Songs Across the Ocean
A Stargate Atlantis/Harry Potter storyDisclaimer
: Sony and MGM own all things Stargate Atlantis. J.K. Rowling owns all Harry Potter. I'm only borrowing and will return them at the end of the fic.Spoilers
: General season two for SGA; Half-Blood Prince for HP. Reference to past HP character deaths.Pairings
: The only real pairing in this is John/Atlantis. Truly, a love story for the ages.Note
: In a section of story, I use dialogue from SGA's Rising
, written by Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper. Such content is not my own. For the purposes of the exercise, imagine that Harry was born in 1971, instead of the HP Lexicon's 1980.~*~
Harry Potter had two iron-clad rules in his mished-mashed life. The main rule was 'Don't leave anybody behind', and it got him through years at war with the Death Eaters.
The newer rule was 'Don't let anyone know about magic'. He'd lived by that rule for years, even since he'd bolted from England under the cover of darkness. At seventeen, he had finally killed Voldemort, but nothing could have prepared him for the magical civil war that erupted after that last battle. His friends who had survived the final Voldemort years had been cut down in the subsequent fight, until only Harry Potter and a handful of others were left.
Harry had held on for a couple of years, right up until the day he sat in St. Mungo's, holding Hermione's hand as she slowly died in screaming agony from a curse. She was the last thing holding him to the Wizarding World.
Afterwards, Tonks had found him standing on the train tracks, only a few minutes before the 5:17 to Paddington was due to trumble past and turn him into paste. She hauled him bodily off the rails, Apparated with him to a safe house in Dublin, and lit into him.
Hours later, they were both screamed out, aching and empty inside. No amount of cheap whisky had been able to warm them, although in the depths of his grief-induced drunk, something occurred to Harry, something that stayed with him through the next day's hangover and depression.
He was done.
There was nowhere on Earth he could go as Harry Potter. His face, glasses and scar and all, was even more famous now that he had defeated Voldemort and survived this far in the magical civil war that had engulfed the British Isles and half of Western Europe. Anywhere he went, the Wizarding World would find him.
That was fine. No amount of happy wand magic would undo what Harry had seen of magical killing and pain. He wasn't just leaving the country. He was leaving that whole world behind.
Apart than Tonks, only Kingsley Shacklebolt knew what he was planning. Harry still had his muggle birth certificate, the one his Aunt Petunia had been forced to acquire for him after his parents died. The plan had no small amount of Dark magic, but after so many years, Dark and Light magic all blended together in Harry's head. Light magic could kill just as easily as Dark. It didn't really matter.
They changed the name on Harry's muggle records, doctored him up a passport to indicate he was an American citizen. Tonks ran a quick spell on him that changed his accent and fixed his vision, one usually performed on small children that no one thought to run on Harry when he arrived at Hogwarts. Shacklebolt cast the most dangerous spell, the one that moved the scar on Harry's forehead up into his hair and out of sight.
He was still Harry Potter, but without the scar and the glasses, no one really paid attention to him. His dark hair was still an utter, untamable mess; his eyes were green with hints of grey as he aged, and not a soul would recognize him.
He emptied his Gringott's account and converted it all into muggle money, shook Shacklebolt's hand, and gave Tonks a hug and his wand. He was through with that magic. All it ever brought him was pain and loss.
An hour later, Harry boarded a plane to Washington, D.C. He never looked back. He had no reason to return.~~~
Harry waited until he was in Maryland to perform the last spell. He read the newspapers in the local library, found the name of a boy who had just won a scholarship to an engineering college, and set about finding him.
The last piece of wandless magic he was ever going to perform was Dark and horrible and almost caused Harry to turn around and go back to that train yard in London. Still, his steps didn't falter as he followed the boy down an alley, his voice didn't waver as he called out the boy's name.
The imprinting didn't take long, and the boy didn't remember a thing. The boy even let Harry walk him to a near-by coffee shop, left at the counter to recover from his "fainting spell".
Later, Harry walked down the street, muggle knowledge dashing through his brain. He knew all the boy had known, understood math and engineering and physics and guitar and cars and video games.
He made it back to his hotel before he threw up. This was why he had fought against Dark magic for so long, this taking
without consent. Dumbledore would have been ashamed of him, Harry thought bitterly as he dry-heaved into the toilet, wishing he could Oblivate himself into forgetting who he was and all that he had done.
He never touched magic again. He took a bus to Portland, found a continuing education college, took the muggle college tests and passed. Armed with those scores, he found himself sitting on a bench on the boardwalk outside an office with a large American flag in the window, staring out at the water. There was no war here, at least not the kind that snuck up on you in the dark and killed your whole family in a flash of green light.
He had no idea how long he sat there before someone cleared his throat nearby. Years of reflexes twisted Harry up and to his feet, reaching for the wand under his sleeve, only he was in a t-shirt and his wand was halfway around the world.
"Are you all right, son?" the man asked, concerned. He wore a crisp uniform, one that looked vaguely like something in one of the old army movies Dudley used to watch.
"Yeah," Harry said, letting out his breath. His American accent sounded strange to him, even after a few days of hearing the words slide out of his mouth. "Is there something I can do for you?"
The man pointed to the papers in his hand. "Maybe there's something I can do for you."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "I'm not sure what you mean..." He spied the man's nametag. "Sergeant Tellman."
"Mind if I sit?" the sergeant asked.
Yes, he minded, but it wasn't his bench and he'd been loitering for a while now. He shrugged and sank down. The sergeant sat, his back straight, exuding confidence from every pore. I wonder if he's ever seen a whole class of eleven-year-olds ripped to pieces in front of him.
"Have you ever considered a career in the Armed Forces?" the sergeant asked.
Belatedly, Harry realized that he should have realized where he was. "Not really."
His dead tone didn't put the man off. "Is there a career you have planned?"
Career. Hell, he hadn't expected to live past seventeen. It helped him in battle; if he didn't expect to survive, he didn't have to make choices he had to live with. "No career, no. Sir," Harry added as an afterthought. A lifetime of manners were hard to dig out from under his skin.
