Draco Malfoy was feeling a bit tipsy. That had been the goal. Regardless of what he was feeling, he was looking absolutely sloshed. He had come to rely on the wall for support, and at some point had gradually fallen down it into a sitting position. His head was currently lolling about while he emitted the occasional brooding chuckle. The half-empty bottle of Firewhiskey clutched loosely in his right hand had helped him go from manic despair and desperation to numbness in six shots flat.
A voice from the doorway startled him. "Now, now, Malfoy. What would your father think if he saw you out here like this? Out of bounds in the dead of night, getting drunk instead of patrolling the castle?" Hermione Granger snorted. "Model Prefect, this one," she muttered.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the castle, two figures appeared where, just a second before, there had been nothing. Harry Potter folded his invisibility cloak into his bag, and watched his companion pace back and forth in front of a particular section of wall. She made three passes, each with halting strides, almost like skipping without jumping. She wore a look of concentration.
As Luna Lovegood made one last pass by the wall, she did what she'd been doing quite often lately – she asked the Room of Requirement to provide some distraction.
These quests for distraction had begun a few months ago when Luna had been locked out of her dormitory. She didn't feel very welcome in the Ravenclaw common room, so she had begun to wander the castle after curfew. Harry had been unable to sleep and was himself wandering, though with the protection of the invisibility cloak and the Marauder's Map. After seeing Luna's dot moving away from Ravenclaw tower, he journeyed toward her, imagining she might like some company. As Harry drew closer to her, it occurred to him to take the invisibility cloak off so as not to surprise her. He finally caught up to her in the trophy room, where she sat cross-legged in front of the case of awards.
Hoping very much that he wouldn't startle her into hexing him (he'd seen her wandwork in DA meetings and at the ministry – she was frightfully creative), he stepped into the room and quietly called her name. "Luna..." At the sound of her name, she looked in his direction, but did not seem afraid. "It's Harry."
"Hello Harry," she had said, seeming only mildly surprised. "Are you an insomniac, or are you breaking curfew for fun?" She asked with total seriousness. Luna was odd. Harry came to sit beside her, awkwardly finding that he couldn't sit cross-legged like her and settling for bringing his knees up to his chest.
"I suppose I'm an insomniac. I just don't like my dreams lately." Harry felt comfortable telling Luna this. He hadn't told Ron or Hermione how bad it had gotten for fear that they'd treat him like he was made of glass. Somehow he knew that wasn't in Luna's nature, though.
"I won't tell you that you'll stop dreaming of the ones you lose. I'll never stop dreaming of my mother." Harry turned to Luna, looking for some sign of sadness or pain in her face but finding only unfiltered truth. She said the words as though commenting on the inevitability of tomorrow. She could have been telling him that it was raining or that his shoes were untied. It was just truth.
"What was she like?" Harry asked, suddenly wanting desperately to understand someone who had made such an impact on the girl sitting next to him.
"Kind. Wise. Very patient. Daddy sometimes says that I'm very much like her." Luna said with a tiny smile.
Harry felt his skin heat up. "She sounds wonderful." He licked his lips and averted his eyes. Heat rose in his cheeks. "She sounds like you."
And so had begun an intense friendship. Harry spent his days in a stupor, moving from class to class half-conscious, trying not to worry Ron and Hermione. But when night fell, he left Gryffindor tower and set out in search of Luna. Soon, Harry proposed that he pick up Luna outside the Ravenclaw common room so that she didn't get caught out of bounds. Luna accepted the idea, and the two met every night. Sometimes they went to the trophy room where it began, sometimes the kitchens, and a few times they ventured as far as the black lake, where Luna would throw muffins to the giant squid. Apparently, the creature valued muffins above all things.
Harry told Luna about Sirius. Luna told Harry tales of her mother. Luna heard of Harry's years in a cupboard, and Harry heard of Luna's mistreatment by her dorm mates. Harry had been furious and implored her to report the abuse, but she had calmly insisted that people would change when they were ready, and that her dorm mates were capable of growing up on their own. Harry had doubted this, but Luna's mind would not be changed. Though he didn't see the sense in letting them go unpunished, Harry knew that Luna's attitude was the result of an abundance of love and understanding. Those were things he wouldn't change about her. She was Luna, and Harry wouldn't have her any other way.
