Number Twelve Grimmauld Place looked exactly as desolate as Teddy felt. The stones making up the snow-capped numbers eleven and thirteen ground into the pavement and lurched apart in the frigid night air to reveal a home so deserted that not even a house-elf had set foot upon the worn front steps in the better part of two decades. Teddy wondered if his godfather had perhaps made the same connection, and if that was what had given him the idea to send Teddy here. “Some time away,” Harry had said across the Potters’ kitchen table with the kind of exasperated finality only a parent could. “To figure out your next steps.”
‘Steps,’ Teddy thought with indignation as he climbed up the stone steps, December wind howling in his ears, as if his life thus far had simply been a series of missteps that could be righted. As if spectacularly dropping out of Auror training at the very last second in a fit of panic and hiding out at his Grandmother’s doing fuck all for the past two years in a paralysed state of childhood regression could be righted simply by owling the Ministry a bit of spare parchment saying, ‘Sorry for flaking, order my uniform robes in size medium, xoxo Teddy Lupin.’
Teddy bounced on his feet, blew into his numb hands, and pulled his beanie down over his ears, eager to get out of the cold. He stared at the serpent knocker where there ought to be a door handle and fought to remember all the wards Harry’d told him about to get into the goddamned place. Admittedly, Teddy hadn’t done much in the way of sophisticated magic during what Andromeda had delicately been referring to as his ‘gap years,’ but he’d graduated at the top of his class and made it through the vigorous Auror training programme with flying colours, so for fuck’s sake, he could unravel some home security wards.
The icy air licked at Teddy’s exposed ears as he worked, constantly losing focus and stumbling over enchantments as he replayed the conversation with his godfather in his head.
He’d been making a cheese sandwich while watching the snow fall outside the Potters’ kitchen window and minding his own business when he’d been ambushed, as if his godfather had been working up the nerve to say something to him all morning.
Harry cleared his throat and motioned with a nod of his head to the dining room table as if to say, ‘We need to talk, young man.’ Teddy left his sandwich on the sinkboard with a silent prayer that whatever this conversation was about, that it would be quick.
Harry cleared his throat again, with a look on his face that was nothing like his usual openness, much more similar, in fact, to the few times Harry had come in to speak to Teddy’s class of Auror trainees. Teddy might have even been intimidated if it wasn’t for the hideously festive Weasley jumper Harry was sporting, making it hard for Teddy to take him seriously.
“Teddy, listen. It’s not that I don’t love having you, and you know you’ll always be welcome here, but Gin and I have been talking and we’d like to know… what’s your… plan?”
Teddy groaned. It wasn’t like Harry to pull the parent act on Teddy, but he had evidently become frustrated with Teddy’s constant deflection enough to attempt it, awkward as the attempt seemed to Teddy.
“First Gran and now you? I’m not going back to the Aurors if that’s what you’re getting at.”
“You don’t want to be an Auror anymore, fine, after all I did to get you accepted into training, fine, but—”
“I was Head Boy and I got seven N.E.W.T.s With all due respect, Harry, I could have got in without you.”
“But you didn’t! I arranged the whole thing. I made the calls, sent the applications, and you showed up the first day hungover.”
“Well I passed, didn’t I?”
“Yes, you did, Teddy. You’re brilliant. Which is why I won’t let you continue to bum around my house doing nothing with your life.”
“I can’t go back to the Aurors.”
“I’m only saying, you moved in a year ago. I’m not going to kick you out, but I don’t think the Remus Lupin I knew would like it very much if I kept enabling you.”
“Don’t bring my father into this.”
“I’m sorry.” Harry took an audible breath, scrubbing a hand over his face in a way Teddy had seen him do a hundred times when his temper had got the better of him. “I just don’t want you to miss out on your own life by moping around here. You seemed so excited about following in your mum’s footsteps and becoming an Auror, and I don’t know what happened. We’ve all been so scared of upsetting you that no one asked why you quit. You know whatever it is, you can tell me, Ted.”
Teddy felt his hair shift shades under his beanie, an emotional tick he hadn’t yet figured out how to control and ground his teeth, looking down at the table before closing his eyes. “The Veritaserum test.”
Harry paused, and then laughed, and Teddy instantly regretted saying anything. “The Veritaserum test?” Harry chuckled some more and gave Teddy a hearty slap on the back. “Why didn’t you say anything? You’ve been scared of a little thing like that this whole time?”
“You didn’t tell me they did that.” Teddy felt his hair shift dark. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Harry’s chuckles faltered, and he looked at Teddy questioningly. “It’s purely routine, there’s nothing to worry about. In fact, all Muggles in their police departments and government and such have to take a similar test with this lie-detecting device before they’re brought on—I think Arthur has one in his shed. Frankly, it was about time the wizarding world got a handle on their employee vetting process. Ted, they’re looking to see if there’s any serious criminal activity in your past. Dark magic, blood purist sympathies, links to former Death Eaters, that sort of thing. I can assure you that they don’t care about whatever schoolboy hijinks you’re worried they’ll uncover.”
“That’s not what I’m worried about,” Teddy said, feeling abjectly miserable.
Teddy could feel Harry looking at him, and when he peeked up his godfather’s brow was furrowed in thought.
What he said next was unmistakably not a question, though it sounded as if Harry had surprised himself with the declaration. “You’re worried they’ll find out you’re gay.”
Teddy knew immediately that Harry had used a wandless Legilimency on him and felt sick to his stomach. His bones cried out to deny it, but he’d never been good at lying to Harry. “That’s not fair.”
“I’m sorry, Ted. It’s harder to control than you think. You were just… radiating the thought.”
“Fuck.” Teddy sighed, tugging on his hat. “And I’m bi for the record. But you can’t tell my Gran, Harry, please. She’s been going on about me getting a job and finding a nice witch to marry and now she’s ill and... And I’m not going back to the Aurors. So drop it, okay?”
“Come on, I think you’re not giving them enough credit. So what if you let it slip? No one in the office is so old-fashioned that they’d think any less of you—at least not people you’d be working with directly. Times are changing, people are more accepting.“
“You don’t understand.”
“Then help me to.”
Teddy had not assumed that the fact that he was bi would be entirely shocking to Harry. He had never particularly tried to keep it a secret, nor did Teddy really care what the rest of the Aurors knew about him. No, the only Auror he was worried about finding out his true secret, the thing that had been eating a hole in Teddy’s conscience for months, longer if he was honest with himself, was the one sitting across from him. Teddy willed his mouth to stay shut, tried to close off his mind like they’d learned in training, but he knew he’d always been an open book to his godfather if there was something he wanted to know. “That’s not entirely it.”
Harry plucked the thought from Teddy’s brain with the same furrowed brow as easily as if it had been written across Teddy’s forehead. “You’re in love with James.”
Teddy felt like he was going to vomit, shame churning violently in his gut as Harry so easily voiced the thing that had been eating at Teddy for longer than he could even admit to himself. He flushed hot with guilt. He didn’t even know if that was what he felt exactly—only that whatever it was, it was inappropriate, especially after all Harry had done for him, especially since James was practically his baby brother, especially since James had spent his childhood looking up to Teddy as a role model.
“Merlin’s fucking beard, just what this family needs.” Harry shook his head and laughed ruefully.
Teddy couldn’t bring himself to ask if Harry was angry, couldn’t meet his eyes. “I said stop doing that,” he said instead.
“I’m trying not to. Your thoughts are rather… loud.”
“Please don’t say anything to him.”
Harry gave him a pitying look that made Teddy feel worse. “It’s not my business to tell.”
Teddy sat quietly across from his godfather and waited while Harry scrubbed a hand through his hair, making it stand up in wild directions like it always did when he was overwhelmed before speaking. “If you don’t want to go back to Auror training, then fine. But you’ve got to do something. You’re twenty-two—”
“Twenty-three.” Teddy winced.
“And you can’t just sit around waiting for James to get back from Hogwarts for the rest of your life.”
“He only has one more semester after this winter holiday.“
“You know what I mean.”
“I think you should get away for a bit, get out of this house and clear your head.“
“I can’t go back to Gran’s. She keeps talking about introducing me to her book club friends’ daughters and—”
“No, no I understand.” Harry paused for a moment, deep in thought, and Teddy briefly wondered if he was trying to sift through Teddy’s thoughts again. "I think I may have just the solution.”
“Oh you do, do you?”
Harry rolled his eyes at Teddy’s skepticism. “I’ve told you about the old Order Headquarters, right? I’d come to own it, the property that is, but as no one wants to live there, it’s a bit of a dump really, we’ve decided to sell it.”
“The place is riddled with high security wards, much too strong for a normal family to handle. Teddy, I think you ought to go there for a few weeks. You can help me undo some of the wards, get it cleaned up for buyers. You’re more than qualified to handle anything you’ll find in there: Doxies, Bogarts and the like. Maybe if you get out of this house and away from—well, you know—maybe things will seem clearer.”
“I don’t know…”
“Just for a few weeks. And of course you’re welcome here for Christmas. It’d be a big help, Ted. Take some time to yourself to figure out your next steps.”
Harry pulled a spare bit of parchment from the cluttered table and scribbled something and stood with finality, like he’d successfully solved the unsolvable problem of Edward Remus Lupin.
Teddy felt a hand on his shoulder as the scrap of parchment fluttered to rest on the table in front of him.
“Just a few weeks, Teddy. Clear your head.”
Teddy nodded in defeat, and Harry strode out of the kitchen.
He examined the scrap of paper to find that the only thing Harry had written was an address.
Number Twelve Grimmauld Place.
The wards were easy enough to get through once Teddy calmed the fuck down and realised no Muggle was going to jump him on the dark street. He was being paranoid because he was anxious. Something about the place just seemed off, but Teddy blamed it on the uncommon silence of the snow-covered street. However, when the door creaked open at last, Teddy almost shat himself as a shriek sliced through the snow-muffled silence of the night.
“Who’s there? Intruder!” cried a metallic woman’s voice from inside.
Teddy had his wand drawn in fighting stance in two seconds flat but was not met by anyone in the entryway. Slowly, keeping his back to the wall like he learned in training, he advanced into the house as the shrieking continued. “Dirty-blooded fiend! You’ll be sorry you ever set foot into this house!”
Teddy cursed the creaking floorboards as he held his breath against the sneeze trying to fight its way out of him at the dust thickening the air. His boots left footprints of dust behind him, and Teddy made a mental note to remember to magic them away behind him if this all ended badly, so no one could prove he was here.
He advanced through the entryway and into a foyer where a large black curtain covered one wall. But that didn’t make sense, Teddy thought, as it wasn’t an external wall and there wasn't a window there; he’d mapped the layout of the home in his head already.
Teddy did drop his wand in fright at the next shriek of “Leave this place!” that sounded from behind the curtain. Teddy scrambled to pick up his wand and point it back at the curtain, moving closer still. He reached with one shaking hand to grasp the curtain, his wand arm trained and a curse on the tip of his tongue as he flung the fabric back.
“Who are you?” snarled a horrifically ugly woman in a portrait.
“Bloody fucking hell.”
After slamming the curtain shut and casting an only semi-effective Silencing Charm on the portrait, it seemed to Teddy like the best thing to do would be to catalogue the rest of the house, lest he encounter more surprises.
The whole place was dark and draughty, perhaps as cold or colder than outside, and Teddy cast about five Warming Charms before he could even feel a difference. The windows whistled brutally with the gusty weather. Harry had told Teddy that there was a period of time, during the second war, when his father had stayed here for a bit, and Teddy tried to imagine the lanky down-trodden man he’d memorised photos of existing in this space, but he couldn’t quite picture it.
On the ground floor Teddy found a formal dining room with nothing but a heavy, dark wooden table in the centre, coated with a thick layer of dust, and a china hutch that was empty. The expansive, darkly wallpapered room felt nothing like Teddy’s Gran’s dining area: a small kitchen table and two chairs set next to a big, bright window where he’d coloured pictures and scribbled on the tablecloth as a child; nor anything like the Potters’ dining room, where a long cherry table that always seemed impossibly sticky was crammed into a tight room next to the fireplace where Teddy had eaten for every holiday meal since he could remember, where Albus and James would fling peas across the table at each other when Ginny’s back was turned, where everyone was warm and well-fed, where everyone was considered family. Teddy felt a fresh wave of shame in his stomach at the thought of James’s wide smile, a familiar feeling he’d almost grown used to. Harry had taken Teddy in, an orphan, treated him like family, and Teddy had repaid Harry how? By having inappropriate thoughts about his school-aged son. Teddy's cheeks grew hot and his hair went pink with embarrassment even though no one had been privy to this train of thought except Teddy himself.
It wasn’t just that Teddy had a crush on James. He was, as Harry had so aptly surmised, very likely in love with James. Of course, Teddy had loved James since the day he was born in a different way, a protective, familial way, but one day it just changed.
James had appeared in the living room shrugging off Harry’s invisibility cloak and giggling hysterically one afternoon when Teddy was moping around the Potters’ house, all wavy hair and freckles, looking windswept and elated. “Tedward! I figured you’d be the only one 'round this time of day. I was hoping you’d be here at least.”
“How’d you get out of school?” Teddy questioned, stumbling off the sofa in an attempt to search for the joggers he’d shed in favour of lounging in his pants in the empty Potter home.
James puffed out his chest with pride, his tight t-shirt stretching across a chest that had most definitely got broader since the last time he’d seen James. “I passed my Apparition test!” James beamed, and Teddy thought briefly that he was not unlike the sun.
“But you can’t Disapparate on Hogwarts grounds,” Teddy recited, giving up on the joggers in favour of sitting back down and crossing his legs awkwardly.
James rolled his eyes. “Thanks for the Hogwarts, A History refresher, you dork. I Apparated from Hogsmede. We took the test out there and I came straight here."
“Because, I want to celebrate. With my best mate.” James flopped onto the sofa next to Teddy. His long limbs sprawled, and Teddy’s gaze got stuck on James’s arms, tan and toned. He blinked and looked away. James smiled at him oddly, and then reached out to knock the hat off Teddy’s head.
“Much better. No trousers but the lad’s still got a hat on? You know I can read you without having to see your hair, Teddy.”
Teddy flushed, his hair tingeing pink, but James simply ruffled it fondly and didn’t comment.
“Do you have any regard for the rules, like at all?” Teddy said, but he was smiling.
James pulled a brief thinking face and shook his head, wavy brown hair falling into his eyes. “Not particularly no.” He drew his wand. “Accio Firewhisky!”
“You must really have no mates at school if I’m your best mate.”
“I’m actually quite popular, Tedward. But you’re my favourite person to day drink with.”
“Is that right?”
Teddy made to grab the bottle that hurdled their way, but James and his athletic reflexes were faster.
“Only half empty? Teddy, you’ve been slacking. What do I have to look forward to after Hogwarts if not lounging in my pants binge drinking on a Tuesday?”
“I’ve been a horrible influence on you.”
James’s smile split his face in half, and for the first time Teddy noticed his lips, how they curled around his teeth, pink and wet against shiny white, the way they wrapped around the bottle as he tipped it back. There was even a bit of spit that should have grossed Teddy out that stretched from James’s full bottom lip to the bottle, until he wiped it with the back of his hand, still grinning. Teddy felt spinny even though he hadn’t drank anything yet, overcome for the first time with the desire to lean in and kiss those pink lips, wind his fingers in that wavy hair, feel James’s smile against his and his breath on his cheek.
“Nah, if anything I’ve corrupted you,” James replied.
Behind the other heavy door on the ground floor, Teddy found an extensive personal library full of worn leather-bound books that smelled of disuse. Dark velvet curtains covered the windows, blocking all light from the streetlamps outside. Teddy stalked down the stacks, boots thudding hollowly, with his wand held alight to read some of the fading spines in an attempt to push all thoughts of Jamie and his toothy smile and his wiry muscles and his godforsaken dimples out of his mind. Teddy was surprised to find some dark magic books, very dark indeed: some he’d been assigned to read in Auror training, others he’d merely heard rumours of. Teddy wondered to himself what use the Order of the Phoenix would have had for such books.
The first floor consisted of a bedroom, a toilet—pipes frozen solid—and a drawing room, each of which contained the barest of furniture and decoration, as did the second floor’s bedroom and toilet, almost as if whoever had lived here had left in a hurry and had taken their personal belongings but had to leave the furniture, or perhaps as if it had been robbed. None of the lights in the house seemed to be working, and Teddy had to use Lumos Maxima in order not to trip over furniture in the dark.
The third floor consisted of a toilet and two bedrooms, and Teddy was starting to feel like the only interesting thing he would find here would be the innumerable Doxie civilisations infesting every nook and cranny in the place, when he poked his head into the larger of the two bedrooms and was met with the stench of shit and rot. The only sight he registered was a pile of bones in the corner before he slammed the door.
Heart hammering, Teddy leaned against the shut door. Suddenly the house felt much more sinister. Had someone been squatting here all these years while the house had sat empty? He couldn't think of a reasonable explanation for a pile of bones in the Order Headquarters.
Teddy felt decidedly on edge by the time he crept back down the stairs, deciding against his better judgment to forgo surveying the next level up for the night. The entire house felt like a set from a Muggle horror movie, and the hairs on the back of Teddy's neck kept standing up as if he were not alone every time a floorboard creaked or a draught of wind blew past him. He cursed himself for not bringing a Sneak-o-Scope or anything to protect himself aside from his wand, which he clutched tightly.
Teddy was positively ready to dip the hell out of there, heart thudding in his chest, but he wasn’t entirely sure where he would go if he left. Harry clearly wanted to keep Teddy away from his son, which was fair. Gran Andy’s house was always an option, but she’d been so ill lately that it terrified Teddy to see her white as a ghost. He knew he was being a shitty grandson, but it was just too much to handle.
A draught blew past Teddy again, and he could have sworn he’d heard a whisper or a hum carried on it. Clearly, it was the wind whistling through the cracks in the windows.
Teddy needed to calm himself down, and the booze was easy enough to find at least. Teddy magically lit every fireplace he walked by in an attempt to shake the eerie feeling before heading to the kitchen, which he found in the basement. A large pantry was stocked with dusty bottles of Butterbeer and Firewhisky and tons of bottles of potions ingredients. He grabbed a particularly fancy bottle of whisky and turned to make his way towards one of the bedrooms when—
“Looting my cupboards too now, are we?”
The bottle had shattered before Teddy even knew he’d dropped it with a girlish yelp. A shining silvery ghost stood in front of him, leaning—if ghosts could be said to lean—on the counter.
“Oh, come on now, that was one of our finest bottles!” chided the ghost.
Teddy’s brain fought to catch up with his eyes, which he imagined were as wide as saucers. At lightning speed Teddy mentally riffled through every protocol he’d ever learned before realising that he’d never been trained for this.
