Lethal Combination

Summary: It occurred to Harry that Theo Nott was something of a rarity; a prince among fakes, or a fake among princes. He was definitely also a liar, though Harry didn't know what kind. He figured he was about to find out. Nottpott, modern university AU.

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters and claim no profit from this work. Credit where credit is due, Joanne Rowling.

A/N: This is a one shot that got slightly out of hand. It will update daily until we reach the end. Setting is mostly fictional, though there was considerably more research into blacksmithing than you might think. Enjoy!

Chapter 1: Liars and Fakes

It was already unpleasantly sticky-hot outside, the sweat from Harry's forehead plastering his raven hair to his skin until he finally slicked it back in an inelegant wave, and Dudley wasn't fucking helping.

"I don't get it," he drawled, licking some melting chocolate from his fingers and doing absolutely nothing of use while Harry attempted to shove a few pairs of socks into the pocket of his ratty suitcase. "I thought they gave that fellowship to, you know. Smart people."

"You mean rich people," Harry corrected, straightening momentarily to eye the single suit he'd bought for university interviews four summers ago, back when he'd mistakenly thought he was done growing. It might fit, of course; then again, it also might not, but what was life without a little risk?

"Well, if you're going to be uncouth," Dudley replied, which was a word Harry suspected he'd only just picked up after three years at Smeltings University. "Sure—rich people, then."

Harry shrugged, sniffing at his worn t-shirt. He'd have to shower again today (his third) and it was only barely the afternoon.

"I don't know, Dudley," he said after a minute, tossing his battered copy of Le Morte D'Arthur atop a pile of haphazardly folded dress shirts. "I guess they decided they needed to expand their economic diversity or something."

"Well, Piers is furious," Dudley remarked, referring to one of his bullish friends. "He thought for sure he'd get the Hogwarts fellowship this round." His wry smirk twitched. "Guess he'll just have to do another summer at daddy's firm, eh?"

"Guess so," Harry said, shutting the suitcase and removing his glasses, smudging uselessly at the lens with the bottom of his faded red t-shirt. "Look, this is great and, you know, heartwarming and all, but I'd better shower before your dad decides t-"


"I'VE GOT IT, THANKS," yelled Harry, replacing his glasses on his face.


"Tough luck, mate," contributed Dudley, though he didn't look particularly sorry.

Harry sighed.

"See you at the end of the summer," he said, staring regretfully at the small pool of sweat at the center of his chest before dragging the suitcase behind him, leaving his cousin to sprawl out on his bed.

"What poor little rich boy has Daddy picked out for this year's summer of hell?" Draco asked, dropping his Wayfarers to lock eyes with Theo. "Let me guess. Some asinine lit major from Saint Brutus'? Or no, wait, maybe a Classics major from Smeltings—"

"Neither, actually," Theo replied, reaching over to snatch the beer from Draco's hand. "He's trying to make some sort of statement, I think." He paused, taking a long sip. "Picked a history major from Stonewall."

"Stonewall?" Draco echoed skeptically, holding his hand out for his beer. "I thought that was some sort of vocational school."

"Very nearly," Theo replied with a false ring of cheer, taking another long sip before shoving the bottle against Draco's waiting fingers. "So it's a poor little poor boy this time around."

"Fuck," Draco scoffed, employing one of his more patronizing laughs; the one that reeked of wealth, affording him the luxury of mocking humor. "Wish I could stick around to watch this year."

"Well, what is Malfoy and Son Textiles without the Malfoy son?" Theo prompted, grinning, and Draco made a face. "The prince and heir must eventually take the throne, you know."

Draco grunted something like agreement as they stared out at the lake.

"It's hot," Theo commented.

"Barely," Draco said. "There's a breeze off the lake, at least."

"Eh," Theo said.

A long pause.

"What's his name?" Draco asked, taking another swig from the bottle. "Your father's new academic servant."

Theo grimaced. "Harry," he said. "Potter, if you can believe that."

"Henry, then?"

"Nope," Theo said distastefully. "Just the diminutive. Harry."

"Wow," Draco muttered. "He'll get eaten alive, won't he?"

"Oh, certainly," Theo agreed. "In fact, I expect you'll do half the eating during one of your inevitable visits."

