The first time I kiss Teddy Lupin, I’m not sure he’s expecting it.
He’s got that look on his face – the one he gets when he’s animated about something. He’s talking about something stupid, like what we’d do if everyone else was an Inferius and we were the only ones left.
“Where would you go?” He says. He sits back, looking smug, as if he already knows the answer. “What would you do first?”
“I’d probably kiss you.” I grin at Teddy as his cheeks turn pink. I’ve skirted around the subject of liking blokes often enough, but I’ve never told him outright. “I wouldn’t want to die before having a decent snog.”
“What makes you think I’d be interesting in snogging, with a load of Inferi on our tails?” Teddy pulls a face and folds his arms. “It doesn’t exactly set the mood. Besides, that’s not an answer.”
“Who cares, if it’s the truth?” I stand and put on my coat. “I’m off. I’ve got homework to finish. It’s alright for you, now you’re a Professor.”
“Hardly. I’m just here doing some research for the Ministry.” Teddy rearranges my scarf. “And then there was one. Be careful out there, on the way to Gryffindor Tower. Your survival skills are shit.”
I tell myself it’s because I can’t think of a clever reply. I tell myself it has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact Teddy makes every fibre of my being hum. Nothing to do with the fact Teddy’s blue-haired and unshaven, wearing his old grey school jumper that feels impossibly soft against my skin.
I tell myself it’s because I’m horny, sixteen, and really, it could be anyone.
He murmurs, “We’re young, Jamie. Too young for-”
“This?” I pull back and try to settle the beating of my heart. “It’s just a kiss.”
“If you’re sure.” Teddy waves his hand and throws me a crooked smile. “Wouldn’t want you falling in love with me, or anything.” His smile falters.
I try to keep my own smile steady, and let out a forced laugh. “’Course not. Don’t flatter yourself.”
I tell myself it doesn’t matter, even when it does.
There’s the one I take without asking, just like the first time. I interrupt him mid-sentence and hold him as tight as he can. He kisses me back like I’m the air he’s been needing to breathe, and when he moves away he can’t look at me for ages.
“Your dad’s going to kill me.”
“He doesn’t have to know, does he?” I move closer for another delirious kiss, but Teddy keeps me at a distance.
“It’s like I said. We’re-”
“Too young.” I leave with a shrug, and try not to show him the hurt I’m sure must be etched all over my face.
The second time isn’t really a kiss at all, but I count it. It’s after Quidditch and I caught the Snitch. Everyone’s laughing and shouting. People are hugging one another and then the best arms of all wrap around me. Teddy pulls me close and he’s swinging me around, his lips on my cheek as if he wants to snog me senseless.
“You’re not even a Gryffindor,” I say, breathless.
“Don’t tell the Hufflepuffs I’ve got a thing for the Gryffindor Seeker. They’d never understand.” He realises what he’s said after the words fall from his lips, and we stand there, wrapped up in one another without saying a word.
When I go to bed that night, every part of my body feels warm and Teddy’s words slide through my dreams of Quidditch, running through fields of golden barley and hair as blue as the sky.
The last kiss is on the Hogwarts Express, when we’re on our way home together for the last time. The year above are full of themselves, covering their shirts with ink and hundreds of goodbye messages they’ll probably never read again.
I use the commotion to pull Teddy into an empty carriage, where I kiss him until I’m hard and breathless. Teddy’s tie is askew, his shirt open at the neck and he looks good enough to eat. I tug at his shirt, but he won’t let me do more because he’s too busy wondering if dad’s going to have his guts for garters.
When he opens the door to the carriage again, I run my fingers over my lips and watch him leave.
The memory of Teddy’s kiss feels like goodbye.
“I’m not going to do anything you don’t want, you know.” I hiss it out of the corner of my mouth, when we’re polishing off another roast beef lunch. “You don’t have to avoid me.”
“Oh, I do.” Teddy sighs and then nudges me with his foot, under the table. “Did you ever think it’s not you I can’t trust?”
I hadn’t, but the new information makes me feel strangely warm.
I’m a right mess – my nose is all snotty and my eyes are red from crying. I find myself outside Teddy’s place. It’s half-term, so there’s no school. Teddy’s just got himself somewhere small and Muggle. Home is too quiet. The silence is deafening, and it’s just dad moping around and looking miserable and mum packing her things without a word.
“Mum’s leaving.” I say it as soon as Teddy opens the door, and he wrinkles his nose and steps to one side to let me through.
“Yeah. I heard. When?”
“Tomorrow.” I clutch onto Teddy, as my world crumbles. For the first time since dad told me, I let myself cry. Don’t they know I need them now, more than ever? I just want everything to be warm again. “The house is going to be full of ghosts.”
“Mine already is,” Teddy says. His hands tangle in my hair and he’s kissing me, and I think I can taste his tears together with my own. He pushes me against a wall, his breathing heavy and ragged and I remember how good it feels to be alive. I push against Teddy, wrapping my arms around him and tugging him close.
“Please,” I say. Just one word, so many meanings. Please. Please don’t stop. Please don’t push me away. Please touch me. Please, please, please.
Teddy groans, and it’s rough and vibrant. He kisses me again and his hand tugs at my hair. He’s rough and his stubble scratches my chin. I feel like I’m being devoured, and maybe I am. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m no passive partner. I’m clutching at Teddy and kissing him right back, letting him feel my heartbeat through his shirt.
I slide my hands under his shirt and his skin is hot and smooth. He shivers and his hands move to my backside, pulling me closer still. We’re kissing and grinding, and his hand moves between us, rubbing and touching until-
Fuck. I’m panting into his mouth and dizzy with want. I unbuckle his trousers and don’t even look, just take him in my hand and wank him the way I like. It’s not gentle, or tender. It’s rough and urgent and it’s everything. When Teddy comes, he kisses me through it and pushes my free hand over my head. He licks and bites at my neck, as if he wants to taste me.
When it’s over, he turns away and rearranges himself. His voice is thin and breathless. “I shouldn’t have-”
“Forget it,” I say. “It was perfect. I’m not in love with you, you know.” The lie rolls easily off my tongue. Too easily. I’ve never lied to Teddy before.
“Okay.” Teddy’s brow furrows and he runs his fingers over my cheek. They’re warm and I turn my head to kiss them, before leaning into his hand.
“You’re up yourself, you know that?”
“Fancy a beer?” Teddy gestures to the kitchen and I know that’s the end of it.
Because I’m just glad I’m not being thrown out, I follow anyway and watch the elegant shape of Teddy’s form as he walks.
Teddy looks surprised, then pleased – or at least I hope that he’s pleased. “You’re done, then?”
“All finished.” I take a bow, as if I’ve really achieved something other than ageing and doing a few boring exams.
“What now?” Teddy knows, because dad tells him everything. Still, I entertain the question.
“Odd jobs here and there at first. I’m saving to go travelling. There’s no rush, is there? I’ve got time to work out what I want to do.”
“It took me long enough,” Teddy agrees. He grabs a jacket and looks me up and down. “So you’re staying for a bit? Here in boring old England, before you go and see the bright lights of New York City?”
“For a while. Dad’s not going to pay for me to go gallivanting.”
“No.” Teddy’s lips quirk into a smile, and he ruffles my hair. “Poor little rich boy.”
“Sod off.” I laugh, and punch Teddy lightly in the arm. “I’m going to do it all myself, you just wait. I’m going to be amazing.”
“You already are.” Teddy’s got his back to me, and when he turns he’s got a strange half-smile on his face. He looks me up and down. “You’ll do.”
“Where are we going?”
“Out.” Teddy smiles properly, and this time it reaches his eyes. “It’s time for me to show you all the places a young queer should know. Most of them are Muggle, though. Don’t get your wand out in public unless someone asks very nicely.”
“Brilliant!” I try to fight the heat rising in my cheeks, and fall into step beside Teddy as we walk through the cool streets of London.
“I’m just not one for anything serious. With anyone.” Teddy’s already looking around, his eyes settling on a young Muggle with dark hair. I think he looks like me, but I resist the urge to point that out. “I don’t want to give the wrong impression. I’ve got no interest in assimilating, having kids, that sort of stuff.”
“Who said anything about kids?” I roll my eyes and glare at Teddy. “Now who’s getting ahead of themselves?”
“I just want to make sure we have…an understanding.” Teddy’s eyes rove over my body and he looks as if he’s hungry. “You’ll see what I mean, when we go out. There’s so many people out there, and it’s so easy when you’re young and beautiful.” Teddy winks at me. “I promise, you’ll see.”
My stomach twists and I’m caught between excitement and devastation. “I don’t know if I want loads of people,” I say.
“You’re eighteen, for Merlin’s sake.” Teddy’s smile falters and he doesn’t meet my eyes. “You might not now, but you will.”
I shrug and gesture for another coffee. “When?”
“Tonight.” Teddy reaches over and takes a chip off my plate. “If you’re up for it.”
I give Teddy one of my best cocky smiles. “You’d better believe it.”
I’m gay, I want to tell him. Forget the bloody wolves, because I’m right here and I’m trying to ask you: will you fight for me too?
I want to force the words out into the open. They take up too much space inside my head. They make my chest tight and my stomach churn. Whenever I think I’m ready for the world to change forever I have a dizzying moment where I picture myself standing on my chair and calling for attention.
“I’ve got something important to say,” I’d shout. The table would fall silent and I’d give dad a look. “And it’s got nothing to do with werewolves. Sorry, dad.”
