Actions

Work Header

Live It Out

Chapter Text

The smoky valleys of the Scottish countryside flew by in a whir as the Hogwarts Express continued its rocking, rattling path. The cool glass of the window-pane pressed against Draco's cheek and he knew if his mother could see him, she would reprimand him for causing grease marks, picking up germs, or just looking plain slobby.

Luckily, Draco's mother was not there.

Unluckily, Draco estimated that she would be arriving on Platform 9 ¾ in less than an hour to escort him to the one place in the world he loathed even more than Hogwarts these days: his family home.

Four months earlier—had it been that long?—Draco, eager to escape the insanity of the Carrow's "disciplinary rule" for the comfort of Christmas at Malfoy Manor, had relished the train ride home, only to be greeted by thirty Death Eaters and the Dark Lord himself seated around his dining room table.

The acts that he had witnessed and been forced to partake in had been the subject of his nightmares since returning to Hogwarts. For some reason he had thought that his failure in killing Dumbledore would have been the end of his agony but, as he soon found out, it was only the start.

Pansy kept throwing secretive glances his way, her lower lip jutting just slightly, indicating that she was put-out by his lack of attention. She'd tried to engage him in conversation a few times at the beginning of the train ride, but when Draco cast a lip-locking charm on her, she'd fallen into a hurt-looking silence for the remainder of the ride.

This school year had been horrendous. Draco imagined the basket full of expensive foreign chocolates his mother usually had ready for him on Platform 9 ¾ when she brought him home for the Easter Holidays and allowed himself a small smile. At least he'd get to have that.

She wasn't there.

His mother wasn't there.

Draco froze at the sight of stupid, sodding Maggs, his mother's house-elf, waving her stupid, sodding gray hand at him from beside a rubbish bin at the end of the platform.

Draco quickly turned away from her before any of his friends could see and Apparated straight to the manor himself. If his mother couldn't pick him up, fine. But there was no way he was going to be seen consorting with his mother's house-elf. Not when everyone else's parents had the decency to pick up their children at the station, like parents were supposed to do.

It occurred to Draco that perhaps there was a good reason that Maggs had been sent—something more than just his mother being too busy to come, herself—but Draco quickly squashed the uncomfortable thought and focused his anger on the injustice, instead.

Draco had landed on his knees with his arms around his trunk in the middle of the foyer. Immediately, he knew something was off by the lack of natural lighting in the room. The soaring windows were obscured by a blackish film. The room—and perhaps the entire manor—was instead lit by flaming sconces that adhered to the walls, replacing several ancestral portraits.

"Master Draco!" The elf's voice could be heard a fraction of a second before the popping sound of Apparition. "Master Draco," Maggs whispered furiously, her eyeballs about to pop out of their over-sized sockets.

"What is it?"

"Stop!" she commanded.

"I beg your pardon?" Draco climbed to his feet and brushed the dust off his knees. "House-elves don't tell me what to—"

"Orders!" Maggs cried with a squeak. "Direct orders from the Mistress! Please, Master Draco, it is most urgent. Sir must be coming with Maggs." She held out a sticky little hand as if Draco was going to take it. When he didn't, her eyes grew wider, a hint of desperation in her voice. "Young Sir is following Maggs right away!"

"Fine," he growled, eyeing her hand in disgust, then taking it with a huff. "But I don't see what all the fuss is about—"

Maggs tugged Draco directly to his bedroom, which was still decorated in Christmas lights and holly boughs. He was tempted to demand what the hell that was all about, but the strangeness of the situation had put Draco on guard. With one last dirty look at the lights, and then at Maggs, he turned away from her, snatched the December issue of Quidditch Monthly off of his nightstand and dropped onto his bed, sending dust particles floating into the air. He proceeded to scowl at the elf over the top of the magazine while she busied herself unpacking the items in his school trunk.

She left him with a warning not to leave his room until his parents came to see him.

Several hours later, Draco's parents still hadn't come to see him. On top of that, there were sounds coming from the basement. In the strange green glow of the Christmas lights overhead, Draco's imagination began to run away with him.

At one point, Draco swore he heard reptilian slithering in the corridor and, repulsed, he shuddered at the thought of Nagini, the Dark Lord's horrifying giant pet snake that Draco'd had the displeasure of meeting last spring.

Draco was losing it. He really was.

Draco decided that a glass of water might help. He turned to set the Quidditch magazine on his nightstand and climbed out of bed. As he grasped the door handle, a loud, piercing scream rang out from below.

This time it was unmistakable. There was definitely a girl screaming.

Stepping back in horror, Draco dropped quietly to the ground and pressed his ear against the floorboards to listen. The sound grew louder and louder—a ripping, horrible scream that made all the hair on his arms stand on end. He was sure someone was on the receiving end of a Cruciatus Curse. It was a woman, for sure, but it didn't sound like his mother or Aunt Bellatrix.

Several minutes later, after the sound ended, Draco peeled himself off the floor. His hands were trembling and his heart was racing. He summoned Maggs to his room at once.

"M-Master Draco?" she inquired. Draco looked up at her slowly. He could see that her normally grayish-skin looked somehow more pale.

"I command you to tell me what is going on." Draco's voice cracked as he tried his most intimidating glare.

Maggs began wringing her hands. She looked to the side and then, in a guilty whisper, said, "Malfoy Manor is having visitors."

"What visitors?" he croaked.

She shook her head rapidly. "Maggs is not saying. Master Draco is not to be asking."

"What kind of visitors, Maggs?" Draco could hear his voice rising, revealing fear he hadn't even known he had.

She squeezed her eyes together tightly. "All kinds of visitors." She clapped a hand to her mouth and began shaking her head as Draco continued to press her for details. "I is not saying any more! Maggs is saying too much already!"

With that, Maggs vanished from the room. Draco remained on the floor, wondering what was going on and when he would be allowed out of his stupid room.

By nightfall, Draco was still stuck in his room and he was frustrated and bored. He'd read the Quidditch magazine cover to cover twice, attempted to study for his upcoming Potions exam and even dug out his old collection of Martin Miggs comics to try and keep him entertained.

His parents still hadn't come to say hello and Maggs had served him some shitty chicken soup and crackers for dinner.

Draco turned to the next page of his Martin Miggs Summer Vacation Super Thriller Mystery Special and rolled his eyes as Miggs tried to "board" the aeroplane with an actual wooden board.

Suddenly, the sound of singing could be heard coming from below. Draco frowned and closed the magazine, straining to listen. His bedroom was on the second floor. The room below him was his Potions lab and underneath that were the dungeons of Malfoy Manor.

Draco was the only person with the password to his Potions lab, so the singing must have been coming from the dungeons.

Feeling suddenly impulsive, Draco jumped to his feet to investigate. He was tired of being cooped up in his room with no explanation and no attention. Plus, he was dying to know who was in the basement. Was it actually a prisoner? And who were the other visitors in the house?

Draco tried to justify ignoring Maggs' warning. He had just as much right to walk through his house as anybody else, dammit. So what if he was still in school? He was a Death Eater, too, and he had the damn Mark on his arm to prove it.

A creeping sense of trepidation settled over him as he approached the door to the basement. Whoever was down there . . . if they were being kept as a prisoner, they were probably not in good condition . . . despite the singing.

Draco gulped. Suddenly, this seemed like a very bad idea, but he'd come this far, so he had to at least find out.

"Get it together, Malfoy." He exhaled slowly and reached for the door.

The door squeaked, despite Draco's efforts to open it quietly. Still, he thought it best not to cast a Lumos. He'd just sneak down, take a quick peek to satisfy his curiosity, and sneak back up. Maybe he'd get himself a sandwich on the way, too.

Nodding contentedly, Draco began counting the stairs as he crept down them. Sixteen, he thought. All of the staircases at Malfoy Manor had sixteen steps. When he hit the wall of invisible wards, he carefully altered them, allowing himself admittance into the room.

The room was pitch dark, save for a sliver of light that beamed from the top of the stairs. Cast in the light was a girl with scraggly blonde hair. She was sitting cross-legged on the floor and staring directly at him.

His cover immediately blown, Draco stumbled fearfully back into the shadows. "What the hell?" he choked.

The girl, who was only inches away from him, climbed to her feet and moved to approach him. "Stay back!" Draco flinched. He could smell dank mildew and sweat and a tinny, coppery smell that made his stomach turn.

The girl tipped her head thoughtfully.

"Who are you?" he demanded.

She reached out a hand through the bars of her cell as if expecting Draco to grasp it. He didn't, and it just hung there, sort of still. "Why, I'm Luna Lovegood, of course."

"Luna . . . Luna . . . " he whispered, struggling to place the familiar name. Then it hit him. He felt his jaw drop open and gawked. "Loony? Loony Lovegood?"

Luna pulled her hand back and her delicate features hardened. "That isn't very nice, Draco Malfoy."

"What the hell are you doing here?"

"Waiting to be rescued, I suppose."

Draco shook his head slowly. "You're in my house."

"I thought I might be," she said, almost smiling. "There was a man here earlier who looked just like you. He even sounded like you."

As Luna said this, reality began to dawn on him. Luna was a prisoner and Draco was an inch from her cell. She could grab his wand and kill him and, really, why the hell hadn't she yet?

In the next second, Draco thrust his wand in her face. "Get back!" he spat, nodding his chin and indicating the wall he knew was to his left. "Now. Or I'll slice you to ribbons."

Luna sighed. "Wrackspurts tend to give people terrible tempers. I could help you get rid of them, if you'd like."

Draco scoffed. What was with this barmy bint? "Just shut up and do as you're told!"

Luna walked calmly to the wall. Draco could see that she had a slight limp, her gait favoring her left leg. She turned to the wall and pressed her arms against it. "Are you going to torture me now, too?" she asked.

"Yeah," he choked. "I might!" The threat seemed to fall a bit short, seeing as it was her suggestion, and Draco thrust his wand at her to show her he was still in charge.

Luna squeezed her eyes shut.

For a second, Draco almost convinced himself to do it. She was expecting it, after all, and he knew it was what he was supposed to do. But, why should he? He didn't need to soil his hands with someone else's dirty work.

As long as he wasn't being watched . . .

Draco's eyes darted to the sides and he gripped his wand tighter. Why couldn't he do this? He should be able to do this.

Crucio. Just say it. Just say Crucio.

"Draco?"

Draco was staring at his wand as if expecting it to act of its own accord. "What?" he responded through gritted teeth.

"You don't have to torture me, you know."

Draco could feel his hand trembling. It was like the Astronomy Tower all over again. Why the hell couldn't he cast an Unforgivable? What was wrong with him? "Just shut up!"

Luna bowed her head. Then, "Is it Easter yet?"

"East—? What kind of a question is that?" Draco's voice was embarrassingly high-pitched.

"Just the regular kind, I guess."

With a frustrated curse, Draco stashed his wand in his pocket and ran distressed fingers through his hair. "It's Good Friday."

"Oh," she said. Luna glanced at Draco's pocket then, apparently deeming him safe. She lowered her arms from the wall and slowly turned around to face him.

"Did I tell you to move?" Draco's voice sounded defeated.

"No," said Luna. "But it isn't polite to turn your back to company."

Draco sneered. "No, I suppose not."

"When did you arrive?"

"What business is it of yours?"

"Why, it's your business," she stated. "And we're getting to know each other."

"No, we aren't!" he snapped, despite evidence to the contrary.

"Sure we are," she said. "I'm beginning to see that your Wrackspurts are much worse than I'd originally thought."

"Are you psychotic?" he asked. "What is wrong with you?"

"No," she answered.

"You do realize I'm not on your side, right?"

"No. But you are on my right side."

Draco blinked.

Luna wiggled her right hand and then gestured toward Draco who was, indeed, standing to her right. "You see?"

Draco continued to stare at her. While he'd originally questioned her sanity, he was now beginning to question his own.

"It can get a bit lonely here without Mr. Ollivander." She frowned. "I do hope he's alright."

"Ollivander?" Draco asked, frowning into the darkness. "The wandmaker? He's here, too?"

Luna nodded, sadly. "Yes, but he was taken a few hours ago for more questioning."

"Why?"

Luna raised an eyebrow. She wasn't going to tell him.

"Who else is here?"

"You are."

Draco rolled his eyes. "I'm not a prisoner."

"Aren't you?" Luna stared at Draco with her too-wide eyes. He felt wrong-footed and confused. He had the wand. She was the prisoner. Why did it feel like she was in charge of this situation?

"Whatever. I'm leaving." He didn't want her to see how much her words had shaken him.

"I hope you'll take care of those Wrackspurts. Chewing on a lemon rind should help."

Draco ignored her—what he should have done from the goddamn start—and stepped onto the staircase, resetting the wards.

"Have a good night," she called.

He hesitated, his mind telling him to go upstairs and leave this girl to rot. Then Draco shut his eyes in defeat and sighed. "You, too."