"Usual summer at the Shack, then? Only slightly more intermittent, I suppose."

"Oh, indubitably. Are we men of tradition or not?"

"Well, we certainly aren't men of scruples."

"Jesus was, and that didn't go well at all."

"Too true."

Another long pause.

"Well," Draco said, getting to his feet. "Take this. My dad'll kill me if I show up buzzed."

"Whereas my dad," Theo agreed, accepting the bottle, "will fail to notice me entirely. Wonder which of us has it worse?"

"Me," Draco said, just as Theo confirmed, "You."

"Well," Draco determined, straightening his blazer. "See you in a couple weeks, then, Nott."

Theo toasted him from afar.

"See you," he said, waiting only until just after Draco had gone before he drained the bottle.

Hogwarts was a castle.

A fucking castle, unlike Stonewall's institutional buildings, and it was situated on a beautiful lake that made Harry feel dwarfed and insignificant in a single glance.

"Obviously most of the students are gone for the summer," explained Professor Theodore Nott, gesturing for Harry to follow him through the castle's labyrinthine corridors. "You'll be staying in one of the dorm rooms in Gryffindor Tower. Meals are served promptly, so please be on time. Only a limited amount of staff is on hand during the summers. I will also expect you to be in my office first thing in the morning, so that I can instruct you as to my expectations for the day. Are we clear?" he prompted, and Harry blinked, realizing that for the first time in several minutes, he was required to answer.

"Oh, I—yes, of course," Harry managed. "And Professor Nott, I really have to thank you one more time f-"

"Ah, I see your ingenue gets the good room," a dry voice interrupted, the sound of it crackling with the makings of a fight. "Aren't you going to introduce me, Father?"

Harry watched Professor Nott's mouth stiffen.

"Mr Potter, this is my son," he explained gruffly, turning to gesture to someone standing in the doorframe. "Theodore Junior."

"I prefer Theo," the young man said, ducking his head slightly as he entered the room. He was tall and exquisitely dressed, wearing a stiff white shirt that even Harry could tell was worth more than everything in his suitcase combined, and a set of slacks so neatly pressed they must have been newly ironed. "You must be the new font of academia?"

Harry blinked, catching undertones of mockery. Dudley had tried to learn that particular art from his wealthier friends, but it seemed to come more naturally when one was born with a trust fund.

"Harry, yes," he supplied. "Theo, you said?"

"So as not to be confused with my preeminent lineage," Theo confirmed smugly, offering his father an irreverent wink. "You are of course welcome to call me Theodore the Lesser, should that strike your interest—"

"Theodore," Professor Nott said, his voice clipped. "Don't you have some work to attend to?"

"Strangely, no," Theo replied. Harry watched him turn his combatant stance on his father, folding his arms over his chest and half-beckoning for an argument. "But, of course, if you'd like me to leave, all you have to do is—"

"Theodore," Professor Nott said again, without elaboration this time.

Theo bristled, and in a moment of genuine frustration, Harry watched a layer of falsehood fall away, revealing something intriguingly darkened underneath.

"As you wish," he said tightly, and locked eyes with Harry.

Harry blinked.

"Bye, then," Theo said, and turned abruptly, disappearing from sight.

His t-shirt had holes at the hem. Small holes; holes of use, of constant wear, like from repeated exposure to a substandard washer or dryer or something else Theo had never had to deal with. His hair was messy and oily, a bit slicked with sweat, and his glasses were so smudged Theo wondered how it were possible for him to see through them. He was skinny and loping and slouched, and half of Theo wanted to yank him up by the top of his spine and attach him to the ceiling, just to make him look less like he were trying to fold himself in half.

Harry, yes.

He'd said his own name like he wished he could take it back. Like he wanted to apologize for even existing.

how's prof nott's new servant? Draco texted, the buzz of it going off in Theo's pocket.

Theo paused for moment, considering how to answer.

The t-shirt had holes and his shoes were dirty and his jeans were ill-fitted and who wore jeans, anyway, to something like this?

poor af, Theo said back.

Another buzz.

lol, said Draco.

The first week was mostly unremarkable. Every morning, Harry rose early, around six in the morning, and crept out of the castle for a run by the lake, rejoicing in the cooler air that came from a waterfront location. Then he returned, showered, and came downstairs for breakfast by 7:30, selecting a bit of toast and eggs from a small spread that seemed to be left out by an invisible staff, or elves.

