A/N. That's it, guys. This story is over. *sniffle* Great big hugs and delicious chocolate cookies to everyone who reviewed up till now. You guys have been awesome. I would again like to thank Gubby (GubraithianFire) for giving me this challenge. It was fun to respond to. *squishes Gubby*
Also, I've a new one-shot up - The Name's Snarky. Do check it out. If anything, it'll definitely make you smile :D
No Man's Land Again
The days passed pretty fast for Draco and Luna now that they had discovered new levels of their friendship. The one disappointment in their life was that they were still lost. It had turned out that the Enchanted Wood, although being really vast, didn’t have what they were looking for – the No Man’s Land.
“That’s it, Luna,” Draco said, bending down and putting his palms on his knees tiredly. “It’s not here.”
They had reached the other edge of the wood. Draco wondered if it was as big as the Forbidden Forest, because it had taken them more than four days to cross it. Apart from that, they kept straying from their path, just to be sure that they weren’t missing anything by walking in a straight line.
During that time, they had been living on fruits or any other stuff that they found hanging on trees. They had had encounters with monkeys, strange big birds which either didn’t know how to fly or else were pretending to act tame, because Luna kept feeding them stuff.
In the end, Draco had to admit that he had actually had fun these past few days, being lost with Luna Lovegood. Initially, he had been doubtful but Luna proved to be a good companion.
Presently, she was looking back at the wood sadly. Draco didn’t know what was more disappointing for her – leaving the Enchanted Wood (as she so claimed it to be) or not finding the No Man’s Land there.
“Maybe it disappeared when it saw us coming,” she suggested.
Draco laughed. He had been doing that a lot lately, and it felt good. He took her hand and tugged her away from the trees. “I don’t think it can do that, Luna,” he said. “That’d be cheating.”
She sighed. “I guess you are right. So, what do we do now?” She looked at him and when he didn’t answer fast enough, continued hastily, “Maybe we should just stay here. The birds would love it.”
“They are good company, you know.”
“I know,” Draco said gently. He pulled her towards him and wrapped his arms around her waist. Her eyes widened but she did not resist. “I’ve wanted to do that for a while now,” Draco informed her with a grin. “Listen, Luna, I know you like it here, but we can’t stay here, alright? This is not where we belong.”
“Where you belong,” Luna corrected him in a whisper. “I feel like I can be happy here. I won’t get such bliss in our universe, Draco.”
Draco stared at her helplessly, feeling slightly stunned. Absently, he tightened his arms around her, afraid that she would pull apart and run off. How could he explain to her that he wanted to be with her? How could he tell her that she belonged with him now?
“No,” he said firmly. “Don’t you get it, Luna? I don’t want you to stay here. I want you to come with me.”
“Because you are suddenly fond of Boggartaries and want to help me find them?” she asked innocently.
Draco’s lips twitched but he didn’t smile. He wanted her to understand. “That, too. But more so because I,” he paused hesitantly. Just do it, Malfoy! “Well, because I like you, and I want to be with you.”
She stared at him in mild surprise and her eyes grew wider, if possible. When she didn’t react, Draco grew slightly uncomfortable. Doubts began to creep inside his head. Did she actually like him? She had never told him that she did? She was good to everyone…maybe he was just another one of those people she met along the way and befriended.
Her soft whisper spread relief through his whole body and Draco relaxed considerably. Grinning shyly, he nodded. “Really,” he said sincerely.
“Since when?” she asked in the same whispering voice.
He shrugged. “It doesn’t matter now, does it?” Luna beamed and wrapped her arms around him in a death grip. Usually, Draco would’ve pushed away the person who dared hug him, but this time, it was Luna. He hugged her back just as tightly; realizing that he enjoyed being in this position with her. Besides, she smelt good.
“So, it’s settled, you are coming with me? No more whining?” he asked into her hair.
“Okay, can we at least take one of those birds home with us?” she asked him and Draco regarded her in amusement. She was one of a kind, truly. Draco pretended to think for a moment, while she looked at him hopefully.
“Alright, but first, you let me kiss you,” he finally said, his age-old smirk gracing his lips again.
Luna giggled. “That’s not a fair deal. Will you first let me check if your lips are not infested with morbus?” she asked, her eyes twinkling mischievously.
Draco stared at her incredulously. “Are you serious?”
Luna kept a straight face for a minute before she burst into giggles. “No, I am totally jesting,” she replied, giving him a cheeky smile. He rarely saw this side of her and he liked it.
“Good,” he murmured, leaning in to kiss her. “Because I’d have hated to torture you for annoying me like this.” Luna let out a breezy giggle; she closed her eyes in anticipation. Their lips were merely centimeters apart. Anytime now, they would touch…
The couple broke apart abruptly, Luna looked slightly flushed. Draco had a brief moment to admire her before he saw a tree moving out of the corner of his eye. His head whipped in that direction and he looked hard for any other sign of moving trees.
“What was that?” Luna asked, stunned.
“I dunno, but I saw that tree move,” Draco answered, pointing east. “Come on, let’s check it out.” He realized that they hadn’t scoured the eastern area of this side of the wood. Luna followed his him but not before informing him, quite matter-of-factly, that trees normally did move and it was not really a big deal.
She slid her fingers into his big hand as they hurried over to their right. She didn’t understand why he was so worked up over a moving tree. It happened all the time. When they finally reached the place, their mouths dropped open in surprise.
