Author's Note: This story has taken I'm guessing, about two or so years from the time I starting writing to the time I am posting. The first line of the story popped into my head randomly with a basic idea, probably in grade 10 science, and the rest of the story sort of followed suit. I loved writing this story especially, it was probably one of the most enjoyable things I've done for . The best is yet to come, I think. :)
Rated T for language, mostly. This story will have three parts, all of which are already written. I have a favour to ask of all of you, which is that you could copy and paste certain parts of this story that you like the most (one or two lines, maybe?) and put it in your review. I'm just curious about which parts are the most effective.
The title of this story comes from the song Shattered by OAR, mostly because of a couple lines, not because of the actual music.
Special thanks to bonapuella, who agreed to edit the story and did so extremely well! She is a wonderful editor and I am so thankful to have received her help!
Disclaimer: If, after finishing this story you think I'm J.K Rowling I suggest you go back and read the Harry Potter books again. While you're at it, also, note the plot and sexualities.
Chapter One: Lost and Found
The first time it happened was the beginning of fifth year. The term began in a way that made Theodore suspect nothing out of the ordinary would happen that year, a comforting sentiment for one who dislikes large quantities of change. As had been expected, Blaise's mother had him taken to school under guard, as she was worried for his safety. While The Daily Prophet did all they could to take away the credibility of Dumbledore and Potter, she retained the constant paranoia that the Dark Lord would come for her son, and so insisted on high security.
Theodore and Draco took the Hogwarts Express with the other Slytherins in their year while Blaise was escorted under tight security to the school, one of the few locations his mother accepted as protected enough for her liking. Mrs. Zabini hadn't deemed Hogsmeade safe and actually had people under disguise working there. But that wasn't important, because no one else actually knew about it until his grandmother's funeral ten years later and his entire family was completely pissed from firewhiskey. He'd expressed a moment's indignation over all her coy, 'I have my ways' explanations for knowing things she shouldn't have known before he'd passed out under a table.
After pushing around the appropriate amount of people to make them really feel at home, the Draco and Theodore started looking for Blaise. He wasn't to be found among the masses of students in black robes, and they had no choice but to get into a carriage and be taken up to the school. Theodore tried not to look at the Thestrals and ended up staring at the floor instead; they were annoying and quite frightening. He didn't need constant reminders of his mother's death and father's depression
Theodore shook his head and ran a hand through his dark brown hair. No need to dwell on such thoughts. It was the beginning of a new year. Maybe he and Draco would actually become friends, instead of just putting up with each other because of their mutual friendship with Blaise. And he was going to try harder in school as well, so his father would realize that he was still alive and maybe, just maybe, things would go back to normal.
It wasn't until they were joining the throng heading into the Great Hall that their friend slipped in between two people and settled into walking beside him. "Hey," Blaise said under his breath, glaring at the two Ravenclaws who were scowling at him.
"Hey," Theodore said back, twisting his head to get a good look at him. His mother hadn't been able to quite succeed in keeping him inside, then. His previously mocha colored skin was now more of a black coffee colour and his hair was a bit lighter. "I see you haven't grown."
Blaise looked up, bemused. "I see you have."
Theodore was tall and thin, with hair long enough to cover his hazel eyes if he wanted it to and didn't brush it away from his face. The bags under his eyes were attributes of staying up all night reading by wand light, or just his usual insomnia. His mind worked much faster at night than during the day, so he spent a large amount of time writing in the black notebook he'd gotten last Christmas from his cousin.
Had they been in the Slytherin Common Room he would have let out a bark of laughter and slung an arm around Blaise's shoulder. But since they were in public, he let the corners of his lips turn up slightly in response. Blaise would notice; he always noticed Theodore's small ways of communicating to him.
If he really thought about his aversion to obvious displays of emotion, it was probably not only because he didn't like showing too much emotion in front of other people, but also because he just wasn't good at it. Everything seemed embarrassing and difficult to do, unless he was alone with Blaise. In class he hardly spoke and, even in the seclusion of the Slytherin dormitories would much rather read than do any of the things the others boys did.
The three sat down at the Slytherin Table, Blaise across from him and Draco beside him. The Sorting Hat sang its song, Dumbledore made announcements and he listened to the insults Draco said in an undertone with a smile. When Umbridge stood up and made her long speech he placed his elbows on the table and rested his head in his hands.
The seemingly endless stream of words coming from her mouth were no doubt supposed to be cleverly shrouded in misinterpretation, but he saw straight through that guise. It wasn't very well hidden; he understood what she was saying probably before she was even saying it, and if he could understand, he wouldn't be surprised if another quarter of the school could as well. The entire point of her twenty minute speech was to tell them that the ministry was taking a stand within Hogwarts, which was just fascinating.
Eventually, when he noticed that people were clapping, he looked up through his brown hair. To his surprise, he found Blaise looking right back. He had the glazed over sort of look he often got when he was thinking, but Theodore knew from experience that he was perfectly focused on that which was occurring around him. He obviously hadn't realized his friend could see him, as he continued to stare.
Theodore shifted a bit, flushing. Blaise's eyes flickered across his face, watching his lips for a noticeable moment before Theodore looked up completely, hoping Blaise would stop. He did; is face automatically twisted into a small smile and he rolled his eyes at the front.