Just when I’m half-way out of my seat I give myself another reason to stay silent.
Dad’s on about house-elves now and I have to wonder if he knows – if these grand everyone is different moments are for my benefit. Before I can question it too deeply we’re onto the weather, the Ministry and the casual reminder that Mr Malfoy’s coming round for supper on Friday.
“Again?” I roll my eyes. “He’s a right prat.”
Dad frowns and studies his plate, pushing his food from side to side. “You think so?”
I sigh, because I hate it when dad gets that sad, serious look. “He’s alright, I suppose. Better than Scorpius.”
Dad winces and he takes a gulp of his wine. I watch his throat work and wonder when he added Malfoys to his list of things that need defending. “Albus seems to get on well with Scorpius.”
I snort. Al’s at school with Lily so it’s just me and dad, putting the world to rights over cottage pie and small glasses of red wine. “Of course he does. Have you heard about his parties? Everyone gets on with Malfoy. Doesn’t mean he isn’t a total idiot sometimes.”
Dad laughs, and his sombre expression relaxes. “I thought I might invite Teddy, too.”
My heartbeat quickens at the sound of Teddy’s name on dad’s lips.
I keep my smile relaxed and shrug. “If you like.” I don’t want to be a prick about dad’s friends, even if Mr Malfoy isn’t a patch on Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione. It’s been ages since he’s looked properly happy and it’s even longer since mum left. He deserves to have fun, even if his idea of a good time is stupid fights with Mr Malfoy about Quidditch matches they played a hundred years ago.
“Teddy’s doing a great job at the Ministry,” dad says. He gives me one of those I saved the
world smiles and his chest nearly bursts with pride.
“Teddy’s brilliant,” I say. Because he is. He’s better than brilliant. Teddy’s fucking everything.
I thought I was stupid, half-drunk in love with Teddy when I saw him in his Hufflepuff uniform. I was just a kid. I didn’t even know there was a whole world out there, and that Teddy was part of it.
Just wait until you see him dance.
It’s just the two of us, then. Dancing like there’s nobody watching. I’m a horrible dancer, and Teddy knows it. He finds it funny as fuck. He nudges me with his hips and waves his arms in the air as if they’re disconnected from his body.
“Daft prat,” he says, but it’s so fond it I can pretend it’s just code for something better.
“I’ve got the moves.” I’m laughing, Teddy’s laughing and it’s exhilarating. I’m dancing up a storm and Teddy’s giving me a lazy smile as a Muggle starts to dance with me too.
Go for it, he mouths. His smile doesn’t falter and it’s not the two of us anymore. It’s a crowded dancefloor, full of people and Teddy seems further away than ever.
When we snogged in the shadows of the club on our first night out, I laughed and teased him about breaking my heart.
Teddy keeps dancing, I keep watching and neither of us are laughing anymore.
“I wasn’t that interested in anyone there.” I swallow back the except you, and shrug. I grab my own beer and stifle a laugh when I hear dad cursing in the kitchen. “Do you think he’s going barmy?”
“Harry?” Teddy looks at the kitchen door, his face breaking into a smile. “Nope. I think Malfoy makes him nervous.”
I follow Teddy’s gaze and shake my head. “Hardly. It’s Malfoy, not Voldemort.”
“Perhaps.” Teddy stretches and reveals his taut stomach, with a trail of dark hair leading underneath his belt. Not all of Teddy’s hair is blue, then. I swallow and take a quick swig of my beer, choking as the liquid fizzes down my throat.
“I nearly told him the other night.”
“About us?” Teddy’s eyebrows raise and he looks uncertain. However brave Teddy is in Muggle clubs, he’s a lot less brave when we’re in the warmth of my house and dad’s asking him one too many questions about his love life. I sometimes think Teddy’s just as scared as I am about being who he wants to be.
“About me.” I keep my eyes on Teddy’s. “Being gay.”
As strange as it might sound, I’ve never said it out loud like that. Teddy knows, of course. He knows because I’ve spent countless nights in gay bars with him and told him over rum and coke that I was half in love with a gorgeous Ravenclaw whose name I can’t even remember now. He knows because I supported Italy in the last Quidditch World Cup because their Seeker wears the tightest trousers and sinful amounts of black leather. Most of all, Teddy knows because he’d have to be blind not to notice the way I look at him.
Teddy studies his hands and then reaches for his beer, taking another sip. “I reckon Harry would be cool with it. He’s Harry Potter. Defender of half-bloods, Muggle-borns and creatures of the night. He’s not going to care who either of us sleep with.”
“Who are you trying to convince?”
Teddy frowns, and doesn’t respond.
