Chapter 1: Things You Can't Do At Hogwarts
The young boy standing in the corridor of St. Mungo's did not look at all lost or alone; he was standing quite still, but the expression on his face was more curious than anything.
"There you are, Teddy," said a deep voice, and Teddy Lupin looked up to see his godfather looming over him, looking down. "You wandered off."
"Didn't," Teddy replied calmly. "I went looking for the nursery."
"Well, then you've found it," Harry said, looking perplexed. "Want to see?"
Teddy nodded and Harry wrapped an arm around his chest, the other supporting his legs so that he could be lifted comfortably. He peered over the low wall and into the nursery, where a young mediwitch was taking one of a lot of identical babies out of his crib.
"See, Ted?" Harry asked, holding him tightly. Teddy liked it when Harry picked him up; he wasn't terribly interested in babies. "That's your new cousin, my son James."
Not his real cousin, though, Teddy knew that; Harry wasn't really his uncle, even if he called his godmother Aunt Ginny.
"He's all right," he said, because he knew Harry wouldn't appreciate that. "He's wrinkly."
Harry laughed. Teddy liked it when Harry laughed, too.
"He'll grow out of it," he said, and set Teddy down again. "Where's your Gran?"
"In with Aunt Ginny."
"Let's go find her then, huh?"
Teddy took Harry's hand with some relief. He didn't much like the hospital and would much rather go home, back to Gran's warm, quiet house with all the books. Teddy adored his godfather and liked Aunt Ginny all right, but he was six and tired easily, and he was feeling very tired indeed.
"There's my Teddy," Gran said, when Harry led him back into the room where Aunt Ginny was sleeping. "Where'd you run to?"
"Went exploring," Teddy said.
"Did you see your new cousin?"
He's not my cousin, Teddy thought rebelliously, but he didn't say it. As far as he was concerned, James Sirius Potter was competition for his godfather's affections, and that was all.
"Yup," he replied, hoisting his small body up onto a chair. "Can we go home now?"
Harry and Gran both laughed. Teddy liked people who laughed.
The small boy standing in the front yard of the Potters' house could not possibly be sticky, messy little James; he looked clean and for once had managed to keep all his clothing on, even his shoes. Teddy decided this was probably a gift from James to him -- James would do that sometimes. He'd just do something spontaneously nice or well-behaved, and when someone said something about it he'd look at Teddy and Teddy knew that James was behaving only because he risked Teddy's disapproval if he didn't.
"Wotcha, kid," he said, dropping onto the steps outside his godfather's house. He'd never remembered a time when he had to knock on a door or ask before coming over to the Potter house; right now he didn't want to go in just yet, and someone would certainly come looking for him sooner or later if he stayed out here with James.
"Wotcha," James said, plopping down next to him with five-year-old clumsiness. Teddy leaned over and turned his face into a pig snout, which sent James off into wild giggles. "Do it again!"
"Oh yeah? How about this!" Teddy replied, turning his eyes neon-pink. James screamed happily. Teddy shook his head and his eyes dropped back to their usual soft brown. He hadn't decided what colour his hair would be for the Hogwarts Express yet; probably scarlet, at least till he got sorted. Although blue looked so much cooler...
James butted his head against Teddy's skinny chest. "Daddy says you're goin 'way," he said. "Daddy says you won't be home for ages an' ages."
"Well, a few months anyway," Teddy said. "I'm going off to school. Hogwarts. To learn to be a wizard like Harry and Aunt Ginny. You'll probably go there too, in a few years."
"You won't come to dinner anymore?" James asked, looking sorrowful. Oh, for the love of Merlin.
"Well, no, not as much as I used to," Teddy said. "But I tell you what, I promise to come for Christmas. You know when Christmas is, right?"
"Then you know exactly when you'll see me again."
"Don't you love us, Teddy?"
"Course I do, but I have to go to school," Teddy said, getting just a trifle impatient. "And I'll write, okay?"
"A letter?" James squeaked. "For me?"
"Sure. I like writing letters. A letter for you," Teddy said.
"James, there you are -- hullo Teddy, has James been distracting you?" Aunt Ginny said, coming to the door.
"I didn't do it," James said immediately. Aunt Ginny rolled her eyes.
"He gets that phrase from his father," she said, balancing Lily on one hip. Teddy had always privately thought it was a little weird that two of the Potter children were named for Harry's parents, but then he supposed being Theodore Remus he didn't have much room to talk. "Come inside, come inside, you can't be late for your own going-away party."
Teddy picked up James like a toy, tucking him under one arm and carrying him through the house to the back garden. Streamers were hung from the trees and a large table was laid out under the leafy canopy. He set James down and let the boy run off to make whatever mischief five-year-olds made.
He looked at the table piled with food and sighed. He'd have been happier with just a handshake and hug at the station, but Aunt Ginny insisted that he have a party and Gran thought it was a good idea. Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron would probably be there. Teddy got on all right with Uncle Ron but Aunt Hermione was a terrible boss. It was even possible that the entire Weasley clan would descend, though if so they definitely hadn't made enough food.
Truth be told, he wasn't certain he wanted to go to Hogwarts.
Well, he wanted to go off to school of course, he was more than eager to start classes and really dig into all the stuff Harry told him about theoretically. He liked his new textbooks and his wand. It was just...
There would be all those people there, on the train and in the Great Hall and in his dormitory at night. Teddy didn't think he understood people very well. He thoroughly liked books and understood them, but people...were loud. And they talked fast, and the ones who knew about his parents always looked at him funny. Which was why he'd started with the blue hair in the first place, because if they were going to stare they might as well stare at his hair instead of the parents he didn't have and hadn't ever known.
Harry and Aunt Ginny and the Weasleys were different, of course, but they'd known him all his life. He was practically raised in this backyard, even if he didn't live here. And now he wasn't going to see it again for months. He'd be trapped in Hogwarts, confined to the grounds and classrooms...just the thought of it made him panic a little. He didn't like being hemmed in.
Sometimes, around the full moon, he'd sneak out and go walking all night. He wasn't sure if it was just that he knew his dad had been a werewolf or if he had a few stray genes that kept him up on full moons, but he couldn't very well go for a midnight walk at Hogwarts, could he? He wasn't supposed to make faces at Hogwarts, either.
The list of things he couldn't do once he got to Hogwarts was, at the moment, much longer than the list of things he could do.
"How are you, then, Ted?" Harry asked, coming up behind him with cat-foot quietness. Teddy jumped and turned around. "Feeling a bit nervous?"
"Not really," Teddy lied.
"I was, my first year at Hogwarts. I didn't know anything about magic; Hagrid took me to buy my books and robes and wand, and then he left me at the train station. I didn't even know how to get into the platform, your Uncle Ron had to help me."
Not really my uncle, Teddy thought, out of habit. He wasn't even sure why. It was a stupid, hurtful thing to think. It was just he couldn't help it. His only real relative was his Gran, and she was great but she wasn't a dad or an uncle or a real cousin, was she.
Since Narcissa Malfoy's death, the Black family tree narrowed to a pretty fine point, at the tip of which were two people: Teddy Lupin and Scorpius Malfoy. He'd never even met Scorpius, who would be only about three now anyway and thus very boring. As far as he knew all the Lupins were either dead or very distant relations and Muggles to boot.
"...sure you'll be all right," Harry finished what Teddy realised was a reassuring speech he should probably have been listening to.
"Sure, course I will," Teddy replied. Just then the Weasley-Granger family descended en masse, however, and there was no more time for Teddy to think about anything much except dinner and cake and his going-away.
