Everything had been going well. Everything had been okay. Everything had been just fine.
And then it hadn’t been.
Harry’s back had hit something, hard - the blue image of his nervous system lighting up to correspond. Teddy stood up, wondering if Harry would need a quick spell for the bruising.
Suddenly, the blue image flared again, this time so brightly that it was nearly blinding. The skin on Harry’s abdomen broke beneath his shirt, blood and other body liquids spilling forth and soaking the material. The readings were showing a stab wound, through the stomach, the lower lung, so deep that it went nearly right through.
Nate jumped to his feet in the corner, the book he was reading hitting the ground with a thump that echoed through the tiled room.
“Dittany! Get me- Everything! Get... oh god, oh god – Harry!” Teddy yelled. He vanished Harry’s shirt and started the Vulnera Sanentur, his wand pressed to the wound, but it did nothing – it did absolutely nothing. Teddy could see the magic start to work, but then the wound just opened again, just bled more. What’s more, the blood was flowing up the sides of the wound, rather than pooling inside of it. It was spilling out of Harry’s body as though Harry were standing, not lying down.
Teddy’s voice was shaking, he stumbled on the words of the spell and then broke it off completely. It was useless.
Nate uncorked the essence of dittany and poured more than enough directly into the wound – it too, did nothing. Teddy stood in horror as he realized he was watching Harry’s life drain out of him. He didn’t even think about what he was doing, he just needed to tell Harry to stay – that Harry had to save himself, because Teddy didn’t know how, and Harry wasn’t allowed to leave. He wasn’t allowed. He wasn’t allowed to leave Teddy.
“No, no, no, no, no,” Teddy pleaded. “Dad, please!”
Teddy sobbed. He was shaking, his heart was racing out of his chest and he couldn’t breathe – he couldn’t breathe, and Harry was dying below him.
“Please, please, dad, daddy, please...”
“The antidote!” Nate yelled in Teddy’s ear as he pushed Teddy’s shoulder, trying to get him to let go of Harry. “The antidote! Teddy! Call him back!”
Teddy shot up onto his knees, still gasping for breath. Nate was holding the vial of the Wiggenweld potion. Teddy nodded, looking down through the blue monitoring image of Harry’s brain at Harry’s face.
Nate uncorked the vial and opened Harry’s mouth, and then Teddy’s eyes focused on the blue monitoring image of Harry’s brain instead of on his face. He shot out his hand quickly and covered Harry’s mouth. The Wiggenweld potion fell onto the back of his hand instead.
“No,” Teddy choked out.
“He’s g-gone,” Teddy explained, shaking and stuttering as he tried to gulp in air between his sobs. “H-He’s... h-he’s n-not there anymore.”
“He’s not dead!” Nate yelled.
“He’s NOT IN THERE!” Teddy screamed back. “HIS SOUL IS GONE.”
Nate stared at Teddy, open mouthed and horrified. Teddy looked down at the stab wound. It was healing slowly – the essence of dittany Nate had poured into it was sluggishly repairing what it could.
Teddy scrambled backward a little and started the Vulnera Sanentur again. It was muttered between sobs and gasps for breath, and his hands shook the whole time, but it was working. Nate scrambled away and then came back with a blood replenishing potion.
“If his soul is-” Nate started to say, timidly.
“We keep his body alive,” Teddy answered. “... I said I’d keep him alive on this end.”
The wound was nearly closed. Teddy did a seeing spell for the lungs and stomach, which appeared in ghostly blue alongside Harry’s nervous system. They looked a little scarred, but seemed whole again.
Nate once again left briefly, and then returned with a book that he was frantically flipping through. Teddy recognized it as one of the healing books that Nate had bought at the last minute in New York. He loved Nate more than ever in that moment. Nate didn’t question, didn’t point out that there was a good chance Harry was dead; instead, he immediately just helped.
Teddy leaned forward and collapse onto Harry’s chest, resting his ear to the heart that didn’t beat, because of the Draught of Living Death, but still lived all the same. He could only hope that Harry still lived somewhere too.
He felt like he was going to shake apart soon, that he was going to drown in his own tears, because he couldn’t get enough air passed them and into his lungs. He felt like his heart was breaking – was broken – and if it didn’t hurt so much, Teddy was sure he would believe that he had been pulled away too, that Teddy was as empty as the body beneath him was.
He reached out a hand towards Nate.
“Help me, I’m drowning,” Teddy whispered.
Nate held his hand tightly and bent over and kissed it softly.
“Breathe, Teddy,” Nate whispered. “One, two, three...”
Two Years Ago
There was no need for a fuss, Teddy felt. It was just that sometimes, maybe at least once a month, but perhaps more often than that, Teddy would find a quiet corner of Hogwarts and quietly fall apart.
