Chapter 1: Londres
I do not own Harry Potter.
This work is set in an alternate muggle universe. Evidently, it's not a school setting either, but to be clear: Hogwarts is a non-magical private boarding school. They carry the same years, and students typically continue to university afterwards instead of opting to work. There is no house sorting, as that doesn't make a lot of sense pre-college in the muggle world. The clique rivalry remains, however. "Voldemort" does not exist, and nearly all deceased characters from the canon are, well, alive. Cross-posted from my FFN account.
Nothing was magical.
Terribly sentimental and poorly phrased, but that was the raw summary of how Draco Malfoy felt toward his life at the moment as he observed the figures mingling in the ballroom. A glass of whiskey in one hand, he wondered absentmindedly what they were celebrating tonight. He hadn't forgotten—he simply never knew. The business partner that dragged him here didn't elaborate much, only simultaneously inviting him after hearing his father couldn't make it. He was a proxy, but the free booze made him a willing one.
"Excuse me," called a brunette as she approached him. She looked alluring in an olive green gown, easily one of the prettiest girls he'd seen. "Would you like to dance?"
The music had changed and others had begun to frolic gaily on the dance floor, laughter ringing about from different sides of the room. Whatever this party was for, it was certainly a happy event.
Only he had seen this picture too many times.
"Not interested," he replied succinctly. He handed his glass to one of the passing servers before turning and making his way toward the doors, meaning his decision. He quickly got in his sleek, black Lamborghini Gallardo and drove off to the direction of his flat.
Accepting her invite might have led to a bedroom that wasn't his or a flimsy promise to meet again. Perhaps she could even be the one and his parents would finally have peace—but a night in his dark silk pyjamas, tucked under the duvet with a cup of tea in one hand and a book in the other, was simply more appealing than whatever possibility dancing with her offered. She was pretty, but so were many other girls.
For all the simultaneity and variances in his schedule lately, he still strongly felt as if he were stuck in a routine. The last time he felt this way was toward the end of his graduate studies, which he pursued right after finishing his bachelor's degree—but even then, he had at least looked forward to start formally working in the family business. He poured all of his energy into his career, highly motivated when he started. He still liked his work, really, but it didn't suffice as the spark he wanted. Meanwhile, his colleagues have started marrying and forming families one by one. You would think it would prompt him to settle down, but the idea of commitment and pinning himself down to a woman, a family, a home, and a city just repulsed him. He was still too young.
The rain reflected his miserable thoughts as he parked his car and walked quickly toward the elevator before some bastard in the lobby pressed for it. He arrived in his flat in less than two minutes, his resting scowl softening to a neutral expression as he made his way to a quick shower, a change of clothes.
He was stirring himself a cup of chamomile tea when his eye caught an ad in one of the newspapers he read earlier that morning. The promotion design was neat, but cliché: a photo overlooking a mountain range somewhere in Scandinavia, words layered over in a corner, saying: "You don't climb to the top and skip the view."
It was a good catchphrase for a mountaineering agency. If he weren't averse to extreme fitness regimens, he might've been sold to it right there and then. He was looking for something different to do. Perhaps not mountaineering, but it did provoke the thought of travelling—not on a business trip, of course.
He tried to remember the last time he had gone on vacation—a real one, not one that involved having to interact with people and needing to keep up appearances, manners, etiquettes. His mind could only grab a memory from when he was much younger, probably from before he was ten. His family took him to China and paid one of the zookeepers to let him briefly play with one of the baby pandas. He remembered being so fascinated with the little creatures.
That was probably the last time he had gone on a vacation without a worry in the world.
After that, his time and attention shifted its focus on school, extra curricular activities—building his competencies and his own network. His parents repeatedly stressed the value of achievement and a social environment that encouraged it, though they maintained most of their biases toward the circles they were already in. Draco maintained his honours status throughout his studies, actively playing football (Bulgaria actually offered him a spot after his undergraduate studies, and he suspected it had something to do with renowned athlete Viktor Krum, whom he had the pleasure of meeting and playing against in a practice game when he visited Hogwarts High one summer). He limited the most of his social interactions to a few chosen, acceptable peers. Blaise Zabini, Theodore Nott, Vincent Crabbe, and Gregory Goyle were his closest friends, but he was not intimately close to any of them to fully trust that they would never judge him or use him to their personal advantage. They've known each other for over ten years, but he kept his caution.
That was just how he's been for as long as he can remember. On guard, cautious and conscious of every single action and encounter. Perhaps that might be the real reason behind his weariness: he was burnt out.
Sipping his tea, he glanced again at the photo of the mountain range and tried to imagine himself standing on that vantage point.
It was about time, he thought decidedly, that he took a well-deserved break.
Chapter 2: Mont Saint-Michel
Draco thought little of what he would do or where he would go when he decided to take a year-long vacation for himself. The morning after he decided to push through with the brilliant idea, he immediately set about arranging the necessary scheme for his leave from work. It proceeded more smoothly than he expected. His father was surprisingly magnanimous, reasoning that his son could indulge luxuriously for a year as he had proved himself deserving of it in the last five. He also casually added that he would be retiring the following year, hinting he would have more responsibilities when he returned. Lucius Malfoy promised to take care of the rest, and Draco boarded a plane from Heathrow Airport that evening.
He found himself roaming around the Iberian Peninsula for the next couple of weeks, staying no longer than three days in each city he came across. Córdoba was particularly memorable—the city was beautiful, immensely rich in history and culture and grandeur. Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos remained ripe in his memory; the lush gardens and fountains were so magnificently picturesque that it evoked the thought of buying land to build his own inspired villa when he returned to England.
He arrived at a city west of France two days ago, and decided to move north from there. He took the train to Pontorson and rode a bus to the renowned island commune of Mont Saint-Michel. His business trips around Europe had always been in the popular capital cities, and he had decided to try avoiding them altogether in favour of discovering quaint, unknown towns and far heritage sites and landscapes. Now, he was on a balcony restaurant that recently opened in the causeway park, overlooking the Romanesque castle as it was swept by a majestic sunset.
"It's lovely, isn't it?"
The voice that reached out to him spoke in clear and perfect English, slightly Irish in accent with a gentle, airy tone that sounded vaguely familiar. He turned his head to look at the speaker—a slim woman with straggly dirty blonde hair tied in a hopelessly messy ponytail. Recognition didn't strike until he noticed the memorably dotty pair of earrings she wore.
"Luna Lovegood," he greeted, nodding in acknowledgment. How... random.
"Hello, Draco," she smiled serenely. She motioned to the empty chair across his table. "Mind if I join you?"
"Not at all." The other tables were fully occupied; at the farther side of the balcony gathered tourists taking photographs of the castle. He watched as she quietly moved to take the seat. It was a spontaneous decision to indulge her company. The last time he had seen her was in high school, holding back tears as she treaded the hallway barefoot again.
He didn't know how it started or why her, but by his senior year, it was practically school tradition to prank the younger girl by stealing her things and placing them in obscure spots around the school. Draco was not a saint despite his clear and impressive official track record, and he'd participated; he stole her chemistry materials and wittingly subjected her to the wrath of Professor Snape.
He reckoned she never found out about that, otherwise she wouldn't have approached him in the first place, or perhaps she did know and intended to confront him about it. All the same, he did not feel a hint of animosity from her—if anything, he was admittedly a little curious.
He raised a hand and a waiter swiftly came to their table. "Order anything you like," he offered. She smiled thankfully at him before turning to the waiter.
"Le thé rouge, s'il vous plaît," she said politely, her Irish accent practically nonexistent as she spoke. She glanced back at him questioningly. "Et peut-être nous pouvons partager une grande crêpe des fraises?"
He nodded to the waiter in approval, and the latter briskly dismissed himself afterward, leaving the two alone.
"Thank you for letting me join you," she told him sincerely, turning her gaze from him to the landscape across them with a delighted smile. "I truly do love sightseeing at twilight. Many things appear more magical during this time of the day."
"I suppose," he responded absent-mindedly, taking another glimpse at the castle before turning his attention to her.
He had never really looked at Luna Lovegood before, but he remembered eyes red and often rimming with tears and blemished pale skin—features that have faded away, it seemed, along with most of her old, gaudy wardrobe. She still wore those bizarre radish earrings, but otherwise she was dressed more acceptably. Her periwinkle dress hugged her slim waist and flared just above her knees. Sans the swollen eyes, blotchy cheeks, and kitsch fashion, Luna Lovegood was unexpectedly stunning.
A quick survey of the occupants of surrounding tables and the non-dining area affirmed that he wasn't the only one to think so.
"Lovegood," he called.
"Luna," she replied, turning to him. "Call me Luna."
He wasn't comfortable with the proposition (he rarely called anyone by their first name in casual conversation) but didn't press on it. He intended to proceed with his query but it was as if she had already read his mind before he could.
"You're wondering why I'm here," she stated.
"Naturally," he replied, quick and unfazed. "It's rather strange seeing you here of all places, after all these years."
"I could say the same for you," she mused delightedly. "Though, I suppose I tend to appreciate coincidences more than I care to make sense of them."
The waiter came back with the pot of red tea and poured her a cup. She doesn't notice the sideways glance the smug bastard throws at Draco, who returned it with a pointed glare (he was not tipping tonight) before staring back at her.
"Well?" he insisted. Not that he ever cared to pry into Luna Lovegood's life, but it seemed harmless to listen to stories from the girl who was infamous for her eccentricities in high school. He had never talked to her when they were still walking the same halls, and he doesn't recall hearing anything about her from the grapevine after graduation. She was a stranger to him in every way but name.
"I'm collecting," she told him simply. She didn't follow with further explanation and simply sipped her tea, looking content and pleased.
He raised an eyebrow. "What are you collecting?"
"Something very valuable," she smiled serenely, as if to politely hint that she would not be disclosing anything else.
The blonde momentarily frowned at that before his lips curled to a small smirk. Draco Malfoy never liked secrets, but he did have a penchant for challenges, no matter how petty or small they sometimes might seem. "Mind a wager if I'm able to guess?"
"Only if you're willing." Her eyes twinkled in genuine interest. "Losing is always a humbling experience," she added, hiding a smile as she took another sip of her tea.
"So it is," he replied, slightly riled up by her small provocation. "What do you say, Lovegood?"
"Luna," she corrected firmly. A different waiter brought over their strawberry crêpe, which he split evenly for them before leaving. Draco took the liberty of getting his partition while Luna solemnly contemplated on the idea.
He'd taken his third bite by the time she broke the silence.
"I will give you three guesses, and only three chances to ask for grand clues," she tells him, looking up at him slyly. "For every wrong guess, you'll allow me any request."
"And if I get it right?"
"You'll earn the privilege of asking me three requests," she grinned.
"You seem confident, Lovegood," he remarked, frowning a bit. Part of him felt slightly impressed that she rose to the game.
"Luna," she insisted seriously before curling her lips back into a complacent smile. "I have good reason to be."
She let him mull over the proposition as she took her portion of the crêpe, managing about four bites before he responded.
"First clue," he asked.
The giggle that came from her at that was more beguiling than he'd care to admit.
He could only gather from her earlier descriptions that whatever she was collecting was valuable and finite, and there were many—concrete objects or abstract concepts, whichever she meant—that could fit those characteristics. It was only strategic to narrow down his options first, and he could only hope that she would be generous with her clues.
"They are created in the same likeness, but with distinct differences. They are fragile despite possessing strong elements, and small though they are," she paused, smiling secretively, "they are highly valuable."
She took another bite of her crêpe, relishing the sweetness of the strawberries and the fiercely pensive face of the person across her.
Draco was appropriately befuddled.
"When you say 'valuable'..."
"I mean that it fetches quite a high price," she explained kindly. He seemed as clever as others have told her.
"Oh." He blinked, a bit relieved but more questions turned in his head. "You mean to sell these things after collecting them?"
"I believe loaning them would be a more profitable venture," she answered. "Care for a guess?"
He was out of free inquiries, and Draco took the time to regroup his thoughts and silently contemplate the answer as he continued to finish his plate.
A small band of orchestra players began to assemble on the small stage a few tables from them. Indigo and dark shades of blue blended in the skies as the sun finally set from the horizon. The castle lit up, providing for a magnificent sight, and the stars appeared just as music started to envelope the balcony restaurant. Luna turned to watch the band from her seat after she swiftly finished her food. She absolutely adored live music. One of her favourite things about Europe was its presence when she walked the streets. She loved singing along to songs she recognises—and sometimes she danced to them, whether it was familiar or not.
When the first song finished, she turned in her seat to check back on her companion, only to find silver eyes looking at her very seriously.
"Jewellery," he said finally. "You're collecting jewellery."
She beamed at his answer, and he groaned, immediately catching what that meant. She laughed and he looked back at her in disbelief. "Was I even close?"
"Quite," she replied simply, not divulging anything further. "You owe me one request."
"Unfortunately," he sighed. He still had two guesses. It wasn't a lost war yet. "The meal doesn't count, by the way. I intended to pay for it when I offered."
"I think you might find my request a bit more challenging, though no less gentlemanly," she remarked. He watched with raised eyebrows as she rose from her seat and walked to his side, extending a hand to him. Somehow, he understood what she wanted immediately.
He rose from his seat and took her hand, leading her to the open, empty space a bit further away from their table but nearer to the balcony railings. The band started playing a well-loved French song the both of them knew. Draco put his hands on her hips as she carefully placed her arms on his chest, her fingertips brushing his shoulder blades.
"I do love dancing," she told him, grinning triumphantly as they began to sway to the music. Simple steps, soft humming (from her—he found it a bit amusing, but he'd deny the sentiment if anybody asked).
"Should I make my next two wrong guesses now to save you time?" he suggested with a smirk. If she wanted and managed to make him dance with her to La Vie En Rose on a balcony facing one of the most beautiful castles in the world, she might as well go all the way the same night. She smelled of honeysuckle and lavender and he doesn't think he'd mind one night with her if she wanted it.
Not that he could tell if she did.
"What would be the fun in that?" she replied jovially. Her lips curled to a smirk, battling his own. "Professor Snape gave me three Saturdays of detention, you know."
Shit. "You knew?"
She nodded. "You hid them pretty well. It took me ten days to find them."
"How did you know it was me?" She couldn't have seen him steal it. He threatened a freshman to take it out from her locker, and the accomplice discreetly handed him the materials before he hid them under the floors of a classroom. To the best of his knowledge, only he was aware about that broken wood tile.
"I overheard a friend of yours mentioning it," she answered quietly. He almost missed the flash in her eyes and the downturn of her lips; the sullen expression only lasted a second, and it made him question if he was simply imagining it. She glanced at the view to their side before returning her bright, protuberant blue eyes to meet his. She beamed.
"You don't seem very upset about it," he observed, eyes locked with hers. "Especially since I've just gotten you detention with the most cutthroat teacher in high school."
"Grudges are heavy burdens to carry," she said gently, smiling reassuringly at him. "I choose not to carry that weight."
Fleetingly he wonders if that was why she was a common target in high school. It said much of her character, he realised, when Luna Lovegood regarded him without malice or prejudice, and she imposed no pressure or expectation in their interaction. She worded the rewards for their wager as requests, not commands, for Merlin's sake, and a dance was relatively harmless compared to other things she might have asked.
Her genuine earnestness was slightly unnerving.
From the corner of her eye, Luna noticed that other couples began to join them. La Vie en Rose faded out, and the pianist started to play another well-loved, albeit more modern, piece.
"The French really are bloody romantics, aren't they?" Draco mumbled, recognising the song from the popular fairytale.
"I don't know," she smiled blithely, tilting her head slightly as a motion for him to notice the others dancing. "I believe they think that the English started it tonight."
"Whose fault do you think that is?" He smirked down at her, and she returned it with a smug smile.
"I didn't make the wrong guess," she reminded him.
"You expected me to," he reminded her. "You were confident about it."
She laughed. "Guilty as charged," she conceded. Her eyes twinkled with mirth as she looked up at him. She seemed to scrutinise his face, and Draco found himself fighting the urge to kiss her—
"Would you be my friend, Draco?"
—but maybe he was simply imagining the sexual tension he'd begun to feel since she got this close to him.
"I'd have thought that you wanted me to be something else," he confessed, puzzled. "Friends don't dance like this."
"The night is too lovely not to dance, and friends do dance," she answered as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. She gazed at him very earnestly. "I don't wish to be a fling, and I think it would be terribly dangerous if either of us fall in love with each other, but I do like your company very much. So, won't you be my friend instead?"
He studied her carefully, trying to figure out what other thoughts might possibly be running in her mind at the moment. He remembers that Luna Lovegood had been known to build castles in the air, always mumbling random nothings at sporadic moments. Many called her Looney Lovegood before, and it was somehow fitting—only now it seemed even more spiteful and unsuitable. She was beaming like moonlight, her face betraying no sincerity.
"You are the strangest girl," he pronounced, eyeing her curiously.
"I hope I'll always be," she grinned at him. "My mother always said it's easier to remember the strangest people."
"Shall I go pay for our food and walk you back now?" The discussion of her other eccentricities could be saved for another day, he thinks.
She laughs cheerfully at that. "You are my favourite friend already," she tells him. She means it as a jest, but her expression shifts slightly and he thinks that she might possibly be starting to believe it.
A minuscule smile forms on his lips.
(1) "Le thé rouge, s'il vous plaît." — Red tea, please.
(2) "Et peut-être nous pouvons partager une grande crêpe des fraises?" —And maybe we can share a big strawberry crêpe?
Chapter 3: Positano
It was the most gorgeous island in the Amalfi Coast. On the way he had thought that the commune would be boring up-close, but the wisteria-draped buildings, quirky kiosks of island delights and petite souvenirs, quaint boutiques, colourful restaurants, and lively locals proved otherwise. Sun and wind and sea kissed Positano and gave it the warmth and delight of an eternal summer holiday.
It was a fantastic vacation spot, and Draco easily put it first on his list of weekend getaways for future reference as he headed to the docks. He reserved a private boat cruise and if the weather remained permissible, he thought he might even go for a quick dive. It was nearly the end of June and he had already spotted people starting to frolic by the beach from his hotel room that morning.
He turned down a flight of stairs, arriving at a pathway under the shade of pink flowers. Paintings and illustrations were plastered on the walls, and he quickly swept his eyes away from the artists sitting by them, not wanting to be harassed with sales talk.
Head down, his gaze is drawn to a figure dressed in cerulean blue, sticking out among the whites and beiges and pinks, walking a few feet in front of him. She had thick blonde hair in a haphazard braid, and are those—
"Lovegood?" His voice is low, but she hears and swiftly turns around.
—definitely radish earrings.
Luna looked around until her eyes met his, and she instantly beams. "Draco!"
He briskly neared her, keeping his expression from showing signs of the surprise and amusement he felt internally. He did not expect to see her again so soon. They parted quite abruptly that night in Basse-Normandie; she needed to take the next bus and his mother took the inopportune moment to give him a random call to ask how he was doing.
"It's lovely to see you," she greeted cheerfully as he reached her at arm's length. He motioned for her to walk with him, which she does with a spring in her step. Draco kept his normally long strides slightly shorter and slower to match with hers.
"I thought you were staying in France," he remarked nonchalantly.
"My collecting takes me places," she explained, smiling at the memory of their wager. She doesn't press on it, remembering that it was his call to ask for more clues when he wanted them.
They walked side-by-side out of the flower-covered pathway and into another. Draco wordlessly observed how her dress brightened under the sun, the blue reflecting and matching her eyes.
"How long have you been in Italy?" Luna asked lightly, fiddling with the seashells wound around her wrist for a moment.
"Not long." He purposely didn't keep track of the days, feeling they might prompt his tendency to draw meticulous plans. The only reminder he cared to set was an alarm to notify him when he was drawing near the end of his year of freedom. "You?"
"I've only been here two days. I'll be leaving this city tomorrow, actually," she replied softly. "Do you know any winery near here that I can pass by?"
"Not any that I would recommend," he answered, shrugging his shoulders. "What's the occasion?"
"A wedding gift," she replied, adding in afterthought, "I suppose I'll send a bottle to my father, too. He loves the rosé from Alsace but I think he might appreciate trying out a new kind."
"Find the Antinori Chianti near Florence, then," he suggested. "My parents like their wine best. It's far, but you can tour around the city for a day or two to make the most of it."
"Do you like their wine as well?"
"I prefer the wine from Bordeaux," he said offhandedly. "I doubt the differences really matter, though. It's hardly an uncommon wedding gift."
"I suppose so," she agreed, nodding thoughtfully as she noted his advice. She had never been to the birthplace of the Renaissance before, and it seemed a fantastic idea the more she thought about it.
He cleared his throat. "Why don't you just send wine you like?"
"I'm afraid I don't drink," she admitted evenly.
Draco turned to her incredulously. "How old are you?"
"Twenty-five," she answered. She was well-aware hers was an uncommon preference. "I just don't like how wines and alcohol taste, that's all."
"Twenty-five?" He blinked. "Weren't you just a year lower than me in school?"
He was three, almost four, years older than her.
"I skipped a couple of levels," she explained, pausing as kids raucously whizzed pass them with boisterous laughter. Draco laid a hand on her far arm and smoothly manoeuvred her away from the game of tag. "Professor Flitwick wanted to place me in your year, actually," she added.
"And why didn't he?" He'd never heard of this, and he reckoned the rest of the school hadn't either—otherwise, how on earth did her reputation turn out as it did?
"Headmaster Dumbledore said that there was enough rivalry in your year." She smiled fondly at the memory of the kind old man who took the time to meet her and her father before that school year started. "You were competing fiercely enough as it was with Harry and the others, and he didn't want to put me under that stress after my mother died."
"Oh." He'd never heard of that either. He shifted uncomfortably. "Sorry to hear that about your mum."
"It's alright." She smiled at him warmly before turning her gaze to the view on her other side, feeling the breeze flutter on her skin.
The conversation lapsed into a meaningful silence. Draco had little to nonexistent skill in navigating through genuinely sentimental discussions; he'd had more practice with mawkish tirades in more public situations—a man losing it and yelling profanities at him in a meeting? Easy. A woman harassing him after a one-night stand, or one in hysterics after a ruthless break-up? It had already happened in his office, a restaurant, a street; some even had the gall to fake pregnancy and attempt to draw public shame.
All of it were, in his opinion, much more manageable than scintillations of intimacy like this. He could only sympathise, not empathise, as he had yet to lose anyone particularly dear to him. He had been too young to be extremely attached to his grandparents when they passed away, both of his parents remained in perfectly good health, and he's never developed, let alone shown, much affection for anybody else. Whatever emotion strong enough to bother him had been typically drowned in gin and vodka.
He had only begun to think of a topic digression when Luna's voice rang in his ear, breaking him away from his thoughts.
"It was a good decision, I think." She sent a small smile his way when he looked down at her, appearing to have sensed his discomfort. "I thought I'd do fine in your year, but I didn't want to get caught in your clique competition."
"I suppose it was intense," he remarked, failing to hide the grimace that set on his features at the mere memory of Potter and his disciples. Their rivalry had been especially obstreperous during their time in Hogwarts.
"It was very entertaining," Luna commented blithely. "Sometimes I wonder how different it might have been if I joined in."
"You'd have chosen Potter's side," he shrugged. He couldn't have held it against her when his peers made a game of regularly stealing her things and calling her names.
"Harry stole my chemistry materials not long after you did, you know. Both of you were quite troublesome," she informed him, letting out a giggle at the disbelief that flashed on his face. "You're more alike than you think."
"Never," he scowled, inwardly shuddering at the thought.
"You're better at hiding and being sneaky in general," she offered cheerily. "Harry's better at things he faces head-on."
"Are you calling me a coward?" he blustered.
"No," she answered softly with a knowing glint in her eyes. "I'm calling you cunning."
They rounded a corner and entered a busy pathway, vendors selling shore merchandise and island souvenirs left and right. Luna stepped closer to him and meekly reached a hand to hold the end of his shirt, not wanting to be separated in the crowd. He pried her hand off of it almost immediately with his own.
—But he doesn't let go, and she holds onto his subtly proffered hand properly as he led them through the crowd, not a change of expression on his face.
"What did you do in high school?" he asked, frankly curious himself.
They were nearing a more spacious area and Luna waited until they arrived there before speaking, knowing he wouldn't have heard her if she didn't. She rarely ever raised her voice, and she found no need to when her answer was curt: "I studied."
