In the Wake

A Harry Potter Fan Fiction

By Systatic


Disclaimer: All information and warnings are in the first chapter.

Summary: Theodore Nott didn't think of himself as a typical Slytherin. Then again, anyone who fights off six Death Eaters to rescue an injured Harry Potter wasn't a typical Slytherin.


CHAPTER FOUR


Theo bit his lip and reluctantly released Harry's left hand, which was still gripping his, and placed his palm against the proffered hand. He marveled, briefly, at the difference in size—Harry's hands were so much larger than his, strong and calloused with long, elegant fingers—and waited for the touch of foreign magic.

Theo was more than a bit nervous; he'd read about this in theory, but he'd never actually experienced it. He trusted Harry not to hurt him, but he was afraid that he'd make a mistake, that he'd disrupt Harry's concentration, and the backlash would affect both of them.

"Relax," Harry murmured, breaking custom and wrapping his fingers around Theo's soft, white hand. It was trembling a bit, whether from the Slytherin's aching muscles or nervousness, he didn't know. He slowly brought the magic he'd gathered to the fore, thinning it as it traveled from his core to where their hands entwined, and carefully pushed the thread into Theo's channels.

At first, it was as if nothing occurred. Theo still felt the ache in his chest, the burn in his veins, and just as he was about to open his mouth and ask Harry just what had happened, everything went dark.

He thought he'd fainted until he realized that his eyes had shut of their own accord the moment Harry's magic had flooded through him. He shuddered at the feeling—it was so warm, so heady; it was like having everything that made Harry's character so unique inside of him.

"Merlin," Theo breathed, his eyes fluttering open to look at Harry's face in wonder. The strength of the magic flooding him was awe-inspiring. To think that Harry was the source, that he lived with such power inside him every day was astonishing.

Harry's face was set in a mask of concentration. He'd nearly cringed when the feedback he received from his magic told him just how ravaged Theo's channels were. The horror in Madame Pomfrey's gaze made all the more sense now that he was able to sense just how much damage Theo had caused himself. He gritted his teeth when he remembered

Harry would have to ensure that Theo didn't try anything so reckless again. If this unspoken contract Theo hinted at was anything like Harry was expecting, Theo's well-being would be his responsibility from then on.

Harry cringed to think what Hermione or, god forbid, Ron would think about the entire situation. He had no doubt that he would be hearing exactly who they thought very soon indeed. However, he wasn't about to allow another person, one who had saved his life no less, suffer when he had he ability to stop it.

It took nearly five minutes of intense concentration to fill Theo's core. Healing Theo's ravaged magical channels was another story. Time and rest were the only possible medicines for such strain. Theo would have to refrain from using any taxing spells for a while.

Harry withdrew from Theo's core gently and opened his eyes, blinking against the bright light of the hospital wing. He paused when he caught sight of Theo's blissful expression. Odd reaction; he'd never had someone react to sharing magic like that.

"Theo?" Harry called, leaning forward enough to grasp the Slytherin's shoulder. The brunette's eyes fluttered for a moment before he seemed to come back to himself. "You alright?" Harry asked him, watching the other draw himself together with concerned eyes.

Theo blinked slowly, staring at him for a long moment before he swallowed heavily and nodded. "Yeah," he rasped. "I'm okay."

The Slytherin shook his head internally. Did Harry not know of the effect his magic had on others? Theo had barely been able to keep his head. The urge to crawl into Harry's lap and just soak in the energy simply falling off of him was almost uncontrollable.

Harry eyed him doubtfully before relenting. He was tempted to ask Theo what would happen next, but knew that the other had as much idea as he did. And, he reminded himself, he had just agreed to take responsibility for the other teen. Of course, it wasn't a hard decision to make. Between Theo staying under the questionable care of his father or that of Harry's, the choice had been obvious.

"Is that it?" Harry eventually questioned, breaking the heavy silence between them.

Theo, who had been fiddling with the white cotton sheets of his bed looked up at him, his brown furrowing slightly. "Is what it?"

Harry grimaced. Perhaps he should have elaborated. "I meant to ask if there was anything else I needed to do to. Paperwork I need to file, documents I need to sign. If your life is in danger, I don't want your father to have any power over you." Harry wasn't sure if this contract—whatever it was—had even taken hold. There had been none of the elaborate theatrics he'd come to associate with magic. No flashing lights, no sudden feeling of warmth.

Theo shook his head. "I—no, there's not much else we can do but wait. It's not final, not yet, but if my father files to have me disinherited or makes an attempt to remove me from your care, the contract will activate. It's complicated, but pretty ironclad."

Theo went on to explain that such contracts were primarily used—several hundred years ago—between lords and their vassals on an individual basis to ensure that custody, no matter what happened, of the vassal would revert to the lord in case of familial differences or political strife. He didn't need to explain that the contracts had been abused just as often as not, though he trusted Harry wouldn't even think about doing so.

