James Potter, heir to the venerable House of Potter, was having a terrible day. His father had threatened, in no uncertain terms, to cut him off again if he did not return home from Paris, and the beautiful dancer he had been pursuing had turned him down. For the fifth time. Does natural charm and good looks count for nothing in this day and age? he sighed. And as for his father... Well, James had done far better at Hogwarts than either of his siblings (after all, Al had even been in Ravenclaw, for Merlin's sake!). Wasn't it about time he got to have a little fun and pick what he wanted to do for a change?
After Fred had told him about his adventures in Paris, James had known in an instant that this was where he needed to be. Wizards mixing with Muggles and nobody caring! People who lived from day-to-day and didn't care what happened tomorrow! When James had arrived, Montmartre was everything he had hoped it would be - and the Moulin Rouge was the icing on the cake. His parents just didn't get that the Wizarding War was over. James didn't need to care about his future right now - he had years and years for all of that! Right now, he needed to enjoy his youth.
He pulled on his fanciest dress robes, flicked his messy brown hair out of his face, and grinned at his reflection in the mirror. And that's exactly what I'm about to do.
Teddy Lupin slicked back his multi-coloured hair and leaned closer to the lighted mirror to apply grease paint to his face. The dressing room was bustling with performers, with the show only half an hour away - dancers putting the finishing touches to their makeup, the women lacing up corsets and the men their tall boots, acrobats stretching and gossiping. Next to Teddy, leaning into him to see into the mirror, was his closest friend of all the artists of the Moulin Rouge, a bubbly French dancer named Aimée.
'I don't understand why you even bother putting on makeup,' she teased.
Teddy stuck his tongue out at her. 'I prefer to concentrate on one body part at once, you know.'
'Enfant,' she chided jokingly. 'And you do, do you?'
'Oh, do be quiet,' Teddy scoffed. 'I won't be ready in time.'
She stuck her tongue out at him in return, and turned back to the mirror. Teddy examined his own reflection, and absently morphed his nose through a few different shapes.
He was just putting the final touches on his face and trying out different shades of hair, when Aimée poked him in the back. 'So you will rescue me, oui?'
Teddy jumped. 'What?' he sputtered.
Aimée let out an exasperated sigh. 'You never remember anything I tell you at all! If 'e comes again, you said you would come and rescue me, so I don't 'ave to talk to the ridiculous boy. Remember now?'
'Oh, right,' Teddy couldn't help but grin a little. The past couple of weeks, Aimée had had an "admirer," who somehow managed to show up at the Moulin Rouge every time she performed. Sometimes he had slipped her flowers and once even a necklace, but Aimée was determined to be rid of him.
'He is nothing but a child, mon ami,' she said irritably. 'I do not think 'e even shaves yet! And I wish 'e would just go away!'
Teddy raised an eyebrow at her. 'And I'm the childish one?' he laughed, dodging as she tried to slap his cheek. 'Careful, careful, you'll ruin the makeup.' He morphed his nose into a huge clown nose, and Aimée couldn't help but laugh through her annoyance. 'Don't worry, ma chérie, Uncle Teddy will rescue you from the Big Bad Wolf.'
Aimée huffed. 'You, you are incorrigible.... But thank you.' Her expression softened. 'You are a true friend.'
'Get on the stage,' Teddy grinned. 'You can thank me later.'
The show was in full swing. Teddy, perched in his usual position, suspended above stage right, performed his usual tricks, partway between contortionist and clown: he morphed his face into parrot beaks, clown noses and animal shapes, and bent his limbs into crazy positions. He was a distraction, really - cleverly placed as a means of diversion for the flirtatious and amusements below. The dancers were the main stars, and Aimée, for all her jokes with him, was one of the most popular with the 'gents' on the floor.
The band struck up a slower song, and he glanced down to see his friend appear on queue. Teddy grinned at her as she looked back up at him, but his smile faded as she nodded slightly, gesturing into the crowd to her left. His eyes followed where she had indicated, and he saw a man standing still among the heaving mass of bodies in the audience, his eyes fixed on Aimée. Teddy couldn't help but let his mouth hang open.
He knew that face. In fact, he knew that face very, very well indeed. He had hardly had time to recover from his shock when James glanced up and, for a moment, looked him right in the eye. Teddy gasped, and fell from his perch to the stage below.
