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With one eye on his drink and the other on James, Albus failed to notice Teddy until he slid into the booth and took the seat opposite him. Albus spared him a glance and then looked back at James. He couldn't help but notice the hand he had placed on the back of the woman he had been trying to get off with all evening. She smiled and looked at him adoringly, her wavy hair falling forward and framing her face as she leaned down towards him to hear him better. She covered her mouth with her hand and laughed, and James took a moment to smirk while her eyes flickered away from his and closed momentarily.

Albus sighed.

James said something more and the woman smiled again, wider this time, and nodded. She turned towards the front of the pub. His hand lingered on her back and she let him guide her away, presumably towards the exit. A few steps later James looked back over his shoulder and grinned in Al's direction. When they made eye contact he winked and then he raised his hand with a subtle thumbs-up directed at Teddy, who, when Albus looked, gave a half-hearted wave in return and said, “There he goes.”

Albus snorted softly and grabbed his glass, idly thinking that a drink and a half was not nearly enough to deal with this. Teddy groaned and slapped large hands over his blue hair. It looked almost navy in the low light, and Teddy's fingers mussed up the carefully combed side-parting. When he looked up he looked more like himself again, with hair messy and almost spiky instead of flat and sleek.

“I don't know if I can survive another one.” He seemed to think better of banging his forehead on the table and merely hung his head. “I might as well give up and kip on this floor instead.”

“Wow.” Albus eyed the floor with open disgust. “I wouldn't if I were you.”

He both envied and understood him.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures.” Teddy's pleading eyes made him snort again. He took a sip and put the glass down with a soft thunk–clink.

“That bad?”

“Oh, don't even ask. You do not want to know those details about your own brother.”

Albus tensed and his stomach flipped. He took another sip, glancing out at the smaller tables around the pub. He breathed through his nose and gave it several seconds before he looked back. Teddy had his chin in his hands and elbows on the table, and a morose look on his face.

Albus swallowed thickly. “Really?”

Teddy nodded, the look on his face still grave but tinted with exasperated humour.

“You could always come back to mine,” Albus said. His hope and curiosity were mirrored in Teddy's expression.

“Yeah? D'you mind?”

“No, sure. The sofa's not the most comfortable thing, er, but it's yours if you'd like – unless you think you can Transfigure something better.”

“Ugh,” Teddy replied. “Moderately too drunk to be bothered. A lumpy sofa will do.”

“I never said it was lumpy,” Albus said. He glanced around again, eyes bitterly lingering on James' vacant spot. “You ready to go?”

“Oh.” Teddy sat up, his hands slipping into his lap. “I was hoping to move on from moderately to massively, or at least somewhere in between. But, no, I – yeah, sure, let's go.” Teddy stood up and Albus gave him an amused look.

“You know.” Albus sidled out of the booth and shrugged on his coat. “I do have alcohol at home. I'm not a kid any more.”

Teddy flashed him a crooked smile. “Lucky me.”

~*~

They had walked out of the dark alleyway and continued side by side in oddly strained silence, and a block and a half had never felt so far before. Drinking always made the pressure of Apparition even more unpleasant, and Albus was thankful for the fresh air. It woke him up to the point that he sobered from the miniature buzz he'd managed.

The heels of Teddy’s boots clacked against the pavement. Albus wondered if the woman James had pulled was Muggle or witch, and whether she'd had to walk all the way to the flat in her high heels or if they'd Apparated beyond the pub, like he and Teddy had.

“Sorry about this,” Albus murmured. “I don't know what's taking them so long.”

“No, mhm, I don't mind.” Teddy stuck his hands in his pockets and shrugged. “That's what you get for renting in a Muggle neighbourhood, hm?”

Albus shrugged too. “Still, how long can it take to approve a Floo connection?”

“I'm just glad I didn't drink myself into oblivion after all,” Teddy laughed. “That would've been a disaster.”

The laughter trickled down Albus' spine – or maybe he was simply cold?

“We could’ve rang for a cab. Or you could've Side-Alonged.”

“Ohh, no.” Teddy shook his head. “Trust me, mate, that's an even larger disaster waiting to happen; I'd splinch us both.” He laughed again and flicked some hair out of his eyes. Was it... marginally longer now? “Last time I was pissed and someone tried to take me along, I made an arse out of myself by trying to take control of the whole thing. Not the brightest idea I've ever had, but I lived to tell the tale, as you can see,” he said, holding his arms out, “but this damaged brain of mine nearly murdered us both.” He tapped a finger to his head. His hair had changed from midnight blue to cerulean. “My mind's a wandering mess. You wouldn't want to risk it.”

“Nh,” grunted Albus non-committally and looked away from the mesmerising, shimmering blue hair. He kept walking until he could wave a hand at his building. “There,” he told Teddy.

Once he had taken down his initial layer of protective charms, waved away the last wards, and invited Teddy in, he felt instantly better. Home smelled comfortable and safe and he threw a lazy spell over his shoulder at the hearth, sensing a fire spring to life. The light flickered around the room, making shadows wobble and dance. He magicked the grate back into place from where he had moved it that morning when he'd checked whether the fireplace was finally connected to the Floo Network or not.

“Make yourself at home.” He left his jacket on the back of a chair and stretched – making sure to tug down his t-shirt afterwards, where it had curled up over his belly. A sense of calm spread over him as he ambled over to his small liquor cabinet. “Whisky good enough?” A thud made him look over in time to see Teddy's second boot thud to the floor next to the first one.

“Fire or Muggle?” Teddy stretched his legs out and leaned back against the armrest, half-sitting on the sofa.

Albus held out a bottle of each, both gifts and mostly full. “Take your pick.” It earned him a slow grin and hands imitating an explosion, complete with sound effect. Albus turned around, shaking his head and hiding an amused smile, and filled two glasses.

“You need a couple of those fancy tumblers,” Teddy said when Albus handed him his glass.

“I do?”

“You do.” Teddy swirled the liquid around carefully. “Serving it in these plain things isn't fair to the whisky. Think of its lost potential.”

Albus sat down by the other armrest and pulled his legs up, after following Teddy's example and toeing off his shoes. He turned sideways – leaning against the armrest and resting his drink on one knee, fingertips around the rim of his glass – and looked at Teddy who downed his Firewhisky in one go.

With a pout and an exaggerated tilt of his near-empty glass, Teddy turned beseeching eyes on him. Albus waved his arm indifferently and tucked his feet partially between the seat cushions, nodding at the cabinet. “Help yourself, there's plenty more where that came from.”

The tips of Teddy's hair at the nape of his neck glittered magenta in the firelight as he prepared his drink, and when he flopped back on the couch, whisky glass placed on the table first, the roots were a soft pink as well.

Albus touched his own hair curiously.

“What does it feel like?”

Teddy turned his head where it was lying on top of the backrest. “What?”

“Your hair.” He pointed at Teddy's head. “I mean, inside. Can you feel it? Or on the outside, I suppose.”

Blinking eyes and a puzzled look met his. “Oh.” Teddy's hand went up and ran through his hair from front to back, turning it a solid blue in its wake. “No, not really. It changes sometimes when I'm not paying attention.” Teddy examined his palm as if he'd find residual dye there. “What colour?”

Albus took a drink of his whisky and swallowed hard as the taste filled his mouth. It was warmer going down than he remembered. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Pink, sort of. A little.”

Teddy hummed and smiled dolefully at the ceiling. “My mum wore her hair pink throughout most of her adult life, apparently. I've seen photos – it suited her.”

Teddy's smile was sad but his eyes glittered with merriment all the same. Albus tucked his legs closer and curled one arm around them, the other still holding the glass atop his knee. “You look good in it, too.”

Teddy turned his head sideways slowly, amusement dancing over his face. “Is that so?” One corner of his mouth twitched higher than the other in a smug expression. A moment later he rolled his eyes. “James mostly makes bubblegum jokes.” He laughed then, a graceless snort-cough of a chortle that made his knees rise up. His feet thumped down on the floor again and he sank back in the sofa with his arms outstretched, one hanging down the side and the other lying on the seat next to him, not far from Albus' sock-clad foot where he had his toes stuck between the cushions. “I guess I can't blame him.” With a hint of vague effort on his face – probably only for show, Albus thought – his hair turned light pink. He chuckled again and turned to Albus with a toothy grin.

