It felt to Theo like it took him an embarrassingly short amount of time to gather together his possessions. The flat he was living in had come with some sparse furniture – the bed, the kitchen table, a bookcase – and he had never bothered to decorate it properly. He hadn't been able to see the point. But he thought that it ought to take a little longer than ten minutes to throw everything he owned into suitcases. Draco and Luna waited for him while he went around his tiny excuse for a bedroom – Luna had suggested that they should help, but Theo had turned her down. He wanted to be on his own. He needed to think.
It all seemed far, far too good to be true. Theo had lusted after Draco and he had lusted after Luna, and if one of them came to tell him that their relationship with the other had ended and they wanted to be with him, he would have been able to believe it. It might have been near enough to a miracle, but it would have been one that he could except, not like this.
The only cases that Theo had ever heard of in which a romantic relationship – any sort of romantic relationship – involved more than two people were harems in which one man had many wives that he used for sex as he pleased. Theo shivered – what a revolting thought. His father had talked more than once about wanting a harem like that, and though Theo thought that it had all been in jest, it had always made his mother cry…
But this wasn't like that at all. There were two men and only one woman and somehow, Theo couldn't quite imagine Luna wanting to keep him and Draco locked up for the exclusive purpose of having sex with her.
So if it wasn't like a harem, which it wasn't, how was he meant to reconcile himself to the idea that he was going to be… to be added on to the relationship of a couple? Surely he would feel useless, feel like an outcast who was only imposing on them. They had been together for so long and were so perfectly suited to each other that he could not imagine coming in and forcing himself into that relationship…
But they had been the ones to suggest it, so they must have known how it would work. It wasn't as though he had done anything to force them into it, so, if they had done it out of their own free will, they must have had good reason.
That was the only way that Theo could explain it to himself. They had to know how it would work because they had made it clear that they thought it would work.
And what would they do? Would they just go about the house all day having threesomes and kissing each other? That would surely be a tiring existence… even if it was one to which Theo was not entirely opposed…
He emptied the last drawer of his dresser into his suitcase and forced it closed. It bulged out rather unattractively in places, but it was good enough. He didn't need it to look good, he just needed it to hold his possessions, and it would have been useless to pack another one and have each one only half full.
Draco and Luna were still sitting at the table when Theo finished packing and heaved his three suitcases over to them. Luna had put her coat on again, though it was hanging off her, leaving her breasts and stomach exposed, and Draco was lying across two chairs with his head in Luna's lap. They looked almost uncannily comfortable with each other. Theo's own parents had certainly never sat like that with each other. His father would have given his mother a slap if she dared reveal anything of her body for any reason besides the express purpose of pleasing him.
"Are you done already?" Luna asked and Theo looked away when he nodded.
"I don't really… have much."
"Do you want to talk to your landlord now, to tell him you're moving out?" Luna asked, and he shook his head.
"I'll tell him later," he said. Telling his landlord would make this all far too serious, far too real, and Theo wasn't yet quite sure that he could make that sort of commitment to this. There was a part of him that still, even now, even after they had assured him over and over again that they meant every word of what they were saying, even after he had packed up all his earthly belongings with the express intention of leaving, even after he had slept with them, for God's sake, thought that he might have somehow managed to misunderstand the whole situation. There was no way that it could be this easy and this perfect...
"Let's go, then," Draco said. He sat up and held out his hand. Theo handed him the lightest of the three suitcases, a slight flush on his cheeks. It was strange to be so businesslike – so much like they had always been – after he had gone to bed with Draco and his girlfriend... it was all so very strange.
"You are ready, aren't you, Theo?" Luna asked him. She looked at him with an expression of intense concentration, as if trying to look into the very depths of his soul, which, Theo thought, Luna was probably not only actually trying to do, but very much capable of doing. She certainly looked like she was doing it. She looked as if she understood every strange thought that was running through his head to absolute perfection.
He hoped that he was wrong in that interpretation of her appearance. He didn't want anyone knowing his thoughts.
"Yes. I'm ready." As ready as I'll ever be.
"Come on, then," she said brightly. She stood up and pulled the coat closed, crossing her arms once again over her chest. Draco looped his arm around her shoulder, then hooked his other arm – the one holding the suitcase – around Theo's elbow, and then the three of them Disapparated.