Draco could sense her smile without turning around. He hurried up the stairs, mentally cursing his stupidity the entire way.

….

Draco never wanted to leave his room again.

In fact, in his current state, it was quite impossible.

Dead. Three little kids—dead. The Dark Lord had killed them. Just like that! And, oh God, Draco could still picture Nagini, her esophagus engorged with the legs and torso of a teenaged girl, whose once beautiful face—now nothing more than chunks of gore and crooked glasses— flopped up and down with the effort of the snake's digestion.

Draco vomited spectacularly into the toilet, choking on his own wails as tears streamed down his face.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. They were supposed to be powerful. Draco was supposed to be powerful, and revered . . . royalty! Not . . . this.

Not responsible for his Headmaster falling dead off of the Astronomy Tower.

Not watching one professor plead to another for her life on his kitchen table.

And certainly not watching three little kids be sliced and tortured to death as Aunt Bellatrix demanded to know how they stole magic from purebloods.

Draco reached up a hand and wiped burning tears from his eyes. He continued to retch, spitting out strings of bile into the water and dreading how things were going to get worse.

When Thorfinn Rowle notified the Dark Lord that he'd caught Potter, then failed to deliver him, Draco learned what it felt like to perform the Cruciatus Curse on another human being.

The undeniable pleasure both frightened and disgusted him. Draco was desperate to stop, but there was also something addictive about the power he held over another person. He had never hated himself more.

In a house full of family and loyal comrades, Draco realized that he was completely alone. His mother hadn't even spoken more than two words to him since he'd arrived back from Hogwarts. A part of him wished he'd stayed at Hogwarts for the holidays but with the Carrows there, his school was scarcely better than his home.

Desperate for an escape, Draco unlocked his school trunk and removed the wards hiding a secret compartment. Inside, nestled amongst notes from Pansy and blueprints for the Vanishing Cabinet was Theodore Nott's entire liquor stash. Theo had forced Draco to hide it back in September because he was the only one with a Secret Compartment Expansion Charm on his school trunk. Luckily, Draco had mastered the Refilling Charm a few weeks earlier and felt pretty confident that he could easily replace any Firewhisky that he decided to borrow.

Not that Nott would necessarily care if Draco had some of his Firewhisky but . . . it was better to just replace it and avoid any questions.

Draco unscrewed the cap of a bottle of Ogden's Old and took three long, burning pulls, forcing the liquid past his throat and into his stomach where it settled like burning coals, heating him from the inside out.

He wasn't really a drinker—not at all, actually—but maybe this would help. It was supposed to, wasn't it?

Plus, Draco wasn't really worried about getting sick since he'd been throwing up for days, anyway.

Several hours later, Draco dropped the bottle with a heavy clunk onto his nightstand and narrowed his bleary eyes, straining to hear over the sound of sloshing liquid.

Luna. Singing, again. For some reason, the realization calmed him.

He kicked his legs out of his tangled sheets and went to stand. The room took on a nauseating tilt and Draco staggered into the corner of his nightstand, waiting for his head to stop spinning. "Shite," he swore. He hadn't expected to feel like this. In all honesty—and he wasn't really sure why—he hadn't actually thought the Firewhisky would do anything. Draco steadied himself with his hands, bemused by his sudden lack of coordination.

This is strange, he thought. Strange, but not altogether unpleasant. Though it would be nicer if Draco's feet were being a bit more cooperative.

Giving his pocket a clumsy pat to make sure he had his wand, Draco weaved a slow, unsteady path out of the room.

He was tired of being alone. And someone should really be checking up on the prisoners.

Malfoy Manor seemed so much lovelier and safer after half a bottle of Firewhisky. The torchlight glimmered warmth and Draco was reminded of all of the happy and good times he'd had there.

Clutching the bannister for support, Draco squinted at the stairs and navigated his way to the bottom.

Draco gulped, his eyelashes fluttering as a dizzy spell took hold, and he suddenly realized that maybe he was drunk. And maybe this was a really, really bad idea and it only seemed like a good idea because he was drunk.

And not only was Draco drunk, but, holy shite. It was hitting him now. He was really fucking drunk.

Draco snorted in amusement at the feeling and the absurdity of it all.

He shushed himself for making too much noise, then chuckled at the fact that he was shushing himself.

"Okay," he murmured, exhaling slowly, and schooling his features into something more serious. "Okay."

The door squeaked open and Draco cringed. Then he began counting the stairs as he wobbled slowly down them. "Sixteen," he murmured.

And while he was right about that, Draco lost count of his steps somewhere in the middle. The misjudgment had Draco's face cracking painfully into the stone as his body was thrown like a ragdoll's down the stairs.

He groaned in pain as a blackness deeper than the unlit dungeon seized him and the welcoming hands of unconsciousness pulled him under.

Draco opened his eyes and shuddered. He was lying in a pool of ice cold sweat and there was a hand stroking the wet hair off of his forehead.

Where was he? He couldn't tell if he was in his bed or not.

Then Draco remembered Nott's stupid Firewhisky. What the hell was wrong with him, anyway? Stumbling around drunk was even more idiotic than . . .

His hair was gently smoothed back by delicate fingers. He opened his eyes and froze.

"Oh. You're awake." Straggly blonde hair dangled over him. "You shouldn't drink alcohol with so many Wrackspurts, it tends to make one extra dizzy."

Draco knocked the hand off his forehead and scrambled back, groping clumsily for his wand.

"Are you okay, Draco?"

His wand. It wasn't there! It wasn't . . . Draco saw the glint of shiny, polished wood in Luna's hand and felt his stomach drop. "You little thief! Give it back to me!"

Draco was prepared to wrestle her for it, but Luna simply held the wand out for him to take. He snatched it back, squeezing it tightly in his hand. It began to dawn on him that he'd had a nasty fall down the steps and for some, strange reason, wasn't injured.

He should have been injured.

"You healed me?" he asked, unable to stop himself. Luna nodded. "Why?"

"Because you were hurt."

Draco staggered closer to her. The darkness was getting to be too much and, besides, Luna knew he was there. Draco cast a Lumos that, in his drunken state was slightly stronger than he had intended, the force of which nearly knocked him on his arse. In the brief second that the light flashed, Draco saw that Luna's face was streaked with dirt and blood. She was heaped against the wall on the dungeon floor and her leg was twisted at an odd angle.

"Broken?"

Luna nodded.

Feeling inexplicably guilty for not noticing sooner, Draco dropped to his knees. "Here, let me—" Draco squinted one eye closed to focus his doubled vision when Luna reached out a hand to stop him. "What?"

"You shouldn't practice magic if you're drunk."

"I'm not—" he began, but he was and Luna clearly knew it, so he tried again. "Don't be stupid. It's broken."

"I'm not being stupid. You're being reckless."

"And you're being ungrateful!" Draco sputtered. "And besides! You're my prisoner. I tell you what to do."

Luna gave him a desperate look. "Draco, please." Her breathing was labored and Draco could see that there were tear-streaks mixed into the dirt and mud on her face.

"But, you're hurt."

Luna shrugged. "I'll manage."

"But—" Draco said, "But you had my wand. Why didn't you heal yourself?"

"I was about to . . . "

"Oh." Draco scowled. "You're trying to trick me into giving you my wand, aren't you?"

Luna frowned. "No."

"Yes, huh," Draco cringed inwardly at the stupid, childish retort. "I mean-you are. I'm not giving you my wand!"

"Okay."

Draco watched her grimace in pain for another unbearable minute before calling for Maggs.

When the elf appeared, Draco gave her a warning look and said, "Not a word of this to anyone or it's clothes. Got it?"

Maggs nodded.

Draco gestured carelessly toward Luna. "Fix her." While Maggs busied herself healing Luna's wounds and setting her broken leg to rights, Draco gravitated closer to the girl, seating himself next to her on the other side of the bars to inspect Maggs' work.

During one particularly painful healing spell, Luna's hand shot out and grasped Draco's arm for support, her fingers digging into his flesh. He sat there, frozen in shock, too beside himself to tell her to let go. When she finally did, Maggs was done with her work and had Disapparated, leaving the two in an awkward silence.

"Better?" Draco muttered.

"Yes," Luna replied. "Thank you."

"Well, I didn't want to make it worse."

"Why not?"

The question was simple and yet accusatory. He couldn't help it. Draco started to laugh.

"Draco," Luna said. "Would you test me on the twelve uses of Dragon's Blood, please?"

"The twelve—? Wh—but that's first year stuff."

"All the more reason to practice."

This was absurd. But Draco decided to stop questioning her and go with the flow. "Whatever."

….

When Wormtail was sent out on some mission for the Dark Lord, his job of feeding the prisoners was passed down to Draco. Ollivander had returned to Luna's cell and Draco was responsible for making their meals and ensuring that they couldn't escape.

This meant that he was suddenly cast under the watchful and—quite frankly—terrifying eyes of his aunt. For some reason, she seemed to think that carrying sandwiches and apples to the basement would somehow be enough to return the Malfoy family back into the Dark Lord's good graces. Draco wasn't naïve enough to believe that, but he also wasn't stupid enough to question orders.

What he hadn't expected was for Aunt Bellatrix to cast a Disillusionment Spell on herself and follow Draco into the dungeons to check up on him. After he'd given the prisoners their food and cast Cleaning Charms, Draco had slunk down onto the bottom step to supervise them for a bit.

Luna engaged him in small talk about how she had once painted Easter Eggs with riddles about family members and friends and how she thought they made great gifts. When Draco asked her if it was hard getting into Ravenclaw Tower, a sudden, raspy voice sent cold dread running down his spine.

"A-hem hem hem. Making small talk with the little blood traitor, are we Draco?" Bellatrix strode forward, nudging her nephew's back with her boot as she descended the staircase. The mad glint in her eyes was usually the one reserved for enemies.

"Nothing else to do," he muttered, trying to remain calm and not look guilty. Technically, he hadn't done anything wrong . . .

"Nothing else to do?" Bellatrix retorted. "Guarding half-bloods and blood traitors who threaten our very existence, and you can think of nothing better to do than discuss Holiday fun?"

Draco kept his mouth shut.

"Well, I can think of something," she went on. "Do you know what I was thinking might be fun?"

Yes. Draco shook his head, anyway.

Bellatrix glared at him. "You stupid boy."

"Draco is not stupid," Luna said suddenly. Draco tensed as Bellatrix turned slowly to face Luna.

"Excuse me, little stragglemuffin," Bellatrix began in a sickly sweet voice. "Did I invite you to speak?"

Luna shook her head.

"Did Draco invite you to speak?"

Luna looked over at Draco. "Shut up," he mouthed, desperately.

"No," said Luna. "But I don't need an invitation. I can speak just fine without one."

Shut up, shut up, shut up!

"Well, well, well. Seems I haven't beaten the cheek out of you, yet, Goldilocks. Shall I have another go?"

Luna cast a desperate look at Draco and he cursed inwardly, knowing that Bellatrix had noticed the interaction.

"Or perhaps I should give my dear nephew a chance."

Draco swallowed.

"Go on, Nephy. Teach this little blood traitor to get smart with me."

"U-um," Draco began. "Which curse?"

Luna looked suddenly fearful and it made Draco angry. Stupid girl! Had she really trusted that he wouldn't hurt her? Why had she thought that? It was going to make this so much harder . . .

"Why, my favorite, of course," Bellatrix replied. "The Cruciatus."

Luna whimpered and Draco could see Ollivander sitting upright, watching the proceedings with a hard look on his wizened face. Knowing there was no way out of this, Draco raised the wand that the old man had sold to him when he was eleven, pointed it at Luna and firmly closed his eyes.

He had to cast it . . . but it didn't mean he had to watch.

"Crucio."

….

When Draco brought food to the prisoners later, the entire atmosphere of the cell had changed. Luna was curled in a protective ball against the stone wall. Her scraggly hair had been knotted into several braids and it appeared that she was working on another. There was no order to the style—if one could call it a style—and Draco assumed she was just doing it to pass time or, more likely, keep her mind off of the pain.

Not daring to speak a word, Draco cleared his throat to announce his entrance. Ollivander shot him a look of pure hatred. But it was the betrayal in Luna's blue eyes that was enough to make Draco sick. She knew he hadn't meant to—hadn't wanted to do that . . . right? He did what he had to do. Luna must have known that he hadn't had a choice. That if he'd resisted, it would have been Draco tortured, instead.

Maybe it should have been, said a voice in his head. Coward.

Fighting the urge to run, Draco crept forward with the silver tray of sandwiches and fruit that his mother had made him prepare for the prisoners. When neither prisoner said anything—had he really expected them to?—Draco cleared his throat again and spoke softly. "Luna, I—"

"How dare you speak to her?" Ollivander rasped from the corner. He pulled himself onto his knees and shifted closer to Luna, wrapping a protective arm around her shoulder as she stared vacantly at Draco. "You pretended to be her friend—"

"I did no such—"

"—little rat. She's a sweet and innocent girl. How can you live with yourself?"