If he'd felt small before, it was impossible not to feel that way now. He woke up every morning in a bedroom meant for five, showering in a bathroom meant to hold at least three times as many, and he took his breakfast alone in something called the Great Hall, which was the size of Stonewall's main auditorium.

By nine in the morning he headed to Professor Nott's office, which was another relatively grand room in a procession of grand rooms. There, the professor would look up from a book—or a handwritten manuscript, depending—and he would point to a chalkboard behind him, which would list Harry's tasks for the day. Find sources for x, or arrange statistics for y, all of which were the methodical details involved in his latest book, which was ostensibly a study of ancient British monarchies and their influences on mythology.

That was Harry's specialty, anyway. That was why he'd come; not that his intellect was ever a matter of discussion.

There was little to no speaking involved. Professor Nott said nothing, and Harry encountered few other people. From time to time he'd run into some other staff member—the librarian, for one thing, though she seemed intent on shushing him even when no other audience was present—but mostly it was Harry alone with his books.

His phone buzzed in his pocket.

so how is it, said Dudley.

fine, replied Harry. quiet, but I'm getting a lot of work done.

fuckin lame, Dudley contributed sagely.

"Quit hiding in your dad's castle," Daphne said. "Come out tonight."

"And do what?" Theo drawled into the phone, eyeing a stray thread on his trousers. "Get shit-faced and make a mockery of my family name?"

He could practically hear her shrug through the phone. "Well, yeah. Isn't that exactly wh- hold on, Pans is here." A slight fade as she turned her head. "What? Pansy. Pans, fucking—slow down. Yes, I hate that road, but—hm? Oh, Theo. No, I'm not blowing him over the phone. How would I even—yes, I know. What? No. Well, okay. Okay, fine. No, no coke. I said no coke, Pans, just get—yeah, fine. Fine. Okay. No, I haven't, but I would if you would just—yes okay, sorry, Theo you still there?"

He blinked.


"Sorry, Pansy came home with Molly."

"Who's Molly?"

"Not a person, Nott. Come on."

"Oh. Right."

"Hold on, Pansy wants to talk to you." A brief moment of transfer. "Nott, it's Pansy. You in?"

He thought about it. "Tonight?"

"No, Nott, right now. For breakfast." Pansy's saccharine voice dripped sarcasm.

"Fine. Ten?"

"Make it eleven, at the Shack. No, eight."


"Eight. I have a meeting tomorrow with one of my mum's campaign donors so let's keep our debauchery to something of a minimum. Or, you know. Increase the likelihood of me getting some sleep, at least."

"You could just not do drugs, Parkinson. That is technically an option."

"In a mood, are you?"

"I'm just saying."

"Well, stop it. I've got one more summer of deviance before I have to trade in my stilettos for some orthopedic bullshit my mother would call 'sensible,' and I'm not going to waste it binging every season of House."


"Exactly. So, eight?"

"Sure. Fine."

"Want to bring your dad's new research assistant?"

Theo blinked.


"Eh, fair enough. See you tonight."

A click, and then she was gone.

Theo stared up at the dark green upholstered canopy above his bed.

What to do for the next nine hours?

He thought about the smudges on Harry's glasses.

Then he rolled over and went back to sleep.

At approximately 6:56 on day nine, Harry ran into Theo, who was stumbling home from somewhere further down the lake.

"Hey," Harry said, slowing down, and Theo gave him a smudgy sort of blink that indicated the very sound of Harry's breathing was giving him a headache.

"Fuck," Theo grumbled in greeting, raising a hand to his temple. "Are you—what are you doing?"

"I'm—" Harry paused, wondering if it were possible to not be able to tell. "I'm running."

"I see that," Theo snapped. "I meant why, asshole, are you fucking running."

"I—" Harry stopped again. "I don't like to sit still. Also, I need to get out of there," he added, gesturing behind him to where the castle loomed.

Theo blinked, following the gesture.

"Relatable," he muttered, and then squinted at Harry again. "Why'd you want this?"

"Want what?"

"This job. Fellowship. Whatever."

"It's a great opportunity."

"Shut the fuck up," Theo said, and Harry blinked again.

