It was quiet now. The shrieks of torturous pain followed by the cackling laughter of Aunt Bella had finally ended. Draco ought to have been able to fall asleep now. Instead, he was lying awake in his king sized bed, staring at the blank ceiling. Sleep never came easily.
For many nights over the summer, Draco saw the writhing form of the former Muggle Studies teacher before The Dark Lord's pet snake devoured her. Though he never had a fondness for the class or any desire to take it, he certainly hadn't wished the professor any ill will. Aside from her convictions about Muggles, she hadn't forced these principles on anyone else. She had merely provided ideas. She didn't deserve to be killed.
Lately, however, it was the tasks that the Dark Lord forced him to perform that prevented Draco from sleeping.
'Draco, give Rowle another taste of our displeasure.'
The command caused Draco's hand to tremble. He didn't want to torture the man and he was frightened that the Dark Lord would have Draco kill a fellow Death Eater.
'Do it, or feel my wrath yourself!'
Draco had no choice. He had to do it or he would be killed. With a shaking hand, he forced himself to use the Cruciatus Curse over and over again.
Rowle's bloodshot eyes never left his. It was a sight that Draco would never forget.
The last assignment from the Dark Lord still haunted him. They were just children, little girls and boys, who were unfortunately not pureblood. It ought to have made Draco laugh, thinking of how pathetic they were and how insignificant their lives were. Instead, Draco felt like he was going to be sick. He watched each of them as their eyes widened in horror before their short lives ended by the swift wave of a Death Eater's wand. He watched as their small forms fell lifelessly to the ground.
Oftentimes, when he accompanied his aunt, Draco was forced to watch as the Muggles or Mudbloods were tortured first, their blood spattering the pavement and alleyways, before the cursed Avada Kedavra quelled the turbulent quaking of their bodies.
Draco used many of the Unforgiveables, but he never uttered the Killing Curse, not even when bated by his aunt. Thankfully, no one dared to taunt him in to doing it, since so many believed he had already proven his worth by killing Dumbledore.
For a while, Draco had been all right going along with what his parents wanted him to do and what the Dark Lord expected of him. However, if he was honest with himself, he didn't want to have any part of this, not anymore.
He had been so proud of himself to receive the Dark Mark. He loved the approval of his parents and the praise he received. He would have bragged about it if he hadn't been assigned the impossible task of killing the former headmaster. Failing repeatedly, hounded by Professor Snape, and ultimately not being able to kill Dumbledore weighed heavily on him. He knew that he wasn't cut out for this. He wasn't cut out to be a killer.
Part of him felt that he was weak and that he ought to, at the very least, try harder, but deep down, he just wanted out.
The Dark Mark seared his flesh as he contemplated an escape. He had no place to go. It was futile to consider running away because the Dark Lord would find him. The Dark Lord would probably torture and kill his parents if he left. He had no choice but to stay and continue doing His bidding.
Draco squeezed his eyes tightly shut as he attempted to prevent any tears for the children he witnessed being murdered from escaping his eyelids. He knew if he fell asleep, the hours would pass by more quickly and it would already be a new day, another day filled with tasks he had no desire to perform. Should he risk falling asleep, he would also succumb to nightmares of the terrors unfolding daily.
This new world order that the Dark Lord sought to accomplish was something Draco had no desire to see. His parents told him not to worry and that soon the war would end. He didn't believe them. What did blood status really matter in the end?
It was out of guilt for his participation in the tasks that made him sick that Draco visited the occupants of the cellar. He knew the wandmaker had been living in their cellar for nearly a year now, but he never expected to find a girl down there. It was dark, musty, and reeked of urine. It was a highly unsanitary place, hardly an acceptable place for a young woman. The Malfoys might never be honourable, but they certainly prided themselves on appearances. How good would it look—however the cards fell after the war—if people were to find out about the way they treated their prisoners?
This was Draco's reasoning, or rather his excuse, for deciding to provide the prisoners with better food which he provided himself. He couldn't trust even a House Elf to do it for him, lest his parents, or others, find out.
He asked Luna questions about what happened and why she was in their cellar. He didn't find out much, except that she had been abducted on her way home for the holidays. She didn't know why she was there, but what was strange was that she didn't ask him for anything. She didn't even ask why he was being nice. It baffled him that she was entirely accepting of everything, including her current state of dress and imprisonment.