"What about things you like to do?"
Harry looked out at the waves, at the seagulls almost hanging in midair, at the children's kites off the beach. It reminded him of a simpler time, when the most he had to worry about was Malfoy's Quidditch pranks. "I like to fly," he said absently.
The sergeant followed his gaze out to the birds. "If you go into the Air Force, you can fly."
"Just like that?" Harry demanded.
"After you get a degree," the sergeant amended. "Are those your SAT results?"
Harry handed them over. The numbers didn't mean anything to him, but they caused the sergeant to let out a low whistle. "You can get into any college in the country with these."
The sergeant handed back the papers. "Can I give you some information on the Air Force? You can take it home, read it over--"
"What's the hardest part of being in the military?" Harry interrupted. "Not the good stuff and the stuff on the brochures. What is the most difficult thing you have to do?"
The sergeant met Harry's gaze. "Accepting the chain of command," he said after a minute. "Understanding that you have to obey the orders that come from your superiors, for the greater good."
Harry stared for a long minute. For so long, he'd been the one giving the orders, to a rag-tag bunch of witches and wizards trying to save a world that didn't want saving. Maybe it would be easier, being told what to do, to let someone else take the responsibility for his life.
"Give me the papers."
The sergeant led Harry into the office and indicated for him to have a seat. "First things first," the man said. "Can I have your name?"
Harry thought of the name on his magically altered passport, and prepared himself to lie for the rest of his life. "John Sheppard."~~~
No matter how far away he got, things still reminded him of his former life.
The first time he rode on a roller coaster, it took his breath away and terrified him and made him fall in love with gravity. It was just like being on his Firebolt, the one that Ron had been riding when Lucius Malfoy shot him down out of the sky.
The first time he played football with his Air Force academy buddies, his mind flashed with Quidditch plays and the Golden Snitch, and making out with Ginny Weasley in the stands and Cedric Diggory's cooling body lying in the muggle graveyard as Voldemort was reborn.
The knowledge he'd sucked out of that boy's head got him through the muggle classes, the math and physics and engineering, and it wasn't any harder than McGonagall's classes; almost easier, as there wasn't a war waging along outside the walls.
He found he liked learning things without the threat of death dogging his every step. His life almost felt good. He had friends of a sort, the respect of most of his classmates, and the girls in the local pubs seemed to like him, no matter how much he never saw their attention coming.
John Sheppard graduated his classes, kept up in the military training and kept moving forward, putting his old life away.
But his true love was flying.
Helicopters, fighter jets, cargo planes, he learned to fly them all. The faster it went, the more he loved it. Some days, he imagined if he could go fast enough, he'd break through and truly become at home in his new life.
He should have known the good things would never last.
He was on maneuvers in Germany when the orders came: Destination Afghanistan, after the attacks in America. There was so much going on, but he didn't have time to think about the ramifications, as he focused on obeying his orders.
War is war, and for all that the dusty streets of Kabul were a world away from the bricks of London, the tangy air of panic and desperation felt like coming home. He hated it, but he did what he had to do. Only a few of the men had been in war before, in Kuwait a decade before, and the rest... He fell asleep at night, wishing he had a wand, wishing he could end this, and being pathetically grateful that he'd never be able to hurt anyone with magic again.
People were hurt, people died. He flew mission after mission to save the fallen, the wounded. In every face, American or not, he saw the dead: Dumbledore, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, Hagrid, Sirius, Remus... the list went on, flirting with his waking hours as he flew, in his nightmares as he slept. The dead and the wounded haunted him.
But he never left anybody behind.
That rule was what got him, in the end. He refused to listen to his superior officer, broke orders to try and retrieve a few wounded soldiers. He got his ass hauled up before a review board. The only thing that saved him a dishonorable discharge was that he'd saved those lives that night.
His superiors didn't want someone who disobeyed orders in a war zone, and they shipped him off to McMurdo in the Antarctic.
The quiet ice and snow was as different from Afghanistan as anything he could imagine. A few months of quiet and boredom, and his nightmares faded back to a manageable level. He flew the occasional chopper, learned all about maintenance, read books, talked with the research scientists who came through the city.
Finally, it felt as if he might be able to rest. He could see living the remainder of his life at the South Pole, where it was quiet and still and no one would be able to find him. ~~~
His VIP passenger, General O'Neill, was weird, but that was fine. The Antarctic did weird things to folks who were visiting. John had no problem filling the silence. It was someone new to talk to.
The radio crackled to life. "All inbound craft, we have a rogue drone that could seek a target on its own. Land immediately and shut down your engines. This is not a drill. I repeat--"
"It's too late. Hang on!" Major John Sheppard said quickly. The glowing thing in the sky that shot toward his helicopter like a bloody flaming Bludger, and he piloted the chopper into the Wronski Defensive Feint, ignoring gravity to coax unnatural twists out of the machine and pulling up at the very last second. It wasn't enough, and John had to land in a major hurry. Both he and O'Neill jumped clear, just as the missile skidded to a stop at the general's feet.
The remaining flight to the research base deep on the continent was silent. John kept glancing at the General, wondering what the bloody hell as going on. O'Neill wasn't going to tell him, however, and John gave up.
John would have been content to stay outside, checking over his helicopter, but O'Neill told him to come on down. "Down" apparently meant down a three-story ice shaft. John had no idea how muggles could have made such a tunnel. Apprehension was brewing in his stomach, but he tried to tell himself that was just the near-death experience.
"Hey," O'Neill called as he walked off. "Don't touch anything."
"Yes sir," John murmured. Not like he wanted to touch any of the crazy machines, or the ice walls. He'd been in the Antarctic for years and he never knew this place was here. He wandered for a bit, watching the scientists and the occasional bored Marine keeping watch. After a few minutes, a strange voice with an achingly familiar Scottish burr cut into John's attention.
"The second I shut my eyes, I could see. I felt power I've never had before. I had it dancing all across the sky. It was magical, it really was. They're lucky. I don't know where it came from. I just tried to concentrate and the drone shut itself down."
