Luna knows that life is one long succession of surprises. She likes it that way, even if some of them are unpleasant or painful. Thankfully, unpleasant surprises have become less frequent during the months since the end of the war. Now that life is slowly returning to normal, Luna begins every day looking forward to the things it might surprise her with, and she's hardly ever disappointed. Some of them end up on paper since she is now the editor of The Quibbler (her father decided to take up travelling after the war was over); others just serve to make her life a little bit more interesting.
When Harry, a bag over his shoulder and a troubled expression on his face, shows up on her doorstep one evening and asks without preamble, "Can I stay with you for a while?", Luna thinks this particular surprise might make her life very interesting for some time.
"I'm dropping out of Auror training."
It's the first thing Harry says after she made him sit down on the battered sofa in her living room. Luna hands him a mug of peppermint tea and watches him wrap his hands around it as if he were cold in spite of the warm September evening.
"Didn't you like it there?"
It's clearly not the question he expected. He looks taken aback, then laughs, a rough, harsh sound like a dog barking. "Far too much. That's why I knew I had to leave."
She isn't sure what he means by that, but she is sure that prying is not a good idea when you're talking to someone who looks as if he were on the run from some invisible enemy – which is entirely possible, given what her father always told her about the goings-on in the Auror Corps. "Then it's a good thing you left, isn't it?"
His shoulders sag a little, as if a weight had been lifted from them. "Thanks for not asking, Luna." He doesn't look at her when he continues. "You were the only one I could think of who wouldn't ask."
"And that's why you're here, and not with your friends." She thinks it's a little sad, but knowing Ron and particularly Hermione, she agrees that they probably would want to know why he's giving up his dream of many years.
"Yes." Only now does he meet her eyes. "It was great, at first, to share a flat with Ron and Hermione, but now – I just can't stay there right now, not after this. And you're my friend, too."
"Oh." She ponders this for a moment. "That's fine. You can have Dad's bedroom while he's away – it's small, but I've kept it Nargle-free."
For the first time since he showed up at her door, Harry smiles. "That's – really good to know, Luna. Thank you."
He doesn't apologise for 'intruding like this' or for 'putting her through all this trouble' like most people she knows would have done, and she likes that. They are friends, they fought alongside each other, and there's no need for polite pretence.
"Come on," she says and pats his shoulder, "I'll show you the room, then we can make dinner. Only, I have to warn you that there might be a Kurdwurble nesting in the chimney, and I'm not very good at cooking."
Harry actually laughs at this, and Luna thinks that it might even be nice to have him here; she's been feeling a bit lonely in the evenings sometimes. "Don't worry," he says when he follows her upstairs, "thanks to the people who brought me up, I know a lot about cooking."
It turns out they were both right: Harry really is a rather pleasant houseguest, and he really knows how to cook.
He takes over most of the housekeeping without asking. Luna isn't particularly messy, but she's never bothered with more than the necessary basics. Harry, however, actually seems to enjoy himself while he's dusting, scrubbing and sweeping. He fixes the kitchen stove – Luna hopes he was polite with the Kurdwurble when he asked it to leave, but since he doesn't end up with pink hair, she assumes he must have been – and always has a meal waiting for her when she returns from doing interviews, meeting with her freelance reporters, or overseeing the printing of a new issue.
He offers to teach her how to cook, and Luna agrees because she remembers how much he enjoyed teaching them during the DA meetings in fifth year. It's fun, although most of the things she tries only end up edible because Harry helps her.
Luna hasn't forgotten what he said about not asking, so she's very careful with questions in his presence. Food and housekeeping are safe topics, as are magical beasts (Harry's just as clueless about them as most of the wizarding population, but at least he doesn't laugh at her explanations), but with every other topic, Luna does her best not to ask him anything just in case.
She wonders if Harry is aware of how much he has changed in the few months since the end of the war. For as long as she's known him, he has been brimming with nervous energy, rash, quick-tempered and ready to fly off the handle at every occasion. All that seems gone now – he's strangely quiet, almost withdrawn, although he's always sweet and friendly. There's nothing left of the angry determination that drove him forward before the death of Voldemort, and Luna sometimes thinks that Harry isn't sure anymore what keeps him going now that his goal has been fulfilled.
She doesn't ask him that, either, of course. She lets him be while he spends his days with housekeeping and cooking lessons; as far as she can tell, he never leaves the house although he sometimes sits on the steps of the front porch and enjoys the weakening autumn sun. In the evening, he comes to sit with her by the fireplace and asks her about her day or listens as she reads her father's latest letter to him. He doesn't seem to mind when she talks about politics (it's unavoidable in her line of work, and she sees it as her duty to keep her readers informed of the Ministry's latest machinations), but he never asks questions or comments on anything she tells him other than with noncommittal remarks like "hm" and "I see".
Luna also can't help noticing that she hasn't seen him do any magic since he moved in.
Harry's in the kitchen preparing dinner when Hermione's head appears in the fireplace. Luna isn't particularly surprised although she rather expected Hermione to show up in person.
"Is Harry here?" Hermione asks without preamble, and Luna considers it a bit rude, but Hermione is clearly beside herself with worry. Therefore, Luna just nods and gets up from the sofa to fetch him.
Harry looks up from the carrots he's chopping and smiles when she enters. "Give me another ten minutes, okay?"
Luna reaches out to take the knife from him. "Let me finish that, Hermione is firecalling."
"Oh." His smile evaporates and is replaced by a carefully blank expression. "Tell her hi from me." He doesn't let go of the knife.
"Harry says to tell you hi," Luna informs Hermione when she returns to the fireplace.
Hermione scowls at her, but she seems to have expected something like this. "Listen, Luna, I really need to talk to him. I want to ask him why – "
"I don't think it's such a good idea to ask him anything right now," Luna interrupts her calmly. "He said he came to stay with me because he knew I wouldn't ask."
That gives Hermione pause for a moment. "So you don't know..."
Luna shakes her head, and Hermione closes her eyes for a moment. "Luna, listen to me. I know there's something wrong with him – he simply left without any explanation, and now he won't even talk to me! Can you imagine how worried we all are?"
"Yes," Luna replies truthfully, "but there's nothing you can do for the moment. He's fine, as far as I can tell, but I can't make him talk to you."
"Would you – " Hermione pauses again, then shakes her head. "No, forget it. Just – you're taking good care of him, aren't you?"
Luna smiles at her. "Of course I am. I even put up Anti-Wrackspurt Charms around his bed, so you needn't worry about him."
Somehow, Hermione doesn't seem to take much comfort from that assurance, but there's nothing Luna can do about that, either.
Harry doesn't tell her about the nightmares, but Luna's bedroom is right across the hall from his, and it's hard to miss when someone just a few steps away is screaming at the top of his lungs during the night. Sometimes it only lasts for a few seconds before he's quiet again; then she knows he managed to wake up on his own, and she tries to go back to sleep because it would be very difficult to stick to the "no asking" rule if she went over to him now.
At other times, he doesn't wake up; then the screams don't stop. The first time it happens, Luna isn't quite sure what to do. She has heard about bad things that can happen to people who are forcefully woken during a nightmare, but she also knows that she can't just leave Harry in whatever hell his dreams are taking him to. So she quietly slips into his room where's he's trashing around on the bed and tries to calm him without waking him. She half expects to get elbowed in the guts in the process, but Harry relaxes as soon as she touches him. The screaming stops, and when she carefully wraps an arm around his shoulders, he immediately turns into the embrace and holds on to her like a drowning man to a lifeline. He's still fast asleep, but the nightmare is clearly over, and even though Luna spends a very uncomfortable night half-crouched on his bed while Harry clutches her, she's glad she's making a difference.
There's no pattern to Harry's dreams; sometimes Luna will get a whole week of undisturbed sleep, then she'll be up calming him three nights in a row. She doesn't mind very much; she holds him and hums lullabies that her mother used to sing to her, and sometimes he lets go of her after a while so that she can return to her own bed. It's only during the worst nights that she stays with him until morning, and she eventually learns to sleep with Harry's head nestled in the crook of her elbow and his arms wrapped uncomfortably tight around her.
He's always terribly embarrassed when he wakes up still holding on to her in the morning, but Luna only laughs and ruffles his hair. "There was this Kneazle I had when I was a child," she tells him. "He was called Rusty, and I always took him to bed with me during stormy nights because he hated thunder. He'd climb on my shoulder, dig his claws into my arm and sleep like that, purring. You remind me a bit of him."
"Except that I don't purr," Harry says, and Luna is happy to see him smile. "That's true," she concedes, "but on the other hand, he didn't make me breakfast in the morning."
Harry keeps asking her questions about her mother. There's a picture of Luna's parents on the mantelpiece, and Harry seems strangely fascinated by it; he frequently brings it up when they're sitting in front of the fireplace in the evening, which happens often now that the nights are getting cold. Luna doesn't mind talking about her Mum; she'll never stop missing her, but she's become comfortable with the feeling long ago. She tells Harry everything she can recall – it's not that much, she was still very young when her mother died, but some things stand out clearly in her memory. Harry asks her if she's still convinced that she'll see her mother again, and Luna remembers the talk they had in fifth year, right after Sirius Black's death at the Ministry.
"I envy you," Harry says when she tells him that yes, she still doesn't doubt it. "It must be nice to know that there's someone waiting for you somewhere. Did it make things easier for you – you know, during the war?"
There's something in his tone that Luna doesn't like. "I've never been very afraid of dying," she says, "but that doesn't mean that I want to die. I think it would make my Mum very sad if I was looking forward to death instead of living the life she wanted me to have."
Harry looks startled, and Luna wonders if she has misunderstood him. "You think I want to die?"
Luna considers this for a moment. "Not really," she answers eventually, "but I'm not sure you want to live, either."
Harry remains silent for a long time. When he finally speaks, he neither confirms nor denies what she has told him. "It's just that – people close to me, people who love me... they tend to die."