He looked at her pointedly, unimpressed.
"That's it," she said simply, shrugging her shoulders. "I didn't get into any of the clubs."
Her voice was even, expressing not the tiniest hint of anger or remorse—the latter of which Draco suddenly felt after realising he had probably asked a ridiculous question and brought back unpleasant memories.
"It wasn't that nobody accepted me," Luna continued, part of her attention momentarily drawn to a Labrador playing with a baby in his mother's arms as they passed by. She smiled adoringly. "I just chose not to join any."
"Why?" He wondered if that was just an excuse to hide her hurt from the outcast treatment she suffered in high school. It wouldn't have been surprising to him if no one wanted to accept the girl reputed to have her head stuck in the clouds.
"I wanted more time with Nargles," she replied jovially, dispelling his assumptions right away with the excitement twinkling in her eyes.
He gave her a confused look. "What's a Nargle?"
"A horse," he repeated, trying to imagine it as he processed his disbelief. His eyebrows scrunched in continued befuddlement. "How would you have spent time with a horse in Hogwarts?"
Their grand private boarding school never had any stables, let alone horses.
Luna stepped closer to him, avoiding a man pushing a wagon of fresh fish, and looked up with a secretive smile. "Do you remember Mrs. Grubbly-Plank?"
"Hagrid's substitute," he nodded. "Everybody knows she should've replaced him permanently."
"Hagrid's quite alright," she credited, believing the hairy old groundskeeper simply had more room for improvement than others. "Mrs. Grubbly-Plank owns a barn not too far from school, in the opposite direction from Hogsmeade. She's an old friend of my father's, and she let me keep Nargles there. Headmaster Dumbledore gave me permission to visit her regularly, not just on Hogsmeade weekends."
"Every weekend," he assumed, understanding the situation somewhat. He supposed the old man would have found it easy to discreetly spoil the accelerated child who lost her mother and was frequently bullied in school.
"Weekdays, too, sometimes," she clarified, smiling as she wittingly added, "when I'm not searching for missing things or attending detention."
"I thought you didn't hold grudges?" he briskly retorted, sensing the tease in her voice. He was more amused than offended.
"I don't," she giggled, trying and failing to look as sorry as she intended. "I was merely keeping the story straight, that's all. I spend a lot of time with her when I can." An affectionate smile graced her features at the thought of her hazel stead. "I miss her dearly," she said dreamily. "I hope she hasn't forgotten me."
"Do you still keep her there?" he asked. "Near Hogwarts?"
"Mrs. Grubbly-Plank is taking care of her while I'm gone. We'll move her back to our house in Wales when I return," she replied. She skipped and spun, bounding in front of him brightly. "You should come visit," she suggested gaily. "Nargles loves meeting new faces. I think she'll find yours very handsome."
"I'd rather the owner say that instead of the horse," he said smugly.
"The owner thinks you already know," she chuckled. "I mean it, though," she reiterated, smiling warmly at him. "Horseback riding is fun. We'd love to have you."
"I prefer racing cars, but alright," he told her, suppressing the urge to return her smile with his own. "On one condition."
She tilted her head slightly, eyeing him with a curious smile. "What?"
He tugs her hand, which he hadn't let go even after they had passed through that crowded path, and gestures with his head to the nearby boats. They had reached the docks, slightly standing out in the growing number of people dressed to swim and sunbathe arriving at the shore.
"Come with me," he invited, lips curved into his boyish smirk.
She squeezed his hand and beamed a heartbreaker of a smile in response.
Chapter 4: Hallstatt
Crabbe was engaged.
The news was flabbergasting, to say the least. Among the four of them, Draco had always thought he'd be the last to marry, not the first... then again, he used to think that he would be first, just because he always was. He's learned that people are inescapably susceptible to change with time, and he'd outgrown the imprudent mindset that plans always follow through. There wasn't a race to marriage, and even if there was, his present self was perfectly fine not winning it. He was sincerely pleased for his friend; Crabbe won the heart of the head pâtissière of the growing cupcake company that first opened shop around the corner from his flat, and it was virtually written in the stars from the day he first bought a box of their cupcakes.
Draco was absolutely certain that the guests would be anticipating the wedding cake more than the wedding gown; he knew he did when the save-the-date invite arrived in his email.
Sighing, he turned his attention to the glittering rock formations around him. A Salzburg local suggested a visit to the Hallstatt Salt Mines before he left off for the next country in the continent, but it was lacklustre compared to the village itself, which stood vividly picturesque beside the mountains and the crystal clear lake. Uninterested in staying underground longer, he had just decided to head toward the exit and browse the old town when he felt a presence behind him and a pair of hands briskly covered his eyes.
Or at least, attempted to.
He took a half step forward and turned on his heel, eliciting a soft squeak from the blonde as he caught her by the waist right before her nose could have met the floor. His brain registered the familiarity of her physique and her voice, associating it with a friendly acquaintance more swiftly than he thought possible. (Had he been unconsciously thinking about her?)
"You're too short," he criticised, stepping closer as she wobbled on her toes. "Try it when I'm sitting down next time," he advised with a smirk. The petite woman raised her head to look up at him, cheeks a light pink and lips in a little grin.
"Hi," she breathed.
There's a pretty sight in here after all.
He loosened his hold on her waist as she settled her heels back on the ground, regaining her footage.
She smiled wryly at him. "I didn't expect to stumble into a dragon down here."
"Didn't expect to find the moon down here either," he riposted, arching a curious brow. "What are you doing here?"
Hallstatt was one of the less popular towns he's visited, and the last he had seen Lovegood was on a beautiful Italian port after an entertaining cruise along the Amalfi Coast weeks ago. Neither of them told the other where they were heading after that—he didn't plan his routes as he set to do, and she simply never mentioned hers.
"My collecting takes me places," she answered, vaguely as she always did when it came to discussing her work.
Part of him conspiratorially suspected her "work" involved espionage on him and his activities, but it was only their third coincidental meeting and she had not acted in any way that would support and seal that conclusion. Perhaps their meetings were merely that: coincidence.
Luna tilted her head, studying him curiously. "I was under the impression that the underground wouldn't be your cup of tea."
"It isn't," he agreed, "I was just about to leave."
"I'll walk you to the station?" she offered, beaming cheerily.
He dropped his hand from her waist entirely as she dropped hers from his chest, each meeting in between. He wordlessly squeezed her hand in response.
He'd never held hands before Luna. He would hold other girls by their waist or lay a hand on their shoulder when he felt the need to bother—close, but never intimate. It addled him that despite trying it with a few other girls he occasionally accosted in the places between Positano and Hallstatt, that coursing warmth he felt remained to happen only when it was with the silly girl wearing radish earrings.
He didn't know what that meant, and he wasn't sure he wanted to know.
"Thank you, by the way. My father loved the wine," Luna voiced out, stealing him away from his thoughts. "I hope Cho and Cedric did, too, though I haven't heard word from them yet. They must still be busy with their honeymoon."
"It still baffles me that they invited you to their wedding," he remarked, slightly impressed. Diggory was a celebrated actor, and his now-wife was a renowned model (frankly, however, he found her unattractively dull). Their wedding was a highly publicised event, reportedly costing about seventy million pounds in spite of a guest list that didn't exceed three hundred.
A flamboyant waste of money, in his opinion, but it was the kind of grandiose exclusivity many people he knew would like. None from his closer set of friends were invited; none from Potter's circle as well, understandably, considering the four-eyed schmuck tried to steal the bride away when she was still only the actor's girlfriend.
"That could have very well been the wedding of the year," Draco shook his head, "and you chose not to go."
"There are more important things I have to do, and I wouldn't have been missed," she reasoned calmly, lips curved to a self-assured smile. She mentioned to him before that she received an invite from the groom, but stressed that she was merely a business associate.
Draco suspected that she was either lying (which was highly unlikely, as he had come to know how terribly honest she was) or that, considering the narrow guest list for such a grandiose wedding, she played a minimal role in making it happen. She would neither deny nor confirm that, however; her work was to remain a mystery to him until the conclusion of their wager.
"It seemed awfully ostentatious," Luna remarked with a shrug, "I wouldn't have blended in."
"I heard they gave away purebred puppies," he pointed out dryly. You don't bait Luna Lovegood with jewellery or designer clothes—you bait her with cute animals (moving white balls of fluff were her favourite, she said) and sweets.
"It's quite alright," she said without the slightest hint of regret. "I would rather adopt from the shelter, anyway."
"Your moral pragmatism is astounding."
"I do my best," she laughed.
They arrived at the exit, the warmer atmosphere prompting them to remove the standard suits and boots everyone was required to don before entering the mines. Parting to their respective dressing areas, they agreed to meet outside by the bridge.
Summer was pleasantly warm in the Austrian countryside. Bordered by mountains and a freshwater lake inviting cooler winds, Hallstatt was charmingly idyllic. Draco pondered over suggesting a walk around the village, perhaps even a bite to eat, before he hopped on the next available bus. It would be a waste to leave the town so quickly, and he liked the dreamy girl's company. Past her eccentricities (her penchant for quirky accessories, absentminded humming and/or skipping, bizarre insouciance for physical boundaries, and others he probably hadn't discovered yet), she could hold a decent conversation… provided he does not steer it to a subject she loved so much that she could only speak sputtered adulations and reiterate how much she adored it.
He learned that much when he triggered a one-sided discussion on mermaids. She gushed on it for a good ten to fifteen minutes, and he would have been repulsed if her enthusiasm wasn't supplied by a soft voice and an endearing grin. Arguably frivolous, but he liked it as much as the non-gushing conversations anyway.
"There you are, Draco,"—a voice interrupted his thoughts as he reached the agreed meeting place—"I was wondering, have you seen the view from the Sky Deck? It's not far away from here and you might want to stop by before we head back."
Luna stood a few feet in front of him, two or three steps away from the bridge, dressed simply in a white shirt and jeans. She was smiling serenely, as always, except she looked especially odder because—
"Your shoes are missing," he observed, unsure if she noticed that herself. His concern was masked with a more unpleasant expression on his face as he neared her in two long strides. It was highly unlikely, but he thought it regardless: were they stolen again?
"They aren't," she told him simply, and he momentarily wondered if she'd gone insane until she continued, "I gave them away this time."
He eyed her carefully. "Why?"
"Someone else was missing theirs so I gave mine. We were the same size," she explained, not caring much for it. She smiled at him reassuringly. "I'm alright. I'm used to walking around barefoot."
"You shouldn't be," he groaned. Forgiven or not, he did not want to see a repeat of that. It made him feel immensely frustrated and somewhat furious at his past self for tolerating it.
He looked back at the doors they just exited from, thinking of a solution, and returned to face her. "I'll buy you a pair of their boots," he decided. "When we get back to the town, we can find you new shoes."
"Thank you, but that's unnecessary," she declined swiftly. "I have another pair of shoes in my luggage."
"Then I'll just buy you the boots," he offered. He glanced at her bare feet (her toenails were painted in rainbow colours) and the mere imagination of his own feet walking back in that state made him flinch. "You can't walk like that."
"I don't want to spend money," she reasoned feebly. "They'll over-charge those boots."
"Fairly speaking, they should have handed them over to you for free," he countered irritably. "I'll go argue with them properly," he informed her, "but if it will make it quicker, money's not a problem."
"It's not worth it, Draco," she argued.
"Luna," she sighed. "I'll be alright, Draco. I've done—"
"Give me the second clue."
Luna stepped back and scrutinised him, taken aback by the way his silver eyes narrowed and glittered with determination.
"The second clue," he repeated, almost severe.
She studied him for another minute, realising that he wasn't intending to falter and therefore wasn't going to. Their perspectives on the gravity of the problem differed and he acknowledged that as much as she did, only he was willing to compromise another possible loss from their long-standing wager as a way of deciding which course of action to take.
"They are children that never come, given by one father to another man's wife, passed to her child and the next," she recited in concession, watching as his expression shifted when he realised that she had nothing more to add.
"This is the same thing, isn't it?" he asked unsurely. She responded with a simple nod, her eyes showing nothing but sincerity and it was then he quietly became re-conscious of the reality that Luna Lovegood was not a person to underestimate. She was cleverer than appearances implied, and she didn't need to employ lies or deception to prove it.
It was nearly exciting—the first time he felt cerebrally challenged in years and it was over a pair of ugly boots. Brilliant.
He sighed and ran the clues in his head in another attempt to piece it all together.
Small, highly valuable... same but different... fragile but with strong elements... limited, finite, concrete... given by a father to another man's wife... a gift? But what kind of gift... she said I was close to jewellery before, so... did she mean a specific kind of jewellery, like earrings or necklaces, or a part of—a pendant? A stone? "Passed to her child and the next" depicts heritage... an heirloom? But why would you search and "collect" an heirloom—unless... unless it's been shattered and scattered before and she's trying to...
Bright blue eyes stared patiently at him, waiting for his answer.
"An heirloom," he said finally. He was only partially sure but it was the most logical answer he arrived at, although it was rather unconventional from the traditional practices he was raised with. Heirlooms normally shouldn't even leave the family home, let alone be scattered across the globe.
"You're very good at this," Luna complimented honestly. "Very close, even closer than before, but—"
"It's not?" He looked at her in disbelief.
She shook her head. "I wouldn't be collecting pieces of an heirloom to loan them for money, would I?"
Shit! I forgot about that.
"I'll be alright, really," she told him again, smiling more hopefully at him this time. "It's not a long walk, and the path isn't cobblestoned. It doesn't hurt as much as you think. Let's go?"
He glanced at her feet again, and this time his pristine white sneakers were in sight as he looked down, painting a more guilt-inducing picture. He did not want to be walking alongside her like this, and he could only imagine how passing strangers would think of them, especially him. He wouldn't think kindly of himself either.
"There's another way," he realised aloud, the idea popping in as he raised his eyes to meet hers again. He threw her a little smirk before he turned around and faced the doors again.
He managed to march only three purposeful steps forward before he felt the hand reach for his arm.
"Draco? What are you—!"
He grabbed her hand and yanked her entire body forward, making her collide with his back as he swiftly crouched down, took her other hand, and rested both on his shoulders. She was too surprised to make sense of what he was doing, much less to resist and retaliate, and he took the opportunity to hook his arms under her knees and slightly throw her forward to a more comfortable position. She instinctively wrapped her arms around his neck, soon realizing what he did as he nonchalantly stood back to his full stature.
Her weight was more than manageable, and he internally applauded himself for maintaining his health and fitness well enough that this wasn't as difficult as he expected it to be.
He turned around, and, spotting the arrow sign pointing to the Sky Deck, wordlessly started walking in that direction.
"I think you've forgotten the deal. You guessed wrong," Luna chided softly, drawing a hand to delicately massage her nose. It ached from the collision. "I can ask you to put me down and walk with me wherever I want to go."
"You won't," he said with certainty. "I don't want you walking barefooted, and you don't want me to argue for or buy a pair of ugly boots. This," he tightened his hold for emphasis, "is compromise."
"I suppose it is," she yielded with a huff, "I'll let you go because I still won."
"Feel free to save it," he suggested nonchalantly, smirking. "You know this isn't worth the argument."
"I never thought you could be this stubborn," she commented lightly, a giggle escaping her lips. "It's kind of cute."
"Never call a man 'cute'," he retorted. He hoped the heat that suddenly rushed up to his neck would remain unnoticed. "And you're quite stubborn yourself," he muttered peevishly.
"Yes, I am," she agreed with a devilish grin, "but I'm not as cute as you."
"No, you aren't," he replied dryly. "You're irritating."
"That comes with the stubbornness," she quipped smartly. The scent of his shampoo tickled her nostrils, and she sighed, relaxing her hold on him. "You smell nice."
A smirk tugged back on his features as she nestled her head against his. "You're going to regret this," Luna mumbled quietly.
"Just enjoy the view, Lovegood," he told her. "This is already a new vantage for you."
"Luna," she corrected again. She sighed, mildly aggravated. "When will you ever call me by my first name?"
"When your surname changes to something impractical," he riposted, smirking.
"Yes, we've established that."
He could feel the smile returning to her face, but neither of them said another word and for a while the conversation lapsed into a warm, comfortable silence. Both of them elected to ignore the mild attention they were drawing: it was generally harmless, anyway, as most of the onlookers understood the general idea of the situation upon spotting the petite blonde's bare feet.
Of the people returning from the Sky Deck and glancing curiously at them, eyes glinting with awe at the way Draco strode confidently as if he were simply carrying a large backpack, Luna noticed an elderly couple holding on to an out-dated magazine. Her smile softened and she intuitively nuzzled further against his neck, prompting the lad to glance at her and follow her line of sight as he fell in line to the lift going up to the viewing deck.
"The Quibbler," he pronounced when he saw what caught her attention. She cited it numerous times back on the cruise he invited her to. It was her favourite publication, she told him, unabashedly proud that it was a product of her parents' passion for the natural world. She had every issue that was ever printed, and he wouldn't have been surprised if she had memorised every single word that was ever published in its fifteen-year run.
"Salt lakes and salt mines, sixth issue. Daddy says that was inspired from the time he accidentally poured a bag of salt into a quiche Mummy was making," she murmured fondly after the old couple had passed.
He personally thought salt as an uninteresting topic, but the innocent memory made him feel skittish. Luna tended to share intimate memories with the ease of a ball rolling down a slide, and it was unsettling: this was only their third encounter and he wondered if she truly had no qualms letting him know, baring her vulnerabilities piece by piece.
"Neither of them cooked very well, though," she added as an afterthought, pulling him back from his thoughts again. "The food would always either be inedible or bland. Balancing flavour was never their strong point."
He grimaced at the thought. His parents never cooked, but his family's personal chef never let him eat anything less than a healthy gourmet meal as he grew up. "Do you cook?"
"Fortunately," she grinned. "I'm the saving grace of the household. They put me in charge of meals since I was five."
"Skipping grades and expertly handling kitchen equipment at five," he muttered under his breath. "They must have spoiled you rotten."
"Only with love," she agreed, saying it precisely because she knew it would make him cringe (he did, very visibly) and because it was only the truth. She smiled and leaned against him affectionately, the action surprising him because he realised that he didn't mind it at all.
If anything, he only minded that she wasn't close enough.
"My family's not rich, you know," she murmured softly, her breath fanning the juncture between his neck and shoulder. "Nowhere near as wealthy as yours, anyway. I was on a full scholarship in Hogwarts."
"You said you owned a horse," he pointed out, regarding her sceptically. "That's worth at least ten years of high school in Hogwarts."
"I was on a merit scholarship," she clarified. (Bloody hell, how smart is she?) "Nargles was a gift. I got her for Christmas before my tenth birthday."
He arched a brow. "From who?"
"A kind friend of my parents, I suppose," she answered thoughtfully. "My father couldn't have afforded her at the time. He already stopped publishing The Quibbler by then."
He cast her a sideways glance. "An anonymous gift?" he asked incredulously. There weren't many people who could present a pony to a nine-year-old, and even less, he imagined, willing to do so.
But Luna nodded, and he could only conclude that she was a favourite child of the gods. A horse was hardly necessary in the twenty-first century, but he supposed that whoever went through the trouble of giving one to her must have thought it would ease the pain of losing her mother.
"Have you ever tried to find out who it was?" he asked curiously.
"I have," she nodded solemnly. "Whoever it was had been very good at erasing his tracks,"—her lips curled to a teasing grin—"much better than someone else I know."
"Don't make me drop you," he retorted, though he couldn't help the small smile that also crept up on his face as her soft laughter rang through his ears.
It caught the attention of the couple lined in front of them, both dark-haired and chinky-eyed and mildly dumbfounded upon seeing their situation.
The girl recovered first, her expression shifting to awe and bemusement. "You seem like you've got a keeper," she said, dark brown eyes meeting blue as she grinned, "Don't let him escape."
"He's carrying me so I won't escape," Luna pointed out evenly, her smile amused and friendly. "I lost my shoes at the mines, you see,"—she gently swung her feet—"he doesn't want me to walk barefoot, even though the weather's perfectly fair and I don't mind a little dirt."
"What a gentleman," the girl remarked approvingly, glancing at her partner with a merited respect.
The brunet accompanying her had somewhat recovered by this point. His flushed gaze had been locked on the golden-haired girl since she spoke; apart from appearing considerably friendlier than her companion, she was just so—
"—Pretty," he thought aloud, "You are really pretty."
His eyes shot a contrite look to the taller blonde as soon as he realised what he blurted out; he hoped he did not unintentionally trigger any offence.
His partner inwardly rolled her eyes at him. "Like an angel," she agreed fervently, grinning at Luna, who simply smiled warmly and thanked the both of them.
Draco kept his expression neutral, silently observing the exchange. It was fairly amusing how much attention the baggage on his back caught, especially when she was on his back. He fleetingly wondered if it would have been different were they back in London—what would the headlines say?
The aforementioned baggage relaxed, nudging his sides with her feet. He glanced at her with a small smile when her hair momentarily brushed against his cheek and her hand lightly touched his collarbone as she adjusted herself.
The dark-haired girl in front of them grinned again, catching the exchange. "How long have you two been together?" she asked jovially.
"Not very long," Luna answered, throwing them a vague smile. "How about you? Congratulations, by the way," she added, noticing the silver bands on their fingers.
It was not lost on Draco that she deflected further questions by smartly changing the focus to them. The girl began chattering about tying the knot after eight years and finally experiencing the honeymoon she had always dreamed of, touring Europe. Her husband muttered something about expenses and sent him a look, which Draco inwardly dismissed. Money was not a problem to him and he was not in any committed relationship—he had never been.
Luna, on the other hand...
The line moved forward and soon there were only eight people left in front of them. The couple in front of them were now talking among themselves, apparently having gotten into an argument at one point in the girl's prattling. Draco was beginning to feel some of his joints numbing slightly—Luna was light, but that didn't mean her weight wouldn't eventually develop pressure on his body. He shifted slightly to even out the weight he was carrying. It was enough to make her aware of his predicament, but she didn't say anything pertaining to their earlier argument and simply adjusted herself accordingly again.
She leaned in close to him as they were ushered in the next lift, his attention distractedly turning to the hyacinth fragrance clinging onto his back.
The view from up there had better be spectacular, he thought sharply, otherwise she would be consuming all the breath left in him for it to take.
"It kind of makes you wish you could fly, doesn't it?" Luna whispered dreamily beside him.
The summer breeze was much stronger in the Sky Deck, kissing their skin and infinitesimally relieving the stress on Draco's physique from carrying a ninety-something-pound lady with rainbow-coloured nails.
Hallstatt from its best vantage point was an idyllic picture of a peaceful village by a glassy lake, lush greens, and tall mountains. By all accounts, it was a spectacular, breathtaking view, and the experience of seeing it felt entirely surreal: it reminded him of the photo that stirred this adventure of his in the first place, and far from feeling accomplished, he felt a surge of inspiration to continue—because what else would he be missing if he chose to stop here?
Beside him, Luna is seated cross-legged atop the handkerchief he placed on the bench before sitting her down (he wasn't going to carry her back with dirty feet hanging precariously close to his shirt), humming happily to herself. She doesn't mind his silence, seemingly content to filling it on her own.
"If I could grow wings," she murmured thoughtfully, cheerily, "I'd never need shoes."
He overhears from his rumination, and he smiles despite himself.
That will definitely make you an angel, he thought, casting his eyes back on her as if to make sure that she was truly real and not some figment of his imagination. Luna Lovegood was a dream in almost every sense of the word.
He ignored her correction, continuing, "That couple from earlier got me wondering..." He paused, reflecting on the question lingering in his head. A small part of him thought he didn't have to know, but his curiosity was beginning to eat him alive. Acting on impulse, he revised to a less direct approach.
"I'm pretty sure you have an idea of my civil status," (it was occasionally published in tabloids, if she cared to read them, and it hasn't changed in years) "but frankly, I'm clueless about yours."
"I'm single," she answered easily. He took the serene smile on her face as a sign that she was not troubled by what he had thought was an intimate topic, and he was welcome to probe a little further.
"Really?" he pressed. "There's no bloke waiting for you back home?"
"No one has ever expressed any romantic interest in me," she replied casually, "and I doubt anyone back in London would produce it in my absence."
"You're fucking with me," he said in disbelief, giving her another once-over and taking another quick survey of the people around them.
