Kreacher had grown fond of Master Harry.
True, he was no Master Regulus – no house-elf had two Master Regulus's in his life – but he was entertaining and fair and not a great deal of work to keep in line. He did have his little obsessions, like the Malfoy whelp, and forbidding Kreacher to beat himself with anything firmer than a lettuce leaf. But he was a simple wizard with simple needs that Kreacher found easy to meet, and Master Regulus would have approved of his passions for flying and defeating snake-faced half-bloods.
So it was no hardship for Kreacher to traipse around the Ministry on his Master's errands. The Minister had gone so far as to offer Kreacher tea and biscuits – biscuits from his very own personal tin! – to pass the time while he made investigations and then wrote a lengthy missive to Master Harry.
Even the Floo Regulation Panel, which was very likely the slowest institution in Great Britain, had very comfortable chairs in their waiting area, and no one seemed inclined to sit beside Kreacher, so he had a sofa entirely to himself.
'Knife and a chicken!' he muttered happily to himself, relishing the memory of Young Malfoy's look. The wizard on the other sofa remembered he had somewhere else to be, and the two young witches who had been sitting beside him were suddenly very interested in the ceiling mouldings, and not at all curious as to why an aged house-elf would be peering at himself in a shard of mirror.
Kreacher didn't mind. He was on a mission, which would assist Master Harry, and which would see confusion and dismay sown in the houses of their enemies. Whoever they were this time.
It was quite a long time before the wizard who had taken Master Harry's letter reappeared. He made a show of looking around.
'Kreacher is the only house-elf here,' Kreacher said, emphatically.
'Ah, there you are. Auror Potter's elf, yes?'
Kreacher didn't dignify that with a response.
'Well, we've had a dig through the records, but I'm afraid that Auror Potter's request was very broad, so we've not been able to narrow it down to anything specific for him.' The wizard indicated the large pile of files in his arms. 'I mean, we were running a full diagnostic of that area, as it happens, and so these are all the records for the Network connections for the time in question, but …'
'Kreacher will take them to Master Harry,' Kreacher said, reaching up.
'What? Oh, no. I couldn't possibly, these are original files, you see …'
'You will make copies for Kreacher.'
'Ah. Well, I suppose we could make copies, but it's a time-consuming process, and I'm afraid it's rather late in the day, that's the sort of thing you should ask for before lunch, really.'
With an expression that clearly indicated he wasn't too happy about it, the wizard bent over.
'Harry Potter will be very unhappy!' Kreacher yelled.
The two witches on the other sofa fled the office.
The wizard's colleagues picked him up from the floor and promised Kreacher they would have the copies with him in but a moment.
Kreacher sat back and cheerfully hummed a few choruses of the Chudley Cannon's Team Song, which he was practising for Auror Ron Weasley. Ten minutes later the younger wizards appeared with a sheaf of papers, neatly wrapped up in brown paper and tied with string. They had even fashioned a little handle from the string and wrapped it with an old dishcloth so it wouldn't cut into Kreacher's hand.
'We've checked they're all correct and in order,' one said.
'And that they cover everything Auror Potter asked for,' the other added.
'My Master will be very pleased with you,' Kreacher said, magnanimously, emphasising the latter pronoun perhaps a little more than was necessary.
Making sure he had the Minister's letter tucked safely under his arm, he set off home. The clock had just gone a quarter to four when he got in, which meant it was time to check if Master Harry was in need of him yet.
There was nothing in the mirror, and Kreacher was about to put it away when he caught sight of a rummaging hand. Sure enough, it was followed a few seconds later by a wild-haired head and bespectacled face. Kreacher smiled and gathered his papers to him.
For some reason, Master Harry and the Malfoy boy were standing in another forest. Kreacher shrugged. Master Harry had never been predictable. Not like Mistress Walburga. There was a witch for routine.
'Hello Kreacher, sorry for dragging you all the way to Belarus,' Master Harry said.
'Those are oaks, and hazels. It's Langley Wood,' Young Malfoy muttered. 'I don't even know where Belarus is.'
'Near Latvia,' said Kreacher, who had once helped Master Regulus research hiding places.
'Is it the big country behind Poland?' the Malfoy asked.
'I think so,' said Master Harry. 'I was never very good at geography. Where's Langley Wood, anyway?'
Kreacher cleared his throat. 'I have Master Harry's papers.'
'Brilliant! Thank you.' Master Harry smiled at him, and Kreacher passed the papers over cheerfully.
'Are there any other tasks required? Only Kreacher was going to sharpen some of the knives this afternoon …'
Young Malfoy glared at him. Kreacher grinned.
'Actually, yes,' said Master Harry. 'Can you pop over to Luna Lovegood's and see if there are Estonians waiting to arrest us?'
'And find out how they got there!' Young Malfoy added.
'They're tracking us down exactly as I would,' Master Harry said. 'Evald's their version of me. The question isn't how they made it to Luna's, the question is why? It should be the Aurors after us. If it's Evald and his offsider, then there's a possibility they're keeping a lid on things for us.'
'Well, then ask that,' said the Malfoy whelp. 'Are they planning to arrest us or are they just as mad as Potter?'
'I'm not … Honestly, Malfoy, why would you even say …'
'Kreacher will be back in a moment.'
They were still arguing as he left.
Miss Luna's house was a short step through space for Kreacher. He appeared outside, as it was rude to turn up inside unless invited, she had told him. She was there on her steps with two tall men in black robes, the Estonians Kreacher assumed.
All three had turned at the sound of his Apparation, Kreacher smiled a greeting, and reminded himself to practise smiling when the Estonians flinched. Miss Luna smiled back.
'Hello, Kreacher! Has Harry sent you?'
'Master Harry wishes to know if the Estonians are waiting to arrest him,' Kreacher reported. Then, to be fair, added, 'And that other boy wants to know if they're insane.'
'No to both,' Luna said, cheerily.
Kreacher hazarded a glance at the Estonians, who were frowning in confusion. He supposed he couldn't judge Miss Luna's parameters for sanity, given the people in his life.
'So it will be safe for my Master and … and his guest to come here?'
'Yes,' Miss Luna answered. 'Evald and Veigo are on the case with me, and we have lots of information for Harry and Draco. Can you go and fetch them? And you'd be welcome to stay for tea.'
Kreacher managed to Disapparate before the expression evoked by the idea of Miss Luna's cooking made it to his face.
Master Harry was still arguing with the Malfoy whelp.
'Can't you just accept help when it's given to you freely?'
'It's never free, though, is it? There's always a catch somewhere.'
