He came up behind her and held her hand. She smiled involuntarily and twisted her head around to meet his molten brown eyes. He pressed his lips firmly to hers. When he pulled away she caressed each of the four pale scars which adorned his face in turn, and he looked into her eyes, an intense expression on his face which would soften only when her hands found his once more and squeezed them tight. It was their routine. They would do it in between classes, in the Great Hall, on platform nine and three quarters, in the grounds, on the Quiddich stands – basically anywhere and everywhere they met. Every time he was afraid that she would shrug him off, her lips would turn down in the corners like they did whenever she read an unpleasant article about her friends in the Daily Prophet, that she would say "Not now, Theo." She never had so far, but he was still afraid. Because he didn't deserve her. Only after they had been dating for eight months had he plucked up the courage to ask her why.
"Why me?" he had asked simply as they lay sprawled under a tree next to the Black Lake just after their final exams were over, the year after the War. They had been sitting in silence for the past fifteen minutes. Not an awkward silence, just a peaceful quiet, which neither of them felt the need to fill with meaningless words. He was serious and taciturn by nature, and she was never one to say something unless it needed to be said. It was one of the things he loved most about her (not that he had ever said as much to her face) that the things she felt needed to be said were either bluntly honest and uncannily spot on or unbelievably abstract and irrelevant.
"Why do you think, Theo?" she asked, looking at him with her pale blue eyes wide and inscrutable.
"I don't have a clue. That's why I asked you," he replied.
"Well why not you?" she was being slippery again. As a Slytherin, this was a trait he could deal with well, but it always surprised him that the dreamy Ravenclaw possessed the knack in such abundance.
"A hundred reasons. I'm in Slytherin."
"That's only one," she argued. "Besides, it's a very weak one. I'm 'Loony' Lovegood. A lot of people would ask you the same question."
"Oh. Yeah. Well they'd be wrong. They'd be disregarding that you're loyal-"
"-as are you."
"-as are you"
"and utterly beautiful."
"-as are you," Luna finished gleefully. Theo smiled at her triumphant expression. For a Ravenclaw she really could spout the most illogical logic ever.
"A lot of people only see what they want to see, or see what they expect to see. You're the only person I know who does that to yourself, too, Theo." Luna's voice was tender and gentle as she looked him earnestly in the eye and took his long, elegant hand in her small white one.
"How can you be sure you don't only see what you want to see in me?" he persisted.
"Because if I did I never would have taken notice of just how amazing you really were."
"But loyal, brave and the rest? Name one instance where I've been any one of those things," Theo challenged.
Luna's fingers crept to the first thin scar which arched across his brow.
Almost two and a half years earlier she had first noticed him. Before that he had been nothing more than another face to her. Nothing more than a green and silver tie with a person attached. If it weren't for the fact that Luna was more observant than the majority of the students who passed through the walls of Hogwarts that would have been all he ever was. But Luna was observant. And she had observed.
"I'm bored," Draco Malfoy had drawled to his companions. As usual, he was surrounded by his Slytherin entourage; the two usual goons Crabbe and Goyle; the fawning fangirl Pansy Parkinson; the power hungry hanger-onner hoping for a little reflected glory, Blaise Zabini, and the quiet kid with few friends and pureblood heritage whose presence bothered nobody enough for them to reject him, Theodore Nott.
"Well go torment some first years or mudbloods or something, just quit whining already." This was Blaise, who may have been a hanger-onner but was arrogant enough and sure enough of himself that he did not hold any qualms about being rude to the Prince of Slytherin.
"Can you see any mudbloods around here, Zabini?" Draco snapped. "I can smell one a mile off, and trust me, if there was one I'd be on it like freckles on a Weasley." Crabbe and Goyle guffawed oafishly but were all but drowned out by Pansy's shrill giggle. Nott grimaced at the sound assaulting his ears. He saw something moving out of the corner of his eye and willed it to go away before it attracted attention to itself. Too late, though.
"Wait a second. What have we here?" Draco smirked. "If it isn't the bucktoothed bush's pet cat. Well, if we can't have the owner..." Draco's wand was whipped from his pocket and directed towards a flat faced ginger cat which had slunk around the corner. Theo's face went stiff. He could keep silent and put up with it when they terrorised someone who could fight back, but a defenceless cat was one step too far.