"I'm not," she insisted simply, to which he responded with a faintly offended glare.
"You're twenty-five," he stressed. He found it hard to believe that she hadn't been involved at least once.
"And you'll agree with me when I say that sex and romance are different things," she replied calmly. "No one's ever approached me feeling the latter."
"How about the other way around?" he questioned. "Haven't you ever wanted anyone romantically?"
She grinned playfully. "I'd like to keep that a secret."
"I'll take that as a no," he concluded; immediately taking on her challenge, he smirked and continued, "—unless you're secretly interested in me, at which point I'd understand the plea for secrecy."
She laughed, shooting back quick-wittedly: "I'll take your curiosity in my private affairs as an expression of your secret romantic interest in me."
"Sex and romance are different things," he rounded back. "Don't misread me, Lovegood."
"My apologies," she shrugged in feigned offence. "I'll be walking barefoot later then. I should've known the piggyback ride was just a ploy to feel my breasts."
"I felt nothing," he snapped back defiantly. The childishly smug look on her face was halfway through successfully making his smirk fall off. "You have nothing on there."
"You would know," she retorted, "you've already felt what you wanted to feel."
"I did not want to feel you up," he nearly exclaimed, staring her down with a mocking confidence, "or did you want me to, since you're secretly harbouring an interest for me?"
She easily rose to the challenge. "Are you saying that to hide your interest for me?"
"You want me to be interested in you," he reiterated as he scooted nearer, looming over her with the look that had gotten him laid with women who thought they could resist. "Give it up, Lovegood—"
Her angry look slipped to an embarrassed chortle that he found nothing short of endearing, even if seconds later he realised that it wasn't because she melted at his pheromones.
"I'm sorry," she said, shakily drawing her knees to her chest and partly covering her mouth with a hand, "I started imagining you as something else and I can't argue seriously anymore."
It was a testament to how well he had gotten to know her in two days, and by extension, how much interest and attention he paid to her, when he immediately caught on to exactly what she pictured.
"Tell me you did not." He looked indignant.
She broke out in laughter.
"You little loon," he muttered disbelievingly, shaking his head. He was beginning to fail keeping his own chuckles from escaping. "A dragon, seriously?"
"Your nostrils flared!" she justified with a giggle. "It was cute. Is that why you were named Draco?"
"No, it's been my mother's family tradition to name children after constellations," he explained wearily. Now that he thought about it, however, he wondered why his mother chose Draco—or perhaps it was his father's idea? Lucius Malfoy had a penchant for reptile creatures. He was particularly fond of snakes. The name seemed a good compromise.
"How lovely," Luna said adoringly, calming down from her fit of giggles. "It's such a shame that you prefer to be called Malfoy."
"Who said I did?"
The riposte escaped his mouth before he thought it through. Luna stopped laughing and smiling altogether, staring at him with evident surprise and apology for a full silent, horrendously awkward minute before her lips curled back up to a thoughtful smile.
"I like calling you Draco," she said simply.
He didn't harbour hatred for his father or his family, only that it was admittedly rather suffocating to have your identity and your choices constantly defined by and for an institution, no matter how noble or celebrated or relevant, that has not made you happy or genuinely purposeful in a long time.
He knew she understood that much—her expressive blue eyes hid nothing and Luna Lovegood caught on more quickly than others would have expected of her.
It calmed and perturbed him at the same time.
"I should go," he decided suddenly, dusting off the front of his pants as he stood up, "I have a bus to catch."
He frankly didn't know what time it was, let alone when he could reach the next available public vehicle heading to the nearest airport, but he had toured a salt mine and viewed a wonderful landscape with a "friend" whom he connected with quite more intimately than he ever had with anyone else, and it was starting to terrify him that he felt as if his heart was going to leap out of his chest instead of relaxing in relief.
He stepped in front of the golden-haired girl, blocking her view with the back he proffered as he squatted down a few inches before her. Luna took the hint and carefully hopped on.
"Dragon-riding," she beamed, gleefully wrapping her arms around his neck, "it's perfectly felicitous!"
He rolled his eyes, though his lips surrendered to a small smile.
"We're still several feet above ground," he reminded her as he straightened back to his full stature. "Don't make me drop you."
"I'm safe so long as my chest is pressed against your back," she declared cheerily.
"I still feel nothing." That was a lie. "Are you sure you're twenty-five?"
"Harassment of minors is a very serious felony, you know," she quipped. "You're lucky I am."
"Charming," he drawled shortly.
He made his way to the stairs, thinking he could handle going down with an ninety-something-pound girl on his back. Besides, he could spot the shuttle service not far along the end of it.
Luna heaved a breathy sigh as she slackened against him, closing her eyes. The stronger winds from their altitude weakened the intensity of her perfume, though her scent remained perfectly pleasant.
"You're a very sweet dragon, Draco," she murmured dreamily, "thank you for flying me out today."
"My pleasure." He doubted she caught the small smile betraying the sarcasm in his voice, but he was certain that she was beaming regardless, as always. The silly girl never failed to find something to smile about.
Silly girl probably never even bothered with the search, the happy fool.
He inwardly shook his head in amusement, steering his attention to the erratic thumping in his chest. His heart had started acting mad and would not cease, and it was increasingly worrying him as he was quite sure that it had nothing to do with the minimal physical stress from the extra weight he was carrying on his back. It was overwhelmingly strange and uncomfortably new, terrifying and exhilarating all at once.
He proceeds to ignore it, tuning in to the familiar song Luna began humming and redirecting his cogitations to identify it. It was still a long while before the day ended and he would rather spend the remaining hours seizing her company instead of his own thoughts. The present was perfect and he preferred to keep it that way as long as he could.
"What is that song?" he asked exasperatedly.
Luna laughed gaily next to his ear. "The jingle from the Quidditch commercial, of course!"
(But this—easy, unanticipated, distressing, heart-stopping—this was the fall.)
Bulgaria's capital was one of those severely underrated picturesque cities in Europe, lined with an array of buildings in its distinct cultural architecture. It looked a quaint, touristic city, and would have probably attracted more visitors were it not for the high crime rate.
When Draco decided to wander into town, he'd dropped a casual message to an old acquaintance asking about notable tourist sights or activities—the Internet listed a lot of things, of course, but he preferred local insight when it was available. Viktor Krum, however, was rather unhelpful, too focused on expressing regret for not being there to accommodate him himself that he neglected to give any useful insight. It was a bit surprising, considering he used to harp on rarely ever having guests at his flat, but the famed football player was presently training in Madrid, perhaps more intensively than before as he had a championship to retrieve.
Draco simply wished him good luck, looking forward to the next Quidditch Tournament, and went on to roam the city aimlessly until sunset. He learned to appreciate walking in his travels. He rarely ever walked in London, having the comfort of a private vehicle and never really feeling a motivation to immerse in its cold, dreary streets.
Besides, he was someone in that city. He wasn't particularly famous enough to find himself frequently flocked with adoring fans or in need of a personal security unit, but he was quite recognizable. There he was the successor to the Malfoy empire, one of the youngest billionaires in the world by heritage, a notorious heartbreaker a lot of women wanted to encounter at least once in their lifetimes.
Outside of London, however, he was no one and anyone. It was the refreshing respite he had wanted when he left. Staying in London wouldn't have let him grow and expand his horizons. Beyond that city, that society he was so deeply embedded in, those obligations and ambitions he'd had since he was a young boy, there was another Draco, and he wanted to discover and learn more about who that was.
—A very sweet dragon, apparently. His lips curved to a small, private smile at the memory before he caught himself and frowned.
There was something terribly telling about how his thoughts kept drifting back to his dreamy-eyed friend (he cringed inwardly; the identifier wasn't wrong per se, but it wasn't exactly right either) since that day in Austria about two weeks ago. She popped in his mind a few times in between their meetings in France and Italy, but his heart wasn't doing lecherous somersaults against his will then—or if it were, then it used to be easier to ignore.
Turning a corner, he passed by a tall, lanky woman smoking a cigarette by a lamppost, and he sucked in his breath until he was out of range. He hated smoking; the repeatedly proven health issues aside, he couldn't understand why people would willingly want to surround themselves with the disgusting scent of fumes. He found better leisure in inhaling scented incense or, his personal favorite, fresh flowers.
It was his terrible weakness. Not that anyone else had ever noticed – if they had, they never pointed it out – but he was a tad bit nicer to women when they donned floral scents. His first girlfriend (or fling, as that might have been the better term to describe a relationship that lasted a week) doused herself in it, and that was probably one of the reasons why he chose to lose his virginity to her, but she was unaware of this preference – she wouldn't have started smoking otherwise.
He'd fucked plenty of different girls after that, though; he was young, his appetites adventurous and nearly insatiable. His experiences had allowed him to cultivate a perverse skill in identifying a few things about a woman from her scent alone – how old she was, what kind of lifestyle she led, what she would probably like in the bedroom, and so on. He was rarely ever wrong, and he supposed that was why it had become rather boring. At some point, he ended up disliking most of the scents he came across. He'd even forgotten how much he liked floral fragrances until—well, until Luna.
She waltzed in his life smelling like a garden of flowers, smiling brighter than sunshine with eyes that brought the stars to shame. He had held her close when they danced that night in Mont Saint-Michel, closer when they walked along the streets of Positano, and even closer when he carried her on his back in Hallstatt; each time, he caught a whiff of her scent, and he supposed he should have known each time that he would never manage to keep his feelings completely platonic. He was extremely sexually attracted to her, and it was utterly pathetic because he couldn't bring himself to fuck her, or fuck someone else in her stead, and get on with his life.
She had made it perfectly clear in their first meeting that she didn't want to be a fling, and quite frankly, he wasn't quite sure he'd prefer it if she was, anyway. There was just something so distinct about her – and it wasn't the bizarre accessories, or her eccentric interests – that he felt he wouldn't be able to find in anyone else, and his instinct told him that he'll always be futilely searching for it in whoever comes after her. It was frustrating, honestly, because if she couldn't be a fling, and she couldn't be just a platonic acquaintance either, then that would mean he wanted her to be—
Jumping from his reverie, Draco turned to the voice behind him, unintentionally, but effectively, blocking a burly man who ran into him and nearly toppled him over were it not for his own swift reflexes to grab his arm and steady their footing.
He was just about to yell at the clumsy oaf when he elbowed his stomach out of the blue and dashed away before the blonde could retaliate.
Draco cursed as he clutched his torso, waiting for the acute pain to ebb away. He was glaring at the direction where the bastard had gone off, contemplating whether he should run after him to deliver his killer right hook to even the blows.
A pair of bare, lightly bruised feet paused to his side, and his eyes drew up just as the figure spoke in bated breath: "Are you okay?"
Large blue eyes looked down at him in concern, and then surprise. "Draco?"
No fucking way.
Luna quickly crouched down beside him. Her hands reached for his face, checking for any head injuries with soft caresses that temporarily shut down his brain and made his breathing weak because she was here and she was touching him and Merlin, how do her sweaty hands smell so goddamn nice?
"Lovegood," he managed to choke out. Luna looked back at him, opening her mouth – probably to correct him again, but he continued in the most nonchalant voice he could muster, "Work again?"
She smiled at him, pushing back a few stray hair strands behind his ear. "Seems like your head is fine if you can remember that."
"He went for my stomach," he told her, pulling the hand clutching it back to his side. He moved to stand up from the ground.
"He went for my bag," Luna shared with a wry smile as she rose with him.
His eyes widened in alarm and he stepped back to get a better look at her.
She definitely looked like someone who ran a spontaneous marathon, to say the least. Her hair was tied in a ponytail, but it was as disheveled as her dress (a shame, really, as the salmon pink looked quite nice on her). She was holding a pair of nude heels, but nothing else, and she seemed quite breathless. Her cheeks were tinged with pink, though he also noticed that there was a yellow-purplish discoloration forming on—
His eyes narrowed.
"He hurt you."
She winced, and he felt a slow, burning rage stirring wildly underneath his skin.
"I fought back," she replied a little too casually, coming across as more forced than genuine. "He backhanded me across the face,"—Draco's face darkened—"and it was rather rude, but I suppose I can't always expect gentlemanly behavior from thieves."
That fucking piece of shit!
He turned toward the direction the thug ran off to, his expression thunderous. He'd taken a step forward, intent on chasing after the shite, only to be stopped by a gentle but firm hand on his forearm.
"It's very sweet of you to be angry for my sake," said Luna softly, "but I don't want you getting hurt."
"He didn't hurt me," he hissed. He hated being perceived as weak. "He caught me by surprise, but when I get my hands on him—"
"You probably don't even remember what he looks like," Luna pointed out evenly.
"But you do."
"Mm, that doesn't mean I'll tell." Moving her hand downward from his forearm, she intertwined her fingers with his and gave it a gentle squeeze. "I don't think it's worth any more trouble to go after him now." She jerked her head a bit to where he ran off, the street devoid of people, implying the near impossibility of tracking him down. "He's got my wallet and my phone, and it's inconvenient, which is why I ran after him, but those aren't things I can't replace." She smiled when his expression softened a little. "I'll feel better if you treat me to lunch instead."
Draco frowned. "You're just saying that so I won't go after him and kick his ass." The plot to distract him until he had fewer and fewer chances of catching the thug did not slip by him.
Luna blinked and tilted her head. "Is it working?"
"Not while I can still see that bruise on your face." He raised his free hand to cup the injured cheek, running his thumb over the discoloration. He cursed the scumbag under his breath, though his expression was unbearably tender as he eyed the injury.
His eyes wandered to meet hers; Luna shot him another smile and his chest constricted for a moment, as if his heart made another tight jump (it probably did).
He might have committed petty theft against her when he was a juvenile, prideful teenager, but he had never inflicted physical harm on a woman, even when they gave him reason to. He was raised a gentleman. Despite his asshole moments, he adhered to some standard of moral decency, and if he was going to let some sleazy, pathetic fucking little son of a bitch get away with—
"Draco," Luna looked at him pleadingly, squeezing his fingers again. "Please."
Still scowling – because it truly was very difficult to just let it go – he began taking deep breaths, forcing himself to think of other things.
Like how Luna looked like she was having a hard time breathing herself. He didn't know how far she actually ran, and he doubted her run was preceded by a set of warm-up exercises after the bastard hit her, but a glass of water was necessary after any amount of extreme physical exertion. She was probably parched, and if she doesn't have water soon, she'll faint in this heat.
And her feet. She obviously ran barefoot, which was wiser than sprinting in those heels she was carrying, but the pavement was hardly comfortable. Her soles must be bleeding. Shit.
And her cheek—it needed ice, obviously. They couldn't let it linger longer or else…
Oh, sod it.
"Fine," he groaned unhappily.
A triumphant grin slowly lit up Luna's face, and he nearly melted. This was the worst state he's seen her in, and yet somehow he still found her extremely attractive.
(Maybe extreme is a stretch, but damn it, he's seen supermodels unkempt and even they don't have as much a pull as she did.)
"I'll treat you to lunch," he said mechanically, shifting his hand so it held hers instead. He ignored the warm tingles this sent up his spine and glanced at her cheek again, hoping the bruise was just a momentary figment of his imagination. He grimaced when it wasn't. "But let's get that treated first."
Draco was no stranger to luxury hotels. They were, obnoxious as it may sound, a norm in his life; even in his current state of voyaging, he'd never really skimped on anything. He wasn't stupid enough to splurge on inane purchases, but he didn't compromise comfort to save a buck.
He was, therefore, immediately disconcerted when Luna showed him where she was staying after their short trip to the pharmacy.
"You don't have to go in," she told him, her airy voice pulling him back from his thoughts. He blinked and turned to her, noting that her cheek started to return to its original color. The homemade salve the pharmacist offered was surprisingly effective, and he pinned a note at the back of his mind to tell him so if he ever passed by that street again. (Perhaps he would even be interested in selling it, and he'd finally have something entrepreneurial in his professional background.)
"It'll take me about ten minutes to clean myself up," Luna began to say. "There's a cheap little bistro around the corner where you can stay and wait. You can order for the both of us. Oh, but I don't eat meat, so salad or pasta is preferable. I like mashed potatoes very much, too… and pudding. Yes, that would be quite nice." She smiled dreamily, "I do love pudding."
"You're staying in a hostel," Draco stated unnecessarily, glancing back at the building and managing to bite back the ugly adjectives he thought would suit it. He stared at her with what seemed to be a blend of incredulity and disapproval. "And you're vegetarian."
"Pescatarian, actually," she corrected. She tilted her head in that curious way of hers, blinking, "Is there something wrong?"
"Yes." He gritted his teeth, unsure if she was dense or playing with him. "You're staying in a hostel," he said again, "called Sex Seasons."
He had thought the taxi driver was mistaken with the address Luna provided, but she thanked him and hopped out of the car before he was able to utter another word.
"It's very cheap," Luna explained uncaringly.
"It's not safe," Draco riposted.
"Like I said," she said steadily, stepping toward the entrance and glancing back at him over her shoulder, "you don't have to go in."
She continued walking toward the shabby inn, and he stared after her in disbelief for about five seconds before following behind her in a rush.
The receptionist did not look up from her laptop when they entered the lobby. The elevator opened only a few seconds after Luna pressed the button, and he followed her in. He was about to engage her in conversation again when a couple rushed in and proceeded to—holy crud—hump against a corner.
Draco lost his words, his discomfort rising by the fact that he was hearing shrill moans while he was entrapped in a box with the only girl he's found attractive as of late. It was even worse, he felt, that a sideways glance at her revealed that she didn't seem bothered at all—but Merlin, did she always book and stay in sketchy inns? Or had she been staying in this one long enough to be used to it?
The elevator mercifully stopped at the fourth floor just as that thought ended, and he hastily followed Luna into the hallway. She stopped in front of the door marked 409.
"Oh dear," she realized, suddenly distressed, "my keys were in my bag."
"It's not locked," Draco pointed out, noticing the tiny extra space between the door and the frame from where he stood. He reached a hand out to twist the doorknob, but his elbow hit the wood and it was enough to push open the door.
Luna blinked in surprise. "I could have sworn I locked it," she mumbled quietly, and then headed inside. Draco trailed behind her, but stopped a foot in the doorway.
The place was a wreck.
The bed was turned over, the pillows and blankets haphazardly strewn about. The drawers were all opened in an asymmetric mess, the small bedside table nearly upended. The curtains were closed, but the bathroom door was open. Draco couldn't find a luggage bag in sight, and unless Luna made this mess herself, it took him only two seconds to deduce that she was robbed.
Leaving the door open behind him, he walked over to the blonde kneeling by the bigger cabinet. On the lower shelf was a safe, but as he angled his head from his height to check it out, Luna blocked his view.
She rose to her feet after a few seconds of fiddling about, back still turned to him. It seemed she allowed herself one huge sigh; her shoulders rose and slumped, but her breath was almost only a whisper.
"They unlocked it," she said quietly.
When she turned to face him, the smile on her face was sad.
His hand twitched, feeling the need to hit something—or someone, preferably. He struggled to keep his composure; it was an alien feeling to him, not wanting to see her upset. He'd never felt that way about anyone before, and he'd have thought himself a bit righteous if he wasn't painfully aware that he had likely caused that same look of anguish and defeat to mar her pretty face more than once in the past.
"It's really not my day, is it?" she sighed, closing her eyes. Silence passed over them for a beat—she said nothing, and Draco didn't know what to say. It occurred to him that he was right about the horrid security he pointed out earlier, but he didn't want to be the asshole saying 'I told you so'—he wasn't a petty twelve-year-old, and she didn't deserve inane insults for something she couldn't help. Right now, the least she needed was a friend.
He wasn't entirely confident that he could be a good one, but he'd try.
"Shall we get that pudding?" He offered, immediately cursing himself for how his voice cracked to a slight shrill at the end like a nervous schoolgirl.
Luna opened her eyes and looked at him. He shifted uncomfortably, continuing to say, "I was going to offer you a glass of Fire Whiskey, but it's too early and you don't drink."
That made her smile a little, genuinely happier than the last. "I can't get drunk until I finish fixing paperwork at the embassy," she half-joked. "I'll have to report this incident to the police, of course, but I'll also need a new passport."
She looked around the room once more, eyes lingering at the upturned bed. "I'm booked here until tomorrow morning," she mumbled to herself, though it was loud enough for him to hear. "It's a good thing I'll have shelter for ton—"
The firmness in his voice startled her; with a shudder, she turned to him, taken aback by how solemn he suddenly looked.
"You're not staying here," he said decidedly. His silver eyes held as much command as his voice when they locked gazes with hers. "This place has shitty security. It's not safe."
Thieves had nothing more to steal from her, sure, but he wasn't banking on them leaving quietly if they got a good look at her. Criminals weren't gentlemen, and he wasn't sure he would stay one himself if they laid a finger on her.
"I don't really have a choice," Luna sighed, "I don't have money right now."
"You have me." He reached for her hand, holding it in his. "I'm right here, and I'm quite loaded," he added the last statement a little smugly, hoping it threw off the awkwardness he felt for initiating the contact. He gave her a little smirk when she turned back to him after looking at their intertwined hands.
"I don't like using people that way," she argued, biting her lip. "You're my friend, Draco, not a credit card."
"I'm a friend with a credit card, and I'd be a shitty excuse for one if I don't help you," he shot back smoothly. "Besides," he continued, cutting her off before she could reply to that, "I have a title to defend."
Her brows furrowed in confusion, and she tilted her head in that curious way of hers. "What title?"
He squeezed her hand, and steadily keeping his gaze on hers, he answered, "Your favorite."
For the second time that day, he watched her eyes sparkle and her lips curve slowly to a happy smile that lit up her entire self. A part of him reveled with pride that he made that happen, and he realized quietly that he'd like to make her happy – not pleased, but truly, genuinely happy.
Luna beamed at him as if he'd given her a star from the sky. She placed a hand on top of the one holding hers, doubling the warmth between them as she reassured him, "You still are."
He allowed a little smile, barely keeping himself from the sudden inane desire to lean in and kiss her. She was already so close, and so lovely, and shit, his heart wouldn't stop pounding in his chest.
"Pudding?" he asked, for lack of anything better to say.
She giggled, agreeing with a grin, "Pudding."
The rest of the day panned out rather much like a date – the first proper one he'd had in ages, sans the minute detail that he hadn't actually asked her out.
He treated her to a meal after reporting the robbery incidents to the police, as promised, and even lent her his phone half the time so she could get a jumpstart contacting the officials in the British Embassy for her passport and ID, and Gringotts for her bank account security. After that, they bought her a change of clothes good for two days; she was surprisingly fast about it, bustling through the store as if she already knew what she wanted. Her choices didn't even cost much, and he had been willing to spoil her senseless.
They walked back together to the apartment he rented – a one-bedroom suite in one of the richer, guarded neighborhoods in Sofía, the living area furnished with a sofa bed now useful that he's having company. The arrangement was an idea that sprung after he confessed a sudden, random craving for baked sweet potatoes; she offered to cook for him, he accepted, and somehow he managed to convince her to stay at his place for the night. It was the more practical option to renting a whole other suite, even if he didn't mind doing that had she preferred it.
It was nearly dinner time now.
He'd taken a shower and changed into a dark pair of sweatpants, leaving his top bare. He didn't like putting a shirt on at night, at least while he travelled, as it meant extra laundry to take care of.
He'd also be lying if he didn't admit wanting to see how she would react to him like this.
Draco was fit, muscled; he had the body most girls dreamt of touching, and he liked showing it off just to get his ego stroked. With her, though, there was the undertone of wanting to impress her, to make her reconsider their platonic relationship. He didn't like being the only one whose heart kept lurching and the only one who needed to control his libido; it made him feel like some kind of damned moron, and he'd appreciate feeling less so if she showed some semblance of the feelings plaguing him... after all, it would be fantastic if she did.
A delicious scent wafted in the room when he entered. Luna had her back turned to him, taking something out of the oven – the baked sweet potatoes, he supposed. That was what he asked for. She placed the steaming tray on the counter before turning to glance at him over her shoulder.
"How was your—" she paused, as if registering that he was half-naked, and he inwardly smirked with triumph when she quickly looked away.
He walked over to the small kitchen with a little more confidence than before.
"Need any help?" he asked huskily.
She turned to him, her dress twirling as she did so. She put her hands on her waist and regarded him with an amused smile, but the calm authority was clear in her voice. "You can't come to the kitchen dressed like that," she told him, "you'll get injured."
