Pairing/characters: Teddy/James jnr, Harry/Ginny, previous Teddy/Victoire.
Warnings/content: Intimations of homophobia, oral sex, anal sex, angsty.
Word count: 15,000
Summary: Every event looks different, depending on where you are viewing it from, whether you are the young man naked in the bed, the older man in the doorway, or that man's son who's being squashed against the headboard.
Notes: Many thanks to emansil_12 for all of her help, beta work and suggestions. I just wish that I had had enough time to include all of her ideas, this would have been the better story for them. Thanks also to the mods for running this bigbang for a wonderful and under-represented pairing in fandom.
Pairing/characters: Teddy/James, Draco Malfoy
Warnings/content: Highlight to read *some nakedness, weird hair colour*
Medium: pencil, photoshop
Notes: I wanted to draw so many scenes in this fic, but there wasn't really enough time for them. Ugh. I hope this gives wwmrsweasleydo's fic justice!
Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling. All works posted at this community were created entirely for fun without making any profit. No copyright infringement is intended.
Reality @ googlesites
He stared at the monument to Harry's parents. There was a similar statue to his own parents in Hogsmeade. As a tiny kid, he'd kind of thought that was what real parents were: a statue and a plaque. He touched Lily Potter's ankle for luck and opened the garden gate.
The gravelled path ran between high holly hedges, skirting around the cottage where Lily and James had died. Behind it there was an orchard, just a small one with low, young apple and cherry trees in it. The blossom had fallen and fruit was just beginning to come out as tiny apple-shaped buds. He inhaled the scents of England. Beyond the orchard was the house. Motionless, he stared at it and tried to decide.
He hadn't been sure whether he'd be welcome here. While he'd been gone, Harry had owled him regularly and – just as he had throughout Teddy's childhood – he'd remembered every birthday and significant anniversary. It seemed to Teddy that if he was going to be welcome anywhere in Britain then it would be in Godric's Hollow. He sure as hell wasn't going to risk going anywhere near Shell Cottage.
The church had been booked for a Saturday in June a little over three years ago. It had been packed with the cream of Wizarding society (according to the Prophet) and Victoire had looked radiant. Teddy hadn't seen any of this for himself because he had spent the morning curled up under his bed, willing himself to move, to dress, to travel to the church. Those were the things which he had had to do, and yet they were the things which he could not possibly do. Then there had been the knock at his door. In a panic, he had grabbed his wand and purse and Apparated to the first place he thought of. He had opened his eyes on a ferry which was just about to set off for Sweden.
The life he'd made for himself in Finland – which was where he'd eventually ended up – had been comfortable enough but lonely. It had taken him a long time to understand why he had run from the closest thing to family that he had ever had. It took even longer for him to begin his hesitant explanations to anyone else. The first person had been Harry. He had filled parchment after parchment before setting fire to them all. Eventually he had found the words, written them down, and owled them quickly before he could change his mind.
The reply had taken a week or two to come, but when it had, it had said:
That must have been a difficult letter to write. Thanks for trusting us. It makes perfect sense. You need to stop blaming yourself now. We'd love to see you some time. Please don't stay away for ever,
yours with love,
Harry and Ginny
That had given him the courage he needed to make contact with Victoire and to try to explain it all to her. She deserved at least that.
He didn't just have to explain to her that he was gay; he had to find reasons for why he had hidden that and why he had tried to hide behind her. He hoped she was happy now. He really did like her, but he didn't expect that he would ever see her again. He had never received a reply from her.
There were no lights on in Harry's house because it was the middle of the day. He wondered whether they were all having lunch in there together, round the kitchen table which he remembered so well. Perhaps Harry was the only one at home. His invitation had been so vague. Not an invitation really, Teddy had invited himself, Harry had only agreed.
He had agreed, though. He had offered Teddy a place to call home as well as a base from which to launch his new British life. Teddy took a deep breath and forced his feet in front of each other. He kept on down the path with his eyes on the door knocker. It was brass and shaped like a phoenix. He pictured himself grasping it and rapping firmly with it. Turning around and running away was an option he could just as easily envision.
In the end, he didn't get the chance to do either, because the door opened before he reached it and Ginny came racing out, with a young woman running behind her. Ginny embraced Teddy and he sank into her arms.
"So good to see you again," Ginny said.
Teddy looked over her shoulder at the second woman, wondering who she was as she grinned at him.
"We're really glad you're back," she said.
Then Harry appeared in the doorway and put a hand on her shoulder and Teddy realised that she must be Lily Luna. Only it couldn't be, because Lily Luna was a little girl. Harry never held onto anyone else that way, though. Her eyes were the same. Her hair was shorter and darker but similar. She had breasts. Little Lily Luna couldn't have breasts.
"Ok, you can put my wife down now," Harry said with a chuckle.
Ginny wiped at her eyes as she backed off. Teddy looked away, embarrassed. He held out his hand for Harry to shake it and found himself pulled into rough, manly hug. That didn't go on for as long and included lots of back-slapping. It wasn't necessary, Teddy wasn't about to mistake contact with Harry for anything sexual. Then Lily Luna looked as though she was about to hug him, too. Teddy looked at Harry. He didn't know whether he was allowed to touch Harry's daughter, what with the breasts and everything. He decided to ignore her development and ruffled her hair as though she were still eight.
"I don't know where the boys are," Ginny was saying as they walked into the house. "Are you hungry? What was your journey like? Harry still has trouble with Portkeys, don't you darling? Shall I put the kettle on?"
He smiled and nodded or shook his head, allowing her to fill the silence, not sure what to say himself.
"I wonder whether the boys have finally decided where you're going to sleep," Ginny mused. "Just pop your bag down here for now. They both wanted you in with them and they said they had some way of settling it."
"Some things never change!" Harry said with a chuckle.
Teddy found his eyes heating and filling up. Because it had all changed completely since the two boys had been scamps and he had been their honorary cousin. Did they not know about his sexuality or did they not care? He would have been more comfortable with a room of his own, but the acceptance was so touching that he wasn't about to mention any of that, nor reject the offer.
He sat and chatted and drank his tea for a while. They needed to plan his re-entry into society. Bill might be ready to hex his head off (and according to Ginny he still was) but everyone else was apparently open to persuasion.
Just then there was a noise on the stairs.
"At last!" Ginny said. "Did you not hear me calling, boys?"
Teddy was relieved to see that Albus was still unmistakably the same person he had been when Teddy had left the country (although he was not still wearing the page boy suit of course). He was taller, skinnier and there was a dusting of stubble on his chin, but he was easily recognisable.
"I lost", Albus said with a familiar lip-twist. He leaned over the kitchen table and stuck out his hand to Teddy. "You have to sleep with my brother, I'm afraid."
Teddy carefully grasped Albus' hand and grinned back at him. Suddenly, though, he was flooded with an awareness of the possible double meaning of that sentence when a golden young man strode into the room, shirtless, looking like a magazine spread. One of those in the secret magazines he'd made himself leave behind in Finland so that he could have a clean slate in this new life. Teddy swallowed. The gorgeous vision had James' face and his pale blue eyes. He had his bright red hair, but it wasn't just on his head anymore, it was all across his chest and trailed down to his waistband like an arrow. Teddy worked hard at not staring.
"Will you get dressed?" Ginny snapped. "We've got a visitor!"
"It's only Teddy," James whined. "Teddy doesn't mind." He turned slightly as though he was going to ask Teddy whether he did mind.
Teddy didn't know what his own answer would have been if he had been asked, but luckily Ginny intervened first. "Well, I mind! You're showing us all up. You can't have run out of clean shirts already, I only did a wash yesterday!"
James just sighed and left the room, yelling out, "Welcome back, Teddy! With you in a minute!"
Albus and Lily grinned like Teddy had seen them do as tiny children, in that way which meant that they were happy because they weren't the ones in trouble.
"We made scones," Lily said excitedly. "And last Autumn I made jam and there's still some left, isn't there, Mum? Damson jam. Do you want some?"
The Potters were all lovely to him and he didn't think that he deserved it, but he was grateful to accept it. James looked far less distracting and more familiar when he came back again fully dressed. Teddy's duffle bag was sent up to James' room and he was allowed to acclimatise himself to family life again.
It wasn't until dinner that he started to think through the implications of sharing a bedroom with James. He thought he caught the eldest Potter glancing at him across the table, but that could well have been his imagination. James was a man now, just as Lily was a woman. He had missed the transformation. He didn't know how to respond to the results.
There was alcohol after dinner and a fireside armchair for him to sit in as he caught up on family news, and they chatted long into the night, putting the world to rights,. Teddy went to bed before James did and fell straight to sleep.