'Sometimes people just want to do the right thing. Because it's right,' Master Harry insisted. 'If you can think of another reason why I'm running around Europe trying to keep you out of Azkaban, I'm all ears.'
'I wish I could,' said the Malfoy. 'I don't trust altruism, it usually just means the price is hidden.'
Kreacher coughed gently, scaring birds from the nearby trees. 'If Master Harry wishes, Miss Luna says that it will be safe for you and … him,' he glanced at the Malfoy boy, 'to go to her house. We are all invited for tea. I would be very grateful if Master Harry asked Kreacher to make the tea, so that it isn't made of herbs.'
'Fabulous,' said the Malfoy. 'More tea.'
'You can wait here,' Master Harry offered.
The Malfoy glared at him, so Kreacher glared at the Malfoy.
'Luna's then, Kreacher,' said Master Harry. 'Off we go.'
Kreacher waited until Master Harry had Disapparated before he turned to the Malfoy.
'I don't know why my Master worries about what happens to you, but you should be grateful he does. He shouted at Auror Ron Weasley for your sake. Stop causing problems and let my Master fix things so you can go away.'
The Malfoy stared at him silently.
Kreacher Disapparated and left the Malfoy to follow. With any luck, he'd Splinch himself.
The appearance of Estonian officials at a Kentish knifemaker's had not overly surprised Luna. It was her experience that strange things happened so regularly that one was better off expecting them and saving one's surprise for days that ran exactly to plan.
They had been startled to see her there and had attempted to pretend they were tourists, but she had seen the close look they gave the photograph in her hands, and when she turned and asked if they were looking for clues to Pansy Parkinson's murder, they had given up all pretence and introduced themselves.
She had thanked Elsie Alder, the knifemaker, and promised her a free advert in the next Quibbler, then escorted the Estonians from the shop to the nearest cafe and bought them tea.
Over beverages and cream buns she had proposed they share information and resources, and extracted promises that they would not arrest Harry and Draco. They confessed they were attempting to avert an embarrassing political incident and that quickly establishing Malfoy's innocence – if he was in fact innocent, which they were yet to prove as such – was in everyone's best interests. She confessed that both Harry and Draco were due back at her place when they finished their current investigations, and suggested they may as well wait there, where the chairs were comfier.
Veigo had bought a bag of cream buns for all.
It did not take Harry long to appear after Kreacher's visit. Luna was still waiting on the stairs for him, though she had sent the Estonians back inside. Kreacher and Draco followed, with Draco looking subdued. Luna looked quickly from him to Harry, and guessed that a fight was more likely the cause of his expression than abject failure with the case.
'I have news!' she declared, hoping to hearten them. 'And you have a terrible disguise!' she accidentally added when she caught a proper look at Draco.
'I don't want to talk about it,' said Draco.
'Sorry. Stand still for a moment,' Harry apologised, and returned Draco's hair to its usual blond with a flick of his wand.
'Evald Kask and Veigo Tamm are inside. They say they know you both and promise they're not here to arrest you.'
'We know a lot of people who didn't do it,' Draco said.
'And I have all the reports from the Floo people here,' Harry added. 'Plus a letter from Kingsley. Though I haven't read it yet, I was too busy … arguing with Malfoy.' He had the grace to look embarrassed at this last.
'Well come in and read it,' Luna said, leading the way.
Evald and Veigo were already at the kitchen table, notes spread out in front of them.
'Harry, Draco,' Evald greeted them. 'You gave us quite the surprise this morning.'
'Sorry about that,' Harry apologised. 'I didn't want to get you into trouble, so it seemed best to leave you out of the loop.'
'Well, we didn't want to get you into trouble, so we have stepped into the loop with you both,' Veigo said with a grin. He reached out his hand to shake Harry's as Luna introduced them properly.
'Meeli is covering for us back home,' Evald explained. 'We think that if we clear everything up before tomorrow lunchtime, then it is possible that people will believe Draco is very sick and under guard at Meeli's holiday house and we will all keep our jobs.'
Draco shook his head. 'You shouldn't be risking them. None of you should.' He stood up. 'I'm going back to Tallinn and Meeli can send me back to the Wizengamot. Potter thinks he can prove I didn't do it, that's more than enough.'
'Shut up and sit down, Malfoy,' said Harry, not even looking up from the letter he was reading.
Malfoy did, but Luna could see he wasn't happy about it.
'What does the Minister say?' Luna asked, trying to ease tensions.
Veigo handed out cream buns with the same intention.
Harry glanced up from the letter. 'He says he hopes I know what I'm doing, and that he can't find any evidence for a comprehensive plot against any of the targets we've suggested, though they have caught the stalker who's been bothering the Weird Sisters for the last five months thanks to today's surveillance. Apparently, unless someone attempts to off me soon, our invisible assassin theory is looking weak.'
'Bugger …' Draco whispered.
Harry nodded agreement.
'Well, I have information,' Luna said. 'And so do Evald and Veigo. And you have a giant pile of papers from the Floo Regulation Panel. So stop looking so miserable. Kreacher, would you like a cream bun?'
Kreacher declared that he would prefer to make everyone tea and a light snack and Luna gave him the run of the kitchen, which seemed to please him.
'I went and spoke to Elsie the knifemaker, and she said that the type of knife we were looking for was historical and very rare and that only a handful of people have ever had the skill to craft them properly. Most were made by the Quillion family, between 1580 and 1810. She said that this one looks like a genuine Quillion, probably from the later part of their production period, and it's very unlikely to have been bought in the last century, since they're practically all held in private collections and very highly valued.'
'So the killer comes from an established wizarding family,' Harry mused.
'Or is a thief,' Draco countered.
'Most people would have reported a theft like this,' Harry said. 'There was nothing in the MLE case files when I left yesterday, and I feel certain Kingsley would have mentioned it if a report had come in today.'
'They may not have even noticed,' said Draco. 'Some houses are so full of stuff that it's easy for things to go missing.'
'Missing from humans,' Kreacher croaked to himself over by the cooker.
'What's that, Kreacher?' Harry called out.
The little house-elf waddled over to them. 'Witches and wizards miss things,' Kreacher said. 'But house-elves don't. We send word to each other when something is lost, we look out for each other's things so that our Mistresses and Masters can have them back if another elf has found them. Only when bad wizards take our things do we lose them for good.'
Luna smiled at Harry, who nodded his agreement. 'Have you heard anything about a lost knife?' he asked.
'Not a word,' Kreacher said decisively, then stumped back over to his cooking.
