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Second Skin

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We’re sitting on his broom. He is on the front, with me just behind him. My arms are tight around his waist. The wind is blowing his hair back and into my face. It makes me want to sneeze, but I don’t dare to, afraid I will lose my balance and fall off.

Below, the garden looks tiny. Mum is feeding the Nargles in the back of the yard, her hair a dirty blonde beacon in the mess of bushes and flowers surrounding the house. Animals originating from all compass points roam the grass and sit on the fences. Every now and then the honking daffodils go off, their sounds carrying so far they even overrule the wind in my ears. Professor Longbottom gave them to Mum as a Christmas present. He tweaked them so now they sing Christmas carols in December and old jazz standards on Saturday nights. But now, on a summer’s afternoon, they only go off if one of the Smooth-Horned Snorkacks comes too close, while searching the garden for something to eat.

Lorcan suddenly makes a sharp turn to the right, and I tighten my grasp around his waist even more. His ribs are palpable under my fingers. He is skinny, just like me, all narrow shoulders and long limbs. He makes another sharp turn and laughs, his body reverberating against mine. Of the two of us, he has always been the better flyer, quick and fearless. I don’t like flying as much as he does. But when he asks me to join him, invites me to fly with him, I never refuse. When we rise up into the air, the wind starting to whistle in my ears and the warmth of his back against my body, there is no place I’d rather be. The wind messes with his hair and blows through our shirts. The broom feels narrow and wobbly, and when I look down, I get a funny feeling in my stomach. But with him I feel safe. I trust him more than anyone, and flying with him means there is no one up here but us.

Far too soon, Dad comes out of the house, calling us down for lunch. Lorcan turns his head and looks at me regretfully, before gently lowering the broom until we land in the middle of the Bowtruckle patch. He grabs his broom, catches my hand, and drags me to the kitchen. My palm is warm and sweaty in his hand.

***

When night falls, after Mum and Dad sent us to bed, Lorcan always asks me to tell him stories. Our room is in the attic, right under the roof. Mum painted the walls all colours of the rainbow, and Dad tried to build our beds himself. As a result, Lorcan’s bed is a different size than mine, and creaks dangerously whenever he jumps on it.

In the daytime, Lorcan is chaotic, daring, and acts before he thinks. He drives Mum to desperation with his potions experiments that make the house smell like rotten eggs. He makes friends with numerous dangerous creatures, but comes home just as often with bite marks, bloody scratches, and once a particularly nasty Skrewt burn that left him in bandages for weeks. He loves to fly, soaring over the treetops and coming home long after dark has fallen, Dad pacing a hole in the carpet in the meantime. He plays being a Magizoologist, discovering creatures in the rainforests of Brazil, and drags me with him wherever he goes.

But when darkness sets, and we lie in our beds, he whispers my name, asking me to tell him stories―stories I’ve read, and stories I create myself. He wants to hear about the Three Brothers, and the defeat of Voldemort, and the legend of Rowena Ravenclaw. I tell him my stories. I tell him about creatures which are long extinct, about the mythology of the Egyptian wizards, and the powerful magic surrounding desolate planets and far away stars. We lie in the dark, my voice barely more than a whisper, and together we travel wherever my story goes.

I love to tell him about the things I’ve read, and the stories I daydream about. But most of all, I love to tell him about the adventures of two brothers on a Magisafari in rainforests, burning hot deserts, and the dark depths of the ocean. I tell him about their adventures, and he hangs on my every word, mouth hanging open and eyes shining. He searches out my hand, his fingers weaving around mine, and I tell my stories until his breathing evens out. I hold his hand until I fall asleep too, wishing life would always stay this way.

***

The Ravenclaw common room is dimly lit. Students are littered all over the chairs and couches, their murmuring a familiar background noise. Candlelight draws long shadows on the tapestries and numerous book cases lining the walls. I lie on the rug in front of the fireplace, reading a book on cruelty-free potions. I try to concentrate, but my body feels restless, and my mind keeps wandering off. It’s late already, and darkness has lowered itself like a blanket over the castle.

Then the door of the common room opens and warmth spreads in my belly. Without looking, I know it’s him, even though his steps are being muffled by the carpet.

People say we’re attached at the hip. It makes Lorcan laugh. They don’t even know, he says. I nod, because they don’t. He is not merely my brother, or my best friend. He is like a second skin, and I always wear him on me.

A shadow falls over my book. I look up to see him towering over me, smiling that wide smile he saves only for me.

‘Hi.’

‘Hey.’ I smile back.