He woke in the morning, with his eyelids slowly unpeeling themselves from each other. He found himself looking straight at the backs of James' bare legs. James stood in the middle of his bedroom, on the narrow strip of carpet between the beds, wearing nothing but boxer shorts. Teddy hadn't woken with an erection, but he felt a sudden stiffening now. Unaware of his audience, James stretched and yawned, showing off his muscular back. Teddy closed his eyes. This was James he was looking at, Harry's son. He thought hard about the ginger toddler James had once been, with a nappy full of sand and a cheeky grin. James had welcomed him, trusted him. This was no way to repay that. And yet his lids refused to stay together.
James turned towards the window, giving Teddy a profile view of the shape of his body inside his underwear. The sun glinted on the red hair on his flat belly. James ran one hand down his opposite arm, giving Teddy goose-bumps. Then he walked out of the room and Teddy tried not to watch his buttocks as they shifted inside the cotton with each stride.
Teddy rolled over, pressing his erection into the mattress. No. This was not going to happen. He was not going to destroy his relationship with this family all over again.
Teddy concentrated his attention on Harry and Ginny. He had long, serious talks with them both. They began to take him round to see other Weasleys and influential friends. They spent Saturday in Ron's box at the Chudleigh Canons ground. The team played painfully badly, but it was worth being there for the welcome, and to watch Ron sinking his head in his hands over and over again, claiming, "They're never usually this bad."
"They are," Ginny whispered.
George even gave him a part-time job at the Wheezes branch in Godric's Hollow, but the expansive generosity was accompanied by a growled "Don't make me regret this," in his ear.
It was only at bedtime and in the mornings that Teddy had to muster his self-control. As long as he didn't watch James dressing and undressing then he could convince himself that he was going to be alright.
After a couple of weeks, things were going so well that Teddy was included in the Potters' invitation to Seamus Finnigan's birthday party. Ginny warned him not to drink anything Seamus offered him. Her children had clearly been given this warning many times before judging by their smirks.
James had just started Apothecary training. His classes on the Friday of the party had gone on so long that he'd had to meet them there after the party was already well underway. When he arrived he slumped down in the chair next to Teddy and sighed deeply.
Adults Teddy had known all his life were behaving like adolescents all round him. He had slunk into a dark corner to hide. He knew that he was a grown-up, too, these days – hell, even James was one strictly speaking – and he knew that sometimes he got drunk and made a bit of a fool of himself, but he couldn't help thinking of these people as the real grown-ups, the parents, the establishment. This was their one night of the year, apparently, for completely reverting to an adolescent idiocy which he knew that, in reality, they were unlikely to have actually achieved during their own teenage years amid the dangers which they had faced then. Ginny might have warned her kids off Seamus' home brew, but she'd sunk a good few glasses of it herself and was now performing a very loud and tuneless version of I'm only a Hag from Harleston, but my Teeth are Made of Gold with two of her brothers.
Teddy felt like the foundations of his life were shifting and losing solidity. His steady people, the ones who had always formed the bedrock of his life, were behaving recklessly. He needed their stability, more so now that he had behaved so badly himself; they were meant to be the ones setting him right again.
He was grateful for James' company. He knew where he was with James, even if where he was, was in the centre of a battle against his irresponsible desires.
James closed his eyes. "Think I'm gonna fall asleep," he said,
"You drunk?" Teddy asked, panicked. He didn't want to have to look after a drunk James, but there was nobody else there who was sober enough to do it. He was pretty sure that he wouldn't take advantage, but then at one time he had been certain that he was going to marry Victoire, so he no longer trusted himself entirely.
James lifted the bottle he was holding. "Nah. I'm on the water. End of a long week, that's all."
"Doing something new always takes it out of you." Teddy nodded.
"Hope that's it. Can't keep this up for three years if it's all gonna be like this." James closed his eyes.
James leaned back on the chair and his T-shirt rode up a little over his flat abdomen. Teddy couldn't tear his gaze from the corona of auburn hair around his belly button, much as he knew that he had to. James tilted his head towards the ceiling and, when Teddy managed to look up, he found himself trapped there by the accentuated sight of James' Adam's apple jutting from his throat.
"I'm not up to this," James said. "Gonna go home. Leave them to it."
"I'll come with you."
"You don't have to."
"I don't mind. Let's get you home." He grasped at the opportunity to escape, only realising with a sickening lurch of his stomach as he stood that it would result in him being alone in Harry's house with James.
In order to get to the Floo, they had to push past Hermione who was teaching Dean and Neville to cancan. James raised his eyes and giggled at them as he shoved them to the side. Teddy averted his eyes, wondering how he was ever going to face any of the three of them again.
Teddy woke at dawn to a silent house. He wondered what had woken him, then felt the shift of his mattress as someone sat on the foot end of his bed. He hoped to goodness it wasn't one of his inebriated elders come to lecture, console, or convert him. He opened his eyes.
James was naked. The curtains were half open and the orange light of sunrise fell onto his skin. Bare skin. So young. Manly somehow at the same time. He had a serious expression. For a moment they stared at each other. Teddy began to wonder whether James was sleep-walking. Then James leaned forward.
"They'll be sleeping it off for hours," he said softly.
He ran his hand over the blankets which covered Teddy's shin.
"They'll never know," he said.
Teddy's mouth dried. He wondered whether he was having a rather inconvenient erotic dream about the boy in the bed next to his. He didn't want to speak in case James heard him calling out inappropriate phrases in his sleep.
"Don't you want to?" James asked.
"Want to what?" Teddy asked, needing to get this straight.
"I'm cold," James said instead of answering. "Can I climb in?"
Teddy looked over to James' bed and wondered why he'd got out of it. Then he nodded, slightly and slowly. James stood, very deliberately, and Teddy watched his dark pink dick in its nest of ginger curls, bouncing against James' pale thigh as he walked the length of the bed. Teddy scooted back towards the wall and pressed his back against it as James lifted the covers and slid in underneath.
"I'm not a virgin," James said. "I know my own mind. I know what I like." He rolled towards Teddy and fitted his body to Teddy's front.
"What do you like?" Teddy's voice croaked. His hand rose, but he made it hover over James' skin, did not allow it to touch. James didn't feel cold at all. The warmth of his body heated Teddy's chest and belly and thigh.
"I like you, Teddy." James' arm went over Teddy's side towards his back. "I want you. You want me." There was a pause, James squeezed tighter. "You do want me."
"I do." Teddy admitted defeat.
James' face split into a grin, but Teddy only glimpsed it for an instance, because then they were kissing. He finally allowed his hand to fall onto James' naked skin. James' hands pushed up Teddy's T-shirt. There was a brief gust of cold, and then heated skin warmed him. Even with James so close, so naked and so willing, Teddy's arousal felt inappropriate. He edged back. James grabbed Teddy's hand and pulled it down onto his own full erection. That was quick, Teddy thought, until he realised that he was the same. James' taut, hot skin was in his palm. Slowly, he closed his hand around it.
He was so focussed on James' flesh, that he only noticed that he was now almost naked, too, with his shirt covering only his elbow, when James took a firm hold of Teddy's cock. He pulled up with determined strokes, and ran his thumb over the head. After a few minutes spent surrendering to the bliss, then Teddy thought to move his hand, too. Neither of them lasted long, but for as long as they did last, the pleasure was blinding, deafening, overwhelming.
They dozed. He thought that they had only dozed for a few minutes. The poke of James' new erection against his thigh woke him. Teddy found he was hard again, too. They were lying hot and close and naked. James' face was beside his, just staring at him. Teddy planted a little kiss on the end of his nose.
James chuckled. Then his face stiffened into an expression of utter seriousness. "Please. Teddy. Can we...? I mean, I want to... I want you to..." He swallowed. He was blushing.
Through a mind addled by sleep and lust, Teddy found himself answering, "Anything."
"Have sex. I want you to go inside me." He looked away, as though it were a more embarrassing thing to say those words than it had been to seduce Teddy in the first place.
"You've done this before?" Teddy checked.
"I told you, I'm not a virgin," James snapped. Then he looked appalled and his hand flew to his mouth. "Sorry," he said. "Bit nervous." He sniffed at his fingers. "Your come smells great."
"What are you nervous about?"
"That you might say no." James looked intensely into Teddy's eyes.
"How could I do that?"
Harry whisked a bowl of eggs, groaning at the shlff shlff of the metal whisk against the glass.
"Hangover potion not kicked in yet?" Ginny asked sympathetically. She agitated a huge pan of frying sausages and they hissed in protest.
"Might need a second one," Harry acknowledged.
"Told you not to drink any of Seamus' concoctions." She summoned a vial from the Potion Cabinet and sent it to her husband, while simultaneously setting off the Slicing charm on the bread knife and sending the steaming kettle over to the table, where the teapot was waiting for it. "Do you think Albus is going to make it down for breakfast?" she asked.
"Lost track of him last night," Harry admitted, swallowing down the potion. "Was he drinking?"
"He was practically comatose when I levitated him home at two."