'So an established family without house-elves,' Harry said. 'That narrows things down.'
'I'm assuming you checked out Weasley's alibi at the same time you checked your own,' Draco said.
Harry ignored him and reached into his bag. 'All right,' he said. 'This is the list of people we know were connected to Pansy. Let's leave the ones we've already crossed out for now, we can recheck if we draw blanks everywhere else. This pile is a piece of luck,' he patted the sheaf of papers from the Floo Regulation Panel, 'it tells us everyone who was travelling on the Network in the region of Pansy's Floo within the time frame of the murder. Let's work our way through and see if we can find any matches.'
Harry divided the Floo papers into five piles, while Luna made four copies of the contacts list and handed out quills. They set to work, silent except for the slurping of tea and chewing of bun.
After half an hour, Luna insisted they all get up and walk around in the garden for five minutes to refresh themselves. After an hour, Kreacher interrupted with a treacle tart and a rhubarb pie, which he declared Mistress Walburga had once insisted on for visiting dignitaries from a Baltic nation, and if this wasn't the right one, Kreacher couldn't be blamed for trying.
Luna shooed everyone out into the garden to eat, bringing jugs of cream and custard.
'My eyes are crossing,' Evald complained. 'If we were back at work, we could have minions do this for us,' he told Harry.
'If we were back at work, you'd have me do it,' Veigo agreed. 'Which is why I am glad we're here with the lovely Luna and this excellent pie.'
'Can't you just use one of your library spells,' Draco asked Harry.
'That one only works for sorting lists,' Harry replied. 'First we need to make the lists. The Floo information isn't very well organised, if we tried to automate it, the spell would miss too many names. I'm afraid it's a case of work rather than magic.'
Draco's turned-up nose showed exactly what he thought about that. Luna wondered when it would finish returning to its normal shape, since Harry had clearly forgotten about it.
'We're halfway through,' she said. 'It will all go a bit faster with full bellies, and there's still plenty of light left in the day.'
They finished up their food and headed back in to research. This time they worked a little faster, buoyed by the rapidly diminishing piles of uninvestigated paper.
It was only a little after five-thirty when Veigo put down the last sheet of paper from his pile and they declared the work done.
Now was the time for cataloguing and cross-referencing by spellwork, and Harry and Evald took over, quickly transforming hours of labour into a few short lists.
Harry picked up the first one as the quill stopped automatically writing. 'This is everyone who was travelling in Pansy's Floo Network Zone at the right time and who we know she knew. About forty names. This list,' he indicated the second sheet of parchment that still had the quill scratching rapidly across its surface, 'is everyone travelling in the zone who Pansy had some connection with, from school to known shopping habits. It's looking quite a bit longer. OK, nearly two-hundred names on that one, I'd say. Let's see if we get anything on the third …'
A fresh sheet of parchment fluttered its way to the top and waited, ready, under the quill. There was a pause, then a name was scribbled onto the parchment. Luna took Draco's hand and squeezed it.
'Who is it?' he asked, and Luna felt his hand shake.
Harry picked up the paper. 'Herbert Crouch. He's the only one travelling at the right time, who we know Pansy had contact with, and who has a record of violence on file.'
'Herbert?' Draco sounded shocked. 'But he's just a lonely old weasel. He was Pansy's third or fourth cousin on her mother's side, and he's my fourth or fifth on mine, I can never keep track. Used his distant relationships as an excuse to invite himself to every party and then disappeared back into his hole the minute there was any trouble in either of the families. We all laugh at him. He's nobody.'
Harry and Evald exchanged a look. Luna squeezed Draco's hand again. 'Maybe he knows that's what you all thought?' she suggested. 'Maybe that's why he targeted Pansy?'
Draco pressed his lips together tightly, then looked at Harry. 'Let's get him.'
Harry shook his head. 'I can't take you, Malfoy. He's dangerous. He spent time in Azkaban in the 80s for an unprovoked attack on another wizard. If he was happy to kill Pansy, chances are he'll be happy to take a shot at you. I'll take Evald and Veigo, you wait here with Luna.'
Draco opened his mouth to argue, but Veigo was faster. 'Please wait here,' he said. 'Our government believes you are under our protection and if we return with you battered or dead, there will be some very serious questions asked. Not everyone has Auror Potter's history to protect them.'
Luna could see that it cost Draco, but he nodded his head and sat back on his chair, quiet and withdrawn.
'We'll go now,' Harry said. ' We'll be as quick as we can, and we'll come straight back.'
'Good luck,' said Luna.
Draco said nothing, but glared at Harry, who opened his mouth to speak, then thought better of it, shrugged and set off with Evald and Veigo in tow.
'GAAAAAAAH!' said Draco, dropping his head onto the table and banging it three times.
'I know what you're thinking,' Luna said.
'I doubt it very much,' Draco muttered into the table.
'You're thinking that Harry is extremely annoying and you're wishing you didn't find him attractive.'
Draco sat bolt upright and stared at her. 'What on earth? Luna, sometimes you horrify me.'
'Well, he is quite good looking, and I was watching you when he stepped in to put his cloak around you both, and you had this expression on your face, which made me think …'
'Stop thinking it!' Draco shook his head, eyes wide.
'All right, I'm sorry. It just seemed to make sense. And it wouldn't be the first time the two of you … No, I'm stopping. See, quiet! Like a mouse!'
Draco kept shaking his head. 'It's not that at all. Really. Truly. It's just, he's so annoying, but here he is, saving me again and he's going to disappear again afterwards as though it never happened and I'm going to be left sitting around, alive and free, and back in my little box while Super Auror Harry Potter saves the world on a weekly basis. And he makes you think you're in it together, and then he leaves you sitting at the table because it's dangerous.
'And it's just … everything works out well for him. And I can't even begrudge him that, because, well, Voldemort. But I've had ten tortured years of coming to terms with my sexuality and the best I've managed is a quick handjob in a back alley from a friend who subsequently pretended he was drunk, and he shags Charlie Weasley without even trying, and that sort of thing is … Oh Merlin, that sounds every bit as pitiful as I think it does, doesn't it?'
Luna smiled and patted Draco's hand.
'I just wish … Sod it. Where's my good-looking boy who'll take my mind of my troubles? Do not give me that look, Luna Lovegood!'
'I'm wondering if he'd introduce you to Charlie,' Luna lied quickly.
Draco looked at her suspiciously, but let it pass. 'I really would like to be able to hate him, it would all be so much simpler, but I just can't. I miss sixth year. I really, really hated him in sixth year.'