Still blushing, he just nodded. Theodore wasn't used to people staring at him. Obviously he had friends, and they talked, and everything. But when they didn't need to stare and didn't have any reason for it, why should they? It was one thing to be concerned for his health, or something, but another entirely to look and then pretend you hadn't.
'Are you okay?' Blaise mouthed at him and he nodded, averting his eyes. The dark boy watched him for another minute or so and then began to dig into the food placed before them
After careful consideration that night while he was supposed to be sleeping, he figured that Blaise hadn't been embarrassed or even had a 'he-must-have-caught-me-watching' look because he simply hadn't realized what he was doing himself. It was probably just because they hadn't gotten together an awful lot over the break and he had a lot of stories he needed to share. Rolling over, Theodore decided that it wasn't important.
That was only the first time.
The first few weeks progressed slowly and Theodore became more and more engrossed in the regular pattern of Hogwarts. His writing book lay at the bottom of his trunk, only taken out for small breaks in his studying, or fits of extreme boredom. He wanted his father to be proud of him, and the only way that would happen would be if he succeeded in something. Ever since his mother…well, he'd been very depressed, hardly emerging from his room and occasionally calling Theodore the wrong name.
But still, he strived in the way a child strives because they want their parents to be proud of them. Sometimes its useless. But sometimes its not. Deep down, Theodore probably knew that getting Outstandings on all his OWLs would not bring the father he knew back. Only his mother could and, since she gone, there was no hope. But whenever his thoughts drifted unconsciously down that road he would grit his teeth, force those thoughts from his mind and manage to convince himself that marks could change his father's world.
So, while Theodore spent the weekends in the library, laboring over large books and writing notes until his hands hurt, Blaise and Draco hung around in the Common Room. Once, Blaise had joined Theodore in the library and had tried to convince him to go for a walk, but had failed miserably.
"Why not?" Blaise whined, throwing his hands up in frustration.
"Blaise, show some maturity." Theodore said disapprovingly, not looking up from his book. "I said no."
"So?" He argued, "Why not? A short walk, twenty minutes. To refresh your brain."
"It doesn't need to be refreshed. I've been studying like this for awhile and take breaks every so often for two minutes. If I continue, by the end of the year I should be able to study for about five hours straight with a focused mind. There've been studies that show your brain can only take information in for half and hour before it shuts down, but you can train yourself to-"
"This is insane." Blaise said, looking upward. "Are you stupid? By the end of the year your life will be all this!" He gestured at the table, covered in books and parchment and a notebook. The one on top blazed 'The Advanced Guide to the Runes of Albertach' and Blaise glared at it, as though it was responsible for his friend's behavior.
Theodore shrugged nonchalantly and turned the page. His friend huffed loudly. "Would you look at me?"
In a long, drawn out pause Theodore dragged his gaze from the text to look sardonically at Blaise. "You've just used up my two minutes break for the next half hour."
"You're impossible!" Exploded Blaise, getting to his feet. His hands clenched into fists and he glared down at his friend.
"Be quiet, will you!" Madame Pince shrieked in a soft voice, which was something only she had ever managed.
With one last glare at the other Slytherin, Blaise stalked from the library. He didn't even slam the door. Feeling guilty, Theodore lifted his eyes again. Blaise hadn't left, as he'd thought, but was standing with the door open, looking back at him. "Will you please come?"
I shouldn't have chosen the desk near the door. Way less disruptions. He sighed, "I've got to study."
This time, Blaise did slam the door.
And so it went, for a long time. Theodore was so caught up in his studies; in the constant self induced pressure to be better, study harder and do more that he hardly noticed the strain it was placing on his friendship with Blaise. The time between the dates in his writing-book-somehow-turned-journal began to lengthen, almost to the point of weeks before he scribbled down a sentence.
There were plenty of people who would simply acknowledge such a change in someone they knew and accept what was happening. But Blaise fought it. He refused to let Theodore waste away all his time, fearing that he was becoming more and more like Nott senior. They both had tendencies to shut themselves away from the rest of the world and not realize what they were doing. But he'd always thought Theodore was safe from losing himself completely.
Now it seemed Theodore was only concerned with one thing, and that was studying. His marks increased nicely, a fact which did not go unnoticed by the teachers. Professor Snape even went as far as to send an owl to Mr. Nott about it but there was no reply. A normal person might have thought that going from Exceeds Expectations in his classes to mostly Outstandings was phenomenal and, if his father didn't appreciate it, then so be it.
But to Theodore, it meant he had to work harder. The 'mostly' was a variable, and he could change it. He just needed to try more. There was still time he spent not studying, and he would just have to pick up the study pace a bit more.
He decided to skip the first Hogsmeade visit, much to his friends' chagrin.
"You can't skip Hogsmeade." Draco said, frowning in a way that could have made a grown man feel like he'd been caught doing something irresponsible.
"I will, though." Theodore said calmly, tracing the sentence he was reading with his finger slowly.
"I have to study." He said, in the same tone he'd been repeating incessantly for the past few months.
"Theodore," Draco said disapprovingly, "That's all you've done this entire year. Come on, it's Halloween. You should get some exercise and fresh air. Before the feast, yeah?"
Theodore's favourite part of the year was the Halloween feast, but it seemed only a small concern in his life now. "Mmm."
"Come on, let's go." Draco reached out to grab his arm.
"Stop it, Draco!" He snapped, yanking his arm back and glaring fiercely, suddenly very defensive. "I am trying to make notes on chemical imbalances in transfiguration!"