It didn't take a lot of imagination to picture sticky-sweet gum had exploded over his scalp, and Albus wrinkled his nose. “James is right...” he mumbled into his glass, taking another sip.

“God, all you Potters are impossible.”

At least Teddy had somewhere to go to avoid James and … Albus drank again – and his whatever. He fiddled with the seam of his denims, beside his knee, with a fingernail. He resolutely decided not to ask about it, nor point that out. Searching for something to say, he found it when he looked back at the bubblegum hair. “It looks better when it's darker. The pink, I mean.”

Teddy's light hair was gradually washed away by a shade of fuchsia, like the colour was melting off of the strands, only it didn't drip anywhere once it reached the tips although the illusion made it seem like it should. Small traces of purple found their way into it, blending together and adding a surprisingly complimentary shade here and there.

“Better?” he asked, and Albus stared at a thin line of purple and nodded silently.

It looked like a work of art. One of those fancy ones. Or possibly a kid's drawing.

Albus couldn't decide.

“Hmm,” Teddy contemplated. “You're clearly the better brother. James never liked this either.” He shook his head and the hair grew almost an inch, mostly visible on top, and the messy strands fell haphazardly across each other. It was almost glimmering again, the different shades looking alive with magic as they seemingly fused together, creating both contrast and harmony.

“I've never seen this.” Albus frowned. “I've hardly ever seen you with pink hair, come to think of it. Once or twice, but...”

“No, I – it wasn't really for me.”

“Shame.” Albus noticed the timid half-smirk as he turned away to look into the fire, but he said nothing and raised his glass to his mouth instead. “And pay no attention to James, he's an arse anyway.”

Teddy groaned into his hands. “He's a loud arse, is what he is.”

Albus spluttered, whisky falling back into his glass and spilling down his bottom lip. He wiped it away with a swipe of his tongue and touched the back of his hand to his mouth again.

“Oh, crap.” Teddy sat up. “I'm sorry. Me and my big mouth.”

Albus threw him a baleful look, wrist still plastered to his mouth. “I can handle it,” he said shortly. He took a swig and scooted to the edge of the couch, putting the glass down on the coffee table. He leaned forwards with his elbows on his legs and eyes directed at the fireplace. Sighing, he pressed his face into his hands, running them over his eyes, up over his forehead and through his hair. “I didn't mean to snap.” He took a quick breath in through his nose and straightened his spine. Starting over, he slid back and leaned his side into the back of the couch and draped an arm over the backrest. “Loud, you say?”

Teddy turned too and folded his arms on top of the backrest. He buried his head there and the hot pink of his hair shone in the firelight, the orange hues glowing in a playful chase across it. Albus remembered he hadn't lit any lamps yet, and the fire's heat seemed to reach all the way to them, making it too warm, but he didn't want to move.

Teddy emerged looking exasperated. “Abnormally loud. It's almost indescribable. Why I ever thought flat sharing with him would be a good idea...”

Albus swallowed and wiped his brow with the pretence of touching up his fringe. He wasn't sweating – not yet, anyway – but it was stifling in the room. Imagined moans and grunts and sharp gasps slipped into his mind, too vividly for comfort. He saw it in his mind: a kettle boiling on the stove the morning after; Albus getting a pot of tea ready in a nice airy kitchen; a half-naked James, fresh out of the shower, waltzing in. Lazy afternoons and drowsy evenings; himself in a chair; James sprawled on the couch, unconcerned, rumpled and near comatose, with his chaotic hair in all directions and lips slightly parted.

“Can't be that bad.”

This had been a bad idea.

“You say that now, but I dare you to try. You wouldn't even make it through one of these nights before you'd want to wank yourself silly, probably tossing your load all the way up to the bleeding ceiling once you did.”

A very bad idea.

Waves of heat rolled off him and he wished the fire weren’t blazing so strong, or at least that he had his glass to busy himself with. He stayed still, though, keeping eye contact and willing his body to relax, but Teddy's eyes were already bulging and Albus' heart rate sped up. He opened his mouth but Teddy got there first.

“By Merlin, Al, no – god – I didn't mean that! Where's your head at?” He laughed nervously and shifted in his seat, throwing Albus a cautious glance. “Not that he— I mean, he's fit and all but it's... I mean,” he blustered on, “not for you! For me! I meant her, you know, for you to, uh...” Teddy held up a loose fist in the air.

“Wank to,” Albus filled in, head buzzing.

“Yes, I, uh, reckon that'd be a better fit. I mean, you've never really talked about”—he gestured at Albus—“...that. Not that we've talked much lately, maybe, and even if we talked all the time I wouldn't expect you to tell me if, er— Well, I didn't mean to make assumptions, anyway, although,” he snickered and shook his head, “it'd have to be her, obviously. Not much else to pick from with the other party being your brother.” He frowned and fell quiet for a few seconds. “Though I suppose it depends on the noises, because grunting is grunting, and if you can't see him...”

A very, very bad idea.

That was starting to feel good.

Shit.

“Does it affect you, then?” Albus wiped his brow again, finding it slightly damp. Where had he placed his wand? He could always get up and open a window. Was Teddy warm?

“I— He's your brother.”

“But I was asking about you.” It had seemed like a safe bet, turning it back on Teddy, but now he wasn't so sure. “It's different for you,” Albus continued, hoping it would deter Teddy from throwing the question back at him. Unbidden, he pictured himself lying in his bed in his dark room – hearing not only low groans and moans, but also the slapping sounds of sex. With it came the mental image of a woman enjoying herself while James pounded into her. James leaning over her; his strong arms taut, tendons straining; tanned skin and hairy legs against white sheets; back muscles rippling, shifting; sweat running down between his shoulder blades.

Albus pulled his legs up again and put his forearm against his knees. The hidden hand that was hanging behind the back of the couch formed a fist.

“He looks good, like I said. He's fit and all, but he's my friend – you know?”

“So it doesn't get to you at all?” Albus licked his lips. “A grunt is a grunt,” he pushed. Teddy looked slightly abashed and it helped ease the prickling shiver that tingled its way across Albus’ thighs and down his back.

“Well, I mean –” Teddy's eyes darted around the room. “I don't know.”

“How can you not know?” Albus' nerves calmed, as if Teddy was soaking up the tense energy in the room and draining it out of him. “What does it feel like hearing it? You must know that.” He breathed steadily through his nose, waiting for a response that didn't come. “How long did it take before you wanted to – hmm, wank yourself silly, was it?” Teddy shot him a desperate look, his mouth opening and closing. Albus felt a smirk take form. “So voyeurism is your thing.”

“It's not just that,” Teddy argued, flustered.

“It's not only the sounds?”

“No!” Teddy blinked in the quiet that followed. The room was silent but for the crackling of the fire as realisation dawned on his face. He visibly steeled himself. “I mean,” he said. “I've never spied or anything. It's just...”

Albus stopped himself from nodding as he understood. “James.”

Teddy met his eyes and searched his face. Albus held his gaze, feeling his skin buzzing again, the smirk gone, and Teddy's eyes softened. “All right, yes.”

“Yeah?”

Really, he hadn't been sure, but there it was, and despite Teddy's dismayed expression, the oppressive and violently demanding energy returned full force. It landed heavily in Al's gut.

“Yeah. Is that weird?”

“Weird?” Albus frowned and tilted his head to the side, feigning indifference, like the very idea of getting off to James— Albus made a face, doing his best to portray confusion.

“That I'm into him. Is that weird for you?”

Albus swallowed what little saliva he still had left and opened his dry mouth. “You like him?”

“I sort of do.” Teddy's cheeks were a little rosy but he grinned again, unashamed. “Kind of a lot. You won't tell him, will you?”

Albus breathed in and out before answering. “He doesn't know?”