The teenage boy sitting on the bed in Gryffindor Tower could have been a poster for student life at Hogwarts school, if it weren't for his bright red hair streaked with metallic gold. He was relaxed, propped up on the bed's headboard, a casual study in grace, sorting through the day's work from his book bag. His uniform was spotlessly clean and the crisp creases in his trousers were well-ironed; he had a small lion's-head tie-tack holding down his tie under the scarlet cardigan he wore. He took out a letter from the post that morning and slit it lazily, unfolding the parchment.
"Hullo-ullo," he said, sitting up a little straighter. "Good news from the home office."
"Oh? What's that?" asked Nigel Bones, lying flat on a nearby bed and staring at the ceiling.
"Gabrielle's spawning. She's my godmother's brother's sister-in-law," Teddy said. "She was just married last year, it says the baby's due in August."
"Your what again now?" Nigel replied, sliding off the bed. "You're weirdly close to your family, you know that?"
"How's that weird?" Teddy asked, and his words dripped with warning. Nigel, though he had lived with Teddy for five years, did not know how thin the ice was on which he trod. "Are you saying my family's weird?"
"Oh, you know, between the Weasleys being a little strange and Harry Potter, he's sort of...I dunno. Iconoclastic," Nigel said. "And you being raised as the last heir of the House of Black and all."
"Nigel, how many times do I have to go over wizarding inheritance laws with you?" Teddy sighed, distracted by geneaology. "My godfather is the heir of the house of Black through the male line as material heir to Sirius Black, which means his son is the legitimate heir. As ancillary matrilinear cousin, twice removed, I am only a blood-representative."
"You sure know a lot about it for being only a blood-representative," Nigel retorted.
"Well, Gran knows a lot about this stuff. Anyway, it doesn't matter, I'm not really part of the family by blood or anything. They're nice to me and all, but the only blood family I've got is Gran." Teddy shrugged. Nigel gave him a curious look. "What?"
"I think that's the first time you've strung more than two words together about the subject," he said. "What you really think, I mean."
Teddy looked at him, perplexed. "What?"
"Well, you're the great stone face, aren't you? Everyone likes you but nobody ever knows what you're thinking, Teddy. It's nice to be let in a bit, that's all. I've got Quidditch anyhow -- see you for OWLs tutoring tonight, right?"
"Sure," Teddy said, waiting until Nigel was gone before rising from the bed and walking to a mirror in the corner.
As a child he'd tended to take after the Blacks, because he modeled his face on a mixture of his Gran and his godfather. For a while he'd sported messy black hair like Harry's, but it got annoying and seemed sort of...conventional, Gran would say. As he'd grown a bit older his eyes tended to settle into brown when he woke up of a morning.
There were very few pictures of his father in their house, not so much because Gran hadn't liked him as because he didn't appear to like having photographs taken. Harry had showed him some, though, especially the ones in Harry's prized photograph album, of his father as a young man. Teddy carried those images away with him secretly and as the years passed he'd modeled his face more and more closely on his father's, leaving off the premature worry-lines and grey hair. High cheekbones, biggish nose, his mother's firm chin...he picked and chose among the family traits, and he didn't think the end result was all that bad.
The great stone face, eh? He would admit that he didn't talk much, but then other people talked so much it seemed like folly to add to it, most of the time. He had his books and studies, and he got on all right with everyone, but he didn't see what business it was of theirs, what he was thinking.
For the first time in his life, the concept that he was different actually bothered him.
He was supposed to be a Gryffindor, loyal and chivalrous, brave and strong. To be frank he didn't feel like any of those things; he felt like he'd been mis-sorted and probably should have gone into Ravenclaw.
He frowned in the mirror, then smiled; he didn't think he looked much like a stoneface, he just wasn't allowed to make funny faces at school. He saved it all up for when he went home and James wanted him to read with him, and he could make the faces of the different characters while he read. More and more, he and James were actually reading for Albus and Lily, who could sit raptly by the hour and watch them act out the stories.
Well, there wasn't anything he could do about the way he was; the others were just going to have to live with stoneface Lupin, if that was what they wanted to call him.
The young, serious-looking man with the Prefect pin on his collar grasped the much-smaller boy by the back of his shirt, arresting his headlong flight through the steam and bustle of the train station.
"James Potter," he said severely. "What do you think you're doing?"
James looked up at him with utter innocence in his big hazel eyes. "Chasing Victoire," he said. "I've got a mouse and she's scared of them."
"Just because you're Harry's son doesn't mean I'm going to let you off when you tell me the truth, pipsqueak," Teddy replied, giving him a slight shake for good measure. "Go on with you, and don't harass Victoire. OR ANYONE ELSE!" he called, as James darted away again. If James was chasing Victoire then she was bound to be close by. Teddy smoothed down the short, bristling haircut he'd got over the summer, checked in a train window to make sure the blue was still streaked with bright silver, and straightened the collar of his shirt.
"Did James run by this way?" his godfather asked, skidding to a stop in front of him and panting slightly. "He's forgotten his money for the train. What's wrong with your hair?"
"Nothing's wrong with it," Teddy said defensively. "James just ran off after Victoire. Here, give it to me, I'll make sure he gets it. Where's the family?"
"Albus is still down with dragonpox so Gins stayed home; I think James didn't want her weeping all over and making a scene, anyhow," Harry answered. "You look nice. Why blue and silver?"
Teddy coughed. "Well, there's a girl in Ravenclaw -- "
Harry held up a hand. "Say no more. Listen..." he drew closer to Teddy, a concerned look in his clear green eyes. "You'll keep an eye on James for me, won't you? Nothing overbearing, I don't want you to babysit him, I just want someone at the school to watch over him a bit. He's...well, he's a lot like me, and I got into a lot more trouble than necessary as a student."
"What with saving the world and all," Teddy replied, smiling. "Don't worry, Harry, I'll keep a lookout."
"You're a good boy, Ted," Harry replied, though he looked oddly concerned by it. "Need anything, as long as I'm here?"
"Nope," Teddy said cheerfully. "Might owl you in a few months for a character letter, though. Need three references to get into the MLE."
"Following in mum's footsteps, are we?"
Teddy shrugged. "It's a good career, and let's face it -- I'm never going to play Chaser for England, right?"
Harry laughed. Teddy had never really mastered the broomstick. "Go on, then. Give my love to Professor Longbottom, would you?"
"Good as done, sir," Teddy answered, grinning. Just then Victoire emerged from the steam and Harry, with his usual impeccable timing, clapped him on the shoulder and wandered off to look for his wayward child.
"Hiya Teddy," she called, waving. Teddy waved back, giving her a grin he'd stolen from photographs of his mother's cousin, Sirius, which he'd been practicing all summer. She turned pink and giggled.
Victoire was two years younger than he was but otherwise more or less perfect in every way. She was smart and cultured, pretty to look at, good with her studies, and she was a Weasley. Teddy knew everyone wanted him to marry into the family so that he'd be properly a part of it, so that all the aunts and uncles could finally be really aunts and uncles. He wanted it too, because he hated the truthful little voice that kept reminding him what he wasn't. Victoire would be leaving school just as he finished his Auror's training, and if she fancied him well enough, then that would be all right, wouldn't it.
"How're you?" he asked as she approached. All the boys he knew were nervous around girls, but this was Victoire, after all. He'd poured sand in her hair when they were both toddlers. It was hard to be nervous about that.
"I'm all right. How was London?"
"The usual. Sticky. Full of tourists. What about you, though? You have to tell me about France!"
"Oh, Teddy -- it was so amazing! Tell you what, smuggle me into the Prefects carriage, I'll tell you all about it," she said. "Or come down into our carriage, it'll make all the girls jealous, they all think you're so handsome."