Draco looked a bit shocked. "We're not covering that for another month."
"So? I should get ahead! The teachers won't give me review sheets in advance, so if I do this and get to know the theory of it, the time in class will be so much more efficient." He hissed, eyes narrowed with a slightly manic expression. Blaise was watching him, mouth hanging open.
"You have another month to get it, then." Draco said, jaw clenched. "Two hours out won't kill you."
"Just go," Theodore snarled, baring his teeth in an animalistic way. "I. Am. Busy."
"Theo, you're being ridiculous!" Blaise exploded, slamming a hand down on the table. "This is insanity! All you ever do is study! We've barely spoken to each other-"
"Such a tragedy." Theodore said icily. "If you wouldn't mind? This requires more concentration than either of you could possibly understand."
"Let's go, Blaise." Draco said with disgust, grabbing his arm. Blaise followed without comment, twisting so he didn't have to look at Theodore. The Slytherin could still hear his friend muttering vulgar expletives under his breath, but couldn't bring his eyes away from the text.
'If, as has occurred three times through known history, an animal gets a sudden burst of a hormone, this can create an imbalance in the Transfiguration. Transfiguration spells all have certain miniscule movements in them that create a side effect known as 'Congelo Development,' or Freeze Development…'
He could feel someone watching him. He'd always been observant, but this was a sort of prickling in his spine that alerted him to the fact that someone was taking special attention to look at him. It made him shift uncomfortably and dart glances every which way until he caught whoever it was. In this case, he glanced up through his brown bangs, which needed to be cut desperately, across the Common Room. It was Blaise, sitting on a couch near the fire with Draco, who wasn't looking in his direction. Blaise's eyes peeled away from him and he looked at Draco, nodded, and when the blonde's head ducked again they returned to Theodore.
He was blushing again, he felt it. The unfortunate thing was, when he blushed, you could really see it. He had such pale skin that it scarred from scratches. Once he'd actually gotten a bruise because he'd been hugged so tightly by Blaise, the day after his mother died.
"Are you OK?" Blaise's voice sounded very near his head and he jumped, startled out of his musing.
"Yes, I'm fine." He said, picking up his book from where it had dropped from the floor.
"You look flushed. I thought maybe you have a fever." Blaise sat down beside him and touched his forehead with his hand.
"I'm fine," he said impatiently and shook the hand off, grimacing as he realized he had a headache. It was all nice and fine for Blaise to worry about him, but it was so unnecessary. He flicked through the pages and finally rested on page 345, ignoring the low throbbing his skull. Blaise was watching him with a strange expression, almost like disgust. "Really."
"No, I don't think you are." Blaise said, crossing his arms across his chest. "You didn't come to the feast on Halloween - and you love the feast. You spend all your free time writing like a maniac so it's a bloody miracle you don't have carpal tunnel syndrome yet, and it's not even in your writing book, it's for stupid classes! When were you last outside?"
"Care of Magical Creatures." He answered automatically and, because his minimal social skills told him he should add something on that, "The lesson with Umbridge and Thestrals. Disgusting things, really."
"That doesn't count."
"It was yesterday." He said, finally losing his temper. "Now goodbye. I'm going to the library, so I can actually concentrate."
He stood up and stormed away, seeing red. All his anger from their nagging was filling him and he was irrationally infuriated, a feeling that was amplified with each streak of pain through his head. When he got to the library he slammed his books down onto the table and furiously read, scribbling so fast ink went flying in all directions and spotted his skin with dark stains.
He paid no mind, pushing all his distraction over Blaise out of his mind as easily as he ignored his headache.
During Christmas he went home. It certainly wasn't by choice, but his father would expect it and he could show him his results for the winter exams. He had done very well. In Transfiguration he'd only gotten three questions wrong. He would just have to promise to do better, but that was OK. His father would understand.
Draco and Blaise both absently said they would be in touch and Crabbe and Goyle stared at him blankly at the train station. It hadn't bothered him too much, because he'd been so deeply immersed in the schedule for their next month of Defense Against the Dark Arts classes.
"Bye." He muttered, dragging his bags out of Platform 9¾. There was a deserted road just around the corner where he would call up the Knight Bus to take him to his house.
The ride took quite awhile and he felt his stomach churn unpleasantly more than once. It was so rough and he could feel the lunch he'd had before they'd left reacting grossly with the swaying, sharp and tight motions of the bus…Stop it. He shook his head and closed his eyes, trying to picture himself elsewhere. Eventually, he ended up reciting the ten laws of Charms work and what was deemed appropriate by the Wizengamot concerning workspace Charms hazards. He then discovered that it was a great time to study, and used the remainder of the ride going over his homework in his mind.
The second his address was called he stumbled from the bus, gulping fresh air and leaning on his trunk. For a moment he almost expected his father to be waiting down the long, winding driveway up to their manor, like he used to. But he wasn't, so he trudged on alone.
"Hello? Father?" He called once inside the dark house. Nott Senior didn't like lights anymore, so the House Elves moved in darkness during the year. When Theodore came home from school, he was expected to do the same.
"Master Nott is being home from Hogwarts?" With a crack, Knotty –cleverly named by Theodore himself- appeared before him. "Knotty is taking Master's trunk and coat."
He cast the elf one disparaging look of disgust and climbed the staircase to the second floor, clutching his exam results. He'd especially asked the teachers if he could receive his early. After some nagging, they'd relented, if only to stop his ceaseless questioning. "Father?"
