Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
a/n: Okay, okay, I'm back with a new chapter! I'm so sorry for the wait—my muse for this story is really obnoxiously flighty. Have I mentioned that I've never managed to keep a story going for more than three chapters before? Because I haven't. The fact that this has reached eight chapters is truly phenomenal, and the fact that I have many more planned is even phenomenal-er. To make up for my tardiness, I wrote a cavity-inducing scene for you. I hated every second of it, but it's awesome. Anyway, I apologize if this one sucks—since it's been going for so long, I feel like my voices for Luna and Draco weren't as spot-on as usual. Forgive any out-of-character-ness you might notice. I promise they're still in here! Also, thank you all for the pile of reviews. I love all of you, and I try to reply to things, but now FFN doesn't have the reply system anymore, it's just PMs, so I feel a little weird replying to reviews like that. I'll reply when I can, though! Here's your chapter~
Oh! I lied! No chapter for you yet—I made a mistaaake with this story, completely forgetting about the whole…Draco confiding in Moaning Myrtle thing. It's been a while since I read the sixth book, so I didn't remember until I got to the one scene, and then I was like "OSHIT". So I'm going to go out on a limb here and…drop Luna into that part completely and totally, and yes, I'm pretty much editing Jo's original text, but let it be known that I'm doing it because I'm lazy and I acknowledge that I'm a horrible person for doing it. So. On with the show!
"What did you mean earlier, with the food and hearths?" he asked, watching as she paused in eating to blink at him.
There were house elves scuttling around, carrying dishes and various things from one place to the other, groups of them disappearing and reappearing every few minutes as they went on cleaning rounds in the castle. Draco hadn't ever liked the kitchens very much—the house elves always seemed so vile to contend with, and he hated the way their voices sounded. He found he didn't mind the elves so much, though, when Luna was there to diffuse the tension.
Luna looked at him for a long moment. When she blinked, her eyes flickered down to the bowl of pudding on the table between them. She licked her spoon thoughtfully, Draco absolutely refusing to pay attention to that action, before saying, "It was something my mother used to say. 'Food is a hearth at home in the matter of comfort.'"
She lapsed into silence, and he watched her, interested in the way she had tangled one hand in her hair, running fingers through her curls in a sort of rhythm as she peered thoughtfully at the table. It occurred to him that kissing her would be very nice, but that was ridiculous.
"I didn't like food very much," she said, voice quieter.
"How odd. You're obsessed with it now," he replied, arching an eyebrow. She smiled a little sadly and lifted her eyes to look at him.
"I'm not, really. You just looked like you needed comforting."
And that explained a lot, really. He had already figured out that the food was what had made him alright with talking to her when she first instigated their weird relationship. He had needed it, after all, and he was an inherently selfish being. Sustenance was offered, and though she was still the last person he wanted to talk to about his…mission, at the moment she had been the best person for the job. She wasn't threatening in any real way, and once he had gotten used to her, her presence really had become a comfort. Among other things.
The silence that fell took over, and she returned to her pudding happily. One of the elves appeared at her elbow to refresh her tea, but neither of them seemed to notice. Luna was distracted by a thought in her head and the curve of the light in her spoon, and Draco seemed to have forgotten that staring at her openly was a bad idea.
It was while he was studying her, the way her lips parted as she twirled the spoon between her fingers, the smooth skin of her neck, that he noticed a darker patch of skin on her left hand, one he had always known was there but had chosen not to pay attention to until he realized exactly what it was.
"Bloody hell," he said, paling as he reached for her hand, pulling it towards him across the table as he traced a finger over the scar Professor Umbridge had left in her skin. He had thought the writing would fade with time—seeing it still etched into the back of her hand, "I will not break rules," filled him with a kind of rage he'd come to associate with his father's growing cruelty to Draco's mother. He supposed it was something to do with protectiveness.
Luna blinked, her cheeks going pink at first until she realized what he was looking at. Her eyes hardened, though she tried to hide it under a sad smile.
"I had hoped it would heal by now," she said quietly. He looked up at her, frowning. Her tone of voice was odd to him, something off in it. It bothered him that he couldn't place it.
"Foul woman," he muttered, dropping his eyes back to her hand and the scar there.
"It's passed, Draco," said Luna, squeezing his hand gently.