"I'll let him sleep, then." Harry handed over his bowl of egg mixture. "Shall I wake the others, though? Do you think they'll be ready for a proper breakfast?"
Ginny laughed. "I hope so, there's too much here for just the two of us!"
"I dunno," Harry muttered. The second vial of potion had just knocked off his nausea and now he was starving.
He looked at the big table on his way past it and smiled as he always did. It was a Weasley kitchen, now, the sort he'd always wanted, full of warmth and good smells and people every day. So different from Petunia's gleaming, sterile surfaces. His children had grown up at that table, making noise and mess and making him happy. They had finished growing now. A part of him was in limbo, waiting for the grandchildren he wanted to fill his kitchen with. Not for a while, though. Let them finish their childhoods in peace, the way he and Ginny hadn't been able to do.
It was great to have them all at home. And Teddy, too. He grinned. Teddy was back in the right place now. He started to climb the stairs, slowly and softly as he mused. It would be great to have a full table for breakfast this morning. All the family bustle was meaningless and yet it was everything. It meant that his chicks were in the nest he'd built for them. Safe.
He didn't even think to knock, just pushed at the first bedroom door he passed, the words, "Breakfast in five minutes" freezing in his mouth.
Two heads snapped round to stare at him as he stared back and tried to process the image before him. The man on his knees was Teddy: the boy he'd mentored, the disgraced absent groom whom he'd eased back into the family, the young man he had invited into his home. Naked, his bare back looked huge, much more muscular than he looked dressed. Covered in light hair, it was an adult back, and the youth it loomed over was Harry's son.
Harry's stomach dropped. He had allowed this predator into his home, into his son's bedroom, the space where he should have felt safe. Harry had known what Teddy was and he had failed to protect his son from him.
James' hair was shining with sweat, damped down and sticking to his forehead, which had been forced against the headboard of his bed. He was on all-fours. Naked. He looked so pale and slim and vulnerable.
Harry found his voice. "Get away from my son! Get the fuck out of my house. Go! I don't want you anywhere near us!"
Teddy hadn't moved, but James was talking. Harry didn't hear him. He wanted to put his arms round his baby boy and comfort him and make everything right again, but at the same time he didn't want to touch him, not like this, not naked and glistening and stinking like this.
"How can you do this to me after everything I've done for you?" Harry demanded of Teddy, because he couldn't stand to look at James.
"Harry, I--" Teddy's voice was clogged with something. Harry didn't want to think about it.
Harry raised his hands, to block the view, to fend off Teddy's words, and to protect himself from the horror. "Don't talk to me. You've got five minutes to clear the fuck out of our lives!" Harry turned and ran down the stairs.
Ginny was standing at the bottom, looking up at him questioningly. Stunned and heartbroken he ran past her. What could he say? How could he tell her that he had welcomed a monster into their home?
Lily was woken by clattering sounds outside her window. She got out of bed, disorientated, thinking it was the middle of the night. By the time she had lifted the edge of her curtain and looked out, though, she had realised that it was morning. She could smell bacon.
Teddy was in the garden, dragging his duffle bag with him. She'd just worked out that the noise she'd heard must have been the bag coming down the back step, when there was a sharper noise. It was an Apparition crack and Teddy was gone.
She blinked sleepily and tried to recall Teddy's appearance to see if it held a clue as to what was going on. He had looked flustered and his hair had been messy-- which was unusual for Teddy -- and his feet bare. He must have been in a dreadful hurry because he could get his hair neat in seconds, she'd always envied that aspect of his metamorphmagus abilities. She stuck a hand in her own messy hair and hit a dried clump of hairspray, so she decided to ignore it.
She pulled on her dressing gown. She could really do with some of that bacon. It had been late by the time she’d left the party at Uncle Seamus’, and she was still feeling the effects. She paused on the landing, breakfast calling her name. But maybe James would know where Teddy was going in such a hurry and when he was going to be coming back.
She liked Teddy. He was cool. Her brothers tried to show off to him, too, and acted all mature when he was around. They looked rather stupid doing it, but they weren't quite such annoying pricks then. She only vaguely remembered him from before. The duck faces which he'd made for her then, had always got her laughing so hard that she would have to rush to the loo. It had been a bit weird at first, having a man living in her house who wasn't family. It had made her self-conscious about her breasts and bras and things, even though she knew that he was gay like James and didn't care about her body.
Everyone at school knew about James being gay. She'd found out on the Hogwarts Express on the train journey up to Hogwarts when she'd first started. James had taken her to one side.
"Look, Lily," he had said. He had chewed his lip. "There's something you should know probably."
She had spent all summer extracting every last drop of information from her brothers and cousins. She thought she knew everything she needed to know about the school now. What vital question had she failed to ask and why did he look so worried about it? James never worried about anything. He was a reckless Quidditch player and desultory scholar, who dressed carelessly and approached everyone openly.
"You can't tell Mum and Dad," he had said.
James never cared when he got told off. What on earth had he done? Little eleven year-old Lily had waited anxiously for her fourteen year-old brother to spill his secret. She held her breath and said nothing.
"I've kind of got a boyfriend," he had said very quickly after a long pause. "Please don't tell!"
"A boyfriend?" Lily took a moment. It sank in. "Not a girlfriend?" She and Hugo had been wasting their time teasing him about girls then. "A boy?"
"Yeah." He'd sounded irritated, but she knew that's just what he did when he couldn't wait to find something out. She realised that what he wanted to find out was what she thought about him being gay.
She had shrugged. "Ok," she had said. "Buy me a cauldron cake?"
"Haven't you got any of your own money?" There had been something wary in that question. She knew now that he had wondered whether she was trying to blackmail him. She hadn't been, of course.
"I'll pay, but there's a queue and they're all bigger than me."
James had grinned then. "No worries. I'll pay. You want gingerbeer with it?"
As he had left the carriage she'd asked, "So when do I get to meet this boyfriend of yours?"
He had shrugged, and in the end she never had been introduced to that one (not that she could remember which one that had been) because the relationship hadn't lasted that long.
She didn't understand why James didn't just tell their parents he was gay. Hugo and Rose and Molly and Roxanne and Louis had all had to be sworn to secrecy, too. And Albus, of course. She didn't think their parents would mind. They were cool with Teddy, after all. Dad was cool about practically everything. Maybe not her last Transfiguration result, but most other things.
The door to James' bedroom was open. She could hear swearing and the sounds of things being thrown around in there. That James was not in the mood to answer questions was obvious. She edged round until she could see him. He looked furious. She couldn't see him from the waist down because of the big bag on his bed, but what she could see of him was naked. Ew! He was throwing clothes into the bag. His clothes. She backed away.
Her head was all thick and foggy because she had just woken, but she couldn't remember being told that James was going anywhere. He'd just started his apprenticeship, he couldn't go anywhere now. Maybe it was just for tonight, but that was a lot of clothes.
Breakfast was laid out on the big table in the kitchen, but nobody was eating it. Her dad was sitting on the floor near the fireplace, shaking, with his head in his hands and Mum was squatting down next to him, with a consoling hand on his back. She had been saying something, but she stopped when Lily came into the room. She turned to look at Lily and smiled, like that was meant to make everything look ok, when clearly it wasn't. Lily felt nauseous. Her dad never freaked out about stuff.
"What's going on?" Lily demanded. "What's up with Dad? Where's Teddy gone and why is James packing?"
"James?" her mother asked, looking panicky. "Merlin!" She stood up and pushed past Lily as she raced out of the room.
Lily was left alone with her dad, who was looking all broken and weak and not like himself at all. "Dad?" she asked. He didn't answer. She looked at the bacon and sausage and eggs and toast and the steaming pot of tea all waiting on the table. She didn't feel hungry anymore.
The row woke Albus. People were clanging up and down the stairs. He had a hangover and he was already in a bad temper. He'd been having a lovely time last night with Lavender Brown at Seamus' party. His chat-up lines had even got him a snog. She had breasts that he'd dreamed about for as long as he'd been having wet dreams. He'd actually thought that he was getting somewhere at last. And then not only had she told him that he was a child and he should get over it, but he'd also discovered from Dean Thomas, that his bloody Uncle Ron – of all people – had already beaten him to it. As a result, he had drunk himself into unconsciousness and now he was hungover as well as pissed off, embarrassed, humiliated and disgusted at the recurring thought that his tongue had been where his uncle's had a quarter century before.
He dragged himself to his door to see Lily scampering past it. Across the landing, James' door was open and he looked like he was packing. Albus got himself to the top of the stairs. Mum was bounding up them now with her determined look on. He darted into James' room and shut the door behind him.
"What are you doing?" his brother snarled at him.
"Heading Mum off. What are you doing?"
"Uh? You got any Hangover Cure?"
James jerked his head towards the window sill. There was a knock on the door.
"James!" Ginny called through it.
