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The Rainbow Room by rozen_maiden

Format: Short story
Chapters: 4
Word Count: 6,825
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Contains Slash (Same-Sex Pairing), Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme, Contains Spoilers

Genres: Drama, Romance, Young Adult
Characters: Draco, Luna, OtherCanon
Pairings: Other Pairing, Draco/OC

First Published: 12/04/2013
Last Chapter: 01/27/2014
Last Updated: 01/27/2014

Summary:
|| Banner by elixirchaos at tda ||





“Have you ever tried dandelion wine?”

And that was a weird question, because she had dandelions in her hair.

Luna/Astoria/Draco


Chapter 1: curious.
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Disclaimer: I don’t own these characters, places, etc.




curious.


‘Curiosity is in one respect like love—it always compromises between the object and the feeling ...’
- Melmoth the Wanderer, Charles Maturin, pp. 47




I will never forget the first time I properly met Draco Malfoy. I had been ushered into a small carriage on the Hogwarts Express by a Death Eater, whose voice grumbled and hissed between his horrifying mask. I barely had time to speak a word before he slammed the door of the compartment in my face and stalked away.

When I turned, Draco was there, lounging on the bar seat, smirk tugging the corners of his mouth as he watched me. His eyes were tired, but he hid it well with the impervious attitude that oozed off him.

“You’re the new Slytherin prefect?” he asked, voice almost taunting in the oddly comfortable silence.

I huffed, folding my arms and glaring at him. “Is that a problem?”

He stood, chuckling. The Head Boy badge glinted importantly on his chest in the sunlight that streamed through the small square window. His grey eyes sparkled with fire. He was an enigma, and I could not stop staring at him.

“Not at all,” he said.


The next month, he asked me on a date to the Three Broomsticks. Death Eaters stalked the streets, people were afraid, but next to Draco Malfoy, I felt invulnerable, invincible, safe.

He asked if I liked Butterbeer, and I asked him why he kept tugging at his right sleeve.

I didn’t expect him to answer. I didn’t even know why I asked the stupid question in the first place. He blinked, staring at me curiously, before rolling up his sleeve silently and showing me his forearm.

I wasn’t really surprised to see the Dark Mark there. There were rumours—some wild (‘Draco Malfoy is second-in-charge to you-know-who’) and some ridiculous (‘He’s killed eighty people!’). I didn’t listen to them, but they filter and evolve in your subconscious and before you realise it, rumours are fact. As he pulled the robe arm back down (aggressively, as if annoyed at himself), he asked if I was going to leave.

And in reply I stood on my tip-toes and brushed my lips against the light golden stubble that flecked his jawline. It was both scratchy and smooth at once, and I wanted to keep my touch there forever.

I whispered, “Not at all.”


When he left for Brazil a year later, I was heartbroken.

“I don’t see what the problem is,” he replied matter-o’-factly, not looking up from the shirts strewn about on the floor before him. He only ever wore shirts now, refusing to hide his past (“It is a mark of who I am,” he told me once, staring at the Dark Mark on his arm. “Everyone knows anyway”).

“You ... don’t...” Words were failing me, and I had to lean against the doorframe to stop myself from collapsing. “... See?”

He looked up then, grey eyes inscrutable, as always. “You’re leaving me for Hogwarts.”

Truth. It stung, like he knew it would and I felt traitorous tears well in my eyes. I muttered, “You could have visited me in Hogsmeade, though.”

A pathetic reason. I felt like I was scrambling up a hill after it had rained—muddy and slippery, my hands desperately trying to get a grip so I could reach the top. But I was sliding down, tumbling head over heels, unable to get a grip in the mud.

He zipped up the suitcase. The sound seemed to go on forever. Then the first tear fell, rolling down my cheek and disappearing down my neck.

And the next moment was strange, because that was when Draco Malfoy told me he loved me. And before he changed his mind, before I could say another word, he grabbed his bag, slammed the front door of my late mother’s holiday house, and apparated off the front porch, leaving me completely, and utterly, alone.

* * *


I saw Thestrals for the first time that year. Odd looking creatures that gazed at you like they knew what you had seen. I liked them. They felt soft under your fingers despite their bony appearance, and their eyes were captivating, like the whole universe existed in them.

