Everyone thinks they hate each other, they don’t get on. James and Albus are rarely at the same family events, and when they are, it’s noticeable that they keep to opposite sides of the room, and talk with different people. They never touch, never even meet each other’s eyes. James knows that their parents have had many a late night angsty conversation, bemoaning their boys’ dislike of one another, wondering what they can do to push the two together. James feels bad, but he knows that the only thing that could hurt them more than this apparent hatred would be the truth.
He can’t look at Albus because the truth would be written all over him. The desire, hopeless as it is. The knowledge that it is reciprocated, which makes it even worse. If James were anyone else. If Albus were anyone else. But they happen to be brothers.
“I’m sorry, James, but you two boys are going to have to share a room over Christmas,” his mother says, apologetically. “Ron and Hermione, Rose and Scorpius and Hugo are all here. I’m even making Scorpius share with Hugo so that Rose and Lily can go in together, and there’s nowhere but your old room for Albus. I’ve put the beds at either side.”
James nods. He hopes his mother can’t see how fast his heart is beating. They’re sharing a room. They’re sharing a room, which means… which means…
He hears his mother apologising to Albus in the same fashion. He wonders whether this is partly a hope by Ginny that the two of them might work things out, if they’re only forced to share a space. After all, Scorpius and Albus could easily have shared; James could have been put in with Hugo. He thanks God, Merlin, and anyone else he can think of that it’s turned out this way. They’re always so careful, but sometimes they need… something. A little bit of relief.
“You and me, then,” Albus’s voice says.
James is standing chatting with his father. Albus’s voice is neutral, and he is standing about as far from James as he possibly can.
“Uh-huh,” he says, not looking up. Still being aware of precisely where Albus is. He always knows. How could he avoid him so well if he didn’t have this constant awareness of his brother?
“That’ll be nice,” Harry says, forced cheerfulness in his voice.
For a second, James’s eyes move up and brush over Albus. Albus immediately edges back, as aware of James as James is of him.
“Well, quite,” James says dryly.
It is anything but ‘nice’.
That night is Christmas Eve. They’re in the bedroom together, and James has locked and silenced the room. There is a hush, just for a few seconds. Albus and James both know what is coming. They’ve been imagining it since the second they’d heard they were sharing a room. The atmosphere within the room is fizzing with anticipation and intent.
“Okay?” Albus says, his tone meaningful.
“Okay,” James says.
He looks up.
Their eyes meet and flare with the same illicit passion. And James’s heart turns over because Albus is beautiful. He knows this – he knows this, but then he forgets, in all of that ‘not looking’. And there is an expression on Albus’s face, of love and longing and desperation, which James knows is reflected on his own. He takes a breath.
“Take your clothes off, Albus,” he says, his voice slightly husky.
This is how it goes. No touching, never any touching. If they don’t touch, it’s okay. It’s not wrong. Pushing at the limits, maybe, but not out-and-out wrong.
Albus just nods, never taking his green gaze from James’s face. He undresses, looking at James all the time with that same intense look. The only moment their eyes stop meeting is as Albus drags his T-shirt over his head, and James shivers a little, immediately aching for it back, to feel the heat of Albus’s eyes on him once more. Then it is back, that searching stare; and a breath that James hadn’t realised had caught in his throat is let loose.
“You’re beautiful,” James says, because Albus is. He hates the look of half-unhappiness that floods Albus’s expression when he says it. “Get on your knees.”
“Yes, Jamie.” It is the first thing Albus has said, and it means so much more than mere agreement to his last instruction. It means – oh, it means everything.
James casts a cushioning charm as Albus sinks to his knees.
“Touch yourself,” he says; and Albus does, reaching down to stroke the long, thin cock that James knows so well but has never touched. “Tell me,” James says, “tell me what’s happening.”
“I’m on my knees,” Albus says slowly, “like I am now. Naked. Wanting. You’re in front of me. I reach up, and look up at you, and you nod. I undo your trousers, take out your cock, but you push my hands away.”
“Keep touching yourself,” James says.
He is hard, his erection pushing against his trousers, and he rubs a desperate hand against it. He doesn’t have Albus’s control: he knows he would come within a couple of minutes if he actually touched himself. Albus, though. Albus can kneel there and speak, tell James the story that makes it all so much realer. So much closer to bearable, even if fantasy is all they can ever have.
Albus strokes himself with long, slow motions, his pale (pale, pale) skin slightly flushed. James’s skin is several tones darker – in photos of them as kids, in the days when they could still be next to each other, still touch, the contrast is noticeable. James imagines his brown fingers against Albus’s white skin, and bites back a moan.
“You say to me,” Albus continues, “that I’m going to have to work for it. You have your own hands touching yourself, and you hold your prick just against my lips, so I can taste you. I flick my tongue out, swipe it around the tip…” His tongue indeed flicks out, circling his lips and making James press hard against his cock to stop himself being overwhelmed. “But you sway back, tell me I need to beg.” Albus swallows hard; James sees the motion of his throat, wants to tilt it back and bite into it, leave red, claiming marks on it.