Albus cast a locking charm and then helped himself to a couple of James' vials. "What have you done now?" he demanded after knocking them back, as he sunk onto James' bed.
"Why does it have to be my fault? Dad's a wanker."
"Granted. Although everything always is your fault. What's Dad's wanking got to do with anything?" Albus looked around. His head was clearing. "Teddy's stuff's gone. Where's Teddy?"
"Dad chucked him out."
"Seriously? What for?"
"He caught us... you know. At it."
"Woah! Woah! Back up there lover boy. You finally persuaded Teddy to bone you?"
James said "Fuck off," but he said it with a shy, proud smile.
"How long's that been going on?"
"Just started last night. And then Dad walks in and starts acting like I'm Beedle's Untouched Princess and sends Teddy off to Merlin-knows-where."
"Poor Teddy." Albus' hangover had finally cleared and he felt like he needed a drink. "You couldn't have waited?"
James stopped throwing clothes into his bag and glared at his brother. "You're blaming me?" He yanked out a drawer and tipped its contents over Teddy's bed. "I have bloody waited! Years I've been bloody waiting!"
"I just meant why do it here. Teddy owes Dad big time. Couldn't you have taken him off somewhere else to seduce him? What's Teddy meant to do now? Where can he go?"
"I don't know."
"Where are you off to?"
"Plan," Albus said with a sarcastic nod.
He didn't say 'I told you so', but he could have done. They had both admired Teddy when they were younger, but James had always been weird about it. He'd collected photos of Teddy for years, had even taken them to Hogwarts. Albus bet that shoebox full of them was still under James' bed. Albus hadn't actually caught him wanking over them, but he'd be surprised if it hadn't happened.
He had known that no good was going to come of James sharing a bedroom with his wet dream. When Teddy had left Finland and moved in here, even as Teddy had been walking up the garden path, Albus had still been trying to reason with James. There was no reason, though, not with James, not where Teddy was concerned.
"But this is my chance, Al," James had griped then. "Don't be a bastard. This is probably the only chance I'll ever have to get close to Teddy."
"That what you call it?"
"Why would you want him in your room anyway?"
"And then what? What happens after you've 'got close to' Teddy? What then?"
"I don't know. Come on, Al, you know how much this means to me. You're the only one who really does."
Maybe Lorcan Scamander has a clue, Albus thought, Seeing as rumour has it that you said Teddy's name at the vital moment with him. "You never think things through. The poor sod has been languishing in Santa land and the first thing that happens when he gets back is that he has some adolescent stalker throwing himself at him? I can't let you do it."
Their mum had called up at that moment to tell them that Teddy had arrived. Albus had watched James start to hyperventilate.
"He's not sleeping in here. It's not safe," Albus said then.
"I'm not going to jump him when he's unconscious."
"Wouldn't put it past you. You couldn't help yourself, the state you're in."
"I love him, Al!" James had whined. He had sounded like a teenaged girl with a pop star crush. He hadn't even refuted the charge of being an adolescent. "I'll never hurt him."
He had, though, hadn't he? Teddy had been kicked out by the only friends he had left in the country. The gossip was going to fly round like fairy dust. He'd be ruined again. Albus should have fought harder, argued longer. He couldn't remember now why he'd given in. But, the moment James had stripped to his torso before going downstairs to greet Teddy, Albus had known it was all going to go to shit.
He sighed. "Owl us a postcard when you find him," he said then left the room.
Mum was still standing outside. She gave him a quizzical, angry, disappointed look. Al went back to bed and left them to it.
Albus left James' room and finally Ginny got to see James through the opened door. He was dressing now, pulling on a T-shirt. His packed bag was on the bed. Albus didn't say anything to her and Harry wouldn't talk either. She'd patted his back and said some soothing things, but she hadn't got any sense from him.
James looked at her. "Mum," he said. Nothing more, though.
"Where are you going?" she asked.
"I s'pose Dad's told you--"
"Nobody's told me anything, as usual." She paused, and gave her eldest son what she hoped was an encouraging smile, with her arms folded, in the doorway. "Why don't you tell me what happened?"
"I'm an adult. I'm entitled to some privacy! And if I can't get it here then maybe it's about time I moved out."
"There's no rush. You've got the apprenticeship--"
"I'm not staying here with him!"
James wasn't behaving like an adult. He was sulking like a teenager. She sighed, then asked softly, "Can't you tell me what's going on?"
James looked embarrassed. "Dad just walked in here," he said.
"And now he's kicked Teddy out!"
"These are the things I know; there's something in between which will make sense of it." She paused, but James started fiddling with his hair and looking in the mirror. "I suppose you've told Albus?"
"Yeah." James turned on her, "Go ask Dad. You're going to believe his version anyway. There's no point in me telling you anything." His face crumpled. "He's got no respect for me, Mum."
She wanted to ask who it was who didn't respect James. Instead she put her arms round him as she hadn't done in quite a while, and she let him rest his head on her shoulder. "I love him," James mumbled. Again, she didn't know whether he meant his father or Teddy.
"Talk to me, baby," she said.
She felt his shoulders rise in a shrug under her arms.
"I'm gay, Mum."
There was a silence. She listened to them both breathing.
"I thought you probably were," she said quietly, "but I wasn't sure because I thought you would have told me. I don't mind who you fall in love with, James, but I mind you keeping secrets. Am I really such a harridan that you thought I'd care?"
His ribs spasmed. It might have been a sob.
"I love you, James. That's it."
Another rack of his chest. That was definitely crying. Soon her shoulder would be wet. She wouldn't say anything, though. She would let him pretend that he'd been big and brave and buried his feelings like a man.
"I can't stay here, Mum."
"Of course you can."
"He thinks I'm a child. He can't respect my decisions. He doesn't see me, he sees some kid. And now I've messed everything up for Teddy."
Ginny sighed. So, Harry had caught Teddy and James together, had he? She should have been predicted something like that. She'd suspected how James felt, and he was such a lovely boy that Teddy would have had to work hard to resist him. There must have been something she could have done to stop this. Teddy was a sweet enough young man. It had probably been a mistake to put him in with James. But they were adults. It was about time Harry learned to knock on doors before he walked through them.
"We'll talk to your father. We'll work something out."
Then James pulled away from her. He wiped his face. "I'm going after Teddy, Mum. If you need me, you can Owl me at work."
If she needed him? He had no idea just how much she needed all of her children.
He had loved Teddy for so very long. And just when he had finally started getting somewhere with him, his Dad had gone and ruined everything. James couldn't stay here with his father after that. And anyway, he had to find Teddy.
He shrunk his luggage and shoved it in the pocket of his hoodie. He kept his bedroom door locked – he didn't want anyone coming in to his private space when he was gone – and he Apparated out.
He had no idea where he was going. Not knowing where he was Apparating to, he was lucky that he hadn't splinched himself. He ended up outside Quality Quidditch. That was hardly a surprise. It had been his comfort place when he was younger. The family would be gathered in Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, or having a dinner in the Leaky, and he would slope off to Quality to stare into the window, to breath in the air and hear the silence.
A new Nimbo-Cumulus graced the window display and he rested his eyes and his thoughts on it for a few minutes to clear his head. Then he looked up the street. Gringott's bank loomed over it all. This was far too close to where Uncle Bill worked. He needed to move on.
Bill had never forgiven Teddy for abandoning Victoire at the altar. Everyone had been upset, except for James who hadn't understood why it had made him so happy that the wedding hadn't gone ahead. He'd felt sick when the wedding had been being planned. It had made him feel like he was losing Teddy. That hadn't made sense then. Until it did.
When Teddy had disappeared off to Europe, though, then James had been upset. His mum had tried to find out why he was fretting, but he hadn't understood it himself then. Not until they got Teddy's letter. Dad had tied himself in knots trying to explain 'gay' to his kids. It was alright for Albus to say that James should 'come out' to his parents, but James had seen then how uncomfortable their father was with it all. Teddy had been forgiven for leaving Victoire waiting at the altar, but Harry had felt the need to forgive him for being gay, too. James had watched his father welling with his own magnanimity at the absolution. Harry had self-consciously pushed himself into being tolerant about Teddy's sexuality and it had made him feel bloody good about himself, too. James couldn't believe that Harry would be as understanding when he learnt that his own son was one of them.
That night, lying in bed, James had worked over his new truths in his mind. Teddy was gay. That meant he loved men. James wanted so desperately to be the man that Teddy loved, that he finally understood: he was in love with Teddy. That meant that he was gay, too. There was no way he was going to face his father's disappointed saintly toleration, so he wasn't going to tell him, but from then on he knew. He knew that he was gay and he knew that it was Teddy he really wanted.
There was school after that, and dating, and flirting and experimenting. Teddy could have looked like any of those boys, but none of them were enough like Teddy. James had been Out and Proud and defiant then; but only within the castle walls. His school-mates were sworn to secrecy. He'd claimed it was the Prophet he was worried about, but he was far more afraid of his father's reaction.