Draco gaped soundlessly for a moment, watching as Luna looked from Ollivander to Draco, and then back to her knotted hair again.

A surge of anger rose through him and in the next second, Draco threw the entire tray across the floor. He listened in sick satisfaction as it clattered, scraping the stone and startling the prisoners. Bread, ham and cheese scattered over the dirty floor. An apple rolled slowly across the cell and finally came to a stop at Ollivander's feet.

Despite his indignant anger, sudden guilt threatened to unhinge him. He'd tortured Luna and now he'd befouled the only meal she'd get for the day? For a moment, he hesitated and considered cleaning the mess. Then, disgusted with his own weakness, Draco scuffed the toe of his boot into the grime and kicked more dirt into the food. "Eat."

….

The following afternoon, Draco avoided the prisoner's cell at all costs. He was ashamed of what he had been forced to do and embarrassed by his childish outburst. In the real world, he owed Luna and Ollivander an apology—but in this sick madness, where the two of them were his family's captives, Draco was unsure of how to act.

He knew if he asked his parents, they would instruct him to NEVER apologize to a prisoner. That was admitting weakness. That would put the power into their hands. But Draco was going mad with self-disgust. If an apology would make him feel better, then, essentially, he was doing it for himself. What could be more Slytherin than that, right?

As the sounds of Stubby Boardman twanged away on the WWN, Draco was forced to accept that he was a failure. Deep down, he knew he didn't have the heart or stomach for any of this. He may be carrying out the actions like a good little Death Eater, but he'd never have the passion that Bellatrix had or the devotion of his father. Draco would never have any of that. All he wanted was the comfort of his old life and the safety of hiding in his father's shadow, or behind the muscles of Crabbe and Goyle, allowing someone stronger to fight his battles and do his dirty work.

He was a pureblood, after all. All of this should be handed to him on a silver platter. Draco had been born entitled, so why was he being forced to prove it in this war? Everyone knew it. Or, at least, they were supposed to.

Unable to put it off any longer, especially since the prisoners had suffered through a piss-poor excuse for a meal the day before, Draco stopped by the kitchen and grabbed whatever the kitchen elves had prepared in the storage cupboard.

More sandwiches, then.

He piled them onto a plate, adding a few more than was necessary and filled a jug with water.

When he entered the dungeon, he found Ollivander scowling at him with his arms crossed. Behind him, Luna was lying flat on her back with her eyes fixed on the ceiling and her hands placed palms-up. If Draco had to guess, he would say she was meditating.

Ollivander snatched a sandwich off the plate and turned his back to Draco. He carried his sandwich to the far corner of the rather large dungeon. Luna continued to meditate and, eager to leave without talking to her, Draco set down the silver platter and turned to leave.

"Harry tells me you're related to Stubby Boardman."

Draco blinked stupidly. "Huh?"

"Isn't that who you were listening to?" Luna sat up with a slightly dazed look on her face. She reached for the jug of water and took a sip. "Stubby Boardman and the Bluegrass Banshees?"

Draco began to blush. "No—The Hobgoblins. It was on the radio," he said, defensively. "I didn't pick it. And what's this about being related to him?"

"Harry says he's your cousin."

Draco frowned in confusion, but couldn't help laughing. "Potter says Stubby Boardman is my cousin?"

"No," said Luna. "Harry says Sirius Black is your cousin."

"Oh. The murderer?" Draco shifted, uncomfortably. "Yeah . . . he's dead."

"So is Stubby Boardman," said Luna, sadly.

"Stubby Boardman isn't dead."

"Stubby Boardman is Sirius Black," said Luna, nodding sagely. "That can only mean one thing."

"What? That you're mental?" Draco asked.

"No," she snapped. "That Stubby Boardman is dead."

"He just released a new album two months ago!" It occurred to Draco that he should be embarrassed about knowing that fact but he found it was difficult to be embarrassed about stuff like that around this girl.

"If you say so," Luna murmured. She fell back into her meditative pose. "Thank you for the sandwiches and water. And I forgot to thank you properly for the sandwiches yesterday."

Draco tensed. "That isn't funny, Luna."

"It wasn't intended to be."

"Well, then, it isn't very nice to pretend to thank someone for something you didn't appreciate. That's the same as lying."

"Well, then, it isn't very nice to give something to someone that you don't intend for them to appreciate, is it?" Luna asked. Draco was trying to figure out what she'd said when Luna added, "And whether or not you wanted me to, I did appreciate the sandwiches. Mr. Ollivander helped me dust them off and after we put them back together, they were just fine. A little crunchier than usual."

Draco was finding it difficult to look at her. He turned to the staircase, instead. "That was rude of me, yesterday," he said in a businesslike manner. "You're still guests in the manor and my mother would be horrified if word got out that the Malfoy's served their guests dirty food . . . "

No laughter followed Draco's weak attempt at a joke. Casting a quick Homonus Revelio showed Draco that there were no Bellatrixes hiding in the shadows this time. He took a deep breath and stepped back toward Luna. "Luna," he said.

She sat up and tilted her head to the side. "Yes, Draco?"

He shut his eyes for a minute and exhaled. "I'm sorry."

Luna nodded. "Yes, I know."

"No." Draco shook his head. "I mean—" he lowered his voice and then dropped into a crouch, speaking intently. "I mean . . . I'm sorry." He paused. "For yesterday. For all of it."

Draco looked back up at her slowly. She had climbed to her knees and was reaching through the bars of her cell. Luna placed her hands on Draco's shoulders and the gentle touch of another human being was comforting and grounding. "Draco," she said, softly, "I know."

It was like Moaning Myrtle's Bathroom all over again. Draco slunk down onto his knees and pressed his face against the bars as the familiar lump rose in his throat and his eyes started to burn. He couldn't stop it—and a part of him didn't want to.

"I didn't want to do it, I had to," he choked, as Luna continued to pat his shoulders awkwardly through the bars. "I h-hate this."

Ollivander cast a suspicious look over his shoulder, then returned to his sandwich, but Draco couldn't really be arsed with the thought that Ollivander, too, found him pathetic. Besides, Ollivander was far enough away that he couldn't hear Draco's pitiful complaints.

"It won't last forever."

"She would've just done it to me, you know! I had no choice."

"Everything will turn out the way it's meant to."

"What if it's meant to turn to hell?" Draco asked. "It already has. So you're saying it was meant to?"

"Good always triumphs over evil," said Luna, patting him on the head.

Draco jerked back and fixed his hair. "Great. Then I guess I lose."

Luna began to giggle. She pulled her arms through the bars and covered her mouth.

"What?" Draco snapped, annoyed. He didn't like to be laughed at.

"How silly!" Luna laughed. "You are not evil, Draco Malfoy."

He sat back and looked at her, his fingers fiddling at his cuff. Finally, he pulled up his shirtsleeve. He'd meant to flash the Dark Mark at her as if to say, "See? Here! Proof." But instead, he couldn't stop staring at it—the wriggling black snake, the decrepit skull, the now-covered moles that he had thought formed the constellation Draco on his arm when he was younger . . .

"Draco," said Luna, her voice quieter and more serious, "you are not evil."

He said nothing.

"Draco—"

"Then what am I?"

"Why, you're you, of course."

Draco let out a soft exhale of laughter. Why he thought she'd give him anything but the obvious answer to that question, he wasn't sure. "Oh, of course," he said. "Why hadn't I thought of that?"

Luna sighed. "I already told you, Draco. You have Wrackspurts. You can't expect to think of these things with brain-sucking leeches crawling in and out of your ears at night."

Draco clapped two hands over his ears. "Um, what exactly are Wrackspurts?"

"I'll only tell you if you promise to let me help you get rid of them."

Real or not, the idea of brain-sucking leeches in his ears was a terrifying one. "Well, if you insist."

Chapter Text

"Get Draco!"

He'd heard the frantic commotion from behind him and dropped his teacup in its saucer. With the Dark Lord gone, his parents had finally seen fit to visit him and the entire production felt stilted and phony.

But now something was going on. The Dark Lord was, thankfully, away in Germany or something, but there were definitely other visitors in the manor and Draco could sense tension in the air.

His mother strode quickly back to the sitting room. "They say they've got Potter."
Lucius' chair nearly toppled in his excitement. Draco, however, felt like someone had attached a Permanent Sticking Charm to his arse. "Draco, come here."

Leaden weights seemed to stilt his movements as Draco rose slowly from his armchair.

Was this it? If they really had Potter, then the Dark Lord would arrive shortly, end the wanker's life and the war would be over.

But Luna had promised that good would triumph . . .

Draco almost vomited when he saw that Fenrir Greyback was standing on the other side of the drawing room. Bound up behind him was Dean Thomas, one of the only Gryffindors that Draco didn't have a problem with, a Goblin, Granger and Weasley. Pulled to the side was some hideously disfigured individual with the same tragically shit-tastic hair as Potter, but several inches longer than Draco remembered. He also had the same stupid glasses and ugly—now filthy—clothing. Merlin. He was even wearing those fucking tatty red trainers that had followed Draco around all of sixth year. Christ.

And this was the person they were all counting on to save them? To defeat the Dark Lord?

Draco almost laughed. Almost. Instead, he swallowed the lump in his throat as Fenrir Greyback turned to him and growled, "Well, boy?"

Draco took a hesitant step further. What was he supposed to say? If he said it was Potter, then it was all over.

But wasn't that what he wanted?

"Well, Draco?" His father sounded almost manic. "Is it? Is it Harry Potter?"

Time. He needed more time! Draco couldn't just—just end it all! With Potter looking all . . . what the fuck was wrong with him, anyway?

No. He just— "I can't-I can't be sure." Potter was staring at his feet. There was a toe poking through the corner of his shoes.

"But look at him carefully, look! Come closer!"

Draco cast a worried look at his father. He'd known that Azkaban had changed the man, but this was the first time Draco had ever felt truly frightened.

"Draco," Lucius continued, his blond hair falling over his gaunt face as his eyes raked wildly over the figure of Potter. "If we are the ones to hand Potter over to the Dark Lord, everything will be forgiv—"

The snatchers interrupted and Draco had to look away from his father and back at Potter. It was amazing that no one else could tell that it was him. Draco would know Potter a mile away, perhaps with no face at all.

Draco was distracted from that weird thought for a moment by the sound of Luna singing Stubby Boardman's "Nettle Wine Weekend" one floor below.

"There's something there," his father whispered. "It could be the scar, stretched tight . . . Draco, come here, look properly! What do you think?"

Reluctantly, Draco crouched down beside his father and cast a glance at Potter's scar. His heart was pounding in his chest. Draco knew that the second he confirmed Potter's identity, someone would summon the Dark Lord. "I don't know." Draco stood up quickly and moved as far away from Potter as he could.

"What about the Mudblood, then?" Greyback snarled.

Shit. How could Draco be so stupid? They weren't all disfigured. Everyone would know he'd been lying. Shit.

"Wait," his mother cried. "Yes—yes, she was in Madam Malkin's with Potter! I saw her picture in the Prophet! Look, Draco, isn't that the Granger girl?"

"I . . . " Draco didn't want to look. He couldn't look. "Maybe. . . yeah." Feeling absolutely sick about what he'd done, Draco turned around completely and stared at the fire. Maybe he could grab the Floo powder and take off . . .

"But then, that's the Weasley boy!" shouted Lucius. "It's them, Potter's friends—Draco, look at him, isn't it Arthur Weasley's son, what's his name—?"

"Yeah." Ron. "It could be."

Within seconds, Bellatrix and Lucius were arguing over who got to Summon the Dark Lord first. Draco was ashamed on his father's behalf. He wrapped his arms tightly around himself and looked away when his mother cast him one of those pitying looks.

Suddenly, Bellatrix was shrieking about a stolen sword. Something had changed—for some reason they were all scared to call the Dark Lord now. Bellatrix Stupefied the snatchers and took the sword, turning it almost reverently in her hands.

"A curly-toed hobo on a Saturday night-du-weepa-dop-a-dooby-doo-wee!"

Was Draco the only person who could hear her singing down there? He cast a worried glance around the room, but everyone was too engrossed in the current situation to notice Luna singing.

"Draco, move this scum outside!" Bellatrix ordered. His eyes snapped to the werewolf first and then to the filthy men that lay beside him on the floor. "If you haven't got the guts to finish them," she continued in a snarl, "then leave them in the courtyard for me."

Draco sneered at his aunt. Her remark obviously had to do with his treatment of Luna.

"Don't you dare speak to Draco like—" His mother was interrupted by his aunt and Draco decided to just move the men outside, like he'd been told. At least then he wouldn't have to be in the same room as Potter, being burned alive under the fiery stare of Ron Weasley.