"I know," Luna says and reaches out to put a hand on his shoulder because Harry has that look on his face that always makes her think he needs a friendly touch of some kind. He has never let on whether she's right, but since he never pushes her hand away either, Luna keeps following her instinct. "We could put a picture of your parents on the mantelpiece too, if you'd like."
He hesitates for a split second, and Luna remembers that Halloween is just two nights away.
"I'd like that very much," he finally says, and Luna smiles and hopes it's a beginning.
Luna runs into Ginny Weasley when she Apparates to Diagon Alley to meet with her printer. She waves and greets her, but Ginny just snarls "Hi!" and barely looks at her.
Luna is puzzled; she hasn't seen Ginny in a while, but they always got along well before. "Are you angry with me?"
Ginny seems very angry indeed. "You've got some nerve asking me that. Harry is still living with you, isn't he?"
"He is," Luna confirms. "That makes you angry?"
Ginny laughs, but it doesn't sound as if she's amused. "Oh no, why should it? He keeps avoiding me ever since the end of the war, and then he suddenly disappears completely to set up shack with you, without a word to anyone! Hermione says he couldn't even be arsed to talk to her for weeks!"
"He talks to her now," Luna points out, "she's firecalling him twice a week. Ron is usually there too."
"Oh, that makes me feel lots better," Ginny sneers, "pity he's never called me!"
"You could call him," Luna reminds her, still at a loss why Ginny is so furious. Hermione and Ron seem worried, but never angry; not with Harry, and certainly not with her.
Ginny gives her an icy glare. "I've got some dignity left, thank you very much."
It finally dawns on Luna what this is about. "You think that I have an affair with him?"
"Do you honestly expect me to think you're not sleeping with him?"
"Oh, I'm sleeping with him sometimes," Luna replies mildly, "but I don't have sex with him, if that's what you mean. We're friends. Besides, you know that Harry prefers men."
Ginny's jaw drops at this, which is a rather strange look on her, Luna thinks. "I know nothing of that kind! What are you blathering about?"
Belatedly, Luna remembers that Ginny and Harry used to go out for a few weeks during sixth year, and the realisation that Ginny is jealous of her is so strange that it almost makes her laugh. "I always thought it was quite obvious," she says, "wasn't that why you broke up so quickly?"
"Of course not!" Ginny splutters. "He didn't want to put me in danger, that was all! He was going to come back to me after the war!"
Luna doesn't feel like laughing any more. "I'm sorry," she says and means it; too many people she cares for are suffering already, and she's always liked Ginny. "But I don't think that's going to happen."
"You're mental," Ginny snaps and turns away, but not before Luna has seen the tears in her eyes.
Luna doesn't like the Death Eater trials. All of Voldemort's main supporters have been sentenced already, either to the Kiss or to death, although few have been executed yet (Luna thinks Minister Scrimgeour is saving them up to throw them to the crowd if public support for him should waver). By now, everyone's interest in the trials is waning, and Luna doesn't expect that her report will attract many readers. Yet she knows it's important for the press to keep a watchful eye on the authorities, and besides, Draco Malfoy is a former schoolmate of hers, so she's going.
It's one of the open-and-shut trials, where the sentence has already been decided beforehand. There are no witnesses present; only two written testimonies are read. One is Severus Snape's, which probably isn't going to help much since Snape narrowly escaped conviction himself. To Luna's surprise, the other one is Harry's, given right after Draco's arrest more than three years ago, describing the events surrounding Dumbledore's death. Luna listens carefully; she has never heard Harry talk about that night in detail, and now she almost regrets not telling him where she was going in the morning. Perhaps Draco's trial might have been of interest to him after all, since his testimony makes Draco appear more like a victim of circumstances than like a would-be killer.
The judge is a very old man who looks kind enough when he asks Draco to give his own account of the events that led to Dumbledore's death and of everything that happened afterwards. Draco does, his voice low and almost devoid of expression. He has changed a lot since Luna has last seen him; he's a bit taller and much thinner, with dark smudges under his eyes and a haunted look on his face. He keeps staring straight ahead while he talks; only once, he pauses briefly when he describes how Voldemort killed his mother.
"So you're saying," the judge cross-checks something with the testimonies on his desk, "that You-Know-Who killed your mother right after your return to him, when he heard that you had failed to kill Albus Dumbledore? As a punishment to you?"
Draco only nods, as if he suddenly didn't trust his voice.
"What did you do then?"
"I ran." Draco's voice is steady and expressionless again now. "I slipped away at the first opportunity and turned myself over to the Aurors. I told them everything I knew, which wasn't much. The Ministry put me in protective custody, and I've been in Azkaban ever since."
Luna has heard the phrase protective custody quite often during the war; her father always said that it was a nicer way of saying that the Ministry held everyone they considered suspect or bothersome without the inconvenience of a trial. In Draco's cause, however, it seems quite possible to her that Azkaban really saved his life; there are few who double-crossed Voldemort and lived.
The judge appears tired when he reads the sentence. He points out that Draco's crimes would warrant at least several decades in Azkaban, but that his youth, his upbringing and the pressure he was under have been taken into consideration, together with the fact that he already spent three years in prison. Draco is sentenced to have his wand snapped and to do ten years of communal service in a Ministry facility, during which he will be banned from using magic.
Luna watches Draco's pale face light up slightly when the judge informs him that he is going to work in the Ministry's main potion lab under the supervision of Severus Snape. His expression turns stony again when his wand is brought in and ceremoniously snapped in two, and Luna remembers that many wizards and witches feel the destruction of their wand as keenly as if their body had been maimed. If Draco does, he doesn't give any sign of it; he follows the two Aurors who escort him out of the room without looking at anyone.
Draco blinks owlishly when he steps into the street, as if he weren't used to daylight any more.
He starts violently, and Luna watches his hand twitch towards his sleeve where his wand would be if he still had one. He seems to remember a second too late and lets his hand fall to his side as he turns to face her. "What do you want?" He blinks again, then gives her a quizzical look as if he'd just remembered that he knows her. "You're Loony Lovegood, aren't you?"
She smiles at him. "Luna Lovegood, actually. I've been waiting for you."
"What for?" He seems alarmed, and Luna doesn't blame him. There must be plenty of people who have scores to settle with Draco Malfoy, and he's been left defenceless.
"I'm the editor of The Quibbler, and I'm in the process of writing a report about your trial. I wanted to hear your version of things."
"Forget it." He makes a face that is nothing more than a pale memory of his former sneer. "The Quibbler, eh? I had no idea that rag still existed."
"We're doing quite well, as a matter of fact," Luna replies patiently, "which is more than can be said for you, I suppose."
He merely shrugs. "Good for you. Now, if you don't mind, I'll be on my way."
Luna remembers how she found a baby Jarvey with its leg trapped in a sling when she was a child; it bit her hand when she reached towards it to free it.
"Where are you going?"
He shrugs again, which is what she expected. Those sentenced to supervised work are free to go wherever they please as long as they show up at work every day, but since they're only paid minimal wages, they usually have a hard time finding a place to stay if they don't have people willing to take them in, which rarely happens with convicted Death Eaters.
"It's none of your business, so leave me the hell alone."
Luna suddenly has an idea. "I have a little house in the countryside, you know."
Now he's looking at her as if she'd grown a second head. "That's very nice. Why on earth should I care?"
"It has a guestroom that I don't use. Would you like to stay there?"
"What?" He appears speechless for a moment, then he sneers again, a tad more convincing than before. "What do you think I am, a charity case? Go fuck yourself, Loony."
The Jarvey bit and scratched and swore until she finally managed to get the sling off its leg; then it dashed off so fast that it was a mere blur disappearing in the distance after a moment. Luna clapped her bleeding hands and laughed.
"Oh, I didn't mean I'd let you stay for free. You can pay rent, if you'd like, but I could really use someone to help me with running The Quibbler. Are you good at proof-reading?"
Draco doesn't answer immediately; his eyes are fixed on her necklace which is made of hazelnuts painted pink with nail polish.
"Why are you wearing this junk? It makes you look completely barmy."
Luna gives him a brilliant smile. "I don't mind."
Harry sticks his head out of the kitchen when he hears her open the door. "Hello there. Did you get the – " He stops abruptly, and his eyes widen as Draco steps over the threshold. "What the fuck is he doing here?"
Draco seems frozen on the spot; Luna realises belatedly that she should perhaps have informed him that Harry lives here too since the two of them didn't get along so well at school.
"Draco will stay in the guest room for a while. He's going to help me with the paper."
Harry takes a deep breath, clearly reminding himself that he's merely a guest in this house and therefore can't tell her what to do. "Luna, don't you know who he is? What he's done? If you need help so badly, you could have asked me."
"I know who Draco is, Harry," she replies patiently while she takes off her cloak, "and since I was at his trial today, I know perfectly well what he has done. I heard your testimony, too, and you didn't make it sound as if he were a cold-blooded criminal."
"That doesn't mean I want to have him around!" Harry's eyes are flashing, and it's obvious that he's struggling to keep his temper in check. Luna doesn't think she has seen him look so alive ever since he showed up on her doorstep.
"I'll be on my way, then." Draco is halfway out the door when Luna stops him.
"Where do you think you're going? We had an agreement!"
"Yes, but you left out the little detail that you're together with Potter!"
Luna shakes her head. "I think I need a t-shirt that reads 'I'm not shagging Harry Potter'. Draco, Harry is staying in my house, just like you now are, and it would be very nice if you both could behave like guests and not like rabid Chappwickles."
Draco frowns. "What the hell is a Chappwickle?" He's looking not at Luna but at Harry, as if he considers him more likely to give a reasonable answer.
Harry shrugs. "Search me."
Luna laughs and goes to hang up her cloak. "I'll tell you both during dinner. Harry, will there be enough for three? I'm starving."
She hears Harry mutter something that sounds like "Just give me a moment to add the arsenic" as he disappears into the kitchen.