James Apparated to the Wizarding Library in Oxford. He had studying to do before work on Monday and that would be as good a place as any to do it in. He could think there, too, could try to work out where Teddy might have gone. He just hoped it wasn't back to Finland. James didn't know how he would find him there.
After a few hours in the echoing cool of the library, James slipped out to get a late lunch and send an Owl. He would just ask Teddy where he was and then he would join him. It would be simple.
Teddy didn't answer his Owl, though. After an hour back at his library desk, James sent a Patronus. Still no reply. He had spent the morning trying to think up people who Teddy might have gone to. There was nobody. James was sure that Teddy would assume that everyone in Britain would be on Harry Potter's side. James didn't know how long it took to organise an International Portkey back to Finland. Or what if Teddy were to travel by Muggle means? Did he have a passport? James didn't know which ports or airports he should be checking. His head ached with all the questions and doubts hammering away inside it. He couldn't think about anything else. He was prepared to do anything. He wanted his moment of romantic desperation, but he didn't know where to find it. Teddy had disappeared and it looked as though he didn't want to have any more to do with James.
James shoved his books back into his bag and stood up, decisively. He got shushed by the woman at the next table. He glared at her. Diagon Alley, that was the place to start. It wasn't a good place, because Teddy would probably be trying to keep a low profile, and it was far too close to Gringott's. But at least it was a place.
He started at one end of the street and worked his way down. He went into every shop and he looked for Teddy and he asked whether anyone had seen him. He hesitated outside Wheezes. He didn't know what George would say to him. George would take Harry's side. He'd supported Bill. Hadn't he? George was Teddy's boss. Was Teddy going to lose his job over this?
Then there was Lee, walking down the street, looking up and seeing James. He raised a hand to James, though, and James had to wave back. "You coming in?" he called over.
James shrugged. He felt like he was glued to the spot. Lee shrugged and walked into George's shop.
By the time James got into the busy store, Lee had been absorbed by the crowd and George was nowhere to be seen. He passed Verity, who looked flustered and was in the middle of trying to bag up something which kept changing shape.
"Hey, Verity," he shouted.
"Oh, James. Hi there. Just a minute."
"You seen Teddy today? Teddy Lupin?"
"Not today, sorry. Look, just give me a minute and --"
But James was out of the shop. He had no intention of waiting around long enough to hear George's opinion of what Harry had walked in on that morning.
The Leaky was crowded, too. He needed a drink, just to give him a lift so that he could keep going. It wasn't like he was going to stop searching and sit down while he drank it. As he ordered his butterbeer it struck him that Teddy might have taken a room here. He grinned. He asked Hannah as she gave him his change. Then when she had shaken her head and walked away, and he had got over that pang of disappointment, he realised that he could have a room here. For tonight at least. Just until he could find Teddy.
Harry looked at his fingers and – finally – he actually saw them. He felt the cold of metal against his palm. His eyes focussed.
"Sorry, Mum," he said one last time, the words rasping against his throat because he had been saying them over and over again, gripping the hand of her statue. He took a deep breath and in one intensely lucid moment saw himself objectively. He recognised the ludicrousness of what he was doing.
Still, he asked Lily's effigy one last question. "Is it my fault?" He let go of her, stepped back and looked into her face. Then he looked into his father's face. What would they have done if they had found him pinned under some lascivious monster whom they had trusted? Should he have attacked Teddy? He was sure that Sirius would have done, Harry could just picture him doing that. James would have been the same, wouldn't he?
He rubbed at the old scar on his forehead, almost wishing that it would hurt him again and he could be a hero again. The enemy then had at least been an evil being and not Harry’s godson, not the son of someone Harry had admired and loved. How would Remus have reacted to the scene in James' bedroom that morning?
A wave of new nausea hit him. The way which he had spent this day had been far from heroic. He had been wallowing, he could see that now. He had been focussing on himself. Ginny would never have done that; she must have spent the day focussed on their poor, abused son. Harry should have been by James' side, too. That's who he should have been thinking about.
Only, every time Harry thought about James now, he saw only his flushed, naked, sweaty skin.
Harry blocked his thoughts of James. Instead, he thought about placing his feet on the path and having them walk him towards home. He focussed on his hands as they took hold of the suffocating fabric of the Invisibility Cloak under which he had been hiding all day. That only served to remind him of the large hands which had gripped his son's young flesh so firmly. That was another thought to push away. Instead, Harry concentrated on his disappointment in his own cowardice.
When he got back into the house, he found Ginny and Lily drinking tea together in the kitchen. They both looked up and at him as he entered. Harry looked into the rest of the bright room behind them and asked, "Where is he?"
"Who?" Lily asked.
"James." Harry didn't think that his voice caught too badly, not considering the fact that what he wanted to say was my poor, poor, boy, my dear, damaged son.
Ginny lifted a piece of parchment from the table. "Not sure," she said. "But Hannah's been in touch. He looked a bit upset, she said, but apart from that --"
"What?" Harry had assumed his son to have been sobbing safely in his mother's arms all day.
"He's booked a room there for tonight. At the Leaky," Ginny finished. Her expression was blank.
"He was asking everyone about Teddy, according to Hannah."
"Of course he's looking for Teddy," Lily said.
"Why?" Harry asked again.
Lily sighed impatiently. "Because he loves him."
Harry felt the heat of fury rise in him. "If Teddy loved James then he wouldn't have done that to him! That's not what love is about, young lady. He was supposed to protect him like a brother, not do, do, do that thing! That is not love, and don't you start thinking it is!" Harry heard himself shouting as though it were someone else in another room doing it. All of the suppressed emotion of the day suffused into this temper fit. At last he had a feeling that he could remember and understand. "Teddy Lupin is incapable of love or respect or any other decency and I don't --"
"No!" Lily yelled back, red-faced and wet-eyed. "James loves Teddy, you stupid prick!"
When Ginny said, "Don't call your father that," it was without any real emotion, like the action of an automaton.
Harry looked down at her, silenced at last by her stillness. Her body slump showed exhaustion and she looked from him to their daughter as though she didn't know whether she could cope with this row on top of everything else. That wasn't his Ginny, that wasn't like his strong, steady girl at all.
Harry sat in the closest chair and took hold of the edge of the table. He made himself concentrate on its varnish and his own breathing until he was calm enough to say to his little Lily Luna, "Explain. Slowly. Quietly. I don't understand what the hell is going on."
Ginny summoned him a cup and poured him some tea, before topping up the other two cups on the table. "James threw some things in a bag and Apparated out of the house this morning. I came down to tell you, but you'd disappeared, too."
"I needed to clear my head."
"Right," Ginny replied dully.
Harry looked at Lily. "Why did he do that?"
Lily took a sip of tea. She didn't look at her father when she said, "He's been in love with Teddy for years, Dad. He never looked at any of his other boyfriends the way he looks at Teddy."
"James had boyfriends?" Harry was nonplussed. "He never mentioned it." There was a twist of disappointment which Harry didn't stop to analyse before he rallied with, "James isn't gay."
Lily rolled her eyes.
Ginny said, "Yes, he is, dear. And he's an adult. He can choose his own partner and you will have to accept that or we'll lose him."
Harry's mind tried to change the shapes burned into it, the image of the scene in James' bedroom that morning, he tried to make sense of it. It made him feel dizzy.
The room held the scent of the last occupant's shower gel. It looked out over Diagon. James scanned the heads of the crowd. No blue hair. Teddy probably didn't look like Teddy, though. He was probably disguised as somebody else, now, because he would think that that was safer. How was James ever going to find him?
James threw his bag onto the bed. Just a little sit down. It had been a long day. Then an ad in the Prophet. He started to compose the wording in his head as he sat down on the bed. His head felt so heavy. Just a minute. He could just rest it on the pillow for a minute.
When he woke his mouth was dry and daylight had gone from the window. He sprang up and looked out of it. He scanned the faces of the late visitors. He jolted when he recognised one. Uncle Bill, coming home from work, no doubt. James ducked down instinctively, although his uncle wouldn't be able to see him from the street. That was the very last person who he wanted to have a conversation with. He wondered whether Bill knew yet. James had been working on the assumption that his father had broadcast his own version of events all round the family, but maybe he had been too ashamed.
It was too late to go to the newspaper offices now. James was relieved when Bill walked past the pub door. It might be safe for him to get something to eat then. After that he would go out and ask everyone on the street whether they had seen Teddy.
He woke late and exhausted on Sunday, no closer to finding Teddy. Most of the shops were closed so there weren't many people to question, and he'd already asked most of them the day before.
"Have you seen Teddy Lupin?" he asked everyone. If it was someone who didn't know Teddy, then James had a photo to show them. In fact, he had a box of photos in his bag, but most of them were from a long time ago. The Prophet office was open. In his sleep, somehow, the wording had established itself in his mind.
