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i. sept (seven)

She was only six when they first met, the very same day he turned seven.

She looked absolutely strange, wearing a light violet frock with too many bows and earrings of a plastic elephant with wings. Her light blonde hair was tied in two babyish braids with purple ribbons, and a sunflower was attached to her left wrist. She practically skipped toward him, bouncing and grinning gaily as if it were her birthday party instead of his.

He met her eyes as she stopped in front of him, and what a pair they were: large and silver-blue and pretty.

Very pretty.

"My name is Luna—"

"Princess," hissed someone behind her.

"—Princess Luna," she corrected herself, distaste flickering on her features very briefly before a smile returned to her lips. "You can just call me Luna. Or Lu. I come from Celeste."

He arched a brow. "Lu?"

She nodded with enthusiastic approval, and then tilted her head curiously at him. "Can I call you Draco? I'd like to be friends with you," she said straightforwardly, "...if that's okay, of course." Her smile is warm and sincere, but there's a hint of shyness he catches and for whatever reason he doesn't understand, he feels heat crawling up the back of his neck at the sight of it.

"...okay," he replies unsurely, though this seems to be the right decision.

Luna's eyes lit up, and it renders him speechless.

Within a minute, he found himself entangled in an embrace smelling of lavender and peppermint—a strange combination, but surprisingly pleasant.

He feels a strong gaze on him, and his eyes flickered to meet his father's from across the platform. Draco found it difficult to read his face most of the time, but among other emotions, he's learned to recognise disapproval quite easily and it was what he worried seeing.

To his relief, Lucius Malfoy did not look on him unfavourably. He did, however, have an expression Draco had not seen before. His eyebrows furrowed as he pondered over what it could possibly mean, but Luna pulled back from her embrace (he belatedly realised that his hands were splayed lightly on her shoulders, meaning that he had instinctively returned her hug) and his attention shifted back to her.

"Happy birthday, Draco," the golden-haired girl greeted brightly. She gave him a saccharine smile, and then a quick surprise kiss on his cheek.

Somewhere in the background he heard someone squeak indignantly (this girl was much too forward, Draco thought), but he was too absorbed in silver-blue irises to care about improprieties in that moment.

"Come on," she said cheerily, pulling away but clasping his hand, "I want to show you your birthday present!"

No other gift topped the silver winged stallion she gifted him that day.

 

 

ii. neuf (nine)

They sneak out to see dragons one day. It's summer, and everyone was camped out to watch the Quidditch World Cup. This year, the tournament was being held near the Valerion Dragon Sanctuary. It's a grandiose event, but entertainment aside, it also doubled as a venue for business and political discussions.

Their parents are preoccupied in a meeting when they go. Draco loves Quidditch, but it was still only the semi-finals and he was certain Fyr and Amestra will face each other off in the finals. He couldn't let Lu wander in there alone; she wanted to see the most dangerous, vicious breed of the fire-breathing reptiles ("We don't keep Hungarian Horntails in Celeste," she told him, as if that was a perfectly plausible reason to go off and observe them). While he normally trusted her to be alright, he knew she was easily distracted and dragons spelled a minimum dozen perilous situations that made him worry.

Lu was his best friend, after all. He preferred not needing to pass the title to somebody else because she died or something.

With his natural cunning and Lu's invisibility cloak replica, they reached one of the keep's watching decks without alarming detection in no time. Even the keepers seemed to be tuned into the game; the decks are mostly empty when they arrive. They go to one located somewhere in the middle of the reserve, which was rich of forests and small water systems, and was enclosed with a magical dome barrier that looked like glass.

"This is pretty cool," Draco commented, watching with genuine interest as a trio of Common Welsh Greens flew above them.

"It's fascinating," Luna agreed with awe. Spotting a Horntail in less than five minutes, she pressed her nose up against the glass, observing the sharp-tailed dragon as she played with her kids.

After a few more minutes, she detached herself from the barrier and plopped down on the floor. She opened the notebook she brought with her and started drawing.

Draco came up behind her, shadowing the pages for a second as he looked. He's quite relieved that she didn't insist on stepping out of the deck for a closer look.

"Is that for your mum?" he asked.

Luna nodded as he sat down beside her.

"Is she still sick?" Pandora Lovegood had been ill in bed for a couple of months now. She caught some epidemic while visiting the deserts of Carat; they managed to treat it before it had gone fatal, but the recovery took time, and in her case, it was a painful process.

Luna had accidentally witnessed her mother under no effect of a painkilling drought. She stopped smiling then, right until the treatment aches ceased permanently. A non-cheery Lu was alien to Draco; it was worse than seeing her cry, and that alone was saying a lot.

"She's getting better," Lu replied genuinely. "The healer said she should be fine by the end of the month."

"That's good." Lu was never very good at pretending she wasn't upset, so he was glad the smile on her face was, at least, unforced. He reckoned he should digress the discussion now, though, and so he did. "How long do you think it'll take before they notice we're gone?"

"Maybe an hour more or two," she answered calmly, still sketching. Her eyes darted off the page every now and then, hoping to capture the Horntail with as much likeness as possible. "We left them a note. They should find us quite quickly if there's any urgency."

He looked at what she had sketched so far, and then turned to what she was copying. "Nasty piece of work, aren't they?" he remarked, his nose twitching.

"Mhmm," she nodded. "They do look scarier than the other dragons, but they aren't that different—look," she pointed to them with her pencil, "they're very caring to their young."

Draco watched as the mother nuzzled her children affectionately before they got into the pond to wash.

"They're still dangerous," he pointed out. He grimaced when the adult reptile bared her teeth for a moment.

"People are, too," Luna countered easily beside him. "We just don't look as frightening."

She finished with about ten more quick strokes before closing her notebook. Placing it on her lap, she leaned her head on his shoulder. It was a habit she somehow acquired whenever they sat next to each other; Draco never quite got around to rejecting it. He didn't mind, not really – so long as it was Lu.

"Are you going to the Shacklebolts' Halloween party?" he asked randomly.

"Mummy says I could," she answered thoughtfully, "but I don't have a costume, so I don't know yet."

"You should match with mine," he offered casually, "I'm going as a Quidditch player. Father even bought me a broom a week ago so it'd look more authentic."

Lu raised an eyebrow at him amusedly. "You don't need anyone to pair with in that costume."

"You can dress up as a Snitch," he suggested mischievously.

"That does sound fun," she concurred with a laugh, and then hummed pensively about it. "Mummy can charm the wings..."

"We'll definitely win Best Costume," he goaded.

"Is there a prize?" she blinked at him.

"More candy, I think. I don't really care."

She chuckled at that, knowing a Malfoy invitation when she heard one.

"Okay," she conceded softly. "I'll pair with you. You did come with me all the way here."

"I had to," he snorted. "You'll die without me."

"You're sweet to care," she pointed out, stifling a giggle when she spotted the tips of his ears turning pink.

"You'd do the same for me," he muttered, and then suddenly felt a wave of doubt wash over him. "...right?"

"Of course – you're my best friend," she beamed, and then said nothing more as she let the silence comfortably fill in the time.

For a while, they just sat there, watching dragons fly past and observing how they behaved.

"Do you think the barrier can withstand dragon fire?" Lu asked curiously, scrutinising the glints of light she could see of the nearly invisible fence.

"It better," Draco loured. "Horntails' fire reach until fifty-feet, don't they? We'd be dragon dinner if that one decides to do anything funny in our direction."

"It won't," she reassured him. "The barrier acts like an invisibility cloak. She won't detect us at all." Of course, its durability to dragon fire was a different story altogether.

"Can we talk about something else?" Draco frowned. The way their talk was going seemed to foreshadow—

Wham!

A spark went off in his peripheral vision, and he immediately shot to his feet. A Norwegian Ridgeback had accidentally hit something — whatever it was, it caused the fence to crack. Luna quickly looked toward the direction of the Horntail, whose eyes narrowed suspiciously in their direction.

"We have to go," she said, though Draco had already grabbed her hand and sprinted toward the only entrance-exit in the deck. The tube led to a spiral set of stairs they earlier climbed, and now they were rushing to return to the bottom of it. Alarms were blaring, though they were noiseless compared to the screeching roar that resonated from above just before they felt the infrastructure quake.

It isn't until they reach the base of the stairs, where they turn to a tiny storage corner just before a dragon-keeper appeared in the hallway to see what was going on, that Lu drapes the invisibility cloak over the both of them and they catch their breath.

"That was close," Lu commented as she recovered from her panting. Her lips then curved to a half-regretful smile. "It would've been nice if we saw what color the flames were... I read somewhere that some of them breathe green fire."

Draco, finally catching his bearings, turned to scowl at her. "We almost died!" he whisper-shrieked incredulously.

"Almost," Lu smiled. Her serene demeanor somehow influenced his own nerves to calm down, although Draco still felt rather upset that they were very close to being barbecued.

"We should go back," Lu suggested, carefully watching the hallway for any aberrant activity. The sanctuary might issue an alert in the next ten minutes and she had no doubt their parents' first priority would be to check on them when they do.

Draco looked down at their still-intertwined hands, brows notching uncertainly at the sense of relief and comfort it gave. Better than nervousness, he supposed. He decided to leave it be until they were back in their camp quarters.