As the week passed, any sense of normalcy in Draco's life now surrounded one person only.
Luna remembered that it was Christmas. She apologised for not having a present for Mr Ollivander or for Draco.
This stunned him. Here she was, in a cellar, without a toothbrush or a clean set of clothes, let alone a Christmas dinner with friends and family; and yet, it was she who lamented not being able to give him a gift.
Draco just gaped at her for a moment, fumbling for words. Though he had been so scared before about someone finding out that he was secretly visiting the cellar to give them more than a jug of water or scraps of food, he no longer feared someone discovering his secret. What he was doing was right. He never felt confident about anything he did for the Dark Lord, but even if it was out of guilt or remorse, he knew this was the right thing.
He offered Luna his hand.
She just stared at him with her round, pale eyes.
'Please, just come with me,' Draco said. He felt slightly nervous in the pit of his stomach, but it wasn't the fear he felt when carrying out the Dark Lord's bidding. This was the nervousness of a young man trying to impress a lady. He wanted to come across well in front of someone he was starting to care about, unaware of his own budding feelings.
The door to the cellar slowly creaked open as Draco led the way up the narrow staircase. When they reached the top, a woman's voice inquired: 'Draco, what are you doing?'
'Mother,' Draco gasped, his grip on Luna's hand tightening.
'Return her to the cellar this instant!' she hissed.
'It's no place for a lady down there! She needs a shower, nevermind food and a decent place to rest! She's been in these clothes since she left Hogwarts!' Draco argued.
'It's better than Azkaban,' Narcissa insisted as she started pushing them back down the stairs.
'What if your father found out about this? The Dark Lord—'
That was the end of their conversation.
The next time Draco attempted this, he didn't ask for permission, but used a Side-Along Apparition to take Luna to his room. He knew it would be safer than chancing a guest room, unsure as to which rooms were currently being occupied. He didn't have any clothes for her, but could at least freshen her garments while she washed up and was able to do this for her until he had to return to school.
The two and a half months he spent back at Hogwarts were the most gruelling he had ever experienced. He couldn't concentrate on his schoolwork and his old friends had already lost faith in him. He was entirely alone and in his isolation, his thoughts dwelt on Luna. No one would be taking care of her and making sure that she was all right. He pleaded with his parents to let him come home early, but they refused. He had to wait until Easter and when the time came, he feared he would find her in a worse state than when he first found her.
He began to have terrible nightmares about Luna. He dreamt that everyone found out that she had given up Potter's location—even though it was her father who tried to rat Potter out—and was responsible for the Dark Lord finding him. The entire school crowded around her, debating about how to torture and then kill her. Even Potter and his friends were there, which didn't make sense, but when did nightmares ever make sense?
Everyone stared at her with accusatory eyes, demanding her blood as though they were part of the Dark Lords army, instead of Potter's crew.
Luna didn't have a wand or anything to defend herself with. No one came to her aid or backed her up. Everyone shouted curses and blame at her, but just as they were about to close in, Draco burst through the crowd, blocking her from them. 'Leave her alone!'
Then wands shot forth spells and curses. Draco pushed her to the ground, landing atop her, trying to shield her from them. It was then he smelled her and touched her for the first time. It was hard to resist not holding her longer and even harder to resist burying his face in her hair.
She stared up at him, trusting, grateful. She made him feel things he never felt before: noble, heroic, humbled, but also he awoke realising just how much he cared about her and how much he was willing to risk to be with her.
Once Draco arrived home for Easter, he made any excuse he could to sneak down to the cellar. Though the months had not been kind to Luna, in Draco's eyes, she couldn't have been more beautiful. Luna babbled about him saving her when he had done nothing of the sort. She was skinny, too skinny, and paler than she normally was. He did his best to help in what ways he could until Potter arrived and took her away from him.
Then everything happened so fast. They were back at Hogwarts, immersed in the battle that would end the war. So many lives were lost. He didn't know if Luna would make it. Crabbe certainly didn't. He didn't have time to mourn the loss of his friend until he sat with his family in the Great Hall. Thankfully his parents were still alive. Of course the Golden Trio survived; he hadn't doubted that. Even though Weasley punched Draco in the face, Draco couldn't even feel it. He was numb to everything now.
