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Chances

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In twenty-seven years of life, Teddy had never once been to the UK. He knew he'd been born there, that his family had been born there, but for as long as he could remember his home had been the little cottage in the tiny French village where his grandmother had raised him. He never knew his parents. His nan said they'd died when he was just a baby, but always seemed hesitant to say more than that, and until very recently he hadn't even known their names.

Teddy figured it must have been a very painful topic for her to talk about, but he deserved to know, didn't he? All the nights as a child when he would sneak into her bedroom and pull the wooden box from under his nan's bed, opening it to stare at all the photos of his parents; his mum with brilliant multicolored hair, his father with scars and a soft smile.

His nan couldn't keep it from him forever, lying sick in bed and clinging to Teddy's hand with tired eyes locked on his face.

"You get your metamorphmagus abilities from your mother. My daughter, Nymphadora. She hated that name. Her friends just called her Tonks. Your father… your father, Remus, called her Dora. They loved each other," her eyes watered. "They loved you, Teddy Lupin."

She died, leaving an empty home and a bunch of boxes that took Teddy ages to look through, having to stop periodically to cry into his hands. He’d already known he was an orphan, and now he’d lost the woman who raised him from infancy on her own. Teddy searched tirelessly through the files, letters, and photographs that Andromeda Tonks left behind, trying desperately to find someone he was connected to, some family, some living relative, proof that he wasn’t as alone as he feared. In his search, he found letters, stacked and tied with worn twine and hidden in a rat chewed shoe box tucked onto the upper shelf of the hallway closet, hidden behind old hats and folded coats. It had probably been sitting there rotting and gathering dust for years.

The letters were all addressed to his nan, written in a male hand with some letters blotched, not quite elegant but neat enough to be legible. Each letter was signed simply “Harry”. Teddy didn’t know who that was, but by the volume of letters, he imagined it was someone his grandmother had known well. Each letter was dated, and Teddy was astounded to find this man had been writing to Andromeda since June of 1998. That was only a month or two after he’d been born. After flipping to the last letter in the pile he checked the date there. May of 2004. That was the last letter. Harry had written to Andromeda for six years, abruptly stopping after May. Teddy was hesitant to read the letters, as if he was worried his nan would pop up like she used to and nag him about rummaging through junk, but Andromeda Tonks was dead now. There was nothing stopping him, and the more he read, the more unhinged Teddy felt.

“Everyone’s worried about the way you up and left. Mrs. Malfoy said you left the country. I know how painful this war was, I do, but please don’t keep Teddy from me. Remus and Tonks made me his godfather for a reason. I want to be there for him. Please let me be there for him. I know how much it hurts to grow up not knowing your parents, wondering what happened to them, why it had to happen. I know the pain of loving and missing people you’ve never met and never will meet. Let me empathize with him and support him. That’s all I want. I promised Remus. Let me do this much.”

A godfather. This man was his godfather, but Teddy had never even heard of him before. Why had his nan kept it from him? Teddy kept reading through the letters, his mouth drying the further he went.

“I know you blame me for Tonks and Remus dying. I blame myself too. I will never forgive myself, Andromeda, but please don’t make Teddy suffer for my mistakes.”

“I’ve just gone through a few of the old boxes left over from Remus’ old cottage in Edinburgh. I found a few things I thought Teddy might like; some old cardigans and books, pictures and old Gryffindor memorabilia from when Remus was in school. The sweaters still smell a bit like Remus, maybe he still remembers? Tonks did mention Teddy loved when Remus held him the most. Maybe because of the texture of the cardigan? I hope he finds use or comfort from it all.”

“The Ministry wouldn’t allow me to take Remus’ medal, said I had no right though I wanted to send it to Teddy, a memento to remember what a brave and wonderful man his father was. They gave it to Remus’ father, Lyall Lupin. I don’t think he cares much for me, he wouldn’t look at me or speak to me. Tell me you at least let him see Teddy. It’s his grandson, Andromeda. Teddy is his only living family. He’s his last blood from Remus, from his son. Teddy is as precious to Lyall as he is to you. Don’t keep them apart. Teddy deserves a grandfather. He deserves to know people who could tell him stories of his father.”

“Bill’s daughter gets migraines during full moon. Dominique, the second born. The Healers think it may have something to do with Bill being attacked by Greyback and the werewolf genes passing to her. There’s nothing more than the occasional headache, thank Merlin, but I can’t keep myself from worrying. Is Teddy alright? Does he get migraines during the full moon? Have you taken him to a Healer? I know maybe it’s none of my business, but you must remember that Teddy’s father was in fact a werewolf. There’s never been a case of someone like Remus having children like Teddy, no one knows if there are side effects or lingering damage from the lycanthrope disease. Please keep an eye on him, and bring him to a Healer if he starts getting migraines. We already know he isn’t a werewolf, but it could still hurt him. Just keep an eye out for complications.”

“I know you never answer these letters, sometimes I wonder why I still send them. Sometimes I want to follow the owl after it’s gone, to find you. It’s been years, Andromeda. Let me see him, please. He’s my godson, I promised Remus and Tonks both that I would be there for him. Please just consider it.”

“Gin and I got married. Wish you and Teddy could have been there. How is he?”

When he got to the last letter he was pained to realize the way it ended seemed open, as if Harry had intended to write again, but it seemed he never did. Something must have happened to draw him away from the one sided correspondence. Maybe after six years, he’d given up hope of reaching Andromeda and convincing her to let he and Teddy meet. A godfather he never knew he had, a grandfather he never knew he had. His father had been a werewolf, Teddy knew that much, his nan had never hidden it from him, even seemed proud of the man, but the rest of it? Why had she never told Teddy?

It took a little more digging, but finally Teddy managed to find out the location of both his godfather and grandfather. Most of the stuff in his childhood home he packed away into storage at the French bank for wizards and witches, and it nearly tore his heart out to sell the cottage itself, even if it added a decent coin into his vault, to be transferred to his vault in London. Honestly he didn’t even know he had a vault in London, but when he sat down with the witch at the Paris bank she explained it to him.

“You are the only living member of the Lupin family left alive,” she said, speaking to him in French as she looked through her files.

“No, I have a grandfather, Lyall Lupin,” Teddy had argued, but the painful look she gave him made his heart sink into his stomach.

“The date of death is marked a year and a half ago,” her voice was soft, and Teddy clung to the edges of his seat. “I am sorry.” She shuffled her papers, clearing her throat. “There was only one name in his will. Everything he owned, property and fortune, was left to one Edward Remus “Teddy” Lupin, born at the end of April 1998, the only child of his son, Remus John Lupin, deceased May 2nd of 1998, and his daughter-in-law, Nymphadora Tonks Lupin, deceased May 2nd of 1998.” Her eyes flicked up to him. “That’s you?” Teddy nodded, feeling numb.

It was simple after that, signing papers to transfer all of Andromeda’s fortune left to him into his vault in London. He stopped before he left the room, turning to look back at the witch as she sorted away her things.

“Can I ask one thing?”

“Please do, Monsieur Lupin.”

“Did my father, anyone in my family, know a man named Harry?”

Her eyes grew wide as saucers, and when Teddy left the bank it was with a simple newspaper clipping taken from the Daily Prophet published in London. It was a photograph of a man, maybe in his early thirties, with black hair and round glasses. He was handsome, the smile was humble and full of ease, and on his forehead was a lightning shaped scar that cut towards his eyebrow. The article read simply: “Harry James Potter, Gryffindor of Hogwarts known by many names and successes: The Boy Who Lived, Champion of the Triwizard Tournament, The Chosen One, Senior Auror, Head Auror, and now newly appointed Head of Magical Law Enforcement. Rest assured the wizarding world will be safe in the capable hands of the man who won the Great Wizarding War for good.”

The great Harry Potter, Teddy remembered now, how Andromeda sometimes muttered under her breath in curses. “Great Potter, wonderful Potter, alive while my baby isn’t. How great he is, Harry Potter, savior of the wizarding world.” That’s who Harry was. That’s who Teddy’s godfather was. The man who defeated Voldemort and saved the wizarding world. 

He was still alive. Living somewhere in London and working at the Ministry as the Head of Magical Law Enforcement. Teddy had living family, in a sense, though he shared no blood with Harry. Remus and Tonks made this man his godfather, had wanted Harry to be there for Teddy while he grew up. Thanks to Andromeda uprooting them from England and moving to France, Harry was never able to be in his life, and Teddy grew up not knowing he even existed.

There was no blood waiting for him in London, Teddy made certain he understood that as he packed his things and boarded a plane to take him to London the slow, legal, Muggle way. It was strangling, but he was there in no time at all, shouldering his way through the crowd with one bag over his shoulder and the other carried at his side.

It was beautiful in its own way, the bustling of Muggles and the cheerful noise of chatter, Teddy saw tourists taking pictures and teenagers taking selfies. He saw no one immediately out of the ordinary, no elegant robes or anything that might suggest there were wizards or witches in the crowd mixed with the Muggles. If anything, Teddy was probably the one who stood out the most, with his worn and faded black boots tied with bright yellow laces, jeans ripped at the knees and badly patched up, t-shirt with a faded “Weird Sisters” logo on the chest, black leather jacket faded and wrinkled from age and use, topped off with his blue hair and sunglasses. He didn’t think he looked like a tourist, but he certainly looked out of place.

The first thing he did was track down a hotel near The Leaky Cauldron,  run by a Squib who accepted both Muggle and Magical. When Teddy wrote down his name in the Hotel Guest Book, the receptionist just stared at him looking equal shades of shocked and confused, handing him a key and staring openly as Teddy wandered towards the stairs.

He unpacked when he reached his suit on the top floor, taking stock of the room, which included a sitting room that he walked into that broke off into an open kitchen to the right, and double doors to the left that lead into the suit bedroom and an adjoined bathroom, with additional glass double doors that lead onto a balcony overlooking a view of the London Eye just across from where he stood. It was a nice room, big enough, and Teddy intended to stay there for a while, at least until he found Harry.

First things first, though, Teddy needed a drink. The past few months had been a mess, and he was too emotionally exhausted and burnt out to hop right into seeking out the famous Harry Potter. Teddy prided himself on his ability to find the good in every situation, even if it upset him he could still manage to smile and laugh and move forward. He was stubborn and cheeky and reckless, steadfast and level headed and kind, but it was too much for him to handle, to lose his only family and realize that he really was entirely alone. An orphan who never knew his parents, who watched his grandmother pass away in her sleep and learned through a bloody bank teller that his grandfather had died nearly two years before. It was too much. Teddy needed to not think any more.

He didn’t have to think hard to decide he wasn’t going to go to the Leaky Cauldron for a drink. He didn’t know of any other bars or clubs in London that catered exclusively to magical kind, but at this point it didn’t matter. Teddy knew enough about his family now to know if he wasn’t careful, there was a chance someone could recognize him as Remus and Nymphadora’s son who’d been missing for the past twenty-seven years, and he wasn’t ready to have a conversation about that yet. He didn’t want to attract the attention of the press or the people who would be curious about his metamorph abilities, werewolf blood, and First Class Order of Merlin father.

That being said, it wasn’t all that difficult to find a club once he’d stepped outside into the crisp night air. The one he chose was a few blocks away from his hotel, and didn’t look remarkable at all really. Just a dive bar club that was too hot and humid, the dance floor so crowded that no one seemed to have any personal space left as hands groped bodies they weren’t familiar with and balanced cocktails and schooners that spilt despite the attempt to keep the drink inside.

Teddy immediately noted that more than one person had drastically colored hair, and internally thanked the Muggles for inventing hair dye so he didn’t look like some sort of otherworldly being with his blue hair. In reality he probably could have just changed it to something more normal, like brown or black, so no one would notice him, but the blue was comforting to him. It was something familiar, and with so much happening at once, he clung to any sort of normality in his life he could. He could see a dozen shades of pink, red, blue, green, purple, and everything else coloring people’s hair in the crowd, but Teddy decided not to bother himself with the dancefloor as he went straight for the bar.

The bartender couldn’t have been older than 21 with dark skin that seemed to be dusted with gold powder, eyes dark under the lighting with equally black hair that was braided into plait cornrows at both sides of his head, the rest of it held back with ties and hairpins. He had a pleasant smile on his face as he bounced on his heels to the music booming in the club, drying a glass before setting it down and picking up another, eyes finding Teddy the moment he took a seat at the stool in front of him.

“Evening,” he greeted, a slight frown taking to his lips as his eyes swept over Teddy. “Not looking too good there, are you mate? Bad day?”

“You could say that,” Teddy sighed, shoulders sinking as he pulled off his leather jacket and laid it on the stool beside him. “Can I just get a beer? I don’t care what kind.”

“Sure thing.” The bartender stepped back for the mini fridge behind him, reaching in to grab a bottle before straightening up and picking a glass tankard from a rack. “Got an interesting accent.”

“I grew up in France,” Teddy explained as the young man set the tankard down and cracked open a beer to pour it out. “My nan raised me, she was from here, so mostly I picked up speech patterns from her. The accent came from the rest of my exposure to the French language.”

“Fluent?”

“Yeah.”

“Impressive. My aunt’s French, speaks it fluently. You should hear my bloody cousins, too.” He slid the glass over to Teddy, who gratefully held it between his hands, staring into the amber liquid. “So what’s brought you to London?”

Teddy considered it a moment before answering. “Family business.” The bartender hummed as Teddy lifted the tankard, barely noticing the man’s eyes suddenly locked onto his shirt, glittering with intrigue and mischief.

“I see you’re a fan of the classics?”

Teddy pulled the glass away and arched an eyebrow. “What do you mean by that?”

“I mean you probably need something stronger than that,” the bartender waved a hand at the tankard like the beer inside was an insult to beers everywhere. He then looked back and forth suspiciously, reaching under the bar and dragging Teddy’s glass away, much to Teddy’s annoyance, though it turned to interest when the man dumped the beer before refilling the glass with a deep red liquor from an unmarked bottle. “Try this instead.”

Teddy held the glass again, eyeing the man suspiciously as he propped both hands on the bar and leaned into it, nodding at the alcohol with a proud grin and watching intently as Teddy brought it to his lips. He smelt it before he tasted it, burning malt washing over his tongue as his eyes widened. He looked down at the glass when he pulled it away.

“Firewhiskey.”

“Most Muggles don’t go around sporting Weird Sister’s merchandise from the 1980’s.” The bartender stood straighter again and stowed the bottle back under the bar. “That’s on the house.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely!” He leaned closer, holding a hand up to his mouth and whispering. “Between you and me, I’m not exactly supposed to have that here. Give it to Muggles accidentally and it could be the death of them. Magical alcohol is a bit too strong for them.”

“Am I doing something illegal by drinking this?” Teddy asked, and the bartender grinned even wider.

“Course not, but I certainly am by giving it to you.”

Teddy just shrugged, lifting the glass back up. “Cheers then.”

The young man laughed. “Name’s Fred.”

Teddy folded his left arm across the bar, his right elbow propped up and holding the glass as he slouched forward. “Ted,” he introduced himself simply.

Surely a kid like this one wouldn’t be able to put together that Ted was actually Teddy who was actually Edward Remus Lupin, son of Order of Merlin winner Remus Lupin and godson to the great Harry Potter, right? All of that was before his time, after all.

“Ted like Theodore? How very appropriate.”

“So’s Fred,” Teddy said into his glass as he took another drink, and Fred laughed loudly.

“You’re not wrong! Dad calls me Junior most the time. I was named for my uncle,” something wistful softened his smile. “He died in the war.”

Teddy eyed him a moment before looking down into the red of the whiskey, giving a nod. “It’s a good name, and a worthy honor.”

Fred looked a bit taken aback at the comment, but seemed pleased after a moment as he smiled. “Thanks, mate.”

Fred continued to talk, though Teddy was only half listening, and felt ashamed at how relieved he was when the younger man sidestepped to Teddy’s right to help another customer. It wasn’t that Teddy didn’t like the kid, he seemed nice, and under different circumstances Teddy would have loved to have a deeper conversation with him, maybe about the war, because Teddy only knew bits and pieces of it since he wasn’t exposed to its history growing up in France. Right now, though, Teddy just wanted to drink in silence and figure out what he was going to do next.

He didn’t know much of anything about Harry Potter, really. He knew the name, and he knew the man’s reputation as it spread from the UK and into France, probably because of what happened to he and the other Champions during the Triwizard Tournament that Beauxbatons was part of back in 1994. Everyone at school had whispered gossip about Harry Potter at least once, so Teddy knew a bit, but he didn’t know Harry personally. Though he should have. It was his given right. Harry was his godfather after all.

Would Harry believe him, though? When Teddy showed up stumbling over his own name, would Harry believe him or turn him away? If that happened, what was Teddy supposed to do? He had no one left… 

His eyes were wandering as he lost himself to his thoughts and drank his firewhiskey sip by sip, too distracted to take a real drink. He felt a tingle at the back of his neck, not comprehending the sensation at first until he realized someone was watching him from across the room. He shifted his eyes as inconspicuously as he could, catching sight of the man who’d taken an interest in him. He was young like Fred, but certainly old enough to drink. Twenty-one at the very least or he wouldn’t be allowed in the club. Teddy could only see so much of him from the distance and only peeking from the corners of his eyes, much of his vision obstructed by the glowing strobe lights and the fog that was curling along the floor from the Muggle machine in the corner of the room.

Teddy could see the unique shade of auburn hair that reminded him of the red and brown copper color the leaves in the park near his home changed during autumn, and his eyes were an amber color a million times better than the Muggle beer Teddy had been given before it was replaced by firewhiskey. His hair was tied half up none too elegantly, so Teddy imagined he just shoved his bangs out of his face and pinned it to keep it out of his eyes, but it looked good. In fact, damn, even from a distance and with the additional obstructions to his view, the young man was beautiful. Damn.

Teddy quickly tore his eyes away to glare at the bar and throw his head back to take a good mouthful of liquor, letting the burn go straight down his throat into his chest and stomach as he curled the hand on the bar into a tight fist. It was probably because he was a little buzzed, that sudden attraction to a stranger in a club in a different country he’d never set foot in before. The alcohol mixed with the grief of his grandparents' death and the preceding pitfall of loneliness. He didn’t need a one-night shag with someone he’d never met before, he needed another glass of whiskey, a full night’s sleep, and a therapy session.

“Need a top off, mate?” Fred asked, coming back over to Teddy and wiping his hands on a rag that he threw over his shoulder as Teddy nodded, pushing the glass towards Fred.

“Wouldn’t say no to it.”

“Looks like you need it,” Fred said as he pulled the firewhiskey bottle back up and poured it fluidly into the glass, filling it back up. “Sure you don’t wanna talk, Theodore?”

“Just Ted is fine,” Teddy mumbled into his glass, and he felt the new presence to his left before the new voice spoke up, sounding a little too silky and enticing.

“Get me a shot of that, too, would you Freddie?”

“Hey, mate! I thought that was you slinking around in the corner!” Fred set the bottle down and shuffled further down the bar before reaching over it, and Teddy quirked his head in time to see he was grabbing the shoulder of the young man that had been staring at Teddy, dragging him into a familiar hug that the other man returned before grabbing the firewhiskey and a shot glass. “I’ll treat you, my man. Ted, this is my cousin!”

Teddy turned his head enough to look at the man, who was smiling down at him as he took the shot from Fred. “Jamie.”

Teddy could have cursed himself for almost shivering, as if the guy’s name was enchanted or something. Honestly, what the hell was happening? Was the whiskey laced with something?

“Jamie, this guy grew up in France!” Fred exclaimed in excitement, pointing at Teddy while hugging the firewhiskey bottle to his chest. “How wicked is that?!”

“Very wicked,” Jamie agreed with a grin that wasn’t overly sweet or tender, instead holding this honest sort of genuine interest, one corner of his lips higher than the other to show off a shallow dimple in his cheek, a glitter in his eyes that held more curiosity than anything malicious.

Teddy didn’t make any arguments as Jamie took the stool next to Teddy, sitting towards the bar itself but turned slightly to prop his elbow on the counter and hold his chin in his hand so he could watch Teddy.

“So you went to Beauxbatons Academy?” Teddy felt himself tense, but the laugh Jamie gave seemed to make his anxiety melt away. “Easy there, I know a fellow wizard when I see one. Drinking Freddie’s stash of firewhiskey and sporting a wizard band shirt? You’re a bit too obvious.” He reached out, and for some reason Teddy didn’t jerk away when Jamie pinched a section of blue hair hanging in his eyes, twisting it. “How’d you get it like this? Muggle dye? Or did you transfigure it? Charm it?”

“If you guess right, I’ll reward you,” Teddy said, blushing internally and swearing at the fact he actually said that out loud, but Jamie didn’t look too deterred as he grinned bigger. Teddy wasn’t normally one to flirt, but that mess of a sentence he just threw up was definitely a crappy attempt at flirting, and while it was beyond him, Jamie seemed fully invested in it, downing his shot of firewhiskey without so much as a wince, though his eyes remained glued to Teddy’s.

“Are you old enough to be drinking that?” Teddy asked, less reprimanding and more flirty, which wasn’t his intention, really, but the flirtatious tone just came out without his control.

James gave a smirk in response, turning towards Teddy to show off the plaid button up he was wearing, the first two buttons undone that Teddy did his best not to look at as James reached out to take the glass of firewhiskey from him, fingers brushing the back of his hand before pulling the glass closer to his lips. “I’m legal, yes. Bit curious, aren’t we?”

Teddy felt both irritated and impressed by this kid’s gall, just taking his drink out of his hand like that, watching the red liquor spill into his mouth. He had nice lips…

“Are you planning to drink all of that?” Teddy asked, wondering when his voice got so rough as Jamie smiled against the lip of the glass, staring directly at Teddy.

“Why? Gonna punish me if I do?”

“Might make you pay me back for it.”

“Firewhiskey’s on the house for people like us.”

“Wasn’t talking galleons,” Teddy said, his entire body burning for what seemed like no reason.

There was just something about this man, though they’d never met before, never seen or spoken to each other before tonight. Maybe it was the bass of the music vibrating down to his bone marrow, the buzz from the whiskey or the crushing loneliness of having no one left. He was cold, and even after twenty-seven years of living, dating, breaking up, Teddy had never seen anything that could rival the honest warmth in Jamie’s eyes.

He was smart at least, eyes going wide at Teddy’s statement and cheeks going red. He stood up from the stool and stepped impossibly closer to Teddy, who had to tilt his head to keep eye contact as Jamie put the glass back to his lips and threw his head back, exposing his throat as it bobbed with each swallow he took of the whiskey. Teddy felt the inexplicable desire to seize forward and sink his teeth into his throat, feel it vibrate as Jamie moaned. Before he could, thank Merlin, Jamie slammed the empty glass onto the bar, cleaning the remnants of whiskey from his mouth with a thumb, face so flushed Teddy could make out the splattering of freckles across his cheeks and nose.

“How much do I owe you?” Jamie asked in a honeyed voice, and Teddy reached back to grab his leather jacket before standing up with him. His brown eyes got a bit wider as his head tilted back to keep his focus on Teddy’s face.

He was taller than Jamie by quite a bit. If he leaned forward he could probably set his chin perfectly on Teddy’s shoulder without getting on his toes or crouching down. His cheek was just at the height of Teddy’s chin, and he seemed to like it, sucking his bottom lip between his teeth and making a noise. Or maybe he didn’t; the club was loud after all. The warmth in his eyes was suddenly searing.

“Freddie, I’m leaving now,” Jamie said, reaching out to fist the front of Teddy’s shirt as Fred made a hum from down the hall.

“Sure mate. Oh boy- hey, just don’t disapparate, it took me ages to cover up for you last time!”

Teddy lifted a hand to hover it at his waist, twisting his wrist and sending a wordless spell across the room, the fog machine sputtering and spitting more mist and fog that had the club patrons shrieking in delight and shock as it hid both of them from view. Jamie’s eyes glowed and he tugged Teddy’s shirt, pulling him closer before a crack echoed in Teddy’s ears.

Then they were outside, and Jamie was dragging Teddy forward as he backed up into the wall behind the club. “Sorry, we can’t go to my place,” Jamie apologized as Teddy’s self control broke a little, caging Jamie against the cinderblock wall with his arms braced on either side of him, ducking his head to breath hot at the side of his neck, shutting his own eyes when the younger man shuddered. “Mm, I share a flat with my little brother. Best to not disturb him.”

“I have a suite,” Teddy said against Jamie’s ear. “You’ll love it.”

“You buy me a drink then take me to a fancy hotel?” Jamie teased, hands gripping the sides of Teddy’s shirt as Teddy pulled back to look into his excited eyes. “Does that mean I have to cook you breakfast tomorrow?”

“Depends on if you can walk or not,” Teddy cooed, and Jamie’s eyes unfocused as his breath hitched, hips rolling against nothing.

“How do you know I’m not expecting to top?” Jamie asked breathlessly, and Teddy licked his lips, which were suddenly too dry.

“Maybe I can smell it on you,” he growled a little, half angry at how constricting his jeans were already. “A bloke like you… how do you want it?”

“Fuck, I…” Jamie looked wrecked, and they hadn’t even touched yet.

Teddy hadn’t touched him. He’d breathed against his neck and let Jamie cling to his shirt, but he hadn’t touched the man yet. If he was this vocal just from sexual tension, what would he sound like in bed?

“Merlin just get me on a bed and fuck me,” Jamie was shaking as he reached up and stretched his fingers across Teddy’s cheeks, leaning up to pant against his lips but not kissing him. “You’re right, I am that kinda bloke. Take me home, Ted.”

Teddy finally touched Jamie, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and the other around the small of his back, one hand pressing into his back and dipping him as he mouthed the dimple in Jamie’s cheek but still didn’t kiss him. He did the apparation spell that time, landing in the walk in of his suite with the door still locked and throwing his leather jacket on the couch as he grabbed Jamie by the waist.

His brown eyes swept the room as fast as he could before his concentration broke. “I recognize this place. Aren’t the rooms here a bit price- ohhhhh.”

Teddy had a hand up the front of Jamie’s button up shirt, lips finally at his neck to suck at his pulse point as it beat beneath his lips.

“Your hand, fuck,” Jamie croaked, one hand clinging to Teddy’s wrist through his shirt as he found one of his nipples and tweaked it between his fingers, drawing a mewl from him.

“What is it, never been touched?” Teddy asked into his neck, and Jamie panted.

“Not like this, shit. You know what you’re doing, don't you?” Teddy pulled away to meet Jamie’s eye, and the younger man froze as if the expression was frightening. “What? What is it?”

Teddy lifted a hand to caress Jamie’s face tenderly. “Have you done this kind of thing before?”

Jamie looked startled. “I don’t have any diseases-”

“I trust that,” Teddy interrupted. “I just mean I need you to tell me if this is your first time.”

“What for?”

“Because I don’t want to hurt you.”

Jamie looked gobsmacked, lips parted as if he’d never heard something so ridiculous, staring at Teddy like he had three heads before closing his mouth, something curiously vulnerable in his eyes as he lidded them halfway and leaned his cheek further into Teddy’s hand.

“I’m not a virgin.”

Teddy didn’t know why that fact put such a sour taste in his mouth, but he swallowed it down to speak again. “Were you… the first time…”

Jamie looked puzzled before he again looked dumbstruck. “You mean was I forced?” Teddy winced, Jamie gave a gentle smile. “No, never. It hurt a bit, but I said yes and I wanted it.” Teddy felt relieved at that, while wondering why he even cared, and Jamie laughed softly, relaxing as he lifted a hand to Teddy’s face. “You’re a remarkably kind person, to care so much for a stranger you just met at a bar.”

“It’s human to care for people, especially if you’re going to be sharing a bed.”

“It’s just a one-night stand,” Jamie said, and Teddy probably would have felt offended if Jamie hadn’t been looking at him like that.

No more words were exchanged as Teddy pulled Jamie closer and kissed him finally on the lips. Jamie sighed into his mouth, jaw slacking and kneading his lips against Teddy’s as Teddy went back to working at his shirt, unbuttoning it as he backed Jamie towards the double doors to his bedroom, flicking his wrist to open the doors and pushing the shirt off Jamie’s shoulders, still kissing as he flung it off to the side, hands reaching up to hold Jamie’s face and tilting his own so he could deepen the kiss, forcing his tongue into the younger man’s mouth and carving a path as Jamie moaned, trembling.

Jamie was as hot as Teddy expected, his skin was burning, and there was still too much clothes separating them. Teddy continued to wave his hand with wordless spells, untying his boots and kicking them off without having to disengage from the kiss. Jamie’s lips tasted like chocolate and cinnamon, his moans went straight down Teddy’s spine to pool into his gut.

He picked Jamie up by his waist, forcing a muffled squeak out of him as they toppled onto the bed together, Teddy on top of him as he reached down to undo his belt, leaving it so he could flick his wrist down to remove Jamie’s shoes without touching them. Jamie pushed himself onto his elbows to lift into the kiss, leaving several short ones on Teddy’s lips like he didn’t want to stop but eventually pulling himself away so he could scoot himself higher onto the bed, leaning into the pillows before reaching for his own jeans and rubbing himself through them as he loosened the belt and undid the button, pulling the zipper down as Teddy copied his shaky movements.

“Have I mentioned yet how insanely hot it is when you use wandless magic?” Jamie breathed. “How are you so good at it?”

“Practice,” Teddy said, lowering himself down to the bed and licking a stripe from the elastic band of Jamie’s boxers peeking from his open fly and up to his naval as Jamie tossed back his head, hips jerking.

“Ohhh fuck.”

“Want me to suck you off?” Teddy asked, biting the elastic of Jamie’s boxers as he cursed.

“Fuck, yes.” He quickly reached out before Teddy could get his pants off. “But no, don’t do that,” he was panting, fisting the shirt at Teddy’s shoulders. “It’s already too much, I’m not normally like this, I swear, I just… oh Merlin just put it in, please, I’m begging you.”

Teddy couldn’t find it in him to feel smug, when he felt far too relieved he wasn’t the only one of them losing themselves to this. It was just so hot. This man he didn’t even know was reaching places in Teddy he didn’t know were there, deep into his soul, his entire body shook, wanting to absorb Jamie’s heat.

He sat back on his heels and tore the shirt over his head as Jamie sucked in a breath, dragging his hands over Teddy’s chest and stomach, palming at his nipples as he shuffled around to get both their jeans off, stopping abruptly to simply stare at Jamie for a moment. His entire body seemed to be the same light tan, freckles decorating him like stars. They were at his shoulders, at his hips, even his inner thighs, and Teddy felt his mouth water from the desire to bite bruises into those freckles in particular.

That thought was what made Teddy resolve the fact this probably wasn’t going to be a one-night stand. Jamie was too delectable to have once and move on. Teddy was going to fall apart if they didn’t fuck right then, but later, when they weren’t in such a rush, he would worship every inch of Jamie’s beautiful body. Would he run if Teddy said that out loud?

He decided not to, waving a hand to conjure lube directly into his hand as he squeezed Jamie’s thigh. “Spread out for me, beautiful. Let me see where you want me.”

Jamie blushed down to his chest as he held his thighs and spread his legs, turning his face into the pillows and watching Teddy with carnal fog in his eyes, which rolled almost violently, body jerking as Teddy spread the lube over his hole, opening him with his left thumb as he circled the ring of pink muscle with his right index, testing for a moment before pushing against it, thrusting slow and shallow until he’d worked it all the way into Jamie’s body. His hole clenched around his single finger as Teddy worked it, pushing it in before sliding it out and repeating the process until Jamie had relaxed a bit. Then he added a second finger, and Jamie’s body seemed to protest as he tightened, before he made a broken groan into the pillows, thighs trembling as his hips rolled and Teddy took it as a sign to thrust his fingers and scissor them apart.

“Like that?”

“God, yes, more.”

“More fingers?”

“Just fuck me, I’m gonna come like this and I don’t want to.”

Teddy held Jamie’s hip gently and slid his fingers out, conjuring another palm of lube which he used to slick his cock. Jamie watched him with trembling, parted lips, body shaking in desire.

“You’re hung,” Jamie said dizzily, and Teddy smiled wickedly.

“Sure am, and it’s all going in.”

“Oh my god…”

Teddy was already hard, throbbing, worried that if he stroked himself too much he would come, and he wanted to fuck Jamie before then. So he stopped, holding his cock in one hand as he scuffled forward, taking one of the pillows to put under Jamie’s hips. The other man looked touched at the action, eyes rolling as Teddy rubbed the flared head of his cock over Jamie’s slick entrance.

“Ready for me?”

“Yeah, Ted, Merlin, get it in me.” Jamie gasped, hands holding the back of his knees and holding his legs as Teddy braced himself and lead his cock to press against Jamie’s hole, which spread and stretched as Jamie flinched from the sensation, moaning immediately as Teddy breached his body.

He set about thrusting shallowly and gently, eyes shut against the debauched noise of lube easing his cock in and out, the moans coming from Jamie even more candied and sinful as he dug his head into the pillows, gasping and whimpering as Teddy eased deeper and deeper with each thrust.

“Fuck, fuck, Ted, oh my god, your fucking cock.”

“You like my cock?”

“Fuck I love your cock,” Jamie moaned. “Fuck me into the mattress with that gorgeous fucking cock of yours.”

“If you insist,” Teddy teased, reaching out to grab the back of Jamie’s knees, knocking his hands away so he could instead fist the sheets, his back arching with a scream of ecstasy as Teddy started to fuck him true to his word, right into the mattress.

Jamie moaned and cried incomprehensible words that almost sounded like poetry the way he sobbed them, clinging to the sheets before wrapping his arms into the pillows at his head, finally slotting them into the bars of the headboard, using the grip as leverage to lift his hips, slamming them into Teddy’s as he thrust his cock in deep, stunned for all of three seconds that Jamie actually managed to take him all in before his mind became a fog of lust.

It felt too good, Jamie was absolutely melting around his cock, his channel hot and tight and just right. He’d never had anyone this good before, Teddy realized, comparing every lover he’d ever had to Jamie in a matter of seconds and shaking his head, digging his nails into Jamie’s thighs. None of the men or women he’d been with, virgin or not, had been this tight, this hot, this perfect. It was like they already knew each others bodies, like they’d fucked and made love a million times before in a past life, memorized every bend and curve and G-spot that had Jamie sobbing and shaking.

Teddy leaned forward, hooking Jamie’s legs over his arms as he encompassed his body, sinking deep and thrusting shallowly against where he thought his prostate was. Judging by the way Jamie’s eyes rolled beautifully, Teddy had been right, and he thrust harder.

“This hard enough, baby? Fuck, Jamie. You fit so well around me, so hot, so tight.” Jamie moaned loudly and Teddy braced himself when he clenched around him. “You’re coming , aren’t you? I can feel you twitching, it’s so good. Feels good when you’re about to come. Fuck, Jamie, come for me, come with my prick right here.” He slammed his hips into Jamie, whose voice picked up, the headboard slamming into the wall as he pinched his eyes closed. “That’s right, sweetheart, right where you love it, come for me.”

Jamie arched his back hard, screaming, Teddy’s eyes rolled and pinched closed as he gave a broken moan, his hips numbing and his cock burying deep as he came hard with Jamie’s hole clenching, gripping his cock as if to keep it in place until Teddy had been spent. His shoulders shook as he opened his eyes to see white stripes on Jamie’s stomach, dripping from his twitching cock, a few more drops spilling as Jamie whimpered, one arm over his eyes, his other hand still holding the headboard.

“Ted.” His voice was a whimper, and Teddy took his hips with both hands, hushing Jamie softly as he pulled his flaccid cock from his body, watching entranced as his come began dripping out.

He felt panicked for a moment and ashamed that he hadn’t been in his right mind enough to wear a condom, grabbing his wand to clean Jamie inside and out until he was certain nothing was left, then sighed and tossed it to the bed, crawling up to press a sweet kiss onto Jamie’s red, kiss swollen lips.

“How was that?” Teddy hummed against his mouth, and Jamie dragged his arm away, one hand burying into his hair, smiling at Teddy with a blissful, sated expression.

“Never had a shag that good in my entire life.”

Teddy snorted, holding Jamie’s face with a hand and rubbing it over his cheek, for a moment neither said anything, just stared at each other, and Teddy wondered if he was wearing the same curious, dreamy expression that Jamie was. He was the one who moved first, flopping onto the bed beside Jamie so their shoulders were touching, though Jamie squirmed around and rolled onto his side once he’d gotten his breath back, one arm tucked under the pillow at his head as he smiled at Teddy.

“How about me, then? Though I kind of just laid there and let you do all the work.”

“Maybe this time,” Teddy hummed, smirking. “I’ll have you ride me next.”

Jamie looked puzzled. “You want to go again already?”

“Nah, too tired.” Teddy rolled his head and shut his eyes. “Been travelling all day, and I haven’t been sleeping much. Just next time.” He opened his eyes when there was no response, rolling his head back to see Jamie was staring off to the side, chewing his bottom lip. “Stay the night,” Teddy blurted, and Jamie gaped at him before something uneasy filtered onto his face.

“I shouldn’t,” he said, shifting around to push himself onto his right hand. “My brother will wonder where I’ve gone.”

“How old is he?”

“Nineteen.”

“I’m sure he’ll be fine then.” Teddy pushed himself up with Jamie, both of them leaning against one hand, faces inches apart. “I was joking earlier by the way, I can make breakfast. I need to go to the store first though.”

Jamie looked torn, staring at Teddy like he wanted nothing more than to curl up with him and spend the night. Teddy wanted to ask what he was so worried about, and insist he would never hurt him, but after a moment Jamie looked off to the side.

“Can I wear your shirt?”

Teddy heard a buzz in his ears from a blend of confusion and appeal, reaching a hand to the side to accio his shirt into his hand without casting the spell vocally. Jamie’s eyes glittered in delight as he took the shirt, quickly yanking it over his head and shoving his arms through the sleeves, taking a moment to check the shirt collar and test how big it was. It actually fit him pretty well, though it was a bit big at the shoulders.

After a moment Jamie hummed, satisfied, then threw himself back onto the bed and curled into the pillows. “Alright I’ll stay.”

Teddy felt something warm flutter in his chest. “Just curious.” He leaned over Jamie, hovering over him. “You didn’t shag me just for my shirt, did you?”

Jamie gave him an innocent look. “Of course I did, Ted, what do you take me for?”

Teddy snorted hard, dropping his face against Jamie’s chest. He was going to lean up and lie next to him, but his entire body melted against Jamie and into the mattress so he was lying with his head on Jamie’s chest when a tender hand decided to card through his hair, fingers working out the sweat matted tangles and massaging his scalp. Teddy suddenly felt heavy and tired, one arm slung over Jamie, waving his wrist lazily to shut the lights off and sending them into darkness.

Streaks of lights from the neon of the stores, streetlamps, and passing cars came in from between the window curtains, casting over the bedspread and duvet that Teddy drew up to cover both himself and Jamie.

“I really can cook breakfast, by the way,” Teddy said, and Jamie hummed.

“I said I would, right?”

“Only if you can walk, Jamie.”

Jamie laughed, his fingers still working out Teddy’s hair. “I think I’ll be okay. I’m tougher than I look.”

“Yeah? How do you figure?”

“Well I am an Auror.”

Teddy’s eyes snapped open in shock, shoving himself up to hover over Jamie again, leaving him looking shocked. “Auror? You work at the Ministry?”

“What? I mean, yeah. I don’t work tomorrow though.”

“Then do you know-” Teddy immediately cut himself off, snapping his mouth shut and staring down at Jamie, who suddenly looked confused and worried.

“Do I know who?”

Teddy felt like he’d choked himself. What was he doing bringing up Harry Potter after sex? That was weird on so many levels. You don’t just shag a bloke then have a casual conversation about the godfather you never knew you had. This wasn’t about him, this was about Jamie. It wasn’t fair to change the subject when Teddy was learning something new about him.

“... do you know, I mean, anyone from the Department of Mysteries?” Jamie looked at him with a blank expression. “What I mean, back in school, people… talked, gossiped about Unspeakables, and I did a bit of research for the French Ministry in my spare time… so… curious…”

“Oh. Well, I mean the Unspeakables are a really private Department. I don’t think anyone really knows them. They keep their work classified and secret. I do know people who are Unspeakables, but I don’t talk to them.”

Teddy nodded, lowering himself back down to hug Jamie around the waist, head returning to his chest, and Jamie went back to petting his hair.

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah, just… got excited.”

Jamie laughed softly. “It’s not that glamorous, no need to be so starstruck.” Teddy just curled his fingers into the shirt Jamie was wearing, pressing his lips tightly together and staring at the curtains as Jamie stroked the hair at the base of Teddy’s skull. “You’re sure you’re alright, Ted?”

“Just tired. Oh, you can call me Teddy if you want.”

“Hm, Teddy?”

“Yeah, most people do. You can keep calling me Ted too if you want, though.”

“Can I call you Theodore?”

“No.”

Jamie laughed. “Not a fan of your full name?”

“It’s not that.” Teddy decided not to tell him it wasn’t actually his name. “I just prefer Ted or Teddy.”

“I like that too,” Jamie hummed. “You can call me James if you want. That’s my given name. People call me Jamie though.”

“I see.”

“Evans,” Jamie- James said quickly, and Teddy made a noise of confusion. “I mean, my name. James Evans.”

“Oh, okay,” Teddy thought for a moment. “Howell.”

“Theodore Howell?”

“Teddy,” was Teddy’s grumbled response, and James laughed.

“Teddy Howell.”

“Yeah…”

“Cute.”

“Thanks, I got it from my grandparents.”

James laughed, but Teddy was being entirely serious. He’d gotten his name from his maternal grandfather Ted Tonks. His fraternal grandmother, Hope Lupin, had been a Welsh Muggle whose maiden name had been Howell. What better alias to use with the cute Auror he just shagged senseless?

Teddy actually felt the desire to tell the truth, tell James who he was, but if he worked at the Ministry he probably knew about Remus Lupin and Harry Potter, and Teddy wasn’t sure he was ready to reveal just how pathetically alone he was yet. What if the revelation chased James away? Teddy didn’t want to scare him by telling him he was an orphan with no blood family left alive. That could end up putting too much pressure on James to stay, and Teddy didn’t want to manipulate his emotions like that.

No, he didn’t need to know or worry about that. It was Teddy’s business, Teddy’s life. He’d only just met James, telling him his life story was too much to take in at once. Besides, if he revealed he had werewolf blood in him, would James hate him? Teddy knew that prejudice against werewolves wasn’t as bad as it had been when Remus was alive, and he wasn’t even a full werewolf, but there was still a stigma. There were still classmates during school who demonized him and secluded him like he was an untouchable lepar. Teddy spent most of his time at Beauxbatons not having friends to talk to, because they learned who his father had been and became disgusted. They weren’t all like that, but the majority… Teddy didn’t even want to entertain the idea that James Evans with his warm brown eyes would be the same as them.

><><><><><><><><><><><

The pillow Teddy’s face was buried in smelled heavily of cinnamon, sweat, liquor and chocolate, and he groaned as he turned his head in order to shove his face deeper, taking a slow breath in to linger on the intoxicating scent and wondering why it was so familiar. The slight ache behind his eyes was what reminded him of the night before, how he went to a bar for a drink and ended up bringing home a man he’d never seen before to shag before falling asleep on his chest. Teddy’s jaw locked as he kept his face hidden, hoping his hair wasn’t as dramatically pink as he felt it might be from the embarrassment and humiliation.

Teddy wasn’t the kind of person who just took blokes or dames home for a one-night-stand. It wasn’t something he was into, fucking and forgetting. He didn’t have the stomach for it. His nan said it was because he had such a big heart, that he couldn’t be intimate with someone without becoming dangerously attached to them. For Teddy, sleeping with someone meant long term commitment and love, and he’d gotten his heart broken more times than he could count because of his weakness.

He rolled his head again, opening his eyes and trying not to feel disappointed and sad when he found he was alone in bed. The sheets beside him were cold to the touch, and Teddy sighed, shutting his eyes again. Maybe there was just something wrong with him. Maybe it was because he was raised in a secluded village by his single grandmother with no one else around to help. He had no other parental figures, no friends outside of school, and he didn’t even know his parents names until recently. He’d been cut off from everyone and everything, not allowed to socialize or grow like a normal person, so now whenever someone showed even the tiniest bit of tenderness or affection towards him, he crumbled.

He had a big heart, fine, but Merlin was it fragile.

Teddy had a feeling he wouldn’t forget James Evans very easily. There was just something about him, the warmth in his eyes, the confident smile and the freckles on his cheeks, the way his hands felt in Teddy’s hair and the sound of his laughter, the way he jabbed and teased and joked with Teddy after the fact, not embarrassed in the least that they were both stark naked. It had been so different and refreshing. Teddy had never slept with anyone or dated anyone who made him feel so at ease. He was more himself with James than he ever had been with previous lovers, and they’d only just met.

His head ached from a slight hangover, but he ignored it as he slipped off the bed, running his hands over his face and into his hair before shuffling over to his suitcase and pulling out clean boxers and sweatpants. His stomach felt hollow, breakfast was first on his list, followed by a shower, then he could go out into Diagon Alley and pick up a few books. He needed to learn more about the Great Wizarding Wars and Harry Potter. There was so much he didn’t know, and not knowing about something like this made him irritated. He could stop at Gringotts later, get into his vault and drop off some paperwork before getting the deed to Lyall Lupin’s property down in Wales.

Teddy didn’t want to leave London just yet, but he imagined he’d end up in Wales eventually, in his grandfather’s house. In the house his father grew up in.