"So you're the one!" John exclaimed, stalking over to a strange chair on a raised platform. The Scottish man whirled around. "You're the one who fired that thing at me!"
The man took a step back. "Look, we're doing research, working with technology that's light years beyond us, and we make mistakes. I'm incredibly, incredibly sorry."
His sincerity was written across his features. John gave a mental shrug. "Well, next time just be a little more careful, okay?"
The man relaxed. "That's what I said."
John stared down at the weird chair between them. It looked as if it had been carved from bone and silver and sapphires. "What the hell was that thing, anyway?" he asked, eyes only for the chair.
"You mean the drone?" the man asked. John nodded. "The weapon the Ancients built to defend this outpost."
The man looked at him with growing incredulity. "You do have security clearance to be here?"
"Yeah, yeah," John said as he scanned the complex. "General O'Neill just gave it to me."
If anything, the man looked even more shocked. "Then you don't even know about the Stargate!"
The man, who introduced himself as Dr. Carson Beckett, stuttered out an explanation of a military program called the Stargate, and how there was a giant ring that transported people other planets, that had been built by a race of aliens called the Ancients.
Once John realized the man wasn't kidding, he opened his mouth to refute the existence of aliens. Those were only a science fiction myth, everyone knew that.Just like everyone knows there's not such thing as magic?
"They think the gene was used as a sort of genetic key, if you will," Beckett continued. Intent in his lecture, he didn't notice as John poked at the mushy armrest. He expected it to feel cool, like everything else down this hole, but the gel felt warm and disturbingly alive under his finger. "So that only their kind could operate certain dangerous and powerful technologies," Weird.
"So some people have the same genes as these Ancients?" John asked as he circled the chair.
"The specific gene is very rare, but on the whole they look very much like we do. In fact they were first. We're the second evolution of this form, the Ancients having explored this galaxy for millions of years before..." His voice stuttered as John started to ease himself into the chair. "Major, please don't!"
"Come on," John said. "What are the odds of me having the same genes as these guys?"
As he spoke, the chair lit up like a lamp and tilted back, coming alive under him.
"Quite slim, actually," Beckett said in astonishment. "Doctor Weir!" he called down the hall, then to John he said, "Don't move!"
The doctor ran off, leaving John trapped in the lazy boy from hell that was sending energy through his body. It felt like a fucking magic wand, and it was all he could do to hold everything inside his head. He'd seen what the chair could do, and if even the slightest hint of his magic seeped out...
Beckett and a handful of others ran up to the chair, including General O'Neill. A dark-haired woman stopped the foot of the platform. "Who is this?" she demanded.
O'Neill jumped up on the platform and stared down at John. "I said don't touch anything."
"I just sat down," John stuttered. It was hard to speak through his concentration on keeping his mind totally blank.
A man in orange polar fleece came up to the chair. "Major, think about where we are in the solar system."
The simple suggestion was enough to break John's fraying concentration. A beautifully intricate star chart appeared out of nowhere, rotating gracefully. John knew he'd be able to spin it, zoom in, fall back, with a mere thought. It was easier than flying.
"Did I do that?"
He was so royally screwed.~~~
Standing in the deep underground bunker, staring up at the Stargate, John told himself he should turn around and leave, tell the Air Force he'd forgotten to turn off the oven or something. His old life, with magic and all that, was one thing. Freaking aliens and inter-galactic portals were a whole new level of bizarre.
Unfortunately, he had sat on a grassy hill in Colorado Springs, flipping his last remaining Sickle for half an hour to decide on his course of action. It came up heads every time. He suspected the coin was loaded, but goblin-cast money never lied.
As the Stargate whooshed to life, the memory of the Ancient chair hummed in John's bones, like magic but deeper. John couldn't shake that feeling.
He had left his world before, but at least he had the safety valve of being able to go back. He could walk back into the wreckage of Diagon Alley, find a wand, and be Harry Potter again. If he walked through the Stargate, he was abandoning any hope at going back.
Hell. It was a decision he had made years ago.
He stepped up to the Gate. Here goes.
He squeezed his eyes tight and stepped into the rippling field.Breathe.
The dark room on the other side was cold. Marines swept their lights around, shouting, but Sheppard had eyes only for the room. It felt almost dead, but not quite. Something was here, waiting.
Another step. The lights whooshed on, sending the Marines turning, looking for something to shoot at. John considered telling them it was okay, but Colonel Sumner might then decide to shoot him
and that didn't sound like a good idea.
The room was almost as large as the Great Hall at Hogwarts, ethereal and regal in a way the stone castle never was. He kept moving, watching as the room filled with wondering scientists. McKay came up to his side, and together they mounted the first step in the wide staircase.
The steps began to light up under his boots. The farther John walked, the more lights brightened under his feet.
The city was waking up for him.
Heart pounding, mouth dry, John swept his light around, looking for dangers. "The lights are coming on by themselves," he told McKay, half-wishing it was the case. There had to be something more than this, it couldn't be just him
. He was done being the savior. He was just a guy now, one cog in the chain of command.
But the feel of the city, the yawning hum in his bones, made him clutch his P-90 a little tighter. Nothing could be as old as the city and not have a few tricks up her sleeve. Colonel Sumner was talking, but John only paid attention with half his mind. All right, city,
he thought grimly. Next move is yours.~~~
Of course, the next thing the city did was to try and drown them all. Not intentionally; she was old and out of power, but still. John would have loved to say "I told you so," but everyone was busy trying to avoid getting them killed and he kept his mouth shut. When Sumner wanted to go to a planet to look for an evac site, John hopped to it. He needed to get away from the city, to give them both some breathing room.
He didn't get his breathing room. After almost shooting a couple of kids, he and the team were bundled into a tent in an encampment, to meet the leader of the Athosians, the alien people they had stumbled across. Sumner was instantly dismissive of the tiny woman, Teyla Emmagen, but something about the way she looked at him held John's attention. There was much of Ginny Weasley's directness in her, but her eyes carried the weight of ages. John knew that look, he saw it in the mirror all the time.
