So many died in the Battle of Hogwarts. The next day, all of the casualties were listed in the Daily Prophet. Some stood out amongst the crowd – Bellatrix Lestrange, Fred Weasley, Severus Snape. Names like Justin Finch-Fletchley tended to be skimmed over as people scoured the list for names of people they knew; their friends, their family. But Justin’s was the only name that Theodore Nott could see. The others blurred away into nothingness as he stared at the stark black ink that told him that Justin was dead. Gone. Forever.
A tear hit the page, smudging the ink.
“If I didn’t feel as though my life depended on my OWL marks, I swear I’d set all my texts on fire right here and now,” Justin complained, throwing his quill onto the table in front of him.
They had taken to spending their time studying in the library. It was really the only place they could study together. Theodore would never dare take Justin to his common room and he wasn’t exactly welcome in Hufflepuff’s, either. Their favorite table was in the back, where the history books were. No one went back there, and they enjoyed their privacy.
“You could roast marshmallows in the flames,” Theodore suggested lightly.
“How very tempting,” Justin quipped, winking playfully at his friend before picking up his quill and getting back to work.
Theodore didn’t really know Justin until they ended up partners in fifth year Potions. He was always sort of the odd Slytherin out. When it came to pairing up, there was Draco and Blaise and there was Crabbe and Goyle. So Theodore ended up with Justin. He didn’t mind. Justin always seemed like he was a strong student.
“Hello,” Theodore greeted as he sat down next to Justin.
“Hello,” Justin returned, giving him a smile that revealed a set of deep dimples.
After that, Theodore came to treasure Justin’s smiles. Collecting them in his mind like trophies in a case. They were a reward that he hungered for and was always pleased to receive.
“Do you ever think about what happens next?” Justin asked one night.
They were lying on the grass outside the castle and Justin’s eyes were fixated intently on the sky, where countless stars dazzled like twinkling Christmas lights. Theodore looked over at his companion.
“What do you mean?”
“After we die. Do you ever think about what happens?”
Theodore was silent for a minute. The truth was, he didn’t really think about it. It wasn’t a subject that readily occurred to him. Perhaps he thought about death sometimes, as any person is wont to do, but it had never occurred to him to think about the aftermath.
“Do you?” he questioned back, avoiding having to answer.
“All the time,” Justin replied simply, his gaze never flickering away from the stars.
“What do you think?” he asked with genuine curiosity.
“I think that’s where everyone finds peace – true peace. Not that artificial feeling of calm happiness that you feel in this world, but true, everlasting and all-consuming peace.”
Their hands were clasped tightly together as they stood in an alcove that hadn’t yet been touched by the battle. There were duels happening everywhere around the castle and the entire battle had an air of finality about it; everyone had the feeling the war would be over by the end of the night.
“We should go back out there. We should fight.”
Theodore could see the excitement flashing in Justin’s eyes, but he was hesitant. He wasn’t worried about how the other Slytherins would react upon seeing him fighting against the Death Eaters but he was worried about what could happen to Justin and himself. He hadn’t even seen Justin since the winter holidays, since Justin was muggleborn and couldn’t attend Hogwarts that year, but he should have known that he would return when he got word of the battle.
“Okay,” Theodore conceded eventually.
“I love you,” Justin announced suddenly, kissing him quickly before heading out to where the main battle was.
Theodore followed him, shaking off the dazed feeling Justin’s declaration had given him. They sent curses at any Death Eater they came across, but avoided getting into any intense duels. It seemed to help those on their side to send a hex or two at their assailant. It was an exciting adventure and made Theodore feel empowered. He dodged a jet of red light and turned around, only to find that Justin had been hit from the other side.
“Theo,” he whispered, a trickle of blood spilling from the corner of his mouth. He slipped to the ground and in an instant Theodore was there with him, cradling his head in his lap. It was a stomach wound and Theodore knew upon first glance that there would be nothing he could do.
“I love you,” he choked out as tears escaped his eyes.
He put his hand on Justin’s cheek and leaned down to kiss him. Moments after he pulled away, Justin stopped breathing. Theodore sobbed loudly; he had never known it to be possible to feel so hopeless and stricken as he did then. Holding Justin’s lifeless body was a torture he could barely stand but he couldn’t possibly let go. Even with the battle raging around him and good overtaking evil, he couldn’t tear his eyes away from Justin. His Justin.
The news spread like wildfire throughout the population of the school. Dumbledore was dead. Theodore had admired Dumbledore and his heart sunk when he was told that the beloved headmaster had been killed. Everyone was crowded around outside and he was pushing through the crowd trying to find Justin. He finally caught a glance of his familiar messy brown hair.
“Justin,” he said, short of breath.
Tears were slipping from Justin’s eyes and he looked so helpless that Theodore wrapped him in his arms and whispered in his ear that everything would be okay. Justin clung desperately to him and allowed himself to sob freely. Theodore’s eyes watered, but he resisted the urge to cry. For once, he wanted to be strong for Justin.
“He didn’t deserve this,” Justin whimpered into his shoulder.
“I know,” he whispered, kissing Justin’s hair and pulling him closer.
The first time Justin touched his lips to Theodore’s, it was quick and light and Theodore wasn’t even positive it was real until Justin flashed him a tiny dimpled smile and moved away, back into his chair in the library. Theodore smiled back timidly, feeling happy and nervous and uncertain all at once.
Their first real kiss was weeks later, when the weather was getting warm and they could be outside without freezing. There was a light wind that tousled their hair gently as they stood together at the backside of the castle.
Justin moved in closer and Theodore stayed still, anticipating the next moments but unsure of what they would bring. Justin’s hand moved to cup his cheek and he brought their mouths together softly. It was a gentle kiss, their lips moving slowly but enthusiastically.
Theodore had never experienced anything like it before. He had kissed Daphne Greengrass before, in third year, but it had been awkward and flavorless. Kissing Justin was like the first time you get to jump into a cool lake in summer or the feeling you get when you’re sitting in front of a fire warming your hands. It was exciting, but comforting. He would always remember how it felt.
Life after Justin was difficult; almost impossible. Things began to settle down after the war, but the losses that people suffered stayed with them. It was a grief unimaginable to anyone who hadn’t experienced it firsthand. Theodore was one of the unlucky ones who had.
There were things he could take comfort in, though. Some of them selfish, like how he was glad he had been able to kiss Justin one last time before he died and that he knew Justin loved him. But he was also glad that Justin had died fighting for something he believed in. He knew Justin well enough to know that it was something he had been willing to die for.
The biggest thing, though, were the words that Justin had said to him a lifetime ago under the stars. That after death… that was where people found true, everlasting, all-consuming peace.
Author's Note: This is my first slash fic! It was very fun to write, even if the story was a bit on the sad side. Anyway, thank you for reading! Perhaps you would like to review, yes? Also, a big thank you to the newly promoted to staff artist Mary/Marzipan, who readily offered to make me a gorgeous slash banner! And to Annie, Gubby, Jane, Sarah, Gina, and whoever else I bothered about this story the past couple days. Love you guys! (: