James had been three years old when he'd built his first fort. It'd been a simple thing, nothing more than a warm blanket draped over the back of a chair and James had huddled under the chair for hours, safely ensconced in his little fort.
By the time he was five, Teddy had taught him how to build proper forts, utilising every single broom, mop, chair – except for Lily's toddler chair – and blanket to be found in the house, so that the whole family had been forced to sit on transfigured buckets during meals.
At eight, James had figured out how to include the dining table and succeeded in building a fort in two levels. That summer, meals weren't taken at the dining table at all.
Shortly before James' eleventh birthday, he was told he could no longer turn the entire living room into a maze of blankets, so he grudgingly turned his and Al's old bunk bed into a permanent fort.
At Hogwarts James couldn't build forts without upsetting at least half his dormitory, so he quickly learned to hide in his bed with the curtains shut and pretend he was at home.
"I found a pile of posters in your closet –"
"Thanks Al, but I'm fine. You can keep the posters if you want."
"Are you sure? There's at least four posters of Oliver Wood and I think maybe eleven posters from the Aurors' charity calendar and I think I spotted a poster of a naked –"
"Thanks Al!" James shushed him, his cheeks reddening. "I'm eighteen, not fourteen, you know..."
"Sure." Al rolled his eyes. "I packed the naked poster for you anyway. I figured you'd need some wank material in that flat of y –" he was abruptly cut off as Lily pushed her way past him to fling herself at her oldest brother. "Lily! Shove off! I was talking to him!"
"I'll miss you so much!" Lily wailed, burying her face in his shirt. "Promise to visit us every holiday? And you have to write to me at school!"
James patted his sister's back awkwardly, while giving Al an exasperated look. "It's not the end of the world, really, I'm just...you know, getting my own place..."
Lily wailed even louder. Al snorted and crossed his arms, glaring at Lily as if she were the most annoying, offending little brat in the world.
Which, frankly, she might have been, but James wasn't fooled – he'd seen the light quiver of Al's bottom lip before he'd resolutely clenched his jaw and huffed.
"I'll write to you," he started, resigning himself to deal with Lily's dramatics for a little longer.
"Every day?" she sniffled.
"You don't want me to write every day," James replied in amusement. "I'm going to lead a very boring life. Really, nothing to write home about. Just doing laps on the pitch and being yelled at by the coach and sitting on the bench and waiting for someone to get hurt so I can get a turn in the air. Very interesting, that."
He glanced at his brother, who was staring intently at Lily's back, either hoping to burn a hole in her shirt or doing his best not to give in to the hysterics Lily was showcasing. James really didn't know who he was trying to fool, but he decided to let his brother off the hook and pretended he hadn't noticed.
What one didn't do for one's siblings, he thought and patted Lily's back again.
"Honestly Lily, you won't notice I'm gone at all," he promised.
"Lily, I'll be back for dinner tomorrow."
"But it's not the same!"
"No really," James said dryly. "As if dad won't burn the roast like usual, you mean? Or are you telling me that Al will eat his peas for once without a fuss from either his or mum's side? Or that you won't be slipping pieces of meat under the table for the dog?"
"And you still have that disgusting habit of piling pickles on top of your meat," Lily added, nose scrunched. Behind her, Al was grinning, albeit his lip was quivering again.
"Do me a favour, Lily, and go ask mum if she's managed to undo the shrinking charms on my laundry yet so I can pack it up?"
Lily nodded and hastily wiped her eyes before she bounded down the stairs with a cry of "Mu-um! Fixed James' stuff yet?"
Al was looking at his feet now, awkwardly shuffling about and it struck James how little his brother was, even if he was sixteen and about to outgrow James in height. He was going to miss the brat.
"Come here," James said and squeezed his shoulders, knowing a full on hug would only serve to embarrass them both. "Look, if you want a break from mum and Lily and the others and stuff, you can come stay at my place. I can't promise the sofa will be very comfortable, but it's at least something, right?"