They laughed together. They visited the house elves, and Luna traded hats and socks with Dobby. Harry found that Luna had the uncanny ability to deliver slightly perverse comedy in a very innocent manner. He occasionally found himself choking on cocoa as she speculated on the budding romance between Ron and Hermione, offering a pointed joke about sexual tension with a demure little grin.
Romance had been on Harry's mind a lot lately. Harry hadn't much experience with love. He had no memory of loving parents. He had close friends in Ron and Hermione, but Luna sparked different feelings in him. He wanted her to be happy, no matter what that entailed. He cared for her, admired her, and respected her, and found joy in knowing her a little better with every passing day.
He often found himself gazing at her, taking in all the little details that made her Luna. He loved her strange earrings that would be more at home in a garden than a jewelry box. He loved her mismatched socks with mythical creature patterns. He loved that her skin was as pale as her namesake, throwing light right back at him. Her hair was the lightest shade of blonde he had ever seen, and it shone with natural beauty, untamed, though occasionally braided and decorated with ivy. Moving about with her under the cloak when Filch or a professor got near, Harry constantly fought to control his ragged breathing. Every intake of breath brought him a dose of Essence of Luna, which he was confident would sell for several thousand galleons per bottle. She smelled of grass, pumpkin, and some other thing that he could never describe. Close proximity to Luna did strange things to him, but like Luna herself, he wouldn't have it any other way.
Luna had also found something unprecedented in Harry. Her father always told her that the best measure of a person was not how many friends they had, but how they treated those friends. Harry trusted her. It wasn't the trust one places in a stranger, telling them something personal and then never seeing them again. It was real trust. Having been raised knowing nothing of magic and then finding that a whole world had been hidden from him, Harry was more willing than most people to believe that things might exist which he could not see. They talked about their dreams. Harry dreamed of a normal life with a loving family, and Luna dreamed of trekking the globe in search of fantastic creatures. Harry didn't patronize her when she talked about crumple-horned snorcacks. He asked what she thought they were like. He even suggested that he wouldn't mind looking for them one day. Harry was willing to believe, and that made Luna feel very warm around him.
Something was happening between the two of them, but both were still hesitant to hope. Life had never taught Harry to love, and, though Luna gave her understanding so freely, she was a bit more guarded about her love.
"Show me something Harry and I would find interesting," she thought, but quickly amended that. "Something that he wouldn't be embarrassed to see with me," she finished. Harry was a boy after all.
And just as it had so many times before, a door appeared. Luna stepped off to the side, allowing Harry to open the door and gesture her inside with a bow. No matter how many times he did that, it was still charming.
As Luna surveyed the inside of the newly-created space, she couldn't help but let a tiny, nervous laugh escape. Nervous was not something Luna Lovegood did, but tonight was an exception. Tonight, her plans were ambitious. Clearly, the room had picked up on this. On nights previous, they had asked for entertainment and been presented with games. Sometimes one of them would invoke the room's power to show the other some place that held meaning to them. Luna had used it to show Harry a copy of her bedroom. Harry had used it to create the playground from his primary school so that he could see it without having to run from Dudley. Tonight, however, things were decidedly more sparse.
Instead of taking on the cavernous quality needed for DA meetings, the room was smaller than a Hogwarts dormitory. The left wall of the tiny room was taken up by a fireplace, already lit and crackling merrily. The rest of the room was quite bare, and was taken up mostly by a plush loveseat. Rather than facing the fireplace, however, the loveseat faced an immense window with a single pane of uninterrupted glass. Apart from the snow swirling about, the area on the other side of the window was inky black. If Luna had to use a single word to describe the room, she'd say "cozy."
If Harry Potter were asked to describe the room, he would merely gulp and repeat what had lately become his mantra: "Don't jump her."
Luna took Harry's hand and lead him past the fireplace and onto the loveseat, sitting next to him and spreading a blanket – thoughtfully provided by the room and already warmed by the fire – over their laps. Harry took the blanket, relishing the warmth in the slightly chilly room. A little confused by the scenery, or lack thereof, Harry asked Luna what she'd been thinking of when she created the room.