Teddy laughed and stuck his chin in his hand, elbow on top of the cushion. “It's not impossible that he's figured it out, but I highly doubt it.”

“Trust me, you'd know if he knew.”

The whole world would probably know.

Teddy shifted and got more comfortable. He sighed contently, glancing at the fire and back. A small, close-mouthed smile spread over his features as he watched Albus. “No,” he said, finally. “James isn't very good at being covert, is he?” His eyes twinkled. “Maybe that runs in the family?”

Albus’ nails dug into his palm behind the couch but he kept his visible hand relaxed.

“What makes you say that?”

“Hmm.” Teddy kept looking at him unwaveringly and Albus forced his eyebrows up in a silent question, trying to seem curious. “I don't know.” He twisted away and stretched, his legs crossed at the ankles, feet on the table, and his arms behind his head. Albus kept watching his profile. “Thanks for letting me stay, by the way.”

Albus breathed out a soft sigh of relief, the tension disappearing. He happily latched on the the change of subject. “No problem. I'm glad I could help.” The wood in the fireplace crackled loudly.

“You're a lifesaver. You've no idea how torturous it is listening to him make some girl whine.” Teddy scrunched up his face and started writhing. “'Ohh, James, mm, so good – ahh – yes, there, there!'” Teddy moaned. He stilled and scoffed. “It's pathetic.”

Albus tucked his feet closer to his body and wrapped both arms around his legs, even though it made him feel silly.

Teddy shook his head. “He isn't much better, of course.” To Albus' horror, Teddy closed his eyes and uttered a low, deep groan. “Then there's the panting. Oh, and this grunted sort of 'uh' he does.” Teddy arched his back in mock pleasure and instantly his chest was rising, filling with air that he released in rushed, breathy puffs. “Ah – oh – ah – nh – oh.”

Albus looked away, feeling clammy. The panting huffs of effort sent a chill through him and he snapped his head back. Teddy was lost in pretend bliss. Albus' eyes closed and a long, slow, rumbling groan travelled in through his ears and settled heavy in the pit of his stomach, sending warmth down his core and his thighs. His jeans felt rough against his arms and hands and his eyes flew open. Open was better.

Albus kept his eyes on the fire as the last of the fake moans reverberated around the room. Finally he looked back at Teddy. He'd sat up and was back in his previous position on the sofa, leaning against the backrest with one arm on top of it, facing Albus. He was watching him carefully with an amused look on his face, one eyebrow raised and his lips pressed together in a crooked grin. Albus was startled to realise the slightly heavier breathing was his own. He tried to calm it.

“Does that bother you? I'm sorry.” He seemed far from it, Albus noticed. He wished for anger instead of what he was feeling but his body wasn't able to produce that reaction, it seemed. Teddy's smile grew wider. “Al, do you find me—”

“No, it's not that.” Albus looked around for an explanation. “It was the sounds.” He played it awkward, trying to let the heat wash over him and colour his face. “As you pointed out, a grunt is a grunt. I, uhm, it wasn't about you.”

Oh god, he wasn't making it better.

“Oh. You know, for a moment I almost thought – but never mind. Point being, James is a loud, obnoxious arse when he's shagging. I can hear it clear across the hall, like I was in the same bloody room. It's not fair, is what it is. Who does he think he is, prancing around the place smelling like sex and wearing those tight pyjama bottoms?” Teddy sighed dramatically. “He walked into my room just last month wearing nothing but too-tight tented pants and had the balls to ask if I had a condom, because apparently the Muggle girl he'd brought home refused to do anything without one. He acted like it was my problem.”

“The gall,” Albus muttered, his throat stupidly dry.

“Right? She left, clever girl. Would you believe he blamed me? 'God, Teddy!' he said, and then shut himself in his room and tossed off, loud and furious. And I was already interested from the moment they locked themselves in there, mind you, and sprang to life and leaked like a fountain when I saw him in my room. And him making those noises by himself wasn't helping. I'm rather sick of hiding in the shadows like some sort of voiceless deviant, you know.“ He growled out a defeated sigh. “And yet I keep wanting him to pull more often. Hell, I've even helped him to – speaking of pathetic. I don't mean to sound like— I don't know what I sound like. But he's just...”

Albus leaned over and grabbed his glass, ignoring the low hum of arousal vibrating through his bones, and drank deep from what was left in it. He muted himself by pressing the rim against his lips and tasting more of the whisky. In his peripheral vision, Teddy’s hair glowed a warm pink.

There were barely any words to describe James. A few, maybe, but not many.

“He's Jamie.” Albus spoke into his glass in soft, wistful tones and only too late did he grasp that he'd said it out loud. He forced himself to look up. “Isn't that why you like him?” He met Teddy's eyes, and didn't like what he saw there. But how could Teddy know? How could anyone ever guess something like that? People shouldn't be able to – they didn't think like that.

Only Albus did.

The fire crackled and a lock of Teddy's hair escaped and hung down over his forehead. Albus looked at it without seeing.

“You're right. That's essentially it.”

Focus finally returning, Albus came back to himself. The gnawing hint of contemplation was gone, and Teddy appeared lost in dreamy thought.

“He is Jamie, and that's about it. That's the problem.” The hair was swept away by nimble fingers. “He's funny, he looks good... He has this fantastic arse, to start with. Shit, those tight shirts he wears when working out. You should see him when he comes back from his runs. The top clings to him even before he sweats, like a second skin, and when he takes off his jacket and the sweat chills him – those nipples...”

Somewhat aware of his heart beating somewhere in his chest, feeling a petulant itch spreading over his skin, Albus bit the inside of his cheek. He tore his mind away, refusing to let it wander down that path, and got up from the couch, mostly unhindered and unashamed by the slow heat gravitating towards his centre. If he accepted it and let it pass, it would all be all right.

He wasn't going to get turned on by this.

With the glass in his hand he walked back to the cabinet to do… something, he didn’t know what. His wand was lying on the glossy surface and he closed his eyes gratefully.

“He jogs?” he managed.

“You didn't know?”

“No.”

He busied himself by conjuring ice. Staring down into the remaining amber liquid and feeling reluctant to face Teddy again, he added another cube and reminded himself to be strong. With some effort he turned around.

Teddy had stretched out on the sofa, his head in Albus' corner, feet almost touching the other end. Albus approached hesitantly, and Teddy scooted up a bit and rested his neck on the rounded, mushy armrest. He pulled his legs back and Albus and sank down into Teddy's previous spot. The cushion was still warm. Too late, Albus realised that he'd never topped off his glass.

“He does a lot more. Push-ups, sit-ups... Sometimes in the middle of the living room.”

Albus resisted the urge to press the glass to his heated forehead. “Must be a sight.”

Albus sipped his whisky without really wanting to. He only drank a drop. His mouth was beginning to water but he didn't think it was any better than before.

“Oh, no kidding, I enjoy it a lot.”

Another drop made it past Al's lips, for the sake of his having something to do. “Mm.”

Every time Albus looked, Teddy was watching him. Did he never look away? He held his gaze for long moments but nothing changed, and Albus' fingers tightened their hold surreptitiously.

“But it's not just those things.”

Teddy finally looked away, focusing on some distant spot next to Al. It only made Albus’ hand clench harder around his glass.

“He's funny and kind, of course,” Teddy continued, “and has surprisingly soft hands.”

The ice clinked and Albus sucked in a breath.

“Talented, too.”

“Certainly,” Albus said, stiffly.

Teddy stretched and wiggled his toes against Albus' thigh. The ice clinked again as Albus' arm twitched ever so slightly. He shot a spell at the fire and lowered it, then put his wand on the table. He sat back and instantly regretted it.

The room was so very dimly lit and there were shadows over Teddy's face, but they didn't make him unattractive; they shrouded him in alluring mystery. Albus' ears were practically ringing to hear more and his prick was stirring despite his best effort to ignore it.

The lighting felt too intimate and if it had been James here with him, sitting there earlier and – Mordred's soul forbid – lying before him now, instead of Teddy—

“It's frustrating when you can't have the person you want.”

Albus swallowed, his mouth simultaneously too wet and too dry. “I can imagine.”