"Yeah." Al nodded and quickly squeezed his brother back. "We're, eh, we're done with the feelings stuff now, right?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," James grinned and thumped him on the back. "Help me with the boxes?
"I wasn't joking about the naked poster, just so you know."
James groaned. "It's Krum! You can't expect me to keep a naked poster of Victor Krum after I've actually met the man? I could barely look him in the eye!"
Al raised an eyebrow. "You had no trouble looking dad's workmates in the eye despite owning more charity calendars than I can count."
"Not the same," James muttered. "They're wearing pants in those."
"Pants that will come off if you say the magic word," Al sang as he brushed past James into his room. James stared after him, brow furrowed.
"Totally." Al rolled his eyes. "What do you think? Dad's in them."
"Your dad is what?" Ginny asked as she walked into the room, arms full of laundry and what looked suspiciously much like the old quilts and blankets James had used for his fort the previous week.
"In the Aurors' charity calendars," Al replied, head in a box full of books. "James! That's my copy of 1000 Magical Herbs and Fungi!"
"Ohhyes." Ginny set the wobbly pile of laundry down. "Did you know their pants come off if you say the right word?"
Al stopped trying to whomp his brother with his textbook to stare at his mother in horror. "Really?! I thought it was a joke!"
James on the other hand, groaned. "Why did no one tell me this before?!"
"Dad's in that calendar!" Al cried.
"No matter, I covered him with spellotape anyway," James said impatiently, looking critically at the mess in his soon-to-be-old-room and decided to dive under the desk in pursuit. "Where did you put the calendars? Mum! What's the magic word?"
"Honestly James, do you ever actually read the card that comes with the calendars?" Ginny asked, looking at her oldest son with an amused smile.
"Of course he doesn't," Al snorted, herbology book carefully tucked under his arm as he one-handedly continued to rummage through James' boxes. "He just wants to get to the half naked fit men as fast as possible."
"Hey!" James cried, raising his head to glare at Al and succeeding in knocking it against the top of his desk. He cursed and crawled out from under it, deciding the calendars weren't there. "Where did you put my calendars? Al!"
Ginny sneaked out of the room, deciding to leave the boys to it.
James smiled to himself, then levitated a pile of blankets out of a box that his father had pointedly opened before leaving.
Within ten minutes, he had a little fort constructed out of his two dining chairs, his first racing broom and the mop his mum had left with him. He transfigured one of the blankets into a mattress, summoned a pillow, and went to sleep.
"COME IN!" he bellowed, trying to find a vacant spot for the plates. After half a minute of frantically looking around, he gave up and perched the stack on top of an as of yet unopened box.
"No I'm – Teddy?" James stared. "Uh. Hi..." he grinned sheepishly, scratching the back of his head. "You not coming over for dinner at mum's tonight then?"
"Oh, of course I am." Teddy looked around interestedly. "Just wanted to see how my favourite Potter was doing all on his own. Nice place."
"Thanks." James blushed. "It's all mine – not much, but it's what I could get for, well, dad didn't allow me to spend all my savings on the flat, so this is what I could get, but...uhm, grand tour?"
"I'd love to."
"Oh, okay, uhm well, kitchen," James babbled and slung his arm out, indicating the mess around him. "I'm sorting it out...somewhat...and in there, well you already saw it, living room and stuff, and that door's the bathroom and that one's the bedroom...Teddy?"
James turned around to find Teddy looking interestedly at the collapsed pile of blankets in the middle of the living room.
"That's, uh, nothing," James mumbled embarrassedly. Teddy raised an eyebrow.
"Why is it collapsed?"
"Your fort." Teddy pointed at the blankets.
James was positive it was impossible to blush more than he was doing right in that moment. "I had to use one of the chairs earlier today, so..." He shrugged and brought his hand up to his head and futilely tried to resist ruffling his hair up again.
He really had to get rid of that nervous habit whenever Teddy was around.
"I did think I'd taught you to make sturdier forts than that," Teddy grinned and James thought he was going to melt. A little. "Not going to offer me coffee?"
