distance, I will be more than happy to remedy the situation." She swung her wand arm from Bellatrix to Luna, the pale tip at the level of her eye. "No one will bother to question her demise. It was preferable that she live to keep her father in line, but we can be rid of her easily. It will be only a small cost. Of course, it would require that her own father be disposed of in a similar fashion, which we had hoped to avoid. But the plots of the Dark Lord do not rest on the death or survival of Xenophilius Lovegood. Or his daughter."
Draco froze, more unsure now than ever. No matter what he did, he placed Luna in danger. He found himself longing for someone to tell him what to do, someone who was not Narcissa Malfoy.
"Do as she says, Draco."
He turned back to Luna, gaping. "What?"
Luna glared evenly at her mother, and Draco saw even from his angle that the dreamy look in her eyes had vanished completely. She was present more in this moment than he had ever seen her. She no longer seemed like a distant dream. She was solid and real and Draco knew now, just as formidable and as feeling as his mother.
"I don't care whether I live or die," she said, and he knew this was no falsehood told in rash bravery, "but I can't let anything happen to my dad. I love him very much, you know."
He continued to stare, unable to tear his eyes away. Finally, he could no longer hold his head up, and so he let it fall. This was his surrender.
"Not afraid to die," his mother scoffed quietly, arching an eyebrow at Luna as she finally lowered her wand. "The sentiments of the thoughtless youth never cease to amaze."
"I assure you, Mrs. Malfoy," Luna said, her voice hardening to steel, "there never was a Ravenclaw who proved thoughtless."
After a few more seconds, Narcissa finally turned away from Luna. She helped Draco to her feet, levitated her sister's prone body, and together, they left the dungeons. He wanted to cast a look over his shoulder, wanted to say something to help mend the mess he'd made, but he was too weak to turn his head.
Luna said nothing as he shut the door for what could be the last time.
March 21, 1998
For three weeks, Draco barely emerged from his room. Narcissa visited him often, but Draco found it difficult to say much to her. Upon hearing of his son's illness, Lucius Malfoy found an excuse to finally return home. He was not told of what really happened, and Draco supposed it was just as well. Bellatrix came to visit on occasion, and as Narcissa had promised, she showed no indication of remembering that she had nearly killed her own nephew.
For those three weeks, Draco bided his time, playing the part of the perfect son insofar as he could manage. He knew better than to attempt to trick his mother by saying that he had seen the light and that she had been completely correct. She was too smart to be duped into believing such an obvious ploy. However, he made no attempts to skirt her firmly given rules and never once did anything directly confrontational. He remained firmly in the realm of the passive aggressive.
Doing this irritated her, but it helped to build up her trust in him somewhat. She hardly allowed him free reign of the manor, but he noticed that the tension in her shoulders was no longer as pronounced as it had once been. She was softening to him again, and it was then and only then that he allowed himself to take a risk.
Long after midnight had passed, Draco stole from his room, cloaking himself in Disillusionment and Silencing Charms. Then he slipped quickly and quietly from his room on the third floor to the subterranean level he hoped Luna still occupied. When he reached the dank quarters that made a home for her and Ollivander, he did not see her at first and began to panic. Then she moved further into the firelight, red reflecting off her white-gold hair.
"Draco," she said, holding out her hands. It was not a question.
He erred on the side of caution and did not throw off the Disillusionment Charm but lifted the other. He practically ran forward, grasping her outstretched palms. "You're all right," he breathed in relief. "I couldn't be sure, and I didn't dare ask." His hands slipped down to circle her wrists. They were smaller than he remembered. "They haven't been feeding you."
"Not as much," she confirmed.
He swore. "I didn't think. I ought to have brought something."
"No, Draco," she interrupted. "Listen to me. You need to get out of here. It isn't safe for you or my father."
"Don't you care about yourself at all?" Draco hissed. "Have you been suicidal all this time and forgot to mention?"
Luna shook her head, her limp hair swinging at her shoulders. "I said I didn't mind dying, not that I wanted to."
"It's the same," he insisted.
She smiled at him ruefully. "There's so much you don't understand. I'm sorry."
If he'd had time for a philosophical debate, he wouldn't have had the patience for it. "Don't apologize to me," he snapped, falling until his forehead hit the bars. "It's all my fault. I'm the one who couldn't stand being on my own and nearly got you killed."
He felt something cool brush against his brow and knew that she mirrored his posture. "Is that the only reason why you came down here?"
Draco felt as if she'd poured sand down his throat. "I don't love you."
"Oh." She sounded disappointed.
"I mean that I can't," he snarled, squeezing her hands. "If I loved you, would I leave you down here? Would I have let anything my mother said matter? Wouldn't I have risked everything just to save you?
"I wish I did love you. I'd be a better man if I did, strong enough to get you out of here. But you were right about what you said so long ago: I'm not brave. I'll never be brave. Maybe you don't mind dying, but I do. It scares me so much, and I'll do anything to live. Even if it means leaving you down here. I'm not good enough to save you. And if I loved you, I'd have to be good enough."