Malfoy Manor was as beautiful as Theo had ever seen it. He didn't know what he had expected – if, perhaps, he had expected that it would have somehow turned menacing just for his benefit – because he had never seen the manor in anything less than an absolutely perfect state. He smiled a bit at it, as if acknowledging a friend with a small nod.
"Let's get you to our room," Luna said. "You don't mind sharing with us, do you, Theo?"
Why, when there were this many rooms in the manor? Why did he have to share with them? Why couldn't he just be left to his own devices?
Because he was joining in the relationship, of course.
"You don't mind, do you?" Luna repeated. She spoke a little more loudly, acting as if Theo might not have heard her instead of being unable to form an answer, which was what the situation was, of course. "We have a very nice room. A very large bed. Lots of space…"
"I don't mind," Theo told her. That couldn't have possibly been any further from the truth – he minded very much, for it all felt so strange and so unlike anything that he had ever heard of before – but he didn't mind for any of the reasons that Luna might have assumed. He wasn't concerned because he didn't want to share the relationship with them, he wasn't concerned because he thought that the room wouldn't be pretty or wouldn't be big enough…
He was just concerned because had never, ever, in his whole past, been anywhere near so intimate with anyone as they were suggesting he should be with them.
He had always retired to the corners, always turned away from human interaction, shunning it as a waste of his time and energy, but now he was being asked to commit to a real relationship – something far removed from what he could only crassly describe as the "fuck and run" dynamics of his only other romantic relationship, that which he had had with Pansy during their school years – with not just one but two people. How could he possibly have been expected to not be distressed by it. It was strange in every way he could think of.
"Good," Luna said brightly. She kicked off her boots and held out her hands for the suitcases. "I'll help you take these upstairs. Draco, why don't you go on and wait in the kitchen for us?"
Theo glanced at Draco, who seemed not at all concerned about his mostly–naked girlfriend going up to the bedroom with another man. If it had been Theo in Draco's position – the first boyfriend, the one who had practically staked a claim on Luna, he wouldn't have let her go anywhere with anyone while she was only wearing a coat that didn't even begin to hide anything.
But Draco just gave them a quick nod and turned away, heading downstairs as casually as if…
As if Luna had been dressed and she was taking him to the parlour to look for a book.
How could Draco help but be jealous? Theo was sure that if he had been in Draco's place, he wouldn't have wanted his girlfriend to walk another boy up to their bedroom… especially not when she was in a state of undress.
"You seem rather uncomfortable, Theo," she observed. "Are you all right? I certainly hope you are…"
"I'm fine," he lied quickly, and he didn't think that a more obvious lie had ever been told. It was practically embarrassing. He should have known better than to try to lie to Luna Lovegood anyhow – she could tell when people were lying. She was good at reading people, or, at any rate, she was significantly better than Theo himself was.
"No, you're uncomfortable." Luna heaved a sigh. "I had rather hoped that the sex would calm you down. It usually does, you know – most people feel a lot better after they have it. I'm sorry that it didn't work for you."
"I..." What was he meant to say to that? Having sex with her and Draco had been unbelievable at the time, mind–blowingly good, but every passing moment since they had gotten out of bed made the experience feel more and more uncomfortable in retrospect. It was like he had just had a fantasy fulfilled, that was it – a fantasy that he had never meant for anyone to know about, a fantasy that he was ashamed of, had somehow been found out and been fulfilled with, surely, the best of intentions. And that was all well and good – that was fantastic, in fact – but once the fulfilment of the fantasy was over, it left a hollow sort of twisting in Theo's stomach. He wondered how many other fantasies were obvious enough to the rest of the world that they were able to be fulfilled by people who, while they were his friends, he didn't even see very often. How was he meant to be comfortable with that.
"The sex was… very good," he said at last. He hoped that that would neither offend nor confuse Luna, though he had never known her to be offended by something that wasn't a direct jab against her opinions, nor had he ever known her to be confused, really. If she was confused by anything in the world, she had always done a rather spectacularly good job of hiding any confusion. But then, Luna could hide a lot of things…
Theo had thought that he was the one who was skilled at hiding his feelings, but he knew that Luna could put him to shame when the situation involved putting a brave face forward in the worst of circumstances. He had seen her in Malfoy Manor during the second war – not as often as Draco had seen her, and, he supposed, that was why Draco was so much closer to her than he was, but he had seen her often enough to be able to tell that she had a talent for pretending that everything was fine despite the worst of situations. Maybe she really was prone to thinking that everything was completely fine…
"If the sex was good, then why are you uncomfortable?" Luna asked. She pushed open the door of one of the bedrooms that lined the corridor and indicated that Theo should come in. "Surely, unless it was very bad and you don't want to offend us by telling us so, there isn't any reason to be uncomfortable."