"You're sure it's not just distracting for you?" he grinned wolfishly, drawing himself nearer. "You can touch it if you want."
"Not right now," she answered with an easy chuckle, "I smell like sweat and herbs. It's not a very pleasant scent you want on your skin right after a shower."
"I wouldn't mind taking another one," he reassured her with a wink. "You can join me then."
She laughed, her hands sliding back to her sides and then hiding behind her back. "Two minutes?" she asked cutely, "I'll just put the food on the plates."
He smiled. "Alright."
He settled himself on one of the stools by the countertop, which served doubly as the dining table. Luna had already laid out the rattan placemats and silverware, so he made himself useful and poured water into their glasses.
He didn't wait long, as very soon Luna placed a plate in front of him, filled with baked sweet potatoes, herbed French beans and grilled salmon. She placed an identical plate on her placemat, and put the sauces between them before sitting down opposite him.
She stared at him expectantly; he promptly forked one of the sweet potatoes, dipped it into the sauce she gestured to and put it in his mouth. He chewed, and then swallowed, and allowed a moment of silence to pass before letting her know what he thought of it.
"Not bad, Lovegood," he remarked as he looked up to her. He reckoned there was a bit of tease in his expression, but he did mean it – they were more flavorful than he expected, considering the nearby mini-market only sold limited ingredients.
Luna smiled sweetly at him.
"That's nice," she said, "I missed cooking quite a bit, so thank you for letting me do it."
"You don't cook while you travel?" he asked, raising a brow at her as he proceeded to slice the salmon.
"Inns don't usually provide kitchens," she shrugged, forking a bite of sweet potato.
"Or security," he snorted. "You should just stay with me if you can't afford a proper place. We keep running into each other anyway."
Draco stiffened. He hadn't meant to say that aloud. It was just another casual thought, an idea that had been brewing at the back of his mind since she agreed to stay with him for the night. The day's events revealed to him how susceptible she was to danger, traveling alone as she did, and half the reason he imagined such an arrangement was because he wanted to protect her.
He had irrational, completely unbecoming motivations, too, however, and that was why he initially decided not to bring it up. He mentally cursed himself for being so careless.
"That's not such a bad idea," Luna hummed thoughtfully, mouth closed at the edge of her fork. He blinked and stared at her, realizing that she was seriously considering it.
He didn't know whether he wanted to encourage her or not, so he stayed mum and waited for her to mull over the option by herself. It seemed too imposing and desperate to goad her into it, anyway.
"I haven't told Daddy I'm here, you know," she mumbled. "He wouldn't have let me come without company because the crime rate is quite high in this part of Europe, and he said he was worried about me being accosted because he thinks I'm quite pretty—but that's how most dads see their daughters, isn't it?"
She fluttered her lashes prettily at him as though to say she found it funny, but he honestly thought her old man had the right to worry. He deflected fleeting glances earlier while they walked, and he was quite sure those had little to do with the bruise on her face.
"I thought I'd be alright since I have my earrings with me," Luna continued, reaching a hand out to touch where they usually hung from her ears.
"You forgot to wear them today?" he asked. He did notice their absence – he thought of it as her signature accessory, after all – but he didn't comment on it. Experience taught him that most girls were touchy about it when you remarked on what they wore.
"I lost them on the way here," she sighed, looking forlorn as she withdrew her hand. "They're protective charms, you see. My mum made them with special beads she got from Japan."
"Oh." There it was again, another intimate memory he felt unworthy of hearing.
But it was kind of nice, learning how she cared about her parents and all. He's been with her company enough by now to know she's a sweetheart beneath appearances, especially and unpretentiously so with the people she held dear.
He forked a couple of beans, quashing down the next leaps his misbehaving heart did, and asked randomly, "Why radishes?"
Somehow that elicited a large, silly grin from her.
"For good luck," she explained, "Vegetables and fruits reflect good harvest."
"Let me guess," he smirked, "your mum liked radishes the most."
She laughed, nodding with enthusiasm. "She liked to call them dirigible plums. My mum has quite the imagination. I'm not that fond of radishes myself, to be honest, but it pleased her very much when I wore them."
He arched a brow at that. "Does that mean you'd have preferred a different vegetable or fruit if she gave you the opportunity to choose?"
"Hmm, I suppose so," she hummed in response. She thought about it for a few more seconds before confessing conspiratorially, "I would've liked lettuce or pomegra—why are you laughing?"
He bit his lip. "I'm not."
It was true. He hadn't made a sound.
"Your eyes are," she observed sharply.
... well, that was true, too.
"You really are the strangest girl," he admitted. He looked at her incredulously, asking, "You'd really want lettuce earrings?"
"I eat lettuce all the time," she justified. He didn't miss the flash of color that appeared on her cheeks.
"Sure," he said sardonically, "but don't you think they'd look weird as earrings?"
"I think it brings character," she reasoned, pointing her fork chidingly at him. "And really, girls would wear anything if it's from someone who matters to them."
He looked skeptic at that. The statement rang false based on his past experiences – hell, even his own mother once exchanged a classic gold pendant he got her for a bracelet that had been on trend at the time.
He eyed her challengingly. "Anything?"
"Anything," she nodded.
"So hypothetically," he started to ask, "if I give you normal jewellery – in a design you won't particularly like," he added, just to make the point clear, "you'd still wear it?"
She nodded without hesitation.
He pulled back from the countertop, still regarding her with a slight incredulity. Luna was terribly honest, and she hadn't really given him cause to doubt her so far, but he couldn't help being apprehensive.
Deciding he'd settle that matter another day, he shifted the conversation back to their previous subject.
"Where are you traveling next?" he asked.
It was the first time he'd ever ventured on knowing her itinerary, and a part of him felt that the move may strongly affect the rate of coincidental meetings they've had so far—if only because he had a strong feeling he'd start chasing after her.
But what difference did it make? He was with her now, in the calm and security of a nice little apartment, talking amiably about little things, and still he felt like catching his breath, as if he were chasing after her.
"Namibia," answered Luna. "I've actually just finished collecting yesterday, so I'll be going there for a little holiday."
His eyebrows furrowed. "What's there to see in Namibia?"
"Animals and natural landscapes," she told him, eyes glazed with a dreamy far-off look. "I'm quite excited for it—I'll be camping out under the stars on the night of a meteor shower."
"Alone?" he prodded.
She blinked and turned to him with an amused smile. "Do you want to come with?"
He made a point of reaching out to the hand resting idly by her plate, shifting it so he could intertwine their fingers together. He's held her hand all day, and still he doesn't think he'll tire of it yet. For all the uneasiness she's been making him feel, he's beginning to realise that he's never felt as happy as he did when her hand is in his and she's beaming warmly at him.
To hell with it, I don't want to let go.
He gently squeezed, and showed her a little smirk.
"I never thought you'd ask."
This story isn't dead, ha-ha! This chapter went through about three or four major revisions before I decided to settle on this one. I've already been planning to end the chance encounters after three chapters, but I just didn't know how to go about it until this classic idea popped into mind. I was pleasantly surprised by how reasonable it was despite being rather cheesy and cliché; crimes do happen when you travel, and it's really something you have to look out for when you're alone. My last trip to Paris was laden with fear of being robbed, and I was already with friends! For Luna to experience something similar isn't really as far-fetched as it seems. (I had the idea of having Draco robbed instead, too, but it didn't seem viable enough.) I enjoyed writing this more than I did with my scrapped drafts, if only because it made the most sense. This made it easier for me to play out the transition from chance to choice that I wanted to happen in this chapter.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this installment! It'll be a little while more before I can update – I'll be travelling (yay!), working (aw), and working on my graduate school applications (so I can travel some more, go figure) – but, well, it just gets fluffier from here on out. Stay tuned!
En route à Windhoek
“Well, who are you with?”
Draco closed his eyes, fingers pinching his bridge of his nose. He already knew that this was a lost battle, but he was hoping to stall his defeat for several more hours. “Mother, that is hardly—”
“Draco,” chided the soft, but firm voice on the other line.
He sighed. There was no satiating his mother’s curiosity but the straightforward truth.
“I’m with Luna Lovegood,” he answered defeatedly, casting a sideways glance at the said girl.
At the mention of her name, Luna looked up from the stuffed animal she was inspecting. Smiling, she waved one of its paws and threw him a little wink. It was so unexpectedly endearing that he couldn't help flashing her a small smile in return.
“She’s an old schoolmate.” He hoped that explained enough. He wished she’d just drop the subject already; she was likely drawing her own assumptions again, and though he frankly did not care for most of them, he was concerned with how she acted on them.
She’d been especially ruthless with the worst of his old flings, and while he couldn't see Luna anywhere near their level of… ugliness, in any sense of the word, to merit a similar reaction from his mother, he was a bit worried that she would blatantly show her dislike or disapproval for some petty reason regardless, and that was especially troublesome because he actually liked Luna.
“From Hogwarts,” his mother said, and he could imagine her nodding, “She was quite the equestrian.”
“She never—” he stopped abruptly, realizing what she was saying. His eyes narrowed. “How did you know that?”
“Who do you think gave her her horse?”
“Anyway, this is quite unexpected of you. She’s a sweet girl. Take care of her. Have fun and stay safe.”
“Wait! What di—”
The line cut off.
Draco frustratedly glared at his phone. He was about to redial when the flight attendant announced them to turn off their mobiles, and he had to grudgingly obey.
“How was your mum?” Luna asked blithely, watching him plop on the seat opposite hers.
“Splendid,” he drawled sardonically, clipping on his seatbelt. He didn't want to mention what she said about the horse, not while he was in the dark himself. He made a mental note to confront his mother about it the next time they spoke—not that it was difficult to recall, anyway, as his mind reeled with a dozen unanswered, beckoning questions on the matter, plus there was the mild indignation on the possibility that his mother may or may not have gifted another kid with a bloody horse when all he got at the age of nine of was a pair of football shoes.
Granted it was the most coveted pair at the time, and his childish self did ask for it specifically, but still.
Turning his full attention to the girl, he watched as her eyes wandered, surveying the plane. She was holding the bizarre stuffed animal to her chest.
“This is very nice,” she commented softly, turning back to him with a bright smile. “Do you always fly like this?”
“Only occasionally,” he answered. He leaned back on his seat as he heard the engine hum. “I have no problem taking business class if the flight’s less than five hours.”
“I’m not fond of long flights myself.” She beamed warmly at him. “Thank you for letting me come with you.”
“You’re the one who invited me,” he reminded her, the corner of his lips tugging to a half-smile. “Anyway, I’ve never seen a meteor shower.”
“It’ll be beautiful,” she assured him.
The conversation stopped there as they felt the plane ascend. Draco turned his head to the window, watching the dimly lit cityscape beneath them zoom out from the view. It was a red-eye flight, but they’ll be in Namibia by midday—just enough time to drive to the site and set up camp.
He hadn't told Luna, but her passport wasn't even supposed to be released until after two weeks. He called in favors to expedite the process when she told him she wanted to catch the peak of the Perseids, which she would’ve missed otherwise. He called in Gringotts, too, doubly making sure her account was as secure as possible. It wasn't until his mother’s sudden curiosity in his affairs – requesting to use the family jet was not unusual enough to merit suspicion, but he supposed his call to their contact at the International Federation must have reached her somehow and she put two and two together – that he realized he was going out of his way to make someone else happy.
More disconcertingly, he wanted to.
They were above the clouds now. Free to walk about, Luna unclipped her seatbelt and rose from her seat. “I’m going to change,” she told him. He gave her a curt nod in response, eyes following her as she made her way to the restroom.
He rose from his own seat after she closed the door, intent on lounging on the large sofa bed opposite their seats. He quickly changed clothes himself and ordered the both of them a light midnight snack.
It isn't as if I’m unhappy, he thought mildly. It was the opposite, and he was still trying to figure out how that was possible – if this was truly real, if this would last long, and all those other uncertainties. It addled him to near madness, and try as he might to find reason in all of it, it only seemed that he was getting closer to concluding this was a territory reason never and could never be in.
“Hi,” Luna greeted, pulling him back to reality. She smiled as she walked up to him, donned in the white silk pajamas he surprised her with just before they boarded. He spotted the subtle sheep print in a passing boutique and thought it would suit her perfectly, and it did.
He patted the space beside him, gesturing her to sit. She grabbed her bizarre stuffed animal from her plane seat before complying. He wound his arm around her shoulder, pulling her close into a sort of half-hug. (For warmth, he reasoned, ignoring the rational part of his mind saying he could have just asked the staff to adjust the temperature.)
Her head rested on his chest, and he moved his arm downward to wrap around her waist. She smelled of lavender today, just a little something from the local market, but it was a testament to how well she took care of herself when the fragrance didn’t blend with anything unpleasant.
“You smell nice,” she mumbled, relaxing onto him with a sigh. Funny, she’s been sniffing him too. “You don't smoke, do you?”
“No,” he replied simply.
“That’s good,” she giggled. She raised her head to look at him, a silly little grin on her face. “Do you want to eat something?”
“I already got you pudding,” he told her.
Her smile widened. “Really?”
He nodded, and then shifted slightly to get a better look at the stuffed animal she was cuddling. “What is that thing?” he asked curiously. It was such a strange-looking toy, something like a cross-breed between a unicorn and a baby elephant with wings.
“The tag says it’s a Crumple-horned Snorkack,” She informed him brightly, holding it up so he could see it. “The flight attendant said it was a prototype made by a Belgian toy company. The owner left it here, but never went back for it. Apparently the investor didn't like it very much, and preferred the other designs.”
He raised a skeptic brow at it. “I suppose my father flew in the designer.” He did mention wanting to explore and expand into the toy industry. “It does look weird,” he commented, nose scrunching in distaste.
“I think it looks cute,” Luna countered, opening and closing its legs and tilting it left and right.
“Of course you do.” He rolled his eyes. “You think vegetable earrings are cute.”
“Well, they are,” she insisted unabashedly, putting down the Snorkack on her lap. “And this is very imaginative.”
“Not necessarily appealing,” he smarted.
“You’re just old, Draco,” she retorted.
“Excuse me?” He pinched her waist, eliciting a laugh from her. “Did you just call me old?”
“Busy old men tend to forget they were once children—hey!” She laughed, squirming under his sudden ticklish hold on her waist. “Draco!”
“You’re only four years younger than me, you little brat.” He fought the chuckles threatening to escape his lips, putting his efforts into bringing her onto his lap instead and wheezing out more of her bell-like chuckles. Her voice never rang shrill, and he was starting to wonder if he’d ever find a fault in her that he’d actually care about.
“Alright, alright,” she began to say, catching the fingers on her waist in an attempt to stop their malevolent tickling.
He paused, then stopped altogether. He kept her on his lap and pulled her back flush against his chest. She nestled her head on the crook of his neck, pink-faced but beaming.
“You’re such a baby,” she teased, letting out one last chuckle. She tilted her head upward to meet his eyes, asking sweetly, “Can I keep the Snorkack?”
“It’s all yours,” he snorted. He was pretty sure she was the only person in the world who would want it anyway.
She held the purple thing to her chest, nuzzling it fondly. “Did you ever play with toys like this when you were younger?” she asked randomly.
“Probably,” he shrugged. “I don’t remember really liking anything before football.”
“How did you come to like football then?”
“My father taught me,” he confided, recalling the memory. “He used to take two afternoons a week to spend time with me when I was younger. My mother says he started teaching me how to kick a ball ever since I learned how to walk.”
“That’s nice,” she hummed, prying one of his hands off her waist to intertwine their fingers together. “You always did look cool in the field.”
He arched a brow, a proud smile tugging at his lips. “You watched?”
“I wanted to see why all the girls were always talking about you—well, half of them, anyway,” she shrugged, resting her head on his chest again. “Half of them liked Harry more. Opinions were very divided, but you were all very popular.”
“Which side were you on?” he prodded.
“Neither. You do remember you both played for the same team, right?” She pinched his palm lightly. “Besides, Nargles was cuter than the both of you combined.”
“I smell better than the both of them combined,” he insisted, making her laugh again.
“I suppose you do,” she agreed, raising the hand intertwined with hers to just an inch below her nose. She breathed in, taking in his scent, and raised her large, beautiful blue eyes to him curiously. “Have you ever camped out before?”
“I know how to set up a tent and do basic first aid.”
“So you haven't,” she concluded.
“I’ll survive,” he reassured her, slightly tightening his hold on her waist.
“I was just thinking that you might prefer we borrow a minivan. It’s more comfortable and secure.” Her eyes snapped back to the hand she was holding, looking at it thoughtfully. “Your hands are very pretty.”
With anyone else, he would've taken it as an insult, but this was Luna, and she was just a little worried.
“I’m fine with whatever setup you want to do,” he told her, letting her open his palm and gently rub her thumb across it the lines. “I can handle a night in a sleeping bag."
She hummed pensively for a little while, likely thinking it over. Draco took the silence as an opportunity to draw her closer, resting his chin on her shoulder. He was thankful that the pajamas covered the skin, else he might have been unable to help himself.
He tried not to think about it – how attracted he was to her, that is. His thoughts might linger, and become actions that would push her away. He didn’t want that to happen, but he didn’t want to be so distant from her either: he’d get as close as he could, but he wouldn't cross the line.
He closed his eyes, breathing her in and thinking that things were fine just like this.
“Draco?” Luna called. He grunted in response, and she continued softly, “Can I ask you something personal?”
“Where did this come from?”
He opened his eyes just as he felt her fingers gently tracing the ghost of an old scar on his forearm.
“My aunt,” he answered with a grimace. The discoloration was nearly unnoticeable now, but it was not unlike her to see it and realize it wasn't just another one of those weird spots on the skin. “She tried to kill my mum once.”
He said it so casually, but the mere fact that he had a scar from that day meant it was anything but a casual memory.
“How old were you?” Luna asked quietly, her voice more curious than anything else.
“Sixteen.” It had been over thirteen years now, he realized, since that dark, ugly summer.
Luna’s eyes were trained on the scar, looking at it with a sad expression. He turned his arm over to hide it, wrapping it back around her waist and holding her closer.
“You don't have to tell me the rest if you don't want to,” she murmured softly, turning her head so that it leaned sideways against his chest, her ear pressed near his heart. He shifted so that his chin rested atop her head, and for a beat they stayed just like that.
The engine hummed quietly, and Draco thought that the peace was rather surprising – he used to feel resentment, and anger, even fury, when he recalled what happened that day. It used to make him feel nothing else but hate, and he’d only forced himself not to think of it for his mum. He ignored the scar for years, and to think it would resurface now and he’d feel – he’d feel nothing, as if it was just an inane old memory.
He didn’t know if it had something to do with the passage of time or the calming effect Luna had on him. He trusted her, he realized — he trusted her more than he thought it was possible to trust a person.
Somehow that was terrifying and relieving all at once.
“She was delirious, my aunt,” he began to say, voice slightly hushed. “She had a failed marriage she couldn't get out of, and her feelings for the younger man she was having an affair with turned out to be unrequited. My mum was worried she’d do something dangerous when the nurses said she was skipping her antidepressants for… other substances.”
He cleared his throat, a bit uncomfortable going on a monologue, but Luna placed her hand above his as a quiet gesture of support.
“She invited her for tea,” he continued, “My mum thought she could use a proper holiday, so she offered her one of our vacation homes. She was only trying to help, but… my aunt mistook her sympathy for pity, I guess. It turned ugly from there.”
His lips curled to a frown at the memory. He remembered rushing to the veranda to see what had his aunt screaming louder than a group of banshees. He thought she just lost a game of chess or cards – she always went into a screeching fit with the pettiest things – and he was mildly peeved at the noise (he was trying to watch a game!) but when he got there, he wished that was all there was to it: a lost round, a sour defeat.
“If I hadn't walked in when I did, that knife would have sliced my mother’s throat instead of my arm,” he mumbled, brows drawn in a half-sort of scowl. He had shoved her down at the time, and he kind of wished he hadn't been so rough, but it saved her life and he wasn't going to apologize for it.
“Thank goodness you did, then,” she replied, raising her head to show him a smile. It was the kind that was happy and warm and proud, and he couldn't help the almost reflexive upward curl of his lips in response.
Nobody ever looked at him like that.
Breaking their eye-lock but keeping the smile on her face, she leaned her head back on his chest. “Thanks for telling me,” she giggled, “You’re a very honorable dragon, Draco.”
“And you’re quite the nosy princess, aren't you?” he retorted, pinching her waist. Her light laughter reverberated across the room, warm as daylight.
“Is she alright now?” Luna asked meekly when her giggles died down, “—your aunt, I mean.”
He paused for a while, pondering over how he should answer that, before eventually settling for honesty. “I don't know,” he admitted. “She was jailed for aggravated assault, but only for a few days. They took her to rehab after that. I haven't heard of her since.”
He’d never bothered to, and that was the unsaid and rather obvious truth of it. He cared very little of his aunt before, and her stunt, to put it mildly, diminished any sort of solicitude completely.
“I see,” Luna said understandingly. The subject closed there, and they returned to a short, comfortable silence that ended with the arrival of pudding, much to the younger blonde’s ecstatic delight.
The stewardess handed her a tall glass of vanilla pudding with strawberries and caramel; it seemed scrumptious, to say the least, if Luna’s reaction to her first bite was any indication. Draco kept her on his lap as she giddily devoured the dessert, quietly watching her with bemused affection.
“I do love flying with you,” she commented offhandedly as she spooned another bite. “This,” she raised the glass – she was holding it with just her thumb and index finger – and made circular motions with both her hands, gesturing to the plane (meaning the entire flight, he supposed), “is heaven.”
The witty retort that rested at the tip of his tongue disappeared in the same second she surprised him with a kiss on his cheek. Luna beamed at him, and then nonchalantly went back to her pudding while he mentally scrambled for composure.
Leave it to her to undo all his efforts of suppression and restraint and remind him of his worsening, unbidden feelings toward her. It wasn't just lust anymore if wanting to make her happy, cuddling with her like this (he never cuddled with anyone else before, never!) a kiss on the cheek (which was just an expression of her gratitude, he knew, but bloody hell, if he had turned his head then as he intended to, then—oh, gods), and just seeing her smile all made his heart soar like a goddamn moron.
Was this really how it felt like? To be in—? Wasn’t it happening too fast? What if he’s just imagining the whole thing—what if he’s delirious?
He told her about his aunt. Even Zabini doesn't know – or at least, he never heard it from him directly – and he’s the nosiest prat in his closest group of friends. The incident incurred rumors before, but he never confirmed nor denied the public suspicions.
He even told her about his father, and it was just so easy to share it with her that he didn’t even realize until now how intimate that memory was. He’d never told that to anyone, and if somebody else asked him about how he came to like football, he would've just said something about playing it as a kid.
But he told her. He let her know.
Does this mean she was—that to him, she’s—
“Draco,” Luna called tentatively. He snapped out of his thoughts long enough to notice that she appeared to be making an inspection of his feet, continuing, “Do you think my feet could snuggle with yours under your socks?”
Different. She’s determinedly, undeniably different.
“They’ll rip,” he replied. Thank gods she wasn't looking at him, else she’d be seeing how his eyes were softening at the conclusion he arrived at in his mind.
“My feet are really small compared to yours,” she reasoned, tilting her head this way and that to see if another angle proved otherwise. Her feet were in between his – dangling by an inch, as she was sitting on his lap and he was much taller than she was – and they looked just about three-fifths of his size. “Just before my ankle, I think?” she mumbled, proceeding to assess the durability of his socks by sight alone.
Draco sighed and took the now-empty glass from her hand, placing it on the nearby table. He grabbed the blanket beside it before completely withdrawing his hand back to his side. Wordlessly he unfolded the woolen fabric, placing it on her lap so that it covered their legs, all the way to their toes.
“Oh!” exclaimed Luna, attention completely shifted to the eclectic patterns on the blanket. It was designed by some supposedly renowned artist, he remembered as much.
He smiled in satisfaction when he observed that she was no longer shivering. He wrapped his arms back around her waist, and, thinking there was no harm in doing it because she did the same, planted a light kiss at her temple, lips barely shielded by her hair.
It was the most affection he could show, at least for the time being. He remembered she said that it might be dangerous for them to fall for each other, and he thought that she might have taken it as a precaution on her part. He used girls before, after all, and he nearly treated her the same. But she was different even before that, and now more than ever.