She sighed. "You're so much like Hermione."
He nearly gagged at the thought and recoiled. "What?"
"You both follow logic to reach the conclusions you think have to make sense. Good men save the damsels in distress with swords and fire based on the empirical evidence, so if you don't do it that way, you're not a good man. I don't see it like that. Maybe that's how a Gryffindor would do it, but you're nothing like a Gryffindor."
Draco felt irrationally pleased by this. "So then who do you think I am?"
She smiled and gently tugged him towards her. Then she leaned in and kissed him through the bars. Her lips were dry and cracking, and she moved slowly, as if this caused some pain. It should have left him uneasy, but instead, he felt overwhelmed – like he was drinking moonbeams.
She pulled away, and he felt the loss.
"I think you're a man I can have faith in," she whispered.
He reached for her, awkwardly cupping her cheek. "How can you say that?"
"Because if you were as bad as you seem to think you are, I don't think you'd have the sense to feel guilty about it."
He didn't know it then, but this was the last time she would leave him speechless under his roof.
"If you really want to, don't save me like a Gryffindor," she said, retreating into the darkness of her cell. "Save me like a Slytherin."
March 22, 1998
Draco contemplated his encounter with Luna for many hours. He thought of nothing else until there was some commotion from outside the manor, and he dared to venture from his room. He went down to the main room, waited on an armchair like a spectator waiting for a show to begin. And then he saw them.
Granger. Weasley. And an incredibly bloated Harry Potter.
Draco thought it was supremely unfair that he could find no joy in this moment of seeing Potter blown up to three times his size.
"They say they've got Potter. Draco, come here," his mother instructed in her cold, formal tone.
He rose from the armchair slowly, refusing to look directly at Potter. He couldn't afford to be distracted by him. Somehow, he could twist this into some kind of opportunity. He knew it. He just had to figure out how.
Greyback forced the prisoners to turn, presumably so Draco could get a better look. Draco held back a shudder as the werewolf asked in a gravelly voice, "Well, boy?"
Draco still refused to look directly at any of them, his mind working as faster than ever. Ever since seeing Luna the night before, he had struggled with her words. She wanted him to save her like a Slytherin, but at the time, he hadn't understood her. Slytherins didn't save anyone. Slytherins stayed home while others did the saving. That's what Gryffindors were for. What could she possibly expect him to do that would help her now?
Things had been different then. Had she somehow known that something would change? Was there something to the so-called art of divination, and did Luna possess some sort of talent for it? Or had she counted on him to figure something out completely unaware of how the next twenty-four hours would progress?
Either way, Draco thought he now knew what he had to do. It was true that Slytherins didn't save anyone. Slytherins stayed home while others did the saving.
That's what Gryffindors were for.
"Well, Draco?" his father asked in a desperate voice. "Is it him? Is it Harry Potter?"
It was of course. Who else would be with Granger and Weasley? And even if he'd been alone, Draco would never mistake Harry no matter how distorted his features.
But if he revealed Potter, the Dark Lord would be summoned immediately. Potter would never leave this room alive. He'd be cut down, the war would be lost, and he knew that Luna would not survive it.
"I can't—I can't be sure," Draco muttered, keeping his distance from Greyback.
"But look at him carefully, look!" Lucius demanded. "Come closer! Draco, if we are the ones who hand Potter over to the Dark Lord, everything will be forgiv—"
Greyback interrupted his father before he could continue, and Draco was glad of it. He didn't want to be reminded of what he was giving up. Being responsible for Harry Potter would indeed launch the Malfoy family back into the echelon of Death Eaters. Lucius would get his wand back, his mother would no longer be disgraced, and perhaps, even in a world of blood and fire, they could be happy. Their future fell to Draco.
But, Draco reasoned, there was no guarantee that their family would prevail. They could just as easily fall again. The Dark Lord was notorious for his shifting loyalties. Even Bellatrix, who had once been favored above all, was no longer as highly valued simply because of her association with the Malfoys.
"Draco, come here, look properly! What do you think?"
Draco and Potter now stood face-to-face for the first time in months. Being this close to the Boy-Who-Lived brought back all the rage hidden underneath the nearly crippling fear he felt being face with this decision. He didn't know if he wanted Potter to live, though he also couldn't say for sure that he wanted him to die, particularly if Voldemort was the alternative. But Draco could also not forget his past with one Harry Potter, which for Draco, began with a bond denied and a friendship forsaken before it began.
But as much as he hated Potter, as much as he wanted to get back at him, Potter could do the one thing Draco couldn't: he could save her. Perhaps, he could even save them all.
"I don't know."
This became his second and final mantra, repeated over and over again in his mind. He disavowed Harry Potter until he could almost believe that he really didn't know who stood there, just a few feet away. He maintained denial of Potter even when he couldn't do the same with Granger and Weasley, who he knew his parents would eventually recognize. He continued when Bellatrix came into the room, and when she sent down everyone but Granger to the dungeons to join Luna.
And in the end, Potter didn't let him down.