James had not, in fact, recognised Teddy - at least not until he fell down onto the stage in front of him. He had looked up at the performers above the stage because he wanted to pretend that he wasn't looking at the beautiful Aimée... Not that that ruse had worked. She had totally ignored him all evening, and now she was crouched over the body on the stage in floods of tears, so tonight was obviously a write-off.
It was only when James had seen Aimée rush over to her fallen colleague and scream, that he had realised who the man on the stage was. Teddy Lupin! Now there was a face he hadn't expected to see here, in the Moulin Rouge, of all places. He hadn't seen him in five years, not since Teddy had finished at Hogwarts. Oh, James had worshipped him, when he was a kid - he was like a cool older cousin - but by the time he was at Hogwarts he had thought Teddy far too staid and sensible for his liking, always buried in books and chumming with teachers. And his father had always compared them, wanting James to be more like Teddy... Or at least get fewer detentions, anyway. That was, until Teddy got his NEWTs, left Hogwarts, and disappeared off the face of the planet. Now he was here, in Paris, and in a place filled with people who did not seem Teddy-ish in the least to James.
While all of these thoughts ran through his head, James could do nothing but stare at Teddy's body, lying on the stage at an unnatural angle. It was only when he realised that none of the people milling around him had whipped out a wand that the younger wizard sprung into action.
'There's not a medi-wizard here?' he shouted above the chaos of voices.
Aimée turned away from Teddy at the sound of his voice. Her mascara was streaked down her face. 'You think many of us 'ave magic who dance ici?' she sobbed, breaking into French. 'Les magiciens, they 'ave money! It is just Teddy who 'as it.'
James pulled out his wand. 'Then let me help. I know some first aid, at least. And I'm a friend of Teddy's.'
At that, Aimée stared at him, open-mouthed. But then, rather than argue, she nodded mutely. James gave her a cautious smile, and crouched down beside her. He hadn't tried to do any healing since a year ago, when he'd abandoned his career plans three months after leaving Hogwarts.
'Saving the world might not be for me,' he muttered. 'But maybe I can at least save a friend.'
Hours later, James sat backstage by Teddy's bedside. He'd done all the healing he could - finished quite a long time ago, in fact - and now all he could do was wait, exhausted, and hope that Teddy would wake up soon. Being a metamorphmagus had its advantages when it came to broken bones, and Teddy should be able to speed along the healing - once he was awake. James couldn't bring himself to leave until he knew that the other wizard would survive.
A touch on his shoulder brought his head out of his hands. 'You are still 'ere,' Aimée said softly from somewhere behind him. 'Why?'
James looked up at her. 'I... I just wanted to make sure he'd be OK,' he stammered, suddenly feeling very young and awkward now that he was face to face with the dancer he'd been chasing for weeks. This was not how he had imagined their first real conversation.
'You said 'e was a friend of yours,' Aimée said flatly.
James looked back at Teddy distractedly. 'He is.' He looked down at the floor. 'I s'pose you could say we grew up together. My Dad's his godfather.'
Aimée's eyebrows raised in surprise. 'You are a Potter?'
James made a face.'Yes... for what it's worth. Haven't exactly been behaving like one, these last few months.'
Aimée rested her hand on his shoulder. 'Your father, 'e was...'
'Harry Potter, Saviour of the Wizarding World, I know, I know.' James frowned and looked up at the dancer. 'And I'm not.'
Aimée's disappointed look made his insides curl. 'That is not what I wanted to say. Your father, 'e means a lot to Teddy... that is what I was going to say.'
James could feel a blush burning in his cheeks. 'Oh. Sorry. It's just...'
'... hard to live up to?'
Aimée and James both jumped at the sound of Teddy's voice. The wizard in the bed coughed, and struggled to sit up. James jumped up to help him. 'Careful... there was only so much healing I could do,' he said apologetically. 'You're going to have to do the rest yourself.'
'I guessed that already,' Teddy said with a half-laugh, half cough. He clutched his ribs. 'OK, no laughing for now.'
Aimée leaned over and kissed Teddy affectionately on the cheek. 'I am glad that you are awake, mon ami. I 'ave never been so terrified....'
'I'll be fine, Aimée,' Teddy said, cutting her off as tears began to form in her blue eyes. 'Can you bring me some water? And my wand? I think I'm going to need it...'
Aimée nodded tearfully, and rushed out of the door.
Teddy looked at James. 'I... wasn't expecting to see you here,' he said finally.