“So,” Teddy sighed. “I'm not sure what to do.” His eyes were piercing and glinted in the soft light, his face smooth and unreadable. Albus felt numb. His heart was pounding but he could barely feel it. “I'm thinking... Telling him isn't an option.”

Albus licked his lips. “No.”

“No.”

Teddy's feet were warm against his leg and Albus rattled the ice in the glass again. He wished Teddy wouldn't touch him – it was too distracting.

He curved his upper body away and bent to reach the table, opting to abandon the drink, not feeling as horrified as he should when he realised he was half-hard already. He wanted to pull his knees to his chest again, or turn the fire back up.

“Thanks for letting me vent.” The dull light made Teddy's face look alive and angular. “Sometimes that's important. Right?”

Albus didn't dare open his mouth, and simply shrugged and nodded instead. It seemed to satisfy Teddy.

“His shoulders are good too. Firm, broad.”

He watched Teddy swallow slowly, almost deliberately, and bit the inside of his bottom lip, hoping it wouldn't be visible. It was still too warm in the room.

Teddy's Adam's apple stood out about as much as Jamie's. A small, yet distinct, bump jutting out at the centre of his throat.

Albus opened his mouth.

“Being around that.” He paused. What had he been planning to say? He had already been silent for too long. It sounded unnatural, but he pressed on. “Can't be easy.”

“It's... hard.” Teddy's voice was pitched lower and Albus was still staring at his throat. The sound ran through him, sending blood rushing to his groin in a frenzy. He registered Teddy's words fully, and involuntary found himself glancing down Teddy's body where he was lying on display.

Oh.

Fierce fucking soaring newts of flame.

Was that...? Was he—? Albus' eyes snapped back up to Teddy’s face.

“Objectively,” Teddy started, quieter now, softer, a small line between his brows, “what else would you say was good about him?” His chest moved in a steady rhythm as he breathed. His hair had gradually grown longer and now it lay messy but mostly flat over his head, flowing over the sides and down to his ears, no longer close-cropped and spiky. A few magenta strands were hanging over the side of his forehead.

Albus, indecisive though he was, felt his prick twitch. This Teddy was so familiar and yet so far removed from the kohl-painted, blue-haired boy Albus had played with as a child.

Teddy's foot flexed against Al’s thigh, making him tense up.

“His wrists.” He could only whisper it. He tried, but what came next was so softly spoken he hardly sounded like himself. “He has nice arms.”

Teddy's mouth was slightly open. Albus wet his lips with a touch of his tongue.

“Yeah?” Teddy's eyes burned into his.

“I imagine... you like that about him.”

“Yes.”

Teddy's voice fluctuated. It was shaky, his reply something between a sigh and a whisper. He cleared his throat carefully.

“What else do I like about him?”

“His hair. Untidy, dark... and you wouldn't mind having your hands in it.”

It was Teddy's turn to wet his lips. “Tangling my fingers in it.”

“Yes,” Albus breathed. “Brushing your lips against his neck...”

“Getting him to make those noises.”

Merlin's grandma's fucking knickers, this was not a good idea.

But Albus would die before he stopped.

Was Teddy breathing faster? Oh, god, he definitely was. It took effort, but Albus didn't let his eyes stray.

“Getting him to suck my fingers,” Teddy blurted. He was leaning up on his elbows now.

Fuck. Albus needed to press the heel of palm against his erection, but Teddy would see.

Jamie's mouth, wet and warm – the edge of teeth over the pads of Albus' fingers, the soft press of his tongue. His soft, gentle tongue. Curling. Around fingers, or—

Oh, god, no, he was hard now. All he could do was keep breathing.

In and out. In and out.

In... and... Oh fuck.

Albus held his breath, willing his body to stay still and quiet. He didn't need to picture that right now. How tight it would be, how slow he would have go to at first.

Teddy was biting his lip and, fuck, Albus didn't mean to look down, but – the bulge was mouth watering.

Albus shifted and fled. He pressed damp palms against the cool surface of the liquor cabinet, staring straight ahead. He could feel Teddy's eyes on his back. His body thrummed with tension, but the only way to release it would be—

He closed his eyes.

“It must be rather lonely.”

“Never being with him?” Teddy answered from the couch. “Like I said...”

“It's hard,” Albus agreed, heart beating furiously. He no longer felt hollow. His chest felt tight, like his heart was pounding away not even an inch deep inside of him. He could feel every heartbeat against his ribcage. “And being with other people never makes it go away, obviously.”

He needed to sew his mouth shut. He'd wanted to listen, to hear all about—

But this was different. Sharing was so forbidden it belonged in the Forest. The tightrope he was walking on right now might snap at any moment and what would he do then? He had promised himself, half his life. Al, you stupid idiot, stop this. Stop it.

There was a creak behind him and he kept his eyes closed.

“No. But it still helps.”

“For a while.”

“For a moment,” Teddy conceded, right behind him. “It's even better when they understand what you're going through. There was this... one bloke I was with. He was in love with his best friend's girlfriend. Neither of us could have what we really wanted.”

Al's prick twitched again. He looked down at the bottles of Ogden's and Talisker, wondering why he was standing here. He hadn't even brought his glass this time.

Teddy didn't know – Teddy couldn't know.

Albus swallowed thickly. His fingernails slid over the surface of the cabinet.

Teddy knew.

Albus' eyelids fluttered closed again.

“When they know what it's like to long for someone you're not supposed to,” Teddy persisted, his voice smooth and soothing. “Because they're your...” he breathed, and Albus' hands contracted into fists. “Friend.”

“There's nothing wrong with fantasising about a friend.” Albus' face heated. “Don't worry, Teddy. I won't tell him.”

“Mhm.” Teddy breathed across his neck. “Keeping secrets is also important.” His hands reached around Albus’ hips, slowly sliding around to the front of his jeans. “James will never find out who likes him.” His arms settled around Al’s middle. His voice was careful but so deep again. “Will he?”

Albus shook his head.

“So tell me,” Teddy continued. “What else could someone like about him?”

“You – uh...” Albus was so warm and Teddy's arms were radiating heat over his stomach. This was crazy. “You probably like the way he speaks to house appliances,” he said, somehow, “even when they can't hear him because they're Muggle.”

Berating the microwave into behaving, hushing the whistling kettle heating on an electric stove. Albus smiled a little, despite his unease.

“What can I say? It's dumb, but sweet. What else, Al?”

“You like... to watch him play Quidditch.”

“Mm, he's skilled.”

Teddy was fingering the hem of Al’s shirt and Albus was already breathing faster. He could do this, though, he could make his body behave. The more he tried to contain his reaction the more tense he became, but it was working.

“You like him sweaty, after practice – smelling of worn leather and grass.”

He breathed out a small sound through his nose when Teddy brushed up against his back, so gently.

“I do like that,” Teddy chuckled. “I like him hot and grimy. And his worthless sense of humour. What else do... I”—Teddy's fingers twitched against the hem of Al's shirt—“like about him?”

Albus paused, breathing in the quiet. With his eyes closed, the room was wonderfully dark. With his back to the fire and Teddy blocking it further, the light was hardly noticeable.

His lips felt dry. In his mind James was shaking his sweaty hair out after a long game, like a wet dog would shake its fur dry. He remembered James shouldering his broom and walking over with a bright grin on his face.

“His smile. Those perfect, straight teeth.”

All his life he'd envied him for them, but whenever James beamed at him it never mattered.

Teddy hugged him a little tighter for a moment. “Imagine kissing that mouth. What else?”

“You—” Albus cleared his throat. “Maybe you admire him?”

“Yes.”

“Maybe you, um, like the way...”

He remembered shrieks of laughter and cold water lapping around him, and being splattered with cold droplets, and James emerging with his hair plastered to his head. He'd smelled of lake water and forest the rest of the day.

“The way,” Teddy prompted. “What?”

“Maybe you like to think about what it'd be like now.”

Nude. Glistening shoulders. Flat hair. Sunlight reflecting on the surface of the water. Toned muscles and gleaming eyes.