“You see them too?” a gentle voice asked.

I tilted my head to see a strange girl lingering behind the animals, eyes hidden by big, flamboyant sunglasses. I wondered how she could see with them on—the sun had set some time ago and the lanterns were too dull for any clarity. But she obviously could see, because she walked forward and touched the horse my hand was on, fingertips brushing against my own briefly and sending a curious electric shock that travelled down my arm.

I stared at her. “I think a lot of people will be seeing them this year.”

She cocked her head. It was an oddly sensual movement, with her long dirty blonde hair cascading to one side, small pink lips curving into a curious smile. “That’s very observant,” she commented. And then she disappeared into the carriage.

I felt my ego inflate slightly. No one had ever called me observant before. I always got a strange mix of labels—cold, emotional, sweet, introvert, vague. My sister was always the one to get the stronger words—smart, cunning, clever, beautiful. I was just Astoria, plain and dull and occasionally too bitter for company; but in those moments, I felt wise.

I clambered into the carriage after her, surprised to find it empty save for herself. She had a magazine sprawled out on her lap, upside-down, glasses still propped on her nose. Was she dyslexic? I thought it too rude to ask.

“Are your friends coming in?” I ventured instead, studying her in the dark.

She looked up, face unreadable, and replied, “Oh, no. Are yours?”

“I hope not,” I muttered.

“They aren’t really your friends if you’re hoping that, then, are they?”

The sentence sounded like a dig, but her voice was too soft and whimsical for such a bitter thing, so instead of the usual snappy retort, I shrugged and smiled. She then placed her magazine aside, and I asked her some questions once the carriage started to move. I got weird answers in reply, but that is just what happens when you ask things of people.

She was odd. Simple. I liked that.

* * *


My ‘friends’, Mary, Catherine and Gwendolyn (Gwen for those who hadn’t crossed her off their Christmas card list ... yet), were my roommates for my time at Hogwarts. They were ... girls. They wanted to be around one another all the time and pair off in classes and go to the toilets together and talk about boys. They had a dark side, too, however. Loyalists of the Dark Lord, even after his death, they liked to make forbidden potions and practice dark magic in the Slytherin common room, often with the boys from Draco’s year. I tried to avoid such things—“We don’t take sides, Astoria,” my mother would say. “That’s how people die.”

Ironic that my parents died anyway. Life is funny sometimes.

The next day, Mary buttered my toast and told me that she wasn’t taking potions. “No,” she had sighed, green eyes glittering wistfully. “I just don’t have the heart to do it any longer without Professor Snape.”

“But no one else is doing it,” I sulked, grabbing the toast off her. “I’ll be alone.”

I couldn’t fault Mary for her reasoning, though—I missed the Professor a lot. He had been my mentor since I started at Hogwarts, and he was the reason the prefect badge was pinned to my chest. After late night patrols I would sometimes head down to the dungeons and watch him make his wonderful, perfectly accurate potions. At first, he was annoyed, but he soon became used to my company. Occasionally Draco would join us too. He, himself, was a skilled potioneer, and I always felt a curious pang of jealously watching them work together. The Marks on their arms bound them in a way I could never understand.

Once breakfast was done, I went down to potions, alone. Professor Slughorn had worked hard over the break, trying to rid his room of any Death Eater evidence. The area was well lit by a dozen brightly burning lanterns, and everything was clean and organised. It felt strange walking in there—like it wasn’t meant for a person, let alone a haphazard class of students.

The professor smiled at me. “Miss Greengrass!”

There weren’t many people—and it was a strange mix of ages, representative of the after-war chaos. I saw familiar, popular faces, such as Ginny Weasley and Hermione Granger; and then the ones less recognisable—there was a boy with a mop of brown hair sitting with four of his friends, and then her.

Pausing in the doorway, I twitched my lip in the primitive imitation of a smile before sitting down at the empty desk at the front of the room.

Annoyingly, she came and sat with me. “Do you have a partner?”

“No,” I said coldly, straightening my cauldron on its little stove. “I work better alone.”

She ignored this.


From then on, Luna Lovegood was my potions partner. I could not think of a good enough reason for her not to be.

And, in truth, she made life a bit more bearable.