For a moment he hesitated outside his father's door, hand on the doorknob, frozen with indecision. This is the man I've been slaving for. He thought, he should know how I've done. I did it for him.
"Hello, father." He said softly, stepping into the dark room. The same inky blackness he'd always feared would take him over now surrounded him. The only sliver of light came from the partially open door, which saved him from complete panic.
"Theodore?" Came a gravelly voice from the bed. It was a different direction than it had been in the summer, which told him he'd moved since then. Then was a good sign. "Why are you here, Theodore?"
"It's the Christmas holidays." He said quietly, though no doubt he would be asked to speak up. It was easier to be scolded when he couldn't see the weak, bitter man who'd used to be a sign of strength and trust from his childhood years. Instead there was only thick black darkness, an exact replica of the space his father occupied in his heart. "I sent you a letter."
"I received no letter!"
"Don't mock me! 'Father'! Do you think I'm stupid!" Even in the raspy, frail voice that assaulted him he could hear outrage.
With a sinking feeling, Theodore realized that he had been mistaken for his grandfather. "It's me; it's Theodore. Your son."
"Hmmpph. OK, sure. I'll go along with this game, then. Have you got results? Marks? Scores? Do you have a job?" The voice demanded, and by then Theodore had no desire to turn on the lights and see the man who spoke. He didn't want to see the variation in the psychical features of the stranger he knew was before him.
"I'm still at Hogwarts. I have my exam-"
"All O's except-"
"Except? Well, I supposed you can't do well in everything. Not an academic, my son." He muttered, as though he didn't think his son could hear him. His words were a babble of incomprehension and his mind constantly changed Theodore's identity without realizing it. "Not like me. Do you remember, Father, the marks I had?"
"Yeah." The brunette swallowed the lump in his throat, letting the sheet fall to the floor. The House Elves would come and fetch it later, and probably burn it. For a moment, Theodore wondered himself what it would like to be incinerated and fall away in ashes. "Yeah, I remember."
After that, nothing else really made sense except to study harder. If perfect in everything was what it took, he would do it. If he thought reasonably, he would have known that just because Mr. Nott had found the fault in the exceptions to the O's (History of Magic and Defense Against the Dark Arts) did not mean fixing those mistakes would make it better.
His friends became used to his lack of presence, and Blaise didn't always snap at him when he came down to breakfast with dark bags under his eyes anymore, or fell asleep reading the paper. He could still carry conversation, and he ate, and he didn't always stay up, but in his waking hours he did try to learn. Only two more O's became his mantra. Of course, he still had to maintain his other good grades, so it wasn't smooth flying from then on.
Late one night Theodore stretched, moving out of his hunched position with relief and grimacing as his back cracked in several places. He rubbed his temples, by now used to the feeling of someone's eyes on him. It did nothing to look up anymore, as Blaise seemed completely unaware that he was staring at Theodore with anything less than hostility. Or staring at all.
"Only two more." He muttered, forcing his eyes to read the words on the page before him. They blurred before his vision. He was sitting on his four poster bed while the others changed into their pajamas. "Shit." He'd accidentally smeared ink onto one eye. Furiously he wiped it onto his robes.
"What!" He looked up sharply into Blaise's eyes.
"I just thought I'd let you know that its 11:30. We should probably go to bed."
"'We?'" He quoted coolly. "I didn't realize 'we' went to bed together."
"I'm trying to get you to sleep!" Blaise snarled defensively, his face darkening slightly and his hands clenching.
"I do sleep." He rubbed his eyes again, smearing the ink around comically. "If you weren't sleeping at the same time, you'd see this fact for what it is. The truth."
"Theo, I'm worried about you. Your father-"
"Is fine and healthy." He broke in, "And he's encouraging me to be great."
"And when did he tell you this? Over your kind and loving Christmas celebrations?" Blaise asked sarcastically, arching an eyebrow smugly. In truth, Theodore been utterly alone on Christmas, and so he stole some of his father's alcohol and gotten drunk, deciding this was his father's present. He didn't need a gift from his father to know that he cared about him, but wouldn't it make sense that the elder wouldn't leave his room and his Firewhiskey was conveniently unguarded? Maybe he'd wanted Theodore to have it.
It was beside the fact that his father hadn't gotten out of bed the entire holiday, much less said more than those initial words to him.
"You know what?" He stood up, anger swelling inside him. "You know what? You don't know anything about my family, or my holiday."
"Maybe because you didn't write at all! I wrote you, even though Draco told me it was pointless because you'd be too busy-"
"Oh, Draco's your new best friend?" He said mockingly, but when the other male didn't deny the accusation he felt like he'd been punched in the gut. The instinctive urge to hurt Blaise swelled up inside him and his next words tumbled out of their own accord. "Fine, well, it's not just my father you don't know! You don't even know who your own fatheris!"
Blaise flinched away from him, but as Theodore continued nothing showed his feelings of betrayal and hurt – except his eyes, which Theodore could plainly see. But he couldn't stop.
"Maybe you should try actually getting a family of your own besides your psycho mother and non-existent father! So don't go judging mine! We're great! In fact, we're bloody amazing. Not that you would know, since the only thing you care about is yourself!"