“What what would be like...? Remind me.”

The game felt safe. Obvious, but safe, and there was no way he could pretend that he was still talking about Teddy’s feelings. This was all him, and Teddy was fully aware of it. Either way, he couldn't have stopped the words even if he’d tried. His nerves were strung tight but the words tumbled out.

“Maybe you... like that he taught you to swim when you were little?” Dammit, why did revealing this feel like such a big deal?

Teddy stilled.

Oh no, god no. He didn't know.

How could he not know?

He must have known. The things he said. Teddy knew!

“Al...”

Albus' breath was coming out funny, shaky and stuttering, his head spinning and nerves vibrating. His skin felt clammy, hot – he could feel sweat beading on his temples.

Lips touched the shell of his ear and whispered, “You look like him, you know.”

A hand slid down and cupped him through his jeans, and Albus curled forward.

“You have his hair... though not his eyes.” A nose bumped into his hairline, above his ear. “You're right about his arms too.” The other hand left Albus' waist and trailed down his forearm to his wrist, where Teddy's thumb stroked the inside of it.

Fuck, fuck, fuck. Yes.

Fingertips nudged harder against his erection, the heel of the palm rubbing light circles.

Albus' eyes opened and closed. He couldn't settle.

“James' strong, capable hands.” A single finger touched Albus' knuckles and traced them. “James' neck...”

Teddy pressed a small kiss under his ear.

“Firm chest and those delectable nipples.” He pinched one through Albus’ shirt, and Albus bit his lip.

He arched his back and pushed into the palm caressing him. It gripped him – pressed, released and stroked. Teddy did it again, lazily working the length.

“Do you think he would like his nipples played with?” His hand sneaked under the t-shirt and pushed it up, finding a raised bud and thumbing it.

Albus' head fell back against Teddy's shoulder and the rest of his weight followed as Teddy encircled him with both arms. He worked one hand inside Al’s jeans with some difficulty, and his prick pressed up against Al’s arse.

“James...” Albus tried again. “Jamie's... against...” Oh god, what were they doing?

“Hmm, yes, I'd really like it,” Teddy hummed, changing tack. “I'd love to feel James behind me, pressing against my trousers, his prick all but nestled between my cheeks... were it not for the layers of fabric.” He left Albus' chest and trailed his hand down to join the other one.

Albus grunted and latched on to Teddy's wrists. The straining button of his denims was popped open, and the searching fingers inside teased him into whining once Teddy had slightly more room to move his arm.

“I'd sound just like that, if Jamie used his fingers like this,” Teddy said. “If he traced the tip of his finger – just so, up the shaft... up, all the way, nudging. And then, oh, just lightly gripping and holding on.”

“Teddy.”

“Al...” He gave him a few quick, clumsy strokes before getting the flies open and his hand inside Al’s pants as well. His fingers wrapped around Albus, skin on skin. “I wonder what Jamie's cock would feel like –”

Albus whined, loud, scrunching his face up and pushing at Teddy's wrists with an iron grip. He couldn't think about James' cock right now. Not that too. Oh, Merlin. Jamie. Stiff, thin and long... Flushed and pointing out, almost horizontally, a droplet at the tip.

“Shh,” Teddy hushed. “Let up or I can't move as good.”

Nodding fervently, Albus let go of one of Teddy's wrists. He was breathing hard, no doubt about it any more, and Teddy dropped sloppy kisses along his neck, murmuring words he couldn't make out. Teddy's hand wrapped around his cock firmly and Albus wriggled.

“Jamie's arse... Oh, imagine it. I can picture it right now,” Teddy purred against his throat.

“Teddy, I—” Albus was leaking, he could feel it. Teddy's thumb was spreading it over the tip and, fuck, he was brushing his fingers around the ridge there – they felt so good, then they were gone. He palmed him sticky, milking out more precome while rubbing his hips against Al's arse, harder and harder.

Would it feel like this?

His hand?

Sure and wonderful. Not as good as Al's own, but still perfect in its newness.

Teddy had a point. The right kind of breathy gasp sounded like it could belong to anyone – and the touch was no different. “Nghn.” Fuck, oh fuck, he couldn't stop wriggling and moving from one sensation to the other.

“Fuck, the sounds you're making...”

Albus didn't know whether Teddy was talking to him or imagining James. He wasn't sure it mattered, because the hardness against his arse was so good he was biting his lip again. Teddy's arms tried to hold him in place but he was moving too much, swaying with it.

They both were.

“James.” The kisses returned and disappeared again, melting into breathy panting against his ear. “Fuck, your arse. You're so good – fuck, I want you.”

“Yes,” Albus whined. “You— Yes.” He let go and reached for the waistline of his jeans, trying to push them down. He should've done this ages ago. He shimmied his hips, making Teddy groan.

Arms wrapped tight around his middle and Teddy's forehead pressed between his shoulder blades. Albus' eyes flew open and he clenched his fists around the top of his jeans. His frustration spiked, and each slide of Teddy's covered cock against him kept making it worse.

Teddy lowered his arms and hugged Albus closer, pulling him back against himself. He was pushing so hard Albus had to steady himself with one hand on the cabinet, but then Teddy stilled and started rolling his hips in slow circles instead.

“Ohh, nhh.” Albus grabbed his jeans and pulled down again, but Teddy was pushing up against him and pressing him closer to the cabinet.

“Don't.” Teddy was grinding up against him, hard – shifting from down low and pushing up now, sliding against Albus with amazing friction. He took Albus' wrists in his hands.

“But—” Albus pressed back and earned himself a muffled cry. He tried to pull down his jeans and pants again but Teddy stopped him. “Just let me,” Albus begged. Teddy bent his knees and pushed up, wave after wave, pushing Albus up on his toes. “Like this, we don't have to—”

“I can't,” Teddy panted, sounding distressed. “I'll come if you do that.”

Teddy shifted his stance, and Albus leaned his head against Teddy’s shoulder again, his back against Teddy's chest, grateful for the support. Teddy's front was so warm against him. “But,” he tested. “Imagine it.” Teddy shoved his hand back into Al's pants and Albus tried to focus beyond it. “Imagine coming on James' arse, Teddy. He'd want you to.”

“Ohh, fuck, Albus.” Teddy's hips stuttered, his cock jumping against Al. Finally, Teddy gave in and helped divest Albus of his jeans.

Together they fumbled, all the while Teddy kept rutting against him, and Albus found himself pushed forward by a forceful twitch of Teddy's hips.

“Sorry,” Teddy chuckled. “Shit...”

“Yours too,” Albus hissed as the air hit his bollocks and his cock bounced free, his jeans and pants stuck around his thighs.

Teddy's belt buckle was loud and his trousers rustled. There was a sharp intake of breath and then Teddy groaned, long and loud.

Albus' knees were almost touching the cabinet, but the thought to move back was chased away by Teddy grabbing his arse with both hands. Albus jerked forward with a grunt and caught himself with both palms against the cabinet. He hung his head and stared at his splayed fingers against the glossy surface.

The spongy head of Teddy's cock pressed against his crack and Albus smiled.

“Jamie's body,” Teddy mumbled. A flash of an improbable possibility struck Albus and he cried out. It flew out of him so fast it hardly felt like he was the one who'd made the sound.

Nothing was impossible, but Albus knew that it couldn't happen. It shouldn't happen. He'd been waiting for something unobtainable when he could've had this all along – or something almost like it, with other men.

“His firm behind... and his prick...”

Teddy's hands found his hips and Albus lost himself in the sensation.

“Can I...?” Teddy pressed close and rubbed his cock up and down. “Can I use magic?”

“Anything, James.” Fuck! A chill went through him and Teddy's breath caught when Al’s muscles clenched. “Anything James would want,” he said quickly. Albus lowered his head once more and squeezed his eyes shut as hard as he could, until lights danced across his field of vision. Don't say it, don't say it, don't say it, a part of him was chanting even though he'd all but confessed it earlier. Never, that was the rule. Never.

Maybe it was good that he hadn't done this before. Fuck, it was lucky, even. It wasn't as easy to distance himself this way.