"Sorry, I didn't—"

"Why'd you really do it? Don't lie. I fucking hate liars," Theo said. "I hate liars and fakes."

Privately, Harry thought that was ironic. He'd seen a lot of liars and a lot of fakes, and most of them had looked an awful lot like Theo Nott.

Though they hadn't been nearly as surprising.

"I like magic," Harry said. "Sometimes I think it's real. That it's—you know. Around here. Anywhere. Everywhere." He flapped a hand. "That's obviously not something to base a career on, but academia is pretty close. These books, you know?" he prompted, and though he wasn't really referring to anything that made sense, Theo nodded. "Sometimes I'll read a myth and read something from history and think: obviously something happened here."

"Myths like what?" Theo asked. "Like… the Loch Ness monster or some shit?"

"No, like—like, you know." Harry cleared his throat. "Excalibur, right? And, I don't know, fairies. Ladies in lakes. Shit nobody understands. Why does it all happen in the same place? Can't be a coincidence."

He knew he wasn't making sense, and yet Theo was nodding like he was.

Then again, he'd have bet money that Theo was on drugs.

"That's totally insane," Theo said. "That's, fucking—that's excellent." He let out a bark of a laugh. "Don't ever tell my dad, mate. He'll throw you out on your face."

"Right. Yeah," Harry agreed, coughing. "Obviously. It's mad."

"Well, it's objectively ill-advised," Theo said. "But it's not mad. Mad is—" he waved a hand, gesturing unspecifically to himself. "I don't know, man. But I know madness, and you wanting to believe magic is real isn't it. Sucks, though," he added, gesturing around. "You won't find it here. You won't find anything here."

Theo's mouth tightened, then, and it gave him a slightly stony look of permanence. It was the face of someone who could not be moved, even though Harry could have sworn he just had been.

"I've never told anyone that before," Harry admitted after a moment.

Theo gave him a strange, lingering look.

"Yeah, well, definitely don't tell anyone else," he remarked flatly, and then he stumbled off, leaving one of his shoes behind as Harry watched him go.

change of plans, Draco said in a text. am losing my mind out here. my dad? ? is?! such a fucker? anyway i'm coming down tomorrow. already told parkinson.

Theo scrubbed at his eyes, struggling to sit up.

lucius is a monstrous dick, he typed, and watched Draco's text bubble pulse momentarily before another message came through.

he said, unhelpfully. I know that, dickhead. you in or what

Theo looked up at the sound of a loud knock, frowning.

"Do not disturb," he yelled.

A moment of pause.

"You left your shoe," came a low voice.

Theo stumbled to his feet, wrenching the door open to find himself face-to-face with Harry, who was indeed holding his shoe.

"What?" Theo asked, even though he could see perfectly well what was what. It was one of the things his father hated most about him.

Along with everything else.

"You left your shoe," Harry said again. "Some guy—Filch, I think? He told me this was your room."

"Filch is a basket of cunts," Theo remarked.

"He's not great," Harry agreed, holding the shoe out for him.

Theo took it.

Considered it for a moment.

"How poor are you?" he asked Harry, who stiffened.

"Very," Harry replied wryly. "Distressingly."

"Huh." Theo chewed his lip. "Want to come to a party tomorrow night? It'll be shitty," he added. "It'll be a fucking mess full of rich assholes and their bitchy girlfriends, but there'll be alcohol and it's at this place we call the Shack. Well, the Shrieking Shack. We party there sometimes because local cops don't give a shit. Anyway, it'll be horrible and you'll wish you were dead the entire time. Want to come?"

Harry looked momentarily unsteadied.

"With you?" he asked, and Theo shrugged.

"I'm going," he said. "You can come."

"Oh," Harry said. "Okay."

"Don't wear any of your t-shirts," Theo warned. "My friend will think it's hilarious, and not in a good way. I'll, um—" he waved a hand. "I'll get you something. Don't worry about it."

Harry's expression darkened. "I'm not a charity case."

"Well, you're not fucking wearing that," Theo said bluntly. "Give it back when you're done if you want, I don't care. Just don't show up in anything with holes."

Harry flinched.

Theo didn't move.

"You said I'll wish I were dead?" Harry asked thoughtfully.

"Definitely," Theo confirmed. "From the fucking moment you walk in."

