A/N: Hello there! Sorry it's a bit late... I have exams coming up now so the next chapter might be delayed as well. I'm also working on some things because as usual my attention span is appalling. Anyway. As I usually say, this is clearly AU and I disclaim that it's not my own. Enjoy!

Ultimatum

Chapter Fourteen: Incontinuity

Rosie glanced at her, yellow-green eyes flashing like a warning. "It's terribly complicated and I would hate to bore you with my stories," she said sweetly, fluttering her eyelashes. "As it is, I have to be off. I have things I need to oversee, people to speak to." She reached out to brush a stray hair from over Luna's eyes. "I'm sorry," she said gently. "I feel as though we haven't been spending much time together recently - and you know I do so want to be close friends." She fixed Luna with an intense, glowing look. "We are good friends, aren't we, Luna?

"No... I rather thought you were a human being."

At this, Tom's expression hardened and she again saw a flash of what she had seen in his face last week in the Head common room. She thought that he might try to grab her face again or at the very least shout at her, but all he said was: "That was a mistake." Tom tore his eyes away from her, crossing to the window to pull on his outer school-robes. He didn't even bother giving her a reply so she didn't bother to elaborate that she had a lesson to go to now and that she would see him later. She merely left him as he also had left her – in silence.

X

XXX

X

So far, the book had proved absolutely worthless.

Luna snapped it close with a heavy sigh. It was the twenty-seventh of October, just under a month since Vivian Prewett had given her the book on Karawan Divination, and she'd read it three by this point. Each time she had scrutinised every word of every page, hoping to find some new light. However, much to her annoyance... nothing. All that it had told her was, in great detail, how to summon protective demons that would hide you from being watched or potentially controlled. It had brought with it no more flashbacks either.

There was nothing for it. Perhaps the book was just... a distraction. A red herring. She may as well have remembered picking up the Tales of Beedle the Bard, for all that good it had done her.

She rolled over on her bed to look at the loudly-ticking clock on her bedside table. It was nearing midnight.

Luna had always intended to secretly slip the Karawan book into the Restricted Section in the night. Vivian had impressed upon Luna the urgency of ensuring that no-one found out that they had it in case they got in trouble, and Luna hoped to minimise the risks by returning it in the dead of night. The only people out would be the prefects on patrol – it was the Slytherins' shift tonight – and, of course, Tom. He was yet again out all hours at a party... though he should be coming home soon as well.

And she'd thought of a way to do it as well.

Kicking off her fluffy slippers and sliding her feet instead into her school shoes, Luna quickly prepared to go. She stowed the Karawan book neatly into her bag, behind some essays that she'd forgotten to take out – just in case she was stopped – and threw her robes around her. Then she locked both her bedroom door and the door to the adjoining bathroom before straining against the heavy bookcase. It slid across, revealing the stone staircase, twisting away downwards into cold and darkness. She quickly checked that she had her Head Girl master key. Yes – everything was secure.

She moved off silently into the gloom.

The third-floor corridor at the bottom of the stairs was darker than shadows but she followed the glint of stars on window-panes. Her greatest concern was that she be careful not to miss the turning for the stairs up to the library.

Luna liked the dark. She didn't understand why some people were scared of it. She enjoyed the idea of the intrigue that something might be hiding in darkened corners – who were they? Why were they there in the dark? Why had they felt the need to hide from her and, surely, in that case she then had the upper hand? She liked the way that her breath sounded like secrets and whispers in the hush, and the way her footsteps clicked on flagstones.

The double-doors into the library were heavy when Luna unlocked them using her Head Girl master-key. She let the door close quietly behind her and made sure that it was tight before she lit her wand-tip. "Lumos." The light gleamed faintly from the polished wooden surfaces. Weaving between the bookcases, she made her way towards the heavy iron gate into the Restricted Section. Beyond that point, all the books looked dusty and tired with the forbidden ideas they were smothering in their pages. Luna wanted to read every single one... but of course she didn't have time.

