Theo hadn't seen her in 86 days.
He looked for her on the platform, then again at the welcoming feast, out of habit. He couldn't stop himself from scanning the rows of students, looking for her familiar face. For the first time in his life, he was thankful that she wasn't there. Hogwarts wasn't safe anymore, for anyone.
There would be no way in hell they could continue their relationship now, even in secret. If she would even want him anymore. Theo rubbed his left forearm out of habit, as if he could will the Dark Mark away. He had to believe that Hermione would still see the person he really was, and not what everyone else made him out to be. He never wanted it, yet he'd asked for it. Theo was terrified that one day he would wake up and his best friend would be dead and his fiancé would be tortured and he couldn't think of any other way to help them both. Theo gladly took the Mark and pledged his loyalty to a man so vile he could barely look at him, all to keep Draco as safe as possible and to try and get as much information as he could when it came to Potter.
When he was younger he never bought into the belief that Harry Potter was the Chosen One, the Savior of all, the boy that was the only one who could defeat the Dark Lord. During fourth year he made fun of him, just like everyone else. He believed all the stories that were told by the Slytherin families of his privileged up bringing and of Dumbledore's favoritism. Fifth year came and that's when Theo started to notice Hermione. Really notice her, which made him really notice Potter. He'd watched them both and started to wonder if not everything he believed was true. By sixth year Theo didn't believe a single word of it. Sheer coincidence landed him as Hermione's partner in ancient runes, and from then on Theo was infatuated with Hermione Granger.
He hadn't told a single soul about their relationship. He wanted to on serveral occasions, but knew it would be dangerous. Draco was his best friend, but he had too much other shit to worry about. Blaise was only ever out for himself, and even though he'd trust Pansy with his life, he couldn't trust her with Hermione's. He knew exactly who Hermione would trust, and as he made his way over to the table where Ginny Weasley sat in the library, Theo thought this was probably the least thought out thing he's ever done.
She didn't even bother to look up. "Can I help you?"
Theo closed his eyes and look a long slow breath. "Yes."
"And what is it that you need? I'm afraid I'm fresh out of cowering first years."
"Your attention would be nice." He nearly snapped.
The woman seemed unfazed by his near outburst, he gave her credit for that. "You're the one painting the walls." He said bluntly. "Dumbledore's army. Still recruiting."
"Gonna turn me in?" She dared.
"No." He said flatly. He glanced around, knowing no one was watching him, but checked anyway. "I want to help."
She scoffed at him. "You? You want to help... and I'm just supposed to believe that, huh?"
"No, that's not-"
"Who's idea was this?" The anger in her voice barely in check. "You weasel in, get close, then nail us all? Problem solved right?!"
Theo knew this would be difficult. He knew she wouldn't trust him right away, he just didn't expect so much resistance. Stupid on his part, they'd only been back at Hogwarts for a month and she'd already had three detentions, all because of Slytherin's.
"There is no plan, no one is putting me up to this, no one even knows I'm here. She said I could trust you, and I believed her." Theo turned to walk away then, knowing nothing more would come of this argument tonight.
"Who said you could trust me?" She called out after him.
Theo stopped, but didn't turn around. "Hermione."
Three weeks later it was Ginny's turn to corner him in the library.
"Spill it." She said as she flopped into the seat across from him.
"I know it was you. You distracted Snape long enough for me to escape his supply closet. I would have been caught had you not shown up."
"Maybe try not stealing his ingredients in the middle of the blasted day then?" Theo suggested sarcastically.
"We needed more stock to brew pain potions. They're keeping track of Pomfrey's supplies now. They know she's helping us. What I don't get is... why you're helping us, too."
"I told you. She said I could trust you." He said quietly. He felt very vulnerable right now. If Hermione hadn't even said anything about their relationship there was nothing he could say or do to make Ginny believe him now.
She just stared at him, as if debating what she wanted to say. "I didn't expect it to be you. Before she left, she told me that someone might need my help, that I should trust him as I would her, and I would know who he was when he wanted me to."
Theo couldn't help it, he smiled. A genuine, warm smile. "I miss her." He rasped out. "Have you heard anything? Are they okay?" He asked quickly.
"I haven't heard anything at all." She answered honestly. "Whatever the plan was, they kept it to themselves."
Theo nodded. "She always knew more than what she told me. I'm positive she had a plan in that head of hers when she said she didn't know what was going to happen."
They sat in silence for a full minute, before Ginny broke it. "Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. Tonight after dinner."
"I'll be there."
Without another word Ginny stood and left the library. Theo felt hope for the first time in a long while.