Harry nodded.

"Okay," he said, and then he turned away, ambling back down the dungeon's corridors.

The next day, Harry found a grainy chambray shirt on his bed next to a pair of slim black jeans. They were artfully worn—unlike his own jeans, which were un-artfully worn—and the tags had been left on, though the prices were removed.

He raised the shirt to his cheek. It was impossibly soft, and something fully impractical to own, because if he'd been at home, he would have just sweat right through it. On the floor, a pair of casual loafers were sitting beneath a note that said I know you're not a charity case. Just put them on. I'll come get you at ten. -TN

Theo Nott's handwriting was immensely different from his father's. While Professor Nott gave into a tendency for elaborate loops and scripted flourishes, Theo's handwriting was spindly and scrawled, and the ink was smudged in the way that ink is always smudged when things were written by left-handed people.

It occurred to Harry that perhaps Theo Nott was something of a rarity.

A prince among fakes, or a fake among princes.

He was definitely also a liar, though Harry didn't know what kind.

He figured he was about to find out.

"This is Draco," Theo said, gesturing. "Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter."

The two shook hands, though Theo could see Draco's gaze traveling distastefully over the way Harry's shirt had been hastily shoved up his arms. Draco, on the other hand, was wearing one of his custom white t-shirts, which was mostly notable in that it was impossibly clean.

"Malfoy," Harry echoed. "As in the clothing company?"

Draco's grey eyes went wary. "Textiles, actually."

"Right, sorry," Harry said. "And you, um. You go to Hogwarts?"

"Yes," Draco said, and then, much to Theo's discomfort, added, "And where do you go to school again?"

"Stonewall," Harry replied.

Theo watched Daphne and Pansy exchange a face of dismay in the same moment that a spark of triumph lit Draco's expression, returning him to solid, superior footing.

"Interesting," Draco said, in a voice that indicated he didn't find it interesting at all. "And you're here because—"

"Here," Theo cut in, picking up a drink and shoving it in Harry's hand. "Drink this. It will make the unbearable slightly more—"

"Bearable?" Harry guessed, taking a sip. "Balls, that is strong—"

"Drink it," Theo said, and glared at Draco, who shrugged. "Stay here," Theo added to Harry, who made a face as he took another tentative sip. "Drink it," he repeated, grabbing Draco's arm and pulling him aside.

"Hey, lay off, would y-"

"Don't be a dick," Theo hissed. "He's not that bad, okay? He's—I don't know. Going to get fucking steamrolled by my dad, one way or another. Just let him have this, okay?"

Draco arched a brow. "And what, pray tell, is 'this'?"

"Just—a night. I don't know." Theo looked up, groaning. "You brought Crabbe and Goyle?"

"They come with the best weed, Nott. Of course I brought them."

"Fine, just—keep them away from Harry, okay?"

Draco gave him a look.

"Don't," Theo warned.

"You hate people," Draco reminded him.

"I fucking know that, which is why I'm displeased you brought your two stooges along—"

"It's a party, Theo. You know, where people come? And party?"

"I get it, Lord Malfoy. Have your court, then."

"Keep an eye on your little project," Draco advised, his gaze traveling warily to Harry. "He doesn't look like he gets out much. Or like he can handle his liquor."

"You can't handle your liquor, you fuck."

At that, Draco permitted a sharpened laugh. "None of us can. That's why we're here. I'm just saying, keep an eye on him."

Theo's gaze strayed to Harry, who was looking immensely uncomfortable by what was almost certainly an invitation to a threesome with Pansy and Daphne.

"Yeah, fine," Theo said. "I'll watch him."

Harry was drunk.

Harry was gloriously, spectacularly, transcendently sloshed, and he wasn't upset about it. He normally didn't care for the feeling that his limbs could very well float out from beneath him, but in this case, he felt it was right. He felt it was proper, in fact. He was wearing clothes that had been picked out for him by some rich prick who was the son of another rich prick who didn't seem to trust Harry to think for himself, and you know what? It was fine. It was perfectly fine, and Harry ignored the passive-aggressive indications of mockery from Dudley that persistently buzzed in his pocket in favor of drinking more.

"The thing is," he announced, "people believe in magic, right? They just call it superstition, or karma. But it's all basically the same thing, isn't it? We don't know what to call it. We don't know what it is. But if you really think about it—"

A hand closed around the back of his neck.

