The day Theodore Nott's life begins to fall apart is an unfairly sunny summer day he may have otherwise enjoyed.
He knows he's going to have a rotten day solely by the look on Draco Malfoy's face. Since they were children, Theodore has resigned himself to the fact Draco Malfoy's mood would dictate his own whenever they were together. He considered Draco a friend - a very good one at that - but would be first to admit Draco tended to drag people down with him. If he was upset, it could be safely guaranteed he'd manage to make everyone else around him miserable.
Theodore sighs as his friend approaches. Today had seemed so pleasant too, he would have liked to sit out in the sun of the courtyard and enjoy himself a bit longer. "What's Potter done this time?"
"Professor Snape would like to see you in his office," Draco says. "As soon as possible."
Perhaps it shouldn't be the first thing he notices, but the fact Draco Malfoy has willingly missed an opportunity to gossip about Harry Potter's every breath really speaks to the direness of the situation. He's about to ask who's died, before what Draco said really sinks in. "I haven't done anything, why does he want to see me?"
Had he not known Draco for as long as he had, Theodore might have missed it. A cloud of sadness and fear washes over Draco's face, but is almost immediately replaced with a very clearly forced neutral expression. "It's best you see him."
"Are you alright?" Theodore asks almost immediately, but Draco's admittedly unconvincing response that he was perfectly fine is unsurprising. Theodore knows better than anyone that showing emotion in high society is a weakness. He's not sure why he even bothered asking.
Draco dismisses himself soon after that, heading who knows where to go sulk. Theodore makes his way towards the dungeons, trying not to dread whatever Professor Snape may have to say to him. He is still not entirely convinced that Harry Potter hasn't done something. Nothing else really gets Draco this upset, though Theodore isn't quite sure what he - or Professor Snape, for that matter - would have to do with it.
When he arrives to the door to the Potions Classroom, he almost turns around. Looking back on it, part of him wishes he had turned back around and gone back to laze around in the warm June weather and pretend nothing at all had happened.
He takes a deep breath wishing he had the bravery of a Gryffindor as he opens the door. He also wishes he'd never had that thought. Disgusting.
Professor Snape is sat at his desk and if Theodore didn't know better, he'd say the man looked more tired and pale than usual. "Mister Nott, shut the door, please. This is a sensitive matter."
It's then he realizes that whatever this is, it is decidedly not because of Harry Potter has done something to irk Draco Malfoy.
"Sir, have I done something wrong?" the words tumble out of Theodore's mouth before the door behind him has even completely shut. The look on Professor Snape's face does little to convince him he was wrong.
For a moment, Professor Snape looks like he's trying and struggling to come up with the words to say what needs to be said. It's only when Theodore finally does manage to stand in front of the Professor's desk does he begin to speak. "No, Mister Nott, you have not."
"Professor, I don't mean to be rude, but what is it then?" Theodore asked, immediately regretting his wording as Professor Snape's eyes narrowed in a glare.
He's not sure what scares him more, the glare, or the fact it dissipates rather quickly and none of the Professor's words dripped with the irritation they usually did. If anything, he sounded sympathetic, something not even a Slytherin could really expect from him. "Late last night, your Father among others were apprehended in the Ministry o-"
Theodore knows he'll regret interrupting Professor Snape, but at the moment he doesn't care. "Anything they say my Father has done, it's because he's under the Imperius Curse."
"I haven't even fully stated what has happened, Mister Nott," Professor Snape responds, his response cold, but the sympathy still remains. "Your Father has been arrested for use of unforgivable curses, trespassing in the Ministry of Magic, and as I'm sure you will hear from your peers, suspicion of being a Death Eater."
Theodore feels like all the air has been sucked out of him. His Father wouldn't, he was a prick sometimes, but he wasn't...He wouldn't. In the end, all Theodore manages to choke out is. "The...The Imperius Curse, sir."
Professor Snape looks genuinely worried for Theodore's wellbeing as he continues, which while a kind gesture did little to make Theodore feel much better about any of this. "There is evidence to the contrary. I am sincerely sorry. I have a calming draught, I suggest you take it."
Theodore doesn't even look at the vial of potion that's being handed to him. "Sir, he's...all that Potter's been spewing about he-who-must-not-be-named being back, it's all a load of rubbish. My Father can't be a Death Eater."
"Unfortunately, that has been proven false. According to the information I've been granted, your Father was seen in his company," Professor Snape responds. "I suggest you take the draught, this is understandably a shock."
Theodore takes the draught, though it feels like he's working in autopilot as he takes it and downs the contents of the vial as quickly as he can. Even the familiar warmth of the draught beginning to spread up through his chest does little to lessen the horror that's currently numbing his brain. "Is he hurt?"