Using his wand and being extra careful not to come into physical contact with Greyback, Draco bound the three men together and began to Levitate them out into the courtyard.

When he stepped outside, the sunny sky and chirping birds were a shock to his system. Draco couldn't remember the last time he'd been outside. He cast an extra Stupefy on each of the men and secured them tightly to a tree. Then he sank down onto the muddy earth, drew his knees up to his chest and stared at them.

A peacock trotted over to Draco and stuck her neck into one of his pockets. He elbowed the bird gently out of the way and pulled out the small bag of owl treats she had been trying to steal. Draco shook the bag and a treat fell into the muddy ground beside him. His generosity was met with an annoyed squawk. Draco carefully shook another treat into his palm. The peacock snatched up the clean treat and trotted off, her foot stomping the other snack into the mud.

"Only the best for a Malfoy, I see," Draco called after the bird, stuffing the bag back into his pocket. "Little bastard."

There was a terrible scream from the other side of the door that seemed to go on and on.

Draco squeezed his eyes shut, wishing he could block out everything that was happening inside. He didn't pray often, but he started to pray right then that he would somehow be forgotten out here in the shuffle of whatever was going on.

"HERMIONE! HERMIONE!"

Weasley's voice sounded like it was coming from below. He must be in the dungeon, too. Great, now Draco would have to take care of Weasley and the others and he'd no longer have Luna to himself.

God, he was selfish.

Not that Luna would be happy that her friends had been caught, but with the Golden Trio in the manor, she probably had some chance of escaping.

Draco sat up a little straighter. Was it possible? Could Potter and his band of merry men actually rescue the prisoners? No, he decided. The wards at the manor were ridiculous. No human could break them, not even precious Potter.

Draco spat into the mud for good measure and watched as his spit collected in the divots of the bird's footprint.

Suddenly he was yanked by his ear until he was standing on two feet. His father was glaring at him. "What in Merlin's name do you think you're doing?" he hissed.

"W-watching them!" Draco pointed at the men on the ground.

"Well, go watch the other prisoners, dammit! That's your job! For God's sake, Draco, that could very well be Potter down there."

"Okay, okay," Draco muttered, dusting the dirt off his trousers and following his father back into the drawing room.

Hermione Granger let out a shriek of agony from two feet away and this time Draco couldn't help but look. His insane aunt had a look of childlike delight on her face as she carved into Granger's arm with a blood-soaked dagger. Draco stumbled in his walk, caught only by his father giving him another yank on the ear and throwing him in the direction of the cellar door.

"We've never been inside your vault," Granger was sobbing. "It isn't the real sword! It's a copy, just a copy!"

"A copy?" screeched Bellatrix. "Oh, a likely story!"

"Draco, fetch the goblin," Lucius called. "He can tell us whether the sword is real or not!"

Draco reluctantly opened the cellar door and began making his way down the steps. When he reached the door to the cell, Draco lit his wand and held it out in front of him. "Stand back," Draco called to the prisoners. "Line up against the back wall. Don't try anything, or I'll kill you!"

Praying he wouldn't be overcome by five teenagers, a goblin and an old man, Draco unlocked the cell door, ready for whatever the sneaky bastards—and most of them were—might throw his way.

Potter—it was definitely Potter, Draco could see that now, was pressed against the back wall next to Luna. In the other corner stood Dean, Weasley, Ollivander and Griphook.

Draco took a deep breath and marched into the cell when he noticed Weasley was fumbling around with something. There was a click and then—

"Ron, no!" Potter yelled. Draco moved to stun Weasley, but was suddenly caught off guard when the room erupted in blinding gold light. Draco had been staring right at Weasley's hand when it happened and whatever the hell that thing was, it had blasted Draco right in the eyes.

"I'm blind!" Draco yelped, stumbling backwards and into someone. The next few seconds were confusing. Draco still couldn't see, but was fighting to stay in control. "Stay back! Stay back! Don't move!" An elbow caught him in the chest and he collapsed back onto whomever he had bumped into in the first place. A girl's yelp alerted him that it must have been Luna and he was pretty sure he now had her pinned to the ground.

"Get off her, Malfoy!" This was Potter. Draco reached out and took hold of the only part of him he could grab which he assumed was his ankle. Draco dug his fingernails in, still hesitant to use his wand when he couldn't see. Potter lost his balance when Draco hooked a leg around him and pulled him down, but instead of freeing Draco, Draco was now sandwiched between Potter and Luna with his wand hand smashed under Potter's body.

Potter started yanking on Draco's wand and Draco bit him.

"My leg!" Luna whimpered.

"Potter, get off!" Draco squirmed underneath him, but this only seemed to hurt Luna more. "I'll fucking kill you, get off me!"

"I can't breathe!" cried Luna.

At that second, Draco's vision began to adjust. Suddenly there was a crack of Apparition. Who the hell had Apparated? Draco head-butted Potter's arm to try and get a look at what was going on. He could sense a lot of heated whispering between Potter and the others and he didn't like it. Draco sank his teeth into Potter's arm again.

"Yeaugh, fuck, Malfoy!"

And the next thing Draco knew, he felt the sucking sensation of Apparition. The sudden white-noise sound of space travel was jarring after the madness he had just been in and Draco almost relished the several seconds of peace, knowing it was about to get a whole lot worse very soon.

The next thing Draco knew, he was face down in the sand, the sound of ocean waves way too fucking close for comfort. He tried to free himself from Potter and Luna, but to no avail. Without another thought, Draco clutched his wand tightly and Apparated the three of them to the first place he could think of that wasn't . . . Potter Territory.

The sickening sense of Apparition—and it was sickening when performed by Draco—overtook his senses again. Moments later, they landed in one big thump on the wooden floor of a large, comfortable sitting room. Potter scrambled off of the heap and Draco rolled off of Luna dramatically, struggling to catch his breath and orient himself.

Potter took a dizzy stagger to the side and then dropped to his knees, looking like he was fighting off the urge to heave.

"Back up!" Draco yelled, pointing his wand at Potter and Luna. Luna, Draco quickly noticed, was absolutely drenched in blood. He'd splinched her.

"What have you done?" Potter yelled. "Get away from her! Where are we?" Potter made a reach for his wand and quickly realized that he didn't have one. "Malfoy, do something!"

"If you'd shut up for a second, Potter, you'd see that I'm trying to!"

"I can't believe you splinched her! You—"

"SHUT UP!" Draco roared. "In fact, Silencio! Impedimenta!"

Potter glared wildly at Draco, twitching in his binds.

Draco dropped down beside Luna and tried to find the source of the bleeding. When he located the hole in her knee where her leg had broken, he had to turn his head away to keep from throwing up. The bone stuck out of her leg. Surrounding it was raw, torn flesh and muscle. Something else pinkish and bubbly oozed out of the wound.

He knew he needed to do something and fast. With trembling hands, he tried to clean the cut out as best he could. Draco didn't know any Healing Charms and he sure as hell wasn't trusting Potter with his wand, but . . .

Sighing, he released Potter from the Silencing Spell. "If you say anything other than the answers to my questions, I'm putting it back on," Draco warned.

Potter glared at Draco, but his look wavered when he caught sight of Luna's leg.

"Muggle Healers," Draco said as he grabbed a pillow off the sofa above him and pressed it to the wound for compression, "they use stitches, right?"

Potter nodded.

"Stitches," Draco's voice shook and he could feel himself paling, "Stitches like the kind used in a Stitching Charm?"

"You're going to try and sew up her leg?" Potter cried.

"Well, do you have a better idea?" Draco snapped.

"Yeah, St. Mungo's!"

"Oh, I'm sorry," Draco growled, pressing, "but I thought you were on the run?"

"Well, you aren't!"

"Well, I'm not going to St. Mungo's, so answer my fucking question! Theoretically, would a Stitching Charm work?"

Potter swallowed, looking nauseated. "Yeah . . . theoretically . . . but her bone . . ."

"Try Episkey," Luna murmured from the floor. Her breathing was shallow and heavy and Draco feared that she was losing too much blood, way too fast.

Never having done the spell before, Draco hoped the sheer will and desperation of the moment would be enough. Draco cast.

Luna let out a bloodcurdling scream and Draco jerked away from her, his wand dangling from his fingertips.

"What did you do?" cried Potter.

"Shut the fuck up, Potter!" Draco snapped. "Your comments from the peanut gallery are not fucking wanted! One more word and I'll Floo you right back to the manor, got it?"

Ignoring Potter, Draco slowly lifted the pillow off of Luna's leg. She gasped as the cold air hit her open wound and, without a second thought, Draco pointed his wand at her leg and cast the spell. A single stitch wound itself into the first millimeter of a five centimeter gash. Luna let out a shriek of agony and began to flail on the ground.

"Don't you have any pain potions?" Potter asked.

"No," Draco said through gritted teeth, "I don't." He turned back to Luna who looked barely conscious. "Luna, I need you to calm down. You're losing blood really quickly and you need to be still and calm, got it?"

Luna gave a weak nod.

"Potter," Draco's voice cracked. "Touch me and I'll kill you. I'm letting you go. You'll hold Luna's hand."

Potter nodded quickly.

"Don't try anything funny." Draco released Potter from his binds and the boy dashed across the room and slid to his knees by Luna's shoulder. He took her hand and squeezed it.

Narrowing his eyes for precision, Draco cast the spell again. Luna tensed as the stitch knitted together the next few millimeters of her skin. This time she was ready for it and passed the pain along to Potter's hand. They continued on in this fashion as Draco slowly worked his way up the wound.

"Alright there, Potter?" Draco asked, after a particularly tight hand-squeeze left Potter grimacing in pain.

"Fine, Malfoy," he spat.

"Luna?" Draco asked.

"Hurry, please." Her voice trembled and she was drenched in sweat.

"Almost done," Draco murmured. "Then we'll have Potter cook you a nice meal. You can sleep in the guest room. It's quite nice. I think you'll like it even better than the manor."

"Are you trying to be funny, Malfoy?" Potter asked him.

"No, I'm not," said Draco. "You can cook, can't you, Potter?"

Potter rolled his eyes. "Yes."

"Good. She hasn't eaten anything but sandwiches, so make it something decent."

"And whose fault is that?"

"Well, if she doesn't eat tonight, it will be yours."

"I don't understand why you can't cook—"

"Because I only know how to make sandwiches! For God's sake, Potter, follow along!"

Luna let out a soft moan. Draco suspected she only did it to get them to stop arguing but, in all honesty, if he'd been splinched that badly, he wouldn't tolerate two people yelling over him, either.

"Look what you've done, Potter," said Draco. "Now you've upset her."

"Me! How can you even—she's my friend! Y-you've been—"

"Please, please hurry," Luna said. "Shhh."

Potter snapped his mouth shut and Draco cast him a dirty look before putting in the final three stitches. When he was finished, he cast another cleaning charm on the area, placed a clean cloth over it and bound it into place with some Spellotape he found in a drawer. Together, Potter and Draco brought Luna to her feet and walked her down the hallway of his parents' summer cottage into a beautifully decorated white room. They laid her down on the large mattress and she sighed, smiling contentedly at what must have felt wonderful compared to the dirty cellar floor she'd been sleeping on.

"Thank you," said Luna. "How nice."

"Potter will bring you something to eat soon," Draco promised.

"Thank you, Harry." She sounded like she was falling asleep. "I like Draco's sandwiches, too."

"Okay, Luna." Potter gave her an awkward pat on the arm. Draco pointed his wand at Potter and shuffled him out of the room.

When they reached the parlor, Draco cast the Impediment Jinx on Potter again.

"Hey!" Potter cried. "I thought you wanted me to cook!"

"I changed my mind," said Draco. "I don't trust you not to give us all food poisoning."

Draco decided to keep Potter tied up in the kitchen of the cottage. He didn't trust Potter at all, but he couldn't very well cook on his own. And there was one thing that was really bothering Draco.

"Potter, how did you Apparate us out of the manor?"

Potter looked up from the knotted wooden table he'd been studying. "I didn't."

"Then who did?" Draco asked. "And how'd they do it? I can't even Apparate in and out of the manor and the wards there are keyed to the Malfoy signature."

"I'm surprised you can Apparate at all, seeing as you hardly went to Apparition class last year."

Draco stuck his nose in the air. "I was self-taught." Aunt Bellatrix had forced him to learn, actually. "And this was only my first Splinching."

"You must be very proud." Potter rolled his eyes.

"And you didn't answer my question."

"And I'm not going to. What do you think? I'm stupid?"

Draco raised an eyebrow and Potter scowled. "Would you like me to answer that?"

"I don't even care. I just want to get out of here."

"Don't count on it, Potter." Draco had decided to attempt to make soup. He added an unknown ingredient to the pot and gave it a stir. "We're staying."

"What for?"