She pushed a little deeper into the rows of bookshelves, wandering dreamily through the cobwebs. She could hide the book on Karawan anywhere that she wanted and be out of here, but she wanted to linger for a while. Her fingertips danced across every spine and title, reading the few that jumped out at her. Others were in Ancient Runes or foreign languages that she wished she understood. Babgabi laca... Solomon Magicka... Mortiferam vestigio...

Luna blinked. She knew that last one.

She drew the book out from its place on the shelf. It was thick, bound in what had once been leather but was now as thin as paper and crinkled badly. Luna remembered having seen the words on a piece of paper that had fallen out of Tom's bag. Perhaps he would appreciate having this book to help whatever school project he had been researching the 'murder trace' for.

Luna flipped gingerly to the first page, holding her wand aloft over it. The glare was too strong though and rendered the faint quill scratches illegible. She would simply have to take it back to her dormitory, where she could read it in a softer light and maybe even take care of the book so that it was in better shape for the next reader.

She tucked the book titled Mortiferam vestigio into her schoolbag and slid the Karawan book back into the space on the shelf that it had left behind. The slight creaking sound it made sounded loud and ominous; she cast one last longing look around the Restricted Section before hurrying out, back through the gate and through the doors, locking it all behind her in the darkness of her extinguished wand.

However, fast as she moved through the gloom, she had not yet even reached the turning for the stairs before a voice called out behind her.

"Hey, who is that?"

Luna considered simply bolting. She could run fast... but not with her school-bag, full of papers and this new heavy book. Her scheming turned out to be too late anyway; a bright light panned across the hall to fix her like a startled doe.

She lifted a hand in front of her eyes, her brow furrowing as her eyes smarted from the white glare. "Could you point that somewhere else, please?" she asked.

"Or you could shut the hell up," the voice snapped. As it grew closer, it became more familiar – Rabastan Lestrange. She relaxed slightly, remembering not only that he was a Prefect but also that tonight was the Slytherins' turn to patrol the castle. She caught a glimpse of his sallow face in the light as he demanded, "What are you doing out at this time of night?"

"I fancied going to the library," she replied honestly. "It's more peaceful at this time of the night."

"I hardly imagine the light would be any good," sneered a second voice.

"You seem to have conquered that problem fairly well. And while I recognise Rabastan, I don't seem know who you are... but I daresay you should be tucked in bed." She tilted her head challengingly.

The light dimmed and so she could see the two Slytherins advancing on her. She realised that the second was Rupert Carrow, a boy in her own year with a taste for the immature destruction of lovely things. It may have been Rabastan's wand-light reflecting from shiny lamps mounted on the walls, but for a moment there appeared to be a seedy glint in Carrow's eye. Pleasure.

"Don't worry about it, Miss Christopher," Carrow said. "I'll be right off to bed – but I'd hate to leave you here in the dark. We'll see you home safe before we get to our own common rooms. How about that?"

A small smile crept across Luna. It seemed frankly out-of-character for them to be so gentlemanly... but perhaps they had taken a change for the better. She told herself that there was no need to be suspicious and that everyone deserved a fresh start once in a while.

"Thank you," she said warmly. She walked towards them, holding out an arm for Carrow to take, in the same way that she'd seen so many pretty girls offer themselves to Slytherins. "You know where the Head common room is, don't you?"

"Yes, we do," Rabastan said quietly. Something seemed to be troubling him and he glanced quickly over his shoulder before taking Luna's other elbow and guiding her along the darkened hallways.

It was a shame that they didn't know about the secret passageway straight into her bedroom but she hardly wanted to be the one that told them. She was happy enough to make small-talk as they walked loudly – for they had no idea about stealth – through the castle.

At least, she was until they took a wrong turning.

"I thought you said that you knew where the Head common room was," Luna said dreamily. "Merlin only knows that Rabastan at least has been there countless times..."