Authors Note: I would like to thank MC_HK for her continuous support with my writing. This is all new to me – slash, a serious first-person POV fiction... it is keeping to canon, though, so not too odd. I hope you enjoy. Chapters are short, but updates will hopefully be fast. Please review if you have the time!


Chapter 2: cunning.
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cunning.

"The measure of an individual can be difficult to discern by actions alone."
- Thane Krios, Mass Effect 2




Three weeks later, Luna came to potions with earrings made from Banksias. I had only seen Banksias once before, on a holiday in Australia with my family. They were a strange, elongated flower with soft, delicate spikes... And their colour—each one unique, a beautiful vibrant array of reds, yellows and pinks. It was like a rainbow against the dry, arid landscape. When I held it, it was alive in my palm—foreign and fragile and different. When I smelt it, I sneezed.

The ones Luna had on her ears were red, and they jingled like Christmas bells as she walked. They made her eyes a vivacious blue.

Why?” I asked, staring at her.

Luna came over to the desk and dropped her bag on the floor, smiling absently at my incredulous voice. Her black robe was sliding off one shoulder and there was a smear of dirt on her nose, evidence that she had just left the greenhouse. I sighed, then; half-amused, half-bemused. She didn’t even have Herbology—this was everyone’s first lesson of the day.

“I cannot tell you why, yet,” she quipped.

I scoffed in reply, continuing to stare as she brought out her potions book and a few other haphazard objects. She was the complete opposite to me—robes a mess, hair flyway, voice soft and soothing. My robes did not have one wrinkle, my hair always neatly cut and smooth, voice a husky purr.

“I won’t have grubby little girls running around the house,” mother would say, licking her thumb and stroking it down my cheek. “You’re too messy!”

Luna was everything I wasn’t.

Other students meandered through the open door, Weasley and Granger stopping to talk to Luna briefly. They ignored me, but I didn’t mind. They spoke nonsense anyway. I quietly straightened my cauldron and looked at my feet and pushed Luna’s things away from my side of the desk. She always took up too much space.

Eventually Professor Slughorn entered the room and the excited chatter died down, everyone retiring to their seats in silence. Luna wriggled onto the stool next to me, pushing her things back to their original places without a second thought.

I rolled my eyes.

“Merlin’s Wit,” the Professor announced, holding up a small glass bottle containing a murky pink solution. A smile graced his round features, and his eyes locked to the desk at the back of the room. “Miss Granger?”

However, to everyone’s surprise, it was Luna who answered him. “It is a solution to increase a person’s wit, or their cunning. Merlin discovered the potion during his studies of why different houses had their personality traits.”

Professor Slughorn beamed at this—the usually quiet girl finally saying her piece. I couldn’t help but cast a backwards glance in Hermione Granger’s direction. She looked as though someone had slapped her across the face. I smirked, satisfied, and turned back around.

“Correct, Miss Lovegood: five points to Ravenclaw. Now turn to page 678 in your textbooks...” The sound of rustling and flicking of pages ignited the room, and he circled around his desk, sweeping the hand with the bottle in it for everyone to see.

“It looks sweet,” I commented.

Slughorn nodded. “This potion is made from the flowers of the Banksia integrifolia, a native Australian tree. It is used for its sweet nectar and unusual ability to increase one’s awareness. Your recipes must be followed specifically—this is a difficult potion, and I don’t want any accidents. Off you go.”

Everyone made a move to the supply cupboard, but before Luna slid off her seat to follow them, I grabbed her wrist. She smiled at me when she turned.

“How did you know we would be using Banksias today?” I asked, unable to hide my bafflement. “Did you run into Slughorn this morning? He never talks about his lessons!”

Her smile widened. Her lips were a pale pink today, almost indiscernible against her milky white skin. “Professor Trelawny showed me, of course.”

I laughed, I couldn’t help it. “Trelawney? That is the stupidest—”

And then I stopped, because I realised that even though Trelawney was a crazy old bat, Luna was the one with Banksia earrings in a mystery lesson about the flower, making my argument completely invalid.

I dropped her wrist, pursing my lips. “Go get the stuff,” I mumbled.

She laughed.


