Literatti: Fiction By Deslea
Devil You Know
Deslea R. Judd
Fandom: Harry Potter
Spoilers/Timeframe: Deathly Hallows
Characters/Keywords: Draco, Luna.
Summary: For Draco, the cellar is the lesser of two evils.
Notes: Written for Book Addict as part of the Support Stacie author auction.
More fiction: http://fiction.deslea.com
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"Luna," Draco asked one day, "what do people mean when they say, 'Better the devil you know'?"
Luna was sitting cross-legged, half-turned away from him, Ollivander's head against her shoulder. She was slow to answer, and at first Draco thought she was ignoring him. That thought brought up anger at her nerve, her insolence. She was, after all, in his home.
But she wasn't ignoring him. She was gently easing Ollivander off her, laying him down in the straw. The old man was weak, and he barely stirred. That task done, Luna shifted on her haunches and turned to face him.
"It's a Muggle expression," she said, and he regretted asking already. "It means sometimes something bad is happening, but you know what it looks like, so it's still better than the unknown bad around the corner. A bit like fighting Nargles instead of Crumple-Horned Snorkacks," she added helpfully. "The full quote is, 'Better the devil you know than the devil you don't."
"I might have known it was a Muggle thing," Draco muttered, already retreating. He pushed the tray of gruel towards her with his foot.
"There was a lot to learn from Muggle studies," Luna said. "You should have listened, Draco. Professor Burbage taught us a lot."
That brought up bad memories, and Draco stiffened. "Old bag," he sneered, remembering her hanging above their heads. His sneer sounded fake, and his stomach felt like lead. "What do I care about Muggles?"
"Not about them," Luna said gently, "about us. About hate. About fearing that which isn't like us. No one does it as well as the Muggles, Draco. Look up the Holocaust sometime."
"The Holocaust?" he asked. The word struck a chord – barest shadow of trivia half-remembered.
She drew her cloak around her shoulders with a shiver. "Not now. It's too close. Too close to all this."
He stared at her. Utterly mystified. Luna had always been strange – but never afraid.
She seemed to notice the silence – she didn't always – and she softened. "One day," she added kindly. "I'll tell you one day. Over butterbeer. In a pub, in public. And no one will think anything of it."
It occurred to Draco that Luna seemed utterly unaware of her impeccable pureblood credentials. He could clean her up and bring her home to Lucius and Narcissa, and they would praise his good taste. At least until she opened her mouth.
"They'd think nothing of it now, if you at least had the sense to pretend," he snapped. "You with your blonde hair and your pure blood as far back as anyone can remember. What are you doing sitting in this dungeon? Don't you want to survive it?"
There was sudden ferocity in his voice, because he wanted her to survive it. Not because she was particularly special to him outside of this time and place, although he indulged in the odd (very odd!) fantasy about her when Bellatrix's darkness became too much to bear.
No – it was simply because she was right. She was perfectly at ease with her awkward and ill-fitting self, and he thought that someone so right with her place in the world should live.
Which raised the interesting, and deeply discomforting question of what should happen to people who had somehow gone all wrong.
Luna tossed her hair, a defiant gesture, oddly autocratic. Now she was a dirty, teenaged version of his mother in braver days. "I don't need to pretend," she snapped, just as ferocious as he. "I'm happy where I am. I know my devil, and I will live and die by it if I must. If I live, it is because we won. If I die, I will be with my mother. Either way, I win. Can you say that of yours, Draco?"
Draco was not so much stung by this as confused by it. He was not stupid, but his worldview was one of assumed truths handed down by others, never tested by his own logic. Even now, he operated on a simple human horror of the monstrous, not yet cemented into deep personal conviction. Knowing his demons and choosing between them on his own terms was not yet within his reach.
"My mother isn't dead," he answered finally. It was the easiest answer. It latched onto her words while simultaneously saying nothing.
Luna, no stranger to non-sequiturs, took it at face value. "But she's afraid. And that's why you come down here. Because I look like her, but I'm not afraid."
He stormed out on her then. It wasn't the first time. But he believed it would be the last.