He was running a hand through his hair as he stepped out of the bedroom and into the sitting room, digging the heel of his palm into his eyes as the sound of sizzling reached his ears. He paused abruptly, hand still in his hair, noting that the door to the balcony was open, letting in the crisp air. Standing in the little kitchen, separated from the sitting room by a small island counter and stools was James, still wearing Teddy’s shirt from the night before, boxers, and nothing else. His hair was a mess, a hard to perfect style that old schoolmates would call “sex hair” that James had absolutely perfected. It looked entirely too natural on him.

Teddy didn’t know what to say, good morning or what the hell are you doing, so he just stood there like an idiot watching James sway on his feet, a little radio providing music that Teddy was sure he’d heard before but didn’t know the name of. Finally James seemed to realize someone was standing there, lifting his head and smiling brightly.

“Morning, Teddy! You looked so cute sleeping I didn’t want to wake you up.” He waved at what he was doing. “Breakfast is about done.”

“You went to the store?” Teddy asked, and James shrugged.

“Yeah, why?”

“Dressed like that?”

James snorted. “I wore pants, don’t worry, but there’s a convenience store just across the street so it didn’t take long.” He turned, looking far too comfortable and far too good with the collar of Teddy’s shirt slipping off his shoulder. “Why? Worried about other people seeing me like this?”

Teddy didn’t know if he should blush or argue, and ended up doing neither as he opened his mouth. “I didn’t think you’d still be here.”

James tilted his head, looking confused. “I told you I didn’t work today, right?”

“No, I meant…” Teddy trailed off, shaking his head. “Uh, never mind.”

“You thought I would just up and leave after sleeping with you,” James finished for Teddy, and Teddy winced a little as James smiled, setting down the spatula he was holding and shutting off the stove top before walking over to Teddy, reaching up to wrap his arms around his neck. “I’m not that kind of person. Normally I’m the shag that stays until I’m kicked out. Do you mind? This is a nice suite after all.”

Teddy laughed softly, moving his hands to James’ waist. “I don’t mind. I’m just used to people leaving the morning after, so this was unexpected.”

“The people you slept with and dated before sound like twats, no offense,” James said, looking completely serious, and Teddy laughed louder.

“You’re not wrong.”

“For the record I didn’t single you out last night because I wanted to sleep with you and leave the next morning. I did want to shag you though, I won’t lie. You are insanely hot.”

Teddy chewed the inside of his cheek. “Why did you then?”

James hummed, playing with Teddy’s hair. “You looked lonely is all.” Teddy felt frozen as James pulled away and turned back towards the little kitchen. “Sit down on the couch, I’ll bring you a plate.”

Teddy did as he was told, shuffling over and dropping onto the couch, staring blankly at where the flatscreen television was mounted on the wall. He looked lonely? That was why? Was he really that obvious?

“Here you are, a traditional British breakfast with all the works for my French friend,” James said, walking up carrying two plates of food, two mugs floating in the air beside him.

Teddy didn’t know what to comment on first, the fact James could cook, or how impressed he was with the floating cups. “You know I’m not actually French.”

“No?”

“I just grew up there. I was born here though.”

James looked intrigued at that, setting the plates down before standing to take the cups out of the air.

“Wow,” Teddy noted, gaping at the breakfast and memorizing how good it smelt. “Are you feeding a village?”

“Oh sod off, I thought it would be nice to do for you after last night.”

“I wasn’t the one taking it last night,” Teddy couldn’t help teasing, and James’ lips curled into a pout as he blushed and set the cups down. “So you can cook?”

“Yup, learned from my dad and my gran. I do all the cooking at the flat, too. My little brother will be eating cold cereal for breakfast today, I’m afraid.”

“I do not envy him,” Teddy decided, reaching out for his cup as James sat down next to him.

“So back up, you were born here?”

“Not London, I don’t think, but in England yes. I have French genes too though, and my gran on my dad’s side was full Welsh.”

“That’s awesome, I love Wales. It’s beautiful there.”

“Never been,” Teddy admitted, poking at the eggs on his plate and keeping his head down. “This is the first time I’ve been in the UK since I was a baby.”

“You moved pretty early, huh?”

“Yeah. Some stuff happened and my nan wanted to move me, raise me somewhere… quieter, I guess.”

“What about your parents?” Teddy didn’t answer at first, and the silence must have been pretty telling, because James’ voice became soft. “Oh… Teddy, I’m… I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright,” Teddy quickly reassured, turning his head to smile at James, who looked heartbroken. “Hey, really. I’m okay.”

“You moved because they… died?”

Teddy swallowed and looked away. “I think so.”

“You don’t know?”

“I don’t know a lot.” Teddy tapped his fork against the plate before shrugging. “It’s fine though. I’m fine.”

“You keep saying that,” James muttered, and Teddy decided not to look at him as he shoved a forkful of eggs and beans into his mouth to avoid the responsibility of speaking.

He muttered around his fork, “This is really good,” but said nothing more about his parents, and James didn’t push him as he reached for the remote on the coffee table, turning on the television and picking a channel before sitting back with his own plate.

“Oh, you don’t have any allergies, right? Before you eat any more I mean.”

Teddy shook his head. “No allergies.”

“Cool, no cooking restrictions then. Just had to make sure before I fed you something bad and had to drag you to St. Mungo’s.”

“That would be a shame,” Teddy said against his cup of tea, which he had to note was perfectly brewed and precisely the way he liked it.

A baking show was appropriately playing on the television as the two of them finished breakfast, and Teddy really didn’t know how it had happened, but James ended up curled against him, an arm slung over his waist as Teddy curled an arm around James’ shoulders. Teddy didn’t notice at first since he was distracted by the sad attempt at making a fruit tart on the television, but James had become fascinated with his arm, leaning against his chest and holding Teddy’s left hand with his right, tracing the lightly faded ink set deep in Teddy’s skin.

“These are really beautiful,” he said suddenly, and Teddy looked down to see James was tracing the edges of the tattoo under his wrist.

It was a yin-yang of his own design, the silhouette of a woman’s head interlocking a wolf’s head mid howl. A memorial for his parents, to remember them by. Teddy had gotten it long before he knew what their names were, and he still didn’t even know how they’d actually died, but he’d always known what they looked like, always knew his father was a werewolf and his mother loved him in spite of the tragedy that was his life.

Teddy turned his hand to hook his fingers loosely with James’ as he continued to trace the tattoos. “For my parents.”

“Pretty. What about the rest?”

Teddy shrugged his shoulders, eyeing the roses, ivy vines, lotus, chrysanthemum, lilac, peony, rhododendron, camellia, and twists and knots of celtic knotwork surrounding the yin-yang and covering his entire forearm, a little past his elbow. They were mostly black and white but shaded with color, made with magic infused ink so it looked like the garden of flowers was waving softly against a gentle breeze.

“I just… wanted something beautiful,” Teddy admitted as James laid his head under his chin and traced the flowers.

“You don’t think it’s too feminine?”

“I don’t at all,” Teddy pressed his lips into James’ hair, “and I don’t care if other people think it is either. I didn’t get it for the lot of the world, I got it for myself.”

“I really like it,” James hummed. “I didn’t even notice last night, I guess I was too busy, but you’ve got a lot of these, don’t you?” James leaned back, pulling his legs up onto the couch and facing Teddy, reaching out to the simple crescent moon tattooed on the side of Teddy’s neck, tracing it. “Makes you even hotter, if I’m being honest.” There was a glittering sort of mischief in his eyes. “You were probably busy too, the whole time you were looking at my face, but did you see mine?”

Teddy felt confused for a moment, before it hit him what James meant, his eyes widening. “You have tattoos?”

“Just one, don’t tell my dad.” James winked. “He’d go mad.”

“What for?” Teddy asked, and James hummed, head tilting and looking off to the side.

“Well remember I’m an Auror, I can’t go traipsing around inked up. Me especially. You can only be so absurd when you’re an Auror.”

“How bad could it be?” Teddy asked. “If any career would allow tattoos, I would imagine an Auror would be one of them.”

“It’s mostly the Head Auror who doesn’t like it, thinks we should all be proper and professional.”

“He’d really hate me, then,” Teddy hummed, feeling oddly irritated and protective of James. “Show me what it is.”

James looked excited at the request, rolling onto his knees and slipping closer, throwing one leg over Teddy’s lap, hands on his shoulders. “You really want to see?”

“I like tattoos,” Teddy assured, hands on James’ hips, rubbing down to his thighs. “That’s probably hard to believe, isn’t it?”

“Absolutely, I never would have guessed,” James teased right back, moving his hands from Teddy’s shoulders and turning sideways, lifting the bottom of the shirt up before hooking a thumb into the elastic of his boxers and pulling it down just enough to show off the elaborate tattoo on his left hip and thigh.

It was a black and colored tattoo of two distinct animals, a lion and a wolf, twisted together and remarkably realistic. The positioning of it was almost erotic, Teddy had no idea why he hadn’t noticed it the night before, honestly. He really must have been a little drunk and a little too hard. Though if Teddy had seen this tattoo, he doubted he would have lasted as long as he did.

“What do you think?” James asked, and Teddy slid a thumb over the tattoo, taking an additional moment to trace the wolf, then looked up at James.

“Hot,” he said, and James threw his had back in a laugh. “I like my lovers with a bit of ink. Shows they’re adventurous, not afraid of a bit of discomfort in life, and not afraid of commitment, which I think is the most important thing in a relationship.”

James looked smug as he fixed his clothes, stretching his arms across Teddy’s shoulders. “So we’re in a relationship? We’ve barely even met.”

“Yeah, I know,” Teddy agreed, hands on James’ back, rubbing his right side with his left hand. “You can run if you want, but I’ll need my shirt back.” James laughed again, his forehead against Teddy’s. “There’s just something about you, I don’t know what it is.”

“Familiarity,” James tested, his thumb on Teddy’s jaw. “Like I’ve known you my whole life.”

“Yeah,” Teddy tried not to melt when James smiled. “So what’s the tattoo mean?”

“You can’t tell immediately by my confidence and dashing good looks?” James asked. “I’m a Gryffindor.”

“Ah, that explains the lion, but the statement that all Gryffindor’s are good looking?”

“How many Gryffindors have you met exactly?”

“Not many, I’ll admit.”

“Then you can’t argue, can you?” James teased. “Think you might’ve been a Gryffindor, had you stayed in England and gone to school at Hogwarts?”

Teddy considered it, staring past James. His father had been a Gryffindor. His mum, on the other hand, had been a Hufflepuff. So had Ted Tonks, and his gran had been a Slytherin. His grandfather Lyall had been a Gryffindor, but Hope Howell had been a muggle.

“Either a Gryffindor or Hufflepuff. Not sure which.”

“Why those two?”

“My mum and dad were,” Teddy explained, and James’ smile faded to a look of empathy before he patched it back, though it was sadder.

He tipped forward to kiss Teddy’s forehead, humming against his skin but not speaking. It was tender and affectionate and Teddy could feel his heart swelling as he wrapped his arms around James’ waist, pulling him flush and tilting his head back to capture his lips in a kiss as James moved his hands to hold his cheeks.

They both jerked out of the kiss at the sound of a loud screech, looking at the open balcony doors as a large owl flew in, dropping a letter onto the couch before flying back out and landing on the railing, then swiveling its head and shrieking again, as if calling for someone. James snatched the letter up before Teddy could read it, climbing off his lap and walking a few steps away as he cursed and tore it open.

“What is it?”

“For me, from the Head Auror.” James turned to face Teddy once he’d gotten the letter open, and Teddy stood from the couch, watching brown eyes sweep over the letter, brow drawn and growing more distressed before he groaned, folding the letter none too gently and shoving it back into the envelope. “I have to go.”

“I thought it was your day off?”

“It is, but Merlin forbid something happen to ruin it,” James muttered as he strode into the bedroom, grabbing his jeans off the floor and stumbling into them, letter held in his mouth as he used both hands to secure the zipper and button before grabbing his belt off the ground, shoving the letter into his back pocket and looking at Teddy as he walked back out into the sitting room. “I really need to hurry, do you mind if I wear the shirt out?”

Teddy eyed the bit of skin on James’ shoulder that was exposed from the neck of the shirt being just a bit too big. “Is that okay? It’s a bit big on you.”

“It’ll be fine, I won’t get it dirty. Probably. I’ll clean it and bring it back, promise.”

Teddy nodded slowly. That wasn’t really what he was worried about, he could just imagine the nagging the Head Auror would give if he saw James so sloppy. He didn’t even brush his hair out, just smoothed it before yanking it out of his eyes and tying it in place with an elastic.

“I don’t mind,” he decided, watching James stumble into his shoes and hop on one foot as he tried to lace them, then scrambled back into the bedroom to retrieve his wand, shoving it into his back pocket as he came back once more, walking directly up to Teddy.

He reached up to hold his face, dragging him down far enough to kiss him hard, and Teddy felt breathless as he pulled away, that confident, reckless smile back on James’ mouth. “I’ll see you as soon as I’m done with this. You’ll be here, yeah?”

“I’ll be in London for a while yet.”

“Try not to be too bored without me.” James released him and started walking towards the open balcony. “Go out, sightsee, buy some souvenirs.” He stopped at the railing, turning to look back at Teddy and grinning. “London’s a beautiful city.”

Then he reached out to the owl, and they apparated away as if the bird had been a portkey. Teddy let out the breath he didn’t know he’d been holding, standing in the doorway and staring over the city numbly. Yeah, it really was beautiful, but Teddy had already seen what he wanted to in the form of a London boy with a secret tattoo.

“Ah, Merlin.” Teddy lifted a hand to his head. “Didn’t ask about the wolf.”

><><><><><><><><><><><

Diagon Alley was bustling with activity when Teddy stepped through the stone archway, looking back and forth as he secured his jacket and lifted his scarf over his chin, trying not to look too conspicuous as he meandered forward. He’d changed his hair before leaving his hotel suite, opting for a bland brown that didn’t make him stand out too much. The wizarding community in London wasn’t like that in France. People here knew about his parents, they knew about Nymphadora Tonks being a metamorphmagus, so if he walked around with his hair its usual blue, there was going to be at least one person who picked up on who he was, and while a part of him wanted that to happen, to be recognized, he didn’t think he was ready yet.

The bank was going to know, that was inevitable, he had to show them his ID to prove who he was, the Goblins would probably do some weird magic based test to ensure he was who he said, before they let him down into the vault and gave him the deed to Lyall’s property. First things first, though, Teddy had a bit of shopping to do.

He hadn’t had any time to do so before leaving France, but there were a few things he needed to pick up. Potion ingredients, tea, ink, quill, and new parchment. He didn’t want to load up on too much stuff since he would probably be moving to his grandfather’s home in the next couple of weeks, but he did need the bare necessities to survive in the little hotel suite for a while. He even took the time to rummage through the bookstore, picking out a number of history books as he riffled through upstairs and down. There were a few general books, one fat hardcover that detailed every part of the first and second Great Wizarding Wars, but there were a few more interesting books he managed to find. An Anthology of The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, Marauders and Mischief: The Tale of a Powerful Friendship That Ended the War, Tomb of the Lionheart: The Unsung Hero of the Great Wizarding War, and White Moon, which had a photograph of Remus Lupin on the front. If someone wrote a biography of his father, Teddy wanted to read it.

The Flourish and Blotts teller seemed excited to ring him up, an elderly man who kept pointing at the books as he was wrapping them up and complimenting them. “Oh, this is a good one, real tear jerker it was” and “Lovely choice, absolutely wonderful” or “Now this was a good author, have you read their biography on Albus Dumbledore?”

When he reached Remus’ biography he patted the cover. “Another excellent book, about time if you ask me, what a good man. I liked him, I did. Quiet man, quiet boy, loved books, always treated my shop respectfully. I’ve been working here for years, you know, I was here when he came in for school books. Never knew he was a werewolf, but I don’t mind, I really don’t. Not since he sacrificed himself like he did. What a man. What a Gryffindor.”

Teddy felt uncomfortable as he paid the teller and carried the books out, shrinking them with a wave of his hand so they were small enough to tuck into the bag over his shoulder. After which he headed for Gringotts.

He certainly felt uneasy as he stepped through the doors, holding one side open for a small group of wizards and witches who didn’t thank him as they left, though a tiny witch did turn to wave at him with a little hand. Teddy kept his head down as he stepped further into the building, finally lifting his head to take everything in as he turned in a slow circle, one corner of his lips lifting before falling when he remembered why he was there, sighing and pulling the French bank’s transcript and transfer confirmation from his pocket before locating the teller desk and walking up to it.

The Goblin there wasn’t remarkable really, and didn’t seem to care about Teddy as he grunted for the papers he was holding.

“I’m here to collect a deed left in my name and look over a will my grandfather left,” Teddy explained in a somewhat shaky voice, looking around to see if anyone was watching him, then lowering his voice and retrieving his French ID. “I’m Edward-”

“I know who you are, I’m not blind,” the Goblin grunted as he stamped both papers, then waved his arm clumsily towards a large yellow door behind him. “Go in.”

Teddy stared at the door before nodding and smiling at the Goblin. “Thank you for your help.”

The Goblin stared at him with beady eyes, appearing startled, watching Teddy pass the desk and head for the door, which opened for him as he got closer. Inside was a small sitting room of velvet, gold filigree, silver, and ruby, with a crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

There was a row of chairs on the right that didn’t look particularly comfortable, and to the left was a desk where a witch was at a typewriter. She was very beautiful, Teddy noted, with age in her face that didn’t seem to really affect her beauty. Her hair was silver-blonde and her skin flawless, her eyes dark blue, a beautiful wedding band on her left hand.

She heard the door shut behind Teddy, who jumped at the unexpected sound, lifting her head up to smile at him. “Hello, Monsieur. What are you here for?”

“Oh, you’re French,” Teddy breathed, walking closer as she smiled more, addressing Teddy in French next.

“That’s right. You are too?”

“I grew up there.”

“I see, how lovely. My husband is from here, so I moved when we married. I miss my home sometimes, though. What are you here for today?”

“To pick up a deed and review a will.”

The witch gave him an empathetic look. “I understand. Someone will be along if you’d like to take a seat.”

Teddy had barely sat down when another Goblin appeared, hobbling forward and grunted in Teddy’s direction, making him shoot back to his feet and scramble after him as the witch laughed lightly. It was quick work once he’d gotten into the Goblin’s office, signing papers and accepting Lyall Lupin’s will once it was handed to him, hands shaking as he read over it, his eyes watering. It was short and sharp and simple, and maybe that was why it hurt so much to read.

“I leave everything in my name, property, fortune, and legacy, to my only grandson Edward Remus Lupin.”

Teddy was all Lyall had, the man had left everything he owned to him, yet they’d never even spoken. This felt demented, signing the will to accept everything in it and taking the key that the Goblin handed him, sniffing and cleaning the tears off his face as he followed the creature back out. He was still wiping at his cheeks when they got back to the reception room where a new man was standing with the blonde witch.

His hair was red and somewhat faded, silver streaked through it and face pale, lightly freckled, and covered in scars. Teddy felt jolted, because only one creature could cause scars like that, but he had to look away to angrily rub another tear off his cheek as the Goblin lead him out of the room. He could feel two sets of eyes on him as he finished wiping his eyes on his sleeve just as he left the room.

After that he was lead down to the vaults, grateful for the painfully icy wind that whipped into his face as they creaked and shot down the tracks leading deep into the earth below the bank. The door to the Lupin family vault was bigger than he’d expected, and opening revealed why as his heart surged up into his throat. He hadn’t expected what he walked into. The fortune left to him by his parents and grandparents.

Stacks of more gold than he’d ever seen, but not just that. There was old furniture, books, shelving and clocks, tapestries and paintings and photographs. It wasn’t all that he was drawn to, though. Not the Galleons or jewels, but the two little boxes sitting atop an old dresser just in front of him. They didn’t look all that important at first glance, but Teddy was drawn to them, picking up the smaller of the two and blowing of the dust, wiping the rest off with his sleeve and tracing the gold insignia on the top. He knew what it was before he opened it, but it still took his breath away.

A circle of gold hanging on a deep emerald green ribbon, the medallion stamped with the insignia of the Order of Merlin: First Class. Stitched into the top of the case was the name “Remus John Lupin”. Teddy shut his eyes and shut the box at the same time. It had been so caked in dust it left a deep imprint on the dresser. How long had it been sitting here, untouched? Had Lyall stowed it away without looking at it? Finding it too painful? Teddy didn’t know, he couldn’t even begin to understand how horrible it must have been to have lost his only son. Andromeda had lost her daughter, true, but she’d had Teddy.

Lyall Lupin had no one and died alone.

The second case was made of wood, long, not as caked in dust. When Teddy flipped open the latches and lifted the case lid up, he found two wands sitting in a perfect cushion of blue velvet, and though Teddy had never seen them before, somehow he knew these had belonged to his parents. He shut the lid and took a step back, taking a shaky breath in and clearing his throat, turning and pausing when his eyes caught something else, what looked like a photo album. Teddy picked it up, not dusting the cover as he opened it and feeling emotion lodge straight into his throat.

It was an old family portrait, he could recognize his father by his scars, young and tucked between his parents, both Hope and Lyall were smiling proudly, hugging Remus, who couldn’t have been more than twelve or thirteen, swaying back and forth as the camera flashed and Remus grinned. Teddy slammed it shut, staring at the wall before clearing his throat again and turning to the door, rubbing his eyes.

“Sorry. Dust.” The Goblin grunted as Teddy held the book and Order of Merlin medal out. “Can I take these?”

“They’re yours, take what you want, I don’t care.”

They’re mine, Teddy repeated internally, putting both items into his bag before following the Goblin.

“Why is there so much, if I may ask? I don’t remember my gran being very wealthy, and I’m certain my parents weren’t either?”

“It’s not just from them. A wealthy families fortune must be split evenly between living blood after a witch or wizards death. Most of what’s in your name was left to you by the Black family.”

Teddy heard white noise as he slowly eased himself to sit in the little cart that would bring them back up. “I don’t understand. What’s the Black family got to do with me?”

“You’re their blood, one of the only one’s left,” the Goblin grunted. “Half the entire fortune of the Black family was left to you, it’s legally yours.”

Teddy’s head pounded, he had so many questions, but he was only able to get one out. “Who has the other half?”

The Goblin didn’t hear him as he started the cart and they shot back down the tracks.

It seemed Teddy still wasn't done crying, a few stray tears managed to wet his cheeks as he made for the door, keeping his head down and his hand raised to his face as he opened the door rather roughly, hiking halfway down the steps and rubbing his eyes dry as someone called out to him.

"Hey, kid, hold on a second."

Teddy paused, looking back up the steps, startled to see the red haired, heavily scarred man following slowly down the stairs, hands in his pockets. He was watching Teddy, looking a little too intrigued, and Teddy felt his heart race in panic until he finally spoke.

"You okay?"

Teddy gaped at him, then turned his head to clean off his cheek. "The dust. That's all."

"Sure. Hey, I don't know what your plans for the day are, but you need a pick me up."

"Too early to drink," Teddy said with a shake of his head, and the man chuckled as he pointed down the alley.

"Go that way, there's a joke shop. Well, that's what it is in Layman's Terms. My younger brothers run it. It'll boost your spirits." He clapped a hand on Teddy's shoulder as he turned away. "Dealing with wills and leftover fortune can be taxing on your emotions. I don't know who you lost, but it'll be okay. Go find something that makes you laugh and hold onto it, alright?"

Teddy felt touched enough to start crying again, but he managed to keep it together and just nodded, spinning on his heel before the man could reach the door. "Excuse me, I just- are you-"

The man eyed him curiously. "Am I what?"

Teddy just shut his mouth. He definitely couldn't just ask if the man was a werewolf, that would have been so rude. So he shrugged, then turned. "Sorry, it's nothing. Thank you for your advice, have a good day."

"Wait. What's your name? Who are you?"

Teddy shook his head, hiking down the steps. "Nothing. I'm no one. Just… just a stranger."

The man didn't follow him, thankfully, and Teddy considered just going home, he felt crappy enough and just wanted to lie down, but his curiosity drew him towards the joke shop that had been pointed out to him. It was certainly something, extravagant and overt, there was no way Teddy could mistake what it was. The name of the shop was printed above the window in bold yellow and gold: Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. Why did that name sound so familiar?

It was exciting the minute Teddy stepped inside, ducking as some flying contraption shot overhead, followed by a trio of screaming six year olds all scrambling to catch whatever was flying. Teddy laughed softly as he watched them before turning to take in the store. It was several floors high inside, with winding staircases leading up to each landing, each wall painted a pastel or neon color, lights blinking in each window, the shelves filled up with original merchandise as well as already licensed product like chocolate frogs.

It was certainly an exciting shop, but it had been years since Teddy was interested in things like pranks or making mayhem. Back when he was in school he pulled a few pranks off, caused a few problems, never once getting caught by the Headmaster or teachers at the Academy, he liked to think he was too clever to be caught, but there wasn’t much point in it when he had graduated years ago. He did hope all the funny things would lift his spirits like that man had said they would, he seemed so proud and confident about it, but Teddy just ended up standing blankly in front of the chocolate frogs.

“Alright, mate!” Teddy nearly dropped the frog he was holding when someone came up to greet him, turning to a man who looked remarkably similar to the scarred bloke at the bank, nix the scars and with shorter trimmed hair and more freckles. “Can I help you find anything today?”

“Sorry, I’ve never been here before,” Teddy admitted. “I’m just looking around.” He looked down at the chocolate frog. “Might buy this though. It’s been ages since I had one.”

“Looking a bit under the weather, chocolate will fix you right up,” the man hummed, reaching out to rummage through the chocolate frogs before picking a few more out and handing them to Teddy. “Chocolate fixes everything! My professor said that once, so it has to be true.”

“Yeah, thanks,” Teddy managed a weak smile, and the man wandered off to help another customer as Teddy picked a few more goofy looking items out, including a few candies he’d never seen before, something called a Chinese Fortune Stick, and as a final purchase he picked up a small breakable stick that would extend into a full bouquet of genuine flowers which had been charmed to flash different colors.

“Apologizing to your sweetheart or did you forget an anniversary present?” The redhead asked as he rung Teddy up.

“What, oh, no, it's not that. I just thought… you know, he’ll like them,” Teddy mumbled the last bit and the man beamed at him.

“Getting him flowers just because. That’s the way to go. Romance isn’t dead just yet, thank Merlin! I should get my wife some, now I think about it,” he hummed, passing over a bag as Teddy paid for everything, smiling weakly.

“Thank you.”

“Have a good rest of your day, come back any time!”

“Sure.”

The trip felt a little pointless as he left the shop, adding the bag of chocolate and trinkets to the bag at his side and turning to walk down an alley that had less traffic, flinching when he bumped into someone who had their head down, holding a Muggle smartphone and cursing as she looked up with piercing blue eyes. Her hair was silver-white and there was a dust of pale freckles on her otherwise blemish free complexion. She was about James’ height, a bit taller in fact, and when her eyes met Teddy’s they widened.

Teddy physically winced in shock, memories resurfacing of the summer of his nineteenth year back in France.

“Y-” she pointed into his face. “You!”

Teddy hesitated. “Victoire, right?”

She looked shocked. “You remember me?”

“I’m not an idiot.”

They stared at each other, and Teddy felt almost ill. Back when he was nineteen this girl had shown up, spending the summer in France to visit her mother’s family. It was just a fling, a few months of them messing around, it had never been serious, but it still hurt when she up and left to return home without so much as saying goodbye. She hadn’t even written him, so Teddy had moved on. It wasn’t weird to him, the usual fuck and forget he was normally exposed to. He slept with her a few times, she played with him, at one point he even caught sight of her flirting with some other wizards in town, but swallowed the pain and just forgot it. She was only there for the summer after all, he couldn’t have expected her to care about him outside snogging and quick shags.

Spending a good few months with her got him attached, and it had taken a long while to get over it, but he’d managed to pull himself back up; alone, like he always did. Still, seeing her now made him feel as if he was swallowing glass. Until dark amber eyes flashed in his memory, her face blocked out by messy bedhead and a face with ten times the amount of freckles this woman could hope to have.

It hurt less, and he smiled politely. “So this is where you live? It’s nice. London, I mean.”

Victoire looked speechless, before her cheeks darkened red and she parted her lips. “You…”

“Ted, remember?”

“Of course I remember!” she snapped, bristling. “Wa-wasn’t your hair a different color?”

“I dyed it,” Teddy said a little too quickly. “Muggle’s are inventive, you know?”

Victoire just nodded slowly, staring at Teddy as if entranced, her eyes sweeping over him in such a way that he felt exposed, chewing on her lip as she met his eyes again. “So… what are you in London for?”

“Just some personal business.”

He could have sworn he saw something like hope in her eyes, nearly cringing. “How long will you be in town?”

“Haven’t decided yet. It’s open ended right now. I just needed to get a few things from here before going back to my hotel.”

“I see. Where are you staying?”

Teddy walked past her. “In a hotel,” he repeated, and Victoire spun on her heel to watch him.

“Um, if you want I can give you a room or a couch. You could save your money. Maybe my parents would let you crash at their place?”

“No thank you, I’m fine where I am.”

“Listen I didn’t want to just up and leave without saying anything!” Teddy paused again and looked back at her, feeling genuinely surprised she’d even brought it up. “I was going to write to you, I got busy!”

Teddy arched an eyebrow. “Don’t worry about it.”

“I just-”

“It was a summer fling from eight years ago. I’m over it.”

Victoire shut her mouth, but she couldn’t seem to look away from him. “Yeah… you look good, by the way.”

“Thanks."

“Look, um, since you’re in town… if you don’t have plans, would you like to meet up? Maybe we could talk. My cousin works at a nice night club near here, he could give us a discount.”

“I do have plans actually,” Teddy admitted, “but hey, don’t let me stop you from having a good time.”

“What about another day?”

“I probably won’t have time.”

“Are you seeing anyone right now?”

“Down to the root, I see.” Teddy turned to look back at her again. “I am, actually.”

Victoire looked frantic, like she was terrified of him walking away. “Prove it.”

“Prove it?” Teddy repeated. “I don’t know what business this is of yours. We were together but not together for three months almost a decade ago. We shagged and moved on, I’m sure you shagged with other men in France aside from me, as well.” Victoire looked like she’d been burned.

“I was eighteen, I was just having-”

“Fun. Right. Like I said, don’t let me stop you.”

“Who are you seeing right now? She can’t be prettier than me.” It was absolutely an attempt at making a joke, she definitely wasn’t trying to be cruel or mean, and it was funny enough that Teddy actually laughed.

“It’s a bloke, actually,” Teddy hummed, smiling at the shocked expression she wore, “and in fact yes, he is much prettier than you.” He turned his back again, lifting a hand in a wave. “Au revoir mon cher.”

><><><><><><><><><><><

Teddy had migraines. He never understood why when he was younger, but after reading Harry’s letter about his niece getting sick because her father was a Partial werewolf and his disease had shown up in her, it made more sense. They only affected him close to the full moon, and if he took medicine early on then they wouldn’t bother him, but the healing tonic he needed was tedious to make, and the fumes from the potion made his head ache more as he brewed and bottled it. Part of him figured that maybe he should get checked over by a professional, in case there was something seriously wrong with his health, but there was too much to do otherwise and couldn’t be bothered.

He’d survived twenty-seven years with just a vile tasting medicine to help him along when he felt unwell and he’d done just fine, he didn’t need a Healer jabbing at him and taking invasive blood tests only for the others at the hospital to give him sideways glances, hiding their bias and prejudice against werewolves and disguising it as concern. Teddy didn’t know how bad it was there in London, but some smaller places in France were still brutal in their opinions of Lycanthropy.

Teddy drank a vial of potion before stowing the rest away, waiting for it to take effect before getting himself a cup of tea and taking a seat in one of the arm chairs across the coffee table from the couch, unpacking the books he’d picked up and feeling mildly embarrassed at how many he’d actually purchased. The table was covered with stacks of books while the rest of what he’d picked up, like the candy and parchment, took up the other armchair.

They were interesting books, but Teddy decided to focus on the large history text of the Wizarding Wars. It must have taken a lot of time and energy to write, a lot of research and travelling. It was detailed, maybe a little too detailed, Teddy couldn’t help wincing a few times when he got to a retelling of a particularly morbid murder. It described Tom Riddle’s family and early life, his time at Hogwarts and his first murder while still at school, leading to his graduation and his formation of the Death Eaters. Teddy felt like he’d been given whiplash when he read his father’s name, wondering dizzily if he was really important enough to all of history as to be added to such a prolific text.

Considering he’d been awarded the First Class Order of Merlin? Probably.

He’d just reached the end of the first war, where the prophecy was foretold, Severus Snape warned Voldemort of its existence, the search for the Chosen One, Harry Potter’s birth, Peter Pettigrew’s betrayal and the double murder of Lily and James Potter. His thumb traced over James’ name, brow furrowing as he read a direct quote from Rubeus Hagrid, who had evidently been a blubbering, sobbing mess when he’d given his statement to the author about what he’d found in the house when he got there, the couple’s bodies and little Harry still in his crib with a cut on his head.

Teddy was finishing up the last few pages detailing Sirius Black’s trial and conviction, Peter Pettigrew’s cowardly attempt to run away, murdering Muggles in the process of it. The entire thing put a terrible taste in Teddy’s mouth. These people had been his father’s friends, and their lives had gone so sideways. Remus had lost everything in one single night, and according to a very short and undetailed paragraph, he hadn’t even been around when it happened. He’d been doing his own mission for the Order, putting his very life on the line, pretending to be a supporter of Voldemort to infiltrate Greyback’s pack on Dumbledore’s orders. Teddy decided he really didn’t like Dumbledore.

He nearly fell out of the chair in shock when the crack echoed in the suite, flinging the book up in fright and clinging to the arms of the chair, gaping at where James had apparated into the room by the balcony door. He looked haggard and exhausted, bags under his eyes, looking washed out, and Teddy felt frantic when he saw the scratches and bruises on his face, the busted lip and the damaged skin of his knuckles. He looked like he’d been through the wars, wearing an open coat that was colored deep blue with buttons and pockets down each side, and would have looked elegant and professional if he’d looked a little more awake. There was a bag hanging on his shoulder, weighed down with whatever he was carrying in it, and he barely looked at Teddy as a weak smile took to his lips.

“Hey.”

“What the fuck?” Teddy blurted, standing and striding towards James. “What happened to you?”

“Ah, raid went a little south. I’m okay.” He lifted a hand to rub at his eyes. “Didn’t have time to wash your shirt, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry about that, you look awful.” Teddy put a hand on James’ back. “Take a shower and get into something cleaner, I’ll make you something to eat and patch you up.”

“Thanks. I feel like I need to make some kind of witty suggestion that you shower with me, but I’m too tired.”

“We can do that another time, just try not to fall asleep when you’re in there.”

Teddy waited until he could hear the water running before turning and rushing into the kitchen to make a light supper and some tea. His eyes went to the wall clock, stunned to find it was close to one in the morning. Had he been reading for that long? He hadn’t even noticed it had gotten dark.

He had a bowl of soup and a mug of tea on the coffee table, after pushing books onto the floor of course, and was sitting on the couch looking through a first aid kit when James shuffled back into the room. He was wearing plaid pajama pants and a plain short sleeved white shirt, a towel around his neck that he was using to sleepily dry his hair. Teddy was almost surprised that James made it to the couch, flopping onto it with a sigh as Teddy turned to him to give him medical aid.

“I can’t believe you just apparated here immediately.”

“I didn’t. I stopped at my flat first.” James picked up the tea, smiling against the aroma as Teddy started to patch up the bruises and scratches. “My brother was asleep on the couch, he was probably waiting up for me. I just left him a note, grabbed a few things, and came back here.”

“What for?” Teddy hovered his hand over a shallow scratch on James’ chin, healing it with a spell tingling the tip of his tongue, then moved to spread ointment on a small gash on his forehead so it would heal without a scar. “You should have waited with your brother, told your family you were alright.”

“They know I’m tough. I can send a letter later or something. I missed you is all.” Teddy felt his cheeks heat up, unable to respond as James picked up the soup. “I see you went out. Did you purchase the entire Hogwarts Library?”

"I just figured if I'm going to be here for a while I need to entertain myself."

James turned a dramatic frown to him. "Am I not entertaining enough for you?"

"You're not gonna be here all the time though, are you?" Teddy teased back, healing a cut on his lip. "You work. A pretty dangerous job it seems."

James rolled his eyes with no emotion in them, turning to drink the soup without even bothering with the spoon. “It’s like this sometimes is all. I can’t give details of course, but there were a few people from a known terrorist group trying to cause problems up in Scotland, hexing Muggles like they were baiting the Ministry.”

“What happened?”

“Well, the Muggles are fine. They’ve been treated and their memories altered.” James mumbled into the edge of his bowl. “When we went in there were more than anticipated, so a few of us were caught off guard. My partner on the field, I don’t like saying bad things about people, but he isn’t exactly competent. Maybe he was distracted by something, I don’t know, but he left me for some shit and my blindside got hit. Hence all the bruising and such. I’m fine though.”

“Merlin. Has he done that before? Left your side during missions? Auror’s aren’t supposed to do that. They have partners for a reason.”

James laughed weakly, setting the bowl down so Teddy could bandage his knuckles. “Once or twice, but there’s no one else to replace him. The situation with him has been going down for years now, I just have to deal with it. Normally when I bring it up my dad tells me to keep it together, it’ll be fine, he’s young so he’s learning and needs my help.”

“You need help too,” Teddy argued, and James sighed, listing sideways to lie his head against Teddy’s shoulder.

“It’s fine. I’ll be less annoyed in the morning.”

“Finish eating first,” Teddy chided, reaching out to the bowl when he’d finished fixing up the bruises and busted skin. “Are there any other injuries?”

“Nah,” James smiled sleepily. “You got ‘em all.”

“None on your ribs? No bruises?”

James turned a sly grin on Teddy. “Trying to get me out of my clothes, are you?”

Teddy just smiled, shaking his head. “Maybe tomorrow, you need to sleep soon.”

“Bummer,” James pouted into his soup, and Teddy snorted as the other man finished eating before taking the tea. “Thank you, by the way.” He rubbed the sides of his cup, staring into it. “Part of me was worried about coming here looking like this, but…”

“I won’t judge you for getting hurt. I know being an Auror is going to be dangerous. I’m just happy you’re not hurt worse.” Teddy brushed aside a piece of damp hair in James’ face. “I don’t have much connection with you, we’ve known each other for a day at best, so if you’d been cursed or hurt worse than this and sent to St Mungo’s, I’d never have known it. I’m glad you came here.”

Teddy couldn’t tell exactly what James was thinking through his expression, but he looked like he was thinking hard, seeming to come to a good conclusion before smiling and setting his cup of tea down, then leaned into Teddy again, who wrapped an arm around him and buried a hand into his damp hair, whispering a charm to dry it so James wouldn’t end up getting sick on top of everything else.

“You should sleep now,” he chided, and James hummed, head on Teddy’s shoulder. “Do you have work again tomorrow?”

“I have to go in to give my report, but after that my dad said I should go home.”

“You should probably show up at your flat to make sure your brother doesn’t worry either.”

“Ah he’s alright, he won’t worry too badly.”

“Maybe stop by anyway. He’s your family you know.”

James was silent for a moment, rubbing his cheek against Teddy’s shoulder. “Do you have siblings?”

Teddy almost winced, leaning back against the couch. “No. It’s just me.”

“Oh,” James was quiet again before following up. “I have two younger siblings.”

“You live with your brother?”

“Yeah, my sister is still in school. This is her last year.”

“Wow.”

“My parents said they didn’t want my brother on his own right out of Hogwarts, so I offered to share my place until he got on his feet. He’s… unique. Doesn’t quite know what he’s doing yet, though he’s got some ideas. I just want to support him until he’s confident enough to support himself.”

Teddy had to smile at that. “That’s sweet of you.”

“I mean I’ve gotta take care of him, right?”

“Yeah, definitely.” Teddy wrapped both of his arms around James, setting his chin into the freshly washed and dried hair. “Did you use my shampoo?”

“Yeah, I like it.”

“Brought it from France.”

“How exotic,” James laughed softly, his voice quiet, and Teddy stopped talking after.

He could hear the Auror nodding off, snoring softly after a moment, so he leaned back to check that James was really asleep before picking him up to carry him into the bedroom, turning the lights off as he went and tucking James under the sheets and duvet before climbing in after him. For a moment he debated if it would be alright to sleep close to him, and eventually found himself giving in and rolling closer, wrapping his arms around James and pulling him so his face was against Teddy’s chest. 

His bandaged hands curled unconsciously into Teddy’s shirt, face buried against his chest beneath his chin, and Teddy shut his eyes, a soft smile on his lips as he ran his fingers through James’ hair to detangle it manually. His brown hair was soft, the shampoo made James smell like Teddy, and though he greatly preferred the original spicy scent that James gave off, it gave him an entirely new sensation of pride to know the Auror smelt like him.

This was something Teddy had never experienced before, something he was quickly growing used to. Even if it was a fling, even if it wasn’t meant to last, they’d met half drunk in a club after all, Teddy wanted to enjoy it. Every single moment. No doubt letting himself fall like this would only hurt him in the end, it always did, but what was the harm? He literally had nothing left to lose; and when there’s nothing left, that’s the best time to recklessly fall for a stranger.

><><><><><><><><><><><

There was clearly so much that Teddy still didn't know about James. No surprise, as they'd only known each other for a day and a half at most. He did hope that time and trust would unravel all of James, but clearly it would take some time. Teddy could only guess there was something mentally and emotionally crooked about himself, maybe due to his seclusion growing up, the fact he’d only ever had his grandmother, and the fact that all of his romantic endeavors till that point ended in agonizing breakups that sometimes came about from infidelity on the part of his lover, to care for a man he knew so little about after one night with him.

Maybe it was the way James ran his fingers through Teddy’s hair, so tenderly and affectionately as if Teddy really mattered. No other lover had gone beyond pulling his hair in the throes of intimacy. James had been the first to hold Teddy after the fact. Did that make James different, or did it make Teddy a fool for folding in on the affection like a touch starved animal?

It made him feel connected to the Auror, he wanted to look after him, especially after the night before, showing up bruised and bloody from a sideways Ministry mission that he was called out to on his day off. Teddy figured the protective instinct was some sort of genetic imprint passed to him from his father, some wolfish instinct to protect and defend his lover for whatever reason.

That instinct nearly suffocated him the next morning, at first not picking up on James shifting around beside him, or the incomprehensible muttering. Not until he arched off the mattress with a scream that ripped Teddy out of his half conscious sleep, eyes snapping open and fumbling onto his hands to watch James curl into the fetal position, clearly still asleep and face as white as a sheet of paper, moaning and crying in the throes of a bad dream

“Jamie?” Teddy was only half awake as he curled over James to brush back his hair.

He could recognize a night terror when he saw one, far worse than just a bad dream or a nightmare. His nan used to get them, terrible night terrors that had her waking up screaming before crying over a framed photo of her long deceased husband and daughter. It was his concern for his nan that had him studying Legilimency and Healing back when he was twenty, finding himself in China studying with a wizard over a hundred years old.

Teddy developed a technique of blended spells and charms, Legilimency and Healing, that he perfected originally to help his nan sleep better. She never knew Teddy did this, because Teddy would cast the charm over her when she was still asleep. Now he was casting it again, one hand on James’ chest and his other hand on his head, whispering the spell and watching the Auror’s distressed features fade into an expression of confusion, then peace.

The technique had a full success rate whenever Teddy used it, but there were still issues with the spell. As Teddy cast it, reached into James’ mind and weaved Healing charms into it, he couldn’t avoid the backlash of images that struck him from James’ memories. You couldn’t cast a Legilimency spell without reading someone’s mind, after all, unless you were absolutely shoddy at Legilimency.

As he temporarily healed the bits of James’ mind he could to allow him to rest, Teddy was assaulted with images of a darkening sky streaked with orange and purple. Through James’ eyes Teddy could tell he was lying on his side, his left hand beside his face, fingers curling into the damp ground, and horrifically enough, covered in blood. It was trickling down the back of his hand, staining the grass beneath his arm, the ground looked marshy and wet. There was someone standing near James, who seemed to be struggling to look up. He wore dirty, ancient boots, frayed jeans torn at the knees and stained with mud and blood, his shirt must have been white once, now yellow and faded from sun damage, and a jean jacket with the end of the sleeves dripping with blood. His nails were overgrown, some of them chipped, yellow and bloodied. It was his face that had Teddy panicking, heart racing, or perhaps it was James whose heart was racing. His face was leathery and drawn, wrinkled and heavily scarred with the darkest, coldest, most calculated eyes Teddy had ever seen. Only one creature in their world could make those scars.

Teddy jerked his hand away, sitting back on his knees and struggling to get his breath back as he watched James sleep peacefully. A werewolf was haunting James’ sleep. Why? Being an Auror would definitely imply he’d have contact with werewolves for whatever reason, but these days, in London especially, why would a werewolf look at an Auror with so much hatred? When Aurors were dedicated to helping people like werewolves? Especially after the war, thanks in large part to Remus Lupin, whose influence is what brought about the need to actually help and care about Lycanthrope victims.

Teddy had helped his nan through dozens of night terrors, he knew what she saw at night. Memories of watching her husband get murdered, people in eerie silver masks torturing her. James saw a nameless werewolf standing over him with bloody claws and bloodlust in otherwise emotionless eyes.

Teddy eased closer to James, setting a hand on the Auror’s head and combing his fingers through his hair, ensuring that he was sleeping peacefully. After which he carefully slipped off of the bed. He took an extra moment to pull the sheets, blankets, and duvet over James, tucking the blankets around him and carefully adding a few extra pillows beneath the Auror’s head to give him more cushion. Teddy then took a hand to pull James’ hair back away from his face, leaning down to place a kiss over one of the bandages and whispering another healing spell he hoped would ease the tension and get rid of some of the less severe bruising.

