He'd been there almost a month now. Three weeks and five days to be exact, and in that time he had learned a lot of things. He'd learned first and foremost, that he was stuck here, at least for the foreseeable future. And he'd learned that his stay might not be nearly as miserable as he would have assumed should he have been told where he was headed when he'd stepped into the cabinet. He'd also learned that his magic, while it still worked, operated somewhat differently than it had back home, enabling him to cast almost entirely independent of his wand. But most of all, he'd learned that of everything he'd been introduced to, he liked television best.
He'd found it interesting, though somewhat disconcerting, the first time he'd seen it work. It was as if an entire book had been made into a painting. The different characters talked and moved and told a story. They didn't talk back like a real painting, but he had found that was just as refreshing as it was disappointing. He'd taken to spending a good portion of his free time enjoying the refreshingly interesting Muggle device, and the more time he spent with it, the more fun he had, which was why he was sitting on the Summers' couch at two-thirty in the morning, watching infomercials.
It was somewhat amazing how many different things Muggles could come up with to sell, and it annoyed him to know that he didn't have access to his family vault so that he could check out some of the strange things offered on the little screen. So intent was his contemplation of the electric juicer the woman was raving about on the TV that at first he didn't hear the teenage girl currently descending the stairs. It was because of this preoccupation that the blond wizard almost jumped in his seat when the brunette tripped on a pair of shoes as she passed the couch on her way into the kitchen.
"Oh, hey Draco, sorry for scaring you," Dawn said as she righted herself and kicked the tennis shoes out of her way.
"I wasn't scared," he stated almost defensively as he regarded the tall girl, "I was startled, that's all." She just smiled and he suppressed a snippy retort to the irritatingly sunny expression. Even after all this time, he was still having a hard time with the reception he had received here.
Willow and Tara were just so nice and friendly that their welcoming him didn't seem the least out of character, though it had left him with the urge to shudder on more than one occasion. And Xander was much the same way, the young man appearing to take everything, even a strange wizard popping out of a cabinet, in cheerful stride. Entirely too trusting, in Draco's opinion. The man's fiancé was the only one, aside from Spike, who acted a bit suspicious of him and the woman held no reservations about stating those suspicions, bluntly, on a fairly frequent basis.
Aside from his initial greeting and the continuing behavior of the vampire and former demon, however, Draco had been treated with disconcerting kindness and trust during his stint on the mouth of hell. Neither was something he was all that used to, being a Malfoy and Slytherin as he was. Needless to say, it was taking a bit of getting used to, so much so that the young wizard sometimes found himself retreating to his pathetic little cot in the basement so Spike could glare at him distrustfully. That dank little space was like a little bit of Slytherin, especially when the suspicious and potentially dangerous vampire was in residence.
No more often did he find himself needing that steadying familiarity than when he was face to face with the girl before him. She was entirely too perky, he'd decided upon their first introduction. Sure, there were times – a lot of them if he was honest – when she looked anything but happy, but on the whole she was perfect Hufflepuff material, or even worse, a candidate for Gryffindor. Or at least that's what he liked to tell himself, as it gave him the perfect reason to be annoyed by the big blue eyes she often cast in his direction, rather than to have any other reaction to the wide, innocent pools.
Dawn nodded in a way that suggested she was humoring her fellow teenager. "Right, startled."
Draco glared at the not-quite-Muggle girl, wondering, not for the first time, what it was that made Dawn Summers feel so very much not like a Muggle to the extra sense he'd somehow developed over the extent of his stay in this strange yet similar dimension. Willow had tried to explain it to him when he'd mentioned it the other day, something about the way his own personal magic was adapting to the different mystical fields around the hellmouth. It didn't make much sense to him. Whatever it was, though, it made him sure that the girl standing before him was no muggle, which was of course the only reason he might, just maybe, perhaps, not find her irritatingly perky behavior quite so annoying.