Draco frowned and peeked in the cooling cupboard to see what else he could add to the sandwich. "Time."

"Time," Potter repeated. "We're wasting time."

"We're buying time—"

"Until what?" Potter challenged. "What's the matter—no plan, Malfoy? Don't tell me you don't know what you're going to do with us."

Draco decided to ignore Potter, completely. He wouldn't silence him, in case he accidentally slipped information that might somehow be useful.

Minutes later, Draco scooped a spoonful of the watery broth he'd managed to create and carried it over to Potter. Draco thrust the spoon toward Potter's mouth.

Potter jerked back and turned his head to the side. Barely opening his mouth, he said, "I'm not eating anything that you made."

Draco blew on the spoon just a little too hard, intentionally splashing hot liquid onto Potter. "Just. Try. It." Then he poked the spoon at Potter's mouth until the burning heat forced him to accept the soup and swallow. "Well?" Draco asked.

Potter only glared.

"Whatever, Potter." Draco tossed the spoon on the end table with a clatter. "More for me and your loony girlfriend."

….

Draco left Potter in the kitchen that night, tied to the chair. He strengthened the wards around Luna's room and then went into the cottage's master bedroom to sleep in his parents' bed.

As he lay flat on his back, staring at the stucco ceiling, he began to worry. He knew he should just take the two back to the manor . . . perhaps if he did it first thing in the morning, it wouldn't be too late. He could lie and say Potter had stolen his wand but that Draco had managed to get it back from him.

Were his parents worried about him? Did they even care if Draco was gone or were they more worried about losing Potter?

And what had happened to Granger and Weasley and the others? Had they managed to Apparate out, too? Did that weird light-thing allow them to?

Draco had a sudden vision of Wrackspurts, which he imagined to look like ten-legged spiders with multiple fangs, scuttling about under the bed. He pulled his covers more tightly around him. What nonsense, he thought, forcing his eyes closed.

With a frustrated sigh, Draco pulled out his wand, lit the end and leaned over the mattress to peek under the bed. Nothing. Rolling his eyes, Draco tossed his wand to the side and tried to force himself to sleep.

Draco's mind never slowed down enough for restful sleep and, instead, he spent the evening in a semi-conscious state, dreaming of Splinching and Wrackspurts and Stubby Boardman.

….

"I'm hungry," Potter complained as Draco set about trying to work the French press in the kitchen. "And my back hurts."

Draco flicked his wand and levitated Potter out of the kitchen chair and onto a small sofa in the adjoining room.

"Do you get the Daily Prophet here?" Potter asked.

"No." Draco took three mugs out of one of the cupboards and cleaned the dust out with his wand. "Tea or coffee?"

Potter shifted on the sofa. Draco had loosened the binds on the Impediment Jinx just enough to give Potter some breathing room.

And had Potter even thanked him? Of course not.

Draco's jaw tightened. "Tea or coffee?"

"Tea."

Draco rolled his eyes and abandoned the French press attempt. Why had he even bothered? He wasn't a coffee drinker, anyway. He poured some water from the kettle into one of the mugs and carried it over to Potter. "Here."

Potter reached out as if expecting to get zapped by wards, and accepted—ungratefully, in Draco's opinion—the cup.

"No thank you? Where are your manners?"

"Must have left them with my wand," Potter growled, taking a slurping sip of tea.

"Oh, don't kid yourself." Draco turned back to the kitchen to prepare some eggs. "You never had any. How do you like your eggs?"

"Fried," said Potter.

"And, yet, it still amazes me when you fail to say please." Draco cracked an egg over the edge of the frying pan the way he'd watched the house-elves do it when he was younger. As it turned out, cracking eggs was harder than Draco thought. He poked at the runny yoke with a spatula. "You're getting scrambled."

Potter let out another little sigh. "What are we doing here?"

"Waiting."

"When are we leaving?" When Draco ignored him, Potter pressed on. "You have no idea what you're doing, do you? Does Volde—"

"Shut up!" Draco spun around. "There's a Taboo on his name, you stupid arse," he hissed. "He knows you're the only idiot dumb enough to use it!"

A dull thunk came from Potter slamming his head against the armrest of the sofa. "Shit. Shit!"

"What?"

"His name." Potter squeezed his eyes shut. "I'm such an idiot. That's how they found us—the Snatchers."

"Yesterday?"

"Yeah."

Draco's eggs had cooked into a hardened pan-shaped circle. He loosened the edges with a spatula and dropped the whole mess onto a plate. "Where?" Draco asked, passing the plate to Potter. Potter eyed the eggs, unimpressed, and poked at them with the baby spoon Draco had given him to use. Draco released one of Potter's binds completely and loosened the other one to allow him to eat.

Deeming them edible, Potter sawed into the side of the egg patty with his spoon and took a bite.

Potter gave a forced smile. "Mmm." He broke off another piece.

"Better than any rubbish eggs you'd make." Draco turned away and returned to the kitchen. "Does Luna have any allergies?"

"Only to Nargles."

Draco was surprised that Potter made a joke about Luna. He would have thought him too noble. "We have Wrackspurts, apparently, but no Nargles, as far as I'm aware."

Potter gave Draco an odd look. It seemed like he was trying not to smile. "Oh. Then she'll be fine."

….

As Draco walked to Luna's room with a plate of eggs and a cup of tea, he wondered how he had found himself in the role of caretaker to two enemies.

Captor, he scolded himself. Captor, not caretaker.

Draco kicked the door open with his foot. His eyes went directly to Luna's bed. Her slight figure was difficult to distinguish amongst the pillows, sheets and down duvet and for one terrifying moment, Draco feared that she had escaped.

And when he found her blinking owlishly up at him from the wrong end of the bed, the sense of disappointment he felt was confusing.

"Good morning, Draco," she said, pleasantly.

Draco set the eggs and tea on the bedside table. When Luna began to climb over the covers to the other end, Draco put out a hand and stopped her. "You should probably stay still," he warned. "You don't want those stitches coming out."

"Don't I?" Luna asked. She pushed the covers down and peered at her swollen, sewn-up knee. The stitches were neat, but the skin around them was red-streaked and lumpy. "Will they stay in forever?"

Draco pulled up a chair to the bed and peered at her knee. He waved his wand over her leg and pretended to check her vitals. It occurred to him that he'd faked his way through a medical procedure. If Draco hadn't cleaned her wound out properly, it could have lead to a serious infection.

"Um," Draco began, "Yes, obviously. They have to hold it together, right?"

Luna tilted her head to the side and nodded. "I suppose." She poked at the stitches and sucked in a painful breath. "Since these are going to be here for the rest of my life," she mused, "I think I'd like them to look a bit more fun."

Draco waited for her to continue.

"Can you change the color?"

Draco peered at the black stitches, zipping their way up her knee. He had to admit, it wasn't pretty to look at it. The black lines and torn flesh reminded him of . . . Inferi. He shuddered. "Of course."

"Oh, how lovely," she said, bringing her hands together, happily. "Purple would be nice. Though green is good for healing. And orange is my favorite color."

Draco stared at her knee, trying to picture what it might look like in fifty years: wrinkly, saggy skin with purple stitches on it. "Wouldn't you rather pick something a bit more . . . subtle?"

"No," said Luna, "I don't think so. What's your favorite color, Draco?"

"Green."

"I like green, too. Has green always been your favorite color?"

Draco nodded. "Slytherin," he pointed out, unnecessarily.

"Ravenclaw," she said. "Perhaps I'll pick blue."

"Well, pick something," said Draco. The look of her knitted flesh was making him feel a bit queasy.

Luna frowned and shook her head. "Oh, I can't decide. There are so many lovely colors to choose from."

Draco sighed in frustration. "Whatever. Then don't pick one."

"A rainbow—that's a wonderful idea!" Luna pointed at her knee. "Red at the top, please."

Draco just looked at her.

"There are sixteen stitches in my knee and seven colors of the rainbow. I'd like two red, two orange, two yellow, two green, two blue, two indigo, two violet, one silver, one gold and . . . you can pick the last color. You're the artist."

"You're serious."

Luna nodded. "Could you pass me my tea, please?" Draco handed it to her without a word, still pinning her with a hard stare.

"What about when you're old?" he asked. "You would want rainbow stitches on old, wrinkly knees?"

Luna stopped to think about it. "Yes, I believe I'd like that."

Draco shook his head. "Whatever. Your knees." He proceeded to charm each stitch into a color of the rainbow. He picked orange for the last stitch.

"MALFOY!"

Draco looked in the direction of Potter's voice.

"MALFOY, I NEED TO PISS!"

….

"Potter," Draco growled, "you do realize there is a girl in the house, yeah?"

"So sorry to offend you," Potter was rocking back and forth and jiggling his leg. "But it just hit me and I really have to go."

"I don't trust you," Draco stated. He crossed his arms.

"Trust me or not, you're going to have a mess on your hands in about ten seconds." Potter's face was urgent. There was no faking that. The bloke was going to piss on Draco's mother's couch.

Rolling his eyes, Draco quickly released Potter, keeping his wand trained on him. "Go." Draco pointed to the only hallway. Potter got up quickly and groaned. He squeezed his legs together and braced himself with a hand on the arm of the couch. "What are you waiting for, Potter? Go!"

"Hang on, I haven't moved in a day. Give me a bloody second!" When Potter had composed himself he began tottering to the bathroom—a sort of small-stepped trot—keeping his legs squeezed together.

Potter moved to shut the door. Draco placed a hand on it and pushed his way in behind him.

"For fuck's sake, Malfoy—"

Draco crossed his arms and averted his eyes to the floor. "Just go. I'm not looking."

Potter let out a disgruntled growl and dropped his trousers and pants. Draco peeked up at his bum for a second, then looked back at the floor.

"I can tell you're looking!"

"You wish, pervert." Draco scowled.

"Me?"

"Just hurry up, will you?" Draco tapped his foot as Potter relieved himself.

"And what happens when I have to . . . you know . . . " Potter hedged, zipping up his trousers.

"When you what?" Draco asked, a look of disgust on his face.

"You're not that stupid, Malfoy. Do I have to spell it out for you?"

"I—" Draco was getting flustered. "I don't know, Potter. We'll cross that bridge when we get there."

"Well, we'll be crossing it soon." Potter eyed the toilet in longing.

"Potter—!"

"Just saying." He narrowed his eyes. "Not cut out for this, are you, Malfoy?"

"What—watching you take a shit?" asked Draco, looking at the floor. "No, Potty, I can't say that I am, but it was never one of my aspirations."

Draco kept his wand aimed at Potter as they walked back to the living room. When Potter climbed onto the couch without complaint, Draco decided to bind just one arm to the couch this time. He reached into a basket under the end table, pulled out a magazine and tossed it unceremoniously onto Potter's lap.

….

"What's a six-letter word for a four-letter word," Potter mused. Frowning, he re-read the clue. "Huh?"

"Jarvey."

Potter looked up. "No—cause it's . . . oh, wait. Oh, because the theme is magical creatures. Wait—does Jarvey have an E in it?"

Draco didn't answer. Potter picked up the quill Draco had given him when he'd expressed an interest in the crossword puzzle. Draco could see that the paper was full of scribbles and cross-outs and didn't bother to erase any of the marks. Draco felt the mistakes served as testament to Potter's mental inferiority. He thought he might hang the mess on the kitchen cooling cupboard when Potter was done with it.

"I don't like these," said Potter, trying to write with one hand while balancing the magazine on his knee. "Why can't they just say 'A six-letter word for a creature who likes to curse?'"

"Because then it wouldn't be a riddle."

"I hate riddles."

"Good thing you weren't in Ravenclaw, then," said Draco. "Or maybe not. Imagine it: The Savior of the Wizarding World, too stupid to get into his own common room."

"Hermione's good at that sort of thing," Potter mused, ignoring Draco. He paled. "Hermione."

Draco could sense guilt in the way Potter held his shoulders. "Shouldn't have said the Dark Lord's name . . . "

"Piss off, Malfoy."

"But you just had to be a rebel."

"Shut up."

"I always knew disrespect would be your downfall."

Potter glared. "He hasn't won yet."

"Yet."

"And he's not going to," said Potter in a determined voice. "Ron and Hermione . . . Dobby must have gotten them out—"

"Dobby?" Draco sat up a bit straighter.

"Er—" Potter's eyes shifted to the side. "What?"

"You said 'Dobby.' Dobby must have gotten them out."

"No . . . What? No—Rob—Robbie. I said Robbie. Robbie must have gotten them out."

"Robbie?" Draco asked, doubtfully. "Who's Robbie?"

"Yeah—it's . . . a nickname for . . . Ron."

Draco narrowed his eyes.

"You know, Ron . . . Ronny . . . Robbie . . . it's a long story," Potter assured. "You had to be there."

"I see," said Draco, frowning.

….