She was the only flight risk he’d ever been willing to take.
I’ll win her over, he thought resolutely, resting his chin back atop her head, I’ll make her look at me.
(Too absorbed in his thoughts, Draco never noticed the furious blush and starry eyes and pounding heart hiding behind the Crumple-horned Snorkack.)
Somehow I found time to write this short chapter in between practicing quantitative problems and figuring out I'm supposed to score well in integrative reasoning. I honestly can't wait to get the GMAT and grad school and scholarship applications out of my way already—I just want to write fluff and start boxing. Well, anyway, I hope you enjoyed this little installment!
And to all my readers who have gone to/are participating in the Women's March: fight on!
The southern Namibian desert held a vast expanse of red sand dunes and white saltpans isolated from the wildlife thriving in the rest of the country. During the day, Sossusvlei resembled the oft-rendered landscapes from uninhabited planets – barren, dry, hot.
At night, there was even less. There was almost no color.
But there were stars – clear and bright and plenty – and they illuminated what was otherwise a dark, sightless sky. Light pollution didn't exist in reserves so far away from the city like this.
The distance, the silence, the simplicity – there wasn't much more here, not really, and that was precisely the wonder of it: lying on a hammock on the rooftop, just gazing at the stars, nowhere else had Draco ever felt so free.
It was refreshing, to say the least. It was as if the stars poured energy into his soul, warming it with some blend of renewed inspiration for life and a better understanding of his own self. He doesn't know how to describe it, but it felt as if this was whatever he sought when he started traveling, a feeling – a little wistful but somehow content, slightly nostalgic and unexpectedly hopeful all at once – he missed long before he stepped out of his home.
For many minutes, he was in a dream, floating among iridescent lights and watching a parade of constellations dance.
In the next minute, he was not.
"It's lovely, isn't it?"
He turned his head, finding Luna standing a foot away from the hammock, hands behind her back and eyes on the sky. She turned to him with a little smile. "Hi," she greeted almost shyly, "mind if I join you?"
Well—this, he thinks, was not such a terrible reality to return to. It was even quite a lovely one.
"Not at all," he replied, throwing a little smirk of his own. The hammock swayed as he scooted to the other side to give her space, one arm outstretched to pillow her head. Her hair tickled his skin, but she nestled almost perfectly against his body, warm and close.
"Mhmm." She settled an arm lazily on his torso. "I had the most pleasant dream, but I can't remember what it was about."
"How can you know it was the most pleasant dream if you can't remember it?" he humored.
"Just a feeling," she sighed dreamily. "How long have you been up here?"
He didn't really check the time. They arrived in the lodge around five in the afternoon – they eventually opted to check in when they landed, rattled by the long flight despite the comfort of a personal jet – and slept for some hours after a light early dinner. He woke first, of course, and found himself on the rooftop after quietly roaming the suite; it was impossible to ignore the stars the moment his eyes found them.
"I've never seen anything like this before," he told her.
She caught the hint of fascination in his voice and smiled. "It is beautiful," she agreed. "It's a shame we can't see your namesake from here, though. I'd forgotten we'd be in the southern hemisphere."
"That's a non-issue," he replied, "I'm the only Draco that should matter right now anyway."
"I suppose that's a good thing," she said blithely. "The moon is hiding tonight, too, so it's just you and I."
"And the stars," he added with faux drama.
"How romantic," she laughed.
His lip quirked at that. "Can I ask you something personal?"
She angled her head to look at him, curiously trying to read his expression, and then she smiled mischievously. "I'll tell you anything if you win our wager."
"Oh, that's cute." He rolled his eyes jokingly. "Playing hard to get, aren't you?"
"You're the one who suggested this game, remember?" she laughed, tilting her head and leaning it on the hand resting atop his chest. "Are you giving up?"
"I'm Draco Malfoy," he responded indignantly, "I don't play games I don't win."
She grinned at him. "Shall I give you the last grand clue?"
At this, he smirked. "Not necessary," he told her, unnerved and confident. "I already know what you were collecting."
Luna appeared unfazed by this declaration, rather certain that it was simply a rouse of sorts, until he said:
Draco felt a gush of pride when he saw the genuine surprise strike in her expression.
"How did you…?"
"It came to my mind while we were passing through the desert." Sand. Digging. Archaeology. Nothing tremendously outstretched, really—when the word crossed his mind, it just happened to match every hint she'd given, and he simply felt so sure.
He couldn't hide the smugness in his expression when she heaved a defeated sigh and went, "There goes my free Quidditch ticket…"
He arched a brow at her in amusement. "You wanted to watch Quidditch?"
"I love the game and the energy in the tournament," she nodded, grinning. "It's all very fun."
"What's your favorite team?" he asked curiously.
"Oh. I do like the Bulgarians," she said after a thoughtful hum. "Krum is very talented, and he's quite nice. I met him when he visited Hogwarts, you know, though I don't think he'll remember."
"Well, that's unexpected," he replied with genuine surprise. "I wouldn't have thought you'd be a Viktor Krum fangirl."
"I appreciate his plays, that's all," she told him, lips curling to a teasing smile. "Aren't you also a fan?"
"That's debatable," he said with a wink, eliciting another giggle from her. He shifted slightly, curling an arm around her waist now that half her torso was lying on top of him and she was facing him instead of the sky. "Who were you planning to go with?"
"I was going to ask you," she answered casually. "I thought it'd be fun."
"It's a date," he decided without giving it a second thought.
Her eyes quickly lit up. "Really?"
He raised his other hand to pinch her cheek, unable to help the little smile on his face at the thought of her likely commentaries during the game. "Yeah," he affirmed quietly. He definitely wouldn't want to miss that.
Luna beamed brightly at him. "You are the best."
"Always," he smugly replied in agreement before moving his fingers to caress the side of her face, brushing away stray strands of hair behind her ear. "So," he started to say, "what kind of artifacts were you collecting?"
"Have you ever heard of a Fabergé egg?"
"Those fancy jeweled eggs from Russia?" He didn't remember what they were called, but judging from the nod Luna just gave, they were likely as iconic as he remembered.
"A client hired me to search for the last seven imperial eggs," she told him, her voice low but clear.
"Hired you?" He raised a brow. "Are you a detective?"
"Far from it—I'm a preschool teacher, actually," she said matter-of-factly. "I did graduate with a degree in Museum and Anthropology, though, so I suppose that's why they asked me."
"How did you go from Museum and Anthropology to preschool teacher?" he asked skeptically.
"I had an altercation with my old boss." She let out a sigh at the memory. "He was very..." She paused thoughtfully as she searched for the word. "…impolite."
He blinked at her. "How?"
"He tried to steal a kiss and more after I politely rejected him," she told him. "I ended up knocking him out with one of the artifacts, and many people in the industry find that more appalling than harassment, which I understand to an extent."
Her eyes twinkled with regret and disappointment, and he felt a surge of anger and indignity at what she just shared.
"That isn't fair," he remarked almost petulantly.
"Many things in life aren't," she pointed out ever-so-wisely, and threw him a little smile. "It's not so bad. I have the most adorable little learners back at home, I have more time to ride Nargles and cook for Daddy, and I have this job. It lets me travel and it pays quite generously."
He remained dubious about that. "Am I right in assuming that someone just came up to you and asked you to search for these eggs in exchange for a heap of money?"
She nodded, and his brows notched further.
"How is that not suspicious to you?"
"I'm not saying it isn't," she replied. "But I did write a paper on their possible whereabouts in university, and my professor didn't believe in the slightest possibility that they could be found after so many years. They offered more details, and I just wanted to see the truth for myself."
"That's it?" Draco looked at her in disbelief. He understood why it would be so appealing to her, but a part of him still thought it was too good to be true. Hiring someone who was wrongfully given a bad reputation in one industry just seemed completely convenient. "Do you know this client of yours?"
Her smile turned sheepish, and his eyes narrowed. He sat up, one hand still wrapped around her waist as she followed.
"You said you've finished collecting," he said, staring down at her.
"You checked your account when we landed, right?"
"The payment's been deposited," she assured him. "They were even kind enough to give a small bonus."
"I'd rather we don't." She cut him off before he could finish his suggestion, putting a hand on top of his. "I've told you everything I know, and I know there are unanswered questions, but the client has asked me not to find out who they are—for my safety."
"All the more reason that you should," he reasoned, looking at her incredulously. "How can you just trust what they say? What if they're planning to frame you for whatever shit they're going to do? Did they blackmail you to do this?"
"They're not going to harm me," she tried to reassure him.
Draco's misgivings did not wane in the slightest. "You're trusting them on instinct?"
"They've never threatened me."
"Have you tried refusing them?"
"I said no the first time they contacted me," she told him, and that made him stop his barrage of questions for a moment. "I told them I was content with my new job in the preschool, and they said they were willing to wait until I was ready." She paused there, taking a breath, and said, "They waited two years."
New questions riddled in his head, but Luna continued to speak.
"I have a feeling that they didn't ask me just because of my background in museum and anthropology," she said softly, hints of her own disbelief and curiosity echoing in her voice. "They consistently said and showed that it couldn't be anyone else. It had to be me."
"Why?" He couldn't understand it.
"I don't know," she admitted, looking as disappointed as he did. "I would like to know, of course, but it seems now is not the time."
"Did they say anything else?" he prodded.
"Only that everything will reveal itself in due course—sometimes we just have to wait." She held his hand and smiled up at him. "I wouldn't have taken this job at all if I felt my safety would be jeopardized."
"It was back in Sofía," he feebly reminded her.
"They're not accountable for my luck with the criminal activity there," she reasoned, shrugging her shoulders. "I am thankful though that the egg was sent back as soon as I retrieved it the day before. It would have been worrisome if I had waited a day longer."
"Traveling alone is dangerous," he pointed out, "especially for a woman."
"It was a risk I was willing to take." Luna sighed and squeezed his hand, looking at him pleadingly. "I've concluded my assignment, and I won't be doing anything like it again in the future. Please don't look any more into it. It's done."
He frowned. Something still didn't sit right—something felt familiar in her story, which was unique and new to him by its own merits, but he simply couldn't pinpoint what part of it.
His train of thought was broken when he felt the warmth withdraw from the hand she held. He blinked and stared at Luna, who was looking at him worriedly.
"Are you angry with me?" she asked timidly.
He felt a great deal of worry more than anything, but she had a point about it being done. There isn't much he can do, really. It would be easy to wheeze the information from Gringotts—Luna wouldn't even have to know, but…
It felt wrong doing something behind her back. He'd done it before, fine, but that time held absolutely no danger whatsoever. From what she just told him, this could put her in more risk than she already was.
Stupid cute face getting into trouble.
"Fine," he grumbled. Merlin, she was pouting. "Just so you know, I will look up this client of yours if anything suspicious happens."
Luna beamed. "You're—"
"—the best, I know." He rolled his eyes and raised a hand to pinch one of her cheeks. "I'm starting to understand why you're so spoiled."
"I'm spoiled?" she managed to say.
"Tell me you haven't manipulated people with that face," he teased with a smirk.
He loosened his hold on her cheek, but a movement caught in her periphery before she could reply. She blinked and looked upwards.
One. Two. Three.
"Look!" Luna exclaimed excitedly just as Draco followed her line of vision, air stopping at his lungs at the sight of the sky.
The stars were no longer sitting still, and it seemed as if time and the world suspended in a moment to watch them fall.
When it finished – and what a sight it was, indescribably beautiful and breathtaking unlike any other – there was little else Sossusvlei could offer to compete with the view of the bright-eyed troublemaker sprawled back on his torso. At some point in the middle of their stargazing, they returned to their lying position on the hammock, and it was undoubtedly the freest and most relaxed Draco had felt in ages.
"You were right," he mumbled after some hundred heartbeats of silence. Luna tilted her head to look at him, and he just vaguely clarified, "—about the stars."
She smiled widely at him. "Did you make a wish?"
"Mm." He couldn't tell her, of all people.
Luna didn't pry further, and just smiled again before looking back up at the stars.
"You can ask me now, by the way," she said lightly, "the personal question."
Perhaps it was the moment, how it built up and how it felt to him then, but he didn't hesitate quite as much as he expected himself to when he popped the question.
"May I court you?"
It's after the question rolls off his tongue that the questions run around his mind in a split second of panic, and it hits him that there's an answer he genuinely fears of hearing.
Three beats pass – three long, tumultuous beats with the thought of an imminent rejection – and then she answers, easy and sincere.
He feels her hand curl over and twine with his, and smiles.
I feel like pitchforks are pointed at me for only giving this brief update after so many months. I do wish I could have uploaded this sooner, but I had been engrossed in writing and polishing In Between Constellations (which you should give a read if you haven't yet—I'm still quite in love with the universe I set up in there), as well as coping with hurtful setbacks in life. (It's a surprise I haven't turned anything to angst.) I've also rewritten this chapter about five or six times – I'm not the best conversationalist out there, and this went a lot of different ways before I came and settled for this because it fit the tone and theme of the story best.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed! Thank you for all the comments and kudos. They keep me writing on terrible days I think of abandoning this. (Again, I entered an angst phase thanks to some drawbacks in life.) I will update at the soonest.
Chapter 8: Dubai
I'm alive! This took longer than I anticipated – I went through four drafts of about the same length, and I kind of got carried away writing this MuggleLawyer!AU fic (same pairing) for fun for a few weeks... err, a month and a half maybe... but anyway, here you go! This chapter is Luna-centric, which made it more difficult to write (thus the welcome distractions causing delays), but I hope you enjoy it all the same.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Landing in the innovative, futuristic desert landscape of Dubai provided a sharp contrast to the weeks previously spent trekking around the southern section of the African wild. Luna thought that it made traveling feel ever more worldly and exciting, going from gentle giraffes and luscious jungles to glass skyscrapers rising from vast fields of sand. She had never gone beyond the European and African continents before. Visiting one of the most advanced cities in the world – not just in the Middle East – was definitely not something she had expected to happen within the same year, and yet here she was.
The best part of it all was that she wasn't alone.
Luna turned off the sink and padded to the door, still only dressed in her silk sheep-print pajamas as she'd just woken up a few minutes ago and washed her face. She opened it and greeted Draco with a smile. "Good morning."
"They started serving breakfast downstairs," he informed her, lips slightly curved to that roguish, heart-melting smirk of his. He looked a bit off, though, a little unwell even—perhaps it had been too cold for his morning swim today? It was already the middle of September, and desert temperatures could be quite extreme. "I'll wait for you in my room," he continued, "Let me know when you're ready."
"Okay," she nodded agreeably, and then her expression shifted to worry. "Are you feeling alright?"
"I'm fine," he assured her, "just slept a little later than usual last night."
"Are you sure?"
He gave her a small smile. "I'll take a nap before we go down, alright?"
Luna was unable to process a reply in time, as he'd taken a step closer and surprised her with a quick kiss on the forehead.
Her senses momentarily blanked.
"You look beautiful this morning, by the way," he simply said, throwing her one last flirtatious smile before he turned his heel and walked away.
It was so, so cheesy – almost criminal, Luna thought as she tried to calm the excited pounding in her chest. It's always been there, since the night they danced to La Vie En Rose and she tried to quell expectations and wishes she shouldn't have… but it's also gotten worse, somewhat, since he declared his intentions. Since he expressed his interest in her. Since he showed more affection beyond the thresholds of friendship she was so used to.
He did ask to court her, she reminded herself. This was all very normal in that context.
Locking herself in the bathroom, Luna leaned against the closed door and slowly, quietly slid down to the floor with her head in her hands, hiding the furious blush that crept up to her cheeks and wouldn't go away.
He was sick.
She could tell right away the moment she found him sleeping in his room, his breath heavy and skin looking grey and sallow. Noiselessly seating herself at the edge of his bed, right beside him, she placed a gentle hand on his forehead.
As she thought, he was much too warm.
She brushed hair away from his forehead and he stirred awake, groaning slightly.
"I'm not quite sure what plans you had for today, but we'll have to cancel them," Luna said softly, careful not to raise her voice and irritate him. "Do you have any preferences for soup?"
"Squash," Draco groaned, shutting his eyes when her head moved and the ceiling light beamed on his face. "There's medicine in the bathroom drawer."
Luna nodded. "I'll be right back."
He felt her weight lift off the bed and heard her shuffle through his bathroom shelf as she spoke softly on the phone. It was a good thing the suite was well-equipped – not that he'd book anything less than three stars for her, but the luxury of good service was convenient for situations like this.
Gods, he felt terrible. His body couldn't make out a comfortable temperature; it was too warm with the duvet over him, but too cold without it. His muscles felt sore and tight, and just the thought of sitting up was tiresome.
He felt a lukewarm towel being wiped gently on his face, and suddenly felt worse—he absolutely hated being a liability, and it was especially humiliating to be one to someone he'd given the rare promise to take care of.
"Can you sit up for a quick drink?" asked Luna softly.
His throat suddenly felt parched at the thought. Quietly, he mustered the energy to push himself up. Luna promptly aided him by propping a pillow on his back, smiling at him when he slowly opened his eyes and stared at her.
"Here," she said, holding out a glass of water to his lips. He sipped obediently, diminishing about a half of it before letting go.
"The food will take a while, and you can't take the medicine without eating first, so let's just freshen you a little and you can go back to sleep," she told him. "I'll wake you up when it's time to eat."
He leaned more comfortably on the pillows as she took hold of the wet towel again and started wiping it gently on his neck, lowering to trace his collarbones, his shoulders, his chest…
His eyes never wandered beyond her face, wondering how her eyes could look so soft and yet so sharply focused at the same time. Her lashes were pretty long, too; she kind of looked like an adult cherub, or at least how he imagined them to look like. Her cheeks had the slightest dust of pink, and her lips were…
—Ah, shite, I can't.
She was incredibly close.
And he was incredibly sick.
The apology escaped his lips almost subconsciously, leaving a foreign taste in his tongue. It wasn't his first – what an incredible asshole he might have been if it were – but his apologies definitely came rarely enough to feel like it were every time.
Luna paused and blinked up at him.
Her smile widened a fraction when she read the expression on his face. "Nobody likes being sick," she assured him. "We're only human, after all."
"You don't have to stay," he told her. His voice sounded rough and dry. "You can go explore the city. I'll be fine."
"I'm not going to enjoy this city by myself and leave you here." She patted his cheek lightly, towel still wrapped around her fingers. "It wouldn't be as fun, anyway."
"No company's better than sick company," he drawled, looking at her wearily. "You don't have to feel responsible."
"I don't," she assured him, her lip quirking up in amusement. "I just happen to like your company, sick or not."
He frowned at her, and warned, "I'm going to whine and irritate the hell out of you." He'd always been that kind of patient—the type who would terrorize whoever took care of him because it was a way of venting out his discomfort and pain.
"You'd sooner be asleep," she shrugged uncaringly. She smiled at him in that pretty, glowing way of hers, and he would have been better poised to resist her little charms weren't his fever causing an increasingly painful headache.
He sighed defeatedly and leaned back, closing his eyes with a quiet groan. Luna didn't say anything further and simply resumed wiping the cool towel on his skin, going about it as if she were also giving him a mild massage. Draco couldn't really complain; it was relaxing and doing wonders for the mind-numbing tick in his head. He relaxed, sliding back down to a more comfortable lying position, and, without another word, drifted off to sleep within minutes, just as she predicted he would.
Luna fondly brushed his hair away from his face again, letting her fingertips linger for a minute before withdrawing her hand. Her eyes softened.
You do make me happy, she thought, more than you know.
She pulled the duvet over his shoulders and leaned forward to plant a light kiss on his cheek, wishing him a good rest and a speedy recovery.
Her lips curved to a lighthearted, wistful smile when she pulled away.
Narcissa Malfoy calls a couple of hours after brunch; Luna picks up the phone, not wanting to bother the dragon sleeping soundly on the bed. Draco told her to wake him up on the off-chance his mother or father called, but he'd just fallen asleep again and she didn't have the heart to wake him.
Soundlessly making her way to the balcony, she answered the call.
"Hello, Mrs. Malfoy," she cut in before another word was spoken. Luna hoped to make this brief; she didn't want to upset Draco too much for going against his word. "Draco is sleeping at the moment. He'd fallen rather ill this morning and I didn't want to wake him up from his rest," she explained, briefly pausing to let that sink in. "Will it be alright to call at a later time? I can also pass a message for you if you'd like."
Narcissa doesn't answer right away, but the silence doesn't sit long.
"Draco is sick?"
"Yes, he caught a fever this morning." Luna nervously fiddled with the hem of her shorts. "He's resting right now. He'd just eaten and taken his medicine about an hour ago."
"You're taking care of him?"
Several seconds stretched out in silence, which Luna found difficult to interpret. She didn't know much about Draco's mother, other than that she seemed to love him very much—not unusual, of course, but how she would perceive her in consequence was not something she can predict.
Luna can't help hoping that she'll come to like her, even if only slightly, but she keeps herself from jumping far into expectations.
"Please tell my son to take better care of himself, and—you are in Dubai at the moment, am I correct?"
"Yes," she answered meekly. Feeling compelled to let her know, she added, "We're checked in the Atlantis."
"I expected as much—Draco prefers it to the Al Arab," Narcissa replied with an easy, nearly friendly nonchalance. "How do you like it?"
"It's very lovely," she answered genuinely. "It's not what I'm used to, but the suite is marvelous, and the view is stunning, and the staff have been very kind."
"That's good to hear," There is no condescension in the way she says it, and Luna feels her shoulders relax.
"When he gets better, please remind Draco that he is not allowed to go racing," Narcissa tells her firmly, "I know he does it behind my back. He can watch but please do not let him ride those wretched things."
"I understand," Luna replied, "I'll do my best to make sure he doesn't."
"Please do—he'll listen to you." She pauses for a beat, and then asks, "You have answered him, haven't you?"
Luna felt a flutter twist in her stomach. "Not yet," she answered honestly.
"Ah." There isn't judgment in her tone, but Luna thought she detected some amusement there somewhere—especially as she continued to suggest that, "You're free to threaten him with a no if he insists on racing."
It makes her chest feel light, and Luna finds herself letting out a small chuckle. "I'll keep that in mind," she tells the Malfoy matriarch. "Thank you, Mrs. Malfoy."
"You're welcome," Narcissa says on the other line. On a more solemn note, she adds, "He's not very good at waiting, you must know. He normally never does. Don't keep him hanging too long."
Luna smiles. "I won't."
Luna isn't used to receiving love.
Her family had always loved her dearly and abundantly, but it was different with others. People were often either indifferent or spiteful—the reason still escaped her, truthfully, but she's learned not to be bothered. Her mother's death taught her that life was too short to spend too many a time and thought with people who made her feel unloved.
It didn't mean she would hate or be unkind, of course. It would have been a disservice to the people, the places, the creatures, and all the other things that reminded her that for all its terrors and unkindness, the world was still full of wonder and love and beauty. One just had to learn to look.
The world never ran out of surprises, after all.
"I'm not going to pretend I don't notice that you're staring."
And this—he was definitely her favorite.
"Aren't you eating?"
"I'm quite done," she shrugged, hinting at the finished plates beside her with a glance before smiling brightly at him.
Draco frowned at her. Sighing, he put his spoon down and set aside the tray of food and medicine – now emptied plates and containers – on the flip table placed beside the bed. When he was settled, he looked at her and slightly spread his arms open in gesture. "Come here."
Luna's bright blue eyes twinkled gleefully. Without wasting another second, she swung her legs over the armchair and skipped over to the bed. She crawled over the space beside him before scooting closer, wrapping an arm around the front of his torso as he slid his own behind her back. She nuzzled her head at the crook of his neck, pressing her body closer, and sighed contentedly at the warmth.
She did love cuddling him very much.
She knows he likes cuddling her, too; she can feel the smile sitting atop her head, and it makes her inexplicably, incomparably happy.
She's never felt love like this.
"You drugged my brunch, didn't you?" he says after some moments of comfortable silence. "I don't think I ever slept that soundly with a fever."
"I think it might just be the medicine," she giggled, "they seem to be quite stronger here. The pharmacist said you should be healthy again by tomorrow morning."
"Any side effects I should watch out for?"
"None that I know of," she hummed. "We could check with a doctor tomorrow to be sure. Your mother would appreciate that."