His instincts told him they needed to stay in this camp, needed these people, so he overrode Sumner and introduced himself with that easy grin he'd taken to using. Teyla looked at him curiously. What had she seen in him that made her agree to let them stay? Maybe it was the agreement for a cup of the stout tea. If he had survived seven years of Hagrid's tea, he could survive any brew the Pegasus Galaxy threw at him. ~~~Should have stayed at McMurdo,
John thought as he frantically ran after Teyla to the settlement. His team under fire by the Wraith and he was too far away to do any damned good.
Then Teyla vanished and the air itself moved, so much like Dementors that John wished he had his wand. The cold feeling of depression was absent, however. He wondered if this was the Pegasus Galaxy version of Dementors, Dementors Lite
, when Teyla stepped out of the shapes.Is she a witch? Is this all her doing?
"They're not really there!"
John lowered his gun, staring at her in utter amazement. How did she know that?
"Do not trust your eyes," she urged. "The Wraith can make you see things that are not there. We must hurry!"
Somehow, he got the remainder of his team and the Athosians back to Atlantis. The moment he stepped into the Gateroom, the floor shuddered, crying out in his head. The city had missed him, had been afraid he was going to leave her alone.
Weir was shouting at him, but he didn't have time. "What the hell is going on?" he asked the city. I don't want to leave, but we're going to die!
Even as John pulled Jinto up the stairs, hoping maybe they could dial another world and get the hell out of there before the water rushed in, the city's song changed from sorrowful to happy. Long-disused circuitry lit up, things moved deep below John's feet, and then everything shook as city began to rise through the water.
As the city burst through the water, the light seared itself into John's eyes, the light of another sun, the chance of another day. Looking out the window beside Dr. Weir and McKay, Jinto sliding in under his arm, John felt the city settle down smugly. She had proven her worth, and she had received a promise from him in return. That's my girl.~~~Maybe this wasn't such a hot idea.
In the belly of a Wraith space ship, missing half his team, surrounded by this unseen enemy, John began to wonder if Dr. Weir was right about the rescue mission being a bad decision. He made a note to get back to Atlantis in one piece to tell her that.
Or not. Screaming echoed through the alien halls, giving him a direction. What he saw when he got there made him go cold. Once again, he was too late.
John lay on his stomach in the alcove, staring down the barrel of his gun at what remained of Colonel Sumner as that thing
sucked him dry. The Colonel wasn't dead yet, and he saw John. Years fell away, and John was staring into Dumbledore's face, as Dumbledore stared at Snape on top of the Astronomy Tower, saying "Severus, please..."
After nineteen years, John finally understood what Snape had done, and why.
He pulled the trigger, killing Sumner as well as learning more about Snape than he ever wanted to know.~~~
John got everyone else out, back to a happily humming Atlantis. They survived another day, and he had already fallen back to his old patterns of living one day at a time, one more life saved, one more enemy cut down. Weeks turned into months, and John found himself in charge of an organization at war. Again. The Wraith were his worst nightmare, a combination of Death Eaters and Dementors, no human compassion or sane way to fight them.
He didn't have magic anymore, but he had fifteen years of military experience, the best team of Marines a guy could hope for, and that stupid gut instinct that got him through every fight with the Death Eaters.
He also had Rodney McKay, who could find a brilliant solution to any problem while being the biggest jerk in two galaxies. Teyla Emmagen, also on his team, seemed to be able to find a needle in a planet of haystacks. Lt. Ford had an amazing knowledge of weapons and tactics, and an easy-going manner that could get them through almost any situation.
And under it all, John had Atlantis. He soon came to realize that he was the only one who heard her singing across the oceans, could feel the humming in his bones. At times he wondered if it was because of his magic, if she sensed that about him. Other times, he didn't think about it, let Rodney coax and cajole the city back to wakefulness with his gentle touch and careful plans.
On the quiet nights, he drifted off to sleep, knowing Atlantis was happy. The universe may be trying to kill them, but his city was glad he had crossed galaxies to come home to her.
The letter came on one of the Daedalus's supply runs. John was off-world at the time, and when they got back, he had to cart a rambling Rodney down to see Beckett. The plant that had looked a bit like poison ivy had induced cheerful delusions in Rodney, the only one of them foolish enough to touch the thing.
Beckett reluctantly took Rodney off John's hands, and John took the opportunity to go back to his quarters and test the Atlantis hot water supply, scrubbing at his skin for ages, just in case the crazy plant was contagious.
An hour later, he wandered up to Elizabeth's office to give her the low-down on the planet's potential use as an Alpha site. He found her lounging in her chair, head buried in a political magazine. John didn't recognize the magazine from her stock, which meant....
"Daedalus came?" he asked as he slumped on her desk.
"Yes," she said, putting her magazine down. Her eyes were dancing. "We have been re-supplied with all the essentials."
"Yes," John punched the air. "Coffee for the nerds, ammo for the cool kids, and TP for all."
Elizabeth couldn't hold back a smile. "You know, I never want to know what happened to the last batch."
"A wise idea," John said, poking at her silver watch. "They bring any new DVDs for movie night?"
"A few," she said. Her smile faded slightly.
He knew that look. "What?" he said warily.
"Nothing," she said. "The mail came."
He stared at her. "Which, correct me if I'm wrong, it usually does."
"True." She picked up an envelope from the side of her desk. "I didn't know when you'd be back from off world, so I had them leave this with me." She held the envelope out to him.
He didn't take it. "The Air Force usually sends my orders in another format."
"It's not from the Air Force," Elizabeth said.
He took the envelope from her fingers and turned it over. The hand writing wasn't familiar, but even after all these years, he couldn't miss that the name was written with a quill and ink.
The letter was addressed to John Sheppard, no rank mentioned, care of the U.S. Air Force. It took him a moment to make out the return address in the left corner.N. Tonks,
The pressure in his chest made it impossible to breathe. No.
"Friend of yours?" Elizabeth asked, drawing John's attention back to Atlantis.