"And you don't, huh?" he asked, grinning.
"I think you're Teddy. Change your hair back though, you look like a surprised skunk."
Teddy laughed and made an intense face of concentration. The silver streaks in his hair were replaced by their normal turquoise blue. "See you on the train, Victoire!"
The lanky man and short, round-faced boy were sitting together at a table in the library, illuminated by bars of dusty sunlight from the high, narrow windows. It glinted off James Potter's glasses and blanched Teddy Lupin's blue hair into pale grey, but neither gave any notice. Teddy was bent over a piece of parchment, consulting a book occasionally; James looked like he was trying very hard to stick to his studies, but a twelve-year-old's attention span is not very long.
"Have you ever seen a Horklump?" Nigel heard James ask as he prowled behind the bookshelves nearby. Teddy held up a finger, finished writing, and turned a page.
"No," he answered.
"What about a Niffler?"
"James, I'm trying to finish my paper."
"Sorry." There was silence for a moment. "But, have you?"
Teddy looked up and Nigel saw a flash of impatience cross his face, too quickly for James to notice. He marked his place in the book and closed it, laying it across the parchment. James' face lit up and he closed his book, too.
"I did, yeah," Teddy said, crossing his arms on the book and resting his chin on his crossed arms. "You'll have them in fourth-year Magical Creatures. What're you working on?"
"We're supposed to find pictures of Magical Creatures and bring them in to show and talk about, I just thought you might have some," James answered.
"Everybody's going to pick Nifflers and Crups and Kneazles," Teddy replied. "You should bring in a dragon."
"Sure. Why don't you write your Uncle Charlie? When do you need it by?"
"That's loads of time," Teddy said, stretching out one long arm to chuck James under the chin. "Go on up to Gryffindor and send him off a letter. I need to finish this but I'll be up before lights out."
"M'kay," James said, gathering up his books. "Thanks, Teddy."
Nigel waited until the boy had left and then slouched his way out of the stacks, dropping into the chair he'd vacated. Teddy looked up, nodded, and went back to his work.
"You spend an awful lot of time with the Potter kid," Nigel said.
"He's not the Potter kid, he's my godfather's son. I did last year too," Teddy answered. "Have you found anywhere that gives a layman's explication of the twelve uses of dragon's blood? Everything I have is so bloody technical."
"Lay off for a bit, Ted."
Teddy looked up at him, curious now. "Need to talk about something?"
"Yeah! You hanging around with second-years. It lowers the tone of Gryffindor Seventh. We're supposed to be austere and terrifying."
"How droll for you," Teddy answered.
"Listen, I'm your best mate."
"You're telling me this for my own good, is that it?"
"No! I'm just saying I shouldn't be jealous of a second-year. Or a fifth-year girl," Nigel added meaningfully. "Everyone sees you and Victoire together, the Ravenclaws have a pool going on when you'll ask her out."
"I'm not going to. Not while we're still at school. I haven't got time, anyway, not with NEWTs in five weeks."
"Still got time to jerk me off in the showers, though -- " he was interrupted by a warning hiss from Teddy. "Well, it's true. You may as well admit that you're a pouf, Teddy, and you're only following Victoire around like a sheep because she's the right kind of girl from the right kind of family."
Teddy's book closed with a thump that reverberated throughout the library. Madame Chang looked up from the librarian's desk and shushed him. He gave her a wave of apologetic acknowledgement and turned to Nigel.
"I'm not a pouf," he said.
"Nobody cares anymore if you are."
"Well, I'm not."
"Come off it, Teddy, it's not like you don't come by it honestly. Look at the old yearbooks, everyone knows your dad and Sirius Black -- "
Teddy leapt for Nigel and the two went down on the library floor together, scuffling and shouting.
"TAKE IT BACK!" Teddy cried, as Nigel got a hand in his face to push him away. He kneed his friend in the ribs and Nigel groaned. "DON'T SAY THAT ABOUT MY DAD!"
Madame Chang was sweeping towards them, fury on her brow, but a handful of Ravenclaws materialised as if by magic and soon the two boys were pulled apart, chests heaving, glaring angrily at each other.
"It's a lie!" Teddy said.
"You hit me!" Nigel replied, blood running down his lip.
"I'll hit you again if you talk about my dad and mum," Teddy replied, surging forward. A slim hand stopped him, and he looked down into the face of Madame Chang.
"Banned from the library, both of you, one week," she said. "Report to Headmistress McGonagall for detention."
Teddy shrugged off the boy and girl who were holding him and went to the table, shoving his books into his bag. Nigel was still staring at him, dazed.
It took three days for the two boys to speak to each other again, an epic rift in the unsinkable friendship; nobody knew what Nigel had said to Teddy to set him off, but they all talked incessantly of it. The Head Boy of Hogwarts was known to be an utterly unflappable, even-tempered student who never raised his voice even at the first-years. He'd never had a fistfight, hardly ever even got a detention. Whatever Nigel said, they whispered, must have really scraped a raw nerve.
Even with their friendship patched up, Nigel noticed that Teddy pointedly kept away from him -- kept away from everyone -- in the bathroom, showering alone early in the morning or late at night. Nigel, who had learned great self-restraint in dealing with his private, quiet friend, did his best to shrug it off and told himself that Teddy'd come round, sooner or later, and be a much happier man when he did.
The man sitting on the stair, drawing deeply on a magical smokeless cigarette, looked like the picture of despair. Slumped, head hanging down, knees drawn up, he looked awkward and miserable, and James felt very sorry for him. Teddy hated rows, and from the sound he'd heard drifting up through his bedroom floorboards, a really first-rate family row was going on.
He settled next to Teddy, whose hair was a boring mousy brown, and copied his posture. Teddy finally looked up, saw James' mimicry, and pulled up a smile for him.
"Did it wake you up?" he asked, gesturing with the cigarette towards the living room, visible through the banister railing. It looked like every adult Weasley was there, along with his own parents and Gran Tonks. Most were talking loudly, some even shouting a bit. It looked like Gran Tonks was trying to verbally beat sense into Uncle Bill. Aunt Fleur was the only one who looked peaceful, even complacent, and was saying something about "Eet ees quite acceptable een France; we unnerstand zere."
"Yeah. What's going on?" James asked.
"Victoire and I broke up."
"I'm sorry," James said sincerely. "But I meant in the living room. Why are they arguing?"
"Victoire and I broke up," Teddy repeated morosely.
"Are Uncle Bill and Aunt Fleur angry? Did you dump her?"
Teddy shook his head. "Nope. We both realised we weren't going to work, so I told her she was free, and she said thanks, and that was that."
James leaned against Teddy comfortingly. "Didn't you love her? Everyone thinks you did."
"I..." Teddy put the cigarette out with a flick of his hand and turned his head to look at James. "I love Victoire, because she's one of you, you know? Like I love you and Aunt Ginny and Harry and everyone. But...James, can I tell you stuff?"
"Course you can."
"No, I mean...grown-up stuff. Stuff that maybe most fourteen-year-olds shouldn't really know."
James shrugged. "I don't care if you do."
"Gran Tonks gave me mum's journals when I graduated. I started reading 'em this year, I thought they'd help me in Auror training. And I found my dad's school trunk, there were letters in it."
"That must've been interesting."
"It was, but...look, my dad and mum made a big mistake. I mean they were in love and all, but dad was always worrying about being a werewolf and I don't think...I think he was in love with someone else, too, and he married Mum because everyone thought they were a good match. Your grandma Molly threw them together a lot."