"I told you not to tell other people about that," he heard Theo's voice say in his ear, and then the scenery changed well before Harry noticed that Theo had led him outside, the abrupt shift from too-hot inside to biting-cold outside prompting his head to spin. "You sound totally fucking insane, Potter."

"I am," Harry said deliriously, and then, to the sound of Drake indicating his wish to rule out commitment, he promptly doubled over, throwing up on the ground outside the Shack.

Theo's hands shifted, his palms pressed against Harry's shoulders until Harry was finished.

"So," Theo said. "I take it you don't drink much."

Harry wiped the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand.

"Not exactly," he said, and turned to find Theo with a wry smirk on his face.

"Magical," Theo said with a wink, and gestured for Harry to follow, leading him into the woods beside the shack.

"Are you going to murder me?" Harry asked, stumbling over a tree branch. He felt Theo's hand beneath his elbow, propping him upright before nudging him forward.

"Not yet," Theo said. "Though I like to keep an air of mystery, so I won't rule it out."

"Are you—who are you?" Harry asked him, abruptly tiring of walking and letting his knees collapse beneath him, dragging Theo down with him. "I mean. I know who you are, but like." He paused, squinting at Theo. "What are you?"

"Uncomfortable with labels," Theo drawled.

"You're a rich asshole," Harry said. "Right?"

Theo took a flask out of his jacket, nodding. "Right."

"Have you ever had to work at anything?"

"Nope," Theo said. "Never."

"Ever had a job?"


"Ever, like, cared about anything?"


Harry gestured towards the Shack. "Are these people even really your friends?"

Theo considered it. "Nope," he said, and handed the flask to Harry, who let out a sigh and took a sip, suffering another poorly managed burn of something that was smoky and unpleasant, but which tasted the way he imagined Theo Nott might taste.

Not that that was anything he needed to prove.

It just seemed like a very, very high likelihood of similarity.

"I basically hate everyone," Theo said, "and mostly everyone hates me. But I'm rich, so they know I'm not taking advantage of them, and I'm mostly dispassionate about everything, so they never have to be vulnerable." He took the flask back from Harry. "Actually, most of my best friends are my worst enemies."

"Draco?" Harry asked.

Theo shook his head. "He's mostly alright, actually. Mostly. Surprisingly. Everyone else, though." He shrugged. "They're mostly the worst."

Harry turned to him. "Do you always befriend the people who work for your dad?"

Theo scoffed. "No. Mostly they're just rich pricks from other schools. He has Hogwarts research assistants during the year, but he likes to give away this so-called 'fellowship' out of, I don't know. A love of exclusionary principles."

"You don't like him," Harry noted.

"No, I don't, and he doesn't like me." Theo took an angry swig from his flask. "He prefers his books to me. Probably would never let me touch them, either. But he's got money, so—" he shrugged. "He can pay to put distance between us, even when we live in the same goddamn castle."

Harry let out a breath, permitting the statement to settle.

"What's your plan?" he asked eventually.

"What plan?"

"Your plan for revenge," Harry said simply. "You seem like the kind of person who could really get into a long-term vengeance plot."

Theo blinked.

"Fuck," he remarked, which Harry was beginning to learn was something he said when he was impressed. "I don't have one yet."

"Could make one," Harry suggested, leaning his head back against a tree. "Got time."

"Yeah." Theo turned to him. "What's your plan, then?"

Harry managed something he hoped was a shrug. "Succeed," he said. "Be smarter. Work harder. Get out and never look back." Another pseudo-shrug. "Find magic in some ancient text and use it to curse everyone else to the bottom of the sea."

Theo stared at him.

"I like it," Theo said.

Harry blinked at him, and then reached out.

He touched his thumb to the bone of Theo's cheek, pressing down lightly.

"Want to do something stupid?" Harry asked.

Theo swallowed. "Depends."

"Huh." Harry let his thumb fall, tracing the shadow of Theo's cheek, and then slid it lower, running it across the bow of Theo's lips. "Depends on what?"

A sharp inhale. "How stupid a thing it is."

"The stupidest," Harry said.

Theo stared at him.

"Me," Harry clarified. "Me. I'm the stupid thing."