Malfoy looks out of place in our home. He’s wearing a poncy green blazer and a crisp shirt which is open at the neck. He looks like he’s going to one of those posh Muggle wine bars Teddy and I avoid in favour of dancing in underground nightclubs. He doesn’t exactly look relaxed, eyeing Teddy and I with suspicion and giving dad the strangest look when he makes one of his terrible jokes. It’s like he’s in pain or something, which he probably is. Dad’s jokes can be really bad.
“How are you enjoying the Ministry?” He takes a delicate bite of his food and glances at Teddy. “I’ve heard good reports from Dawlish.”
“Dawlish is an arse.” Teddy sighs and pushes his plate away, before flashing Malfoy a smile. “But otherwise I like the Ministry just fine, thanks. They’re going to train me to be an Unspeakable.”
“So I gather.” Malfoy eats another bite of his food and chews it slowly. I wonder if he’s trying to avoid making more awkward small talk. Besides, nothing kills conversation like Unspeakable.
“Does Scorpius know what he wants to be?” Dad clears his throat to break the silence.
Malfoy arches an eyebrow at him. “Richer than I am, apparently.”
I choke back a laugh, and wink at Teddy. That sounds about right. Malfoy doesn’t ask me about my career plans, but I suppose he’s imagines I don’t have any. He probably has even less to say about someone taking odd jobs to fund a year travelling around the world than he does about Unspeakables.
When dinner’s over and the plates have been put away, we all stand around looking uncomfortable. Eventually, dad says something about the Leaky and we all bundle up into overcoats and scarves.
“You don’t have to come, if you’ve got other plans.” Dad claps Teddy on the shoulder and gives me a smile. “I’m sure you have better things to do than hang around with the old folks.”
“Less of the old,” Malfoy says.
“Is he buying the drinks?” Teddy gives Malfoy a wink, and earns himself a glare in response.
“I’m sure we could stretch to a pint or two.” Dad gives Malfoy a look, and he responds by rolling his eyes. “James?”
“I don’t have anywhere else to be.”
“Not until later, anyway.” Teddy throws his arm around me and ruffles my hair in that brotherly sort of way that won’t arouse suspicion. I smile, and everything feels warm. I know that later means me and Teddy, dancing somewhere nobody will find us.
“Later,” I say.
I glance at Teddy, and hope he hears the promise in my voice.
I watch Teddy, watching them with a peculiar expression on his face and when I get a moment I stand and grab my jacket. “Coming?”
“Yeah. Thanks for the drinks, Harry. Good to see you, Mr Malfoy.”
Dad and Malfoy wave us off and return to their arguing.
“Bloody hell.” I open the door and let the cold night air wash over my face. “What’s that all about?”
“I think they’re fucking.”
I stop in my tracks and stare at Teddy. “Fuck you.”
“I’m serious.” Teddy looks as if he doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “You saw them in there. It was practically foreplay.”
“You’re joking.” I think back to Malfoy sitting around our cosy dinner table, making polite small talk and the way he sometimes looks at dad. “That’s…gross.”
“Makes your life easier, doesn’t it?” Teddy stuffs his hands into his pockets and starts to walk again. “Harry’s happier than he’s ever been.”
I pull a face. “As long as he doesn’t try to move Scorpius in, I suppose. Oh, Merlin. I hope I don’t hear them. I don’t want to think about my dad having sex.”
Teddy looks at the stars and when he speaks, his voice is low and clear. “I thought I was in love with Harry, once.”
For the second time that evening, I stop walking. My legs feel like they’re going to buckle beneath me and I make Teddy look at me. “Did anything happen?”
“With Harry?” Teddy’s eyes widen and he shakes his head. “Christ, no.” He pauses and then looks away, refusing to meet my eyes. “I tried though, once. I thought it might be…reciprocated.”
“When?” My blood runs cold and my heart hammers in my chest. I try not to shove Teddy, but it’s hard when I’m so fucking angry with him.
“When I started at the Ministry.” Teddy sighs, and rubs his cheek, just as I’ve seen dad do so many times. “He told me not to be a prat.”
“I’m not surprised. You are a prat. You’re a stupid bloody arsehole.” I growl and start walking again, half wanting to get away from Teddy and half desperately hoping he’ll follow. “So that’s why you’re always so worried about what I’m going to tell him. It’s not about being gay – you’re worried he might have told me your little secret.”
“He wouldn’t have done.” Teddy catches me up and slides his hand into mine. He breathes out in a huff, and tugs me to a standstill. He cups my cheek with his hand and his face twists. “It had nothing - nothing - to do with this. Know that.”
“This?” I yank away from Teddy with a snort. “Just a few snogs and fumbles in the shadows. We haven’t even fucked. This is just me coming out to watch someone else suck you off.”
“It’s more than that.” Teddy looks as if he’s been slapped, and then he closes his eyes. His face clears of clouds and it’s as if he’s concentrating really, really hard. Finally he opens his eyes and they’re piercing blue to match his hair. He seems taller than usual, and he squares his shoulders. “Besides, I’ve told you I don’t do serious. You know that. I never lied to you.”