The lesson went smoothly—well, as smooth as an advanced Potions lesson can go with a bunch of students. Granger’s and Weasley’s potion was the perfect consistency and colour, as always, Luna’s and my own not far behind. We got to keep the potion once we finished.

“Here you are, Astoria,” Luna said, holding out the small glass vile as we left the classroom. I paused, turning to her. “I cannot see myself using this; it is rather obscure for me.”

“What?” I snorted, waving her hand away. “This is the thing that’s too obscure for you?”

“Exceptionally obscure.” I stared at her Banksia earrings and necklace (“For Nargles”), wondering if she was serious or not. She added, “I’m already quite witty, you see.”

I rolled my eyes, grinning. “Right. Well, I’ve got all the cunning I need. Slytherin, remember?”

Luna made to reply, but was cut off by a cold drawl that drifted from the dungeon shadows. “Don’t pretend you know what it is like to be a Slytherin, Astoria. You shame our house.”

I stiffened, gritting my teeth as Gwen slipped out from behind a tapestry, dripping with her usual hubris and haut. Catherine and Mary hovered behind her, the latter flashing me a tight smile that I could not bring myself to return.

“What are you doing here?” I snapped, eyes sharpening towards Gwen.

Gwen was the instigator of most things bad. It was her idea to sneak out in our third year and drink ourselves silly with Butterbeer in the Shrieking Shack. It was her idea that had us found in the Restricted Section of the library in our forth year, playing spin the ‘bottle’ with a stunned Mrs. Norris. And it was her that turned the cold shoulder on me once I got the prefect badge.

I can’t say I was hurt by this. I never really liked Gwen, right from the beginning. She had a long face with squinty eyes that stared right through you. Sometimes she smiled, but most of the time she was scowling. Her voice was icy and she talked far too much for what little information was conveyed.

If I did not share a room with her, I would have hexed her long ago.

Gwen laughed as Mary stepped forward then, the dull flickering flames of the lanterns catching the colour in her eyes. She looked sad. “This came for you.”

I ripped my gaze from Gwen horsey face to find a thin envelope in Mary’s hand. It was too dark to see clearly, but my eyes were desperate, hands even more so, grabbing the letter and holding in my shaky grasp. The fine writing—so familiar, so elegant, so perfect—blurred before my eyes, and I barely heard Gwen laugh again, or her and Catherine’s retreat.

A hand touched my wrist. I saw long red nails, perfectly painted... Freckles... Everything was blurry.

I looked up into Mary’s sympathetic face. “You said you wanted any letters brought to you right away... I just...”

“I don’t want pity, Mary,” I whispered.

In truth, I hadn’t told her—or anyone, for that matter—about Draco leaving for another country. Mary was clever, though. Bright. Caring. I never let anyone get too close to me, but somehow she slipped between the cracks in the wall I built around myself, and nestled right in there. She occasionally even visited me in the holidays, with chocolates and Butterbeer and pyjamas.

And apart from Draco, she was the only person I had ever cried in front of.

“It’s nothing important,” I reassured. “Just a letter.”

She withdrew her hand. “Okay,” she said, voice careful and understanding. “I’ll be around...”

The words hung in the air, unfinished, but there. If you need me.

She left.

I don’t know how long I stared at the envelope for. Minutes, seconds, hours? Too long, probably. Once I finally opened it, my eyes trailed back and forth across the words until they were nothing more than a blur of perfect script and curvy lettering.

“Are you okay?”

My heart stopped, and I looked up to see Luna before me in all her giant earring and big-eyed glory. Her voice was soft and tender and gentle, crawling under my skin like a thousand insects.

The lump in my throat burned like fire, and I blinked, big, fat tears falling from my eyes. I couldn’t trust myself to speak, but I didn’t need to.

She knew. She was special like that.

Luna reached out, hand hesitant, before taking the letter off me and delicately intertwining her hand with my own, fingers locking with fingers. There was no judgement in her blue eyes—no pity, or sympathy, or even interest. No other person could have touched me in that moment; but Luna, with her vague smile and extraordinary tenderness gave me such a deep consolation that I could not pull away.

“Can I show you something, Astoria?” she asked, cocking her head slightly.

I nodded, and followed her, part-curious, part-desperate...

