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Chapter 1: A Long Goodbye
I'm watching you breathing for the last time - Carry You Home, James Blunt.
He watched the sun set from the window by the bed, vibrant reds and oranges stretching along the vast horizon before falling prey to the darkness. The world was as quiet as he was, just watching. Waiting for the news he knew would come, though he still filled himself with false hope; everything would be okay. But hiding behind hope's shadows was the dread that threatened to overcome him. His stomach twisted painfully and he winced, his eyes shut tight and hand clasped to his waist.
It was starting.
He held up his other hand to his Godfather in the corner. "I'm fine," he whispered.
He took deep breaths in and out, calming himself before he opened his eyes. He watched the door for the healer to enter; the door was his lifeline, his fate would be sealed once it opened. When it did, the healer's grim face said everything he needed to hear, the words screaming at him from inside his head. He only nodded.
"I'm sorry, Mr Lupin," the man said. "The curse is attacking your entire body; your bleeding internally too quickly to stop it and your immune system is shutting down."
His Godfather took hold of the healer's arm, his voice cracking. "There must be something you can do."
"I'm sorry, Mr Potter, but magic can't solve everything," he replied, shaking his head.
Harry looked up, his eyes shining with unshed tears that wouldn't fall until he was alone. "How long?" Teddy asked quietly, his gaze never leaving the man in front of him. Harry had been like a father to him, the only one he'd ever known, and he loved him like a son would love a father. He didn't want to leave him, but he accepted the way his life was going. He had to.
At least he had time.
Teddy put his head in his hands, trying with as much effort as he could gather to not shake and cry and wish it wasn't happening. He couldn't stop it, so why bother wishing? They heard noise from the other side of the door, shouting and banging; they were restless for answers - James, who had been there when it had happened, and Louis, who had come as soon as he had heard. Harry had sent the message to The Burrow, which was where the family went every Sunday for dinner, which was where Teddy and James had been going to when he was attacked.
Neither man had seen it coming; the guy had come out of nowhere. Zane Jones; that was his name. Teddy had witnessed a fight between the man’s brother and a stranger he’d met in Diagon Alley, they’d been drunk and words had been said. The brother had left the guy for dead and Teddy had called the Auror department. This was his punishment. Harry had told him to be on his guard; the brothers were dangerous and fiercely protective of each other. He knew he would come for him, he knew it would be horrible, but nothing like this. This was painful and slow and Teddy didn’t know how to say good bye; he never thought he’d have to. He thought he could be quicker than Zane.
Obviously not. Another painful stab in his gut.
The healer nodded once to both men and left quietly, leaving them alone. They seemed to drown in the silence, neither knowing exactly what to say to each other that could make their current situation any better. Teddy, and Harry he noticed, both looked relieved when Louis made his way through, James right behind him; the healer had most likely allowed them entry now. Louis processed the room around him, taking in every detail – he was good at that – and frowned; Teddy could tell he didn’t like the outcome of his thoughts. He followed the man’s gaze back to Harry and could see moisture in his green eyes, which meant that Louis noticed, too. He watched the blond turn back to him; saw his eyes narrow at his hand, which seemed fused to his stomach. Teddy loosened his grip slowly and dropped his arm to rest at his side.
“What happened?” Louis asked, quietly.
“You didn’t have to come all the way here, Lou, I was just about to leave and meet you at the house,” Teddy said instead, smiling weakly.
“What happened?” He repeated, almost growling.
Harry placed a hand on his nephew’s shoulder. “It was Zane Jones’ doing,” he told him softly.
“The gang member?” Harry nodded and Louis’ eyes widened, knowing all the about Teddy’s involvement and the brother’s grudge.
“We have Jones in custody; he didn’t run after he cursed Teddy, he admitted to it.”
“What does the curse do?”
“It puts me in a lot of pain,” Teddy interrupted Harry before he could even speak. “And I’ll be in pain for a little while longer, but I’m fine.” Teddy was thankful that Louis had turned to face him, his back on Harry, but his Godfather’s mouth had dropped at his lie. He knew it was wrong to lie, that Louis had to know, but he just couldn’t say it. He took a small amount of comfort from the fact that it didn’t feel like a complete lie; it would hurt for a little while longer, then he’d die and the pain would leave him. A lump formed in his throat when he saw Louis’ fear leave and he flashed his first smile, before moving over and wrapping his arms around Teddy for a gentle hug. His eyes pleaded with Harry to keep it quiet, and then to James – he knew his Godbrother knew; he had been with him when it happened, after all, he hadn’t been deaf to Jones’ yells. James nodded slowly, though Teddy could see he didn’t like it, and Harry soon followed. Teddy thread his fingers through Louis’ soft, blond hair and pulled him that little bit closer. He’d been there for Louis for most of his adult life, though only for their one mutual year at Hogwarts (Teddy’s seventh, Louis’ first); he’d been the one Louis started coming to for advice and he went to Louis; they laughed at each other’s ramblings and made up stories about people during parties; they had the inside jokes, the promises, the secrets no one else would ever know about. He couldn’t tell him.