She slowed down, looking back towards the junction where the sixth-floor corridor jutted off towards the North wing. Neither of the Slytherin boys slowed down to accommodate her and they pulled her brusquely forwards, almost dragging her off her feet.

"Oh – be careful," Luna frowned. "That might have hurt. You really have gone the wrong way though."

The Slytherins were not speaking now.

"Rabastan? Rupert?" she danced about, trying to free her arms from their grasps. "I think I'll be alright to get myself home now – thank you very much – but-"

Suddenly she was spun, the cracks in the stones beneath her tangling her feet in knots and causing her to over-balance. Her eyes flew wide but then she was pushed into a door, a large, sweaty hand clamping over her nose and mouth before she could so much as squeak.

"Not a sound," Carrow hissed.

Sinking onto the narrow bed, Ginny curled in on herself. She was shaking so violently that the bedstead rattled loudly against the wall and Luna put out a hand to steady her, lest the noise attract attention. Ginny wouldn't look up. There was something in her pride that wouldn't let Luna see the marks, the scratches, or the tears clinging to her eyelashes.

Luna stared back calmly into his eyes, focusing on her own steady pulse against his fleeting. His lips twisted into a smirk. His hot breath fanned over her cheeks and nose.

"Are you going to be alright?" Luna asked quietly, squeezing her friend's hand gently.

Ginny only said one thing – a refrain she repeated every time she came back trembling, bruised. "Don't tell Harry."

With his free hand, he twisted the brass handle beside her so that the door gave way into a small, darkened room.

Luna let herself drop backwards into the room like a dead-weight, taking him by surprise. He staggered as she fell out of his grip and then ducked past his flailing arms, pushing back through the doorway. She turned to make a run for it – she'd never been good in brawls like her other friends – but then suddenly Rabastan had filled the space in front of her.

She'd seen other people do it enough times. Could it really be that hard?

She balled her left hand into a tight little fist and swung.

Her knuckles glanced off his ear with little effect but a jarring along her arm that caught her off-balance – Rabastan grabbed her arm and twisted. The pain was greater than she had expected; her knees buckled, almost taking her to the floor.

"Oh, you really don't know how the school operates, do you, Blondie?" Rabastan said softly.

She looked up in time to see Rabastan make one sharp, quick movement and then there was a crack that took her off her feet and crashing into the flagstones. Her book-bag tore open, scattering its contents all across the floor. Then-

"What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Both Rabastan and Carrow froze as footsteps came thundering down the darkened hallway. They exchanged a terrified glance and shrunk closer together.

Luna recognised Tom's snappish voice, his brisk gait. Her head still spinning from the slap, she tried to find the source of his voice.

"My Lord," Rabastan stammered. "I apologise – we were just-"

"Just making enough noise to wake the entire castle," Tom said icily. "I told you two to get back to Slytherin common room and out of my sight – and while I care exponentially little about your extracurricular activities, pray tell why you saw fit to completely ignore my orders?"

"There was a girl wandering about," Carrow said loudly, stepping away from Rabastan as though trying to wash his hands clean of him. "She had no business going for a walk at this time of night – we were merely going to... punish h-"

"Carrow," Rabastan hissed, glaring at him. In Tom's wand-light, Luna could see sweat gathering at his hair-line.

Tom did not seem to notice or care about this interaction. He turned, casting the white light the width of the corridor and catching her in it.

Luna, struggling to her feet, flinched back against the wall as the brightness stung tears to her eyes. She looked up, dizzy and bleary-eyed, to see Tom staring at her. He was too cast in shadows to discern anything of his face but he remained motionless and silent for several moments. Then, without the slightest change in expression, he turned on his heel back to face the two Slytherins, stepping close so that they backed against the wall.

"It was Carrow's idea, I swear-" Rabastan blurted out, blanching.

"Give me one good reason," Tom interrupted – his voice so low that it was barely audible, so soft and gentle that it chilled Luna to the bone more than any of his raging bouts of kamikaze anger, "why I shouldn't just destroy both of you now."