“Well, you didn’t think I wouldn’t hear you clambering around this house all day, did you?”
“Who are you?” Teddy demanded, trying to keep the fear out of his voice and pointing his wand at the Apparition.
“You can go ahead and lower that,” it responded.
“I don’t know what kind of spirit you are, you could be evil.”
“And if I am?” The ghost had the nerve to look amused. “What are you going to do, kill me again?”
Teddy’s hand shook as he lowered his wand.
“There we are. And who might you be?”
“Who are you?”
The ghostly face smirked. “You’re in my house, mate. Why are you here?”
“My godfather owns this place.”
“Owns it? I very explicitly left this estate to someone.”
“A ghost? Yes. Dead? Obviously. I am Sirius Orion Black and you dear boy in my house, so I’ll ask again, who are you?”
The name hit Teddy with such a force that he might have physically taken a step back. He blinked at the spirit, taking in the same dark hair and narrowed eyes and clever smile that resembled the younger man that stood next to Teddy’s father in so many photographs that Harry had given him over the years. “You’re Sirius Black?”
“We have established my identity, yes.”
“You went to school in the 70s? To Hogwarts I mean? You knew, uh, the Potters and them?”
“How do you know the Potters?”
“Harry Potter is my godfather.”
All of the suspicion left the spirit’s expression then, replaced by an eager smile. “Harry is alive? Is he well?”
“I reckon. I’m a bit of a pain in his arse but he’s otherwise well.”
“Has he… I mean to say, do you know a Remus Lupin?” The ghost looked so hopeful, and Teddy hesitated.
The ghost balked. “Are you certain? Remus Lupin? Bookish werewolf? Shaggy brown hair and a crooked nose?”
Teddy nodded. To Teddy, his father being dead was just a fact. It’s wasn’t sad, exactly, it was just the way things had always been. Teddy felt inexplicably awkward however; he had never had to break the news to anyone before, so to speak, and it seemed to Sirius this news was a devastating blow. The ghost sat—Teddy briefly wondered how ghosts could sit in furniture—and looked up at Teddy.
“I suppose I should have expected that. Remus was always getting himself into trouble.” The ghost—Sirius—looked heartbroken. He sighed, which of all things struck Teddy as odd, because to Teddy’s knowledge, ghosts didn’t breathe. “How long ago?”
“Twenty-three years. In the war. He died fighting.” This was the story Harry had told Teddy since he was a tiny baby: that his parents were heroes. As a child it was a comfort, but Teddy had heard it so many times that it had ceased to really mean anything to him now. His parents were merely characters in a story to Teddy.
Sirius smiled sadly. “Of course he did.” The ghost’s eyes looked perhaps more shiny than they had been previously, but as his whole being was faintly shimmery, Teddy couldn’t quite tell. “Did you know him?”
Teddy opened his mouth to answer but stopped because he wasn’t sure how. He hadn’t known Remus Lupin, not really. Teddy settled on the easiest answer. “I’m his son.”
“You—? Remus… had a son? With whom?”
“My mother was Nymphadora Tonks. Your cousin I believe.”
Sirius looked shocked. “Tonks? Remus… and little Dora?”
“I’m Edward Remus Lupin. Teddy is what they called me.”
“A son.” The ghost floated nearer Teddy, right up to him, as if he was searching Teddy’s features for some sign of his old friend. “You do look awfully like him, Teddy.”
“So I’ve heard.”
“Has Harry told you much about Remus and I, Teddy?”
“That you were best friends, with Remus and Harry’s father, yes.”
The ghost looked away then, and Teddy got the feeling that he’d somehow said something wrong. “Best friends. Of course.”
“I’m sorry to be the one to tell you,” Teddy said finally.
“No need to be sorry,” Sirius said, seeming to collect himself a bit. “C'est la vie. I’ve got so many questions. I can’t believe Remus procreated, much less with Tonks of all people. And Harry—what is Harry up to? Does he have a family? Did he end up getting together with that bright young frizzy haired girl? Or the Weasley girl, I always suspected Harry had a bit of a thing for her?”
“I… need a drink.”
The ghost—Sirius’s—face lit up with a wicked grin. “Merlin’s tits do I miss drinking. Oh, while I’ve got you, do you like punk records, Teddy?”
“No, a poltergeist can interact with objects, ghosts can’t. Which is why I haven’t been able to listen to any of these in the last twenty years even though they’re right bloody here,” whinged Sirius from where he trailed ethereally behind Teddy up the narrow staircase. After Teddy’d slugged enough Firewhisky to not feel like he was going to hyperventilate into a different dimension, Sirius had badgered Teddy into following Sirius to the attic where some of his old records were stored. Teddy had since recalibrated his worldview only semi-successfully enough to allow for the existence of Sirius Black the Ghost that he could function, but he still felt a little like he was in a strange dream.
“I know the difference between a ghost and a poltergeist for Merlin’s sake, I was Head Boy, I only meant, why hasn’t someone come 'round to visit and put them on for you?”
“Head Boy, eh? A kiss-arse like Remus, then? You’ve met mother prattling on about half-breeds and Mudbloods for all of eternity, who in their right mind do you think would want to come visit this place?”
“Are you still in school, Teddy?”
Teddy flushed, hair shifting under his hat. When Teddy was young, people were always saying he had an old soul, was mature for his age, well-behaved and quiet, but lately he’d been mistaken for much younger. “I’m twenty-three, thank you very much, old man.”
“Fantastic, so I don’t have to feel like a pervert for saying you’ve got quite a lovely arse from this angle.”
Teddy glanced over his shoulder where Sirius’s ghostly body hovered a few steps down at eye level with Teddy’s bum as they bypassed the fourth floor and laughed. The absurdity of the whole situation was not lost on him; though in the few minutes since he’d become acquainted with the spirit, the shock of Sirius’s sense of humour had nearly worn off.
“And for your information, I am a young thirty-seven and positively radiant as ever.”
“You were thirty-seven twenty years ago,” Teddy countered.
“Well my arse is thirty-seven.”
“So no one knows you’re here then?” Teddy pushed. He didn’t understand how Harry could have not known when he’d owned this house the whole time.
“Far as I can tell. Not many of my associates were left by the time I croaked. No one’s really been 'round, except old Mundungus Fletcher to loot the place.”
“I reckoned it looked empty!”
“Well I’ve not much use for family heirlooms in my current state, nor did I care about them much when I was alive. I did give him a good haunting while he was here though.”
They shared a laugh as they reached the attic, a small, stuffy, unfinished storage room filled with boxes and old furniture.
“So you can’t leave then?” Teddy asked.
Sirius glided past him to the far side of the attic to a small window that looked out over the street.
“Ah, yes, the eternal dilemma of my existence. No, I cannot.”
Teddy hadn’t yet heard this sombre tone in Sirius’s voice, and it sounded wrong, unnatural.
Sirius turned away from the window to glide slowly around the attic, peering into open boxes. “Spirits can be tied to locations. No one knows why. Was ol’ Binns still around when you were at school? Dropped dead at his desk and just kept teaching. Can’t leave the school, so why shouldn’t he?”
“Did you… die here?” Teddy had never actually heard the story of how Sirius had died. James had asked Harry once at dinner while Teddy was 'round and Harry’d got too choked up to tell the story and sent the boys to bed. Teddy had been only a teenager and had still thought of his godfather as some kind of unshakable superhero, and had been been confused, almost frightened, that something could upset him that much.
When Sirius didn’t elaborate, Teddy continued, “And no one else has come 'round?”
“This was never a happy place to which anyone would care to revisit, Teddy. And as I said, no one knows I’m here. Mundungus was a drunk, even if he did say anything I doubt anyone would believe him. And I imagine it might’ve been too painful for Harry to drop in. All I know is I died, and then I came back, don’t know how much time had passed or anything, couldn’t exactly subscribe to the Prophet in a house like this, and everyone was gone. Even my dear Hippogriff Buckbeak had gone.”
The smell in the upstairs bedroom Teddy’d nearly forgotten about clicked into place in the back of his mind.
“I despised this place. Always felt like a jail cell. I thought, as soon as we won the war that I could be truly free. Remus and I could leave this place forever. But then I died. And I was back again.”
“You and Remus?”
“Mm.” Sirius looked guarded for a moment, and Teddy wondered what exactly he was holding back. “Moony and I were going to leave the country with Harry, if things had worked out. Now, start looking in some of these boxes, we haven’t got all eternity!”
Teddy smiled at the nickname Harry’d told him his father went by in school, and the fact that all these years later Sirius still used it. Teddy began prying open dusty cardboard boxes. “Moony?” he prodded carefully.
“Remus, yes, did you know we called him that?” Teddy could hear a smile in the ghost’s voice.
Teddy nodded. “Harry has told me stories. I know he was a werewolf and that you and Harry’s father were Animagi. I don’t know much else about him, truth be told.”
Sirius turned towards Teddy with what looked like pity, and Teddy busied himself by pretending to rifle through some moth-eaten lady’s hats.
“So you really don’t remember him at all?”
“I was only a baby when they died. I only know what Grandma Andy and Harry have told me.”
Sirius looked thoughtful. “Remus was a werewolf. But don’t let that make you think any less of him. He was amazingly clever and deserved way better friends than us lot. He was a good man. The best I ever knew.”
Teddy could hear the wistfulness in Sirius’s voice but didn’t turn to look at him. “Thanks, I guess.”
“I just thought you ought to know that. I don’t know what rubbish you may have heard about him, is all. The Ministry, well, no one was very generous to his kind in our day. But I am truly sorry, Teddy, that you didn’t get to know him.”
Teddy knelt behind another box, filled with china, and clanked some teacups together, his eyes prickling. He’d never particularly liked talking about his family. Didn’t like the pity. Didn’t like being reminded about what he was missing. Teddy had always preferred to deal with his more private emotions privately, and talking too much about his parents made him feel uncomfortably vulnerable.
“Remus had a kind soul. I was rather lucky to have him, and Harry’s parents, as friends, given that my family situation was so messy. I was what one might call the black sheep of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black.”
Teddy hummed to show he was listening but otherwise kept silent.
“I suppose you and I are a bit alike in that way. An orphan and a runaway walk into an attic. There’s a joke in there somewhere.”
When Teddy could open his eyes without feeling like he was going to break into a million pieces, he realised he was looking down into a box filled with dusty old records. He bent to flick through them, smiling at some of the titles. “I’ve found them.”
“Wonderful! Fetch the Buzzcocks would you?”
“So James and I had filled a—whatsitcalled—Muggle water balloons with Shrinking Solution for just such an occasion, so we started throwing them at the Slytherins—”
“What did Remus do?” Teddy interrupted.
“Always ‘what did Remus do,’ ‘what did Remus do?’ he says. Why Ted, if I didn’t know better I’d think you fancied him as much as I did! As it happens, Moony had brought something called a water gun full of Swelling Solution to undo all the damage caused by our sorry arses, but Pete, the rat bastard, had nicked it thinking it was full of Firewhisky—we sometimes did that in the dorms you see—and squirted it right into his own mouth! He blew up like a balloon but hardly anyone could tell the difference! Old Sluggy’d asked if we were sure he hadn’t just sneaked some extra pudding when we rolled Pete down to his office for the antidote!”
A grin was splitting Teddy’s face, and he would have felt embarrassed had it not been for Sirius’s own maniacal grin. Sirius had been telling stories of The Marauders all night, and Teddy’s cheeks hurt from smiling so much, and his ribs hurt from laughing, but his chest hurt from thinking about his dad, Remus, who’d done all these things and been so clever and so brave. Teddy felt extremely cheated. He took another gulp of whisky to try and chase the giddy feelings that were slowly slipping away with Sirius’s fading laugher.
“So you really fancied Remus, then?” This was, indeed, the most interesting bit that Teddy had gathered from Sirius’s stories, something Harry had never mentioned about Sirius in Teddy’s presence.
“I don’t know how much Harry has told you about me. Honestly I don’t know how much he knew, perhaps I was more subtle in my affection than I thought. But yes, Teddy, I fancied Remus very much.”
“You were gay?”
“Yes. Especially for Remus Lupin. I loved him like the ocean loves the moon.”
“Did he…?” Teddy wasn’t sure what answer he was hoping for.
“I think so. At one time or another.”
“You were together?”
“Briefly. After school. We had a flat together. And then things got mucked up. And then there was a time, during the second war when I thought, well perhaps, but I—”
“Remus fancied blokes?”
“Well, it certainly seemed that way with the way he—”
“What about my mum?”
Sirius raised a eyebrow. “Remus liked birds too. People can be—”
“Bi. I know.”
“He’d always say I turned him into a poof after we kissed, it was adorable—mate, are you crying?”
Teddy hadn’t realised but yeah, he was. Hot tears rolled down his cheeks and plopped onto his jumper like runaway train cars off the tracks. Teddy was drunk, sure, but in that moment he was so very proud to be Remus Lupin’s queer son.
“I’ve just never met many other queer wizards is all.”
“Oh,” said Sirius.
“It’s good. I was starting to feel a bit…”
“Alone?” Sirius sounded sympathetic.
Teddy nodded, not trusting his voice.
“I was lucky, my uncle Alphard was gay. He was an odd sort of bloke, ‘ol uncle Alphie, eccentric, but kinder at least than most in The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. He was the first person I told, and one of the only, at least until I stormed out when I was sixteen, shouting at my mother that I was going to live with the Potters and suck Muggle cock for the rest of my days.”
Teddy snorted. “How did that work out for you?”
“Not particularly well, as I was hopelessly in love with a certain werewolf.” Sirius smiled. “Remus would be very proud of you, Teddy.”
This was something Harry told him often, and it never made Teddy feel any better, because it didn’t feel particularly true. Sure, given the new information come to light, Teddy’s father wouldn’t think less of him for his preferences, but Teddy hadn’t done very much with his life for anyone to be proud of, much less the heroic Remus Lupin.
“I hope he was happy, in the end. He deserved happiness, after everything we’d been through,” Sirius said.
“Harry thinks he was. If that’s any consolation.” Teddy sniffed and wiped his face with the sleeve of his jumper.
Sirius smiled sadly. “Weepy drunk then, aren’t you, Ted?”
“I s’pose so.”
“S’alright. It’s disgustingly adorable. You’ve no right being so cute when I haven’t seen a soul in the last twenty odd years.”
Teddy felt his hair pinken under his hat, but was surprised to find he didn’t recoil from the attention. It was odd: Teddy had plenty of interaction with ghosts in his life previously; all Hogwarts students had. He’d seen Nearly Headless Nick’s neck split open during dinner and tore off down corridors to avoid the Bloody Baron, but he’d never really talked to them, never really believed that they had been real people. Yet, here Sirius sat, translucent and hovering a few inches off the surface of the chair, all ghostly silver, just air and memory, but he seemed so real, more alive than anyone Teddy had ever met perhaps. If Teddy closed his eyes, he’d think he was just talking to a bloke in a pub, not the ghost of his father’s apparent ex-lover. He supposed he ought to feel strange, but all Teddy felt was warm, whether it was from the nearly-empty bottle of Firewhisky or from Sirius’s warm, genuine laughter or from the fire that Teddy’d lit in the drawing room fireplace after lugging down the record player and putting on one of Sirius’s favourite albums. It was just nice to feel warm again after so long being cold.
“Are you lonely?” Teddy asked.
“I find ways to pass the time I suppose.”
Teddy was drunk, officially, and was staring at the flames licking in the fireplace. For a moment, the out of place feeling that encompassed Teddy’s entire existence seemed to lessen, almost as if he was supposed to be here, on this carpet in Grimmauld Place.
“So why are you here, Teddy?”
“‘M on holiday, I guess.”
“A holiday from what?”
“Incidentally so am I.”
A sleepy laugh bubbled out of Teddy. He felt so comfortable; it would be so easy to tell Sirius everything he’d been needing to get out, but he found he didn’t know where to start.
“Harry’s selling the house. He thought some time away would be good for me. He figured I could help unravel some of the wards, get the place cleaned up.”
“Harry is selling the house?”
“I suppose that’s for the best. How is he?”
“He still misses you. Gets choked up anytime you come up. He named one of his sons after you. James Sirius. I’m sure he’d love to come visit.”
Sirius’s white face lit up with pride, but there was a sadness to it. “Perhaps.”
Teddy’s eyes were heavy as he sat up on the floor leaning against the arm of an old sofa. Sirius had been hovering in a chair near the fire, and though he couldn’t feel it, he’d told Teddy that he liked the way it made the house feel, a little more like a home. Teddy was exhausted from the emotional whiplash of the day and sleep was starting to overtake him as he blinked slowly towards Sirius.
“So you really fucked my dad, huh?”
“I don’t think we really need to go into the specific arrangement.”
Teddy laughed, feeling slap-happy and sleepy. Sirius Black and his father. What a thought. Sirius laughed too, a bright shimmering smile splitting his face. Teddy watched him, trying to picture what he’d look like solid and coloured, this man that his father at one time had been in love with, rather than unfocused translucent pearly silver. Even at eternally thirty-seven, Sirius had a handsome face with sharp features, high cheekbones, arched eyebrows, darkly contrasting hair and pale skin. But what was most attractive about him were his eyes, their mischievous twinkle that reminded Teddy distinctly of James. Teddy supposed that perhaps his father could have done worse for himself than Sirius Black. “Weird to know my dad had decent taste in men, innit?”
“I think it’s time for you to get some sleep, Teddy.”
“Mmm. One more story and then I’ll sleep,” he argued without opening his eyes.
Sirius laughed softly. “Alright. But get up onto the sofa. I’ll tell you the story of the time Remus had to break me out of a Muggle dog pound. It was in the summer of '78. Remus and I had just rented this gorgeous shoebox of a flat. It had a charming balcony, only one I could find, and I signed the lease before Remus even saw the place. I suppose there was some clause in it about not having pets in the flat. So one evening…”
Teddy awoke the way he woke up every morning at the Potter’s house, with a momentary start of disorientation at not being in his bed at Gran’s where his subconscious expected to be. Only he wasn’t at the Potters’ house, he was crumpled on a lumpy sofa in the drawing room of Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, still in his jeans and jumper with a pounding headache and a violent need to vomit. He groaned.
“Reckon there’ll be some Pepper-Up in the pantry downstairs. Mother was a bit of a booze hound,” echoed a voice from a direction Teddy couldn’t pinpoint.
Teddy cracked open one eye in an attempt to confirm that the events of last night were real, but when he looked around the room it was empty.
“Who’s there? Sirius?” Teddy asked, hoping that he wasn’t about to find out he’d been royally pranked somehow. He felt around for his hat on the floor and pulled it on.