He nodded at her and they retraced their footsteps until they safely flooed back to the campsite. They haven't been gone very long; the note they left appeared to remain untouched, meaning nobody had noted their absence at all.

(Untrue, of course; Xenophilius knew mischief was going to happen when he noticed an invisibility cloak stowed in their luggage. He convinced Lucius the morning before not to interfere, for children should have their loosely supervised fun, and in compromise, Lucius had hired a bodyguard to watch over them in case anything went awry. Neither of their children noticed a black dog following them since they were left on their own in the playroom.)

"That was fun," Lu beamed as she plopped down by her pillow fort, clutching the notebook close to her chest. "Thanks again, Draco."

"I didn't do anything, but you're welcome," he sighed, but nonetheless smiled at her. "Can I come over to your place next week?"

"Okay!" Luna grinned widely.

Xenophilius and Lucius entered the room then, and the two scrambled to stand upright and greet them properly.

"See, Lucius," Xenophilius grinned as he walked over and ruffled his daughter's hair fondly, "I told you they'd be here."

Lucius waved him off dismissively, and slid his eyes to the young crown princess. "If you will excuse us, Princess Luna, Draco and I promised to join the Notts for dinner tonight."

"That's alright, of course," Lu replied politely, passing a smile to the Émeraudes King. The lack of fear in her eyes normally would have peeved Lucius, who quite enjoyed intimidating people, but then this was the daughter of two of the gutsiest people he knew and it was foolish to be surprised at this point.

Draco started walking to his father's side, asking, "Can I go over to Lu's place next week?"

"The standard applies, Draco," Lucius quipped. He nodded to the Lovegoods before turning his heel and exiting the room.

Draco shot a smile and a wave at Luna before trailing behind him as they made their way to their tent.

"You're really quite fond of that girl, aren't you?" Lucius remarked when they were out of the Lovegoods' earshot. The mischief was not surprising to him anymore, not really – it was his son requesting to spend time with her over watching one of his favorite Quidditch teams that stunned him as of late.

"She's my best friend," Draco replied matter-of-factly.

"I thought that that title was reserved for Blaise Zabini or Theodore Nott," his father said, glancing at him rather curiously.

"They aren't Lu," he reasoned back. He frowned as he thought over whether he should elaborate on this or not. Comparing Lu to those blokes was easy – Lu was all those nice, positive adjectives he typically disassociated with most people – but he didn't know if that would sufficiently explain why he was so attuned to her. Frankly speaking, he wasn't quite sure himself.

Lucius scrutinized his son from the side for a moment, and then ultimately dismissed the topic. It wasn't as if his son was befriending questionable peers; if anything, the princess of Celeste was more than acceptable – the girl was eccentric, but she was no less competent than any other noblewoman her age. He supposed that he wouldn't oppose a match if it came in the future, given his son's unexpected attachment to her, but for now, he would not bar their friendship.

Sincere relationships, after all, are rare and difficult to come across in politics. His son should hope that circumstances would stay in his favor.

 

 

iii. douze (twelve)

He was not leaving for Durmstrang until the day after tomorrow, so he promised to see her off instead.

She was going to Hogwarts. His mother initially wanted to enroll him there because it was nearer, but it was too sentimental a reason to suffice convincing his father. Durmstrang was more disciplinarian, elite; it performed more competently in the subjects his father deemed important for him to learn as crown prince of Émeraudes. It was geographically farther, yes, but owls were aided by messenger portals now, and one could travel to it in one jump if need be, so distance was virtually insignificant.

"Where do you think I'll be sorted to?" Luna asked, eyes scanning the station curiously. It was still early, and very few students were in sight.

"Ravenclaw," he answered without skipping a beat. Both of them agreed the sorting seemed rather unnecessary, but divisions aside, it was interesting figuring out which house each of them would belong to – even if he'd never transfer there.

"That's curious," she remarked, turning to him, "I thought you thought me daft."

"I do not," he responded indignantly.

"Not out loud," – Draco rolled his eyes – "but it's what I understand when you sometimes roll your eyes at me."

She giggled, and he scowled. It was annoying how she read him like that all the time, and then she had the gall to wonder why he'd sort her into the house of wits.

For all of her talk on magical creatures and random, far-fetched rumors, he would not discredit her intellect. Most people tended to overlook the fact that her father was a master of arithmancy and her mother was an extraordinary witch who founded innovative theories on special protection spells. Lu was not the bookish type, as most Ravenclaws apparently were, but he'd never seen her have trouble with any magic she's taught, and she tended to naturally create or perform spells she needed but hadn't formally learned yet.

(She once cast a non-verbal Accio to retrieve a fruit from a tree branch too far for her reach. It peeved him because he was the one who told her not to climb up to get it. She seemed very unimpressed when he first showed off what he learned in his first year of studies, and so he dared her to use magic any better if she could. He even offered to lend her his wand, so cockily sure that she wouldn't even know what spell to perform, but there she went denying his pride any satisfaction.)

Besides all that, he couldn't see her being sorted into the other houses. She was too sweet and honest to be in Slytherin, where he would have probably ended up in had he been enrolled in Hogwarts. She was adventurous, but not reckless or thoughtless enough to be in Gryffindor. Hufflepuff… well, she was loyal and kind – perhaps she could end up there as an alternative, but he personally thought that would be an injustice to her unconventional wit and creativity.

"I think I want to be in Ravenclaw," she murmured thoughtfully, leaning her head onto his shoulder. "I hope I make friends."

His face fell to a grimace, remembering why he was seeing her off today and why he insisted they arrive before the other students flocked in.

"You will," he assured her. Lu was a nice girl – the sweetest person he knew, really. She was blunt to a fault, sometimes creating awkwardly tensed situations people preferred to avoid, but she was the last person he could imagine to have bad intentions on anything or anyone.

"Listen, Lu—"

"You can't be friends with me anymore."

He sighed. She certainly never had a problem pointing out uncomfortable truths.

"You don't have to explain," she continued quietly, "I understand."

This doesn't surprise him; Lu was never quite as naïve as she appeared, and he knew she had at least some idea of how her kingdom was faring financially. The economy had been declining since her parents passed two years ago, and in spite of the efforts of her uncle, the younger twin brother of her mother and now acting ruler, Celeste would not finish paying its debts for at least a decade with the rate it was going. A handful of citizens were already moving out in search for immediate greener pastures, and his friendship with her somehow affected that course. Not all of them were moving to Malfoy lands, but most of them did, and the estimated strain on their resources had been troubling his father.

"Vino plans to move out in a week or two," she told him, "He wants to take care of Nimbus."

You want me to let him, was the unsaid message, but he understood all the same. Nimbus was the name he'd given the winged horse she presented to him five years ago, and he was Vino's favourite charge.

"What about Dream?" he asked.

That one was golden-haired, and it flew much more gracefully than Nimbus. It was definitely the more well-behaved one, although that might also be because it always had a better trainer and partner.

Dream was hers.

"I'll take care of her, of course. She'll be with me," Luna replied matter-of-factly.

There was no doubting that; he had yet to see a better rider than her, and he knew she loved those winged horses like they were her own blood. Dream, especially, was a gift from her late parents. She was like a sister to Lu.

"You're not mad, are you?" he asked carefully.

"Do I seem like I am?" She lifted her head from his shoulder, meeting his eyes with a calm, kind smile.

He swallowed the lump that formed in his throat. "Shouldn't you be?" He wouldn't have minded; he'd been preparing for a reaction of rage and tears since he decided to go through with his father's request.

"I don't know when we can be friends again, but I don't want to cut that possibility completely by being angry with you," she said simply. "Besides—"

Her eyes softened, still holding his. In the background, he felt the ground tremble and heard an engine roaring in the distance – the train was arriving.

"You're here," she smiled, "and you'll always be my best friend for it."

It didn't feel right to say goodbye, so he never did.

 

 

iv. quinze (fifteen)

Hogwarts was hosting the Triwizard Tournament in Draco's fifth year; the next time he saw her was in the Great Hall, two long tables in between.

She hadn't changed much, still donning bizarre accessories and unable to keep her hair in place by herself, but she'd become so thin that he wondered if she was eating properly. He knew being skinny was the trend among girls lately – there were even a handful doing diets to look good in time for the Yule Ball, his current girlfriend included – but the lack of flesh made even her eyes unappealing, and he loved her eyes. From all the girls gathered in the hall for the tournament, not a single one had a pair comparable to hers.

He thought of confronting her about it, his father's orders be damned, and then an owl from his father arrived.

Certain developments have raised concern among the members of the international council over the well-being of Celeste, it said. If Princess Luna would not mind your friendship again, then reestablish it. I expect a report in two weeks' time.

"Preposterous," he muttered, brows scrunched in irritation. He'd broken off their friendship three years ago on his father's request, and now he wanted him to reestablish it on a whim – as if it were that easy! He wouldn't be surprised if Lu had moved past sadness and felt nothing but fury for him now.

The mere task of talking her was difficult enough – he'd fight a dragon, even three, if it meant stalling. He couldn't even look her in the eye because he didn't want to see the probable contempt that was probably in there.