'I know you did,' said Luna. And wondered if it would be too obvious if she stuck them in the same room for the evening.
'You think he's good looking?' Draco asked after a little while.
'Well, he is: all dark hair and pale skin and lean muscle. You must have noticed that. Not that you're unattractive, Draco. Many the Ravenclaw girl and boy longed after you when we were back at school.'
'They never mentioned it to me.'
'No, because you were an obnoxious little tit bent on death and destruction.'
'There was that.'
Luna smiled at Draco, and he smiled back. There was a loud noise from the other side of the kitchen, like a comb being drawn across a saw. They jumped to their feet and had their wands out before they realised what it was. Then, creeping silently, they went to check. Kreacher was lying on the floor on a pile of tea towels, sound asleep and snoring.
To Luna's surprise, Draco crept back to the table, took the cloth that they had folded away and brought it in to cover the ancient elf.
'We should go up to the living room,' Luna suggested.
Draco nodded agreement and followed her up the staircase. He flopped down on the large sofa, and she took the other end, encouraging him to put his feet up on the low table positioned for just that purpose.
'I've been meaning to paint a mural in this room since we repaired it after the war, but between getting the Quibbler out and trying to keep Dad from losing it, I never seem to find the time.'
'How is your father?' Draco asked.
'The same. But with less excuse.'
Luna smiled. 'I'm surprised Harry told you about Charlie,' she said. 'It's not common knowledge at all. '
'I only found out he'd split with Girl Weasley when Pansy showed me the "He's Back On the Market" souvenir issue of Witch Weekly,' Draco admitted. 'What happened? I thought they were going to marry and have lots of babies, like Weasley and Granger.'
Luna laughed. 'So did she. So did Harry for a bit. But you know him, he's staggeringly oblivious. Ginny spent a year telling him that he needed to pay more attention to her and their relationship, or she'd leave him for Viktor Krum, and he spent a year saying he was going to if she could just wait a little, and in the end …'
'She left him for Viktor Krum,' Draco finished the sentence for her.
'It was quite friendly, really. She wanted someone who was home at nights, and who wanted children, and she loves the Quidditch circuit, so Viktor's happy, and Harry wasn't sad the way I thought he would be, so …' she shrugged. 'What about you, Draco? What have you been up to with your life?'
He said it as though he meant it, which Luna found inexpressibly sad. She wanted to tell him that clearly it hadn't been nothing for all this time, because Pansy had obviously loved him dearly, but she knew that would only make things worse. Instead she tossed him a copy of the current Quibbler.
'There's an excellent story on the magical fauna in common fungi, page fifteen. Or you can race me on the crossword,' she offered.
'Did you set the crossword?' Draco asked.
'Yes, so you can have a twenty-second start.'
It was worth saying something ridiculous to bring that smile to his face.
'And what about you, Luna? What are you doing with life?'
'Putting out the Quibbler, taking care of Dad, studying Cryptozoology, and making a new friend,' she said, leaning over to pat his knee.
That smile was even better.
It was nearly an hour before they heard the pops of Apparition and voices downstairs. Luna beat Draco down the stairs by a hair's breadth, and was nearly at the door when Evald came in supporting a bloodied Veigo and trailed by a battered Harry.
She felt Draco come to a stop behind her and heard his whispered 'Potter'. Without turning, she ordered, 'Draco, wake Kreacher, get water, and we'll need those tea towels to clean this lot up.'
Evald brought Veigo to the table and lowered him gently to a chair. He was less damaged than Luna had feared, most of the blood came from a single shallow cut at his hairline, and a bruise was spilling down across his forehead. Draco appeared with two bowls of water – one hot, one cold – and cloths.
'Do you need help?' he asked.
'It's only a bump,' Veigo insisted. 'I can clean it up myself, no point getting blood on your hands, beautiful Luna.'
Luna smiled, and kept going.
On the other side of the table Draco took a wet towel over to Harry and Kreacher glared up at his wizard.
Harry half-smiled an apology at both of them. 'Violent weasel,' he explained, mopping dirt from his face. 'Even with three of us there and no chance for escape, he tried to fight his way out. We had the better of him, but he dropped a ceiling beam on Veigo and me. Luckily, we mostly got out of the way in time.'
Draco handed over a second towel. 'Was it him?'
'Don't know,' Harry admitted. 'It might be. It's all being sorted now, I called in Ron. There's no-one I trust more, and he's a very good investigator. Really.'
'I'm sure he is,' Draco muttered.
Kreacher tsked and shook his head. 'Master Harry should have taken Kreacher with him if there was going to be violence.'
'Next time.' Harry promised.
'Are you hurt?' Draco asked.
'Just a few bruises. Mostly dust. My jacket took the brunt of it.'
'So he tried to kill you.'
Harry grinned. 'Told you he was violent!'
'It's not funny, Potter.'
'It's all in a day's work. Very Bad People often prefer to drop houses on Aurors rather than come quietly. It's why we have a two-year training program, and really sturdy boots.'
'I take it your toes are fine.'
Veigo hissed, and Luna focussed on cleaning up his cut. He smiled devotedly up at her and called her his beautiful nurse.
'He's not concussed,' Evald said. 'I checked. I think he's just taking advantage of the situation to make a move.'
'Shut up, Evald,' said Veigo.
Luna laughed at them both.
Once the blood was mopped up, and ice-cubes produced and wrapped in yet more tea towels, to be held to bruised heads and shoulders, Luna led them all back upstairs with the remains of the afternoon's pies. Kreacher alone stayed behind, promising to cook up something nourishing, despite the fact that Luna had plenty of Plimpy soup she could reheat.
'I'm very glad that none of you were seriously hurt,' she told the Aurors. 'But what happened? There were three of you and one of him.'
'It started out well,' said Evald. 'Harry knocked on the door, Mr Crouch opened it, they chatted politely for a minute, Harry asked if we could come in, he said yes, Harry said we had a few questions, he dropped part of his house on Harry and Veigo. I was standing quietly in the corner, so I was able to get the drop on him while Harry held the beam up. Once we had him subdued, Harry sent an Owl to Ron, and then we had to get out of there very quickly before the Aurors showed up.'
'Did you have a chance to question him? Look around for any evidence?' Draco asked.
'No,' said Harry. 'But we could smell what had to be a potion bubbling away somewhere, and he did shout that we couldn't prove he did it, so I'm cautiously optimistic.'
Draco nodded. 'Good. All right. That's that.'
Luna could see that he was breathing rather quickly.
'Draco, I've left my notebook outside somewhere,' she said. 'Come and help me look for it?'