"I'm not—" Theo swallowed. "I, um. I haven't—"

"Look at that," Harry said, chuckling, and Theo frowned.

"Look at what?"

"You," Harry said. "You're flustered. I flustered you."

"I—well, I'm just saying—"

"You're stammering," Harry said with satisfaction, letting his eyes fall shut. "It's cute."

"I'm not cute," Theo growled, and Harry laughed again.

"No, you aren't," he agreed. "But you're nervous."

"I'm not nervous, that's—"

"You are," Harry said, opening one eye to spare him another look of humor. "I made you nervous."

"I'm not—"

"Don't worry," Harry said with a yawn. "I won't, you know. Make you, or anything. I've only, um. Only a couple of times with a—you know. I'm just—" he closed his eyes again. "Drunk. Stupid. Lonely, et cetera."

He heard Theo inhale sharply.

"Lonely," Theo echoed.

"Mm," Harry said.

Then he turned his head, throwing up onto the ground beside him.

When Harry finally stirred—some time around seven in the morning, which was an ungodly hour, no matter what anyone said—Theo was still awake. He hadn't been able to sleep, obviously, not simply because carrying Harry back up to Gryffindor tower was an extremely challenging activity, but also because Harry had said things that did not seem to want to leave Theo's mind.

Instead they floated around, aimless.

"Oh god," Harry muttered, rubbing at his eyes and attempting to sit up. "What happened—"

"Water," Theo said, gesturing to the nightstand. "And Advil."

Harry gave him a squinty look of gratitude. "Thanks." He reached over slowly, one hand pressed to his temple. "Jesus, where's my—"

"Glasses are on the nightstand. Phone's next to it," Theo said, pointing to where he'd plugged it in. "You have about thirty texts from someone named Dudley."

"My cousin," Harry offered in explanation. "I'm mostly a receptacle for his random thoughts. It can wait." He winced, taking a careful sip of water. "Sorry if I ruined your night," he added, with a hint of what Theo suspected was a genuine apology.

"You didn't," Theo assured him. "You were—"


"Fine," he said eventually, as Harry stumbled to his feet. "Where are you going?"

"Bathroom," Harry said, gesturing to his mouth. "Have to—brush my teeth. Or something."

"Or something," Theo agreed with a nod, watching him go and immediately staring down at his hands, forcefully wrenching them together.

He should just go back to his room, he reminded himself. There was no reason for him to still be here. At first it had seemed reasonable to stay, because it wasn't like he was sober himself and the dungeons were really fucking far away. Besides, if Harry had died or something, his dad would have been distinctly displeased. Obviously, though, his obligations were at an end, and though it was very fascinating being in the room where Harry slept and where he seemed to keep his handful of earthly possessions, Theo did not technically need to be there anymore.

Harry resurfaced in the doorway.

"Sorry," he said.

Theo blinked. "About what?"

Harry winced. "Just. I don't know. I'd like to be friends," he explained, and Theo frowned.


"Yeah." Harry shrugged. "I mean, it's not like I have a lot of options, and—I don't know." He cleared his throat. "I just don't really want to fuck that up. There's a lot of summer left, and I know I was—" he trailed off again. "Out of line."

Theo sat up, contemplating the offering.

"I'm not good at this," he said eventually, gesturing between them. "Being human. Being—normal." A pause. "I have a hard time translating what I think into something other people understand."

"Yeah, I can fucking see that," Harry said wryly. "Makes sense."

"But," Theo attempted, taking a breath. "I, um." He considered how best to phrase it. "I like the way your mind works," he said slowly. "I think it's—interesting. I think you're interesting. And I think—" Another pause.

Harry leaned against the doorframe, waiting.

"You make me nervous," Theo admitted at a growl, already displeased by his own regrettable honesty.

Harry didn't move.

Theo rose to his feet, stepping towards him.

"Also, you were really drunk last night," he said dazedly, and Harry lifted a brow.

"Is this supposed to be some sort of chivalry?" Harry asked, and Theo shook his head, stopping just short of reaching him.

"No, I just—it didn't seem like—"

He broke off when Harry stepped forward, his attention lingering momentarily on the line of Theo's neck.

"Well," Harry remarked, his green eyes darting up to Theo's. "When you decide, let me know."