But… he did miss her.

He hadn't ridden Nimbus more than twice in the last three years, though Vino had kept his horse in shape. Riding reminded him of her too much, and he didn't like remembering what he broke off.

It always felt like the biggest mistake he'd done.


"Hi, Draco."

Her greeting lacked the resentment he imagined it would have; naturally, it caught him off-guard. Loosening his hold on the wand he kept in his sleeve, he scrutinised her facial expression. He'd been prepared for whatever hex she might have wanted to throw at him; he did, after all, follow her after dinner under a disillusionment charm with the hopes that she'd go some place where they could talk privately. It wouldn't have been strange if she mistook him for some stalker—which, now that he thought about it, worried him a little. Was it so obvious that it was just him or was she utterly oblivious to things like this?

"Your head is always filled with Wrackspurts," Luna explained, catching the question in his expression. "It would be dangerous if you let them fester like that. They're not very hard to drive away, you know. Just think positive thoughts."

"You're not angry," he stated, nearing her tentatively.

Luna smiled at him as if that was a silly thing to expect. "I was never mad at you. That hasn't changed."

"You know I wouldn't mind if you were – are," he said uncomfortably as he took a seat beside her. "I did a shitty thing."

His eyes scanned their surroundings, and he wondered how she found out about this patch of soft light in the woods. The grass seemed normal in daylight, but under the moonlight their tips glowed in different colours.

Of course she'd linger in places like this.

"You did what your father asked you to, and I know how much his approval means to you." She stared at him knowingly, but not unkindly. "You weren't a jerk about it, you know. That's why I couldn't resent you, even if I wanted to."

"You're too nice," he sighed. He wouldn't feel so guilty if she wasn't.

"And you're not as bad of a guy as you think are," she chuckled, bending her back and leaning her right temple on her knee as she looked at him. "Did your father take it back, or are you here of your own volition?"

"Both," he admitted. "You haven't been eating."

He held out a piece of bread he snitched from dinner earlier that evening. She was always at her table during meal times, but it didn't escape him that she never took more than three bites before she retreated from the hall.

"I didn't think you'd notice," Luna murmured. Her eyes softened at his peace offering.

"You shouldn't starve yourself," he chided gently. She took the bread from him, and she held it out in front of her lips, but hesitated from taking a bite. He cast a warning spell to entice her, but she only sighed and put it down on her lap.

Now he was certain something was wrong.

"Lu—"

"I can't," she said before he could say another word.

He paused and looked at her, waiting for her to explain.

"I might just throw it up," she grimaced guiltily. "I haven't had the appetite recently. Things… changed at home."

His eyes narrowed. "What things?"

"We're fine," Luna assured him. She heaved a deep sigh. "Uncle just hasn't been himself lately and I'm worried a great deal about him."

"What do you mean?"

"He's been drinking a lot," she replied. She paused there, seeming to mull over events that transpired, but explained nothing further. "I reckon your father's been experiencing some trouble from him," she mumbled tiredly, and then she turned to face him with a small smile. "You can tell your father that I'll take care of it."

"On an empty stomach? That'd convince him," he drawled sarcastically, narrowing his eyes at her. "Take a trip to the clinic tomorrow, or I will drag you."

"I'm not sick," she retorted, though her own tone lacked conviction.

"I'll hear it from your school nurse," he insisted as he stood up, a dark expression on his face.

He held out a hand to her, an aid which she took gratefully. Just by pulling her up he grasped an idea of how much she weighed, and it was far from what he'd consider healthy. He was quite sure that she was on her way to acquire an eating disorder if she didn't have one already.

"Can you finish at least half of that?" he asked, eyes pointing to the bread in her hand.

Luna looked at it unsurely, but nodded. When she lifted her head to look at him, her lips curved downward to a pout. "That's not quite fair," she mumbled, "You've grown taller."

At six and seven, they were the same height; at eleven and twelve, her head was higher by an inch and a half. Now, at fourteen and fifteen, he towered a good head above hers—and he hadn't stopped growing yet.

"That's what happens when you finish your meals," he riposted. The irony tasted bitter on his tongue, but he kept his worry hidden. Whatever vices Phineas had taken to, it shouldn't affect Lu this much.

"I promise I'll try," Luna said solemnly, smiling at him the way she always did—full of sincerity and warmth and gratitude and that. She always regarded him with that, he realized.

He wondered why he never noticed it before.

Luna started walking back to the castle, but took only a few steps before she stopped and glanced back at him. "It's almost curfew," she pointed out. He stared at her, and then nodded. She was still smiling when he fell into step beside her, and it felt like the world just shifted slightly beneath his feet.

 

 

v. dix-huit (eighteen)

Nobody ever truly doubted that he would graduate top of his class, and so it was no surprise that his family had already prepared to throw a ball when he did.

In true Malfoy fashion, it was grand and opulent. The ballroom was decorated in gold and green, and the feast was rich – everything from pastries to sushi to steak to fruits was on a plate, and there were about thirty kinds of drinks accessible in the roaming bar. Nearly every noble and noteworthy person in the Wizarding World was invited, and each one of them came garbed in their finest robes and sung and danced.

All but one.

"Lu's not coming?"

There was no hiding the disappointment in his expression. Part of him hoped it was just a ruse to surprise him, but the messenger shook his head and looked genuinely pained to say it.

"She suddenly felt very ill, Your Highness," he explained. "She regrets not being able to celebrate with you tonight, but she does extend her congratulations. I have handed her gift to your caretakers. It is in the pile. She hopes that you would come to like it."

"I'm sure I will," he responded blankly, though meaning it. In spite of what appearances might suggest, Lu had a knack for giving gifts. There wasn't much an affluent prince such as himself would need or want, but she always seemed to figure out what would genuinely surprise and please him.

He glanced at his personal, newly-minted bodyguards, Crabbe and Goyle, and gestured each of them to pass him two of the souvenirs laid out on the table.

"For you and Lu," he told the scrawny man, handing him four boxes of madeleines and souvenir scarves. "Tell her I'll visit her soon."

Alarm suddenly sparked in his expression. "You plan to visit, Your Highness?" he asked fearfully. "May I ask when?"

"Tomorrow afternoon, I suppose." Draco raised a brow. "Is there a problem?"

"I do not think it would be very wise to visit so soon, Your Grace," he reasoned, looking quite desperate, "I was not given the details of her illness, but it may be contagious. Even if it were not, the princess will not appreciate being seen by an important person such as yourself while she is ill."

Draco regarded him with skepticism. There was no problem with that reasoning, not really, but it was the third time this year he was refused a visit to Celeste and he was beginning to entertain the idea of trespassing in secret.

Between Lu's erratically-paced letters that never really admit anything and the recent rumors about her alcoholic uncle taking an interest in Dark Arts, it was not difficult to see that something was terribly amiss.

"Very well," he conceded, poorly concealing his disapproval. "Send Lu my regards."

The man's shoulders relaxed in relief and he bowed courteously. "Thank you, Your Highness."

Draco watched him walk away, a deep, serious concern settling over him as he hurried for the doors.

A hand clasped his forearm before his thoughts wandered farther.

"Draco." It was his mother. "The Greengrass sisters are here. Won't you come meet them?"

"I've already met them," he pointed out politely. He had met Daphne during the Yule Ball – she was Zabini's date – and he had met Astoria one winter when she and her sister went shopping in Diagon Alley.

"It wouldn't hurt to say hello," his mother insisted. He sighed inwardly, knowing that tone. Since breaking up with Pansy earlier this year, she had been trying (not very subtly) to set him up with other ladies (those who met her standards, of course).

Not that he minded it that much – he was still very open to trying out new flavors, so to speak. The only difficulty with his mother's matchmaking was that it always contained that intention for a long-term relationship, often with the tone of permanence, and that was the opposite of what he wanted at the moment. Nevertheless, he did not want to revive the argument with her on that. Shrugging his shoulders, he nodded at his mother and trailed behind her as she led him to the daughters of the duke.

He worked his usual charm, and successfully seduced the younger one to a round that night. Just one round. He never lets them stay longer after his lust is satisfied – it always kept the message clear.

But Astoria, he discovers, is still too naïve and young.


 

"She is everywhere!" he yelled frustratedly. "She appears in between my meetings, insists on taking me to worthless social functions, invites herself to join me for lunch and dinner thrice, and she offered to be my fucking dessert."

"She wants you," Zabini laughed, watching him with amusement.

"I don't want her."

"Have you told her that?"

"Of course I have!"

The dark-haired count-to-be rolled his eyes, knowing that the silver-eyed prince was anything but direct when it came to women. He had to be straightforward in this case, though; Astoria was too young and idealistic to realise that she was not as different as the others he'd seduced.

And if she knew him longer, Blaise thought bemusedly, she'd know the only exception.

There was a knock on the door, and a servant entered. "Your Grace," she greeted, bowing to both of them, and announced, "Princess Luna is here."

Speak of the devil.

"Bring her in," Draco ordered, not looking up from his seemingly tired position on the chaise.

Blaise knew him well enough to notice that his countenance relaxed rather than the opposite, however, and the reason for that walked into the room only a few seconds later.