"I swear to God, I swear it was Carrow's idea-"

"Lestrange did it – I was just holding her – it was him, he was the one who slapped her-"

So quickly that had Luna blinked, she would have missed it, Tom's wand snapped up, pushing into the quivering soft skin where Rabastan's throat curved up to his chin. He gave a child-like whimper, shuddering with fear, and seemed as though he was about to cry.

"Please – please – don't, my Lord – I'm so sorry," he choked out.

"Don't!" Carrow cried out. Tom turned a cold, lethal gaze on the other boy. Carrow shrunk back against the wall, away from the fight. "I mean. I... I'm innocent, of course – I didn't hurt her – but... but I think you might be over-reacting. Just a tiny bit." Panic flared at his eyes at some response of Tom's that Luna could not see. "No – I don't mean that – I'm sorry, my Lord – but – but she's not marked! She isn't marked as one of yours – I thought you said that meant that we could-"

"The rules have changed," Tom ground out. He returned to level his gaze on Rabastan. "Lestrange, I want you to listen to me very carefully," he said coldly. "If you touch her again... I will end you. Do you understand?"

Rabastan didn't speak – just nodded desperately, tears welling up in his eyes.

Tom slowly lowered his wand, stowing it back inside his pocket. He looked over at Carrow, as though considering saying something to him. He seemed as though he might just walk away but then he suddenly struck out, landing a solid punch that smacked Carrow's head back against the wall with a sickening crack. As he drew back his fist like he was going to hit him again, Luna flew forwards, grabbing his elbow.

His eyes flashed to hers and for the first time she saw the rage that had built up there, raw and screaming like he could take down everyone around him laughing. A muscle twitched in his jaw and she realised that he was trembling.

"Stop it," she told him, holding his arm tightly even as he subconsciously jerked as though to wrestle away from her. "He didn't hurt me."

Tom's lips tightened. His other hand jumped halfway towards her face before falling limply to his side. "You're bleeding," he said quietly.

Carrow watched this interaction, incredulity playing openly across his face.

"Thank you, but I'm fine," Luna said firmly. "I feel you've threatened them enough for now. I'll take fifty points from Slytherin... but I don't think they'll bother me again."

"They or anyone else," Tom snarled, twisting back to Carrow, eyes narrowed. "Now... pick up her books. Then get out my sight. And this time, if I come back down and find you still lurking in the dark, I will not be so kind."

Carrow slipped past Tom, scrambling on the floor for Luna's papers. She let go of Tom's arm and grabbed Carrow by the shoulder. "Forget about it," she said, suddenly concerned about her book on Mortiferam vestigio being exposed. "I can do it myself. Just... get back to your dormitory." She grabbed all of her things and stuffed them heedlessly back into her bag, flicking her wand with a muttered "Reparo" to make it whole again.

Together Rabastan and Carrow limped and staggered away down the hallway, muttering amongst themselves with fearful glances back at Tom. They disappeared rapidly into the darkness but the smell of their terror still lingered in the air.

As they grew further away, the two left behind grew more silent. Luna could feel Tom's eyes upon her. For some unfathomable reason, she couldn't face that shade of cold, hollow apathy that she knew he would be wearing; she deliberately took a long time sorting out the books in her bag. She could only delay for so long though and she straightened slowly, lifting her eyes to his.

"Thank you," she repeated. She watched as his gaze flickered over the length of her body in a way that she would have found unsavoury were in not for the tiny furrow between his eyebrows, like he was searching for something. Then he tore his eyes away, staring stonily into the darkness after Rabastan and Carrow. She studied the lines of his face for several seconds before adding, "It was very chivalrous of you to help me like that – even if you didn't want to."

"What do you mean – even if I didn't want to?" Tom threw out tonelessly. He wouldn't look at her.