"I helped make it happen, though," he said without meaning to, eyes squeezing shut when he realized he had spoken aloud.
"I don't blame you."
"How can you not blame me? I was horrible."
"You still are, Draco," she said, making him look up with something like hurt on his face. It dropped into befuddlement when he realized she was laughing at him somewhere in her head. "You just have trouble knowing how to make moral decisions. Anyone with parents like yours would have that problem. But don't worry, people can learn, especially you."
She stood then, dragging him with her by the hand still held between them. Thanking the elves for the food, she led him to the door, and they wandered into the corridor beyond. Draco only thought to drop her hand when they'd rounded the next corner and he realized they were walking rather closer than would be normal.
"Sorry," he muttered stupidly, resolutely avoiding looking in her direction.
She didn't share the same compulsion, turning her head to study his profile and the flush turning his cheeks and ears pink. Something clicked into place in her mind, a link between the way he'd been looking at her since last Wednesday and the amount of blushing he'd been doing in the same space of time.
She slowed to a stop, peering at him with her head tilted to one side. Draco noticed and stopped a few steps past her, turning to look at the blonde just as she opened her mouth to say something and a fresh set of footsteps made itself known.
Interrupting Luna's thought—which had been very important indeed—Padma Patil rounded the corner, looking intent and rather harassed.
"Oh hello, Padma—" Luna started, managing not to look put-out that such a moment had been put on hold.
"Merlin, there you are," Padma interrupted, scowling and grabbing Luna by the arm, dragging her away from Draco with a rather vitriolic glare in the Slytherin's direction.
"Were you looking for me?" Luna asked, blinking at her fellow Ravenclaw as they trotted along, moving rather faster than Luna would've had she any choice in the matter.
"For a bloody hour," was the reply. Luna considered this for a long moment before asking the obvious question.
"Because Ginny Weasley told Harry, Ron, and Hermione that she heard Justin Finch-Fletchley in the library telling Hannah Abbott that he heard Theodore Nott telling Crabbe and Goyle that Zabini had found out from a first year that Malfoy was tutoring you, and the four of them—"
"There were several names in that list. Which four do you mean?"
"Ginny, Harry, Ron, and Hermione." Padma shot her a glare. "Anyway, the four of them got pissed and went looking for you, and then they saw Parvati and asked Parvati to ask me to check the Ravenclaw common room, and I got dragged into their search party when you weren't there."
"Oh," Luna said, feeling very well-informed indeed.
"Luna! Please stop being stupid," Ginny said, rubbing her forehead in aggravation.
"I'm a Ravenclaw," Luna riposted, "I'm never stupid."
It was the most straightforward thing she'd said in the last twenty minutes.
"Look, just…just tell us why. Please?" Ginny prompted, leaning towards the blonde with an earnest expression on her face.
Hermione rolled her eyes in what she thought was a covert fashion.
"She's not going to say anything, Ginny. I think that's become obvious," she said bluntly, glancing at Luna as she patted the redhead's shoulder. "We all know how stubborn Luna can be."
Harry sighed along with Ginny, agreeing with Hermione silently. They'd been trying to get the Ravenclaw to tell them what could possibly compel her to get help from Malfoy of all people for far too long. At this point, it looked like an exercise in futility.
"Yeah, Ginny, let's let it go," he said, making a face. "She has her reasons."
"Why can't she tell them to us then?" Ginny asked, rounding on Harry. "It makes no bloody sense! She's our friend! She could just as easily asked Hermione, or me, or—"
"She's already asked me a few times, Ginny," Hermione interjected. "I admit, I don't know how to address her learning style."
The conversation devolved into pointless grumbling on Ginny's part, the other two trying to get her to stop wasting everyone's time. Ron, meanwhile, had fallen asleep slumped over a desk, and was snoring softly.
Luna didn't seem to mind the argument going on as if she weren't there, the three of them bickering—or, rather, Ginny trying to bicker while Harry and Hermione provided exasperated logic—while she gazed out the dark window at the moon.