Then suddenly, the ghost of Sirius Black materialised and hovered expectantly over him. “Terribly sorry, it’s a bloody pain remembering to become visible, haven’t had to in years.”
“You can become invisible?”
“It’s actually requires a conscious decision to become visible. Pretty standard ghost mechanics, I can’t believe they don’t teach this.”
Teddy huffed, shutting his eyes and once again recalibrating. Ghosts are real. There’s a ghost in the house. The ghost of Sirius Black.
“I’ve got to owl Harry,” he said finally.
“How about breakfast first?”
“He’d want to know.”
“Perhaps you should unpack? How long did you say you were staying?”
“Why don’t you want to see him?”
“You’re stubborn like your father.” This jab made Teddy smile, but he hid it in the pillow his face was still smushed into. “It’s not that I wouldn’t love to see him. I just don’t want to cause him more pain.”
“I really think—”
“No good could come of Harry spending the rest of his life feeling sorry for me.” Sirius looked sad but resolute. For a moment, Teddy didn’t understand what he meant: he knew Harry would be elated to hear that he could visit with his late godfather, but then Sirius turned away and Teddy understood. Sirius Black was essentially imprisoned, like he’d been so many years ago, but this time, for eternity. Teddy wasn’t sure how well Sirius knew Harry, but Teddy knew his godfather pretty well, and if there was one thing Harry hated, it was feeling helpless to fix things. As far as Teddy knew, once one made the choice to stick around in ghost-form, it was impossible to undo. Harry would, in all likelihood, drive himself mad trying to find a way to help Sirius cross over. Still, it felt awful to keep such a thing from him.
“I think you’re being ridiculous. Perhaps Harry could help. He’s the head of the Aurors, you know.”
“There is nothing Harry could do that would help. Please. Just pretend I’m not here.”
“That might be awfully difficult.”
“For now. But I want to try to help.”
Sirius raised one ghostly eyebrow.
“I want to help you get to the afterlife where you ought to be. With Remus and your friends.”
“Teddy, that’s not possible.”
“I’ll tell you what’s not possible once I’ve tried everything, thanks.”
Sirius hummed but didn’t argue further. “So what’s on the docket for today, then?”
Teddy groaned again. “I’m not much of a day person to be frank.” His head was swimming and his stomach felt sour; he really did need some Pepper-Up potion if he was to move from this sofa at all for the rest of the day.
“I say we get started on cleaning the house up for Harry, and you can tell me all about yourself.”
Teddy groaned again. “Coffee first.”
Sirius grinned. “You really are Remus’s son.”
The walk to the market was treacherous, the snow having picked up sometime over the night, and Teddy cursed himself for not thinking to bring provisions. It was so cold in fact that it took Teddy about fifteen minutes to bundle up enough for Sirius to let him set foot outside.
“Reckon I’ll be fine in just the two coats.”
“But it’s blustery, Teddy!” Sirius was hovering anxiously in the entryway. They were speaking in hushed tones to avoid disturbing Walburga, who, Teddy had learned, liked to yell insults at the both of them anytime they walked past, or in Sirius’s case glided past, even when Teddy’d cast the strongest Muffliato he could muster.
“Can you even feel cold?” he asked.
“Just because I can’t feel it doesn’t mean it’s not cold! Now tighten that scarf young man, I can’t have you catching pneumonia and dying on my watch.”
“Might be nice, we could haunt this place together and I’d never have to find a job,” Teddy replied. Sirius smiled.
“No one is dying today. Gloves on!”
Sirius looked awkward for a moment, hovering in the doorway. “You are coming back, right?” he asked. Sirius hadn’t seemed thus far to be the earnest type, and Teddy wasn’t sure what was happening, only that suddenly Sirius seemed to not want him to leave.
“Yes,” Teddy said, tone careful to reassure Sirius that it was a silly question. “Where else do you reckon I’d go? I’ll be back in twenty, maybe thirty depending on queue times.”
The nervous frown disappeared and Sirius grinned. “And I’ll be here, desperately awaiting your return like a Victorian damsel waiting for her husband to return from war. Please, Teddy, may I keep a lock of your hair to remember you by should you perish in battle?”
Teddy’s cheeks coloured and he pulled his hat down tighter.
Teddy obediently shoved his fists into his gloves and without thinking asked, “Need anything from the market?”
Sirius looked down at himself deliberately. “Not particularly.”
“Actually, pick up a Prophet, would you? I’d like to know what’s happening in the world these days.”
The snow had fallen even thicker overnight, but it had turned icy and wet. Teddy’s boots crunched in the snow on the sidewalk and slipped in the slush on the streets. He passed people, live people, and somehow they seemed too colourful, too bright. Each person Teddy passed made him feel more separate, more like he didn’t have anything in common with these people who had perhaps never seen a ghost. Most didn’t look at Teddy; Londoners didn’t usually, but when someone would, Teddy averted his gaze quickly as if they’d be able to see on his face what he’d experienced in the last day.
Sirius was being ridiculous. Harry ought to know his godfather was alive—er—around. If Harry had died Teddy would absolutely want to know what happened to his soul, even if there really wasn’t anything they could do to help him. Yet, even as Teddy thought it, he realised he wasn’t particularly anxious to tell Harry either.
It was just that there was so much to learn from Sirius, so much about his family that Sirius could tell him. Sure he’d learned almost everything there was to know about his mother from his Gran, and Harry had known his father for a few years and tried to share the good memories they’d had, but Sirius had known Teddy’s father better than anyone. Sirius knew his father when they were Teddy’s age, and talking to him felt almost like he knew Remus, too. If Harry got involved, well, Teddy may not get to spend as much time with Sirius. Already Sirius felt like Teddy’s special secret. It was almost divine retribution that Teddy should have spent so long alone, searching for any connection to his parents, only to stumble upon Sirius Black’s ghost in an old house.
Teddy trod on towards the market with his decision made; he’d respect Sirius’s wishes and keep him a secret, only until he could figure out a way to help him get to the afterlife. No one would have to know, and no one would get hurt; it was a win-win.
“The Malfoys are heinously inbred, historically. Not that Cissy was ever a treat to be around either. At least they were further than first cousins,” Sirius continued, waving a hand dismissively while he peered over Teddy’s shoulder at the newspaper spread out on the kitchen table open to the Society section. Teddy had been reading the paper to Sirius, who constantly interrupted him with his running commentary. Teddy sipped his hot cocoa, still trying to warm his hands from his trek to the store. Sirius had been right; his two jackets hadn’t been enough. He’d nearly got frostbite even with the strongest Warming Charms he could produce.
“Draco works with Harry. He says Draco’s a prat, but Scorpius is alright—that’s Draco’s son. He’s Albus’s best friend.”
“Oh, Harry’s other son. Albus Severus Potter.”
“I’m sorry did you say Severus?” Sirius stopped in mid-hover to gape at Teddy.
“Think he was an old teacher of Harry’s, did you know him?”
“Oh yes, Snivellus and I go way back,” Sirius spat with a theatrical eye roll before continuing to float in a lazy circle around the kitchen.
Teddy snorted at the nickname. “I’ll have to tell James that one. Now do you want me to finish reading the article?”
Sirius floated into a chair across from Teddy. “That’s alright, I’ll finish. The Malfoys throw a charity ball where wizarding England’s most eligible bachelorette was spotted canoodling with a high-ranking but married Ministry Official, am I right? I suppose things are quite as depressing as they’ve always been.”
“More or less.”
“Though,” Sirius continued, floating up out of the chair and turning his back to Teddy, “there is a break in the bleakness, at least. You’re the first nice thing to happen around here in quite some time, Teddy.”
Teddy wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that, so he busied himself with shuffling the paper around loudly.
“What did you say the date was again?” Sirius asked, the serious tone in his voice gone once again.
Teddy flicked back to the front page of the paper. “December 15th.”
Sirius’s face lit up. “Why, Teddy, why didn’t you say it was almost Christmas?”
Teddy’s first order of business was to fix the lighting and Heating Charms. The lighting was simple enough, with Sirius’s direction, but the heat was another. No spell seemed to touch the bitter chill that was ever-present in the house. Sirius reassured Teddy that it had always been that way, so Teddy resigned himself to layering jumpers while inside for however long he’d be staying.
The Doxies were, impressively, even worse than Teddy had thought after his initial inspection. Every curtain in the house was riddled with them, and even some of the bedclothes. Sirius led him to a boiler closet in the basement that had a lingering stale smell where a bunch of cleaning supplies were stored, and Teddy dug out every bottle of Doxycide he could get his hands on. Teddy got to work spraying down every inch of fabric in the house, from bottom to top, and plucking the pixies from the curtains one by one.
“It’d go a lot faster if you’d help,” Teddy quipped at Sirius, who was hovering nearby quizzing Teddy on absolutely everything that had gone on in wizarding society for the last twenty years. They were in the dining room Teddy had surveyed the previous night. Doxies had infested the curtains in here, too.
“Can’t interact with physical objects, Ted. You’re going to have to manage with only my moral support,” Sirius replied from where he was lounging, hovering over the dining table as if it were a king-sized bed.
“You seem like you do alright on your own.”
Teddy snorted. Is that what being an unemployed, couch-hopping twenty-three year old fuck up was?
“Come on, I’m sure you’re a successful young man, with a family as well-connected as yours, no?”
“Not entirely.” Teddy plucked a fat Doxie from high on the curtain and tossed it—perhaps more forcefully than he needed to—into the bucket.
“Well what is it that you do?”
Teddy cringed. He positively hated that question, especially when it came from the judging mouths of older, more established wizards. His bucket of Doxies was only half full, but perhaps he could use dumping them as an excuse to get out of the conversation.
“I was almost an Auror.”
“An Auror? A Ministry man through and through are you? Just like your mother then?”
“I said almost. I dropped out.”
“Why did you do that?”
“I reckon a better question would be why did I think I’d be good at it in the first place.”
Sirius looked understanding when Teddy turned around to hoist the bucket off the floor. He’d been dumping the Doxies into a pile outside the back window. They’d be chilly when they came to from the petrifying effects of the Doxycide but otherwise unharmed, and would probably find their way right back inside, but Teddy could never stomach the idea of harming another creature.
“You’re sick of everyone comparing you to them, aren’t you?”
Teddy halted with his bucket for a moment and looked at Sirius, now floating cross-legged over the table.
“No one seems to get that. They think it’s a compliment, like it’s helpful or something to constantly spout how amazing and brave they were, that I’ve got big shoes to fill, as if I don’t know. And Harry of all people, you’d think at least he’d get that.”
Sirius nodded knowingly. “You don’t have to carry the weight of your family’s legacy if you don’t want to, Teddy.”
Sirius looked haunted, though by what, Teddy didn’t know. Teddy didn’t know much about Sirius’s family, but he knew the connotations of the family name. The Blacks had been bigoted, dark wizards for centuries. Perhaps Sirius did know what it felt like to be pressured to live up to the standards of your parentage. Perhaps, he, more than anyone else, understood.
Teddy’s hair shifted under his hat, and that was just about as much introspection as he was willing to handle for the afternoon. He nodded shortly and dumped the bucket.
“I think we’re done in here. How about we move to the bedrooms?” Teddy asked.
“Lovely. Don’t bother with the 4th floor, I’ve managed to keep them away from there,” Sirius said.
After the Doxies were all safely outside, Teddy headed back up to the Black library, to Sirius’s chagrin. To be fair, he was correct: to Teddy’s knowledge, there had never been a confirmed case of an earth-bound spirit crossing over to the afterlife, but Teddy couldn’t just let Sirius rot here—well, not rot exactly—but Teddy thought there must be something they could do.
“There is nothing you can do,” Sirius chided for the tenth time. Teddy had pulled down a huge stack of books, from introductory studies in spiritology and histories of magical breakthroughs of the 21st century to dark magic spellbooks on necromancy and Muggle religious books on exorcisms, and had come up with nothing.
“That can’t possibly be true. Statistically alone, it makes no sense. If every single person who became a ghost never left then there’d be more ghosts than people!” Teddy’s eyes were smarting from reading such small text for so long, so he closed them and pressed his nose into a musty page of An In-Depth History of Spirits in Western Culture.
“You’re overestimating the number of people as astonishingly stupid as I was.” Sirius was loitering somewhere behind Teddy by a shelf of novels he said his brother used to read when their parents were asleep. Teddy had offered to get one down for him and turn pages, but Sirius had waved him off saying he was never much of a reader.
“Be that as it may, I really can’t believe there’s not a way. Maybe no one’s done it before, but people invent new spells all the time. There’s got to be a way.”
“Teddy, dear boy, if the bridge between life and death was something one could easily traverse, there would be no point in living at all.”
Teddy snorted. “So dramatic. Hand me that big black book, would you, with the runes on the front?”
Sirius gestured to himself and looked at him like he was an idiot. Teddy huffed; it was astonishingly easy to forget for a moment that Sirius was dead. Teddy stood, back cracking, to retrieve the book himself, but when his hand grazed the spine it jumped to life, opening like a mouth and clamping down on Teddy’s fingers with hundreds of sharp paper teeth.
“Fuck!” Teddy dropped the book and it clattered to the floor, scurrying under the table Teddy had been working at like an angry cat.
“Oh, yes, reckon I should have warned you about that particular spell.” Sirius grinned.
The following few days passed in what might be considered a normal fashion, if Teddy wasn’t squatting with the ghost of his dead father’s late ex-boyfriend in the home of one of the most evil families in recent wizarding history. They’d picked up a routine, at least, Teddy and Sirius. Teddy would bundle up and walk to the market to grab provisions, and then Sirius would make Teddy read the Daily Prophet to him over his coffee, so he could get caught up with everything that he’d missed, always with Sirius’s running commentary on which Ministry officials were full of bollocks and which pureblood families from the Society section held ties to former Death Eaters, which was, frankly, all of them.
Harry had owled to check that everything was fine and that Teddy had got settled okay on the evening after Teddy had arrived—the owl disillusion ward one of the first Teddy had undone—and Teddy guiltily hid the letter from Sirius, writing a hasty reply: “Everything fine as expected. Little cold—might need new windows if I can’t transfigure them. Be in touch. Teddy,” before shoving the small barn owl back into the blustery winter sky and shutting the window swiftly behind it.
After breakfast, they’d set to work on unraveling spells—well, Teddy worked, while Sirius explained in much greater detail than Harry had how to do so with the expertise of someone who knew the magic intimately. Sirius knew all of the wards and how to get rid of them by heart, though he couldn’t perform any of the magic, so he walked Teddy through the incantations carefully. Some were more difficult than others—the Fidelius Charm was proving quite impossible to break, but there were others, like the one that charmed the darkest books in the library to bite their readers if they were not of pure blood, that Teddy could handle.
Any time the work took them to a new room in the house, Sirius would act out in translucent detail all the horrible things his late family had said and done there like a morbid one-man soap opera. Teddy had been right in assuming that Sirius had struggled with his parents’ expectations in his youth, and most of the stories ended up with Sirius or his younger brother receiving the Cruciatus Curse if they talked back to Walburga.
Sirius seemed to think it rather humorous to dictate Teddy to perform every Cleaning Charm in the book, then bickering when Teddy’s cleaning wasn’t to Sirius’s satisfaction in the way that a married couple might. Sirius hadn’t said anything else about Harry intending to sell the house that Sirius’s eternal soul was tied to, so Teddy didn’t bring it up.
After a good round of spell-breaking and cleaning, Teddy would head to the library, intending to make good on his promise to figure out a way to release Sirius’s soul from the house, though he wasn’t making much headway and usually found himself getting lost in the books while Sirius hovered nearby mocking him for being, “a bookworm, just like his father.”
Teddy had gleaned many new facts about his father and his friends from Sirius’s stories, including that Remus chewed the ends of his quills when thinking, that his eyes were not brown like Teddy’d thought previously, but the colour of warm amber honey in the sunlight, that Remus preferred coffee to tea but hot cocoa above all, that he preferred reading to mischief unless it involved Sirius, and that he had a particular fondness for cardigan sweaters— though none of these facts were as shocking as the bombshell that his father swung both ways.
Teddy also learned some interesting facts about Sirius, mostly that he’d paid way too much attention to Teddy’s father. He’d also gathered that Sirius had a quick, cutting wit about him, but underneath was very kind. Sirius talked about the people he’d cared about—James Sr, Lily, Harry, and Remus—with such a fierceness of love, even after having not seen any of them for decades. Teddy had also gleaned that Sirius perhaps enjoyed the sound of his own voice a little too much. Though, Teddy thought, he’d be thrilled to have some company after being alone for so long too, and he didn’t mind Sirius filling in the holes in their conversation left by the topics Teddy himself would rather avoid.
Teddy found himself falling into comfortable banter with Sirius quickly, as if they were old friends. They talked about Teddy’s parents, about Harry’s parents, about the Ministry and music, about books and school and everything Sirius could think of.
In the evenings, they’d sit by the fire in the drawing room, listening to records while Teddy quizzed Sirius on what it was like to be a ghost. Sirius tired of this quickly, but Teddy simply couldn’t help himself.
“Do you miss being alive?” he asked on the third night. They were in their usual spots, Teddy on the uncomfortably upholstered sofa, and Sirius hovering in a chair by the fire, his back to a huge tapestry covered with tiny portraits of ancient-looking witches and wizards.
“I miss drinking,” he mused. “I miss food. I miss fucking. You prancing about isn’t helping that last one either,” Sirius said with a smirk.
Teddy had gathered that Sirius was a bit of a flirt, but this seemed forward even for him. He wondered if Sirius had meant to say it, or if he’d lost himself for a moment and thought he was talking to Remus. Then Teddy wondered if such a cheesy line would have worked on his father and laughed.
Teddy took a big gulp of Firewhisky, feeling it burn its way down to his stomach. “Are you coming on to me?”
“Am I that out of practice?”
“Can ghosts…?” Teddy was drunk, and he was curious, but he was also impossibly glad that he had his hat on as he felt his hair shift a deep red.
“Can ghosts what? Fuck? No, as I have already mentioned.”
“Can you… you know?”
“Well, I mean, can you, you know, polish the broomstick?”
Sirius feigned being scandalised, but a conspiratorial grin grew on his face. “Young man, are you asking if I can still wank?”
“It’s only that we learned that ghosts can’t experience physical pleasures.” Teddy’s hair was likely fuchsia by that point, and he tugged his hat down self-consciously. Firewhisky always made Teddy a little too courageous, and he was often found sticking his foot in his mouth whenever he’d had a bit too much.
“Do you reckon Binns would have taught you about ghost wanking? We can’t experience pleasures that require interaction with an external object, like eating pudding or cuddling a kitten. Wanking however doesn’t require an external object does it? Well, at least, not the way most people do it.”
Teddy nodded, flushing.
“This is of course a purely academic inquiry I’m assuming? Not for personal interest?”