They read in surprisingly comfortable silence until Potter asked, "What's a six-letter word for 'the opposite of because, semi-colon, a dark creature'?"

"Oh," said Draco, turning the page of the photo album he'd been looking at, which was full of pictures from family vacations they'd had at the cottage. "And of course I'd have the answer to that one."

Potter shrugged. "The opposite of 'because' is 'why,' right?"

Draco took a sip of cold tea and winced. "Wyvern."

Potter's eyes lit up. "Ohhh. Is there a—?"

"No 'H.' Just W—Y," said Draco, "and then vern."

Potter wrote in the answer. "You should check on Luna."

"Why?" Draco scoffed. "So you can plan your big escape? You can't get out of here, you know. Only Malfoys can Apparate in and out. And don't bother trying to steal my wand. It won't work for you here without the Malfoy signature, anyway."

Rolling his eyes, Potter set the magazine to the side. The crossword puzzle was even more of a mess than Draco had anticipated. "She hasn't come out of her room."

"She can't," said Draco. "It's locked."

"Oh." Potter scowled. "Well, she hasn't asked for anything."

"Maybe that's because she doesn't need anything." Draco found himself offended by the insinuation that he couldn't properly care for Luna. Though, Potter did have a point. Draco really should check on her. But now he'd have to wait a few minutes so that it looked like it was his idea and not Potter's. "And, anyway, she's sleeping."

Potter glanced out the window at the sun high in the sky. "It's been nearly a day."

"She has to recover," said Draco. "I didn't realize you were a medical expert."

This remark was met with a flashing stare. "Playing doctor doesn't actually make you a medical expert, either, Malfoy."

"Well, I at least have more experience than you do."

"Can we not?"

"Not what?"

Potter huffed. "Never mind. Also, I need to use the bathroom again."

Draco looked up slowly from his photo album. Potter was wearing a slightly amused, defiant look on his face. Draco waved his wand. "Just go."

Surprised, Potter stepped tentatively from the couch. He seemed hesitant, at first, but after a moment he took advantage of the freedom and went directly to the bathroom.

Earlier, Draco had reinforced the wards around the bathroom and around the entire cottage. The land was unplottable, but easily accessible by a Malfoy. Potter and Luna couldn't get out and no one but Draco's parents could get in. He really hoped they wouldn't think to check the cottage but, in all honesty, the Malfoys hadn't vacationed there in years. Draco wasn't even sure how he, himself, had thought of the place so quickly.

The next few days followed much the same as the first two, with Luna making more frequent appearances in the living room as she healed.

Potter was growing restless and Draco found it extremely annoying. All Draco wanted to do was wait out the war in this damn cottage and re-emerge into high society when it was all over with. All Potter wanted to do was get out there and fight. The paradox was that Potter was one of main players in the damn war and, at some point, would have to face down the Dark Lord.

In the meantime, Draco would ensure that Potter was well rested and poorly fed for the battle.

"Do you have any games?" Luna asked one day.

She, Potter and Draco had just finished up a nearly inedible salad he'd made with unknown leafy vegetables from the back garden. As it turned out, the leaves were actually a magical herb that induced slight euphoria, commonly used in elixirs for social anxiety.

The result was that Draco, Potter and Luna kept collapsing into random fits of laughter and were engaging with each other in a manner much deeper than ever before.

"Sure," Draco said, easily. He was sitting beside Potter at a small wooden table with a bench and two chairs. Draco pointed to a cabinet in the living room. "Under there."

Luna went to stand, but Potter stopped her. "Wait, let me get it, Luna." After several minutes of putzing around Draco's living room unattended, Draco got up and followed after him.

Potter was sitting on the floor, surrounded by dusty boxes and struggling to read the directions of some game that involved dice, cards and a timer. Draco dropped to his knees beside him and started sorting through the boxes.

"Oh, look!" Draco cried, picking up a box and blowing the dust off. It was a box marked "Wizard Trivia." He and his parents used to play it together on rainy nights at the cottage.

Potter raised his eyebrows.

Draco got in control of himself and tapped on the box. "We should play this one. It's a good one."

"I won't know any of the answers," Potter complained.

"So? You can be on Luna's team." This suggestion did not seem to cheer Potter up. "Don't be a poor sport."

"You just want to play that because you know you'll win."

"Oh, stop complaining," said Draco. He stood up, pointed his wand at the boxes and sent them back into the cupboard in a neat stack.

The three sat around the table for several hours, joking and playing. Potter, as anticipated, was abysmal. Luna's answers were nearly as bad, but Potter started awarding her points for creativity. Draco allowed this since he had enough of a lead to win. In the end, Draco annihilated the competition and felt pretty good about the whole thing.

He stopped feeling good when Potter fell to the floor of the kitchen, clutching his scar in pain.

Alarmed, Draco and Luna shot to their feet. Luna sat on the floor beside Potter, repeating his name, while Draco stood awkwardly by, clutching his wand in his fist.

"GET ME MALFOY," Potter growled in a voice most unlike his own. Luna and Draco exchanged worried glances.

"What, Potter?" Draco said, his voice nearly a whisper.

Potter kicked out a leg and began thrashing violently on the floor. Draco raised his wand to cast a Full Body Bind, but Luna stopped him and told him to wait.

When Potter finally came to, he pulled himself weakly to his feet, then stumbled off in the direction of the bathroom to vomit.

"What was that?" Draco asked Luna. He'd seen Potter do something similar before. It hadn't been as scary back at school, surrounded by professors and laughing friends, but seeing it now and knowing what he did about the Dark Lord, Draco was terrified.

Luna knocked on the bathroom door. "Harry?" she called. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah," Potter called back, weakly.

Draco joined Luna at the door.

There was a flushing sound and then the sink water started running. The door opened and a very pale Potter pushed his way out.

"What the hell was that?" Draco asked.

Potter seemed to be avoiding looking at him. "Nothing."

"Did you have another vision of You-Know-Who?" asked Luna.

"What?" Draco's eyes widened. "You did?"

"Er . . . "

"Was it something about me?" Draco asked, almost desperately. "Or my parents?"

"No . . . "

"You're lying!" accused Draco, stepping back to allow Potter to pass. "You said my name."

Potter shifted. "He's looking for you." Rubbing his forehead, Potter sat back down at the table. "He's not happy you're missing."

A sick feeling rose from the pit of Draco's stomach. "Oh."

"But I think the others got out."

Draco started cleaning up the game pieces on the table, trying to busy his restless fingers. Potter and Luna said nothing else, though Draco suspected they were trying to communicate with their eyes. Whatever had happened—whatever Potter suddenly knew—it was good news for Potter and bad news for Draco. Apparently, the prisoners had escaped the manor and, in all likelihood, the Dark Lord thought Draco had helped them do it. "I'm going to bed."

"Goodnight, Draco," said Luna.

As Draco headed toward the master bedroom, he felt a presence behind him. He turned to find Potter standing over his shoulder. Draco flinched, pressing his back against the wall. "Jesus, Potter—"

"Sorry," Potter said. He looked highly uncomfortable.

"Was there something you wanted?" Draco snapped, embarrassed at his own reaction.

"Just—" he frowned. "Um, are you alright?"

Draco turned his back to him and fiddled with the doorknob. "I'm fine." Draco went to push the door open, but Potter stopped him with a hand.

"Why would You-Know-Who be mad at you?"

"I don't know," said Draco. "It was your psychotic vision, not mine. Move."

"Are you working for The Order?" Potter's voice had lowered to a whisper.

"Don't make me laugh."

"Then—" Potter shook his head and looked to the floor. "Then why are you doing this?"

Draco glared at him and pushed his arm off the door.

"You didn't identify me at the manor," Potter said. "You knew it was me."

Draco shrugged. He was feeling more uneasy with each passing second.

"And you didn't kill Dumbledore," said Potter.

Draco froze. "Of course I didn't kill Dumbledore," he said. "Snape did. Everybody knows that. Now, excuse me. You are my prisoner and I'm going to bed."

"I saw everything, Malfoy."

Draco could feel heat rising in his neck and his heart began racing. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"I saw you on the Astronomy Tower. I was there. You were supposed to kill Dumbledore, but you couldn't."

When he opened his mouth to reply, all that came out was an embarrassing choking sound. "I—" Draco focused his burning eyes on the doorknob. "What do you mean you were there?"

Potter told Draco about how he'd been silenced by Dumbledore that night and unable to move. He heard Dumbledore offer sanctuary to Draco and he saw Draco lower his wand.

So it was true. Potter had seen everything.

"So," Potter added, since Draco still wouldn't speak, "if you did take Dumbledore's offer, then you can tell me about it. Because I already know."

Draco's eyes fell shut and he couldn't stop the disgusted snort of laughter that escaped. "I am not in the Order of the Phoenix." Draco shoved by him. Potter blinked, stunned, as Draco finally slammed the door shut in his face. He collapsed onto his parents' bed.

"I don't believe you!" Potter called through the door in a singsong voice. Draco buried his head into his hands and groaned. "I'm onto you, Malfoy!"

There was a picture of their long-deceased krup, Perkis, sitting in a frame next to his parents' bed. The krup had his head tilted the side as his two tails wagged slowly. "Potter thinks I'm on his side," Draco spoke to Perkis, who barked at the sudden attention. "What a bloody idiot."

Chapter Text

The next day, Potter had another episode in which he clutched onto his head in pain, then walked out of the bathroom as pale as a ghost a few minutes later. Whatever was happening to Potter had something to do with You-Know-Who. But why would something that was bad for the Dark Lord cause Potter so much pain?

Despite the attack, Potter was in a better mood than Draco had ever seen him in.

In fact, the smiles he'd been giving Draco all throughout morning were creeping him out. It was like Potter thought he knew Draco's secret. That Draco was on their side, all along. And, really, how deluded did Potter have to be to come up with an idea like that?

Draco should exploit it, really. Use it to gain Potter's trust and then hand him over to the Dark Lord . . .

It seemed like a good idea to consider, until Draco remembered that he could hand Potter over to the Dark Lord right this very second but was, instead, buttering a piece of toast for him.

"You know, Potter," said Draco. "Since your hands haven't been bound, I really don't see why I'm still preparing your meals."

Potter laughed and took the toast from Draco, as comfortable as can be. He crunched into it and dropped down beside Luna who was reading some romance novel she'd found in the guest room. "I wanted to see how long it'd take you to notice," he admitted.

"You manipulative little shite." For some reason, Draco wasn't actually all that mad. "You'll do the cooking from now on."

"I rather liked your cooking," said Potter.

"Draco does make a fair sandwich," Luna added.

Inexplicably proud—no one had ever tried Draco's food before—Draco sat down at the table, momentarily mollified.

….

A few days later, after Luna had gone to bed, Potter was busying himself by organizing the books on the bookshelf.

Draco had told him not to bother—that as soon as the house-elves came, they'd simply undo everything he was doing—but Potter was insistent that he could come up with a better style of organizing the books.

Amused, Draco watched Potter from the kitchen. Potter would take a handful of books, organize them by color, set a few on their side and then set a vase or a pulsating light orb on top. After a good hour of this, Draco got up and stood next to Potter to survey his work.

"Why are all these books sideways?" Draco asked.

"It's a style," Potter replied. He reached forward and angled a picture of Draco in baby robes slightly to the left. "I saw it on a television program once."

"It doesn't make any sense," said Draco. "What if I want to read—" Draco paused and read the title of the book on the bottom of the pile, "'Dances with Dementors?' I'd have to knock over this photo and disrupt all of these books to get to it."

"You could use magic," Potter said, bitterly.

"But you can't," said Draco.

Potter grit his teeth. Draco was disappointed when he let the barb slide. "That's why I put rubbish like 'Dances with Dementors' on the bottom."

"Oh, ho!" said Draco, looking more closely at Potter's work. "It seems you've used a bit of thought after all."

"I did." Potter smirked.

"Which makes it all the harder," said Draco, waving his wand and setting all of the books back to rights, "when I have to do this."

"Arsehole." Potter shoved him. Draco was about to cast the Full Body Bind in retaliation, when he realized that Potter was laughing. The look on Potter's face—like they were friends or something—made Draco feel oddly comfortable. He returned the shove with his shoulder and called Potter something like a 'git.'

For the rest of the evening, Potter would try to fix the books and items when Draco wasn't looking. Draco continued to the return the books by using magic. At some point, Draco Accioed 'Dances with Dementors' and set it on the end table beside Potter. Neither boy mentioned it and neither boy moved it and, somehow, 'Dances with Dementors' became an acceptable part of the decor.

The next morning Potter made toast.

Surprised, Draco took a piece without thanking Potter—it was about time, really—and sat down at the table to eat it. When he moved to cross his feet, he kicked Potter under the table by accident. "Sorry—"

"Sorry," said Potter, at the same time. Draco pulled his feet back quickly, baffled by the sudden tension that had sprung up between them. He could feel himself blushing, and could not understand why.