“You stupid idiot.” I push Teddy away and turn my back on him. “Enjoy your night out.”
“Where are you going?” Teddy’s voice falters and catches on the wind.
I refuse to look back and see the expression on Teddy’s face.
I can hear voices, and I push open the door just enough to see inside the living room. It’s almost entirely dark, save for one lone candle to the side of the room. It’s just enough light to illuminate dad’s face as he sits with his head in his hands.
“It’s just a dream,” Malfoy says. He’s crouched between dad’s legs, his hands where they have no business being. He’s worried, and the light from the candle contours his face. His voice isn’t as brisk and snotty as usual.
Dad looks up and into Malfoy’s eyes. He rubs his cheek, dark stubble already leaving the shadows of the morning on his face. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“Don’t.” Malfoy’s words break in half and he swallows as if his emotions have got the better of him. “Don’t apologise.”
I want to shut the door, but I can’t. Malfoy shouldn’t be sleeping here. His shirt shouldn’t be open to the waist or his hands working over dad’s knees to his thighs. Dad’s hands shouldn’t be sliding into Malfoy’s hair, or his breath catching in his throat.
I turn away, because I know where this goes. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve heard the same whispers and witnessed the same lazy kisses trailing from a toned stomach, down, down, down.
My heart is beating hard enough to pound its way out of my chest. Images of Teddy blur and mingle with images of dad and Malfoy. I take the stairs two at a time, and slam my bedroom door loud enough that I imagine everyone in the house hears.
“Does he top or bottom?”
“Pardon?” Dad looks up from his paper, his eyebrow arched. His expression is serious in a don’t push it, son sort of way.
“I bet he’s a bottom. He seems like the type.” My voice shakes and I pour a cup of coffee. “Now I know why mum left. Because you’re gay.”
“I’m not gay.” Dad’s voice is firm, not angry, not yet.
“Just experimenting, then?” I can’t keep the cutting note from my voice. “I don’t know what else you’d call it. If you like fucking men, I’d say it’s a pretty good indicator. Are you ashamed, is that it? I suppose you think being gay is beneath you.”
“You suppose wrong.” Dad’s eyes flash and I know he’s suppressing his anger, trying to keep his voice measured. It’s during exchanges like this that I finally see how dad won a war which saved the whole world. My heart flutters in my chest and I swallow back a wave of tears. It’s no wonder Teddy fell in love with dad, no bloody wonder. Who doesn’t love dad?
“Then what the fuck was that last night?” My voice is shaking, and I have to put my coffee down. I’m yelling at Teddy as much as dad, and I can’t stop.
“James. Language.” Dad sighs and he looks away, his face contorted. “I loved your mum. Very much.” He turns back to meet my gaze head on. “I think I could be as happy as I was with her with someone else. The gender doesn’t matter to me. It never has. Does that make any sense?”
“Not to me,” I mutter. I sit down and reach for the butter, spreading it onto my toast and not looking at dad. “But then what would I know? I’m gay. Not some kind of something in between.” I know I’m being cruel and I’m no doubt going to get a lecture from Aunt Hermione on being rude about people, but I’m a bit beyond caring.
“I see.” Dad looks startled, and he leans back in his chair, his food forgotten. “Then you should know better than anyone how complicated sexuality can be. Would you presume to tell me mine?”
“No.” I sigh, and the tension in the air lifts. I say it again, just to be sure I didn’t imagine it. “I’m gay. I’m gay and I think I’ve been in love with Teddy for half of my life.”
I expect it to feel like a victory, but it doesn’t.
“Since when do we have chocolate cake for breakfast?”
“Since today.” Dad puts his finger to his lips and smiles. “Don’t tell mum.”
“I won’t.” I tuck into the cake, and it really is quite good. Delicious, in fact. “Teddy told me about you. About being in love with you.”
“I see.” Dad sighs and he makes me look at him. “He told you how I responded then, I assume?”
“Yeah. Made him look like a right prat.” I pull a face and swallow another forkful of cake. “I thought he liked me. James. Not someone who looks like Harry bloody Potter.”
Dad gives me a nudge with his elbow. “I bet Teddy likes you more than you think he does.” He pauses. “We’re Teddy’s family. It means a lot to him, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to do anything to mess it up.”
“He’s already done that,” I mutter. I look at dad and wonder what he’s thinking. “He says we’re too young.”
“Maybe he’s right.” Dad pushes his plate away. “You’re only eighteen. You’ve got plans to see the world, and Teddy’s about to start his training. He’s finally found something he loves doing, and he’s not going to be able to go travelling around the world.”
“Then I’ll stay here, if he wants.”