"She called earlier," she continued before he could raise the question, "I didn't want to wake you up because you'd just fallen asleep. We only spoke briefly." She turned her head upwards, flashing him a smile. "She was quite nice."
He looked at her disbelief, a hand carding through her hair. "What did she say to you?"
"She just asked me to keep an eye on you, and said you should watch yourself more," she said sincerely. She smiled a toothy, mischievous grin. "She also told me to break up with you if you get into an F-1."
His brows furrowed, but there's an amused twinkle in his eye. "You haven't even answered me yet," he pointed out.
"She said I can say no." She sighed, tilting her head and leaning her cheek against his chest. "I don't think I will, though. I don't want to," she confessed, looking at him dreamily. "I do like you very much."
Luna felt almost silly for waiting to say it, repeatedly questioning the authenticity of her feelings. She didn't want to reciprocate for the sake of reciprocating, but the words were easy to say – the truth always was.
Draco's eyes widened. "Are you—"
"Tomorrow," she says, her smile soft and sincere.
She nods. "When you're better," she tells him, and then looking at him hopefully, she asks, "Can we do it like they do in the movies?"
The question makes him blink. "What do you mean?"
"How they seal it with kiss," she explained, cheeks turning a light pink as she looks away shyly to the window. "I haven't been with anyone before, but I always thought that it might be quite nice."
He doesn't respond immediately, so she tentatively slides her gaze back to him to peek at his expression, wondering if she'd been too forward or demanding.
Draco appeared only mildly distraught.
"Why can't I kiss you now?" he finally says with frustration, raising a hand to cup her cheek. "I'm feeling better now."
Luna holds back a laugh, and points out, "Your fever could relapse, and I might catch it, too. I won't be able to take care of you if that happens." She smiled at him reassuringly. "It's just one night."
"An eternity," he retorted, frowning. "For all I know, you could disappear in the morning."
"I won't," she giggled, "I won't leave you, I promise." She leaned her head against the hand cupping her cheek, beaming at him. "You're my favorite."
The reminder makes him smile, and her heart melted a little at the sight.
"You're mine, too," he tells her, fondly running his thumb across her cheek. "Stay with me tonight."
She smiles at him. "Okay."
"And the day after."
"I'll stay as long as you want me to," she promised him without hesitation.
Draco gazed at her with a resigned smile. "You really are something, Lovegood."
"Luna," she corrected with a pout. "Please call me by my name already."
He smirked. "Tomorrow, maybe."
Luna laughed as he tightened his embrace, lowering his head to plant a kiss on her forehead before she nuzzled her head back in the crook of his shoulder.
They stay like that for a time, each simply feeling the other's heartbeat.
Slow. Steady. Strong.
"I think I might fall in love with you," Luna says when she breaks the silence, sounding as if she were reciting the weather.
Draco smiles against her hair, breathing in her scent as he closes his eyes. "I'll catch you when you do."
Luna beams and hugs him tighter, wondering if he noticed the increased pace of her heartbeat, hoping he does.
She feels like she'll fall sooner than she thinks.
Draco woke first, minutes before light began to seep through the windows. His body felt infinitely lighter than it did the day before – the medicine delivered its promises, and he'd woken up to the smell of honeysuckle right under his nose.
He knew it would be a good day right there and then.
Luna was tucked right beside him, her head laying on his collarbones, though the rest of her body veered away to the other corner of the bed. He didn't know if that was on purpose or not, but it helped that only the duvet touched everything below his lower abdomen, saving them from potentially more awkward rousings. He'd like to kiss her before they did anything else.
Just as he began to wonder if the entirety of their conversations the previous night were simply illusions from the medicine he took, Luna roused from her sleep. She moaned, and then moved her head to lie on his arm before opening her eyes. She blinked until her vision cleared and focused on him, looking confused and curious at first, but then her lips eventually crept up to a soft smile.
"Good morning," she whispered dreamily, "are you feeling better?"
His lip tugged to a smile. "Fantastic," he replied.
"Are we still going to kiss today?" she asked sleepily when he gently slid his arm out from under her head and shifted to hover on top of her.
"Yes, Luna," he says simply, watching her eyes glimmer, "we are."
He leans in, but pauses just about three inches above her, and returns her wide, bright smile with a wink and a little grin.
Today, he thinks joyfully, he doesn't have to hold back.
(So he doesn't.)
His lips are soft, fitting perfectly into the curves of her mouth. He's warm, and—skilled, she thinks, as his tongue slipped in the second her mouth opened just wide enough. One of his hands found hers, intertwining their fingers together as he kept them by their side. Her breath faded somewhere, engulfed by the growing heat—it was simply oh so very wonderful, and Luna wondered if every kiss ever felt like this.
When he finally pulled away for breath, he leaned his forehead against hers. She realized belatedly that one of her arms had somehow wound up around his neck, but she didn't have the energy or desire to pull away.
"More," she managed to croak out, making Draco laugh.
"Didn't expect you'd like it that much," he commented, a half-smirk pulling at his lips as he shifted his weight to his elbows.
"I've never been kissed like that," she admitted with mild fascination. She tilted her head and blinked at him curiously. "Is it always like that?"
"No," he answered flatly, bopping her nose with his. "It's different for me, too."
"Oh." She splayed her fingertips on his cheek in a light caress. "Can we do it again?" She paused for a beat and then gently urged, "Please."
He pecked her nose. "If we don't have long breaks in between, I'll want to do more than just kiss you," he bluntly cautioned.
"You mean you'll want to touch me?" she asked innocently.
"Among other things." He settled his head at the crook of her neck, breathing her in. "You haven't told me how far you're willing to go yet."
Of course he'd notice, she thought hopelessly.
"My inexperience is obvious, isn't it?"
She wouldn't put it past him to figure it out. Luna was hardly reserved about close physical contact with people she held dear, but even she was still a stranger to certain levels of intimacy.
For one thing, no one had ever wanted to be with her – not in the way Draco did.
"It's not a turn-off, if that's what you're worried about," Draco assured thoughtfully as he lifted his head to meet her eyes. "I'll wait if you want me to," he offered sincerely, eliciting a small smile from her lips.
"That's very sweet of you to say," she replied, "but I don't want to keep you waiting."
"You're not obligated to have sex with me just because you're my girlfriend now," he stated, fighting back a grin from using the term. Noting the loophole immediately, he'd also amended, "You are obligated to not have sex with anyone else, though, because you are my girlfriend."
Luna chuckled. "I'm not interested in anyone else," she reassured him, "and I do want to do it with you."
He stared at her very seriously. "Are you sure?"
"I'm going to touch you," he reiterated, "I might even—it's going to hurt…at first, anyway."
She smiled sweetly at him. "I'm not made of glass," she told him, "I'll be alright."
"Are you sure?" he asked again.
"It would be very nice," she grinned. She cupped his cheeks with both hands and pulled him closer, gaze never straying from his eyes. "Lace isn't really very comfortable," she started saying, a mischievous glint flashing in her eye, "I thought you'd might want to give me hand taking it off."
A smirk immediately tugs at his lips in amusement. "You don't have to dirty talk me into it," he said, bending down perilously close to her lips again, "but that was wildly successful."
"I hoped it would be," Luna laughed, beaming when he obliged and closed the gap, brushing his lips against hers once more.
It lingers longer than the first, and she feels her heart happily somersaulting in her chest. She had dreamt of finding a love like this, of being kissed and embraced and loved like this, but she hadn't quite imagined it would all come true.
But here it all was unfolding before her – enchanting and terrifying and indescribably beautiful all at once. She wasn't ready for it, she thought again and again, but her heart leapt anyway and there was no turning back.
That was fine, she supposed. Here she was and she didn't want to let go.
(So she doesn't.)
There is a plot behind all this fluff, I promise. Bear with me – patience is a little harder to come by, after all.
Londres, 18 mois après
Located a little ways between London and Wiltshire, the Malfoy home laid in a vast expanse of luscious landscape, boasting a manor arguably the size of a small castle, a well-tended vineyard, a pool, and at least three gardens blooming magnificently now in the season of the spring. Draco often didn't mind the ninety-minute drive to get there: it was a breezy and welcome contrast to the tighter confines of London streets, and… well, it was home—one of two, but home.
Coming out into the terrace, Draco spotted his parents in the patio at the side of the garden pond, his father sipping tea and his mother throwing a bit of bread to the koi.
He strode to them quickly. He would've properly announced his presence had his eyes not wandered to the black velvet box sitting out of place by the cake slices, instantly explaining what they wouldn't on the phone.
Lucius noticed him first.
"Draco," he greeted, nodding to him. His lips quirked to a small smirk upon seeing where his attention landed. "I trust you didn't encounter heavy traffic on the way here," he said insouciantly, doing little to hide the amusement in his voice.
"The weather's been pleasant today, hasn't it?" Narcissa added in the same tone, walking back to the table. "Isn't it wonderful that spring finally came on time this year? They say it'll be an especially fortunate time for special occasions."
Draco stared at them with incredulity. "How long have you known?"
Narcissa grinned. "The moment you asked for it," she admitted. "We knew you'd ask Nikolaj as soon as you decided, so I asked him to tell me the moment you did."
"What do you mean?" He glanced back at the box, feeling heat rise at the back of his neck. "How did you even know I was going to—?"
"You love the girl," Lucius answered, nonchalant. "You've made it rather obvious."
"We have no objections, darling," Narcissa assured, smiling sincerely. "We don't wish to refuse you happiness, and she's proven to be a lovely girl."
Draco's shoulders relaxed slightly in relief. His parents didn't care for his flings, but marriage was a completely different discussion. It had been drilled into him since his youth that he was to find a suitable wife to carry on the family business, and 'suitable' implied that she'd be of a certain socio-economic standing. His girlfriend, though respectable, certainly did not match his wealth or had many notable connections.
But she was wildly talented, perceptive, and sweet. She did not have the expected privileges, but she was bright with the potential to sustain and grow his. They knew this, of course—they've met her a year ago, and on regular occasions since. He knew his parents liked her, but he hadn't been sure if they approved of her as his would-be fiancée. The moment he requested for that ring was also when he decided to fight them if they did not. It was relieving to know he didn't need to go through such a farce.
Still, his apprehensions hadn't completely dissipated. They weren't, after all, the only parents involved in their relationship.
"We were quite offended that you consulted Xenophilius first," Lucius said evenly, "but that can be reconciled."
"I do love weddings more than proposals," Narcissa remarked. In that instant, Draco was certain that the idea of a small, intimate wedding would officially never see the light.
I should've just eloped, he thought ruefully. He sighed.
"Alright," he conceded. He looked at the box again. "Can I…?"
Still standing, he grabbed the velvet case and carefully opened it, inspecting the jewellery inside with a swirl of trepidation and admiration.
Nikolaj might have snitched on him, but he was undeniably as brilliant as his reputation boasted. It was much better than he imagined, not that his creativity was especially remarkable to start with. He handed the craftsman a thorough list of his preferences, and he had created this without compromising any of them with his own artistry. It was perfect, there was no other word for it, but—
"Oh, don't be so worried, dear," Narcissa commented offhandedly. "She loves you immensely, perhaps more than you realise."
—all of this would mean nothing if she didn't say yes.
"You made it!"
Ever game for it, Luna spread her arms open, grinning widely as Daphne skipped over to hug her as best as she could.
"Congratulations!" the blue-eyed girl greeted brightly, pulling back to look at her friend's very round and very pregnant belly. "She's quite big, isn't she?"
Daphne grinned. "You reckon it's a girl, then?"
"She insists on it."
Both girls turned around as Draco strode towards them, one hand holding out a box festively wrapped and the other reaching out to wrap around the blonde's waist. Luna beamed at him and tiptoed to meet him halfway for a kiss.
Daphne grabbed the proffered gift box. "Glad you could make it too, Malfoy." She eyed the blue wrapping paper. "A boy, you think?"
He smirked. "I always win our wagers."
Luna shook her head, and the dark-haired mom-to-be laughed. Clearly they had their own bet and set of prizes running privately.
Daphne gestured them to come inside, signalling an usher to hand them their table number. She went to greet the next approaching guests as the two entered the ballroom.
"How was your meeting?" Luna asked as they proceeded to their table. "I wanted to pick you up earlier, you know."
"I heard." He instructed his secretary to tell her he was in a meeting with Zabini in case she asked. It wasn't in his nature to lie to her, but this was one matter he had to keep to himself until he was ready.
Reaching their table, he let go of her waist to pull back a chair for her. Luna sat down and looked at him curiously. "Is everything alright with Blaise?"
"Nothing to worry about," he assured as he sat beside her. "I simply can't tell you any details about it."
Because there are no details.
"Promised not to tell a soul." He raised a hand to cup her cheek, rubbing his thumb across the line where she frowned. "—yet," he added in an attempt to appease her.
It seemed to do the trick, but Luna was not Luna if she was not unpredictable.
"Did he get someone pregnant?"
To his credit, Draco didn't recoil from the shock of the suggestion right away.
He withdrew his hand and stared at her. "Why would you think that?"
"My star charts seem to say that his sign should expect incredible family-related news this week," she explained evenly, eyes gleaming. "And he's been looking quite troubled lately—see?"
She pointed to the other side of the room, where Blaise was frowning in conversation with Goyle.
Draco fought the urge to laugh. "He hasn't knocked up anyone, Lu," he said. At least I hope not.
"Oh." Luna seemed momentarily disappointed at this, but she easily shrugged it off and smiled again. "Perhaps he's just about to tonight."
"You're a terrible astrologist," Draco said, unable to stop the end of his lip from quirking upwards in a little smirk. Giving in, he asked, "who do you think he'll come home with?"
"Daphne's little sister is quite pretty, isn't she?" she grinned, scooting closer to him as she discreetly pointed to her direction by grabbing his hand under the table and moving it toward it.
Draco followed with his gaze and spotted a surprisingly familiar face.
"Daphne told me she had a crush on you before," said Luna casually, "but you apparently ignored her when she worked up the courage to talk to you."
"She approached me the night before I left London," he shared with nearly the same nonchalance. He didn't even realise that that had been the younger Greengrass until now.
Luna whirled her head at him in shock. "Really?"
She tilted her head. "I can't picture you ignoring her," she said, stealing another glance. "She's very pretty," she murmured.
"So are you," he complimented without missing a beat. Wryly, he added, —when you're not distracting people with vegetable earrings."
"You gave me these," she reminded him, tilting her head to slightly shake the small bejewelled lettuces hanging on her ears. "Would you rather I not wear them?"
"I'd rather you wear nothing at all from head to toe," he replied smoothly, "but that would be scandalous at a baby shower, and I prefer being the only one who's ever seen."
Luna rolled her eyes at the response, though her smile stayed in place as he leaned closer to plant another kiss on her lips.
"Just to be clear," he whispered, wrapping an arm around her torso and pulling her to sit on his lap, "I think you're bloody gorgeous, but I'd very much prefer to whisk you away to the broom closet and take that dress off."
"Very romantic," she remarked sarcastically before bursting into giggles. She beamed brightly at him. "I like you, too."
He smiled smugly and pecked her lips again.
She leaned into his embrace, a content smile settling on her features as she found his hand and intertwined their fingers together. She rested her head at the crook of his shoulder.
Daphne and Theodore took to the stage then, properly beginning the program of the night. Theodore began listing off people he wanted to thank for making this party happen, inserting many witty jokes here and there.
"I think about it sometimes, you know," Luna whispered gently over the laughing crowd. Her eyes focused on Daphne's belly as she clarified, "—what it would be like to have a baby."
Draco felt his heart lurch in his throat. "What do you think of it?"
"I think it'd be exhausting," Luna said frankly, nearly making his heart stop, "but I imagine it wouldn't feel that way when the baby comes and throws you the biggest smile everyday. I think of how he'll play with Wolfram and I just—"
"Swoon?" He supplied. There was mirth in his voice.
Luna giggled and looked at him in glee. "It's the same feeling when I see you playing with him."
"I did adopt him, too, you know."
"Neither of us can resist him," she chuckled, going back to hug him. "He's the most adorable dog in the world."
"—which is saying something coming from someone who came there wanting a white ball of fluff." He squeezed her fondly, and then glanced at his watch. "He's probably missing us right now."
"He was crying when I left him earlier," she told him glumly.
"He's always crying when we leave the house," he pointed out. "His last owners were assholes."
She nodded in agreement. "We should come home with a gift for him," she suggested.
Draco slid his eyes to the table of party favours. "They're giving away stuffed bunnies," he told her. "He shouldn't have a problem liking that if he likes your Snorkack so much."
"I don't know," Luna replied, "the Snorkack is much more interesting to look at."
"I suppose he'll have a new friend either way," she added, beaming at him. "We can't exactly give him a baby, can we?"
"We can." His voice lowered to a soft murmur. "When you're ready for it."
"When we're ready for it," she corrected. She peered at him curiously, eyes bright and warm. "Do you think we'll make it to that point?"
If you say yes.
"I don't know," he replied, his grey eyes flashing with a mischievous glint. "I hope we do," he said honestly.
Luna smiled at him and angled her head for a kiss. "Me, too."
Draco is more than eager to meet her halfway, but it lasts less longer than he would have liked.
"Excuse me," a small, accented voice interrupted, and the two parted their lips to look at who it was: a blonde girl, in her teens or early twenties from the looks of it, with a vaguely familiar face—to Luna, anyway.
"Hello," she greeted. She untangled herself slightly away from Draco and blinked at her, tilting her head. "Have we met?"
The blonde's green eyes sparkled. "It is you!" she exclaimed, lips curling to a very wide smile as she took the empty seat beside her. "You may not remember me, but you gave me your shoes a year ago—in Austria, at the salt mines."
It's a giveaway hint, and Luna's eyes immediately lit up in recognition. "I do remember that," she told her honestly, an excited smile gracing her features. "Well, this is lovely, isn't it? What a small world."
"You really helped me out back then," she replied, her accent sharp enough in that moment for both of them to identify as French. She stretched out her hand for a handshake. "It's a pleasure to meet you again! My name is Gabrielle Delacour."
"Delacour?" Draco chimed in, one hand still wrapped around his girlfriend's waist. "Are you related to that ballerina? The lead in Swan Lake?"
"Fleur Delacour," she nodded. "She's my older sister."
Luna caught her look of non-recognition as she glanced at him unsurely, and so she helpfully inserted herself back in the conversation.
"We watched her performance the other week—she was absolutely lovely," she said. Her smile was warm and open as she continued, introducing themselves, "My name is Luna, by the way, and this is my boyfriend, Draco."
Gabrielle blinked at him. "That name sounds familiar," she mumbled, "I wonder if I've seen you in the papers."
"You might have," Luna said before Draco could answer, glancing at him with a mix of pride and amusement. "He works very hard at running his family's company."
"Oh, I see." Gabrielle turned her attention back to her, full smile returning. "How do you know Daphne?"
"We were friends in high school," she explained serenely. "How do you know her?"
"We bonded over champagne during one of my sister's shows," she chuckled. "I really wouldn't have thought I'd meet you here! I've always wanted to return the favour. I felt so bad making you walk barefoot."
"Oh, I didn't walk around barefoot that much," Luna shared fondly. "Draco insisted on carrying me around that day."
Gabrielle glanced at him in surprise. "Is that true?"
"Her feet would have bled if I didn't," Draco shrugged nonchalantly.
"I am so sorry that happened," Gabrielle said apologetically. "Please," she offered, "let me buy each of you a new pair of shoes as an apology for the trouble."
Luna shook her head. "It happened over a year ago, and it wasn't your fault your shoes were lost."
"Then let me buy you a new pair as a thank-you," she insisted. Her eyes lit up as an idea came to her. "How about this: if you're free, we can go shopping together – you can pay for lunch and I can buy you a new pair of shoes?"
"Sounds good," Draco replied casually before Luna could argue about it. He gave her a little smirk when she twisted her torso to look at him. "You deserve the thank-you. Just go after your classes on Friday. They end in the morning, don't they?"
"I don't really need more than a thank-you," Luna sighed.
Draco side-eyed the younger Delacour. "She's terrible at receiving things."
Gabrielle chuckled. "I could tell."
"Just go," He said, this time to Luna, "you'll have fun."
"—will be stuck with me," he offered. "I'll bring him to the office. Hans will be thrilled."
Her shoulders slumped and she looked at him with a defeated smile. "This is peer pressure," she accused.
"The good kind," he argued, leaning over to plant a kiss on her forehead. "I'll grab us some drinks."
"Just a martini for me, please," Gabrielle chimed when he glanced at her. He responded with nothing more than a nod and walked off to the bar, bemused when he overheard the French socialite squeal excitedly to his girlfriend, "Where did you find him?" as soon as she thought he was already out of earshot.
No doubt she'd regale in the tale, which Luna always delivered with a sweet, dreamy voice befitting of recounting a fairytale. To be fair, he genuinely considers it one — three chance meetings in three different cities, and each time he fell for her until he couldn't let her go and simply leave it to fate anymore.
Those months they spent trotting the world were heavenly, to say the least. Draco enjoyed the conversations, the cultural immersions, the sex and the intimacy — so much so that he feared it would all be just a lingering memory when he returned to London and she to Wales.
He was frustrated that the impending separation didn't seem to faze her, especially when she appeared to not care as much as he did, acting the same way she always did. He was a grinch during their last day before their flight to London from New York, giving her the false impression that it meant he didn't want anything to do with her when they returned. They parted ways the opposite way they met: stiff and cold and almost strangers again.
It infuriated and depressed him immensely, and he knew the next day he woke up alone in his flat that if they had to end it, they couldn't end it like that.
Luna had the same thought, apparently. He was stunned speechless when she appeared in front of his flat building that same day, boxes of all the gifts he bought her in hand. She meant to return them, and she began to thank him for the past months. His heart was in piss and tatters and he almost stopped listening, honestly. It was painful to hear.
But then she said she loved him.
She was smiling through tears saying she loved him, and that broke him. Nothing else mattered in that moment. He stopped her monologue with a heated, passionate kiss — almost like a scene from a movie, really — begging her in whispers to stay with him, assuring her they they'd figure it out, telling her he loved her, too.
She moved in with him two weeks after that. (Two weeks, because there were things she had to resolve in Wales and things he had to organise for the move.) The adjustment was easy thanks to the practice they had from their travels, and Draco began finding life in London much less dreary and dull.
She was the light in his life. He loved waking up next to her every morning and snuggling next to her every night. He knew he wanted to marry her when he began finding it easy and non-terrifying to imagine growing old with her and still falling in love with her everyday.
Considering she didn't seem to mind the idea of having a child together, he wondered if that meant she felt the same way.
"Malfoy!" Blaise called as he approached the bar. He had a curious look on his face—one that Draco recognised almost immediately after years of accompanying each other in the pub. "Who's that talking to Lovegood?"
"Gabrielle Delacour," he told him levelly, "younger sister of that prima ballerina, Fleur Delacour."
Blaise turned to him. "Is she single?"
Draco shrugged. He honestly didn't know. "Why don't you ask her yourself?"
"Because she'd think I was being rude," Blaise pointed out. His eyes weren't meeting his, and Draco didn't have to turn to know where they were fixated on.
Huh, maybe Luna read those star charts correctly, after all.
"Tell you what," he said after asking the bartender for a scotch on the rocks, a virgin strawberry daiquiri, and a martini. "I'll ask Lu to set you up."
Blaise finally turned his full attention to him, expression shifting to a different curiosity. "Speaking of which," he said carefully, "Daph and the girls were discussing when you'd get engaged."
Draco tried not to seem too concerned about this. "Why?"
"Putting aside the obvious," he said flatly, "you've lived with her for nearly a year now, which is already saying something considering no other woman's ever spent longer than a night with you. You've also been trotting the globe with her before that, and I reckon your parents already approve of her, not that I'm surprised about that because she's royal blood and all, and she's admittedly endearing. It's a surprise she even gives us the time of the day after what we did to her in high school."
"What?" Draco interrupted before he could prattle longer. His brows furrowed. "What do you mean?"
"Don't tell me neither of you talked about how we used to steal her things and call her names," Blaise said, frowning.
"Not that, you dolt." Luna made it clear that she forgave him for it the first time they met, just as he'd finally forgiven himself for and moved past his childish antics some months back. "What are you harping on about royal blood?"
"You haven't heard?" Blaise asked in surprise.
"The rumours that she's a descendant of the Romanovs."