Luna peeked her nose over the top of her book. She looked at Draco blushing and then at Potter who was staring at his toast. Without a word, she sank back down behind her book again.

Even still, Draco thought, it could only work to his benefit to be nice to Potter. Right?

….

"So, listen," Potter began during what had become their post-lunch reading time. He set his book to the side and fixed his face into something borderline pleasant.

Draco raised an eyebrow.

"I was thinking . . . it isn't doing anyone any good for me to be here, right?"

Draco's eyes narrowed.

"So," Potter continued, scratching his neck, "you should probably just let me go."

Without a word, Draco picked up his book again and pretended to read.

"Well, why not?" Potter asked. "You don't have to leave. I won't tell anyone you're here, I promise."

"A promise from Harry Potter," mused Draco, "now, that's something I'd trust."

"Come on, Malfoy," said Potter. "I know you don't want V—"

"Shh!"

"Sorry. You-Know-Who to win."

Irritated, Draco tossed his book down and stood up. "Have you forgotten who I am?" He flicked his wand and sent his book—and Potter's—flying back to the bookshelf across the room.

"I just—"

"How many times do I have to tell you?" Draco ran a frustrated hand through his hair. "I am not on your side."

Potter scowled. "Then why haven't you turned me in?"

Potter just wasn't getting it. And, really, it was Draco's fault. He'd been too fucking accommodating. This was why prisoners were kept in locked cells and not vacation cottages—they'd get a warped sense of superiority. Potter needed to know his place.

With a growl of frustration, Draco cast the Impediment Jinx on Potter, binding both of his hands to the armchair he'd been sitting in.

"Malfoy!" Potter looked appalled and Draco found it satisfying.

"Do you need the bathroom?" Draco asked in a cold voice.

Potter only glared, thrashing in his restraints.

"Good," said Draco. He flicked the lights off in the living room and stalked off to bed, leaving Potter bound to the chair in total darkness.

Hours later, Draco could hear whimpering coming from the living room. With a surge of guilt, he remembered how he had left Potter alone, bound in the dark.

Serves him right, he thought, but the justifying words did nothing to stop Draco from climbing out of bed to check on him.

Creeping through the dark hallway with nothing but a pair of pajama trousers and a wand, Draco felt vulnerable, which was stupid, because he was the one in charge.

In the living room, Potter's voice was much louder. He was breathing heavily and pulling on his arm restraints. Draco cast a faint Lumos so as to not startle Potter and cast the light over the twitching boy's form.

The skin around Potter's wrists was cut, red and raw, from the magical bindings. Draco didn't even know that could happen with invisible bindings but apparently it could. He bit his lip and tried to think about what to do. Unconsciously, he reached forward and touched the bindings—they felt like rope—and then ran a finger over the skin on Potter's arms that hadn't been irritated.

If he removed the bindings, Potter would think he'd won. He'd think Draco was weak and that he was in charge. He might try to get Draco to let him leave again.

And, really, what would be so wrong with that?

"Everything," Draco whispered aloud to himself. He had Potter right where he wanted him. And he was thinking about just letting him go?

"Malfoy."

Draco pulled his hand off Potter's arm as if he'd been burnt. He scrambled away at the sudden voice, pressing himself into the wall.

"What are you doing?" Potter whispered, his voice slurred with sleep.

"Go back to sleep," Draco choked back. "You're dreaming."

There was a shuffling sound on the couch and then a groan. "No, I'm not."

"I'm not letting you go," Draco said, even though Potter hadn't mentioned it again.

"Yeah, I know," snapped Potter. A slight movement made him hiss in pain. With a deep breath, Draco stepped out of the shadows and held up his wand light again. He moved toward Potter and squatted down before him, next to the armchair.

"Hold still," whispered Draco. He wasn't sure why he was whispering, but it seemed the thing to do in a dark room in the middle of the night. Draco pointed his wand at the bindings and muttered a healing spell that he knew would help with irritation.

Potter let out a sigh of relief.

"Better?" Draco asked.

"It'd be better if you just took the damn things off."

"Shut up if you want me to do the other one."

Potter did and Draco, elated with the fact that Potter had listened to him, reached up and healed the irritation on his other wrist.

"Thanks," Potter said, grudgingly.

With a rush of generosity, Draco released the bindings completely from Potter's right arm. What he hadn't expected was for Potter to be pushing against the bindings with all of his might. As a result, Potter's arm shot into the air and whacked Draco under his chin, causing him to topple down into Potter's lap.

In the confusing darkness, Draco wrestled his way off of Potter's body until he rolled off the chair and onto the floor, landing on his back. Somehow, he had dragged Potter with him and he sat in a crumpled heap, half on Draco's stomach, with his other hand still attached to the arm chair.

For a very odd, rather long moment, they stayed there. Draco could feel the rising of his own body as he breathed in and out, and the comforting, heavy presence of Potter's head, warm on his stomach.

Potter picked his head up slowly. There was just enough light in the room for the two to see each others' faces clearly. Potter had a strange look on his face that Draco was struggling to read. Either Potter was about to laugh, or he was about fight Draco, or . . .

Draco waited. Despite the fact that he was still in charge, he wanted to know what Potter would make of things.

More time passed. And they were still staring at one another. Draco had done nothing to remove himself from the situation and Potter's eyes were beginning to narrow with a look of determination.

Was he going to attack Draco?

And why the hell was Draco lying there like a paralyzed moron, waiting for it to happen?

"Potter–"

"Yeah?" Potter's voice was hushed, whispered. And suddenly Draco thought he knew what Potter was going to do. And Draco really should get up and put an end to this right now, but . . . it was so absurd. He had to know if Potter really meant for things to go . . . like that?

Surely not.

"Um . . . "

But why wasn't he doing anything? Suddenly it seemed like Potter was pulling away and maybe Draco had read him wrong.

No. No. He hadn't.

Potter was blushing now and starting to move back. In an instant, Draco reached an arm around Potter's neck, pulled him back towards him and kissed him.

Potter said nothing. Maybe it hadn't registered yet. So, Draco kissed him again.

This time, Potter inhaled sharply, then scrambled off of Draco, giving him a hard elbow in the gut. "What the fuck, Malfoy?" he breathed, trying to swing himself back on the chair with one hand still tied to it.

Angry, Draco climbed to his feet, too. He hadn't imagined it. Potter was a liar and a fucking tease. "You wanted that to happen."

Potter said nothing.

Draco didn't need to be a Legilimens to read Potter's mind— his silence said it all. He had wanted it.

Humiliated at the rejection, Draco fled from the room, berating himself for his own stupidity.

….

After speaking with Luna, Draco knew what he needed to do. As much as he didn't want to—and wasn't that saying something?—Draco had to let Potter go.

Draco was single-handedly making the war longer by keeping Potter here. People were dying, the Dark Lord was quickly taking over and, loathe as he was to admit it, they needed Potter.

Swallowing hard, Draco approached Potter in the living room of the cottage. Potter was looking away from Draco, his mouth pressed into a tight line.

Draco shut his eyes for a moment, then released Potter completely from the binds.

Potter looked up, his face pinched with confusion, as he rubbed the spot on his wrist where he'd been bound.

Draco flicked his wand to the front door. "There's a path you can follow down the hill to an Apparition point near the stream."

Potter's face was awed. "That's it?" he asked. "Just like that?" He climbed up slowly off of the couch and took a step toward the door. "What about Luna?"

Draco looked over his shoulder in the direction of Luna's room. He turned back. "She's staying here, with me."

Potter gave a slow nod, trying to comprehend. "She's a prisoner?"

Draco shook his head. "She's safer here. She needs to get well." He narrowed his eyes. "I'm not going to hurt her."

"I know." Potter frowned. "Thanks . . . I guess." He looked at the open door, then turned towards it, hesitant. "Um . . . I'll see you, Malfoy." Potter started walking. Draco caught him by the arm and stopped him.

"Potter, wait." Draco grit his teeth and tried not to think too hard about what he was doing. He held out his wand, handle forward, toward Potter. "You might need this."

Potter froze. "You're giving me your wand?"

"Just take it," Draco spat, pressing the hawthorne stick firmly into Potter's hand.

Potter pulled the wand back and looked at it. A small grin crept onto his confused face. Then he held up Draco's wand. "Lumos." A ball of light lit the tip of the wand and Potter's whole body seemed to relax for a moment.

"Real nice?" Draco asked, bitterly.

"Yeah," said Potter, fiddling with the weight of the wand in his hands. "Feels good."

"That's because it is good," said Draco, ushering Potter and his wand from the room. "Don't fuck it up and don't break it."

Potter turned back from the door, the grin slowly fading from his face. "I won't," he said, seriously. "I'll bring it back when I'm done."

"If you win, don't bother," said Draco. "I'll be in Azkaban, anyway."

"Well," Potter frowned, looking torn, "I have to win . . . "

"It was a joke," said Draco. "Sort of." With a frustrated sigh, he gave Potter a small shove. "Just go."

Potter nodded quickly, his head bouncing up and down. "Yeah," he said. "Yeah. Okay. Okay, this is it." He looked up at Draco and gave a formal sort of nod. "Malfoy."

Draco returned his nod. "Potter."

Potter nodded again and then, "Okay. Bye." Before Draco could continue the awkward, stilted conversation, Potter was racing down the hill toward the Apparition point with Draco's wand clutched in a death grip. With a feeling of finality, Draco shut the door, resetting the cottage wards. A crippling sense of dread washed over him and he pressed his back against the door, swallowing convulsively and trying to keep the feeling buried down.

"That was a very brave thing you did."

Draco's head shot up and he blinked rapidly, clearing his vision. "Now I don't have a wand." He walked across the living room, trying to ignore how strange it felt without Potter's ever-constant presence on the sofa.

Luna gave Draco a little pat on the shoulder and handed him a cup of tea. "Harry will be fine. You'll see."

Draco accepted the cup, then sat down at the table. He pushed the cup several inches away from him and suddenly he couldn't hold it in anymore. "I don't know what I'm doing," he admitted, burying his face in his hands.

Luna sat beside him.

"I'm fucking up all over the place," he choked. "The Dark Lord wants me dead. Potter is . . . " Draco rushed on before Luna could say something embarrassing, "he's run off with my wand. And I let him. I gaveit to him. When the Dark Lord finds out I . . ."

"Don't you believe that Harry can win?"

"No!" Draco let out a snort of derision, but it sounded more like a sob. "He doesn't have a fucking chance. When this is all over . . . I'm dead."

"And would that be so different than what you are now?"

Draco looked up. "Yes. I'm alive."

Luna shrugged. "If you say so. My father always said the difference between the dead and the living is that the living can make a change."

Draco resisted calling her father a nutter and waited for her to continue, as he knew she would.

"If you are dead, then things happen to you. But if you're alive, you can make things happen." Luna took a sip of her own tea. "You've been dead until today."

"I can never leave . . . "

Luna stood and dumped the last few drops of her tea in the sink. She began rinsing out her cup. "You know, I rather like it here."

"You would," huffed Draco. "You're the only person I've ever met who seems to enjoy captivity."

"I do not enjoy captivity," said Luna. "But I am fully aware, even if you haven't realized it yet, that I am not a captive here."

Draco looked at her. "Trust me that much, do you?" he spat. "Just like your pal, Potter?"

"Of course."

"I'm not on your side," Draco insisted for the hundredth time. "I know what it looks like, but . . ."

"What does it look like?"

"Like—" Draco stood and dumped his tea out with a splash. "Like I'm helping you!"

"You are helping me."

"But I wasn't helping Potter." Draco started to panic. "He's going to die out there, you know. I just sent him to die."

Luna nodded. "Yes—with your wand."

Draco's eyes widened and he brought a hand up to his mouth. "What have I done?"

"Harry is going to win, Draco."

Draco wasn't sure why the words calmed him. He only knew that their calming effect confused him even more. "Would it offend you greatly," he said, "if we got a subscription to the Prophet?"

Months had passed since Draco sent Potter off with his wand.

The only word he'd received from Potter was an anonymous Owl that came a few weeks after he'd left.

Found H. and R. H. says you're an idiot and you need to take the stitches out. Secretly, I think she was impressed. I expect you're still working out how to fry an egg. Good luck with that.

Please stay where you are. V. still looking for you. Parents are safe, as far as I know. L- dad knows you're safe.

I strangely miss it there.

Draco had tacked the letter to the cooling cupboard, next to Potter's failed attempt at completing a crossword puzzle and set about removing the stitches from Luna's leg. She'd seemed disappointed that she wouldn't get to show anyone the rainbow stitches that Draco Malfoy had created for her, but he could tell she felt much more comfortable once they'd been removed.

He and Luna had settled into a sort of routine at the cottage. Luna would make him tea with extra lemon rinds—to ward off Wrackspurts—and Draco would make breakfast. They'd read . . . maybe play some games. It still felt strange without Potter there.