"Is he gone?"
It's the first thing Harry says every morning when he comes downstairs to make breakfast; he's made it very clear that he's not going to tolerate Draco's company during more than one meal per day. Besides, the Ministry's Portkey ring that Draco is forced to wear whisks him away to his workplace every day at six thirty a.m., and neither Harry nor Luna are particularly early risers.
Luna just nods and starts talking about something else. She can see that Draco's presence in her house has brought Harry out of his withdrawn state; he's vibrating with barely concealed anger, and it's a much more fitting look on him than the quiet, subdued behaviour from before.
So far, however, Draco hasn't given Harry any opportunity for an open confrontation. It may have to do with the fact that he's simply too tired when he returns from work; he has to work eleven hours on weekdays and six on Saturdays. Half of his ridiculous wage he hands over to Luna for the rent, but he also insists on helping her with proof-reading in the evenings until he falls asleep on top of a sheet of parchment.
Luna doesn't try to stop him; she supposes he needs to hold on to the last shreds of his dignity since there's preciously little left of it. She knows that the two purposes of supervised Ministry work are control and constant humiliation, and there's probably only so much that Snape, who was forced to accept his own Ministry job in exchange for his pardon, can do for Draco. Luna even had to sign a confirmation that Draco is staying in her house to make the Ministry grant him permission to Floo back every evening since he's forbidden to do any magic.
She knows what Draco has done, and that he deserves punishment for it, but she can't help thinking that the death of his mother, his father's sentence to be Kissed, and three years in Azkaban have been more than enough punishment already. She doesn't mention this in front of Harry, of course, although she thinks that even Harry would agree with her if they were talking about anyone but Draco Malfoy.
The first time things get ugly is when Draco comes home to a Ministry letter waiting for him and turns ashen as he reads it.
"My father's appeal to have the Kiss changed to a death sentence has been denied."
"Serves him right." Luna didn't even notice Harry entering the room, but now he's leaning in the door frame, his face a mask of contempt. He barely resembles the man Luna knows when he's sneering like this. "If there ever was anyone who deserved to be Kissed, it's Lucius Malfoy."
"Fuck you, Potter." Draco's voice is low and shaky, but it's pure venom.
Harry shrugs, his eyes shining with a malice Luna has never seen on him. "Can't take the truth, Malfoy? The only reason you escaped the same fate is that you're too pathetic for the Ministry to bother."
Draco's hands are clenched into fists, but he still doesn't raise his voice. "Well, at least I'm not playing the house elf in some countryside hovel, am I?"
Luna feels mildly affronted on her house's behalf, but Harry laughs, and the sound of it makes her skin crawl. "No, you're the Squib servant in a Ministry lab. Tell me, what can you do in a potion lab without magic? Scrub cauldrons, chop bat spleens and lick Snape's boots clean? Or are you their guinea pig for experimental potions? I bet you would look lovely with slimy tentacles – oh, wait, I got to see that already, didn't I?"
Draco suddenly seems very calm, as if he had decided the whole exchange wasn't worth it. "If you're so eager for a repeat performance, what are you waiting for? It's not as if I can stop you, and you've had enough practice hexing me."
To Luna's surprise, Harry doesn't answer, and Draco continues in that eerily calm voice. "Now that I think of it – surely the Chosen One gets away with anything, so you could even go for an Unforgivable or two. Let's get it over with, shall we? Get out your wand and curse me into oblivion, I know you're dying to!"
Harry's still quiet, and Luna notices with sudden alarm that he has gone even paler than Draco and is trembling all over. Before she can say anything, he has turned on his heel and all but runs out of the room. Luna is torn between going after him and staying with Draco, who sits down on the sofa as if his legs were collapsing under him and buries his face in his hands. Her loyalty towards Harry wins out in the end, but he doesn't answer when she knocks on the door of his room, and when she turns the handle, she finds that he's locked himself in.
Draco is still on the sofa when she returns, but he has the page proofs for the upcoming edition on the coffee table in front of him and is busying himself with a quill and red ink. He doesn't look up when Luna sits down beside him.
"Would you like to have dinner?"
He shakes his head without taking his eyes off the page he's reading. "I'm not hungry."
Luna knows perfectly well that he must be starving after a long day at work, and even though he has put on a bit of weight since he moved in, he's still much too thin. "Then I'll fetch you some chocolate; everyone knows you can eat chocolate even when you're not hungry. And I'm sorry about your father."
Only now does he look at her, as if he wanted to read in her face whether she's serious.
"Thank you," he finally says in a strangely formal tone. Luna does her best to smile at him and goes to get the chocolate.
She doesn't let the locked door stop her when she hears Harry scream that night. It turns out to be the roughest night so far; although he finally stops screaming, he doesn't calm down, but keeps muttering and trashing around until the early hours of the morning. Luna meets Draco in the kitchen when she staggers downstairs at some ungodly hour, and it's impossible to miss that he didn't get much sleep either. She wonders how he's going to get through eleven hours of work when he looks dead on his feet already.
"Is there a reason for the racket he keeps making, or is he just desperate for attention?" Draco doesn't sound angry or hateful, merely exhausted.
"He has nightmares." She doesn't go into detail because she feels that it's not up to her to discuss Harry's problems with anyone, let alone Draco.
Draco shrugs. "Who hasn't? There are potions for that kind of thing."
"Dreamless Sleep Potion has very nasty side effects," Luna tells him earnestly, "and besides, its use was restricted by the Ministry last year since it turned out that it's addictive."
"Only if you brew it with asphodel, but there are substitutes."
"The apothecary in Diagon Alley said so too, but he wouldn't tell me more since none of the alternative recipes are approved by the Ministry."
Draco shrugs again. "That's because they are idiots."
Luna cocks her head to the side. "You know a lot about potions, don't you?"
He makes a face. "Certainly more than the dimwits Snape has for staff members. Fat load of good it's doing me, too."
"Would you like to write about it in The Quibbler? A weekly column, Pep Up Your Potions or something like that?"
He shakes his head with a grimace that looks almost like amusement. "You're really mental, aren't you? Half of the stuff I know about potions would land us both in Azkaban if you printed it."
"Oh." Luna ponders this for a moment. "That's really a pity. But what about the other half?"
Before Draco can answer, he's gone; it's half past six, and the Portkey has activated.
The confrontation with Draco has left Harry strangely apprehensive. December rolls around, and Luna starts decorating the house; it's going to be the first Christmas after the war, and she wants to make an effort for it. Harry helps her with putting up the huge Christmas tree and thick garlands of holly (no mistletoe since Luna doesn't want to risk a Nargle infestation), but it's obvious that his heart isn't in it. He's quiet and withdrawn again, and even her slightly off-key rendition of God Rest Ye Merry Hippogriffs doesn't bring a smile to his face.
He bows out when she asks him to help her enchant a bunch of fairy lights to put on the tree. "You know what, Luna, you keep decorating, and I'll go bake some gingerbread, how's that?"
"That's fine," she says and smiles although she's a bit surprised; she's always considered putting up fairy lights the best part of decorating. "But don't bake any gingerbread men, they'll make you colour-blind if you happen to eat them head first!"
"I'll keep it in mind," he replies with a weak grin and disappears into the kitchen.
"Tell me something," Draco's voice says from the other side of the room as soon as Harry is gone; when Luna turns around, she sees him standing at the bottom of the stairs leading down from the first floor. Since it's Saturday, he has spent the afternoon sleeping, and he looks a bit more relaxed than usual. "Have you seen Potter use his wand lately?"
Luna gives this some consideration. A fairy tries to escape while she's preoccupied, but she summons it back with a flick of her wand. The look on Draco's face as he watches isn't lost on her – it makes her think of a hungry child outside the Honeydukes shop window.
"I don't think so," she replies eventually, "as a matter of fact, I haven't seen him do any magic during all the time he's been staying here. I don't even know what kind of wand he got after his was destroyed when he duelled with Voldemort."
Draco visibly flinches at the name; Luna knows that many people are still uncomfortable saying or even hearing it. She thinks it's strange, but she's well aware how superstitious the majority of the wizarding population are.
"The Dark Lord destroyed his wand?"
"Didn't you know?" Luna would have expected every last witch and wizard in Britain to know; no one talked about anything but the epic final duel for weeks.
"The guards in Azkaban weren't exactly keen on keeping the prisoners up to date. What happened?"
"Harry's and Voldemort's wands destroyed each other. They were brothers, you know – the wands, I mean, their cores made from the feathers of the same phoenix. They both cast at the same time, and their wands locked. Eventually Harry's spell got through and killed Voldemort, but both their wands were destroyed in the process."
"Hm." Draco seems lost in thought. "But he has done magic after that?"
Luna thinks again, even more carefully this time. "He must have, because he cast the Killing Curse on Bellatrix Lestrange when she attacked him after he'd killed Voldemort. No one ever found out which wand he used; there are even rumours that he did it wandlessly. He said afterwards he didn't want to talk about it."
Draco frowns. "Wandless AK? I find that hard to believe."
"Why? Wandless magic is possible."
"Yes, but it's exceedingly difficult." Draco's face is carefully blank, and Luna suddenly wonders whether he's secretly practising wandless magic now that he can't use a wand. She thinks that she probably would if she were in his place; she has grown up with magic herself, and she has a hard time imagining how one can get by without it.
Luna always asks Harry if he wants to come along for her Sunday morning walk, even though he has never said yes so far. This Sunday is no exception; she leaves him lying on the couch and leafing through the latest issue of the Daily Prophet with a slightly disgusted expression on his face when she sets out into the icy sleet that has been falling since dawn. The wind is driving the freezing droplets into her face and makes her cheeks sting, but it doesn't bother her. She has always liked being outside in every weather, and since she knows she has a warm home waiting for her, she doesn't mind getting wet and cold.