He nodded, tight-lipped, and followed her down the stairs and out of the house. She led him down to the back of the garden and took his hands. 'Breathe,' she advised. 'Just breathe for a minute. Everything is easier once you have air in you.'
'I don't think I can,' he said, clinging to her grip. 'It feels like someone is sitting on my chest.'
'I know. Just try an easy one, in through your nose, out through your mouth. That's it. And another. Perfect. Keep going.'
She stood and breathed with him for a minute, remembering an afternoon like this years ago, when the sun had been golden and pollen and butterflies had danced through the air beyond the motes of ash that had once been her mother and when her own lungs had felt as though they would never do her bidding again, and how just filling them and flooding her blood with oxygen had been a miracle, because it meant that she was alive, and that she would go on, and that she could cry and mourn and do everything else, if only she could go on breathing.
Tears began to track down Draco's face and she let go of his hands and drew him down to her shoulder, then held him, and let him cry.
It was a few minutes before she heard the sound of footsteps on the gravel path. Harry slowed almost to a stop when he saw them, but she beckoned him closer.
'Are you all right, Malfoy?' he asked, putting a hand on Draco's shoulder.
Draco nodded, and used his cuffs to mop up his face. 'I just …'
'I know,' Harry said. 'I know exactly.'
Luna looked at him with gentle eyes, because she knew that he did. They all did. Draco sniffed, and smiled a little, and managed a 'Thanks, Potter.'
And then they heard the snap of displaced air and Ron Weasley was standing at the top of the garden, looking around with a frown.
Harry waved to him, and he stalked over, shaking his head.
'Harry, I swear, if you get us sacked over Malfoy, Hermione will kill you. Hello Malfoy, sorry for your loss. Luna, good to see you.'
'Ron,' said Luna in greeting.
'So?' said Harry.
'Good news and bad,' Ron replied. 'You've caught a murderer, he's just not the right one. I found pieces of two Muggles in his basement: he was using body parts to make hair-restoring lotion. Sick and twisted, and people were paying him ten Galleons a bottle.'
Draco stumbled, and Luna moved to catch him, but Harry had beaten her to it.
'But then …' Draco said.
'We will keep looking,' Harry promised. 'It's been one day.'
Luna watched, as Draco nodded, and did not move away from Harry's supportive arm.
'Harry tells me it definitely wasn't you,' Ron told Draco, with what was clearly intended as kindness, even if it came out a little gruffly. 'I didn't think it could be, you were always loyal to your friends.'
'Thank you, Weasley,' said Draco, without stiffness. He turned to Luna. 'We should let Evald and Veigo know. And I could do with a cup of tea.'
She took his arm. 'I'll put the kettle on. Harry? Ron?'
With orders for one tea and one cocoa, she headed in with Draco, hoping that he couldn't hear Ron's 'Seriously, Harry, traipsing all over Europe after Malfoy? What do you think this is, Sixth Year?'
The bad news was shared, beverages made, and everyone reassembled in the living room, chased out of the kitchen by Kreacher, whose dinner was reaching epic and delicious-smelling proportions. Luna sat next to Draco on the long sofa, and was unsurprised when Harry took the other side.
'The rest of the team have taken Crouch back to the Ministry,' Ron was explaining. 'He was still groggy from being stunned by you, so our MediWizard gave him a sedative and he's not going to be talking for at least twelve hours. I've told them it was Owled in to me as an anonymous tip, and everyone thinks it was one of Crouch's relatives who's stumbled onto the situation, taken him down in a fight and then not wanted to have his name connected with the scene. Which is not entirely wrong.
'The office received official word about your continuance in Tallinn late this afternoon, so they're not expecting you back until tomorrow. What are you going to do?'
'We go back to Tallinn in the morning,' Draco said. 'Potter's right, it's been one day. It was overly optimistic to think there was a chance of cracking the case in twelve hours, so we'll go back and go through the proper channels.'
Harry nodded agreement. 'I'm going to present my findings to the Estonian court and the Wizengamot, see if I can have them both rescind their warrants. They were only granted because Malfoy fled the scene, but anyone could lose their head if they came across the body of their best friend. Mr Parkinson will be a problem, but his evidence points towards Malfoy's innocence, too, and if we have a chance to talk to him calmly, he might see that and be able to help us look for the real killer.'
'Good,' said Ron. 'That sounds like a normal, sensible, sane plan.'
'You've become very responsible since you've been a father,' Luna said, remembering a month ago when he had run mostly naked through her garden down to the stream shrieking that he was going to have a swim before the sun disappeared for another fortnight.
'Would you like to see a picture?' he asked. 'She's gorgeous.'
Nearly a half hour later, Ron finally put all the baby pictures back in his wallet and declared that he had to be getting home before his wife started to worry when Kreacher stomped up the stairs to announce that dinner was ready.
It was a brilliant dinner, the sort of thing that Luna had rarely sat down to since leaving school. Somewhere between the soup and the lamb pie, the mood around the table lightened and they began to hatch plans for the continued search.
'We haven't followed up any of the knife leads,' Veigo insisted. 'There must be families who are known to have items like that, and if we can track the one that was stolen from Harry's house, maybe it would lead us to someone who deals in that sort of artefact.'
Evald agreed. 'And there are so many people to chase down who had access on the Floo. We've only just begun.'
'I thought you had Estonian Auroring to do,' Draco said, with a smile.
'It's a very law-abiding country, not like Britain. We will take holidays and help with the investigation. It will be a cross-cultural experience.'
Draco's smile grew at that, and he even took a second piece of pie.
Over pudding, Luna tried to organise accommodation for the night. 'I meant to add more guest bedrooms when we rebuilt, but never got around to it,' she apologised. 'Someone can have Dad's room, or two of you could share, and the sofa is comfy …'
'I could share with you,' Veigo attempted, ever-optimistic.
'Don't worry about me,' Evald said. 'I'm going home for the evening to let Meeli know what's happening.'
'I'm happy with a sofa,' said Draco. 'Or a chair. I don't think I'll get a lot of sleep.'
'And I have a tent,' said Harry.
'Marvellous,' said Luna. 'I'll sort out towels for all, we have extras if anyone would like to bathe, the stream is lovely and deep at this time of year.'
And no sooner had she spoken than everyone, including Evald, realised that it was a beautiful warm summer's evening, and that nothing would be better than to be washed clean by fresh running water.