She did have her reasons, she supposed, both for allowing Draco to help her and for not explaining herself to her friends. If she were to elucidate the latter reasoning, it would be something along the lines of seeing no reason to justify herself to a group of people who refused to give people second chances under ordinary circumstances. She knew, objectively, that no matter how hard she tried to get them to understand, they would keep their defenses raised against her words and experiences. If they were going to give Draco a chance, it would be because he did something to show them he deserved one, and Luna couldn't help him with that just yet. Plus, if she started talking about him, Ginny or Hermione would no doubt notice something about the way she said his name or a certain smile that would alert them to her mildly confusing but altogether superbly affectionate feelings for him, and that wouldn't do anyone any good. Ginny might have a heart attack, and Hermione would either ask questions until the world ended—not that Luna disliked questions in general, she just wasn't fond of these sorts of questions—or she would sputter incoherently and refuse to associate with Luna any further. She didn't want to risk any of it. And thus, her silence.
Things dragged on for a few more minutes, Luna sitting quietly until Ron started awake after some distressed muttering about his stuffed bear. Harry and Hermione had shared a glance at that and both bit back laughs, Hermione patting Ron's knee kindly. He scowled at her before looking around the room.
"What're we still doing here?" he asked, staring at Luna momentarily.
"Ginny is refusing to allow Luna her privacy," Hermione said, amusement in her tone, making the redhead in question glare and storm from the room.
"Oh," Ron said, considering this before turning back to squint at Luna. "You don't want to tell us about this Malfoy thing?"
"Not particularly," Luna said, looking at him with her normal mild expression in place.
"Well, to hell with this," he said, shifting out of his seat. "I'm going to bed. Just…I dunno, don't get yourself murdered or anything. Malfoy's an evil prat, remember?"
"Yes, I remember," she said, smiling at him as Harry and Hermione stood as well.
The three of them bid her goodnight, leaving the unused classroom they had inhabited soon after. Luna trailed after them, eyes on the ceiling as she turned towards the Ravenclaw common room. Bed did rather sound like a good idea. She did do some of her best thinking while sleeping, after all, and she had quite a bit to think about after tonight.
The next morning, Luna awoke feeling quite proud of herself. She had always rather liked herself, but she had always wondered if anyone else did. Now she had an answer to that quiet but bothersome question, and there was more than a little self-satisfaction involved in getting an affirmative to such a query. She supposed it would be better if Draco admitted it out loud, but for the moment, she was quite happy with things.
She drifted down to breakfast, her hair in a ponytail and one of her mother's bracelets around her wrist because she felt pretty, and doing pretty things when she felt pretty was always nice. No one seemed to notice the change in her spirits, which was a little sad, but predictable. She did such a flawless job of not showing her daily discomfort that a humming and buoyant Luna was hardly new to the students surrounding her.
She pulled a book out when she sat down at the Ravenclaw table, sliding a few pieces of bacon and some toast onto her plate as she opened it to the bookmark, picking up where she had left off the day before. Consequently, she wasn't paying attention when the post arrived, and didn't notice the owl land in front of her until it stepped onto the page she was about to turn, causing a tense moment in which she thought she had torn the page.
"Oh, hello," she said when she had ascertained that she wasn't about to die a slow, painful death at the hands of Madam Pince or her own sense of horror. The owl hooted at her and lifted its leg, to which was tied a small parcel.
Luna blinked, wondering who had sent it. She had only ever gotten packages from her father, and this barn owl had nothing to do with Xenophilus' tawny owl.
Relieving the owl of the package, she passed through various possibilities, not finding any of them likely.
"Thank you," she said, breaking off a bit of bacon and offering it to the bird with a smile. It hooted again, taking the food and flapping away, knocking her pumpkin juice over. She snatched the small parcel out of the way of the juice, studying it as she pulled her wand from behind her ear, cleaning the spill with a murmured "Scougify!" Whatever was inside was wrapped in parchment, sealed rather messily. Curiouser and curiouser.
Luna opened it, pulling a tangle of silver chain out of the parchment. It was completely knotted, with a tiny charm—two leaves of differing metals, one a delicate pink, the other a soft green, holding a small pearl in place—hanging from it.
"Oh," she said softly, holding it to the light. It was barely the size of a fly, and very pretty.
She glanced back to the parchment, searching for a note or a clue to who it was from. On one of the inside folds, she found a few scribbles of ink, and smiled.
If you can untangle it, it's yours.
It was Draco's handwriting.