"Honestly, Draco, I'm sure you can do better than terrorising a cat," he said, trying to pull of the effortless drawl which was a trademark of every self respecting Slytherin.
"And miss out on seeing Granger's face when her kitty comes yowling to her with its tail tied in knots? Not likely." Pansy interposed gleefully.
"Why do you care, Nott? Got a thing for ginger frizzballs? I've seen you look at the She-Weasel," Zabini smirked.
"I just think Draco could do a little better is all. It's lowering to attack a defenceless animal." He had given too much away. The faces of his fellow Slytherins sneered at him. "Why don't we go shoot hexes at Filch from behind that tapestry on the fifth floor instead?" he asked a little desperately.
"Wingardium Leviosa," Draco had already spoken, levitating the loudly protesting animal to the upper branches of a tree in the Courtyard.
"Feel grateful it isn't the Whomping Willow, Nott," Draco spat. "Honestly, you're such a soft touch." With that, he spun on his heels, throwing over his shoulder
"Come on everyone, let's do as Nott so thoughtfully suggested."
Nott waited until they had cleared out, cursing himself for being so pandering. He drew out his own wand to try and charm the cat back down, but the creature wasn't having it, dodging out of his line of fire whichever angle he tried. It obviously learned fast.
"Come on you moron, I'm trying to help you," he groaned through his teeth. The cat hissed at him.
"Oh, bugger," he sighed, knowing that what he was about to do was both stupid and dangerous. Pocketing his wand, he grabbed onto the bottom branch of the tree and proceeded to swing himself towards the squalling animal.
"Bug- OUCH – bugger!" he exclaimed as his robes caught and tore and a branch gouged at his left temple and across his eyebrow, leaving a smarting cut. With an increasing volume and regularity of curses, Theo managed to get within arm's reach of the animal. He glanced at its hostile and disgruntled expression and his heart sank. This was not going to be fun.
"Here kitty?" he tried feebly. The cat narrowed its yellow eyes."Come on, come quietly and this will be a lot easier on both of us." It bared its sharp little teeth. He took a deep breath whilst simultaneously uttering a curse – a difficult feat but he managed – and gently put his arm out towards the creature.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," a dreamy voice said conversationally. "He doesn't like strangers." Theo nearly fell out of his tree. Of all the people who could have found him coaxing an angry cat from a tree like a muggle or some common Gryffindor...
"Well would you prefer I left it here, Lovegood?"
"I think he might," she said, as if discussing something as mundane as what was for dinner. "He looks like he wants to gouge your eyes out, and he's a lot more intelligent than one might think. Aren't you, Crookshanks?"
"Well how come he won't accept that I want to help him if he's so smart?" demanded Theo, losing his cool at his ridiculous position and this girl, Loony Lovegood, getting off telling him what to do. To cap it all, blood was dripping from his cut into his eye and onto the freshly laundered collar of his shirt.
"Well you were with the group who levitated him up there in the first place, no wonder he didn't exactly take to you."
"How do you know that?"
"I saw. Are you going to stay up there? There might be nargles, you know."
"What's a- oh, never mind." Theo tried to turn his attention back to the beast – Crookshanks, was it? Although at this point he was half wishing he had left the miserable creature alone.
"You could ask for help, you know."
"I don't need any help. What could you do, anyway?" In answer, Luna swung herself lithely into the tree and was beside him in an extraordinarily short space of time.
"Come on, Crookshanks," she crooned at the cat. To his surprise and annoyance, the cat ceased to bristle and actually looked a little happier. "That's it, come here and I'll get you down from this nasty tree." She reached her own arm across where Theo was braced against the trunk – he caught a scent of freshly mown grass and bluebells – and the cat leapt graciously into her chest. Swallowing his pride and irritation, Theo helped the cat-laden girl back to the ground. At least, he thought, his face didn't resemble a car accident as it surely would have if he had gone any nearer to the beastly cat.
"I could have done that without your interference," he said sulkily. "But thanks all the same."
"You should get that cut looked at or you'll scar. You look like you've been in a car accident, you know." Luna smiled vaguely at him and wandered off.
"You're welcome," he muttered resentfully to himself, wiping at the blood angrily with his ruined sleeve. But Luna had not forgotten the moment, not the fact that a Slytherin boy would stand up to his friends and risk if not his life then his robes and his reputation to rescue somebody else's pet.