"Oh, hello, Blaise."

"Hi, Luna," he grinned devilishly, ignoring the glare briefly aimed at his back. He cocked his head at the little person staring at him curiously from the blonde princess' arms. "So the rumours were true?" he said conspiratorially. "You stopped school because you were pregnant?"

There was the sound of something falling behind him, but he dared not look or laugh to betray the ruse.

"I didn't stop school, I'm continuing it at home," Luna corrected calmly. She smiled at him, joining him in his fun and said, "Don't you recognise your own child, Blaise? She has your eyes."

"I'm sorry, sweetheart," he said faux-repentantly, and then smoothly added, "I was too busy gazing at yours." He glanced at the baby and gave her a little wink, to which she only responded with a confused face.

Luna couldn't hold her giggles then.

"Knock it off, you two," scowled Draco as he walked over. He aimed a mild stinging hex at Blaise, who deflected it with a smug face.

It was so easy to rile him up.

"Hi, Draco," greeted Luna, smiling up at him dreamily.

Whether she was indifferent to the tension between the two of them or chose to ignore it, Blaise was unsure; her presence, however, was probably one of the few things in the world that could easily diffuse the nerves of the Wizarding World's most sought nobleman.

"I'm sorry I missed the party," she told him contritely.

"It's fine," he replied dismissively, eyeing her with concern. "Are you feeling better?"

She nodded, and then shifted so that the child in her arms leaned on her other arm. It switched its gaze from Blaise to Draco, and the latter, upon closer scrutiny, found that her eyes were definitely as dark as the former's. An irrational worry bubbled in his chest.

"Who's this?" he finally asked.

"Her name is Daisy. I met her mother in the hospital and offered to babysit for the day," Luna explained cheerfully. She nudged Daisy so that she looked at her, and showed her a big, silly smile – mouth open, eyes wide and twinkling.

The baby laughed and waved her hands happily.

"She's adorable," Blaise cooed, "How old is she?"

"You were in the hospital?" Draco asked, sending a brief annoyed look at Zabini for flirting instead of asking the more important questions.

"She's nine months old," Lu answered as she gave Daisy's nose a quick poke with her own, "and yes, I visited St. Mungo's for a check-up this morning."

Daisy giggled and kissed her chin.

"And?" Draco prodded.

"And I'm fine, I promise," she said reassuringly, meeting his eyes with a smile. "I wouldn't be here if I weren't."

She doesn't elaborate, as usual, and she wouldn't.

Not while I'm here at least, Zabini thought knowingly. He'd seen it when they were much younger, but he never expected it would last this long.

Those who didn't know them then typically surmised it was a relationship founded on politics. Celeste was experiencing problems, but it was a rich land. You wouldn't find winged horses elsewhere in the Wizarding World, and based on the few times he'd seen Draco's Nimbus and Luna's Dream, they were an undeniable wonder, and they were just one species from many. Celeste was a haven for magical creatures, and the myths of its origins spoke of unique power reserves. The Malfoys wouldn't mind increasing their resources, if not their territory. They had more than enough to give Celeste what the latter needed in exchange.

But, fact of the matter was, it wasn't that all. That much was palpable after you spend enough time watching the two of them. They weren't particularly together all the time, having been in different schools and different years, not to mention being heirs to different kingdoms, but when they were...

Draco was never… affectionate in general, but the sentiment was strikingly evident where she was involved. He didn't explicitly dote on her, but you could just see how much he treasured her. His expressions were softer, unguarded; his concern was always genuine, full.

He never looked at anyone the way he did Luna. He never would.

And that is exactly what Astoria needs to see.

"Well then," Blaise started, drawing the attention of the taller blonde. Lu was still making faces at little Daisy, who was watching her with joyous fascination. "I'll take my leave now," he announced. He was quite sure his presence was unwanted while the prince's favourite was in the room.

"Tomorrow, at four," Draco simply reminded him. Blaise nodded.

"See you around, Blaise," said Luna.

"See you, Princess," he winked. He was grinning as he turned his heel and exited the room.

Daisy squealed, demanding their attention back.

Luna promptly planted a kiss on her cheek, and Daisy happily chattered and wrapped her little arms around her neck as best they could, resting her head right above her collarbone.

"Would you please stop this flirting talk with Blaise?" Draco asked frustratedly, "It's making me uncomfortable."

"Don't worry," she assured him as she made her way to the couch. Draco followed and sat next to her. "We both know it's not real."

"Doesn't mean it can't be," he mumbled under his breath. He stared at the blonde head nestled in her shoulder and remembered the kid's dark brown eyes, how he'd felt in that moment imagining what if—what if it hadn't been a jest.

"It won't be," Lu replied. His eyes snapped back to meet hers again and she smiled. "I'm quite sure Blaise is smitten with someone else."

Draco snorted. "Blaise doesn't commit," he reminded her.

"That's what he's trying to convince himself," she told him confidently.

She switched the baby to her other hand again and leaned her head against his shoulder. He wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her closer so that her head rested against the left side of his chest instead.

"You know, I was going to invite you to ride with me today," she shared offhandedly, "but then I saw Vino on my way here, and he told me that Nimbus got injured."

"An archer grazed him with an arrow during practice."

"Why would he be near the archery range?"

Draco frowned, and then admitted, "Because the archer was me."

Lu lifted her head to look at him. "When did you get into archery?" she asked disbelievingly.

"I was only trying it out," he said in defense. "I stopped after that, believe me. It's not my sport."

"Nimbus must hate you right now," she remarked, her silly grin returning to place.

"He hasn't let me on his back in two weeks."

Lu laughed, and the sound prompted giggles from Daisy, too. In spite of it being at his expense, Draco found it difficult to be genuinely peeved.

"I'm sure he'll come around," said Lu. She turned to little Daisy again, cooing, "Isn't that right, Daisy?"

"Ba!"

"We could still go flying," Draco suggested amusedly. "You just have to give me the kid so Nimbus doesn't throw me off."

"No, she's too young. Her mother might not like it." Lu smiled and leaned back on him again. She closed her eyes, relaxing, and said simply, "This is fine."

—And it was, Draco agreed. Right now, it felt as if the rest of the world didn't exist. It was just him and Lu… and the baby, but she was no problem. He was still holding Lu, and that was all that mattered.

He closed his eyes and just breathed.

The questions running in his mind could wait a while longer.


 

Blaise's hypothesis is proven right sooner than he realizes.

Astoria arrived in front of the study's door later that afternoon. She is with the servant escorting her, but neither of them make a move to knock.

There is shouting on the other side.

"That fucking bastard!"

They heard something akin to a small explosion. A baby cries. Instinctively, forgetting protocol and absorbed with fretful concern, the servant opened the door without knocking and stepped in.

Astoria held her breath and stayed in the shadows, listening.

"Is everything alright, Your Highness?"

A gentle, dreamy voice responds.

Astoria froze, and abruptly, Daphne's voice echoed in her mind.

You'll never be satisfied with him.

The servant returned not a moment later, carrying a sniffling babe with blonde hair and dark eyes.

"I apologize, Lady Greengrass," she said. "His Highness is not in a disposition to further accept guests. Perhaps you can come back tomorrow."

She nodded stiffly. There's a moment of pause, and she realised the shouting had ceased. No more violent shudders.

She side-stepped the servant and peeked inside.

Stop this nonsense, Astoria.

She is striking, both in the way most women would want to be and in a way they wouldn't. Astoria cannot fathom it, not fully, but she had imagined… she had imagined Draco to look at her like that.

—He never did. Not in the last couple of days. Not that night.

She could tell from where she stood that his attention was solely directed to the girl. His gaze wandered nowhere else. He's breathing heavily and his expression is thunderous, but it isn't without… that. The girl with silver-blue eyes gazed back steadily without saying a word.

He never meant anything when he slept with you.

When he moved toward her, Astoria thought he would be going for a kiss—but he doesn't. He just wraps his arms around her lithe frame, settling his head on the crook of her neck and shoulder, face buried in her long, blonde locks, and just breathes her in. The girl hugs him back with an expression she cannot see.

Everyone else knows he's in love with someone else.

Astoria stepped back into the shadows and turned. She did not need to see more. She did not want to.

The heartbreak is too fresh.

 

 

vi. vingt-deux (twenty-two)

Twenty-first birthdays were rather significant in the Wizarding World, marking the day when one no longer becomes of minor age and transitions into the beginnings of full accountability and responsibility.

"Bloody hell," muttered the young Theodore Nott as he entered the room. "You suddenly cancelled your schedule today for this?"

"Fuck off," Draco retorted crudely. The stress and dilemma is plain across his face as he cut his eyes back to the catalogues, magazines, and books scattered all over the floor of his office.

"He's in a bit of a pinch," Crabbe supplied as he closed the door behind him. "He forgot Lady Luna's birthday is in three days."

"That's Princess Luna to you, Vincent," Draco chastises irrelevantly, not looking up from the Witch Weekly magazine he was inspecting. Crabbe merely shrugs his shoulders—the princess of Celeste never cared much about titles. She told him and Goyle herself.