"Your father doesn't give a flying fuck about you!" Blaise shouted loudly, his arms flailing in an attempt to elaborate wordlessly. "You can study all you want - he won't start caring about you! He doesn't like you! So you can keep on striving to do better in school, but once you run out of ways to make him try and love you, you'll realize it's a lost cause! He only ever cared about your mother!"
He couldn't think of anything to say. His brain was at a complete loss. To his absolute horror, his eyes began to fill with tears and he stood up, letting all his books fall to the floor. Snatching his bag off the ground he stuffed them in, pages falling out as he stretched the spines and ripped the binding in his haste, grabbing everything and turning. "I'm going to- to – yeah. See you."
"Don't call me Theo." He bit out, rubbing frantically at his overflowing eyes. It must have been the stupid ink. He staggered out of the dormitory and down to the Common Room. OWLs were in three months. Three months! He had no time for this. Blaise could go burn in hell for all he cared.
After arranging himself in the corner, he opened his book and smoothed over his crumpled notes.
'Charms, in itself, is a concept known as…Charms, in itself, is a concept known as the completion of…Charms, in itself, is a concept know as the completion of an irregular form of…Charms, in itself, is a…'
His head dropped to his shoulder and he slept. When he woke the next morning, the pages were bumpy, which he explained away by saying drool, even though the wrinkles were near the top of the page, by his eyes.
Ignoring Blaise wasn't as hard as he thought. The fact that the subject of his determined ignorance didn't seem all too eager to talk to him either held little importance. Theodore had become so accustomed to having Blaise watch him that he could pretty much detect when he was looking at him, even if he didn't look up. If the other boy wouldn't look away, he would get up and leave.
It didn't matter what Blaise said. His father loved him, and would be proud of him, and didn't only love his mother. He was fine; he wasn't depressed, he was just upset. But when he realized that he still had Theodore, his father would appreciate his efforts, and things would go back to normal.
Blaise was just jealous. He didn't know who his father was, and his mother would never tell him anything about him. In fact, sometimes Theodore wondered nastily if he wasn't just some sort of mutant that didn't have parental connections. The waves of guilt that washed over him just caused him to be more angry and, when he considered making up with him, his thoughts would return to the original cause of his fury and he would stop.
It seemed that all his mental determination had to give some result – and he got it in the form of a letter. He was surprised to receive it, as he couldn't think of anyone who would actually want to talk to him that was out of Hogwarts. Actually, when he really thought about it, he couldn't come up with anyone who would want to talk to him period. When he saw that it was from his father and the writing was legible he sucked in a deep breath, drawing the attention of surrounding Slytherins.
I know that my previous attention to you has been lacking, but I assume you've been doing a good job of keeping things together. A recent cause has been developed in which I find myself…eager to participate in. It would be best if you did not return home for any remaining holidays during the school year; I am busy.
This could only mean one thing. The Dark Lord. That, or his father had joined some other cult. That was unlikely, though. His father had unswerving loyalty to the man – or whatever it was that he was supposed to be – so of course if he was able, he would go directly to him.
It actually hurt a bit to read. After all of Theodore's attempts to make the man see reason, it was the madman who had probably gotten the woman he loved killed in the first place to make him come back. He didn't seem to be completely back, though. OWLs were in one week, so there were no more holidays left in the year. Unless he meant the summer, but where could he go? Certainly not to his friends' houses, like he might have been able to do before he alienated them all.
Who cares, though? Really, we've only got about two years left here, and then we'll all go our separate paths. He thought, ignoring the painful feeling that it induced. All thoughts of friendship led to one person, and they hardly spoke anymore. He and Blaise used to be inseparable, but now…It didn't matter.
He wasn't psychotic, as he'd heard Draco talking to Blaise about. There was nothing wrong with striving for excellence in academic performance. Some people couldn't understand that, because their minds just didn't function that way. To him, if you couldn't do something and wanted to, you tried harder, got better and succeeded. If someone you cared about happened to be the cause of that, all the better, because you weren't doing it for selfish reasons.
He took a bite of toast, reading the note again. Keep well. Not the best thing to say, be well might be better, but the sentiment was there. Keep well. He found himself staring at those two words, as though the entire world was hidden somewhere in their letters – a hidden meaning, of sort. Maybe a more passionate message, like…
He smiled and looked upward, reaching for pumpkin juice and accidentally caught Blaise's eye. The other Slytherin immediately raised his eyebrows in a defensive 'what?' kind of way. His face held no sign that he'd been glazed over, so maybe he'd decided there was nothing interesting about Theodore after all. The idea disappointed him, but by now he was so good at repressing emotions he barely felt it before it was locked away in the back of his mind.
"Nothing." He muttered, pulling a Defense book from his bag. He still had a lot to shape up in that department, but couldn't very well study the practical side of it during breakfast. He propped it up against the pumpkin juice and his eyes blurred as he read the text.
Draco sighed loudly, quite past exasperation by that time. "This is so unhealthy."
Theodore immediately went defensive, until he realized that Draco was referring to where the Gryffindors sat at their table. Potter was staring into his coffee cup, and Granger and Weasley appeared to be arguing.
"Having such filth in here! Potter's treated like he's some sort of God. I'll bet he kills everyone because he goes so insane." Draco said in a low, angry voice.
"I've always wanted to die at the hands of Potter." Blaise said sarcastically, "Because at least it will be quick and easy. I doubt even his insanity could make him torture anyone. Such an honour."
"He'd probably be a lot less crazy if you stopped being such an arse to him." Theodore said and then froze. Had he just said that? Out loud?