"What about the bit where I told them to go and hex Filch instead? That wasn't very brave."
"You were still learning," Luna told him gently, looking at him with adoration written plainly across her face. It made Theo's throat tighten when she looked at him like that, and he wanted badly to cover her lips with his, but he wasn't finished yet.
"You were the one who did all the work there. It still brings us back to the same question. Why me? Why was some Slytherin git worth helping?"
"Because he risked himself to rescue a cat stuck up a tree."
"A lot of people would. All your friends would."
"But they don't have to keep up their pureblood persona. You stuck up for what you believed was right even though it could have gotten you in trouble. I like that you care about things like that."
"Well fine then, but it doesn't mean I deserve someone as brilliant as you. One good deed doesn't make me a saint." Luna looked up at him again with a slight crease between her eyes.
"You think you don't deserve me?"
"Give me one example of me ever doing anything to deserve something this great in my life."
Luna's fingers traced across his cheekbone to the oddly shaped scar resting below and to the left of his right eye.
It was almost a year later when Luna crossed paths with Theo again. It was the beginning of her sixth and his seventh year, and the first year sorting was taking place in the greatly altered atmosphere of the Hall. Luna, as always, was staring absently into space, looking as if she was somewhere else entirely, but she was listening, and out of the corner of her eye she could see Theodore Nott on the Slytherin table, sat apart from the rest and watching the sorting with serious eyes. She fancied his brown eyes darkened whenever the hat called out "Slytherin", and his applause was somewhat less than enthused. Luna, ever underestimated and therefore overlooked, thought she had a shrewd idea of what he was thinking. She had seen what Theodore Nott had to live with, and she had heard what was expected of him. She could tell from his face what he thought of it, and it made her spine tingle and her lips curve upwards.
As Luna was carrying her trunk onto the train that morning, she brushed past a tall, thin man and his dark-skinned, scowling wife as they lectured their tall, pale son on his conduct that year. She did not stop as a scathing look was sent her way, but she listened nonetheless as she lugged her case to the compartment nearby.
"Remember, son, you are the sole representative of the pureblood house of Nott, and I will not have you disgracing our name. Your studies are less important than is getting in with the right people," Mr Nott murmured to his shifting, scowling son.
"I know what you expect, father."
"Damn right you know, it, but so far you have failed to do it. You act like some common Ravenclaw, but good grades will not excuse your poor social skills this year. It is more important than ever to shun those half bloods and mudbloods with whom you associate and to pander to the more refined circles of society. Be courteous and helpful to the new headmaster and to those teachers concerned with the more important aspects of your education. You know what I mean by that son. You know my role and my wishes for you to follow in my footsteps. I will not be disappointed, do I make myself clear?" Luna glanced subtly towards the quiet scene and saw the mutinous look on Theodore Nott's face and the blotches of colour creeping across his pallid cheeks.
"I understand your wishes, father, but I will not give up my dignity and fawn over a bunch of cruel, power seeking murderers. Whatever I do is never enough, so this year I shall do things my way for once," the boy looked nervous but stubbornly determined, speaking quietly but firmly so that Luna had to concentrate to hear the words.
"Insolence!" Luna gasped as Mr Nott struck his son across the face in the middle of the crowded station. "No son of mine will renounce his duty so lightly. I trust you will mind my words more closely than you do now when you see the changes in the school. No more mollycoddling, boy." With this remark the older Nott strode from the platform, leaving the boy with a crimson cheek from the blow and a deep cut across his cheekbone. Cursing, he had turned to pull his trunk into the soon departing train, but he found a pair of hands already there, helping him to guide the suitcase onboard. Following the slight but strong pair of hands, Theo found himself looking into the misty blue eyes of Luna Lovegood, who smiled vaguely at him as she lifted the trunk up the stairs.
"How did you get that one?" she asked him as his hand closed over hers and drew it from his face.
"My father's ring. The seal of the Nott family, been in the family generations. Ironic, isn't it?" Nott's tone was light but his face was bitter. This served only to remind him how inferior he was to her, what sort of family he had.