I needed her.




A/N: Banksia is pronounced phonetically. If you haven’t seen one, search it. They are very cool looking flowers (however they don’t increase your wit ... they are sweet though, so I’m not completely full of it!) Also, thank you so much for those who have reviewed and favourite-d—I’m so happy to see people giving this pairing a go!

Chapter 3: words.
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words.

‘Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by all of mankind.’
- Rudyard Kipling




Lucius taught Draco how to write—the importance of it, the beauty and simplicity of ink on parchment... How written words could dance and manipulate your feelings in a way spoken word just couldn’t. And Draco ... Draco took the opportunity of quill and parchment to a whole new level. His writing guided my eyes across the page, gentle and curved like his waist, talking to me tenderly like he was there, behind me, his mouth to my ear, arms snaking around hips, guiding me, moving me and every emotion I felt inside.

So while the letter said nothing of importance, it said everything.

“Can I have it back?” I whispered to Luna desperately as she smuggled me past the full Transfiguration classroom—the full classroom I was sure she was meant to be in.

She paused, briefly, head tilting to the side and lips parting slightly. Her hand was still in mine, cool and soft between my fingers, and she gave it a light squeeze. My belly flipped, and I frowned.

“Does it really mean that much to you?” she asked.

A curious question. A sound question. A question I did not have the answer too. Did it mean that much to me? Or was it simply the prospect—the faint hope—that it would mean something? I loved Draco, but he was not there and that letter wasn’t him, nor was it going to bring him back.

“I ...” I bit my lip, eyes flitting to my black polished shoes. “I guess not.”

“That is a strange answer, Astoria.” Again, she hesitated, brief, but obvious. “Is it from someone special?”

I stared at her and she stared back, blue eyes so wide it made her face look small. She was inches away from me, her sweet, warm breath tickling my face, and for a minute, I could not think.

“Yeah... I think so,” I finally murmured.

“You are upset,” she said with a frown.

“So?”

Luna looked uncomfortable, and I started to feel it—the small spark of tension, the fine, delicate politeness, and her desperate need to know about me, about the letter, about the tears that stood in my eyes and streaked down my cheeks.

And I wanted to tell her about Draco, I really did, but if I said it—that he left, that I missed him, that I probably would not ever, ever see him again—then it would be true. And I would have naught but a letter full of nothing and the truth full of everything.

“You are upset, Astoria...” She repeated. Her voice drifted away, out of reach, and she looked down to Draco’s letter, crumpled in her hand.

“What were you going to show me?” I breathed, desperate to change the subject.

And then the unbelievable happened: I smiled.

I smiled because Luna stepped forward, dropping my hand to brush a stray hair I had not felt out of my eyes, fingers resting against my cheek, cold and warm at the same time. And my face tilted into her palm, which she opened readily, and we stood, looking at each other, grinning like fools.

And I felt like the whole world was open to me.

“Follow me,” she coaxed, dreamy voice tinged with anticipation.

I followed her through the empty castle, curiosity bubbling pleasantly in my stomach. It had been a while since I had felt something—something akin to happiness. Happiness was like a ghost to me—there, but not at the same time. Like if you fussed over it too much, it would be snatched from your grasp with the wind, leaving no sign that it had even been there in the first place. I tried not to focus on how happy I was feeling, but...

Every time I looked at Luna, I felt warm and dizzy and excited.

I barely paid attention to where we were headed, focusing on her hair that fluttered behind her, and the soft click, click, click of her heels that guided me when she disappeared around corners. It wasn’t long before she stopped in the middle of a familiar, bare corridor, her robe slipping off one shoulder, golden hair like a halo in the morning sun that streaked through the towering windows.

“I know this place,” I breathed, stepping to the wall and running my fingers along the deceptive stone. “Draco took me here.”

Young, foolish teens, hiding from teachers and Death Eaters—the promise that he knew a place, and the promise that I would love it. I was blindfolded, and he led me through the dark castle at night with fingertips dancing on fingertips and giggles threatening to escape from my lips. And I had stopped, but he had not, walking back and forward, back and forward in front of my blinded self... And then the surprise: a warm room with the faint sound of a crackling fire. The blindfold unravelled, and we fell into the bed immediately, so soft and so warm. He just held me in his arms—all night and all day, and I don’t think a word was spoken between us.