Theo barely ate anything at dinner, which wasn't unusual these days, no one really seemed to be enjoying their time here. He hoped that the elves didn't think their food was now terrible, given that the whole school no longer had appetites. He watched as Ginny and Longbottom got up without a word. Longbottom glanced his way as he walked, making Theo feel incredibly nervous. He purposely waited another five minutes before he stood and left the great hall as well.
He stood nervously just outside the bathroom. He knew he'd receive the same kind of cold treatment from Longbottom as he did from Ginny at first. Rightfully so he supposed, he didn't expect either of them to trust him right away.
"Are you sure about this?"
He heard Longbottom question as Theo opened the door. They both looked right at him.
"Nott." Longbottom greeted. "Ginny told me that you wanted to... help."
"That's right." Theo closed the door and walked in further, until he was standing right in front of them. "Hermione told me I should trust Ginny, so here I am."
"Hermione?" Longbottom raised his eyebrows as he spoke. "Granger?"
"Do you know another one?" Theo said without thinking. He took a deep breath to steady himself. "Look, I wouldn't trust me either, but I'm just asking for a chance. I want this damn war over, too."
"With You-Know-Who winning?"
"Actually Longbottom." Theo said slowly. "I would very much like to prevent that. That bastard has ruined everything, and it's only going to get worse."
Longbottom, who was sporting a pretty decent black eye, glared at him. "What do you know about anything? What's he ruined for you? Your father's a death eater, don't think I didn't recognize him two years ago. Hell you're probably one, too, along with the rest of your Slytherin friends! So tell me, Theodore Nott, what has he ruined for you? Did he steal your family away from you? Do your parents recognize you? Do they know your name? Do your friends get chained to walls at night?"
"Well my mother is dead, so I doubt she remembers me." Theo snapped. "My father is a Death Eater, one of the Dark Lord's first followers as a matter of fact. Such a proud thing to parade about, don't you think?" Theo knew he should shut up, but he couldn't keep it in anymore. "Let's see what else? Oh, my best friend is terrified that someone is going to kill him in his sleep. You see, it's quite hard to get a good nights rest when both sides of a war are after you. And to top it off, the girl I love is off God knows where doing God knows what while I'm here trying to convince her friends that I just want all of this to end!" He screamed his last sentence, then cursed himself for his lack of control.
"That ring is from you?" Ginny asked him directly. "She never took it off. Everyone kept asking her who it was from and what it meant. She would never say, but the night before they left, she told me it was from the love of her life."
Theo's throat got tight, he missed Hermione more than anything. He pulled out a small slip of paper from his pocket and handed it to her. He watched as Ginny unfolded it and read it aloud. He'd carried that single sheet of paper with him everywhere, memorized the words, the handwriting, the way it felt.
"Find G. Trust her. Don't give up. You promised."
"Promised what?" Longbottom asked.
Theo didn't look at him, just kept his eyes on the floor. "To marry her. To stay alive." When he chanced a glance up at them, they were both staring right at him. "I just want this to end. She said I could trust you."
"When did she send you this?" Ginny asked as she handed the note back to him.
"A week into the summer break. I was shocked she even risked communication, really. No idea where she found an owl to deliver it, luckily I was the only one home at the time. I carry it with me everywhere. It might be..." he took a slow deep breath. "It's all I have left."
Longbottom walked up to him slowly, and despite them being the same height Theo flinched. He held his hand out, waiting for Theo to take it. When they shook hands Theo felt his shoulders relax.
"Do you know where the room of requirement is?"
"Good. Tomorrow night there's a meeting. Do you have any classes with Luna? She can tell you the specifics."
"Um, Yea. We have charms together."
"She can help you."
"It's Neville." He said kindly. "You have one shot. Don't make me regret this."
Theo was impressed by how intimidating he could be. "I won't."
Theo stood in a dark alcove on the seventh floor, just like Luna told him to. He was dreading this meeting, knowing that he'd probably get kicked out after he'd explained himself for the seventeenth time. He heard Luna's skips down the hall, and couldn't help but smile. He had no idea how she did it. She was the only one who just accepted that he was here to help without question or judgement.
"Good evening, Luna."
"Are you ready?" She asked him, taking his hand.
Smiling, she walked them over to the blank space of wall and told him to close his eyes and imagine the room used for Dumbledore's Army. He concentrated as hard as he could, hoping that he wouldn't screw anything up. A very large door appeared, and Luna smiled once more and dragged him inside.
"Hello everyone. We're here." Luna said brightly as she tugged Theo's hand over to a free spot in the group.