"I realise we came from vastly different socio-economic classes," Draco muttered, scowling, "but that is some farfetched, shitty, unnecessary attempt at trying to make my girlfriend into something she's not."
"It's not," Blaise defended, "—farfetched, I mean. Well, not completely. The story sounds plausible, honest."
"I'll hear it," he demanded.
Blaise paused for a moment, mulling over how to start. When the idea came to him, he waved the bartender for a refill.
"You know Helena Ravenclaw, don't you?"
"Of course." Like his family, she was old money. Whereas the Malfoys proliferated their wealth through real estate, the Ravenclaws expanded theirs through business in wine. They owned the oldest and finest vineyards in the country.
Helena, however, is distinctly known for her connoisseurship of the arts. She's an avid curator and collector, not to mention a highly respected scholar in the field.
Hell, Luna didn't even seem truly impressed by his family's wealth or influence until he received the usual invitation to her annual charity auction in May. That was the only time he'd seen her actually shaking with excitement and the only time she asked if she could go in his stead if he couldn't attend. (He could, thankfully. After witnessing that reaction, he wasn't sure he wanted to skip it.)
"Well," Blaise continued, "they say she's uncovered evidence insinuating the missing princess, Anastasia, managed to escape with a son of the family jeweller, the one who made those bejewelled eggs."
"Fabergé," Draco supplied, mind suddenly reeling. He had an idea where this was going, and he wasn't sure what he felt about it.
"Yeah, him," Blaise replied. "Anyway, they say they ran away, fell in love, got married, had kids. The bloke apparently took seven of the Imperial Eggs and sold them all over the region to sustain them until they settled down."
The bartender poured in his refill then, also coming with the tray of drinks Draco ordered.
"They say Helena uncovered one of them, and then asked Lovegood to find the others," he said.
"Luna graduated with a degree in Museum and Anthropology," Draco said reasonably. He glanced at their table, checking if he was keeping them waiting too long. Thankfully, they appeared to be preoccupied in conversation.
"—which makes her a perfect candidate for the job," Blaise countered. "Helena wouldn't have a problem sponsoring her. You know how she is."
Draco wasn't convinced. "That doesn't explain why she should be the descendant."
All things considered, however, it was a plausible explanation on the mystery of her client, and if it were true, then Draco could breathe a sigh of relief. Helena Ravenclaw was unorthodox and… ardent, to put it mildly, about her collection of historical arts, but she was not malicious.
"If Lovegood wasn't, then Helena wouldn't be able to claim them as private property and put it on for display during her ball," reasoned Blaise. "The Russians would kill to attain those things in the name of national heritage. Yet if it were a family heirloom…"
"...it would be considered a gift and private property so long as it was given willingly by the heir," Draco completed.
It made sense.
Blaise didn't even know what he knew, but it still clicked.
"Anyway," Blaise continued, shrugging, "it's just a theory. Merlin knows how much of it is true. But, you know,"—his eyes slid back to his table—"she could look like one. A Romanov, I mean. She has the eyes for it."
"She only has eyes for me," Draco quipped rather confidently as he grabbed the drinks – just his and Luna's – and half-turned. "Get your own girlfriend to write fairytales about, Zabini."
"On it." Blaise smirked, took the martini he left behind, and joined him to their table.
Whatever smooth opening line the dark man had in mind was immediately forgotten when he uncharacteristically tripped over the carpet and unintentionally splashed the drink over Gabrielle's white dress. Needless to say, she was less than impressed by him and reasonably upset at the turn of events. Luna de-escalated the situation by offering to buy her a new one on their shopping date and asked Blaise to send her home.
Draco wrapped an arm around his girlfriend's waist and took a sip of his scotch in an attempt to hide his amusement. Blaise rarely looked flustered, so to see him in such a state was quite a delight.
"I know what you're doing," he murmured as they both watched them exit the hall.
Luna giggled, telling him conspiratorially, "Even the stars need a gentle push."
Mister Wolfram Waggins was feeling impatient. His mistress came home earlier today, but she left again, and neither she or his master came back yet. He'd finished his dinner, he'd pooped in his special bathroom, he was nearly done drinking all of the water in his bowl, and they still weren't back.
He was so worried that he dragged Snorkack with him to the entrance foyer, wanting to be there the moment they came in.
He wasn't sure how long he waited, but he stood at attention the moment he heard the elevator ping and his nose caught a whiff of their scent. The door dinged and clicked, and his mistress entered first.
Wolfram charged madly to the edge of the foyer before the step-down, hopping and wagging his tail excitedly.
Luna laughed as she crouched down to hold him. "Hello, Mister Wolfram Waggins," she greeted, cooing, "thank you for waiting for us."
Wolfram nuzzled into her neck. His old master only ever called him 'dog', but his mistress always greeted him with the name she gave him and always told him she loved him. She was sweet and affectionate and warm, and Wolfram loved her very much.
"Got you a treat, bud," Draco greeted, holding up the stuffed bunny to him. Wolfram perked up and barked happily, nearly jumping from Luna's shoulders to grab it with his teeth.
Draco smirked at Luna as she turned around to face him. "See?"
"A new friend, not a treat," she corrected mildly. She lifted Wolfram to him. "Sorry, can you—?"
He took the grey bulldog from her arms so she could take off her coat and hang it on the rack.
Wolfram momentarily let go of his new toy and fondly licked his master's face. His master wasn't as cuddly as his mistress, but he had different ways of showing his affection—like taking Wolfram to walks and playing catch with him in the park. He also defends him from big dog bullies. Even when he scolds him for doing something wrong, he never hits him. Wolfram appreciates that. He loves his master very much, too.
Draco did no more than glance at him with a playful smile, an already drastic change of character for anyone who knew him before, considering he'd never really been fond of pets until—well, not even until Luna, but until Wolfram. He had his reservations about adopting a pet, but then this big blue-eyed baby stared longingly at him when they visited the shelter and he was a goner.
It helped that Wolfram had been easy to train, so they rarely had behavioural problems with him. He was a very obedient and loyal dog, and he wasn't as loud or playful as the other dogs Draco knew.
"I think I'll shower first," Luna said as she slipped into her house slippers. She looked back at him with an inviting smile. "Want to join me?"
"You know I'll never say no to that," Draco replied. He threw a wary glance at Wolfram. "Unless he's joining us."
Mister Wolfram Waggins barked indignantly, but his face split into a wide, beaming smile as both of them burst into laughter. He really did love it best when his family was home.
"You know, Blaise told me something interesting today," Draco told Luna as he made his way to sit at the edge of the bed beside her.
Luna sat up from her propped position on the pillows with an eager smile. "Was it about Gabrielle?"
"He expressed his interest," he informed her mildly, "but no, that's not what I meant."
He twisted his torso and placed a hand on her other side, as if trapping her. Luna curled up her legs sideways and mirrored his teasing smile. "Was it about me?"
"Apparently," he started to say, "rumour has it you're a Russian princess."
"Well, that's silly," she replied dreamily, "I'm quite sure I'm British, and I'm dating a British prince I'm very much in love with."
"No one's accusing you of cheating, love," Draco assured her. He couldn't help the smile on his face when she told him she loved him; he'll never tire of hearing that. "It's got to do with that shady job you had when we met."
"Oh." She blinked at him. "But only you know about that."
"No one else knows," he clarified. "Rumour has it Helena Ravenclaw uncovered the missing eggs, and people suspect she asked you to look for them."
"I won't deny that I have the background for it to make other people think so," said Luna reasonably, knowing fully well that dating Draco would sometimes put her on the spotlight, "—and I would be incredibly honoured if Helena turned out to be my mysterious client," she added, "but how does that make me a Russian princess?"
"Helena's reportedly unveiling them as borrowed family heirlooms, which she can't do if she didn't take them from the family," he explained. He raised a brow at her. "If I recall, you also mentioned that loaning the jewellery would be more profitable."
"Lending historical items is often preferred by their owners," she said, drawing back slightly. Her brows scrunched as she paused to consider it.
"They never specified the terms, but they paid you an extremely high amount in one go," Draco pointed out, "enough to make the case that they advanced several years of a loan agreement."
She looked at him with a confused expression. "How would Helena know if I'm a Romanov descendant?"
"An eighth egg, I reckon," he ventured, shrugging his shoulders. "They say Fabergé's son took the eggs with him when he escaped with the Princess Anastasia. Who's to say he didn't make one himself? Helena wouldn't have tapped you for the job of collecting the others if she didn't have a clue to start investigating who his descendants were."
"Do you think it's true then?" Luna asked, peering at him curiously. "Your hypothesis is rather thorough."
"It's an interesting possibility," he said lightly.
She looked at him with a playfully raised brow. "That you might be dating a possible descendant of fallen royalty?"
"That my girlfriend's shady client is possibly a good friend of my family," he rebutted, rolling his eyes. "If Helena turns out to be your anonymous benefactor, then I wouldn't have to worry about you naïvely falling into some terrible crime scheme."
"Nothing's happened so far," she pointed out softly.
"Doesn't mean nothing will," he sighed. He paused for a moment, hesitating, and then proposed, "I could investigate it, you know."
Luna regarded him carefully. "What if it's not Helena? What if I did make a mistake?"
"We'll go from there," Draco said firmly. His hand sought hers and squeezed it tight. "It's been nearly two years. Haven't we put this off long enough?"
She threw him a helpless look. "You're going to do it whether I say yes or not, aren't you?"
"I'd like to keep my girlfriend safe," he replied, lip quirking up in a little smirk. "I'd be hard-pressed to find someone else who calls me out on my shit in the least ego-bruising way possible."
Luna melted into a smile at that.
"Besides," he added, "we're not splitting custody of Wolfram."
She laughed and leaned forward to give him a kiss.
"Okay," she consented, "we can look it up. Just keep me in the know, too."
Draco kissed her back. "Already a given," he said contentedly, lips trailing to the back of her ear. "Anything else?"
Luna shivered at the touch. She knew what he was doing, going straight for one of her weak spots like that. "Treat me like a princess," she whispered.
He eagerly pushed her back to the bed and kissed her in response, grinning happily when she arched her chest towards him and wrapped her arms around him to pull him closer.
Two more nights, he thinks—just two more nights before he shows her the ring.
Graduate studies at the University of Flamel boasted the toughest admission rates in Britain, admitting only less than one thousand new students for each batch. It's a small crowd, but familiar faces still lend comfort to those who are new, and Ginny Weasley (MA, International Relations) had no reason to distance herself from high-school-acquaintance Luna Lovegood (MFA, Museum Studies) when they saw each other in the orientation seminar months back.
She had always thought of her as harmlessly eccentric, and though Ginny was above joining the petty bullying, she never really talked to or defended her either. Her high school years were spent focusing on books and football and proving herself. She didn't really care for anything else.
That didn't mean she didn't know about Draco Malfoy, though, and how he and his posse were always in fights with Harry and her brother. Ginny thought he was a complete arse in high school, so she was thoroughly surprised to find out from Luna – two weeks since they started hanging out in between their classes – that they were dating.
Dating. Romantically involved. Sexually involved. Malfoy and Luna.
How that happened still escapes her. Well, Luna did tell her the story, but Ginny had yet to properly process and accept it. It was just so unfair—Malfoy bullied Luna in high school (although not extensively), and even though she forgave him, to end up dating and living together and happily in love was a remarkably speedy, almost unpredictable progress in their relationship.
Meanwhile, she'd been crushing on Harry since high school but only recently had they gone on their third date, and they were still tiptoeing the changes of their relationship. Even Ron and Hermione hadn't started properly dating until about two years ago, and they've liked each other for years. Hearing Luna's love story made her envious of how fast she and Malfoy progressed, though a part of her wasn't really surprised. She could never be even half as straightforward and honest with her feelings the way Luna was.
Hell, if Ginny had been in her shoes, she'd hold a grudge against Malfoy to this day.
"Ginny," Luna greeted with a dreamy smile as she came across her in the hall. "How was your exam?"
"Bloody hell if I know," the redhead whined, slowing her pace to meet the blonde's step. "My hands are shaking from writing so much. They don't make you answer ten essay questions in ninety minutes in business school."
"Shall we go to The Three Broomsticks today?" Luna offered. "I'll treat you to a chai latte."
"You are an angel," Ginny exclaimed dramatically as she hugged her arm.
Luna laughed, her smile more radiant than usual.
"Did something happen?" she asked curiously. "You look unusually happy—well, happier—today."
"Well…" Luna hesitated for a moment before admitting, "I received an email from the Celeste Gallery today."
"That new museum that just opened up?"
"And they asked me if I was open to becoming a curator," she said calmly, but the giddy glint was clear in her eye. "Professor Fiona apparently sent my name when they asked her for recommendations, and they wanted to interview me for the job next week."
"Oh my god!" Ginny squealed, jumping to hug her in earnest. "Congratulations!"
"Thank you," Luna giggled. "It's still only an interview, but it's a nice prospect, isn't it?"
The redhead scoffed. "Nonsense. They'll be stupid not to get you. You're more than capable for the job."
Luna smiled. "Thank you," she said whimsically, "I do hope I'll get it."'
"Have you told Malfoy yet?"
She shook her head. "I'd like to tell him once I get the offer—if I do, that is." She hummed over it thoughtfully. "My turn to treat is coming up soon, so maybe I'll know by then and I can tell him over dinner."
"Can I just say," Ginny commented, "I think it's oddly wonderful how you're not bothered by your financial differences with Malfoy at all."
Luna blinked at her. "Should I be?"
"Most people would feel insecure if they were in your shoes," the redhead pointed out, "but then again, you're not like most people. Doesn't it bother you when he gives you gifts with price tags you can't match?"
"Only when they're without sentiment," replied Luna calmly, "but he never does that. He's actually very thoughtful, and I never want to make him hide or feel sorry of the wealth he and his family worked hard to grow."
"If I respect him that way," she continued, "then he learns to respect me the same way, even if I earn less."
"Because you both value the work, not the price tag," Ginny summarised, looking mildly impressed. "I suppose that does make sense. Certainly a decent change from the arse who used to call me and my brothers dirt-poor."
"He's grown." Luna smiled, eyes glinting with humour. "He has a very fine arse now."
"Gross," Ginny cringed, laughing, "no details about your monkey business, please."
"I never planned on saying more," the blonde chuckled.
"Anyway," Ginny started, diverting back to their discussion, "I heard the Celeste Gallery has a fantastic rooftop restaurant," she suggested. "Maybe you could take him there when you break the news."
Luna brightened. "That's a lovely idea—thank you!"
Ginny grinned and hugged her tight one more time. "I'm so excited for you!" she exclaimed as she pulled away. "You're going to be brilliant—but, oh! Let me know if you need any help with it."
Luna chuckled and seemed about to reply to that when something definitively hit her head with a resounding crunch. Ginny lost her breath for a long, slow second as she watched her friend crumple to ground, barely glimpsing the blur of black running past them.
She stepped back reflexively, watching in horror as red started to pour out from her friend's head.
It was a quarter to four in the afternoon and Draco had finally finished his most of his to-do list for the day, giving him ample time and space to accomplish one final but very important task.
He shuffled through his tabs until he found the one that captured and kept his interest.
Castle in the Sky
Rooftop Restaurant & Café by Celeste Gallery
18 Lumos St., Knightsbridge District
Phone in one hand and a velvet box in the other, he dialled the number and waited with bated breath.
"Castle in the Sky, how may I help you?"
"Hello. I'd like to make a reservation for two this Saturday at seven."
"Saturday, seven… yes, we have a table. Under what name, Sir?"
"Malfoy, Draco Malfoy." He glanced at the door as Hans, his executive assistant, haphazardly rushed in. Letting go of the box sitting in his pocket, he held up a hand to him to wait as he continued speaking on the phone. "Does your restaurant have live music?"
"Yes, we do. Would you like to place a song request in advance?"
"La vie en rose."
Hans stepped nearer to his desk, eyes shot open and looking completely panicked. Draco wondered what was the fuss.
"This has been noted. Your reservation for two on Saturday, 7PM under Malfoy has been listed. Please note that failure to show up 15 minutes after the listed time automatically forfeits your reservation."
"Duly noted, thanks."
Sighing, Draco put down the phone and eyed his assistant.
"It's Miss Luna, sir," he told him, "she's been rushed to the hospital."
I'm so, so sorry for the long wait. It took a while for this chapter to take shape in my mind and when I did finish writing it, the file ended up being corrupted, and well… let's just say it was nearly half a year until I found time and inspiration again.
But here it is, and I hope you enjoyed it. When I first imagined this story, I figured there'd be one or two more arcs before this last one, but I honestly cannot properly stretch this out any longer due to personal circumstances and a change in interest. (A new plot bunny has bounced its way to my mind, and it's got me rather excited.) Rather than doing that and possibly leave this story in indefinite hiatus, I'll do my best to wrap any other loose end in the next chapters. (If there's anything you're interested in being clarified, please do share in your reviews!)
Maybe one day I'll write a oneshot spin-off of that day Draco and Luna almost broke up, or write drabbles on the rest of their globetrotting adventures—for now, there's only two more chapters to go.
Thank you to all those who reviewed and sent kudos! I'm happy you guys like this cheesy piece of fluff.
Pierre de Lune
Londres, dix jours après…
There weren't many people at the funeral.
Narcissa could count the attendees, excluding herself and Lucius, with her fingers. There were the people she hadn't seen in years: Rodolphus, Bella's ex-husband, his brother Rabastan, and her sister's old classmate, Alecto Carrow.
Severus was present, too. He had never been fond of Bella, but he was always a dear friend to her and Lucius.
The most surprising guest to her was Xenophilius. Narcissa hadn't really expected him to come – even Draco vehemently refused against attending – but he told her that while he disliked Bella personally, he was not incapable of feeling sympathy for her and her family.
Narcissa appreciated that quite a lot.
Lucius hardly spoke during the ceremony, but he held her hand all-throughout, and wrapped an arm around her as they watched her sister's body turn to ashes in the pyre.
It felt peaceful, surprisingly. Perhaps it was because it already felt as if they had lost her for years. They tried to help her, after all — Narcissa more than anyone, especially. After losing Andromeda years ago, Bella was the only sister she had left.
She never wanted it to end like this.
But there is nothing she could do now, nothing she could change. Nothing can turn back time and undo this and everything that led to it.
Still, there's a sense of relief and comfort, and Narcissa feels as if she could move past this. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but someday. She knows she will.
She hopes Bella has, too.
Lucius found Xenophilius waiting for him in his study after the funeral. He had somewhat expected this, but still he felt himself mentally steeling himself for what he presumed was going to be a rather difficult discussion.
Contrary to appearances and popular belief, Xenophilius was no loon. Lucius never thought much of him until they shared a mathematics class one semester back in his undergraduate years. He remembered being quite astounded at the ease with which he passed the course while he'd spent the lectures scribbling notes.
He would eventually find out that he graduated in biotechnology with latin honours, and was one of the nine people in all of the history of the University of Flamel to do so. That was an incredible feat considering the program only admitted thirty people a year, and only half continued to stay in the program, let alone graduate with honours.
Lucius was also aware that he loved his daughter very, very much.
"Xenophilius," he greeted courteously, nodding to the man in acknowledgment as he entered his study.
Xeno smiled pleasantly in return. "Good evening, Lucius," he replied, "I do hope you don't mind. Your butler let me in."
Lucius merely nodded and continued to walk over to the wine cart rolled near one of the couches. He scrutinised the bottles for a moment, and then picked up one and turned to look back at his guest. "Red wine?"
"Yes, please. Thank you."
Lucius poured two glasses and handed one to him before sitting on the adjacent couch, facing him properly.
"Well then," he began levelly, "to what do I owe the pleasure of your company?"
Xeno took a long sip of his wine before responding.
"Your son," he said, "plans to marry my daughter."
Lucius stared at him inquiringly. "Are you against it?"
Xeno shook his head. "He's a fine young man. He's shown he can take care of her, and my moonbug has never been happier than when she's with him." He idly watched his wine as he swirled it in his hand, and then eyed Lucius. "Are you against it?"
"You'll be pleased to know that I'm not," Lucius quipped and took a sip of his drink. "I'll admit being surprised by the match, but your daughter is hardly the worst choice he's ever made."
"That's good to hear," Xeno sighed in relief. "I was afraid our financial state would dissuade you from accepting her."
Lucius raised a brow. "Are you in debt?"
"No, but we're hardly a match for the Malfoy Estate," he replied, smiling wryly. He paused, hesitating, and then added, "I was also under the impression you disliked me immensely back in college."
"You spent the entirety of the lectures doing anything but listening to the professor, and yet somehow bested everyone in the mathematics class." Lucius eyed him wearily. "It was mildly infuriating."
Xeno looked genuinely surprised by this. "You were also doing well in that class, if I remember correctly."
"Because I actively paid attention and put the required amount of effort," he pointed out. "You, however, did not."
"I did read the book," Xeno defended, mildly blushing in embarrassment. "I will admit, however, that arithmetic comes naturally to me just as writing came naturally to Pan. That was why I couldn't continue the Quibbler after she passed... among other reasons."
"And the both of you somehow spawned a daughter highly skilled in the arts," Lucius commented wryly. He glanced sideways at one of the paintings near the door. Luna had given it to him on his birthday; Draco pointedly told him not to speak ill of it in front of her if he didn't like it, but there was no such issue. "She's very gifted."
He had thought the girl would take after her parents, whose careers revolved around the sciences. Xeno graduated with honours in biotechnology, and Pandora excelled in chemistry.
Luna chose to specialise in the art and humanities, and while unexpected, it quickly became evident to him that she was highly competent in it. She was talented and naturally perceptive; Lucius' only complaint of her was that she wasn't very good at socialising or networking, but she seems to have improved on that since being with Draco.
His son informed him of the career setback she experienced earlier on, but he was certain she could get back on track after finishing her graduate degree. If she asked him for help, Lucius wouldn't mind introducing her to some influential people in his network. He was fairly certain the eccentric Helena would take a liking to her.
"She takes after her mother quite a lot," Xeno murmured. His smile was muted with a slight melancholy.
Lucius peered at him carefully, but said nothing.
Investigation on the recent incident was still ongoing; whoever assaulted his daughter, for whatever reason, was still anyone's guess.
Xeno took another sip of his wine, and then broke the silence.
"I don't think I have ever thanked you properly," he said, meeting his gaze again. "I know it was you who sent the Thoroughbred after Pan passed."
"Narcissa was a good friend of Pandora's," Lucius immediately replied, although it was clear from the glint in Xeno's eye that he knew more than that.
"You were, too," Xeno said simply, lips curling to a knowing smile. "She spoke fondly of you, you know."
It wasn't well-known to many that Pandora was a very good friend to Lucius, much like the way Severus was. The three of them had a rather unconventional friendship that started in a greenhouse. Pan was even the one who eventually introduced him to Narcissa, now that he recalled.
"If things had turned out differently," Xeno sighed, "our children would have met ages ago."
"Perhaps," remarked Lucius. "My son might not have been such a troublemaker back in the day if they did. She reigns him in quite well when the situation calls for it."
The accident that killed Pandora had happened on her way to the Malfoy Estate.
Luna had been with her; it was supposed to be a play date, and it was supposed to be her first time to meet them. Narcissa had even made sure Draco was dressed for it. The poor girl witnessed her mother's last breath. Lucius did not take offense that the girl did not remember them when they attended the wake; she had not been in a sane state, to no one's surprise. From what he heard, it took quite some time for her to recover.
She attended the same school Draco did, but Xeno never mentioned her mother's connection to the Malfoy's. He hadn't been as close to them as Pandora was, and already dealing with the aftermath of the incident, in the past, it was rather difficult to mend the distance.
At present, however, there was no excuse to hold it off any longer.
"It has been long overdue," Xeno said sincerely, stretching out his hand, "but I do hope we'll be able to foster a good friendship, Lucius."
Luna was poring over her readings when the elevator pinged. Wolfram jumped from his spot by her legs and dashed to the foyer. Luna vaguely heard a couple of barks as she took off her reading glasses and set the laptop aside on the bedside table.
Draco came in the room not long after, and she shot him a bright smile. "Welcome home!" she greeted happily, throwing her arms open for a hug.
He crossed over to the bed in seconds and she giggled when his lips slanted over hers. He did prefer greetings with kisses (with her, of course—he doesn't greet anyone else like this), and she had no qualms when it meant she could embrace him, because she liked greetings with hugs.