Which is why, a short time later, Luna felt her skin warm in the late-afternoon sun as she led a line of four wizards and one house-elf down the long hill towards the sparkling ribbon of water that marked her stream. And as she sat on the bank, with her feet in the water, and watched the others flopping into the water in their smalls, she felt certain that it would all work out. Even if she had no idea how.
Swimming had been a good idea, Harry thought. They were all physically and mentally grimy from the day, and yet here it was lovely, and the water was cool and fresh.
He and Evald had sorted out plans for the morning: as long as Harry, Veigo and Draco could be at Meeli's by eight, Evald would have a new prisoner's uniform for Draco, a suitably large pile of dirty dishes in the sink, and a doctor to declare that Draco was fit to attend the hearing, arriving at about a quarter to nine.
Luna had taken Veigo up to her father's room, allegedly to check on his head wound and amuse him with board games, but Harry had heard the door close firmly behind them. Someone was benefitting from all this running around in circles, he reflected, ruefully.
Harry had made Kreacher a nest of pillows and blankets in the kitchen, and he had declared it a very fine thing, before flopping down to snore cheerfully. Harry was glad he was here, rather than alone back at Grimmauld Place. He knew Kreacher was happiest when he could keep an eye on him, and to be honest, it was nice to know there was an eye being kept.
And then Malfoy.
Malfoy had come back from the stream, dried off and dressed in another set of Harry's clothes, and then sat down to read his way through all the case notes again. He hadn't even looked up when Evald had left, only nodding assent to the morning plan.
Harry had found him a quill, and fresh parchment for note-making, and then made him a cup of tea when he was still going after an hour. It was odd to see Malfoy so intent on a task that wasn't going to end in disaster. Harry smiled. He hadn't been an idiot getting Malfoy out of there. It had been the right decision, whatever Ron thought.
Malfoy looked up and caught the smile. He looked confused.
'I was just thinking that we've made it through nearly twelve hours, and there's still no sign of homicide,' Harry said. 'Pansy would be proud of us.'
'She'd be worried we were sick,' Malfoy replied, with a little smile of his own. 'Can I get you to have a look at this?' he asked, indicating the papers in front of him.
Harry moved over to the sofa and looked at the notes spread out on the low table.
'See here, and here,' Malfoy pointed. 'Someone from the Brown house was travelling on the Floo Network at the right times.'
'You don't suspect Lavender?' Harry asked.
'Of course not. But I do want to know why Pansy's Aunt Marjorie called her "poor Lavender".'
'I've been planning to check that out,' Harry admitted.
'Have you seen her since the War?'
Malfoy shook his head. 'You don't think … I mean, I saw her fall, and then Greyback made a lunge in her direction …'
'Hermione stopped him,' Harry said, with more certainty than he felt. 'And there was no funeral. We'd have heard.'
Malfoy nodded, and didn't point out that there had been so many funerals it had been hard to keep track, for which Harry was grateful.
'I just think it would be worth talking to Mr Brown,' said Malfoy.
Harry looked at Malfoy's face. 'I think you're right.' He thought for a moment. Peter Brown was moderately old, respectable and not someone he knew anything about, which spoke well for his law-abiding qualities.
'We could go tonight,' Harry offered. 'I think it should be fine, it's still light, so he probably hasn't gone to bed.'
'Should we take Veigo and Luna?'
Harry glanced at the ceiling. 'I think it would be best to leave them,' he said, diplomatically.
'Oh,' said Malfoy. 'Right. Well, we've been questioning people all day, one more should be fine. Do you want to Transfigure my hair and nose again?'
Harry couldn't help laughing. 'I don't think it will be necessary. Does he know you well?'
'Not at all, personally, but he might have seen me in the Prophet over the years.'
'Wear a hat?'
Malfoy pulled a face, but he did search through the collection on the hatstand and decide on a tartan cap, which he pulled on before they left. The Floo Regulation Panel had provided them with the Browns' address, so Harry Apparated them there, pausing to remind Malfoy to draw his wand before he knocked on the front door: 'Just in case.'
Mr Brown answered the door cautiously. 'Can I help you?' he asked, the suggestion that it was an unreasonable time for visitors clearly audible, if unspoken.
He looked vaguely familiar to Harry, probably from him seeing Lavender off at King's Cross. 'Good evening, Mr Brown, my name is Harry Potter, we're here from the Auror Office. I'm investigating the murder of Pansy Parkinson and I believe you saw her at her aunt's house a few days before her death.'
'Harry Potter,' Mr Brown said. 'My Lavender used to talk about you when you were at school together. Come in, come in. Yes, dreadful business.'
He showed them through to the living room, which was large, and cluttered with items ranging from baskets of clean washing to unopened packets of dog biscuits. Harry looked around, but couldn't see a dog.
'How is Lavender?' Harry asked.
'As well as can be expected,' Mr Brown said, absently. 'Since her mother left us, things have gone downhill in the housework stakes, as you can see …'
'It's not an issue,' Harry reassured him, waiting for Mr Brown to sit down then taking the seat nearest him. 'I was hoping that you could help us reconstruct some of Pansy's actions in the days before her death. I understand you saw her at her Aunt Marjorie's?'
'Yes, yes she came to visit. She wanted her aunt's advice, but didn't want to intrude. She stayed for a cup of tea. She was only a little thing, much smaller than I thought. So delicate.'
Harry nodded slowly. Mr Brown was watching him intently, and didn't seem to have even noticed Malfoy prowling around the room.
'And had you seen her much before then? Or visited her father recently?'
'No. No, I hadn't seen the Parkinsons for years, except Marjorie, of course. She and I were at school together. Like you, and my poor Lavender.'
'How is Lavender, Mr Brown?' Harry asked again.
Mr Brown gave a short laugh. 'Not everyone came through the War as well as you did, Harry. Not every sacrifice was rewarded. We make do, we get by.'
Harry's eyes took in the calendar on the wall behind Mr Brown's head. It was the type that had the phases of the moon marked on it, and in the square for the previous Thursday, there was a small red cross.
'Where's Lavender?' Harry asked, all gentleness gone from his voice.
Harry turned around to see Malfoy lifting a small towel from one of the washing baskets. It had a red 'P' embroidered in one corner.
There was a growl behind him, and Harry turned, wand drawn, but Mr Brown was already thrown back by a Stunner from Malfoy, and so all that remained was to conjure ropes and tie him firmly to the chair.
And then he turned around.
Malfoy's wand was still clenched in his fist, halfway up, but he was breathing with determined slowness, and not opening his mouth.
'You did it,' Harry said.
Malfoy nodded. He tucked his wand into the waistband of his trousers, then folded the towel neatly and put it into his pocket.