Theo looked around at the scowls and sneers that were plastered on people's faces. He tried to ignore them and look around the impressive room, looking at everything but the other people here.
"Alright everyone, listen up." Neville's authoritative voice carried through the room. "This is Theo Nott. I'm sure you all still have questions, but we've already talked about it and I consider that conversation over. He is here to help, and we can't have fighting amongst ourselves if we're going to beat this."
"You wanna help, do ye?"
"Seamus." Neville warned.
"Dean didn't come back this year." Seamus Finnigan stated as he stepped forward, right in front of Theo. "Said it would be too dangerous."
He let his eyes slide down to Theo's arm, the same one that was still gripping Luna's hand.
"Let me see it."
The room got incredibly quiet, all eyes were on them, and Theo knew he wasn't getting out of this. He slowly released Luna's hand and began to roll up his sleeve. He bared his Mark to everyone, holding it up high and locking eyes with anyone that was brave enough to do so.
"I don't expect you to understand." He said to the room as he put his arm down and fixed his sleeve. "I took it to protect my best friend. I took it to keep an eye out for the girl that I love. I don't need to explain myself to any of you. I'm here to help because I'm fighting for and against the same things you are. Like it or not, we're on the same side."
Theo hadn't seen her in 147 days.
In the two months that followed that very awkward first meeting, Theo had more or less made himself a target. He now sported the same bruises that Neville and Seamus seemed to have all the time. He sat alone at the Slytherin table, when he even bothered to take meals there. He played it off to Snape and the Carrow's that he was simply trying to infiltrate their ranks and learn their secrets. He refused to give anymore information than that, saying they needed to trust him before he could figure out where they were hiding Potter. He wanted to stay at Hogwarts for the Christmas Holidays, but he knew he had to return home. He had to face the Dark Lord and explain what he was doing.
Two weeks before they were supposed to leave, Ginny had given Theo a wireless radio. She had explained to him about Potterwatch, and the fact that she trusted him enough with this meant a great deal to him. He told her that he would be leaving it here at Hogwarts, so it couldn't be found and compromised. He hid it in the only place he thought it would remain safe, Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. Myrtle was even kind enough to promise that she wouldn't get it wet when she dived into the u bend.
During the last DA meeting, a week prior to the Christmas break, another fun surprise occurred. Luna had brought a guest, her boyfriend, in fact.
"Draco!" Theo squeaked as he threw his arms around his friend.
"Theo? This is what you've been doing?!" Draco asked as he hugged him fiercely.
That statement alone seemed to solidify Theo into the group. The fact that he hadn't even told his best friend, made them see how serious he was about this.
"Draco has a Mark, too." Luna said to the gaping crowd. "We already knew this. He is mine, and I am his. I trust him completely."
"Then we will, too." Neville said at once.
"It's not bad once you get used to it." Theo whispered to Draco.
"Why are you here?" Seamus asked Draco. Not unkindly, just very bluntly.
Draco swallowed harshly as he looked at everyone. "I don't want to be bad... anymore. Luna, she... she helped me. I don't want this anymore." He pointed to his arm, where everyone knew he Dark Mark would be.
"What's your plan for the break?" Theo asked him.
"I'm going home. I have to. For appearances and all. I'm a pretty shitty Death Eater, so it won't be pleasant."
That earned a few chuckles from some of the crowd.
"I'll be there as often as I can." Theo said to him, then turned to face the others. "No one knows where Potter is or what he's doing, on either side. We'll try to find out what we can. I don't know if Snape buys it, but I've played the role of spy as best I can. I hope we can bring back something useful."
"Lo- Neville? How's Ginny?" Draco asked.
"She's good, thanks to you. She's resting." Neville pointed to the back of the room, where a thin mattress was laid out in front of a small fireplace. Ginny was sleeping on top of it with a thin blanket covering her.
"What did she do?" Draco asked him.
Neville looked confused. "You don't know?"
Draco just shook his head. "I just heard she was chained up for two days. Luna was worried."
"She broke into Snape's office and tried to steal the sword of Gryffindor. Apparently it's supposed to belong to Harry."
"What would he need it for?"
"No idea. We don't really know much. We haven't heard anything since summer." Neville walked up to him and shook his hand. "Thank you for getting her out of there."
"Got my ass kicked for it, too." Draco tried to smirk, but his heart wasn't in it.
Theo and Draco spent the night in the room of requirement that night, this being a first for the both of them. Draco covered Luna gently with a blanket as she slept, while he sat down next to her, petting her hair. Theo wondered if he was staying up just to watch her, or from fear of everyone else in the room.
"Hey." Theo said quietly as he sat down next to his friend.