"He is recovering," Professor Snape admits. "If you don't feel the draught is helping, perhaps a visit to the Hospital Wing may be beneficial."
The last thing Theodore wants is to spend the rest of his day with Madam Pomfrey fretting over every aspect of his health. "If it's all the same to you sir, I think I'd like to go think on this by myself."
Professor Snape doesn't look too happy with his decision, but doesn't say anything about against it. "Mister Nott, I am not foolish to assume none information I have shared with you will leave this room? At least until the Headmaster decides to share it with the entire school."
"Of course not, sir."
Blaise Zabini's eyebrow is arched in obvious disbelief. "So Potter's not as mad as we thought? You're kidding."
Theodore pulls his legs closer to his chest, trying his damndest to sink into the cushions of the couch he was currently sat on. "I sincerely hope you know me well enough to know I would not kid about this sort of thing."
For as much as it was worth, Theodore had managed to stay entirely silent on what he and Professor Snape had discussed...for about three minutes before bumping into Blaise exiting the common room only to pull him back in. Blaise looked ready to complain about wanting to get a late breakfast and get into an argument about his sleeping habits before he caught a proper look of Theodore's face and promptly guiding Theodore to one of the two couches in the common room and casting a silencing spell. It wasn't exactly needed considering most of the other students were out enjoying the weather, but Blaise was anything if not paranoid.
Theodore might have been thankful for it if he was not currently in the middle of a crisis.
"You're right, you wouldn't joke about something like this." Any humor that had formally filled Blaise's voice was gone now. He pauses. "You should be proud Theo, he's fighting the good fight."
"He's a criminal!" Theodore would have been crying, had it not been drilled into him all his life how weak that would make him. "He's a criminal and he got caught and he's going to spend the rest of his life in Azkaban...And...And he-who-must-not-be-named. He's really back. Potter's not off his rocker. You know that means he really did kill Cedric Diggory last year..."
If anything, that seems to grab Blaise's attention. For a Hufflepuff, Cedric was fairly well-liked by all the houses. "There are casualties in a war, Theo...and when this is all over, The Dark Lord will free his most loyal."
"You're spouting more propaganda than he used to," Theodore muttered. "Though, I'll give you points for being more obvious about where your loyalties lie."
Blaise seemed affronted at that. "Do you...disagree?"
Theodore doesn't respond.
"Theo, you can't be a blood traitor," Blaise says firmly. "Since Pucey's gone mental trying to kiss Flint's ass to land a place on the Harpies, I swear you're the only one around here with even a little bit of sense. Myself included."
That makes Theodore laugh, which instantly makes Blaise grin. "Zabini, do you mean to tell me Malfoy's desperate pursuit of Potter's unrivaled attention is senseless?"
Blaise can barely speak through his own laughter. "Oh, oh of course not! I'd never!"
"Good," Theodore replied, his tone entirely serious. "Or else the wrath of Lucius Malfoy would be upon us. Merlin only knows nobody can give Malfoy a sideways glance without him immediately writing off to his Father."
"That'll be a bit of trouble now," Blaise shrugged. "Safe to assume with how you said he was acting his Dad's probably locked up as well."
Theodore's smile vanishes as quickly as it came. "Right. Probably."
Blaise's smile vanishes as well. He sighs. "Theo, when the time comes what side are you going to pick?"
"I don't know." Theodore answers honestly. "I wish I could be as confident as you in my answer but...don't you ever...doubt? Maybe blood doesn't matter as much as we seem to think it does."
The way Blaise looks at him, you'd think Theodore had just announced his plans to leave school and elope with a goblin. "Theo, don't do this to yourself."
"I'm serious Blaise!" Theodore exclaimed. "Potter's friend, Granger, she's a mudblood, right? She's also top of our class. If blood mattered as much as we've been raised to believe, Draco and I would be at the top and she'd be at the very bottom."
"She's just a know-it-all." Blaise frowns. "Theo if you keep this up I'm...going to have to...have to..."
"Turn me over to the Dark Lord?" Theodore suggests, rolling his eyes at the idea. "Relax Zabini, I'm not about to go prance around talking about how wonderful muggles are. I just...struggle to understand how this can all be worth it." He paused. "You know, with my Father in Azkaban, I'm practically an orphan. Or at least, a pseudo-orphan. Both my parents are gone because of this. I don't know if I want to go with them."
"I'm not sure whether or not I'd like to take back my comment about you being the only one around with sense," Blaise replies. "Maybe we should go find Malfoy. If anyone's going to talk some sense into you, it'll be him."