He puts a steaming mug of tea in front of me, then sits down on the carpet, leaning against the couch. I know exactly what will come next, and my body tenses in anticipation. Every night, I read in front of the hearth, and every night, he comes and sits next to me, draping himself over me as if he has to make up for the time apart, after having been away from me for the day.

He sighs and wiggles his back against the couch, the steaming tea fogging up his glasses and hiding his eyes. His legs perfectly fit in the hollow of my lower back. They always have.

People don’t understand, Lorcan says, but I often wonder if he does.

***

We’re standing in our living room. Night is falling already, and the floor-to-ceiling windows show the buildings of Edinburgh, their dark silhouettes surrounding our apartment. I just got home from university, and Lorcan is ready to leave. He looks fierce and unapproachable wearing all black. Instead of leaving his dirty blond hair standing this way and that, it is slicked back now. It aches to see him like this, the knowledge of where he’s going leaving me cold from the inside. I swallow, trying not to let my shoulders slump, trying to look as indifferent as he does.

‘Is your date tonight?’ I ask him, doing my best to keep my voice steady.

‘Yes.’

‘With James Potter.’

Lorcan looks at me.

‘Got a problem with that?’

‘No,’ I lie.

‘I like James,’ he says, avoiding my eyes.

My fists clench in my pockets, jealousy stabbing my stomach like a knife. Images dance in front of me, images of James sitting there with Lorcan, drinking beer and laughing with him. I dig my nails into my palms, the pain a welcome distraction. Lorcan looks at me intently.

‘Lysander―’ he starts.

‘It’s okay,’ I interrupt him.

‘I’m sorry,’ he says. ‘I know Thursday night is our film night.’

‘I said it’s okay,’ I snarl. ‘I―I wasn’t planning on hanging out with you anyway. I’ve got homework to do.’

Lorcan tenses.

‘Fine,’ he retorts. ‘See you tomorrow.’

‘Tomorrow?’ I snap, latching onto his words like a hawk. My initial gloom quickly turns into rage, bubbling and boiling, engulfing me from the inside out. I want to lash out to him, to hurt him with my words like he hurts me. My initial casual attitude is abandoned entirely.

Lorcan’s eyes flash, with something resembling guilt, but I’m too furious to think about that now.

‘Planning on a happy ending?’ I laugh, the sound bitter in my ears. Lorcan pales, his body rigid with his own quickly building anger. His mouth forms a thin line.

‘And what if I do?’ he barks, eyes flashing. He doesn’t wait for my answer, but turns around instead, grabbing his coat, and stalks to the door.

‘Greet James from me!’ I yell after him, as the door shuts with a bang.

Suddenly feeling exhausted, I slump against the wall, the anger leaving my body as quickly as it came. I feel drained. I close my eyes, swallowing away the tears. This has not been the first time we’ve fought over him going out, and it won’t be the last. He hangs out with other people now, and I do too.

I hate it.

More than ever, I wish for the days of the past to return. The longing engulfs me and clamps on my chest, making me struggle for air. Why couldn’t life stay like it used to be? Just me and him. For me, it was enough.

***

The apartment is dark and chilly when I enter it. Ever since Lorcan finished his studies and left our Edinburgh apartment to go working in Brazil, it has felt different. He took his stuff with him, leaving empty spots in the house and a void in my life. I bought pictures, and paintings, and plants framing the windows and covering up my desk. I tried to bury the painful memories underneath them, tried not to think of him and how he went on Magisafari, but this time without me. How he left me behind. Until he suddenly came back two days ago, visiting Britain for the weekend.

He showed up on my doorstep unannounced, late on a rainy Friday night. His skin was tanned and his hair bleached by the tropical sun. He was all smiles and shining eyes, hugging me as he said he missed me, his little brother. I croaked I missed him too, voice barely audible through my tears. I had missed him, so much it hurt. It had been nearly a year since we last saw each other, before he took to South America’s rainforests. My stories inspired him, he said. It made me curse my stories. But I had known it couldn’t last, our life together. I was reminded of that the instant he arrived this Friday. Over the weekend it only got worse, until this Sunday night I almost choked on it.

I navigate through the dark apartment by touch, until I find the bathroom. I slip inside, my cock uncomfortably hard in my trousers. I leave out the light. Some things are better kept in the dark.

This Sunday night was pub night, celebrating our last night together, before he had to take a Portkey back to South America. We went to our usual pub, a small space crammed with worn wooden tables. He sat opposite me, cheeks still red from the cold, gesturing wildly as he told me about his life in Brazil. I sat silently in my chair, my mind fuzzy from the heavy Belgian beer. His legs were stretched out under the table, leaning against mine.