I wish to contact Teddy Lupin in order to give him
some good news. If you know of his whereabouts
then please leave a message at the Leaky Cauldron.
Then there was the picture of Teddy underneath. He didn't want to put his own name on it, because he didn't want his father to find him, or for the Prophet to make a story of it, or to scare Teddy off. To be honest, he expected that Hannah Abbott-Longbottom had already told his parents where he was. That didn't matter. He wasn't going to go home even if they turned up and begged him.
Teddy still hadn't answered his Owl. Perhaps something had happened to that Owl. He couldn't think what, but he decided to send another one anyway. At least the Owl Office was open.
Sorry about yesterday. I hope you're ok. I'm staying at the Leaky,
Keep it casual. Well, apart from the 'love from', but that could mean anything. It didn't have to mean: 'I'd die for you, I'll die without you', did it?
He was running out of options. He wanted to be doing something. All he could think to do would be to place another advertisement. He thought he might as well wander back past the Quibbler offices in case they were open, and it was just as well that he did. Luna Scamander was there, just locking the door. Seeing her always made him feel a bit guilty. He wondered whether Lorcan had ever told her what had happened between the two of them. He felt nauseous with guilt about Lorcan.
"Hi, Auntie Luna. I was just wondering, actually, what day the Quibbler's coming out this week. I've got an advert I'd like to put in it."
She looked at him in that special way she always did, like she was looking into you not at you.
"James, dear, is everything alright?"
"Yeah, fine, I just need to put this thing in the paper."
"You haven't eaten today, have you? You don't look like you've slept much either."
He started to back off. This was daft; she was bound to say something to his parents.
"You're looking for someone important, aren't you?"
He stopped and swallowed. He paused. "Look, it doesn't matter."
Luna took her keys back out of her pocket and unlocked the door again. "We'd better put that advertisement into the magazine, hadn't we?"
"Thank you," was all James could manage as he followed her inside.
Something was printing in the cellar. He could feel the vibrations in the floor. The place looked like a mess, but he knew that Luna knew where everything was. Her unique filing system involved pieces of parchment which were clipped together and flew delicately around the room. James ducked a sheaf of photographs as he entered. He pulled the picture of Teddy from his pocket and told her the words he wanted. She said nothing until she had written them down, embedded the picture and sent a copy through the floorboards.
"Would you like some copies of that so you can put it up like a poster?" she asked.
"Thank you," James said again.
"You're staying at the pub?"
"Yes, but my parents don't know. Please don't tell them," James said in a rush.
Luna's clear, large eyes regarded him for a moment. "I might have to," she said. "But if I don't have to, then I won't."
Luna tipped her head to one side. "Have you tried asking his relatives?"
"Andromeda's dead. There's only us." James paused. "Oh, the Malfoys?"
"I think they might have some apartments in town."
"But would they...?"
"By annoying your father, Draco Malfoy may just feel that Teddy Lupin has done something right at last."
James blushed. "You... you... know? Dad told you what happened yesterday?"
"No," Luna replied in her calm, sing-song voice. "But if Teddy isn't at Godric's Hollow any more then that must be the reason." She paused. "Do you want to tell me?"
"Would you like some Elderflower cordial?"
"No thank you."
Auntie Luna tapped the sheet of parchment on her desk. It replicated itself fifty times. "Enough?" she asked.
"I need to keep looking Auntie Luna. But thanks. Thanks for everything. I'm sorry. About everything." James snatched the pile of posters. He called "Thank you!" again as he sprinted out onto the street.
He looked back, saw her face and couldn't stop himself from remembering Lorcan. The problem was that Lorcan was just so pushy. James had told him that it would be a bad idea, because of their parents being friends and everything. Lorcan was single-minded. The date had been ok, but by the time Lorcan had pulled him into the Prefect's bathroom it had started to feel like incest. They had shared a sandpit when they'd been in nappies. It was all wrong. Lorcan had been determined and James had felt hopeless. So he'd thought about Teddy to get him through...
Gringott's was closed, but he didn't dare to go near it anyway. He couldn't imagine what Uncle Bill would do if he saw a notice with Teddy's face on so near to where he worked. James headed in the other direction, stopping regularly to put up posters. Once he'd finished in Diagon and Knockturn, he Apparated to Hogsmeade and then Goathland. It gave him something to do. While he worked he thought about what Luna had said. He knew Scorpius Malfoy from school, but not well. They had been Chess rivals. He didn't know Scorpius' parents at all.
The lights shone in the houses he passed, as families spent time together. He thought that the Malfoys would probably also be at home, what with everything shut because it was Sunday. James Apparated to Wiltshire. There was a Wizarding hamlet attached to the Manor house. First he posted his notices there and then he headed for the big house. It was starting to get dark; he had work the next day.
He tapped his wand on the gate as directed by a notice fixed to it and a House Elf appeared. It was an ugly little thing. James recalled all of Aunt Hermione's lessons about being polite to House Elves and schooled away the disgust on his face.
"I wanted to talk to Mr Malfoy, please," he said.
"Which Mister is you wanting?"
"Either. Or Missus. I mean, the mistress. Anyone."
"What is your name being?"
James had to cough to clear his throat. He didn't think his name was going to go down too well. "James Potter."
"Dindy will be back." The Elf disappeared again.
James' toes curled and his stomach clenched. What the fuck was he playing at? Teddy would never have gone begging to his mother's family. He was back in Finland. Of course he was. James being here made no sense; exhaustion flooded him. James didn't know what he was going to do if he couldn't find Teddy.
The Elf appeared again before James could run away. It solemnly opened the large, black metal gates. "Master Draco it is to be seeing you. You hold my tea towel." A starched corner of the fabric covering the creature's groin was pressed into James' hand.
His surroundings changed; it was clear now that he was in a study. There was a large mirror over the fireplace and bookshelves lined the walls. A large, leather-topped table ran under the window. The elf prised James' fingers from him then Disapparated.
"What can I help you with?" asked a voice behind him and James spun around.
A gentleman who might have been about the same age as James' father was sitting in an armchair. His hair had receded from his forehead, but what was left was that weird silvery colour that Scorpius Malfoy had. He looked James up and down – making James very aware of his dishevelled state – but he didn't voice any criticisms.
"I'm looking for Teddy Lupin," James made himself say. "I wondered whether you might know anything."
There was a terrifying pause. His host's features were blank. Finally he said, "Is he not residing with your father in Godric's Hollow?"
"Not any more."
"Really?" A pale eyebrow arched and James was scared that Mr Malfoy was about to ask him why. "And he didn't tell you where he was going to?"
"Then perhaps he doesn't want you to know where he is."
There was something in the quirk of the man's mouth which made James want to cry out with joy. This man knew where Teddy was, James was almost certain of it. "Do you know?" Hope rose, and James tried to damp it down, because hope always made the disappointment worse afterwards. "Please sir, please tell me. It's all my fault. I have to make it better! Please!"
Teddy wished that he had a bed to hide underneath again, but all this cottage had was a mattress on the floor. He sprawled on it and stared across the dusty floor. The only thing between him and the skirting board was his own duffle bag.
Draco Malfoy had offered him furnished apartments in London, a villa in Burgundy, a chalet in the Swiss Alps. He had pressed Teddy for details of his situation, but Teddy had given him none. He'd regretted the direction in which his unconscious had Apparated him as soon as he had found himself outside Malfoy Manor.
Mr Malfoy had taken in Teddy's appearance with a sneer but no comment, before inviting him inside to join the family for breakfast. Once Asteria, Narcissa and Scorpius had left the table, Draco had asked Teddy why he wasn't breakfasting with Saint Potter as he called him. It was jibes like that which had caused Teddy to stop visiting his Malfoy relatives many years before.
Teddy had just said that he wasn't staying with Harry any more. Draco had been helpful and generous, it had to be said. Teddy had felt like he was betraying Harry once again, though.
While he was there, an Owl had arrived for Teddy. Teddy felt sick at what its message might be. He didn't want to know. He asked the House Elf to burn the message. He and Draco had watched the unread parchment shrivel into embers in the study fire.
Draco Malfoy had leaned back in his chair then. "You're not going to tell me what happened, are you?" he asked.
Mr Malfoy sighed. "And you won't accept my charity because..." he had paused as though seeking out the reason himself, "you don't like me."
"I do like you."
"Hm. As it happens, I have something of yours. Well, I have access to it and I've been maintaining it for you."
"Really?" Teddy couldn't think what it might be, nor why he knew nothing about it.
"It belonged to your mother. It was to have passed into your possession automatically upon your marriage. But, of course..." Draco smirked. Then he shrugged. Teddy couldn't look at him. He just wanted to leave but he had nowhere to go. Draco laughed, but not too unkindly. "It's a cottage."