“And I do.” Albus meets James’s eyes. “‘Please, James, please. Let me suck you. I want you in my mouth. I need to taste you, feel you. Please.’”
James can’t keep the moan back this time. The need in Albus’s face is palpable. James has always known that if he gave in to the desire to touch, to go further, Albus wouldn’t stop him. But he doesn’t. He mustn’t.
“Yeah?” he forces out hoarsely.
“And you give in. You let me put my mouth around your cock. God, James, I love your cock.” Albus falls out of the story for a moment. “Please, Jamie?”
James knows what he means, and he can’t refuse Albus this. He fumbles open his trousers, nothing like the erotic manner in which Albus had managed to remove his clothes, and pulls his cock out. It’s not as long as Albus’s, but it’s thicker, redder.
“Yesss,” Albus hisses. He shakes his head, just a tiny bit, and returns to the tale. His fingers have sped up on his prick as he looks at James’s; his eyes sometimes on James’s face, sometimes on his cock, as if he doesn’t know where he needs to look most. “I suckle on the head, lick around it. You taste so good, James. Musk and sex; and I can’t get enough. And you love it, you know you do. Your hands are tangling in my hair, tugging at it, urging me forward. You want to fuck my mouth. You know I love it when you do that, when you’re nearly choking me with your cock. You like that, don’t you, Jamie?”
“Yeah,” James says again. He hesitates for a second, and then goes on. “I love the feeling of my cock down your throat, Albus. I love you struggling for breath and still, still getting off on it. You’re so fucking hard, Al. Just from having your mouth around me. You love it.”
He’s touching himself with almost fierce determination, tugging his prick hard. Imagining it in Albus’s warm, wanting mouth. He hates how real this feels, how much he wants it to be true. It’s not wrong if we don’t touch, he reminds himself. The mantra they live by. The mantra they die, a little, by.
“I’m taking you so deep now,” Albus says, his breathing heavier. One of his own hands goes to his head, pulling his hair just as he described James doing to him. He’s getting closer to the edge, gleaming a little with sweat. Hot, and dishevelled, and so bloody sexy that James can’t bear it. “You’re holding me tight and I can hear the sound of your breathing, and feel my heart thumping hard. I’m touching myself, can’t help it, can’t keep my hands off my cock as you thrust into my throat. I know you’re on the edge – you’re on the edge, Jamie, aren’t you?”
And the question is for him, the real James, as well as for the imaginary James in Albus’s story. “I’m on the edge,” James says truthfully, feeling it building inside him, feeling the tingle which will run all the way through him until his balls draw up and he can’t help himself. “Are you?”
“God, yes,” Albus says, on a breath which is almost a sob. “So close. And I don’t want it to end but at the same time I need it, and I know you need it.” James isn’t sure whether this is the story or reality; he doesn’t think Albus knows either. There is always this moment when the two cross over, fantasy and reality are one and the same. “I know you’re so close, and I just need to – I need to...” His voice falters for a second, his eyes squeezing shut. Then he pulls it back, and his eyes are fixed on James with such intensity that James can do nothing but look back, drown in that gaze. They’re lost. They’re so, so lost. “I swallow around your cock, Jamie, and you can’t help it. You’re coming down my throat, so hard, so much. The taste of your come is enough – it… it...”
It is the opposite to Albus’s story. Albus orgasms, his come leaving white streaks across his flat stomach, sliding down his skin; and James can do nothing but follow, spurting across the floor with a deep groan. And still, still the eye contact, even through it all. Still it is them – Albus and James – and the vast chasm between them. Harsh breathing, the smell of sex, the realisation that this is all there can ever be – just stories.
“James,” Albus says softly.
“Al… don’t.” James casts a cleaning charm, hating himself. Hating everything. Hating that the one person he loves beyond all logic, in every possible way; the one he’d give his life to and for, if he could – is his brother.
Albus gives a little funny smile. “I know. Jamie, I know.”
He stands, and wobbles slightly as he does so; and James has to resist the urge to reach out and steady him because he knows if he touches Albus, even for a second, he won’t be able to stop. Instead, James turns away, remembering that they’re supposed to be going to bed; that it’s Christmas tomorrow. A day where he will have to seem full of joy and Christmas spirit - not thinking about his feelings (dirty wrong bad) for his brother. Another day of avoiding Albus as much as possible, throwing himself into playing with the kids, drinking with the adults (but not too much, never too much, in case he says something he can never take back, does something they’ll never forgive him for), being the life and soul of the party because everyone knows James Potter is like that.
He turns his back on Albus as he clambers into pyjamas, says nothing as they both get into their separate beds (opposite sides of the room, far enough away, and still too close and not close enough). He breathes, slow and steady, resting since he can’t sleep, lonelier than ever with Albus so close. And so he is awake to hear his brother’s whisper, the words clearly meant for a sleeping James.
“I love you, Jamie. I’ll always love you.”