It was curious what forgotten memories could stir inside you once you were reminded. Like a rollercoaster of emotions that you cannot contain. I could barely breathe, but Luna’s soft voice dragged me back, away from Draco’s arms and the light kisses that touched my cheek, the flick of blonde hair in grey, stormy eyes.

“That does not surprise me,” she was saying. “Draco Malfoy found out about Harry’s meetings in here when Professor Umbridge was teaching.” She then paused and frowned, looking at the letter in her hand. “This is from him, then, isn’t it?”

I nodded. She passed the letter over, and I took it, unease stirring within my stomach. “It doesn’t say anything,” I said—babbled, more like. The need to explain myself and my relationship was curious—a feeling I had not encountered before. I liked to think I was self-composed, but my composure was slipping through my fingers the more I stared at her. “That’s the problem.”

Luna looked at me, eyes saddened, but a small smile tugged the corners of her mouth. She then began to walk—forward, back, forward, back, forward, back, and a door appeared just beneath my fingers.

“Open it,” she said, excitement dancing in her blue eyes.

The room was not like Draco’s hideaway. It was a cosy little thing, with two armchairs, a bookcase, and a fireplace that lit up the entire space with its bright, flickering flame. And...

I cannot explain it. Do it justice. But everything—everything—was a different colour—ruby, or green, or blue, or gold, or pink... The roses on the mantelpiece were rainbow, and the chairs were a vibrant red and yellow. There was a coffee table that was a colour I had never even seen before, let alone a colour I could name.

“Luna...” I breathed, hand on my chest.

She giggled, brushing past me and sitting cross-legged on the floor before the fire. I followed her, eyes flicking up and down and everywhere at once. I couldn’t take it all in, but I wanted to. I wanted to be there forever, wrapped in the seclusion and warmth and comfort.

“Do you like it?” she asked as I sank onto the floor by her side.

“Luna... It’s beautiful,” I said honestly.

“I come here to relax sometimes... You can too. I would like you too.” She then coloured slightly, a pink blush flowering her pale cheeks.

“I would like that too,” I said, smiling sheepishly at her.

Silence ensued. The good kind. The kind that used to stretch across the sitting room with myself and my father when I was little, only to be broken by him asking if I would like a cup of tea. Then he would give me that cheeky grin that said he knew very well I wanted hot cocoa, not tea. And I would smile back and say nothing, pulling my knees to my chin where I would fall asleep, only to curiously wake up in the morning, snuggled in my bed.

I missed my dad.

Minutes passed, before Luna asked, “Are you okay, Astoria?”

And I wanted to tell her yes I was fine, but when I looked at her to answer, I couldn’t. Everything was so perfect—the rainbow room, the warmth and comfort of the fire, her and her blue eyes and the hand that reached out and touched my arm, pressing firmly against my robes. Touching the skin and muscle and spirit underneath—touching my heart.

“I’ll get there, Luna,” I said.

More silence. Gorgeous and delicate and beautiful. Hogwarts outside was a distant memory, and I fell into darkness—a sweet, blissful, peaceful sleep. When I woke up, Luna was asleep on the floor, my head on her chest, and the fire was a dull light, nothing more than the burning of coals. And I just lay there, feeling the steady breathing of her chest as she dreamed; wondering what she dreamed, trying to remember what I dreamed.

And the letter was there, crumpled and warm beneath our bodies—forgotten and alone.

For that day, I was happy, and I could be.




A/N: I am overwhelmed by the support this story has gotten. Thank you so much—all of you! I am so excited for the next chapter :D I hope you all enjoy it—it should be up within the week (hopefully before Christmas!). Mahalia.


Chapter 4: astoria.
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astoria.

‘I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.’
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë




We fell into a rhythm, Luna and I. Something I looked forward to became routine—expected, but curiously no less exciting. Afternoons were stolen away in companionable silence, cross-legged before the hearth in The Room, surrounded by the comforting burst of rainbow. She read, and I stared at the fire. Occasionally, I would put pen to paper for Draco, but my words would fall flat and crooked on the page, and the parchment would be balled, thrown into the flames. It would be warm, briefly. Useful. And I would continue to stare, imagining my other life, visioning it in the flames that crackled and danced before me.