"It's… complicated," Theo muttered. "I don't think I can explain it."
"I'm sure that you could explain it very well," Luna said thoughtfully. "But I suppose that you really don't want to, do you?"
Damn right, I don't.
"That's... I suppose that's true,"
"All right," Luna said. She set down his suitcase. "I wouldn't want you to think that you have to tell us anything – and Draco wouldn't want you to think so either," she added. "But I do rather hope that someday you decide that you want to. It's nicer to tell your secrets to people who love you than to keep them locked up inside, don't you think?"
And again, she was going off with that matter of her and Draco loving him. Love was so very far from the right word, Theo thought, that it was almost laughable...
"Mmm," he said quietly, and Luna seemed satisfied by that response. Or, at least, she didn't ask anything more.
"I'm going to go down to the kitchen with Draco," she said after a moment. She stood on her tiptoes and kissed Theo quickly before turning to the door.
"Is Draco going to mind you kissing me?" he asked, and Luna turned back to him and shook her head.
"Of course he won't. Why would he?"
"Because… he's your boyfriend."
"You're my boyfriend too," Luna said simply. "I thought we made that clear when we had sex with you and you moved in with us. It isn't as if Draco has more right to me than you do."
Theo flushed. "But… surely– surely he's been your boyfriend longer and he deserves–"
"He doesn't deserve anything just because he's been here longer. I can have sex witho whoever I want, and I can kiss whoever I wan," Luna told him. She was acting so infuriatingly like this was all simple. "I love you both the same, you know, Theo. Just like he loves you and me just the same – I suppose he doesn't like to say it, but he does. Really, Theo. We can love more than one person at once, you know."
All this going on about the details of love – can't you see that I don't understand you? Can't you see that I don't understand it at all?
But he nodded and Luna smiled then skipped off, leaving him alone to his thoughts.
He sank down on his bed and buried his face in his hands. It was all so strange, all so very different from anything that he had experienced or even imagined before in his life. He had never thought that he might end up in– in a situation like this. He had barely imagined one person who might love him, never mind two. And Draco, who he had spent his whole life pining after without even a shadow of hope that his feelings might be requited – and Luna, who he had been so sure was too far outside his world for him to even be able to understand, much less for him to be able to capture her affections…
He wondered how Draco and Luna had decided that they wanted him. He wondered how they had come to the conclusion that inviting him to live in their home – to essentially become equal with both of them instead of just being a friend. How had that conversation happened?
He pictured how Luna might have suggested it – just sitting down to tea one day and saying you know, Draco, I think I'd like to have sex with you and Theo both. Of course it would have been Luna who suggested it. Draco wouldn't have even dreamed of it if his precious girlfriend didn't think it up first. A tiny bubble of resentment pooled in Theo's stomach.
How revolting – how stupid – of him to have thought for a second that he might really have wanted him.
And of course Luna would have made it all about loving two people the same way. Of course she would turn the fact that she wanted a threesome into some deep revelation about the human condition, because that was what Luna Lovegood did. She, simply by virtue of being herself, made the stupidest things seem profound and everyone fell for it, damnit. Theo was falling for it. He had let himself get roped into this…
He made himself sick.
He was so – so fucking stupid. His father had made it so clear, so many times that no one was ever going to love him and it was just damned pretentious of him to think otherwise. Thinking that one person might love him could be forgiven, but thinking that two people might both love him? He could practically hear his father snorting, hear him sneering, really, Theodore? You really believe that? I can hardly believe a boy as naïve as you could be my son!
And then it would have all turned on his mother and his father would issue another accusation of infidelity – because of course a naïve boy couldn't be the son of a practical man; at least, that was his father's logic – and Theo would know that it was his fault because he was so stupid…
He clutched his head. A pounding headache was starting and he groaned, gritting his teeth to try to stop it from becoming any more forceful. He felt sick to his stomach and briefly wondered where the lavatory was.
But no. He wasn't sick enough to throw up. That was a physical reaction to a physical problem and he didn't have a physical problem. Not anymore. Not now that his father was dead and buried and couldn't ever hurt him again. All he had left were thoughts, and thoughts couldn't make him throw up.