Harry is crouched in front of the fireplace when she returns; he must just have finished talking to Hermione and Ron since there are still a few remaining green sparkles in the fire. He gets up quickly and shakes his head when he looks at her. "You look like a drowned rat. Aren't you afraid you'll catch a cold?"
Luna takes off her cloak and casts a Drying Charm on her clothes before she leaves a puddle on the carpet. "There – all better now. Have you seen Draco?"
Harry just shrugs, which is unusual; so far, he has never passed up an opportunity to point out how much he prefers not seeing Draco Malfoy around. "He's probably sleeping in."
"I don't blame him." Luna curls up in the squashy armchair next to the fire, savouring the warmth that makes her fingers and toes prickle. "Harry, I know you don't like him, but –"
Harry holds up a hand to cut her off. "Luna, don't. Please."
She gives him one of those unwavering stares that always seem to make him uncomfortable. "You don't even know what I was going to say."
"As long as it has to do with Malfoy, I don't want to hear it."
Luna would like nothing more than to ask him why Draco still gets under his skin like this when he hardly seems to care about anything else that's going on around him, but that would be breaking the promise she gave him.
Instead she goes and makes a pot of hot chocolate. Then she returns to the armchair, summons her notebook and quill and starts working on her report of her father's spectacular discoveries in the Amazon jungle which he described in his latest letter, while Harry goes back to reading the Daily Prophet. Luna is humming Christmas carols under her breath while she writes about the hitherto unknown mating dance of the Red-scaled Razadoo that her father was fortunate enough to witness. It's the only sound in the room besides the scratching of her quill and the soft crackling of the burning logs in the fireplace, which is rather strange because she thinks that every now and then, she should hear Harry turn a page of the paper he's reading.
She's well into the third page of the Razadoo report when Draco comes down the stairs with a stack of page proofs covered in red ink. Luna looks up and smiles at him. "Hello, Draco. Would you like a mug of hot chocolate?"
Draco's eyes dart towards Harry who is sitting on the sofa with his face hidden behind the newspaper. "I just – I mean, I wanted to show you the changes I made, but if you're busy..."
"No, that's fine. I was just about to finish my report; you can proof-read it while I look over your corrections." Luna summons another mug from the kitchen and gestures for Draco to sit down. He hesitates for a moment before gingerly lowering himself into the second armchair, which is the farthest he can get from where Harry is sitting.
The silence that settles over them is uneasy at first, but soon enough, Luna feels herself relax while she goes through the pages Draco handed her. Neither Draco nor Harry seem to mind when she starts humming again; Draco is busying himself with her report, and Harry keeps reading the same page of the Daily Prophet which probably has some kind of Mesmerising Jinx attached to it.
They all jump at the sound of something heavy banging against the living room window, and Draco turns white as a sheet at the sight of one of the big eagle owls the Ministry uses tapping against the glass. Luna feels a thick, heavy knot forming in her stomach, but there's nothing to be done, so she opens the window and gets the letter the owl is carrying. Unsurprisingly, it's addressed to Draco, and she notices how his hand trembles when he takes it from her.
She remembers the feeling of cold dread that came over her when she first felt the Dementors approaching on the Hogwarts Express in her second year. Draco has survived three years in a place steeped in the darkness they left behind, so he must know much better than her which horrors his father faced during his last moments, while he waited for his soul to be ripped from him and destroyed forever.
Draco breaks the Ministry seal and starts reading. Luna sees his eyes widen and hears him draw in a sharp breath; at this, Harry finally lowers the newspaper and looks at him. "What is it?"
Draco doesn't answer. Instead, he tosses the letter on the table, jumps up from his seat and turns away so that Luna can't see his face any more. He's just standing there, with his arms wrapped around his chest, his head bowed and his shoulders hunched as if he were suddenly very cold.
Without hesitation, Luna reaches for the letter; she won't be able to help if she doesn't know what's going on. Harry watches her read with a look of mild curiosity on his face. "Well?"
Luna lowers the letter, her thoughts racing. "Lucius Malfoy is dead. He was found hanged in his cell when the Aurors came to lead him to his execution. The Ministry says they will thoroughly investigate the matter and take disciplinary action against the guard on duty."
"There will be hell to pay for the guard who let him get away." Although he's shaking all over, Draco's voice is strangely distant, and Luna has never felt more helpless in her life. This is wrong and shameful and unworthy of everyone who fought for a world free of such horrors, of mindless destruction and merciless revenge. What kept her going during the war was the hope that there would once be peace; it shouldn't be sullied by anyone forced to be glad of their loved ones' violent deaths because it was the only way for them to be spared a worse fate.
She can't imagine how Harry manages to appear so unmoved in the face of this, but his expression remains calm as he replies, "Not really. They'll probably ask him to retire, but they wouldn't dare sack a war veteran."
Draco slowly turns around, his eyes dark and huge in his deathly pale face. Luna's breath catches in her throat as she understands the implication of what Harry just said. "You know who...?"
"Jonathan O'Sullivan. I think you know him too."
Luna remembers a stocky, bald man with tears running down his leathery cheeks in front of a heap of smoking ruins. "You saved his daughter and her Muggle husband when Death Eaters blew up their house two years ago."
Harry just nods.
The room goes very quiet; both Luna and Draco are staring at Harry, whose face is still wearing that eerily calm expression. It's Draco who finally breaks the silence.
Harry meets his gaze steadily. "I had my reasons, Malfoy, and they have very little to do with you."
Draco lowers his head and doesn't answer; instead, he turns away and leaves the room without looking back at anyone. Only now, Luna realises that she's still clutching the letter.
Harry is staring into the fireplace, and on an impulse, she gets up and snuggles up to him on the sofa. He turns into her embrace and rests his forehead on her shoulder, and Luna holds him and hopes he understands what she's trying to say because she knows there are no words to express it.
Luna once saw two Kneazle toms facing each other at the boundary between their respective territories. She remembers how they moved in circles around each other, bodies taut and ears flattened, their eyes never leaving their opponent's. They were roughly the same size, and it was obvious that neither was eager to attack, so they kept moving slowly and carefully, without hissing or spitting at each other, always keeping a safe distance, but determined not to back off either.
Harry and Draco are beginning to remind her of them.
As Christmas draws nearer, it happens more and more often that the three of them find themselves gathered around the fireplace in the evening, Luna and Draco curled up in the armchairs, Harry sprawled on the sofa. Both of them talk to Luna, but they hardly ever address each other, although they always appear to be watching each other out of the corner of their eyes. Luna does her best to divide her attention equally between the two of them until it's becoming too tiresome; then she will eventually start humming another carol.
She sometimes wishes that she'd stayed long enough to see how things had turned out for the two Kneazles.
Hermione and Ron Floo over on Christmas Eve because Ron's parents have gone to France to spend Christmas with Bill and Fleur. They tumble out of the fireplace laden with parcels, and Hermione launches herself at Harry as if she hadn't seen him for years instead of three months during which they firetalked twice a week. Harry hugs her back with a slightly embarrassed grin; he seems relieved that neither of them mentions the way he walked out on them or asks him any questions. Ron just pats him on the back and says, "Hello, stranger," and that's it.
Luna has always thought that Harry is very lucky to have the friends he has.
She helped Harry prepare a sumptuous dinner, and they're halfway through the main course when Ron suddenly asks, "Luna, did you get rid of Malfoy by now?"
Luna shakes her head. "No, he's still staying here. I don't think he has another place to go, and he's quite good at helping me with the paper."
"So you locked him up in a cupboard for the night? Good thinking, that."
It isn't lost on Luna how Harry stiffens next to her, although she's not sure why he would be upset by Ron's words. "I asked him to join us, but he said he'd rather stay in his room."
"Yes, well, he wouldn't sit down at the dinner table with a Mudblood, would he?" Hermione murmurs.
Ron turns red and pushes his plate away. "We'll see about that!"
He's halfway out of his chair when Harry speaks up. "Ron, leave it. I don't want you to start any trouble in Luna's house at Christmas."
"I won't be starting trouble unless he gives me reason to." Ron is already out of the room, and Luna hears him yell, "Oi, Malfoy, think you're too good for us?" on the stairs. They're all bracing themselves for more yelling to follow, but to everyone's surprise, all they hear is a mutter of voices from upstairs, too low to make out any words. After a while, Ron returns with a triumphant grin on his face, followed by a sour-looking Draco whose eyes are flashing angrily.
"How did you do that?" Hermione asks Ron under her breath while Luna gets up to set a place at the table for Draco. Ron's grin broadens; he doesn't lower his voice at all when he answers, "I asked him if he's so afraid of us that he doesn't dare to show his face while we're around."
"I'm right here, Weasley, so stop talking about me as if I couldn't hear you." Draco's tone is clipped, and it's obvious that he's deeply uncomfortable. He doesn't touch the food Luna places in front of him until Harry says mildly, "I didn't poison that, you know." Draco shoots him a glare, but starts eating nevertheless.
The rest of the evening goes surprisingly well. Everyone stays clear of any touchy subjects, and after a while, even Draco seems to relax a bit even though he mostly remains quiet. Luna tells Ron and Hermione about her father's travels (it's all in her reports, but she doesn't think either of them reads The Quibbler); Ron describes the fuss his mother is making over Bill and Fleur's baby daughter and doesn't mention his Auror training at all; Hermione talks a bit about her current research project, but stops before everyone's eyes are glazing over. Harry doesn't say much, but he laughs and jokes along with the others, and Luna is glad she convinced him to invite his friends because she can see that he needed something like this.
There's just one tense moment when Ron asks without thinking, "Are you going to the big New Year thing at the Ministry? It's everything the papers are talking about at the moment."
Harry shakes his head; he seems calm, but Luna notices how the knuckles of his hand holding the knife whiten. "I didn't get an invitation, but I wouldn't have gone anyway."
"What?" Hermione appears scandalized. "Scrimgeour dared to snub you? You won the war for him!"