Then he wandered out into the sitting room, shutting the door only part way in case James had another night terror. It was odd to call it a night terror, though, considering the clock on the wall said it was past seven in the morning.

Teddy went over to the kitchen area and started preparing breakfast. He wasn’t familiar with any of the British food James had made the previous morning, so he focused on what he did know: eggs and bacon with yogurt and fruit, silently hoping James would be fine with it. It wasn’t extravagant after all, and Teddy wasn’t the best cook, awkwardly giving himself the more burned slices of bacon so James could eat the pieces that weren’t as charred, then overcooking the eggs because he didn’t want to accidentally undercook them. At least he couldn’t mess up the yogurt and fruit.

He sat on the couch and opened the book he’d been reading the night before, eating as he read and waited for James, who slept another hour before opening the door and stepping into the sitting area. He looked better than he had previously, the bags had disappeared from under his eyes and there was more color to his cheeks, smiling sleepily at Teddy when he noticed him on the couch.

“Morning.”

“Hey.” Teddy closed the book and set it aside as James shuffled closer. “How did you sleep?”

“Good,” James seemed surprised when he admitted it, sitting down next to Teddy and accepting the light breakfast that was pushed in front of him. “Normally after a raid like that I wake up more exhausted than I was when I went to sleep.” He turned his head to smile at Teddy. “Maybe because you slept next to me? Though you were gone when I woke up.” He pouted at that and Teddy snorted, leaning back and pulling his book back onto his lap.

“You made breakfast yesterday, I decided to make breakfast today. You were exhausted, and you had a tough night. It was the least I could do.”

“It’s very fancy, thank you,” James was clearly teasing Teddy, who fought a smile as he opened the book back up.

“I’m not a gourmet chef. At least it’s edible, right?”

“Considering you grew up in France, I’m shocked.”

“That’s very amusing, very funny.”

“Thank you, it’s a gift.”

They sat in silence for a moment, the television turned off, as James ate breakfast and Teddy read his book. It was peaceful and different, being able to sit quietly with someone he’d taken in as his lover, for however long it lasted, and to just exist next to them. It was remarkable, truly. Even though the book Teddy was reading documented such horrific history, it wasn’t that bad.

“What book are you reading? Didn’t get to ask yesterday. You got a lot of them.”

“Oh, just…” Teddy closed the book again to show the cover. “Growing up in France, I didn’t learn much of the history regarding the war, you know? I think my nan mostly tried to protect me from it, but being entirely ignorant of these things for twenty-seven years is ridiculous. You need to acknowledge and understand your history so you don’t repeat it.”

“You’re twenty-seven?” James asked around a forkful of fruit, eyes wide and cheeks red. “Fuck you look way younger.”

“I’m not an old man, you know! How old are you, then?”

“I’m twenty-one,” James said with a grin.

“At least you really are legal,” Teddy mumbled, and James laughed, leaning sideways and setting his plate down to pick up the cup of juice.

“I hope you got a few less depressing books at least.” James reached out to lift a few books from the pile, setting them aside after looking at the cover. “Most of these are pretty dark, you know that, right?”

“I don’t, that’s kind of why I got them,” Teddy snorted. “I want to learn about these things.”

“Okay, let me get this straight.” James set down the book and his cup of juice, pressing his hands together and looking back at Teddy. “You’re researching for pretty much no reason, just because you want to?”

Teddy felt like James was making fun of him, but had to answer. “Yeah, that’s pretty much it.”

James pointed at him with both hands still folded. “So you’re a geek then.”

“I mean calling me that-”

“You do not look it, Teddy.”

“Hey.”

“Don’t get me wrong, I still think you’re super hot. You being an absolute geek makes you even cuter.”

“I’m so glad you’re not turned off by all the books,” Teddy teased back, and James snickered into his juice.

“Well we may have to move them off the coffee table, if you know what I mean.”

“I think my books need to take precedence before shagging.”

“Books before hook ups, I respect that.”

Teddy laughed, shaking his head. “What time did you have to go into work to give your report?”

“My dad said whenever I wake up, so I guess I’ll just finish eating and head over.”

“Hm,” Teddy eyed James for a moment. “Your dad’s not the Head Auror, right?”

“No, no, no!” James waved his hands frantically. “He works in a different division entirely!”

“Oh, good, because the way you talked about the Head Auror, he sounded like a bit of a cunt. Would have sucked if it was your dad.”

“No kidding. He’s still kind of a tosser though, my dad I mean. Nice of him to give me extra time off considering yesterday.”

“Yeah.” Teddy tossed his book onto the coffee table. “You should probably get some more sleep after you’re off, and go tell your brother you’re okay.”

“Alright, alright, but only because I know he’s going to be a pain if I don’t.” James held his hands out in front of him. “He’s the kind of person who doesn’t say outright what’s bothering him but you still know he’s mad if he gives you the silent treatment. He’ll definitely give me the silent treatment.”

“That’s because he loves you,” Teddy said, reaching out to run a hand through James’ hair. “Families are like that, aren’t they?”

James stared at Teddy for a moment, a contemplative look on his face before he smiled and leaned closer, wrapping his arms around Teddy. “Yeah, you’re right.” He stayed there hugging Teddy until the other man raised his arms around James, feeling fully confused but not unhappy with the embrace. When James pulled away he felt disappointed, but his heart raced from the emotion that filled his chest seeing James smiling. “I’ll be back later tonight. That’s cool, right?”

“Absolutely,” Teddy quickly remarked. “I’d honestly be sad if you didn’t come back.”

“Awe, you really are a geek.” James pressed his hands into Teddy’s cheeks, standing up and jogging into the bedroom, coming back out wearing black skinny jeans, boots, and a black tshirt, pulling on the same rather elegant blue Auror’s coat that fell down to his ankles, securing the buttons up to his chest before pulling his hair back and tying it into a short ponytail.

“Auror looks good on you,” Teddy said, and James winked at him.

“I bet it looks even better off of me, right?”

“I can attest to that, yes.”

James laughed loudly, securing the last few long buttons on his coat before turning towards the balcony. “I’ll see you in a few hours.”

“Yeah.” Teddy stood up when James stepped outside, hands in his pockets. “Hey, just curious. What do you say about going out to eat tonight?”

James swiveled around on his heels, walking backwards with one eyebrow raised. “Out? Like to a restaurant?”

“Yeah. I can’t imagine the food I made last night was very good, and the breakfast likely wasn’t that great either.”

“It was palatable.”

“Thanks, appreciate that,” Teddy said on a laugh. “Really though, what do you say?”

“Are you asking me out on a date?” James tilted his head to the side and Teddy shrugged.

“I think so, yeah.”

James looked ecstatic, a huge grin on his face as he bumped into the railing. “Yeah. Yeah, that sounds awesome. You better dress up nice for me.”

“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing now?”

James hummed. “Sweatpants and a shirt with egg stain on it,” he said, and Teddy looked down at his clothes as the other man laughed. “Well, I don’t mind what you wear really. You could wear nothing and I’d be into it.”

“Of course you would be.”

“See you tonight.”

“Don’t get beat up today.”

“Hey, no promises.” James held his arms out, looking far too proud. “I’m what the Head Auror calls impertinent and deviant, whatever that means.”

He disapparated with a crack and Teddy snorted. “I can imagine.” 

><><><><><><><><><><><

It was eight by the time James returned. He’d replaced the Auror’s uniform with a Hollyhead Harpies Quidditch letter jacket and a red V-neck, and for a moment Teddy couldn’t breathe as he stood there gawking at him.

James merely arched an eyebrow. “What? Suddenly speechless?” He smirked, hands in his pockets. “So you wanna skip dinner and go right for desert, instead?”

Teddy blushed, coughing into his fist. “I already made reservations,” he said, and James gaped at him.

“You made reservations? You’re really going all out, aren’t you? You know you don’t have to impress me.” He stepped forward, tugging on the collar of the leather jacket Teddy was wearing. “I’m already thoroughly impressed with the tight black shirt and faded jeans.”

“You’re really something, you know that?”

“I get that a lot. So where’s this restaurant?”

Teddy took James by the hand and apparated to an alley just outside before answering with a grin. “It’s seaside,” was all he said, before shoving both hands into his jacket pockets and nodding towards the road. “Follow me. I chose a Muggle spot just in case someone recognizes you. Or me. Or whatever. I just figured it would be more private this way.”

“No that’s great! There are plenty of nice wizard only places, but a Muggle restaurant would definitely be best. If someone recognized me on a date with a hot bloke I’d never hear the end of it.”

“Awe, you don’t want to be seen out with me?”

“Someone might get jealous and try to steal you from me,” James sighed dramatically.

Teddy snorted. “Don’t worry too much, alright? There’s no one else I’m interested in. Just you.”

“Well I feel even more special now.” James hummed, stopping in his tracks when the gold lights of the restaurant overlooking the beach came into view. “Whoa, hang on, you got reservations here?”

Teddy looked down at him. “Yeah, why? Is that weird?”

James threw an arm out, waving towards the restaurant. “This place is harder to get into than the Department of Mysteries!” He held both index fingers up. “You know what, those two have an equal level of entrance difficulty, but still.”

“I just… called and asked for a table,” Teddy said, rubbing his neck anxiously and looking off to the side, deciding not to tell James he paid upfront. He didn’t need to know that.

Compared to Muggle money, Teddy had barely spent anything. He didn’t even need to visit Gringotts for extra Galleons or to convert any of it.

“Come on, it’ll be fun.”

“This place is so fancy though, I’ve never even seen inside,” James sounded and looked uncomfortable, pulling at his jacket. “I’m so underdressed, I should have worn a suit.”

“You look fine, Jamie. Took my breath away, remember?”

“Do you know who eats here? The Malfoy’s. The Malfoy’s eat here. Well, I don’t think they have since Mrs. Malfoy died, but they used to eat here.”

Teddy just shrugged. “I don’t know who the Malfoy’s are.”

James was quiet before looking at Teddy. “You’re serious.” Teddy shrugged again and James huffed a breath of air. “They’re like the richest wizarding family I think ever. I mean, there’s only two of them left, which is sad, and they’re not that bad, they’re pretty nice actually, but they used to have an insanely long line of influence.”

“Huh.”

“The point is, people like me don’t usually eat at places like this.”

“Sorry.” Teddy winced. “I just… wanted to treat you to something special.”

James looked touched, reaching out to take Teddy’s arm. “I’ll stop complaining. I’m just shocked is all.” He looked away, fiddling with the buttons of his jacket. “No one’s ever taken me out to such a nice place before.”

“You’re going to tell me your exes all took you to Five Guys and Burger King?”

“Nah, they never took me out at all,” James admitted, and Teddy felt somewhat taken aback as James held a hand up. “My mum treated me to Chipotle the other week, though.”

“Bloody hell, fuck all your exes.”

“No thanks, I’m over them.”

Teddy snorted, ignoring the look of disdain the maitre d’ gave them when they stepped inside the restaurant. “I have a reservation under Howell?”

The man looked like Teddy had just offered him sour milk, looking down at his tablet and growing even more distressed as he nodded and mumbled, “This way,” before leading Teddy and James to a table at the back.

Teddy sat down easier than James, who sank slowly into his chair, eyes sweeping around the room as the maitre d’ set down menus a little too aggressively before striding away quickly. There were only a few other tables occupied by fancy looking men and women dressed to the nines, throwing dirty looks in their direction every so often. Compared to them, Teddy and James were definitely underdressed, and the classic music from the loudspeakers sounded like overdone elevator tunes.

“Is it just me or is everyone giving us pretentious glares?” James whispered over the table, and Teddy leaned towards him to answer.

“They definitely are. I think they’re jealous. All of them look like they’re constipated.”

James snorted hard in an attempt to not laugh. “What’s with this music, too?”

“Yeah, I like piano music but this is horrid.”

“You like the piano? Do you play?”

“That and guitar.” Teddy leaned back. “Started when I was pretty young since there wasn’t much else to do. I think I prefer the guitar, but I still like piano. This, though.” He waved his hand up to gesture at the music. “I feel like my brain is being soaked in lyme.”

“Oh, ouch,” James snickered. “That’s so hot you play guitar though.”

“The menus in French, what kind of place is this,” Teddy whispered under his breath, though James heard him and laughed, turning the double sided menu a few times.

“Prices are a bit-”

“Don’t worry about the price, okay? I’ll buy tonight.”

James gaped at him. “How liquid are you exactly?”

“The human body is about sixty percent water.”

“Oh fuck you, Ted.”

Teddy was the one who snickered then, hiding behind the menu. “If you need help translating just let me know.”

“Nah, I can read it, sort of,” James muttered, putting the menu on the table. “I mean, I know what it says, for the most part. I just can’t read it or speak it. My aunt is from France, went to Beauxbatons, so I grew up hearing it.”

“Very impressive,” Teddy praised, and James shook his head with a crooked grin.

“Not really. I'm an amateur at best.”

“You can understand the words though, that’s a start. Maybe I could teach you a bit sometime.”

James puffed out a breath he’d been holding in, rolling his eyes. “I wasn’t the best student for my aunt, why do you think I’d listen to you?”

“Because I’m a really good shag?”

James pointed at him. “That’s very true.”

A waiter cleared their throat to get their attention, and Teddy set his menu down without bothering to apologize despite the scowl on the woman’s face, speaking to James. “Figure something out?”

“Yeah I’ll have this.” James pointed to something on the menu. “Just to be clear that is pasta, right?”

“That is pasta, yes.” 

“Great then, I’ll have that.”

Teddy turned to the waiter, holding out both menus and giving their order in perfect French, but the woman just gave him a glare and snatched the menus from him. “We speak English here.”

Teddy’s hand was still raised as she walked away, feeling sheepish, and James leaned over the table towards him. “Well I thought you sounded very sophisticated.”

“I’m starting to think this place is trash,” Teddy muttered, facing James but eyeing the three waiters conversing near the maitre d’.

“I’m starting to think this place thinks we’re trash, honestly.” James held his hands up. “I mean we definitely are, but still.”

Teddy smiled at him. “It’ll be fine. So how was work?”

James flopped back against the back of his chair with a sigh, head tilting back. “Stupid. Took me ages to record my report, because evidently the Head Auror wants a written report as well as the memory of the incident, as if just the memory isn’t good enough.” He waved a hand. “Wildly enough I didn’t see anyone else from the raid going the extra mile of writing a bloody essay of the incident. My aunt, not the French one, popped in around noon asking what I was doing, got pissed when I told her.”

“Good, you shouldn’t have to do extra work just because the Head Auror doesn’t like you. What’s his deal anyway? Are you a bad Auror or something?”

James scratched at a bandaid still on his cheek. “No I think I’m a decent Auror.”

“If you’re good at your job then what’s his deal?”

James sighed. “Maybe I’m too good at my job and he thinks I’ll steal his, I don’t know.”

“Merlin…”

“It’s fine, though. I don’t want his job, I just want to feel more comfortable in mine. I’ve complained about him before, but the Head of Magical Law Enforcement told me it was fine.”

“The Head of Magical Law Enforcement?” Teddy repeated, staring at James blankly. “He said it was just… fine? Your supervisor is clearly singling you out for workplace abuse and that’s fine?”

James looked embarrassed. “Well I mean it is fine, I can handle it, and it’s not really abuse, he’s just picking on me. It’ll make me a better Auror in the end.”

“That’s not acceptable. What kind of supervisor… I expected better of someone in the position of Head of Magical Law Enforcement.”

He expected better of his godfather…

“Hey, seriously.” James reached out to squeeze one of the hands Teddy had on the table, curled into a tight fist. “I’m fine, and the Head of Law Enforcement has got a lot of work to do without me whining about my superior.”

Teddy still felt annoyed. He knew Harry Potter was the Head of Magical Law Enforcement thanks to the article he’d found, but after all the research he’d done so far, all the newspaper articles and books talking about how bloody good and chivalrous Harry was, this was just appalling. Especially after the night before, what Teddy saw in James’ night terror. That incident had definitely happened while he was on a mission, Teddy had recognized the material of his sleeve as being from his uniform. That happened during an Auror mission and his superior was still allowed to bully him in the workplace as if James hadn’t already been through hell? Bullshit. Maybe Teddy didn’t know the whole story of what had happened, but still.

“Ted.” James squeezed his hand again. “Teddy. Hey, it’s fine. Don’t think about it so hard, you look like you’re turning red. Let’s just change the subject.”

Teddy exhaled through his nose, nodding, and James pulled his hand away just as the waiter returned with a bottle of wine for them. James looked pleased at its appearance, and Teddy decided he needed a pick me up as well, enjoying it in silence for a moment before managing to speak without cursing Harry or the Head Auror.

“So did you manage to get back home to talk to your brother?”

“Yeah,” James breathed, watching the wine in his glass swirl around. “He was mad at me, as expected, since I hadn’t been home since before we met at the bar. Hadn’t even sent an owl or answered my phone. He started trying to mom me the minute I stepped through the door. Don’t tell him I said that, though, he thinks he’s not like our mum but he absolutely is. Mostly he yelled at me.”

“Did you tell him where you’d been?”

James arched an eyebrow. “Did I tell my little brother I hadn’t been home because I was busy shagging a bar guy I went home with? Yes Teddy, I absolutely told him that.” He lifted the wine up. “The moron would never let me hear the end of it if I told him that. He would have called my parents, my aunts and uncles, they would’ve sat me down for an intervention and you’d probably be dead.”

The final bit of that had Teddy squinting, but James looked entirely serious, so Teddy felt mildly uncomfortable. “Why would I be dead, if I may ask?”

James shrugged far too nonchalantly, setting the glass down. “I told you I had bad relationships in the past.”

“Yeah.”

“Well they were bad enough that my family doesn’t exactly want me seeing anyone, not for dating or casual friends with benefits.” He waved a hand at himself. “You know, because clearly it’s my fault.”

“It’s not, it’s absolutely not,” Teddy insisted quickly. “That’s ridiculous for your family to not want you to date simply because you had a few shitty relationships.”

“Yeah, double up on the fact all my exes took advantage of me because of my family, one might argue I’d have better luck in love if my partner didn’t even know who I was,” James muttered that bit, sliding his finger along the rim of his wine glass.

Teddy felt mildly frantic as he spoke. “I’m not like that. You know that, right? I mean I know we’ve only known each other for a bit, but I have no intention of taking advantage of you, and technically I don’t know who you are, I definitely don’t know who your family is, so-”

“Teddy I never said you were like that,” James laughed. “It’s okay, I can tell you’re different.” He was smiling at his wine. “You have enough shitty boyfriends you eventually pick up on what a good guy is supposed to look like.” He looked up at Teddy brightly. “Pretty sure you’re a good guy by now. No other date, or fling, or boyfriend, or friend with benefits, ever helped me after a bad mission or patched me up and put me to bed.”

Teddy didn’t want to ask what they’d done instead, he had a pretty good idea, and he really didn’t like it. “Your exes were dirtbags.”

“Yeah I know.”

“If I ever see any of them-”

“The threat is endearing enough without you finishing it, no need to get yourself arrested on the account of my honor.”

Teddy mumbled about it being absolutely worth it, and around that time their food was brought out. It definitely seemed like a fancy restaurant meal, with a big price tag and a small portion. James poked a fork at his food and squinted at Teddy, who squinted back and finished his glass of wine before setting it down.

“Let’s not come here again.”

“Couldn’t agree more.”

“This portion isn’t enough for a bloody housecat.”

“Well on the bright side it won’t take long to eat so we can leave,” James said, giving a thumbs up, and Teddy hummed in agreement.

They ate quickly and Teddy paid the maitre d’ while James was in the bathroom, and they left while laughing at the dirty looks they were still getting. After some shuffling down the sidewalks and bumping into a coffee stand that was still open, they apparated to a beach that was less crowded, maybe because it was closing in on eleven at night, walking down the beach with only the moon for light as they drank burnt coffee and impersonated the snobby Muggles from the restaurant.

“Merlin I never want to go there again,” James sighed heavily. “The wine was good though.”

“I’m really sorry,” Teddy muttered, hands shoved into his jacket pockets and head back to stare at the moon. “That really was a complete disaster of a date. I’m embarrassed, honestly. I thought since it was a nice place then it would be a nice date, but that was awful.”

“Hey,” James laughed, moving to stand in front of Teddy, reaching out to hold his arms and keep him in place. “Look, I said the restaurant sucked, I didn’t say the date sucked. This is the nicest thing anyone has done for me, maybe ever. The restaurant was trash, the food was fine, and the company was fantastic.” His hands slid lower to Teddy’s wrists, smiling up at him. “Considering I just drank a twenty ounce of caffeine, I’ve got plenty of energy to enjoy the company a bit longer.”

Teddy relaxed at the reassurance, sighing and pulling his right hand from his pocket to hold James’ left hand, tugging him along as they continued to walk down the beach as the ocean water rushed up to their shoes before retreating. For a long time they just walked and talked, and it felt so surreal and new, Teddy didn’t want it to end yet.

"I played as a Chaser for Gryffindor, started my second year," James said, holding up two fingers to confirm the number. "The Headmistress said I was almost better than my grandfather, he was a Chaser too. I don't know about being better than him, but I did help Gryffindor win the Quidditch Cup four years in a row."

"Wow, did you put that in your resume?"

"You know I actually did!" Teddy threw his head back in a laugh as James grinned at him. "My little sister plays, too. She's the Seeker currently, and she's incredible. I see her taking it further once she graduates, she's mentioned wanting a professional career. I think she can do it."

"Did you ever want to?" Teddy asked, and James exhaled a puff of air.

"I dreamed about it, went as far as trying out, but I guess… you know, they wanted someone different." Teddy frowned and squeezed James' hand, and James leaned his head against Teddy's shoulder. "An ex of mine is a professional player," he said, and Teddy flinched. "I think… the fear of facing him, even in matches, wasn't something I could deal with. It tripped me up and I had a bad try out, so I wallowed in self pity for a bit before throwing everything into joining the Auror's instead."

"I'm sorry."

"Nah, stuff happens, we have to move on. Besides." He leaned away from Teddy, clinging to his hand. "If I'd been part of a team I probably wouldn't have been at the bar that night. Never would have met you. Then where would I be?"

“Not on a botched date, maybe.”

“I’m having a great time, thanks. Did Beauxbatons have Quidditch?”

“Yeah of course, but I didn’t play.”

“No?”

“Well, uh,” Teddy cleared his throat. “I’m kind of…” He mumbled the next part and James leaned closer.

“What was that?”

“I said I’m afraid of heights,” Teddy grumbled, and James gaped at him before keeling forward laughing, still clinging to Teddy’s hand.

“You’re kidding?!”

“I’m not.”

“Oh Teddy.”

“I wanted to play so I tried out, but I threw up when I got too high up and blacked out. Broke my wrist when I hit the ground.”

“Oh my god,” James wheezed a little, squeezing Teddy’s hand again. “Oh hun.”

“Look Quidditch isn’t everything, I’m perfectly happy standing on solid ground and watching other idiots fly around with the possibility of falling.”

“What did you do instead during school?”

“I studied like a normal person,” Teddy said, and James hummed.

“One thing I’m curious about, what is it you do, or did, when you were in France?”

Teddy awkwardly scratched his neck. “Nothing, really. I mean, I don’t have a confirmed job. I did research for the Ministry because that’s what I’m good at, and they paid me for it, but I don’t really have a job.”

“You don’t have any idea what you want to do, either?”

Teddy thought about it, at first feeling uncomfortable, how could he possibly think he was worthy of dating James when he was unemployed, an orphan with no living family, and already twenty-seven?

“I did a lot of traveling and research after graduating, studied different techniques, that’s why I’m so good at wandless magic, because I studied under a wizard in Africa. They don’t normally use wands at Uagadou, so the lot of them are experts at wandless magic. I learned from them.”

“That’s pretty neat.”

“I also studied ancient healing techniques and potioneering in China, Japan, and Tibet.”

“So you’re an expert in these things and still don’t have a job?” James asked, and Teddy shrugged. “You could probably do whatever you wanted.”

“I guess,” Teddy hummed, kicking at the sand. “I do like music, but what are the odds of having a career in music?”

“Well, to be honest you’re more likely to have a career with music in our world rather than the Muggle world.”

“That’s a good point.”

“What do you play?”

“Just the guitar and piano.”

“Can you sing?”

Teddy coughed into his fist. “I think so.”

James turned to walk backwards, tugging on Teddy’s right hand. “Sing for me!” When Teddy’s face twisted up, he quickly tried to reassure him. “No one else is around right now, it’s like one in the morning, I’m the only one here.” Teddy flushed and James smiled warmly at him. “I’m sure you’re better than you think.”

Teddy opened his mouth and James looked excited, but Teddy just cleared his throat. “How about later? I’ll pick my guitar up, I think they sent all my stuff to my vault in Gringotts. It’s easier when there’s a tune to sing to.”

James pouted but agreed, stepping closer to walk beside Teddy again, their shoulders pressed together. “I guess that’s fine. Do you write music?”

“Some of it, not a lot.”

“You’re so talented,” James teased, and Teddy rolled his eyes, laying his head on top of James’.

“So does anyone else in your family play Quidditch?”

“Shit, it’d be easier to tell you who didn’t play,” James laughed loudly. “My mum and dad both played, the only one who doesn’t is my little brother. Most of my cousins play, most of my aunts and uncles. One of my uncles was on the same team as his wife when they were in school. They actually played with my dad. Let me see. There’s only one uncle who didn’t play Quidditch, but he’s just as obsessed with it as the rest of us. Only two of my aunts played, and I think the only two of my cousins who don’t play are the youngest, they haven’t started school yet. Oh, my cousin Louis doesn’t play either, but his sisters do. They did for a little at least. We also have a family Quidditch game we play whenever we all get together, normally in May when the weather is good, so technically everyone plays, but only most of us played in school. My mum was a professional player on top of it, and I’m pretty confident that my sister is going to follow her footsteps.”

“James how big is your family?”

“Uh, shit, let me think. My immediate family is a family of five. There’s me, mum and dad, and my sister and brother. Then I have five uncles, four aunts, my gran and grandpa, and nine cousins.”

“Nine cousins?”

“Those are just people related to me by blood, though. We’ve got family friends too.” James paused before wincing, leaning further into Teddy and reaching out to cling to his arm, slotting their fingers together and squeezing Teddy’s hand. “Sorry. Feels kind of wrong to talk about them.”

“What for?” Teddy asked, and it hit him that James must feel odd about it since Teddy had already expressed being on his own. “Oh.” He stared up at the sky idly, rubbing his thumb over the back of James’ hand. “Look, you don’t have to feel bad, okay? Things happen.”

“I’m… sorry.”

“Don’t be, it’s okay,” Teddy laughed softly. “You know, when I came here, I thought maybe I'd find family somewhere. Cousins I didn't know I had, uncles or aunts or grandparents. I hoped maybe I'd find someone who knew me, even friends of the family, friends of my parents who met me when I was born, people who could tell me stories about them, because my nan never would. She raised me on her own, didn't tell me who my parents were till she was on her deathbed, it was just me and her and now she's gone and turns out I really do have no one. I thought I'd find blood, but that's not what happened."

"What did you find, then?" James asked, and Teddy smiled sheepishly at him.

"You." James blushed a deep red, watching Teddy like he wanted to talk but couldn’t think of what to say, and Teddy quickly released his hand to search his pockets. “Hold on, I forgot I picked something up for you yesterday.”

“For me?”

“Yeah, but since you came back so beat up I forgot. I guess I was more concerned about getting you patched up and healthy, but this is fine.” Teddy pulled out the instant bouquet he’d bought at the joke shop, snapping it like a glow stick and quickly holding it out in his right hand as blossoms and fully bloomed flowers popped up, flashing bright red, royal purple, blue, and pink.

James looked dumbstruck for a moment, gaping at the flowers and holding his hands out to accept them when Teddy urged him to, staring at them as his face darkened a shade more, then snorted and threw his head back, laughing.

“Wh-what?” Teddy gaped at him, feeling self conscious. “Do you not like them? Did I do something stupid?”

“Oh Teddy.” James wiped at his eyes, stepping closer so the flowers were between them. “I know exactly where you got these, and you wanna know a secret? They’re not just flowers.”

Teddy felt uncomfortable, but James was wearing a warm smile, so Teddy nodded, willing to hear more. “They look like flowers to me. The guy who sold them to me said he invented them as a sort of emergency anniversary gift. He was inspired by Muggle magicians pulling bouquets from their sleeves?”

“Yeah, I know that, but they’re charmed to flash colors according to the couples mood.” Teddy felt oddly uneasy at that, looking at the colors and wondering what they could be revealing about how he felt.

“What… else?”

“What else is they can’t lie,” James explained, lifting a hand to hold the side of Teddy’s face, grinning. “If your intentions were impure, or you were just with me as a pointless fling, these would have turned black and gray, completely free of any true emotion.”

Teddy’s cheeks felt hot. “So what do all the colors mean then?”

“Means you’ve known me two days and you want to know me longer,” James said simply, his hand sliding off Teddy’s cheek to hold the back of his neck. “To put it simply.”

“How about the long version?”

“I might embarass you if I tell you,” James admitted, reaching his other arm across Teddy’s shoulder, wrapping both around behind his neck so their foreheads were pressed together, “but, if we make it far enough… I probably won’t have to tell you.”

Teddy had so many questions, dropping his hands to James’ waist and holding him close as they just looked at each other silently. He wanted to kiss James, despite the still healing cut on his bottom lip, and the bandages and light bruises on his face and neck. Teddy wanted to hold James and make him breathless, but he couldn’t stop staring at him long enough. He didn’t want to close his eyes. The ethereal light coming from the moon sent silver streaks across James’ face, causing a ring of glowing white to circle his pupil, making the brown of his eyes seem electric, the freckles on his face ghostly pale. There were so many, Teddy doubted he’d be able to count them all.

“You know, tonight has actually been really great,” James said, breaking Teddy’s concentration, a hand playing with the back of his blue hair. “There’s only one thing that could make it better.”

Teddy’s vision blacked out with a crack before he found himself back in his hotel room. The lights were still on, and the sudden visibility almost killed the mood, but James didn’t seem to pick up on Teddy’s optical irritation as he leaned up to kiss him. They didn’t need to talk or decide anything more for the night. Teddy quickly shrugged off his leather jacket and let it drop before lifting his hands to hold James’ face, eyes shutting to sink into it as James pulled his jacket off next, having enough sense to throw his onto a chair with the bouquet following before wrapping his arms around Teddy.

Before the kiss got too deep, Teddy grabbed James by the shoulders and pushed him back, leaving him looking stunned. “I don’t want to go as fast as last time,” Teddy quickly said, and James snorted. “Sorry, I just-”

“No, I feel the same way,” James reassured, holding the front of Teddy’s shirt in a loose fist, his bandaged knuckles pressing into his sternum and pulling him close again, their lips caressing, barely touching, making Teddy dizzy with sensation. “What’s on for tonight then?” He whispered the words against Teddy’s lips.

Teddy pressed a firmer kiss onto James’ mouth before answering. “Let me drive you crazy.”

“Implying I’m not already?” James hummed, their noses rubbing together, and Teddy grinned.

“Let me tip you over the edge, then.”

James looked curious and excited at the same time, tugging on Teddy’s shirt to pull him towards the bedroom. Teddy waved a hand as they went, turning the lights off using the switch next to the door and shutting them halfway. They kicked off their shoes and loosened their clothes, dropping belts and falling onto the bed, James on his back and Teddy hovering over him, their lips still slotted together as James fisted the back of Teddy’s shirt and yanked it over his head, ruffling his blue hair, as if either cared about that.

James’ hands were on Teddy’s chest, touching him differently than they had before. The first time they’d been too drunk, too turned on to do anything more than quick preparation and a quick shag, but now James’ hands seemed to be exploring, almost hesitantly, tracing Teddy’s sides and down his ribs, over his stomach and down towards his unbuttoned jeans, fingers slipping under the elastic of his boxers before sliding back up to feel his chest and pecks, scratching across them just enough to tickle but not hurting or breaking skin. James seemed obsessed with touching Teddy, their lips kissing deep and his hands sliding around under Teddy’s arms to feel the expanse of his back, his shoulder blades and down his spine to anchor onto his hips, parting his lips to deepen the kiss even more.

Teddy had his jeans off first, easing closer so James could grab onto his thighs, gripping the bottom of his boxers while Teddy worked at getting James’ jeans off. They had to part just long enough to tug off James’ jeans as the Auror pushed himself up and reached back to yank his shirt over his head, throwing it to the side and falling back into the pillows as Teddy dropped his jeans off the bed and pressed a kiss onto James’ knee, kissing up his thigh until he’d reached the freckles he’d been so interested in before, sinking his teeth into a cluster of them and grinning at the gasp James let out, his leg twitching under Teddy’s bite as Teddy moved his hand up James’ other thigh, slipping under the material of his boxers and over the lion and wolf tattoo on his left thigh and hip.

“Are you still hungry or something?” James asked out of nowhere when Teddy sank his teeth into another cluster of freckles above the first.

“I guess freckles just turn me on,” Teddy said against James’ skin, looking up as James snorted, arms folded over his eyes.

“Well I have a lot of them.”

“Yeah, I noticed.” Teddy squeezed James’ thigh, lifting up to press a kiss above the band of James’ boxers, biting at the skin there and making James gasp again, hips jerking up once, then a second time as Teddy opened his mouth to suck and bite a mark into the skin there.

“Oh Merlin, Teddy.”

“Let me just get these off for you,” Teddy offered, squeezing James’ hips to urge him into lifting them off the mattress so he could tug the boxers down his thighs and flinging them over his shoulder once they were off, pressing another kiss against his inner thigh and biting the soft flesh there. “That’s much better.”

“Shit,” James gasped.

“Where do you want me next? Should I bite a few more hickeys into your thighs?” He shifted to James’ left side to kiss at the tattoo there, worshipping it like he should have done before. “Or am I allowed to suck you off this time?”

James seemed to consider it, his hands holding the bars of the headboard and staring dizzily at the ceiling. “Can I have both?”

“Of course you can,” Teddy assured, biting harder at James’ thigh, next to the tattoo, sucking and licking at the skin until he’d left a bruise, then kissed his way to James’ half hard erection, taking it directly into his mouth, trying not to smile as James jerked, groaning.

Teddy lifted off of James to drag his tongue over the underside of his cock to the tip, taking it back into his mouth and bobbing his head gently, keeping his tongue pressed against the underside of James’ cock as he took him to the back of his throat, moving in accordance to the soft moans and blissful hums of pleasure until James’ entire body was twitching, hips jerking, cock hard and hot, the skin soft and enticing. He then released his hold, wiping the back of his hand over his mouth and smiling up at the foggy, barely lucid expression on James’ face.

“Good thing I stopped when I did, huh?” Teddy asked, one hand stroking James’ cock. “What’s next?”

“Gimme a minute,” James sighed, rubbing his hands over his face and into his hair. “I don’t want this to end too soon.” He pulled his hands off his face, grinning up at Teddy. “You’re pretty good at that.”

“Thanks, appreciate it.”

“I guess it’s my turn, huh?” James asked, one hand rubbing up and down Teddy’s side. “You wanna come up here for a minute? Let me get you ready, taste as much as I can, cuz I don’t think it’s all gonna fit in my mouth.”

“You want me to come up there?” Teddy asked, and James smirked.

“Well I’m not moving,” he hummed, and Teddy snorted.

“Brat.” He crawled up the bed, hovering over James and bracing his hands against the headboard, staring down as James grabbed the elastic band of his boxers, grinning up at Teddy. “Better not use teeth.”

“But you look so tasty, and that dinner was pathetic.” Teddy arched an eyebrow and James laughed. “I’m kidding. I like to think I’m good at this, I won’t bite you.”

James actually looked a little anxious, so Teddy reached down to stroke his jaw. “I trust you, I’m not really that worried.”

James smiled, releasing Teddy’s cock from his boxers and holding it in his hand, keeping eye contact with Teddy as he arched his head closer and parted his lips, sliding his tongue along the underside of it before taking it into his mouth completely. Teddy groaned and pressed his forehead against the wall, clinging to the headboard with both hands and shutting his eyes as he let himself feel. The sensation of James’ tongue rubbing roughly at his cock, wetting it with a blend of spit and his own precum, warmth pooling in his gut and cock throbbing in James’ mouth.

He groaned, reaching down to card his fingers into James’ hair, heart racing and hips jerking. James choked a bit and Teddy cursed, shifting James’ bangs away from his eyes. “Sorry.”

James just hummed, and seemed to open his throat, breathing in through his nose before taking Teddy deeper. Teddy cursed again, fisting the hand in James’ hair and struggling not to thrust in deeper and choke James. He pressed his palm against James’ forehead, grunting and shaking his head.

“That’s good, don’t make me come yet.”

James laughed around him, opening his mouth and letting Teddy pull out, shuffling back down the bed to capture his mouth in a kiss.

“Do I taste like you?” James asked on a hum, and Teddy snorted.

“Gross.”

“It’s your dick, not mine.”

Teddy kissed him again, then trailed kisses down his chin and underneath it, biting the skin until James had tilted his head back, kissing further down to his chest. “Want me to get you ready?”

“Yeah,” James answered softly, spreading his legs when Teddy reached between them. “You don’t have to spend too much time on me though, I like how it feels to be opened up by you, not just your fingers.”

“I’ll get you lubed, then. Tell me if it hurts too much and I’ll stop.”

“Teddy, honestly, I already know you would never hurt me,” James laughed, running his fingers through Teddy’s hair and tilting his head back as Teddy latched onto a nipple with his teeth.

He conjured lube into his hand, spreading it over his fingers and reaching between James’ legs to prod at his entrance, circling the rim and spreading the lube until it was dripping down his skin, before pushing his index further, breaching his entrance and sliding it in slowly, down to his last knuckle. Teddy ran the flat of his tongue over James’ chest as he conjured lube directly into James’ channel, causing him to jerk and whimper.

“Oh god, that’s really good.”

“Yeah?” Teddy bit James’ nipple gently, and his hips jerked again.

“Shit, it is.”

Teddy slid his index from James’ hole, stroking his hand over his cock. “You got harder.”

“Cuz it felt good,” James mumbled, and Teddy leaned up to smile at the carnal expression on James’ face.

“What do you want now? Do you want me to prep you more?”

“Teddy if you don’t hurry up and put your dick in me I’m gonna feel obligated to smack you.”

“Okay, impatient. What happened to going slow?”

“Teddy.”

“I’m coming, Jamie,” Teddy promised, situating himself between James’ legs and shuffling them both until James’ legs were hooked over his arms, lubing his cock and leading it to James’ entrance, biting James’ thigh till it stung and stroking James’ cock with his free hand as he pushed into him with careful thrusts.

He watched what he was doing until he was halfway in before moving his eyes to James’ face, searching for discomfort or any sign he was in pain. All he saw was pleasure, eyes rolled back and biting his own wrist as his free hand twisted into the sheets, moaning and shaking, sweat beading along his entire body.

“Tell me,” Teddy hummed against the bruise he’d kissed into James’ thigh, and James inhaled sharply.

“Yeah. Fuck. Good.”

“Not hurting?”

“Don’t move immediately.”

“So I am hurt-”

“No I’m gonna come!” James squeaked, and Teddy gaped at him before grinning, pausing when he’d bottomed out inside James and kissing the bruise on his inner thigh.

“I got you, Jamie. You’re okay.” Teddy reached back to rub James’ knee, pressing his cheek into his thigh, concentrating on James’ face to keep himself from paying too much attention to the absolute pleasure he was feeling from being inside his lover. “I’ll give you a minute. Just breathe.” He watched James’ chest move with his deep breaths, whining each exhale, arms folded over his eyes. “Hey, do you have work tomorrow?”

James swallowed. “No. My dad told me to take an extra day because of the bad raid.”

“Good, cuz it’s almost two in the morning, and something tells me we’re going to be here for a while.”

James laughed. “I hope so.” He moved his arms away from his face, reaching up to Teddy. “Hey, come closer, I wanna kiss you.”

“Yeah?” Teddy smiled warmly, adjusting James’ legs so James could wrap them around his waist, leaning over James and pressing their foreheads together, watching James’ eyes close with a hum as Teddy’s cock moved inside him. “Still wanna kiss me or should I move?”

“Both.”

Teddy complied, staying true to his desire to make this last and thrusting slow and shallow, kissing James tenderly as the Auror hummed and wound his arms around Teddy and Teddy fisted the covers beneath James, keeping their lips in a passionate kiss. Whether they were simply brushing their lips together, pressing them firmly into one another, or parting them to taste each other deeper, they kept their lips together. Teddy rutted against and inside James for a long time, drinking in the taste of red wine and black coffee as James huffed into his mouth, one hand buried in Teddy’s hair and the other clinging to his back.

Their lips parted so they could look at each other, Teddy didn’t stop his hips rhythm into James, who’d managed to move his hand deeper into Teddy’s hair, staring at it with unfocused, foggy eyes and panting.

“Your hair…”

“My hair?” Teddy whispered back, rolling his hips and pushing his cock in deeper just to see the reaction of James’ eyes rolling and his mouth parting in lust, his chest heaving until he managed to get a hold of himself again.

“It’s. Different,” James panted, and Teddy was almost shocked enough to lose his hard on, though he couldn’t just stop feeling pleasure when he was pelvic deep inside James.

“Different how?” Teddy asked, and James moaned, turning his head in the pillow and jerking his hips to force Teddy deeper. Teddy hissed against the pleasure and dug his nails into the duvet, cock throbbing almost painfully; he was close to tipping over the edge now, it felt too good.

“Your roots are purple,” James somehow managed to explain himself, fisting the hand in Teddy’s hair. “The rest is still blue. How did you do that?”

“I think you’re seeing things because of the bad light,” Teddy huffed, watching James closely as he slowly pulled his cock back, halfway down his channel before bracing himself and thrusting in hard and deep. “Or because of this.”

James nearly screamed, hands splaying, releasing his hold on Teddy’s hair and reaching to cling to his sweaty back with both hands, fingers pressing into Teddy’s skin. “Oh my god, oh Merlin, oh fuck.”

“You’re twitching again,” Teddy whispered into James’ ear, thrusting hard against the sweet spot inside him, groaning at the way James clenched around him. “You want to come?”

“I don’t- I don’t-” James couldn’t finish the sentence, cut off with each fierce thrust inside.

“You don’t want to come?” Teddy slowed his thrusts and James cursed loudly, fingers pressing deeper into Teddy’s back.

“I do! I don’t know! Fuck, it’s so good.”

“Yeah, baby, I’m gonna come too. Fuck, you feel incredible. It’s so hot inside you. I can tell you want to come, I can feel you’re getting close.” He slowed down and moved his hands to hold James’ face, watching him pant, eyes wild. “Ready?” James whimpered, shaking. “I’m gonna fuck you through it, honey. Hold onto me and don’t let go. Okay?”

James nodded and Teddy wrapped his arms under James’ shoulders to hold onto him and keep him from moving too much, shutting his eyes and pressing his face into the side of James’ neck as James squeezed his legs around his hips and clung to his back, whimpering again and gasping when Teddy started to move. His thrusts were soft and slow at first, concentrating on his breathing as he pulled his cock down James’ slick hole before thrusting back in all the way, bumping his prostate before repeating the process, pulling out until only the head of his cock stayed inside before pushing it back in place.

He picked up speed and his thrusts grew shallower and rougher, until he was all the way inside James and pounding into his prostate with barely a second of recovery before he was pushing against it again. James was cursing and crying a stream of gasps and incomprehensible words, his arse clenching around Teddy and his entire body quivering as he clung to Teddy, hands scrabbling to find purchase on the sweaty skin. Teddy felt it when he came, heard the sob of pleasure as his nails scratched down his back and James’ arched up, his entire body shaking furiously as his sobs choked off into gasps. 

Teddy kept his hips going, biting the side of James’ neck as he let the tightening around him and the heat urge him to his own orgasm, groaning as he came hard and pressed his pelvis into James’ thighs, mouthing at the side of his neck as he panted and ground his cock into James, twitching a few times as he spilt everything inside. The pleasure began to fade and his eyes shut with a sigh, his forehead against James’ neck as he waited for his breathing to regulate before pulling out of James.

He didn’t react, so Teddy pushed himself onto his hands, hovering over James and watching him closely. His eyes were unfocused, like he still hadn’t come down from the high of orgasm, and Teddy looked down between them to see the mess of white between them. Teddy held a hand out to the side to summon his wand, cleaning them both up and holding James’ face to kiss him. After a moment, a hand was in his hair again, and Teddy smiled, pressing his forehead against James’.

“Can you breathe?”

James looked more aware of himself now, blissed out and tired with a smile. “Yeah, I can breathe. I’m okay.”

“Not hurting?”

“I feel awesome.” Teddy grinned, but the smile faded when James squirmed around, still appearing content as his hand slipped down his stomach, a smirk on his lips. “Gonna help me get this out, or?”

“Oh, oh fuck.” Teddy fell over James, face against his shoulder as he cursed. “I did it again, fuck, I can’t believe I’m so stupid.”

“What? What happened?”

Teddy pushed himself up again, pushing a hand through his hair to get it out of his face. “I forgot to wear a condom again,” he explained sheepishly, and James’ face twisted up before he snorted hard, shaking his head.

“Teddy it’s fine.”

“It’s definitely not!”

“Look, you’re the only one I’ve slept with without a condom. You’re the first and only one. I don’t have any disease, and-"

“I’ve never forgotten before though, but now I’ve forgotten twice.”

“So you don’t have any diseases either, that’s good.” James reached up to hold Teddy’s face between his hands. “Isn’t it kind of poetic? You weren’t my first time, but you were my first time without a condom.”