May 3, 1998
Once the Battle of Hogwarts had ended, and Draco had finished clinging to his parents for a few hours, he knew there was one more person he had to find. He hung back in the shadows of the Great Hall, praying no one would notice him, searching for a pair of dreamy eyes and a dazed soprano voice lifting above the din. He stopped at every flash of blond hair and blue robes, his heart lifting at the possibility and then plummeting with disappointment.
Quivering all the while, he forced himself to look at the rows of tables covered with the bodies of the dead. He saw Professor Lupin, the werewolf he should have never feared, Nymphadora Tonks, the cousin he had rejected, and one of the Weasley twins. And, relegated to the Slytherin tables, of course, were the bodies of Fenrir Greyback, Bellatrix Lestrange, and the Dark Lord – Voldemort. He searched every frozen face for hers and found nothing.
He wanted to be happy or relieved, but he had seen too much of the battle. He knew that there were bodies that would never be recovered. Wizards and witches eaten or crushed or… burned.
He choked on a sob and swiped at his eyes with a soot-covered fist. He scanned the room again, her name rising in his throat, threatening to become a scream. He bit his tongue hard. He half-suspected the Malfoys were being left alone because people were willing to forget their presence in favor of celebrating. Drawing attention to himself could lead to being arrested. Or worse, his father being arrested.
Doing his best not to be seen, Draco sprang forward, running out of the Great Hall and into the crumbling corridor. He saw scorch marks on the walls and blood on the floor. He knew this was only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. How many more had been hurt? Had been killed? How long would it take for them to recover all the bodies in all of Hogwarts' secret places? How many bodies would never be found?
A part of him, using a voice that had once been his own – one he could no longer abide – told him to be grateful. He was alive. His parents were alive. His most dangerous enemies were dead. Why should he care about a girl he'd only known for three short months, a girl he almost always saw with the shadow of bars falling on her pale, round face?
He'd said he didn't love her, after all.
But it would be his fault. He'd helped her escape, however indirectly. Twisted as it sounded, in his dungeon, he might have been able to keep her safe. By letting her out, he'd left her up to her own devices, and she was just stupid enough not to flee to Switzerland like a sensible person, but to join back up with Potter and his bloody army. He'd even sent her along with Potter!
He hadn't been able to save Crabbe. He hadn't been able to bring himself to study the dead faces of any students in Slytherin robes, so who knows how many other friends he'd lost? And he might have lost her as well.
Draco couldn't stop shaking. The tears he'd restrained for Crabbe, he could not hold back for this uncertainty on top of that loss. He was flying apart, and he knew if he let himself break, nothing would be able to put him back together again. He started to fall to his knees, opening his mouth to let out a scream he had to release.
Arms encircled him from behind, holding him up. Two fingers brushed against his lips. A familiar shushing sound filled his ears.
He threw himself upright and whirled. And there Luna stood, filthy and the end of her hair burnt, but beautifully, miraculously alive.
She smiled at him, and finally, she looked at him. Not around, behind, or through, but at him. And even then, she still had the softest eyes he'd ever seen.
He didn't bother to say anything. He just threw his arms around her and pressed his lips to hers, kissing her with the desperation they were both so familiar with and the relief of finding her alive. Her hands brushed his face, encircled his neck, and when they parted, drifted down to hold his hands. She swung them back and forth to emphasize the lack of bars.
"I missed you," she said. "I don't miss your house though."
"I thought you were dead," he blurted. "I couldn't find you, and I was so afraid that I'd… that you were gone."
She gave his hands an extra squeeze. "I heard about Vincent. I'm so sorry, Draco."
He shifted their position, pressing her hands between his palms and holding them next to his heart. "I couldn't bear it if you were gone too. I wouldn't have made it."
"Does this mean that you love me?"
He let out a loud bark of laughter through his grief, and then found he couldn't stop. His stomach ached he laughed so hard, and he was gratified to find that she laughed right along with him. Neither one of them were wholly happy, but the mourning took what joy they could get even in the smallest doses. So much time would be given up to bemoaning the dead. They would laugh while they could, even at the weakest of jests.
"I suppose I must." He grinned smugly. "I did save you after all."
"Harry would disagree with you there."
"Potter is an idiot. I don't care if he saved the world, he's still an idiot. And certainly Potter helped, but I most definitely saved you first."
He realized a moment later this may have been the wrong thing to say, but she didn't stop smiling. "I know you did. I always had faith in you."
He paused, licking his lips. "And what about you?"
She would make this unbearably awkward. "Do you… I mean… Well, I just admitted it, and you were very insistent about it, so it really only seems fair that—"
She stood on tiptoe and stole another kiss. He felt like he could taste the stars.
And when they finally parted, she had only one thing to say.
Title from "Lightning Strike" by Snow Patrol. Any other lyrics and the excerpts taken directly from Deathly Hallows used within the fic are obviously not mine.
I change canon a wee bit so that Draco does not return to Hogwarts after Christmas break. Also, rather than have the Malfoys keep their prisoners in the cellar, I gave the manor a dungeon cause that's just more badass.
Thanks for reading! Please let me know what you think!