"When did you become a Potter lover?" Draco asked snidely.
"Er…" He looked at Blaise, who quickly hid the small expression of amusement he had with one of nonchalance.
So he did what he'd always done; picked up his bag and fled.
When Potter collapsed during History of Magic, he'd never imagined that the consequences of what had happened would be so drastic. Sure, it was never very pleasant when one of your classmates dropped, screaming and thrashing to the floor, and was then escorted from the exam, but it was Potter. Strange things happening were a side effect of knowing him, or being around him. However, when Blaise, Crabbe, Goyle and Draco were summoned by Filch – they'd joined Umbridge's stupid squad - he had known something funny was going on.
When they trooped back up two hours later, looking very angry, he'd wanted to know what was wrong. But who could he ask? He had no friends anymore, doubtless Blaise and Draco would have a good laugh over his expense for being so out of it.
And he had another thought occupying his mind. OWLs were officially over, so there was no more studying to do. He felt useless. Sort of like his drive in life had dissipated, but he didn't want to die. The point of his life, as it had been for the past school year, was now gone. So he needed a new one. Perhaps he would talk to his father about it.
The next morning, as owls streamed through the roof, he looked up hopefully. His father hadn't owled him again, but that was apt to change, surely. Now that he'd regained some of his former self – he wasn't sure how much, but he would figure that out after school ended – he would want to catch up with Theodore. They would have a lot of talking to do.
There are a lot of owls today…He thought, just as a large group of them broke off from the horde and began to go straight for the Slytherins. Irrational fear pooled inside him. The only reason so many owls could possibly be targeting their table would be if, for some reason, a large group of things concerning them had happened. Draco had a letter dropped onto his lap and he saw that the Malfoy opened it with shaking fingers, trying not to seem too anxious.
When Draco sucked in a large gasp, he abandoned the pretense of watching his food – no owl had come for him – just as Blaise reached across the table and rested a hand on his friend's arm. "Draco? What is it?"
The blonde looked up, panic evident in his eyes. "It's from Mother. Father…Father has been arrested."
"What? How?" Blaise asked, voice rising in distress for his friend. Small noises of shock and horror traveled up and down the table as the sound of ripping seals quieted. Crabbe and Goyle both looked at each other with wide eyes, similar letters in their hands.
"Last night." Draco whispered, still staring at the words on the parchment. "Remember? I told you they'd had something going which would turn the table in our favor…I didn't know it was so bad…Potter must have…Potter left, right? He did it…He's..." Draco trailed off and Theodore sat there, horrified.
'A recent cause has been developed in which I find myself…eager to participate in.'
This was it. This was the cause. And if numerous Slytherins up and down the tables were getting letters from their parents that meant the group itself had been caught. He had no one to tell him the news, no one left in his family to send the news along…
"No." He gasped out, jolting to his feet, voice suddenly raspy. After everything he'd done; all the work; all the effort, his father had gotten arrested before he could show him his marks. Or his OWLs. Before they could try and repair their relationship and be a family again.
All his hopes.
Blaise turned to him, his expression of concern molding into one of alarm. "Theodore?"
He spoke as though he didn't recognize the person in front of him, which Theodore realized he probably didn't. Not compared to the work obsessed psycho he'd been the past few months. It was like waking up after a long, boring dream. As though the feeling he'd gotten from hearing the news – a million needles injecting ice cold poison into him everywhere – had made him see reality.
He left quickly, feeling no shame in the fact that running away always worked. He didn't stumble, for which he was grateful, because it is quite hard to run through the corridors while your eyes are all blurry from…perspiration.
He got through the dungeons all right, up the stairs to his dorm and, with a loud noise of relief and distress, threw himself into the bathroom, bolting the door closed. Gasping from exertion and pain he clenched both sides of the sink, leaning over it and letting out strangled sobs.
This wasn't happening. His only relation left in Britain were his grandparents, who were much too old to have been bothered by the Dark Lord – which was good, seeing as they didn't put much stock in his ideals – and spent all day sitting on a couch, arguing constantly about everything. His only other relatives – his aunt, uncle and their two sons – lived in Alaska.
His family was gone. He had no siblings, his mother was dead and his father… Arrested. After everything Theodore had done for him, he'd gone out with Death Eaters and let himself get caught. There'd been nothing holding him back – nothing to make him cautious. Not his son. He didn't care about his son. He didn't have a son.
He doesn't care about you. He never has. Blaise was right. He was completely right. The only reason he hasn't kicked you out is because he hardly ever remembers you exist..
"Theo?" Someone knocked on the door and he jumped away from the sick, slamming into one of the cubicles. "Theo, I know you're in here."
He didn't say anything, his heart pounding for reasons that had nothing to do with running. He opened his mouth to say something, but no words came out. It felt like his emotions were streaming rapidly through his body, as fast as his heart was pumping blood through his veins.
"Theo? Please, open the door." Blaise said softly, so he could hardly hear the words.
He was torn. There was Blaise; a chance to reclaim their friendship, on the other side of the door. And there was solitude; a way to endure the pain alone and never let anyone see him vulnerable. And, further away, denial. The last resort. To forget and never have to acknowledge the ruins of his life.
Theodore would always remember staring at that door for a very long time, wishing the doorknob would turn and open on its own accord so he didn't have choose what course his life would take, and he would see Blaise and they would be friends again, like nothing had ever separated them.