“Is that what you want?” Dad raises an eyebrow at me, and I shrug.
“I don’t know. Maybe.” I think of all of the pictures I’ve collected of places I want to see. I think of postcards with different beaches and cities and then I think about Teddy’s smile, and everything else disappears.
“Teddy’s more complicated than he seems.” Dad doesn’t elaborate. “You have to get beneath the surface. He’s lost a lot, and it changes people. It makes them see the world a bit differently to most. Take it from someone who knows.”
I swallow around the lump in my throat, and give dad a sideways glance. “You were young once.”
“Thank you for reminding me.”
“Did you and Mr Malfoy decide to wait, until you were older?”
Dad snorts. “I wasn’t in love with Malfoy when I was younger. He was a total prat.”
I think if dad’s going to behave like a lovestruck teenager, he probably needs me to tell him some home truths. I look at him seriously, wanting to ensure he’s prepared for it. “Dad?”
“You do know Mr Malfoy’s still a total prat, don’t you?”
Dad stares at me for a moment, then we’re both laughing as if we’ll never stop.
“You look like shit,” I tell him. “I got coffee and pastries.”
“Thanks.” Teddy looks a little green and he stares at himself in the mirror. “I’m too tired to do anything about this.” His hair is a lack-lustre brown and most of the bold blue is fading.
“The coffee will help.” I try not to think of Teddy out, dancing until his legs almost give way beneath him. “You’ve been out a lot, then?”
“You could say that.” Teddy winces as he takes a sip of the coffee, gingerly removing the lid and blowing on it. “How’ve you been?”
“Good. I told dad about everything.” I want to get it out there from the outset, and push a croissant in Teddy’s direction. “Eat something.”
“What did he say?” Teddy’s eyes widen, and I shrug.
“Said you might be right. About us being too young. Pointed out we’re family, and we don’t want to cock that up.”
“No.” The word leaves Teddy in a rush and the tension leaves his shoulders. “Exactly. You’ll be off travelling soon. New York, baby. You’re going to be amazing, remember?”
“I remember.” I smile, and reach to squeeze Teddy’s hand. “New York won’t know what hit them.”
“Yeah.” Teddy looks sad. “They won’t.”
“I’ll be back, though.” For the first time I feel in control, in charge. Not a loose cannon spiralling off on a tangent and heading in the wrong direction. I take a bite of my Danish pastry. “And for the record, I don’t care what happens. We’ll always be family. You were right about dad and Malfoy, by the way.”
“I was?” Teddy looks cheered, and begins to tuck into his croissant. He grins. “Does this mean you’re going to start calling him Daddy?”
I flick my middle finger at Teddy and laugh. “Hardly. Pervert.”
We eat together in silence, and by the time I leave, Teddy’s hair is a light blue colour and his eyes are shining again.
He opens the door, and looks me up and down. It’s like he knows, somehow. He knows exactly why I’m here, even when I don’t say a word.
He tugs me inside the house by my scarf and wraps his arms around me. “What’s the score, Gryffindor?”
“What’s up, Hufflepuff?”
It’s a stupid thing we used to say, back in the days of Hogwarts and falling in love for the first time. It probably sounds ridiculous but it’s ours and that makes it perfect. Besides, don’t laugh at me when I’m nervous.
Teddy’s warm and hard, solid and sure. Being in his arms is like heaven on earth. I don’t let him say anything else. Instead, I kiss him. I kiss him with months of built up fire and years of wondering. I kiss him hello and kiss him goodbye.
Deft hands move to unpluck the buttons on my shirt. It parts, and the cool air in the room makes me shiver. We’re still standing in the hallway, our clothes forming careless piles on the floor as Teddy undresses me and I strip every last bit of clothing from his body. He’s really fucking lovely and the sight of him takes my breath away.
You’d think we’d have all the time in the world for going upstairs, but it seems important not to stop kissing in case we talk ourselves out of another stupid Teddy and James idea. I sink to the floor while Teddy stays standing. I slide my hands over his backside, over the curve of his skin and along his thighs. I feel the downy hair on his legs and run my tongue along the delectable trail of hair leading from his belly-button to the base of his cock. He smells divine, and I never want to stop touching him. My own cock is rock hard, and I’m eager just to taste him.
I take him in my mouth as I’ve seen people do so many times before. He’s thick and long, the weight of his cock is heavy on my tongue. I taste every inch of him until he’s barely standing anymore, leaning back against the wall and tangling his hands in my hair. He’s thrusting forward with low, ragged groans of pleasure. His hands tug on my hair and it’s yes and gods, James and it’s bloody brilliant.