He blinked at her for a moment. "I'm going to go check on Rodney," he said, drifting to his feet. "The mission went well, tell you later."
She may have said something as he left, but it didn't register. Somehow, he made his way down the steps and along several corridors, the letter clenched in his hand. He didn't even know where he was going until a set of doors whooshed open.Figures I'd come to the training room.
John walked over to the seat by the window, his heart pounding in his chest. Unable to delay any longer, he slit open the envelope. The only thing inside was a small newspaper clipping. John pulled it out and held the envelope up, looking for a hidden message, but he couldn't see a thing. He turned to the clipping. It took him a long time to realize he was holding an obituary notice.Dursley, Dudley. July, 1971 -- August, 2004.
Passed away after a short battle with heart disease, survived by his wife, Clara, children, William and Rose, and mother, Petunia. Predeceased by father Vernon.
Funeral to be held on August 25, 2004, in Little Whinging, Surry.
That was it.
John let the paper flutter to the floor. Dudley had died the month after John had come to Atlantis, maybe even as John was being attacked by the Eratus bug. Both our hearts stopped that month, only they got mine going again.
John hadn't known Uncle Vernon had died. He hadn't known Dudley was married, or had children. He hadn't seen any of them since the summer he turned seventeen.
Knowing Dudley was dead didn't mean anything to John. What did it matter for one more death? Everyone else was dead, too, people who had been more family than the Dursleys had ever been.
The door ghosted open. "Colonel Sheppard?"
"Teyla." He didn't look up.
"Are you unwell? Perhaps the plant--"
"It's not the plant." He sprang to his feet. "You want to spar?"
Teyla gave him a strange look. "Are you sure you do not wish to rest? You have had a long day, as have we all."
"I have left my sticks in my quarters--" Teyla began.
"So we'll have a bit of hand-to-hand," John interrupted, beckoning her. "Come on, it'll be fun."
Warily, Teyla slipped off her shoes and circled John on the mat. "We do not have much experience in this type of sparring," she said.
"All the better to practice," John said. Energy boiled up in him and he didn't want to figure out why, he only wanted to be rid of it. "In case we get into trouble on a stick-free world."
Teyla leapt at him. She was tiny and lithe, and probably weighed a hundred pounds soaking wet. She hooked her foot under his ankle and tried to throw him, but in this fight, his weight helped him stay upright, and he grabbed her shirt to toss her across the room.
She was on her feet again in a moment, and it made John irrationally angry. How could she always get back up? What did she have that everyone else didn't have?
Teyla attacked again, dancing around him easily as he lunged at her, slipping under his arm and twisting his wrist painfully. Ginny went down, a sword in her chest, and she never got up again.
John went to one knee and grabbed Teyla's belt to throw her across the room. Greyback ate Luna and all we ever found was her wand and some blood-soaked hair.
Teyla held onto his arm, and when she hit the mat she pulled, dragging him along with the momentum until his shoulders hit the floor. They didn't get back up, why should I?
John spun around on the floor and got to his feet. He had thought a fight might calm him down, but it was only making things worse and he didn't know how to stop.
Teyla watched him for a long minute, then threw a punch at his chest. John grabbed her hand like grabbing the Golden Snitch
and twisted her around, intent on putting her in a headlock. Too late, he realized where her feet were. A moment later, he was flying as Teyla threw him over her shoulder.
This time, he stayed down.Everyone else stayed down, maybe I'm just too stupid to know when to quit.
The ceiling in the room was slightly blurry, and John wondered if the spell on his eyes was wearing off. Uncle Vernon is dead. Dudley is dead. Aunt Petunia is all alone, just like Molly Weasley was in the end, just like me and Tonks.
Maybe Voldemort won after all.
Nausea churned in his gut. It couldn't be grief; he was done with mourning his past, and for all they hadn't died in the war, Dudley and Uncle Vernon were the past. They had never cared a whit for him, wouldn't have been mourning him if he had been the first to die.
Out of the corner of his eye, John saw Teyla settle beside him on the mat. She would never attack him with he was down like this. He trusted her more than he had ever trusted anyone. It hadn't been a conscious decision, but somewhere in the fight with the Wraith, she had slipped in under his radar.
"Does this have anything to do with Rodney?" she asked quietly.
He had to swallow a couple of times to speak past the lump in his throat. "No."
"I see." She moved away. When she came back, she was holding the small death notice in her hand.
"It's an obituary," John muttered.
"That word is not familiar to me," she said, staring intently at the paper.
John knew she probably couldn't read the words. None of the Athosians were particularly literate in their own language, but Teyla had been trying to learn written English. It was slow, going from a language with fourteen letters and only one verb tense to something as messy as English, but she kept at it. It was a matter of pride.
"It's a... um, on Earth, when someone dies, a note gets put in the newspaper."
"And that's what this is?" Teyla asked. "For someone you knew?"
He could tell her. She'd never heard of Harry Potter or magic or any of it. She'd be safe to tell about Dudley at least, and she'd never break his confidence.
The words were forming on his tongue, when he realized he couldn't do it. He'd spent too many years trying to put this behind him to let it spill out now.
"It doesn't matter," he said, sitting up. "Hey, I heard the Daedalus came in. Want to go see if they brought any popcorn? We can get some for Rodney."
Teyla arched her eyebrow, giving him the 'I'm-not-buying-it' look, but said, "I am not sure Dr. Beckett will allow that."
"So we don't tell him," John said with a smile. He didn't know why he felt as if he'd been kicked in the gut. Maybe it's because you're lying to Teyla,
a traitorous voice whispered in his head.
Teyla waited until he had climbed to his feet to hand him the obituary. "You will want this."
Before he could think better of it, John grabbed the clipping and crumpled it up in his hand. "This-- It doesn't change anything," he muttered. He held out his spare hand to Teyla. "Let's go find Ronon and see Rodney."~~~
John passed the popcorn bowl to Teyla. "This is... disturbing."
