Title: The World of the Living, 1/2
Summary: A traumatised war hero and a convicted criminal under the roof of an eccentric journalist make for a rather odd ensemble, but Luna has never had a problem with oddities as long as they make sense.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): Voyeurism, Parselsmut
Word Count: 17,400
Author's Notes: Dear recipient, since you mentioned Hermione in your request, I set out to write a H/D fic from Hermione's POV, but Luna kept jumping up and down and shouting "Me, me!" in my mind until I gave in. I hope you don't mind that we get to see the boys through Luna's eyes instead of Hermione's now – I did my best to catch everything else you mentioned in your request.
Many thanks to M., my wonderful beta!
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 lead 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 startles 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 had bitten and scratched and sworn until she'd finally managed to get the sling off its leg; then it had dashed off so fast that it was a mere blur disappearing in the distance after a moment. Luna had 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 thrashing 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.