"Well, they were, weren't they?"
"I don't know. I just think that maybe Dad and Mum got married because everyone said they should, they felt like it was the right thing to do. Maybe if they'd lived it would have been okay or maybe they'd have been miserable together. I don't want to make the same mistake, that's all. So I can't get married to Victoire, I don't love her properly."
"Do you love someone else properly?"
"It's complicated, James."
"So uncomplicate it for me. Like you did with Arithmancy."
Teddy smiled again. "Well, some men like women, and some men like other men."
"You don't like girls?"
"Not that way. And it was ages before I realised it because I really wanted..." Teddy sighed. "I wanted to be family with you and your dad and mum, and that meant marrying Victoire. But you see how unfair that is to her because I could never really properly love her. And I told them..." he gestured at the still-arguing adults in the other room. "And that's what the row is about. Gran Tonks and your dad and Fleur are on my side anyway, and the others'll come round, I don't care about that. I just don't like rows."
"You know you're family anyway," James said.
"Well...I am and I'm not. Probably never will be, now. But nothing's going to change, I mean, Harry's still my godfather and we don't have to stop writing letters or anything."
"Good, I like your letters. So you're going to marry a boy?"
"Well, someday maybe."
"Are you going to marry Nigel?" James asked.
"No, we're just friends, and anyway he has a girlfriend. I'm sorry I told you this, James. I shouldn't be putting it on your shoulders."
"That's rot," James declared. "Besides, I'll help you find a nice boy to marry."
He thought Teddy might laugh at this, but instead a warm, cheerful smile spread across his face. "Thanks. That means a lot to me. Come on," he added, standing up. "Let's get some ice cream from the kitchen and then you can go back to bed."
Chapter 2: Nimbus Broomsticks Can't Brake For Shit
"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN...ENGLAND NATIONAL!"
Teddy and Harry leapt to their feet, screaming and clapping, Harry helping Lily up onto her seat so she could wave her flag furiously. The English players took the field while fireworks exploded in the stands, and Teddy thrust his omnioculars into Albus' hands so that the younger boy could get a proper look.
"There he is!" Harry shouted, pointing at the last player to emerge, smaller than the others but pulling by far the most outrageous stunts on his broomstick. "JAMES! JAMES POTTER! JAMES POTTER! JAMES POTTER!"
"He can't hear you!" Teddy called above the roar of the crowds.
"SOD IF I CARE!" Harry shouted back. Teddy touched the little copper device in his ear, trying to tune into what the announcers were saying, since any speech was totally drowned out by the cheering Quidditch World Cup crowds.
"....not heavily favoured to win, especially not against a Romanian team led by Viktor Krum," someone was saying.
"They're a very young team, Sal, it's true," said a second voice.
"Very young indeed. Their Seeker's only nineteen, is that right, Lee? I have something here that says his birthday isn't for another three days."
"Yes, but what a nineteen he is! You know, I watched his father play when he was a student and later I covered some matches when he took the Cannons to victory as a young man and even so I haven't seen anything like James Potter when it comes to tight gameplay. He definitely has his father's hands."
"And there...yes, from here we can see Harry Potter, the famous -- one might almost say infamous -- Harry Potter in the Minister's booth, on his feet, cheering on England National and his son. Looks like the whole family up there, brother Albus, sister Lily, I think I see Ginevra Potter; didn't she play as well, Lee?"
"And I think that's where Potter gets his precision from, if we're being perfectly honest," Lee Jordan replied. "Win or lose, Sal, this game is going to be something to watch. English National is an incredibly choreographed team. It looks like someone up there has an All Hearing Ear -- hey! Tell Harry to wave for the crowds!"
"Lee Jordan says to wave," Teddy shouted. Harry beamed, Lily's flag getting in his face as he waved. The decibel level of the crowd rose a notch.
"A nice family tribute for a great team," Lee concluded. "AND HERE COMES ROMANIA!"
Teddy switched the All Hearing Ear off and settled into his seat again, clapping more politely for Romania. Quidditch didn't really fascinate him and he wasn't good enough to spot the choreography that Lee was talking about, but once the game began he had fun watching James play and listening to the reactions of Harry and Lily, not to mention Aunt Ginny's running commentary. Aunt Ginny was a huge Quidditch fan, and as with all huge Quidditch fans, her emotions sometimes got the best of her.
"HIT IT AT THE OTHER TEAM!" she shouted at one of the Beaters. "WHAT KIND OF BEATING IS THAT?"
Albus elbowed Teddy. "Hey, I want a butterbeer and some popcorn. Want to come?"
"Yeah. Let's go down pitchside though," Teddy replied, as they edged their way out. He turned back and made a drinking motion at Harry, who nodded and held up three fingers.
"Pitchside?" Albus asked. "What good's that? There's a stand right here."
"I like to watch Quidditch from the Pitch," Teddy answered. "I'll show you."
They made their way down the network of ladders, Teddy giving Albus a play-by-play as he had it from Lee Jordan. By the time the reached the ground level, in amongst the standing-room-only crowd, the score was eighty to sixty with Romania looking to cream the England defence.
"See, look," Teddy said, pointing upwards. "Look at the patterns."
Albus turned his face up, entranced, lifting the omnioculars to fix (as always) on his brother James. Teddy ambled over to a food stall and bought five butterbeers, two bags of popcorn, and some roasted nuts for Aunt Ginny. He handed the basket of drinks to Albus.
"Score's sixty-hundred now," Albus said gloomily.
"They could still get up. And there's always the Snitch -- " Teddy cut off abruptly. "Look, isn't that..."
"It looks like the Seekers have found what they were looking for," Lee's voice, hugely amplified, rang out across the stadium. "Yes -- Krum's slightly in the lead but Potter's catching up fast. Look at that dive, folks, that's a classic Harpies inversion, they are literally back to back and neck and neck. They say Potter has a longer reach than Krum, but Krum's been playing this game a long time and is still well in his prime, he knows a few tricks -- see him shoulder Potter off there -- Potter making up for lost time -- Krum's reaching -- Potter diving fast, older players don't put on that much speed, too cautious -- play above still furious and Romania's got the Quaffle near -- ROMANIA SCORES -- BUT POTTER HAS THE SNITCH! THE GAME IS OVER, THE CUP GOES TO ENGLAND, AND JAMES POTTER HAS THE SNITCH!"
Teddy whooped and cheered with Albus, barely able to see James and his one outstretched hand, the little golden ball clutched tightly between his fingers. But...
"He's still diving," Albus said.
"It's a stunt," Teddy answered, trying to sound more confident than he was.
"That's a bloody dangerous stunt."
Lee's voice had changed. "Krum has pulled away and the English team are gathering but James Potter can't seem to pull out of the dive -- looks as though the braking charm may not be enough -- MERLIN. PULL UP, POTTER!"
The crowd, which a second before had been rabidly cheering, grew hushed as James continued his descent. He was going too fast, ridiculously fast, and it looked like he was panicking.
"POTTER, PULL UP!" Lee screamed.
Teddy saw James lean back slowly, one arm still outstretched, his shoulders practically touching the straws on his broomstick. He slid one leg around and touched his toes to the shaft. As the broomstick arrowed towards the ground, he jumped straight up.
"POTTER JUMPS HIS BROOMSTICK AS IT CONTINUES TO FALL -- HE'S IN FREE FALL. SOMEBODY GET ON THE PITCH -- SOMEBODY IS ON THE PITCH," Lee said, and Teddy realised it was him.