Teddy wanted to argue, but he did mumble, “You were mine too. Without a condom I mean.” He quickly moved his wand to clean the rest of James, inside and out. “I’m still angry at myself for forgetting!”

“Even if there was a possibility of complications, Muggle diseases don’t really affect us the same way.”

“Not the point, it’s important to practice safe sex.”

James put both hands over his stomach, looking at Teddy with dramatically widened eyes. “Teddy are you perhaps afraid of getting me pregnant?” Teddy rolled his eyes with a sigh as James forced himself to pout, struggling not to smile. “You better take responsibility if you did get me pregnant.”

“You’re hilarious.”

“No I mean it.” He pointed at his stomach. “This is your kid too.”

“Alright, I get you’re teasing me,” Teddy said with a sigh, and James snickered, reaching up to hold Teddy’s face and pull him down to a kiss.

“You know worrying too much makes you age faster?”

“Me? You thought I was younger than twenty-seven.”

“Being a father is making you age before my eyes.”

“Okay, I think it’s time for you to sleep,” Teddy decided, sitting back and picking up his shirt so he could drop it over James’ face as the Auror laughed.

He sat up when Teddy swung his legs off the bed, yanking the black shirt over his head as if more than happy to wear Teddy’s clothes to bed again. Teddy had his back to James as he pulled on his boxers, not understanding the strange choking sound before a hand was on his back.

“Did I scratch you?” James asked frantically, and Teddy turned to look back at James, confused at the panic on his face.

“What? I don’t know, I wasn’t paying attention to that.”

“Let me see.” James pushed at Teddy’s shoulder to make him turn his back again, staring blankly at the wall, not seeing the issue as James traced his fingers gently across his back. “Fuck, I did, I broke the skin. Teddy I’m so sorry.”

“They’re just scratches,” Teddy tried to reassure James, turning and reaching out to one of his hands. “They don’t hurt.”

“You don’t get it, I broke the skin,” James said softly, his face white in shock and fear in his eyes; the hand Teddy was holding was trembling.

“Jamie.” Teddy reached out to take the Auror by his shoulders as James covered his mouth with both hands. “Hey, hun, it’s okay. I’m serious, it doesn’t hurt, and I’m not mad. Why would I be mad? I’m kind of amused, and maybe I shouldn’t be, but it just means you felt so good you couldn’t control yourself. I consider it a compliment.”

“But I scratched you,” James insisted frantically, pulling his hands away and looking at his fingers, then at Teddy. “Let me see again.”

“Yeah, okay,” Teddy didn’t protest, turning his back again so James could trace the scratches.

“There’s no blood, I didn’t make you bleed, but I still broke the skin. You’re sure it doesn’t hurt?”

“Honestly I can’t actually feel it.”

“Can I put medicine on them?”

“What? Jamie you don’t have to do that.”

“Please?” He sounded desperate, so Teddy sighed and nodded.

“If it makes you feel better. I’ll get my first aid kit.”

“No I have something.”

Teddy looked over his shoulder to watch James lean off the other side of the bed to grab his jeans from the floor, pulling a small metal tin from his back pocket and sitting back on the bed, unscrewing it to reveal a thick, strange smelling, dark purple ointment with flecks of white in it. It was almost floral, but bitter and somewhat vile. Teddy screwed his nose up.

“What is that?”

“Medicine,” James explained as he turned towards Teddy. “It’s special, you don’t need to use a lot.”

“What kind of medicine?”

“Special medicine.” James looked up at him. “You can’t find it in a store, even one of our stores. It’s kind of… an Auror only medicine, I guess?” He looked uneasy when he said it, and Teddy shook his head.

“You don’t need to waste something like that on a few scratches.”

“You already said I could,” James reminded, and Teddy rolled his eyes, turning away and deciding not to argue.

He didn’t understand why James was so upset about it, but if putting medicine on his back would make him feel better, then Teddy didn’t see the harm in it. He didn’t even feel the scratches when James spread a thin layer of ointment over them, but the Auror wouldn’t be acting so frantic if nothing was there.

“Okay, I’m done.”

Teddy turned around to watch James close the tin, his face still drawn and pale. “Am I cured, doctor?” He tried to tease, but James just winced, not responding with a quip of his own like Teddy had gotten used to. Something was really wrong, and it was starting to freak him out. “Jamie-”

“Are you tired?” James asked, pushing the jeans and ointment onto the floor before pulling himself to the head of the bed, folding the covers back and slipping beneath them. “I’m tired.”

Teddy wanted answers, but before anything else, Teddy wanted James to smile again. He slipped under the covers and pulled the duvet up, rolling closer to James and wrapping his arms around his waist, lying his head on James’ chest so he wasn’t sleeping on his back. James brushed his fingers across Teddy’s back tenderly, a kiss pressing to Teddy’s forehead and staying there.

“You need to tell me if you start feeling sick, okay?” James said, sounding weak, and Teddy furrowed his brow.

“Why would I start feeling sick?”

“I don’t know, just… please tell me.”

“I promise I’ll tell you.”

James sighed, and their conversation stopped after that. James wasn’t asleep, Teddy knew that because he was still rubbing his back gently, moving his hand to Teddy’s head after a moment to stroke through his hair instead. In the end, Teddy fell asleep first, and woke up the next morning with a hand still in his hair, sluggishly stroking through it. When Teddy shifted around and pushed himself onto his elbow, James was staring at the ceiling, looking exhausted, blinking when he seemed to realize that Teddy was awake.

“Hey.”

“Did you sleep at all?”

“Oh, yeah, of course,” James replied, but there was no emotion in his voice, and Teddy felt panicked.

“You definitely didn’t, you look exhausted.”

James sat up, rubbing his eyes. “No, I’m okay.”

“Jamie-”

“How’s your back?”

“My back? Oh, the scratches? I don’t feel them.”

James dropped his hand, looking frustrated. “Seriously?”

“Yeah, I still don’t feel anything.”

“Let me see.”

Teddy was as baffled as he was before, letting James look at his back. Despite the situation, the sensation of James running a hand down his back was comforting.

“They… faded a lot during the night. They’re almost completely gone.”

“Most scratches are like that. I told you I was fine.”

James put a hand on Teddy’s forehead, which only seemed to confuse him more, but James looked just as shocked, his brows drawn and shaking his head a little. “I don’t understand.”

“You’re not the only one,” Teddy laughed weakly, watching as James pulled his hand away and sat back, staring down. “Please tell me what’s wrong.”

James opened his mouth before shutting it, jaw setting and body tensing up. “It’s nothing,” he said, slipping towards the other side of the bed and grabbing his underwear, pulling them on as he stood up.

He was eerily silent. The pleasant, friendly, romantic atmosphere from the night before seemed to have faded into a tense and deeply uncomfortable atmosphere. Teddy could almost visibly see how ashamed James was feeling, his insecurity and frustration. All because he lost control during sex and scratched him a little?

“Hey, Jamie-”

“Um,” James interrupted Teddy before he could speak, clearing his throat. “Look, I’m sorry, last night-”

“Don’t apologize, I said I wasn’t mad,” Teddy insisted, standing and grabbing a pair of sweatpants hanging on the chair beside his bed, pulling them on as James unscrewed the tin of ointment to smell it, like he was desperately trying to distract himself.

“I know you weren’t mad,” James assured, closing the tin and putting it back into his jean pocket. “You… really feel okay?”

“Yeah, I do, I promise.”

James nodded slowly, still holding his jeans. “I’m glad I didn’t make you bleed. It might have been a lot worse.”

“I heal fast as it is, so it wouldn’t have mattered.”

“It would have,” James sighed, looking at his hands. “I’m… is it okay if I take a shower?”

“Yeah of course it is. You can use my shampoo and stuff again if you need to.”

“Right.”

“I’ll make breakfast.”

“You don’t have to. I should probably go after.” Teddy felt like he’d just been punched, watching James pick up his clothes methodically, not looking at Teddy.

“You don’t have to work, right?”

“I don’t have work.”

“You know you could always stay.”

“Look, Ted, I… I don’t think I should. I should just go.”

“What?” Teddy tried not to sound scared as he watched James, who looked at his hand again before leaning down to pick his red shirt up. “Wait, hold on a minute, did I do something?” Teddy hurried to stand in front of James so he couldn’t reach the bathroom door. “Look, if I did something-”

“You didn’t do anything, Teddy,” James quickly assured. “This isn’t because of you, I just… need to think.”

“Can you talk to me? Please?” Teddy held his arms out. “Listen I don’t understand why you’re so upset about scratching me. Would it make you feel better if I scratched you back? I mean I did bite you last night. A lot, actually. There’s a pretty bad bruise on your neck from it.” Teddy blushed and cleared his throat. “Sorry about that, by the way. Got a little lost in the moment; and for the record so did you, there’s nothing shameful about it.”

“It’s not that simple,” James said, keeping his head down and his eyes on their feet.

“Then explain it to me.”

“You wouldn’t understand and I wouldn’t expect you to.”

“But I want to. I want to understand and I want to help.”

James shut his eyes and shook his head. “Ted-”

“After everything we’ve shared, all of that, the night after the bar and last night- I know we barely know each other but don’t I know enough to care about you?”

“I know, I know, but that’s the problem!” James snapped, clearly frustrated, throwing his clothes onto the bed. “I should know better!”

“Better than what?! James-”

“I’m not normal, okay?!” James yelled. “You don’t understand, I’m not normal!”

“We’re wizards, normal isn’t in our vocabulary,” Teddy soothed gently. “I understand if this makes you uncomfortable, but I know you know by now you can trust me. You said yourself that I was different, right?”

James looked frightened, hands in fists at his sides. “I want you to be different,” he said softly, and Teddy felt his heart break, “but I don’t want to hurt you, either.”

“You won’t. You didn’t. You said yourself that my back is fine. That ointment you used fixed the scratches, and I swear I don’t even feel them.” Teddy held his hands out for James, who stared at them silently, brown eyes watering.

There was fear and panic in his eyes, desperation on his face as he lifted his hands and ran them through his hair, shutting his eyes and huffing out a breath before stepping forward, grabbing Teddy by his wrist and dragging him towards the bathroom, flipping the lights on once they were inside.

Teddy looked around as if the bathroom would be able to explain what James was doing. “What is it, then? Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?”

“Just… look.” James paced a few steps away from Teddy before turning to face him, holding the hem of the black shirt he was wearing and pulling it up, lifting it over his head and off before dropping it to the tiled floor.

“Look at you shirtless in just your underwear?” Teddy asked jokingly, and James stared at him blankly, which made him feel even worse. James acting serious wasn’t right. He should be joking and laughing and always smiling. “Alright, I’m looking. What am I seeing?”

“Why I’m not normal,” James mumbled, turning his back to Teddy, whose eyes widened when his back was in full view, revealing four parallel scars that cut across from his left shoulder blade diagonally to his right side above his hip.

Teddy stepped closer, lifting a hand but not touching James. The scars were jagged and grotesque, deformed and invasive, parts of it still bruised and lifted from the skin like hypertrophic scars. They were horrific and took up a large majority of James’ back, and there was only one creature in their world that made scars like that.

“Werewolf…”

“I’m a Partial,” James said, head down and right hand holding his left shoulder, stepping away from Teddy and turning away from him, leaning against the sink so Teddy could still see the reflection of the scars in the mirror behind him. “A few years ago I went on a mission in Wales. We didn’t know there was a pack in that area, and we definitely didn’t know they were hostile. My Auror partner saw them coming, I didn’t, and he dodged the attack. I couldn’t. Then this happened.” He lifted his left arm to stare down at it. “I was infected partly from the disease getting into my system through my blood, through the wolf who clawed me. It wasn’t the full moon and he wasn’t transformed, so I wasn’t fully infected and I don’t transform under the moon, I’m… half, I guess. There are still side effects and repercussions from the disease though. Like if I scratch other people, I could infect them too,” he said this in a whisper and Teddy’s throat closed up, more from empathy than fear.

“What else?” Teddy asked, and James looked up at him, his brow furrowed, cheeks wet.

“What?”

“What other side effects are there? I mean I’ve researched full werewolves, everything to do with them, but I’ve barely touched on Partials. I only know a little.”

James still looked confused, shaking his head, so Teddy walked forward, pausing only once when James flinched and leaned back, before moving forward again, slower than before, stopping in front of James and pinning him in place, reaching around him to lean his hands against the counter on either side of the Auror, then laid his forehead against James’.

“Jamie, this changes nothing,” Teddy said. “I’m not afraid of you and I’m not angry, I don’t think of you or see you any differently than I did before.”

James looked broken. “I could end up hurting you. We got lucky last night, I didn’t draw blood, but-"

“It wouldn’t affect me even if you had,” Teddy interrupted. “I’m not normal either.”

James looked irritated. “You’re going to tell me you’re immune to Lycanthropy?”

Teddy shrugged. “If you want to call it immunity, that’s fine.”

“Are you an animagus or something?”

“No but that would be cool.”

“Then you’re not immune.”

Teddy sighed. “Fine, I’m not immune, but that still doesn’t change anything. Partial or not, that doesn’t matter to me, okay? I understand you don’t want to hurt me, but look.” He took hold of James’ hands and lifted them. “You clearly don’t want to hurt people. You keep your nails cut short, that’s probably why you didn’t break the skin deeper than you did.”

“I try to cut them once a week, but I also have a nail file to keep them dull.”

“You’re not a bad person, Jamie.”

James looked suddenly exhausted, like staying up all night was finally catching up to him. “You really don’t mind what I am?”

“What are you? A talented Auror, the first person I’ve ever been with in any sort of romantic or sexual way who didn’t just fuck me and leave the next morning, or cheat on me, or use me for your own gain, or hurt me. You make me laugh, Jamie, and the other day someone told me to find something that makes me laugh and hold onto it.”

James stared at Teddy, lifting a hand to wipe at the tears that were on his face. “And that’s me?” he sounded uncertain, and Teddy reached out to hold James’ face, pressing a kiss to his forehead.

“That’s you.”

James set his forehead against Teddy’s chest, one hand covering his mouth, and Teddy wrapped his arms around him, rubbing his back, taking extra care to trace the scars and kissing the top of his head.

“I’m as nervous as you are. Maybe not about the exact same things, but I’m still worried this might end in fire. We haven’t even known each other for a week, but I already feel like I’ve known you for my whole life.”

James shook his head. “The Ministry tried to hide my… sickness, from the rest of the community. People keep saying werewolves aren’t as discriminated as they used to be, but what else am I supposed to think when the entire Ministry wants me to keep it to myself? As it is only a few people within the Ministry know. They say if it got out then people might get upset or lose trust in the Aurors, insist they fire me or something as equally absurd. I had an ex, I got together with them shortly after they let me out of the hospital, but I didn’t want to sleep with them because I didn’t want them to see the scars or find out what I was… but they did find out.”

“How?” Teddy asked, and James laughed.

“How does anything happen? Convinced me to sleep with him, but when I didn’t want to take my shirt off…”

Teddy’s eyes widened and he wrapped his arms tighter around James, pushing his mouth and chin into his messy hair.

“He figured it out when he saw the scars. They actually had to obliviate him.”

“Fuck.”

“Yeah.”

“Jamie I’m so sorry that happened to you.” Teddy pulled back, holding James by his shoulders. “I won’t tell anyone. I promise. I like to think I’m good at keeping secrets, especially when it’s this important.”

James snorted, looking down. “This could go absolutely nowhere,” he said. “Us trying this, getting to know each other, dating, it could all end horribly and go straight into the ground. Most of my relationships ended like that anyway.”

Teddy winced. “Mine too.”

James met his eye, one corner of his mouth lifting into a crooked grin that showed off the dimple in his cheek, the same awkward but intrigued smile he gave Teddy in the bar. “I probably wouldn’t still be an Auror if I ran from challenging situations, though. Even if I’m scared of something, it’s never been in my nature to turn away from it.” He lifted a hand to touch Teddy’s left arm. “I want to try this.”

Teddy felt almost too hopeful, squeezing James’ shoulders. “You’re really sure?”

“Yeah. I mean, we’re both in the same boat, aren’t we? We’ve both had shitty relationships that ended horribly and left us at least mildly traumatized. Maybe we can make it.”

Teddy laughed, moving his hands to hold James’ face, feeling more at home than he had since his nan took her last breath. “Yeah, maybe we can. First, though.” Teddy stroked a hand through James’ hair. “You stayed awake all night to keep an eye on me, to make sure I didn’t develop a fever from the scratches. You need to actually sleep.”

“Can I take a shower first?” James asked, and Teddy smiled with a hum.

“Only if I can take it with you,” he teased, and James grinned, gripping at the elastic of Teddy’s sweatpants and pulling him closer.

“Wanna wash my hair for me?”

“I’ll wash everything for you.”

“Such a gentleman.”

“Well I have to take care of the mother of my child, right?”

James burst out laughing, his head falling back, and Teddy grinned, chuckling and reaching out to hold the side of James’ face. He pulled him into a kiss that James smiled into, reaching up to run his fingers through Teddy’s hair and rubbing their noses together after pulling apart.

“This might actually be really fun,” he hummed, and Teddy hummed back.

“It definitely will be.”

Chapter Text

Six months. Six of the most blissful and passionate months of James’ entire life. After so long getting himself tangled up in bad relationship after fucking horrible relationship, James never would have predicted that a night out at the bar would have lead to what was the longest relationship of his life so far. Every day seemed to be better than the last, every moment he was able to spend with Teddy made him happy to be alive. Of course it was several different levels of fun being in a secret relationship no one knew about, but there was still strain that James didn’t like to think about.

Like the fact he’d been lying about who he really was for the past six months. Teddy knew him as James Evans, because James was too scared of what might happen if he admitted he was actually James Sirius Potter, oldest son of the Head of Magical Law Enforcement, saviour of the wizarding world, Harry James Potter. At least half of James’ previous relationships had gone south because his partner had only been in it to get close to his father, manipulate his name and status for money or influence or something else, while the other half were just bad seeds James seemed to be attracted to for no reason.

He didn’t want this relationship to go just as badly, because he’d never liked someone this much before. Teddy was something entirely different than what he was used to. He was kind, wildly intelligent, funny as all hell, and incredibly hot, which was a combination you never really got to see anymore. Teddy was the whole package and James loved everything about him. Even the little tics that irritated him. Teddy was a terrible cook, for one thing, and though James would eat whatever he made, it certainly wasn’t remarkable cuisine. He left books in the bed all the time, and it was mildly irritating to be woken up with the sharp edges digging into his ribs, but he could forgive Teddy for it, because it was the cutest thing to wake up and see Teddy had fallen asleep sitting up with an open book on his chest.

Teddy could be incredibly quiet a lot of the time, and sometimes he got a particular look on his face, something dark and haunted and horribly sad. It was luckily easy enough to make him feel better, all James had to do was flop onto the couch next to him and put his head in Teddy’s lap, suggesting they go out to a movie or watch something stupid on TV. When Teddy had that lost look on his face, what he needed was to feel like he wasn’t alone. He needed a distraction, and James was all too happy to be that distraction.

James had been spending less and less time at the flat he shared with his brother and more time with Teddy at the hotel. He didn’t know if Albus had picked up on it yet, how James would claim to be going to bed early while he was actually sneaking out through his window and apparating to Teddy’s suite every night. At first it was just because he wanted to spend a few extra hours with his boyfriend, but James had started to realize he slept so much better when he was sleeping next to Teddy. He wasn’t sure why, if it was because he felt safer being unconscious around Teddy, or because he always went to bed happy and content when he was next to Teddy, but he didn’t care.

He never suffered from his night terrors when Teddy was with him. Those horrific dreams he’d been having since he was attacked and became a Partial. James hated sleeping in front of people most of the time because he didn’t want them to see him freak out.

Albus had seen him during one of the terrors before, after James had fallen asleep on the couch, absolutely exhausted from work and screaming out of nowhere while still deep in sleep. Albus wasn’t one to openly talk about how he felt, not to James at least, but James knew his brother well enough to know how bothered and scared he was for James regarding the night terrors. James couldn’t blame him either, and he wished he could tell Albus he didn’t have to worry anymore, but the kid probably wouldn’t believe him.

Not to mention if he tried to explain why he didn’t have to worry, Albus would just get testy about it.

“What do you mean your secret boyfriend of six months is chasing the bad dreams away, who is he and why haven’t you told mum or dad or the rest of us yet?”

It wouldn’t go down well, not after all the times James had come home shaking after a bad breakup, not quite crying but clearly not okay. James knew his family hated seeing him like that, barely holding himself together and just laughing because there was nothing else he could do, snapping at whoever tried to make him feel better or give him advice. His father telling him things happened and that love might come late would end in James yelling “how would you know, you married your Hogwarts sweetheart, you have no idea how this feels”, and his mother trying to sympathize and offer a hug would end in James telling her to sod off before locking himself in his room, muffling sobs into his pillow because on top of breaking up with a shit boyfriend, now he was acting like a shit son.

Lily was no better, glaring at James and demanding where his ex lived, looking a bit too demented and pissed off, like the concept of Azkaban wouldn’t keep her from murdering a man. Albus, on the other hand, would say nothing, and that was why he was the only one James would allow around him after a breakup. Albus didn’t try to comfort James, or make him feel better by saying everything would be okay, or promise to avenge James’ broken heart by literally murdering his boyfriends. He just sat there, and the presence and silent support was more than enough.

James didn't break down, he didn't cry or yell or tell people he was upset or sad. He was the one who was always okay. Growing up, he was the one in the family who would smile through the meal, even if the rest of his family was having a bad day. He was the one who made jokes and laughed at inappropriate times, the one who hugged his mother when she was stressed and reassured his father when he was frustrated. He was the one who trained with Lily and pushed her towards Quidditch when she was feeling insecure about her abilities, and the one who studied with Albus and continuously supported him through his struggles with his magic as well as his feelings for Scorpius Malfoy. He was everyone's shoulder to cry on and everyone's comedic relief.

The only time he ever started to lose it was when a relationship ended or a one night stand left him like he was trash. Most of the time James tried to hide himself so no one saw him break, because they didn't need to worry about him. His family had enough on their shoulders without James crying like a baby about his boyfriend cheating on him for the third time, or a hookup tying him to the bedposts when he'd said explicitly that he wasn't into that. He hid it, hid everything, his large family only ever saw him smiling and bright eyed, even when he was attacked by that werewolf and got stuck in the hospital for five months recovering, he just joked about it and laughed, and only cried when he was in the showers or alone at night.

But there had been two times that James was aware of that he lost it in front of his family, and it had been bad. Screaming and cursing and breaking glass, his vision unsteady and his breath so shallow he nearly passed out. Maybe they were protective because they never saw him like that, and they hated it when he broke, because they just weren't used to it.

When Albus acted out, it was "classic Albus" this and "it'll blow over in four days as usual" that. Cousins, aunts, uncles, and their parents all knew how to go about things when Albus had a bad day, because he had plenty of them before, so everyone had enough experience and practice with taking care of him and making him feel better.

When Lily acted out, it was much the same thing. Normally some one on one flying with mum and dad made her feel better, where she could just tell them privately why she was upset and let them comfort her.

James, though, didn't act out, didn't have bad days, and didn't cry. So no one had any idea how to go about it when he did snap. They all ended up panicking and terrified and at a loss of what to do as they all just watched James curl into himself, hyperventilating and clawing his fingers through his own hair. No one understood. No one was prepared. So they were protective, because they wanted James to be happy, because they didn't know how to help him when he wasn't.

So he couldn't just tell his family about Teddy, the fact they were dating and had been for six months, because a boyfriend meant potential heartbreak and a potential break down that no one knew how to deal with. It was almost painful to know the majority of his family would rather James stay single than learn how to comfort him when things went wrong.

It was frustrating, because James really liked Teddy, enough that he wanted to introduce him to his family so they could like him too, but he couldn't. Not yet at least. Soon, he hoped. Maybe his family had noticed how much happier he'd been lately. Maybe if they knew Teddy was the one who made him this happy, then they'd be more open to accepting him as James' boyfriend.

James wanted to move in with Teddy, he'd been thinking about it a lot. They could rent a new flat together, James could give the one he had now to Albus and suggest not so subtly that he invite Scorpius to move in with him.

Teddy had mentioned before that his grandfather had actually left a house for him when he died, completely paid for, the land in Teddy's name, but Teddy didn't seem too excited about it.

"I'm not ready to open it yet," is what he said, and James had hugged him.

"You don't have to be ready yet, but tell me when you are. I want to be there for you so you don't have to do it alone."

James felt connected to Teddy the moment he saw him talking to Fred at the club that night, and he still didn’t understand why, but he wanted to hold onto that connection for as long as he could. People always told James that a good relationship was supposed to make you feel complete, it was supposed to make you happy, equal, it was supposed to inspire you to strive to be a better person, but James never understood that before. He did now, and it made him happy to see his aunts and uncles, or his parents, sharing love and finally understanding it.

“Are you going to be joining us for the Christmas festival?” James vaguely heard the question, not answering as he poked the food on his plate until someone kicked him hard in the ankle.

“Owe, hey!” he turned to glare at Albus, who was leaning back in his seat with a cup of tea.

“James is too busy to hang out with family anymore,” Albus said, and James glared at him before looking around at the table where Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, and Rose were sitting.

“I already made plans I can’t cancel,” James explained. "And I’m not too busy to hang out with family, what am I doing right now?”

“I literally had to drag you here,” Albus mumbled into his cup, and James kicked him back.

“You’ve been really busy for the past few months, huh?” Ginny asked. “Just work?”

“Yeah, lots of work,” James confirmed with a nod, twirling pasta around his fork as his aunt watched him in confusion.

“Your workload hasn’t increased, you’ve been going your normal hours and I never see you there for overtime.”

James just cleared his throat. “I bring work home with me, lots of research and reviewing files and such. I want to get better at writing reports since the Head Auror likes me writing them.”

“You know I still don’t get why he does that,” Harry said, arms folded. “Back when I was an Auror we just had to turn in our memories and that was that.”

“It’s cuz the bastard hates James for no reason,” Albus said in irritation, and James almost kicked him again as Harry gave them both a tense look.

“The Head Auror doesn’t hate anyone, he’s a good man and a skilled Auror.”

“Doesn’t mean he’s not a twat,” Albus said under his breath, and James reached out to smack him.

“Lily and Hugo are going to be coming home today for holiday, they’ll miss you at the festival, we always go together,” Ron said, and James shrugged loosely.

“They’ll be fine. Nothing I can do about it.” James set his fork down. “At least I had time to come to lunch, right?”

Albus exchanged a look with Rose that James tried to ignore, pushing his chair back onto its back legs as he balanced his cup on his knee and listened to the conversation around him. He didn’t know what Teddy was doing right now, but it made James feel like a dick when he had to ditch him for family business. Especially considering Teddy didn’t really have a family of his own. He tried to assure James there was no reason to feel bad, it wasn’t like it was his fault, but James still felt wrong about it.

It really put a bad taste in his mouth when he told Teddy he had a family lunch he needed to go to and couldn’t go out to lunch with Teddy. It was just a few weeks from Christmas, and as far as James knew it would be Teddy’s first real holiday without his nan, so James didn’t really want to leave him on his own for very long. He didn’t even want to entertain what might happen if Teddy got in a bad headspace. James didn’t want him to end up crying alone or having a breakdown.

Getting out of going to the Muggle festival with his family was easy enough, he knew their yearly routine and their traditions so going out with Teddy instead probably wouldn’t go bad. All James had to do was put on a hat and try not to look recognizable as he walked around with Teddy, but he was still trying to figure out what to do on Christmas. It wasn’t exactly a holiday he could get out of for work, and if he ditched his entire family it would just make them suspicious, but he really wanted to spend it with Teddy.

Maybe he could get sick? If he did that, though, his mum might show up to nurse him to health, or Albus at least would see through the lie. There really wasn’t much he could do to get out of family time. He was just going to have to deal with it and hope Teddy would be okay.

“You seem pretty antsy today, James,” Harry noted, and James set all four chair legs back onto the floor.

“I’m not, I’m totally in the moment.”

“No, you’re definitely distracted by something,” Rose hummed, squinting like she thought if she looked hard enough she’d be able to see through James, who adjusted how he was sitting and shrugged his shoulders.

“Just thinking of work, you know?”

“Bullshit,” Albus mumbled, and James glared at him.

Ginny was watching him with a soft expression, and James could hear the mum voice before she even spoke. “Do you need to talk about anything, sweetie?”

“Yeah, actually, I do,” James pushed his plate away, pretending he didn’t see the panic on the faces around the table as he spoke. “Do you still have any of my old school textbooks?”

The panic faded to exhausted relief and James swallowed around the lump in his throat as Harry took his glasses off to clean them on his shirt, one brow arched. “Your school books? Why do you need those?”

James shrugged loosely. “Wanted to look at them I guess, read through them again. Why not, right? Been doing a lot of research in my spare time.”

“James you hate research,” Rose said blankly, clearly suspicious, and James huffed.

“You know what, I can grow up and learn to like new things, can’t I? I thought it might be fun to look at old stuff.”

Truthfully, he wanted to give them to Teddy, who was curious about the differences between the texts of Hogwarts compared to Beauxbatons. James didn’t need the books so he saw no harm in giving them to Teddy, especially if they made him happy. James really did hate researching, especially when he didn’t need to, but Teddy was always reading some book or newspaper and scribbling stuff down in a notebook, normally in French so James could never tell what exactly he was doing. He was a fast reader, too, it was insane.

“They’re probably still up in your room,” Harry pointed at the ceiling, and James moved to stand up, pausing when his father waved his hand down. “Hey, hey, hey, what’s the rush, you haven't even finished eating yet.”

“I was just gonna grab the books-”

“Honey we haven’t gotten to see you in weeks,” Ginny complained, giving James one of those looks that always made him break and feel like he needed to apologize.

Not to mention if Teddy were there, he would probably lecture James about appreciating his family and how they loved him and probably missed him a lot when he was gone, and to spend time with them. It did seem terribly selfish of James to want to sneak away from his family to spend time with someone who didn’t have any. Maybe it was a good thing. Teddy made him appreciate his family more, sinking back into his seat and poking at his plate again.

“Yeah okay, I’ll hang out for a bit longer then.”

His parents both looked pleased with the decision, and the meal continued with the conversation as James enjoyed his lunch bit by bit, noting that the pasta wasn’t as good as what he’d eaten when he went out with Teddy, but at least there was a decent portion this time. That was something to say about his family, probably something his father picked up from Molly Weasley, to heap food onto the younger folks plates to make sure they ate enough. James did that too, made extra large portions when he cooked for Teddy, which was most of the time.

“James did you end up recreating that fish dinner you saw in that weird Muggle magazine?” Harry asked out of nowhere, as if he could sense his son was thinking of food, and James looked up at him.

“Yeah I did! If you do it sometime I’d nix the extra lemon, too much flavor. Bake the lemon directly into the fish instead of adding it later, makes the flavors blend better.”

Harry hummed, rubbing his chin and looking down like he was committing that to memory, while Albus leaned sideways in his seat towards James to whisper to him so no one else could hear.

“You didn’t make that. You haven’t been cooking much at all the past few months.”

James looked over at him. “Yeah I have. I always cook.”

“Not at home you haven’t,” Albus said, and James turned away.

“Maybe you just forgot.”

James could feel his brother’s eyes boring into him as he shoveled food into his mouth and idly listened to the conversation around him, barely paying attention to his mum discussing the Falmouth Falcons last game, or the increased terrorist attacks that his father and aunt Hermione muttered about, his uncle Ron piping in after a moment about a new bit he was making with George for the joke shop. Rose seemed to take the opportunity then to talk about her work at the Ministry, but James could barely hear them as he finished his plate and sat back with his warm drink.

“How are things going with Scorpius?” Ron was the one who asked, and Albus choked on his drink, setting the cup down with a red face as Ginny laughed and Rose hid herself in her own tea while James grinned and Albus glared at their mother and uncle.

“Fine,” he said, something sly in his eyes as he folded his arms. “Since James hasn’t been around much, Scorp and I have had the run of the flat.”

It was James’ turn to choke on his drink, setting it down roughly and glaring at Albus while their parents eyed him. “What does that mean?” Harry asked, and James quickly turned to him.

“Just from my work and research,” he tried to defend, and Albus snorted.

“What kind of research have you been doing to keep you out of your own place?” Harry seemed incredibly suspicious, exchanging a look with Ginny, so James played the only card he knew they wouldn’t touch.

“Werewolves.” He shrugged, giving an innocent look and idly reaching to his left shoulder. “You know, just trying to educate myself, perfect the medicine the Healers developed for me, and that weird wolfsbane ointment. Smells awful, but I think I’ve got it down.” He reached for his pocket where he carried the tin of homemade ointment he was supposed to use if he ever accidentally scratched himself; or other people.

Harry quickly spoke up, interrupting him before he could get it out and assault their noses with the vile scent. “It’s good to educate yourself about that kind of thing, that’s good. Just don’t let it distract you from anything important.”

“My health isn’t a distraction, dad,” James said innocently, and Harry cringed as Ginny gave her husband a glare. James stood up. “I’m gonna go grab those books, that okay?”

“Go for it, they’re yours,” Harry assured, and James smiled.

It was somewhat cruel to use his affliction against his family to get out of a situation like that when all they were doing was worrying about him, but he couldn’t help it. He didn’t want to be pressured, and he definitely didn’t want to tell them he was in a relationship. He wasn’t ready for that yet. Still, how had Albus picked up on his absence? James figured he’d be too distracted with his job hunt or with Scorpius and just assume James was busy. Clearly he was more observant than James gave him credit for. He’d have to keep an eye on that and be more careful.

“Hey.”

James looked over at where Albus was standing at the door, humming to acknowledge him as he set one of the old textbooks on his desk.

“What’s been going on with you lately?” Albus asked, following James with his eyes as James picked out a few more of the books from his closet.

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve just been acting weird. Weirder than usual that is.” Albus stepped further into the bedroom, shutting the door. “You sneak out at night, you’re barely around during the day, I almost never see you on your days off, it’s like you’ve got yourself another flat or something.”

James faced him. “I can assure you I do not have a second flat,” he said honestly. It was a hotel suite actually, but that wasn’t the point.

“Then what have you been doing? And don’t say work because I know that’s bullshit.”

James set down two more of the books, lips pressed into a tight line but fixing his expression into something slacker as he turned back to Albus, arching an eyebrow. “Look I really appreciate the concern, but I really have just been working. Lots of research and busying myself with, you know, just being alive.”

Albus rolled his eyes with a heavy sigh. “Fine, don’t tell me, but just so we’re clear, I'm not the only one who’s noticed how weird you’ve been acting. Louis and Fred said you haven’t been meeting up with them as much as you used to, you stopped going to the club to have drinks with Fred and aren’t having lunch with them.”

“I try to meet them for lunch whenever I’m at work, what are you talking about?”

“Yeah, like once a week if they’re lucky, that’s what they said at least.”

“Well I think they’re exaggerating.”

“And I think you’re hiding something.” Albus had his arms folded, leaning against the door and staring at James as he picked out a few more books. “Are you seeing someone right now?”

James turned to Albus, luckily not as shaken by the question as he could have been but shaken enough to make a very stupid joke. “Well Al, considering you’re the person standing in front of me, I’d assume I’m seeing you.”

Albus looked like he wanted to strangle James, lifting his eyes to the ceiling in a “lord give me strength” fashion before focusing back on his brother, though he still looked like he wanted to snap his neck. “I’m being serious here-”

“I thought I was Sirius?”

“James.”

“Albus.” James set down the last book, then picked them all up and walked over towards the door. “Stop worrying so much, honestly. I’m fine, okay?”

“That’s not even what I asked, you’re clearly dodging the question.”

“Look I’ve got to head out now before I forget to run a few errands,” James sighed, passing Albus and reaching out to pat his shoulder as he went, pushing the door open with his foot. “I’ll catch up with you later.”

“Are you going to be home tonight?”

“Dunno yet, I said I had some plans I couldn’t cancel, remember? Hey, invite Scorpius to stay the night with you, that might be nice.”

Albus didn’t answer, so James figured he’d successfully ended the conversation, hiking down the stairs to say goodbye to his parents, aunt, uncle, and cousin, before retrieving his coat and scarf and disapparating without another word. The weather had turned the past couple of weeks, well and truly winter with cloudy gray skies and air that felt like ice. James was all too happy to step into the lobby of the hotel where Teddy was staying, sneaking around to the stairs before the receptionist could notice and recognize him and hiking up to the top floor to Teddy’s suite, balancing the armful of old textbooks as he unlocked the door with a spare key and shouldered his way inside.

The coffee table directly in front of him was, as usual, covered in books and newspapers, so James set the stack he’d brought with him down, sliding off his scarf and looking around until he’d caught sight of Teddy in the small kitchen off to the right, standing at the stove and holding his phone with his left hand, music playing on the radio and a frustrated expression on his face. He seemed oblivious that James had returned, maybe because for once James hadn’t just apparated inside, or perhaps he’d noticed but was too enthralled by whatever he was doing to pay attention to anything aside from what he was cooking.

James had to smile at the face his boyfriend was making, shrugging off his coat and hanging it up before making his way towards the kitchen. “Trying another recipe?” He wrapped his arms around Teddy once he’d reached the man’s side, and Teddy hummed, lifting his left arm as if on instinct to wrap it around James’ shoulders, both of them looking down at the bubbling mess sitting in the pot.

“Yeah, I’m not really sure if I’m doing it well.”

“It might be safer to just toss it and try again.”

“Probably.” Teddy turned his head to press a kiss against James’ temple. “How was lunch?”

“Oh they’re suspicious of me,” James answered with a sigh, walking around Teddy and pulling himself to sit on the counter, turning the radio volume down as Teddy shut off the stove and leaned closer to James, hands propped against the counter on either side of him. “I think my brother might have figured out why I’m always disappearing.”

“Did he say so?”

“Not to my face, but he’s a pretty bright kid; he asked me if I was seeing someone, but I dodged the question like a pro.” James set his hands on Teddy’s shoulders, playing with the ends of his hair. “I managed to get out of tonight, too. Told them I had plans.”

Teddy arched an eyebrow. “I still think you should spend the night with your family. You said it was like a tradition to go shopping with them.”

“You’re right, it’s a tradition, which means I know their schedule,” James said simply. “At the beginning of the night they’ll be in Muggle London for the tree lighting and to shop, but later they’ll leave and go to Diagon Alley to meet up with friends and the rest of our family. That gives us a good few hours to ourselves.” James pressed his palms into Teddy’s cheeks when it looked like he wanted to argue again. “I’ve spent almost twenty-two years spending every holiday and special occasion with my family. I want to spend this one with you and make some new traditions. You can’t change my mind.”

Teddy sighed, shaking his head. “How do you expect to get away with hiding from them all night? They might see you.”

“I’ve got that covered.” James held his hand up. “They’re always at the tree for the lighting, so we just have to be not near there.”

“That’s helpful.”

“Thank you, I’ve thought a lot about it and planned out every bit of our night down to the last detail.”

Teddy was smiling gently at James, looking fully endeared by the Auror. “You’re really excited about this, aren’t you?”

“Me? Excited about spending a corny Muggle holiday street festival with my super hot boyfriend? Never.”

Teddy snorted and looked back at the pot sitting on the stove. “Well, it’s getting late already. How about we go now and I’ll buy you dinner?” He turned back to James, his smile sheepish. “I’d rather not feed you whatever it is I just made. I might accidentally poison you.”

“I appreciate your concern and happily accept the offer. Five Guys, please.”

“Five?” Teddy immediately teased James. “Is just me not good enough?”

James played along, hands holding the back of Teddy’s neck and dragging him closer. “I haven’t decided yet, maybe you should kiss me till I decide I don’t need the other four guys.”

“Do you want to kiss me or do you want to get dinner?”

“Why can’t I have them both?”

“We’ll miss the tree lighting, that’s why.”

“That’s not fair.”

“You’re right, it’s not, let’s get you a jacket and head out.”

><><><><><><><><><><><

James didn’t want their date to be interrupted in any way. Even though they’d spent six months together, including numerous dates at restaurants and cafes in addition to just spending days and nights at Teddy’s suite indulging in each other intimately in every way possible, James felt that holidays like this would be different. It was just a daydream of his, an image of what a perfect relationship was supposed to look like, a copy of what he’d seen before in his family year after year, his parents holding hands and leaning into each other smiling as the tree was lit up by thousands of Christmas lights. James wanted that; to watch the lights dance in his partner's eyes.

More than that, perhaps, was the constant nagging reminder that this was Teddy’s first Christmas without family of his own. James didn’t want him to feel lonely for any second, wanted to fill his holiday with new memories that could hide the pain of loss. James wanted to spend the night clinging to Teddy’s hand and dragging him down the London streets buying pointless gifts and bad food from venders decorated in strings of tinsel and Christmas lights.

Teddy had been born in England to parents who had been born in England, but was swept away to France when he was just a baby, never getting to grow up the same way James did, and he didn’t think that was fair. He was going to ensure Teddy got every experience that James had gotten, especially the good ones.

To successfully pull it off, however, James had to be careful not to be recognized or run into his family, who would definitely be around for a while. So he reluctantly set aside his Gryffindor scarf for a plain black one that Teddy offered him, wearing a faux fur lined coat he almost never wore, and a dark blue knit beanie that Teddy insisted he use to keep his ears warm.

The ends of Teddy’s blue hair could still be seen under the black beanie he'd chosen to wear, his bangs sweeping across his forehead, a faded yellow scarf around his neck that seemed almost aggressive contrasted against his leather jacket.

“You look a little ridiculous,” James had noted before they’d left the hotel, and Teddy had reached out to yank at the front of the beanie James was wearing, dragging it down over his eyes.

“Then don’t look.”

James was now standing at one end of the courtyard where the tree was located, waiting on the countdown to the tree lighting, hands in his pockets and glancing around just to ensure he couldn’t recognize anyone around him. Normally his parents and siblings would be on the opposite end of the courtyard with his uncle Ron, aunt Hermione, and cousins Rose and Hugo, but James couldn’t see them through the dense crowd, so he was confident they couldn’t see him either.

A quick dinner at Five Guys and his family hadn’t run into them yet, so James considered that a winning start to the night.

“Hey, here.” James looked over his shoulder at Teddy’s voice, reaching out for the steaming cup he was holding. “One cup of cider from that vender who wouldn’t stop asking if I wanted some.”

“That was nice of him.”

“I tested it to make sure it wasn’t drugged, so you should be fine."

“Great, now I don’t want it.”

Teddy laughed, wrapping his arms around James from behind, pushing his hands into the pockets of James’ coat to share his heat. He hooked the fingers of his left hand with James’, who held the cup of cider with his right hand, leaving his right pocket for Teddy. The older man set his chin on top of James’ head and they stood there in relative silence as they stared at the tree and looked around at the crowd.

“You better not be stealing my wallet,” James said into the cup, and Teddy hummed, squeezing James’ left hand and pulling him closer with his right.

“That’s not what I’d be interested in stealing anyway.”

“What would you wanna steal then?”

Teddy moved his chin to James’ shoulder, smiling. “Your heart.”

“Awe.” James laid his head against Teddy’s. “Shut the fuck up.”

Teddy laughed against James’ neck, managing to pull himself together just long enough to lift his head and watch as the lights of the tree lit up and the crowd erupted into somewhat ridiculous cheers. James turned his head to focus on Teddy rather than the tree, staring at the multicolored lights twinkling in his gray eyes.

They were as beautiful as James had expected them to be when reflecting so many lights. James could have sworn he saw even more colors than there actually were, swirls of green, blue, red, purple, yellow, and orange. It was like Teddy's eyes naturally changed like that. James had noticed it before, how Teddy's eyes would seem to subtly change colors, normally switching between pale blue and pale green, though they were usually a solid gray.

It wasn't just his eyes, either. James could swear his boyfriend's hair changed color. It was blue most of the time, and Teddy was adamant about the fact he kept it charmed that way, but sometimes the roots would change. Normally when they were in the middle of something sexual, the roots would become a powdery lilac color, but when James mentioned it, Teddy just laughed and said he must be seeing things because of the excitement or dim lighting in the room.

There were even times his eyes would flash red, his hair fading scarlet at the roots before changing back. Normally it would happen when something seriously pissed him off, but that was rare. Teddy was such a perpetually happy person, seeing him angry of all things was terrifying. Of course he never got angry at James, not directly at least. There were times when James would reveal something sketchy about his past, like the fact his Auror partner ditched him when he was first attacked by the rogue wolves, that Teddy would snap a little before quickly replacing the furious expression with something soft.

James didn't understand the color changes of his hair and eyes, and it happened so rarely that he thought maybe Teddy was right and he was just seeing things, yet at the same time there was something so familiar about the occurrences, like James knew what it was and just couldn't remember the name of it. Maybe he'd read about unconscious Transfiguration abilities somewhere, during a class at school that he half slept through, or his father talked about it before, or something like that.

It didn't matter though. James didn't care. He just hoped Teddy kept the color his hair was now, because he really liked it, and under the Christmas tree lights, it looked even better.

Teddy seemed to realize he was being watched, turning his head to meet James' eye and grinning when the Auror blushed. "What?"

"Nah, it's nothing," James said quickly, leaning back into Teddy. “You’re just hot and I’m super lucky.”

Teddy laid his head against James’, chuckling lowly. “I feel like I’m the lucky one in this relationship. Maybe we’re both just insanely lucky to have found each other.”

“Well obviously.” James turned around in Teddy’s arms, still holding the cup of cider. “Come on, let’s look around. I still need to shop.”

“I need to pick a few things up to send back to some school friends in France,” Teddy said, taking James’ left hand and pulling him away from the tree. “You’re in charge of where we go so we don’t get caught by your family.”

“If we do get caught, your name is Theo and you’re helping me research werewolves and medicine.”