'Pansy's mum will want that,' he said. 'We should go and find Lavender.'
Harry checked the ropes were secure, took Mr Brown's wand, and moved him and the chair he was tied to out into the centre of the floor. Putting a locking charm on the living room doors, he and Malfoy went to search the house.
They found an elaborate Potions set-up in the kitchen, with a brew decanted into several small silver bottles, all labelled with dates over the next two weeks, and carefully handwritten instructions beside bags of ingredients.
Malfoy read the spell quickly. 'A werewolf cure,' he said. 'Wouldn't have worked.'
They kept searching.
All traces of Mrs Brown had been removed from the house, but Lavender's room was still clean and tidy, with her schoolbooks and personal possessions neatly arranged, as though by a curatorial hand. There was even a diary that proclaimed 'Mrs Lavender Weasley' on the back cover.
It was Malfoy who found her, down in the cellar, its entrance hidden at the back of the pantry. Strong bars had been erected, forming a gated cell that took up most of the room. Lavender was inside, lying on a bed that was basic, though clean. There was a shackle around her ankle, and a long chain leading back to a bolt sunk into the stone wall. There was little furniture: a chair, a crate full of books, another crate with a tray balanced on it and a bucket for a lavatory, which Harry could smell from here. There was food on the tray, it was untouched but the water carafe was empty.
'Lavender?' Malfoy called, as Harry burst the lock on the gate.
She sat up groggily as they both ran in towards her.
'Harry!' she whispered, focussing on him, then, 'Draco! You?'
She started to laugh. It wasn't a healthy laugh. Harry looked at Malfoy, who grabbed the carafe and ran out of the cellar. Abandoned, he sat carefully on the bed beside Lavender and held out a hand to her.
'Hiya Lavender,' he said. 'You don't look the best.'
She clutched at his hand, and started to sob great wet hiccoughing sobs. Malfoy returned with water and a glass. Harry held a glassful out to Lavender and gently suggested she take a sip.
She managed one, which calmed her enough for a second and then a third.
Her hair was a nest of tangles, and she looked very thin to Harry, with blue circles around her eyes and grey lips.
'Have you eaten, Lavender?' Draco asked.
'Not lately,' she answered, in a croaky voice. 'Dad's put something all over my food, I think he's done something terrible.'
'Potter, there's food in your bag,' Malfoy reminded him.
Harry summoned one of the pies.
'Just a little,' Malfoy warned. 'Or you'll be sick. I got this way once during the War, didn't want to eat anything I couldn't identify.'
Lavender gave a weak smile at that, and nibbled at the pastry with restraint.
'How long have you been down here?' Malfoy asked.
'A while,' Lavender evaded. 'It used to be a lot nicer, and there's usually lots of water and good things to eat, but Dad's been angry at me this week, because I didn't want to take that potion.'
'Did Greyback bite you?' Harry asked gently.
A sob burst from her compulsively, but she fought back control. 'No,' she whispered. 'Just a scratch. But he never believed me. He kept waiting for me to turn. And when I'd shout and yell and try to escape, he'd say it was the wolf coming out. He Obliviated Mum, I don't know where she's gone. I don't think she even remembers me.'
'Lavender, how long have you been here?' Harry asked.
And when she didn't answer, Malfoy said, 'Eight years?'
And when she nodded, Harry was halfway out of the cellar before he felt strong arms restraining him and he wanted to fight them off, but instead he let himself be stopped, and he dropped his head, and felt the touch of Malfoy's forehead as it met his own.
'I know,' said Malfoy. 'But you were right. There has to be a difference between us and them. Even when we don't want there to be.' And then he stepped away, and Harry was left standing alone just when he didn't want to be.
They called in Kingsley, and Ron.
There was no choice, really, even though Hermione was now almost certainly going to kill Harry. At least Harry had the sense to Owl for the Minister first, so it was Kingsley Lavender clung to while they decided whether it would be better to take her to St Mungo's or to call the MediWizards to attend there.
Mr Brown had regained consciousness and was attempting to explain that it was not as though he had had any option, and that it had been necessary to purge the taint from Lavender's flesh, and that they should not let her roam free because she was a danger to all of them, really …
Ron arrived full of annoyance, which evaporated immediately on seeing the scene. 'Go,' he said to Harry and Malfoy. 'I've got this.'
Suddenly exhausted, Harry thanked him, and Kingsley, and turned to Malfoy. Who was staring at Mr Brown.
Harry did not move his hand towards his wand.
'She deserved better,' said Malfoy. 'My friend Pansy. She was a good friend, and a loving daughter. She was decent, and funny, and kind. And your Lavender deserved better, too. I hope one day you're sane enough to know that. And to do what you can for Lavender.'
Harry put an arm around his shoulders, and led him towards the door.
'Draco,' called Ron, before they could step through it. 'Good work, yeah? Well done.'
And Malfoy smiled at that.
'I'll see you tomorrow,' Harry said, and shut the door behind them.
The sun had not long set, which was ridiculous, because it felt as though they had been in there for hours. The last gold was dripping below the horizon, and the sky fading through pink and violet. Harry walked them down the steps, away from the house, to the rough road that ran into the village.
Anything he said would be wrong at the moment, so he just walked.
They made it to the old mill bridge before Malfoy stopped.
'That was horrible,' he said.
'We should go back to Luna's. Your house-elf will think I've murdered you and come after me.'
Harry smiled. 'I'll get us back,' he said, and took Malfoy's arm again.
He took them to Luna's front garden. Spiky stems of teasles looked alien and strange in the blue-grey light, but the sweet fragrance of phlox and honeysuckle reassured him.
Malfoy stood still, looking up at the towering house. 'Do you think anyone's awake inside?' he asked.
Harry couldn't help himself. He giggled. Malfoy took a moment longer to recall Veigo's shameless pursuit of Luna, and then he was giggling, too. They didn't bother to stop until they ran out of breath, and then everything was just a bit easier than it had been.
'Maybe we should put the tent up?' Malfoy suggested.
'Or I could transform the sofa and chairs in the living room,' Harry offered. 'I've slept on the tent bunks, they're less than ideal.'
Malfoy led the way in, pausing to grab leftovers from dinner and afternoon tea. 'I'm hungry now,' he whispered in reply to Harry's bemused look.
And when Malfoy put the plates and bowls down on the table in the living room, Harry realised that he was hungry, too. They both ate sparingly and silently for a quarter hour, but everything tasted better to Harry than it had earlier in the day.