“I thought I had you pegged for a weepy drunk, but it turns out you, Ted, are a pervy drunk.” Sirius laughed, and Teddy flipped him off.
Sirius had had Teddy make up a bed in one of the rooms after the first night he’d spent on the drawing room sofa, and when Teddy inquired whether it was Sirius’s old bedroom, he’d replied, “Of course not, why would I put up a guest in a room so full of old ghosts?”
Teddy, head foggy with whisky, fell asleep quickly, even as his toes froze under the covers, to unspecific thoughts of dark hair and bright eyes.
“Teddy, I think we ought to decorate,” Sirius said on the fourth day of Teddy’s stay. They’d been in the library all morning, Sirius floating through the stacks and humming cheerily, Teddy rifling through books in search of any information on a particularly dense spell he couldn’t figure out how to undo that made the plumbing back up if a Muggle attempted to use the facilities.
“You want to what?”
“It’s almost Christmas!”
“You’re dead and I’ve been kicked out of my godfather’s house. I’m not feeling particularly festive.”
Truth be told, Teddy hadn’t realised that the holidays were coming up so soon. It felt nothing like the holiday season usually did when his Gran was healthy, making cookies from noon until night for everyone in her book club and all the Weasley/Potter clan, with James and Albus and Lily home from school, suddenly crammed back into the small Godrics Hollow home on top of each other, bickering about who would have to sit next to Aunt Hermione and be lectured on the ethics of Goblin Unionisation during Christmas dinner—the loser was usually Albus—and whose bedroom Uncle George would be taking over for the duration of his stay—the loser was usually James. Soon they’d be home from school and Teddy wouldn’t be there to welcome them. He wondered what Harry would tell James, that he’d gone back to Andromeda’s? That’d he’d left in the night without a trace? Teddy itched to owl Jamie at school, but what would he even say?
Teddy remembered the last conversation he’d had with James in person, the night before he left for school. It was still hot out, and even in the draughty library Teddy could feel the sensory memory of sweat prickling on his back, his t-shirt sticking to him uncomfortably. They were head to foot on James’s twin bed, an uncomfortable arrangement to say the least, tossing a stuffed Quaffle back and forth. They were up much later than they ought to be given that James and the others had to be at Kings Cross so early, but James hadn’t told Teddy to leave yet so he hadn’t.
“I can’t believe this is my last year at Hogwarts.”
“You’ll be just fine,” Teddy had said, because it was true. James had a promising Quidditch career ahead of him, had none of the uncertainty or existentialism that plagued Teddy. James had always been so sure about what he wanted, it was what Teddy admired most about him.
“I know, I just mean everything is going to change, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but you’re going to be great on whatever team you decide to go with.”
James nodded, picking at the stitching on the stuffed Quaffle. “What if I only get picked up by a team far away? You know I’ve been in talks with some foreign scouts and the deals seem good, but what then?”
“You’ll cross that bridge when you come to it.”
James chewed on a thumbnail, one of the only tells Teddy had ever picked up that gave away when James was feeling less than confident. “So you think I should go?”
He’d said it so casually, like it wasn’t the one thought that constantly terrorised Teddy’s every waking dream. James leaving. It was a concept so unacceptable that Teddy had barely considered it the first time James had casually slipped into conversation that he’d received an owl from the Bulgarian scout. But it grew in Teddy’s subconscious like a cancer, infecting every happy moment he’d spent with his best friend over the summer holidays.
“I think you should do what’s right for you,” was what Teddy said, even as his hands twitched to clutch onto James’s shoulders, even as his throat ached to cry ‘please don’t leave.’
“Your hair disagrees.” James snorted and nodded at Teddy’s hair. Sure enough the locks had betrayed him and turned a deep mossy green, the colour Teddy had come to associate with insurmountable dread. He tugged on his hair self-consciously, willing it to turn back to aqua, his hat somewhere forgotten on the floor with all the blankets and pillows James had kicked off the bed to make room for Teddy.
“Well, we’ve still got winter hols, at least. You’ll still be here, right?” James had asked, hopeful.
“Of course I’ll be here. I wouldn’t dare miss one last opportunity to see Harry embarrass Albus when he brings Scorpius ‘round.”
James laughed and the worried look between his eyebrows seemed to fade. James’s laugh felt like medicine to Teddy, and he felt marginally better too. At least they still had winter holiday, Teddy had thought.
“That’s precisely why we need to decorate, to get into the festive mood!” Sirius continued, pulling Teddy from his reverie.
“I’ve work to do, you know.” Teddy held up the thick tome of household protection spells he’d been thumbing through for the past hour or so. “Work that you could, potentially, be much more helpful with than you’re currently being by the way.”
“Always working, always studying, what is it with you Lupin boys? I’ve been alone in this house for twenty five years, and now I’ve got company, so I’d like you, my strapping young lad, to go chop me down a tree so we can have a proper holiday.”
“That’s ludicrous. We’re in London, if you recall. Not many trees floating about.”
“Well then some garland at the very least. This place is simply depressing.”
“I’ve got to fix the plumbing.”
“No, what you’ve got to do is provide for your loving househusband. Happy wife, happy life, Teddy!”
Teddy flushed and rolled his eyes, but it wasn’t terribly difficult to convince himself to forgo the spellwork for a few hours in favour of appeasing Sirius.
He shut the book and got to work conjuring garland and tinsel along the bannisters and mantles in the house while Sirius followed and grinned like a madman. It was shoddy work; perhaps if Teddy had been fully committed he could have made shinier tinsel, bigger bows, but it was a start, and Sirius seemed positively overjoyed.
“I can’t wait to finally be rid of this thing, it is absolutely top priority,” Sirius said of the tapestry in the drawing room when Teddy had gone in to hang some garland and two stockings he’d transfigured from a pair of winter socks. Teddy had not previously paid particular attention to the tapestry, only that he didn’t seem to recognise any of the people depicted, but with the afternoon light shining on it, it did look rather insidious. “I absolutely cannot have a pleasant holiday with this thing still in tact.”
“Who made this?” was the only fitting question Teddy could manage as Sirius floated near the tapestry with a look of utmost disdain.
“Mother wasn’t particularly one for the womanly arts, if that’s what you’re asking. It was made some time in the thirteenth century I believe. Funny how something so old can still have so much evil left in it.”
Teddy walked closer and crouched down, peering at the names under all the blacked out photos. Gold thread glinted on the dusty, moth-eaten backdrop.
“You don’t reckon Harry would like me to keep it? It is a bit of impressive magical history.”
“No, I don’t think he would.”
Teddy followed the golden thread from the first tiny portrait he saw, Phineas Nigellus Black, down the generations, appreciating the complicated magic that went into such a thing, until he got down towards the floor, and read the name “Andromeda Tonks,” which, like Sirius’s own image, had been blasted off.
“Grandma Andy,” Teddy whispered, touching the back mark.
“Yes, Andy, bless her, was blasted off for marrying the Muggle-born Tonks, your maternal grandfather. How are they?”
“Grandpa died in the war: Snatchers got him. Gran raised me. She’s taken ill though.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Sirius said, and for once Teddy didn’t think the sentiment sounded disingenuous. “Is it serious?”
Teddy tried to remember the last time he’s seen his Gran. It had been a few months longer than he cared to admit. She’d insisted Teddy come 'round for tea and he’d reluctantly agreed after Harry had picked up the discarded invitation and frowned at Teddy.
“Sit down, dear, sit down, I’ve got it,” Andy had said, smacking Teddy’s hand away from the kettle.
It was only that she’d looked so frail that Teddy had got up to grab it. It was a good day for her; she was out of bed at least. It seemed to Teddy like the good days had been getting fewer and further between. Perhaps the nice weather was good for her. It was warm, the sun seemingly having not received the message that it was September. Her white hair was pinned up with wispy bits hanging all around her face like usual, but her eyes seemed more sunken than the last time Teddy had been 'round. Her arms seemed impossibly thin where they poked out from her gardening overalls. Teddy noticed with a frown that they were clean, as if she only wanted Teddy to believe she had been feeling up to gardening.
What frightened Teddy most were her hands. They looked like skeleton hands, all skin stretched over bone while she reached over Teddy to pour his tea.
“How’ve you been, Gran?” Teddy asked once she sat heavily into the chair opposite Teddy. There had only ever been two chairs at this table for as long as Teddy could remember; he didn’t even know how the room could possibly be configured to allow for a third. It had always been just Gran and him, and before that Gran and his Grandfather. He wondered briefly where his mother would have sat, the three of them as a family, in this kitchen. He wondered these kinds of things frequently, wondered if he’d have turned out differently, more functional, if he’d had a mother—but that wasn’t fair to Andromeda.
“Oh I’m quite alright, Ted, just a bit under the weather.”
“You’ve been under the weather for months.”
Andy smiled at him like he’d made a joke, but Teddy really hadn’t felt like joking. “Never get old, love. It’s always something.”
“Now, enough about me, I want to hear all about what you’ve been up to. How’s Harry been treating you?”
If Teddy was honest with himself, he'd not only avoided visiting Andy because she was ill. He also felt extremely guilty about moving out to stay with the Potters. She’d never got angry about it, only said that he ought to do what he thought was best and that a change of scenery might be good for him, but he felt like pure distilled garbage leaving her here by herself because he couldn’t withstand her pitying, prying nature.
“And the job front? Any new ideas? New inspirations?” she tried gently.
“Gran, I don’t want to talk about it.” Teddy busied himself with a biscuit, his favourite, that Andy had laid out on the table.
“Not to worry, dear, I’ve got something much lighter to discuss myself.”
“Charlotte, from my book club, you know Charlotte, bought me some tickets to a play for my birthday, but I’m not particularly feeling up to the travel involved, Floo travel takes a lot out of an old lady like me, you know. I thought you might like to have them. You could invite someone—Charlotte’s niece, she says she met you in Auror training, perhaps.”
Andy raised her tea to her lips like she didn’t know exactly what she was doing.
“I’m not taking Charlotte’s niece to a play, Gran.”
“Well what about a friend then? When does Jamie go back to school? Maybe he’d enjoy it, the two of you boys could have a lovely time.”
“James is already at Hogwarts, he can’t just leave to go see a play with me.”
Andy huffed and set her teacup back on its saucer, and Teddy tried not to notice the way her hands shook slightly. The click sound of her teacup struck a sensory nerve in Teddy; something about the particular tone of Gran’s china clinking made Teddy feel like he was a child again.
“I’m worried about you, love,” she said.
“I’m worried about you, too, Gran.” Saying it out loud terrified Teddy, but it was true. Andy was his only family, the smartest, kindest, loveliest woman he’d ever met, and he’d be positively lost if anything were to happen to her.
“I only want you to be happy, dear. I want to know you’ll be alright.”
“Alright if what?”
Andy smiled again. “I just want you to find something that makes you happy. Whatever it is.”
“And I’d like great-grandkids.” She winked.
“The Healers don’t seem to think it’s serious,” Teddy told Sirius, standing from studying the tapestry. “Can’t find anything wrong with her, they said. Figured she’s just having a bad round of Scrofungulus and needs rest. She looks worse every time I visit, though. She barely gets out of bed, says she’s just under the weather and not to worry.”
“I’m sure she’ll be alright. Tough lady, Andy is.”
Teddy nodded, unconvinced.
“Now, let’s blast this abomination into another century, shall we?”
Teddy stood, clearing his throat, and raised his wand towards the tapestry. “Flippendo!”
“Oh Teddy, you’re going to have to do better than that!” But Sirius was smiling.
It was snowing outside again, and the wind was howling through cracks in the windows which Teddy had still been unable to transfigure correctly.
“It’s right fucking chilly in here,” he said as he magically lit a fire in the drawing room once more. Without the tapestry, the room seemed lighter, Sirius seemed lighter, even as the wall where it had hung was now chipped, scratched, and scorched.
“Mm. It always was in the winter. I reckon there are some old jumpers in the drawers of the other room, if you’d like.”
Teddy followed Sirius up the stairs to a bedroom on the fourth floor. The bedroom Sirius had led Teddy to on his second night in the home was on the first floor next to the drawing room and it had seemed like a permanent guest bedroom, with expensive but generic furniture and white bedclothes, dusty but non-offensive. None of the corners were chipped, the rug showed no wear, and the art hanging on the walls was only landscapes and still lifes. The bedroom Sirius led him to now, conversely, had clearly belonged to someone.
There were pictures tacked to every wall, so many that it was hard for Teddy to immediately tell what was what. Gryffindor banners hung proudly everywhere where there was a break in the photos, and the queen-sized four poster bed was covered in fluffy pillows, the kind that you’d keep for yourself, versus the kind you’d leave in the guest bedroom. The large windows were covered by long velvet maroon curtains that matched the duvet.
Teddy stepped closer to one of the walls while Sirius decidedly hung back. Upon closer inspection, he saw both wizard and Muggle photos of a younger Sirius with James Potter, Peter Pettigrew, and Remus Lupin.
“This is your room then?”
“Was. Don’t have much use for a bedroom these days.”
Teddy nodded distractedly, circling the room to appreciate every single photo. Preteen Sirius and James smiling in swim trunks in front of a lake before James pushed Sirius into the water laughing like a madman. The four Marauders laughing in the Gryffindor common room around a table covered in empty bottles, Sirius’s head in Remus’s lap, Remus blushing furiously. Remus, backlit by sunlight, reading a book in the Hogwarts library, unaware a photo was being taken. Sirius and Remus leaning over a balcony waving at someone from the ground, Remus’s arm thrown easily around Sirius’s shoulders. Teenage Remus and Sirius smiling drunkenly under mistletoe, Remus’s nose pressed shyly into Sirius’s hair, Sirius blowing a showy kiss at the camera.
“I recall seeing a cardigan or two in those drawers,” Sirius said, motioning to a dresser on the other side of the room. Teddy went to it, opening the top drawer, expecting to find teenage Sirius-looking clothing. Instead, he was met by the kind of brown jumpers a middle-aged professor might wear.
“These are certainly not yours,” Teddy mocked, picking one up and shaking out the dust.
“No. Your father’s. He stayed here for a little while.”
Suddenly the jumper in Teddy’s hands was a holy relic. Teddy had known his father stayed at Grimmauld briefly, but hadn’t considered that obviously he would have stayed here, in Sirius’s bedroom. The trouble Teddy had in picturing his father wandering around the house on his first evening was gone; Teddy could easily imagine Remus and Sirius moving around this room together, bickering about what to make for supper or about who got to sleep on the better side of the bed by the window. Teddy could picture Remus digging out more old photos to hang on the wall to brighten Sirius’s spirits while he was under house arrest. Teddy could picture them fighting, laughing, existing here, standing in the same exact spot where Teddy now stood. Teddy had never felt closer to his father.
Teddy was not going to cry into a musty old jumper, that was for certain. He closed his eyes, back to Sirius, willing the water away. It wasn’t sadness, really, but something akin to nostalgia, though what Teddy ached for was something he’d never had.
“Grab a few extra jumpers and let’s go back downstairs, Teddy.” And Teddy knew he was being corralled, being pitied, and it made his chest ache, but he knew Sirius was right, that if Teddy stayed in this room much longer he may never leave.
“Right, let’s get back to decorating.”
“What a wonderful idea.”
Downstairs, Teddy quietly transfigured a coat rack from the entrance hall into some semblance of an evergreen, though he was too wiped to magically decorate it. He stood it up however in the drawing room, safely opposite the fireplace and collapsed onto the sofa.
“The last Christmas I spent here, alive anyway, was when Remus was here. Everyone came 'round. Molly Weasley made dinner. It was the last time I remember being truly happy. Remus and I, we got presents for everyone. I think we got Harry some books—Remus’s idea, I wasn’t allowed to leave the house. We sat right here and he wrapped while I wrote the address cards. He said—” Sirius was definitely crying, if ghosts could cry. Teddy wondered if he reached out and touched the shining cheeks they’d feel wet, though he knew they wouldn’t. “—said I wrapped like I lived, with reckless abandon.”
“Do you miss him?”
“Does it ever get easier?”
Teddy felt like a wrung sponge. There was nothing left in his body to feel, he was sure of it.
“I’m awfully glad you’re here though, Teddy.”
Sirius blinked his pearlescent eyelashes but seemed to be finished talking. Teddy felt the childish frustration of wanting to do something to help someone who was hurting but being unable to do anything at all. Sirius was so kind, so pure, so good, and this was how he was repaid: eternally imprisoned, destined to wait for a man that would never return.
“Why, if Remus loved you so much, do you think he was so quick to marry my mum?”
This question did the exact opposite of cheering Sirius, instead making him flinch, and Teddy wanted desperately to take it back. He did want to know the answer though, so he waited.
“Things were not always dorm room pranks and chocolate frogs like my tales might have led you to believe. The war took its toll on Remus, as it did everyone. I imagine it would have been awfully hard to be alone. People get married in wartime all the time. Look at James and Lily. I think, in times of crisis, it’s easy to fall in love quickly.”
A wave of exhaustion hit Teddy then. “Let’s go to bed.”
He knew it was a silly thing to say, but he didn’t want to be alone either, which scared Teddy in itself. Teddy was an only child, much time as he spent with the Potter children, and he was used to processing emotions by himself. But the idea of going to bed and closing the door on Sirius felt like an impossibility.
Teddy stood and went to the first floor guest room, dropping his jeans and pulling the ratty brown jumper over his head. He climbed under the covers and looked expectantly until Sirius followed.
“Have you ever been in love, Teddy?” Sirius asked once Teddy had done all the shuffling and settling required to get comfortable in a foreign bed.
The question caught him off guard, and James’s face appeared in his head, and he wasn’t ready. “I think so.”
“It’s awful isn’t it?”
Teddy turned onto his side to face Sirius, floating on top of the bed, almost as if he were alive, solid, lying next to Teddy. “Yes, it is.”
“What’s his name?”
“What is he like?”
“He’s cocky, and a prat, a spoiled first child who is unfairly good at everything he does. Too attractive for his own good. But he’s also kind, and gentle. He just doesn’t want anyone to know. He takes care of his siblings and defends the people he loves to a fault and he smiles like he’s never been hurt in his life, like he doesn’t know what it is to be sad. He’s like the sun I think. Too bright to look at directly. It’s… it’s why I’m here really. To get away from him.”
“So you couldn’t get burned.”
“I guess so.”
Teddy felt winded by the confession. Sirius didn’t know James and it didn’t matter, but it still felt like confessing a sin.
Sirius continued to hover next to him, seemingly deep in thought. The curtains were open and moonlight poured in from the waxing gibbous moon, spilling soft silver light on the carpet, on the bed, through Sirius’s shimmering silver form and onto Teddy’s face, almost as if Sirius himself was emitting the glow.