"That's not how he wants people to see it, I suppose," Harry replies tersely. "It's no secret that Scrimgeour and I have never seen eye to eye, so it makes sense he wouldn't want to parade me around at Ministry parties. Suits me fine, too; that way, people will finally leave me alone."
"But still – "
"No, really, Hermione," Harry cuts her off, "don't get upset on my behalf, I mean it. He's welcome to reap all the glory he can for himself, I don't care. If I never see another reporter in my life, it will be too early."
"Smart decision to move in with one, then." It's the first thing Draco has said in at least an hour, and Hermione guffaws before she fully realises whose joke she's laughing at. Luna laughs too and pats Harry's arm when he throws her an apologetic look.
Even Ron is grinning. "You know, Malfoy, I never thought I'd say this, but that was almost amusing."
Draco raises an eyebrow in a way that reminds Luna of Professor Snape. "Why, Weasley," he drawls, "you have no idea how it brightens my life to know that you finally appreciate my brilliant sense of humour."
"Good to know you're still a complete prick, though."
"Funny, I was just going to say the same."
There's surprisingly little venom in either remark, and when Hermione says good-naturedly, "Oh, shut it, both of you", they leave it at that.
Luna gets out of bed at the crack of dawn on Christmas Day, but when she enters the living room, she already finds Draco sitting on the couch with a cup of tea. "Why are you up so early? They don't make you go to work today, do they?"
Draco shakes his head. "No, but it seems I'm used to getting up at six by now." He sighs and takes a sip from his cup. "Pity, too, now that Potter isn't yelling bloody murder five nights per week any more."
"Yes, he really seems to be getting better," Luna replies with a smile, "but I'm going to wake him now, it's time to open the presents!"
She returns shortly after with a sleepy-looking Harry in tow whose hair is sticking up even more than usual. There's a heap of parcels waiting under the Christmas tree, and Luna feels like a child again while she and Harry are ripping wrapping paper. The parcels Ron and Hermione brought contain a lot of books (Hermione is clearly starting to rub off on Ron) and a new Weasley jumper for Harry; the latter goes well with the scarf that Luna knitted for him, which flashes in every colour of the rainbow. Harry jokes it will make him easy to find if he ever gets lost on a foggy day.
Harry's present for Luna is a lovely necklace made from blue and yellow bird feathers that starts twittering softly when she puts it on (she remembers seeing it in a shop window in Diagon Alley a while ago and wonders if it means he actually left the house, but perhaps he made Hermione get it for him), and a red t-shirt that reads I'm not shagging Harry Potter in bold black letters on the front.
Luna is laughing so hard that she has to sit down on the floor and hold her sides while tears are streaming down her face. Harry's grin almost splits his face in two, and even Draco, who's been watching them from the sofa, is chuckling.
From her position on the floor, Luna spots a tiny parcel under the tree that somehow got overlooked among the bigger ones before.
"What's this?" She notices Draco's expression when she reaches for it, a strange mixture of embarrassment and apprehension. "Did you give me this?"
He just shrugs. "It's not much, but since it's Christmas…"
Luna carefully opens the parcel; the first thing she finds is a tiny scroll of parchment covered in something that looks like a recipe. Luna reads it over and then gives Draco a quizzical look. "Are you sure this isn't meant for Harry?"
"Actually, it's for my own sake," he answers with what's probably supposed to be flippancy, "some of us prefer to sleep at night, after all."
Luna hands the parchment to Harry who's been following the exchange with a puzzled look. "It's an unauthorized recipe for Dreamless Sleep Potion – a variation without asphodel."
"There shouldn't be any side effects if you don't take it every night," Draco adds, sounding very professional. "Snape assured me it's the recipe he uses himself. Just never tell him you got it from me or he'll skin me alive."
Harry is silent for a while; at long last, all he says is, "Thank you."
Draco shrugs again. "I got a bit allergic to screaming during the night in Azkaban."
Meanwhile, Luna is inspecting the second object inside the parcel. It's a plain little paper box that contains two tiny paper cranes dangling from a set of earrings. When she puts them on, the cranes' wings start fluttering, and Luna giggles because they tickle her neck. On an impulse, she dashes over to the couch and gives Draco a hug; he quickly disentangles himself from her, but he still seems pleased that she likes his gift.
"May I see?" Harry has stepped closer and reaches towards one of the cranes; the tiny wings beat against his fingers as he touches it. "Wandless magic, Malfoy?"
Draco's eyes narrow; he lifts his head in what looks like defiance. "Did you really expect me to live like a Squib? They could snap my wand, but they can't take away the fact that I'm a wizard."
"Aren't you afraid I'll rat you out to the Wizengamot?"
Draco holds Harry's gaze without flinching. "Not really, no."
"Right." Harry looks away and fiddles with something in his pocket for a moment; it turns out to be an envelope when he finally takes it out. "Might as well give you this, since it's Christmas and everything."
Luna peers over Draco's shoulder as he opens the envelope and pulls out something that looks like an old newspaper clipping. When she looks closer, she realises it's a black-and-white photo of his parents.
For a while, Draco just sits and stares at it. He doesn't seem to notice when Luna asks Harry in a low voice, "Where did you find that?"
"In one of the old Quibbler editions you keep in the attic," he answers softly, "I hope you don't mind that I cut it out?"
"No, of course not. Harry, that – " she hesitates, looking for the right words, "– that was incredibly sweet of you."
Harry shrugs. "Since the Malfoy property got seized by the Ministry and Azkaban prisoners aren't allowed any personal belongings, I reckoned he wouldn't have pictures of his parents. Lucius Malfoy was one of the most despicable men I ever knew, but he was still someone's father." He casts a sidelong glance at Draco, who still hasn't moved although his shoulders are shaking slightly. "I think I'd better go and make breakfast now."
"I'll help you," Luna says quickly, glad of the opportunity to give Draco a bit of privacy. She makes a mental note to ask him later whether he wants to put the photo on the mantelpiece together with the pictures of Harry's parents and hers; she's aware that it would make for a rather odd ensemble, but Luna has never had a problem with oddities as long as they make sense.
Luna is used to Harry waiting up for her when she comes back late in the evening, but so far, he's never been standing in the hallway the moment he heard her open the front door. "You'd better go up to Malfoy's room, Luna, there's a bit of a problem."
He seems more agitated than she's seen him in a long time, and Luna doesn't waste time with questions and runs up the stairs. Draco is curled up on his bed with a wet towel over the left half of his face, cradling his right arm to his chest. When Luna takes the towel away, she finds that his eye is swollen shut, his upper lip is split and a nasty purple bruise is developing on his cheek.
It doesn't take a genius to work out what happened to him, and for the second time tonight, Luna saves her questions for later. Instead, she gets her wand out and casts every diagnostic spell she knows. In addition to the visible damage, she finds a broken wrist, several cracked ribs and two missing front teeth. He's been brutally beaten up, but she's seen much worse during the war. This is nothing that a few well-cast Healing Spells and a dose of Regenerative Potion won't fix, and she can't help asking herself why Harry didn't just heal Draco himself instead of waiting for her to do it. She doesn't think he hates Draco so much that he'd refuse to help him in such a situation – if it were so, he hardly would have sent her up here the moment she entered the house.
Draco seems to think along the same lines; once his lips are no longer too swollen to speak, he asks (with a lisp, since Luna didn't get to regrowing his teeth yet), "I take it Potter has finally decided I've been punished enough for today?"
Luna doesn't answer while she waves her wand over his ribcage; she only has basic medical training, and she needs to concentrate if she wants to mend the bones properly. When she's done, she summons the Regenerative Potion that she always keeps on her bedside table in case her hair gets gnawed off by a swarm of Poddcorcks during the night. She makes Draco drink a hefty dose, and while his teeth are growing back, she finally has time to talk. "You think Harry let you suffer on purpose?"
Draco shrugs, and winces a bit – his bones are mended, but the places where they were broken are probably still tender. "It has crossed my mind in the four hours or so I've been lying here. He certainly couldn't be bothered to heal me." He sounds funny with his front teeth half their normal size, but Luna doesn't feel like smiling right now.
"He sent me up to help you the moment I came home. If he wanted you to suffer, he'd have told me you'd already gone to bed, then you could have been lying here without help all night."
Draco just shrugs again. Luna notices how he's running this tongue over his new teeth to make sure they're back to their original size.
"How do you feel?"
"Oh, just about fantastic." He sits up gingerly and stretches his arm, as if to test if she healed it properly. "Thanks for the patch-up job."
"You're welcome. Who did this to you?"
"A couple of blokes at work. Snape was away for the day, and I suppose they saw it as their big chance to finally demonstrate what they think of me. Not that I was in any doubt before, mind, so they really needn't have bothered."
Again, Luna has this troubling feeling that things were not meant to turn out this way. "You should report them."
"What for? So that the Ministry can give them a commendation?" Draco gets up from the bed with a determined expression. "And don't even think of writing about it, or they'll break my neck next time."
Luna takes a deep breath. There are a lot of things she'd like to say, but she has learned during the war that it's usually best to concentrate on the task at hand. "I don't know about you, but I could do with a drink."
From the look on his face, it's clear that this was the last thing he ever expected her to say. "I take it we're not talking hot chocolate?"
"We're not." Luna hasn't touched her father's stash of Firewhisky yet, but now seems a good time to start. "Let's go downstairs, I'll see what I can dig up."
"...with a giraffe, if you stand on a stool, but the hedgehog can never be buggered at all!"
Draco is almost choking with laughter. "You made that up!"
"I didn't!" Luna cries indignantly. "I told you, it's from a book by a Muggle named Pratchett who makes up stuff about wizards and witches!" She takes a sip from her glass and adds, as an afterthought, "I only made up the melody. You can sing along, if you like."
Draco shakes his head and pushes his empty glass away. "I'm definitely not drunk enough to sing dirty songs about hedgehogs."
"You're not drunk at all, you only had one glass so far," Luna points out reasonably.