"It's all antiquated. They've fallen out of use; paper contracts—and contracts that aren't nearly as vague or overbearing—are more popular now."

"I can see why," Harry wryly stated. It was pretty evident that Theo was dancing around exactly what his responsibilities to the other would entail, and he said just that.

Theo ducked his head and bit his lip nervously. "It's not that I mean to confuse you," he admitted. "It's just that, I—I don't know if—" He shook his head and drew a deep breath before looking Harry in the eyes. "I know that you agreed to this and I'm grateful, really. My father—he's not someone you cross. And we're both young and I find it hard to believe that you can accept being saddled with a teenager—with me—just like that."

Theo looked away, pinning his gaze to the mound of extra blankets at his feet. "The contract is pretty absolute. It's not something that can be written down, and your exact duties aren't detailed like you're used to, but it..." He paused to swallow heavily, "It gives you an absurd amount of power over me." And as wonderful as Harry was turning out to be, Theo was scared. He knew that Harry was nothing like his father—he couldn't even conceive of it. But this entire situation felt unreal. He'd just put his life in Harry Potter's hands. Just like that.

Harry drew his attention when he took both of Theo's hands in his. "I know this is frightening for you. Hell, I'm scared too. It brings home that there's so many different sides to magic, sides that I don't know about or understand and probably never will. And it makes me wonder about all the other students who might be living under similar circumstances. How many of the Slytherins will be forced into Voldemort's service because of their parent's mistakes? How many of them will suffer because they had no choice?"

Harry took a deep breath and blew his fringe out of his eyes. Theo's eyes were drawn to the vivid red scar adorning Harry's forehead. It looked painful.

"And then there's you, Theo. You saved my life out there. Twice." Theo resisted the urge to refute that. Harry had done the same, and just as many times. "In a way, I feel responsible for you."

Theo winced, resisting the urge to yank his hands away from the Gryffindor. His words hurt, they really did.

Harry groaned. "No, that's not—I'm sorry, that came out wrong. I—how can I explain this?"

Theo watched as Harry stood and turned towards the adjacent bed, crossing his arms over his chest. "I've faced Voldemort every year I've been at Hogwarts, excepting my third, which brought its own set of problems. My entire life has been defined by one singular moment that happened when I was fifteen months old. I have hundreds of thousands of people looking to me to solve their problems. They expect me to kill Voldemort. They beg for it. They demand it."

He turned back to face Theo, and the frustration in his eyes was plain to see. "And the thing is, I'm the only one that can finish it. I don't like it, I don't want it, but I've accepted it. It's the way things are. Harry Potter is the only one that can kill Lord Voldemort. And, god willing, all those people will be saved."

Theo bit his lip, his stomach churning. He'd had no idea that Harry was under so much pressure, and perhaps he'd never cared to look before now. But Theo could clearly see the strain in the muscles of Harry's shoulders, the tightness of his face.

"I can't fault them for it, not really. I'm angry, yeah. I want them to solve their own problems. I want them to stop burying their heads in the sand. I want them to stop foisting their problems onto me. But if I was one of them, if there was someone who could take care of this whole mess when nobody else could, I would sure as hell expect them to do it. But all those innocent people, all those lives that might be lost if I just stand on the sidelines, I don't feel responsible for them. I don't spend my days worrying that some couple in Kent might be abducted by Death Eaters. I'd be horrified when I heard of it, and I'd be pissed, and I'd want to rip the bastards responsible for it apart, but I'm not responsible for it."

Harry sighed and slumped back into the uncomfortable wooden chair and rested his head in his hands. "I went through this period when I thought everything was my fault. A muggle family was killed, and it was my fault. Death Eaters were broken out of jail, and it was my fault. If an auror turned up missing, or one of the Slytherins started acting suspiciously or one of my schoolmates got a bloody stomachache—I'd find a way to connect it to Voldemort and it would be all my fault."

Theo shifted uneasily. "Sounds exhausting," he whispered. Harry glanced at him through his fingers and smiled wryly.

"You have no idea. I worried myself into the hospital wing, actually. I was so intent on taking responsibility for everything that happened that I stopped thinking about things that I actually had power over. I hurt my friends, my teachers, my classmates, my education, all over events I couldn't control. It was Madame Pomfrey, actually, that smacked some sense into me. She sat me down and simply listened why I raged about this and that, and eventually I started hearing myself and realized what a martyring snot I sounded like."

Theo laughed quietly, and Harry cracked a grin at the sound.

"She helped me understand that I don't have to feel responsible for events that, in reality, have no connection to me, that there was nothing wrong with caring or being a little bit selfish, but I was going about it in the wrong way. I'd forgotten how to take the good with the bad. Truthfully, I'd forgotten that there was any good at all. So I stopped. It took a while, and it was hard, but I stopped taking responsibility."