I would see Luna in that life.

Minutes, hours, days and weeks rolled into one, a blur of classes and ticking clocks, and before I had even settled properly, I was standing on the Entrance steps to Hogwarts, scarf pulled tightly around my neck, tiny puffs of steam rising from my mouth. Snow caked the ground, mistletoe was strung from the roof, yet it did not feel like Christmas. It was empty—like a normal day with a special name.

Daphne was the only reason I felt something. She stood next to me on the steps, shoulder lightly brushing against my own as she huddled closer for warmth. She looked older than when I had seen her last—her eyes glittered as if they were always filled with tears, and her mouth was drawn into a hard line. But I couldn’t stop staring at her—my sister, my familiarity. The one person I could always count on.

“How have you been lately?” I asked her. I wanted to know everything—where she was, what she was doing, who she had been with. I wanted it to be like nothing had ever happened, and we were just sisters—girls—spending Christmas morning together because our parents were on a holiday in New Zealand. Wasting time and talking about boys and dolls and music.

She sighed. A pained sigh. A sigh that reminded me we were not girls anymore. “I’ve been having some trouble with mother and father’s inheritance, Tori. It’s been stressful since you’ve come back to study. Adam... will not talk to me.”

I didn’t know what to make of what happened next. Daphne flicked her chestnut locks from her face—a habit she could not help when nervous—reaching into her coat pocket and pulling out a cigarette. She placed it between her ruby lips, where it dangled precariously as she lit the tip with her wand. The faint light illuminated her face and I could see every line etched there, chiselled from nineteen years of memories as she inhaled deeply, desperately.

“I didn’t know you smoked,” I commented, frowning.

“I didn’t,” she said between puffs, the foul-smelling smoke cloud lingering around her head, obscuring her features. “I started about a month ago, when Adam told me I didn’t deserve what our parents left us.”

Silence. Drawn out, and agonisingly uncomfortable. She was notably anxious, finishing her current cigarette and then lighting a new one instantly. Her foot tapped, her eyes were unfocused, and she kept brushing her hair off her face in irritation; once, twice—

Six times.

“Did he send you a Christmas card?” she asked, finally breaking the silence. Her voice was testy, annoyed—like if I said no, she would expect it; like if I said yes, she would hate it.

“Yes,” I answered anyway.

“What did it say?”

A lot. How he missed me. How he couldn’t see me on Christmas, but he ‘will be down for the New Year’. About how he visited mother and father’s grave and put two roses down—one from me and one from him. And as I thought about what was in my older brother’s card, I felt stupid, because I never noticed that he didn’t mention Daphne at all.

“I don’t want anything to do with her,” I overheard him say to mother once. I had been lingering near his room, desperate to enter before he left our house for good—ready to start his new life and forget about his old one. “She takes me for granted and I’m done helping her, little sister or not.”

And then he snapped his trunk closed and kissed mother on the cheek... and that was the end of that.

“He just said Merry Christmas,” I murmured, kicking a chunk of snow off the steps and blinking back the tears that threatened to fall. “Nothing important.”

Daphne scoffed.

What we talked about after that I cannot remember. We sunk down onto the cold stone steps, and two hours turned to three, three hours turned to five, and before I realised it the sun was setting and a small pile of cigarette butts towered next to Daphne’s left foot. We both stood, pausing, dreading the awkward goodbye and wondering when we would see one another again.

Hoping we would see each other again.

“Well, tell Theo I said hi and Merry Christmas,” I said, smiling sadly at her.

“I will. And you ...” She frowned, pausing for a beat. “Um. Tell Malfoy hi.”

I raised an eyebrow at her sudden change in demeanour. Her blue eyes flickered downwards, and I felt a slight discomfort—like there was something I was missing. Something I should not be missing. “Sure.”

I moved closer to her then, preparing to give her a hug and a quick kiss on the cheek. Snowflakes began to fall from the sky, whimsically dancing in the light breeze and disappearing into the darkness. I was desperate for warmth—for seclusion—and I was sure Daphne herself wanted to go back to her own home and her loving boyfriend.