I slide off him when he tugs me back. He’s down on the floor beside me, flicking his wand to cushion the floor in a moment of fearless magic. He whispers something in my ear, and his slick fingers slide down my back and between my buttocks. He moves over my back and shifts my legs apart and even though I can’t see him, I can feel him everywhere. His tongue gathers the perspiration at the base of my spine, and he tastes me like I’m his favourite cinnamon ice-cream on a hot summer day.
His fingers breach me, slowly at first. He murmurs the spell again and I’m slick and eager for him. I’m relaxed and desperate to feel him inside me. His fingers slide in deep, until he’s fucking me with them. He grips my hair and pulls me back so he can bite my neck.
“Are you ready?” He says.
He knows I am, because I let out a sound which is half begging, half growl. My vocal chords seem to have stopped working, as every part of my body zings and hums with pleasure. Teddy turns me so he can see me, then moves into me with a hard thrust. I cry out because oh gods it’s good. It’s almost too much, seeing Teddy’s eyes staring into mine. All the colours of the rainbow are right there, reflected back at me. There’s blue and purple hair, flushed pink cheeks and the yellow, orange and green of his eyes which flicker with unspoken words when they meet mine.
I pull him closer and kiss him, because I can.
He responds by moving inside me until my taut, uncertain body becomes loose-limbed and undone.
I spend five more perfect minutes watching him sleep, before knotting his scarf around my neck and making my way home.
I hope he won’t mind.
It’s just like everyone told me. It’s everything I thought it would be, and more. I’m not sure I ever want to leave. When it’s autumn, the parks are covered with leaves which are the exact colour of Teddy’s eyes when he’s having a good day. There are blankets of them, stretching as far as the eye can see.
I take the boat out to Staten Island on the cusp of winter, just before the snow and ice arrives. I use a Muggle camera to snap pictures of the Statue of Liberty. The way the sun shines on the water reminds me of the blue of Teddy’s hair, and I wrap the yellow striped scarf more tightly around my neck.
What’s up, Hufflepuff?
I go for pizza whenever I can. I’ll never forget my first slice – one of those enormous pieces of cheese and tomato. The cheese so hot I burn the roof of my mouth because I can’t quite eat it quickly enough. I go up the Empire State building on a night when there’s zero visibility, and stare out into the clouds and let the rain lash against my cheeks. I wish I had my broom. I could slip over the edge and soar through the night sky, flying and flying until my lungs hurt.
I get pissed on a Friday night, somewhere close to Wall Street. I’m surrounded by people in suits and braces, and I’m completely out of my league. I get caught out staring at a young trader in a slick suit, who ends up taking me to a bright, colourful bar. I dance with other people, and watch the jealousy flare in his eyes.
I grab his tie and pull him close. “We’re only young,” I say. I take him home and fuck him and remind him when he leaves that I don’t want anything serious. When the door closes behind him, New York feels like a big, hopeless city that’s going to swallow me whole.
When the winter snow finally melts, I sit on the stairs outside MoMa and eat the most delicious sandwich I’ve ever had in my life. I wonder if it’s the air that makes everything taste better in New York.
I meet him when I spill my coffee all over my trousers, like a right arse. He’s got an arty sort of look, with dark eyes and the widest smile I’ve ever seen. He’s got one of those thin scarves around his neck, and he’s wearing the best boots. He reminds me of the Quidditch player I fell in lust with so long ago. He helps me dab the coffee from my trousers, and, as if I don’t know exactly what he’s doing, I let him.
“You’re a tourist?”
“I’m travelling,” I correct him. His accent is brilliant.
“English?” His eyes flash with interest. “That’s cute.”
I huff and bat his hand away before we make a public spectacle of ourselves. “I’m hardly cute.”
“I think you are.” His smile is brazen, and his teeth are perfectly white. He sits next to me and offers me his coffee. “Take it, if you like. It’s my third today.” He takes out a packet of cigarettes and offers me one. “Smoke?”
I hesitate and then shrug. I’m supposed to be trying new things, after all. “Why not?”
We smoke in silence, wisps of grey curling into the air around us. Our warm breath mingles with the cold air and the cigarette smoke.
“As soon as I saw you, I knew.”
“That you were one too.”
He shows me his wand, and with a smile, I show him mine.
Don't be like that. I mean his actual wand. He's a wizard, just like me.
The other stuff comes later, between a group of disco-dancers underneath the dizzying strobes and flashing colours in a club I can't remember. It comes later in a motel half way to San Francisco, and on the dance floor of another heaving bar. It comes in a swanky hotel in Miami, after we try surfing for the first time.
And it’s only sometimes, on hot summer days when the sky's as blue as ever it's been, that I order a cinnamon ice-cream and wonder what Teddy’s been up to.
I wake up perspiring as the window slams and a cool gust of air fills my flat – or apartment, as I’ve taken to calling it. I open the drawer and take out the owls Teddy sends sometimes, when he remembers. They’re full of stories. Full of the times he went out, the people he met and the things he’s been doing. They’re so full of life and vigour, it’s like Teddy’s right there in the room with me.
