A/N - This was originally published as a happy birthday ficlet for JenCala. I reread it nine months later and the muse struck and so a second chapter was created, heavily enabled by Stefartemis. I hope you enjoy it.
It started in the library in fifth year on that horrible day the whole school found out Theo's father was a Death Eater.
Hell, he himself hadn't even been sure of that but nothing quite like having your father arrested, in full mask and robes, while trying to kill a bunch of your classmates at the Ministry of Magic, to clarify that point.
It clarified it right into common gossip. He joined Greg and Vince and Draco and the four of them scowled at their schoolmates and looked as intimidating as they could and everyone outside Slytherin stayed away from them. "It doesn't matter," he told Greg. "Fuckers, all of them. We'll be fine. Fine."
He wasn't positive whether he was calling their fathers – men stupid enough to have joined up with a Dark Wizard – or their classmates fuckers. All he was quite sure of was that there was no way in hell this was going to be fine. He was bent over a table, trying to put his own mask back into place as firmly as he could before going out to walk in the halls and ignore the pointing and sneering when he felt a light touch on his shoulder.
When he spun around she was there.
"Don't you touch me you filthy – ." He cut himself off at the look in her eyes. Hurt. She looked hurt, as if he'd slapped her. "Don't touch me," he said again, lamely.
"I just wanted to say I was sorry," she said, her voice pitched so it wouldn't carry in the library. "I'm sure today's been awful and, well, I'm sorry."
Theo stared at the girl. Mudblood. Filth. And the only person outside his House who'd even spoken to him all day.
"Yeah," he muttered. "Thanks."
"No problem," she said, hefting a ratty bag to her shoulder. "I know what it's like to be on the receiving end of some of those looks."
He'd flushed at that. "Yeah," he said again, then, "Sorry."
She shrugged. "It'll be okay."
"Probably not," he said. "But thanks for saying it."
"What'd she want," Draco Malfoy asked after she walked away.
Theo looked at the back of the retreating Hermione Granger. Her bushy hair had been tied up into a ponytail that was threatening to burst free at any moment, one sock had slipped down and she reached down to hitch it up as she walked. Her eyes, he thought. They had flecks of gold in them. "She wanted to say she was sorry," he said at last to Draco.
"Really?" Draco said in the cold, tight voice he'd been using all day. "Granger wanted that?"
"It's what she said," Theo replied, his eyes still tracking her as she turned a corner and disappeared. Draco leaned into him as if they could draw strength from one another but Theo wasn't sure he had any strength left to give, not even to Draco who needed it so badly.
He tried to put Granger out of his mind after that. However pretty her eyes were, however much she'd made his throat clench with her careful words, she was still anathema. Dirt.
Pretty dirt, though.
He found himself watching her all sixth year. Her hair had a bunch of different shades of brown in it and her skin almost glowed with some kind of inner luminescence he wouldn't have expected in anyone not as painfully pale as Draco. Draco who, he realized, watched her too. Draco, who sat so he could see the Gryffindor table at every meal. Draco, who positioned himself so she was in his line of sight in every class they shared. Draco, whose father was also a Death Eater.
Draco, who was a Death Eater.
Draco, who was his.
"She's pretty," Theo said as he slid next to Draco in Potions one day, his voice neutral.
"Mudblood," Draco said.
"Mmm," Theo said. "So you wouldn't mind if I…" He trailed off at Draco's angry look.
"She's not for the likes of either of us," Draco said, his hands never faltering as he cut tubers into perfect slices. "She's mad for Weasley."
Theo had noticed that.
"What if she weren't?" he asked.
The look Draco gave him was anguished. "I'm a death sentence," he whispered. "For anyone, really, even you, but especially her."
Theo looked down at his own hands. "I would share," he said. "If she'd have us."
Draco swallowed and let a single finger reach out to touch Theo's palm. "After the war," he said. "If I'm alive."
Theo moved his hand to cover Draco's finger. "Best friends and more?" he asked.
Draco just nodded and pulled his hand away.
By the time the war was over, by the time they'd survived and become despised outcasts, free to not be hired for any position, free to be refused service, free to live in a flat and stare at the walls, unsure of what to do with their lives, Theo had almost managed to forget the war heroine who'd put her hand on his arm the day the world had gotten dark and tried to tell him it would be okay, that she was sorry he was hurting. He held onto Draco when he woke screaming, and they began a quest to find a way to watch Quidditch when no pub would let Draco in and Theo would be damned if he'd leave the man at home alone. They spent a lot of time walking outdoors, as if they could breath in clean air and breathe out the pollution that choked their souls.
The war had been over for several years when they saw her, throwing rocks into the Thames. "You shouldn't do that," Theo said walking up to stand at her side. "I think there's a sign down the way telling people not to throw things."