“You can’t work it out with him?”
“No. It can’t happen. He’s—”
Teddy winced. There were many reasons why he and James could not, would not ever happen, but that one seemed the easiest to agree to, so he nodded.
“You deserve happiness, Teddy.”
“You don’t believe that, do you?”
“I suppose it’s just that I’m used to it.”
“If I ever meet this git I’ll give him a good haunting for you.”
“Why’d you choose to stay?”
Sirius was silent at the change of topic.
“Oh come on, I know how ghosts work. You chose to stay.”
“The war wasn’t over. Remus—Remus and I were supposed to be together. And Harry, James’s little boy, he was just a child and I thought maybe if I stayed, I could protect him.”
“But then you ended up here?”
“Some spirits get tied, some don’t. No one knows why. Maybe this is my penance. Merlin knows I did enough wrong in life to deserve—”
“You deserve to be happy too, Sirius.”
Sirius nodded noncommittally, then they were both silent. Teddy looked up at the ceiling, feeling more tired than he’d felt in his entire life.
“Ghosts don’t sleep do they?”
“No, I don’t sleep.”
“What do you do while I’m sleeping?”
“Wait for you to wake up.”
When Teddy awoke Sirius was gone and the sun was shining offensively through the open curtains. Teddy almost cursed Sirius for leaving them open until he remembered that Sirius couldn’t move curtains even if he wanted to.
Teddy was still wearing his father’s jumper, and for a moment, he pretended he was Remus, living here with Sirius in the 90s. If he were Remus, he’d know what to do about the confusing feelings surrounding Sirius in Teddy’s head.
Teddy had never been good at putting words to his feelings, something Andromeda had regularly pointed out. It frustrated him from time to time that he couldn’t elaborate on the specifics of his emotions. Sometimes it was as if Teddy’s emotions only made sense in terms of colour, which was why his hair was so hard to control. Sirius made Teddy feel violet. He wasn’t sure what it meant, only that in Sirius’s presence, he felt safe and happy and understood. However, there was also the nervous, bubbly feeling underneath that made Sirius so alluring to Teddy. He almost felt guilty feeling these things for someone other than James, but the irony was not lost on Teddy. Sirius seemed to get him in a way James never had been able to, much as Teddy pined after him. If James was like the sun, Sirius was the moon: elusive, intangible, too far to touch and too beautiful to hold. And James would never want Teddy, a thought that was almost too painful to put into words, and here Sirius was, acting like Teddy had single-handedly saved him from an eternity of loneliness and despair, as if he alone was the thing that brought Sirius joy in his wretched existence. Teddy supposed it was nice, in a way, to find someone who was so equally heartbroken; it was nice to feel wanted. Mutual heartbreak wasn’t the same as simply fancying someone, but it was close. Every time he tried to sit down in the library and try to find a way to help Sirius, the man—the ghost—himself would distract him, and Teddy couldn’t bring himself to really consider the actuality of releasing his soul, effectively getting rid of him.
And so what if it was just mutual heartbreak and loneliness making Teddy and Sirius walk this line of attraction? It wasn’t like anything could happen—Sirius was a ghost. It was just a bit of fun, just a bit of positive emotional reinforcement that they both desperately needed. Teddy preened under Sirius’s attention, and Sirius seemed to always be ready to show off to impress him.
And fuck, if Teddy was tried of not being wanted. It was fine, it was just a bit of harmless fun, Sirius: Teddy’s little secret. It wasn't like anything could happen.
Cleaning the bathrooms in Grimmauld Place was a feat that Teddy would not like to have to repeat in his lifetime. Though the plumbing spell Teddy had been working on breaking seemed to have never been put to use, there was a thick layer of dust, mould, and mildew on everything, and most of the pipes in the home had been frozen.
Teddy had managed to get one in working order. It had white tiles and a romantic but impractical clawfoot tub with a shower attached. The moment Teddy had seen it his first night exploring the house he’d been charmed by the idea of being alone there, of sulking in the tub for hours under the moonlight, but after discovering Sirius, the idea of brooding in a bath seemed less important than being with him for every second of the day.
Teddy got out of bed and decided to shower before heading down to the basement to fix coffee. He hadn’t seen Sirius yet that morning and wasn’t sure where he was loitering.
Teddy had just rinsed his shampoo when—speak of the devil—Sirius materialised in front of him in the shower, grinning as if that wasn’t a completely inappropriate thing to do. “What a wonderful morning it is, wouldn’t you say?”
Teddy’d yelped and cupped his junk. “Excuse me?”
Sirius smirked. “It’s not everyday that there’s an attractive man in my shower. I mean, other than me.”
“Ghosts don’t shower.”
“Did you want something?”
Sirius brows furrowed as if he didn’t quite know what to say, and Teddy felt guilty for pointing out the obvious, that Sirius was in all likelihood just lonely after being bored all night while Teddy slept.
“Whatever, just sit while I rinse off, okay?”
“I’m not a dog anymore, you know.” But he smiled again, his aged eyes crinkling. Sirius made to sit down on the shower floor, hovering an inch or so, never quite able to actually make it look like he could do things like sit. He appeared rather pleased with himself, clasping his hands and smirking at eye level with Teddy’s crotch, which he still had covered with his hands. “Better?”
“I meant on the other side of the curtain, you prat.”
“Oh of course, terribly sorry I misunderstood.”
Teddy rolled his eyes and Sirius stood, drifting through the curtain to linger somewhere near the toilet.
“Are you going to stay here until I finish, then?”
“Well there’s not much else to do with my eternity in hell is there? Unless you were planning to… attend to some business.”
“What do you—?”
“Well it’s only that you’ve been 'round for a few days now and I haven’t heard you… You must be awfully backed up, Teddy.”
“You listen to me sleep?”
“Sometimes watch. As I’ve said, fuck all else to do with my eternity.”
Teddy immediately felt hot all over, wondering for a moment if the shower had broken and started spewing scalding water. Sirius watched him sleep. He should be angry. He shouldn’t be reacting this way. His breath caught on an exhale, feeling both nervous thrill and shame.
“Is that the only reason?” he pushed carefully.
“Of course not.”
“I know what you’re doing.”
“You’re not exactly subtle.”
“I wasn’t aiming for subtly.”
“Fuck.” Teddy was so hot, felt sweat beading even in the shower. He wanted to move to turn the cold tap up but couldn’t bring himself to. He felt wholly exposed, even though there was still a shower curtain blocking him, and he wondered if Sirius could see through it at all, if perhaps he was watching Teddy’s outline move under the stream of water. Teddy tried to focus his attention on the sensation of hot water droplets hitting his face and not the sensation of them rolling down his body, caressing like soft hands. The shower suddenly seemed louder and he felt his heartbeat pounding in his ears.
“Are you hard?”
Ted nearly choked on his tongue at the question, but was even more shocked to discover the answer. He hadn’t even noticed his hand cupping himself was squeezing gently, and he wondered how long ago his cock had got so interested.
Sirius groaned. “I wish I could touch you. Would you like that?”
“Are you touching yourself?”
Teddy flushed deeper at the words and his whole body shivered when he took his heavy cock in his hand properly and gave it a tug.
“Fuck, I wish it were me,” Sirius swore, and Teddy vaguely registered how strangled his voice sounded, even over the near deafening pouring of the shower now in his ears.
Teddy nearly cried out in relief as he began fisting his cock in earnest, but all that escaped was a pitiful whimper. He bit down on his lip to try to keep quiet.
“I bet you taste so good, it’s practically all I’ve been thinking about. Teddy, fuck, do you taste good?”
“How would I know?” Teddy laughed breathlessly.
“Of course you do, you’re too fit not to. Wanna see you, move the curtain.”
“No,” Teddy said, even as he imagined the sharp, salty taste of skin in his mouth, the smell of man that Teddy so desperately desired. He imagined Sirius, whole and human, imagined him settling between Teddy’s legs, pictured him taking Teddy into his soft pink mouth as he fucked into his own wet palm.
“Prude. Fine. Wish I could touch you.”
“Merlin, want you inside me. Would you fuck me Teddy?”
“Christ, want you to fuck me through the floor. Want you to rearrange my insides.”
“Fuck, you’re filthy.”
“So I’ve been told.”
Teddy banged his head against the shower wall. “I’m not gonna last.”
“Would you let me fuck you Teddy?”
“Yeah, of course. Fuck me into next week if you want.”
“No I’d be gentle.”
“You wouldn’t have to be.”
“I’d want to. I’d eat you out for hours… make you shake with it. And I’d rock into you slow and deep, not like how I want you to fuck me. Like we’re in a boat on the water. Fuck, Ted, I want to drown in you.”
Teddy didn’t say he already was as his cock pulsed in his fist, come painting the shower curtain in ribbons as he shook through the most forceful orgasm of his life.
Sirius had evidently taken his leave before Teddy could recover, as Teddy found himself whispering to an empty bathroom when he finally shut the water off and stepped out of the shower.
He dressed and went downstairs and heard a pop of Apparition outside. Teddy’s heart stopped. No one could find out about Sirius; it would ruin everything. Teddy drew his wand as he heard enchantments being mumbled and wards being lifted. He was sweating by the time the door swung open to reveal an irate James Potter.
“Don’t you fucking Jamie me, you right fucking git! What in Merlin’s name are you doing here?” James launched, storming into the house and coming right up to Teddy.
It was so strange to see him that Teddy almost didn’t recognise him, though he looked just the same as always. Maybe his hair had got a bit longer if anything, it brushed his shoulders now. It felt wrong, off, to see James in this house, this house that he shared with Sirius. He felt like it was a different lifetime when he’d spent all his time with James, picking on Albus and playing pickup Quidditch in the back garden at Godrics’s Hollow. “What?”
“I got home from school and Dad said you were gone! You fucking moved out without telling me? Without even saying goodbye? What the fuck is wrong with you?”
Teddy tried to think of something to say but words wouldn’t come.
“It took me all fucking night to get it out of him where you were. Told him I’d bust down every door in London until I found you, and even then he made me promise not to come once he told me.”
“Which you chose to ignore.”
“Obviously! I come home from an emotionally challenging semester of school, in a right crisis even, to find my best friend has fucking left without so much as a note and I’m not supposed to come looking for you? What are you even doing here? Did dad kick you out?”
“What does that mean? Come on, it’s my house too, and I say you belong at home. We’re going now.”
“No I’m not.” Teddy hadn’t thought the words before he said them, but they felt true in his mouth.
“I can’t go home with you.”
“Why the bloody hell not?”
“I’m… on a sabbatical.”
“Sabbatical from what?”
“From you, James!”
Teddy barely had time to register the hurt on James's face, but he knew that that look would haunt him for the rest of his life.
“Who’s there?” came Sirius’s voice, and a moment later he materialised in the entryway.
“Oi! Is this him? This prat?” Sirius said.
Teddy’s hair was bright red at the moment and all he could do was nod. He didn’t recall making the decision to stop wearing his hat around Sirius, but he had, and now he wished he was wearing it.
“Teddy, what the fuck?”
Suddenly Teddy knew that the only thing that mattered was that James didn’t tell Harry. If Harry found out about Sirius, found out that Teddy didn’t tell him about Sirius, Teddy couldn’t even imagine the consequences.
“Sirius, could you give us a moment?”
He looked put out, still glaring at James, but mumbled and disappeared.
“There’s a ghost here?”
“That’s Sirius Black. I recognise him from Dad’s pictures.”
“You can’t tell your dad.”
“Because. Because—” Teddy lowered his voice in hopes that Sirius, wherever he was, couldn’t hear. “If your dad comes here Sirius will never want to cross over. I’m trying to help him.”
“Ghosts don’t ‘cross over’ this isn’t some Muggle film. Ghosts can’t go to the afterlife. They made their choice.”
“I’ve been reading. I have ideas. I don’t know if it’ll work but it’s worth a try, I mean, this is your dad’s godfather, your namesake, Jamie. We have to help.“
“But if anyone would be able to do magic like that, it’d be dad.“
“Please, just. Give me more time. Don’t tell your dad. Please, James. Promise you won’t tell Harry.”
James looked conflicted, but more so hurt. Teddy felt like he was going to puke.
“Fine. Have fun on your sabbatical, arsehole.”
With that, James Disapparated.
Teddy found himself spending more time in the library after his and James’s argument. It wasn’t that he was done working on the house per say, there was still the tricky matter of the Fidelius Charm and the portrait of Walburga with the Permanent Sticking Charm that he couldn’t figure out how to remove, but he’d all but stopped working entirely.
Sirius had been spending more time on the fourth floor, which gave Teddy the peace and quiet to study that he needed. Sirius had never explicitly said that Teddy was not allowed to visit him up there, but something about the way Sirius disappeared without warning told Teddy that he wasn’t welcome.
“I’m worried about you, Ted,” Sirius said after Teddy had stepped out of the library on one occasion.
“I’m fine. I’m trying to help you.” Teddy’s eyes felt tired, and he was sure he looked horrible.
“That’s what I’m worried about,” Sirius continued. He was blocking Teddy’s path in the hallway, and though Teddy knew he could simply walk right through Sirius if he wanted, he still felt trapped. “Your attachment to me.”
It was as if Sirius had broken through a layer of ice over a pond with a pickaxe, sending Teddy plunging into the icy depths. “Excuse me?” Teddy said. “I wasn’t the one who instigated—”
“I know. I feel horrible about what happened.”
“Well I don’t!” Teddy felt frantic, he felt like he needed to get away from this conversation. He needed Sirius to stop talking; putting words to the thing that was happening between them terrified Teddy, and he needed Sirius to stop. He couldn’t, would not stand here while another person rejected him.
“I should have been able to control myself better," said Sirius. "I shouldn’t have taken advantage of you like that.”
“You didn’t take advantage of me, I wanted it! I want you, Sirius.”
“That’s what frightens me.” This was, in Teddy’s opinion, absolute bullshit. Hadn’t Sirius been the one flirting with him since the day he’d shown up here? Hadn’t Sirius been the one constantly trying to make Teddy feel less alone? Hadn’t he been the one who was always hovering in the doorway not wanting Teddy to leave to run to the market?
“Don’t you want me?”
Sirius blanched. “Teddy. I’m dead. Don’t you understand?”
“Why should that mean we can’t…”
“Can’t what, Teddy? Be together? Have a family? Make love? I can’t do any of those things with you.”
“I don’t care about that stuff, I care about you!”
“And I’m so thankful for that, and I was thankful, though skeptical when you were working on a way to help me cross over, but I’m starting to think that’s not what you’re doing any longer. Is it, Teddy?”
Teddy played dumb. Sirius was right. Teddy knew it was sick, but the longer he stayed here, the longer he felt that perhaps he could stay here with Sirius, that Teddy might be happy here with Sirius indefinitely, if he’d have Teddy. He didn’t have anything to go home to anymore, not really: Harry didn’t trust him, James didn’t want him, would never want him in the way Teddy did, and he had no family other than his gran who he couldn’t even manage to have one honest conversation with these days. It wasn’t normal, and it wasn’t healthy, Teddy knew that rationally, but what in his life was? Sirius made him happy, Sirius wanted him. Teddy didn’t want to let that go. He knew he didn’t want Sirius to move on anymore. Teddy had been kidding himself for the last week, making no real effort to study anymore, the closer he got to Sirius. He told Sirius that he was still working on it, but he’d mostly just been thumbing guiltily through dense dark magic books while his mind wandered to an alternate universe where he and Sirius could actually be together. “What else would I be doing?”
“I don’t know. And that worries me.”
“Well there’s no need to be worried, because you don’t want to be with me.”
“That’s not what I said, for fuck’s sake Teddy I’m trying to protect you—”
“Will everyone stop trying to protect me? I’m a grown man. I can take care of myself!”
Sirius’s mouth snapped shut. “You’re right. But Teddy, what happened the other day cannot happen again, do you understand?”
“Why not?” Teddy’s voice sounded small even to him.
“Because I care about you too much. You deserve someone whole. Please, leave it. Let’s just have a nice Christmas together, and then you can go home to Harry’s and forget all about this.”
It was unfair, it was an outrage. How dare Sirius think he knew what was best for Teddy, when the only thing good for Teddy was Sirius himself? Nothing else made sense besides Sirius, he was the only thing Teddy wanted.
“Please. I need you.”
Sirius’s resolve seemed to break. He smiled ruefully. “It can’t happen again, Teddy. Let’s just have a nice holiday before you go home.”
Teddy had no intention of going home after Christmas, at least not without Sirius, but he knew Sirius would be angry if he said that, so he kept it to himself.
Christmas was fast approaching and Teddy was actually starting to feel a little festive. It didn’t hurt that everywhere he appeared in the house Sirius was singing God Rest Ye Merry Hippogriffs at full broadway projection. Teddy wondered how a ghost could produce so much lung support. Sirius’s bravado aside, Teddy had managed to conglomerate enough Warming Charms that the house didn’t feel as devastatingly cold as it had for the first few nights. No longer did Teddy wake up with his teeth chattering, even when Sirius was lurking around in the room taking the net temperature down a few degrees.
It was nice, if Teddy was honest with himself. He’d all but burned his bridge with the Potters lately—he couldn’t stomach the idea of going to the Burrow tonight for Christmas Eve dinner as usual. He’d owled a note to Andy this morning that he’d be visiting her instead for a nice quiet Christmas dinner, just the two of them, but she hadn’t responded. It wasn’t unusual, she often got caught up in a book and forgot to reply to silly things like that, so Teddy was intending to go anyway.
Teddy had picked up some eggnog and rum from the market that morning, and by late afternoon was sitting in the drawing room with Sirius, an old Gospel album of Christmas songs crooning fuzzily from the record player. Teddy had managed to get the tree decorated; he’d transfigured an old rope from the attic into fairy lights and an old set of Gobstones into baubles. There was garland on the mantle that Teddy’d charmed to look like it was covered in frost, and while he and Sirius had no need and no capability to get gifts for one another respectively, it was nice.
“You’d make a wonderful homemaker, Teddy,” Sirius joked. He, as opposed to Teddy, was obviously not drunk, but was smiling warmly as if he was.
“I’m starting to wonder if that’s the only thing I’d be good for.”
Sirius smiled sadly. “You’re going to make some lucky man or woman very happy one day.”
Teddy cringed inwardly at the phrase—minus the man part—that his gran used all the time, but coming from Sirius it was worse. Teddy didn’t want some man or woman, he wanted Sirius, and didn’t understand why he was being denied, when Sirius so obviously wanted him too.
“You don’t believe me?” Sirius continued. Teddy hadn’t realised he’d pulled a face.
At that moment, Teddy heard the fireplace downstairs, the one he’d connected to the Floo, burst into life, followed by pounding footsteps and the sound of Teddy’s godfather yelling Teddy’s name. There was panic in his voice.