“Oh Merlin,” Luna murmured, stepping forward cautiously, right into the familiar clearing. Draco followed her. It seemed like a million years had passed since they had last been here.
“The No Man’s Land,” Draco muttered, looking around at the familiar carved trees. He remembered them perfectly; and there was that huge tree and on its truck was carved a chest which was being struck by a lightening bolt. Much like the scar on Potter’s forehead, Draco thought absently. “I don’t believe it…”
“We are here! Draco, it’s the No Man’s Land!” Luna exclaimed excitedly, and suddenly, for some odd reason that he didn’t understand, Draco didn’t want to go back anymore. Luna’s face was a mixture of bittersweet emotions, but mostly, she looked glad to be here again.
“I want to tell everyone that Draco Malfoy likes me!” She was happily twirling in her place. “I want to shout it out to the world.”
Draco watched her with growing discomfort, trying hard to squash the wriggly feeling inside his stomach. The sight of their tree brought all the bad things to his mind. Till now, he had wanted to go back, but now that he had told Luna that he liked her, Draco wondered if they would be accepted in their world. His parents would be the first and foremost protestors of such a relationship, which they would deem low and dirty. Luna’s friends wouldn’t approve either.
“I don’t,” he mumbled. Luna paused and looked at him questioningly.
“You don’t what, Draco?”
“I don’t want to go back.” His voice was low, but Luna heard him.
She looked confused. “But a moment ago, you were convincing me otherwise,” she said with a slight frown. When he didn’t reply, she pressed gently, “What is it, Draco?”
He slumped down on the ground, leaning his back against the tree leading to The Love Land that had appeared behind them the moment they had stepped into the clearing. Luna sat down beside him and put a comforting hand on his knee.
“What made you change your mind?” she asked him.
He didn’t look at her. “The tree to our land.”
Luna nodded. “Understandable,” she said knowingly. “It’s meant for us to feel bad. That chest…it’s Pandora’s Box, you know.”
Draco’s eyes snapped up in surprise. He stared hard at the carving of the chest and the bolt of lightening. “How…how do you know that it’s Pandora’s chest?” he asked Luna in awe, still looking at the tree. There was no indication or sign that confirmed what Luna said, but it was beginning to make sense to Draco.
“Pandora’s chest signifies the evil part of our world. Jealousy, greed, anger…all this and more came right from that chest,” responded Luna wisely. “That’s what makes our world different from the others that we see here,” she added, pointing around at the different worlds surrounding them in the No Man’s Land. “But the same box gave us hope, too. It gave us wizards like Harry Potter.”
Her eyes traced the lightening bolt and then, she turned back to look at Draco, who was regarding her with new-found respect and admiration.
When Luna smiled expectantly at him, he sighed, “I don’t want to lose you, but it’ll be really hard for us to be together in our world, Luna.”
Luna shook her head, her blonde hair shining as it caught the light beams pouring through the trees. “You don’t understand, Draco, it’s our choice. That’s what matters,” she told him, her voice full of faith. “If you really like me, then nothing can tear us apart except for our own actions. That’s the basic secret of the universe.”
Draco wasn’t sure if he really understood what she was saying but he had an idea about what she meant. She understood why he was upset and she still wanted to be with him. Draco wondered why he hadn’t noticed her before…when they were at Hogwarts. She had always been Loony Lovegood or ‘that crazed Ravenclaw’ to him, but here she was, talking to him about choices and making so much more sense than he, Draco, had ever had in his life.
“It’s going to be aright, Draco, trust me.”
“What if it doesn’t?” He couldn’t help asking. Pessimism was a part and parcel of Draco Malfoy.
“Then, it won’t be the end,” she replied simply. His eyes found hers and his heart skipped a beat. He wanted to believe her. He wanted to believe that everything would be alright once they returned to their own world.
He stood up abruptly. Luna was startled, but imitated him. She could see the determination in his eyes. She had convinced him. They were going back, after all. Draco held out his hand and Luna placed hers on it with a smile. He smiled back at her, taking in every feature of her pretty face. She belonged to him. The thought gave him a kind of satisfaction he had rarely felt before.
“Shall we, then?” he asked. “Or do you want to see what the other lands are?”
Luna wrinkled her nose and giggled at his teasing. “Maybe some other time,” she said, hiding her longing very well, biting her lip and staring straight ahead. “This adventure is enough for now. Besides, I am hungry. Let’s just do this!”
Both of them took a deep breath and broke into a run, crossing the clearing with hands clenched tightly. Still running, Draco raised his hand as they got nearer and pulled open the door to the tree trunk that would lead them back to their world.
A strong gust of wind burst out from the door and both of them were pulled inside. Luna screamed and Draco closed his eyes, his sweaty hand was slipping from Luna’s as they fell through the darkness. It seemed like eternity before they hit solid ground, landing on top of each other in a tangle of limbs.
Draco opened his eyes. A grin spread across his face when he saw their surroundings. They were back in the Forbidden Forest – the place where it had all begun. Perched atop his body, Luna shook her head and opened her eyes, too. “Are we back?” were her first words.
“Yep,” he said, looking down at her contentedly. They were back. Luna was with him. He was happy…for now.
“Oh,” she mumbled and perhaps for the first time in her life, Luna Lovegood had nothing better to say. She looked at Draco in confusion. “So, what now?”
“Oh, I have a great idea,” replied Draco, his eyes glinting mischievously as he pulled Luna’s face towards his and captured her lips in his in a long-awaited kiss.
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