Theodore sighs. "I think I'd like to be left alone for now. I'd appreciate if you didn't immediately run to tell Malfoy I'm a blood traitor."
"Of course not, I'll walk to tell him. Give you some time to get your priorities straight." Blaise assures him. "Oh don't give me that look, I won't say anything yet. My Mum would never let you over for the summer knowing half the things you've said to me just now."
"I don't recall being invited over," Theodore replies. "And I certainly don't recall agreeing."
Blaise grins. "Well, consider this your invitation and acceptance. You said it yourself, without your Father you don't know what you'll do for the summer. My parents would be happy to let you stay with us, especially once they learn what your surname is. It seems I'll need the full summer to talk you out of shagging filth anyhow."
Theodore rolled his eyes. "I never said I planned on shagging anyone either. Are your parents going to try and convince me to write my Uncle and convince him to add the Zabini family name to the Pure-Blood Directory?"
"Ha! So you admit he wrote it!" Blaise exclaimed.
Theodore shrugged. "Poorly kept family secret. If it soothes your mind, I'd rather go my entire life celibate than risk being the one who has the Nott name removed from the Directory."
"And, personally, I'd love to be the one to get the Zabini name added." Blaise snorts in a rather undignified manner that Theodore is absolutely certain he would be mortified of had he done it in front of anyone else. "Entirely unfair the Weasleys are on it but not us. One little dialience half a century ago..."
"That's all it takes," Theodore responds. "And as I'm not all too hopeful that dialience will get you to see my point of view, I do recall saying something about wanting to be alone for a bit."
"Of course," Blaise gets up from the couch, dismissing the silencing spell with a flick of his wand. "But you have accepted my invitation for the summer, haven't you?"
Theodore nodded. "Unless I want to spend the summer in an empty manor or in the care of a relative I hardly know, I suppose I don't have much of a choice."
"In that case, I'm happy to be the lesser of three evils," Blaise responds, giving Theodore an overly dramatic bow. "Regardless of whether or not you decide to ask your Uncle to overlook the missteps of my ancestors, you may want to write him. Family is important."
"Save your thinly veiled attempts to keep me from becoming a blood traitor for later," Theodore grumbles.
Blaise smiles, but there's an undeniable amount of worry hidden behind his eyes. "I'll see you at lunch then and I'll be sure to come up with subtler ways to remind you of your true loyalties."
Theodore watches his friend strut out into the hallway before he gets up to spend the rest of the morning hiding under his covers. It's only when he's safely hiding behind the curtain of his bed, under a sheet, and safely protected by both a silencing and alarm spell does he finally allow himself to catch up on all the crying he very much needed.
It's long past noon when Theodore finally deems it suitable to leave. The numbness has returned tenfold without the distraction of Blaise and now that he is completely certain he doesn't look like he's been crying his eyes out for the last two hours he would very much like that distraction back.
Unfortunately, he doesn't make it out of the Common Room.
"That's one of them!" A whisper from one of the armchairs catches his attention. "Theodore Nott!"
A group of first years looks up from what looked to be a very animated Wizard's Chess tournament. Theodore freezes, though he'll never admit to being this taken aback by a group of eleven years olds.
A girl with long blonde hair who Theodore vaguely recognizes stands up and practically bolts over to him. "Nott, is it true?"
Oh Merlin no... "Is what true?"
The girl gives him a look that could only be described as pure annoyance. "Your Father? A Death Eater? Come on, don't play stupid."
Theodore feels like someone has just blasted him in the chest with petrificus totalus. "Nobody is meant to know about that yet. He isn't a Death Eater by the way, Imperius Curse."
The girl rolls her eyes and her friends behind her break out into fits of giggles and whispers. "If nobody is meant to know about it, Loony Lovegood shouldn't be handing out copies of The Quibbler listing the names of all the Death Eaters identified by Harry Potter. You don't need to worry, we're on your side."
"If you were on 'my side' as you put it," Theodore snaps. "You wouldn't be trusting garbage like The Quibbler or loons like Harry Potter."
"But you just admitted it was true!" The girl whines. "When you said Imperius, but I know that's not really true. My cousin played the same defense you know?"
Theodore has had it with this child, absolutely had it. "And if there's even one person in this room not sympathetic to you, then you've just doomed your dear cousin to Azkaban. My Father has been falsely imprisoned, evidently on the word of Potter and I think we all know he's lost his mind. He-who-must-not-be-named is gone and my Father is innocent and you are a pathetic little bitch."
The girl looks close to tears by the time he's done, but still manages to hold out a gaudy magazine. "You're so deep in denial, I think you need this more than I do."
Theodore snatches it roughly out of her hand and marches past her out of the common room.
Getting out of bed today, he decides, was a terrible idea.