For the life of him, he couldn't figure out why he had done it, except that the look on her face made him happier than he'd been in months, and much more genuinely so. It wasn't like he'd been using it, anyway—the damn thing had been cluttering the drawer in his bedside table since the end of last year. His mother had given it to him on the pretense of him giving it to Pansy, but he had taken one looked at it and known she would hate it. It was too small, too delicate for her ostentatious fashion sense, and he had never seen her wear silver. Pansy never accepted anything but the most expensive gold, not that he'd ever tried to give her jewelry. And thus, it had drifted around in his trunk, and then in the drawer, for far too long, until he found it last night and immediately thought of Luna.
At least I didn't sign my name, he thought, watching her fiddle with the tangled mess of chain in what he hoped was a covert manner. Everyone knew he was tutoring her by now, which had ruined any reputation he had hoped to maintain—it would only be made worse if he was caught staring at her.
Of course, several seconds later, it occurred to him that Luna likely knew what his handwriting looked like by now, so anonymity was nigh on impossible. He squeezed his eyes shut, loosing a breath tiredly. He was out of luck—she would know, she would say something, he would have to explain himself. All of it was endlessly humiliating, and he couldn't help but wonder why people prattled on about romance being a wonderful thing. Frankly, his life had been so much easier before he had figured out how his feelings worked and that it was possible to actually like girls beyond sex, and here was Luna, scrambling his head up with her stupid mental circles and her beautiful mouth.
Though, of course, things couldn't keep going as well as they had been. He spent lunch in the Room of Requirement, banging his head—metaphorically—against his hugest problem, and making no progress, as per usual. He left just in time for class, and forced himself back into the room before dinner, his head throbbing. He was getting desperate, and though he had been getting better sleep recently, though he had been eating more and beating himself up less about it, the sky was still falling when he left the cluttered room an hour later. He was no stranger to panic at this point in the game, so he knew why he felt like he couldn't breathe, why the world was quivering just slightly, why the floor under his feet felt far too solid to be comforting, because his knees were jelly above them. He was terrified, though, as he pressed himself against the wall behind him, eyes on the ceiling, trying to make the corridor stop its spinning.
He heard footsteps—her footsteps—and his panic increased, a shout of Can't let her see me like this, run, run starting up in his head. Just as she rounded the corner, he sped past her, eyes wide as he aimed for anywhere but there, anywhere deserted.
"Draco?" she called after him, sounding confused and less airy than he had heard her yet. He could hear her following him, feet pounding a few corners behind. He kept running, half-hoping the exertion would make his breathing even out as a survival instinct, but no such luck. He reached the end of his speed two floors down, and had to stop to lean against the wall just outside the girls' bathroom. He heard Luna running down the next corridor, and bit back a groan, slipping into Moaning Myrtle's domain grudgingly, but with a sense of necessity as he struggled for breath and tried to keep standing.
The door had made a noise, though, and Luna was smart. She opened the door several moments later, her cheeks flushed and breathing shallow.
"Draco," she said, closing the door and looking at him with wide eyes, chest heaving.
"Oh god," he groaned, feeling tears pricking his eyes. He turned away, moved as far away from her as he could. He was shaking and disheveled, and the sight of him so shaken apart scared Luna more than a great many things. She knew the situation he was in, although vaguely, but she had never thought to see him showing his panic. Even with his back to her, she could hear his crying in the way his already strained breaths tightened on sobs he refused to release. His hands were clenched so tightly around the rim of the sink he was leaning on that she half-thought he would shatter the porcelain.
"Tell me," she said softly, trying to hide the fear churning in her stomach as she moved toward the sinks, circling to the far side to try to see his face. "I can help."
He broke, choking on a breath. He started speaking slowly, eyes shut against his panic and the hope that was always in her face. "No one can help me. I can't do it…I can't…It won't work…and unless I do it soon…he says he'll kill me…."