He turned on the water of the shower. Even though he told himself not to strain his hearing, he could still hear the soft sigh of Blaise's breath released in a puff from his lips, and the footsteps as he left.
He was alone again. Just as he'd always been.
Just as he'd always hated.
The train let out a sharp whistle and the last few students lingering quickly hopped on. In another minute it began to move and Theodore watched Hogwarts fade into the distance. How poetic. He thought bitterly. Fading into the distance as fast as I lost my life to fucking books. As fast and as far away as my friends are.
He was going to live with his grandparents until he was seventeen. Because his birthday was in October, he had only to spend this one summer with them and then he could buy his own house, or live in the one he'd had before his father was arrested, legally.
It was hard. Watching Hogwarts fade away and realizing that he had to start all his relationships from scratch, because at the moment he really had none. His grandparents hadn't seen him in three years, and Draco still hadn't forgiven him for being such an arse. When he did say something, Blaise listened attentively, trying to respond normally, but it was hard when you felt like strangers. There was a thin, glass barrier between them. He felt like as soon as they broke it, they could regain themselves again. But he didn't know how.
Which was why he was sitting alone, in his own compartment on the train while people sat, chatting away happily with their friends. They were all probably wondering about their summer plans, or where their family would vacation. At least you have a family. He wanted to scream to everyone; to no one, even though when his grandparents had asked if he'd wanted to travel he'd adamantly said no.
So he settled back in his seat and began to drown himself in self pity and regret. That was what he was doing when Blaise found him.
"Hey," he said, slipping into the compartment. This was actually quite a surprise for Theodore, who had thought Blaise's mother was having him escorted back to his mansion.
"Hi." He looked up, startled, from staring out the window. Books held no appeal – at first it was just school books, until he'd looked down in his trunk and remembered something Blaise had said to him. '"This is insane." Blaise said, looking upward. "Are you stupid? By the end of the year your life will be all this!" He gestured at the table, covered in books and parchment and a notebook.'
And he'd realized that, in fact, that had become his life. This realization was much too unnerving, so he'd been put off any form of literature for the present.
"How're you doing?" Blaise asked, closing the door and sitting on the seat across from him.
He shrugged, avoiding Blaise's captivating eyes and looked back out the window. "Fine, I guess. You?"
"Good…I'm good." Blaise said, nodding with the words and he cringed inwardly at how formal they were. "So...Listen, where are you staying this summer?"
He kept his eyes carefully glued to the scenery whipping by. "My grandparents. Next summer I'll move back into my old house, or if I can I'll get my own house. I'd rather not stay there..."
"Yeah, I didn't think you would." Blaise responded, his voice making Theodore turn his head, just to see his expression. He looked a bit upset and he was staring at Theodore, but not in the ways he'd been caught over the year. Not that he'd known he'd been caught, of course.
"Hm." He said, trying to make it sound like he was bored and there wasn't a part of him aching for Blaise to just start talking to him like they'd used to. Like friends, which didn't actually apply to them anymore but he so wanted to...
"Theo?" Blaise asked quietly, "Are you okay? I know I said those things, but I was really pissed, you know how I get..."
"I'm fine." He said, watching the light from the sun reflect off the window's surface.
It had been so long since he'd been friends with Blaise – though a part of his mind still retained the word for them – so he'd almost misplaced all this quirks, pet peeves and his temper. He would never forget something about the dark male; every bit of his personality was ingrained in his brain, but his significant absence had made it a bit painful to dwell on so he'd shoved all the things that made Blaise who he was into the back of his mind.
"No, you're not fine, you complete idiot. I know you! Why can't you just answer me?"
"Really, do you?" Theodore asked sarcastically, "Because the last time we had a real conversation was when? Remind me, will you? What makes you think over the past year I haven't changed drastically?"
"Because," Blaise responded, his confidence wavering, "I know you! I know how you are, and how you act, and your stupid father-"
"Don't insult my father!" He shouted, standing. "Why are you even in here?"
"Because you're my friend!"
"No, I was your friend." He corrected, folding his arms across his face and glaring in a somewhat defensive way. "Before we stopped talking."
"Theodore, I thought it was just a-a thing that you needed some space for."
"All year?" He asked cynically, his eyes wandering the length of the compartment disinterestedly. He didn't know how to stop acting this way and start acting like a friend.
"I don't want to- will you look at me? You always just stare at other things when I'm talking!"
He looked up instinctively, slightly afraid. It was inevitable that looking at Blaise would result in looking into his eyes, the eyes that magnified his emotions by massive proportions. The same eyes that were filled with tears, a fact that made him jolt not only physically but mentally as well.
"I don't want to lose you over this." Blaise whispered and Theodore's own eyes began to fill. "I-Merlin, I love you Theo. You're my best friend."
"Even more than Draco?" He asked pathetically, feeling stupid and ashamed and childish, but not enough to take back the question.
"Yes." Blaise answered, and he didn't laugh, as Theodore thought he might.
There are times in life when people feel intense, irreversible gravitational pulls. Usually when they jump. But, for some reason, Theodore found himself nearly tripping in his haste to get to Blaise – three steps seemed like miles – as though it wasn't gravity holding him to the earth anymore, but Blaise himself.