Theodore swept his gaze across the room and landed on Zabini, who's casually drinking tea and watching their blonde friend sort out the royal problem he's dug for himself.

"Just go with my suggestion," he says insistently out of nowhere.

"I am not getting Lu another dress or jewelry," Draco retorted. He closed the Witch Weekly magazine – it didn't suggest anything else, other than how colors of stones could mean when you gift them, which is frankly just sentimental bullshit – and grabbed the WizTech catalogue.

"I wasn't talking about that when I said something to wear," Blaise scoffed. "You think she wouldn't have gotten the message after you've been gifting her a decent wardrobe update every bloody Christmas."

Draco finally looks up and scowls at him. "Then what?"

"Lingerie."

Draco promptly shot a hex that didn't miss.

He asked for it, Theo thought, shaking his head.

Blaise appeared to not care. He just passed an exasperated look to him, and that told enough.

"You know," Theo started carefully. Draco doesn't look up, sifting through the pages of the catalogue. Theo cleared his throat and continued, "Luna would like anything you give her. She's not hard to please."

"You think I don't know that? I've known her for fifteen years," Draco riposted sharply. There's a flash of uncertainty in his eyes when he continues, his voice only a tad bit softer, "That isn't the point."

The four other boys in the room exchange a meaningful look. Most days, the crown prince was difficult to read; the only time his guard is down is when the situation involved her, and given that a certain other prince had started hanging out with her lately…

Well, it would certainly explain many things.

"You could try something less conventional," Theo suggested tentatively, "like flowers."

"It's her birthday, not a fucking hospital visit," Draco deadpanned.

Theo flinched at his tone, but rearranged his thoughts and clarified, "I meant rare flowers. You know, like the light-rimmed roses or the winter tulips or"—a memory pops into mind—"the Solaris. Didn't she mention she'd always wanted to see that one?"

"The Solaris is an extinct flora, Nott," he replied dismissively without looking up.

"Endangered, not extinct," Theo corrected, elaborating, "Someone from the Quibbler reported spotting some in the Corvus mountains. It shouldn't take you more than a day through the Floo network."

"You've been reading the Quibbler?" Blaise asked, incredulous. "You believe that shit?"

"It's an official workbook for Unspeakable trainees," he informed him in a miffed tone. "The information sounds gibberish until you crack the code. It takes me a day to read one article, but it also used to take me a week. Luna gets it in minutes."

"So that's why she sends you letters every Sunday," Goyle mumbled in fascination.

Theo whirled around and gave him a look of surprise and suspicion. (How on earth did he know that?) Goyle just shrugged, explaining, "Elf network. Mimsy heard it from Mash. He mentioned it once, about a month ago."

It wasn't as if it was a secret. Neither of them just hadn't mentioned it. Goyle probably forgot on his part, and Theo had been too busy with training and his own personal affairs to find it worth sharing.

His mistake, if the menacing glare pointed at them was any indication.

"Yes, well, her father was the former editor-in-chief," he coughed defensively before turning back to them. "She grew up reading it even after it was bought by the Scamanders. I asked her to help me decode it once, and the correspondence just continued from there…"

Theo thought it wouldn't be the best moment to confess that their weekly correspondence had dropped from Quibbler conversations to him asking advice about a certain daughter of an earl he'd been interested in lately.

"Anyway," he says, shrugging his shoulders in an attempt to return to a more casual, less threatening atmosphere, "Luna would be absolutely thrilled if you got her the flower. It was painted all over their castle, wasn't it? You give it to her and she'd be able to breed the real thing. She could even make money out of it."

(Or not, given she never cared about that sort of thing personally, but she did care about her kingdom a great deal and if it would help, she'd make it happen.)

He sensed the blonde's growing interest, but also his hesitation—after all, it might be too much of an effort from a mere friend (he scoffed inwardly, because that was a consequence of Malfoy's stubborn denial more than anything) to go all the way to Corvus and search mountain ranges for a flower that may not even be there—so he decided to utilize another approach.

"I think," he continued cautiously, "she'd love it more than the Obsidian statuette Potter plans to give her."

Blaise immediately caught his drift and gives him a smirk the Malfoy Prince can't see.

"Potter's giving her an Obsidian statue?" he asked in pure amusement. "Of what? His pompous ass?"

"I'm sure he's commissioned that for himself," Theo grinned. "But no, from the owls I've intercepted" —under the guise of gathering intellect for his 'training'; Malfoy owes him so much for hearing this from him— "I hear it's going to be shaped like a Niffler, holding out a ring."

The last part is a lie (the receipts he read explicitly stated that it was going to be a sunflower) but it gives the push their ever non-confrontational friend needed.

"Nott," he says. His tone is commanding, his expression resolute. "Give me all the information you can find about this flower. Take tomorrow off. You're coming with me."


 

The owls arrived in the morning of the thirteenth. The party - the first one she'd ever decided to hold since her parents died - was abruptly cancelled. The only reason laid out was that they decided to transfer all the preparations to a Valentine's Day party of some orphanage south of Celeste. It's believable, of course; Luna had grown some sort of reputation with charitable acts and she gave the impression of someone who often changed her mind.

Draco had known her too long to buy the bullshit.

He stowed his gift in a satchel – it's encased in magical glass, of course – and rode Nimbus to Celeste. He doesn't send a warning owl, but he doesn't storm in front either. Instead, he directs Nimbus to land by the usual place near Luna's quarters.

Wilhelmina emerges from the stables and meets him, her expression unsurprised at his appearance, but grave.

Skipping the pleasantries, he demanded, "What happened?"

"His Grace decided to give Her Highness a birthday present," she started. It sounded so innocent and unproblematic, but she continued, "As the Council has successfully prohibited him from spending anything and given the princess full financial authority since last month, he decided to give… something handmade."

Draco's eyes darkened.

"He decided to give her a wall mount." She looked down, and the next words seemed to break her heart as much as it did to her princess. "Dream is dead, Your Highness."

A beat passes - just one to comprehend it - and then his face contorts into pure, unadulterated fury.

"Where's Lu?"

"In her room, Your Highness," Wilhelmina answers. "She has not stepped out since yesterday night."

"Has she eaten?"

Wilhelmina shook her head.

Draco looked as if he were channeling his namesake as he grabbed the satchel and cast a protective spell on Nimbus. He exchanged a wordless order with Wilhelmina to watch over him before storming off to the direction of Luna's quarters.


 

There is a lock on the door, but nothing really happened when his hand touched the handle, so he impulsively stormed in without any kind of announcement.

The chamber was empty.

He had half a mind concluding she wasn't here and another half already listing down all the possible locations she could be in, but then he heard the sound of a splash, and his shoulders sagged in relief. She was in the bathroom.

He decided to sit on the bed and wait.

It doesn't take very long. In ten minutes, the bathroom door opened and Lu emerged from it, clad in a thick, fluffy robe in pink with matching slippers. She doesn't notice him as she walked over to the wardrobe, head down and patting her hair dry. He's contemplating what he should say to announce her presence, because she's unusually insensitive to her surroundings at the moment, but then she suddenly, very casually, drops her robe and his mouth ran dry.

It wasn't as if he had never… imagined her like that. Truth of the matter was that his thoughts wandered more often than he'd care to admit, but he was often able to restrain them from escalating into something more than ghosts and dreams. It was easier when she wasn't around, or when they weren't alone in a single space; he never wanted to make her feel uncomfortable, or do anything that might jeopardize their relationship, because damn it, she's his best friend and he had to look away, before—

"Oh!"

Lu had turned around and finally caught sight of him. She was clutching the small towel to her body, covering what little parts it could. Her face is a mix of shocked, terrified, uncertainty, and somehow, a little bit of... relief?

"Please don't scare me like that," she said softly, sounding neither cold nor angry. "I thought you were Uncle Phineas."

And just like that, the heat that built up inside him shifted to a kind more akin to rage.

"What do you mean?" He stood up and walked toward her. "Lu—" he stopped a foot in front of her, his stern demeanor broken when his voice cracks, "—did he touch you?"

"No."

There was no doubt or lie in the way she said it or in the way she faced him.

It wasn't enough.

"Lu," he tried again, "did he try?"

Her eyes dropped to the floor, and that was all the answer he needed.

I will fucking kill him.

He'd seen a lot in the past years, but this... this was the tipping point. The last fucking straw. The only thing that kept him from storming out of this room and hunting the bastard down was—

"Draco," Lu called quietly, still looking away from him. She tightened her grip on the towel, and pink was beginning to color her face. "Can I… um… can you…"

It's the first time he ever heard her stutter. It's the first time he'd ever seen her so openly shy and nervous, and holy fucking hell, it was the worst time to feel heat.

He tried to look away the moment he found himself wishing for her to drop the towel, but the most he's able to do is look above her collarbones, and her neck isn't exactly a safely asexual spot either. Her eyes are darting to and fro him and the floor, and fuck, she's so fucking beautiful.

"Draco," she tried again, and he's already berating himself for not turning away and letting her dress. He is an asshole, damn it all. He can't keep his eyes away because he didn't want—

"Please touch me."

He froze.

"Please touch me," Lu repeated a little more determinedly. Her breath is shaky and she is still looking away, and there is a twinge of desperation in her voice. "I just... I want to… "

She lifted her eyes to meet his.