Draco makes a face. "You're one to talk, you haven't even finished your first glass yet!"
Luna valiantly downs the rest of the amber liquid in her glass and suppresses a shudder. She has never tried Firewhisky before, and she doesn't think she's going to develop a taste for it now. Still, that one glass made Draco look more relaxed than she's ever seen him since his trial, so it must be good for something.
Her musings are interrupted by the sound of Harry's voice from the staircase, "Luna, is that you making such a racket in the middle –" He doesn't finish the question when, upon entering, he sees Luna sit in front of the fireplace with Draco, a bottle of Firewhisky between them.
"You're one to talk about making a racket in the middle of the night, Potter," Draco says with a sneer, and Luna thinks it's a good thing his teeth are back where they belong or he would look really ridiculous now.
"Stop that," she tells him sternly, "and you, Harry, sit down and have a drink with us. I'm sure it will do you a world of good."
For a moment, Harry looks as if there were several different things he'd love to say, but then his shoulders sag a little, and he sits down in his usual spot on the sofa without comment. He accepts the glass she's pouring him and knocks back half of the contents.
Draco raises an eyebrow at this. "I never took you for a secret alcoholic, Potter."
Harry ignores the remark. "You look better."
"I am, no thanks to you." Draco leans forward and fixes Harry with a stare that Luna finds a bit alarming. "Would you mind telling me why you couldn't be arsed to heal me?"
Harry returns the stare. "Yes, I would."
Draco blinks. "Beg pardon?"
Harry downs the rest of his whisky and carefully puts the glass back on the table. "Yes, I would mind telling you. Which means I don't want to talk about it, at least not with you."
"Really." It's a statement, not a question; Draco doesn't seem at all intimidated by the blunt rebuff. "It wouldn't have to do with the fact that you're not using your magic any more?"
Harry all but jumps out of his seat at this, and for a moment, Luna is convinced she'll have to pry his fingers off Draco's neck in a second. "Shut your bloody trap, Malfoy!"
Draco, however, seems determined to keep living dangerously. "You know, now that I think of it, I've never seen your wand during all the time I've spent here. Would you mind showing it to me? I'm dead curious."
To Luna's amazement, Harry just closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, as if he needed to steady himself. She leans forward to rest her hand on his arm and asks gently, "Harry?"
He doesn't acknowledge her touch; instead, he just says, in a strangely flat tone, "I could do with a refill, if you don't mind."
Luna refills his glass, but she's thoroughly alarmed now – even more so when he drinks it down in one go. "Harry, this won't help, you know."
"Of course I know." His voice is hoarse, as if the Firewhisky had burned his throat. "If it helped, I'd have been watching the world through the bottom of a whisky glass ever since the end of the war."
Draco still won't let go. "Is that why you're hiding here? Because you don't want to do magic any more?"
"No." Harry has opened his eyes again, but he's looking neither at Draco nor at Luna; it seems as if he were talking to the whisky bottle on the table. "It's because I can't. It's as if Voldemort – as if he took it with him when I killed him."
"That's not possible," Draco states, and Luna wishes she could be equally certain about it. They all knew that Harry and Voldemort shared a twisted kind of connection; there's no telling which effects it might have had on Harry when Voldemort's death broke it.
Harry doesn't even seem to have heard Draco. "The last thing I ever cast was the Killing Curse that finished him. I wasn't sure I could do it before, but when I finally had to, it was horribly easy – I just stood there facing him and hated him with every fibre of my heart, and then my wand exploded, and he was gone. I didn't even realise at first that it was really over."
"So you didn't AK Bellatrix wandlessly."
Harry laughs. "No one casts the Killing Curse wandlessly, Malfoy, you of all people should know that."
"Then you didn't kill her?"
"Oh yes, I did." Harry sounds strangely detached, as if he were talking about something that happened to someone he doesn't even know. "I killed her with my bare hands. She threw herself at me when Voldemort went down, and in the next moment, I had my fingers around her throat and squeezed until she stopped struggling. It took a long time, and you know what? I loved every second of it. I wanted her dead; it didn't even occur to me that it was no longer necessary to kill her too."
Only now does he look up to meet Draco's gaze. "I keep thinking about that night on the Astronomy Tower, when you lowered your wand and Dumbledore told you that you were not a killer. Back then I thought that neither was I – I knew I would have to kill Voldemort because there was no other way to end it, but I never wanted to do it. But Bellatrix – there was no prophecy to fulfil, no war to end because it was already over. I just wanted her dead, and so I killed her." He laughs again, and the sound makes the hair on the back of Luna's head stand on end. "Funny how you turn out to be the better man in the end, Malfoy, isn't it? When it really mattered, you didn't have it in you to kill."
Draco's eyes narrow. "Trust me, Potter, if I'd ever had the power to kill the Dark Lord, I would have done so without a moment's hesitation." His voice is vibrating with a cold kind of fury, and Luna casts a sidelong glance at the picture of his parents on the mantelpiece and remembers that Voldemort made Draco watch as he murdered Narcissa Malfoy.
She wonders if she still needs to stick to her promise not to ask Harry questions, because there are some things she really would like to ask him now, but she finally decides that one doesn't go back on a promise no matter what happens. Besides, there's no need to ask anything; now that Harry has finally begun to talk, he seems unable to stop.
"I went to Ollivander's to get a new wand afterwards, but I couldn't even bring myself to enter the shop. Whenever I only thought of doing magic, it all came back to me, the power rushing through me, the hate, the fury – so much that I knew that I would blow up something the moment I touched a wand. Whatever I could do with my magic, it's gone; the only thing that's left is the power to kill and destroy if I ever should forget myself for a moment."
He shakes his head, and for a fleeting second, it looks as if he's contemplating reaching for the bottle again, but thinks better of it. "You of all people should be glad, Malfoy. If I'd had a wand within my reach, that night when you were taunting me about hexing you, I would have blown you to bits without giving a damn that you couldn't fight back."
He's looking at Luna when he continues. "That's why I had to drop out of Auror training. A part of me was almost relieved when I discovered that I'm hardly more than a Squib now – the likes of Moody would have made me give in to the impulses I've been trying to fight ever since the final battle, and it would have turned me into exactly what I feared most to become."
It's only now that he seems to notice Luna's hand on his arm, and he covers it with his for a moment. "I just knew I had to get away from it all. I don't know what to do with this... with what's left of me."
The room goes very quiet at this. Luna desperately tries to think of something she could say that would make things better, but she draws a blank, so she just squeezes his arm and hopes he understands.
It's Draco who eventually breaks the silence. "That," he announces solemnly, "is the biggest load of crap I've ever heard in my entire life."
He doesn't seem bothered by the fact that both Luna and Harry turn to stare at him. "Potter, it's hardly news that you don't have your temper under control. That doesn't make you the next Dark Lord, for crying out loud!" His voice is cold, but Luna can feel the anger seething underneath the calm facade. "It's been almost a year since the end of the war, and you're still wallowing in self-pity because you got your hands dirty? Oh, woe is me, it turns out I'm not quite the saint I always believed I was!"
The last sentence is such a spot-on impression of Harry's speech pattern that Luna is taken aback for a moment. Harry doesn't seem amused by it, though. "Malfoy, shut up or –"
"Or what?" The challenge in Draco's tone couldn't be clearer; Luna wonders whether it's the Firewhisky that's making him reckless. "You'll throttle me like my dear aunt? Or you'll wield your fearsome 'power to kill and destroy' against me, so that you can beat yourself up over that afterwards, too? For someone who was happy to hex or hit anyone who so much as looked at you funny back at school, you've become remarkably squeamish." He leans back in his chair, an expression of disgust on his face. "So you've given up on your magic and spend your days brooding over your dark and terrible fate. What's next, drowning yourself in the neighbour's duck pond?"
Harry's eyes are flashing now, although he keeps his face carefully blank. "Don't tell me you never considered it, Malfoy."
"What, offing myself?" It isn't lost on Luna how Draco suddenly sits up straight. "Never. I know that the Ministry still hopes that I'll rid them of my presence that way if they keep pecking me enough, but I'll be damned if I ever give them the satisfaction. My mother died to save my life, Potter, do you really think I'd throw that away?"
"She did what?" There's a strange edge to Harry's voice, and Luna remembers the stories about Lily Potter laying down her life to protect her baby boy. "You never said anything about that, I read the transcript of your testimony."
"This was none of the Ministry's business," Draco says quietly, "there was no point in telling them." He pauses for a moment to draw a deep breath, as if he needed to steady himself. "The Dark Lord summoned her to him when I returned after Dumbledore's death. He made her watch as he crucioed me, and then he informed her he was going to kill me for failing him, as a warning to my family. My mother... she asked him to kill her instead."
"And Voldemort actually listened to her?" Harry's voice isn't too steady either, and Luna reaches out to touch his arm again, but he pulls it away.
Draco shrugs, a casual gesture that stands out in sharp contrast to the way his hands are clenched into fists. "After what he'd just put me through, the idea of dying held little terror for me. I think he realised that it would be a far worse punishment for me to keep living with the knowledge that I had cost my mother her life." He pauses again before he adds, "I should probably be grateful that I was half-dead from the Cruciatus at that point, or he might have amused himself by putting me under Imperius and making me kill her."
Harry doesn't say anything, but reaches out blindly towards the whisky bottle. He doesn't even bother with a glass; instead, he takes a swig straight from the bottle. After a moment's hesitation, he offers it to Draco, who silently accepts it without looking at Harry.
There are at least two more shots left in the bottle, and Luna watches in horrified fascination as Draco tilts back his head and finishes them off in one go. Then, with great care as if it were essential not to break it, he places the empty bottle on the table, leans back in his chair and closes his eyes. It doesn't take a minute until he's fallen asleep.