Draco—and he would never admit this out loud—was grateful for Luna's company. For some reason, she made him feel safe. And she cared about him. Draco found himself thinking of her as a "friend" in his head, but he was hesitant to place his full confidence in her. He thought he could trust her, but the fact remained that she was sort of still his prisoner. And the only reason she wasn't clamoring to get out was because Potter had told her to stay.

Even still, Draco tried to pretend he and Luna were only flatmates. And it was easy to, when she was constantly asking Draco to test her on random school facts or challenge her with mental math double-digit arithmetic. It was easy to forget that he was supposed to have turned this girl back over to the Dark Lord, and was instead asking her things like, "What are the five steps one must take to become a legal Animagus?"

But his nights were filled with doubt. Doubting Luna, doubting himself. Most of all, doubting himself in regards to Potter. What had happened between them? Why had it happened? Perhaps Potter had done it all just to trick Draco.

If he had, it had worked. Draco had let him go.

With his wand.

Wandless, in a war, and the Dark Lord—and possibly Potter, too—wanted him dead.

Draco was so bloody stupid.

….

One morning in June, Draco heard Luna let out a gasp. Her hands shook as her eyes raked over the newspaper.

"What?" Draco demanded, jumping out of his seat. The front page of the newspaper had a picture of Potter, covered in blood on his knees. Around him was absolute destruction, families he sort of recognized were in groups, crying, and they were standing in . . . in . . . "Is that the Great Hall?" he whispered.

Luna answered his question by skimming through the article and picking out various phrases. "Victory for Potter. . . Wizards rejoice . . . Battle of Hogwarts . . . death toll climbs. . . "

Draco nearly tore the paper from her hands in his haste to flip to the obituary section. Along the left was a column of names of the deceased. Beside that was a list of people missing. Draco's name was on the list.

Draco read and reread the list multiple times. Death Eaters were on there . . . but his parents were not. They were alive. He was alive.

Luna made a small sound of distress. Her finger was pointing to the name "Fred Weasley." "Ron's brother," she murmured. Then, "Professor Lupin. Auror Tonks." She paused at the next name and looked at Draco. Severus Snape. "I'm sorry," she said.

Draco stared at the name, numbly.

"It's over now," she whispered.

It was. It was over.

Draco had imagined this moment for months. He'd open the door and Luna would run to the Apparition point. Then his parents would somehow know he was here and they'd Floo over and hug him and apologize and take him back home to his old life.

But his old life was gone.

Draco carefully passed the paper back to Luna. "I'm going to go for a walk," he told her. "Shall I . . . leave the door open?"

Luna answered, "That would be lovely."

Draco gave her a tight nod. "Just—don't tell anyone I'm here."

"I won't," she said. "If this land is unplottable, how will I find my way back?"

Draco just stared at her. She obviously didn't understand. "No. You can go now. You won't need to come back."

"But I like it here," Luna said. "I have to go see my father, of course. I'm afraid he's been all alone for some time and I do miss him terribly. And I should probably check on the Dirigible Plums." She looked up. "But if you're staying here, then I'd like to come visit you."

"Why?" Draco was baffled.

"Because you're my friend, of course." Luna said it without hesitation and stated it like it was a fact; like Draco had no say in the matter whatsoever.

"Oh," he said. "I'll just—I'll just set the wards to accommodate you."

Luna looked sad. "Oh, but you don't have your wand."

Blushing, Draco looked away. "Actually, they're already set to you."

"So, I could have left a long time ago?"

"I suppose you could have," said Draco.

"But you knew I wouldn't?"

Draco shook his head.

"You didn't want me to?"

Draco scowled. "Well, it's boring enough here as it is. Go off and have fun with your father and your little Gryffindor friends. You can all rejoice that the Dark Lord is dead and then lock up all the Death Eaters in prison."

"Oh, Draco," said Luna. "I will come back and see you. But I won't tell anyone you're here if you don't want me to."

"Thanks," Draco muttered. He turned and walked out the front door quickly, not wanting to watch Luna leave.

He knew she wouldn't be back.

….

EPILGOUE

The funerals had ended and the trials were coming to a close. Harry had attended Narcissa Malfoy's trial as she had lied to Voldemort on Harry's behalf. At the final battle, Narcissa had checked to see if Harry was dead. When she'd bent over him she'd whispered, "Where is Draco?"

"Safe," Harry had said.

"You have his wand."

Harry gave an imperceptible nod. Narcissa declared Harry dead and he'd gone on to win the battle.

When Harry had Apparated to Shell Cottage with Malfoy's wand, Ron and Hermione had nearly flattened him in an attempt to find out what had happened. When Hermione noticed it was Malfoy's wand, she told Harry of a conversation she'd had at Shell Cottage with Ollivander about wandlore. As it turned out, it was extremely lucky that Malfoy had given him his wand to use.

As the end of summer neared, and the post-battle ends were being tied together one by one, Harry received a desperate letter from Narcissa Malfoy.

Dear Mr. Potter,

I hope this letter finds you in good health. Since we are both aware of the sacrifice I made for you during the final battle, I think it is fair to ask you to do something for me. Tell me where Draco is. I know that you know. If he is hiding, tell him it is safe. Tell him to come home. Please.

It is one thing to be told that your son is alive. It is quite another to see it with your own eyes.

It has crossed my mind that Draco may be angry with us. Please, tell him we are both very sorry for any pain that we caused him. Tell him that we love him and miss him.

I realize that this letter must strike you as highly inappropriate, but Mr. Potter, I am out of my mind with desperation to see my son.

Sincerely,

Narcissa Malfoy

….

"Are you sure this is it?" Harry asked. Luna spun in a circle and then pointed at a path.

"Yes," she said. "It's this way."

"I can't believe you two are living together," Harry muttered.

"Draco is doing much better now that he's warding off Wrackspurts with lemon and meditation. He'll be happy you came. I think he misses you."

Harry snorted. "I doubt it."

"Take a look at the cooling cupboard if you don't believe me."

"Um . . . okay?" Harry followed Luna up a vaguely familiar path. At the top of the hill was a cottage. "I thought I wasn't supposed to see it."

Luna looked from the cottage to Harry. "So you do see the cottage," she said with a smile. "I thought you would."

Confused, Harry walked up to the door. "I thought it was unplottable."

"It is," said Luna. "Draco must have keyed the wards to recognize you."

"Did you tell him I was coming?"

"No," said Luna. "I'm going in the back to garden. You can walk right in, if you'd like."

Luna gave Harry a small wave and then followed a stone path that led to the back of the house. He looked back at the door in the front of him. Despite Luna's reassurance, he didn't think barging into Draco Malfoy's cottage unannounced was a very good idea. He knocked.

A few moments later, Malfoy opened the door. The casual expression on his face morphed into something intense, yet unreadable. He took a step back, his grey eyes large and wary.

"Er . . can I come in?" Harry asked.

Malfoy took another wordless step backward. Then his posture suddenly switched from terrified and timid to his usual careless confidence. "Congratulations on not dying, Potter." Malfoy said. "This is, what? The fourth time?"

Harry went to give Malfoy a pat on the shoulder, but Malfoy completely misinterpreted the move and instead wrapped his arms around Harry in a suffocating embrace.

"Er . . ." Harry reached his arms out and gave Malfoy a hug back. Things were not going the way he'd planned. But . . . they were going alright . . . "Glad to see you're not dead, too."

Malfoy shoved him back and crossed his arms tightly around himself. His face was bright red. "What are you doing here?" he asked the floor.

"I brought you this." Harry held the wand out for Malfoy to take it. "Thought you might need it."

Malfoy glared. "It hadn't occurred to you that I'd need it until now? The war ended two months ago."

Potter shifted, uncomfortably. "I know," he said. "There was just a lot going on . . . and a lot to think about."

"So that's the thanks I get, hmm? I give you my wand to use in the battle and you just run off and play the hero and forget all about me."

"I didn't forget all about you," Harry said with a laugh. Malfoy's behavior was confirming what he had suspected for a long time. "In fact," he said, "I have a proposition."

Malfoy narrowed his eyes.

"First of all," Harry said, "your mother is dying to see you." Malfoy's eyes lit up at the mention of his mother and Harry quickly handed over the note she'd sent him.

"Sacrifice?" Malfoy almost dropped the note. "What sacrifice?"

Harry told Malfoy all about the Final Battle and his mother's role in it. Malfoy assured Harry that he'd go see his parents soon, but Harry was having a hard time believing him.

"Also," said Harry, "I was thinking about waiting a year before finishing school." At Malfoy's blank stare, Harry asked, "Didn't you get your Hogwarts letter?"

"No." Malfoy frowned. "Isn't the school in ruins?"

"Yeah, but . . . well, anyway, they're trying to clean it up to re-open in September, but I'm not sure I want to go."

"Why didn't I get a letter?" Malfoy asked with a huff. Harry could think of a thousand good reasons why he shouldn't have gotten a letter, but the most obvious reason was that he staying on unplottable land.

"I'm sure it's at your parents' house."

"Whatever," said Malfoy. "What does your little emotional conflict have to do with me?"

Harry frowned. Fuck, but Malfoy was an arse. "I wanted to know if I could stay here with you and Luna."

Malfoy blinked. "Stay here."

"For a bit, yeah," said Harry. "I can't go to my aunt and uncle's, I don't want to go to Hogwarts and I told Ron and Hermione they could stay at my other house . . ."

"Other house."

"And it'd be weird at the Burrow and," Harry shrugged. "I knew Luna was staying here and I kind of wouldn't mind being out of London for a bit."

"So, you decided to come here," Malfoy said. "Where I kept you as a prisoner."

"Eh, you were on our side," Harry said with a dismissive wave of his hand.

Malfoy rolled his eyes. "I was not."

"You were so," said Harry, taking a step closer. "I knew it for sure that one night."

Malfoy swallowed. "Which night?"

He shoved away all traces of doubt, grabbed Malfoy by the fabric of his robes and kissed him. "That night," said Harry. Malfoy stared at Harry. When the awkward silence got to be too much, Harry pointed at the chair he'd been tied to. "Remember? In the chair?"

Malfoy looked in the direction of the chair and then back at Harry.

"Or on the floor, really?" Harry added, for clarity. "That night?"

"Did you just kiss me, Potter?"

"Yeah—but," Harry stuttered. "You did it first!"

"You wanted it," said Malfoy.

Harry was about to protest. He certainly had that night. But after four months of destroying Horcruxes and living in a tent and watching his friends and family die, he was tired of the stupid games between himself and Malfoy.

There was something there—something between the two of them. Harry had thought so, Malfoy had seen it, too. But it took Luna pulling Harry aside at Florean Fortescue's to convince him that it was something he could actually have. She had tilted her head as she sometimes did and said dreamily, "Your old room is still open, you know," and Harry had laughed in her face. But then he couldn't stop thinking about it.

"You're right," Harry said, finally. "I did." He shrugged. "I still do."

Malfoy smiled the tiniest smile. Then he stuck his nose in the air and his expression turned smug. "I knew it."

"So," Harry said, walking past Malfoy and dropping his bag on the sofa, "can I stay?" He continued on toward the kitchen, and Malfoy made a sudden urgent move, as if to stop him.

"Where are you going?" Malfoy asked, his voice far too nervous to be casual.

"Kitchen," said Harry.

"No, sit down," said Malfoy quickly. "I'll get you something. What do you want?"

Harry blinked innocently. "I just wanted to see something." He walked into the kitchen, ignoring Malfoy's feeble protests.

The cooling cupboard was completely covered in newspaper clippings about the war, but more specifically, about Harry. In the center was the note he'd written to Malfoy during the war. Beside the note, Malfoy had tacked up every one of Harry's failed attempts at completing a crossword puzzle.

He turned to look at Malfoy. The blond's cheeks were bright red. His arms were crossed tightly over his middle and there was a deep frown on his face.

"Um . . . " Harry began.

"Go on," said Malfoy, "spit it out, Potter. I'll bet you're just dying to know why I've got pictures of you on the cooling cupboard. I'm sure you think you've earned yourself another little fan. Well, you're wrong, you know. I'm living in isolation here, Potter. I need to know what's going on out there." Malfoy made an awkward move to convey "out there" with a swipe of his hand, which he quickly pulled back to the safety of his chest.

Harry pulled one of the articles off the cupboard door. "Harry Potter's Top Ten Favorite Products?"

"Shut up, Potter," Malfoy snapped, pulling the article out of Harry's hand and shoving it into the nearby silverware drawer. "Maybe I wanted to know the best way to poison you. Ever think of that?"

"You didn't know I was coming."

"I'm always ready for you," said Malfoy.

Harry smirked. "That's what I hoped." He stepped forward and kissed Malfoy again and this time Malfoy kissed him back.