On John's other side, Elizabeth made a noise strangely like a snort. "What?" she said when John looked at her. "You have to admit this isn't something you see every day."
Ronon leaned against the glass in the observation room. "Think we can bring back some of this to use on McKay every day?"
"Ronon," Teyla said. "Drugging Dr. McKay is not a sustainable idea."
"But he's just acting so..." John took a handful of popcorn and gestured wildly. "Soft."
Down below in the isolation room, Rodney was sitting on the edge of the bed, swinging his feet back and forth as Beckett prepared to draw some blood. "Now, Rodney, this will hurt a little," Beckett cautioned.
"That's okay," Rodney said cheerfully, a smile on his face as he thrust out his arm. "You're only trying to help me."
Looking rather gob-smacked, Beckett took Rodney's arm. "Aye, I am."
"And we're all just trying to help each other." Rodney looked up at his team in the glass observation bay, and waved with his free hand. "Hi guys!"
"Very disturbing." John handed the popcorn to Elizabeth, and reached over to the intercom. "How's it going, Rodney?"
"Great!" the scientist chirped. "Hey, want to play cards?"
"Cards can wait, Rodney," Beckett said. "Elizabeth, I think I need a sample of this plant."
Ronon laughed. "Told you so," he muttered.
Elizabeth took John's place at the intercom. "Right now?" she asked.
"As soon as possible," Beckett said. He withdrew the needle from Rodney's arm and folded some gauze against his skin. "Just to be on the safe side."
Elizabeth let go of the com button and looked at John. He sighed. "Sure, we can go," he said.
"All three of you?" Elizabeth asked. "Ronon is scheduled to start training the new batch of Marines."
John looked at Teyla. "The planet looked fine," John said. "We go in a cloaked Puddlejumper, and we can be back in half an hour."
"I agree," Teyla said.
"Sure," Ronon said with a shrug.
"All right." Elizabeth went back to the speaker. "We'll have your plant soon, Carson."
Rodney's face fell. "No cards?"
As much as John was tempted to laugh at the woebegone expression on Rodney's face, it would have been like kicking a little puppy. Beside him, Elizabeth gave a sigh of her own. "I'll play cards with you, Rodney," she said, cheering him immediately.
As they filed out of the room, John quietly called for Major Lorne to post a guard on the infirmary. "Just in case his symptoms change," he explained to Elizabeth.
"I don't think a card game will get that out of hand," Elizabeth said. "Be careful."
"Always am," John said. "Come on, Teyla, let's go find some plants."~~~
As the rocky perch broke under his weight, John had a split second to think, Oh fuck,
as he pitched headfirst into the patch of plants.
"Colonel!" Teyla shouted, running over as he sat up.
"Well, isn't this just peachy." John spat out a mouthful of dirt and pulled himself up. Since it no longer mattered, he grabbed a handful of the plant and shoved it into his bag. "Let's get back to the Jumper before this stuff kicks in."
"It started working almost immediately on Dr. McKay," Teyla pointed out. "Will you be able to fly back to Atlantis?"
"Of course I will," John said. His annoyance at falling into the plants was beginning to fade. Hell, he felt great. "I can fly anything."
Careful not to touch him, Teyla pointed at the nearby ship. "We should hurry."
"Okay." They walked in silence up the hill, John happier with each step. This was just like a Cheering Charm! He hadn't felt this great in years. "Hey, Teyla, did I ever tell you that you're pretty neat?"
Teyla sighed. "No, you have not, Colonel Sheppard."
"I haven't?" he considered this for a few minutes as they got into the Jumper. He dropped the bag of plants on the floor, slid into the pilot's seat and tapped on the controls. "I should. Remind me of that."
"I will, when we get home," Teyla said. "Are you sure you are well enough? If we wait, then Dr. Weir will send a search party for us."
"Nah." With a thought, John cloaked the ship and took off. "I can fly anything." To illustrate his point, he set the controls to manual and zoomed through the trees.
"John!" Teyla shouted. "Now is not the time for this!"
"Why not?" John pulled the ship straight up and headed up to the atmosphere. Maybe, if he got enough speed, he could flip around and do the greatest Wronski Feint the Pegasus Galaxy had ever seen.
"Because Dr. McKay needs our help," Teyla said quickly. "We have to get back to Atlantis."
"Oh." John's good mood deflated somewhat. Teyla was right, he was doing something for Rodney. "Next time, then."
"Yes," she said, voice strangled. "Next time, we will practice flying."
Even so, John did some loopdy-loops on his way to the orbiting Stargate. Teyla punched in the address and sent her IDC on the final approach. "Puddlejumper One, you are cleared on approach," the technician's voice crackled over the radio.
"Copy, Atlantis," Teyla said. "Can you please contact Dr. Beckett and have him send a medical team to the Jumper bay? We had an... incident."
"You didn't have to tell them," John said. "I'm fine."
"All the same, Colonel, you would have done the same for any of us. You cannot fault me for following your example."
There was something logical in her words, but trying to think about it made John's mood waver. Then they were through the Stargate and the Jumper was docking and all John could do was sit back and wait.
"You're really pretty," he said after a minute of staring at Teyla.
She looked at him, a resigned expression on her face. "Colonel..."
"Like a sunset, you know?" he reached up to adjust his glasses, and was startled when his hand met thin air. "Like, it's not what you're doing or anything, you're just always pretty."
"Dr. Beckett's medical team will be here shortly."
"Don't you think you're pretty?" John pressed.
"I do not wish to talk about this," she said.
"Oh. Sorry." Something was starting to knock inside his head, like there was something he was missing. "Am I always like this?"
"No, you are not," Teyla assured him. "You are under the influence of those plants, do you remember?"
"Right." Something was wrong. His glasses were gone and he wasn't in his school robes. "Am I going to get points taken off for being out of uniform?"
Teyla frowned. "You are not out of uniform, Colonel." As she spoke, the back door of the Jumper opened and Beckett strode in. He and Teyla spoke for a minute, but John tuned them out. Something was wrong, very wrong, but he couldn't figure out what. Why couldn't he figure it out?