He sank down onto the bed and covered his eyes with his hands. His stomach twisted unpleasantly but he breathed deeply and tried his best to keep himself from letting the sickness take over.
I will not let him ruin me. I will not let my father ruin me.
He repeated it over and over in his mind, trying to steel himself against the thoughts that spoke with his father's voice. He tried to brush them away like Draco would. Like Luna would.
If this was all a trick and it was pretentious for Theo to think that two people – two people who he freely admitted to his mind that he loved – loved him back? Then what? What would happen to him because of it now that his father was gone? He would be humiliated, but he had been humiliated before and he knew how to hide it. That was his talent, his one real talent – pretending that he didn't care what other people said or thought of him. Pretending he didn't care what people did to him. He knew that he would be able to brush it off if it was a trick, and even if he couldn't really stop it from hurting, he could at least make it clear to Draco and Luna that he didn't care.
But he couldn't believe that Luna would be so spiteful. Draco, maybe – he could easily imagine Draco pulling this as a cruel prank upon someone that he didn't like. Harry Potter for example – pretending to fancy him and then scorning him for believing him would be something that Draco would certainly do to Harry Potter. Theo might have been his friend, but that didn't mean that he was above Draco's pranks. But Luna... Luna would never do such a thing. Luna was not malicious. Luna would only say things like she had said to Theo – only do things like she had done to Theo – if she really meant it. She wasn't a liar. She was an earnest girl, really, she was.
He had already accepted, in any case. He was already living with them. What was the point of going on any further in his mind about what their intentions might have been? he was only going to drive himself mad by doing it. It was a waste of his time...
He sat up and glanced in the highly decorated mirror that was sitting on top of the dressing table. The table itself was strewn with dry flowers – whether they were supposed to be dry or whether Luna had simply forgotten about them and they had died, he wasn't sure, but the effect was rather pretty and Victorian in either case.
It reminded him of his mother.
She had always kept dried flowers. She kept them in vases in her bedroom and pressed between the pages of her favourite books, the ones that his father would never read. She had once told Theo – who had been too young to understand what it meant that she was telling him that – that she thought the dry flowers were very like herself.
"They're dead, you see, Theo?" she said, twirling one brittle stem between her fingers. "They're dead and old and dried up, but they're still pretty. Aren't they pretty, dear, aren't they beautiful?"
He had glanced at her and nodded and then gone back to whatever stupid, useless thing he had been doing – reading some stupid children's book, maybe, or playing with one of the toys that his father spoiled him with when he wasn't shouting at him – and he had only noticed out of the corner of his eye that his mother wasn't moving, was just sitting in her armchair and staring at the dried flower in her hand, twirling it slowly between her fingers, around and around and around and around, spinning it and letting it spin and watching it with an intensity that frightened Theo now…
How had he not been able to see? How had he not been able to see, even as young as he was, what she meant when she said that the flowers were pretty and dead and that they were like her?
He stood up quickly and turned away from the dry flowers on the dressing table. They weren't like his mother's. Hers had been little understated things, violets and daisies and small, blood–red roses, but those flowers that Luna had were big and colourful and screamed Luna Lovegood, not Katherine Nott. They weren't tragic corpses like his mother's dead flowers had been – they were more like museum pieces. Old but still full of life.
He tried to think that.
But he couldn't stand to look at them, really. They sickened him. They made him want to die.
Want to die like his mother...
He rushed from the room and slammed the door behind him.
He would go downstairs and put on his brave face for Luna and Draco. He wouldn't let his darkness tint them – not when they had offered him so much by letting him live with them and not when they were so clearly so happy...
And they looked happy when he went down to the kitchen. Luna had taken off her coat and gotten dressed properly in a long blue dress that floated and fluttered with her every movement. Draco seemed entranced by her as she spoke quietly but animatedly to him. Theo hovered in the doorway, watching them.
They looked far too happy together.
It was uncanny.
He had seen them looking happy together before, of course. It was all they ever looked – either they both looked happy or Luna looked happy and Draco looked perplexed or they looked somewhere in between there, but this was different somehow, not quite the same as that was. This was more intimate and Theo could not help, despite all of Luna's protestations that they loved him just the same as they loved each other, feeling like he was intruding into domestic bliss where he was not wanted.
He was about to turn back, perhaps to wander the manor until one of them came to find him, but before he could go, Draco turned and saw him.
"Ah, Theo," he said, nodding to him. "Come on, sit down – Luna's just explaining about..." he turned to Luna and raised an eyebrow questioningly.