"I'm sorry." Theodore murmured into Blaise's neck as they embraced, and the other male hugged him back tightly, teardrops clinging to his long, dark eyelashes. He could feel his friend's heartbeat, banging quickly against his own and without meaning to he inhaled the wonderful scent clinging to the other body. Blaise's deep breaths – even after the initial hitch when they'd hugged – blew across his ear.
"Me too." He replied, and it was quite awhile before they were finally able to pull away.
"Back to Hogwarts tomorrow." Blaise said quietly. They were lying beside a small pond at his manor, beneath the shade of a tall willow tree. He'd spent more time with Blaise at his house than at his own. Well, his grandparents', really. It still didn't feel like home.
"Yeah…It won't be too bad. I'm sort of looking forward to it." He said absently, fingers tracing patterns in the grass.
"Me too. Less free time, though." Blaise replied, propping himself up on his elbow. "Promise me something?"
"Sure." He mirrored the movement.
"Promise me you won't become obsessed with books again."
A smile slid easily onto his lips. How strange it was, to think that just a few months with Blaise as his best friend again could make him change so drastically. "Sure."
"Good." The dark-skinned boy grinned, "I might've burned them, if you went crazy on me again."
"You wouldn't." He laid back down, staring up at the clouds. "I would hurt you."
"I'd like to see you try."
Theodore frowned, bemused at his friend's laughter. "I could beat you up."
"Sure." Blaise waved a hand in the air absently.
He was actually a bit concerned about that new development. It was all nice and fine to joke about who would win, but the actual disbelief and offhand way Blaise was addressing the issue worried him.
"Do I seem weak, to you?" he asked, trying to appear nonchalant. Some things you just can't admit to your fit best friend, like the major blow it would be to your ego to find out that you were unmanly.
"Hm? No, no of course not." Blaise said, waving his hand again in an incredibly false way.
"Seriously, tell me the truth." he said somewhat sulkily, ducking so his bangs covered his forehead and dipped his eyes in shadows.
"Theodore," Blaise was laughing. "You're blowing this so out of proportion. You have muscle." To prove his point he reached out and patted Theodore's bicep, which, quite frankly, was not at all muscled.
He shrugged, sighing, and tugged his arm away. He wasn't sure he liked Blaise touching him. It sent sharp feelings to his abdomen, and that was definitely not normal.
"It's not like it matters much, anyway." Blaise said in a would-be consoling way, had his much wounded pride not been on the line. You knew it was bad when they tried to direct the conversation to a place where they could list all your good attributes. The worst part was that Theodore wasn't sure he actually had any. "There are plenty of things that make you cool."
"Humour me." he said dryly, staring up into the sky again. It was much easier than looking at his best friend.
There was a long silence on the other end of the conversation. With a self-pitying inner sigh he opened his mouth to somehow tactfully divert the conversation when Blaise murmured, "Give me a moment," in a soft voice.
He nodded and watched the clouds lazily skimming the blue sky. The lack of speech continued on and, in curiosity, he glanced over at Blaise and was more than a little embarrassed to see him looking – gazing - back.
The brunette was propped on his elbows and his hair was fluttering softly in the breeze. His lips were parted ever so slightly. His eyes, the most interesting bit, were glazed over, and yet still dancing in a beautiful, enchanted way.
As their eyes met something surprising happened. Theodore had been all ready to shuffle awkwardly and wait for his friend to recall his senses, used to his staring, despite the strange change this new gaze was. But when their eyes locked Blaise's entire face darkened with a flush and he averted his eyes, carefully tilting his head so that his hair covered some of his embarrassment, exactly the way Theodore had done moments before.
Unsure of what this meant, other than the fact that Blaise must now be aware that he spent abnormal amounts of time with his eyes focused on Theodore's, he tried to lighten up the suddenly heavy atmosphere. "Don't strain yourself."
"There are lots of good thing about you." Blaise said, sounding a bit flustered. "Don't be an idiot."
He opened his mouth to laugh but Blaise continued on. "You've got a great sense of humor. Makes me laugh all the time. You're intelligent, and if I ever need anyone to help me with academic work, I'd ask you first. You're a good friend; the best. I can count on you for anything."
'You're pretty ugly, which means I never have to worry about you being snapped up by some girl who will take up all your time'. Theodore added silently, glumly acknowledging that the words were completely true. No doubt he's trying to refrain from saying something of that sort.
Had Blaise's expression not changed, he would have sworn the other male had heard his words, or that he'd accidentally said them aloud. "You're attractive, I think. Your eyes are such a nice color…Hazel. Your hair is soft…You're a good height…Not too tall or anything. And…And you're…"
Theodore shifted a bit uncomfortably. The tone of Blaise's voice sounded off, like…Like he was only half there, or his mind was somewhere completely different, the way Theodore sometimes got when he visualized the Halloween feast hours before it began. And he was completely embarrassed that Blaise was thinking about him. What else? He was definitely talking about him.
And he felt a sort of fear, the kind that makes you desperate to get away from something that in itself wasn't altogether frightening, but the idea of what could come next was enough to terrify you.
"Do you want some lunch?" He asked, getting to his feet and wiping his sweaty hands on his khakis.
"Sure…" Blaise got up, jammed his hands into his pockets and followed him, brow furrowed for the rest of the day.
He may not have realized it at the time, but years later when he looked back on their last years at Hogwarts, he would realize the importance of that moment, and the denial he'd plunged himself into following the incident, to prevent himself from acknowledging what he couldn't bring himself to see.
Author's Note: Thanks for reading, please review!