He had discarded the food in his hands and was running, chest heaving, feet pounding across the slick manicured grass even as James seemed to float for a minute before tumbling earthwards. He was too high up, still twenty feet at least off the ground. Teddy could see the silvery wings of the Snitch beating frantically against James' fingers.
The broomstick struck the grass and drove itself into the ground below, sticking straight up and quivering. James was falling -- there was a tremendous thud --
"JAMES," Teddy shouted, slipping and nearly tumbling head-over-heels as he tried to stop next to the crumpled body of his godfather's son.
"HARRY AND GINNY POTTER ARE DESCENDING THE STANDS -- LET THEM THROUGH -- HEALERS ARE TAKING THE FIELD," Lee continued to run commentary as if the game hadn't ended. "IT'S CHAOS HERE AT THE QUIDDITCH WORLD CUP."
"James," Teddy said, dropping to the grass and leaning over the younger man. "James, open your eyes. Come on, Jem, open up, it's Teddy."
He didn't realise he'd been holding his breath until James' eyes fluttered open. "Teddy?" he croaked.
"Don't move, mate, you've had a fall. You've got the Snitch, you won, it's okay. You're going to be okay," Teddy said, smoothing James' messy hair back.
"I jumped, huh?"
"Yeah. You were brilliant." Teddy was only vaguely aware that Albus had dropped in the grass next to him, that in the distance Harry was racing the Healers to get to his son.
"Fucking Nimbus," James murmured. "Should have gone with a Firebolt. Can't brake for shit."
Teddy laughed a little. "Don't talk, okay?"
"Sokay Teddy. You said I was gon' be fine." James closed his eyes. "Do I ha' the Snitch?"
Teddy looked at James' outflung hand. "Yeah. Can't you feel it?"
"Can't feel much," James murmured.
"James, hang on -- JAMES!" Teddy shouted, as arms began to pull him away. Healers were crouching over James now, and someone had their arm around Teddy's chest. One of the other players, one of James' teammates was tugging him backwards. "Let go of me!"
"It's all right, son," the man said. "They got him. Hey, someone stop Potter!"
Teddy watched, tugging on the arm around his chest, as Viktor Krum tore Harry away from his son, making a path for the Healers to levitate him off the field.
"That's my son!" Harry shouted. "Let me go, it's my son!"
James turned his head, floating eerily. Silence reigned in the stands. With a flick of his wrist, he sent the Snitch soaring through the air, and Krum released Harry long enough for the other man to pick it out of the air as if he were a Seeker himself.
Which he was, of course.
The arms holding Teddy loosened as Harry stared down at the little golden ball. He ran to Harry, who was wrapping Aunt Ginny in his arms, the pair of them looking lost and alone on the field. Harry was weeping.
"He'll be okay," Teddy said uncertainly. "He talked to me. I told him he'll be okay. He'll be okay."
The young man slouched in one of Harry's living-room chairs accepted his tea gratefully, and when he turned his worried face up to Harry it was like some kind of reverse deja-vu; there were the premature lines, the youth belied by fear and doubt that he'd seen so often on the face of Remus Lupin when he was alive. Only this time the Lupin was looking to him for help and solace instead of the other way around.
"Thanks," Teddy said, sipping the hot tea cautiously.
"You're welcome. The least I could do; James was getting fractious and he wanted to see you. I hope we didn't disrupt your work."
Teddy waved it off. "This is more important. Crime is always happening; let someone else deal with it for a while."
"How was he when you came down?"
"Still in bed, being fretted over. Ginny kicked me out. She takes after Gran Molly just a little bit, huh?"
Harry laughed. "She can, sometimes. She was glad you could come see James, though. I talked with his Captain and the Healers today, by the way."
"Oh? What's the news?"
"Well, he'll play Quidditch again, that is if he wants to. His Captain is having a downright war with the Nimbus corporation. Nimbus said they never tested the braking charms at the speeds James was going, since nobody should be going that fast. He asked them if they thought Quidditch was some kind of modified game of Gobstones. They got a little huffy."
"That's what James said to me on the field. Fucking Nimbus, should have gone with a Firebolt."
"I've been meaning to talk to you about that," Harry said. "You running on the Pitch and everything. That was a good thing you did, Ted. You know that."
"It's not like it was a decision. It was James, that's all," Teddy said, looking down at his tea.
"It was courageous and loyal. Not that I expected anything less. You remind me so much of your parents sometimes."
Teddy looked up sharply.
"I...think about your father a lot," Harry said. "When I see you. And your mum. You're so quiet, Ted. Your dad was that way. I doubt any of us knew him, Arthur probably best. And I can see things in you...I can see your mum in you, all her passion for life. I wish I saw it more. Still..."
He hesitated. Perhaps it was time Teddy knew; he had a right to know. He and Teddy were the only children, after all, of the four people who had been Harry's solace at the hardest time of his life.
"when I..." Harry stopped and started again. "When I fought Voldemort...you know the story."
"That he killed you and you came back?" Teddy asked.
"Right. I went out there to die, you know," Harry said. "I've never told anyone this part, not even Ginny. When I went to die, Albus Dumbledore left me something. He thought it would help. It did, it did -- he left me this...thing. It calls up the dead. They're just -- not ghosts but spirits, do you see what I mean?"
"I think so."
"I needed someone with me, I couldn't go alone," Harry felt himself tumbling backwards into a painful, bloody past; he grasped the arm of his chair to anchor himself, a reminder that this was a story he was telling, not living any longer. "I only thought my parents would come, James' grandparents. They came to walk with me, and Sirius too. The people who loved me the most. People who'd died for me. And your father was there. Remus. I'd just seen his body..."
"Harry, you don't have to -- "
"No, you should understand. They said they'd go with me, the four of them, and Remus said he was sorry he'd never know you. Remus was with me too. When I went to die. And when I saw you with my son..."
Ted sat listening quietly, but Harry saw his hands shaking.
"It seems there's always a Lupin looking out for us Potters," Harry said finally, a ghost of a smile on his face. "Your father and mother would be so proud of you, Ted. Ginny and I are both proud of you. I wouldn't have wanted anyone else to be with my son when he was in pain."
Ted nodded. "Well, it's a family duty, you know. It's in the bylaws somewhere. Must always rescue Potters from themselves."
Harry burst out laughing. "See? There's the Tonks in you."
"Well, that being the case and all..." Teddy looked uncertain. "Listen, James and I talked about maybe me taking him away for a bit, just to get him out of the house. Ginny's..."
"Not exactly, but it's not easy being a big Quidditch star and having your mum trying to do your laundry and stuff. The Healers say he needs a few months, right?"
"So, a few weeks with me, he'll be feeling better, up on his feet again, and he'll have had some quiet. I'm gone all day, he can do what he wants, and I'm not a bad cook."
Harry nodded. "He might like that, I think he would. Let me think about it, okay?"
"Sure." Ted hesitated. "Harry, you don't think I'm...my dad wasn't cold, was he? Am I cold?"
Harry smiled. "Theodore Remus Lupin, your father was many things, but cold was not one of them. And if you were you wouldn't be asking to take an invalid off our hands right now and look after him yourself. You're who you are. No changing that."
"Right," Ted said. "No changing that."
The boy -- no, he was a man now -- was lying on the floor of Teddy's flat, arms splayed, eyes closed. For a terrible moment, Teddy thought he'd slipped and fallen, and the grocery bag in one hand slid to the carpet.
"James?" he asked uncertainly, vaulting his sofa easily and landing next to him. "James, are you okay?"
"This feels amazing," James said, stretching his shoulders. "Coach told me to lie down to get the spine all stretched out, but mum wouldn't let me out of bed. I've been here for hours. Try it!"