“Theo, are you kidding me?” Teddy almost choked on his laugh. “The name Theodore is bad enough and now I’m Theo.”

“Only if they catch us.” James tossed the empty cup into the trash bin as they passed it. “If not, you’re still Teddy and you’re my super hot boyfriend.”

“Well I hope they don’t catch us, cuz I don’t want to be Theo.”

“You poor baby. Sucks you hate your name.”

“I like the name Teddy fine, thanks. You’re the one trying to call me fucking Theo.”

“Sure hun. This shop first, I’m gonna get my brother’s boyfriend a book he’s been wanting to read.”

“You’re just everyone’s older brother, aren’t you?” Teddy asked, and James grinned at him.

“Not yours, thank Merlin."

The night went as smoothly as James hoped, moving from shop to shop buying Christmas gifts and snickering at inside jokes, holding hands as often as they could, even when paying cashiers, who would smile at them in either amusement or irritation. Neither of which Teddy or James paid attention too, far too enthralled with each other and the crowd that hid them from suspicion. What was one more couple leaning close together sharing tender words and smiles meant only for each other, in a world of their own where no one else existed.

It was fine for a while, peaceful and personal, James was actually thinking they would get away with their date without a single person recognizing them, ending the night back at Teddy’s suite where they could watch a stupid movie and wrap presents until their fingers were cramping. That was his plan, at least, until they’d reached a food carts selling caramel popcorn near the end of the third street of shops they walked down.

Teddy had just given James the bags he’d been carrying before entering a shop to use the restroom, leaving James on a bench just outside with a bag of caramel corn, playing on his phone and checking Fred’s Instagram to see where his family was at the immediate moment. His cousin had posted a selfie with Louis, Lily, and Hugo in the frame with him, a handful of their other cousins, aunts, and uncles in the background, but there was one person in particular that James had expected to see there, brooding and moody like he usually was when he was dragged into family affairs like this one.

It didn’t really occur to James what his absence meant until a voice spoke from his right, causing him to freeze with a piece of popcorn barely at his mouth as he flicked through Fred’s pictures.

“So this is the important plan that you couldn’t cancel?” Albus asked, and James looked up with wide eyes at where Albus was standing with Scorpius, who was smiling and appearing mildly confused at why Albus was staring at his brother with squinted eyes.

“What are you doing over here?” James asked, pulling the popcorn away from his mouth and gaping at Albus. “Mum, dad, and the rest are, like, on the other side of London right now!”

“We bumped into Draco and Scorpius, and Draco, with mum’s help, convinced dad to let me out of family time so I could walk around with Scorpius instead,” Albus explained, hands stuffed into his pockets as he eyed the bags beside James. “Doing a bit of shopping? That’s quite a lot of stuff.”

“None of that is mine!” James blurted, pausing under Albus’ suspicious glare before lifted a hand and pointing at his broth. “Not entirely sure why I just lied, some of that is mine.”

“And the rest?”

“Gifts, Al, and it’s pretty bad character to try and figure out what those gifs are and who they’re for. I’m not telling you what I got for you so you may as well mosey on off to snog your boyfriend in the closest alley you can find.”

“That’s why you got out of tonight? To buy presents without anyone else around to peek at what you’re getting?”

“It sure is,” James said, and Albus tensed.

“I don’t like how you said that.”

“Well I’m not lying, Al. Here, I’ll show you what I got mum.” James turned to the larger bag at his feet, but Albus lifted a hand to stop him. 

“No thanks, I don’t need to be convinced.”

“So you believe me?”

“No not at all.” Albus put his hand back into his pocket. “For one thing you’ve got too many bags there to carry on your own without looking like an idiot. Second, you have two bags of popcorn there. What, are you eating them both on your own?”

James felt uneasy, but tried to keep up the facade as he picked up the bag of popcorn he’d bought for Teddy. “You know me, Al, I eat more than I used to because of… you know, that thing.”

“Nice try,” Albus scoffed. “I’m not a pushover like mum or dad, you can’t use your,” he lifted his hands to curl his fingers into quotations, “affliction, to get out of me questioning you. You’re out with someone, just admit it.”

James put the second bag down. “Fine, I’m out with someone. They’re just helping me with my bags and helping me Christmas shop, what’s so bad about that?"

“Is it Willer?” Albus asked, and James sighed heavily, swaying sideways and tilting his head..

His Auror partner, Tanner Willer. The reason James was a Partial werewolf. The coward that James hated to go off on missions with, because at the best of times the man would ditch James and leave him to get hexed or cursed or beaten bloody. Albus knew the idiot was one of James’ least favorite people, but that was proof Albus was trying to catch him in a lie.

“Yeah, Albus, I’m spending my precious time off with my coward of a coworker. If I did that I’d get hit by a car crossing the street because he’d push me down to avoid getting hit himself.”

“Who are you with then?”

“Hey, sorry for taking so long, it’s crowded in there.” James turned his head to gape at Teddy when he stopped near the bench, the smile on his lips falling when he seemed to notice Albus and Scorpius standing there. “Oh, uh, I’m sorry, I’m interrupting.”

Albus narrowed his eyes at Teddy, sweeping them up and down the tall stranger suspiciously. “Who the devil are you, then?”

James stood up as if to shield Teddy, waving a hand towards him. “This is Theodore Howell, he’s been helping me research medicine and the like in my spare time.” James looked at Teddy with wide eyes, pointing back at Albus. “This is my little brother, Al, I’ve mentioned him a few times.”

“Oh, yeah, yeah you have,” Teddy picked up on the situation quickly, stepping up to stand next to James and holding a hand out for Albus. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Albus stared at the hand being offered to him, but didn’t reach out to accept it until Scorpius elbowed him, and he grumbled reluctantly, reaching out to shake Teddy’s hand. “You’re a Healer?” he asked, and Teddy gave a jerky nod.

“Well I mean, I know some techniques, I’m not certified.”

Albus looked back at James. “What are you doing Christmas shopping with a research partner?”

“Well he’s also a friend,” James argued, pointing at Teddy as he pulled his hand back and shoved both into his jacket pockets. “He grew up in France, so he doesn’t know the ins and outs of London living, I offered to show him around while I did my own shopping, and in turn he’s helping me carry stuff.”

“Seems like an unequal exchange,” Albus noted, and Scorpius took that time to speak up.

“Do you wanna walk with us? We haven’t done any shopping yet, but I don’t think we’d mind the company.”

Albus rolled his eyes to stare up at the sky as if that was the last thing he wanted, but seemed to reconsider as he looked between Teddy and James. “Yeah, tag along with us. You can charm the bags back to wherever you’ve been staying,” he said this part to Teddy. “That way you’re not dragging all of them around.”

“Smart,” Teddy decided with a slow nod, leaning towards James sideways without removing his eyes from Albus. “What do you want to do?”

“I guess it’s fine?” James said, shoulders hunching in a wince. “If you want to at least, I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable.”

“No not at all,” Teddy smiled at James. “I was kind of interested in meeting your brother anyway.”

“You haven’t been missing out on much,” James said nonchalantly, and Albus bristled.

“I’m standing right here, prick.”

“On we go!” James pointed, handing the untouched bag of popcorn to Scorpius as Teddy waved a hand and their bags popped away from the bench. James noticed the couple gaping at Teddy, probably stunned at the unexpected wandless magic, but ignored the expressions as he turned and offered his popcorn to Teddy. “I’ll share with you.”

“Thanks.”

The two of them followed behind Scorpius and Albus and Teddy leaning towards James to whisper. “Is this okay?”

“Yeah, I’m sure it’ll be fine. My brother is pretty cool. Just don’t say anything suspicious and we should be good.”

“Me say something suspicious, you’re the one making innuendos in the middle of the grocery store produce section.”

“Teddy if you hold a banana like that you’re gonna get a fucking innuendo, don’t be a bitch about it.”

“What are you two muttering about?” Albus asked over his shoulder, and James straightened up.

“Werewolves, what are you talking about?”

“I thought I told you that guilt trip didn’t work on me. Idiot.”

Scorpius laughed lightly and James pouted as Teddy snorted. For the next hour the four of them wandered the streets together, and James could only hope Teddy was struggling with the same desire to hold hands. James had to keep his hands deep in his pockets to keep from being tempted into grabbing onto Teddy, fighting six months of instinct to slot their fingers together and hold on for life. They couldn’t exactly hold hands when Albus thought Teddy was Theo the werewolf Healer. This was the absolute worst, but it didn’t stop them from standing shoulder to shoulder to lean against each other, jerking away from each other casually when Scorpius or Albus looked back at them.

Towards the end of the night they ended up sitting away from the crowd at a picnic table with a few more bags and snacks. Albus and Scorpius were sitting across from Teddy and James, and Albus was staring at James. His suspicion hadn’t dropped even once during the night.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you wear a hat this long without taking it off and saying you don’t need it,” Albus said, and James glared at him as he pointed over to Teddy, who had his arms folded.

“He made me, it wasn’t a willing choice.”

Teddy just gave him a stern glare like he’d been waiting for this conversation, an argument they’d had half a dozen times since meeting. “You wanna walk around and get yourself sick be my guest, but you better wait until I’m not around.”

James held his hands up in exasperation. “For the last time I’m not gonna get Dragon Pox from not wearing a hat in cold weather!”

“I never specifically said Dragon Pox I just said you were gonna get sick-”

“Because everyone who goes without a hat gets sick, right, I forgot that was factually proven.”

Teddy pointed at James. “It is statistically proven that Partials have more unsteady health and weaker immune systems than your average wizard, so it’s realistic to assume something as small as forgetting your hat could get you sick, and I don’t want that.”

“You told him?” Albus asked, appearing tense, eyes moving from Teddy and back to James. “About you being… sick?”

James just gave his brother a blank look. “He’s helping me research that stuff for a reason, Al.”

“I just didn’t expect you to tell someone about it, especially a stranger,” Albus admitted with a mumble, looking back at Teddy, who had stopped talking and was watching Albus anxiously, glancing at James from the corner of his eye when he spoke next.

“He’s not a stranger, we’ve been friends for six months.”

Albus looked even more suspicious at that. “Six months you’ve known the guy and you never mentioned him at lunches?”

James shrugged. “Sorry, I wasn’t aware that I was supposed to.”

“It’s not that,” Albus hummed, popping off the lid of his hot drink to cool it faster, looking into the cup. “It’s just that you’ve brought friends around before no problem, and you definitely never mentioned your illness to any of them before.”

“Well we became friends through that whole thing, of course he knows about it.”

“I’m not an expert,” Teddy quickly added, as if it would make him more believable. “I just read a lot, and I traveled a lot when I was younger, learned unusual healing techniques from different experts.”

“And you’re just a nice guy who’s totally okay with my brother being a Partial?” Albus asked. “Because that would be a first.”

James winced, but Teddy just stared at Albus, watching him click the lid back onto his cup and lift it to his mouth, busying himself with the drink. James peeked at Teddy from the corner of his eye, noting the strange look on his face, the flash of red at the corners of his eyes, maybe just the reflection of the many Christmas lights. He didn’t seem to like the implication of previous “friends” not being okay with James being a Partial, but that was hardly an unknown fact.

James had told Teddy a few different stories of past friends and boyfriends who’d given him the cold shoulder due to his illness, not including the people who’d been obliviated to keep it under wraps. Teddy knew this entire situation bothered James, especially his father’s tendency to obliviate away the memory of what James was. He’d lost a number of friends and boyfriends simply because they’d forgotten James existed.

“I don’t know if dad would like you talking to someone who’s not even a Healer about your health,” Albus noted, and it sounded like he was testing James, who couldn’t help tensing up defensively, hands at his sides and reaching out to grab onto the end of Teddy’s leather jacket.

“It’s not dad’s health, is it? I can talk to who I want about it, and what does it matter if he can help me with it in the end?” James waved at Teddy with his free hand. “I know he looks punk but he’s super smart.”

Teddy just looked at James sheepishly. “Thanks.”

“It’s a little annoying sometimes.”

“Hey.”

Albus didn’t look annoyed or frustrated, just watched James as he sipped his drink, like he was looking for tells or hints to what James was thinking. He seemed intrigued by then, staring at Teddy for a moment before staring at James, and they sat in a drawn silence before Scorpius spoke up from beside Albus, as if he’d decided the tension needed to be settled.

“So if you’ve studied medicine, are you a Healer?” He asked Teddy. “That’s what I’m studying, too.”

“I’m not a Healer in any official way,” Teddy admitted, “I just know some techniques and potions.”

“What is it you do then?” Albus asked, taking the lid off his drink again to glare at the still too hot liquid.

“Just research mainly. I take on commissions from the French Ministry to research certain magic or certain techniques.”

“So you’re unemployed.”

“You’re one to talk, Al,” James quipped, and Albus arched an unbothered eyebrow.

“I’ve been working with Rolf Scamander and Aunt Luna studying magical creatures and magizoology,” he stated, and James felt blind sided at the revelation.

“How long have you been working as a magizoologist? I didn’t even know you were looking into that as a career.”

“No you wouldn’t have, you’ve been too busy the past few months,” Albus said, flicking his gaze over to Teddy yet again.

"That's cool, what animals are you working with?" Teddy asked, seeming enthusiastic. "Are you focusing on certain kinds of animals, or a full range?"

"Full range," Albus answered, and James felt a little better about the fact his brother seemed willing to talk casually with Teddy. "Though I'm more intrigued by aviary beasts than anything else. Dragons, Phoenix, Jobberknoll, Fwoopers, things like that."

"Neat. You said you were working with Rolf Scamander? Is he by any chance-"

"Related to Newt Scamander, yeah. He's pretty cool. His two sons are the same age as my sister."

"Very cool." Teddy looked at Scorpius. "You're working as a Healer?"

"At St Mungo’s, yeah," Scorpius looked excited. "I like helping people."

"What do you study mostly?"

"Curses, but also afflictions and injuries caused by dark magic, potions and tonics, things like that."

"Have you studied charms and healings spells, or mostly physical remedies."

"Physical, but I've read about the charms and spells and I've seen senior Healers at the hospital use them to help patients."

"They'll probably have you start with basic healing charms, bruises and scratches. Deeper injures need more intensive training."

Scorpius looked enthralled at that. "How much training have you done? What can you do?"

"He can heal bruises and deeper scratches and cuts, busted lips and knuckles, flesh wounds mostly," James piped in, leaning into Teddy's side and pointing at him. "He can do it completely wandless, too!"

"That on its own is interesting," Albus said. "Wandless magic is a really rare and difficult form of magic to learn, never mind using it to heal people's injuries. Not even my dad can use wandless magic. The Minister herself can only do a little of it. Yet here you are, one of the best wandless magic users I've maybe ever seen, and what, you're unemployed?"

"Uh."

"If you're good at Healing you could probably get a job with the hospital," Scorpius said, and Teddy winced.

"You could probably do anything," Albus added, and James reached his hand further beneath the table to squeeze Teddy's knee.

"Come on Al, you used to hate it when I bugged you about getting a job, I'm sure he doesn't like it either. You too, Scorp, I expected better."

The couple exchanged curious glances, unaware and unable to see Teddy reaching under the table to squeeze the hand on his knee.

"I'm fine with the pseudo job I have of writing essays and thesis' for the French Ministry," Teddy admitted, and James peered at him.

"That's why you have all those books and old newspapers? And why you wanted my old textbooks?"

Teddy flushed like he'd been caught red handed, but he nodded in answer, and Albus stared at James.

"That's why you wanted those old books? To give them to your research partner?"

"Hey I didn't lie, I do need them for research."

"Right."

"So growing up in France you went to Beauxbatons?" Scorpius asked, and Teddy gave a nod. 

"Right."

"What was it like? We all went to Hogwarts."

"Yeah I'm trying to figure out what houses you were in," Teddy admitted, and Albus hummed.

"Scorp and I were Slytherin's."

Teddy stared at him before humming. "Yeah I can see that. My nan was a Slytherin."

Albus flicked his eyes up to stare curiously at Teddy, watching him intently. James noted he didn't look as hostile though, which was good. Their conversation varied after that, talking a bit about Beauxbatons and comparing it to Hogwarts. Teddy looked wistful with a somewhat bitter smile whenever they talked about Hogwarts, probably regretting that he hadn't attended like he was supposed to, because if his parents had both gone to Hogwarts, then he definitely should have as well. He missed out on the experience of a lifetime because his nan decided to move him out of the country.

Going by his age, James figured Teddy had been born during the war, or just at the end of it, so it was no wonder why his nan had uprooted them and taken him somewhere safer. It was highly likely Teddy's parents had both died at the hands of Death Eaters, though he'd never confirmed that, and James was too anxious to ask for details. He had no right to ask how someone else's parents had died.

His nan was just trying to protect him, James understood that. He wanted to protect Teddy too. He was entirely alone, had no friends in England for the most part, and was completely at a loss of what he was supposed to do next. He had no dreams or aspirations, he was just reading books and learning new skills without any outlet for them.

James had seen Teddy cast some of the most complicated and dangerous spells he'd ever heard of, Teddy was wildly talented and powerful, maybe one of the most powerful wizards he'd ever met, yet his magic was being wasted because Teddy had no idea what to do with it. If he were to apply to the Ministry, James had no doubt he could be one of the most successful Aurors they’d ever have (he wanted a new partner anyway). Teddy would excel as an Auror, or even an Unspeakable, if he'd just look into it.

There were potential roadblocks, like the fact he'd been raised and educated in a different country, but he was born in the UK, he was a legal resident, he had every right to seek employment in the British Ministry. Honestly if he did and the Minister refused him, then she would be an idiot. To pass up on a powerful wizard like Teddy would be absurd.

The more the group talked, the more relaxed Albus seemed to grow, which was astounding on so many levels. Normally when James brought people home, notably his boyfriends, Albus immediately decided he didn't like them, and would glare at them until they left. With Teddy, though it took a bit, he'd slowly uncoiled from his tense position and into something more relaxed and friendly, leaning against Scorpius and asking Teddy about Beasts and Creatures native to France, while Scorpius asked frequent questions about healing techniques and spells that Teddy was familiar with.

The next time James bothered to look at his phone, it was well past midnight and their drinks had either been emptied or were now cold. The last post on Fred’s Instagram was one of him in bed with his hair braided back and a sleep mask over his eyes, holding up a peace sign with the caption “Night London”. Their family had all retired, hours ago probably. There was no more risk of running into them.

“When did it get so late?” Scorpius asked, and James looked up from his phone to see the younger man was looking down at his wristwatch, a Muggle gift from Albus. “I should go, I have work tomorrow.”

“Me too.” Albus stood up, eyeing James. “Don’t you also have work?”

“What are you, my keeper?”

"Are you coming home tonight, or are you researching?" Albus asked dully, looking at Teddy before moving his eyes back to James, who was almost tempted to just admit he'd been shagging Theo Howell for the past six months.

Albus seemed to like Ted, which was amazing. Maybe he'd be cool with it and not tell their parents? Then again, this was Albus.

"Yeah, don't wait up for me."

"Oh I won't." Albus turned away. "Come on Scorp." He paused and looked back over his shoulder towards Teddy, giving a curt nod. "It was nice to meet you."

Teddy beamed in obvious pride. "You too. It was fun talking to you both."

Albus shrugged his shoulders, reaching out unconsciously for Scorpius, who grabbed his hand and called goodnight to Teddy and James before apparating away with Albus. They were quiet for a bit, staring at where the couple had disappeared before James snorted and started to laugh. Teddy gaped at him.

"What is it?"

"That went way better than I thought it would!" James admitted, rubbing his eyes. "I think my brother actually likes you! Do you know how absurd that is? He doesn't like anyone! I mean, he never likes any of the guys I bring home at least."

"That's because till now the guys you brought home were trash."

"Oh, and you're not?"

Teddy snickered and stood up, picking up his empty cup and throwing it into the bin beside the table, reaching one hand out for James as he shoved the other into his pocket.

"Come on, let's get home. You do have work tomorrow."

James sighed in lament but took hold of Teddy's hand, allowing the man to pull him up from the table. "Being an adult is miserable."

"You're doing alright," Teddy assured, and James rolled his eyes, tilting his head to the side.

"Thanks, I appreciate the vote of confidence." He slid his fingers between Teddy's and squeezed his hand, looking up at him with a slight frown. "You know, if my brother likes you, it's conceivable that the rest of my family will like you too. You are pretty great after all. Why not come with me for Christmas dinner? I'm sure they wouldn't mind."

Teddy just gave an awkward laugh, looking off to the side away from James. "We've talked about this already. I have no intention of getting in the way of your family time. I've already stolen you for the past six months, it's the least I can do to give you up for a few days."

"Yeah, but you can just come with me."

"It's not the best idea to introduce a new boyfriend on Christmas. I don't want to cause any awkwardness or tension, you and your family deserve to have a peaceful holiday. You can introduce me another time."

James wanted to keep arguing and explain that he didn't want Teddy to be alone, but he didn't know how to put that into words without sounding condescending, so he just sighed and laid his head against Teddy's shoulder.

"Yeah, okay. I'll introduce you after."

"Next year," Teddy teased, amusement laced in both words, and James barked a laugh.

"Yup, next year."

><><><><><><><><><><><

It had been a few days since James had seen Teddy, after being roped into helping his brother and parents get the house ready for when Lily came home. They'd decorated their entire house, even though they wouldn't even be there on Christmas Day, and he'd spent a long afternoon wrapping presents with Lily and Albus in the living room.

He hadn't said much, not like he usually did, and he hoped no one had noticed, but of course they had. His siblings were observant after all. They didn't ask him about it, but they were constantly exchanging suspicious glances as they passed tape and scissors.

Now it was Christmas Eve, they'd all crammed into the Burrow with presents and snow stuck to their clothes, Christmas music playing from somewhere in the house, and the scent of pudding and roast ham wafting from the kitchen and into every room. James had found a nice couch corner to sit in and sunk into it, pulling his feet up so he was facing the room and pulling his phone out.

No new calls or texts. James had expected at least a text from Teddy, but maybe he was too busy? What could he have been doing, though? He had no friends in England yet aside from James, and Fred if you wanted to count the few times they'd stopped into his bar for a drink, and he had no family to spend the holidays with either. Right now he was likely completely alone in his hotel room, surrounded by piles of books and trying to drown himself in their contents. He tended to do that when he was having a bad day.

James hated it, the very idea that Teddy was alone right now. He hated that anyone would be alone on Christmas, it just wasn't right. Especially if they had no choice. James didn't want Teddy to be lonely.

He wanted to text, take pictures and send then to Teddy, but the images of bright lights and tinsel hanging from a tree may just end up depressing him. The stockings on the mantel may just make Teddy feel more lonely.

"Look at my big family and how much fun we're having."

James couldn't do that.

He typed in a simple "are you doing alright" text and sent it, then looked up to see what was happening in the living room. Bags of presents had been set out, and it was his aunt Angie who asked the kids to put them all under the tree.

"The adults need to help gran in the kitchen, so we need some smart young strong people to set the presents neatly under the tree."

Lucy and Molly were the first to scramble to help, being the youngest, and the rest followed. Fred kept trying to tell everyone where to put the presents so his were all at the front, but Dominique shoved a piece of taffy into his mouth to shut him up before handing a wrapped parcel to Lucy. The rest of his cousins were having vague conversations he barely paid attention to, but did his best to listen just in case.

"Lysander and Lorcan are coming over tomorrow," Lily said as she pointed to the tree. "Leave a bit of room for them, aunt Luna, and Rolf."

"I saw him months ago and tried to talk to him but he blew me off." James tilted his head towards Victoire's conversation with Dominique. "Honestly. Who just turns gay like that?"

"I don't think it's that simple," Dominique said. "Maybe he's bi, or he's always been gay."

"Then how'd he get it up with me?"

"There are kids here, Vic."

James looked down at his phone when it buzzed, half surprised he'd actually gotten a response.

Ted: yeah, since I have free time I'm going to work on that recipe you left :) I promise I won't burn the place down

James snorted, happy Teddy could distract himself, but he could still feel some remnant of loneliness even through the text. He typed down "send pics" then set his phone down and looked back at the group converged in the living room. It didn't take long for Teddy to reply again, and James opened the pictures attached.

Neatly chopped veggies and small bowls of carefully portioned herbs and spices with the caption "I'm trying to make it like my nan did".

James: That looks delicious but I also want selfies, I miss your dumb face.

Ted: Awe ♡

"James if you want to join the family, anytime is fine," Harry chided from the doorway, and James shoved his phone in his pocket. 

"I'm here, I'm present."

"Who have you been texting?” Louis asked, holding a stack of blankets. “Honestly, it’s Christmas, everyone should be with their families. You've been here an hour and you haven't said a word, just played on your phone."

"Yeah that's not like you at all." Fred pointed to the presents under the tree. "Normally you help with this, not just leave the hard work to us."

"Sorry, research," James said, catching sight of Albus rolling his eyes with a sigh before turning when the door opened.

Scorpius was the one who entered the house, with Draco following and shutting the door as his son shrugged off his coat, beaming as Albus stepped up to him with a hushed greeting, probably talking shit immediately. His usual moody "I'd rather be anywhere but here" spiel.

James pulled his phone back out when it buzzed, struggling not to smile at the selfie Teddy had taken of himself leaning over the food covered counter with a thumbs up. He looked okay, not sad or anything, but over the past few months James had discovered his boyfriend was pretty good at hiding his true emotions. He would never admit outright that he was lonely.

He was too self sacrificing. James would have been happy to ditch Christmas here to stay with Teddy instead, but no. Teddy had to guilt trip him with his usual "they're your family they love you" bit, reminding James without words that Teddy had no family and wanted James to appreciate those that he did. 

"I know how painful it is to have nothing, I don't want you to feel the same way."

Fucking idiot.

James held his phone up and switched on the front facing camera to take a selfie to send back, pulling a dramatic pout before typing the caption "boy I sure do wish I could cook dinner with my super hot boyfriend instead of sit on this couch for the next 72 hours" and sending it. 

"Now what are you doing?" Lily asked, and James hummed.

"I'm taking selfies."

"What the hell for?"

"Because I'm a fucking snack, Lily."

"Just leave him be to his weirdness," Albus said. "If he wants to take selfies or whatever."

James actually thought for a moment that Albus was trying to help him, especially after meeting Teddy, but didn't want to get his hopes up that his brother approved of his boyfriend.

Harry didn't look too pleased at the idea of letting James huddle in the couch corner texting someone selfies, one hand on his hip as he eyed his eldest son. "James you can take pictures whenever you want, you haven't seen your sister in months. You're part of this family so put the phone down and act like it."

"You know not everyone has family to spend Christmas with, dad." James held his hands out, and Harry turned on his heel.

"Well you're not one of them, so show some appreciation."

James groaned as he slid down the couch onto his back, grabbing one of the throw pillows and holding it over his face to grumble curses into. It made sense coming from Harry, who'd been an orphan for practically his entire life. He didn't want James to take what he had for granted anymore than Teddy did.

He didn't take his family for granted and appreciated all of them, but it made him feel guilty when he was spending the holidays with that family when someone he cared so much about was entirely alone. It wasn't fair. 

"You're texting that Howell guy?" Albus asked, and James pulled the pillow off his face to see his brother had picked his phone off the couch.

"Al give it back!" James jumped to his knees as Albus held the phone up to keep it away from him.

"What are you, fourteen? Calm down." Albus reached out to put his hand on James' head, holding him at bay as he looked at his phone. "Looks like he's nagging you about enjoying family time."

James grabbed the phone out of his hand and shoved it deep between the cushions of the couch, hoping Albus hadn't seen his last text to Teddy where he blatantly called him his boyfriend. 

"Albus it's really rude to look at other people's phones!" 

"Yeah whatever." Albus wandered away from the couch and back towards Scorpius, who seemed to already be in a conversation with Lily and Louis.

James watched Louis get dragged back by Fred, who was waving a handful of holiday crackers that George and Ron had brought home from the joke shop, leaving Albus to talk with Scorpius and Lily on his own. James didn't know what they were talking about, but Lily looked skeptical.

After confirming no one would be bothering him, he pulled his phone from the couch and hopped up, leaving the room as he opened the last text from Teddy. It was exactly what Albus said it had been, Teddy chiding James about enjoying himself, he's fine and wants James to spend time with his family, they can cook together later, and a second promise to not burn down the hotel before James got back.

James sat down on the stairs leading to the upper floors of the Burrow and replied to Teddy's text before opening his camera roll and swiping through the pictures and couple selfies he’d taken over the past few months. He felt bad about excluding himself from the family to instead talk to his secret boyfriend, James loved Christmas and loved spending time with his family, but he couldn't seem to enjoy himself knowing Teddy was alone.

He hadn't tried of course, but that wasn't the point.

"You haven't gotten any letters either?" Harry's voice interrupted James' thoughts, and he lifted his head to look towards the door to the right where he noticed his parents standing with Draco.

Draco shook his head in response to Harry's question. "The last letter I got was years ago when I sent her news my mother had died. She sent back a short note that basically just said 'thanks for telling me,' but that's it."

"She didn't talk about-"

"She didn't say she'd come to the funeral, which she didn't, and she didn't talk about Edward. She said thanks for telling me and that's it."

Ginny was holding a glass of wine to her lips as the men talked, pulling it away to speak. "There was no tell where she was?"

"Not really." Draco shrugged. "Look it's been close to thirty years-"

"Twenty-seven," Harry interrupted, and Draco glared at him.

"You're not the only one who wants to find them. My parents are dead, Andromeda and Edward are all I have left aside from Scorpius. They're my blood and I want them to come home. I want the chance to meet my cousin, and I want Scorpius to have more family."

"At this point, why can't we just ask the Ministry's in other countries to check their files?" Ginny asked. "Andromeda must have sent Edward to school, so let's check the school records. Ilvermorny, Beauxbatons, Uagadou, Durmstrung and the rest. They'll have records of an Edward Lupin."

"What if he was homeschooled?" Draco asked, and Ginny hesitated.

"There would still be legal records of Andromeda living there."

"We've got to at least try," Harry muttered. "It's been more than long enough."

"Why haven't  you tried before?" Draco asked nonchalantly, looking into his glass. "Not that I'm implying anything, I'm just curious. If you're so worried about Edward, why didn't you look for him sooner?"

"I did look! I scoured the UK from Scotland to Wales, Ireland and the isles, I sent letters and asked figures within the Ministry, but I got no information from anyone!"

"Now Edward is at least twenty-seven." Draco lifted his glass to drink what liquor he'd been given, shaking his head. "Have you ever wondered why he didn't reach out to you himself?"

Harry lifted his hands before letting them fall to his sides. "I don't know," he said. "Maybe it was like me, I never even knew I had a godfather. Maybe Andromeda never told him."

"Why would she do that?"

"Well Lyall hates me for what happened to Remus, is it that far fetched to think Andromeda hates me for what happened to Tonks?" He paused before lifting a hand to rub his eyes. "Hated. Past tense. Lyall hated me. Now." He shook his head. "This is a mess."

"You're making yourself miserable at this point," Draco said, and Harry pulled his hand away to glare at him.

"Thanks, Malfoy."

"You're welcome."

"Lyall is dead," Harry said simply. "Narcissa, Remus, Tonks; who's to say something didn't happen to Andromeda? What if my godson is spending the holidays alone because everyone is gone and he was never told I even existed? I don't want him to be as miserable as I was."

"Well he's almost thirty at this point, so I assume he's used to it," Draco said into his glass, but Harry just ignored him, glaring at the other man.

"If I knew someone was spending the holidays alone, someone like me, someone potentially suffering because they had no family of their own, I would spend it with them. Even if I was the only one."

"You are a saint, Mister Harry Potter," Draco said dully with absolutely nothing beyond sarcasm dripping from every word.

"Let's stop worrying about it and just enjoy Christmas," Ginny said, putting a hand on Harry's back. "After the Holidays we can reach out to the other Ministry's, talk to Hermione about contacting the other Minister's."

"They won't be in the states, I'm certain of that much at least." Draco lifted his glass. "Try France. Both the Black and Malfoy families had ancestry in France."

"Fine," Harry sighed, taking the glass of firewhiskey Ginny handed him. "After the holidays."

James stared down at his phone as he sat on the steps and listened to the three adults leave the room and enter the kitchen where most of his aunts and uncles were.

Edward Remus Lupin; Harry and the rest of his family had mentioned him before. The only son of Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks. As an Auror, James knew all about Tonks, because she'd been an Auror like him. Remus, on the other hand, was famous for being the only werewolf in their history to ever be awarded the First Class Order of Merlin. He'd been one of his grandfather's oldest and closest friends. Both were people that Harry respected and missed, as both had died in the final battle of the war.

Harry was their son's godfather, everyone knew that, but what they didn't know was where Edward Lupin was. Harry didn't like talking about it, but Ron was open to revealing that Andromeda Tonks, Nymphadora's mother, had taken her grandson and left the country after her daughter's funeral. For the last twenty-seven years, both of them had been missing.

James knew it was one of the things his father felt the most guilt for. As if he'd abandoned his godson. James didn't know much about him, he knew more about Remus and Tonks than Edward, but as an Auror he had a great admiration for Tonks, and as a Partial he considered Remus Lupin to be one of his biggest role models. Meeting their son would be like meeting a celebrity.

That wasn't the point, though. All James could think about was what his father had said, as he cradled his phone and looked down at a picture he'd taken of Teddy sitting on one end of the couch in his suite, elbow propped up against the arm of the couch and cheek leaned against his hand, a book open on his lap. If someone was spending the holidays alone because they had no one left… someone like Harry. An orphan.

He wouldn't be mad at James, would he? James wanted to be with Teddy because he was suffering like Harry once suffered. What's worse, he'd been suffering for so much longer. By the time Harry was twenty-seven, he was married with kids and had a huge family. Teddy had nothing.

James got to his feet and jumped off the steps, peeking through the door into the kitchen to ensure his family was distracted before hurrying towards the front door and grabbing his jacket from the coat rack, struggling to yank it on just as Albus conveniently stepped into the hall, pausing and pushing his hands into his pockets.

"Ditching us to hang out with your boyfriend?"

"Yeah. What? I don't have a boyfriend, Al." James yanked his jacket on finally and started to button the front. "I just… forgot something."

"I'm not an idiot, you know," Albus said, leaning against the wall and watching James wrap the scarf around his neck.

"He's a friend, okay? A friend, and he's alone right now."

Albus shrugged. "What for?"

"Gee, I don't know Al, why would anyone be alone for the holidays?" James finished getting the scarf around his neck and turned to Albus, lifting his hands. "Look, just… do this one thing for me, please? Tell dad something came up, Willer needed my help, I started feeling sick, I don't care, I just need to go."

"Yup, go snog your boyfriend," Albus muttered, holding his hand up to observe his nails in false fascination.

James hid his face in his scarf, scowling. "Look I don't know where you got that idea-"

"From you texting 'wow I wish I was with my hot boyfriend.' Like I said, I'm not an idiot. Besides, I saw how you looked at him the other night when he wasn't paying attention; completely entranced by him. If you thought I wouldn't notice that then you're the idiot."

James eyed Albus for a drawn moment. "Why aren't you stopping me then?" He asked suspiciously. "Normally in a situation like this you'd argue or tell dad or something. Stun me so I couldn't leave. Before now when I had a boyfriend, you were normally the one most adamantly against the relationship. Why is now any different?"

Albus rubbed his fingers together idly before shoving his hand back into his pocket, shrugging his shoulders and turning his head to face James. "Because I saw how he looked at you the other night when you weren't paying attention." 

James felt his face burn, gaping at Albus as he pushed away from the wall, turning his back.

"Anyway, it's not like I could stop you even if I wanted to. I don't know who that guy is, but Scorpius seems to like him, and he knows his stuff. Normally you date idiots, so this one is a nice change of pace."

"Thanks, prick."

Albus turned on his heel to face James again. "So why's he spending the holiday alone, then?”

James felt a chill in his lungs, wondering if it would even be okay to reveal Teddy’s personal information, especially something this deep. In the end he just exhaled slowly through his nose, shaking his head and turning.

“Ted’s an orphan,” James said, reaching out to touch the doorknob. “His nan died a few months ago, this is his first Christmas without her. He’s got no family, I just don’t want him to be alone.”

“Yeah, that would suck,” Albus mumbled, pulling something out of his pocket and throwing it at James. “Bring that,” he said as James turned the chocolate bar over to read the label on the wrapper. He looked up to watch Albus back away and pull his wand out, pointing it into the living room and muttering “accio,” catching the bag that flew towards him and holding it out for James as he strode back. “This too.”

James took the bag, looking into it. “What is it?”

“From Scorp and I. Some of it is just for you, but Scorpius baked cookies and whatever, you could share those with your guy.”

James gaped at Albus. “What about this chocolate?”

“It’s from Draco, made with some kind of fancy liquor infused cocoa. You can have it, I’ll share Scorp’s.” James stepped closer and threw his arms around Albus, who tensed up. “Okay, you don’t have to hug me, that’s… thanks, okay.”

“Thank you.” James squeezed Albus in a hug. “One of these days we need to hang out again. You’d really like him, Al, he’s awesome.”

“I’m sure.” Albus took James by the shoulders and pushed him back a bit. “Look I’ll keep this to myself, though I did tell Scorpius and Lily, but I need to ask one thing.”

“You told Lily, too? Come on, Al.”

“Is he really any different from the other bastards you’ve dated in the past?”

“Yeah, he is.”

“How? Give me one example.”

“I told him I was a Partial and he started to research Partials so he knew how to take care of me if something were to happen to me,” James said. “Is that good enough? If not I have more.”

Albus stared at James for a moment before shrugging and turning. “Alright. Have fun.”

“Really?”

“Like I said before, it’s not like I can stop you. Just be careful, okay? I remember plenty of people who have gotten into your life just to get to dad or aunt Hermione.”

“Ted’s not like that.”

“How do you know?”

James opened and closed his mouth, clearing his throat against his fist. “I, uh… well… left out the fact I have any connection to either the Minister or Harry Potter.”

Albus narrowed his eyes at James. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well I’ll see you later!” James spun on his heel and opened the door, leaving Albus watching after him, clearly confused and frustrated.

><><><><><><><><><><><

Christmas to Teddy had always been a simple, humble holiday. It was never extravagant or fancy, there was never too much food or too many presents, and he only ever spent the day with his nan. A few times when he was still in school he would stay over the holiday, telling his nan he wanted to study, and she would say it was a good idea and that she was proud of him. When he was little, Teddy thought it was normal: the small tree decorated in dim white lights with the handful of presents around the base, and the Christmas meal of roasted ham and vegetables that he ate with his nan while sitting on the couch and watching a Muggle movie.

Then he started to hear about the remarkable holidays his schoolmates were part of, the traditions and the wonder that Teddy had never seen before. Compared to him, other people’s Christmas break seemed like a fantasy, and by the time he graduated, he’d finally started to wrap his head around the fact that he was the weird one. He was the only one who didn’t spend Christmas with his big family. Just his nan. Small, simple, and she never seemed to enjoy it.

Teddy didn’t want it, the feeling that was closing in around him, the resentment and anger that his nan had secluded him and isolated him for his own “protection” and ended up raising him into a dysfunctional fool who didn’t know what a holiday was even supposed to feel like. 

The bright lights, decorations, and happy mood baffled Teddy, who only ever associated Christmas with a day like any other, just with fancier food and presents. Like another birthday. Teddy loved his nan, she raised him after all, but her desperation to protect him had left him so confused about how the rest of the world functioned.

Christmas was just another day.

He didn’t burn the meal he decided to make, which was good enough for him, so he prepared a plate and sat on the couch with another book. The hotel suite was quiet and plain. It felt empty, like there was an important piece missing. Teddy could barely concentrate on the words in his book and sighed in defeat, throwing it onto the couch and running his hands over his face before picking up his phone.

He’d gotten no new texts from James for a while, but Teddy couldn’t blame him for it. He was probably spending time with his family. That’s what Teddy had wanted him to do, and so what if he felt a little lonely? He needed to get used to it. His nan wasn’t just going to come back just because he was lonely. He was probably going to be spending a lot of holidays alone now.

Teddy got to his feet and walked into his bedroom, dropping to his knees in front of his dresser and pulling open the bottom drawer before pulling out the photo album he’d taken from Gringotts, as well as his father’s award. He stretched his legs out in front of him as he leaned his back against the side of the bed, opening the velvet box and sliding a thumb around the edge of the gold medallion.

His eyes shifted to the right and he set the box down, moving the album onto his lap and flipping it open to leaf through it. The photos varied from old to new, or as new as they could get. Pictures of Remus Lupin when he was a kid, standing with his parents, pictures of he with his friends, dressed in Gryffindor colors and smiling the same soft, intelligent smile he always seemed to have. Further into the book there were pictures of a woman with red hair and green eyes, a photo of James and Lily’s wedding, a photo of Harry Potter when he was just a baby, a family photo of James and Lily holding Harry with Remus, Sirius, and Peter on either side of the couple.

There were some photos of people who must have been in the Order with Remus, pictures of Harry when he’d gotten older, likely after that twelve year stint where Remus had no contact with him and Sirius was in Azkaban. There were pictures of Sirius, grungy with a dark look in his eyes to counter his crooked smile, a photo of the new Order, photos of Nymphadora Tonks. A lot of pictures of Tonks, actually.

Then at the very back, pictures of Teddy. From what Teddy had uncovered, between his birth and his parents death, they’d been able to spend ten days with their son. Ten. Teddy had parents for ten days, then lost them both, left with absolutely no memory of either of them. Yet it seemed in those ten days, all Remus or Tonks did was take pictures, ones that Teddy had never seen before.

Pictures of Tonks holding Teddy and changing her hair, baby Teddy waving his little fists and changing his hair instinctively to match his mothers. Pictures of Remus in an armchair with Teddy lying on his chest, both of them asleep, Teddy’s hair its natural tawny brown. The same exact color as his fathers. A picture of Tonks and Remus sitting on the couch close together with Teddy awkwardly positioned in both their arms between them, both of them beaming. Despite the scars, Remus looked uniquely handsome when he smiled, and Tonks was beautiful.

Something clear dripped onto the photo, and Teddy lifted a hand to rub at his eyes, turning the page and looking away until he’d calmed himself down, taking a deep breath and shutting the album, shaking his head.

“Calm down, you’re twenty-seven. You’re acting like an infant. May as well get used to this, you idiot.”

Teddy jumped when he heard the familiar crack out in the sitting area, throwing the photo album into the dresser and snapping the medal case closed to toss it in after the album before kicking the drawer closed and staggering to his feet. He rubbed his eyes again before pausing in the doorway to gape at where James was standing, yanking the scarf off his neck and dropping a bag to the floor.

“Wha- are you kidding me?” Teddy gaped, and James looked at him with wide eyes. “I thought I said not to worry about me? Jamie it’s Christmas you should be with your family!”

James just gave a weak smile, pulling his jacket off and throwing it onto one of the armchairs before walking up to Teddy and reaching up to frame his face between his hands. “Is that any way to greet your beloved boyfriend?” He asked in a teasing voice, his smile falling quickly and his thumbs rubbing at Teddy’s cheeks. “Your eyes are red. You were crying?” Teddy flushed and James smiled again. “You’re really a sensitive guy, huh?”

Teddy felt himself break as he reached out to wrap his arms around James, hiding his face in the shorter mans brown hair. “I can’t believe you. Your family is going to hate me if they learn you ditched them for me.”

“Don’t worry about that, Al is the one who let me sneak out.”

“He did?”

“Yup, even sent me with snacks. You better feel special, you have my little brother’s seal of approval. That marks you as the first boyfriend I’ve ever had he didn’t want to slaughter.”

Teddy laughed, feeling suddenly light as air as he carded his fingers through James’ hair, pulling away just so he could lean down and kiss him quickly on the lips. “Fine, I won’t be mad then.”

“Neat, that’s what I was worried about,” James said with a grin. “So where’s this dinner you cooked, it looked pretty great through text, and I’m definitely craving some meat after all that apparation and cold weather.”

“Right, yeah, you need iron. Go sit down, I’ll get you a plate.”

James squeezed Teddy’s arms before he could move away, pushing himself up to kiss Teddy again, smiling against his lips. “You’re too good to me, you know that?”

Teddy just shook his head. “You just showed up to spend Christmas with your boyfriend of six months rather than family you’ve known for twenty-one years. Being good to you is the least I can do. You deserve so much more.”

“Go get me food then,” James said, though his face was burning red, giving away how embarrassed the last comment made him feel.

Teddy snickered and passed James to do as he was told, bringing a new plate of food to where his boyfriend had taken a seat, sitting next to him and watching him reach out for the television remote. They ended up watching some holiday special on TV while they ate and sat leaning into each other, Teddy with an arm tightly wrapped around James’ shoulders, and James with his head nestled at the curve of Teddy’s neck. At one point James shifted around to look down at his phone, and Teddy glanced down at the screen to see a picture of a man who looked to be in his forties wearing bulky sunglasses that were clearly meant to be joke glasses, a red and white sweatband around his forehead, holding a wand in one hand and a margarita in the other. Teddy would have laughed at how absurd the man looked if it weren’t for the fact that the phone was ringing and the ID read “Dad”.

James sent the call to voicemail and turned his phone off before tossing it aside, and Teddy quickly looked away as James snuggled deeper into his side, reaching an arm over his stomach and sighing. Teddy ran a hand through his hair, swallowing the knot in his throat and clearing it.

“Are you okay?”

“Me? Totally. How are you?”

Teddy just snorted, holding James tighter and placing a kiss to the crown of his head. “Listen, I know that coming to see me is going to cause strain between you and your family.”