Teddy jumped up and ran down, looking over his shoulder to make sure Sirius was staying put. He’d stood but motioned for Teddy to go.
Harry was searching on the ground floor when Teddy tumbled down the last few steps.
“Andromeda is at St Mungo's. Get your coat we’ve got to go.”
Teddy barely had time to struggle his arms into the sleeves of his light jacket before Harry grabbed his arm and Apparated them to the Mungo's lobby.
Harry ran down corridor after corridor, tugging Teddy along by the sleeve of his jacket and not looking behind him. Teddy didn’t speak, couldn’t, just jogged along after his godfather, feeling distinctly nauseated and like he was in a bad dream again. Everything was blurring as he followed swiftly behind his Harry, until finally they reached the ward and were stopped by a man in lime green robes outside a door.
“This is Mrs Tonks’s grandson, let us pass.”
“She’s in critical condition sir, we can’t allow visitors in at the moment.”
“Do you know who I am?”
“Head Auror or not, I’m the boss here. No visitors. Have a seat Mr Potter.”
“Harry, what’s going on?” Teddy finally asked.
“Sir, your grandmother collapsed earlier today and was brought to us. She has a rare blood curse. She’s in critical condition.”
“Well what are you doing to fix her? How long until she’s better?”
“Sir, there’s not much we can do. I’m afraid she’s got to fight the curse off herself and at her age—”
“I said what are you doing to fix her?” Teddy hadn’t thought to put his hat on before leaving Grimmauld, hadn’t had time, and he felt his hair shifting to vibrant red.
“We’re doing everything we can to give her the best chance of fighting this.”
The doctor gave Teddy what he assumed was meant to be a sympathetic smile, then nodded and walked off down the corridor and disappeared around a corner.
Teddy collapsed into a chair in the waiting area, suddenly exhausted.
“I’m sorry that was so abrupt. I just didn’t want you to—I mean if she didn’t—”
“I’m sorry, Teddy.” Harry sat down into the chair next to Teddy, looking as if the day had taken ten years from his life at least. His eyes were bloodshot, his hair doing the thing it did, sticking up at odd angles in the back, and his complexion was greyed. Harry wasn’t terribly older than Teddy himself, had got married and had children young, but Teddy realised belatedly that he was starting to look old. His skin crinkled around his eyes from laughing, and around his forehead from frowning, and his hair was greying at the temples. Mortality was something that Teddy fought hard to not think about, though he did frequently, and even sitting outside his gran’s hospital room, Teddy felt a kind of nondescript irrational dread for his godfather.
“How bad is it?” he finally asked.
Harry sighed and rubbed a hand over his tired eyes. “It’s not good.”
“Do they think she’ll—”
“They don’t know.”
Teddy took in this information quietly. He should have been more prepared. He’d known Andy was ill, had been avoiding her because of it, and yet he was still dumbfounded by the news that it might actually take her, his Gran, one of the few constants in his life. Teddy sat back in his chair, an uncomfortable seafoam and lavender upholstered thing with wooden arms, the kind of chair that subtly says to the sitter, Hey, we know you’d like to, but you can’t sleep here. Go home.
“What do we do now?”
Harry smiled sadly, looking at the floor. “We wait. We hope she wakes up so that we can say goodbye, just in case.”
“Just in case.” Teddy repeated.
They were quiet for a time, Teddy didn’t know how long. It could have been minutes, it could have been hours. There were no windows in this corridor, and Teddy felt like he was starting to go crazy. He had the silly thought that he wished Sirius was here—surely Sirius would have some sarcastic comment, some silly commentary to ground Teddy and make him feel like he wasn’t slowly dying as well. Surely Sirius Black wouldn’t let Teddy just sit here waiting for his Gran to die, would tell Teddy what to do. But then Teddy glanced over to Harry, his kind, caring godfather, and felt nauseated anew, the secret sitting heavily in his throat, wanting to get out.
“I’m sorry I sent you to Grimmauld Place, Teddy,” Harry said suddenly, as if he’d been reading Teddy’s mind, though Teddy knew he hadn’t.
“I get it.”
“No, it was a stupid idea. You know I’m trying my best, right?”
Harry looked genuinely disturbed, and Teddy wanted to reach out and comfort him. Part of him wanted to crawl into Harry’s lap and cling to his neck in the way that always seemed to cheer him up when Teddy was a little kid.
“It’s just so hard, caring for big kids. I know you’re not a kid anymore, neither are James and Albus, but you know what I mean. When you were small I could fix your problems. Heal your scraped knees, send Howlers to professors that treated you unfairly, get you every new toy for Christmas that you wanted so you didn’t feel left out.” Harry was crying now. Teddy had seen Harry cry a few times, and it always struck him how Harry could cry so openly, with such dignity. Tears rolled down his cheeks, but he was able to keep talking like nothing was happening.
“But your problems aren’t things I can fix now. They’re all internal. I don’t know how to help, and it’s killing me. I want you all to be happy so desperately, but I don’t know what to do.”
“You’re helping now,” Teddy said, and Harry turned to him. “By being here. You’re helping.”
“I want to fix her for you Teddy. You don’t deserve—” finally Harry got choked up, and Teddy broke, a sob tearing from him as he buried his head on Harry’s chest, crying into his shirt and clinging to him as if he were actually small again.
Much later, after Teddy felt wrung out and dehydrated and Harry’s shirt required a Drying Charm, the Healer turned the corner again.
“I’m sorry gentlemen, we’re closing for the night. You’ll have to come back in the morning.”
“But she hasn’t woken up yet!” Teddy stood, ready to duel or fight or—something.
“Have there been any changes?” Harry asked, a comforting but warning hand on his shoulder.
“I’m afraid not. We’ll owl you right away if anything happens.”
“But—” Teddy started.
“Please, this is her grandson. She raised him. I know you know this isn’t looking good. Can’t you give him five minutes with her?”
The Healer glanced over his shoulder at the door, then turned back to Harry and Teddy. “Five minutes. I’ll swing back after the rest of my rounds and you’d better be gone.”
“Thank you,” whispered Teddy. The Healer nodded and walked away down the corridor. Teddy wanted desperately to run into the room after waiting all evening, but his feet wouldn’t move.
“Go on, Ted.”
“Yes you can.”
“I can’t. I’m not like my mum and dad. I’m not brave, Harry I can’t do it.”
Harry pulled Teddy back into the warm embrace of his chest, combing through his hair with his fingers like he’d done when Teddy couldn’t sleep as a kid.
“You’re so much more like them than you know. Do you want me to come with you?”
Teddy lifted his head and sniffed. He wiped his eyes with the sleeve of his jacket and looked guiltily at Harry.
“You don’t have to be alone to be brave.”
“Thanks, but no. I—I should just go say—” Teddy’s mouth couldn’t form the word ‘goodbye’. “I should go say hi.”
“Okay. I’ll be right here.”
Teddy turned towards the door, half expecting the doorknob to burn him. When it didn’t, he took a deep breath that rattled through his sob-ravaged lungs and pulled it open.
It was a smaller ward with three beds on each side, but only one, the farthest on the right, was occupied. Teddy stood, frozen to the spot while the door swung shut behind him. Andromeda lay motionless on the white linens, looking especially grey-complected. There were no lights on in the room, but there were windows here, and the nearly-full moon illuminated the ward, washing everything in pale blue.
Teddy took a few tentative steps forward, until finally he was at her bedside. He crumpled into the chair next to the bed as a fresh wave of terrified sobs overtook him. He found Andy’s hand among the blankets, it was cold—they needed to put extra Warming Charms on the ward, those stupid fucking Healers didn’t they know Andy liked it warm?—and he hunched over the bed to press his forehead to her hand.
“I’m not ready to be alone,” he cried quietly into the silent night.
Teddy peeked up at her, her wiry grey hair a mess on the pillow, and Teddy wanted to comb it for her. If she only knew she was in public, had visitors, and no one had combed her hair, she’d be furious. Teddy smiled despite himself. His lovely Gran, the kindest person he’d ever met. The only person that had ever felt like home—but that wasn’t entirely true. Teddy was struck by the memory of the feeling of James’s bed, the smell of his pillows when Teddy had to bunk with him because one of the countless Weasleys had come to visit, how they’d stay up into the early hours of the morning whispering about everything. Teddy loved his godfather with all his heart but Harry had never felt like home, but James, his best friend since he could remember, James had. Teddy felt a sudden need to tell Andy everything.
“Gran?” Teddy cleared his throat and tried again. “Happy Christmas, Gran. It’s me.” His voice was shaking, but if anyone was allowed to see Teddy cry it was her. “I just wanted to say hi, but I thought maybe I could tell you something.”
Teddy looked up, hoping desperately for some kind of sign that she had heard, a twitch of a finger, a flutter of an eyelid, but nothing came. Teddy trod on.
“I like guys.” Teddy’s hair went bright pink, but it didn’t matter. “I just wanted you to know, in case. Didn’t want it to be a surprise if you—if you can still see me from wherever it is you’re going. I don’t know how the afterlife works exactly, I’ve been studying it a lot lately, but I don’t know.”
Teddy swallowed all the shame in his throat thickly. He wondered for the hundred thousandth time if the dead could actually watch over their loved ones. When Teddy was little, Andy had always told him that his mum and dad went everywhere with him, that they watched out for him everyday, he just couldn’t see them. As Teddy grew older, he never shook this childish belief entirely like most kids would, though it felt more like an anvil on his chest than a comfort. He’d always been so worried about what they’d think about everything he did, felt it pressing on every decision, every action, every thought. He’d been trying to live up to them with every breath he took for the last twenty-three years.
“I don’t want you to go. But I hope, if you do, you’ll watch over me. I know you’d love to see mum and Grandpa again. I hope—”
The door opened behind Teddy and his head whipped around. Backlit by the fluorescent hallway lights was James. He stood in the doorway not coming in any further.
“Dad says it’s time to go. I just got here. Wanted to see how you were.”
For a moment Teddy forgot that the last time he’d seen James they’d had a massive row and wanted to run to him, to touch him somehow, because surely, if anyone, James could make this better. Teddy knew in his bones that if he could just touch James, everything wouldn’t be so fucking terrible. But Teddy had ruined their friendship like he ruined everything. He’d told James to fuck off, and now the distance between them, only a few metres in actuality, felt like the largest impassible ocean. He wondered why James had even come but didn’t ask.
Teddy stood from Andromeda’s bedside and pressed a kiss to her forehead. He didn’t think he could ever say everything he needed to say to her, but he’d said enough, and he turned towards the door.
James looked distraught, and awkward. He’d never been great at dealing with people when they were sad. He’d bite his nails and look on helplessly any time Teddy was upset or overwhelmed and try to lighten the mood, sometimes inappropriately. That was just how he was. Teddy’s entire body ached looking at him now, though, their last conversation buzzing in his head. Guilt, anger, frustration, and longing sat pooled in Teddy’s stomach, and if he opened his mouth he imagined he’d vomit them all out down the front of James’s sweatshirt. The only thing he could do was push past him into the stale air of the corridor.
Teddy had caught the look on James’s face as he pushed him aside, try as he did to avert his eyes, and Teddy felt sick. His capacity to hurt seemed infinite.
Harry stood from the uncomfortable chair, back cracking audibly. James stayed behind Teddy.
“Let’s go home, boys,” Harry said.
For a second, Teddy wasn’t sure where he meant. “I’m going home to Grimmauld.”
James butt in then. “What? No, you’re coming with us Teddy, don’t be stupid.”
“James is right, you belong at home right now. I’m sorry I sent you away but—”
“Your house isn’t my home, Harry. I’m not actually your son, you know.” Teddy didn’t know why he said it, only knew that he was tired, and overwhelmed, and angry.
“But it’s Christmas,” Harry finished, shellshocked.
“I’m sorry. I just. Want to be alone right now.” It was a lie; Teddy wanted to be with Sirius. Wanted to tell him everything that happened, wanted to lie with him and forget that anything had happened. He wanted to disappear, wanted to stop existing in the world and only exist with him.
Harry nodded. “That makes sense. Okay, sure. Whatever you need to do.”
“That’s bollocks—Teddy can’t go back—”
“I said it’s fine, James. Let’s go.”
Harry gave Teddy an awkward clap on the shoulder before motioning for James to follow him down the corridor.
Teddy trod back down to the visitor Floos in the ground floor lobby, taking a pinch and stepping inside. “Number Twelve Grimmauld Place.”
When Teddy stepped out of the fireplace in the entranceway, Sirius was there waiting for him, looking nervous. It may have been that it was a long day, it may have been that Teddy was especially emotionally fragile, it may have been the realisation that Harry’s family no longer felt like Teddy’s home, but for whatever reason, the sight of the pearlescent concerned man made Teddy’s heart overflow with affection. He nearly collapsed off the hearth towards Sirius.
“I’ve never been so glad to see someone in my life,” he said earnestly.
Teddy expected some kind of joke from Sirius making fun of his honesty. Instead, he said, “You look wrecked. Let’s go to bed.”
Teddy followed Sirius to the guest room, shed his jacked and his jeans and pulled on pyjamas without any shyness. Teddy felt the pull of sleep overtaking him, and he crawled under the duvet quickly.
“Stay with me 'till I fall asleep?” Teddy asked, feeling especially vulnerable and expecting another jibe from the ghost.
Sirius hovered on top of the duvet next to Teddy, eyes wide and watchful. Teddy remembered blinking and was asleep with the next breath.
Teddy jerked awake to an empty room. The multiple Warming Charms Teddy’d set up were working overtime, but the room felt imperceptibly cooler than it should as Teddy lay under the duvet.
“Sirius, are you here?” Teddy looked around the dark room and didn’t see anything, but he was starting to be able to identify the feeling of Sirius’s presence, even when he was invisible, like the embrace of a chilly evening when you step outside from a hot room, like diving into a heated pool naked on a summer’s night.
“Yes,” echoed a soft disembodied voice that sounded to Teddy like it was coming from nowhere and everywhere.
“Watching me sleep again, you perv?”
“Only doing as you asked.”
“It’s a bit warm in here, innit?”
“Take some layers off then.”
Teddy’s face heated, but then he felt a chilly sensation on is cheek like an ice cube or cold hands. As soon as he registered it, it was gone again.
“Show yourself,” Teddy said into the dark room, palms already sweating. He felt silly, talking to no one, but he wasn’t, not really.
“Is this payback?”
Teddy kicked the duvet off, feeling a bit like he was in freefall. He reached down to push at his pyjama bottoms and slowly kicked them off his feet, leaving him in only tight pants and a t-shirt. He felt dizzy with want, and didn’t not notice the interest his cock had taken in the proceedings.
“More,” came the voice, and it sounded closer, though if Teddy’s life depended on it, he still couldn’t point out one specific direction from which it came.
“Not fair,” Teddy whined, though he started to lift his t-shirt when he had an idea. It was odd, but this whole situation was odd, so Teddy focused his attention for a moment on his own hair, shifting it to a mousy honey brown, letting his shirt fall back around his midriff and looking up shyly at the ceiling.
“Why’ve you done that?” came Sirius’s response.
“I thought, perhaps you’d like it if I looked a little more like your Remus.” Teddy was proud of his idea and he smiled.
“No, change it back. I want you to look like you.”
Teddy flushed and in his lapse of concentration his hair shifted back to its usual turquoise blue.
“Much better. You’re gorgeous, Teddy.”
“You’ve barely seen me—”
“So show me.”
Teddy’s hands were shaking as he lifted his hips off the bed to push down his pants, allowing his cock to spring free of the fabric and slap his stomach. He then sat up briefly to shed his t-shirt and throw it into a forgotten corner of the room before laying back, feeling entirely exposed.
“Beautiful. So pretty for me, Teddy.”
Teddy didn’t know how to reply to that.
“Such a pretty cock, Teddy. The irony that you could make yourself look however you wanted and nature made you look like that. Unfair really. Touch your pretty cock for me.”
And Teddy complied, even while the flush spread from his face down his chest. At the first brush of his knuckles to his heated flesh, Teddy’s entire body broke out in goosebumps.
Teddy didn’t know where to look as he stroked himself slowly, so his gaze landed on the cobwebby ceiling. He imagined Sirius looking down on him from there, what his view of Teddy, spread open naked and flushed and panting in the middle of the bed would look like, and Teddy felt almost overwhelmed enough to pass out.
“Merlin, you’re amazing, Ted, don’t stop.”
“Okay,” Teddy answered, but it was meaningless, Teddy couldn’t stop fucking his fist at this point if he tried. He felt both hot and cold all over, head swimming in sensation. He wanted so badly to see Sirius, to see him touching himself, wrecked and desperate for Teddy, but the feeling of not seeing him was overwhelming, felt like he was everywhere in the room at once, surrounding Teddy, encompassing him.
Teddy quickened his movements and reached his other hand down to gently tug on his balls and he whimpered, not caring if Sirius heard it.
“Fuck, just like that.” Sirius did sound wrecked, strung out, and Teddy imagined him on the bed next to him chasing his own orgasm as he watched Teddy’s fist working over his cock.
“Not gonna last,” Teddy choked out. He could feel himself approaching the precipice, feel his body preparing to tumble over. “Touch me.”
“You know I—”
“I know. Please, touch me,” Teddy whined again.
And then in quick sequence, there was the icy, tingling feeling of frigid water or menthol on his chest, like when his gran had put Vicks on him when he was sick, and Teddy hissed when it glided over his left nipple. It travelled up the side of Teddy’s neck to his face, first chilling his cheek and then more softly on his lips, and Teddy whimpered and formed his lips into the shape of a chaste kiss, and then the sensation trailed back down his throat, down his chest over his other nipple and wrapped around his own fist that was blurring over his leaking cock. In one moment Teddy pulled his hand away and the tingling swallowed his cock and Teddy finally tumbled over, head flying off the pillow with the force of it like he’d been punched in the stomach, his cock pulsing, release shooting all over himself as he thrashed, pushing his hips up, chasing just a little bit more of that feeling until his entire body felt empty.
Teddy flopped back onto the pillow and looked up at the ceiling, feeling suddenly shy and too exposed again.
“I want to be with you,” he whispered quietly, even though it felt like a silly thing to say.
“I’m dead, Teddy,” Sirius’s voice replied.
“What if I were dead, too?”
Sirius became visible again with a pop on the bed next to Teddy, and he jumped. Sirius sat up straight and looked down at Teddy, who was shocked to see the man so angry.
“Do not ever say that again. Do you hear me?”