Teddy muttered something and although the exact words escaped Albus' attention, the slickness that followed did not.

Fingers rubbed it between his cheeks, and Teddy answered before the question had even fully formed in Al’s mind. “Like you said.” The fingers left him and an unmistakeable wet noise followed. It repeated twice and then the length of Teddy's cock was back, covering Albus' crack. “Just like this.”

Hands touched his hips, one wet and one dry. With thoughts full of dark eyes, firm abs and neat wrists – Albus rocked back.

It felt good. It was an even, smooth slide and Teddy was doing the push upwards again, over and over. Albus sighed and let the pleasure take him over, carrying him to a place where there was no right or wrong. His shirt was clinging to his back.

Hands trailed up and down his arms, lips kissed his neck, teeth nipped at his earlobe. Albus moaned and kept rocking back. Fingers curled in the collar of his t-shirt and pulled gently so the soft, warm lips could brush back and forth across his shoulder. The open mouth breathed hot, damp breath over his skin, and Albus shivered.

One arm snaked around his waist, pushing his t-shirt up and holding him close, while the other moved around his hip until a warm hand wrapped around his cock again.

Albus melted back into the hard body behind him, both thankful and frustrated that he wasn't naked. The arm around him was holding him wonderfully tight, possessive, and Albus slapped a palm over the forearm and held on.

The hand encircling him was still a bit slick and moving steadily. A thumb rubbed over the slit and Albus bucked, more precome adding to the stickiness. Silky, steady strokes washed over him again and again, base to tip and back again. The wrist twisted a little and Albus sucked in a sharp breath. The legs behind him were brushing the back of his thighs, the shove and slip against his arse conjuring forbidden images to the forefront of his mind.

The hand quickened and Albus' fingers clamped down hard on the arm around his midsection.

Then both arms slid away.

The arm was removed, sliding out of Albus' grip, the hand on his cock already missing. Albus sagged with his palms against the cabinet again, a desperate whimper falling out of his mouth. The warmth behind him eased back until he could no longer feel the scratch of fabric, but the head of the cock was soon aimed between his cheeks and deliberately manoeuvred up and down.

Albus sighed with relief.

A palm pressed against his lower back and pushed the shirt up again, folding it up over Albus' midriff so it would stay up. The air felt cool against his heated flesh.

The hips were moving and the cock pressed closer, pushing, and the tip nudged his hole. It pushed harder up against him before it eased back and returned. The third time pressed so hard that Albus tensed and had to bite back a moan.

Two hands grabbed his arse and the damp breath returned to the back of his neck. Albus kept biting his lip. They rubbed, squeezed and pushed his cheeks together and pulled them apart. All the while the hips were rolling, the cock sliding up and and down now, catching only slightly against Albus' pucker on every swipe.

It wasn't like what he usually fantasised about, but that was a good thing. This felt real.

This was real.

Doing this was okay.

Jamie wouldn't know, and Teddy didn't care. Teddy understood. Teddy, with his hands all over Al's arse and prick rutting against him. Yes, Teddy with his smiles and laughter. With his boring, professional dark hair – all smooth and combed – turning vibrant and sharp and then soft, messy and warm. Lounging on the couch with a hard bulge in his trousers, and accepting, understanding eyes watching Al curiously.

Albus' heart was lodged in his throat, chest tight, muscles tense all over.

“Ted...” Oh, Merlin, he sounded strange. “Teddy.”

Teddy was panting against his skin, never stopping. He pressed Albus' cheeks together again and leaned in close, his pace quickening, cock twitching and sliding up and down. A wet kiss to the side of Al’s throat made him smile and grunt. He shivered when Teddy's breath ghosted over his ear.

“D'you know,” Teddy groaned, voice rough, “how good you feel?”

“Nhhn.”

“Yes, like that. Oh, your sounds...”

“Ahh, Te—”

“He'd love this, he would love the feeling of this.”

Teddy's hands were back on his hips, grabbing hard, and his legs were quivering against Albus' own. Albus spread his legs wider and Teddy moaned. “Yes, a little more.” Albus hung his head and smiled dumbly, widening his stance as much as his jeans would let him, and drank up Teddy's appreciative, breathy sounds. “Perfect... Ohh, he'd – he would think this. Was. Perfect.”

Albus held his breath and grabbed on to the edge of the cabinet, tethering himself there, as Teddy's rubbing turned into frantic thrusts.

Albus didn't know what Teddy was thinking, but all he could hear was that James loved it: that James loved Al's arse, that he loved desperately grinding against him. James loved the feeling of holding him, of doing this. James loved all of it.

James loved him.

Teddy grunted and his panting changed. It sounded like he was breathing harshly through his nose. His next moan was muffled by his closed mouth, before it burst back open on a loud cry. A sharp jerk of his hips had Albus bumping his knee on the front of the cabinet, but all it did was make Albus laugh under his breath. Teddy didn't appear to have noticed. He wasn't so much moving against him as vibrating, and then one of his hands disappeared.

“Fuuck, ye–ees.” Teddy's knuckles brushed against Albus' lower back as he moved and stroked himself quick and relentless, grunting and moaning low, until he shouted and steadied himself with his free arm halfway around Albus.

Nghh— Uh.”

He came in steady spurts over the base of Albus' spine and over his arse, and Albus let out his breath in an explosive grunt.

“Ohhh, oh –” Teddy leaned closer, making weak, mewling sounds and tiny breathy moans, the last bursts of his come splattering onto Albus' skin. “Ohh,” he panted. “Wow... Oh.”

Albus felt him smear a patch of come into a line, as he squeezed one last drop out and dragged the head of his cock down the side of Albus' arse.

Teddy came down slowly, running his half-hard cock lazily around with his hand, painting his release across warm skin. “Oh, Merlin, Albus...” he mumbled. “Bloody hell.”

He rubbed his nose and cheek against Albus' damp shirt and kissed the sweat-soaked collar. He was still breathing deeply, though more evenly now, and his chest brushed against Al's back every time he breathed in.

Teddy took a particularly deep breath in, and breathed out a content sigh.

Albus felt strung too tight, on the edge and yet too far from falling over it. There was no way he was able to join Teddy in his drowsy afterglow as it was, and without a distraction all his focus returned to his own cock – hard and leaking. It was pointing up, slightly curved, and Albus was about to move and take himself in hand when Teddy wrapped relaxed arms around his waist again and melted against his back, his softening prick pressing into the mess it had made.

“Let me.”

Albus' arms were quivering, anticipation and tense muscles getting the better of him.

Teddy's knuckles brushed along his length, making it twitch. “Ahh.” His toes curled as Teddy did it again. “Please.”

“Shh.” Teddy tugged lightly at Al’s balls and rolled them in his palm. Albus leaned back, slamming his head against Teddy's shoulder with his eyes tightly shut. The hand on his bollocks stopped and the other wrapped loosely around his cock. Albus shook his head, lights dancing behind his eyelids again. He shook his head harder, his mouth open in a silent cry.

He arched his back, pressing his hips forwards. All he could feel were the hands touching him and the flat, firm body behind him, heat still radiating out to envelop him. Albus arched further forward, breathing shakily, trying to get away from the overwhelming presence and closer to that one touch. His hands trembled, and he clenched them into fists and shook his head quicker; small quivering movements back and forth.

His body was thrumming with energy and he shuddered. Teddy stroked him slowly, pausing to palm the head. His fingers wrapped a little tighter for every stroke.

From the base to the tip, fingers teasing along the way, palm over the head, thumb brushing against the underside of the glans. Down again, firm grip and wrist turning, then stilling. Albus melted and solidified all at once. Teddy stroked up, then down, up again, down, and squeezed.

Light fingertips tapped and ran along the ridge, then he stroked the length with a firm fist again.

Up, down, squeeze.

Albus panted quickly and clawed at Teddy's arms, needing something to hold on to. He gripped tight, fingernails digging in, but Teddy kept going. He kept moving and Albus let out a moan that was almost a sob.

“Shh,” Teddy said. “S'okay. I've got you. Just let go.”