“Don’t worry about tha-”

“I just wanted to thank you,” Teddy interrupted, laying his face into James’ hair. “I mean… I don’t know what else to say aside from that. I don’t know how to explain how much this means to me. I know I said I was okay being alone, but I…”

“I know,” James said softly, turning his face into Teddy’s neck. “That’s why I’m here. You don’t have to thank me.” He pulled away, one hand on Teddy’s cheek and smiling at him. “I’m happy to be here, for as long as you want me here.”

There seemed to be a hidden comment beneath James’ words, one that both of them understood but didn’t need to say, because both of them had been used and abandoned, hurt by relationships more times than they could count. Teddy decided not to bring that up, figuring it was a conversation for another day. All he could do was hug James and watch a silly cartoon with him, for the first time in his life completely understanding what it meant to not be alone on Christmas.

><><><><><><><><><><><

"Have you thought of what you'll wish for?" James asked from beside Teddy, who hummed, his arms lifted and folded behind his head.

They were currently on the roof of the hotel, staring into the starry night sky and lying out on a blanket. It was just minutes before midnight, James kept checking the time on his phone, counting down the seconds to the New Year.

"There's nothing I want," Teddy admitted, and James snorted.

"Now that's some bullshit. You don't have to make some deep or meaningful wish. Wish for better bus fares, but wish for something."

"What for?"

"Because I'm gonna make a wish and if I'm the only one doing it, I'll feel like an idiot."

Teddy burst out laughing and James reached out to smack him. "Alright, I'll think of something."

"Good. You've got five minutes."

Teddy sighed as his laughter faded, staring up at the stars and making out the constellations he recognized as he went through what he could want from the new year. Find a job, maybe. Finally get the courage to go down to Wales and open his grandfather's home. He'd been too nervous to do it in the six months he'd been in the country.

He hadn't even been brave enough to seek out Harry. Teddy knew where he worked and the general area where he lived, but everytime he got too close he would get cold feet and turn around. Maybe in the next year he could finally meet Harry, or look into the other half of the Black family that the Goblin at Gringotts hinted at months ago.

That one would be easy, just crack open the Black family anthology book he still hadn't looked at and flip to the back in the hopes it recorded which family members were still alive. Really he could have done all of this ages ago. He could have already moved into Lyall Lupin’s home, found himself a job, reunited with Harry and looked up his blood relation in regards to the ancient Black family. If the Goblin had been telling the truth, then in reality Teddy may have living family, cousins or some distant aunt and uncle, but he’d gotten so distracted the past few months.

He’d been blindly enchanted by his relationship with James. It was like they were still in the intense and passionate honeymoon stage of the relationship where all they saw was each other. Every flaw they unravelled from each other was even more beautifully imperfect than the last, and it was everything Teddy never knew he wanted in a relationship. He dreamt of James even when they were sleeping beside each other. It was a relationship that burned, and more than anything else, it was fun. It didn’t just satisfy his primal instincts, but his more subtle needs and desires as well.

Teddy never knew he loved lying his head on people’s laps before now. Or maybe he just loved it when his head was on James’ lap, with James’ fingers carding through his hair. He never thought he’d actually enjoy cooking, or listening to radio music while dancing with James at midnight. He never expected to enjoy living as much as he did now. Before, he was just existing, not really sure what he was doing or where he was going, but ever since starting this relationship, he was figuring out so much about himself. He was starting to realize what exactly he might want to do with his life.

He liked helping people, any way he could. He was considering looking into medicine like Scorpius had recommended, or at the very least make tonics and healing potions to sell. He could do anything, but what he wanted to do was help people like James did; like his mother and father did.

What could he possibly want more than this? More than a boyfriend who inspired him to be more for himself? This was all he wanted.

“Got your wish?”

“Mhm.”

Teddy could hear the crowd standing blocks away counting down, leading into a roar of cheers as midnight fireworks were set off, lights exploding in the sky and obstructing what little of the stars he could see through the pollution of the city. Teddy shut his eyes, still able to make out the colors of the fireworks as he inhaled slowly, reaching down to hold James’ hand and squeezing it as he thought through his wish only once.

Whatever happens in the new year, my wish is to not lose what I have now; to not lose James.

Teddy reopened his eyes and exhaled, watching as a few more lights exploded.

“Did you make your wish?”

“Yes,” Teddy chuckled. “Did you?”

“Yup. What did you wish?”

“I legally can’t tell you, sweetie,” Teddy said apologetically, and James laughed loudly as Teddy grinned into the darkness.

This was it. Just this. Just James. That was his wish. That was all he wanted.

“Happy New Year, Jamie.”

“And a Happy New Year to you, Ted.”

><><><><><><><><><><><

It wasn’t gonna rain. It absolutely was not going to rain that day. It just couldn’t. What kind of fate would there be if it rained on Valentine’s Day? Teddy had worked way too hard for this date to be ruined by rain. He’d told James to make sure he could get off work early so they could both prepare for the night, and Teddy had spent the entire day putting all of his new culinary knowledge to good use.

When he’d gotten to London eight months ago, his cooking abilities had been reserved to making sandwiches and tea, but he’d learned a good amount from both James and the dozens of cooking shows James liked to watch. There had been a rain warning just that morning on the news, but it looked sunny and blue outside, so Teddy was hopeful that it had just been a false prediction. He wanted to take James to the beach for a picnic after all, but he couldn’t imagine it would be much fun if it was raining the entire time.

In the months they’d been dating, Teddy had discovered that neither of them really cared about extravagance during their dates. No fancy restaurants or black tie suits. A large Domino’s pizza and a bad movie made for the best of their dates. This time, though, Teddy wanted to do something special, though not overly remarkable. A picnic dinner on the beach where he’d walked with James after their first date. Though the meal at the restaurant had been less than favourable, the walk they’d taken just after had been memorable. It had been their first date after all, and for Valentine’s Day, what better thing to do than revisit that?

No fancy food or clothes, just a picnic basket, a blanket, and the corny gift that Teddy had picked out. He was certain James would like it, but it was in his nature to worry, hiding the wrapped parcel in his jacket pocket and wondering if he should have gotten something better. It seemed like such a cheap trinket compared to some of the gifts he’d seen. Teddy had spent at least three hours lying on the couch looking up the best Valentine’s Day gifts for his boyfriend, but of course he had to pick the cheesiest thing he could.

Merlin if James dumped him for his crappy gift, he probably wouldn’t even blame him.

So he put his faith on his picnic date, preparing everything and falling into one of the armchairs to wait for James to get home from work. 

He sat there for a moment with a copy of the Daily Prophet, which showed a picture of Harry Potter on the second page, standing with what the article said was his daughter. The paper usually had some picture or article about something Harry had done, sometimes it was a repeat of the same story, the Daily Prophet just seemed to be obsessed with him.

This particular article was detailing the job offer that seventeen year old Lily Luna Potter had received from the National Quidditch League. She’d be starting her training with the Hollyhead Harpies right after her Hogwarts graduation. It was unheard of, but according to the Harpies captain, she was the best Seeker the League had seen since Harry himself. Maybe even better, but it was too early to tell. It was pretty fascinating. Teddy knew Harry had children, three kids if he remembered from previous newspaper articles, but so far Lily was the only one whose name he knew.

Teddy felt ashamed at how jealous he felt of these three kids he’d never even met before, folding the newspaper and tossing it onto the table before picking up the Black family anthology instead. He didn’t need to feel such unnecessary anger and jealousy just because they had parents and he didn’t. It was ridiculous.

At least he had James.

The door opened when Teddy was barely halfway through the page long mini biography on Arcturus Black the first, and James strode into the suite like he lived there, a bandage on his jaw to the right of his chin and a grin on his face that shone brighter than the sun outside.

Teddy lifted a hand to wave at James. “Okay, what happened this time?”

“Just a bruise, don’t worry about it. Wasn’t a bad mission actually, and my good mood hasn’t soured at all. So! What is it you had planned for this date?”

Teddy snorted as James shrugged off his Auror’s coat and draped it over the couch, then  walked over sit on Teddy’s lap. Teddy laughed and dropped the anthology book to the floor, wrapping his arms around James and placing a kiss over the bandage, breathing a wordless healing spell against it.

“You want me to tell you, or should we just go?”

“Both would probably be fun.”

“Let’s get going then. I know you just got home and probably want to relax, but the schedule says no on that one.”

“Tragic,” James sighed, slipping off Teddy’s lap and getting to his feet. “Let’s go then, I expect a wonderful dinner from you.”

“Oh you’ll definitely get one,” Teddy said, striding over to where the picnic basket was waiting and yanking on his leather jacket, then held the basket out by the handle. “Made it myself.”

James looked more excited than Teddy had been expecting, grabbing a sweater from the other end of the couch that he’d left there and yanking it on over his head before searching through his Auror coat and pulling a few items out that he shoved into the pockets of his jeans, then ran over to grab the picnic basket in one hand and Teddy’s wrist in the other.

“Did you actually make a picnic, because that is so fucking cute.”

“Let me grab the blanket first!” Teddy laughed, pulling his wrist from James so he could grab the picnic blanket from the bedroom, then grabbed James’ hand and pulled him out onto the balcony, disapparating instantly.

When their vision returned, they were standing on the beach they’d walked down on their first date, and James was smiling even larger than before, turning to smirk at Teddy. “Oh yeah, you’re a cheeseball.”

“Eight months and you’ve only now realized that?” Teddy asked, releasing James’ hand to grab the blanket under his arm. “Let’s find a nice spot away from the crowd.”

“Teddy we’re the only ones here.”

Teddy looked back and forth down the beach. “Look at that. We can set up wherever then.”

“Merlin,” James snorted, grabbing Teddy’s arm again and pulling him down the beach, letting Teddy unfold and set out the blanket before they both dropped down onto it to get comfortable. “So what did you make me?” James asked, and Teddy opened the picnic basket.

“Food, babe.”

“Very funny.”

Teddy pulled out tupperware and napkins, revealing a meal of chocolate covered strawberries, cucumber sandwiches, tiny sausages with barbecue dip, cubed fruit and cheese with toothpicks, deviled eggs, veggie and meat wraps, and a thermos of hot cocoa flavored with chili pepper.

“So you got hit in the face with a stunning spell?” Teddy asked, and James hummed into the little cup of cocoa.

“Dead on, but I was only out for like two minutes. We were with another Auror field team, so luckily they stepped in. If they hadn’t been there I could be dead or something.” Teddy felt his heart stop in his chest, almost choking on his cucumber sandwich as James waved his hand. “No big deal.”

Teddy set his sandwich down. “Merlin do not just say I could be dead and play it off like nothing. I get enough panic attacks worrying about your dumbass when you’re gone without you telling me how many times you could have been dead.”

“Yes, but you can’t say dating me isn’t exciting.”

“You give me gray hair.”

“Don’t worry, you’re still handsome.”

“Because that’s what I was worried about.”

James laughed, and Teddy watched the way his nose scrunched up and the dimple in his cheek deepened. He could have stayed out there on the beach for hours with James, well into the night, build a fire and roast marshmallows and even fall asleep under the stars. He reached into his coat for the little parcel, pulling it out and holding it in his fist.

“So, it’s Valentine’s Day,” he started, and James nodded slowly.

“Thanks Mister Calendar Man.”

“I got you something,” Teddy said in a soft laugh, and James hummed, his eyes pale brown against the dim lighting from the suddenly cloudy sky. Teddy didn’t pay attention to what was above him as he handed the gift to James, who turned it over in his hand before carefully opening it.

He gave a single, clearly delighted laugh as he took hold of the black cord and lifted it up to see the carved silver wolf head hanging at the end. “Oh this is very nice,” he said, half amused as he reached up to hold the pendant. “Actually wow this is really nice.”

“Really?” Teddy asked, wincing. “I figured it might be a bit mundane.”

“Are you kidding?” James laughed, holding the necklace in both hands and looking down at it, sliding a thumb over it as the smile faded a bit. “Back when I got hurt, part of me… I was really bitter for a really long time. It was hard to adjust, to accept the fact that I was different. I hated it. I hated myself.”

Teddy swallowed around the nerves suddenly bundled in his throat. “Jamie-”

“Oh, you don’t have to reassure me or anything,” James laughed. “My uncle, he’s like me; a Partial I mean. He helped me. For months I was just filled with regret, and hate, I resented Partials and full werewolves more than anything else. Just seeing the word werewolf would make me mad. My uncle, though, was patient with me, and helped me more than anyone else did. Not for lack of trying of course, he just understood better because he was a Partial too.”

“How’d he turn?”

James seemed to debate how to answer before speaking. “Back during the war, maybe a year before it ended, he was attacked by Fenrir Greyback.” Teddy felt like he’d been burned, tensing as James looked up at him. “I don’t know if you know about him, since you grew up in France.”

“I know- I mean I’ve… I’ve heard of him.”

James nodded and looked down at the pendant again. “He’s been a Partial for a long time, and he talked me through everything. Helped me understand the disease and how much it would affect me as I was healing, and what amount would show up in me after the fact. He helped me get my anger and shame out, and through him I was able to start forgiving myself.”

“Being a werewolf isn’t anything to be ashamed of,” Teddy said gently, and James smiled without looking up.

“I know that. My uncle and a friend of his, he was actually the last Minister. Not the current one, before her.”

“Shacklebolt.”

“Yeah, Kingsley Shacklebolt. He and my uncle worked together, and back during the war they knew this wizard. He was a werewolf, a really close friend of theirs. They told me his story, and I’d heard it before, my dad told the same story a few times while I was growing up, but being a Partial, suddenly his life felt more impactful to me, because I suddenly understood it. That werewolf, and my uncle, they were the ones who helped me come to terms with what I am. This is just a reminder, I suppose, and being from you, it’s proof people can still like me romantically in spite of my sickness.”

Teddy watched James put the necklace on, pressing his palm against the pendant and holding it against his sternum, smiling warmly. He wanted to say something, wanted to tell James about Remus Lupin, but somehow his words were lost to him. All he could do was reach out to hold the hand that wasn’t pressed to the wolf pendant.

“Jamie I don’t like you in spite of it. I didn’t learn about you being a Partial and decide I could just put up with it. Nothing changed in how I felt. The werewolf blood in you is a part of you, I can’t just pick and choose which parts I like and which parts I’ll deal with in spite of everything. I don’t even know if I’m saying all of this right…” James laughed and Teddy squeezed his hand. “I like the parts of you that are wolf just as much as the parts that aren’t. I’m angry you were hurt, but that’s it. I like that what came of it was a better version of you, because it made you stronger. You’re alive, that’s what I care about.” He lifted a hand to hold James’ face. “Living through it made you stronger and gave me more to...” he trailed off, uncertain of how to finish the statement. 

James smiled, his eyes glassy, reaching up to hold the back of Teddy’s hand and pulling it off his face, squeezing his fingers. “Can I give you my gift now?”

Teddy felt startled for a moment, as if the concept of his boyfriend getting him something for Valentine’s Day was absurd. “Yeah, of course.”

“Close your eyes,” James ordered, reaching into his pocket, and Teddy shut his eyes, paying extra close attention to the feeling of something being secured around his wrist. “Alright, you can look.”

James held Teddy’s hand higher so the other man could see the gift better, a paracord bracelet made of scarlet and gold cords, the name “Jamie” secured between the braids. Teddy laughed, reaching out to touch the silver letters.

“Is this your way of marking me?”

“Hickies can only last so long, after all,” James teased, and Teddy shook his head, feeling over the thick cords before looking directly at James.

“You know paracord bracelets are actually a survival tool,” he said, tapping at the braids. “This is the same thing they use for parachutes, even astronauts use them.”

James rolled his eyes and rocked a little where he sat before surging forward and grabbing Teddy’s face. “Oh you fucking geek just kiss me!”

Teddy shut his eyes and leaned in to close the distance between them, kissing James as James ran a hand into his hair. A loud roll of thunder that seemed to shake the ground interrupted them, and they pulled apart as a downpour of rain soaked them in a matter of moments and James burst out in laughter while Teddy cursed.

“Oh no I knew it was gonna rain I should’ve listened to the bloody forecast!”

He started shoving all the food back into the picnic basket, flicking his wand to shrink it so it was small enough to shove in his pocket, then scrambled to his feet with James and grabbed the blanket, coming close together and holding the blanket above their heads as if it would keep the rain off. Though it simply soaked through and started to leak on them.

“Go, go, go!” James yelled, pointing up at the street. “There’s a pub over there, let’s get a drink!”

“We’re soaked!”

“I know, it’s awesome!”

They ran for the pub that James had pointed to, bursting through the door still cackling and dripping wet. The old man behind the bar said something about tracking puddles and pointed to the blazing fireplace, which James and Teddy shuffled over to while snickering apologies. They dried by the fire, with a bit of extra help from spells they whispered under their breaths.

The pub owner was nice enough to bring them warm drinks and chips, and they sat down on the floor in front of the fire to finish their date indoors while the rain roared outside. Teddy definitely should have expected it to rain, the sky had gone from sunny to horrid in just a few hours before dumping buckets down on them, it was his own optimism that lead him to believe it would stay sunny. Still, it was technically winter, and at least James was still smiling. It was remarkable how he could still look handsome with his hair weighed down and darkened by rain while droplets tracked down his freckled face. Well, he looked handsome all the time.

“Not a botched date?” Teddy asked sheepishly, tracing the lettering of his bracelet, and James looked away from the fire to smile at him, his fingers playing with the pendant around his neck.

“I think kissing in the rain might be my new favorite thing.”

Teddy set down the cup he’d been holding with a hum. “If that’s the case, it’s still pouring. Wanna walk home now?”

James grinned, and after thanking and paying the pub owner, they were back outside in the cold rain, clinging to each others hands and running down the sidewalk. Teddy could hear the giddy laughter from beside him as he let James hold his hand and lead the way, finding himself jumping into puddles with his boyfriend and hissing against the biting cold that seeped through the soles of his shoes and soaked his socks. It was horrible, but his hand stayed warm the entire time, and his heart raced.

Despite how his own hair was soaked and stuck to his scalp, his leather jacket ruined and all his clothes glued to his body like a second skin, he’d do it again a million times, if it meant he got to see James smile like he was.

They were close to the hotel when they stopped at the crosswalk, and Teddy dragged James closer by his hand, reaching up to hold his cold face and kiss his lips, the rain singing around them as it soaked the London streets, not at all hindered by their obstruction.

When James pulled away, he said something softly, his lips brushing against Teddy’s, but his voice was unintelligible through the roaring of the rainstorm, so Teddy had to frown when James pulled further away, lifting a hand to his ear.

“I can’t hear you!”

James just smiled and shrugged, squeezing Teddy’s hand and leaning in to yell into his ear. “We should probably get out of these cold wet clothes before we get sick!”

“That’s definitely not what you said before!”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, let’s go!”

><><><><><><><><><><><

Waking up next to your lover was a domestic part of relationships that Teddy never thought he’d get to experience before, but ever since starting to date James he’d come to appreciate it. In the beginning he only spent a few nights a week with Teddy. Sometimes they got to indulge in each other intimately before James had to leave for the rest of the night, but ever since his brother Al had figured out they were dating, James had been practically living there indefinitely.

Teddy had cleared out a drawer for him, he had shampoo and a toothbrush in the bathroom, there were bits and pieces around the suite that were distinctly James, like he was leaving out traces of himself to mark Teddy as his, kind of like he’d done with the paracord bracelet that had his name on it.

Having James with him made him want to open his grandfather’s home, so he had a house that James could come to instead of a hotel suite. Sure the bed was comfortable, but Teddy had been renting the suite for nine months. It was March now, that was the first thought that passed his mind when his eyes opened, swallowing the lump in his throat as he reached for the bedside table to grab his phone and check the date. His father’s birthday was coming up. Had he been alive, he would have been turning sixty-five.

Teddy dropped his phone back onto the bedside table and rolled onto his back, inhaling and rubbing his hands over his face, into his hair, turning his head to the side to watch James as he slept next to him. His face was half buried in the pillow, lying on his stomach and snoring softly, strands of auburn hair hanging in his face and stuck in the corner of his mouth.

Teddy rolled onto his side and reached out to fix James’ hair, pushing it behind his ear and smiling as he murmured something and turned his face deeper into the pillow. He was perfect in every way. Even the visible scars on his bare back, which Teddy traced idly with his fingertips as he slipped closer to his boyfriend, sharing his pillow and stroking his fingers down his back and over the scars.

He lay like that for a while, caressing through James’ hair before massaging his shoulders and back, not reacting beyond a smile when James finally started to stir, immediately curling into Teddy’s chest, wrapping his arms around the man’s waist and grumbling.

“This is the best way to wake up,” James hummed, and Teddy smiled.

“Feeling alright?”

“Hell yeah.” James wiggled around so his left arm was hanging over Teddy’s waist, his right arm tucked under his head and propping him up just enough to look at Teddy, a small frown taking to his lips. “You’re not looking too great, though.”

Teddy gave a breathy laugh. “I’m alright.”

“Not with that expression you’re not,” James reached up to hold Teddy’s face, and Teddy let himself sag, feeling like his color was off and hoping he wasn’t losing his hold on the blue hair.

He’d managed to hide those abilities from James for nine months, he didn’t want to break the record before he was ready. Which just reminded him that James still knew him as Theodore Howell and made him feel even worse for lying to his boyfriend for nearly ten months.

“It’s almost my dad’s birthday,” Teddy said, and James winced a little, stroking the backs of his fingers down Teddy’s cheek as he shut his eyes. “I’m fine though. This one isn’t any different than the rest.”

“Do you always feel like this on his birthday?”

Teddy nodded. “Both his and mum’s. I’m used to it.” James was quiet for a moment, and Teddy opened his eyes. “What time are you getting off work today?”

“Probably six, why?”

“I think I’m going to open my grandad’s place,” Teddy explained, and James’ eyes lit up in what almost looked like pride. “It’s been almost ten months since I’ve been in London, and… I found out my parents graves are in Wales, so… I figure it’s time.”

“Do you want me to come with you?” James asked, and Teddy nodded.

“If you could.”

“Of course I will.” James leaned closer to kiss Teddy, who smiled weakly against his lips. “I’ll be off at six. Do you want me to meet you here?”

“Yeah. Oh, but if they keep you later I can just give you the address and you can meet me at the house.”

“Is that okay?”

“Of course, you’ll probably be living there with me part time anyway.”

James grinned at that. “Teddy are you asking me to move in with you?”

Teddy felt something that had to be excitement rushing through his veins, the sound of water in his ears that he waited to quiet before shrugging awkwardly. “Will you move in with me?” James actually looked taken aback at the question, his face going red and his lips parting in shock that Teddy just smiled at, untangling the Auror’s hair with his fingers. “Since it’s a house, it might be lonely on my own, and you’re always at the suite, you practically live with me already.” He pulled his hand away, suddenly feeling anxious. “Maybe it’s too soon though. Is it too soon? How long have we been dating? Nine months or ten? You don’t have to if it makes you uncomfortable, I understand if you just want to pop in now and then but stay with your brother-”

James surged forward to hold Teddy’s face and kiss him, and Teddy rolled onto his back so James was lying halfway on top of him, leaning on his chest and laughing against his lips before pulling away and grinning down at Teddy. “I’ll move in with you. I’ll definitely move in with you.”

Teddy beamed and held the back of James’ head, his other arm hooking behind the small of his back to pull him into another kiss. James dropped his head onto Teddy’s chest once they broke the kiss, huffing a little.

“I guess that means we can’t wait any longer to introduce you to my family, huh? If we want to officially live together, that is.”

“Yeah, it would probably be hard to keep it a secret for much longer. I mean your brother already knows, I think Fred has an idea.”

“Oh yeah Freddie knows. Absolutely. My sister knows I’m dating someone, but she doesn’t know who yet. Al told her, like the little fucker he is.”

Teddy snorted, stroking his fingers through James’ hair. “Maybe we can invite them to a housewarming dinner?”

“You want to invite all twenty-four family members to dinner?”

“Bloody fucking hell, Jamie.”

James laughed against Teddy’s chest. “How about just my mum, dad, and siblings? For now at least. Meeting everyone at once might be too much, and one of my uncle’s is out of the country for work most of the year anyway, so you can’t even meet him yet.”

“Yeah, immediate family to start with.”

“Although to be fair my dad might be the scariest one you meet, so maybe we should introduce you to my uncle before anyone else.”

“Please stop, I don’t want to panic about this.” Teddy covered his face with both hands and James propped himself up.

“I’m sorry, hey, they’re gonna love you. You’re the best, Ted, you’re smart and super hot.”

Teddy pulled his hands away to look at James. “Pardon, I didn’t realize me being hot was on their list of acceptable traits to have if I’m wanting to date you.”

“Well thank goodness you qualify.” James patted Teddy’s chest and slipped off the bed, leaving Teddy to stare at the ceiling in contemplation.

Before James left for work, Teddy wrote the address to his grandfather’s home on a slip of paper, handing it to James to look over. “Memorize it down to the latitude and longitude in case you have to apparate there, I’ll keep the door open for you.”

“Got it.”

“Just be careful at work, you staying late always means something happened and you’re going to be showing up hurt. You’re not allowed to get put in the hospital until after I’ve met your parents, that way someone can tell me if you’re at St Mungo’s.”

“Al would tell you,” James assured, slipping the paper into one of the pockets of his coat. “I asked him to.”

“That doesn’t make me feel better.”

“Hey, I’ll be fine.” James reached out to hold Teddy’s face and leaned up to leave a quick kiss on his lips. “I’ll see you at six. If I’m late, it’s because paperwork held me up. Got it?”

“Yeah, yeah.”

Teddy wasn't upset when James wasn't there immediately at six, and was actually grateful for the extra time as he apparated to his grandfather's home in Wales. The house was clearly quite old, sitting nestled with a small forest of trees backing it, rolling hills all around. The neighbors were a fair distance away, and Teddy could only guess that had been a perk in the past. If the other houses had been too close, then it's likely neighbors would have heard the strange noises during the full moon when Remus transformed.

Teddy couldn't imagine they let him roam freely in the trees beyond the house during the full moon, but he was certain his father would have taken walks through the forest every other day he could. The peace and tranquility would have been very attractive to him.

It was a nice house, two stories with an attic that he wasn't too keen on looking into. Lyall Lupin had been a notable Ministry worker for a long time, according to what Teddy had researched, so it wasn't a shock he'd been able to afford a place like this. Meanwhile Remus had allowed himself to live in poverty because he didn't want to burden his widower father. Teddy couldn't even fathom how painful it must have been for them both, and now he wasn’t sure what he was going to do with all the space.

He shut his eyes, standing outside the gate and taking a breath before opening them again and looking down at the mailbox sitting on the fence post. He only wondered about it for an instant before remembering Hope had been a Muggle. While Lyall and Remus sent and received mail through the owl post, Hope probably used the Muggle mail system. 

When Teddy reached out to clean off the dirt, he felt a million different emotions when he revealed the name "Lupin" painted there clear as day. It made his situation feel so much more real, the fact this home had belonged to his grandfather, where his father had grown up during his school years. It hurt to lift his wand and cast an illusion spell over the mailbox to completely hide it from view, before opening the gate and stepping into the yard.

It needed some work. The grass was overgrown, the flower beds around the house were filled with weeds, even the trees needed to be pruned. Teddy had to cast another illusion spell on the plaque above the door that read Lupin, then put his wand away and pulled the house key from his pocket. That's when his courage fled, and he was stuck standing on the doorstep with the key in the lock but not turning it.

Teddy shut his eyes again and pressed his forehead against the wood of the door, taking in deep breaths and whispering to himself, telling himself to calm down. It was just a house after all, this was absolutely ridiculous. It should have been easy. It shouldn’t have mattered he’d never met the Lupin’s, or that his father had grown up here, it was just an empty house. Maybe that was the problem, though.

Teddy wanted to open the door and walk in to meet his grandfather and his parents, but he wasn’t going to, because it was empty.

He nearly let himself think it was someone from his family putting a hand on his shoulder, jerking away from the door and spinning around to see James standing there with a hand on his back, the other one raised, still dressed for work and looking exhausted.

“Hey, it’s just me.” Teddy sighed and let his shoulders sag as James rubbed a hand up and down his back. “Sorry, I’m a little late,” James said, looking up at the house. “This is it?”

“Yeah.” Teddy looked up with James. “It’s the first time I’ve seen it. Bigger than I expected.”

“It’s pretty nice, though it needs a bit of work.”

Teddy nodded slowly, looking at James. “How was work?”

“Uneventful, for once,” James answered. “Were you waiting for me?”

Teddy turned his attention to the key still in the lock, his fingers clenched around it, bobbing his head up and down in a nod. “I… wasn’t waiting long I don’t think.”

He could feel his boyfriend's eyes on him, watching James’ hand come into view to cup over the hand at the key, squeezing it firmly. “It’s okay,” he reassured gently. “You’re not on your own here.”

Teddy held his breath, exhaling as he turned the key and wincing when he heard the locking mechanism disengage, letting James turn the doorknob and push the door open, stepping inside at the same time.

Despite how big it appeared from the outside, it wasn’t as overwhelming as Teddy had expected. There were four bedrooms, two bathrooms, two spare rooms filled with boxes and old furniture, a kitchen that lead into the dining room, and a living area off to the right of the entry. There were no photos on the walls, but there were blank spaces where picture frames once hung, and the furniture still set up in the rooms had been covered with sheets. There was absolutely nothing to reveal who had lived there, which was good considering Teddy being a Lupin was still a secret, but it was also terribly upsetting.

His grandfather had only been dead two years, so why did it look like no one had been in the house for years before that?

“Wow.” James used part of his sleeve to clean off a dirty window, waving a hand in front of his face to get the dust away. “It’s a work in progress, but it’s nice. Maybe I should take the day off tomorrow to help you clean up.”

“You don’t have to,” Teddy said absently as he stood at the doorway leading into the kitchen. “I think it might paint me in a bad light if my influence has you skipping work.”

He reached out to touch the marks scored deep into the doorframe. It took a moment for him to realize it was a measurement for height, feeling over the R that had been carved next to the marks. Teddy could almost visualize his father standing against the pillar of wall there as his mother scratched a tally above his head and they gushed about how tall he was getting while Lyall drank coffee in the kitchen beyond and watched from over the top of his newspaper.

Teddy dropped his forehead against the wall and shut his eyes again, standing there in silence but noting the footsteps when James wandered over to him, returning his hand to Teddy’s back and lying his head against his shoulder.

“My mum did this with us too,” he said, and Teddy opened his eyes to see James tracing one of the marks. “My brother ended up taller than me, can you believe that?” He shook his head. “My little sister’s about my height, or she was last I saw her. Merlin knows she might be taller now. Do girls ever stop growing? If she’s taller than me now I swear I might quit my family. I’m the oldest, this just shouldn’t be allowed.”

Teddy couldn’t help snickering as he stood away from the doorframe. “My nan did the same thing, but I had nothing to compare it too.”

“There’s more marks,” James noted, feeling a few of them. “With an initial and an age I think. Up till here it was just R. Now there’s J, S, and P.”

James Potter, Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew; of course they’d visited, why was Teddy surprised?

“Do you want to do it?” James asked, and Teddy looked down at him.

“Measure my height?”

“Yeah, why not?” James grinned, and Teddy would have said no, that’s ridiculous, if James hadn’t looked so excited.

“You have to do it too, then.”

James rolled his eyes and turned Teddy so his back was against the wall. “Stand straight now, I’ll mark it with my wand.”

Teddy rolled his eyes up as James pushed himself onto his toes to reach above Teddy’s head with his wand, marking the wall and letting Teddy step away before taking his place, looking excited as Teddy marked the wall above his head.

“You’re way taller than me,” James said after observing the marks, and Teddy dropped his head back in a laugh.

“You’ve only now realized?”

“Shut up, it’s different when it’s visual like this! I don’t pay attention when we’re next to each other!”

Teddy wrapped an arm around James’ shoulders and pulled him against his chest, burying his face into the top of James’ brown hair. They stood in silence for a while, James reached out to hold Teddy’s waist, until Teddy sighed and turned his head to look at the wall.

“Thank you for doing this with me.”

“Of course,” James pulled away, smiling at Teddy. “I know it’s a bit empty and dusty now, but we can fix that with a bit of vacuuming and cleaning spells. It’ll feel like home in no time.”

Teddy could only stare at James, shaking his head. “With you here, it already feels like home.”

James’ cheeks darkened red and he smiled shyly, though he didn’t remove his eyes from Teddy’s as he lightly punched his shoulder, grinning. “You don’t have to say cute stuff like that, you know, we’re already dating.” He spun on his heel, looking around the room. “Now! Let’s clean up at least one room and shag each other stupid to Christen the house!”

“I don’t know how I feel about getting naked when the place is dirty.”

“That’s why I said clean the room up first,” James said, holding his hands out. “Do you think I’m an animal?”

“Sometimes.”

“Touche.”

“It’s pretty late, though.” Teddy wrapped an arm around James’ waist, pulling him back towards him. “How about we clean up on your next day off? Till then we can just stay at the hotel for a few more days. I should get a few things from my vault anyway, to add to the place.”

James gave an exaggerated sigh. “Oh alright, if that’s how you wanna do things. I guess we could just bang in the hotel.”

“Nope,” Teddy lifted his chin, and James gaped at him as he grinned. “We’re saving it till the house is cleaned up so we can Christen the place good and long.”

James’ face went entirely scarlet and his lips twisted into a pout. “You expect me to just lust after you until this entire house is squeaky clean?”

“I certainly do.”

“You’re a beast.”

Teddy pulled James impossibly closer with hands squeezing his hips, their foreheads pressed together. “Honey you have no idea.”

><><><><><><><><><><><

James made Teddy sleep on the couch, claiming if they slept in the same bed he was going to end up jumping him. Teddy wasn’t even mad, laughing for a full five minutes before it tapered into giggles, falling asleep on the couch and waking up as happy as he’d felt when he’d fallen asleep. While James was at work that day, Teddy walked through the house to hide anything that could possibly tell who he was, planning how he would reveal himself and how he would apologize for lying nearly ten months.

In the end he figured it might convince James he was really Teddy Lupin by first asking if he even knew who the Lupin’s were. Teddy imagined he would, considering he was a Partial as well as an Auror, so he would probably recognize Teddy’s metamorph abilities when he finally showed them. At the very least he could bring James to the cemetery where his parents were buried. It was yet another thing he hadn’t done since coming to the UK, because he was too terrified of facing the truth. He’d always known they were gone, but he’d never been at their graves before. It was just another thing he wasn’t ready for, but he didn’t want to lie to James any longer.

Teddy wanted this relationship to last, and to do that they had to have complete honesty and trust in one another. He already trusted James with everything he was, now he just had to reveal the last secret he’d been keeping and hope James didn’t hate him for it.

It had been a while since he’d actively changed his appearance, so he stood in front of the bathroom mirror on the first floor and scrunched his nose in concentration, watching his hair as he morphed the color pigment, then grew it longer before letting it shorten out again. After which he tested his ability on the rest of his face, growing a duck bill from his mouth and shaking his head once he’d confirmed he hadn’t lost his touch. Of course, being a natural ability, it wasn’t like he could forget how to do it.

He changed his face and hair back to how it normally was just as he heard the door open down the hall and James’ voice call out. “I’m here! I brought cleaning supplies!”

Teddy backed away from the mirror, running a hand through his hair as he left the bathroom and started down the hall to meet James in the kitchen where he was setting out both Muggle and magical cleaning supplies.

“Merlin did you buy out the store?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, some of this stuff I got from my gran. I told her I was helping someone clean up an old house and she jumped on it. That’s why I’m late.” James set down the last bag and wiped his hands on his shirt before turning to Teddy. “Did you keep busy while I was gone?”

“Cleaned the bathroom, if that means anything.”

“Good, we can take showers then.” James pulled out his phone. “I’m all yours for the rest of today and tomorrow, so let’s get on it. I wanna clean up this place from top to bottom then bang you on the couch.”

“You’re so romantic,” Teddy sighed, accepting one of the bags James held out as the Auror put on music, setting out a radio connected to his phone and shrugging off his uniform coat.

Teddy could only stare for a moment as James hung his coat up next to Teddy’s on the wall pegs by the door, then reached back to pull his hair into a ponytail to keep his bangs from getting into his eyes as he cleaned. It was another domestic snapshot that Teddy’s life had become, having their coats hang together, and he felt like an idiot for smiling at the wall, but it was like another picture of proof they were together.

Their coats hanging together, the bracelet on his wrist that had Jamie’s name and the wolf pendant displayed proudly outside James’ shirt, and the music playlist drumming from the BOSE speakers that both of them had put together while lying curled up on the couch, pointing out songs they liked to add to their special playlist. A collection of proof they existed together. Teddy wasn’t alone anymore.

“What’s with that expression?” Teddy tore his eyes from the coats to look at where James was standing at the mantle with a spray bottle and a rag, one eyebrow lifted.

“It’s nothing.”

“You sure, because you’re smiling like a dope.”

“Don’t I usually?”

“Fair enough.” James shrugged and turned back to cleaning the mantle, a huge grin on his face.

Teddy decided to help James clean the living room, charming a few things to scrub the walls free of dust as he put his energy into cleaning the windows with both magic and old fashioned elbow grease. Once those were cleaned he cracked the windows open to air out the living room, sneezing against the dust and going over to the empty bookshelves.

He already knew all the books were sitting in his vault, but had to wonder why Lyall would remove them. It almost looked like he was planning on leaving the house entirely empty, it was kind of surprising some pieces of furniture were still there. Honestly though, who knew? Teddy tried not to think too much about it, about the fact that his grandfather had died in a house empty of friends, family, or even personal belongings. He must have been so lonely…

“Teddy look at this,” James called from the fireplace. “The entire mantelpiece is carved, it’s incredible.”

“Is it?” Teddy set his cleaning supplies down and walked over to where James was meticulously cleaning every crease and carving.

It looked like the mantel was one large piece of carved wood, though Teddy wasn’t sure what kind of wood it was at first glance. It seemed to be decorated with intricate celtic and Welsh knotwork, while the top of it sported a scene of animals running through a forest. Teddy traced the wolf at the middle of the mantle, head raised towards the carved moon, before looking back at the other animals. More wolves, but most notably a large dog, a stag, and a small rat that Teddy barely saw. He smiled and gave a short laugh as he touched the stag, tracing the antlers. Remus was probably the one who added them, seventeen and finally able to use magic out of school, waiting until his parents weren’t looking before charming the mantle and adding his three closest friends to the woodwork. Teddy wondered if Lyall had ever noticed.

“It’s beautiful,” James noted, and Teddy gave a slow nod.

“It really is.” He flicked the small carved rat that was stretched out in a run between the dog and the stag. “I hate rats, though. We should get rid of that one.”

“Hey, it’s your fireplace.” James pulled his wand out. “I hate them too, of course. What should I change it to? I’m killer at transfiguration.”

“Make it a lily,” Teddy said absently as he turned away.

He didn’t see it, but James had frozen in place, the smile on his face gone as he stared at the mantle for a drawn moment before finally lifting his wand and changing the rat into a lily, continuing to stare at it with a confused and contemplative expression on his face as Teddy moved on to clean other areas of the house.

They managed to clean well into the night before passing out together on the couch with a fire burning in the fireplace, waking up around nine in the morning and showering before eating a fast breakfast they both proudly took part in making and getting right back to cleaning the house. They focused mainly on the first two floors of the house, dusting, washing windows, doing laundry, cleaning mattresses, vacuuming, mopping, all while trying desperately not to get distracted snogging in the hallway and laughing at each other when a particularly large dust bunny would get stuck in their hair.

It was pleasant and domestic and Teddy had never had more fun cleaning a house. He remembered doing everything under the sun to get out of cleaning his bedroom when he was younger, but with James sweeping the floors next to him as he scrubbed every plate and cup in the dusty cupboards, Teddy really didn’t mind the work. He could probably clean at least two more houses with James before he got bored and wanted to do something else.

“If you want to look into Healing then you absolutely should,” James was saying, his hands folded on top of the broom and his chin sitting on top of his hands as Teddy dried a large serving plate, humming.

“Really think so?”

“If that’s what you want to do. I’m sure Scorpius could give you a good word at St Mungo’s. To be honest you might be overqualified actually,” James said the last part with a wide grin, and Teddy rolled his eyes.

“I hardly have any basic training to be a Healer, and I’ve never studied towards it.”

“But you learned under some top notch Healers around the world. You know some techniques I’ve never even heard of before. You’re more than capable.” James leaned away and took hold of the broom to finish up. “There’s more than one hospital in the UK as it is, so you don’t have to settle for just one.”

“What other hospital is there? I’ve never heard of there being two.”

“That’s because you grew up in France, and you’re not a werewolf.” Teddy had no idea what that meant as James held out a hand. “There’s St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, then there’s the Lupin Clinic for the Lycanthrope Afflicted Witch or Wizard.”

If Teddy had been drinking something, he would have spit it out. As it was the plate he was drying slipped from his hands, and he fumbled attractively for a moment to catch it so it wouldn’t shatter against the floor, stuttering and setting it firmly on the counter before gaping at the back of James’ head.

“The what clinic for what?”

“It’s where I go for Partial stuff,” James explained, turning around to smile at Teddy. “So does my uncle, and a ton of werewolves. Well, the ones who accept help, that is.” He leaned against the broom, one hand on his hip as he stared at the floor. “There are a lot of more roguish wolves who won’t accept help even when it’s offered. Those kinds of bitter people are the whole reason I was hurt in the first place.”

“I… don’t understand.”

“Me neither,” James murmured, sweeping the floor idly. “After the war, Kingsley Shacklebolt posthumously awarded a First Class Order of Merlin to a friend of his, a werewolf named Remus Lupin. He didn’t just do that, though. Kingsley also started a fund to help witches and wizards suffering with lycanthropy, and with the money he got through the fund, donations, and from his own pocket, he built a clinic dedicated to helping people like Remus Lupin. Named the place after him of course. Thanks to Kingsley and the clinic, werewolves don’t have to struggle to afford Wolfsbane potion anymore, they can find jobs through the clinic, and there’s even a small community of houses and apartments there for werewolves who don’t want to live with the general population. The property is private and warded, there’s a forest and it overlooks a beach, it’s a really nice hospital. It’s where they brought me after my attack, the Healers there saved my life.”

“Wow… that’s… I don’t know what to say, that’s amazing.” Teddy felt dumbstruck. Of all the things he hadn’t been aware of regarding his father…

“You might be able to get a job there, considering your unusual skill set. It’s actually hard to get a job there if you’re not a Partial or werewolf, normal wizards have to go through a pretty intense interview and orientation, a background check and even a family check, but it’s a possibility.”

Teddy tapped his fingers against the countertop. “I imagine you’re more likely to be brought there rather than St Mungo’s if you were to get hurt during a mission.”

“Probably,” James smiled, and Teddy shrugged.

“I’ll look into it, then.” Teddy turned back to the sink and James laughed softly.

“Just to take care of me, huh?”

“Yeah,” Teddy chuckled. “If I can’t follow you around during work, I at least want to be there in case of a real emergency. Not to mention I’ll probably learn a lot about full and Partials, which would help me take care of you on an everyday basis.”

“Thank you,” James said after a moment, and Teddy looked over to see him clinging to the broom and smiling at him with an unexpectedly tender expression. “I know I’ve said it before, but considering all the experiences with dating I’ve had since my attack… it’s hard to feel normal sometimes.” He propped the broom against the counter and walked up to Teddy, who dried his hands on a towel before facing James as he reached out, wrapping his arms around Teddy and lying a head against Teddy’s shoulder with a soft sigh. “You make me feel normal,” he said. “Human.”

Teddy felt jolted as he hung the towel over the sink, wrapping his arms around James, one hand in his hair. What James said brought up a memory of his nan talking about his parents.

“I was anxious at first when they started seeing each other, and when they married, because Nymphadora was so much younger, but Remus put my fears to rest with just a few gentle words. I asked him why he cared so much for my daughter… he said she made him feel human. Your parents knew deeper levels of love than many of us will ever experience. My hope for you is that you will be able to feel it just as intensely as they did.”

Teddy pulled James away far enough to tilt his chin up and kiss him, keeping a hand on the back of his neck as James curled his fingers into the back of his shirt. “I know I’m not an Auror, I’m not exactly a qualified Healer either, but you’ve given so much of yourself to help, protect, and heal other people,” Teddy spoke against James’ lips, his thumb brushing at the other man’s cheek. “Don’t ever change, do everything you need or have to, because that’s one of the things I’m most proud of you for, and in the situations where it gets too much, know I’ll be here to be the one to protect, help, and heal you like you do others.”

James just smiled at Teddy, something vulnerable, open, and so honest on his face. “I believe you,” he said. “You know what you could do to help me right now?”

“Oh dear,” Teddy chuckled, and James held his face between his hands.

“We need some wall cleaner to wash the walls with to keep Bundimun away.”

“Hm, and you’re telling me this because?”

“Well I just thought my adoring and super hot boyfriend would be willing to drop into Diagon Alley for some cleaning supplies and floo powder, you know?”

“Oh I see. He certainly sounds like a great boyfriend. I wonder if I’ll get to meet him one of these days.”

“Teeeeeed.”

“Oh fine, fine, I’ll go, but only because I’m fucking whipped.”

“Awe.”

“Keep cleaning, don’t take this as an opportunity for you to slack off.”

“You know I should consider it cruel and inhumane that you’re putting me to work on my day off.”

“Well that’s what you get. I’ll bring some snacks too.”

Getting to Diagon Alley and buying cleaning supplies and snacks took no time at all. Teddy stood and bullshit with the owner of the joke shop for a bit while the man was ringing up the chocolate frogs and the cookies with jokes printed on them.

“These are super popular nowadays,” the man said, holding the box of cookies and grinning. “They’re an old family recipe, you know? I get the jokes from my family and my friends.”