"Bugger off," she muttered before she looked at him and blinked a few times. "Theodore Nott?" she asked, as if she were trying to place him.
She looked past him at Draco and said, her tone even more guarded, "Malfoy."
"Granger," he said. "Or is it Weasley now?"
She looked back at the water. "Hermione will do. Certainly not Weasley."
Draco opened his mouth like he was going to say something and Theo stepped on his foot. "How have you been," he asked as Draco glared at him. "Since school, I mean."
She shrugged. "Work, mostly," she said.
"Saving the world still?" Theo asked.
She made a snort that sounded suspiciously like a sob she was trying to hide. "No," she said. "Just filling out reports it seems. Nothing really valuable."
Theo reached out and put one hand on her arm and she flinched at the contact. "I'm sure it's valuable," he said. "Stonehenge wasn't built in a day and all that. What are you doing?"
"Magical creatures department," she said. "The regulation and control thereof."
"That sounds boring as fuck," Draco said, "but valuable enough. Someone's got to do it. Better you than me, though."
"Salazar," Theo snapped at his partner, "Would it be possible for you to be any more tactless?"
Before he could apologize for the man, however, Hermione turned back to them and smiled. "Well, since my ex called it 'a totally worthless waste of my time' I can say with some confidence that, yes, it's possible to be more tactless than Malfoy."
"Draco," he muttered.
"What?" Hermione asked.
"Dray-co," Draco said again, exaggerating the pronunciation. "I mean, if we're to call you by your first name you should return the favor. Draco. Theodore."
She turned her back to the river and leaned up against the railing as she regarded them both. "Theodore," she repeated. "Draco." Then she shook her head. "That feels weird," she admitted. "I even thought of you as Malfoy for years. It's like you have a whole new name."
"New names to try again?" Theo suggested. "We weren't exactly friends in school."
"And you want to be friends now?" Hermione shook her head. "I don't know. Theodore. Mal… Draco. I was tortured in your house, Draco. You stood there while I was – "
She stopped talking and stared at Draco and Theo closed his eyes for a brief moment. Watching Hermione Granger be tortured was a recurring theme in Draco's nightmares along with giant snakes and that cursed Vanishing Cabinet. He opened his eyes again and turned his back on the woman next to him to grab Draco by the arms and start the repeated reassurances that could usually stop the panic attacks. "It's okay, it's over. She survived," Theo said. "You did what you could and you were a kid and it's over. Your aunt is dead. Granger survived. I love you, it's okay." He went through that litany over and over until Draco wasn't shaking any more and had stopped gasping like a man who could barely get enough air.
When Theo turned back to look at her Granger was as pale as he'd ever seen her, almost grey. "He really is sorry about that," Theo said, his voice tight. "It haunts him, actually."
"I'm not going to apologize for being upset I was tortured," Hermione said but she sounded, and looked, shocked by the Draco's response.
"He didn't do it," Theo said, his voice growing in volume. "He would have stopped it if he could. Merlin, he'd been half in love with you for years at that point and you think he wanted to stand there helplessly and watch you be hurt?" He gave her a look of disgust. "It would have been terrible no matter who it was, but that it was you made it so much worse."
"Not as bad as it was for me," she whispered and then Theo realized he'd been almost yelling at a torture victim.
"Shite," he said, and yanked her into a hug without thinking. She stood, stiff, in his arms. "I'm sorry. I'm an arse. Of course it was worse for you."
She pulled herself away and used the edge of her sleeve to wipe at her eyes. "Could this day get any more uncomfortable?" she muttered. "Ron dumps me, or I dump him, hard to be really sure, and then I push Malfoy into a bloody panic attack and now I'm crying all over bloody gorgeous Theodore Nott. What next?"
Theo looked at her for a moment and tried to register that she had opinions about his appearance, that the girl he'd stared at for a year thought he was gorgeous, and then he said, "Dinner?"
She blinked at him a few times and made an undignified sniffle and he muttered, "Not that any place will serve us, of course, the whole Death Eater thing, but we'd be happy to have you over and cook something. I'm a good cook and Draco has managed to accumulate a pretty impressive wine collection."
"No place will serve you?" she asked, her voice taking on an edge that Theo would learn to dread over the next year.
"Death Eater," Draco said, managing to get a certain contemptuous drawl into his own voice despite still holding on to the railing with a white knuckled grip to steady himself. "People have problems with that. Not sure why."
Hermione Granger glared at him, or at least in his general direction, and Draco glared back as she ground out, "Dinner would be lovely, Theodore. And tomorrow night we'll just see about places not serving you."
It started, Theo thought later, in the library at Hogwarts, but it didn't really begin until the Thames.