"So... Luna, huh?" Theo grinned.
"Yea. It just... happened. I'd do anything for her."
Theo nodded in understanding. "Hey, Draco. I know I haven't been exactly honest-"
"Clearly." He said, a touch annoyed.
Theo sighed. "I just didn't know how to tell you what I've been doing. But considering you're dating Luna now... I'm engaged to Hermione."
Draco snorted, but when Theo just raised his eyebrows Draco froze in place.
"Holy shit, you're serious? Granger? Since when?!"
"The end of last year. We dated all of sixth year."
"That's why I'm here. I have to do what I can."
"They'll kill you, Theo. They'll torture you then murder you without a second thought."
"And you?" Theo shot right back. "The same fate will happen to you if you're not careful. Everything's out in the open now. From now on, we help each other, okay? No more secrets. Not with us."
Theo hadn't seen her in 172 days.
The train ride home was almost unbearable. He and Draco couldn't seem to sit still, not knowing what would be awaiting them when they arrived. Theo promised to visit Malfoy Manor as often as he could, with Draco trying several times to change his mind. Theo knew the Dark Lord lived there, but he needed information. He had to find out something, he had to try and keep Draco safe.
The two weeks home was rather uneventful. Theo had learned next to nothing, other than Ron Weasley had been spotted by some snatchers without Potter and Hermione. This made Theo incredibly nervous. Why would they have split up? What happened to the other two? Surely if something terrible had happened they would have learned about it. Then the day after Christmas the snake came with news that "Potter and the mudblood girl" had nearly been caught, and just barely escaped her clutches when they visited Godric's Hallow. Theo thought that it was beyond creepy that the man could speak to snakes. It sent chills down his spine every time he heard the hisses of communication. Despite the near miss, Theo slept peacefully that night. Hermione was safe and still fighting, and Potter just couldn't seem to die. The idiot was either just that good or just that lucky, Theo still hadn't made up his mind.
A few days before he was scheduled to leave for Hogwarts, a meeting was called. Theo was dreading it, knowing that it just couldn't be that easy. Theo took his place next to his father, and across from Draco. He'd only spent three nights at Malfoy Manor, Draco wouldn't allow anymore. Voldemort, Theo had gotten much better at thinking of him by his name, looked pleased with himself, and this worried Theo. He was never happy unless someone was either hurting or dead. By the end of the meeting, Theo had to consciously stop himself from vomiting. Death Eaters had kidnapped Luna, to punish her father for the things he'd been writing in The Quibbler.
Theo stayed in the cellar of Malfoy Manor for the next three days, while Draco took the nights. Luna begged them to leave, that they couldn't risk getting caught down here, and Theo had to damn near Imperio Draco to get him to leave the day they were supposed to head back to Hogwarts. Only when they were safely on the Platform did Draco plead with his mother to keep Luna safe.
Theo hadn't seen her in 296 days.
He didn't even bother to return home for the Easter holidays. Nothing was expected of him and he'd told his father that most of the Gryffindor's planned on staying at Hogwarts, which was a lie, but by this point he didn't care. He hoped that Draco didn't get himself killed, knowing that every spare second he had would be spent in the cellar with Luna.
He spent most of his time writing letters to Hermione. He had a whole stack of them, hidden away at the bottom of his trunk, praying that one day he would get to give them to her. Mostly they were boring and detailed his days. He told her how he had humiliated himself when he first became a member of the DA, how he felt like the friendships he had now meant more to him than anything he had in Slytherin, how Draco of all people was now a member and was currently dating Luna. He also told her that if she knew that and didn't tell him they weren't speaking for a very long time.
He recalled one letter quite clearly, where he described the fear he'd felt the first night he'd spent chained to a wall as detention for going too easy on his curses in Defense Against The Dark Arts. He thought about burning it, embarrassed at what he'd written on a silly sheet of paper, but decided to give it to her anyway. He would be telling her the story regardless. He should probably count them, he had to have close to one hundred by now.
His pocket began to get warm and he pulled out the charmed coin for the DA. Someone was calling a meeting already, making him wonder if something had been found out, if they were any closer to winning this war. He tried not to think negatively, he knew Hermione wouldn't want that. She would tell him to just think of a different solution, to try something else, look at things from a different perspective.
Sometimes, when he was lying awake at night, he couldn't help but let his mind think terrible things. That it's been so long since anyone had heard from the trio, that maybe he was fighting a loosing war. He didn't want to lose faith in her; she was the smartest, most talented witch he'd ever met, it was just so hard to keep going without her.