And it was like Teddy was being scolded by his gran again. It was just so unfair. Things just worked out for other people but not for Teddy, never for Teddy. His parents died and his gran is dying and his best friend didn’t want to talk to him and his godfather sent him away and the only person who made Teddy feel okay was dead. Sirius didn’t understand; it would be better. Angry tears were welling in his eyes, and Teddy was not in the habit of letting anyone see him cry while sober, not even Sirius. He turned over to face the ceiling and try to blink them away.
“Then I’ll figure out a way to get you out of here.”
“What do you mean, untie me? I sort of figured you’d reached a dead end.”
“Yes.” But that was indeed not what Teddy meant at all. He was practically an Auror; Teddy knew all about dark magic. Were there ways to untether Sirius Black’s soul from Number Twelve Grimmauld Place to reach the afterlife, or to travel freely in the human world? Perhaps. But that wasn’t what Teddy wanted, not really. He’d thumbed through almost all of the books in the Black library at this point and the threads of a new idea had been tickling at the back of his brain. It had started as a bit of morbid curiosity, but had grown quickly out of control. It was dangerous, dark, evil even, and he’d kept it buried deep in his mind for days not intending to act on it, but if Teddy was honest with himself, there was only one thing he desired. In that moment, Teddy decided with finality that the two of them would indeed be leaving Grimmauld Place, but they’d both be leaving, alive and human, one way or another.
When Teddy looked over, Sirius had gone invisible again. Lately whenever Teddy had mentioned the idea of releasing Sirius to the afterlife, the ghost had seemed a bit put out, and Teddy figured this was no exception.
“Merry Christmas, Teddy,” Sirius’s voice replied, but it sounded further away now, and the next moment the room felt perceptibly warmer, and imperceptibly more empty.
When Teddy awoke, the room was still empty. When he went into the drawing room however, Sirius was hovering by the window, looking out on a little barn owl Teddy recognised as Harry’s. Teddy’s stomach sank through the floor as he rushed to the window and tore the letter from the owl, not even shutting the window against the frigid wind before tearing the envelope open.
Andy passed early this morning. I’m sorry we didn’t have enough warning to get you there in time. I’m so sorry, Teddy. We love you. Please come by today.
The piece of parchment felt like a thousand-pound brick of lead in Teddy’s hands, but he fought not to drop it.
“Teddy?” Sirius tried softly.
“I’m doing the spell today.”
“What? What spell? Teddy, don’t you want to talk about your Grandmother—”
“I’m doing the spell today, Sirius!”
“Alright.” Sirius looked hurt, and Teddy felt hot guilt colour his hair, but it didn’t matter. Sirius still thought Teddy was working on a spell to release him from his ghostly binds into the afterlife, but soon he’d see that Teddy was doing this for him, for them.
Teddy brushed past him, feeling an icy tingle where their shoulders had met. “I’ll be in the kitchen, don’t come down,” he called over his shoulder, the note fluttering to the floor.
“Teddy—” but Teddy didn’t hear what Sirius said after that over the pounding of his feet down the stairs.
The large caldron was sat in the middle of the kitchen table bubbling. Teddy had run upstairs a few times to grab all the books he’d notated and they were spread open haphazardly around the cauldron. Sirius had either made himself invisible or was staying out of Teddy’s way, because he hadn’t seen him upstairs at all.
Teddy could hear the wind howling outside even from the basement. It was snowing hard now. At this very moment, Harry and Ginny and James and Albus and Lily would all be crammed into the family room tearing through presents next to a warm fireplace, all their extended family waiting for them at the Burrow. They had a family. And frankly, Teddy was sick with envy, but he was done envying them. He was going to make his own family right now in this basement if it killed him.
The spell Teddy had worked out was complete guesswork; to his knowledge, nothing like this had ever been done before. He rushed around between cupboards, searching for what he needed. Luckily the Black family seemed keen on dark potion brewing, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that everything he needed was waiting for him on the shelves. Mostly everything.
“Unicorn blood, aged longer than the dead,” Teddy read, holding the copy of The Nightshade Guide to Necromancy aloft over the cauldron. He plucked the dusty silver bottle from the counter where he spread out his materials, assuming that it had indeed been sitting here since before Sirius Black had died twenty-five years ago, and poured it into the steaming cauldron. It hissed, and violet light burst from inside before quickly fading.
It wasn’t necromancy per say. Teddy was not reanimating Sirius Black’s corpse, as there was no corpse to reanimate. It was an amalgamate of many spells that Teddy had read about in the dark magic spell books on display in the Black library. It was in fact, more similar to the way a horcrux may become solid, like Harry had told him Voldemort had done once.
“A piece of the deceased, heretofore left untouched,” Teddy recited. This ingredient had been harder to come by, but not impossible. On the jumpers Teddy’s father had left in the drawers upstairs, he’d found a few of Sirius’s long black hairs still clinging to the wool. Now, Teddy grabbed the jumper, and, careful not to touch, plucked the black hair with his potions tools and dropped them into the now angry cauldron. The hairs burst into flame as soon as they touched the churning liquid, and a putrid black smoke rose up above them. In the smoke, Teddy could see the shape of Sirius’s face with no emotion on it.
It was working. Teddy was shaking with nerves and excitement. How happy Sirius would be when he realised what Teddy had done? He felt high, higher than the times he’d gone out to the Muggle London gay clubs by himself looking to get fucked or high or both with anyone willing and old enough to make him forget James for the night.
“The life-force of youth, now willingly shed.” Teddy reached for the knife he’d set out from the butcher’s block. He whispered a quick Cleaning Spell, as if it would really matter, held his arm out over the stormy cauldron, and sliced his palm without hesitation.
The pain blossomed quickly and clouded Teddy’s eyes, but he made sure to hold his hand over the cauldron. He could feel the steam, feel the potion sputtering and spitting, burning his arm even as it felt ice cold. Teddy glanced up and pried his gushing fist open, could see bones in his hand moving, and vomited on the floor.
He coughed and gagged, still holding his hand over the cauldron, which was now glowing bright green, projecting unidentifiable shapes onto the dirty smoke-stained ceiling.
He was lightheaded, from excitement or bloodloss he didn’t know, but he clutched the edge of the table with his good hand to stay upright as he watched the cauldron churn violently, watched something silver and wispy fly out of the steam and up the stairs, watched the bubbling die down into a resentful simmer.
Teddy fell to his knees, clutching his hand to his chest. He Accio’d his wand from the table, the first thing he’d learned in Auror training, and attempted to heal the wound.
The Healing Spell didn’t seem to be working, so Teddy leaned up to rummage on the counter for the Dittany he’d seen. He grasped it and uncorked it with his teeth, dumping the entire vial into his palm. It seared like the licking of a fire, but when Teddy pried his eyes open, this too had done nothing to heal the wound.
Teddy staggered to his feet and wrenched open every drawer in the kitchen until he found a dishrag, which he tore into a bandage and wrapped carefully around his palm. The white cloth instantly bloomed with red, and Teddy grabbed another, darker cloth to wrap around that one.
The bleeding didn’t seem to be stopping, and Teddy was feeling especially light headed, though he supposed losing some of his life force was, in fact, the trade off. And he wasn’t losing it, not really, he was sharing it with Sirius. The spell had worked.
Teddy ran for the stairs, knocking things off the counter recklessly as he went. He took them two at a time. He felt wild, alive, like nothing could hurt him ever again. He’d done what he’d always felt too paralysed to do: he’d saved someone.
“Sirius! Sirius come out! I’ve done it!” Teddy shouted from the entranceway. Sirius didn’t appear, so Teddy took the stairs up to the drawing room. “Sirius!”
In the drawing room by the fire, Sirius Black stood. He didn’t hover—he stood, on the ground. There was colour to his face, and Teddy was shocked to not see the outline of the furniture behind him through his form. Sirius was looking down at his hands, tanned and solid with a look of concern furrowing his brows.
“Teddy, what have you done?” he asked.
Teddy all but jogged to stand in front of him, too overwhelmed to touch him just yet. “Does it matter? Kiss me.”
Sirius looked up from his solid hands to Teddy’s maniacal grin, conflict evident in the crease of his forehead. And then it was gone, and arms were wrapped around Teddy and lips were crushing desperately against his own, and Teddy could cry.
Sirius tasted like a hurricane, and Teddy clung to his shirt with both fists. Two hands held Teddy’s face as Sirius licked into his mouth. The hands were cold on Teddy’s flushed cheeks, but it didn’t matter. Sirius was solid and he was here and he was kissing Teddy and backing him up against the wall, pushing a solid thigh between Teddy’s legs and Teddy did cry out then.
Sirius moved down to Teddy’s neck, licking and sucking at his pulse and Teddy dug his fingers into the dark hair with his good hand, breathing in the smell of him—dust and dirt and musk, and it went straight to Teddy’s cock.
“Touch me,” Teddy whispered, and this time Sirius didn’t have any complaints. Instead he grabbed Teddy’s hips and pulled them to his own, firm and solid and whole, until Teddy felt Sirius’s cock press against his. Sirius whimpered and it was so near Teddy’s ear, he thought he might come just from that. And then Sirius broke away from his neck and dropped to his knees, and Teddy did almost come.
Sirius worked Teddy’s belt off and got his jeans open enough to pull his cock out and didn’t hesitate for a second before taking it in his gorgeous mouth and swallowing the whole thing down. Teddy choked out a sob, and his head thunked against the wall behind him.
It had been a long time since Teddy had been touched by anyone, but he was certain that was not why he was so overwhelmed by Sirius’s mouth. Sirius seemed to be an expert at sucking cock, taking it all the way down each time, hollowing his cheeks to get the perfect suction, running his tongue along the underside, looking up at Teddy through long, dark eyelashes like there was nothing else in the universe he preferred doing.
“Fuck,” Teddy whimpered. He buried his hands in Sirius’s hair as he bobbed, only then remembering that his left hand was still wrapped in bloody dishcloths and still hurt like a motherfucker, but that didn’t matter when he had Sirius’s mouth moving like that on his cock.
It was beautiful, the kind of feeling Teddy wished someone would bottle and sell in stores, but it wasn’t enough. Teddy wanted more, wanted everything Sirius could give him.
“More,” Teddy whimpered, and without any other inclination that Sirius had heard him, Teddy felt a finger run through the spit dripping down his balls and press against his hole.
“Fuck, yes,” he groaned, and then the finger broke past the tight ring of muscles and entered Teddy fully. He gasped, clutching Sirius’s hair more tightly as he continued to lavish Teddy’s cock with attention. Sirius stretched Teddy with his index finger, working it in and out in time with his mouth and Teddy couldn’t believe the sensation, thought perhaps it might actually kill him, and then Sirius brushed his prostate and Teddy ceased thinking at all.
“Turn around,” Sirius said, Teddy’s cock dropping from his swollen pink lips obscenely. Teddy complied, unraveling his hands from Sirius’s hair and facing the wall. From the floor, Sirius tugged Teddy’s jeans and pants down his legs where they’d been cutting into his thighs and nudged Teddy to step out of them. Then without much warning, Teddy felt a wet tongue lap at his hole, Sirius’s palms prying his arse cheeks open. His knees buckled and he almost collapsed, but Sirius kept him upright, moaning against Teddy’s hole and Teddy could feel the vibration of it in his spine.
“Merlin’s fucking tits, Sirius.”
Sirius continued to lap at Teddy’s puckered skin, long flat licks and then circling with the tip, and Teddy pushed his arse shamelessly back against Sirius’s face, looking for more of anything. “Please,” he whined, but he couldn’t be more specific if his life depended on it, he just needed more.
“I was right, you do taste amazing.” Sirius pulled back and replaced his tongue with two fingers pushing into Teddy, immediately finding his prostate and Teddy cried out, the burn so good as Sirius thrust his fingers in and out of him at a blistering pace.
“Fuck me, now,” Teddy whined. Sirius removed his fingers and Teddy whimpered at the loss.
Sirius stood and tugged his own shirt over his head. Teddy reached out with his good hand to trace the tattoos on Sirius’s firm chest as Sirius fought his own trousers open and off. Teddy was so overwhelmed at the sight of Sirius fully naked, tanned, calloused, and muscled, and Teddy’s mouth ached to lick every inch of him. He’d completely forgotten he still had his shirt on until Sirius tugged on it, pulling Teddy flush against his chest. Their cocks brushed together again and they both groaned.
“Fetch me your wand, would you?” Sirius asked, licking the shell of Teddy’s ear. Teddy hadn’t realised he’d left it in the basement until now. He Accio’d it wordlessly to him, and in seconds it was hurtling through the door into Teddy’s good hand.
Sirius took it between his teeth, something that shouldn’t be nearly as sexy as it was, and guided Teddy to kneel next to the sofa and brace his hands on it. Sirius knelt behind him, tugging his hips into position, then took Teddy’s wand and whispered a spell Teddy didn’t hear that made Teddy’s insides shiver and tingle.
Then before Teddy had prepared, Sirius’s big cock was pressing against his hole, pushing against the resistance and entering Teddy to the hilt. Teddy gasped, and Sirius groaned, holding still flush against Teddy’s back for a moment.
“You feel so good, Teddy.”
“Fuck me,” Teddy whined again, and Sirius chuckled before pulling all the way out and slamming back in.
Teddy really did have to brace himself against Sirius’s powerful thrusts, hips slapping against Teddy’s arse wetly each time. All Teddy could do was clutch onto the back of the sofa and let Sirius take possession of his body in any way he wanted. Teddy moaned each time Sirius’s cock brushed his prostate and Teddy felt so full he could practically feel Sirius’s cock in his throat.
And then Sirius’s hand moved from where it was surely digging bruises into Teddy’s hip around to fist his throbbing, heavy cock in time with his thrusts, and Teddy’s bones turned to jello.
Teddy felt lightheaded, his vision clouding with stars around the edges as Sirius continued fucking into him. “Wanna lie down, wanna see you,” he moaned, and Sirius pulled out obediently, turning Teddy around and guiding him to lie on his back on the floor. Sirius crawled over him, catching his breath, and pushed Teddy’s t-shirt up to press wet kisses all over his chest. Teddy wrapped his legs around Sirius’s waist and tried to lift his hips to Sirius’s cock impatiently.
“So good, Teddy, so good for me,” Sirius whispered before biting down on Teddy’s nipple. He arched up into Sirius’s mouth, and in the same movement Sirius grabbed Teddy’s thighs and thrust back into him.
Teddy felt desperate, dizzy, like he’d either come or pass out in the next two seconds if Sirius kept fucking him like this, holding his hips up and pounding into him with broken groans. Teddy grabbed his own leaking cock in one hand and reached out to touch Sirius’s glistening chest with the other.
Sirius glanced down at Teddy’s wrapped hand on his chest and frowned, his hips stilling. He grabbed Teddy’s hand to look at it before Teddy could pull it away. “What is this?” He said coldly. There was a bloody smear on Sirius’s chest where the sopping dishcloth had been.
“Later. Fuck me,” Teddy whined, lifting his hips again.
“Teddy, what did you do?” Sirius said, panic evident.
“I did it for us! Sirius, please, I’m fine. Please, I need you,” Teddy touched Sirius’s face with his good hand and pulled him down into a blistering kiss.
Sirius pushed back into Teddy with desperate thrusts, huffing into Teddy’s ear as he bent Teddy’s legs up over his shoulders.
Sirius held Teddy’s hips in one hand and pumped his cock with the other, long deep thrusts rubbing every wall inside Teddy hypnotically. His eyes were rolling into the back of his head, but he fought to keep them open to watch Sirius fucking him. Sirius’s eyes were dark with lust, sweat dripping from his brow.
“So fucking good, Teddy,” Sirius babbled, hand flying over Teddy’s cock.
Teddy felt so much all at once, Sirius’s full cock stretching his hole and rubbing his insides, his sharp hips snapping against Teddy’s arse and thighs, his calloused thumb swiping over the head of his cock on each upstroke. Teddy felt like he was drowning, just like Sirius had said, couldn’t get enough air no matter how hard he gasped.
“Gonna come,” Teddy whimpered. “Fuck.” And then Teddy’s vision blacked out entirely. Hot electricity pulsed through his whole body and he shook with it, cock pulsing in Sirius’s fist, come covering his hand and shooting up Teddy’s stomach.
“Merlin, Teddy,” Sirius groaned hand still wrapped around Teddy’s twitching cock. He pushed into Teddy once more and then stilled inside of him, filling Teddy with his release with a choked moan.
Teddy was coming down from his orgasm, but he didn’t feel right. His vision wasn’t coming back, and he still felt lightheaded and dizzy. He turned his head to look at his wrapped hand and saw it lying in a large puddle of blood, the bandages having fallen off. Teddy tried to lift his head to Sirius but couldn’t. When he heard him shout, it sounded muffled, far away.
“Teddy? Teddy? What’s happening?” Sirius grabbed hold of Teddy’s jaw and turned him up to face him. There was blood, Teddy’s blood, all over him, but Teddy frowned—that couldn’t be right—Teddy could ever-so-faintly see the outline of the mantle behind Sirius—through Sirius.
This was the part Teddy was afraid of. The spell, it wasn’t permanent. It needed more life-force to keep Sirius corporeal. “It needs more blood,” Teddy tried to say, but it sounded mumbled. He shoved at Sirius to get off him, smearing more blood across his chest.
“Teddy, what’s going on?”
“The potion—gotta get to the basement,” Teddy continued, trying to struggle to his feet. He almost made it, pushing himself up on the couch, but then his knees buckled and he crashed to the floor.
“What’s happening? Can you hear me? Teddy!” Sirius was shouting, kneeling over him, touching his face, checking his pulse, but Teddy couldn’t feel it, only felt cold.
“Can you hear me? Teddy, please.”
Just before Teddy’s eyes slipped shut, he saw Sirius turn, reach behind him, and find Teddy’s wand on the floor. He saw Sirius look at the wand in his hand for a beat before turning towards the door and casting a spell Teddy couldn’t hear. The shape of a huge, silvery dog burst from Teddy’s wand and ran at full speed out the door. Teddy saw his wand clatter to the floor, and then saw nothing.
Teddy nodded back into consciousness when there was commotion somewhere near him. He couldn’t focus his eyes or turn his head completely, but he heard footsteps and yelling coming closer. The door to the drawing room flew open and Teddy could make out the outline of Harry and then seconds later, James.
“Teddy!” He heard James cry, saw him pushing past his father to kneel next to him. Harry was frozen in the doorway, looking at something behind Teddy.
“Dad, come on, help me!” James shouted over his shoulder. There was panic in his voice and even semiconscious Teddy felt guilty. There was a rustling of wind and then the room felt perceptibly warmer.
“James, did you see…?”
“Right. James, get back!” And then Harry was leaning over him and shouting at James to find Teddy’s clothes and wand and meet them at Mungo's. Harry hoisted Teddy into his arms with difficulty and Teddy’s head lolled on his shoulders.
