DISCLAIMER: Anything you recognise belongs to JKR.
Written for the Last Kiss challenge on HPFC.
Pairing: Theodore Nott/Morag McDougal Prompt:sometimes the person you really need is the one you didn't think you wanted
He glimpses her in the corridor, half carrying Boot while she attempts to staunch the bleeding.
Theo had always considered the Ravenclaw boy weak, a pushover, a coward, until he stormed into the Great Hall during dinner and screamed at the top of his lungs about a Gringotts break-in courtesy of Potter and friends—and their miraculous escape on dragon back. At his side stood the other Ravenclaw boy, Corner, the defiant one who deflected spell after spell in that terribly ragged voice, a remnant of the 're-educating' from Professors Carrow two months past.
Eventually Professor Carrow gave up on spell casting and bull rushed the pair, slamming Corner in the stomach then the head with his knee before alternating hits on Boot with his wand and his bare fists. It was effective except that it prevented anyone else getting a clear shot at the Ravenclaws through the three-man brawl. It also gave the remaining older Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff students time to mount a rescue.
Theo had watched helplessly as Morag and Goldstein scrambled from their table, stunned the teacher from behind and dragged their two housemates out the door. Cornfoot and a younger Hufflepuff followed behind them, presumably to rearguard the escape and vanish to wherever the majority of his rebellious year were hiding. He also knew, as one of the oldest Slytherins with a father in service to the Dark Lord, that he would be expected to give chase.
He managed to manoeuvre to the rear of the pack that went surging after them, wands at the ready, which allowed him a better view of the Ventriloquism charm that the others ran blindly after. In fact if he hadn't personally taught the caster how to combine the illusion of distant movement with the sound of running he might have missed it himself, caught in the rush after the trailing robe end and fading footfalls disappearing around a corner. Instead he turned and ran the other way, disillusioning himself as he went and was unsurprised to shortly see the blurred outlines of three figures up ahead.
As he stands over them, wand-tip dancing between Corner's sullen features, Boot's half-dazed incomprehension and Morag's challenging glare he is suddenly unsure what to do. After all, he knows what will happen to them if they are brought in. And he knows he will be expected to participate.
Theo had only felt the effects of the Cruciatus curse once, care of his father, and never wished to repeat the experience. He had become quite proficient in it himself this past year as they were required to practice it on troublemakers in Dark Arts, and for once his outstanding marks stood against him as he had no excuse not to master the spell quickly and easily under Professor Carrow's watch. He could and had used the spell on both Corner and Boot before, and felt curiously sick to the stomach as he watched them squirm, but the thought of casting it on Morag, watching her pretty face and delicate form twist in pain that was his causing, knowing that she would never ever forgive him…
He lowers his wand and takes a step back to make his intentions clear, cocking an ear to ensure that no-one else is nearby. He is surprised then when an adjacent tapestry is flung wide to reveal Goldstein and the two Hufflepuffs panting lightly, laughing about the Slytherin pack chasing their tails through the castle's lower floors. They freeze when they spot his shadowy outline and suddenly he is facing five wands, all carried by people he has caused pain to in the past in order to save himself from suffering. Somehow he doubts apologising will help.
It's Morag who saves him just as he spared her a few seconds past. She passes over a no longer dripping Boot to the others and tells them to go on ahead. They hesitate, then do as she says, willing to take her word on trust. He is impressed.
Once they are out of sight she holds out her hand and he takes it. He can't help it; he's never been able to resist her. When he wraps his arms around her and rests his lightly stubbled chin on her thick auburn hair he feels safe, relaxed for the first time in days.
She whispers "Run away with me, come hide with us."
But they both know he can't. She can forgive him the things he has done to save himself, but the others won't. Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors and their almost sickening loyalty to one another at risk to themselves, it's not something he understands, so he doubts they'll understand him.
Slowly she draws his face down, pulls him into a gentle kiss, so like their first kiss, hesitant and wonderful. And over before he realises as the echoing footsteps signal that the rest of the chase pack is catching up. She catches him for one last hug and whispers, "My Theo, you are braver than you think. Remember that." And she is gone before he can reply.
He realises that he'll need an excuse for losing them and hits himself with a stunner, letting the world turn black as their shadows appear on the far wall. When they revive him all it takes is a few winces while clutching his ribs and the not-untruth that they outnumbered him five to one. When he claims that he called for help from his housemates but that they ignored him, they turn away shamed while Professor Carrow congratulates him on his dedication to the cause.
He spends the night lying awake in bed, hating himself, the Dark Lord and his pack of minions, his blind housemates, the mudbloods for existing in the first place, everyone, because he is too scared to stand up for what is right. Whatever that is.
"But he's there! Potter's there! Someone grab him!"
Theo was not surprised by the immediate reaction from the Gryffindors. What did surprise him was how quickly it was reciprocated by the other two houses. Especially the Ravenclaws. He thought they had more sense. He hoped she had more sense. He glanced over and saw her watching him, standing with her wand at the ready, daring him to return her defiant stare.
"Thank you Miss Parkinson. You will leave the hall first with Mr Filch. If the rest of your house could follow."
Theo jumped as Tracey's elbow nudged him to stand. He did, slowly, still not looking at her. They filed out, and he risked a glance back, to see the look of contempt plastered across her features. She remained in place, as did most of her friends. "Come on, hurry up runt." Blaise was right behind him now, shoving him on ahead of the terrified first years, who scattered out of the way.
Theo tried to concentrate on Crabbes' broad shoulders, in front of him, forcing out the image of her face, her last words to him, that he was braver that he thought. She was wrong, he wasn't brave, he wasn't a hero. He was just going to stay out of this fight, hide like he usually did. He just wished there was some way he could convince her to hide with him.
He blinked as he realised that Crabbe was no longer in front of him. He slowed and looked about. Nor was Draco anywhere to be seen. Blaise elbowed past, knocking him out of the line. Theo stood, ribs stinging, and watched the students hurry past. The Slytherins, followed immediately by the younger Ravenclaws.
"Coward!" Cattie McDougal spat at him as she and her fellow fourth-years were hurried on, her face drawn into that identical look of contempt that broke his heart. Was this what love was, he wondered; the willingness to risk yourself in order to save them? He had always been so self-sufficient, self reliant, and yet she completed him in a way that he couldn't comprehend. He had always told himself he didn't need anyone, didn't want anyone, not really. And yet the thought of his own death terrified him less than the image of her broken body, the thought of never speaking to her, holding her again.
That decided it. He was not going to leave this little girl's sister to die.
Theo arrived out of breath as part of the wall disintegrated. It had taken him far too long to find her and maybe it was already too late. Hooded figures leaped over the rubble and engaged the students, and the corridor dissolved into chaos. He stared around madly, trying to see her. THERE! She was duelling two at once, standing over the crumpled figure of Padma Patil. She sent one flying with a hex, and turned on the other. He ducked and his mask fell off to reveal a face that Theo knew all too well.
"Father, no!" he screamed, but the green light was already flashing across the hall. Theo charged, and caught her side on, knocking her to the ground. His lifeless body followed a second later.