"Please?"

He couldn't say no.


 

He is her first.

He knew it the moment his lips slanted over hers. For the briefest moment he felt her freeze, unsure of what to do, and then she surrendered, melting in his arms. He brought her to the bed without parting their lips, and then he dragged his own down and down and down

She writhed and arched and moaned beneath him, and it drove him on. More, more, more – there was an unsaid limit there, he was sure, but he didn't want to stop.

So he didn't.


 

He's holding her flushed against him after. He doesn't know how many hours had gone by, how many rounds they've done, but the stars were shining outside the window now, and he felt a strange sort of contentment and peace all the same watching them with her.

Some hundred or so heartbeats pass before Lu breaks the silence.

"Thank you," she whispered softly.

He smiled and kissed her forehead.

She angled her head to look at him. "This doesn't have to change anything," she said worriedly. "You don't have to do it again. I won't ask you to, I promise."

He traced a finger down her spine, making her shiver. "Don't be silly." He planted another kiss on her lips. "I'll always want you."

It was true before. It was still true now, and he shifted, pushing his length against her thigh to prove it. She squirmed shyly, and then determinedly pushed herself up, legs on either side of him, carefully avoiding touch, and hands on either side of his head.

"Draco."

She sounded like she was about to reason with him, tell him that he can't know that, that he'll probably want someone else after he gets tired of her. She doesn't know, of course, that he always looked forward to seeing her the most, that there were nights he lied awake just thinking of her, debating on what he should do with his feelings, doubting they would ever cross over to where they were now.

But here they were, and he didn't want them to go back.

"Don't you want me?" he asked.

The question predictably catches her off-guard; she stiffened, and the blush returns to her face. As she mulled over an answer he didn't need, he reaches a hand to her bum and pulls it down until her slit brushes back against the tip of his manhood, drawing a gasp.

"Lu," he says, almost pleading, "Let me in."

She stared at him, silver-blue eyes swimming with emotion – that, he recognizes, that was still there, and it made his heart swell.

He almost misses the small nod and smile before she leans in and kisses him. He kisses back, and then closed the gap between them. He pulled her down and thrusted his hips upward at the same time. He pushed himself to a sitting position, going as deep as he could. She moans into his mouth, hands running through his hair.

His own hands run through the inside of her thighs to her knees, pushing them farther apart. He knows she wants to wrap them around him, but there is a different pleasure in wide stances; she bucks her hips involuntarily at the sensation, shivering, and he moves his mouth to her neck and nips at the skin.

Someone knocks at the door.

"M'lady, dinner is ready."

Draco doesn't really hear it; Lu's hands are pressed near his ears as his lips closed around a breast.

"M'lady?"

His palms move back along her thighs, stopping at her hips. He pressed his thumbs down near the bundle of nerves in between just as he gives another upward thrust.

Lu whimpered.

"M'lady?"

"Leave it there, please!" Her voice ends in a strangled note. Draco had switched breasts and she held his head closer, her hair curtaining over them.

There's a sound of metal clicking on the floor, and then footsteps fading away. It's only then that Draco reaches for even just the tip of his wand on the bedside table, and casts a non-verbal Silencioon the walls.

And then he thrusts up, palms going back to her knees, and pushes her back down on the bed without preamble.

Luna screams, arching, and he takes a moment to just stare at all that was bared before him.

And then his lips are back on hers. He pounds into her, hard and fast and thick; she comes first, body convulsing around him. It's tight and warm and wonderful. It's not long until he's spilling his release into her all over again.

He groans and kisses her again before plopping back on top of her. There's a moment where both of them simply breathe.

Draco shifted slightly, pulling her torso sideways with a leg bunched up by her hip, and turned his head to face her. He lifts a hand to caress the other side of her face, fingers running lightly across her cheek. Her eyes met his and he can't help the small grin on his face.

"Happy birthday, Lu," he says simply, genuinely.

Her dazed look disappears, replaced by a dreamy, flushed smile. He doesn't think he's ever seen her more beautiful, although he also thinks this won't be the superlative moment. He hopes it won't. He is her first—

He leans in for another kiss, thinking he'll never tire of this.

—and he hopes, he promises, that he will be her last.

 

 

vii. vingt-trois (twenty-three)

"If you are too preoccupied with thoughts of Miss Lovegood, then it is advisable that you finish here for today," Severus suggested without looking up from the book he was scanning. His stern, deep voice dragged the young Malfoy out of his reverie, though his message took another moment to sink in.

"Sorry, Uncle Sev," he apologized listlessly, heaving a deep sigh as he straightened his spine and attempted to get back to work.

"You are distracted," the dark-haired advisor pointed out again. This time his eyes glanced at his godson with a faint hint of interest. "And you did not deny that you are thinking of the princess."

"That's because I was," Draco admitted, confiding, "I was thinking of making my courtship public."

"Your mother will be pleased," Severus replied assuredly, "and despite appearances, your father is fond of her."

"My father meddles in my relationships when it's politically inconvenient," Draco pointed out rather resentfully. He had grown wanting his approval less as he grew older, though that had very little to do with his relationship with Lu. He didn't want to be in anyone's shadow—especially not his father's.

"Your father was trying to protect you," Severus answered easily. "Phineas may have not been as difficult as he is now, but he was never the strong-minded twin even before. He does not perform well under pressure, and he would have used your relationship as leverage in negotiations if the circumstances were desperate, and they were."

Draco grumbled; it was a fair point, but it didn't mean he had to like it.

"Regardless, your parents aren't blind," he added, the ghost of a smirk on his lips. "She is a lovely girl, and you have always been fond of her."

Eyebrows knit, a flush rushed to the back of Draco's neck. "Are you saying my parents expected me to—"

"To court her, yes," he affirmed. "It would not have been surprising. What is unexpected is that it took you this long to realize your affections."

"No, I realized it sooner," Draco corrected morosely. "I just chose not to act on it."

Severus regarded him carefully. "And what made you change your mind?"

"Her uncle," deadpanned the blonde with a scowl.

He needn't say more, as Severus already understood. Rumors of the man's darkening behavior have persisted over the years, and there was no smoke without fire. The International Wizarding Council had wanted to put it out for some time now; they had even gone so far as to think of breaking ties, if not imposing severely austere actions, to discipline the roguish king when hearsay spoke of him practicing forbidden arts—but there was no evidence, and mere traces were insufficient to conclude a case. Even the testimonies of his own niece would not hold in court by mere virtue of their kinship.

It was a testament to the princess' character, however, that she managed to endure for as long as she could.

"Publicizing your courtship will not move Phineas, even if you intend to marry the princess," Severus advised. "It is an option that will keep her safe, as you wish, but she will not take it if it means abandoning her country."

"I'm aware of that," Draco said pointedly as he stood up and walked to the windows, gazing contemplatively at the gardens.

A heartbeat passes before he says, "I can't have Lu without taking Celeste."

Severus turned, scrutinizing him in mild surprise. He had not foreseen this, and he doubted anyone else had, but there was no incertitude in the way his godson carried himself – not in his posture, not in his eyes. He looked quite like his father in that moment: regal and unyielding.

He was willing to wage war.

Severus hoped he would never need to.


 

Most nights since that first, he spends with her. Today was supposedly no exception – he rode Nimbus to Celeste after finishing work and dinner, and he strolled in her room with every intention of keeping her body as close to his as possible.

He had not anticipated extra company that night.

Especially not Prince Potter and friends.

"Malfoy."

It's a civil greeting of acknowledgment, albeit one delivered with a mutual displeasure.

Draco walked to Lu's side in three brisk strides and stared the five down with warning. He did not return the greeting, instead stepping slightly in front of Lu, prepared to shield her should they try anything funny.

The red-headed weasel scoffed at the implied notion, and Draco responded with a menacing glare.

"Harry was about to tell me something," Lu supplied softly before he could ask, reaching a hand out to intertwine with his. "He insisted that we discuss it privately."

In secret, he meant. Draco was no fool and he wouldn't let anyone else but Lu prove otherwise.

"You can start now, Harry," Lu encouraged in that dreamy voice of hers. "I trust Draco."

Harry looked uncertain still, and turned to his friends for their guidance. He nodded at the bushy-haired brunette who took over for him. Hermione Granger was a commoner who rose above the ranks in Hogwarts by talent and diligence; she was rather well-known for it, though Draco had long distinguished her as the insufferable smartass who drunkenly stumbled in his room instead of Krum's.

"We're sorry, Your Highness, but will you let us see if he is the real prince first?"

She was addressing Lu, but the implication made Draco bristle.

"I am the real deal, Granger," he spat venomously, "or do you need me to reveal what you nearly did in fifth year?"

"That won't be necessary," the bushy-haired witch retorted, returning the glare.

He wondered if it'd be better blackmail material if he hinted that Lu had been in the same room the whole time. She was asleep, admittedly - he'd gotten her to let him help her with her Potions homework, which had been a ruse to slip her a sleeping drought only because she stubbornly refused to rest - but she didn't need to know that.

Hermione held her hand out beside her, and Neville promptly placed a small potions bottle filled with some golden liquid in her palm. She held it out to him, instructing, "You just need to drink this."