He just had a lot to do, between his studies and being Head Boy and then there was also the fact that he was supposed to be working towards a career and he wasn’t.
He had met with Professor MacMillan, his head of house, in fifth year, but he honestly couldn’t decide what career he wanted to pursue – instead, he had known what school subjects he wanted to study more – Potions, Herbology, and finally Charms, so that he and Nate could remain in that class together. As Nate wasn’t particularly interested in Potions or Herbology, Charms was fast becoming the only class they shared. Professor MacMillan said it was common for students to not know what they wanted to do after school, and so he was mostly just happy that Teddy was still engaged and interested in his lessons – he had made sure Teddy was taking a good selection of courses that would keep his career options open and sent him on his way.
Now it was seventh year, and Harry wanted to set up a meeting with him and the Auror Department and Hermione was suggesting that he come by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Bill offered that Teddy could come to the bank with him and see what curse-breaking was like... really, Teddy could do whatever he wanted.
What he wanted to do was find a quiet corner of Hogwarts where no one ever came by and no one could see him – because sometimes he just couldn’t breathe. There was too much.... just too much in general. He was tired and overworked – There was a reason they called them the Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests – and sometimes he just couldn’t take it anymore, because everything was actually horrible, but all day he had to keep his appearance looking as though he wasn’t about to fall apart.
He knew that everything would probably be okay, but he still found his heart racing sometimes and sometimes it was hard to breathe and it felt like he might be dying. So, he tried to get it to stop. At first it was sleeping potions, because he thought maybe they would relax him. Instead, he’d just have nightmares that he couldn’t control and couldn’t wake up from. So, next he tried things that might make him drowsy, but not fall asleep, but he found it harder to concentrate in class, with little to no effect on the frequency with which he found himself quietly shaking apart in some long forgotten corner of the castle. If anything, making it harder to participate in class just made his stress levels worse and the moments of absolute panic more frequent. Finally, he tried combining potions or making his own varieties – potions that made the body sleep but the rational mind stay in control – no nightmares, no panic. It did help a little – everything was still horrible all of the time, but he did feel a little bit more peaceful when he knew that no matter how he felt, his body was spelled to live through it.
Of course, that soon ended, because of a house elf. There wasn’t really any part of the castle that no one ever went to and Teddy should have realized this – because every quiet corner he had found had been clean. The house elves were supposed to stay out of sight, but they’d found him a few times and asked if he were alright – he always nodded and smiled, even if he wasn’t, and, if he could manage it, he’d tell them not to tell anyone... but he didn’t always manage the words. Sometimes, they found him at the absolute worst moment.
And it was one of those times when one of them – an elf by the name of Linty, to be exact – came upon Teddy, squeaked and promptly magicked herself away. Part of Teddy knew that Linty had gone to get someone, because Linty was a friend of Teddy’s and was, like Teddy, a little bit of a worrier at times. Really, Teddy would be fine, and he would have told Linty that if Linty had stayed around long enough for Teddy to remember how to breathe. He always remembered eventually, there was no reason why this time would be different, even though it felt like it was.
So, the footsteps running down the hallway were of no surprise, only they caused Teddy to panic a little, because he still wasn’t strong enough to stand up, and he wasn’t sure he was strong enough to make sure his hair and appearance looked right. He wasn’t sure what it did when this happened, but he knew whatever it was doing was completely out of his control, which Teddy didn’t like in the slightest. He was seventeen for Merlin’s sake – he was supposed to have full control of his abilities. It was just another embarrassment on top of the embarrassment that was his whole life.
“Teddy?” Professor MacMillan asked softly, and Teddy blinked because he had actually missed the man’s arrival. He was just suddenly there, kneeling in front of him. “Can you look at me?”
Teddy looked at him.
“I need you to help me count.”
Teddy raised an eyebrow, because he didn’t know what they were counting.
“We’re going to count our breaths together. Breathe in for a count of four and out for five,” Professor MacMillan said. “Come on, watch me breathe and count with me – okay, try to match up. One, two, three...”
It took until the second repetition for Teddy to join in, and even then he mucked it up a few times because he was unable to say words and breathe too, and then it took even longer to slow his breathing down to the slow deep breaths that Professor MacMillan was taking.
Once Teddy could breathe again and felt like he had control over himself, he quickly changed his appearance to what it was supposed to be. Professor MacMillan frowned slightly, before he put on a smile and told Teddy that he had done a really good job and that he was proud of him.
“So, is this what you’ve been sneaking off to do all the time?” Professor MacMillan asked with a smile.
Teddy shrugged. “Sometimes.”
“How often, do you think?” Professor MacMillan didn’t seem concerned, he was smiling, as though the whole thing just made him mildly curious.
