Theodore Nott watched as Daphne Greengrass fell to the floor under Crabbe's merciless curse. She writhed in pain, but no sound escaped her lips. Theodore was disgusted by the way both Professor Carrow and Pansy Parkinson seemed to enjoy her suffering.
Daphne deserved better than to be put on display in front of their whole DADA class like this. As the only daughter and heir to one of the oldest remaining pureblood families she should be treated like royalty now that the Dark Lord had taken control of the Ministry of Magic. Pansy had made a grave mistake by talking to Carrow and he vowed she would learn to regret it before long. The Dark Lord would be most displeased once he heard about this spectacle.
The bell rang shrilly, finally ending Daphne's torment. She hurried from the room with as much dignity as she could muster. Her head held high, she seemed almost unaffected by what had just taken place, but in her eyes Theodore could see the pain and humiliation she was suffering from. He had to stop himself from running after her to comfort her. Pansy Parkinson had to be dealt with first, then he could follow Daphne.
DADA had been their last class for the day and once in the common room, Pansy excused herself from Crabbe and Goyle's company to go take a shower. Theodore followed her into the dark corridor leading to the Slytherin dormitories, intent on cornering her for a little private chat.
"You shouldn't have done that, Parkinson."
His dangerously low voice made her whirl around, her hand clutched to her heart in shock. When she saw who had followed her, she regained her composure and asked, "Shouldn't have done what?"
"Don't play with me. I know exactly what happened in DADA just now," a cruel smirk twisted his lips, "Asking Amycus Carrow for help? Really, Parkinson, if I hadn't seen it myself, I wouldn't have believed anyone, not even you, could be that thick."
"I have no idea what you're talking about, Nott," Pansy insisted, but her voice trembled faintly.
Theodore looked around swiftly, before stepping closer to her and lowering his voice, "The Dark Lord specifically told you that she was to take the Dark Mark of her own volition. And what do you do? You talk to Carrow and have her be the first Slytherin and the first pureblood to be tortured in DADA in front of a bunch of blood traitors and halfbloods. You didn't just humiliate her out there, you humiliated her whole family."
Pansy paled considerably, "But Professor Carrow wouldn't have done that, if it displeased the Dark Lord."
"Oh yes, he would. Carrow isn't the brightest flame out there. The only thing he knows how to do is crude torture, he's too feeble to understand even the simplest of the Dark Lord's plans."
"How do you even know all this? The Dark Lord gave this task to me, he trusted no-one else with it," Pansy tried to steer the conversation away from her actions.
"Obviously he didn't trust you either, and he had good reason not to, as you demonstrated today," Theodore taunted.
"Of course he trusts me! I am Draco Malfoy's girlfriend, I have connections to the Inner Circle!"
"I wouldn't boast with that if I were you, Parkinson. Malfoy is at the bottom of the food chain right now, his parents as well. Being connected to them means nothing anymore."
Pansy took an involuntary step back, she obviously hadn't heard about the Malfoys' fall from grace yet. "That still doesn't explain how you know about my task though," she insisted shakily.
Theodore had waited for this question and he would relish the answer. "I'm supposed to make sure you carry it out right, of course," he smirked nastily, "And let me tell you, the Dark Lord won't be pleased when he hears my next update."
Pansy opened her mouth to speak, but no words escaped. She tried again, but still nothing came across her lips.
Theodore's features froze into a look of cool detachment as he said, "From now on, Greengrass is my responsibility! You stay away from her and your little gang better do the same, or I will find myself forced to tell the Dark Lord you sabotaged the mission."
Pansy's eyes widened in fear. She gave a jerky nod and sighed in relief when Theodore turned around and left her alone in the dark corridor.
Daphne hid beneath the branches of the first row of trees of the Forbidden Forest. Silent tears ran down her cheeks and her body ached all over. She didn't want anyone seeing her like this but didn't dare go deeper into the forest either.
Even if she hadn't seen Pansy Parkinson talking to Professor Carrow before class, she would have known that she was responsible for what had happened. Since September Pansy had singled her out, trying to convince her to take the Dark Mark. At first she had only talked about how great serving the Dark Lord was and tried to coax Daphne to join with promises of power; but when Daphne had refused time and time again, she had started threatening her. Daphne had laughed at the threats, not believing that Pansy would go through with any of them, but now she knew better.
Footsteps to her left made her look up, ready to spring to her feet and run, dignity be damned. She winced when the sudden movement jarred her already smarting back, but only relaxed when she recognised Theo Nott. She didn't acknowledge his presence, just turned her gaze back to the forest floor, but it was enough to tell Theo that she didn't mind his presence. He sat down next to her, not saying anything.
He had an immensely calming effect on Daphne. After each not-so-pleasant encounter with Pansy Parkinson he had sat with her silently, not asking questions, not even watching her most of the time, but giving silent support until her tears were dried.
But this time her tears just wouldn't stop falling. Daphne didn't know how long they had sat there, both staring into space, before Theo moved his arms around her. She stiffened, but when he just continued holding her and rubbing her back soothingly, she allowed herself to melt into his side.
She felt safe with him, safe and protected. Her tears fell faster and she couldn't suppress her sobs anymore, but still Theo didn't speak.
Daphne cried until she could cry no more. When the tears finally stopped falling she felt oddly relieved, even though none of her problems has disappeared. She blushed at the thought of Theo witnessing her breakdown, but somehow knew that he would never mention it to her or anyone else after they returned to the castle.
Still firmly ensconced in his arms she murmured, "Thank you." The simple phrase didn't express the extent of her gratitude, but better, more suitable words failed her.
"Anytime," Theo replied, his voice gruff.
They sat in silence for a moment before Theo cleared his throat. He seemed almost hesitant when he said, "You won't ever have to go through that again, I promise."
"But Pansy …"
"Parkinson made a mistake today and she will pay for it," Theo's voice hardened, prompting Daphne to look up at him. The look in his dark eyes made her shiver, they barely contained his burning rage. Daphne felt almost sorry for Pansy, but in light of what she had suffered at Pansy's hands, the girl deserved whatever Theo decided to do to her.
"Daphne?" Theo broke through her musings, "Can I ask you something?"
She nodded, burying her head in his shoulder again.
"Why are you fighting this so much? It doesn't have to be this way, you know."
Daphne had dreaded this very question, but now that Theo had posed it she wanted to answer. She wanted him to understand, to know what she was feeling. "It's not about me," She said finally. Sensing his confusion she went on, "They don't care about me at all, just my lineage, my blood. As a person I'm not important to any of them."
"You are to me," Theo whispered, so low she almost didn't hear him.
"I shouldn't have said that, sorry." She tried to catch his eye, but he wouldn't look at her, instead he stared ahead into the depths of the Forbidden Forest again.
"Theo, look at me, please."
Reluctantly, he turned his head towards her. She saw surprise register in his eyes, when he saw how close their faces were, before she closed her eyes and softly pressed her lips to his. He hesitated a moment, before returning the gentle pressure.
Theo pulled away first, regarding her steadily, and Daphne knew what he wanted to hear. She wasn't ready to take the final step he wanted her to, but she could make a small concession. "I'll think about it, Theo, but I won't promise to take the Mark," She whispered and was rewarded with another kiss.