"Colonel Sheppard, you need to come with me," Beckett said.
"Why?" John asked, smoothing his hands over the ship's controls.
"Because I need to examine you, son."
Reluctantly, John stood up. "Am I in trouble?"
"Of course not," Beckett assured him. "You can come and see Rodney."
John kept getting distracted as they walked down the halls, but eventually, they made it to the infirmary. Rodney was lying face-down on a bed, snoring, and Elizabeth looked up from shuffling the cards as they walked in. "What happened?" she asked, sounding incredibly weary.
"The Colonel lost his footing and fell into the plants," Teyla said. "However, his reaction appears to be different than Dr. McKay's."
"How so?" Elizabeth asked.
Teyla hesitated before responding. "He is more paranoid, it seems."
"I'm not paranoid," John exclaimed. "Something is wrong, can't you see that?"
"Colonel--" Beckett started, but John slapped his hand away and started backing up.
"Why does everyone keep calling me that?" he demanded. A sudden, horrible idea occurred to him, and he reached for his wand, only to find it was gone. Teyla must have disarmed me
. "I've been Imperioed, haven't I? That's what this is! You're trying to trick me!"
"Carson, what's going on?" Elizabeth asked.
"I don't know, Rodney didn't display any of these symptoms," Beckett said. "The Colonel--"
"Stop calling me that!" He pulled a cart between him and Beckett, and continued backing up until he hit a wall. "I have a name, why aren't you using my name?" He rooted around in his memory, but he couldn't remember who he was.
"You are Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard," Teyla said, slowly circling around. "Do you not remember?"
The name sounded like a familiar lie. "You're trying to trick me," he repeated, back away from Teyla. Too late, he realized he'd been backed into a corner. "You witches are making this all up, but it's not going to work, I'm not going to tell Voldemort anything!"
"Who is Voldemort?" Teyla asked, staying just out of arm's reach.
No, this was all wrong. Voldemort was dead, everyone was dead. Everybody but him. "Look, I tried," he pleaded. "I did the best I could and it wasn't enough, it's never enough."
He slid to the floor, resting his head against the wall. Everything was wrong and bad and he just felt so damned tired. I tried.
The wall grew warm against this cheek as Atlantis heard his plea. She began to sing a song for his ears only, a low, sad lullaby so achingly familiar that it might have been something his mother sang to him, so many years ago.
When Beckett came with a sedative, he didn't put up a fight.~~~
"I see you're awake," Rodney said from the next bed. "Moan quietly, I've got work to do."
John blinked, wondering what had crawled into his mouth and died. He groaned again and sat up, blearily looking around for water. "What happened?"
Rodney set down his laptop. "I had a charming afternoon eating popcorn and playing 'Go Fish' with the head of the Atlantis expedition," he snapped. "You and gravity had a meeting of the minds, dumping you face first into a plant that exudes a variant of lysergic acid diethylamide, and then you proceeded to have a breakdown in Carson's lab. Not to mention that you accused Teyla and Elizabeth of being witches."
John almost fell off his bed. "What? Are you saying I had a bad trip
"No, he's not," Beckett interrupted, wheeling over a small cart. "The plant exudes a chemical that produces a reaction similar to lysergic acid diethylamide in one way, but the chemical structure is vastly different."
"Oh god." John buried his face in the pillow. What a fucking disaster. He remembered everything he had said, about forgetting who he was... and he'd even accused them of having him under Dark magic!
"There, there," Beckett said in a way that wasn't comforting. "I'm still trying to figure out what generated your vastly different reactions to the plant. Colonel, have you ever taken any mind-altering substances?"
"I'm in the Air Force, remember?"
"That was a no."
"How about you, Rodney?"
The astrophysicist suddenly became very interested in his laptop. "I haven't done anything that wasn't legal in Canada."
John looked up from his pillow, a smile threatening to break out. "Oh, really?" Rodney ignored him.
Shaking his head, Beckett left. John stared at Rodney until the man threw up his hands. "What?"
"Nothing illegal in Canada?" John said. "What exactly does that leave out?"
"I'm from North York, Ontario, Colonel, it's not exactly what you'd call the Sodom and Gomorrah of the North." He glared at John. "Besides, we have bigger problems."
"Like what?" John stretched out, feeling bruised and beaten, the way he always did after Teyla kicked his ass around the training room.
"Like Carson has the whole event on video tape."
John sat up. "You're fucking kidding me."
"Would I joke about something like this?"
Rodney closed his laptop. "Good point. But I'm not."
"Did you ask for the tape?" John demanded.
"Of course I did. He said it was something to do with scientific research."
John frowned, rubbing absently at the day's beard growth on his chin. He couldn't leave that tape in Beckett's hands, just in case someone along the way realized what he was talking about when he mentioned Voldemort. The last thing he needed was for the military to start wondering why one of its Air Force members had been blathering about magic. "I've got an idea," John said.
The day after John and Rodney were released from the infirmary, John rounded up Ronon and Teyla for a little 'recon'.
"Let me see if I understand this," Teyla said after John finished outlining his plan. "We are to sneak into Dr. Beckett's office, steal the tape, and leave."
"Yeah, that's the plan."
"That's the entire plan?" Ronon asked.
John spread his hands wide. "What's wrong with that plan?"
"It's a stupid plan," Rodney intoned.
"No, see, it's brilliant in its simplicity." John looked at his team. "What?"
Ronon uncrossed his arms. "Let's go."
Leading the way with Rodney, John hummed the Mission Impossible theme song under his breath as they snuck around the corner to Beckett's office. The door was open and the room was dark.
"Are you sure he's not in there?" Rodney asked.
"It's Lt. Cadman's lunch hour," John said. "Beckett'll be in the commissary." He darted across the hall and flattened himself against the wall. The rest of his team hung back, Teyla in particular looking at him as if he had lost his mind. "Come on!"
Only Rodney followed him into Beckett's office. The faint light from the hallway only provided the tiniest bit of illumination, leaving John to creep across the floor to the filing cabinets by sense of touch alone.