"Your family left a mark on you. But that is where the connection ends, I think," Luna murmured, moving her other hand over to cover his. "You came from a home which repressed you, tried to mould you, didn't appreciate you. You deserve something truly remarkable to make up for all that." Theo sighed. He wished it was true, he really did. He so wanted Luna to be that amazing thing. But she was so much more than he was, so much more than he ever deserved.
"But I've done so many things, bad things, to try and please my father in the past. I should be spending my life atoning for them, not being compensated for them. I've never done anything that's made me worthy of someone as strong and brave as you."
"You don't deserve to be censured for who your family is. Besides, I was only strong when I had to be, to defend the people I love. You did that, too, but it was not your family who had your loyalty, and rightly so. It took strength and courage to go against what you had been told all your life. I remember, Theo. And I remember that you were braver and stronger than me that time." Luna looked at her boyfriend with a glowing pride, and reached up, with an apologetic grin, to ghost her hand across the small white line on his left cheek.
It was just a few months after the incident on the platform. Theo had seen how much the school had changed, watching with regret the harshness and the lies, the violence and the disrespect to everything the school had come to represent to him. It had not made him want to follow his father's wishes. It had made him want to leave and never return. But he refused to be so weak. He made himself watch the horrors. Watching was all he ever did, he thought bitterly after witnessing the cruciatus being practiced on his classmates by the petty and vindictive Professor Carrow. It was all he could do.
But Luna did not just sit back and watch, sit back and let it happen. To his chagrin, he found himself watching her more and more, the dreamy girl vanishing in a flash and being replaced by a grim, defiant soldier whenever injustice occurred. He found that he cared. It was because of his pride, he decided at first. How dare a Ravenclaw show that much pluck and recklessness, be bold enough to do what he dared not. He would not stand for it. But he soon realised that he did not understand it, could not. Why did she care so much more for others than her own safety. Had she no sense?
The more he watched, the more bewildered he became. He felt a mingled sense of pride and shame which grew stronger each and every time he saw her defend a younger student against a hex, own to a crime she had not committed to take the punishment for weaker perpetrators. What made her give up herself for others? What made her do it when she was so much more worthy than them? It took him a long time to realise that it was this that made her worthy. It took him his own experience to realise what could drive a person to do that. And still he felt humbled by her spirit.
It was the day before the Christmas break, the day before Luna would be taken, although he did not know it then. He had watched her, despite his better judgement, and had begun to care for her, although he did not recognise this until now. As prefect, even in these warped times, he had to patrol the corridors. The trick now, though, was to avoid the screams and keep your head down. He had also been obliged to ignore several of the rebellious strand of students scurrying from A to B, not wishing them to get into any more trouble, as trouble usually meant torture nowadays. This evening, though, he could not avoid the scene which was in his direct pathway and loud enough to wake the entire castle. When he saw who it was, too, he could not have torn himself away for a whole cauldronfull of galleons. Luna Lovegood, straggly blonde hair falling over her face, was writhing on the floor in agony as the short, lumpy Professor Carrow pointed his wand at her, giggling maliciously.
"That'll teach you not to try and steal from the Headmaster, won't it, my pretty?" he cackled. Theo watched in horror as Luna's back arched and fell against the cold stone floor, and her fingers clawed at her body as if trying to pull the pain from her flesh. He did not need to think.
"Expelliarmus," he intoned, his voice chill and commanding. Carrow's wand flew from his hand and he turned around in shock.
"What are you doing, boy?" the man wheezed.
Rescuing my Luna.
"Making sure that filthy rat doesn't die, sir. Not that it would be anything but good riddance, but the Headmaster cannot afford any deaths, the parents may talk." Theo's voice was even but cold, and his knuckled were fisted at his side.
"I was just softening her up a bit," the Professor whined. For once, Nott was thankful of his pureblood status; he knew his father was higher in the ranks than the Carrows were, and his authority therefore meant something.
"I will take it from her, sir, if it's the same to you." Carrow nodded and shuffled off, looking disappointed. Nott stood stock still until the shuffling footsteps faded, and rushed to the motionless girl's side.
"Luna? Luna? Can you hear me?" he murmured desperately.
"Mmurgh," Luna groaned.
"He's gone. I'm here now," Theo said soothingly, and reached to stroke her hair from her face. Her eyes shot open.
"Naurgh," she moaned, eyes wide and afraid, and her hand flailed wildly, swatting his from her face.