Teddy laughed with relief and flopped down next to him, covering his eyes with his hands.
"Thought you'd fallen," he said. James gave another happy wriggle.
"Well, it took me a while to get out of bed and then I sort of had a nap on the sofa after I made tea," he admitted.
"You're not supposed to be walking around yet."
"Come on, Ted, I play Quidditch for a living, I'm used to a little pain," James replied. "Doesn't it feel nice?"
Teddy had to admit that several of his vertebrae had just popped; he'd been tense all day, leaving James alone while he went into the office. There'd been two call-outs for potions violations and he'd barely had the wits by day's end to stop and get some food for dinner. If James hadn't been there he would probably have just ordered Chinese and then gone to bed.
"You want some dinner?" he asked. "Harry said lots of protein, so I got chicken."
"God, I'm sick of chicken. Can we order Chinese?"
Teddy laughed. "If you want. Now you've trapped me down here though, I don't want to move."
"I'm not hungry yet. How'd your day go?"
"Well enough. Hey, I brought the Prophet with me," Teddy said. "Accio newspaper!"
The newspaper flung itself out of the bag and zipped into his hands; he unfolded it, showing James that for the first time in a week his photo wasn't on the front page.
"Let's see...oh, that poor Potter boy's still at home recovering," he said, mimicking a flighty, querulous voice even as his hair turned white and wrinkles sprung up all over. James turned to look at him and laughed. "James Potter remains in seclusion after a near-fatal fall during the Quidditch Cup. I'm sure I don't know what these young whippersnappers get up to..."
James clutched his stomach, writhing with laughter. Teddy lengthened his hair and softened his face into femininity.
"Well I don't know about you but I am so terribly tired of hearing about Quidditch. I hope that poor boy comes to his senses and does something useful for a living like regulating cauldron-bottom thicknesses. Read us the fashion page, dear." He sank back into his own features, hair turning scarlet. James' laughter subsided. "So, do you want the fashion page? The sports page is all secondhand about you, and the Cannons are getting trounced again."
"You know, everyone says you're so serious but I guess they just don't know you," James said. "Pass us the funnies."
Teddy lifted a page out of the middle of the paper deftly, contenting himself with the editorials.
"This is fun," James said. "Thanks for having me over to stay."
"It's not trouble, is it? I mean if you wanted to bring someone home I could always disappear for a night."
Teddy shook his head. "Never have time for dating, you know how it is. Once I get my promotion to field supervisor, maybe."
"No special boy for Teddy?" James asked, as Ted rolled over to flatting the newspaper on the floor and prop himself on his elbows. "You should play Quidditch. Whole roomfuls of gorgeous fit men, showering naked."
"Who would laugh me off the field if they saw me fly," Teddy snorted. "Now, if you want to bring someone home, you let me know and I'll discreetly stay in the kitchen or something."
"Nah. I'm an invalid, remember? It'll be days before I go out again," James said ruefully. "Weeks, I reckon, before I'm up for pulling."
"Can I help with the boredom at all?" Teddy asked, and James glanced at him curiously.
"No, I can keep busy, there are playbooks to work on and you've got plenty to read, and there's the Muggle Telly if I get really bored," he said, but there was an amused tone in his voice.
As James turned back to the newspaper, Teddy studied his face to see if it was true; he'd become a good gauge of liars in the past few years, and he saw that James was telling the truth about boredom...but possibly leaving something out. Well, he'd tell him in good time.
James was handsome, he supposed, surprised that he'd never noticed before. He had Harry's dark hair, curlier than his father's, and his mother's slim face and pointed nose. Just a handful of freckles spattered his cheeks, the rest of his face tanned by hours outside on the Pitch. He did have Harry's hands too, broad palms and dextrous fingers. He looked older than his twenty years, but professional Quidditch had grown him up quickly, and he seemed to handle it all with a remarkable calm.
In profile his face was relaxed and cheerful, almost arrogant; Teddy supposed you had to be a little arrogant to dive straight for the ground at high speeds and think you'd survive.
His stomach lurched slightly, and the realisation hit him like a half-dozen bludgers even as he fought the urge to reach out and smooth James' hair back again.
He was in love with James Potter.
"What?" James asked, turning to look at him. "Take a picture, Teddy, it'll last longer."
"Just making sure you're okay," Teddy said, frantically hiding the blush creeping up his cheeks, grateful his hair was already fire-engine red and couldn't turn any redder. He busied himself smoothing out the editorials page, but the words wouldn't assemble themselves properly before his eyes.
"Oog," James said. "I'm cramping."
"Probably time to get off the floor," Teddy said. He stood and automatically extended a hand to help James up; it took a bit of pulling and James tumbled into him, righting himself with both hands on Teddy's shoulders. Oh, balls.
James pivoted before Teddy could say anything, stretching out his hands and falling onto the sofa with utter faith. He grinned at Teddy, summoned the paper without a word, and folded the comics page to keep reading.
"I'll go order some food," Teddy mumbled, his mind completely disarrayed. He made for the kitchen where the Muggle telephone resided and leaned on the sink.
He couldn't be in love with James, that was ludicrous. He'd known him since he was a baby, learned from Harry how to change a nappy with James as hands-on instruction. He still had drawings the six-year-old had sent him, carefully packed in his school trunk. He'd looked after him for two years at school and been the one James came to for convincing that he should still do his seventh year and finish his NEWTs when Puddlemere wanted to sign him straight out of sixth year. This was just protectiveness because James was vulnerable, he just loved him like he loved Harry and Aunt Ginny -- James was like his cousin. He and Albus and Lily were practically the siblings he'd never had.
He was just feeling protective. He'd help James get back on his feet, show him a good time in London, and then pack him back to his parents' house.
Teddy reached resolutely for the telephone and then had to make three tries before he got the number right.
Two days later he came home to find the flat in utter disarray, newspaper clippings and sheets of parchment everywhere. James had apparently been catching up not only with his own press but with every Quidditch team in the country. Most of the parchment scraps had playbook diagrams scrawled on them, and there were several abandoned teacups littering the living room.
Instead of freaking out that his flat was a mess, which was what had made his last boyfriend give up on him in despair, Teddy grinned to himself and began collecting up the teacups.
He was definitely in trouble.
Chapter 3: Lupins Always Look Out For Potters
"I'm on-call this weekend," Teddy said to James, a few days after The Incident With The Newspaper. "I'll be staying over at headquarters. Shouldn't be too bad; weekends are pretty quiet. Think you can hold things down here?"
"Sure," James said. "Be a bit quiet, though. I don't know how you stand it, living alone."
"Guess it just comes naturally," Ted replied. "I've never minded being alone."
"Well, you always have us if you want noise."
"Or even if I don't," Ted answered, ruffling James' hair.
"Quit it," James muttered, combing through it with his fingers. "I'm not twelve anymore, you know."
Oh, I know.
"Sorry -- force of habit," Ted answered, drawing back. "Anyway, if you get bored or lonely you can come down to Headquarters, you'll probably just find me too busy to talk while I play chess with my boss and stare at the wallpaper."
"The thrilling adventurous life of an Auror," James observed.
"It's a living. We can't all be Quidditch stars," Teddy said, resisting the urge to ruffle his hair again. Or lean over and kiss him passionately. He found himself staring at the curve of James' lower lip more than was probably healthy. "I'll be home Sunday night."
"Sure," James answered. "Don't get killed."
"Do my best." Teddy hefted his overnight bag and stepped out into the sunny August morning, feeling unaccountably cheerful. Usually on-call weekends annoyed him -- he hated being kept in one place, tied to the floo in case a Dark Wizard somehow arose overnight on a Sunday morning. Today, though, he felt like whistling or humming to himself or doing some other idiotic thing that he normally would never consider in his life.