"I told it we wanted to see something interesting. I suppose something interesting will appear outside the window." Luna replied, edging closer to Harry under the pretext of getting a better view of said window. As if the window had been waiting for them to settle in, the image behind the glass changed, and they were suddenly looking at the astronomy tower. Harry immediately went beet red – he'd heard what sort of things happen late at night on the astronomy tower. They were not astronomy lessons. But as the scene came into focus, he let out a strangled noise of confusion. Draco Malfoy was alone, slumped against a wall and looking quite morose. Harry panicked. Never taking his eyes off of Malfoy, Harry leaned closer to Luna and began to issue instructions in a low voice.
"You need to hide. I don't think he's spotted us yet. I'll throw a couple of curses to cover your retreat if he looks up. Just move slowly..."
Luna giggled and turned her mirth-filled eyes to Harry, forcing him to look her way. "I'm fairly certain Draco can't see us. I doubt that the room would put us in danger. I didn't ask it for an adventure, I just asked to see something interesting."
Harry smiled nervously, disarmed by Luna's laughter and easy confidence. Somewhat sheepishly, he put his wand away. "What do you suppose he's doing there? It's the astronomy tower, right?"
"I believe it is." Luna replied. "It is a bit of a curious place for him to be so late at night." Luna noticed the bottle and her brow furrowed in concern. "It looks as though he's trying to drown his sorrows."
Harry snorted and rolled his eyes, letting them rest on the fire. "What bloody sorrows? Did he miss a chance to torment a muggleborn today? Is he just noticing that everyone with any sense hates him? Did he run out of hair gel?"
Harry stopped his rant as Luna touched his elbow. "Look."
Hermione Granger had stepped into the frame.
"I'm quite sure he'd hex me a bit, call me a failure, and tell me to get to work." Draco mumbled, closing his eyes so the parapets would stop spinning.
"Oh yes," Hermione sarcastically agreed, "I'm sure you've got very important Death Eater work to do." She shook her head in disgust. "You're supposed to be patrolling, Malfoy. We're Prefects. It's our job to STOP people from getting drunk on the astronomy tower. Are you just doing this for the sake of irony?"
Draco let out a little sniff of derision. "You can't even begin to imagine why I'm doing this, Granger."
Back in the Room of Requirement (which was currently some kind of voyeuristic love nest), Harry and Luna watched and listened with genuine interest. If Malfoy hadn't appeared so obviously drunk, Harry would be worried for Hermione's safety. As it was, he was looking forward to Hermione stunning Draco and levitating his booze-soaked carcass to McGonogall for some form of punishment. Luna, for her part, was merely content to watch the interaction between two interesting people – Harry's proximity was icing on the cake.
Luna passed the popcorn to Harry – it had appeared by the fire shortly after Hermione had arrived on the astronomy tower – and spoke, never tearing her eyes away from the action. "I've never seen Draco look more human."
Harry opened his mouth to scoff at the implication that Draco had a soul, but stopped himself and truly considered Luna's words. "Yeah," he agreed. "Neither have I."
Hermione conjured a ball of blue flame to keep herself warm and leaned against a parapet opposite the slouching Draco Malfoy. After some hesitation, she conjured another, which she levitated toward him. His right hand rose to meet the flame, which was enchanted and designed only to warm instead of truly burning. "Careful, Malfoy." Hermione chided with an impish smile. "I imagine you're more flammable than usual right now."
"Bloody comedian, you are." Draco replied, cupping the blue flame in his palm. His eyes focused on the dancing light, which soon slid out of focus into a blue blur. "So are you just going to stand here and pamper me with Bluebell charms? I know I'm damn handsome and all, but you're typically a lot less friendly toward me."
"So are you." Hermione replied with a shrug. She was smiling again. "I like you better when you're drunk. You haven't called me Mudblood yet, you aren't threatening anyone, and it's refreshing to see you like this. I always imagined you'd spend your leisure time bathing in caviar with your loyal, ape-like consorts."
"The caviar was getting expensive. Tonight I decided to try bathing in Firewhiskey instead." At this Hermione actually giggled. He'd never heard her do that. It wasn't as annoying as it should have been, though that could be the Firewhiskey bath talking. Screw it. She was a pretty girl and he was determined to have a little fun as long as he was forgetting his troubles. "You ever seen a flamewell, Granger?"
Hermione cocked her head in confusion. "Is that some sort of hex you're about to botch because you're drunk? I thought we were getting on quite well."
Draco began to pull himself to his feet. Hermione subtly drew her wand, which Draco anticipated without even looking. "Keep your wand out if you like, it's not a hex. It's a party trick."