The blond continued to glare as the thoughts spun through his head, almost making him miss the looks she was casting the door to the basement, though why she might be doing that he didn't know. The only things down there were his cot that the bed Spike slept on. Unless… Draco almost laughed. Right, of course she'd be down here looking for the bloodsucking demon. Well too bad.
"Spike's not here."
Dawn's large blue eyes flashed back to the subject of her recent near-obsessive interest, her mind having to stutter to a stop from her contemplations of exactly why their guest might be up at this time of morning watching infomercials. Aside from his cute but freakish obsession with the television of course. Spike. He thought she was down here to see Spike. Logical assumption since that had in fact been her original reason for coming down here, not of course that she'd retained any thoughts of that intention upon seeing the other blond.
"Oh. Well, that's okay. What are you doing?"
Icy grey pools narrowed at her flippant response and he regarded her suspiciously before answering. "Watching TV."
"Well duh. Why?"
Another few seconds of silence hung between them before he spoke, the young wizard trying his best to figure out exactly where this was going. If he'd been back at Hogwarts, he would know exactly what kind of sneaky and vicious trap were being laid for him and therefore know how to respond. Here, however, he hadn't a clue. Finally, he decided to be mostly truthful, but safely vague.
"I can't sleep."
Dawn nodded understandingly and flopped down next to him on the couch. "Yeah, me neither. What'cha watchin'?"
His eyes narrowed once more. He most certainly hadn't a clue here. The brunette took his silence in stride and turned her attention to the TV, wrinkling her nose when she realized exactly what was on the screen. "Ugh, you can't seriously be planning to watch this for any length of time, can you?"
Again, she got no more answer than a hard glare and the last of the Summers women shrugged her shoulders. "That's cool, I'm sure we can find something worth watching around here."
He watched her for a few moments as she walked across the room and began quietly rummaging through a cabinet full of DVDs. It wasn't until she'd made her way back over to the television and started fiddling with the channels and inserting the disc into the DVD player that her words really registered.
"Wait a second- we?"
She tossed him a smile as she sat back on the couch and situated herself. "Yep."
He glared. Again. "Why?"
Some of the shine went out of her smile at his harsh tone and she shrugged again, but with noticeably less cheer than before. "Why not?"
"It's two-thirty in the morning."
This time her shrug looked positively sad as her gaze fell to her lap. "I told you, I can't sleep."
Her voice had sounded so small when she'd spoken, Draco had to grit his teeth against the strange and unfamiliar urge to be comforting. "Is that why you were looking for Spike?" he asked with a raised brow, instinctively falling back on old habits in order to overcome the odd urge. "He tire you out so you can sleep?"
She stared at him for a few seconds, confused, before wrinkling her nose. "Ewww! No way, that's gross, Spike's like my big brother or something. Besides, he has a crush on my sister." As soon as the words had left her mouth she froze, an expression sweeping over her face that he could only describe as despondent. "Well, he did anyway."
The last words had been so soft and sad the sixth year couldn't help but reply in an equally quiet voice, though every lingering bit of Slytherin bully in him rallied at him to sneer and insult. "Why not anymore?"
She was the one to be silent now, teenage pride warring with the tears that were attempting to form. "She died."
Not knowing how to respond to that, Draco turned with a small "Oh" and averted his eyes from the single tear making its way down her cheek, though he wondered, even as he did it, where the consideration had come from. Surely his father had never taught him that emotion.
When the silence had stretched long and uncomfortable between them, the wizard finally lost patience and blurted out the only thing he could think of. "So, what's the movie?"
Brown hair whipped across her shoulders as she jerked in surprise and spun to face him. "What?" A few seconds of thought had her smiling damply at the change in topic and she seized it thankfully as she reached for the remote.
"Star Wars, of course. This is episode one, though it was actually the fourth to come out. Spike likes to watch them in the order they were released, but personally, I prefer them chronologically."
Draco nodded, although he had no idea what she was talking about. One thing he did know, however, as he turned his attention to the TV screen, was that he liked to see Dawn Summers smile. Even if it was a little too Hufflepuff for his tastes.
End Chapter Four