"Don't, don't worry. I'm-" he had been going to say 'I'm here to rescue you', but it sounded so melodramatic that he paused, confused. In the second it took him to regroup, Luna's hand flailed weakly but defensively once again, and her nail connected with his cheek, gouging a hole in the skin.
"OUCH! Dammit, Lovegood, I'm trying to help. Can you please stop attacking me?" Theo's voice became sharper and Luna cowered. He repented immediately as he saw how disoriented she still was. She needed him to be gentle.
"I'm sorry, Luna. Don't flinch, honey. You're safe and I'm going to get you out of here." Tentatively, he reached out again to stroke her trembling hand. She flinched away at first, but soon relaxed into his gentle embrace as he made soothing sounds and stroked her long blonde hair. It was a while before she was calm enough to get to her feet and be guided back to Ravenclaw Tower, but Theo did not mind. It struck him then and there that he would not mind holding her in his arms forever. The second he closed the door behind her, he leaned against the wall and let out his breath in a whoosh.
Luna giggled as Theo remembered his developing feelings for the girl now snuggled in his arms.
"I'm amazed that you fell for a sobbing harpy who tried to tear your face apart," she teased. "If anything that has to prove that I'm the one who got lucky." Theo smiled briefly but his eyes were dark. It was painful for him to remember those times, and the fear and pain he had seen in Luna's face as he bent over her. He remembered his panic when he returned to school next term and Luna was nowhere to be found.
"I wouldn't call what happened lucky. I wasn't there when you needed me."
"You were, though, Theo. I needed you then and you were there. It wasn't your fault they took me."
"I should have been there. I should have been strong enough to defend you against all of them. You defended your friends when it mattered." Luna sighed as she studied the bitter lines of regret etched still on Theo's face. "I didn't even stand up to Carrow. I used my Slytherin status, too cowardly to say what I really thought."
"Physical strength is not everything. I have endured physical trials because I had to. If you have not it is not because you could or would not, it is just because you didn't have to, you were never forced to. Being put in a situation where you have to fight is not brave. And I know that if you had been there, in the dungeon with me, or at the Ministry, you would have fought too. Because you weren't does not make you less worthy. You have proven you can be strong and brave too, in the most important way. Your deeds were more important than your words. You achieved your goal through wisdom, and lived to fight another day. It wasn't cowardice, but good common sense to lie to Carrow. You could have walked away when Carrow was attacking me, you weren't forced to intervene, and you were brave, as brave as me. Braver. It doesn't matter that it wasn't an epic battle. It means just as much to me."
"But that's just it, you've only ever seen me around you, and for you, my Luna, normal rules don't apply. I'm not a good person, Luna, not like you."
"It doesn't matter why a person does what they do, Theo. You can't help the person you are, although I think you're a mighty fine person in any case. You may not have seen me, but I was there Theo, and so were you when it mattered." she grinned mischievously here. "And I know that you have more honour and bravery than you give yourself credit for, more loyalty for your deeds in my absence than most people possess. And I know that you think you failed, but I saw and I was proud of you. It is the intention that counts, and your defiance and your loyalty are immortalised in your face. Don't forget, Theo, your scars can't lie to me."
As Luna spoke she tugged her hand gently from his and touched the third and largest scar, which tugged at the bottom of his eye and marred his left cheek, curling in towards his mouth. It was thin but deep – like him, she teased sometimes. He hated it, but Luna always smiled when his hand flew to his face to cover it, which it tended to do when he was nervous or self conscious. When this happened, her own hand drew his away from his cheek, her fingers twining with his. She was proud of this scar, and her fingers stroked across it lovingly. It was the scar she loved the most, although she loved each one, because it was the scar that proved he was not only her Theo in her presence, but had strength and integrity which went beyond their relationship, beyond her.
Theo had thought she was dead. Gone forever. He had tried to find out why she had disappeared, what had happened, but without any luck. In the end he had to accept that she was not coming back. He did not give up hope though, and he did not give in once she had gone. They had not been good friends, he doubted whether she had noticed him much, but he had noticed her that last term, and she had, somehow, become his point of comparison, and his actions, unconsciously at first, began to reflect what Theo thought Luna would do. Little things, mostly, like turning a blind eye to students going against the Carrows. He never had the guts to do anything drastic himself, especially when more and more students began disappearing. He told himself he could do more good this way, but he knew he was being a coward, and he hated himself for it.