Luna hopes that Snape will have some Hangover Potion for him in the morning, because he's definitely going to need it and she doesn't have any in the house. Harry doesn't look as if he's doing much better than Draco. He seems close to falling asleep too, and Luna doesn't think he'll be able to make it up the stairs to his bedroom. She's barely tipsy herself, but she's still not sure it would be a good idea to attempt a Summoning Charm, let alone a Levicorpus, in this state. Therefore, she gets up with a slight wobble to fetch some blankets.
When she returns to the living room a few minutes later, the sight that greets her makes her stop dead in her tracks.
Draco is curled up into a ball in his armchair, his arms wrapped tightly around his knees which he has drawn up to his chest. There's a pinched expression on his face; his lips are pressed together, as if he were afraid to make a sound, and although he's clearly fast asleep, his legs are twitching as if he were prepared to run away any moment.
Harry is perched on the armrest of Draco's chair, his outstretched hand not quite touching Draco's shoulder. He looks incredibly young in the flickering light of the dying embers in the fireplace, and he's softly humming something that she recognises as one of her mother's lullabies.
Luna stands and watches them for a moment; then, smiling to herself, she turns around and tiptoes out of the room.
Draco looks surprised when he opens the door; after three years in Azkaban, he's probably no longer used to people knocking if they want to enter his room. "What's the matter?"
"We need to talk," Luna says without preamble, and the look of alarm that crosses his face isn't lost on her. It's gone quickly, though, replaced by the forced calm he usually displays when something is worrying him. Luna fleetingly realises that she has got to know him quite well in the few months he has been staying in her house.
"What about? I've had a long day, I was just about to go to bed."
"This won't take long, but it's important." She sits down, cross-legged, on his bed, leaving the only chair in the room to Draco, but he remains standing. Perhaps, Luna thinks, he feels safer while he's towering over her. Men are sometimes strange that way.
"I have something for you." She holds out the small, oblong box she has brought with her, but Draco seems reluctant to take it.
"What is it?"
"Something that belonged to my mother. I'll lend it to you for a while, if you want it."
He finally accepts the box with a wary expression. Luna sees him go pale and then pink when he opens it, and she is sure her mother is smiling at her now. Willow and unicorn hair, ten and a quarter inches; wands are made for the hands of the living, not the memory of the dead.
"You – " Draco seems to have trouble finding words, and Luna notices how he doesn't touch the wand in the box. "You would let me use your mother's wand? Me? You know the Ministry will come after you if they ever find out."
"They won't," Luna replies, unfazed, "they're monitoring wands, not people. They know I have my mother's wand, and they'll think I'm using it when someone does magic with it. You probably won't be able to use it anywhere but around my house, but I suppose it's better than nothing."
"It certainly is." There's a strange look in Draco's eyes when he finally takes the wand out and gives it an experimental flick. Luna knows it will never come close to using his own wand, but it seems to her that it's much better to walk with a crutch than to remain paralysed.
"You're really willing to trust me with this? Why?"
"I suppose it's because I'm mental," Luna says serenely, and he grins at her which makes him look, for the first time, very much like the cocky little brat he was back during their time at Hogwarts. "However, there's one thing I'm asking you to do for me in return."
"Ah." He doesn't seem surprised; this is probably how things should be for someone who grew up in Slytherin. "What would that be?"
"I want you to help Harry get his magic back." She is very pleased with that idea; somehow, she wonders why she didn't think of it sooner.
Draco, however, doesn't appear to see the inherent logic in her request. "What? Are you – no, wait, I believe we just covered that. But what makes you think that I of all people might be able to drag Potter out of the state he's worked himself up to? You know as well as I do that there's nothing wrong with his magic, only with his head."
"That's just the thing, you see," Luna replies, "I know nothing of the sort. I'm his friend, and I believe him when he tells me that he can't do magic any more. You seem very sure about the fact that he's wrong, though, and you won't hesitate to prove it to him. Besides, you make him angry, and that might be just what he needs."
The corner of Draco's mouth quirks up at this. "So what you really want me to do is to give Potter a good hard kick in the arse. If you put it that way, I might be tempted."
She gives him a brilliant smile. "I knew you would be."
Luna quickly gets used to being greeted by the sound of yelling whenever she comes home late in the evening. She doesn't know how Draco made Harry agree to practising magic with him, although she suspects there was some kind of I-dare-you posturing on Draco's part involved since Harry flat-out refused when she first mentioned her idea to him.
They're practising in the living room, which means Luna usually retreats to her bedroom to work there behind the soothing barrier of a Silencing Spell. It's not very convenient, particularly since she has to get by without Draco's help now, but she's determined to persevere for Harry's sake. Likewise, she doesn't say anything about the fact that the practice regime seem to affect his cooking skills; he either doesn't have the time any more, or he just can't cook when he's angry, which seems to be his predominant mood at the moment. Luna rather misses the dinners he used to make for her, but she knows friendship is about sacrifice sometimes.
She doesn't ask about Harry's progress. There's still the "no questions" promise, and she's sure he will tell her if he feels there's something she should know. Besides, she occasionally gets to see evidence of the fact that Harry has successfully managed to cast a spell. On one unforgettable occasion, she had to help Draco with turning his hair back to its normal colour after Harry had spelled it bright orange and somehow blocked Draco from undoing the spell himself. It was quite a complicated block, too; it took her ten minutes until Draco finally was back to his usual white-blond, and all the while, she could hear Harry laughing like a hyena downstairs. She doesn't want to know what Draco did to retaliate.
Luna often remembers the sound of Harry's laughter, now that spring is already in the air and she becomes giddy from the feeling of life waking up from its long sleep all around her. To her, getting to hear him laugh like this again seems like a promise that things are eventually going to be all right. As the weather gets warmer, she feels as if a huge weight were slowly being lifted from her shoulders. She's wearing the first early flowers in her hair and sings along with the birds during her Sunday morning walks, and her heart skips a beat when, for the first time since last autumn, she returns from a walk to see Harry sitting on the steps of the front porch.
He smiles at her when she sits down beside him. "How was your walk?"
"Interesting," she tells him, "there are all kinds of creatures about already. I even saw something that might have been Snorkack tracks!"
Harry is still smiling, although he now has that glazed look in his eyes he often gets when she talks about magical beasts. "Crumple-Horned Snorkacks?"
This makes Luna laugh. "No, silly, they only live in Sweden! We only get the straight-horned type here in Britain, although many people can't tell them apart. You know," she adds, "I could write an article to clear up the matter. What do you think?"
"Uh, yeah, why not?" Harry hesitates, then adds with a grin, "I bet Draco would love to proof-read it."
Luna's eyes widen. "What did you just say?"
He looks at her with a frown. "I said I'm sure that Malfoy would love to proof-read it. If he ever gets out of bed, that is."
Luna smiles to herself and doesn't point out that it's not exactly what Harry first said. "He must be tired. I'm sure he'll have time to practise with you in the afternoon."
Harry sighs. "And am I ever looking forward to it. But speaking of practice, watch this." He pulls her mother's wand from his sleeve and points it at a pebble lying at his feet. "Wingardium Leviosa!"
The pebble gives a lurch, then slowly rises into the air. Luna claps her hands and cheers; there's a frown of concentration on Harry's face, but he seems pleased nevertheless. "I still have a hard time not making it shoot up like a bullet, but – here, hold on to the handle with me, I want to try something."
Luna covers Harry's hand on the wand with hers and concentrates on the spell. The pebble rises higher and starts spinning in a slow circle around them. Luna can feel Harry's magic directing it; he's still giving it too much power, but she finds it quite easy to control and channel that. She didn't know two people could work together magically like this – it's strangely intimate, and she wonders if Harry learned it from Draco. Somehow, she can't imagine that two people who are constantly at each other's throats would be comfortable sharing their magic, but she knows very well that there's a huge number of things in the world that still exist even though nobody would be able to imagine them.
"I saw a snake in the garden yesterday."
Harry looks up from his plate at this announcement and frowns at Draco. "So what? That's hardly unusual."
To the best of Luna's knowledge, there's even a nest of Runespoors, whose ancestors were brought back from a trip to Africa by her father years ago, underneath the garden wall, but she can't mention it because she has her mouth full. Harry's cooking is almost back to its previous standard, which seems to indicate he's getting used to working with Draco. They still snipe at each other constantly, but the overall level of hostility seems to have decreased somewhat. Luna is glad of it, both for her eardrums' and her palate's sake.
Meanwhile, Draco is rolling his eyes at Harry. "Kindly let me finish, Potter. I want you to go out into the garden after dinner and try talking to it, if we can find it again. This is your only magical ability I can't help you with, and I want to see how you manage."
"Ohhhh, can I come too?" Luna usually does not interfere with their training, but this is just too interesting to pass up. "I've never heard anyone speak Parseltongue before!"
Harry doesn't seem overly enthusiastic, but he merely shrugs. "Be my guest."
They find the snake – no Runespoor, just a little brown garden snake – soaking up the last rays of the evening sun next to the garden wall. Harry crouches down beside it, but then he hesitates. "What do you want me to say?"
Draco shrugs. "How should I know? I'm not the one who has talked to snakes before."
"You could start with a greeting," Luna suggests, and Harry nods and focuses on the snake. He frowns as if in concentration, and Luna leans forward, eager not to miss anything. Harry opens his mouth, but he remains silent, and his frown deepens. Finally, all he says – in normal English – is, "I can't."
"Not this again, Potter." Draco sounds more tired than annoyed. "We've been through this a dozen times."
"This is different." Harry straightens and shakes his head. "My magic is mine, but I wouldn't be a Parselmouth if it hadn't been for Voldemort. He –"
"He didn't do a thing to your abilities when you killed him, Potter, and you know it." Draco's tone reminds Luna a bit of Professor Snape. "There's nothing wrong with you, other than the fact you somehow managed to shut off your access to your own powers because you finally noticed that you could do things with them that wouldn't earn you another Order of Merlin. I'm not asking you to turn a baby into a firecracker and blow it up, just to talk to a pathetic little snake. And now pull yourself together!"