His cheerful mood lasted through Friday and most of Saturday, only beginning to wane as he beat Augustus Derrill at chess for the fifth time Saturday afternoon. He was about to make some dinner in the poky little kitchen off the on-call common room and declare an all-comers challenge tournament when a familiar face poked into the doorway. He watched from the corner, amused, as James Potter stepped into the room.
"Who're you, then?" Maria barked pugnaciously. "If you're here to make a report, you're in the wrong place."
"N...o," James said. "I'm looking for Ted Lupin. I, uh, brought him some dinner," he added, holding up a bag of take-away cartons. The other Aurors hooted and laughed.
"Lupin, your boyfriend's here," Maria called over her shoulder. Teddy sat back, enjoying this moment.
"That's not my boyfriend," he said, stretching out his legs. "Go on, James. Give them a smile."
James grinned, the same open and handsome grin that was on all his Quidditch collectors' cards and magazine covers. Silence rippled outward from that grin.
"This," Teddy said, walking to James, "is my godfather's son. His name's James Potter -- you may have heard of him. Jem, this is Maria, that's Augustus in the corner...Aaron, Menander, Maenad (call her Mae), Richard, and Ulysses."
"Hi," James said cheerfully, nodding at each in turn. "I brought a lot of food, I hope nobody's eaten already."
"I thought you were brilliant in the Cup," Ulysses blurted.
"Thanks. Come on, have some naan, it's really fresh."
The aurors gravitated slowly to the table, Teddy throwing himself into the seat next to James and heaping a plate high with curry and pan-bread. It was a rare treat, having someone bring them food, and the others were a little in awe of the young Quidditch star who'd just won the Cup for England.
"I got bored," James said to Teddy, sopping up curry sauce with his bread. "And I figured you were probably bored too."
"Just a bit. This is brilliant, James, you didn't have to."
"Yeah, but why not?" James asked. "Besides, I've heard all your Auror stories. It's time I got some new ones, don't you think?"
"He didn't tell you about the time he lost his trousers, I bet," Menander grunted.
"That's not fair, I was just a trainee, I didn't know any better," Teddy protested, but Maria launched gleefully into the story and from there the others began to share their own tall tales as well. James listened and talked happily, a natural conversationalist, while Teddy sat enviously by and nursed a bottle of pumpkin juice. James made it look so simple.
By the time Ulysses was yawning and Augustus dropping hints about getting a good night's sleep, James himself looked done-in. Teddy packed him back to the flat through the common-room floo with a stern injunction to have a drink and go to bed, sending the leftovers through after him. When he finally closed the floo portal again, most of the others were in the dormitory, preparing to sleep. Only Maria and Ulysses remained in the common-room, picking up the day's trash and straightening chairs as they went.
"That was nice of him to come bring us dinner," Ulysses said, as Teddy cleared the chessboard and began packing the pieces back into their padded case. "I didn't think he'd be so, you know. Normal."
"Well, he's a person just like us," Teddy said. "Usually he's a little more overwhelming, but he's still recovering from that fall. He really shouldn't have been out buying food."
"He looked all right to me," Maria said. "Looked like he could use a little less coddling, that one."
"Maria, you think prisoners of war could use a little less coddling," Teddy answered.
"And he's not your boyfriend?" Ulysses asked.
"No, of course not. We grew up together, we're practically brothers," Teddy said quickly.
"Don't see why that means anything. You aren't actually brothers. Besides, he's rich and famous and easy to look at."
"What, do you want him to be your boyfriend?" Teddy asked.
"No! I'm just saying."
"Well, I don't think he's interested in blokes, and even if he was, he's too young for me," Teddy retorted, sweeping the chessboard into the case and shutting it with a click.
"Don't think he thinks that," Maria muttered.
"What did you say?"
"Well, it's obvious, isn't it? Bet he trailed you around when he was a little kid and did everything you did, didn't he?"
"All little kids do that, it doesn't mean anything," Teddy replied, the chess case forgotten in his hands.
"Not all little kids grow up and keep doing it," Ulysses put in.
"You're both crazy. Get to bed, I'm going to clear away the dinner plates."
"Suit yourself, but don't say I didn't warn you," Maria said.
Teddy had thought living with James might be annoying, because he'd heard that children without siblings sometimes didn't adjust well to sharing their space. It was true that Teddy liked to keep the place tidy as much as James liked to make a mess; they were opposing forces in that respect, but James always did the dishes when he cooked and never left his dirty socks lying around, so Teddy thought he handled it rather well, really.
For a while James had good days and bad days, but once his recovery was really underway he wasn't in the flat that much either, busy with Quidditch re-training and the delayed magazine and newspaper interviews that he couldn't have done any sooner. Teddy tried not to hover, or to think about the fact that James would soon be going home for good.
He also tried not to get too close, because he suspected he would be burned if he did. That meant avoiding James in the morning when he was sleepy-eyed and messy-haired, not making too much of the nice things James did like bringing him dinner, and definitely not ruffling his hair or cuffing the back of his head, things they'd done to each other since they were children. He didn't like what he felt, and he didn't like that he didn't like it; it reminded him too much of his last few years at school, trying to pretend he was something he wasn't. He didn't want to be in love with James, not least because it made him feel like a pervert, but he didn't want to hide it, either. He'd done enough hiding at school.
So he kept on, and did his best not to think about it.
The problem was that James kept getting underfoot, waking him up in the morning by hauling him out of bed, wandering around the flat in a towel, doing press-ups in the living room. And he did follow him around and Teddy caught him mimicking his posture, making gestures that he knew he was adopting from Teddy's movements. For the first time he understand how annoyed other people must get when he took little elements of their faces or bodies for his undercover work.
They started to snap at each other, then to lapse into sullen silence, and on the third day after Teddy may or may not have snarled at James for strewing newspapers everywhere, James went straight for the jugular.
"Listen," he said, in response to what Teddy thought was a perfectly normal "good morning" over his cold cereal. "If you don't want me here you can just say so."
Teddy blinked at him. "All I said was good morning."
"No, you said 'good morning'," James replied.
"Can we do this after I've had coffee?" Teddy asked, summoning the coffeepot.
"No, because once you've had coffee you'll just eat your food and run away," James replied. "You've been avoiding me for a week."
"Well, you were the one who said you weren't twelve and didn't need coddling anymore," Teddy answered crossly.
"You did, that's just a lie."
"Don't call me a liar."
"I'm not saying you're a liar, I'm saying you lied, because you did say."
"And I say I didn't, I think I ought to know what I said, seeing as I said it. Or didn't say it," James added, setting his jaw.
"You are so aggravating!" Teddy said, possibly louder than was really necessary.
"So like I said, if you don't want me here just say so and I'll go home!" James retorted, also rather louder than necessary. Teddy fell silent, bowing his head over his cereal and picking out the raisins.
"Okay, I'm sorry," he said. "You don't have to go, I don't want you to go."
"Now you're just placating me."
"Well, if you want to go don't egg me into telling you! Just GO!"
"MAYBE I WILL!" James jumped out of his chair, slamming his hands on the table.
"NOBODY'S STOPPING YOU!" Teddy shouted, waving a hand.
"Fine! It's not like I need looking after! You're not my mum! You're not even my real brother!"
Teddy rocked backwards as if he'd been slapped. It was one thing for him to think it; it was another for someone else to come out and say it. James looked pale and agitated, and his fists were clenched. As soon as he saw Teddy's face, his hands relaxed.