“My boyfriend loves them,” Teddy noted, paying for the snacks and accepting the bag that was handed to him. “We’re cleaning up a house my grandfather left to me in his will, so providing cleaning supplies and snacks is my job since he’s helping me on his day off work.”

“Huh, that’s wild,” the man leaned against the counter with one hand, the other rubbing his jaw idly. “My nephew said something about cleaning up a friend’s house today. It’s not time for spring cleaning yet, is it?”

“The Vernal Equinox isn’t until the end of the month, so technically speaking it’s still winter.”

“Thank Merlin,” the man gave a heavy sigh. “I have time to prepare before my wife gets me to clean our house with her. Bonding, she says. Makes the kids help and everything.”

“You poor man,” Teddy shook his head. “I guess I’ll pretend my boyfriend and I are just starting early, it’s a pretty big house so there’s a lot to clean and a lot of dust, we might not even be done until late May.”

“Oh boy.” The shop owner clicked his tongue. “Try and be done by May, the wizarding community has an annual celebration every second of May. It’ll be the twenty-eighth anniversary of the end of the war. There’s gonna be fireworks, the Ministry places a huge extension charm on Diagon Alley and food carts set up all down the street, Fortesque gives out free ice cream to kids under eleven, there are sales at every store, which I personally love. Even my brother comes from Romania to celebrate!”

Teddy nodded slowly with a hum. “That’s pretty cool. I’ll think about attending. I’m… I’ll admit I’ve never celebrated the end of the war before, so it’ll be a new experience.”

“Oh, you’re missing out. Every wizard or witch in England and the rest of the UK celebrates!”

Teddy shrugged, rubbing the back of his neck. “Grew up in France with my nan. We moved from here, but she was never interested in celebrating. We didn’t really talk about it.”

Now the man looked confused and uncomfortable, readjusting himself on his feet so he was standing straighter. “Can I ask why?” He asked, and it was odd to see the usual jokester look so serious.

Teddy opened and closed his mouth, shrugging. “Our story is the same as most people’s stories. We lost people to the war and the last thing my nan wanted to do was celebrate their deaths.” The other man seemed to be at a loss for words, so Teddy smiled awkwardly and backed away from the counter. “Anyway, it’s just me now, so I might go if my boyfriend wants to. Thanks for the snacks.”

“Anytime, mate. I love the hair, by the way!”

Teddy paused halfway to the door and looked over his shoulder. “What about my hair?”

“Blue! It was brown the last few times you were here!” Teddy lifted a hand to his head, burying his fingers into the fringe of his hair as the man gave him a thumbs up. “It looks awesome on you, for the record. Did you dye it? Muggles can be pretty inventive, huh? My dad absolutely loves them. Muggles I mean. When they came out with colored dye he picked up a dozen boxes and handed them out to the kids for Christmas! The dye is what inspired my brother George and I to start selling combs that charm your hair pink!”

Teddy opened and closed his mouth, clearing his throat. “Yeah, dyed it. My boyfriend likes it too.”

“You know, you talk about your boyfriend a lot,” the shop owner said on a hum, smiling warmly. “How long have you been with him?”

Teddy felt intense warmth from the question, smiling. “Nine months. I just asked him to move in with me, that’s why we’re cleaning my granddad's house out.”

“Congratulations to the both of you,” the man said with a laugh. “Moving in together, you must really love him.”

Teddy just watched the man for a moment before shrugging and laughing softly. “I guess I do. Don’t think I’ve said it to him yet.”

“You should get on it then. Don’t wait too long. Never be scared to tell the people you love that you love them. A little advice from a war survivor. If you love someone, tell them, and hang on with both hands.” Teddy felt that same warmth in his chest, and the man gave a subtle salute with his hand. “Good luck to the both of you.”

Teddy grinned, nodding. “I’ll tell him when I get home.”

“Good choice. Oh, before I forget, just one more thing! Your boyfriend, what’s his name?”

Teddy opened the door as he laughed. “Jamie,” he replied, and was in far too good of a mood to care about the way the man’s brow furrowed and his eyes filled with confusion.

He clung to the bags as he left the store, still smiling to himself as he started down the alley. In the nine months they’d been dating, Teddy had never said I love you before. Maybe because he’d been too scared to, maybe he just hadn’t realized the extent of his affections before now. In past relationships, Teddy had told boyfriends and girlfriends he loved them, but after the first few heartbreaks he’d stopped admitting it. He’d stopped opening his heart, stopped confessing, because even if he was falling in love, admitting it just hurt too much.

His relationship with James had been the longest lasting relationship he’d ever had before in his life, and what he felt for the Auror was so much stronger than any of the “love” he’d experienced in past dating. This was so much more than just love, and Teddy wasn’t afraid of admitting it anymore. Not with James at least. He didn’t think he’d ever be afraid again if he was with James. Teddy needed to tell him that. Even if it wasn’t a romantic confession in the pouring rain with both of them crying from emotion, Teddy still needed to tell him.

He almost started running, but if he had he probably would have sent both girls he bumped into flying across the alley. As it was he still bumped into them, staggering back and lifting his hands in apology.

“Sorry, I’m sorry, I was running.”

“No kidding,” the shorter of the girls on his right said, hands on her hips and eyes wide. She was sporting brilliant red hair and brown eyes, freckles splashed across her nose and cheeks, and it took Teddy a stunning thirteen seconds to recognize her from the Daily Prophet.

“Lily Potter?”

She blinked. “Do I know you?”

“Oh, no, sorry, I just saw your photo in the paper.”

“Oh yeah! I forgot mum wrote an article about me!”

“Nice to see you again.” Teddy jerked his head to look at the other girl, physically cringing when he recognized Victoire, who looked over at Lily and waved at Teddy. “This is that guy I mentioned I had a fling with back in France." 

“Oh dear.” Lily grit her teeth in a faux wince. “The one who turned gay?”

“Turned ga-” Teddy rolled his eyes and head with a sigh. “I’m bi, okay? I swing both ways. Like you said, it was a fling, from almost nine years ago.” He waved his hands. “You know what I don’t care, nice to see you again.”

Victoire folded her arms. “Are you still with that guy you mentioned dating?”

“Yeah, actually,” Teddy replied, “but like I said before, it’s not really your business.”

Victoire unfolded her arms to instead put her hands on her hips. “You know both times we’ve talked you’ve been incredibly hostile towards me.”

“I know, it’s remarkable that I feel the need to act guarded when I’m the one who left without a word and no way to contact you.” Teddy gasped. “Wait a second!”

“You could’ve sent me an owl.”

“Doesn’t quite work when I don’t even know your full name.” Teddy sighed and shut his eyes. “Never mind, you’re right, I shouldn’t be so mean spirited. It was nine years ago, I’m over it.” He then looked at Lily. “It’s nice to meet you, by the way.” He held a hand out and Lily seemed to perk up, reaching out to shake it.

“You too! Oh, and don’t get the wrong idea, both my older brother’s are super gay, so I’m cool with guys dating other guys.”

Teddy gave a delayed nod. “Great.”

“This is my cousin,” Victoire introduced, and Teddy felt like the air had been punched out of him.

“Your cousin? Lily Potter is your cousin?”

“Yeah, and Bill Weasley is my father, big deal,” Victoire sighed, and Teddy felt breathless once again, shaking his head and clearing his throat.

“Um, okay, I’m Teddy.”

“Teddy?” Lily eyed him with intense curiosity. “Teddy like Teddy Lupin?”

The world seemed to stop on axis as Victoire scoffed and looked at Lily. “What are the odds of that, Lils, honestly, don’t be daft.”

“Wh- uh-”

“Just ignore her,” Victoire insisted, waving a hand at Lily to dismiss her. “Lupin is just some kid who disappeared after the war that my uncle is obsessed with finding.”

“It’s not that simple, Vic.” Lily reached up to shove her cousin’s hand aside, sighing and looking at Teddy. “Never mind, it’s nice to meet you too.”

“Your uncle, that would be…” Teddy pointed at Lily and Victoire hummed.

“Yup, the ever famous Harry Potter,” she said. “Get the stars from your eyes while you can, because as cool as you might think he is, he’s really a complete tosser.”

Lily tilted her head. “He is, and that’s coming from his daughter. He might seem cool via newspaper articles, but he’s kind of a loser.”

“W- I- uh.” Teddy shook his head, seeming to be incapable of forming proper words as if he were in shock from meeting Lily Potter and discovering his summer fling at age nineteen had been his godfather’s niece. He cleared his throat and rubbed a hand over his face, then shook his head again. “I’ll take your word for it. Look it really was nice to meet you,” he said this to Lily, who shrugged, “but I have to get going.” He lifted the bags he was holding, pointing to them with his left hand. “My boyfriend is waiting for me, he’s helping me clean my house.”

“Nice bracelet,” Lily said, pointing at Teddy’s left wrist, and Teddy lifted his hand higher.

“Thanks, from my boyfriend.”

“Merlin you say that a lot,” Victoire breathed, and Teddy glared at her before dropping his arms to his sides.

“You could almost imagine I’m proud of it, couldn’t you?”

“Easy you two,” Lily soothed, lifting her hands before lowering them slowly. “Take it down a notch. Now I’m clearly not an expert, but Vicky you’re sounding very jealous at the moment.”

Victoire spun on Lily. “Do not call me that! How many times do I have to tell people not to call me that?!”

“Look, cus, I get why you’re jealous because this man is hot.” Lily motioned to Teddy, who pointed dumbly at itself. “Maybe calm down and let him live his life. If he’s dating a guy now, let it be, seriously. No need to be so bloody jealous just because it’s not you.”

Victoire looked scarlet and Teddy kept his eyes on Lily. “Thank you. Um, again, it was nice meeting you, Lily.” He looked at Victoire. “You too, again, thanks, great, can I go now because I’ve sort of got a lot going on and I’d like to help my boyfriend clean our house.”

“Get gone then,” Lily said, giving a thumbs up, “and good luck.”

“Lily, there you guys are,” Teddy nearly passed out from the familiar voice, holding his breath as James’ younger brother came into view from behind Lily and Victoire. “You can’t just ditch Hogwarts on a Saturday, ask to hang out, and not meet me where you say you wanted to meet me.” Al froze when he reached Lily’s side, eyes on Teddy. “Hey…”

Teddy opened his mouth, nothing came out, and Lily looked between he and Al, pointing at Teddy. “You know this guy?” She asked, and Al flicked his eyes to look at Lily.

“Kind of.”

“No kidding? Vic knows him too, evidently they had a fling like ten years ago.”

Al nodded slowly, looking directly at Teddy with clear suspicion on his face. “Did they?”

“That was years ago though, and- how do you know…” He waved towards Lily. “That’s Lily Potter. You know Lily Potter?”

Albus seemed to wince a bit. “Yeah.”

“I’m his sister,” Lily said, so nonchalantly, reaching up to fix the barrettes in her hair as if she couldn’t read the tense atmosphere or notice the way Teddy was choking silently on his own tongue.

“What?” Teddy choked out, and Al looked off to the side, blowing out a puff of air that disturbed his bangs.

“Yeah, she’s my little sister.”

“You’re a Potter,” Teddy said weakly, and Al nodded.

“Albus Potter, but just call me Al.”

“That’s not what I asked.” Teddy lifted a hand, his entire body now felt cold, he shook his head. “You’re a Potter.” He pointed at Lily. “You’re Lily Potter’s brother. You both are Harry Potter’s children.”

“I mean, what other wizard family named Potter do you know?” Lily asked, shoving her hands into her pockets, and again Teddy was left opening and closing his mouth.

He felt physically sick on a million different levels, staring at Albus, who stared back. “You knew,” was all Teddy said, and Albus’ shoulders sagged.

“Yeah.”

That one word felt like a killing curse to his heart, and he turned away, struggling to speak through the knot stuck in his throat. “I have to go.”

“Ted,” Albus tried calling after him, but Teddy just ignored him and took three steps down the alley before disapparating.

Back in his hotel suite, he dropped the bags of snacks and cleaning supplies and went for the books he’d neatly stacked onto the coffee table to pack later, looking at the covers before throwing them to the floor, only stopping when he found the Black Anthology book and the massive text detailing both the first and second wizarding wars.

At the very back of the Anthology was a pathetic list of living Black family members. Teddy’s name was on it, Edward Remus Lupin, along with a man named Draco Lucius Malfoy, and his son Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy. Family, living family, and one of them was Al’s boyfriend.

Teddy tossed the book aside and flipped open the wizarding war text to the last few pages talking about Harry James Potter.

“After the war, Harry went on to join the Ministry as an Auror with fellow Gryffindor Ron Weasley, training under Minister Kingsley Shackelbolt, later marrying Ginevra Weasley and having three children: James Sirius Potter, Albus Severus Potter, and only daughter Lily Luna Potter… 

James.

Teddy ran a hand over his face, flipping back to the beginning of the book where a portrait of Harry’s parents were smiling up at him. Beneath the photo was their names: James Potter with wife Lily Potter née Evans.

“Evans.” Teddy ran both his hands over his face, shaking his head. “Jamie Evans. Bloody fucking bollocks.”

He placed the book back onto the table, pushing himself to his feet and dropping into one of the armchairs before putting his face in his hands, burying his fingers into his hair.

He didn’t know what to think. This was the last thing he’d expected, to learn that his boyfriend of nine months had lied about his name, who he was, and was actually his estranged godfather’s oldest son. Teddy had been regularly sleeping with his godfather’s child. It wasn’t as if they were related by blood, so there was really not an issue with their relationship ethically speaking. They were just two blokes who’d never met before who bumped into each other by chance in a bar one night who decided to go home together.

The issue was that Teddy was his father’s godson. Could Teddy be mad that James had lied about who he was? No, he really couldn’t, considering Teddy had lied too. They’d both lied to each other for the entire duration of their relationship. Teddy knew everything about James, down to his deepest insecurities and most vulnerable scraps of existence. He’d mentioned more than once how previous boyfriends had only gotten together with him to get to his family, and while Teddy never really understood why before, now it made complete sense.

Of course people would try to get to Harry Potter through his children, and of course that happening so many times would leave James with brutal insecurity and a shit self image. It wasn’t fair to James, and Teddy could understand it.

James lied about who he was because he was scared Teddy would use him to get to Harry, and Teddy lied about who he was to hide from Harry.

Everything was a shit show and Teddy didn’t know what he was supposed to do.

The last thing he wanted to do was hurt James, but he didn’t want to lie to him anymore either. He loved James, he loved their relationship, and as terrifying as it would be to tell him the truth, if they wanted this relationship to work, then they had to be honest with each other. Everything would be fine. They were planning on inviting Harry and the rest of James’ family over for dinner anyway, to reveal their relationship. This made it easier, didn’t it?

Teddy didn’t react when James apparated directly into the room, just continued to sit there with his elbows on his knees and his hands folded in front of his mouth as James took a few steps forward.

“Merlin’s tits, there you are! You were gone so long I got worried something had happened to you!” James said, walking towards Teddy but stopping. “Something did happen.”

Teddy pulled his hands away from his mouth, rubbing them together and hesitating as he tried to find the right words to say. He didn’t want to sound like he was angry at James, and didn’t want to make it seem like he was judging or scolding James in any way. He wasn’t mad. He was confused and sad, but he wasn’t angry. He couldn’t be angry when he’d done the same exact thing.

“I need to talk to you,” he said finally, and James tensed up, too far from the chair for Teddy to reach out and touch him but not moving any closer. “It’s not bad,” Teddy quickly reassured, dropping his head and running his hands over his face again. “I don’t think it is; and I’m not mad.”

“Mad, what- what did I do? Did I do something? If I did something-”

“You didn’t do anything I didn’t do,” Teddy said, reaching out for the books on the table and hesitating, drawing his hand back in. “Jamie I’ve been lying to you about… something really big.”

He looked up to see James was looking at him with a subtly horrified expression, hands clenching and unclenching at his sides. “What do you mean?”

Teddy swallowed the lump in his throat and stood up from the chair. James backed up when Teddy walked around the seat and into the bedroom, following slowly after the other man and standing in the doorway as Teddy knelt in front of the dresser and pulled open the bottom drawer, lifting out the black velvet case and the photo album before getting to his feet and walking back into the living area as James backed away to let him pass again.

Teddy set the album down first, clinging to the little case and pulling out a different photo he kept in his pocket. James wandered a bit closer, staring at the box with a confused furrow to his brow.

“What is that?”

“Proof of who I am,” Teddy said, and James looked even more disturbed as Teddy hesitated, turning to face the Auror. “I didn’t lie because I wanted to hurt you. Please understand that. Please understand the reason I’m telling you the truth is because I care about you and I care about our relationship.”

James just shook his head. “I don’t understand.”

“I know, I’ll tell you everything, I just need you to understand everything from the past few months, with us, how I feel about you, this is the one thing I lied about.”

“What did you lie about?” James asked, clearly uncomfortable, and Teddy sighed.

“My name isn’t Theodore Howell,” he said. “Howell was my grandmother’s maiden name, I just used it because… I was afraid of telling you who I really am… because I was hiding from it. By coming to London I was hiding from myself. I didn’t think I’d get so attached, I…”

“Who are you really, then?” James asked softly, and Teddy tapped the box before holding it and the old photo out for him to take.

Teddy waited for James to open the box, watched his expression as he looked between the medal and the photo of Teddy’s parents holding him as a baby before answering. “My name is Edward Remus Lupin. My parents and my nan called me Teddy and it just stuck, because they named me after my grandfather Ted Tonks.”

James’ mouth parted in clear shock and confusion, shaking his head and uttering strange noises as if he was trying to speak. “H- a-... how do I know this isn’t a joke?” He looked up at Teddy, looking skeptical and rightfully frightened. “Do you know who these people are? What this award is? You can’t just lie about being this person!”

“I’m not lying Jamie, look at me, look at my face, my eyes and my hair!” Teddy motioned at his own face as he concentrated hard on the red of James’ shirt to change his hair scarlet as he changed his eyes bright pink. James took a startled backstep as Teddy hesitated. “You can’t fake being a metamorphmagus, James. It’s not hair dye, it’s just… me. I like blue and I like how I look with blue hair. When I’m not morphed I look like my father, that’s what my nan said at least. Those times you said the roots of my hair were changing, or my eyes were changing, and I said it was your imagination, it wasn’t. It was just me.” He took a few breaths as James stared at him with wide eyes. “My name is Teddy Lupin.”

James’ eyes were watering, clinging to the photo and the little box. “You’ve been missing…”

Teddy nodded. “After the war, my grandmother, Andromeda, she didn’t want to stay in the country. Her daughter was dead… her husband… I was all she had left and she was terrified of losing me, so she took me and moved to France, where we knew no one and she was certain I’d be safe.” He felt something horrible in his chest as he explained himself, wanting to look away from James but unable to. “She didn’t tell me anything about who I was when I was growing up. I knew my mother was a metamorphmagus, I knew my father was a werewolf, and I knew they were both dead. All I had was her, until she was dying and finally told me, after twenty-seven years, what my own parents names were. For most of my life I didn’t even know their names, and she didn’t even tell me I had living family here! She didn’t tell me I had cousins, and she didn’t… she didn’t tell me I had a godfather.” James winced and Teddy quickly continued. “I learned by complete chance, when I found dozens of letters he wrote and sent to my nan through the years, searching for me, wanting to see me. She never replied to him and never told me he existed. I found his letters when I was cleaning out the house in France, and that’s why I came to London. To find him.” Teddy dropped his head and lifted his hands. “But I was too cowardly.”

“What do you mean?” James asked softly, and Teddy dug the heels of his wrists into his eyes.

“I was too scared to look for him. I knew who he was and where he lived, where he worked, but this entire time I was too scared, too much of a coward to meet him or face him.”

James shook his head. “Why?”

Teddy laughed. “Because I have literally nothing, James. I’ll be twenty-eight next month, I’ve never met this man before in my life, what am I expecting? To just show up at his doorstep like I belong there? As if he’d welcome me with open arms when I’ve never met him and he’s never met me? We don’t know each other at all, I’m a photograph and he’s a scribbled name on an old letter my grandmother never replied to. Exactly how conceited do I think I am, to actually expect him to care about someone he doesn’t even know? I’m an idiot.”

“You’re not an idiot!” James insisted, stepping closer and reaching out to Teddy, who pulled his hands away and took a breath.

“I’m sorry, I am so sorry, James. I lied to you about who I was because I was scared and I was hiding like a coward and I am so sorry. This thing between us lasted so much longer than I ever could have dreamed, and I want it to last longer, even if it’s foolish of me to want that. I couldn’t keep lying to you, I care too much about you, I… fuck.” He lifted his hands to rub them over his eyes again. “Fuck. I was going to tell you eventually but I shouldn’t have waited so long. I’m sorry.”

“You’re really not kidding…” James said, and Teddy pulled his hands away, shaking his head and turning to pick up the photo album, opening it to show James the picture at the front of young Remus standing between Lyall and Hope.

“My grandmother, Hope Howell. Howell was her maiden name before she married Lyall.”

“Yeah…” James looked up at Teddy. “You… had no idea the clinic existed before I told you, did you?” Teddy shook his head and James hesitated. “That explains why you almost dropped a plate, I guess.”

“I’m not lying. That house in Wales belonged to Lyall, he left it for me in his will. I didn’t want to open it on my own, the entire situation, I just… I wanted to run from it.”

“I know, I know, I understand.” James set down the picture and the award, taking the album from Teddy to put that on the coffee table as well before standing straight and reaching out to hold Teddy’s elbows. “You’re really not lying.”

“I told you, you can’t fake being a metamorphmagus,” Teddy said, reaching out but not touching James, as much as he wanted to hold him. “I needed to tell you because relationships are based on trust and honesty.” He swallowed the anxiety in his throat. “I’m sorry that I lied to you, James.”

James nodded. “I know. I’m not mad at you. I… I understand why you didn’t tell me. I believe you, I know you can’t just… fake your hair like that. The medal, too, that kind of thing can’t be faked or duplicated. That’s genuine and… so are you. Wow.” He reached up to hold Teddy’s face, laughing softly. “It’s like I’m meeting a myth, Teddy Lupin. Wow. No offense, but you’re even hotter now.”

“Why would that offend me?”

James laughed softly, letting go of Teddy’s face to drop his arms down and lying his forehead against Teddy’s chest, hands grabbing onto the belt loops on his jeans and breathing slowly. “Teddy, I… please, don’t hate me. I’ve been lying too, I…”

Teddy wrapped his arms securely around James, squeezing him in a tight, crushing hug. “I know, Jamie.”

James tensed. “What do you know?”

Teddy pressed his face into James’ hair. “I ran into your brother when I was in Diagon Alley. He was with your cousin Victoire, and your little sister.” James tightened his grip on Teddy’s jeans. “It’s okay. It’s okay, I understand.”

“If I’d known who you were I swear.” James wrapped his arms up behind Teddy’s shoulders, clinging to the back of his shirt. “I swear I would have told you.”

“No, no, Jamie if I’d known who you were from the beginning we never would have gotten this far, and it really would have been a shame. I wouldn’t have even talked to you because I would have been too scared.” He held the back of James’ head in his hand and pulled him back, pressing their foreheads together. “You told me a million times about the shitty relationships you got into where your boyfriends were only with you to get to your father. If you’d known who I was then you would have thought I was with you to get to Harry. If I’d known who you were then I would have been too scared to even talk to you. Nothing would have happened, nothing would have changed at all. Lying to each other is why we’re in a relationship, as fucked up as that sounds. If that’s how this was supposed to go, then I’m happy you lied to me and I’m happy I lied to you.”

James laughed, grinning with tears in his eyes, which he pinched shut when Teddy tilted his head to kiss him. When they pulled away, James lifted a hand back to Teddy’s cheek.

“Do you want me to say it, too?” James asked, and Teddy hummed, sliding his thumb across James’ bottom lip.

“Can you?”

“I mean, you told me the truth, didn’t you?” James nodded. “Teddy Lupin. I lied too. My name isn’t really James Evans. It’s James Potter.”

Teddy smiled. “James Sirius Potter.”

“Yeah, yeah.” They both laughed weakly and pressed their foreheads together again, James stroked the backs of his fingers down Teddy’s cheek. “Do you want to wait to meet my father until you’re ready?”

Teddy hesitated, shutting his eyes and leaning more into James. “After the house is cleaned. After that.”

“That might be smart. It would give you time to perfect your cooking for one thing. For another, you won’t just be meeting your godfather, you’ll be meeting your boyfriend’s father, which I think is way scarier.”

Teddy narrowed his eyes at James, who chuckled. “You’re the devil.”

“That explains why I’m so hot, right?”

Teddy laughed, reaching around James to hug him as tightly as he could manage, pressing a kiss against the side of his neck and shutting his eyes. It was fine, everything was fine. It was terrifying but against all odds James was still in his arms. Teddy wasn’t going to lose him. He wasn’t going to lose anyone else. Especially not James.

><><><><><><><><><><><

“Honestly, James, every other family lunch we have with you you’re barely present, why do you look so happy?”

James could only grin when he looked up at his father from his plate. “Because I’m a happy man, dad.”

Harry rolled his eyes and looked to his right where Ginny was sitting, but she just shrugged. It was another family lunch like they had every other week, with James, Albus, and Lily visiting their parents at home. Lily only had a few more weeks of Hogwarts left, but they let her go home every other weekend just to spend some time with her family. It was unorthodox, but she was undeniably McGonogall’s favorite, so it was really no wonder why Lily was allowed so much extra freedom despite still being in school.

James didn’t mind at all, in fact this was perfect. He and Teddy had finally finished cleaning the house, both inside and out. Teddy had even gone around and repaired the fence, lifting the illusion over the mailbox and the plaque above the door that held his name, trimming the grass in the yard and making the trees more presentable. The cleaning had gone smoothly after the revelation of their true identities, aside from one or two bumps.

When Teddy had opened the attic, for one. A door on the second floor lead up a narrow flight of stairs and into the empty attic. The only thing up there were walls and a lightbulb that swung eerily back and forth as Teddy had paced the room. There were deep cuts and gashes torn into the wood of the walls and floors that Teddy had traced with his fingers, holding his hands over his mouth and nose and staring at the floor for a long, quiet moment. James had to force him out of the attic and back down the stairs, where he’d ended up crying on the couch while James held him. They’d locked the attic back up and decided not to go up there unless they really needed to.

Teddy had moved fully into the house, paying his last bill to the hotel and transferring what he needed from his vault and into the house, including framed photos that they’d had a field day hanging up on the walls down the halls. The mantle was decorated with knick knacks and photos, Remus and Tonks’ wands were displayed on a stand on the mantle next to Remus’ award, Tonks’ old Auror badge, and a menagerie of other items important to both of them.

The beds in each room had been furnished with fresh sheets and pillows, the refrigerator and cupboards were fully stocked with food and supplies, it was starting to feel like a real home. Albus hadn’t even looked twice when James had strode into their flat and announced he was moving in with Teddy. The magizoologist had merely waved his hand with a hum and a “whatever”. He hadn’t even helped James pack, but that was fine, because he’d seen Albus smiling behind the book he was reading a little too intensely.

There was only one more hurdle they had to get over. No, not the fact Victoire had been an old flame of Teddy’s, they’d already had that conversation, which ended in James laughing hysterically before letting his face go stony at the revelation she’d happily cheated on Teddy.

“She can’t have you back.”

“I don’t even want her, Jamie.” Teddy brandished the bracelet on his wrist. “Anyway, I never belonged to her, but I do clearly belong to you. Look, see, it says so right here.”

The final hurdle was bringing Harry to the house and introducing him to his long lost godson. James had gotten used to that a lot faster than he’d expected, maybe because he already knew Teddy so well. Nothing had changed about who he was after all. He was still the same Teddy he’d dated for nine months, he just happened to have a slightly different name than he did originally. James didn’t mind at all; he just hoped his father wouldn’t either.

Then again even if he did take exception to his godson dating his son, that was just something he’d have to choke on, because their relationship was cresting on ten months old, and James had absolutely no intention of breaking up with Teddy just because his father got ornery.

Teddy was almost petrified at the idea of meeting Harry, but he’d finally given James the go ahead to start the ball rolling, and he set his utensils down once he was done with his lunch, propping his elbows on the table and setting his chin on top of his hands.

“So are all of you free tomorrow night?” James asked, and three of his four family members stared blankly at him.

Albus merely took a sip of soda from his glass. “Yeah, sure.”

“What for?” Harry asked, and James shrugged.

“Thought I’d invite you all to dinner.” He looked at Lily. “You too, and mum. Just you guys for now, though. Just my immediate family.”

“That’s gotta be the weirdest dinner invitation I’ve ever received,” Lily noted, and James winked at her.

“I don’t have plans,” Ginny decided, smiling in clear delight. “You and Al never invite us over, what’s the occasion?”

“I’m not inviting anyone for anything,” Albus said, rolling his soda around in his cup and staring into it. “This is all James.”

“You’re not even gonna help your brother cook?” Harry asked, and Albus looked up at him.

“Why would I do that?”

“It’s your flat, too.”

“Oh James isn’t inviting us to the flat,” Albus corrected, taking another drink of his soda and looking sideways at James. “He moved out like three weeks ago.”

Harry and Ginny both stared blankly at their sons, and James smiled brightly. “Yeah. I’m inviting you to dinner so you can see where I’m living now and meet my boyfriend.”

Harry blinked like he was a meme, shaking his head a bit. “I’m sorry?”

“Your what?” Ginny leaned forward, and Lily smacked her hands against the table.

“Is it the same guy you were dating through Christmas that Al told me about?!”

“First of all, stop yelling!” James called back to his sister. “Yes, it’s the same guy!”

“Okay, wait,” Harry quickly started. “You left during Christmas and disappeared for a week, you shut your phone off and didn’t answer any calls or texts until after the New Year, and this is why? Because you ditched your family for a guy we don’t even know?”

“Don’t even know is a harsh statement,” James decided, “but yeah, the reason I left was to spend the holidays with my boyfriend. You can’t blame me.”

“I can, actually.” Harry lifted a hand, pointing at James. “Of all the dates and boyfriends you had before, none of them ended well, and now this latest attempt was bad enough to trick you away from spending time with your family? You think I’m going to sit down for dinner with someone who influences my son like that?!”

James bristled, dropping his hands. “First of all, dad, this isn’t some sad attempt, we’ve been dating for about ten months. That’s not an attempt, that’s a success.” Harry’s jaw dropped and Ginny covered her mouth with a hand. “Second, he didn’t want me to spend Christmas with him because he wanted me to be with my family, but he was completely alone for the holidays. He’s got no family, his gran had just died, he has no parents or siblings and had no connection to the two cousins he does have because he didn’t know where they existed until recently. I didn’t want him to be alone for Christmas, that’s why I left before grandma had even pulled out the roast.”

Harry visibly winced, and Ginny gave him a sympathetic look before turning her attention back to James. “Honey you’ve been dating this man for ten months?”

“Just about,” James answered, meeting her eye. “He’s different than the others I’ve dated, you’ll see once you meet him.” He turned his head to look directly at Harry. “You’ll like him.” Harry looked skeptical, folding his arms, and James rolled his eyes. “I get you’re suspicious considering my history, but just come to dinner. At the very least you can bitch him out and scare the shit out of him. Best case scenario you become best friends upon your first meeting,” he grinned at his mom. “Very likely, might I add?”

“What’s he like?” Lily asked, and James smiled wider.

“Awesome. Insanely smart, talented, a ridiculously powerful wizard. He could probably give dad a run for his money.” Harry scoffed and Ginny smacked his shoulder with the back of her hand as James continued. “He’s taken up studying Healing techniques, soon as we’re settled in the house he’s going to the clinic to apply for a job.”

“At the clinic, are you insane? Is he insane?” Lily gaped, and James shrugged.

Harry just barked an incredulous laugh. “Does he really think he’ll get a job at a werewolf clinic?”

“Is he a werewolf?” Lily asked, leaning over the table, and James shook his head.

“He’s not a werewolf, but yeah he’ll definitely get a job. No problem on that one.”

“You’re confident, huh?” Albus asked, and James elbowed him playfully.

“He’s already got experience with Healing and medicine, remember? He and Scorpius talked for days about it.”

Albus set his cup down. “Yeah and Scorp still won’t shut up about it!”

“Why would he want to apply at the clinic and not St Mungo's?” Ginny asked, and James smiled at her.

“Cuz of me, why else?” He rolled his head. “Well, okay that’s not the only reason, there’s another reason, but you’ll figure it out later when you meet him.”

"He knows about you?" Harry asked, and James couldn't blame him for the cautious, protective glint in his eyes.

"We've been together for close to a year, dad, so yeah, he knows about me. He knows everything about me."

Harry pointed at himself. "He even knows I'm your father?"

"Yeah but don't get the wrong idea, he was terrified of meeting you."

"That's a first," Ginny hummed as Harry folded his arms again, looking quite proud.

"He didn't want to meet you at all actually, too anxious, but not because you're my dad. He didn't want to meet you for a different reason that has nothing to do with me. You being my dad is like the cherry on the anxiety cake. Poor guy. You'll understand when you meet him."

"You keep saying that," Lily said. "As if seeing him once will answer all our questions."

"That's cuz it will." James winked and pointed at Lily. "Just trust me, you're going to love him. He's the best. A million times better than any other guy I've dated. I mean he even asked me to move in with him."

"Like you hadn't already been living with him," Albus muttered, and James glared at him.

"My point is, he's a gentleman who smarter, kinder, and for the record more attractive than anyone I've ever dated before, and you're going to love him."

"Yes, well, I've heard that dozens of times," Harry said doubtfully. "So don't be too surprised when I don't approve."

"I said you'd like him, you can like him without approving of our relationship."

"So I'm not going to approve of it then?"

"You do you, dad."

"Just leave the address and a time to be there and we won't be late," Ginny quickly cut in before Harry could respond. "We're excited to meet him, but James, you can't blame us for worrying."

"I'm not blaming you, I understand, but what you're going to learn is that he's the same way. He takes care of me like no one else, mum. When I told him I was a Partial he bought every text on werewolf health he could get his hands on the next day and I got back home to find him nose deep in two at once. He's not like any guy I've met before. When I say you'll like him, I'm not saying it lightly."

Ginny exchanged an uncertain look with Harry before smiling at James again. "You seem happy, so we'll give him a chance," the smile fell, "but one wrong move-"

"Save the threats for tomorrow at dinner, okay?" James grabbed his napkin and a pen from his pocket, scribbling down the address and giving it to his mother. "There, don't lose it."

"Who's cooking?" Albus asked, and James pointed to himself. 

"Mostly me, but he's actually gotten a lot better at cooking since we started dating. He used to suck at it, though, so his skills have come a long way.”

“Nice, just don’t poison me.”

“I just can’t believe you’ve been dating him going on ten months and didn’t tell us,” Lily said, and James shrugged.

“Would you have reacted in a positive way if I’d told you immediately when we decided to start going out?”

“No,” Ginny was the one to answer, and James held his hands up in a ‘well there you go’ manner.

“After all the crappy relationships I’d had in the past I didn’t want to get ahead of myself, assume everything would go great and start telling everyone I was in a relationship. Yes, maybe I took a bit too long to tell you guys, but at least now I’m confident it’s something that’s gonna last and is something worth telling my family about without them worrying about my boyfriend being an ass who’s gonna break my heart.”

“You’re really that confident?” Harry asked, and James leaned back against his chair.

“Well yeah, if I wasn’t then I wouldn’t have invited you to dinner. Ten months, dad, you really think it’s gonna end anytime soon?”

Harry exchanged another look with Ginny, and Albus sat straighter. “If it helps, I already met the guy,” he said, and their parents gaped at him. “He seems nice.”

“I haven’t met him, but I’ve known James was dating someone since Al told me on Christmas,” Lily helped, and Harry sighed, looking away as Ginny offered James a smile.

“We’ll give him a fighting chance, but keep what we said in mind.”

“I get it mum. Just don’t get too huffy when you meet him, and try not to cry too much, it’ll make him even more uncomfortable.” He said the last bit to Harry, who squinted and looked at Ginny.

“Why would I cry?”

“Maybe because your baby is growing up,” Ginny offered, lifting her cup, and James laughed as Harry glared at her.

><><><><><><><><><><><

They only had an hour left before Harry and the rest of James’ immediate family would arrive at the house, and Teddy was just walking through the door with a grocery bag, having stopped by the store on his way home from dropping off a resume at the clinic named for his father. It had been a sight, for the Healers to read his name on the resume and start stuttering, flustered and anxious at his appearance. Teddy was pretty confident he would get the job, if only because the witches and wizards at the clinic would be interested in having the son of their namesake working with them. Teddy wanted the job because of his skillset and because he wanted to look after James to the best of his abilities, but if his name would help him get the job best suited for him, so be it.

Everything would fall into place the way it needed to, Teddy was confident in that much as he shut the door behind him, leaving it unlocked as he went into the kitchen where James was fixing up the last of the meal they’d cooked together, pulling hot pans from the oven and flicking his wand in the direction of the dining room to finish setting the table magically.

“Everything looks and smells amazing but the closer it gets to dinner the more terrified I feel,” Teddy noted in exchange of a greeting as he set the bag on the smaller kitchen table. “Maybe I should be drunk or take a Draught of Peace to keep from blacking out.”

“Your hair’s white, maybe consider the Draught of Peace.” James cleaned his hands off on a towel he hung on the oven handle before walking up to stand across the table from Teddy. “It’ll be fine, everything is going to go amazing and they’re all going to love you. Now what did you pick up?”

Teddy took a deep breath, steeling himself and using the opportunity to boost his confidence as he started to empty the grocery bag. “I got everything you said we needed; napkins, a small bottle of firewhiskey and some French label champagne, which I’m surprised I found here. Uh, cheese platter, because cheese fixes everything, assorted veggies with some dips, spring mix to finish the salad, some fruit we need to chop up, chocolate syrup, ice cream, soda, and I love you.” He lifted his head when he’d finished, watching James’ reaction.

James was still looking down at the assortment of newly purchased items, the smile on his face fading and lips parting as he stared at the table for a moment longer, like he was trying to process what he’d just heard. Finally he lifted his head to meet Teddy’s eye.

“What did you say?”

“Uh, soda.” Teddy lifted the large bottle he’d picked up. “For Lily, since she’s underage.”

“No not that, the last thing you said,” James was grinning, and Teddy set the soda back down.

“Ice cream?” He asked, tilting his head, and James grinned more.

“Say it for real, Ted.”

Teddy just watched James with a soft smile of his own, shrugging like it was the simplest most obvious thing in the world. “I love you. I was going to tell you sooner, but then that whole you being a Potter and me being a Lupin thing happened, so I got distracted. More so with this whole dinner happening. I wanted to tell you before meeting Harry.”

James was leaning his hands flat against the tabletop, head tilted to the side as he smiled at Teddy. “You love me, huh?”

“Yeah.” Teddy shook his head, looking down and distracting himself by organizing the food and supplies he’d picked up. “I love you, and it’s probably not smart of me, because you are my godfathers son.” He lifted his head again. “I shouldn’t be in love with you.”

James just grinned. “That’s a real shame.” He stood straighter, walking slowly around the table and lifting a hand. “Made worse, of course, by the fact,” he paused in front of Teddy, “that I love you, too.”

A weight seemed to lift right off Teddy’s shoulders, and he reached out to wrap his arms around James, pressing his hands into his back to feel the scars through his shirt and pressing a kiss to the Auror’s forehead.

“Thank Merlin it’s both of us, then,” Teddy said, and James laughed, tilting his head back and lifting himself high enough to capture Teddy’s lips with his own.

“Thank Merlin indeed.” James scattered kisses across Teddy’s cheek. “We’re both hopeless tragedies who suffered too much heartbreak but were still stupid enough to fall in love.” He stretched his arms over Teddy’s shoulders, playing with the back of his hair. “It’s like we were made for each other, huh? Your messed up broken pieces fit mine perfectly.”

“I guess they do,” Teddy laughed. “I feel really lucky to have found you, James. When I went to that bar to get drunk and forget about everything, I’d never felt more lost and lonely in my entire life. Maybe it was you who found me, then. Honestly… what are the chances of meeting you like that?”

“Let’s go the cheesy overdone route and say we found each other before confessing our love again before my dad shows up,” James decided, and Teddy laughed louder.

“I did say cheese made everything better.”

“You certainly did,” James agreed, kissing Teddy again.

They both froze when someone knocked on the door, looking towards the hall before looking at each other, teeth grit in an exaggerated wince.

“That’ll be them,” James said, and Teddy felt a wave of dizziness as James squeezed his cheeks between his hands. “Go take a Draught and calm down, I’ll let them in.”

Teddy took a shaky breath and nodded, clinging to James and hesitating. “Do you think he’ll like me?” He asked, and James smiled gently.

“I’ll tell you something really quick; before I came to spend Christmas with you, I overheard my mum and dad talking to Mister Malfoy. Wanna know what they were talking about?”

Teddy thought about it for a minute, looking up before shaking his head. “Uh, the best way to trick kids into believing Kris Kringle exists.”

“They were talking about you,” James revealed. “My dad’s been obsessed with finding you since the war ended, Teddy, and I’m the one who found you. He’s gonna love you, he’s gonna be over the moon happy, and he’s gonna cry. I promise.”

They looked towards the hall when the knock came again, and James pushed Teddy backwards, then towards the bathroom. “Go, go, go, Draught of Peace, calm down then meet me in the living room, it’s gonna be awesome.”

Teddy backed up down the hall, lifting a hand to rub his jaw and nodding. “Once more, just wanna say I love you.”

“Tell me a million more times after tonight, babe,” James called, and Teddy ducked into the bathroom as James went for the front door, starting a new part of their life when he opened it to let his family in.

Teddy came to London completely alone, hoping to find some family, some way to not be alone anymore, and now he wasn’t, because he found James, and through him found everyone else.

Chapter Text

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Teddy cupped his hands under the faucet to catch the running water that poured out of the spout, ducking his head to splash it directly into his face. He rubbed his hands into his eyes while taking slow, calculated breaths, trying his best to block out the sound of footsteps and muffled voices down the hall in the living room.

After a short moment of trying to drown himself in handfuls of cold water, Teddy stood straighter and stared into the mirror, struggling to get a handle on his anxiety as he squinted his eyes at his hair. He managed to change it from white back to blue, but he could only seem to keep it a rather pale, sickly shade, which wasn't ideal but it would do for now. At least it wasn't a shocked white anymore.

That done, he opened the medicine cabinet, grabbing one of the small vials of Draught he'd personally brewed and put up in case of emergencies. The medicine was actually meant to be used for James, in the case he had a night terror Teddy couldn't ease him through, or in the rare instance he broke down in a panic attack.

In the ten months they'd been dating James had only suffered two major panic attacks, both of them ironically and appropriately during a full moon. He admitted to Teddy that for about a year after his attack, he would have them frequently. Luckily he didn't suffer from them as often as he used to, but Teddy still liked to have Draught and other anxiety medicine on hand just in case.

Teddy really didn't like using it, especially considering the fact he believed James needed it more and that drinking it himself was a waste, but there were plenty of vials sitting in the cabinet. Teddy could risk taking one. If he didn't, he was pretty confident he was going to black out, and Harry's first time meeting him would be to drag him to St. Mungo's. Not the first impression Teddy wanted to make.

He uncapped the bottle and lifted it to his lips, downing it all in one go and cringing at the flavor as he set the vial on the back of the sink, cupping his hands back under the running water again to duck his face into it. When he felt a little more human, he dried his face with a hand towel and took a few slow breathes in, staring at himself in the mirror and leaning against the sink.

"You're twenty-seven, you absolute fucking fool, calm down. Acting like you're about to go on trial won't help your case. Get a grip." He looked at the door. "I can do this."

He took two steps over to the door, his fingertips brushing the handle before he jerked it back and did a half turn. "No I can't, no I can't."

He lifted his hands to cover his mouth and nose with them, pacing in a circle as he waited for the Draught to take effect, eyes closed and hands rubbing over them and into his hair, yanking on it and debating the consequences of sneaking out the back door and going back to France.

This was far more terrifying than Teddy had expected. He was ready for slight discomfort and mild fear at meeting this man, but he was absolutely petrified. Would Harry even want to meet him in the first place? Maybe he didn't care after all? He stopped writing letters after six years, maybe that meant he stopped caring?

"Don't be bloody stupid," Teddy hissed to the wall he was standing in front of. "What more proof do you need that he's a good man? He raised James after all." Teddy shut his eyes. "Jamie could've taken after his mum though. His caller ID for Harry makes me think he's a good hearted and humorous man, though." He lifted his hands back to his face. "But maybe he was drunk when Jamie took that picture and he's actually a bastard."

Teddy jerked his hands away, pointing at the wall angrily. "You're twenty-seven years old, if James can get over being attacked by a werewolf at eighteen then you can meet your bloody godfather." As soon as he said it, his shoulders sagged. "No I can't."

Teddy lifted his hands to rub his eyes, they were probably red with how much he'd been digging his hands into them. When he pulled his hands away from his face, his eyes landed on the paracord bracelet on his right wrist and the name weaved through it. Then he looked at the tattoos set deeply into the skin of his left arm, at the symbol inked just under his wrist.

His parents had always wanted him to know Harry. This was a man who knew Remus and Tonks, who was made his godfather. He had to be a good man. How scary could it be? Was it really more terrifying than the concept of living the rest of his life without any family? No, it really wasn't. If this could lead to building connections, and a relationship with his boyfriend's family, then Teddy could do it. He could do anything if it was for James.

><><><><><><><><><><><

Teddy had been in the bathroom longer than James had expected, which immediately made him doubt the success of this dinner, but mostly he was just left worrying if his boyfriend was okay.