"You didn't come here to look after me," Luna said pensively. "You came to tell them off for being disruptive. I don't think you ever planned to rescue me – and I don't know if you would have at all had you known I was here to begin with – but when it came down to it, you couldn't stop yourself."

Tom twisted to look at her. His eyes were hard. "What makes you think that you know anything?" he snapped.

Luna shrugged. "I could read it in your face." She shouldered her bag and turned away, walking a few steps away from him before cocking her head over one shoulder as if to say, well – are you coming then?

He followed but then stalked past her, remaining a couple of paces ahead all the way back upstairs. There was an unusual stiffness to his movements and it almost seemed that he was rusting over. It irritated her. As much as she liked to study people and think about what their gestures or actions said about them, that was not what she was looking to get out of Tom at the moment.

"What rules have changed?" she asked, skipping to catch up with him.

"What?"

"The rules have changed. That's what you said to Carrow," Luna prompted. "What did you mean?"

"You should ask fewer questions."

"You should answer them," she countered. "Or at least a few. Are you aware that there's a fine line between enigmatic and just plain annoying?" She jabbed him in the arm with one finger, determined to gauge a reaction from him – positive or negative, she didn't really care.

Well, it worked.

Tom wheeled to fix her with a glare that froze her feet where they stood. "What do you want from me, Christopher?" he asked coldly.

"I want the truth." She tilted her chin up at him, defiant. "Why does everyone call you their Lord? Why does everyone feel the need to constantly remind me of my inferior position in a social hierarchy I know nothing about?"

"It's not important."

"Oh really? Because I have to say that as Head Girl, when fifth-years to whom I should be the authority try to wrestle me into abandoned classrooms in the dead of night – I think that it's quite important, actually."

Tom's jaw tightened. He twisted his gaze away from hers, staring at the wall where a painted mermaid was making a great effort to pretend not to be listening to their conversation. When he spoke, his voice was rough and toneless. "I thought you said that they hadn't hurt you."

"They didn't." The broken eye-contact freed Luna and she continued marching back towards the Head common room, trusting Tom to follow behind her. "I would still like some answers though, please."

By this point they had reached the stone wall where the doorway would appear. Luna stretched out to touch it but Tom cut in front of her. He pressed one palm flat against the stone, leaning and looming over Luna. His presence made it impossible for Luna to get into the common room; she could do nothing more than look up at him, irritated and expectant.

"If, Merlin forbid, I give you one piece of advice this year and you actually pay attention to it, let it be this," Tom said coldly, declining his head slightly so that their foreheads are almost touching. "It will do you no good to pry – stay out of my business."

Luna smelled the coppery tang of whiskey and old blood on the breath that fanned warm over her face. It was that, paired with the dark flash of Tom's eyes, that made her sway slightly and wonder which of the two tastes would be the more dominant. "And if I don't?" she challenged.

For some reason, he deemed this question to be beneath him. Tom pushed off the wall, straightening, and the door opened, password still unspoken. He merely cocked one eyebrow and headed up the stairs in front of her. It took Luna a moment to react and then she was bouncing up the steps after him, determined not to be cast off like a child too big for its boots.

"Tom!" she called before he disappeared to his bedroom for the night. "Wait! I got something for you in the library."

He didn't stop. He merely said boredly over his shoulder, "Leave it on the table. I'll get it tomorrow."

She carefully laid the Mortiferam vestigio book down so that it was facing the right way – if it was the last thing Tom saw before he slept and the first thing when he woke up, well, that was just convenient, wasn't it? "Alright," she said. "I just thought it might be useful – for your project on murder traces and whatnot."

Now her words halted Tom in his tracks. He turned slowly, floorboards creaking underneath him like he had suddenly become ten stone heavier, borne down by the weight of his secrets cracking one by one. He stared at the book for a moment, two parts apathetic, one part rendered speechless, and when he eventually dragged his gaze back up to coolly meet Luna's, he had this expression like it might already be too late.

X

XXX

X