Hermione looked on with curiosity as Draco bent down to pick up the Bluebell flame. He placed the flame as high as his chest, and then used a passive levitation charm to stick the Firewhiskey bottle a foot above the flame in the air. He reached out and grabbed the bottle, keeping the tip of his wand to the rim, and turned it upside down. The liquid seemed to fall slowly – he must have spelled the mouth of the bottle somehow. At first it merely trickled into the Bluebell flames below, igniting but not blowing up the bottle. Then he took the tip of his wand, closed his eyes for a moment in concentration, and brought the wand from the tip of the bottle, down through the flame, and then arced upward to reach the bottle again. He repeated this several times, moving in a circle around the bottle until something that resembled a pumpkin made of blue flame floated serenely in front of them, burning a stream of liquid that fell down, then, somehow, back up again.
"It's beautiful." Hermione said, having relaxed her grip on her wand after he had finished and stepped back to admire his work. He stood a few feet away, not facing her, but not next to her, as if they were hands on a clock with his flaming sculpture at the center. "Where did you learn that?"
"Somebody did it in the common room one night when we won a quidditch match. Couldn't bear not being able to do it, so I asked him about it and practiced a few times. Figured it was a good thing to know." He had turned to look at her. She had begun walking around the odd fountain, examining it, impressed. She, like him, couldn't bear not knowing how it was done.
"What's the incantation you use to make the Firewhiskey flow upward after it passes through the flames?" She asked.
He smirked. "Leviboozus."
She looked at him, eyebrows raised in bored disbelief. "Very funny."
"I'm not making it up!" He insisted with a laugh. "That's seriously the incantation."
"It is NOT. Did you really expect me to believe that?" Hermione asked, now also laughing.
"If I was going to make something up, it would be a damn sight better than Leviboozus. I didn't believe the guy either, but as long as you're concentrating, it works. Swear on my magic." He insisted, placing a hand over his heart with an easy smile.
Hermione returned his smile and shook her head. "You know, sometimes I think magic is just having us on."
Draco thought about that for a moment. "Merlin, that was profound. Do you say things like that all the time?"
Hermione flashed him a coy smile. "Be nice like you are now and you might find out." She closed her eyes and spoke again with a smug grin. "I say a lot of things."
Without missing a beat, Draco replied with faux-seriousness. "I've heard admitting is the first step to recovery."
Hermione glowered. "You're the one soaked in alcohol."
Draco held his arms out wide and gave himself an appraising look. He looked her in the eye and nodded. "I'll admit that." He said shamelessly.
"Are they flirting?" Harry asked incredulously after witnessing Malfoy and Hermione's playful banter.
"Draco is, at the very least." Luna replied, reaching for more popcorn. "Hermione might be as well."
"This is the weirdest thing I've seen in... I don't even know." Harry shook his head in wonder. "How can we be sure the window's not making this all up?" He asked somewhat smugly, as if he'd proven it all false.
Suddenly, the bottom of the window grew foggy. As the fog crept upward, a message was revealed. I'm not.
Harry blinked several times. "Alright. That's a bit scary. Thank you... room. For clarifying that. Thanks."
The fog receded, but came back. They're totally into each other.
"See?" Luna said pointedly, nudging his shoulder.
"I get it!" Harry insisted, putting his hands up in defeat.
Hermione and Draco had settled down on a conjured bench. Draco was glad for the change. The hard stone had been uncomfortable. Having sobered up somewhat, he was even able to sit upright. Both stared into the Bluebell flamewell, following the Firewhiskey with their eyes as it flowed endlessly, down, then back up again to its source.
"Really Draco, why are you out here?" Hermione asked softly, still focused on the flames.
Draco considered her question, weighing his options in his mind. He hadn't connected with somebody this way in a very long time. Behind the barbs about his bigotry and momentary alcohol problem, he could sense that Granger was actually trying to understand him. He couldn't remember the last time somebody did that. Again, he decided to go for broke. His commitment to The Cause had been tenuous, at best, and he decided to just let it go.