It was then that Draco looked up and saw her.
She was alive.
Draco slowly stood up, taking a step from the isolated area where his parents sat away from the rest of the survivors. She didn't see him. She was talking to Potter. He couldn't move. He waited and watched as Potter, Weasley, and Granger left the Hall. Luna then spoke to some other people before she looked around and her eyes settled on him. He felt a knot catch in his throat.
While the two and half months between seeing her in the cellar caused her to look gaunt, the months she spent away from Malfoy Manor had done her so much good. She was much healthier looking and in spite of the battle wounds, she was hearty and strong. Most of all, she was like a ray of light and as she approached, he felt her warmth coming over him even before she embraced him.
At first, he couldn't breathe and then he inhaled slowly, breathing her in. 'I'm sorry,' he whispered, not knowing what he was apologising for.
'I want to go home,' she murmured in reply.
She hadn't asked him for anything. Now it was his turn to do something selfless, not because of guilt.
She took his hand and they turned to leave the Great Hall together when his mother asked, 'Where are you going?'
Draco explained he was going to accompany Luna home. 'After imprisoning her for several months, it's the least we can do,' he concluded. 'It is her only request.'
His parents looked confused at first and then concerned, but didn't argue against it. Eventually, his father nodded his consent and told Draco to be home before dinner.
The pair left Hogwarts together, without looking back.
When they arrived at the location of the Lovegood home, they found it in ruins. Scattered fabrics, pieces of furniture and other household items lay strewn about the property. There was no sign of Luna's father. With her bare hands, Luna tore at the bricks and mortar, lifting the piles of wood and stone in an effort to find her father. She called for him, unable to find him and it was then, for the first time, that Draco saw her cry.
'Where is he? What did they do to him?' she asked Draco as if he had answers.
The two of them stood amidst the rubble of her home near Ottery St. Catchpole, unsure about where to go from here. Draco saw that everything she knew was destroyed. Just as the life he used to know was also destroyed. Now it was time for Draco to show hope and for the future. 'We'll find out what happened to him,' he assured her. He didn't know what else to say. He wanted to slip an arm around her shoulders and comfort her properly, but wasn't sure how to do it. What would she think of him if he did that? After all, it was his family that imprisoned her for so long and took her away from her friends and family. Why should she believe him?
'I've no place to go.' Luna's voice trembled as she said this.
'You can stay with me,' Draco replied. But noticing the weighted implication, he quickly added, 'Until we find your father, I mean… And in a guest room, not the cellar this time…'
Luna looked uncertain about this offer and he bowed his head. When he met her eyes once more, he said, 'It's the least I can do, after what you've been through.'
'And your parents?' she inquired.
'I doubt there will be any argument about your staying with us,' Draco assured her. 'We defected shortly before Potter's victory. They will see it as a means of apologising.' For Draco, it would mean so much more. His heart fluttered in anticipation of her answer.
After looking around at the ruins of her home for a good while, Luna found part of her painting. Fragments of the faces of Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville—an eye here, a chin there, the golden writing of the word friends that formerly encircled the work of art—lay crumbled on the ground.
'Perhaps it is time for a new painting,' she said elusively.
Draco had no idea what she was talking about and looked at her curiously.
Luna smiled and took his arm. 'I'm ready to leave now,' she confidently replied. Her pale eyes met his and he knew in that instant that everything would be fine. Luna never did make sense to him, but Draco felt courage returning to him, a courage only felt when he was in her presence or doing something to honour her. He would never question his loyalties again. With renewed hope, the pair left Devon for Wiltshire, where they would await news of Mr Lovegood's release from Azkaban and plan a future in a brighter, more accepting Wizarding Britain.
A/N: The exact date of Dean Thomas's capture by Snatchers is not revealed in the book, so I placed it closer to the time of the Golden Trio's arrival at Malfoy Manor.
Additionally, I want to remind the reader that this is from Draco's point of view. Any inconsistencies with canon are for dramatic purpose.
The Irish Gaelic phrase: An rud a lionas an tsuil lionann se an croi, means 'what fills the eyes fills the heart.'