"I didn't mean that," he said. "Sorry, Teddy. I'm really sorry."
"Why not?" Teddy asked. "It's true. We're not family."
James lowered his eyes, then looked up at him again. Teddy leaned forward, stirring the soggy flakes in his cereal bowl. He couldn't remember the last time he'd shouted at someone. Probably that time he gone after Nigel in the library.
He got up and carried his cereal into the living room, where James hopefully wouldn't follow; he was so engrossed in his own frightened misery (he couldn't really stomach any more anger) that he didn't notice James had trailed behind him until the younger man sat down on the sofa next to him and pressed his forehead against the edge of Teddy's shoulder.
"Do you like me even a little?" he asked. "I know you did when I was a kid, but I guess people grow up and sometimes things change. I thought you liked me."
"Course I like you. I love you," Teddy said, and meant it honestly, though perhaps not in the way James would take it. "I don't want you to go, and I'm not placating you."
"Then why d'you keep running away from me? You didn't used to."
Teddy hesitantly stroked James' hair, and James didn't object. "Dunno," he lied.
"That's a lie."
Teddy laughed. "You're good at spotting those."
"Go on, Teddy. Tell me. You tell me everything, right?"
"It's complicated, James."
"Uncomplicate it for me. Like you did with Arithmancy," James said, leaning back to grin at him. Teddy set the bowl down on the end-table.
"You're still young, and I think maybe I've been asking things from you that I have no right to ask," he said slowly. "Expecting things from you. Treating you like you're older than your years. It isn't fair to either one of us, you know; you're too young to provide what I've been asking and I'm frustrated by my own expectations."
"You've always expected a lot of me, that's not new," James said. "It's the only reason I stayed on for NEWTs, you know. You said you'd be disappointed if I didn't."
"And how many NEWTs did you get?"
"Too many to waste my life playing Quidditch, according to Gran Molly," he laughed.
"Well, there's no reason you can't waste your youth on it at least." Teddy relaxed a trifle, feeling that he'd successfully diverted the conversation away from James' awkward questions. "Have you thought about what you're going to do when your professional career is over?"
James tilted his head. "You're really good at that."
"Changing the subject."
"I told you, James -- "
"You said a lot of words that basically add up to I'll tell you when you're older, which once we're both past the age of eighteen isn't really a very good excuse anymore, Ted. Treat me like I'm as old as you want, I'm a grownup and I'll cope. "
"It's not just that, James."
"Then what is it?"
Teddy looked down miserably at his hands, idly lengthening and shortening his thumbnail. He didn't want a fight with James, he didn't want things to change. He wanted to just keep on as he had done, forever if possible, because change always hurt.
"You're just awfully young. The difference between twenty and twenty-six is enormous, James."
"No it's not," James said.
"Well, you're on the short end -- "
"No, I just don't believe you."
"James -- "
"I choose not to believe you," James said, crossing his arms.
"You can't just choose -- "
"Sure you can. I just did," James said, and kissed him.
Teddy was used to kisses from the female half of his not-quite-family, since the Weasleys were an affectionate lot. Years ago Harry's kids used to give him kisses on the cheek sometimes, especially Lily when she was really little. He wasn't used to being kissed by James anymore, though. Especially not on the lips, especially not with James' hands coming up to hold his face or the slick hint of tongue sliding between his lips.
His hands unclenched, fingers flexing like they were reaching for something, and he was dimly aware that his hair had gone brilliant turquoise blue, the colour he always associated with joy.
But this was James, who he'd known since he was a child -- James, idol of thousands of witches and youngest-ever winner of Witch Weekly's best-smile award. This was Harry's son, and it was wrong to take advantage.
He pressed one hand to James' chest, pushing him back gently. James went reluctantly and his face showed hurt over every inch of it, his hazel eyes confused and unhappy.
"You don't mean that, James," he heard himself say.
"Don't tell me what I don't mean," James replied, anger flashing in his eyes.
"But you never -- "
" -- what, had time for girls? I have a professional career to think of," James adoped his most detached being-interviewed-by-annoying-journalists voice.
"You never said anything to me about it."
"You never asked, did you? Don't act like you're the only homo in the wizarding world, Ted Lupin."
Teddy studied James' face. "You're Harry's son, James. He'll kill me if he finds out I've hurt you or -- "
James punched him in the chest and Teddy's breath whooshed out of him. On instinct he dove for his attacker, pinning James down to the sofa and holding his flailing wrists, getting a knee over James' thighs to keep him from kicking.
"You make me so angry sometimes!" James cried out, still struggling. "Show some human feeling, Teddy! Take a risk!"
"Hold still!" Teddy hissed. "You hit me again, James Potter, and I'll take your head off, I swear to god I will!"
"Go on then! If you can't be kissed by someone who's loved you since he was twelve then you might as well kick him while he's down! Geroff me!"
Teddy, shocked by this more than the punch, sat back and released him, rubbing a hand across his face. James looked up from the sofa, not moving now, his legs still pinned under Teddy's knees.
"Don't you see?" James asked. "Of course I never wanted you to be my brother. You're not really family because you kept yourself all high and aloof and because I love you and not in the way brothers love each other. You think I tagged around after you at school because I needed you? I didn't need you! I had a crush on you, you great big stupid ass! I have plenty of friends, I have a brother, I have a dad, I don't need more of any of those!"
Teddy stared down at him. He couldn't come up with a single good refutation for what James had said, but James had always been a little cleverer than him, far less afraid to sail into the middle of a fight and start shouting.
"I thought it was a stupid crush," James continued, struggling up on his elbows. "But it's not. And anyway you wouldn't notice if someone punched you in the head with it, too busy trying not to actually connect with anyone, trying to make sure nobody ever touched you. Well, I'm going to, so either kiss me like you mean it or send me off home and you won't be fussed by me anymore."
Teddy saw, rather than felt, his hand sliding along the upholstery, down towards James' shoulder where it was propped against the arm of his cheap sofa. He saw his other hand, fingers still outstretched, drift down James' face wonderingly before settling on the edge of a cushion. James stared up at him, chest rising and falling, perfect handsome face expectant and furious.
He had never really credited Harry's story about seeing his father again after he'd died, but he was certain he heard a voice and he knew, though he couldn't have, that it was his father's voice.
Go home, Theodore. Time you came home.
He kissed James, bending over him, shifting his weight to straddle the other man's hips, his back hunched painfully and his knees digging against the springs in the sofa. It hurt, which meant it was real. James' nose got in the way at first and he accidentally bit Teddy's lip in his eagerness and that hurt, too. There was a bruise beginning to form where James had punched him, which made it hurt to breathe.
Not that it mattered, because he didn't need to breathe.
"You're part of us," James said against his lips, kissing between every few words. "You'll always be part of us, Teddy."
He was unbuttoning Ted's shirt as he said it, which was moving a little fast even for Teddy Lupin, king of the off-duty one-night-stand. He stopped at the third or fourth button, though, and pressed his hand over his heart, over the bruise he'd just inflicted.
"Don't you want to belong to someone?" he asked.
"Yes," Teddy said, no longer bent over James but pressed against him, their bodies touching, something like magic leaping between them. He kissed James' jaw, felt hands thread through his short hair. "I do, but James -- "
"No buts," James said. "Dad says Lupins always look out for Potters. It's your job, Teddy. Practically a duty."
Teddy smiled against his skin as James casually continued to unbutton his shirt, pulling the tidy tucks out of his trousers as he went.
"Well, if it's a duty," he murmured, and lost himself in James' deft Seeker's hands and his hazel eyes and his slim body and his curly black hair.