'I knew you could do it,' Malfoy told his slice of rhubarb pie.
'I would have missed it if you hadn't been there,' Harry replied, putting his plate down.
'Not for long.'
'Maybe not, but Lavender would have spent all the time it took me in her jail, starving.'
Malfoy shivered and put his own plate down. 'I feel as though it should be raining. Or snowing. It should be grey, and miserable, all this week. But today was beautiful.'
'It was,' Harry agreed. 'And tomorrow will be, too. Which is good. Every time I feel despair, I find comfort in simple things like the warm sun, and clear water, and the smells of a well-tended garden.' And because he was honest, he added, 'And Quidditch, and food.'
Which made Malfoy smile.
'I'm all for food,' he agreed. 'And Quidditch. And those other things are also good.'
'We could go for a Snitch-chase after we sort things out for you tomorrow,' Harry offered.
Malfoy looked sceptical.
'I can give myself a half-day,' Harry said.
'And spend it with me?'
Harry shrugged. 'I'm going for the record time in Malfoy company without an attempted assault.'
'That was passed around lunchtime, wasn't it?'
'About then, yes.'
Malfoy smiled again. 'Flying does sound more fun than going home and waiting to see if my Father ever gets around to apologising.'
'And Kreacher can threaten you occasionally if you're missing the abuse,' Harry offered.
Malfoy thumped him with a sofa cushion.
'Restarting the clock,' Harry announced, with exaggerated grievance.
'That was never assault,' Malfoy protested. 'More an affectionate laddish expression of …'
'Of what?' Harry asked lightly.
'Affection?' Malfoy suggested, tentatively.
'Well that's all right then,' said Harry, and smiled as Malfoy let go of the breath he'd been holding.
And Harry kissed him then, because if he waited until he had the perfect thing to say, or until it was the exactly right moment, then it was going to be at least another eight years of thinking he should have said or done something when he had the chance.
And Malfoy kissed him back, though Harry wasn't sure if he was shivering or laughing, but it didn't seem like an ideal time to stop to find out. Harry moved to push Malfoy back onto the sofa just as Malfoy attempted the same in reverse, and they spilled onto the floor, and it was definitely laughter then.
Which was fine. They laughed together, in a tangle of limbs, and Malfoy carefully took Harry's glasses off and put them on the table, which rendered everything soft-focus, and then there was more kissing, and the knocking of an elbow each into table legs, and redemption for the sofa cushion as it was dragged down and made into a pillow for them both.
'This is bound to end in disaster,' Malfoy told him.
'We can stop,' Harry offered.
Malfoy laid a firm and restraining hand on his chest. 'One thing I've learned, we're both quite good at weathering disaster.'
Harry smiled. 'I'll keep you safe from Kreacher if you stop your father hexing me,' he offered.
'Kreacher will come round,' Malfoy corrected him. 'In time. Regulus was my second cousin, I'm a Black, really.'
Harry covered Malfoy's hand with his own, surprised to see how similarly sized they were. 'Do you mind?' he asked. 'We could just be friends, if you'd rather.'
'No we couldn't!' Malfoy said with a laugh. 'We'd be terrible at it. Anyway, you don't get to snog me silly and then take it back. For a start, I know you're sober.'
'Completely,' Harry agreed.
'Good.' Malfoy leaned over and kissed Harry lightly. 'But we should probably take things a bit slowly. Because Luna's sofa is not ideal. And not everyone has been off shagging Charlie Weasley.'
'Actually, almost everybody …'
'Shut up, Potter.' And Malfoy kissed him again to show it was without malice. 'We should get some sleep. We need to get up early in the morning.'
'Before six,' Harry agreed. 'Tallinn's two hours ahead, and we'll need to stop by my place for a Portkey.'
'If we sleep with our clothes on, that's ten extra minutes in the morning.'
'And it gives even odds we'll be able to take things slowly tonight,' Harry teased. 'Unless you'd rather I slept on the armchair.'
'No,' said Malfoy, hauling them both to their feet and moving the table out into the centre of the room. He Transfigured the sofa into a broad bed, with what looked like good linen sheets. 'But shoes off. I prefer to sleep on the right side. You?'
'Left. That could be the basis for a successful ongoing thing right there.'
'An "ongoing thing". Potter, you suave romantic fool.'
'Shut up.' Harry kicked off his shoes and climbed into bed, pronouncing it 'Surprisingly comfortable.'
'My family have a lot of good household spells,' Malfoy said, carefully undoing his laces and leaving his boots beside the bed with a sock tucked into each. 'Malfoy Manor is really a two-bedroom bungalow underneath all the enchantments.'
Harry laughed, and Malfoy looked pleased. He climbed into bed, a little awkwardly, and turned out the lights. Harry felt the shift as Malfoy turned to him, he reached out until he could touch him.
'Are you going to get in trouble?' Malfoy asked.
'Hardly. Ron and Kingsley were genuinely impressed with you, and since we've caught the real culprit, I'm afraid it will go down as a great success on my part, rather than shameful rule-breaking.'
'No, I meant, your friends, and your work. I mean, I'm … well, I'm who I am.'
Harry wished he could see Malfoy's face. 'Back at school, Ron was convinced I was obsessed with you. It will just give him another irritating proof of his own superiority.' He could feel Malfoy smile against his hand.
'You were usually trying to hex me back then,' Malfoy reminded him.
'I was confused. It was a trying time. What about you? Are you going to be all right?'
Malfoy nodded. 'Though I fear Luna and Milly will strike up a friendship.'
'That is genuinely frightening,' Harry agreed. He allowed Malfoy to pull him close, and rested his hand on the stretch of bare skin where Malfoy's shirt had pulled loose, resisting the temptation to explore.
'And I don't want to think about Pansy's reaction if there's an afterlife.'
Harry kept a tactful silence.
'But for a day with as many awful things in it as this one has contained, it's ended up very well.'
And then he kissed Harry sleepily, and Harry kissed him back, and considered suggesting they decamp to Grimmauld Place, where there was coffee and privacy, but by the time he'd formulated the plan, he was mostly asleep, too.
Which is why when he saw Luna tip-toeing down the stairs in the moonlight a little while later, with a chessboard tucked under her arm, he at first assumed he was dreaming. She snuck past them to stow it on a bookshelf, then turned to creep back out, pausing at the stairs to whisper, 'I knew you were fibbing, Draco.'
And Harry felt Draco's face curve up into a smile, and his hair moved with Malfoy's whispered reply of, 'And I knew you were quite right.' The explanation of which, like everything else, could wait until tomorrow.