Teddy stared at him. His heart fluttered and leaped. He owned a house! He had somewhere to live. "In Britain?" he checked. Then an ice settled in his chest. Why hadn't he known that? If he had been told then he wouldn't have had to stay with Harry. None of it would have happened. He wasn't thinking about what had actually happened. The morning's events had been reduced to just it. He caught Draco staring into his eyes and suspected Legilimency; he was glad of his own mental avoidance.
"Yes, somewhere dreadfully remote and bleak up North," Draco had dismissed. "It's not furnished or heated or anything. It hasn't even got an elf. You would be far more comfortable in one of my properties.
Teddy summoned up his own small smile then, and replied, "But you wouldn't give up trying to find out my secrets, would you, sir?"
"I shan't give up on that anyway. I do hope that you have upset Potter horribly. I should be so proud of you. I would be able to believe that you really were a Black after all."
"There's nothing to be proud of. Thank you very much for breakfast."
Then he had signed some parchments, and Mr Malfoy had signed some others. They had pressed their wands to maps and a family tree. It had all taken about half an hour and had concluded when Draco had lifted the lid of a small chest and indicated the large, rusty key within it.
"It's a Portkey. You just activated it. Off you go."
"Thank you, sir," Teddy had said, trying to be formal and cold rather than polite. Then he had taken his bag in one hand and the key in the other.
The problem with an empty cottage in the middle of nowhere was that there was nothing to do. Nothing but brood. That was mostly what he had done for two days, between bouts of deciding that he really ought to go somewhere to buy food, or considering lighting a fire. He didn’t dare to go anywhere someone he knew might see him, unsure if he would be the subject of gossip or if Harry would have been too humiliated to have shared what he'd seen with others. Harry would not want his family to be the source of any kind of embarrassment. Teddy could not risk meeting anyone he knew; just in case they had heard. They might look at him like he was the worst kind of pervert, or they might berate him for his ingratitude. The worst of it was that he thought that he really was an ungrateful pervert.
The more he thought about it, though, the more he blamed James. The boy had been taunting him for weeks. It had been a long, slow, calculated seduction. He had displayed himself, Teddy hadn't really been noticing when he shouldn't have been. Teddy had worried so much about his inappropriate arousals, and it hadn't been his fault. He couldn't work out why James had decided to destroy him, though. The lad must have engineered it. He must have known that it was morning and that they would be interrupted. Teddy had thought it was still night. No, he hadn't thought at all.
He had been blinded by James' body. James had used that body, he had known Teddy's lust for it, and he had used that to destroy him. He wasn't the same sweet, straightforward boy that he had been when Teddy had left Britain. He had some nefarious plan. Teddy couldn't quite see what it was.
What was Teddy going to do now? How could he rebuild his reputation and connections in Britain with Harry Potter against him? Only now did he fully understand what an advantage it had been to have the Potters on his side, supporting him. Now he had the opposite and he might as well go back to Finland. If he did that, though, then his friends and colleagues there would want to know what had gone wrong in Britain.
He was supposed to be at work in Godric's Hollow tomorrow. Did he still have a job there? He couldn't face seeing George to find that out. If he just didn't show up then he would lose the job if it was still his.
He wrote a brief note excusing himself on the grounds of an unnamed illness, but he had no owl and getting to an Owl Post Office would mean going somewhere he might be seen. He wondered whether the cottage was connected to the Floo network, but concluded that that was unfortunately unlikely, before being glad about that. A shiver of dread ran through him at the possibility that someone might suddenly appear on his grate. He had no Floo Powder, so he couldn't check whether it was connected to the Network or not.
He curled up in a ball on the mattress, ignored the world and eventually fell asleep.
It was dark when he woke. He couldn't be bothered to cast a Tempus. He was hungry. All the shops were probably closed.
He looked out into the unpunctuated darkness of the country night and thought about lights. He remembered the speeding coloured Muggle lights as viewed from a train. When they had been youngsters and Arthur Weasley had still been mobile, he had taken a gang of his grandchildren on a Muggle train. Teddy had been just old enough to notice the worried glances Harry and Audrey had shared. In the end, Auntie Hermione had persuaded Arthur that she should come to sort out the tickets and the money. That had persuaded everyone that their children would be safe.
He couldn't have been that old, because Lily and Hugo had been deemed too young. He remembered them in prams, waving on the platform.
Arthur's gang of grandchildren had quite naturally included Teddy. Nobody had questioned it. Twice now, through Arthur's real grandchildren, Teddy had destroyed that comfortable acceptance.
It had been dark when they had travelled home. He couldn't remember where they had gone to, the point of the adventure had been the trains. The Muggles had lit up everything with their electric lights. He had seen a petrol station with a shop attached. There had been shelves full of tins and brightly coloured packets. Customers had been buying things in there after all the other shops were shut.
He tipped the contents of his duffle bag all over the dusty floor and pulled out the wallet with his Muggle money in it. With that in his pocket, he picked up his wand and he closed his eyes. He concentrated on that garage he had seen from the train, and went into a spin, not knowing whether it still existed, nor what would happen if it did not.
There were more Muggles around than he had expected, and he was surprised by a clock which said that it was only just after nine o'clock. He tried to check that against the next clock he saw, but that flashed the number 21:13 at him, and that clearly wasn't even a time. The garage shop smelled of soap powder and sold all sorts of bizarre things, racked up on shelves. Teddy picked up some food. He wondered whether any of the other things might be useful in his new home. As he browsed, he couldn't help thinking how excited Arthur would have got, looking at these widgets and doodahs. Wondering whether he would ever see Arthur again, he dropped something called an ice scraper into his wire basket and determined that he would, and that when he did, he would give that thing to Arthur.
He ate and then he slept again. When he woke, he felt a lot better about the cottage. He rather liked it, actually. This place had belonged to his mother, Malfoy had said. He wondered whether she had left anything of herself here. He explored the place properly and began to make plans. It was early, still. He had time to get to work. He would work. How bad could it be?
He Apparated into Goathland and used the Owl Office to send his letter to George. At the last minute, he corrected it so that it said that he was so ill that he would need the whole week off, not just a couple of days. Luckily, he saw no-one he knew, and Apparated back to the cottage immediately.
He only had time to get into the kitchen and charm the kettle before he heard an owl tapping at his window. At first he thought that it was a reply from George, probably firing him, but then he reasoned that it was too soon. George wouldn't even have received his message yet. He could have done with an owl earlier, it would have saved him the trip to Goathland.
He snatched the parchment from its leg and glanced at the address: only his name, that was a good thing. His location was still a secret then. It was from James. Sorry about yesterday? He crumpled it in disgust and read no further. Sorry? Well that proved that James' actions had been malicious. There was his admission of guilt, his acceptance of blame. What good would the apology do Teddy now?
After another couple of hours spent on the mattress, staring into space, he rallied again, and started to make the cottage a little more homely. He should have picked up an Owl order catalogue for furniture and curtains and things when he was at the Owl Post office, but he had been too agitated then. All he had was his wand, but with his wand he could certainly make a difference to the place.
He had a lunch of cheese, bread and something which he had picked up the night before called Monster Munch. It had looked interesting and weirdly Muggle, but tasted only of sharpness. He felt energised afterwards, but as he cleaned the plate, a deep gloom started to descend again and he was thinking about going back to bed when there was a knock at the door. In his shock, he snapped the plate.
Nobody knew he was here. Who could possibly be knocking on the door of his sanctuary? He stood holding half a plate in each hand and stared at the inside of the closed door. It knocked again. He could pretend not to be there and hope that they would go away. But if he did that, then he would never know. It was a Muggle neighbour. That was all. Or Draco with news. Or an angry mob of Weasleys and Potters with pitchforks and burning torches.
He edged to the window and peeked out. He had a clear view of the doorstep. His heart leaped. Joy flooded his body automatically when he saw James. He stepped back and calmed himself. That was a ridiculous reaction. That conniving little shit was the last person he wanted to see. The lad was determined to destroy him. He was too dangerous.
Teddy couldn't stop himself from moving back to the window. Only this time James was looking towards the window, too. Their eyes met. James grinned. Teddy grinned back. What the hell was he playing at?
"Teddy!" James walked over and placed his palm against the glass. "I've been looking all over for you! Open the door?"
"No," Teddy croaked. His hand lifted itself in spite of him, but he didn't place it against James', because there was still broken crockery in it. "How did you find me?"
"Oh, Merlin, you didn't tell him anything, did you?"
"What? Like what?"
"Like what... you know... what your Dad saw. Why he kicked me out."
James looked devastated. "Malfoy acted like he knew. I thought you'd already told him."
"You stupid little boy!"
"Teddy. No. Let me in."
"Haven't you done enough?" Teddy thought he was angry, but he discovered tears in his eyes. "Come to finish me off?"
"We need to talk."