"What's the most challenging assignment you've ever had, Granger? Some extra credit thing for Charms class? That's not even an assignment. S'optional. Nobody ever ordered you to kill a man. Not just any man, mind you, but an immensely powerful wizard who could take us both in a duel with his eyes shut. That's my homework this year, Granger. That's how I'm supposed to buy my way into a life of servitude to yet another wizard who could kill me with a thought. And it's all for a father who would rather have had a copy of himself than a son. You haven't any idea just how quickly I'd trade worrying about grades with worrying about being killed." He finished his quiet outburst with wide eyes, staring desperately ahead at the flames as if they'd help him somehow.
Hermione regarded Draco with sympathy. Whether or not his words were meant to be an excuse, they were probably true. "You wouldn't have been such an arse to us if the whole world didn't expect you to be a Malfoy?" It was a question, but it felt like a statement. A conclusion she'd already come to.
"Let's see," Draco began. "It's a choice between doing what I want, carving out a nice place for myself in the world without killing people based on stupid assumptions, and working for a vengeful demigod who literally demands that his followers kiss his feet sometimes? Yeah, I'll take option A. Pity I was never given a choice."
"You do still have a choice, really. What's holding you back from just leaving? Do you really think Voldemort would chase you all over the world because you turned down his offer of eternal asshood?" Hermione asked skeptically.
"Dunno how far he'd chase me." Draco sighed. "Can't leave my mum behind, though."
Hermione nodded in understanding. "If you could take her with you, though?"
"I think I'd give it a try." Draco said evenly.
Hermione bit her lip and decided she had to know something else. "What would it take to get you to try?" She asked, turning to look at him. His face was illuminated by the blue flames which still hung a few feet in front of them.
He leaned back against the parapet and gazed at her, his brow furrowed in thought. "I'd want to know there was something worth running for." He bit the inside of his cheek. "Or someone."
Hermione moved her hand to cover Draco's.
"OH COME ON!" Harry protested. "This is insane! Sure he's seeming like less of a bastard and all, but is she seriously considering running away with him?"
Luna smiled and raised her head from Harry's shoulder where it had come to rest a few minutes ago. ("Progress!" Luna thought with excitement.) "Maybe not yet. But she may be trying to show him that life has something to offer besides the path his father set out for him." She rested again on his shoulder and leaned further into him. For the sake of comfort, Harry raised his arm and put it around her, allowing her to rest in the crook of his neck. He was far too distracted to be overly nervous about this new intimacy.
Harry shook his head and gestured to the scene outside the window. "This is like one of those awful programmes my aunt used to watch. The characters are supposed to hate each other, but then all of a sudden it's FORBIDDEN LOVE and SLOPPY MAKE-OUTS!"
"So muggle women also have a thing for taking evil, brooding men and 'reforming' them?" Luna inquired. Harry felt her voice vibrate in his chest.
"The ones who watch telly seem to." He replied flippantly. "And then there are those crazy books some of them read. They all look pretty much the same on the outside. Some greased-up, shirtless bloke built like a bomb shelter with some swooning bint hanging on him. Don't know how she can keep a grip on him when he's obviously covered in cooking oil."
Luna giggled. "I don't know how they'd shag. I imagine it requires at least some grip. Seems like a glaring plot hole."
Harry burst out laughing. If he'd been drinking cocoa again, Luna would have tallied another spit-take. Luna pointed outside. "Look."
Draco and Hermione were kissing, hesitantly. Draco's hand rested on Hermione's neck, and she gripped Draco's knee to steady herself. The window appeared to be celebrating, fogging itself up as much as it could without obscuring the lovers and then streaking fireworks in itself as if with invisible fingers. Harry threw his hands up in defeat. "I don't understand anything anymore. Maybe it's that platinum blonde hair. Impossible to resist, I guess."
At this, Luna drew back a bit and looked up at him with what appeared to be polite surprise. "Does this mean you've decided to stop resisting?"
Harry's looked bewildered and attempted to convey his confusion. "Wha-"
But he was interrupted by Luna pushing him forcefully back on the couch and immediately attacking his lips. After a second or two, he fought through the shock and returned the kiss with gusto, one hand traveling up to fist in her hair and the other finding the gentle curve of her hip. The kiss ended when Harry had to inhale, and Luna drew back a bit, silver eyes boring into green.
"I'm not complaining," Harry began. "But-"
Luna cut him off with another kiss, and drew back, framing his face with her platinum blonde hair. "The Love is Good, Harry." Luna explained breathlessly. "You finally gave me a chance to prove it."