There was a hare dancing in the darkened cellar.
He hadn't been down here in weeks. He didn't bring the captives their food anymore. He sent elves, and sometimes his mother went. She would emerge, pale, but stronger than when she went down there.
Sometimes he wondered what Luna said to her. He was afraid to ask. Afraid to know what part of her mind Luna had penetrated with her eerie, benign precision. It was a little like being a prison guard to a well-intentioned scattergun psychic.
But Voldemort was vicious, Bellatrix was insane, and Snape was terrifyingly closed and cold, and tonight all three of them were upstairs. Had he been schooled in Muggle religion, he may have called them the Unholy Trinity in the privacy of his mind. Unschooled in Catholicism, he settled for the Unholy Trifecta. Either way, he had to get away.
So he came downstairs. And that was when he saw the hare.
They were facing away from him, Luna sitting upright with crossed legs, hands gently placed on her knees, meditatively. Ollivander lay on his side in the straw. He was laughing – a weak and laboured show of good humour. "How lovely, young lady. Thank you for bringing an old man joy."
Luna said nothing, only sat there in silence, nodding to show that she had heard. Ollivander's breathing evened and slowed. He wasn't conscious much these days.
Luna kept the Patronus going, her head held high above her slender shoulders. Watching it in concentration. Its yellow glow cast warm light on her face.
Draco had never seen Luna's Patronus before. Her pure blood must be strong, he thought, for her to cast one without a wand. Maybe stronger than his. And it seemed to be everything that life upstairs was not.
It was lively. Vibrant.
Crushing waves of simple, childish grief passed through him, and he dropped down onto the stairs, crouching there, hugging his knees like a toddler. He wanted things to be the way they were before. He wanted his parents back. He wanted his home back. He wanted to be stupidly proud of his blood and his kin and his school house again. His eyes leaked, just a little, and he hated them for it, but that wasn't the worst of it. The worst of it was the violent shudders in his chest.
"You came back," she said, without turning around. "I wasn't sure if you would."
Her voice seemed to warm him. Just enough for him to get control of himself again.
"You're the devil I know," he said at last. A little ungraciously.
If she detected his bitterness, she ignored it. "I'd want to be warm, if it were me."
He was too deadly tired to argue with her. With an air of resignation, he came and sat down beside her. Her Patronus really did seem warm.
They sat there in silence for a while. He dreaded to think what the Unholy Trifecta were cooking up upstairs.
"How do people stop hating?" he asked finally. He wasn't sure who he meant – Bellatrix or Snape or his mother or maybe the whole, doomed lot of them. "How do they stop being afraid?"
Luna answered with a question. "Why ask me?" She seemed genuinely interested.
A myriad of answers occurred to him. Because she didn't hate? Not even him, her captor? Because she wasn't afraid to die?
At last, he spoke the truth. The only truth that mattered.
"Because I don't have anyone else to ask."
That seemed to touch her. Luna always seemed a little detached to him – a slightly odd observer of life. A very young, female version of Dumbledore, perhaps.
But she wasn't detached now. She spoke with passion, and her Patronus seemed to grow brighter as she spoke.
"By wanting the same things. By sitting here with me when we both want to be warm. By fighting alongside the people we disagree with because we both want to keep our families alive. It's finding other things to have in common, Draco. It's choosing the right path and looking for things – common things - to hold us on that path."
His deepest fear tumbled out of his mouth before he could stop it. "And what if it's too late?"
The ferocity left her face as quickly as it came. It was replaced by simple, frank curiosity. "Why, it's never too late to choose a side, Draco. Sometimes it's too late to choose it and live, but it's never too late to choose."
"I don't want to die," he said in a low voice, with the air of one sharing a shameful secret. "I don't want my family to die."
"Neither do I," Luna said with equanimity that he believed was only half forced. "But there are worse things."
"Evil is worse," she said with certainty. "And you already know evil."
You don't know the half of it, he thought. "I thought you said the devil you know is better than the devil you don't."
Luna shrugged. "Exception proves the rule, Draco."
She took his hand, and the hare danced, and Draco felt better for a while.