"Oh! Uhm, of course – I'll be just a minute..." James muttered and fled. Out of the corner of his eye he saw several charity calendars sticking out of a box and he hastily pressed them as deep into the box as he could as he passed.
"I already saw those," was Teddy's helpful remark. "Did you get the last one? I'm in it, you know."
"I, uh...yeah," James stammered, not daring to turn around to actually look at him. Instead he darted into the kitchen and frantically started looking for something remotely resembling a coffee machine.
Next time he came, he unpacked James' book boxes and fitted the books into James' lonely bookshelf with only a wave of his wand.
The third time he brought pizza and a film.
On his fourth visit, Teddy complained about the obsessive tidiness of the place and promptly set about pulling chairs into the middle of the living room. They spent the rest of the evening building a fort.
"Teddy?" he asked, blinking. It was dark inside the fort and it appeared his torch had gone out. "Wha-"
"You're cute when you sleep," Teddy grinned and crawled in. "Right adorable."
"Right." James sat up and yawned. The book on his chest fell onto the floor with a muffled thud. "What're you doing here? Am I late for something?"
"Just wanted to drop by." Teddy shrugged. "You didn't answer the door so I decided to investigate."
"Oh..." James picked up the book and closed it. "Had a tiring day at the pitch...what time is it?"
Teddy picked up a bag of take-away as answer. "Hungry?"
"Ravenous," James replied, realising that he was in fact, hungry. He yawned again. "Sorry – I'm not usually this tired..." He stretched and yawned once more. "Bloody he-" He didn't get further because someone was kissing him, someone that smelled like Teddy and breathed like Teddy and bloody hell but was he still asleep?
All tiredness forgotten, James kissed Teddy back enthusiastically, leaning in until Teddy lost his balance and toppled over, pulling James with him. Teddy laughed and James grinned giddily and raised himself up to look at Teddy, hands on either side of his head. It was dark in the fort, but he could see him pretty clearly, the big smile on his face and the outrageous colour of his hair.
"Yeah?" James asked.
"Yeah," Teddy confirmed and James swooped down to kiss him again.
Their hands were everywhere as they kissed and sucked and nibbled, the air grew hot and sticky and their shirts came off. James was impatient and Teddy was amused, but their trousers came off too, and then they were moving together breathlessly. Teddy's fingers were digging into James' arse and James' breath was hot on Teddy's throat, his breath hitched and Teddy groaned.
Afterwards, James half-lay on top of Teddy, not quite wanting to roll off but also not wanting to squash him.
"Why now?" he asked as Teddy's arms came up to wrap around him.
"Now seemed a good time," he replied.
"Mum's baking cookies for Christmas tomorrow. You coming?"
A huge grin broke out on Teddy's face. "Of course."
James rolled off Teddy and groped for his wand. Two murmurs later they were both clean. "I've no idea what to get you for Christmas."
"So help me God, if you say 'I've already got what I wanted' I will hit you, Teddy Lupin."
"I wasn't going to say that at all," Teddy chuckled, reaching out to pinch James. "I was going to say: 'Well, I know what I've got you for Christmas'."
"What have you got me?"
"The new Aurors' calendar. Special Edition. With yours truly on every page."
"You're joking." James gave him a dubious look. "Say you're joking."
"A little," Teddy admitted. "I did get you the calendar. It just came out of press yesterday. But there's no special edition."
"They wanted Harry for it."
James made a horrified face and Teddy laughed, pulling him in for a kiss.
"My reaction exactly. Your dad wasn't thrilled either."
"I bet he wasn't. Ew. Dad."
"Mh." Teddy kissed him again. "Say, weren't you hungry?"
"Ravenous," James replied automatically. "Oh! You brought food! Where is it?" He sat up, lifting items of clothing and blankets in search of the plastic bag Teddy had brought.
James celebrated New Year's Eve in the most impressive fort he'd ever built. Teddy was there too. So was half the inventory of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes.
Two summers later, James sold his flat and moved in with Teddy, who had much more impressive fort-making materials.