He was always there when James broke down or had problems regarding self esteem and family, he was adamant and clearly very serious about doing everything in his power to protect James. He even wanted to work in medicine for James. It seemed like everything he did was for James, and while it was touching and romantic, James wanted to protect Teddy, too.

Now he had a chance to do that, to support Teddy while he did something selfish for once. He had no one, but Harry was his godfather. Teddy needed to meet him, not for James' sake, but for his own sake. He needed this, and James wanted to support him through it, no matter how scared he was.

Really though, James hadn't been planning on feeling so suspicious and hostile when he opened the front door to let his family in, telling them to check out the living room before going to the kitchen to retrieve drinks. James kept repeating to himself that if his dad reacted badly to Teddy, or did something to hurt him, then he would really snap. No one was going to hurt Teddy while James was around.

"Got you drinks," James said when he walked back into the room, balancing the glasses in his hands and in the air around him, handing the glass of wine to Ginny, who was sitting in the armchair closest to him. "Including non alcoholic choices for those under eighteen."

"Who's gonna know?" Lily asked, and Harry gave her a look.

"I will."

"I think I'm mature enough to be drinking," she mumbled under her breath as she accepted the glass of soda.

James elbowed one of the glasses, and it floated over to Harry, who was standing at the mantle looking at the carvings. He caught the glass gently and lifted it like he was searching for imperfections in the scent, turning away from the mantle without looking at any of the items sitting on top of it. Which was convenient. If the man just lifted his eyes he'd be looking straight at a photo of Remus and Tonks. Thanks a lot, Harry.

"So where is he?" Harry asked, eyes carving out every inch of the living room like he was checking for any tiny reason to bang a gavel and announce he didn't approve of the relationship.

"Loo, he'll be out in a minute." James handed a glass of firewhiskey to Albus, who was looking at one of the bookshelves, accepting the glass and pinching a small section of James' sleeve to keep him from walking off.

"Hey." He leaned closer to James, voice low. "You're sure this is a good idea?"

"Don't worry about it, we've been planning this dinner for weeks."

"He didn't get super mad when he found out who you were?"

"Not really, thanks for screwing that up for me by the way."

"Technically it was Lily…"

"How long does it take a man to use the loo?" Harry asked, looking at his watch, and James rolled his eyes.

"Just drink, dad, honestly. You haven't even met him yet."

"If he's got health issues that affect his bathroom habits-"

"I have health issues, dad," James reminded joyfully. "He's fine."

"I'm just saying."

"Mum can you control your husband?" James waved at Harry, and Ginny glared at the man, who put his watch away.

"Be nice, we haven't even met him yet."

"Fine. How about this. I'll give him ten minutes, and if I don't like him, we're leaving."

"What are you gonna do, ask him a questionnaire?" Albus asked into his whiskey, and Harry reached into his pocket again.

"I had a few question ideas."

"Burn it," Ginny said, and Harry unfolded the paper.

"Just let me ask them."

"Burn it!" Ginny scolded, and Harry grumbled as he crumpled the paper and threw it into the fire.

"You won't be able to talk normally anyway," James said, leaning against the back of the couch. "Just give him like four minutes."

"That gives him six minutes," Harry said as if reminding James of something important, and James sighed heavily, rolling his eyes.

"Stop being unreasonable."

"Five minutes. Originally I expected him to be there to greet us at the door, take our coats."

"This is kind of a stressful situation for him, so give him a break. Seriously, dad."

"Can't imagine why it would be, you're the one who can't seem to choose good dates. I don't know how I feel about you living in his house, on that note."

"On what note? What did you say before that called for that statement?"

"It's just an opinion."

"Drink your bloody whiskey, you're giving me a headache."

Ginny leaned into the back of the armchair. "Can you two settle down? James, you're never like this, I almost never see you argue with your father."

"No kidding," Lily agreed readily. "You're normally the one trying to stop fights between dad and Al."

"Piss off, Lil."

James waved at Albus with a dismissive hand. "Well I'm not gonna stand here letting you guys belittle my boyfriend before you've even met him."

Harry mumbled something into his glass and James bristled. "What was that, dad?"

"I didn't say anything."

"Oh for Merlin's sake." Ginny lifted a hand to her eyes.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to make you wait, I was… busy with something."

James lifted his head to look over at where Teddy was standing just inside the living room, looking somehow blank and mortified at the same time. His hair was a deep shade of brown and his eyes were a colorless gray, a stack of letters clutched in one hand.

James wasn't sure if the lack of color was a good sign, but it did make some amount of sense that he would want to meet Harry looking as "normal" as possible. James pushed away from the couch and walked towards Teddy as Harry hummed down at his watch.

"Then don't make us wait."

James spun on Harry but Teddy reached out to grab the back of his shirt to keep him quiet. Lily squinted at Teddy, pointing at him.

"Hang on a minute, I know you. What happened to your hair?"

"What?" Teddy blanched, eyes going everywhere at once as Ginny stood up as if intending to greet him.

Which she did, walking around the couch and setting her wine on a side table before standing in front of Teddy while James hovered at his side.

"It's nice to finally meet you." She held her hand out and Teddy moved the letters into his left hand so he could reach out to Ginny's. "Ginny Potter."

"Yeah I know. I mean, yes, nice to meet you."

Harry rolled his eyes and lifted his glass to his lips, and James glared at him. He hadn't even looked at Teddy yet. What was his problem?

"Okay, so the other day in Diagon Alley your hair-"

Albus lunged over the couch and slapped a hand over Lily's mouth before she could say more, and Harry stared at them both suspiciously as Albus whispered something to her before pulling his hand away. Lily lifted her head before nodding it sharply.

"Ah. Okay." She stood up with her soda, turning and walking over to stand next to Ginny. "Whatever, nice to meet you officially."

Teddy shook her hand and Albus stayed leaning against the back of the couch with his drink. "Yup. Nice to meet you for the first time."

James held his hands out. "Get over here!"

Albus groaned and dragged himself away from the couch as Teddy laughed weakly and Ginny smiled politely, looking between Teddy and James carefully. There was definitely something deep and observant in her gaze, sizing Teddy up and testing him without words for a moment before speaking.

"So you're who James has been seeing for the past few months?"

"Yes, and I'd like to apologize for not meeting you earlier," Teddy quickly answered, and Harry mumbled something from where he was still standing at the fireplace that made Teddy wince. "There was… a lot that played into that."

"Like what?" Lily asked, and James was the one to speak up in explanation.

"I kind of never told him who I really was, " he admitted. "I mean I gave him a false name, so until recently he didn't know I was a Potter."

"James," Ginny sighed his name, lifting a hand to her face, and Teddy choked on a laugh as James motioned wildly to him.

"Well I mean he gave me a fake name too! So we both did it! We're not mad at each other or anything!"

"Building a relationship from a lie doesn't make for the strongest or most successful dating spree," Harry said blankly, and James tensed up again.

"You can't really blame me for being paranoid about people judging me from my name before they even know who I am."

Albus and Lily both looked startled at how quickly James rebutted Harry, glancing at each other in amusement, but James ignored them. He was ready to say something else, tell his dad not to be so uptight, but Teddy held a hand out in front of him to stop him.

"There's a valid reason he didn't tell me who he was, and there's a valid reason I didn't tell him who I was. What matters is we both know now, that's why we asked you over for dinner. So I could meet you." He tightened his hold on the letters, making them crinkle, Andromeda's name crushed beneath his fingers.

James picked up on what he was doing and exhaled slowly, lifting a hand to Teddy's back and pressing his fingers as deeply into his shirt as he could to offer some kind of support, then gave a gentle push. This wasn't just for their relationship, it was for Teddy. Mostly Teddy. Whatever happened, this had to go well for Teddy.

"I'm just sorry I didn't meet you sooner," Teddy said, and James had been with him long enough to know how much those words meant, how much emotion was put into saying them and how difficult it was.

"That's a decision you made," Harry said, looking down into his glass in a blase manner, and James wanted to snap at him again.

Teddy moved before he could, walking right up to Harry and holding the stack of letters out. "It wasn't," he said. "It wasn't my decision. Not in the beginning. I just didn't know. I was never told. I had no idea."

"What's going on?" Lily asked, and James covered her mouth with a hand.

"What's that?" Harry asked, eyeing the letters, and Teddy held them further.

"They're yours."

"They don't look like mine."

"Listen I couldn't figure out the best way to tell you so I'm just giving you these," Teddy insisted, and Harry rolled his eyes, taking the letters but clearly irritated.

His entire mood seemed to change when he saw the name printed on them, setting his drink on the mantle and fumbling to pull out one of the letters, his eyes growing wide as he read over it and lifted his head to look directly at Teddy for the first time.

The room felt heavy, James had a hand over Lily's mouth, the other clinging to Albus' arm a little too tightly as Ginny stood silently beside them. The four of them watching breathless as Harry squinted his eyes and took a step closer to Teddy, who seemed to freeze up in anticipation and fear.

"Edward?" Harry said the name in disbelief, and Teddy exhaled.

"I actually go by Teddy."

Harry dropped the letters and lunged forward, wrapping his arms around Teddy and dragging him closer into a crushing hug. Teddy grunted, hands flailing and eyes wide, as if receiving a hug had been the last thing he'd been expecting to happen. He gaped over at James as if for guidance or help in the situation, but James could only sigh in relief and drop his hands from his siblings.

Lily lifted a hand, looking dumbstruck. "Hold on a minute, so you are Teddy Lupin?!"

Ginny covered her mouth with both hands as Teddy winced in Harry's grip. "Y-yeah."

"I was right?!" Lily turned on Albus and James, pointing at Teddy. "I swear to Merlin that was just a sugar fueled guess!"

"Oh my god," Ginny choked, starting forward to join Harry in hugging Teddy, who ended up squeezed between them looking flustered and panicky, his hair quickly going from brown to pink due to his embarrassment.

He was stuttering awkwardly but James could only laugh, shoulders slumping. "Thank Merlin. I was stressing over how that was gonna go."

"Did you know who he was when Scorpius and I saw you during the street fest?" Albus asked and James shook his head.

"No, he told me like three weeks ago."

"Wow you're dumb," Albus noted simply and turned away. "I picked up on it immediately when his eyes got blood red."

James blushed and tensed up defensively. "Well forgive me for not observing that! And if you're so smart why didn't you tell me?!"

"Figured you already knew," Albus said into his glass. "When you told me you hadn't told him your real name, it hit me that you're both idiots."

"Thanks so much," James snapped, looking back at where his boyfriend was being squeezed in a hug between Harry and Ginny, still looking freaked out and confused, arms partly raised but held awkwardly like he didn't know what to do with them. "Are you gonna let him go anytime soon?" James asked, feeling unexpectedly possessive.

Ginny stepped away first, rubbing her eyes. Harry wasn't crying, but his eyes were glassy as he pulled back, hands squeezing Teddy's shoulders firmly.

"Merlin, your hair," Harry's voice cracked. "You look like your mother."

Teddy looked dumbstruck, his hair not changing a single shade, remaining that startled pink as he just stared at Harry.

"I can't believe it. I was just talking about you to Gin. We were trying to convince the Minister in South Africa to release the population census, but here you are."

Teddy shook his head. "Well I wasn't actually in Africa," he admitted. "I mean I've been to Africa a few times, but I didn't live there."

Harry furrowed his brow. "Where were you then? Andromeda took you and left after everything was just starting to calm down. It's been almost twenty-eight years!"

"France. We went to France."

Harry made an irritated face as Albus pulled his drink away, looking pleased. "Hey, dad, wasn't that Draco's original theory?"

"Stuff it," Harry warned, and Albus snickered as Teddy looked between them nervously.

"Draco Malfoy, right?" He asked curiously, not seeming to pick up on Harry's annoyed mood. "He's my cousin."

"He's nothing special. This whole time you were in France?"

"I came to England a few months ago," Teddy explained. "It's… been almost a year, my nan died." Harry winced, nodding for Teddy to continue. "When I was cleaning out the house and dealing with that, I came across a box of old letters. The ones you dropped." He pointed at the ground. "It took a lot of digging but I found out who you were to my nan… and to me."

"That's why you came to England?" Ginny asked, and Teddy turned to nod at her as Lily lifted a hand.

"You know we're in Wales right now, yeah?"

"I came to see if I couldn't find some family left over that I didn't know about, and to find you," Teddy said the last bit to Harry, then looked down and crouched to pick up the fallen letters. "I wasn't sure how to go about it, so I stalled for about ten months. Now we're here."

"That's why you called for this dinner," Harry gaped at James, looking touched. "You met Teddy and knew who he was to us because of all those stories, so you set up this dinner to reunite us."

James opened his mouth, giving a slow nod. "Well, yes, that's half of it."

Harry laughed loudly, slinging an arm around Teddy when he'd stood back up. "I can't believe it! You've really grown up. I only got to see you once, but Merlin, you look so much like Remus."

Teddy looked flustered again as Harry looked around the living room.

"Where are we, anyway?"

"My place," Teddy answered. "It belonged to my grandfather, Lyall Lupin. He left it for me in his will."

Harry winced and nodded slowly. "I see." He pulled his arm back, his hand lingering to squeeze Teddy's shoulder again. "You did a good job cleaning it up."

"James helped," Teddy blurted. "I didn't do it alone. Thankfully. I probably wouldn't have been able to open the house on my own at all."

Because it hurt too much, James thought to himself, fighting the desire to cut across the room and hug Teddy.

"I will admit, James, this was clever," Harry said, and James stared at him blankly, not knowing what he was being praised for. "To think I actually started to believe you were bringing us to meet a secret boyfriend! Absurd! You tell us everything, you never would have kept that from us for ten months!"

James gaped at him, blinking, and Teddy winced, looking lost as the pink in his hair finally started to morph, changing pale pastel before he managed to set it into the usual blue.

"I didn't lie," James said. "I did invite you here to meet my boyfriend, and we have been dating for ten months in secret, because I didn't want to tell you guys."

Harry looked around, appearing confused. "Where is he then," he asked, "and why are we meeting him in Teddy's house?"

Ginny was the one who covered her face in disbelief as Lily blanked at their father. "Dad are you being serious right now?"

Harry looked even more confused as Albus motioned sharply to Teddy. "It's Ted, dad, Teddy is the one James has been dating for ten months."

The room grew quiet and Harry stared at his children before slowly pulling his hand away from Teddy, turning to look at him as Teddy met his eye, looking legitimately frightened for half a second before his expression grew a bit more confident.

"You and James?"

"We met by chance, the same night I got off the plane," Teddy explained slowly, setting the stack of letters on a little table beside an armchair next to him. "At the bar one of his cousins works at?"

"Freddie's bar," James helped, and Teddy nodded.

"We kind of started dating immediately."

"You don't even know each other," Harry argued, looking a million different shades of confused, shocked, and half aware, like part of him thought it was still just a joke.

"No offense dad but I've technically known him longer than you, and I certainly know him better than you," James defended, arms folded, and Harry gave him a stony glare.

"Alright, boys, calm down," Ginny ordered, giving James a startled look before turning her attention to Harry. "We don't know the full story behind this. We should sit down to eat and talk about it."

><><><><><><><><><><><

James and Teddy had worked for hours to perfect the meal that the Potter's would eat, to showcase Teddy's improvement in the kitchen as well as try their hand at easing the revelation or their relationship through good food.

It didn't have that effect exactly. When they all sat down, Harry muttered something about Teddy and James sitting next to each other and why did they have to, and they shuffled around the table awkwardly until Harry was sitting across from James and Teddy was sitting across from Ginny, while Lily and Albus took the table ends.

At least they seemed to be having a good time, but then again they weren't as weird about James dating as their parents were. Not to mention Albus knew Teddy well enough now, and seemed to really like him, therefore he actually approved of their relationship.

Harry and Ginny kept asking questions, which Teddy answered, but James couldn't help wanting to ask them to stop. They could catch up anytime they wanted, it was unfair that they were putting that expression on Teddy's face when this dinner was supposed to be fun.

"One of my theories was that you just didn't know who I was," Harry noted, widely swerving away from the topic of his son and godson dating. "Guess I was right."

"Till very recently it was just my nan and I. I knew mum and dad were gone, and nan never told me I had living relatives, she certainly never mentioned a godfather." Teddy was pushing around bits of his food with a fork, staring down. "Even on her deathbed she didn't bring you up. She told me my parents names and that was it."

"You didn't even know their names?" Ginny asked softly, and Teddy shook his head.

"My knowledge of who I was was pretty limited. I knew I was a metamorphmagus like my mum, I knew my dad was a werewolf, I knew I was born in the UK, and I knew they died at the end of the war, but that's pretty much it." He lifted his head. "After school I traveled a bit. I suppose I could've tried harder to find out what I didn't know, it wouldn't have taken much digging, but… I guess a part of me was too nervous to find out what actually happened to them."

"Do you know everything now?" Harry asked, and Teddy nodded, bowing his head again.

"I picked up a few dozen books documenting the two wars and my parents involvement in them. I know as much as the next person."

Ginny moved the conversation away from Remus and Tonks, asking about Teddy's traveling, his school life, his childhood, while Harry sat listening silently with an expectant and eager expression on his face.

"The letters you wrote stopped after a few years," Teddy noted at one point, and Harry cringed. "I'm not calling you out or anything, I was fine in the end, I was just wondering if something bad happened?"

"No, not at all." Harry nodded towards James. "I stopped writing because Gin and I just had James." James paused with a forkful of food partway to his mouth. "Then we had Albus, then Lily, my work got busier, I started a million letters but lost them in the shuffle of paperwork, the letters I did manage to finish I would put the wrong name and get a reply from some bloke in Norway asking me who the hell I was and how do I know his name. Things got hectic."

It almost seemed like he was trying to give a proper excuse to why he hadn't contacted Teddy in twenty-seven years, but didn't believe his own words. It left him looking ashamed and guilty, but Teddy just smiled at him.

"I'm not upset that you got busy with your own life, Harry," he said, and Harry looked over at him. "I grew up fine, my nan was more than enough, I like to think she raised me right. I'm happy."

Harry looked tortured. "She definitely raised you right, Ted; and you're not alone now. I'm glad you decided to come to England. It would have taken me a lot longer to find you if you hadn't."

"I know I said this before, but again, we're in Wales," Lily said, and Teddy grinned at her.

"I was in London until a month ago actually. It took me a while to gain the confidence to open this house."

"What for?" Albus asked, and Teddy's smile became pained.

"My father grew up here," he explained. "There are still pieces of him scattered around that I'm still finding. It's… strange. It's heavy. The mouldings on the mantle, the height measurements in the kitchen door frame, the attic, even the mailbox… it's a lot to take in."

"What's in the attic?" Albus asked again, interrupted when James leaned forward.

"Do you guys like the food? Ted worked hard on it. I've been slowly teaching him how to feed himself. He grew up in France but his food making skills were less than satisfactory when I first met him."

"It's wonderful," Ginny praised, and Teddy brightened up proudly.

"Did Andromeda never let you in the kitchen?" Harry asked, and Teddy snorted a little.

"She wasn't the best at cooking either. More than once she'd mention that my grandfather did most of the cooking. She still made most of the meals, it just wasn't anything remarkable or elegant. Not that I mind. I've never eaten fancy, even when I traveled."

"Where did you travel, anyway?" Lily asked. "You said Africa?"

"Among other places. China, Japan, Tibet, India, Russia, and the like. Greece was nice. After Beauxbatons, I didn't really know what I wanted to do with myself, so I just traveled around to gain more experience, study different wizarding communities and cultures, perfect techniques that most Ministries would consider unorthodox. Did you know that they don't use wands in Africa? They just use their hands."

"Wandless magic is extremely difficult," Harry said in disbelief.

"I know, but they all do it down there." Teddy looked excited, his blue hair a shade brighter, like it always got when he talked about what he'd learned in his travels. "Granted some of them still use wands, but they genuinely don't need to. I was in South Africa for about seven months studying and perfecting wandless magic, basically relearning everything from the ground up just so I could compare with their talent."

"That's impressive," Ginny decided, and Teddy grinned at her.

"I learned a lot about potioneering when I was in India and Japan," he continued. "They have the top potion makers in the world between them, though they use drastically different techniques. India uses more common spice and basic ingredients for potions, while Japan utilizes both physical ingredients as well as cosmic. The Animagus potion, for example, or potions that have to be made on a certain day, or in specific weather."

"That sounds terrible," Albus groaned, and Teddy turned to him.

"It's not, it's fascinating! Did you know there are actually two ways to brew Draught of Peace?"

"What else did you pick up while traveling?" Harry asked, and Teddy turned to face him next.

"A lot, I mean a lot. I'm glad I took the time to travel at all. I studied a lot of medicine and healing, picking up techniques and charms and spells in every country I went to."

"Right, James mentioned you were going to apply to the Clinic," Ginny said, and Teddy nodded in confirmation.

"Already did, got the job almost immediately. They said I was overqualified."

"Told you," James said, and Teddy smiled at him.

"It's where I want to work, though."

"Do you know anything about werewolf health?" Albus asked. "I'm told it's different than your basic witch or wizard health."

"It is, and I know a lot, actually. I studied in a hospital located in the Black Forest, one of the first werewolf exclusive hospitals ever founded. It's got sort of a dark history, but recently they've modernized and grown less prejudice. They focus on research, healing, mass producing Wolfsbane potion every month for the packs that live within the forest itself."

"The Black Forest in Germany?" Harry asked, and Teddy shrugged.

"Makes sense it would be there, doesn't it?" He cleared his throat. "It's actually still pretty exclusive and the location is supposed to be a secret, I probably shouldn't have even mentioned it. The only reason I was allowed to study there was because they recognized my father's name."

"I've never even heard of that place," Harry admitted. "What did they teach you there?"

"Just basic healing and some werewolf centered healing. How to properly make silver infused dittany, Wolfsbane potion, ointments and other medicine. How to properly treat bites and mauling victims." Harry looked impressed, and Teddy seemed to take the chance to indirectly bring up James. "I didn't learn much about Partials while I was there, the Healers focused mainly on fully turned wolves, but I've been doing a lot of research the past few months I've been in the country, and I'll hopefully learn more at the clinic."

"To be honest you probably know more about Partials than I do, and I am one," James helped, looking at Harry. "Teddy actually helped me finish that medicinal ointment the Healers gave me for the more mundane injuries."

Harry was frowning now. "You could've asked a Healer at the clinic if you were still struggling with it."

"I did." James held both hands towards Teddy as if presenting him to a crowd.

"So the only reason you're working at the clinic is to learn more about Jamie's condition?" Lily asked curiously, and Teddy blushed a little in embarrassment.

"Yes and no. When I was first thinking about going into medicine, I didn't even know the UK had a werewolf clinic, let alone that it was named for Remus and built in his honor. I just wanted to help people. James told me about the clinic and I realized I could do a lot at once. I could heal, take care of people, take care of James, and work towards becoming an advocate for lycanthrope victims, in honor of my father." Teddy smiled at Lily, who looked stunned. "It's like I was meant to work there. The place has my name on it and everything."

Lily gaped at James. "Bloody hell, can I date him after you?"

James held his hands up as Teddy's face went beet red. "No! You absolutely can't!"

"But I'm your sister!"

"Yeah! Exactly!"

"I actually think I wanna keep dating James if that's okay," Teddy said, and Lily slumped back in her seat.

"Oh, fine, whatever. I guess it's okay. He's had really trash boyfriends before, so you're a huge improvement, I guess it would be mean to steal you from him."

"Yeah good luck with that," James said in amusement. "Steal him, as if."

"Lily aren't you dating Lysander Scamander?" Albus asked, and Lily turned bright red.

"Just let me tease our brother about his boyfriend without bringing up mine!"

James motioned to Lily with a slight wave of his hand. "Alright so I have questions now."

"Well I don't have answers," Lily said indifferently, turning her head to focus on Teddy. "I'm curious. You definitely know about all my brother's dumb exes, right?"

Teddy arched an eyebrow and James rolled his eyes with a groan. "Yeah, I know the basics."

Lily lowered her voice and tilted sideways towards him. "You want their names?"

Teddy leaned closer. "You know what I would love their names."

"No! Absolutely not!" James grabbed Teddy's arm, doing his best to ignore how hot his face felt. "Lily don't encourage him, if given the chance then he will hunt them for sport."

"It should be a sport," Albus said, staring into his cup, and James turned to him.

"Thanks for joining the conversation, prick!"

Albus shrugged nonchalantly. Across from James, Harry was taking a slow drink of whiskey, looking unimpressed, but Ginny had a gentle smile on her lips as she looked between her three children and Teddy. James tried not to pay too much attention to them, focusing on his siblings for the time being, and their interaction with Teddy.

They both seemed to fully approve at that point, and the meal was only half done. Harry had quipped out a few unnecessary and somewhat hostile statements in regards to their relationship, but for the most part he'd stayed silent and merely watched them. Ginny, on the other hand, seemed to be growing curious.

"So you actually met James your first day here?"

"Yeah." Teddy nodded firmly. "At the bar. I was a bit off balance from the time change, country change, and the fact that I was still dealing with my nan, so I went for a drink and he happened to be there."

"I was visiting Fred after work," James added his side of the story. "I always used to pop in for a few hours to get everything that happened during the day off my chest."

"Why would you need to?" Harry asked, and James leaned forward slowly.

"Because my work partner is an incompetent tosser, dad."

Albus choked on his drink as Harry gaped at James and Ginny rubbed her eyes, shaking her head. James sat back when he figured he'd gotten his point across, quickly speed running through the rest of the story without bringing up the fact he shagged Teddy pretty much minutes after their first interaction.

"We talked for a bit, guess we hit it off, a day or two later we went out for the first time, and we've been going out ever since."

"And you actually lasted this long." It wasn't even a question, just a disbelieving statement that Harry offered. "No on and off relationship, breaking up every other week."

"We haven't broken up even once as a matter of fact, and we don't intend to." James smiled, lifting his glass to punctuate his words.

"We understand if you don't exactly approve," Teddy said slowly. "We've talked about it a lot before today, it makes sense why you'd be less than enthusiastic. James has been through a lot, has had a lot of bad relationships, so you're protective, not to mention I'm your godson, estranged pretty much since birth. I did not know who James was when we first met, and he didn't know who I was."

"Didn't you go by fake names for like eight months?" Albus asked. "That's what James said."

"Yeah," Teddy confirmed with a nod. "We actually both had the same idea of using our grandmother's names as aliases."

"You told him your name was Molly?" Albus asked, and James rolled his eyes.

"No, Al, I told him my name was James Evans."

"And I went by Theodore Howell, which was Hope Lupin's maiden name." Teddy looked at Harry directly. "I lied because I wasn't ready to enter the community here as Teddy Lupin, I didn't want people to know who I was until I was prepared to deal with the repercussions. James didn't tell me who he was because people in the past have used his name to get to you before, and it makes complete sense he would want to avoid that happening again."

"The people who are honest about their intentions are the people worth having around," Harry said, nodding at James. "If people care, they won't be influenced by your name at all."

James looked exhausted and infuriated at the statement. "People don't care, dad!"

Teddy reached under the table to grab James' hand where Harry or Ginny couldn't see. "If I'd known he was a Potter I never would have spoken to him. Sometimes names just have that power, you must know that by now. You've spent your entire life famous because of your name."

Harry grumbled something, begrudgingly agreeing, and Teddy slipped his fingers between James'.

"In a way lying to each other was exactly what we needed to do, because not knowing who we really were gave us the freedom to actually get to know each other for who we are, without being influenced by famous names and famous fathers. By the time we told each other the truth we'd been dating for nine months."

"Nine months is a long time to not know each other's real names," Harry chastised, and James shrugged.

"That really sucks, doesn't it?"

Harry looked frustrated. "Your relationship was built on a pretty serious lie, James."

"Like you haven't lied to mum about something serious before," James scoffed, and Ginny propped her elbow on the table, chin in her hand and eyes flickering to Harry.

"He's right. Horcruxes?"

Harry flushed. "That was years ago."

"Punt, dad," Lily whispered in warning as Ginny arched an eyebrow.

"I get it," Teddy tried to move the conversation back. "Honestly speaking, you don't even really know me, and the idea of me dating your son might come across as scandalous even, but I'm not dating him for any sort of media attention or profit, or even to get to you. I kind of wanted to avoid you for a bit actually," Teddy blushed in embarrassment, somehow managing to keep his eyes on Harry. "I'm dating him because I genuinely care about him, and I don't know if there's anything I can do or say to prove it or convince you that I have good intentions, but that's the truth." His hand squeezed James'. "I'm in love with James and I'm proud to be dating him."

Harry looked frustrated. "This is ridiculous. Gin-"

"Don't look at me for help on this one," Ginny recommended, lifting her wine glass to her lips. "I don't see a problem with it. Your son found Teddy first. There's no point in being jealous that he's closer to your godson than you are."

Now Harry just looked stunned. "That is not what this is about."

"What's it about then, dad?" James asked. "What's the problem with us dating?"

"He's six years older than you-" Harry started before Teddy broke in.

"Remus was thirteen years older than my mum," he said, and Harry furrowed his brow.

"James you should be focusing on work. The last relationship you were in didn't end well, and it honestly feels like you're just using Teddy as a rebound."

"Do you even hear yourself speaking?" James asked. "I was single for seven months before I met Teddy, he's not a rebound. Do you even know what a rebound is, dad?" Harry just stared at James, so he spoke again. "Do you have a real reason to be against this other than the fact you just don't like it?"

Harry seemed to be growing increasingly stressed, Ginny just sighed from beside him, while Albus and Lily watched the conversation closely, both of them looking prepared to jump in if they needed to. Albus especially looked notably tense, eyes locked on their father as he finally began to speak.

"James you're not in any condition to be dating as it is."

"What's that supposed to mean?" James asked. "You think I shouldn't date because of what I am; because I'm Partial?"

"That is not what I said. I just meant there have been people in the past who were happy to spread around that you were attacked, regardless of the fact you were dating."

"You think Teddy would do that? The half werewolf? Remus Lupin's son?"

Harry seemed flustered. "You should be resting-"

"So you want me to quit my job and sleep, then? What happened to me focusing on my work? Keep your opinions straight, dad."

"You don't have a reason for not wanting us together," Teddy broke in before Harry could argue further. "No legitimate reason at least, other than the fact you just don't like it. My nan used to hate when I kept secrets and went behind her back, she would have been devastated if I dated someone for so long without telling her about the relationship. You don't like that you were kept in the dark about an important factor in your son's life. It will take time for you to get used to it, but you're going to have to, because I'm not breaking up with him just because you're my godfather and don't like the relationship."

"Shouldn't this be considered a good thing?" Albus asked. "If it weren't for James, you might not have found Teddy for years. If he was freaked out enough to avoid you for ten extra months after moving to England, imagine how much longer it would have taken to find him after he'd moved here to Wales. You'd be tracking him and backtracking him for years." He motioned to James and Teddy. "Now you got your godson back, and he's already part of the family since he's dating James. He's not going anywhere. You're not losing anyone."

Harry moved his wary eyes from Albus to Lily when she added her opinion. "Of course we don't even have to mention the fact that Teddy is a Healer? A werewolf Healer? And James is a Partial with unsteady health due to the lycanthrope disease messing with his immune system? Who better to date him than a doctor who can take care of him when the disease flares up? Remember the last time he had to be brought to the Clinic, because he's an idiot who doesn't take care of himself and Albus found him blacked out on the ground?"

Teddy looked at James, who was blushing. "Did that happen?"

"It may have. I don't remember. Probably not, though."

"It's happened like four times," Albus said, bristling and glaring at Teddy as he waved his hand at James, physically smacking him in the shoulder. "Seriously, keep an eye on the moron. He's annoying but it's not exactly fun to walk into the kitchen and see him on the fucking floor."

"Right," Teddy murmured, eyeing James, who sank further in his chair. He looked back at Harry as James fiddled with his fingers. "They're right, though. I'll take care of him."

James quickly say straighter. "And I'll take care of Teddy. I am the Auror in the relationship. I might not be able to do stuff like pick him up or whatever cuz he's way taller than me and it's pretty much impossible to get a good grip to lift him, but-"

"Jamie," Teddy snickered the name and James blushed a deeper red.

"I'm saying this is a relationship of equals!"

"Sure, bro," Albus agreed blandly, sharing an amused glance with Lily.

Harry still looked uneasy and disbelieving, looking at Ginny again as if for support, but she seemed to be too busy smiling at Teddy and James to notice her husband. He shook his head, lifting his glass up and drinking half of the gold whiskey.

"I still don't see how this could work out."

"Well that's your opinion." James lifted his hand with Teddy's, still tightly clenched together. "A really stupid opinion on that note."

"Look." Harry set his glass down. "I want what's best for you, James, especially considering what happened to you in the past."

"Teddy is what's best for me," James said simply.

He and Harry kept up a semi hostile eye contact as the table grew silent, broken by Lily after a drawn moment.

"Is there desert?" She asked, lifting her empty plate up, and Teddy squeezed James' hand before releasing it.

"Yeah, we have a traditional pudding. My nan's recipe."

"Can I have a beer with it?" Lily asked as Teddy stood up.

"No."

The rest of the meal was fraught with tension that Albus, Lily, and Ginny tried to cut through by asking Teddy questions about work and France, but Harry was quiet the rest of the time they were at the table. It went as well as James could have hoped. His mother seemed fine with the arrangement, was visibly happy to meet Teddy, especially after learning who he was. Albus already liked him, and Lily had gotten used to him faster than James had expected.

Harry was the only one still silently uncertain, and honestly James didn't understand why. Everything they discussed, all the things he and Teddy tried to reassure Harry about, seemed to have absolutely no effect. So what was it that he didn't like about them together? Was he really worried about James' safety and happiness? Or was something else bothering him?

"I think you should talk to him," James said softly when he was alone with Teddy in the kitchen. "If I try to I think I'll just get angry and argue with him. He'd be less likely to fight with you."

Teddy rubbed the back of his neck, looking towards the living room. "What am I supposed to say?"

"I don't know." James shrugged. "I don't even know why he's being such a pain about this. I swear we've put to rest everything he could be worried about." He stared at the floor, lips pressing tightly together before looking off to the side. "Maybe we're going about it the wrong way. Maybe I'm not who he's worried about."

"Of course you are, Jamie, you're his kid." Teddy set down the plates he'd been holding and reached out to James. "What else would be bothering him other than you?"

"You are his godson remember. Remus was important to him because he was connected to my grandfather. It's this whole mess." James held his hand up for emphasis. "Remus tried to look after my dad how he could because he was friends with my granddad, and now my dad feels he owes the guy. He feels like he failed in looking after you when he promised Remus he would. Suddenly you're back and I'm the enemy keeping him away from you."

"Jamie that's ridiculous," Teddy argued. "You're his son, his actual son, he's raised you from infancy, it's absurd to think I'm somehow more important."

"For the record I'm not upset," James promised, looking and sounding amused. "I'm just annoyed at the idea because I would never hurt you, and clearly my dad, somewhere in his head, thinks I might."

Teddy looked uneasy. "Let me talk to him."

"Please." James reached up to hold Teddy's face, pulling him into a kiss and smiling when they parted. "Kiss for luck."

"Bloody hell, James," Teddy laughed, pressing a kiss to his boyfriend's cheek before stepping around him. "Do the dishes."

"Boring, but fine."

><><><><><><><><><><><

"You're not bringing me up here to murder me, are you?" Harry asked idly, and Teddy laughed weakly, shaking his head as he lead his godfather up the stairs towards the attic.

"No, don't worry. I just thought we could talk privately up here."

"We could always just go to a cafe tomorrow or something and catch up."

"If this were about me then I'd say okay." Teddy opened the door at the top of the steps, pushing it open and letting Harry step into the room before shutting the door.

Harry turned slowly as he took in the attic, looking at the scars torn into the floorboards and walls. They were the only thing left to remind them that Remus had spent his full moons up there, locked in a room he couldn't escape due to heavy charms and spells. Even the windows were clouded and blurred to keep people from seeing into the house.

Harry looked at Teddy, who had crouched down to trace one of the long gashes in the floor. "You don't like being up here, do you?" It sounded more like a statement rather than a question, and Teddy bobbed his head to answer.

"It feels off compared to the rest of the house. Haven't figured out how to fix it yet." He stood up, rubbing his hands together as if to get the dust off before turning to face Harry. "So listen-"

"Teddy I understand why you wanted to talk to me. About James. You need to understand, I'm just worried for him-"

"Let me talk, please," Teddy insisted as he walked closer to Harry, dropping his hands. "Harry, I'm not upset with you for not being there," Harry looked immediately pained, so Teddy quickly continued. "I was fine. I was really happy. My life was great. I was traveling, learning so much, I was slowly learning about who I wanted to be. After my nan died, that was the first time I ever felt lost. I was confused and lonely and scared, because I thought I had nothing left, and there was no better time to learn I had you. You don't have to feel guilty for not being there while I was growing up. I'm just happy I have you now. Okay?"

Teddy was quiet then, letting his words sink in as Harry stared at the floor, lifting his head finally to look at Teddy. "I wish I'd known… if I'd been there while you were growing up, you wouldn't have had to feel lonely at all."

Teddy just laughed. "It's fine. Everyone feels lonely sometimes." He rubbed his hands together again. "I think I know what's going through your head. You don't trust me because you've never met me before, and suddenly I'm in a relationship with your son." Harry winced. "It makes complete sense. James has been through a lot, suffered through crap relationships where he was manipulated and emotionally abused and taken advantage of."

Teddy suddenly felt uneasy at the shocked expression Harry gave him. Maybe he wasn't aware of the extent of what James had gone through with his past relationships. That would make sense. Even Teddy was still learning, because James was still getting used to talking about it. It would be realistic to assume James had kept the worst parts from his father.

Teddy quickly continued before Harry could ask any questions. "Not to mention the damage from his attack that's still hurting him. The scars on his back, and the ones on his mind. I don't think he remembers every detail of what happened that night. Whenever I ask he just shrugs and looks confused. Psychologically speaking he probably locked away all the memories of that night to protect himself, but he has these horrible night terrors sometimes where he just relives it. He can't remember the dreams when he wakes up, but…"

Teddy trailed off and changed the subject before he could get off track. "My point is I understand why you would be worried. You want him happy and safe and you're suspicious of our relationship because you don't know me but you do know Jamie's habit of getting himself mixed up with bad people."

Harry sighed. "Seems like getting himself into difficult positions is something he inherited from me. That's what Gin says at least."

Teddy laughed. "I won't hurt him. I need that to be understood. I've been in some bad relationships myself. People have cheated on me, bad communication lead to both of us getting hurt, I understand that pain, and I would never put James through it."

Harry rubbed the back of his neck, staring off to the side. "Knowing who you are, knowing who your parents are as well as the woman who raised you… even if I don't know you, I do trust you." He dropped his hand and met Teddy's eye. "Any son of Remus and Tonks, raised by Andromeda, could only grow up to be kind and loyal."

Teddy smiled weakly and continued. "At the same time I understand why you would be wary of James dating me for my sake, which I do appreciate. You're guilty for not being there, you're probably mortified at what my dad would say about it."

Harry looked uneasy again. "Remus asked me to be your godfather when you were born, he had a picture of you and he was so proud and excited. Sirius was so important to me, and I knew, especially after they passed, that you would need me as much as I needed Sirius, but-"

"It wasn't your fault," Teddy interrupted softly. "I don't blame you, and I know that won't make your shame disappear, but I'll say it as much as I need to. I am thrilled beyond belief that I have a godfather, and I'm happy you care enough about me that you're concerned about my romantic relationships and if my partner will treat me right. James is your son, though, you know him. He wouldn't hurt me any more than I would hurt him."

Harry gave a frustrated groan as he walked a half circle, lifting his hands to scratch his fingers through his hair roughly. "This is just too bizarre."

"Is there anything I can do to prove that this relationship is worth your approval?"

Harry seemed to consider it, looking over at Teddy. "Honestly, I don't know. There's no quick fix. I think I just need time to get used to it."

Teddy just shrugged. "Okay, fine. Take all the time you need."

"You think you'll even still be together by the time I'm ready to accept it? There's a high chance you'll break up before I've gotten halfway to approving."

Teddy just grinned. "If it makes you feel better I can propose to him now and save you the trouble of worrying."

"Please don't."

Teddy laughed at Harry's response, and somehow the amusement seemed to make the older man relax, folding his arms and watching Teddy closely.

"You really love him."

Teddy shrugged, reaching up to rub his neck and staring at the floorboards. "Since you're his father it feels odd to say this, but a little less weird when I remember you're also my godfather and I'm supposed to be able to say these things to you." He looked up with a warm smile on his lips. "I can honestly say without hesitation that I have never once been this deeply in love with someone before in my entire life. I've met a lot of people, growing up and while traveling, and somehow James is still completely unique. I can't explain it, but I can't let go of it."

Harry sighed, rubbing a hand over his face, knocking his glasses sideways and fixing them before dropped his arms to his sides as if in defeat. "Alright, I understand. I… still need time, but I understand." He cleared his throat, pushing his hands into his pockets. "Sort of. Not really. You won't reconsider?"

"I asked him to move in with me, Harry," Teddy reminded as he turned towards the door. "So no. I won't reconsider. Sorry."

Harry grumbled something inaudible as he followed Teddy. "I'm glad you took the initiative to talk to me."

"Well, James asked me to," Teddy explained. "He was worried about how dinner went down and didn't think you'd listen to him about our relationship, so he asked me if I'd talk to you first." Teddy paused on the steps and turned around to face Harry, carefully descending the steps backwards. "He really loves you and wants your approval, but I don't think he wanted to risk losing me either. I'm just happy we could come to some kind of understanding."

Harry smiled with a hum. "What's your schedule look like now?" He asked. "When do you start work?"

"Tomorrow. Why?"

"I'll give you my number, let me know when you're free next." Harry stopped at Teddy's side as they stepped out into the hall, putting an arm around his shoulders. "We can get together just you and me and talk."

"Yeah, sure." Teddy shut the door to the attic and locked it, following Harry back to the front room. "I probably don't have to say so, but you're welcome here any time."

"Us too?" Lily asked, leaning over the back of the armchair she'd been sitting in, and Teddy smiled at her.

"Of course."

"Uh, maybe let us know you're stopping by, first?" James asked from the couch, and Lily flopped back into the chair, throwing her legs over one of the arms.

"What are the chances that I'll end up walking in on you two doing something indecent?"

James lifted a half glass of wine to his lips. "Depends what day it is. To be safe, just call first."

"Well I'm nauseous now." Albus set his cup down and stood up, looking at his phone. "It's late, I'm gonna head out. I don't have work tomorrow but Scorpius does, so I'm gonna tag along with him to check on some patients at the hospital who were attacked by beasts."

Teddy brightened. "Oh, um-"

"I'll text you the Malfoy's address," Albus said, stuffing his phone back into his pocket. "You can stop by anytime you want."

"Thank you," Teddy said, feeling elated and fearful at the same time at the concept of meeting his cousin. A blood relative. A tie to his mother.

"Don't thank me, they're your family, it's your right to know them both." Albus grabbed his coat from where he'd hung it on the wall, pulling it on. "Scorpius is pretty excited, on that note. Family is pretty important to him, so don't be too shocked if he jumps you for a hug next time he sees you."

Teddy had to laugh. "Not a problem, I like hugs."

"We should be heading out, too," Ginny said, standing up and motioning for Lily. "Someone has to get back to Hogwarts first thing tomorrow."

"Only a few more months and I'll be graduating from Hogwarts and starting immediately with the Harpies," Lily said, sinking deeper into the chair. "Can't I sleep here for the night?"

"Lily," Ginny sighed, and Lily groaned as she hoisted herself onto her feet.

"Oh fine."

"Thanks for agreeing to come to dinner," Teddy said as James stood next to him and the Potter's collected their coats. "It was great to meet you finally."

"Pleasure was ours." Ginny hugged Teddy tightly, giving an extra firm hug before releasing him and letting Lily hug him after.

"I'll see you soon! Take care of James!"

James pouted in indignation as Teddy laughed and Lily took her coat from Ginny.

"Don't stay up too late," Harry said, and James snorted.

"What are we, infants? Come on, dad."

"You have work, Auror Potter, and so does your boyfriend," Harry chided, opening the front door as James gaped at him. "I'll see you at the Ministry."

"Get home safe." Teddy waved, following the group of four to the door and watching them off before shutting the door and locking it.

He then turned with a heavy sigh, leaning his back against the door and laughing. "Bloody hell, I feel like I'm gonna black out."

James just shook his head, drinking the rest of the wine in his cup and setting it down before walking up to Teddy, who reached his arms out to catch the Auror in his embrace.

"The talk with my dad went well?" James asked, and Teddy hummed, burying his face in James' hair.

"Better than expected. He says he needs time, but that final goodbye and calling me your boyfriend seems like a good start."

"Damn right." James pulled back, hands at Teddy's waist. "So he was definitely right, we both have work pretty early."

"We sure do," Teddy agreed with a sigh, looking around the room. "We also have these dishes to clean."

"Or." James fisted the front of Teddy's shirt, dragging him closer. "We could nix the work for tonight and just go to bed."

"You want to sleep already?"

"I didn't say sleep," James corrected, holding Teddy's face between his hands. "I said bed."

Teddy snickered, grinning. "You really are the most incorrigible man I've ever met."

James pushed himself onto his toes, wrapping his arms around Teddy's neck and kissing him hard, one hand burying into his blue hair and laughing against his lips.

"I love you," he said softly, and Teddy clung to James, one hand pressed into the scars as the other held him by his waist.

"I love you."

"Now bed," James finished, dragging Teddy down the hall by his shirt, laughing. "Since all the excitement is over we can finally christen the place."

"Yes sir," Teddy agreed, turning the lights in the house off with a wave of his hand and following James into their bedroom, feeling lucky more than anything that he went to the bar that night ten months ago and met James.