"The Nargle infestation in the attic," Luna explained. She turned to Theo and Draco rolled his eyes just a little.
"If there are Nargles in the attic, they aren't exactly doing us any harm, are they?" he asked, and Luna stopped and frowned a little. She lowered her hands.
"I suppose not. That's why we shouldn't hurt them. But they don't belong in a place like this, really, Draco. You ought to know that. The might start to eat the wood."
"Why don't you go up and look for some?" Draco asked her. "Catch a few so you can show Theo, you know…"
"I will." Luna sounded a little bit huffy – perhaps slightly put out that Draco wasn't coming with her.
"That's all right," Theo said quickly. "I'll just–"
"No, no," Draco interrupted. "I wanted a word with you, Theo, actually."
"Oh..." Luna nodded, comprehension dawning on her face, and she stood up. "I'll leave you two to it, then. And Theo, when I come back down with the Nargles, you'd better be careful – they bite."
"Are Nargles real?" Theo asked when Luna had gone. He asked it in a hushed voice and felt a little bit odd for asking it because Luna had always seemed so passionate in her defence that they did exist and she had always been so angry at people who denied it.
Draco shrugged. "I've really no idea. I don't know what she's been doing, but she keeps saying that there are all sorts of magical creatures all over the house and then I tell her to catch some and she comes back with a box full. I don't know whether they're actually… Nargles," His mouth twisted a little as he said that. "Or whether they're something else entirely, but whatever they are, I'd rather have them out of the house. We ought to have gotten a house–elf a long time ago," he added, "but Luna would keep wanting to dress it up. And then, of course, we'd have to get a new one..."
"Mmm." For some reason, the image of Luna dressing up a mutinous–looking house–elf in an elaborate and doll–like costume flashed into Theo's mind and he couldn't help but grin. "Yeah. She probably would want to."
Draco nodded and there was a silence before Theo said, "What did you want to talk to me about?"
"About... this, actually." Draco's shoulder lifted slightly in a small shrug. It was painfully obvious that he was trying as hard as he could not to let his feelings – whatever they were – show. Theo felt dreadfully uncomfortable. He wished that he had a drink so that he could take a sip and then pretend to be enthralled by the contents of the cup.
"Look," Draco said, "I know you've probably already gone over a dozen different reasons that things might be... like this. You know? Why we might want you to move in with us…"
"I have thought about it," Theo said. There was no point in denying that.
"And I'm sure that whatever you've thought up is a lot stranger than the truth."
"Look," Draco said, leaning forward. "You probably think this was Luna's idea and… well, obviously you'd be right. But it's not just… it's not as if she forced me into it or any such thing."
"I don't know that I could imagine her forcing you into anything," Theo said, trying to make a joke, but Draco looked deadly serious and shook his head.
"You've got no idea," he said. "She's bloody dangerous when she wants to be. If she wanted to convince me of something – really wanted to – she'd be able to do it."
Theo shivered a little. That sounded ominous.
"But she didn't force me into this," Draco continued. "Like… really, Theo, I would have thought that it would have been obvious that sooner or later, things would work out this way…"
"And why would I think that?"
"Why?" Draco snorted a little. "In case you hadn't noticed, Luna's a bit obsessed with you. She thinks you're just incredible. And I- well, good God, Theo, it's not like we're not friends."
"Friends doesn't usually mean sharing a girlfriend."
"It doesn't usually." Draco shrugged. "Yeah, that's true. But in this case, it did. So, actually, Theo, I'd appreciate it if you didn't question it too much, because God knows, this is going to be weird enough without you expecting us to shout 'April fools' at any moment." He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "You think you can do that? Do you think you can actually believe us when we say that this isn't a trick?"
There was silence.
"Maybe," Theo said at last. "I'll… have to see how things go."
"Right," Draco mumbled. "Yeah. All right."
Another silence, tenser still than the last, then Draco spoke up.
"I really have fancied you for a while, you know, Theo. I certainly wasn't complaining about this when Luna brought it up. I thought… I thought it was a damn good idea, actually."
Theo swallowed, then looked at him and just barely managed to force the tiniest of smiles.
"Thanks," he said. He tried to sound casual, but his voice choked with emotion.
"And… you know… I think this can work out." Draco looked at him with a cautiously hopeful eye. "You know… if we try."
"Yeah." Theo nodded, swallowed, then said, "I… I reckon it's worth trying."