He felt the sickening twist of Apparition, and then there was a lot more shouting.
“I need help! Dark magic, necromancy maybe, I’m not sure but he’s lost a lot of blood!”
People were suddenly running places and when Teddy pried his eyes open again he saw the same Healer from his gran—was that only last night? And then he was being laid down on something hard and the only other thing he registered for a while was tens of different people’s magic tingling across his skin and through his body.
Harry was first to come in, looking older than Teddy had ever seen him.
Teddy had blinked his eyes open to see him, standing in the doorway like he’d been there waiting for hours.
When he saw that Teddy was awake, he came into the room and sat down heavily in the chair next to Teddy’s bed. He didn’t say anything, but leaned forward to rest his head on his hands.
Teddy readied himself for a lashing, the kind that James or Albus got when they’d done something reckless or dangerous, but it didn’t come. Harry sighed and ran his hands through his hair.
“What the hell were you thinking, Ted?”
Teddy kept his mouth shut for a moment, then, “You saw him, didn’t you?”
“Well there’s your answer.”
Harry laughed then, sounding sleep deprived and more than a little stressed.
“Necromancy wouldn’t have been my first choice even so—”
“I’m in love with him.”
Harry looked serious then. “No you’re not.”
“Yes I am!”
Harry shut his eyes heavily. “You’re not in love with him. You were lonely and depressed and I pushed you there. You were vulnerable.”
“He loves me, too.”
“No he doesn’t.”
Teddy was done with the conversation. He turned his head resolutely back front and fully intended to not respond to anything else Harry had to say.
“He thinks he does. I’m sure he does, in a way, but not the way you think he does.”
Teddy wanted to ask what in the hell that was supposed to mean but kept quiet.
“He was so in love with your father—” and that was crossing the line.
“How dare you! You think he only cares about me because I look like my dad or something? That’s fucking sick, Harry!”
“I didn’t say that. He’s confused. Teddy, you remind everyone so much of Remus. And he’s been so lonely there for twenty-five years with no one to keep him company besides the memory of him.”
“So you’re saying I can’t be with him then, right?”
“No, you can’t. He’s dead, Teddy.”
“I know that—”
What a dumb question to ask. Of course Teddy knew Sirius was dead, that was the whole point of everything he’d been working on, to make him un-dead.
“He told me—”
“You went to see him?”
“Last night, after they reassured me that you hadn’t killed yourself. He told me you’d been working on figuring out a way to release him, that that was how you got into all those dark magic books.”
“Is he alright?”
“He’s dead as ever, Teddy. Did you really think your spell could make him human for more than a couple hours? Death doesn’t work like that, Teddy. Even with magic.”
Teddy bit his lip to keep from crying, but his traitorous hair shifted to a greyed cornflower blue, the same colour as Sirius’s eyes.
“Anyway, I think I might be able to help with that. Releasing him I mean. But I’d need your help.”
“You don’t want to keep him around?”
“Teddy, I loved Sirius very much, but he’s dead. He doesn’t belong here. Keeping him here any longer can only hurt all of us.”
Teddy stayed silent, waiting for Harry to leave so he could cry.
“I’m not upset with you, you know. Fuck, Ted, I thought you were going to die. I thought—I don’t know what I thought, I just saw Sirius’s Patronus and knew that somehow it must’ve come from Grimmauld, and then we got there and—and you looked dead.”
“You’re not. Fine people don’t try to reanimate the dead because they’re lonely.”
“Teddy, I’m an orphan too, you know. I remember. It wasn’t loneliness, you’re right, because loneliness requires something to compare it to. It’s longing, it’s envy. Those feelings can turn anyone into a monster.”
“You’re saying I’m a monster?”
“No. I’m saying that you were delt a shite hand and you were doing the best you could. You felt like you didn’t have anyone left. You felt like the people you loved would all be taken from you one by one forever. You felt like you weren’t good enough, and that somehow, that was why they were taken.”
Teddy was crying, and he tried to wipe the tears from his cheeks with the back of his hand, which he now saw was wrapped in thick bandages.
“I know exactly how you feel, Teddy. That’s why I’ve tried so hard for your whole life to make things a little easier for you. I never wanted you to feel like that. I thought you knew that you had a family.”
“I love you, Harry, but I’m not really your son.”
“And I wasn’t Molly and Arthur’s. I was just some straggler that their son brought home and they treated me like family because I needed them to.”
“But you fell in love with their daughter. You’re actually part of their family now, it’s different.”
Teddy was confused, but Harry rolled his eyes. “There’s someone that wants to see you very badly. I told him to wait until you were awake but he’s been busting at the seems in the waiting room all night.”
Harry stood then, placing a warm hand on Teddy’s arm, and then turned to leave.
“You’re family, no matter what, Teddy. You always will be.”
Teddy had a few moments of silence to contemplate what Harry had just told him before the door nearly swung off its hinges.
“What the absolute fuck were you thinking?”
James barrelled into the room, breaking the silence as surely as glass breaks when your fist hits it, as if he’d just managed to break past his father for the first time since their hobbled caravan had made it to the hospital. James’s eyes were ringed with red, like he’d been crying or hadn’t slept or both.
“No!” He pointed his finger right in Teddy’s face. “Not until you tell me what the fuck you think you were doing? You fucking idiot, you could have died, you were almost dead, Teddy I thought you were fucking dead you fucking prick!”
“Leave it, James.”
And then James was jumping on top of him like when they were smaller and wrestling in the Potters’ back yard, back when Teddy was bigger and stronger than James. Now, though still a head shorter, James was much stronger. “I’m not leaving until you tell me why the fuck you thought you could hole yourself up in Grimmauld Place doing necromancy experiments and trying to get yourself killed!”
James had Teddy’s bandaged arms pinned to the bed. Teddy knew, even if he was in top shape, he wouldn’t be able to throw James off. He was practically a professional athlete these days, and he could, objectively, snap Teddy’s wrists if he were so inclined. James, literally and emotionally, had Teddy pinned, had for the past few years. Teddy had been so infatuated with him that he hadn’t pursued anyone else, ever, until Harry’s discovery had taken James out of the equation for Teddy at the beginning of winter. And then he’d gone to Grimmauld Place, absolutely broken, like Harry had said, and found comfort in the ghost of a man he’d never even known, a man who was kind and shined bright, like James, but would never truly be an option, a man who reminded Teddy of his family, a man who made Teddy feel like family. Teddy thought then that perhaps Harry was right: Sirius was a distraction—a witty, handsome, necessary bandage on the shattered glass of Teddy’s heart.
“I’m not straight, okay?”
Teddy shook himself and tried to refocus. He wanted to tell James everything then, but didn’t know the right words. “I’m not straight, and I was fucking in love with you. It was killing me. Your dad suggested I take a break, get away for a while to get over you. And I found Sirius. And he was so much like you and so much not like you and I fell for him so fast.”
James looked confused, and Teddy braced himself for the revulsion soon to come.
“I just wanted it to be real so badly. I didn’t care how.”
“So… you love him, then? The ghost?”
Teddy remembered thinking that James smiled like he’d never been hurt, but in this moment, that no longer seemed true. James looked, perhaps, deflated, his shine dulled.
“Maybe I did. Harry thinks not. I was so desperate to feel wanted. And things got… jumbled.”
“How could you ever think you weren’t wanted?” James looked as if Teddy had broken his heart, and the guilt made it hard for Teddy to look directly at him.
His hair was flickering wildly between colours, and Teddy focused his gaze on a point on the wall behind James’s head.
“I don’t need pity, Jamie. I know you care about me, alright, it’s just not the same, not the way that I—“
“Don’t tell me how I feel, Ted.”
“I’m only saying that you don’t know what it was like.”
“You don’t have a monopoly on best friend pining, dickhead!”
“But you’re not—”
“I am. You’d know that if you hadn’t gone and fucked off all winter. That’s why I was so pissed at you for leaving when I got home from school. I wanted to talk to you about it, I was having a bit of a crisis myself, mate. And then I get home, and the one person I was ready to tell was MIA.”
“I’m sorry.” This was all too much. James—no, there was no way. James Potter could not possibly be into guys, could not possibly be into Teddy. The universe wouldn’t allow it; good things were not allowed to happen to Teddy. And yet, here James was, leaning over him, smiling fondly as if Teddy were both the dumbest and best thing he’d ever seen. And really, if Teddy thought hard, he could remember seeing that expression directed at him before, countless times.
“You ought to be. I had to tell Dad, instead.”
“You told Harry?”
“Not that I was in love with you, but I think he inferred.”
“You’re in love with me?”
“I won’t be any longer if you keep being so fucking stupid,” James said, but then a worried line appeared between his eyebrows. “But, you and Sirius. I mean, do you still… want me?”
Teddy knew instanly that he had never stopped. Affection for James welled up in Teddy’s stomach and in his eyes from the depths of his body, but it had been there all along, try as Teddy did to burry it.
“I’ve always wanted you.”
And then James was kissing Teddy. It wasn’t confident, it was the kind of kiss Teddy recognised as the kiss of a man who’d never kissed men before, but it was enthusiastic, and Teddy smiled against James’s lips.
“Everybody know what we’re doing?” Harry asked one last time. The stone stairs of Number Twelve Grimmauld Place had been magically shovelled so that perspective buyers wouldn’t slip and sue the Potters. It was mid-afternoon, and it was cold but bright out in London.
“Don’t lose focus and don’t tell mum,” Teddy and James recited in unison.
“Right. I don’t need Gin on my arse about letting the both of you help me with illegal spells. Matter of fact, don’t tell anyone else either.”
The boys nodded. James’s warm hand was wrapped around Teddy’s, but he dropped it when the door swung open.
The entryway seemed eerily quiet now that the Permanent Sticking Charm holding Walburga Black to the wall had been obliterated. Or rather—the whole wall had. “Gives it a nice open concept feel doesn’t it?” asked Harry, appreciating the craftsmanship of the professional contractors.
“Sirius! We’re here!” Harry called.
“You’re sure he knows we’re coming? You told him what we’re doing?”
“Yes, Teddy. He agreed it was for the best. You can say goodbye if you like, but then we’ve got to get a move on.”
Teddy nodded, and James found his hand once more to give it a small squeeze.
Sirius materialised in front of them in the entranceway. “Hello, Teddy,” he said. “I’m glad to see you’re feeling better.”
Teddy willed himself not to cry. He wasn’t sure what exactly he was feeling, just that it was a lot.
“I say we go to the drawing room. I shouldn’t like my last experience of this house to be staring at the back of the door that’s kept me in for so long.”
Harry nodded and led the party up the steps.
“You’ve got everything from upstairs, right Harry?” Sirius said as they came to the drawing room.
“I have. There were some excellent photos in there that I’d never seen before.”
“I’m glad someone gets to appreciate them anew. And you’ve got your father’s things, Teddy?”
“Yes.” Teddy could feel the scratchy wool of one of Remus’s jumpers under his jacket. “Thank you for keeping them for so long.”
It was a dumb thing to say. Teddy knew Sirius couldn’t have done any spring cleaning if he’d wanted to, but Sirius seemed to appreciate the sentiment anyway.
“Thank you for finding them.” Sirius smiled at him, genuinely, and Teddy knew what he meant.
Harry clapped his hands. “Right, well, is everyone ready?”
Sirius smiled at Teddy once more. “I reckon I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.”
Teddy and James both nodded, drawing their wands.
The spell wasn’t entirely complicated, Harry had explained, it only required a lot of power. When Teddy asked why Harry hadn’t asked some of his Auror friends who were objectively more powerful witches and wizards than Teddy and James, he’d only said, “Not that kind of power.”
Now in this room, looking at Sirius bracing himself against three wands all trained on him, Teddy knew what kind of power he’d meant. Harry, Teddy, and James were, though Teddy had never met him alive and James had barely met him at all, the three live wizards most connected to Sirius Black, and therefore, the most qualified to perform this spell. Teddy reckoned that for it to work, it required a fierceness of emotion, respect, love, and faith that it would work. Harry, Sirius’s godson, James, Sirius’s namesake, and Teddy, the son of the love of Sirius’s life, would be able to make it work if anyone could.
“It’s been wonderful to see you again, Sirius.”
“You as well, Harry. I hope to see you again, someday.”
“I hope you will.”
“It was lovely to meet you, Teddy, and you as well, James.”
Teddy smiled, not trusting his voice to not break.
“Well, then I guess it’s time to bend over and kiss my arse goodbye, isn’t it?”
Teddy laughed but it sounded more like a sob, and James grabbed his hand again.
“On three,” Harry said. “One. Two. Three!”
“Terraphasma Exolvo!” all three of them shouted, aiming for a spot three feet or so in front of where Sirius hovered.
White light like lightning shot out of their three wands and connected, the beams crackling and sparking together.
“Hold on!” Harry yelled over the roar of the magic. Teddy could barely see Sirius behind the bright white light, but he thought he looked serene.
The spot where the beams met seemed to be growing, like a crack, or maybe more like a tear in paper, and it widened every time a pulse of magic travelled from one of their wands.
“It’s working,” Harry called again. “Don’t let go! Can you see anything, Sirius?”
“I see…” Teddy could barely hear him over the whooshing roar and crackles of the magic. “That can’t be… Regulus?” Sirius was smiling, his eyes glittering. The crack was growing, now the size of a small window.
Teddy sobbed—he didn’t know when he’d started crying—and he wanted to shout at Sirius to say something, anything, to his mum to let her know he was here, but he feared it would break the spell.
“And there—Moony? My dear Remus!” Teddy sobbed again and felt James wrap his non-wand arm tightly around his shoulder, pulling him in.
Sirius was crying quietly too, a grin splitting his face the likes of which Teddy had never seen. “Moony! I’ve met your boy! He’s simply wonderful!”
Someone in the light must’ve said something because Sirius laughed. Teddy shoved his face into James’s shoulder but made sure to keep his wand trained on the crack.
“He says he knows, Teddy,” Sirius called to him then. “He’s quite proud of you.”
Teddy felt in his bones that he needed to see if he, too, could see into the crack. He kept his wand trained on it, but shuffled around to Sirius’s side, trying to peer in.
“Says you’d make a bloody rotten Auror, though. Your mother agrees.”
Teddy searched the white crack in the room that was nearly as big as a person now—it was blinding, like looking at the sun—but all Teddy saw was white.
“Andromeda! How lovely to see you!” Sirius called then. “She says you simply can’t do better than James and that you must try your hardest not to fuck it up,” Sirius said, grinning at Teddy. “She also wanted me to give you this.” Sirius leaned over and pressed a kiss to Teddy’s forehead, but instead of being icy cold like his touch used to be, it was white hot.
“Goodbye, Edward Lupin. I hope you have a wonderful and full life. And I hope to meet you again.”
“Goodbye, Sirius.” Teddy’s hair was whipping and the roar of the crack was getting louder. It was now larger than Sirius, so that, if he desired, he could probably walk straight into it without stooping.
“Moony, I’ve so much to tell you! Wait—is that—” Sirius’s face lit up impossibly more. He really was beautiful, even if he wasn’t Teddy’s to keep. “James!” And in a second Sirius had gone through the crack at a run and disappeared, and the crack had zipped shut like the last of water down a drain, and with an explosive popping noise disappeared completely.
The room was gloomy and dark again, picture frames and pillows and lampshades all blown around onto the floor. Teddy, Harry, and James stood staring at the spot where Sirius had been moments before, all three windswept and tearstained. Teddy fell towards them then. He wasn’t sure who caught him but it didn’t matter. He sobbed wretchedly into the shoulders of both Potter men, James running his long fingers through his hair and Harry rubbing his back. The drawing room of Number Twelve Grimmauld place was not his home, of course, but Teddy felt, right then, that he was finally home.
“How’d the meeting go, yesterday?” Harry asked from across his desk, Head Auror plaque charmed, likely by Malfoy, to say Head Arsehole.
“Quite well, so long as the funding clears we’ll be set to head to Bulgaria by Monday.”
“And the fact that you feel so drawn to releasing ghosts from the Balkans has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that a certain young Quidditch player starts training for the Vratsa Vultures this summer, does it?”
Teddy smiled at his godfather. “Head Auror Potter, I don’t tell you how to run your department, so I’d appreciate if you don’t tell me how to run mine.”
“Of course.” Harry smiled knowingly.
“There’s a lot of spectral energy in the Balkans. Their Ministry doesn’t have anything like our Spirit Liberation Department, no one does, so we’ve merely offered to go and train them on the process.”
“Well, motivations aside, you’ll be doing good there and that’s all that matters.”
“I’m glad you understand.”
Harry stood then, coming around the desk to clap Teddy on the shoulder. “Youngest department head in Ministry history. Who said nepotism never got them anywhere.”
“Oi! I’ve worked hard for this department! From the ground up, petitioning all the constituents and—”
“I’m only kidding, Teddy,” Harry said while shrugging on his cloak. “I’m very proud of you.”
For once, Teddy didn’t cringe upon hearing those words. Teddy was damn proud of himself, too. Leveraging his Ministry connections, nepotism or not, to forge the very first Department of Earthbound Spirit Liberation hadn’t been easy, but it was something that Teddy felt was important, something he could see himself being happy doing for the rest of his life. And it didn’t hurt that it meant he’d likely be traveling a lot over the next few years while his boyfriend was in training in Bulgaria.
“I reckon James’ll have my head if I keep you from your lunch date any longer. I, coincidentally, have a date with a plate of very expensive sushi that I plan on launching at Malfoy’s ridiculous head with a chopstick crossbow.”
“You do that every Tuesday?”
“Sushi is his favourite.” Harry shrugged. “We certainly couldn’t do it on Curry Thursdays.”
Teddy shook his head fondly as Harry stepped out of his office, nearly slamming into James in the doorway. “Hi, Dad, enjoy Sushi Tuesday. Teddy! There you are! I figured you’d be in here gossiping about me.”
“You ready to go, Jamie?” Teddy asked, holding out his arm for James to take.
James smiled. “Just about.” Instead of taking Teddy’s arm, James wound his own around Teddy’s neck and kissed him sloppily.
Teddy laughed against his lips and lightly tried to fight James off. “Not in your dad’s office.”
“Come on, let’s go home.” After Grimmauld, Teddy had tried staying at Harry’s place, but once James had graduated and come home, Teddy had found that James’s twin bed was not entirely ideal for all the things Teddy wanted to do in it. They’d been staying in his Gran Andy’s house for the last few weeks, and it was hard, but making new memories there while remembering the old ones seemed to Teddy like a healthy thing to do. It also offered the added benefit of not being under the same roof as James’s parents and siblings, who, Teddy feared, had already heard too much.
“What about lunch?” James asked, but he was smirking as if this had been his plan all along.
“I reckon I’ll find something to eat at home.”