He moved his hand with slow pressure down to Albus' dark curls, then up along the shaft.

Down. Up with a twist. All the way down. Light squeeze.

Albus opened his eyes and moaned eagerly, wriggling and thrusting into Teddy's hand. He focused on the feeling of the strong arms around him, and when he looked down he couldn't help but groan at the sight of large hands on his cock. He pressed back against Teddy's chest, loving the sensation and revelling in it.

Teddy released him and nudged his hips, urging him to turn around. Albus went with it in a daze, realising he still had his jeans around his thighs. He turned awkwardly, feeling like a twit for being afraid of them falling to his ankles and exposing him after what they'd been doing.

He was so caught up in breathing and keeping his legs in check that when he looked up, he startled at the sight of dark hair and brown eyes.

A sharp chill ran down his spine and lightheadedness wrapped around his skull. He shivered and grabbed on desperately to the front of Teddy's jumper, wobbling as his knees almost gave out.

It was still Teddy's face, but the change was significant. Albus gravitated towards him, breathing heavily and staring into those brown eyes. Fingers wrapped around him again, right there, and Albus swayed, eyelids fluttering.

“Steady on,” Teddy laughed.

It wasn't cruel, it was hardly even teasing. It was amused, fond, and warm and so Teddy.

And it was Teddy's lingering smile that did it: Albus’ eyes slowly opened wider and he pulled himself together enough to take in the sight before him. The simple change was remarkable. Albus saw it, but it was only a shadow of a dream. The illusion lacked depth, falling flat like a distorted photograph, feeling unnatural and getting more disconcerting the longer he looked.

Albus steadied, locking his knees, and frowned. He glanced up, grimacing at the dark strands poking up towards the ceiling, even as he felt a fresh bead of precome forming. His throat felt thick and too narrow.

“Change it back.”

Teddy's grin faltered, although his hand kept moving for another moment.

Albus unclenched one hand and touched his fingers to Teddy's hair. It was all wrong. “Change it back.”

“Al?”

He met Teddy's confused eyes with his own pleading ones. He stared determinedly, his hand still hovering next to Teddy's head.

Teddy had stopped stroking him but it didn't matter. Not right now, anyway.

Another moment ticked by.

Hesitantly – haltingly trickling in – a dark shade of blue took over, lightening gradually to a cobalt hue. Albus placed his fingers against Teddy's hair, and watched his unblinking eyes change into something a little brighter, something closer to his usual hazel colour.

Albus watched his own fingers disappear into the sea of blue and shook his head gently. When he looked back at Teddy's face, Teddy's brow was creased. He had all but let go of him.

“Teddy,” Albus said. It still wasn't right.

Teddy worried his lip and blinked uncertainly at him. “But he—”

“I don't care.” Albus shifted his hips, bumping his neglected cock against Teddy's wrist. “I like it.”

To Albus’ delight, Teddy's blue hair flared with colour between Al’s fingers. The relief must have shown on Al’s face, because Teddy laughed again. Albus grinned sheepishly, and Teddy gripped him firmly and stroked until his grin melted away.

His eyes stayed on Teddy's hair – gorgeously pink as it was, with a tinge of bluish purple where it was parted. A streak of violet was flowing down the side of Teddy's fringe.

Teddy eagerly sped up, his hand twitching enthusiastically back and forth in short, jerky movements, and Albus sucked in a breath. Teddy expertly lured him right back to the brink of completion, making Albus feel hot and wild. He grasped at Teddy’s hair, but Teddy only chuckled. God, if he didn't stop laughing like that...

Teddy's grin was lopsided and playful. Albus traced his thumb over Teddy's upper lip, curiously pushing it up slightly, and then groaning when Teddy cast that spell again, covering hand and cock alike in slickness. His stroking sounded filthy now, and felt just as obscene, and Albus could barely focus on the newly discovered wonder that was crooked canine teeth. So much for romanticizing perfectly strai— Ohh, fuck.

“Teddy... Ohh, god.”

“Alphus,” Teddy laughed. “Youv hand.”

Albus wrenched his hand away from Teddy's mouth, fingers wet with saliva, and gripped a fistful of hair again.

“What are you doing?” Teddy was smiling and Albus closed his eyes and groaned.

He really needed to stop that.

The squelching sound alone made Albus moan, and he thrust into Teddy’s grip, wrapping his arm around Teddy and grabbing hold of his jumper again. “Fuck, Teddy, please.”

“Yeah? It's good?”

Albus didn't like him this coherent at all, and he tugged on Teddy’s hair in retaliation. Teddy made a little noise at that, and Albus darted forward to lick a line up the side of his neck, chasing more noises, but he forgot all about taking in Teddy's response when Teddy touched his bollocks again. The hand slid back and rubbed behind them, and Albus dropped his forehead to Teddy's shoulder and held on tighter.

“Still good?”

“Fuck you Teddy, ah,” Albus moaned. Teddy's fingers continued to rub and tease and oh, by Salazar's fucking—

“I'll take that as a yes,” Teddy chuckled. Albus was still slippery from before, and Teddy's fingers slid back between his cheeks with ease.

Albus thrust into his grip shamelessly. “Shut up! Oh god, shut up, ohh –”

Fingers rubbed back and forth, and then one circled his hole, lightly.

Infuriatingly lightly.

Albus pushed back against it but it wasn't enough, and he fucked into Teddy's hand instead. But Teddy's finger was still there and he wasn't stopping. He pressed it closer, the pad of his finger snug against Albus, like his cock had been, and if there was only a little more pressure it would surely slide right in.

Albus was tense and, oh, gods, his legs were trembling. Focus – he needed to focus, and to relax. He was too hot, too close, and too needy. He desperately needed to come. He bucked and thrust and panted against Teddy's neck, his cheek against Teddy's shoulder. “Yes.”

“It's what you want, isn't it? But not like this.”

“Yes,” Albus breathed. “Yes.” Yes, harder. More!

“Almost.”

Yes, almost there – why wasn't Teddy doing it? Teddy was holding him so he couldn't get it himself and Albus felt like ripping the hair right off Teddy’s head. He blindly covered Teddy's neck with kisses and bites, having completely lost the ability to open his eyes again. He tried again to press back with his arse.

“Please.”

“No.”

Teddy.” He tugged on the hair again, just a little, to get the fucking point across. “Plea— Please.”

“Not like this,” Teddy murmured. “I'm...”

“Next time!” A trickle of desperation climbed his spine, buzzing through his limbs. “Fucking next time then!”

The pressure disappeared from his backside and a warm, damp palm caressed the back of his neck instead. It flattened and held him close, while Teddy’s other hand slowed its ministrations and started wanking Al slowly instead.

Albus keened, his entire being turning white-hot.

“Al...”

“Promi—” Fuck, I... “Te—” I'm going to...

A surge of tension hit Albus, the all-encompassing pressure crushing him. His racing heart thrummed loudly and his legs shook. Teddy held him upright, about to push him over the precipice, his hand quickening over Albus' erection again. It was pulling his orgasm from him too fast and not fast enough.

“Ahhhhh.” His cock jerked in Teddy's palm. “Ahh!”

His mind was reduced to flashes of pink and purple and slick touches, and then he was coming.

White noise filled his ears, pleasure blazing through him. Beyond the tightness of his balls, the jump of his prick, and the satisfying spurts of spunk leaving him, all he could feel was Teddy's arm around him and Teddy’s hand stroking him through it.

And then everything slowed – seemingly time itself, their movements, his breath – almost to the point of stopping, and for a moment everything made sense. A second of sheer clarity.

It was silent in the room, apart from his own breathing; calmer now, but deep. He could feel it moving in and out of his open, dry mouth. He realised he was standing on the balls of his feet, and eased down. His arms were still wrapped loosely around Teddy, but they felt like jelly and he had lost his grip. In more ways than one, he mused, slowly finding his way back to normal consciousness. Teddy was still the one holding him up, an arm pressed against his back. He blinked his eyes open, seeing Teddy's throat and ear, and a bit of magenta hair. Albus' lip twitched slightly, but he was too sated even to smile.