When the final decision came, though, he made it without regret and without hesitation. He heard McGonogall's clipped tones ordering the school to evacuate or to stay and fight. There was no doubt in his mind that he would stay and fight the men responsible for Luna's disappearance. The following battle was a blur of pain and action, with many hexes coming at him from both sides; he hadn't exactly made himself popular with the Order or the DA, either, so few people knew which side he was fighting for and, him being a Slytherin, few of the Order members waited to find out. It wasn't this fight that made him anything special, though, in his opinion. He did nothing remarkable, saved no lives. Hell, he was out for most of it. But Luna saw, even if he did not know she saw, and she thought that this was his greatest moment of all, despite the outcome, because it was her Theo, the Theo she would learn to love, all over. Brave, loyal, and utterly beautiful.
"So, boy, you would betray your own father," a cold voice spoke behind him as he aimed hexes at a large blond Death Eater from behind a chipped statue. He looked around sharply and found himself facing his father, mask removed and wand directed at his heart. He thought fast.
"You wouldn't," he quavered.
"Wouldn't I? I did not think you would help mudbloods and scum at the expense of your own family, your own destiny. I was wrong. So are you. You are no son of mine." His father's words were emotionless, but each cut like a knife.
"I did what I had to, father. Now do what you have to do. I'm ready." Theo was bluffing, but it made his father pause.
"Ready to die for this pathetic cause when the Dark Lord would welcome you with open arms? He will win, there's no doubt, and you can still be forgiven." Mr Nott's tone was lower, persuasive, but there was no love in it. Theo just shook his head. His father's eyes hardened.
"So be it, then. Avada-" but Theo lunged at him, knocking him to the ground. Mr Nott's head banged against the floor and Theo watched his eyes flutter shut. He was unconscious. He lifted himself from the motionless body, feeling little guilt for his actions but some fear at his father's words. There was no going back. His father wanted him dead and was not afraid of doing it himself. For a moment Theo wavered, his own wand in his hand. But he knew that his father could do what he could, or would, not. He was not a killer. Disgusted, he turned away. Too soon.
"SECTUMSEMPRA!" A blinding light and a searing pain. Red hot irons stabbed across Theo's face. He had brief impression of a hot waterfall gushing down his cheek,a brief glimpse of his father's grim face, still on floor level, then blackness.
When he woke, his face was stiff and immobile; there was an eerie silence, strange after the cacophony of the battle. It was over, he realised, and he later cursed his weakness. He had missed the showdown, the fall of Voldemort. He had achieved nothing by being there. But all he knew then was that a small blonde girl with a dirty face was leaning over him, tears streaking her face. But she was smiling, and her smile lit up the room.
"I thought you'd never wake up," she said.
"I thought I'd never see you again," he said, although it hurt to talk; his jaw ached.
"Life usually finds a way," was her response. "I'm glad you chose our side, Theodore Nott." With that, she rose to join another group of people, clustered around another hospital bed. But he knew that he would never let her get far if he could help it, even if he didn't deserve her. He didn't understand then what she was thinking, how she saw him.
"You don't make any sense. Have I told you that?" Theo was staring at her in wonder, astounded by the things she seemed to prize. He had had a showdown with his father, and he had lost, yet she was proud of him. He had tried to save her from the Carrows, but had left most students to their fates and refused to join their rebellious ranks, yet she respected his refusal to join Voldemort rather than deriding his cowardice. He had failed to meet the expectations of his family, yet she was approving of his decision, seeing it as him choosing to do what was right rather than what was easy. And he was not even able to get a cat out of a tree, yet she loved him for trying. Her views were so different from his. But he was beginning to understand.
"Frequently," she replied. "But it doesn't mean it's true. You don't make sense either, Theo. But I love you for it. Never doubt that." And she kissed him gently and sweetly so that his thoughts scrambled and receded. She had one last comment to add though, and she broke the kiss to look him directly in the eyes.
"I've never told you why I love you before. I thought you knew. It seems so clear to me, you see."
"I'll never understand quite why, love, but I'll remember."
"You'd better. After all, your scars tell the story."
Next time he came up behind her and put his hand in hers, he smiled as her lips found each scar which marked his face.
Thanks for reading, do leave a review if you feel so inclined xx