There was a long moment of silence while Theo digested Harry's words. "So what did you mean? Earlier, when you said you felt responsible for me." After Harry's long confession, his earlier words didn't seem nearly as harsh.

Harry sighed and dropped his hands to his lap. "Theo, I feel responsible for things that are important to me. My friends, my comrades, my teachers, my school. You deliberately endangered yourself to save my life. I saw you—even though I didn't know who it was at the time—smack one of the Death Eaters over the head with that rock. I felt you try to shield me, I felt you heal me. I heard you apologize even though you'd done absolutely nothing wrong." Theo's cheeks heated at Harry's words and the heavy weight of his gaze.

"I'm not going to let those debts go unpaid," he continued. "And more than that, I want to get to know the person who had the courage to go against his beliefs, his family, and save enemy number one. I'm not going to stand by and let your father hurt you or, God forbid, kill you because of that." Harry's face tightened and his stare turned dark. "I'll tear him apart," he growled. "I promise you that."

Theo stared at him in astonishment. "I—" Harry held up his hand, cutting Theo off, and continued, his voice fierce.

"To put it bluntly, I've been through a lot of shit. If you think that protecting you is a burden, then let me set you straight." Harry then reached across the small distance between his chair and the bed took Theo's face between his palms. "Look at me, Theo." When the Slytherin avoided his gaze, his grip tightened, but not painfully. "No, look at me. I mean it."

He waited until a nervous blue gaze met his own. "I don't take promises lightly," Harry stated, "and I made a promise when I shared my magic with you. I promised that I would take look after you, that I'd take care of you. Whatever that entails, whatever I need to do to make sure you're safe, I'm willing to do it. Do you understand me?"

Theo watched him, his hands somehow moving to fist Harry's torn robes, before nodding as much as Harry's hands would let him. His throat felt tight and it ached, and a suspicious burn had developed behind his eyes. Harry's grip turned gentle and he stroked his calloused fingertips along the cheek that had, just an hour ago, been marred by a nasty wound.

"Any lingering pain?" Harry asked.

Theo jerked slightly at the sudden subject change, but appreciated Harry's attempt to steer them onto safer ground. "My muscles ache, and my knees are a bit sore, but otherwise, I'm okay."

Harry nodded before releasing him and standing. "I'm going to check with Madame Pomfrey and see if we can do anything about that."

Theo opened his mouth to argue, but Harry's narrow-eyed stare caused his mouth to close with a click of his teeth. He wondered, briefly, if he had learned that particular expression from Granger. He'd seen her use it on Weasley countless times, but never knew just how effective it would be.

He watched Harry stalk away, feeling a bit light-headed after everything that had just happened. The Slytherin was having trouble reconciling the fiercely independent, strong, wise young man that he'd just seen with the rash teen he'd seen bickering with his rival, Draco Malfoy, only a year before. So much had changed, and in so little time.

Harry hadn't been gone for more than a few minutes when the hospital wing's doors slammed open. Theo jumped, turning in time to watch a whirlwind of brown and ginger hair and dirty black robes practically shove its way through the doorway. A second look showed both Granger and Weasley were covered in a fine layer of dirt and spots of blood. Theo swallowed as they surveyed the open room before their eyes landed on him. A flash of recognition crossed their features and they started towards him.

Theo resisted the urge to crawl underneath the covers at the duo's determined faces. Weasley, in particular, looked particularly agitated though Theo couldn't tell if it was residual adrenaline from the battle or the simple fact that Theo was a Slytherin.

"You—" Weasley started, before pausing, suddenly looking awkward. "Uh, what was your name again?"

"Theodore Nott," he muttered, wishing he had his wand with him. He'd seen Harry tuck it into his robes before leaving, probably an effort to keep him from using magic, the sneaky bastard.

"Right," Weasley coughed, looking a tad more friendly now that he'd lost his momentum. "Where's Harry?"

Theo just pointed towards Pomfrey's office, feeling extremely out of place. He noticed that Granger had yet to look away from him, and her assessing gaze caused a nervous lump to develop in his throat.

"Ron, Hermione," a sudden voice greeted. Theo looked up to see Harry emerge from the office with a surprised, but pleased look on his face. He grinned and moved to wrap both of his friends in a hug. All three seemed to share in a moment of relief before gathering themselves. Harry patted Ron on the shoulder and squeezed Hermione's hand before returning to Theo's bedside. He handed the teen a vial with a dark purple potion in it.

"For your muscles," he said, waiting until Theo had swallowed it before handing him another—this one a bright blue. "And your knees," he added.

Theo grimaced at the aftertaste and nodded in thanks when Harry handed him a glass of water from the nightstand. A glance to his left told him Weasley and Granger were watching the scene with varying levels of confusion. He nudged Harry slightly, hiding as much of his face behind the cup in his hands as possible, and motioned towards the young man's friends.