"What are we looking for?" Rodney whispered.
"A tape disc."
"And we'll know it's the right one how?"
"Because it'll be the ones with our names on it!"
Rodney muttered something into the darkness, then swore. "Sorry about your foot."
John froze. "What about my foot? I'm over here."
The lamp switched on, to reveal Beckett and Elizabeth watching them. Beckett in particular had a pained expression on his face. Busted.
"Hi!" John said, smiling. "I see you caught Rodney and myself in our latest project."
"Colonel!" Rodney hissed.
"What project would that be?" Elizabeth inquired innocently.
"Besides stealing patient files," Beckett muttered.
John put an appropriately surprised expression on his face. "Dr. Beckett, I'm shocked that you would have such a low opinion of Atlantis's pre-eminent astrophysicist and its military commanding officer," he said. "We were merely using our down time to..." Think, John, think!
"To check security systems in the base."
"You canna expect us to believe that!" Beckett exclaimed.
Unexpectedly, Elizabeth cut in. "No, Carson, that's actually a wonderful idea."
"It is?" Rodney said.
Elizabeth nodded, and John's heart began to sink when he saw the gleam in her eyes. "In fact, Colonel, why don't you and Dr. McKay run a complete security check on all our systems during your recovery period? I'll expect the report on my desk by tomorrow afternoon." She turned to Beckett. "Why don't we head down to lunch, Carson?"
"You go, Elizabeth, I've got a lot of work to do." The doctor glared at John and Rodney until they left the office. Elizabeth gave them a charming smile, then vanished around the corner.
"Did we just get detention?" Rodney asked.
"I think so," John said slowly. "Well, that was a bad plan."
"I told you--"
John aimed a menacing finger at Rodney. "Do not
finish that sentence." He shook his head. "I really thought that would work."
Rodney snorted. "At least the acid plant trip didn't cure you of being annoyingly optimistic. Whatever gave you the idea that such a thing might work?"
"High school," John said. He stiffened when he heard the words come out of his mouth, but the familiar pain of remembering what he and Ron and Hermione had used to get up to at Hogwarts didn't hit him. Cautiously, he said, "We nicked a bunch of stuff from a teacher when we were twelve."
"Nicked? What are you, British all of a sudden? And for what?" Rodney asked.
"A chemistry experiment." To disguise ourselves as other people, and it tasted horrible and Hermione turned into a cat and Snape was so convinced it was us but couldn't ever prove it and I haven't thought about that in years.
"Are you okay?" Rodney asked.
"You've got that look."
"The look you get when the Wraith are coming, or when Chuck makes a joke and you can't understand his Canadian humor."
"That's because Chuck isn't funny."
Rodney waved his hand. "You can't blame him, he's from Vancouver." He started off down the hall. "I'm tired, I'm hungry, and I can feel the beginnings of hay fever coming on. I'm not going to work on that security review you got me sucked into until after we eat. Come."
Halfway through lunch, Teyla and Ronon joined John and McKay at their table. John paused in slurping his hot coffee to give them both the glare they deserved. "Fancy meeting you here." Rodney didn't stop shoveling his optimistically named Beef Stroganoff into his mouth.
Teyla leaned back in her chair and gave John a bland look. "You cannot have wished us all to be caught."
"That's not the point," John said, pointing his spoon at her. "The plan was to go in as a team, to strike and walk out with the target."
Ronon lazily pulled a small silver disc out of his sleeve. "You mean this?"
Rodney dropped his fork. "That's it!" he exclaimed, reaching over, but with long-disused Seeker skills, John quickly plucked the object from Ronon's fingers. "Hey!"
"How did you get this?" John demanded, sticking the disc in a pocket that Rodney wouldn't dare reach for. "Beckett was in his office."
"Dr. Beckett was good enough to step into the infirmary with me to review the vaccination schedule on the mainland," Teyla said with a smile. "Ronon took advantage of the distraction."
"Now that's a good plan," John said, grinning. "What would I do without you guys?"
"Get into even more trouble?" Ronon suggested. "You going to eat that?"
John slid his Jell-O cup across the table. "Thanks, guys."
"Do not mention it," Teyla said. "And next time Ronon and myself make a suggestion for a plan, you should hear us out."
"Cross my heart," John promised. "That means yes. Hey, I've got an idea!"
"Not again," Rodney muttered. "What gave you the idea that you were in charge?"
"I look better in a tiara than you do," John said. "Who wants to hear my idea?"
As his team studiously ignored him, John couldn't help feeling like he hadn't lost as much as he thought. He had survived the war with Voldemort, had made a new life for himself. Now, he had proven he could survive the Wraith, with the help of his team. No,
he realized. My friends.~~~
He had three rules that he lived by in Atlantis. He never leaves anybody behind, not a soldier or scientists under his protection. The people he lost hold a place in his memory, especially Lt. Ford. John told himself that one day, he'd find Aiden and drag him back to Atlantis, even if he had to turn over every rock in Pegasus to do so.
The newest rule was to trust his team. He'd proven that with Rodney and Teyla and Ronon, he could do anything. They bring such diverse skills to the table, but they were more than a team, more than friends. They were all the family any of them have left. Teyla had not said anything about the obituary, but John knew that if he ever needed to talk, she would listen to him, and not judge him for his actions.
The last rule, to never speak of magic, was easier on Atlantis than it was on Earth. Whatever it was that set Atlantis humming under his touch was so much like magic that John didn't miss anything he could do with a wand. Her songs were always in his head, as Rodney and Zelenka powered up more of her sections with the ZPM.
John wondered if Rodney ever noticed how the city responded to John's touch, but he hadn't said anything. Maybe one day, he would grab some of Zelenka's homebrew and tell Rodney everything. But for now, the city's songs were his secret.
He was very good at holding secrets, but it had taken him so many years to realize that he wasn't lying when he thought of himself as John Sheppard.
John Sheppard, Harry Potter: only names. It was what he did that mattered. At least he knew that when he died, Atlantis would go on singing her songs across the oceans.the end