'I wasn't expecting to see you here either,' James replied. 'Have you been here ever since...?'
'Since I left Hogwarts and stopped answering owls?' Teddy sighed. 'More or less. I bummed around for a while, first... Made a few quid doing cheap magic tricks on street corners. Then I met Aimée, and she got me the job here.'
'So you and Aimée...' James began, feeling stupid for his fruitless chasing of the dancer, and even more stupid for his apparent inability to finish a sentence.
Teddy started to laugh, and ended up coughing again. 'Ouch,' he said painfully. 'Um... No. Definitely not. She's... really not my type. Really really not my type.'
James' eyes widened. 'Oh. Oh.'
Teddy looked away. 'Yeah. Not such a perfect godson after all, eh?'
'Is that why you left?' James asked, shocked. 'Because you thought Dad would be embarrassed? Just because you didn't like girls?' James couldn't help but let out a barking laugh. 'Teddy, Albus is gay - he came out two summers ago - and then he brought home Scorpius Malfoy! Guess which bit Dad had a problem with?!'
It was Teddy's turn to look surprised. 'Oh. Wow. I didn't see that one coming.'
James grinned. 'Yeah, well, why do you think I'm here? Had to get back to the top of the most-disreputable-son list somehow...' It somehow came out more bitterly than he had intended.
Teddy looked at him, curiously. 'So... You're the one that's been stalking Aimée, then?'
'Stalking?' James spluttered. 'I was trying to get her to notice me!' He noticed Teddy's expression. 'Why do you look so surprised?'
Teddy blushed, and looked away. 'Well...'
'Really, what's so odd about my wanting the attention of a beautiful woman?' James pushed.
'For one thing, she's a decade older than you,' Teddy said teasingly. Then his voice softened. 'And, for another, I would never have put my money on Albus, out of the two of you.'
James stared at him. 'You mean...'
At that moment, Aimée rushed back into the room, nearly spilling a jug of water and haphazardly clutching Teddy's wand.
James looked at her, then back at Teddy. 'I have to go,' he half-choked.
The morning sunlight through the trees around the courtyard in front of the Moulin Rouge left a dappled pattern of shade and light on the cobblestones. It was early, and the street was still quiet. James leant against the wall of the club and sighed deeply, his mind still ablaze with the previous night's events.
At the sound of footsteps, James looked up. His heart began to beat faster as he recognised Teddy's signature turquoise hair.
'You're looking better today,' he called out as the other wizard drew closer, trying not to let his nervousness show.
Teddy glanced up. 'What are you doing here?' he asked, sounding genuinely curious.
James could feel the blush creeping across his face again, and wilfully tried to force it away. 'Waiting for you, actually.'
Teddy stopped in front of him. 'Oh. I wasn't sure I'd see you back here after last night.'
James avoided his eyes, and for a moment there was an awkward silence. 'What you said,' he blurted out eventually. 'Last night.'
Teddy frowned, confused. 'What did I say, exactly?'
'That you'd put your money on me before Albus.' James took a deep breath. 'You... You were right.'
Teddy looked... James wasn't sure anymore. Not exactly shocked, but not exactly calm either. He ploughed on. 'When I saw Aimée perform, the first time... Well, she was all I could see. Not because of her - although I do think she's a very lovely woman,' James added hurriedly. 'Because somehow, every time I saw her I thought of you. I mean, I don't know if I exactly knew I was thinking of you, but I was! Something about her just made me feel... How I've always felt, around you, a little bit. Does that make any sense at all?' he finished, weakly.
Teddy looked at him silently, for a moment. Then he started to laugh - a giggle at first, but then it grew, until he was doubled up and leaning on the wall. James stared at him, unsure whether to run away or say something.
'Sorry...!' Teddy gasped. 'Oh, Merlin, I'm still too sore for this. It's just... I didn't leave because I thought Harry would hate me. He didn't hate my father for being a werewolf - why would he hate me for liking men?' He took a couple of deep breaths, his tawny eyes boring into James' deep brown ones. 'It was because of you. Because I liked you... wanted to be with you. But you were just this third year kid, still, and I knew it would never be possible, and anyway, I didn't want to betray everything your Dad has dive one for me my whole life... So I left. And now...' he let out a laugh that was almost a sob. 'Now you tell me you felt it too?'
James grabbed Teddy's arms. 'Yes.' And with that, he leaned in and kissed him.