"Hi," he chuckled, planting another kiss on her nose before pulling back, sitting beside her with one leg dangling off the bed and the other crossed under him. His gaze flickered to the side table and then slid back to her. "Have you been studying?"
"Just catching up," Luna told him. "I do have the materials. I thought I'd be productive."
Draco didn't look too pleased to hear this. He wasn't sure if that was alright in her state - the doctors advised to take it slow - but he wasn't one to hold her back. He knew how important finishing this degree was for her and her career, and she needed to catch up on what she missed.
"So long as you don't push yourself too hard," he settled to say.
Luna smiled at him sweetly and nodded. "I promise."
She then changed the subject. "How was work?"
"Busy." He sighed tiredly and shifted to lay his head down on her lap. "We're managing it well enough. If the next three days go well, I might be able to take Friday off and we can go to the manor a day earlier."
Luna blinked down at him, a little confused. "Did we plan to do that this weekend?"
"I did, just this morning," he clarified, shooting her a small smile. "Figured it would be a good time to take a quick break from the city. We can visit your dad, too. And Nargles."
"What a wonderful idea," she smiled. "We could use a breath of fresh air."
Draco hummed in agreement as she began brushing her fingers through his hair and gently massaged his temples. His eyes closed as a comforting wave of relaxation washed through him.
"Hans is making it hard to deny him a promotion this year," he shared lightly. "Bloody bastard even managed to buy me time on the Grey project."
Luna giggled. "He is a very good secretary," she pointed out amusedly. "We should buy him something nice for Christmas."
"I'm sure he'll be satisfied with a big, fat bonus," he scoffed.
"And a reindeer print tie," she added. "It would go well with his red suit, wouldn't it?"
Draco chuckled. "That's an idea."
He opened his eyes when she paused her hand movements, only to see her lean down to kiss him upside down. He smiled into the kiss and reached a hand to her face when she pulled away.
"I kept thinking about you, you know," he murmured.
He would have stayed at home with her the whole day if he could, but he'd been away from his office for nearly two weeks since the incident, and he would rather not incite the ire of impatient business partners. He couldn't publicly state why Luna got into the state that she did without drawing unnecessary attention.
Luna was in comatose for five days after the assault. They expected her to wake up within twenty-four to forty-eight hours after the surgery, but she slept a little over a hundred hours that Draco spent in a numbing state of depression.
The thought of her never waking up completely terrified and immobilised him. He very quickly realised his helplessness: for all the money he owned, all the resources available to him, all the ability he had, there was still absolutely nothing he could do to bring her back if she had gone.
He'd never felt a greater joy in his life when, against all the growing expectations that she wouldn't, she woke up—her memory intact and her body functioning as well as it could.
"I missed you, too," Luna replied cheerily, beaming brightly at him.
Her recovery was quite the miracle, to put it sentimentally. She did wake up very late, and the closest explanation anybody could gather was that perhaps her body wanted to fully fix her better before she did. There were only the mildest side-effects, like minor headaches and erratic sleepiness, but she'd recovered from those significantly better since. She could even go back to school next week if nothing hampers her current progress.
Draco rose from his position on her lap and kissed her properly, gently pushing her back to lie on the pillows. It was a soft kiss, though very intimate—filled with the ardent affection and emotion he only ever reserves for her.
Luna lets out a laugh when he pulls away only to roll her over on top of him, her torso sprawled over his. She laid her ear close to where his heart would be, and Draco wondered if she heard his heart skip a few beats, because looking at her still made it do that.
He was committing the sight to memory when a curious, lighthearted expression appeared on her face. "What are you thinking about?"
Draco hesitated for a moment, wondering if he should digress, and then thought better of it.
"Luna," he started to say, a hint of nervousness flickering in his eyes a bit as his expression turned solemn. "What do you think of marriage?"
Luna blinked, surprised at the question. She took a second to ponder on it before answering, "It's quite the commitment, isn't it?"
Draco took a breath and dared. "Would you ever want it?" he asked, "—getting married, I mean."
"I've never thought about it very much," she replied, humming thoughtfully over it. "It just never seemed a possibility before."
Draco's brows furrowed. "What do you mean?"
"You're my first relationship, Draco," Luna reminded him gently. "I was rather resigned to the idea that I would live the life of a lone spinster before I met you."
Draco considered this for a moment, and then asked curiously, "Why didn't you date other guys before you met me then?"
"I wasn't very interested in it in general," she answered honestly. "I don't consciously intend to dissuade interest, but those who would approach me were often terribly uninteresting, disrespectful, or narrow-minded. When I first met you in France, one of them was rather persistent in accompanying me for the evening."
"Wait a minute," he interrupted, "you approached me back then because you were being harassed?"
"I already wanted to say hi to you when I saw you," she clarified. "I would have waited until you were finished, or if by chance you had glanced at me – I didn't intend to keep you long, but I was in queue and I was quite worried they would follow me even if I let them join me for dinner."
"Arseholes," Draco frowned.
Luna smiled at him. "I was worried you wouldn't recognise me, or that you would turn me away, but that evening turned out much more pleasantly than I expected," she said serenely. "You were such a gentleman, and I had such a wonderful time I'd forgotten all about them."
"Well, bloody hell," he cursed in disbelief. "All this time I thought it was just you trying to come onto me."
She raised a brow at him. "I told you I just wanted to be friends back then."
"I remember. But I didn't get that impression. That's why I was surprised." He playfully pinched her cheek. "I would have bedded you that night if you had wanted it."
"Really?" Her smile widened an inch.
He nodded. "You seriously didn't think I would have danced with you if I didn't find you the least bit attractive?"
She laughed. "I thought you were just indulging a strange girl's strange requests," she said. "It didn't cross my mind that you would be attracted to me at all. That doesn't usually happen."
"Well, I was," he huffed, "still am."
Luna beamed brightly at him and lifted herself off of his torso, peppering his face with tiny, soft kisses.
"If it's any consolation," she murmured when she pulled away, "I was secretly attracted to you, too."
Draco pulled her back for another kiss, smiling against her lips. Luna playfully nuzzled his nose with hers before pulling back and resting her forehead on his, a happy grin on her face.
"If being married is anything like this," she said cheerily, "then I think I'd love it very much."
Grey eyes suddenly twinkled with hope. Draco couldn't wipe off the smile on his face.
"Think you can imagine it?" he asked her, lifting a hand to cup her face. "You'd get to call me your husband."
And I get to call you my wife. The mere thought sent butterflies to his stomach.
"We'd be tied to each other for years," Luna said whimsically. She giggled at the thought. "Wouldn't that be nice?" She turned to him with the dreamiest smile. "Growing old together."
"Yeah," he replied distractedly, looking at her with silent but pronounced affection. "That'd be nice."
Luna smiled and kissed him one more time before sitting up and swinging her legs over the side of the bed. "I'll go heat up dinner," she said as she twisted her torso to look at him. "Are you alright with pasta today? I cooked too much earlier at lunch."
"Sounds good," he shrugged nonchalantly, "I'll meet you there in ten minutes."
She nodded and then left the room. Wolfram watched her go from his spot by the bed, and then shifted his attention to Draco when he also stood up.
The blue-eyed pup tailed quietly behind him as he made his way to the wardrobe. Draco reached up to the top storage shelf, and then spent a minute looking at what he retrieved.
Wolfram whined at him curiously, tilting his head.
Draco glanced at him with a small smile. "Come on, bud," he said, "it's time."
They were curled up on the chaise lounge in the study after dinner, Luna snuggled in between Draco's legs with her back leaned against his chest. She was sipping a mug of caramel tea and he was putting the medical ointment on her injury. The sutures were removed before they left the hospital, and it only seemed like a faded pink scab now. Her hair covered it most of the time, so it wasn't noticeable for the most part, but that didn't mean Draco liked seeing it.
He wanted it to heal and disappear as soon as possible. He was seriously considering flying to Bulgaria, or even sending Hans to the task, just to search for the herbal pharmacist that gave them that very effective healing cream before.
"Draco," called Luna, snapping him out of his reverie.
He blinked and looked at her as she twisted her torso, deftly placing her half-emptied mug on the coffee table before facing him.
"What's wrong?" He asked immediately, his face scrunching up in concern. He set aside the ointment and reached his hands up to cup her face. "Are you feeling unwell? Should we go to the hospital?"
"It's not that. I feel fine," she replied quickly, smiling a little. He was so sweet, it was almost silly sometimes. "I just wanted to ask you something."
He raised a brow at her. "What is it then?"
She wiggled and shifted around so that she knelt in front of him, still settled between his legs and sitting on her haunches as she fully faced him. His hands fell to her sides. She had a curious and lighthearted smile on her face, so he really didn't expect the next words that came out of her mouth.
"Will you marry me?"
It took him one long moment to process what she just asked of him, and another to realise she wasn't exactly popping the question by the way she was looking at him.
"Luna," he managed to say as his brain gradually returned to function, reminding her in a tight mutter, "your phrasing."
She blinked at him, clueless, until realisation dawned on her. "Oh!" She looked at him apologetically. "I'm sorry, I meant—"
Draco sighed. "It's fine." Thank Merlin he knew her well—not that that will ever stop her from surprising him.
Luna nodded and explained what she meant. "When you asked about it earlier," she said, "it made me wonder if we were heading that direction. We've already been living together and we have Wolfram and, well… I do love you very much." She gave him a sheepish smile. "I just realised I didn't ask if you would ever want it, too."
He gazed at her as the thoughts swirled in his head, gradually blending into a single decision, and then he smiled back.
"I do," he told her simply, watching her eyes brighten with joy and her cheeks tint pink.
"Oh." She looked down shyly. She didn't know what else to say. "Okay."
Draco tipped her chin up with one hand and pulled her in for a kiss, tactfully reaching his other hand behind him to grab the box he'd hidden under the throw pillows.
He made sure she wouldn't notice when they pulled away, keeping his gaze locked on hers. He rested his forehead against hers, smiling at the way she flushed prettily from the kiss.
"I love you," he murmured to her solemnly, affectionately.
Luna let out a breathless laugh and beamed at him, kissing his lips one more time before pulling away.
She froze when her eyes wandered downwards and finally noticed what he was holding out.
"If the incident hadn't happened," Draco started to say, "I would have given this to you eight days ago, after dancing with you to the same song playing when we first met, on a rooftop restaurant somewhere here in London."
The ring was a slim silver band with one large pear-cut diamond in vivid pink in the centre, the bottom framed with four smaller clear diamonds shaped like leaves. It looked like a tulip bud, or a strawberry if upside down - far from the conventional engagement rings, but he never planned on giving her something like that, anyway.
"I figured that would've been poetic," he added lightly, throwing in a small smirk, "since you've made this place a home, after all those grand adventures."
Luna let out a chuckle, though it sounded strained by the tears forming in her throat.
His eyes never left hers. "Will you marry me, Luna?"
She breathed out a 'yes' he barely heard before she lunged forward to kiss him. His hand reflexively changed to hold her waist, making sure neither of them fell off the sofa. She was crying and smiling and kissing him, and it was a miracle he managed to remember the ring when her lips attacked that sweet spot on his neck below his ear.
"Wait," he told her, pushing her away slightly. There were few things that turned him on more than the flushed expression on her face right now, but he had to get this out of the way. "The ring," he reminded her, "let me put it on you."
She smiled at him and nodded. She held out her left hand to him and he hastily took the ring out of its box and slid it on her ring finger.
Luna admired it for a moment, the bright smile never leaving her face, and then turned back to him. "I think it could match my lettuce earrings," she grinned, "it looks like a flower bud. Or a strawberry."
He chuckled. "I figured you'd see it like that."
"I'll take good care of it," she promised, looking at him happily. "It's beautiful, thank you."
He smiled and pulled her close to kiss her cheek. "I'd like my wild, steaming hot 'we-got-engaged' sex now."
"You have work tomorrow," she reminded him, biting her lip in an attempt to smother her grin.
"I'm not saying I'll skip it," he assured her. He drew her closer, lips brushing against her ear. "I want to see you with just the ring."
"Okay," she replied easily, her smile teasing. "Am I taking the rest off or do you want the honours for that, too?"
He groaned, unable to decide an answer for that. She laughed and kissed him and he pulled her back on top of him as he lied back on the sofa.
When all was kissed and touched and done, he carried her back to the bedroom—bridal-style, both of them stark naked and shushing each other in giggles. (Neither of them wanted to wake Wolfram, although he was already probably aware.) Luna snuggled against him as he pulled the covers up, happily whispering three more I love you's before succumbing to sleep.
Draco had been the happiest man that night.
Hans wondered if he was hallucinating.
It was seven-thirty in the morning, and there was an old lady sitting in his boss' office and casually sipping tea.
This was, of course, strange in several respects. First: no one was allowed in this floor without a keycard or permitted access. The only ones who were permitted to enter and leave freely were himself, his boss and his parents, his girlfriend, and his dog. Hans was the executive assistant, and he was very competent at his job. He knew his boss' schedule like the back of his hand, and he had no doubt nothing in it for today included a meeting at this hour, so there was no reason for the lobby folks to grant access to anyone.
Second: he didn't recognise the old lady, and for all he knew she could either be a ghost or a grandmother related to his boss whom he's never met. She could also be some serial killer – after what happened with Miss Luna, he couldn't be blamed to assume the worst. The investigation still hasn't yielded new results last he checked (and he checked yesterday afternoon, near the end of the business hours).
He was considering to call security when the elevator pinged behind him, and his boss strolled in with the hint of a smile in his eyes... which immediately disappeared upon landing on his flummoxed assistant.
Draco stopped in front of him.
"Hans," he greeted, lips in a tight line, one brow raising. "Why on earth are you looking like that?"
"W-well, there's..." he stammered, stepping aside and pointing his finger at the figure in his room without turning back. Draco's gaze followed, but his expression didn't change and he said nothing, so Hans glanced back just to make sure the lady was no figment of his imagination and he wasn't pointing to nothing.
He yelped upon finding the old lady right behind him, and then quickly scrambled to stand behind his boss.
"Draco," she greeted, glancing at Hans with an amused smile on her face. "I took the liberty of letting myself in. I wish to speak to you."
"You could have called me or my secretary in advance, Helena," Draco replied, looking at her wearily. "It's considered a crime to deliberately bypass security into private territory like this."
"Take it as a lesson to get better security," she shrugged, and then stared at him solemnly. "You're going to need it, if you want to protect your fiancée."
Draco's eyes widened at the mention, and he realised quite briskly that Helena wasn't here for her eccentric ideas of fun.
"Hans, would you get me my usual from the café?" He said, turning to his secretary with a serious look. "I'll be speaking to Mrs. Ravenclaw for the next hour. We'll go over today's agenda afterward."
"Uhm, sure..." Hans darted his gaze between him and the old lady, mentally noting to look her up later, and then straightened his back and grabbed his coat and wallet from the desk. "I'll be right back, sir," he said, and then scurried away to the elevator.
Draco waited until he was gone before turning back to his unexpected guest.
"Please," he said simply, gesturing her to come back to the room where she stayed to have morning tea.
Helena grinned at him as she passed. "You are your father's son," she remarked, "Always so courteous."
The blonde fought to roll his eyes, knowing the comment was made with sarcasm. He'd grown up being told by his parents never to displease anyone from the House of Ravenclaw, who were one of the few families who could end the Malfoy wealth and heritage if they wanted to. In public, they were known for their connoisseurship of wine and the arts; in private, among the families of the old rich, they were known for their information systems and networks, unmatched in the entire European region as far as they were aware.
It wouldn't be unusual if she knew more than the investigation team, and he had a feeling she was going to speak to him about this case. If there was a better chance to retrieve the missing information they needed, Draco knew very well this was it — and he had no intentions of letting it pass.
"I truthfully don't know if you have proposed yet," said Helena when they sat down. "I do know, however, that you commissioned a very expensive ring from Nikolaj, and that you're quite in love with your girlfriend."
"Not 'quite'," he corrected nonchalantly, "and she has been my fiancée since last night, although I would appreciate it if you would keep that knowledge to yourself until we break the news publicly."
"Oh my." Helena's eyes widened in surprise, and she shot him a bright smile. "Congratulations."
"Thank you." Draco nodded curtly.
"The men in your family have a proclivity to choose their partners well," she continued to say as she reached for her teacup, "I do look forward to meeting her soon. She lent me a very precious piece of history, you know."
Helena sipped her tea and kept speaking as if she hadn't noticed him stiffen in his seat.
"One of my newer servants had a loose tongue, and now the rumours are abound," she said, "I wouldn't be surprised if you had already heard—in fact, I expect it to be the case."
"You mean it's true?" Draco asked directly, deciding not to dally any longer if she wasn't doing the same. "You're the anonymous benefactor who hired my fiancée to travel around Europe searching for those bejewelled eggs?"
"I remained secret for her safety," Helena replied, affirming it with a nod. "If my name and involvement had remained so, her search wouldn't have raised suspicion, and she wouldn't have been targeted."
A sense of fear clouded over him upon hearing this. "What do you mean?" he asked, his hand twitching by the pants pocket where his phone was. The urge to call her and make sure she was safe was ringing in his pulse.
Helena seemed to notice his growing apprehension and attempted to calm him down.
"According to my reports you've hired a security team," she mentioned casually as she raised her teacup to her lips, "and that you've raised the security in the building you stay at. That should be enough to protect her for now, I believe."
"She was bludgeoned in the head in broad daylight," he hissed, glowering at the memory, and then directed his glare to her. "Her attacker is still unknown and at large, and you're telling me she's being targeted."
Even if he wanted to thank his past self for pushing through with the increased security measures despite Luna's insistent protests (she wasn't comfortable with the bodyguards, having never had them before), this new piece of knowledge didn't make him feel comfortable in the slightest.
"The bejewelled eggs are worth a fortune and priceless history, and Moscow has been suffering for quite some time now." Helena's voice remained even and composed as she spoke. "It would not be farfetched to imagine a Russian politician wanting to take them to use as leverage in politics."
Draco slowly drew his torso back as the implications dawned on him. This was why they were after Luna.
Helena simply continued.
"The eggs are political instruments of power. It's important they do not fall into the wrong hands." She placed her teacup back on the table. "It is best they avoid being used for schemes, especially when they can serve other purposes."
"You mean to keep them in museum and art," Draco clarified.
Helena nodded. "The eggs are heirlooms of a family that have stayed away from crown and power for years. That does not have to change."
Draco narrowed his eyes. "What are you suggesting then?"
"That things stay the way they are," she replied simply. "I already meant to talk with you about the contract we signed before my annual auction. The incident only moved it up the agenda, and that is why I'm here."
"The one who nearly killed Luna—do you know who he is?"
He never planned on letting her leave without at least knowing what she knew about the incident.
"A mouse by the name of Peter Pettigrew," said Helena, "hired by Thomas Riddle of Moscow. His... pedigree, so to speak, hinders his chances for the presidency."
Draco had heard of him in international news bites. He was a popular candidate, although his murky origins as an adopted child appeared to be a more effective vote deterrent than his actual and rather abhorrent political stances.
Claiming ownership over the missing empire eggs could certainly shift the tide to his favour.
"I have already forwarded the relevant information about Pettigrew to the investigation team earlier today, as a courtesy to Miss Lovegood," Helena informed him. "That is as far as the protection clause in our contract goes. If you wish to involve Riddle, I will have to demand a price."
Unperturbed, Draco leaned back in his seat.
Lucius called him into his study when they went home to the manor that weekend.
"It has come to my attention," he started to say, not sparing another minute, "that you have sold five hundred hectares of our Bavarian estate to Helena Ravenclaw without consulting with me."
"We struck a deal," Draco informed him. "A plot of land for the imprisonment of the bastard who went after Luna."
He doesn't mention the eggs, respecting Luna's decision to clandestinely transfer the full ownership to Helena.
"Did you not negotiate?" drawled Lucius, barely holding in his displeasure. The Bavarian estate was one of their oldest, largest, and most profitable properties.
"She's waging war on a powerful figure on my behalf," Draco answered. "I get to sit back and watch - it's the better end of the deal."
"The Bavarian estate is worth at least four hundred million euros."
"I'll earn it back with interest." Draco handed him his phone, showing a digital copy of a document he signed three days ago.
Lucius furrowed his brows, unimpressed. "Peru?"
"We made friends with a family of farmers when we visited two years ago," he explained. "Their produce is excellent."
The only thing that had kept them from earning more was a corrupt, lazy-minded landowner.
"And you are certain this could recoup our losses from the Bavarian estate?"
"With interest," stressed Draco. He knew the potential and reassessed this several times since they visited, keeping in touch with the locals. Helena only gave him a reason to push through with it. "The investment cost is a tiny fraction compared to the worth of the Bavarian estate. You only have to give me time."
And trust. The word hung in the silence, but it didn't need to be said.
Lucius eyed his son with the same look he's given him throughout his youth.
"Seven years," he compromised. "If you fail, you will recoup the loss by entering another marriage."
The condition surprises Draco, but only for a moment. His father raised him with unwavering expectations of excellence to manage the Malfoy Enterprise well, and he was no doubt disappointed that he was not consulted regarding the estate. He would not allow his son to give away part of their family's estate for whatever reason, least of all for a woman, without consequence.
Draco could accept that. He knew the stakes.
"I won't fail," he declares decisively. Memories of Luna replay in his head in rapid speed, and his resolve to protect her only grows stronger.
The stars are bright from the vantage of the manor gardens, though not as plentiful and clear as they were in Sossusvlei. Still, it reminds Luna of the time they spent there, and she loves to gaze at the view all the same.
She was waiting for a shooting star when Draco finds her.
"Did you make a wish?"
He crouches down and lies beside her, slipping an arm under her head and drawing her to rest on his chest. She snuggles into his warmth.
"A shooting star hasn't passed by yet," she says softly, and then her fingers clench at his shirt. Her engagement ring glistens under the moonlight. "How did it go with your father?"
"He is neither happy nor completely mad. It's not an entire loss," he tells her honestly.
"It isn't an entire win, either." She looks away from the stars for a moment as she turns to look at him. "Are we still getting married?"
"If you'll still have me." His right hand reaches up to hold hers. "He's giving me seven years to recoup the losses, or else I'll have to marry someone else." He squeezes her hand. "I don't want to make you wait, and I'd understand if you wouldn't want to risk it."
She smiles at him dearly. "I believe in you more than you know," she reassures him, "and you really should let me help."
He returns her smile. "All you have to do is stay with me."
"I can do more than that," she argues. "You know I'm capable, and this is my battle as much as you think it's yours. I signed the contract, not you."
"And you've gotten hurt because of it," he points out, threading his other hand through her hair. "Surely you don't believe I'd just stand there and do nothing."
"I know you wouldn't." She sighs and leans her head back on his chest, gaze returning to the stars. "I only want to do the same thing for you."
He kisses the top of her head. "We'll set the date, then?" he asks.
"Daddy suggests August, but your mother wants it to be in June."
"When do you want to do it?"
"April," she sighs dreamily, "when the flowers start to bloom like this."
"Alright then," he agrees, and then he asks again, "where?"
"Your garden is perfectly fine for the ceremony," she suggests. "It will be easier for everyone to attend, too."
"...you're thinking about Nargles, aren't you?"
She giggles. "He would make a perfect bridesmaid, and Wolfram can be the ringbearer."
Draco grins. "I'm not opposed to the idea."
"Your mother might be," she points out, trying not to sound troubled. "I believe she wants to host a grand wedding."
Grand does not even cover it; Narcissa was willing to invite a thousand guests, and Luna didn't even know that many people.
"I am her only child," Draco replies, "but I'll talk her out of it, provided you let me decide where we'll go for the honeymoon."
Luna glances up at him again, beaming with interest. "Is it going to be a surprise?"
"If your wedding gown will be," he offers.
They share a moment staring at each other, and then burst into laughter together. Too caught up in each other's company, they forget the skies and miss the sight of a star falling near the moon.
(Not that it matters, really, when they have each other, stronger than any wish made upon a falling star.)
The next chapter will be a short epilogue. :D
—and yes, I finally updated! My city is currently in lockdown and I was reinvigorated after looking through my drafts for this chapter. (I had at least six and I ended up going with the first... ha, ha.)
Anyway, thank you to everyone who has read, reviewed, and given kudos to this cheesy piece of work! I appreciate it more than you know.