She teases him, skims her fingers along a vein in his arm, walks them along the lines in his palm.
"Your heart line," she says, looking him straight in the eyes. Her eyes are wide and green and bright. There's a smudge of mascara under her left eye and he itches to wipe it away, to gently push his thumb against the curve of her eye and take away the imperfection. "You fall in love too easily."
"I don't," he says, because he thinks he's only ever fallen in love once and it certainly wasn't easy, not to fall in love with your godfather's daughter, your best friend's sister, someone almost exactly ten years younger than you.
She wraps herself around him, her hands spread flat against his back as she smiles and says I missed you, Ted and Watch out, Al's in a strop, Jay's teasing him about his girlfriend. He laughs and smiles and she holds his hand and for a moment, he can pretend it's everything he's wanted for too long except she's letting go and wheeling back to her real boyfriend, not a man who makes believe in his head because he's too much of a coward.
"Ted, this is Preston." She's smiling, leaning against Preston and he's got an arm around her shoulders and Teddy thinks he might be sick. "I think he was in your year."
"Yeah," Teddy says.
"I was in Gryffindor though," Preston says, and Teddy hadn't remembered that fact but it makes his stomach turn because his brain has started repeating where dwell the brave at heart and being just and loyal isn't enough.
"I love you," he says, and forces a smile onto his face so it's like a joke.
He's watching TV when Lily apparates into his living room, the same way she always has, ever since she learned to apparate. She doesn't even think about knocking, he thinks. He doesn't mind, not really.
"Preston and I broke up." Her voice is strong, her eyes set. It's been a year and a half. She should be sadder, he thinks. He hopes. "I need a place to stay. I'd ask Jay but the baby's on the way and-" she breaks off, shakes her head and smiles. It's tight and a shadow of her usual grin and Teddy hates Preston for doing this to her. "He can keep the flat. It's too small."
"I'll make the spare bed," he says and tries to remember that thirty five is too old to be pining after a woman.
Lily doesn't move out. A few weeks turns into six months turns into a year and suddenly Teddy is staring down forty and Lily is still living in his spare room, except it stopped being his spare room and started being her bedroom a long time ago.
"I have crow's feet," she says, padding into the kitchen. She's wearing a bathrobe that's too short, and nearly five years of living with her hasn't helped Teddy at all. She's still beautiful, still makes his heart beat faster and his stomach churn. "Fucking crow's feet."
"I'm going grey," he says, taking a sip of coffee. Five years has taught him how to act normal. He lets his hair fade from brown to his natural colour, once pitch black and now shot through with grey.
"At least you can hide it." She props her feet on his thigh, steals his coffee and wraps a hand around the mug like it's hers and stares down at the Sunday crossword. "Scheherazade," she says, her spare hand tracing a horizontal line. Teddy remembers being told he falls in love too easy, his hand in hers. "That was easy, Ted."
"Don't you get lonely, mate?" James says, his youngest daughter balanced on his hip. Betta, they called her. Betta Potter. Lily hated it. "I mean, it's just you and Lilz in that flat. Don't you think about getting married or something?"
"No," Teddy says, but he does. There's a bubble of snot in Betta's nose. He thinks about kids too.
"What about a cat? Surely you want someone other than Lily." James wipes her nose on his sleeve, barely seems to notice, like it's natural the same way Quidditch used to be for him.
"She finishes my crosswords for me," he says. "Cats don't even have thumbs."
"I asked Lily earlier." James is grinning, somehow managing to look as young as he did twenty years ago."And she said that you start her crosswords for her."
He'd thought about this moment for years. Thought about grand confessions or alcoholic confidence. Planned every word he'd say and everything she'd say back.
It happens over tea instead, Darjeeling and biscuits from the jar on top of the fridge. The words trip off his tongue, stumbling and warping and he's surely he doesn't make any sense.
"I've been in love with you for years now," he says, crunches a biscuit between his teeth. "Since you were twenty, I think."
"Fifteen years," she says, hums like it's a stray thought. "Thank you, Teddy." She leans forwards, presses a kiss to his cheek and rests a hand on his knee to keep her balance. "I suppose your heart line was wrong."
"I suppose so too." She smiles at him, takes a sip of her tea and holds his hand and doesn't let go.
It's perfect, everything he's ever wanted, and probably worth the wait after all.