Luna is quite surprised that Harry doesn't snap back at Draco for this; instead, he merely crouches down again and fixes the snake with an unblinking stare. He opens his mouth, and Luna is almost convinced he'll remain silent again, but then he suddenly lets out a low, sibilant hiss. The snake's head turns, and Luna gets a glimpse of its forked tongue darting out towards Harry, but in the next second, it has slithered away and disappeared into a crack between two bricks in the wall.
Harry is looking after it with a puzzled expression. "I suppose that didn't go over too well."
Luna crouches down next to him and peers into the crack. "What did it say?"
"Basically, it told me to piss off," Harry admits, and Luna can't help giggling.
"Well, that's a rather rude snake I have in my garden."
"Or I didn't quite say what I meant to say," Harry murmurs, looking almost sheepish.
"Still, you spoke to it, so that's a start." There's a strange expression on Draco's face that Luna can't interpret. He looks both excited and... apprehensive? Perhaps, Luna thinks, the sound of Parseltongue makes him uncomfortable because it reminds him of Voldemort. "Let's see if you can convince it to come out of hiding and talk to you some more."
Harry seems reluctant, and Luna has a feeling that her presence is not helping things. After all, Harry is probably used to messing up in front of Draco by now, but not where she can see it.
"I'll leave you two to it," she says and straightens her robe, "I'd love to keep watching, but there's another stack of page proofs waiting for me to go over. Say hello to the snake from me, Harry, and tell it to stay clear of the Runespoors, they sometimes eat snakes that have just one head."
If she's honest, she's rather looking forward to a quiet Saturday evening in the living room; it's so much more comfortable to curl up in an armchair in front of the fireplace (it may be spring, but the evenings are still cold) than to sit at the small, rickety desk in her bedroom.
She's making good progress on the latest edition that evening, although she can't help wondering what Harry and Draco are doing in the garden for so long. It's already pitch dark outside, and Luna supposes the snake can't have that much interesting stuff to tell. Perhaps they really found one of the Runespoors; she has heard that those that manage to shut up their right head are truly fascinating to talk to.
Luna only realises that she has fallen asleep in her armchair when she is woken by a muffled sound from the hallway. Feeling groggy and disoriented, she squints into the semi-darkness (the fire has burned down almost completely, so the room is only lit by the soft red glow of the embers) to find out where the sound came from.
Then the door opens, and against the moonlight that illuminates the hallway (someone left the front door open, it seems) Luna makes out the silhouettes of two people who are so closely intertwined that it would be hard to tell who is who if it weren't for Draco's hair shining silvery in the light of the moon.
Luna is suddenly wide awake. She has the presence of mind to crouch lower in her armchair and pretend to be still asleep, although she keeps her eyes open. She needn't have bothered anyway, since Harry and Draco don't even notice her. They stumble into the room, locked in what looks like the most vicious kiss Luna has ever seen. It's hard to say whether they are really kissing or still fighting, and somehow, Luna can't help thinking that they might very well be doing both at the same time. Then the door falls shut behind them, blocking out the moonlight and leaving Luna only the weak reddish light of the dying fire to see what's going on.
It doesn't even appear to her that she could look away, or make her presence known to Harry and Draco while it's not yet too embarrassing for them to be caught at what they're doing (although they may be well past that point already). In hindsight, it seems to Luna that this has been brewing for a long time, and she would no more miss it now than she would leave a fascinating play before the last act. Besides, she only has a rather fuzzy idea of how things are done between two men, and she's never been one to pass up an opportunity to learn something new.
Harry has his back against the closed door, with Draco leaning against him. They are no longer kissing; Harry has his head thrown back, and the skin of his neck glows in the weak red light under his dark hair that is indistinguishable from the darkness around him. Draco's silver-blond hair, however, shines like a beacon in the dark where his head is nestled in the crook of Harry's shoulder, and Luna wonders whether he's kissing Harry's neck. He must be doing something to him, because Harry's breathing is becoming laboured and then turns into a low, sharp hiss. It is so different from what Luna heard earlier in the garden that it takes her a moment to realise he's speaking Parseltongue again.
It sounds ominous, almost menacing, to Luna, but it obviously has a different effect on Draco, who is pressed so tightly against Harry now that Luna wonders how Harry can still breathe. The door creaks on its hinges as they move against each other, their pace quickening while the sound of Harry's hissing and Draco's panting grows louder. Luna sees the pale skin of Harry's hands against the dark fabric of Draco's robe, and she imagines him digging his fingers into Draco's shoulders and holding on tight when his hissing turns into a long, drawn-out groan. She feels her cheeks heat up at the realisation that she's listening to Harry having what sounds like a mind-blowing orgasm, and she suddenly regrets that she didn't get out of the room while there was still time. This is theirs alone; she has no place in it, but it's too late now, and she has no choice but to stay put.
Luna squeezes her eyes shut and tries to concentrate on her own heartbeat to block out the sounds of Harry's panting just a few steps away. If she manages to find a centre of calm within her, she might even be able to fall asleep, which probably would be the best solution to her dilemma. Her resolve doesn't last long, though; her eyes fly open again when she hears a thud from the door.
It is so dark now that she can barely make out more than shadows, but she still sees that Harry has reversed their positions and has Draco with his back against the door. Luna hears the clinking of metal and a rustling of fabric, and she realises that she really might be in for an eyeful now when Draco whispers, in a voice that is strangled and breathless, "Potter, I've never..."
"I have," Harry's equally breathless voice replies, and Luna fleetingly remembers her talk with Ginny, "just let me..."
A second later, Draco gasps, and against her better judgement, Luna squints into the darkness, only to see Harry on his knees in front of Draco. The noises they're both making don't leave the slightest doubt about what's going on, and Luna begins to feel extremely flustered. She's torn between relief and a little twinge of disappointment when Draco comes quickly, with a low moan that sounds muffled as if he were clenching his teeth. She remembers him twitching in his sleep in the same chair she's sitting in, and it makes her wonder if Azkaban drilled the need to remain silent at all times into him.
The room is very quiet now. Obviously, neither of them feels the need to talk, or perhaps they don't know what they would talk about in a moment like this. Luna closes her eyes, prepared to appear fast asleep if one of them should decide to cast Lumos, but it remains dark. After a while, she hears footsteps which she recognises as Harry's. He's leaving the room without a word, and it takes some time until Draco follows. Luna has no doubt that they're both headed for their own rooms, and it makes her a little sad.
She can't help wondering just how awkward things are going to be in the morning.
They're not even looking at each other.
Luna wouldn't have thought that she'd ever think back longingly to all the screaming matches she witnessed, but compared to this oppressive silence, she'd prefer them to yell at each other again. Neither Harry nor Draco showed up for breakfast, which isn't unusual for a Sunday morning, but the three of them always have lunch together on Sunday, and it seems they didn't want to give her any indication that something might be different today by skipping it.
Luna hardly ever feels unsure of herself, but the charged atmosphere makes her fidgety. She barely avoided a slip-up when she remembered, just in time, that she shouldn't ask Harry about the reddish mark on his neck that looks like a Nargle bite because it's most likely a hickey that he didn't manage to heal completely. Luna usually has no problem keeping a conversation going, even when no one else is talking, but she's not used to censoring what she's about to say. After getting nothing but monosyllabic answers from either of them for the duration of the meal while they steadfastly avoid each other's gazes, Luna decides that she's had enough.
"I have to leave for the afternoon; Neville owled me yesterday that he'd like to show me the new hybrids he's growing. I'm trying to talk him into writing a gardening column for The Quibbler, so I might be gone a while."
Draco just shrugs, but Harry looks crestfallen, although he's trying to hide it. "Say hello to him from me."
Luna gives him a reassuring smile. "I will." To the best of her knowledge, Neville is currently on holiday in Italy, but she makes a mental note to send him an owl with Harry's greetings because it seems rude not to.
She spends a relaxed afternoon in a small café in Diagon Alley. She manages to finish the next instalment of her report about her father's discoveries in the Amazon rainforests; then she starts a piece on the newest conspiracy within the Ministry. There's never a shortage of them; Luna sometimes wonders who's doing the actual work there since everyone seems to spend their time conspiring.
It's getting dark when she returns home, and she doesn't see a light in any of the windows. The house is strangely quiet, and Luna takes care to make a lot of noise before she enters the living room, but she needn't have bothered since it's empty.
With a vague feeling of unease, Luna climbs the stairs to go looking for Harry and Draco.
She's been secretly hoping she would find Harry's bedroom door locked, but it isn't. He doesn't answer when she repeatedly knocks on the door, so she finally takes a cautious peek inside. The room is empty.
Draco's bedroom door is ajar, so she can see at first glance that he isn't in there either. That only leaves the bathroom at the end of the hall.
Luna hears the sound of running water before she reaches the door, and she's somewhat relieved. At least one of them is clearly at home, and since Harry hasn't left the premises since he moved into her house, it's likely him.
Luna knocks, but no one answers. She tries again, harder this time; it's probably difficult to hear anything over the splashing of the water. At her third attempt, she finally hears Harry ask, in a slightly breathless voice, "Luna?"
"Yes, it's me," Luna answers, although it seems a bit silly; who else would she be? Or did Harry expect someone else? "I was wondering where you were."
"I'm, uh..." Even through the closed door, she can hear him draw a deep breath. "Luna, would you mind coming back a little later? I'm not quite decent at the moment."
Luna raises her eyebrows. "Is that 'I'm in my underpants' not-quite-decent or 'I'm in the shower with Draco' not-quite-decent?"
For a moment, there's absolute silence on the other side of the door.
Then Draco's voice replies, matter-of-factly, "The latter."
"Okay," Luna says with a satisfied nod, "then I'll come back later."
Feeling strangely giddy, she skips down the stairs on one foot like she used to do as a little girl and thinks that as odd ensembles go, this one makes a lot of sense indeed.