The second everyone arrived back at Hogwarts they headed to the room of requirement. They'd taken to basically living in there, since it was the only place in the castle that no one could find them. Theo was certain that a few of the actual teachers such as Flintwick and Mcgonagall knew exactly where they were, but no one gave it away. Once everyone was gathered, Draco stood up and removed the glamor charm he'd apparently been wearing.
"Draco! What the hell happened to you?!" Theo burst out as he ran forward. Draco winced in pain the moment he touched him, making Theo cringe. "Who did this?"
"It doesn't matter who, what matters is why."
"Here." Seamus shoved a vial in his hand. "Drink it."
Draco uncorked the vial and swallowed it contents without a second thought.
"What if I gave you poison?" He asked with a smirk.
"What if I was hoping you did?" Draco grinned back. "Thanks."
Seamus just nodded and sat back down next to Lavender.
"I have news." Draco grunted. "Harry, Hermione and Ron were caught by some snatchers over the holiday, and brought to the Manor as prisoners. I was brought down to confirm their identity."
"Damn it!" Theo screamed. "She was right there! I should have went with you-"
"Theo, no." Draco said firmly. "No." He looked back at everyone, who seemed to be hanging on his every word. "I was as vague as possible, saying I couldn't be sure if I was looking at Potter or not. No doubt Hermione used some sort of spell to screw up his face. His eyes were so swollen he could barely see. Some of the snatchers went through their stuff and found the sword of Gryffindor."
Ginny gasped. "What?! How did they get it?!"
"I have no idea. Apparently it's a fake, a goblin was captured as well and he was called up to examine it. Also..." Draco looked at Seamus. "Dean was captured. I don't know if they were all together, or just brought in at the same time."
"How was he? Did he look okay? He's still alive right?" Seamus's panicked voice echoed everyone else's thoughts.
"He looked alright, yea. They all looked alright."
Theo, Ginny and Lavender breathed sighed of relief.
"Bellatrix wanted to question Hermione on where they got the sword... the spell that she used to mask Harry's identity wore off and... and they were thrown downstairs while she..." Draco paused and closed his eyes. "I can still hear the screaming."
"Draco..." Theo said softly. "Tell me what happened. I need to know what happened."
"Cruciatus. Only Hermione. Weasley was screaming for it to be him instead, but she only wanted her. I don't know how she made it through. You know how Bellatrix can be."
Theo nodded. Of course he did.
"Dobby came and they were able to escape, all of them. Even Dean and Luna."
"Oh thank God!" A chorus of voices cheered.
"Harry has my wand." Draco told Theo. He didn't want others to worry or suspect that Harry might not be out there everything he can. "I don't know what happened to his but it wasn't on him when they arrived. Mother sent me back with hers."
"You were punished, weren't you." Theo whispered to him.
Draco nodded once. "I just want this to be over."
Theo hugged his friend. "Me too."
Theo hadn't seen her in 306 days.
"Have you thought at all about what you're going to do after this year is over?" Theo asked Draco as they laid about in the room of requirement. "It's May already. Term will be over soon, hell why are we even still here?" Theo barked.
"I can't leave Luna. If it's still like this next year she's not coming back. We're not learning anything anyway."
Luna smiled as she rested her head in Draco's lap. Theo loved the both of them, he really did, but he was damned jealous of the two of them. Luna had only just come back to Hogwarts two weeks ago, after spending some time at Shell Cottage, the residence of one of the older Weasley brothers. If it were Theo and Hermione he had no doubt that he'd be all over her, while Draco wondered if his girlfriend was still alive.
"I need to get out of here." Theo said restlessly. "I can't just sit here and wait for something to happen. I should be out there, trying to find her, trying to help them! What am I accomplishing here?"
"Would you have flown out of Gringott's on that dragon yesterday?" Draco tried to joke.
"Sometimes I wonder if they have any blasted plans at all! Let's sneak into the Ministry and cause all kinds of chaos! Lets almost get eaten by a snake, then right after that get kidnapped! Then we can fly out of Gringott's on a blasted dragon that's God only knows how old! Ugh, that woman drives me mad!" He was so close to crying. So close. "At least I know that she's still alive." Theo finished softly.
"Theodore, you shouldn't think like that." Luna said in a dreamy voice.
"I can't help it! I haven't seen her in nearly a year! I just m- I miss her. So much."
"It's going to end, Theo." Draco assured him. "She's coming back and Harry's going to win and it's all going to end."
Just then the portrait hole swung open and Neville stepped out smiling. Theo thought that was odd. People didn't smile anymore. He didn't even know Neville had gone anywhere. "Hey, listen up you lot. I've got a surprise."