"You've talked enough. Leave me alone."
"Teddy, I love you."
Teddy shook his head, he backed off into the room to where he couldn't see James any more. But then – he didn't know what possessed him – he opened the front door.
Teddy disappeared from the window and James waited. He wondered how long he would have to wait for. He was supposed to be back on Apothecary training in the morning, and he hadn't done the studying yet. He couldn't even think about that, though, not now. There was nothing in his head but Teddy. Every time he tried to focus on something else it faded away and left only Teddy: his face, his voice, his body and their one night.
Draco Malfoy had been amused by James. He had fooled him well, James had really thought that Mr Malfoy knew about his Dad walking in on them, that all he had wanted was James' excuses before he let him chase after Teddy. He hoped hard that he hadn't caused any trouble for Teddy in telling. Briefly, he felt a pang of guilt at the embarrassment that Malfoy knowing would cause his father. Only briefly, though. His heart was still hard against Harry.
He stared into the grime on the window glass, trying to make out Teddy's shape within it, but getting nothing. Tiredness began to pull at his dry eyelids and his breath deepened. He resigned himself to sitting down on Teddy's doorstep for as long as it took. Then the door opened.
Teddy looked rough, but James' heart leaped. He tried to pull back the grin which hurt his cheeks, but he couldn't. Their eyes met and the world stopped. Time stopped. Until Teddy asked, "What the fuck are you playing at, James Potter? What's your game?"
"I love you." It sounded stupid but it was the only thought in James' head so he said it.
Teddy looked down and shook his head. His chin was stubbled with mousey-brown hair, and James had the odd thought that he'd like to see that in turquoise or pink. He didn't know what else to say. Why would there be anything else to say?
"What more do you want from me?" Teddy asked.
Everything and all of him, of course, but James didn't dare to tell Teddy that because there was resentment in his beloved's tone already. Instead he decided to tell his tale as he saw it.
"As soon as you'd gone, I packed my bags and set off trying to find you. I love you, Teddy, like I said. I always have had. Well, for years. If Dad doesn't like it then he can... I don't know. He can do what he likes." James took a deep breath. He hadn't really thought about his father, not properly, he had been too busy hating him. "I reckon Mum'll talk him round, though. I think she gets it."
"Well, you know. Us."
"There's no us! Merlin knows why you seduced me, but I've ended up--"
"Don't you know why?" James wanted to stamp in frustration like a toddler. "I keep fucking telling you, Teddy Lupin!"
"That you love me?" Teddy looked doubtful.
"Can I come in? Can we discuss this sitting down indoors? I've spent the last two days looking for you. Don't leave me on the doorstep."
"I don't trust you."
James' heart plummeted. He wondered whether he was going to cry, and if he did whether that would make things worse or better. He picked up his bag and swung it onto his shoulder. Maybe he should shrink it again. He didn't want to go. He didn't have anywhere that he could go to. Home was out of the question. He stared at the weeds growing through the path for a while, then looked up into Teddy's eyes. He wanted to read the truth there, to see if there was any hope for him at all.
After several seconds, Teddy said, "I don't trust me."
James didn't know what that meant. He waited.
"If I touch you again, my life will collapse again."
"I love you," James repeated.
Teddy laughed bitterly and shook his head. "Why would anybody do that?"
James was incredulous. Why didn't everybody love Teddy? That was his question. In fact, he frequently suspected that they did.
"Because... because you're..." he didn't know how the sentence ended. There was no way to distil what Teddy was into mere words. He wanted to kiss Teddy, but that would just confirm Teddy's paranoia. He seemed to think that James was using sex to destroy him. James couldn't think of a single way to prove him wrong.
"I think you'd better go," Teddy said. He didn't shut the door, though.
"I think I'd better come in," James said bravely. Hell, he had nothing left to lose. "In fact I think I ought to move in. I think that's what you really want, too." He didn't think that, not at all, but by saying it he hoped to make it so. "I can't go home, after all. I need a place to live. I want to live with you." His voice choked which was bloody annoying. "I don't want to live without you. Not anymore."
"What?" Teddy's expression was unreadable.
"I spent too many years pining for you. I don't have the strength. Not now, not after we've tried." He flung his bag down again. "Was I crap in bed? Is that it? 'Cos I could learn--"
"Don't be stupid! You were far too... polished! Too practised! That's one of the reasons why I can't believe in it."
"I told you I wasn't a virgin. I didn't think you'd want me to be. Merlin, I'm not a kid." James looked around. They were in the middle of a field, but still. "I don't want to talk about this out here."
Teddy stepped back. "You'd better come inside." He stared at James as he walked in. Then he frowned. "Do your parents know where you are?"
"Of course not."
"Circe. You are a kid. Don't you think they'll be worried?" The frown deepened. "They'll blame me, you twat."
"Mum won't. She knows why I've gone."
Teddy closed the door. It was surprisingly cold and dark away from the sun. "Your dad's a good man."
"He's a homophobe."
"He's done a lot for me. This doesn't seem like a decent way to repay him."
"What doesn't seem like a decent way to repay him? What is this?" James looked into Teddy's eyes. It hurt, he wanted to kiss him so much. He held back.
Teddy sighed. "Owl them and you can stay. For a while."
James grinned. "I'll Patronus. It'll be quicker."
"He's going to kill me."
"He'll get over it," James said, not really believing it, but knowing it was what Teddy needed to hear.
"We're talking. Just talking. You get your own separate room. Do you understand?"
"Sure," James replied. But he knew how to do it now. He was sure he was going to be able to seduce Teddy again. And then, after he'd impressed him in bed a few more times, then he was certain, just absolutely certain, that he could make Teddy love him back.
I'm turning into my mother, Ginny thought. At the first sign of a crisis, here she was, baking scones. It wasn't the first sign, of course. Thank goodness. Saturday morning had been horrific. First Teddy, then James, then Harry had just left her. She hadn't known whether they were safe but she had known that they were not happy. She sighed. It all felt so recent, but now it was Tuesday and, although none of them were here at home with her, she did know where they all were, and she was expecting them to be here at tea time. Hence the scones. Just how happy they all were now remained to be seen. All she could provide was love, listening and baked goods. If nothing else, she could stuff their mouths if they started talking crap. She laughed at herself: that plan at least was more Ginny than Molly.
Harry still wasn't talking, not really. He did seem to be listening. It didn't matter that it was Lily he was listening to and not her. At least he wasn't listening to Bill. Hopefully, he would manage to listen to James and Teddy when they got here this evening.
She couldn't stop herself from worrying about what all this disruption was going to do to James' Apprenticeship. He was the most academically able of her children and he didn't have any other ambitions, never had had. It would be such a shame if he lost his chance over an affair. No, she didn't mean that, she meant bad timing. It would have been nice if he could have got together with his one true love, developed his father's acceptance of the relationship, and started his vocational training at different times. Life never did seem to work out that way, though, did it?
Of course, what would have been ideal would have been if James had managed to be open with the two of them about his sexuality, and then waited for Harry to get his head round that, before falling in love with Teddy and courting him (she really was becoming her mum, what an old-fashioned idea), had Teddy's new position in the family acknowledged, then started having sex with him after that. Not been discovered by his father in the act of... whatever it had been; she'd not asked.
James' Patronus had been such a relief. She and Lily had been sitting with Harry, who was clearly in shock, when the familiar gazelle had appeared. She had been so proud of James in second year when he had mastered such a difficult spell so young. The message hadn't been long, and there had been a surliness to its delivery, but they had known that he and Teddy were both safe and that they were together.
Harry had sighed. "Got it all wrong, didn't I?" He had stared at his hands. "Still don't like it," he'd muttered.
Ginny had decided there and then that the whole family (and the family had always included Teddy, nothing had really changed there) needed to sit down together and talk things through. There had been scones in the plan from its conception. Lily was meant to be helping her to prepare, she had promised that she would. It was still the summer holidays, though, and Ginny knew better than to expect a teenager out of school to wake before midday.
She had Owled James at work, and had thanked him for letting them all know that he was safe, downplaying just how grateful she was for that Patronus, and had invited James and Teddy to tea on Tuesday. It had been lovely to see their old family owl return with a note almost immediately, especially when it had been an acceptance of the invitation. Just that; no news. But a row of kisses on the bottom like the ones he had sent her when he'd first started Hogwarts. Those had made her cry with joy.
For all her love for Harry, she had never pretended to fully understand him. There was too much strangeness in his past. She couldn't make him accept their son's love life. She just hoped that everyone was going to be friendly at tea time. All she could do, was to use her mother's treacle tart recipe to put Harry in a good mood. She Accio-ed the notebook which was filled with Molly's handwriting from its shelf. She thought she could hear movement in the bathroom above her. If that was Lily, then her daughter could start making her famous butterfly buns once she had breakfasted. It would all be alright, Ginny promised herself. It would all be alright.