“I’ll be fine,” he whispered. “Everything is going to be okay.”
He felt hot tears fall down his face and land on his sleeve as Louis nodded.
Teddy was immensely grateful to Harry for helping him into The Burrow and up the stairs to Percy’s old bedroom. The whole way up, he reassured him that it would be okay, only James knowing why he felt the need to do so; none of them would be able handle it if he didn’t. Harry had kept everyone else away, saying he’d tell them everything once he was back down and that Teddy needed his rest. Harry would talk to his grandmother for him.
This is why I needed him as my emergency contact, Teddy thought as he lowered himself onto the bed and shut his eyes. His gran had become too old to be called on during emergencies like today. But Harry could do it. One last time.
“You okay, Ted?” He nodded, hearing Harry’s worried tone, and sat up slowly, despite the older man’s protests. Harry moved closer and pulled him into a hug. Teddy felt a lone tear fall on the top of his head. “I love you,” he muttered.
Teddy returned the hug tightly, scared to let go. “I love you. It’s like falling asleep, right?” he whispered, remembering the words Harry had been told by Sirius’ ghost in the story he told of the war.
“Right,” Harry whispered. He let go hesitantly, as though leaving was worse than dying, and stepped back to the door to wait for the others. James gave an awkward one-armed hug, not knowing what to say, but he didn’t need to; Teddy understood. “You coming, Lou?”
“In a minute,” he promised, signalling for them to leave. Once Harry shut the door, Louis made his way to the bed and sat beside him. He reached out his hand when Teddy winced in pain and ran his fingers through the man’s hair, watching as it turned from black to dirty blond at his touch. “What was all that about? Why did Harry and James look like they were saying goodbye? I’m not blind or an idiot, you know.”
“I know,” Teddy replied, taking Louis’ hand from his hair and lowering their locked hands to his heart. “I think the reality of what happened today just got to them, scared them,” he half-lied. “It scared me, too.”
“And me.” Louis watched Teddy struggle to stay up, his own weight working against him, and pushed him back gently so he was lying down. “Sleep, Ted, you’re exhausted. You’re still in pain from that curse. I’m not an idiot, remember. You can’t hide that from me; we’ve known each other too long.”
“I know,” Teddy muttered, sleep taking over. A wave of fear ran through him; he hoped it was sleep. From half-closed eyes, he watched Louis make his way over to the door. “Stay with me, until I fall asleep. I don’t want to be on my own.”
He didn’t see Louis make his way over; his eyes were already shut. But he heard him get into the bed and he felt his hand close over his own. “I still be here when you wake up.”
Teddy's last thought was of Louis; he didn't want to leave him. “I’ll stay with you forever.”
Louis woke up the next morning with his hand still in Teddy’s; in more or less the same position he had fallen asleep in. He had listened to Teddy’s soft breathing, like a lullaby sending him to sleep, and it hadn’t taken long for his eyes to close. He watched as Teddy slept, frowning when he realised his hand was cold. Louis pulled his own hand away gently and placed it against Teddy’s chest, his other against his cheek. When Louis couldn’t feel his friend’s chest rise and fall, he pressed down harder. When he couldn’t feel a heartbeat, he began to panic. “Teddy?”
Louis shook him, scared. “Teddy, wake up. Don’t do this to me, Ted. It isn’t funny. Teddy!” Louis jumped off the bed, pulled open the door and called for help. “Harry!”
He went back to the bed and wrapped his arms around Teddy’s body, lifting him to him. “Please don’t do this to me, Teddy.” He heard Harry call his name and he turned to the door. “Help him, Harry. Please.”
“Come here, Louis,” he replied quietly, his hand out. And Louis knew then why Harry wasn’t reacting as he had expected him to.
“No,” he whispered, shaking his head. He placed Teddy back down onto the bed, tears streaming down his face, but he made no move to wipe them away. “He said he was fine. He said everything was going to okay. He promised.”
“And it will be okay, Lou.”
“No, it won’t.” He pushed Teddy’s hair back, it still the same dirty blond as yesterday. “It never will be. You promised.” He knelt down and kissed the top of the man’s head, whispering, “I love you.”
Louis didn’t move. Harry left him alone, kept his grandparents in the kitchen while he called for a healer to take Teddy away. The last thing he had told Teddy was that he’d stay with him; he wasn’t going to break it now.
A/N: So, this is a new story for the "It Gets Better" and the "Absolute Death" challenges. Teddy/Louis... Kinda. It will be sad, it will be angsty... Reviews would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for reading.