Another gust of wind makes me shiver and I shut the window with a flick of my wand.
I don’t know what time it is in England, but in New York it’s time to stop running.
“You’re back!” He wraps his arms around me, and he smells like home. I hug him back and raise my eyebrows when I hear a clatter of pans and a curse from the kitchen.
“Hi, Mr Malfoy,” I shout. I wink at dad, who laughs.
“He’s trying to cook.”
“I’ll give him a hand.”
I drop my bags by the hearth and go to rescue Malfoy.
The door swings open, and there he is. Teddy. My Teddy. His eyes are leaves in Central Park, his hair is the blue sky of a long, hot summer and his smile is the best I’ve ever seen. I can taste cinnamon ice-cream lingering on my tongue and remember the hours I spent thinking about Teddy, even when I was on the other side of an ocean. It’s like he was there with me, every step of the way.
It’s different now, loving him. It’s less consuming than it was. He doesn’t make my heart burn or my head spin. I think I see him more clearly than I ever have, not like he’s some queer god telling me what’s right and wrong. Instead he’s just Teddy. My friend. My first. My best, and only. His crooked smile still lights something inside me and sends fireworks into my heart, but I see the uncertainty behind his smile. For the first time, I see what my dad meant about looking beneath the surface.
New York’s peeled back Teddy’s layers and this time when I touch him, my hand finds purchase on warm, solid flesh.
“You look good.”
“You too.” Teddy moves back and ushers me in. “Did you bring me a present?”
“’Course I did. It’s at home.”
“Did you bring...?” Teddy trails off and he looks behind me, into the darkness.
“Ethan?” I shake my head. “Nope. We thought it would be best to go our separate ways. I’m back for good.”
“Do you want to go clubbing?” Teddy opens a beer, and hands it to me. He leans against the kitchen counter and I lift myself onto it, swinging my legs against the cupboard.
I shake my head, and clink our glasses together. “No thanks. I’m not here for that. I’ve done plenty of clubbing.”
Teddy tilts his head to look at me, and raises his eyebrow. “I’ll bet. Did Edward let you out looking like that?”
I nudge Teddy’s leg with my foot. “Ethan.” I look down at my clothes. “What the fuck’s wrong with the way I look?”
“You look good, Jamie. That’s all.” Teddy looks away. “I’m not sure I’d let you out of my sight.”
“I’m a bit older now. More worldly. I picked up some fashion tips in New York.”
Teddy rolls his eyes. “You’re twenty, not fifty. Worldly my backside. It’s only been a year and a bit.”
“Eighteen months,” I correct him. “Give or take.”
“Give or take.” Teddy takes a sip of his beer and looks around. “Was it fun?”
“The best.” I nudge Teddy with my foot, more gently this time. “You’d have loved it. We’ll have to go, one day.”
“You can introduce me to all the gorgeous American men you know.” Teddy pushes himself up and shifts between my legs so he’s facing me. Being this close to him takes my breath away, even after all this time. “If you like.”
All of a sudden Teddy and I are dancing again. This time, it’s not swaying with a hundred restless bodies to some cheesy Muggle pop. Now it’s a slow waltz, jagged and faltering. There’s no finesse to it, and we’re stumbling over one another in careful steps which are smaller than either of us. The difference is, this time I know how the dance is going to end and I’m going to start taking the lead.
“I don’t like,” I say. “I don’t like the idea of introducing you to gorgeous men in the slightest.”
“No?” Teddy’s breath catches, and his exhale is warm against my skin.
“I missed this.” I lift my hand and curl my fingers into Teddy’s hair. I slide my other hand over his chest and use his scruffy jumper to bring him closer. “I missed you.”
“Missed you too, Gryffindor.” Teddy’s voice is rough and he buries his nose in my neck, breathing in my scent. His hands find themselves around my waist and he releases a sigh, as if he’s finally come home.
“I don’t want you to make decisions for me anymore,” I say.
Teddy’s lips travel over my neck, and hover against my ear. “I don’t do that.”
“Yeah,” I tell him. “You do.”
Teddy pauses, and the room is achingly still. I wonder what he’s going to say. I can almost feel the battle within himself, as he tries not to push me away. “I’ll fuck it up.”
I shrug and pull back to look at Teddy. “Maybe I’ll fuck it up.”
“What then?” The pain on Teddy’s face is honest, clear and heart breaking.
“Then…” I let out a ragged sigh. I make a promise to myself right then, that no matter what happens there'll always be Teddy. All the colours in the world just don't seem as bright when he's not around. “Then we’ll go for pizza in New York. I’ll introduce you to some gorgeous American men.”
Teddy laughs, and his eyes shine and, finally, he kisses me just as he does in my dreams.