Draco eyed it distrustingly and made no move to take it.

"It's not poison," Ginny chirped.

"It is for snakes," her brother added unnecessarily, earning an elbow hit to his ribs.

"Nothing will happen to you," Harry assured flatly.

"What the bloody hell is it then?" Draco demanded.

"We can't tell you until you've taken it," Hermione told him unhelpfully.

"You expect me to bet my life on a bloody trust exercise?" he glowered. Fucking Gryffindors. This was one of those times he wished Lu was more selective in choosing friends, be a little less—

"It won't hurt y—princess!"

—trusting.

"Luna!"

His admonishment falls on deaf ears and lost time; Lu had already swiped the bottle and taken a sip.

A minute passes in silence, all of them staring at the petite princess in anticipation.

Nothing happens.

"It tastes sweet," remarked Luna, scrutinizing the liquid curiously one more time before she turned back to Draco and simply held the bottle out to him in encouragement.

He looked at her in disbelief, but said no other word and followed her lead. He trusted her a thousand times more than this lot of liberal misfits, and if something happened to her, at least she wouldn't be alone to suffer it.

Another minute passes; again, nothing happens.

"You are the real Malfoy," grumbled Ron, sounding half-pleased and half-annoyed at the same time.

"And you are a real git, Weasel," Draco retorted, redirecting his glare to the ginger's beau. "What the bloody hell was this supposed to prove?"

"That you are the real Malfoy," Granger replied exasperatedly.

"It's a concentrated serum from the pulp of the Solaris," Neville explained, turning to look at Luna. She had been the one to commission him to help reproduce the flora and research on its magical properties. "It nullifies every kind of deceitful or illusory magic – glamours, polyjuice…it also cleans blemishes."

"And it clears eyesight," Ginny added, darting her eyes to the only brunet in the room whose trademark glasses were no longer perched on his nose.

"That is astounding," Luna commented excitedly, turning to look at the bottle Draco was still holding. Her eyes sparkled in fascination, a sign that she was quite lost in her own world for a moment.

Harry smiled a little at that; he had never understood why some of his peers, two of them standing next to him right now, admitted crushing on the odd girl in the past until she showed the same face a year ago. He even foolishly thought that he would be the exception.

Watching the way her eyes lit when they lifted to meet another silver pair was a cogent reminder of why he wasn't.

"Outstanding discovery this is and all," Draco remarked as he returned to glaring at them suspiciously, "but I don't see how this warrants a private discussion at this hour."

Why it had to be this annoying prick, Harry would never understand.

"We had another discovery," he started to explain, locking his eyes with Luna's. His voice softened as he continued, "We found something in the outskirts of Eorthé…"


 

Bones.

One of the dragons they were bringing to the Weasley Keep had dug it up. They were human bones, adult-sized, and they had been buried for a little over nine years, according to the tests. It had hair, still, and each and every strand of it matched the records of someone who was still alive—or at least, that was what most of them had believed before.

Not a single test came back with a different result, and the Solaris serum only proved the death as truth when it dispelled the deceit and revealed a false king.

Celeste had lost Phineas Vasiliev a long, long time ago.


 

"Don't kill him."

The soft plea caught him off-guard.

Draco looked at the woman beneath him in bewilderment.

"What?"

"Tom Riddle," Luna clarified, cupping his cheek with one hand as she felt him tense at the name. "Please don't kill him."

His irises darkened with a swirl of antagonism and disbelief. Moving slightly so that his weight rested more comfortably on his elbows, he reminded her, "He posed as your uncle for years. He slowed every effort your people made to recover financially. He practiced the Dark Arts behind your back. He killed your uncle. He killed Dream."

He paused there, noticing her eyes soften. The death of her winged horse was still a fresh wound – she had loved and cared for Dream long before they even met – and it had only been a few weeks since she mourned the death of her true uncle. She had thought him alive in the last nine years and loved the stranger in his stead as best as she could, no matter how difficult he made it for her.

"He hurt you," he continued, his voice falling to a near whisper. The bloodlust stayed in his eyes, unyielding. "I can't forgive him, Lu. I won't."

He had broken her too much, too many times.

"I'm not asking you to," she murmured. She brushed a stray strand of hair away from his face, and said, "Killing does horrible things to a person. I don't want you to…"

He cut her off with a kiss and a thrust; she shuddered, feeling the heat build up again, but did not acquiesce to drop the conversation.

"You don't have to," she insisted a little breathlessly. She brought her other hand to his other cheek, holding his face to hers when he pulled away. His forehead rested on hers, their lips a mere inch apart. "You don't have to kill," she repeated.

"He'll come after you." It was clear the moment he realized that she had tricked him into drinking the serum. He wouldn't just hurt her, Draco knew. The man aimed a killing curse at her before he fled, and if he hadn't been there to pull her away… "I'm not going to let him touch you."

"I know you won't," she replied with a little smile, gently caressing his cheeks her thumbs. "Just…" She gazed up at him tenderly. "Promise me you won't kill, not unless he corners you with no other choice."

It isn't the first time she'd tried to stop him; there have been a number of occasions he had almost set his wand, stopping only by the grim reminder that he was targeting Lu's last living family and he didn't want to hurt her that way.

That was no longer true, of course.

"I love you," Luna told him softly. The words never failed to make his heart quench. She ran a thumb across his cheek. "Don't you love me?"

He kissed and thrust in her in response. Eyes still holding hers, his hands wandered across her skin until his fingers touched her there. He pressed down just as he thrust again, making her whimper.

"Draco." Her eyes closed, and her mouth hung open in a gasp when he thrust in again, but she would not let go – not yet. He had to promise.

She moved her hips sensuously, surprising him enough that he came to a groaned halt. It was the opening she needed to hold him close, keep him still.

"Please," she pleaded, "love me."

Don't let hatred consume you.

He kissed her, surrendering. He was not a fool to misunderstand, and he loved her, he did—truly, madly, deeply.

"Always," he promised, and did just that.

 

 

viii. vingt-six (twenty-six)

There was no war, but there was a manhunt.

It took three long years to corner Tom Marvolo Riddle, but at the end of it, Harry Potter was the last person he faced. In a scheme to quietly retrieve powers of nobility, Tom had chosen and attempted to kill the only daughter of Duke Weasley, and do what he did with Phineas Vasiliev.

Through sheer luck, Harry caught him before he executed that plan. Killing him had been arguably accidental: for some reason or another – Lu liked to call it 'love', because he had been shielding Ginny at the time – the death curse Riddle unleashed on them deflected, turning against him.

Tales of the altercation spread across the Wizarding World, morphing into a well-known fairy tale where Harry was hailed a hero. Draco felt a bit of distaste for it, although the feeling was primarily borne from their mutual weariness of each other. At the end of the day, what mattered was that Tom Riddle was gone – permanently – and that Lu was safe and alive, well away from the dangers he brought.

As with life, however, a new problem appeared to replace the old. Lu's health was suffering terribly in the last couple of weeks. She initially attributed it to the flu, but his suspicions of it being more proved to be right when she reportedly fainted in the middle of a walk with his mother.

That happened two days ago, while he was away overseeing a bilateral commercial project in the far city of Zeros. Coming back to news that she was still resting in bed did not soothe his worries in the slightest.

"What happened?" he asked his mother soon after he had dislodged himself from Nimbus. "How is she?"

"Still indisposed, but recovering."

Narcissa had volunteered to watch over her while he was gone, treating her as if she were already her own. It still stunned her every now and then that her son's affection for the girl endured so many years and grew into this – she thought that with the lack of development in their teens, it would only ever be a special childhood friendship – but she could not be happier with his choice.

"What did the doctor say it was?" Draco asked as they walked rather briskly to Lu's quarters.

"I can't tell you," she answered. She halted in her steps. Draco was a few steps ahead of her, and he stopped as well, facing the door briefly before turning to her.

"She wants to tell you herself," Narcissa clarified. Her face was unreadable, and Draco felt dread rise slowly and forebodingly in his stomach.

"Alright," he said, swallowing a breath. He slowly reached out to the handle of the door, frantically hypothesizing what he was about to find out.

He feared the worst.

His fingers flinched and hung there when his mother spoke again.

"Draco," Narcissa said carefully. His eyes slid to meet hers. "She will be fine," she told him, "so long as you will be there for her."

She allowed a small, vague smile before nodding to him in encouragement. He nodded back in acknowledgment, feeling a little comforted, and entered the room.


 

Lu was folding paper cranes when he came in. She was propped up by pillows on her bed, donned in a familiar pastel green pajama. She looked up as soon as she heard the door click, and her lips curved to wide, warm smile when she spotted him.

"Draco!"

She dropped the paper on her lap and opened her arms invitingly. Her unexpectedly cheery disposition brought a smile on his face, and he soon found himself sitting by her side and embracing her, momentarily setting aside his worries and simply cherishing everything about her that he could smell, touch, taste.

"Welcome back," she greeted blithely after pulling back from their kiss. He kept his forehead touching hers, their eyelashes only about two inches apart. "How was Zeros?"