Several moments later Teddy shifted and gently pushed Al away, easing him back and up. Albus stood, and Teddy wasn't quite meeting his eyes but there was a small smile playing on his lips.

Albus did smile then.

Teddy tucked himself away and zipped up his trousers. Albus settled for shimmying his jeans up his hips and leaving them open.

They somehow made it back to the sofa and Teddy sank down first, Albus following a second later. He landed heavily on the cushion and bounced slightly, flushed and feeling a little uncertain again.

The buckle of Teddy's belt clinked as he closed it.

Albus sank back drowsily, still ignoring his jeans.

Everything was still until a blast of icy cold shuddered through him, and he jumped. The thorough cleaning spell tickled over his flesh. The denim of his jeans felt heated, in contrast to his skin, for several moments afterwards, but he was glad to be rid of the mess.

“Sorry,” Teddy said, breaking the silence.

Albus leaned forward and took a deep swallow of whisky. This was Teddy's forgotten glass, he realised. Not that it mattered, really.

He sank back against the soft cushions with a small sigh and leaned his head back, the corners of his mouth tilting up. This was bizarre.

“Are we okay?” Teddy asked.

“Mhm,” Albus told him. The fire was still crackling, and he closed his eyes and listened for a moment. The wood popped and fizzed.

“Are you okay?”

Although the cleaning spell had taken care of the worst of the sweat, his shirt was still clinging to him, but he felt more pleasantly warm now, thank fuck. His skin was hot but not scorching any more. He could tell that he'd start cooling down soon.

Even without his sense of sight, Teddy's presence was obvious, looming near him, and Albus' nerves jangled somewhere deep inside. When he thought about it, he could feel Teddy watching him.

Sod it.

“Mhm,” he repeated. “I am. I just... thought he'd be my first.” He opened his eyes and turned his head sideways towards Teddy. Thankfully, the air felt surprisingly clear. “Hoped, I suppose.”

“Hah.” Teddy's voice sounded flat. “I’m sure we could work something out.” Hair was falling in front of Teddy's eyes. It looked damp. “Better with a man, though, hm? Closer to… what you want.”

“Yeah,” Albus said on an exhale. Their gazes locked and Albus considered Teddy for a moment.

Teddy watched him curiously with a puzzled expression. “What?”

Albus wet his lips. His heart felt heavier. “I don't know.” The familiar, bitter lump of longing tried to catch hold of him again. “I'm not sure it's worth it.”

Teddy swept a hand through his hair and shifted towards Al.

There were so many thoughts and feelings missing from Albus’ system. His body felt empty, like he’d float away, but his mind oddly full, weighted down by burdens. He wished he could make sense of this colourful rarity in front of him.

Albus turned his head away. He leaned forward and grabbed the glass again. He put it to his lips and made a decision, and said, “You never promised.” He tilted the glass and drank. As he lowered it, Teddy's hand wrapped around his and took the glass from him. Albus turned to him. Teddy took a large gulp of his own and put it down, empty.

“You still want that?” There was something fragile in the little line between Teddy's brows. Albus smiled tiredly.

When life gives you lemons.

“I'm... fond of the pink.” He gestured at the brushed-back hair

“You...” Teddy started. He was searching for something, gaze trailing over Albus' face. “Do you prefer it?”

Seconds ticked by. It would be nice if that were the case.

Albus looked away, buttoning his jeans and fiddling with the fly, spooked by the desire to be able to say yes.

This should've been something good in this situation, surely? Like a sour potion you'd take to heal a bruised arm. Maybe it wouldn't taste good going down, and maybe your skin bubbling as it changed would seem fucked up. But you’d know the potion would heal the injury and perhaps even make your limb better than before.

But he wasn't that high up in the clouds.

“Noo,” Albus said thoughtfully, looking back up. Honestly, not that much had changed. But something had. “Maybe not,” he admitted. “But I think I could learn to.”

“To like... the pink?”

The way Teddy was looking at him made Albus aware of his own heartbeat again.

“Or blue. Any colour you want, just maybe not...” He ran a hand through his own hair.

Teddy scooted closer, and things were falling. Whether they were falling into place or to pieces, Albus didn't know.

Teddy thumbed Albus' lower lip. “I think...” He followed the movement with his eyes but then looked up, holding Al’s gaze before continuing. “I think I could grow to like green.”

Albus would surely float away at any moment.

“More than brown?”

It came out as a whisper.

Teddy's gaze flickered between his eyes; left to right, left to right. Bizarre didn't even begin to cover it. Albus mirrored him and put his fingers to Teddy's cheek, thumb stroking Teddy’s upper lip. Sweet Merlin, Teddy smiled and Albus stole a quick glance at those gleaming teeth. He pressed Teddy’s lip up and stared, enthralled, at the crooked corner tooth. Teddy's smile turned into a smirk.

“Honestly, if you want me to”—Teddy kissed his thumb—“suck your fingers...” He twisted his head and brushed two of Albus' fingers with a second kiss. “All you have to do is ask. And yes, more than brown. Eventually.”

Eventually.

All things considered, it was practically a fairytale.

“What?”

Albus shook his head. “Nothing.” He frowned. Wait, what? He realised something else. Turning his head, he scanned the room briefly. “Where's your wand? Did you use mine?”

Teddy peered at him, one eyebrow raised. “No, and I'm not sure. In my coat, I think. Why?”

Wandless magic.

“Even the Hygiene Charm?” Albus wondered out loud.

Teddy's head tilted to the side in amusement. How could Albus have known him all these years without ever noticing how compelling that smile was? He must've been so blind. Or, well, maybe blaming it on tunnel vision was more accurate.

“Oh.” Teddy chuckled and tossed his head back. “That. It comes in handy. Took lots of practice, though. Want me to teach you?” He smirked, and Albus' stomach flipped for a whole different reason than before. Something was stirring inside and he swallowed audibly. “Maybe later, eh?” Teddy teased.

Maybe later.

Albus blinked at him. Maybe, only –

“You never promised.”

For a moment everything stilled and somehow it made him want Teddy more.

Neither of them spoke and Albus cringed inwardly, suddenly remembering James, Teddy and himself laughing next to the Hogwarts Express. He remembered the two of them, and his parents, waving as he got on and left for his seventh year.

James had seemed oddly sombre, but Albus remembered Teddy laughing and yelling encouragements over the huff and chugging of the train. Al had smiled all the way to school thinking about Teddy's antics, but every lonely night in the castle that year it had been Jamie on his mind, and the idea that Al’s leaving might have upset him.

That, and the few owls James sent him, had done nothing but bring him down more and more each term, while Teddy's letters were reminiscent of his parting laughter and never failed to cheer him up.

If James' morose wave and downcast eyes had meant he hated to see Albus go – well, by that logic Teddy had been ecstatic to get rid of him. Something Albus knew wasn't true. Maybe they weren't as close as Teddy and James were, but they were still friends.

God, Albus was right about himself. He was an idiot.

James was a beam of sunlight, brightening Albus' days, but it also hurt to stare at the sun for too long, didn't it? He was tired. Maybe it was time to stop before he blinded himself.

One side of Teddy's mouth went up and Albus quickly pulled himself out of his thoughts. He looked from Teddy’s crooked smile to his eyes.

“You know.” Teddy leaned in, close, and Albus stopped breathing – images of James and Teddy floating to the surface and spinning around in his head. Teddy's gaze wavered as he inched closer, and Albus' eyes wandered over his face. They locked eyes once more, Teddy's breath ghosting over his mouth, and when Albus was so sure Teddy was going to kiss him that he almost closed his eyes, Teddy swept past his lips, their cheeks brushing together. Teddy breathed across his ear. “I've realised something.”

He tucked a piece of hair behind Albus' ear and eased back. His eyes were soft and a little unfocused, and although his voice didn't sound it, he looked sure.

“Pink and green go well together.”

A chill went down Albus' spine. He shivered. Terrifyingly perfect goosebumps ran down his arms and it was his turn to smile until he laughed.

He took it as the promise it was.