Luna let out a breath, pressing a hand to her eyes to keep from crying herself. Other people's desperation had always hurt her more than her own, and Draco was just so…
She didn't finish the train of thought, because Draco spun away for some reason, drawing his wand and sending a hex towards the door. Luna flinched, moving to see Harry dodging splinters of glass as Draco's hex hit a lamp. Harry sent a jinx—a silent one—Draco's way, and it was blocked, but Luna just couldn't—
"Stop it! Harry, Draco, no! Stop!" she cried, taking a step forward only to freeze when she heard the beginning of a spell she never wanted anywhere near her fall from Draco's lips moments after a cistern, hit by another silent spell from Harry, exploded behind her. Harry cut him off, and then there was blood, and Luna had almost nearly never been as scared as she was when she registered Draco and Harry both on the floor, Harry gasping out "No—" and clambering to his feet, Draco shaking and bleeding.
She was crying, but she didn't notice, standing with her entire body frozen, mouth open—with what words, she didn't know.
Moaning Mytle, having watched excitedly from an open stall, started screaming within seconds, "MURDER! MURDER IN THE BATHROOM! MURDER!", and then Professor Snape was there, and Luna had a memory of stepping into her mother's workroom after the accident, the blood and the smell and what had been her mother seconds ago—she ran out, slipping on the wet floor, and wobbled to a halt in the corridor.
Sickness bubbled in her stomach, and she fell the floor gracelessly, eyes on her shoes, hands limp.
She didn't remember much of it when she woke up later, eyes meeting the ceiling of the hospital wing with vague familiarity. She had only been in here a handful of times over the years, only twice for herself.
"Oh, good, you're awake."
Luna turned her head to see Madam Pomfrey bustling towards her with a tray of food. She wasn't quite hungry, but it was a good thing to have at a time like this, food. Have the smell of it in her nose when she asked what had happened.
"He'll be fine," Madam Pomfrey said, waving her hand to make the supine blonde sit up.
Luna accepted the elder witch's words and the food silently, glancing around the room as she shredded bread between her fingers, eating it slowly. She saw Draco a few beds down on the other side of the room, his chest rising and falling evenly. Relief flooded her, which confused her for a moment. Madam Pomfrey had assured her that he was alright—why should Luna be relieved to have proof? She trusted authority figures, much though her father would have her question every single one of them.
"It's worse than I thought," she murmured, reaching up to touch the necklace around her neck, her finger brushing the little pearl clasped between leaves.
He woke up feeling horrid the next morning, which wasn't anything new, except that there were concrete reasons for the horridness now. For starters, the places that Potter's spell had mauled him still stung, though they had healed to the point of minute scarring by then; the dittany had done horrible things to his stomach; and the sunlight streaming in through the east windows of the hospital wing was giving him the worst kind of headache.
Someone shifted in his periphery, and he turned his head just as Luna turned to look down at him, having gotten distracted from her evident window-gazing by the sound of his shifting.
She smiled at him, one of her quiet, sincere things.
"Good morning," she said, voice soft as she moved to sit in the chair next to his bed. She looked tired, he realized, dark circles under her eyes even though she looked as placid as ever. Well, no, that wasn't true—he could find concern in the way she was looking at him, the way she tilted her head.
"Why are you here?" he asked, clearing his throat just after, his voice having come out gruff and sleep-filled.
Her smile faded, face slipping back into its typical, difficult-to-read look of vague interest.
"Why wouldn't I be here?" she asked after a silence on the long side, blinking at him.
He paused, eyeing her carefully before looking away and saying, "You usually side with Potter on these things."
He heard her sigh and looked back at her, taking in the downcast eyes and the twist of her mouth.
"I don't know who's right, at the moment," she said quietly, laying a hand on top of his and curling her fingers against his palm. "I just know that he hurt you more than you hurt him."
"That's an understatement."
He shifted his hand around to squeeze hers, though, managing to ignore the rising heat in his cheeks as he did so.
"Thank you for the necklace," she said, touching it with her free hand. Her cheeks were pink, as well, which made his heart do something ridiculous in his chest. He almost wished he'd lost more blood so it couldn't act the fool like that.
"Better than letting it lie around and tarnish," he muttered, eyes skating away.
Silence fell for a long moment, Luna eyeing him, glancing at their twined hands, and looking up at the clock on the far wall.
Draco tensed when he felt her hair brush his face—and her lips brush his cheek.
"Really," she said, face still closer to his than was natural. "Thank you, Draco."
She drew her hand away and turned to go, settling her schoolbag on her shoulder as she went.
"You're welcome," he murmured after her, not quite sure if she heard him or not as the door swung shut behind her.