"Picturesque," he answered, fondly running his thumb across her cheek. "I brought you back postcards, but you should come with me next time."

"Sounds like a wonderful idea," she smiled. He didn't miss her slight falter, and his breathing tightened when she added, a bit sullenly, "It might be a while before I could, though."

As long as you can, he thought hopefully.

"My mother said you fainted."

"I did." She placed a hand on top of the one cupping her cheek, fingers folding to hold it. "The doctor said it was not unusual in my condition."

"I still haven't been informed of the diagnosis," he pointed out.

"I'm still afraid to tell you," she responded bluntly. Her nervousness was beginning to seep through the tiny cracks in her smile, and it only fueled his reasons to believe the worst.

"I'm right here," he whispered softly, his mother's advice echoing in his mind, "I'm not going anywhere." He willed a small smile, jesting lightheartedly, "…even if you start developing scales or gills."

That arose a giggle from her, and she fondly pecked his lips for the sweet statement.

"The doctor said nothing about scales or gills," she informed him, adding lightly, "he only mentioned another heartbeat."

"From your right chest?" he joked casually.

"Quite lower, actually," she said, smiling as she took his other hand and pressed it on her lower abdomen.

He digested that for a few seconds, and then—time just stopped.

"You… you're… I'm… we…" He gaped at her, shock and incredulity overruling every other emotion he could possibly have at the moment.

Lu bit her bottom lip nervously, nodding in affirmation, and then she straightforwardly asked, "Is this okay? Are you happy?"

There's a pause before leans in and kisses her, arms wrapping around her form again. His weight nearly crushes her, but he cares not to put pressure where he felt like he shouldn't. The kiss lasts until he pulls away for breath, and then he stares down at her, grinning almost deliriously.

"About that wedding we were planning," he started to say, because that seemed to be the first task in the grand agenda.

"Your mother's already started on it," she chuckled assuringly. Narcissa had been absolutely thrilled that she didn't have to wait another three years to officially, finally have a daughter, and she was exhilarated at the prospect of a grandchild to spoil rotten.

"We're going to get busy," Draco commented, and it's the most excited she'd ever seen him look outside his sexual advances.

"I'm sure we can handle it," she smiled. She reached a hand to caress his cheek, tucking some stray strands of hair behind his ear. "You'll be a wonderful father," she murmured sentimentally.

"But you'll be the favorite parent," he snickered. He's seen her interacting with enough toddlers to know he'll never be the good cop so long as she was around.

"Maybe," Lu grinned. "I think I'll have to compete with their grandmother, though."

That elicited a laugh from him, and he bopped his nose with hers affectionately. He doesn't say anything else for a moment and just gazes at her, etching every detail to memory. She smelled of lavender and peppermint, and he still loved her eyes – large and silver-blue and beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

"I love you," he whispers, just because it's true.

He loved scrawny little Lu who taught him how to ride and care for winged horses (and nearly everything else, because she loved the world and all its wonders regardless of all it's dark moments), this Lu who was his best friend and confidante and loyalest ally, this Lu who knew all his flaws and secrets and yet never stopped believing all the best and good and light in him, this Lu who was all of this and more—always more.

He never needed anyone else. He never wanted anyone else.

Pink dusted her cheeks and Luna trembled slightly; it isn't the first time he's said it, but she's melting all the same. It still feels like a dream sometimes – only in her wildest ones did she ever imagine him choosing her, but then he's here, he's holding her, and it's warm and true and real.

"I love you too," she responds, beaming up at him like a star.

He leans again for another kiss and thinks there isn't an experience in the world better than this—to love and be loved in return.

 

 

xi. trente-trois (thirty-three)

"Dada!" Scorpius squealed, raising both of his hands in a motion asking to be picked up.

Draco grinned and scooped him up after hanging his work robes. He planted a big kiss on his cheek, making the little eight-month-old giggle.

"What have you starry-eyed princes been up to?" he asked amusedly, eyes sliding to the twin pair of blondes staring up at him. "Where's your mum?"

"Miss Wilhelmina borrowed her for a moment," Lysander answered dutifully.

"We told her we'd watch over Scorpius until she comes back," Lorcan chirped to add.

"What were you playing?" Draco asked curiously as he stepped to the middle of the playroom where all the pillows were and sat down on the carpeted floor. Crossing his legs, he settled Scorpius on the small space in between.

"We were reading him a book," Lysander replied as Lorcan held it out and showed him.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
By Newt Scamander

Scorpius squealed and reached out his chubby hands in a grabby motion.

"You can understand that already?" Draco asked, rather surprised. "That book is for eleven-year-olds." His twins were still only seven.

Lorcan and Lysander glanced at each other sideways for a moment, as if silently communicating a decision, and then the former explained, "We borrowed it from the public library. We wanted to learn more about Nimbus and the others."

"It's a very interesting book, Daddy," Lysander reasoned, adding, "Even Scorpius likes it."

"Scorpius likes all books, though," Lorcan pointed out fairly as he handed it to his father.

Draco opened it, landing randomly on the page where it showed a picture of a Hungarian Horntail. Scorpius pointed at it and jabbered excitedly.

"That's a dragon," Draco told him. "Can you say 'dragon'?"

"Dagon!"

"It's a Horntail," Lysander added, smiling encouragingly at their baby brother. "This dragon is a Hungarian Horntail," he said, pointing to the picture.

"Can you say Horntail?" Lorcan asked excitedly.

"On-tay!" Scorpius repeated. "Dagon on-tay!"

"Very good!" Draco praised proudly. Lorcan clapped his hands and Lysander patted their little brother's head affectionately.

Scorpius giggled joyously over the attention, hands waving up in the air. As the they doted on him, his silver eyes caught a movement behind his brothers and he squealed.

"Mama!"

The three snapped their heads to the direction he faced, and Luna woefully undid the disillusionment spell she cast on herself.

"He always knows," she mumbled, shaking her head in amusement as she neared them.

"How long have you been here?" Draco asked, a little surprised.

"Just when Scorpius learned the word dragon," she smiled.

"Dagon!" Scorpius giggled, still waving his hands up. "Dagon on-tay!"

Luna chuckled as she knelt in front of him and planted a kiss on his forehead. "You're learning so fast," she beamed, and then turned to kiss each of the twins' foreheads. "Thank you for taking care of your little brother."

"You're welcome, Mama," Lorcan and Lysander said cheerily in unison.

She scooted to Draco's side before giving him a kiss.

"They said you were talking with Wilhelmina," he prodded as she leaned her head on his shoulder, just like always.

"She wanted to show me something," she explained. With an excited smile on her face, she shared, "Star is pregnant."

The twins gasped at the news. Star was a winged horse they found about five years ago, and she was the only other silver stallion next to Nimbus. She was no replacement for Dream, of course, but Luna thought her precious nonetheless.

Without a moment to spare, the twins scrambled on their knees and looked at their mother with large, hopeful eyes.

"Can it be ours, please, Mama?"

"We promise we'll take good care of it."

The request doesn't come across as a surprise, really; they grew up with Nimbus and Star, but those were still their parents', and they didn't have the liberty to play with them most of the time.

"I don't see why not," Luna smiled indulgently, "but we don't know how many she'll give birth to yet, and you might have to share."

"We don't mind," they chorused. "We won't be selfish," Lorcan promised as Lysander added, "We'll even share with Scorpius."

"Scohp!" Scorpius yelled happily upon hearing his name. "San-der! Lo-ca!"

Draco patted his youngest's hair fondly. "Scorpius is still too young right now, but it's nice of you to think of your brother."

"It'll be a year before you can play with Star's kids," Luna informed them. As much as she would love for the kids to have new playmates sooner than then, she didn't want to separate the children from their parents too early; it would affect their growth.

"That's okay," Lysander assured him. Lorcan nodded alongside him. "We can wait."

"You really are your mother's children," Draco couldn't help but comment. All of his boys looked like him, but they were absolute angels. They inherited so much from their mother that it was almost unfair. Almost.

It was easier running two kingdoms – now merged into one they call Rêve, though they retained the regional distinctions between Celeste and Émeraudes – when you have well-behaved sons.

"Alright, then," Lu permitted. The boys' smiles widened further. "No pranks on the other creatures in the meantime, okay?"

"Okay!" they chorused happily.

"Kay!" Scorpius chirped in, not wanting to be left out. He turned his little torso to look at his dad, one hand grabbing his sleeve and the other pointing to the book. "Dada!" he demanded, "Da-gon on-tay!"

"Sorry, we were reading, weren't we?" Draco said amusedly.

"Dah!" Scorpius angled his head to look at his mother. "Mama!"

"This one's taking after you," Lu whispered to him before turning the page for the youngest little Malfoy. "Oh! Look at that, Scorpius."

Scorpius turned back to the book, tilting his head curiously as he looked at the fiery creature in the page. "Da-gon?"

"That's a Salamander," Lysander helpfully pointed out.

"Sawa?" Scorpius tried, prompting Lorcan to help him get the name right.

Draco smiled as he watched, dropping a fond kiss on top of his wife's forehead. He's starting to feel the day's exhaustion come back, but he's faring better at managing it; he'll always have energy for this.

It's good to be home.

 

FIN