Teddy shrugged again. “Dunno, sometimes it’s not so bad.”
“What does it feel like when it happens?”
Teddy thought about that for a moment. He found himself reaching a hand towards his heart, mimicking squeezing it, but when he spoke, the best description he could find was, “Like I’m drowning.”
Professor MacMillan hummed and nodded seriously for a moment, and then smiled again.
“And what does a Hufflepuff do when they’re drowning, Teddy?”
Teddy blinked at him.
“They reach out a hand,” Professor MacMillan said. He reached out and picked up one of Teddy’s hands, holding it firmly. “And they say, ‘Help, I’m drowning.’”
Professor MacMillan smiled kindly once more and then pulled Teddy up from the floor, never letting go of his hand.
“There, now, how about you and I go have a cup of tea with the matron and we can all try to figure out how to keep you out of the water.” Professor MacMillan smiled. “She’s new to the school, I know, but she’s a good friend of Professor Longbottom’s – just like you – so I’m sure we can trust her with this, no need to hide away in dark corners, hm?”
Nate woke up to a door slamming – open. He could hear heavy footsteps on the metal stairs and the warning charm that he had cast started softly playing bells. He silenced it and jumped off the empty surgical bed. He checked that Teddy was still asleep, not that Nate expected any different, but he still felt better after checking.
Sam was halfway down the stairs when Nate ran out to the war room. They both paused and stared at each other.
“Yeah,” Sam said, and continued the slow process of walking down the stairs while carrying a dead body.
Nate nodded. He felt both like he couldn’t move and also like he should flee. He knew he shouldn’t just be standing there, doing nothing, but he didn’t know what to do. The sight of Dean terrified him like nothing ever had before. He knew he should help, but he didn’t want to go closer, didn’t want to be any closer to the blood and death.
Nate stepped closer. “I can-”
“I’ve got him,” Sam replied in a hollow voice, and he reached the bottom of the stairs, turned, and walked off down a hallway.
Nate wondered if he should follow, but he just stayed where he was for a moment, and then turned and went back to Teddy.
He checked on Harry first. Teddy’s monitoring spells couldn’t work when Teddy was asleep, but he had taught Nate a very simple version. One that would call up just enough information for Nate to tell that Harry was alive, even when he was under the Draught of Living Death.
Once that was done, Nate checked on Teddy, who was sleeping curled around Harry’s side. His longer legs tucked over and under Harry’s calf and ankle. Teddy’s hair was the mousy brown it always was in sleep, his nose straight and lean, and his face just a little heart-shaped, even with his sharp lower jaw. There was a single streak of turquoise in his hair, that faded to pink at the end. Nate ran his hand gentle over it, and as he did, it turned to black briefly. Nate wished there were room to climb onto the surgical bed behind Teddy and wrap his arms around him. All those years of cuddling Teddy to sleep on Teddy’s bad days, and Nate hadn’t ever realized that it was a gift to know exactly what Nate could do to make a situation better. Now, he was out of his depth. Now Teddy was cuddling with someone who might very well be dead in all but body and Nate was left awkwardly standing there without any way to make anything better.
“Harry not come back yet?” Sam asked softly from the doorway. Nate jumped. “Sorry.” Sam added.
“His soul came untethered,” Nate answered. He had no fear of waking Teddy up. “We can’t bring him back.”
“What?” Sam asked, his posture suddenly tense.
“He was stabbed,” Nate explained. “The wound wouldn’t heal at first - then… then Teddy said his soul was gone - the charm…. the tethering charm failed. We could heal him physically after that, but… Sam, can a soul be killed?”
Sam closed his eyes and breathed out slowly, then in again. He opened his eyes again at the top of the inhale and simply said. “I don’t know.”
“I… I drugged Teddy,” Nate admitted into the silence between them. “The aconite in his usual tea is so strong, he never notices when I slip something else in there. He wouldn’t stop crying and I didn’t know what else to do. And… and all that and… and Dean… I’m sorry, Sam. I’m sorry. I… I don’t know what to do.”
Sam bit his lip, but nodded. “It’s okay. You… you’re doing okay. You just look after Teddy and I’ll figure this out. I’ll figure this all out - Harry, Dean… everything. I’ll fix it. Don’t worry, okay?”
“Okay,” Nate repeated, and he didn’t know whether it was because he believed Sam, or because he desperately wanted to believe Sam, but he truly did feel, for the first time that night, like everything would be fine.
Sam gave him a soft smile. “Get some some sleep, buddy, okay?”
“Okay, but - if there’s anything-”
“I’ll let you know,” Sam promised and Nate believed that too. And so, Nate crawled back up on the empty surgical bed beside Harry’s and lay down. Sam watched him for a moment, before he turned and walked into the dark hallways of the Bunker.