"Oh, right. Ron, Hermione, this is Theodore Nott. Theo, Ron and Hermione."

A short moment of silence was followed by Granger's polite, "Nice to meet you," and Weasley's abrupt, "Hey."

Theo managed to give them a small, shaky smile, the potions making his head fuzzy and his tongue heavy.

"So, uh, Harry," Weasley began, glancing warily at Theo's bedridden form, "why are you still in here? The Order wants to talk to you."

Harry shrugged as he absently tucked the blanket around Theo more tightly. "They can come in here if need be. I'm looking after Theo."

The two Gryffindor's eyebrows rose. Granger's mouth had just opened to say something when Madame Pomfrey bustled out of her office and swept the two reluctant students away for exams. Theo stared after them for a moment and then turned to Harry, who was eying him in amusement.

"What?" Theo asked, confused.

Harry grinned at him. "You get this wide-eyed look when you're overwhelmed. It's kind of adorable."

Theo's mouth dropped slightly. He didn't know what to say to that.

Luckily, Harry drew him into a conversation about Ron and Hermione before he could embarrass himself any more. He explained what to expect when they found out—which apparently meant research on Granger's part and harmless bluster on Weasley's—until they were interrupted once more, this time by a mismatched gaggle of wizards. Harry walked around his bed to greet each of them by name, placing himself between the group and Theo's bed. The gesture wasn't subtle at all and Theo could see several newcomers sneaking glances at him, evidently wondering what he'd done to earn Harry's attention.

"Hey, Harry, who's your little friend?" The question came from a young pink-haired witch. She was watching him contemplatively, and grinned when she caught his eyes.

"Theo," Harry said, refusing to elaborate further on his name. His reluctance let Theo know that allowing his last name get out to the group wouldn't be a good idea.

Unfortunately, any plans to keep introductions simple were waylaid by the arrival of the Headmaster and Professor Snape. Theo's heart sank in his chest. If there were two people that would cause problems for him and Harry, it was these two men. The Headmaster nodded to the gathered wizards before excusing himself to Madame Pomfrey's office, presumably to ask about the wounded. Snape stayed behind.

"Potter, where have you—Nott?"

"Where has he not, what? Snape, what in the world?"

"No," the potions master growled, annoyed, "I meant Nott. As in, the young man laying in the bed. Theodore Nott."

His name caused a low whispered conversation between the gathered wizards. He could almost see the frowns pulling at their lips and forced himself to keep a blank face. By this time, Harry had retaken the seat by Theo's bedside, and the Slytherin drew comfort from his steady presence.

"Nott, what are you doing here?" Snape asked, nearing his bedside. Harry, who sat opposite him, tensed visibly.

"Professor," Theo greeted quietly. "I got caught by some stray spells."

Snape nodded, turning to sneer at Harry for good measure, before asking, "Have you been tended to?" At Theo's nod, he continued, "Are you able to walk?"

Theo glanced at Harry nervously, but the young man just stared forward with a clenched jaw. Theo's stomach sank. "Yes, sir," he replied.

"Good, then off with you. The rest of the Slytherins are in the common room." When Theo hesitated and looked at Harry once more, Snape snapped at him. "Leave, boy."

Theo had just started to get out of the bed when Harry shot out of his chair, nearly knocking the piece of furniture over, and laid a heavy hand on Theo's shoulder, stilling his movements. "Don't you dare leave this bed," Harry ordered, frowning at him. Theo's eyes widened and he nodded slowly.

"Potter," Snape began, his voice low and dangerous, "what do you think you're doing?"

Harry's upper lip curled as he turned to the potions master. "I'm keeping an injured student who has not been released in a place of healing. What do you think you're doing?"

"You insolent little—you have no authority to contradict my orders!"

"You'll find that not only do I not give a damn about your orders, but I do in fact have the authority. Theo stays here, end of discussion."

Theo glanced between the two men, alarmed. They looked like they were about to come to blows, their usual ire with one another's presence exacerbated by the recent battle. Snape already had his hand curled around his wand, and Harry's was about to dip into his pocket. Theo resisted the urge to reach out to Harry, not wanting to get caught in the crossfire.

"I am head of Slytherin house, you cocky shit!" Theo started, never having his head of house swear before. "You have—"

"Boys, boys, what is going on here?"

Theo almost melted in relief as the Headmaster returned in time to diffuse the rising conflict.

"Potter, here—"

"Snape is being—"

Their words cut off abruptly, and both heads swung around to look at the Headmaster, who was putting away his wand, in disbelief. He merely smiled serenely at their darkening faces.

"I believe that we should ask someone else for their version of the events, yes?" And with that, the Headmaster's bright blue gaze landed on Theo.