However, before I could hug her, she stepped back away from me, spluttering, “Toria, wait.”

I paused, watching her warily. “What...?”

“I...” She bit her lip. “I know something you don’t. About Draco.”

“That he’s a horrible person?” I joked. But my heart didn’t feel it—it thumped against my ribcage in uneven beats, heating up my face and churning my stomach. Something about her tone had me instantly edgy. It was panicked—anxious.

“He ...” A sigh. A sigh that seemed to say more than words ever could. “Pansy Parkinson went to meet him in Brazil. She’s been over there for a month now.”

I remembered being in that tiny house after Draco left—I remembered hearing the crack as he apparated off the porch. I remembered sliding to the floor, tears streaming down my face—and I remembered thinking, if I could say anything to him to make him stay, what would I say?

And I remembered that I couldn’t answer the question. He wouldn’t have stayed, no matter what I said; his mind was made up, and I ... Well, I was the girl he left behind, sitting on her dead parent’s floor, wondering why it was so dirty when I had cleaned it just yesterday.

“Do you want a fag?” Daphne asked, placing another in her mouth.

She didn’t wait for an answer, lighting it carefully and then passing it over to me. As I put it between my lips, my first reaction was to spit it out and throw it on the ground—the smoke burned my throat, my mouth, my lungs, and the world was spinning, cascading, falling...

But then I felt Daphne’s hand touch mine—gripping mine, tightly, firmly—and she pulled me close to her, wrapping her arms securely around my shoulders to hold together the cracks that were appearing—the tears that streamed down my face, the legs that wobbled, the sobs that shook my chest.

“I miss mum and dad,” I mumbled. “I miss them so much.”

Her arms tightened around my frame, holding me closer. The cigarette fell out of my mouth, extinguishing as soon as it hit the snowy step—forgotten and useless.

And I must have fallen asleep on her, because when I woke, it was midnight and I was in my bed, warm and soft and alone.

So, so alone.


Luna found me in The Room the next day. Evening—just before dinner—on the floor before the fire with exactly fifteen letters from Draco spread in front of me.

She glided over. “Hello, Astoria.”

“Hey.”

Spreading my arms wide, I gathered all the letters in a messy, haphazard pile, holding them in my hands for a beat—two beats—three beats—

I couldn’t do it.

“Astoria?”

“Yeah?”

“Don’t do it.” I looked over then. Luna sunk down to her knees beside me, long hair brushing my face as she leaned in close. She smelled like dirt and pollen and cut grass. “My father did that after my mother passed away... It was a shame. He could never remember her clearly again after that.”

I stared at her. She was so close—I could see every detail of her: the flames of the fire reflected in her blue eyes, the light smattering of freckles across her nose, the tangles in her hair...

Her lips were so, so pink.

“I don’t want to remember him,” I breathed, voice hoarse. “I want them burned, Luna. I want him gone.”

But somehow the letters didn’t matter anymore—the world didn’t matter anymore. All my problems, hopes, wishes, wants, needs; they all disappeared, and there was just Luna.

And then she touched me.

Her fingertips hesitated at my temple, before lightly dancing down my jawline, tracing my lips with a touch as soft as the wings of a butterfly.

I couldn’t help the sharp intake of breath, or the widening of my eyes. “I don’t—I’m not into—”

My words were flowing out of my mouth in a jumbled rush, but Luna understood clearly what I was trying to say. Her hand fell back down to her side, and her eyes flicked to the letters still clutched in my hand.

“Why are you so paranoid?” she asked quietly.

Because the man I love is halfway across the globe. Because I sometimes I find myself staying up way too late, crying, missing him. Because he is sleeping with another woman. Because I don’t know if you are my friend or something more. Because I don’t usually like women. Because your hair is so beautiful and your eyes are so mysterious and your lips are so pink and I have not felt softer skin before, in my life.

“I’m not paranoid,” I rasped.

When Luna leaned in to kiss me, I did not pull away. In fact, I wanted to stay there, forever, locked to her lips, leaving the world far, far behind me. Behind closed lids and touching hands tangled in hair, nothing mattered apart from Luna.

And I imagined what I might say to her to tell her how I felt, if words still meant anything.


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