I tried to listen to him. But I could barely concentrate, not with him so near. Not when the warmth of his legs spread through my trousers, setting my skin on fire.

The thought has my heart racing all over again, and I hastily open my trousers, fingers trembling and sweaty. The first strokes make my knees almost buckle with relief. I sag against the wall, the bathroom tiles cold against my back.

I really thought I didn’t want him anymore. That I was finally over it, that I was finally done with emotions so caustic and distressing, I barely even let myself acknowledge them. Instead, I buried them deep inside. I pretended they didn’t exist, until I even believed so myself. But this weekend, my longing for him and the accompanying, crushing guilt, emerged from the depth and crashed over me like a wave. It made me realise, undeniably and painfully so, that it was not over. It has never been over.

I’ve wanted him for the longest time, and it made me drift away from him. I guess two people can only live together in one apartment for so long without going mad. We shared our place, our lives, all our memories, and still I could never really have him. He started dating. Went out with faceless men that fueled my hateful fantasies. Or sometimes not so faceless, like the time Lorcan dated James. James still doesn’t know why I ignored him ever since.

And then Lorcan left.

I stayed behind and tried to fill in the hole he left. I finished my Sustainable Magic studies. I made new friends, and even started dating. I visited Mum and Dad every other weekend. The pain caused by his leaving eventually diminished to a dull sort of discomfort. I tried to ignore this, and thought I moderately succeeded.

But here I am now, in the dark of my apartment, wanking myself while images of him dance in front of my eyes. After spending an entire weekend with him, trying to restrain myself, I don’t need much time. I think of his long legs under the table, and how he draped himself over me as I was reading the weekend paper. My breathing quickly becomes fast and erratic, my grip so firm it hurts. I feel my body tense as my orgasm uncurls itself at the thought of him, rolling over me until I drown in it, my groans echoing against the tiles.

My knees buckle, and I glide down until I’m sitting against the wall. My body is still shaking. The bathroom door is slightly ajar, light seeping through the opening. I pull up my legs and wrap my arms around them, resting my head on my knees. I sit there until the trembling fades away, feeling guilty, and miserable, and very, very tired.

***

I hastily walk through the dark streets of Edinburgh. The pavement is gleaming with rain. It’s cold outside, and on this late Sunday night, the streets are empty but for a few Muggles, huddled in their coats.

I squeeze the shrunken suitcase in my pocket. In fifteen minutes, my Portkey will be activated, bringing me back to Brazil again.

It was an impulsive idea, to visit Edinburgh this weekend. I’ve been away for nearly a year now, and although Brazil is wonderful, I suddenly missed home so much I couldn’t resist. Or actually, that’s not entirely true. I did not really miss home, as much as I’ve missed him.

Lysander.

For years now, even after I left, he has never been out of my thoughts. The pain of being away from him eventually diminished to a dull sort of discomfort, but it never really went away, not even after a year.

When I left for Brazil, I really hoped I would get over it. I hoped I could build up a new life. I wanted so desperately to get away from the agonising, ever-present longing for him, away from the accompanying guilt.

But as I arrived Friday evening, and he opened the door for me, I realised it was not over. It has never been over. He stood there in the doorway, looking bewildered, and shaken, and absolutely beautiful. Before I knew it, I rushed forward to hug him, squeezing his ever so lanky body against mine. I smelled the warmth of his skin, buried my face in his soft hair, and cursed myself. I cursed myself for ever having left him. And I cursed myself for the realisation, again, that I could not stay.

The trees of Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park come into sight, dark silhouettes against the night sky. At this hour, the park is almost deserted, with enough shadowy corners to keep out of the Muggles’ sight. The Portkey, an empty can of Irn-Bru, lies at the foot of a particularly knotty tree.

I pick up the Portkey and turn it around in my hands. It feels cold and sticky. In five minutes, it will be activated, bringing me back to the rainforests of his stories. The thought makes my insides twist painfully. As much as I love his stories, being there without him feels wrong. I traveled the world this year and thought I didn’t need him anymore. But this weekend I realised what I deep down knew all along, how the only real home I will ever know is him.

The Portkey starts to vibrate. I hear the wind rushing in my ears, and suddenly I miss him so much it clamps on my chest, making me struggle for air.

Lysander looked so miserable when we parted tonight, and it broke my heart. But if he knew the truth, he would despise me. So I said goodbye, desperately trying to ignore the sadness and hurt in his eyes. I told myself it’s for the best. But now, recalling the way he looked at me, I am suddenly at loss. Is it really?

The Portkey burns in my hand. The trees around me are blurring already, indicating I’ve got less than a second left. I breathe in deep, close my eyes, and decide.

***