"You’re doing what?" James stares at his dad, taking in the flushed cheeks and giddy look of excitement on his face.
"I’m taking a break from the Ministry."
James speaks slowly, his head spinning. "To work for Malfoy?"
His dad frowns. "To work with Malfoy. It’s about time I put my name to something other than Quidditch products. Hermione’s been on at me for ages to get away from red tape and bureaucracy and do some charity work."
"But you’re Head Auror," James protests. His dad’s losing his fucking mind if he thinks Malfoy’s going to do anything for charity without wanting something in return. Besides, he’s seen what the two of them are like together, Potter this and Malfoy that. Last time Malfoy came round for a cup of tea they ended flying around the back garden after a heated argument over the right way to brew a flu draught. First one to the Sycamore wins and all that. James had to be the judge, although he gave up when it went from best of three to best of eleven. It’s not like he doesn’t have better things to do than watch his dad have a pissing contest with Draco Malfoy. Like sorting his socks, for example. He’s been in odd socks for the last three weeks. "You can’t just leave."
"The Aurors are in good hands." His dad shrugs. "Besides, it’s not like there’s much to do these days. I was stuck half-way up a tree rescuing Mrs Figg’s cat the other week. I’m not exactly saving the world."
"Doing that twice wasn’t enough for you?" James rolls his eyes. He loves his dad, but being Harry Potter’s son doesn’t half set some unrealistic expectations. His Patronus is a naffing aardvark, for crying out loud. He barely got through his last Auror practical and he’s ready to jack it all in before he’s even begun. He doesn’t even like the Ministry. Dawlish is an arse and he just wants to have a little coffee shop in Diagon Alley or something. He’s much better at making cinnamon spiced lattes than he is at Ministry politics. He’s only sticking with it because Teddy seems to see some kind of heroic potential in him. Thank Merlin for Teddy. "What about money?"
"We’ve got plenty in the bank, don’t worry about that."
"What does Malfoy get out of this?"
His dad’s cheeks turn red and oh, Hippogriff balls this is worse than James imagined. "You’re kidding? You hate him."
His dad looks sheepish. "Err, not exactly."
Well, bollocks. This is just what James needs. His dad getting more sex than he is. James pulls a face and tries to put that unpleasant thought to the back of his mind. Christ, why can’t people just be normal and stay in their jobs and not start shagging Slytherin socialites with a penchant for crushed velvet jackets? He huffs and scratches his arm. Thankfully the sleeve of his jumper covers the small triangle which appeared overnight.
"Everything okay?" His dad’s gaze softens and the flush leaves his cheeks. "I know it’s been a bit crap clearing out Yaxley’s home and getting the flu. Ron said there was a problem with Teddy and-"
"There’s no problem." James twists his hands together and swallows. His mouth tastes like copper and rain. There’s something tugging at his gut, a rolling sickness and deep sense of loss crashing in waves inside his body. It makes him shiver, his body suddenly clammy and a dull ache where his heart thrums steadily in his chest. He’s already been off work sick since the thing at Yaxley’s and tomorrow’s Monday. He can’t afford more time off, Dawlish already hates him. "Really, I’m just feeling a bit peaky still. I think I might go back to bed."
His dad frowns and he puts his hand on James’ shoulder. It’s heavy and strong, sending warmth through James. "You do that. I can bring you tea?"
James musters a grin and sweeps his hair from his forehead. "Tea and digestives?"
His dad smiles, his eyes shining. "If you like."
James takes himself upstairs, smiling to himself. Perhaps his dad isn’t so bad after all, even if he’s having some weird kind of mid-life crisis.
A flash of pain shoots through his arm and he swallows, steadying himself on the bannister.
It disappears, as quickly as it began.
It’s a problem.
Technically, Teddy’s supposed to be supervising James. He’s very patient and kind and he’s been mates with James for ages. James can’t even put his finger on when it started to get awkward. He’s been half in love with Teddy for as long as he can remember. Teddy’s got the kind of casual scruffiness and blinding smile that James can’t resist. His hair's always blue these days, which Dawlish hates. He reckons it’s improper for an Auror to have anything other than a short back and sides. James loves that about Teddy. He makes his own way, even in one of the most conservative places in the wizarding world. Teddy doesn’t do anything by the book. He takes his job seriously but he’s not afraid to take a shortcut or fly a different path, no matter what Kingsley might say. James has looked up to Teddy since that Christmas when Teddy gave Al a Pygmy Puff and their mum nearly had a fit. Turns out, Teddy might have known something about their mum leaving. Al clung on to that Pygmy Puff – Harold – like it was oxygen.
James scowls at the triangle on his arm and pulls down his pyjama sleeve. Fuck it. It’s just a weird coincidence.
Everything’s going to be fine.
James frowns at the mirror before spitting toothpaste into the sink and giving it a look.
"I’m just saying." The mirror sounds breezy, which annoys James no end. He ruffles his hair and presses his fingers against the dark circles under his eyes. His arm’s killing him and he feels like he’s been hit by a Bludger. He’s never considered a make-up spell but some kind of concealer wouldn’t go amiss right now.
"I don’t think that’s helping," the mirror offers. "Are you sure you’re well?"
"I’m fine," James snaps. He taps his wand against the mirror to silence it, pleased that mirrors can’t look disgruntled. Magical mirrors are a liability. Trust his dad to think they’re charming and fun. They probably tell him he looks heroic and handsome. Oh, Harry, how brilliant you look. That hair! Those eyes! Everybody fancies his dad, even though it makes him uncomfortable. James couldn’t pull a witch or a wizard at Hogwarts without them angling for some kind of invite back to meet the great Harry Potter. He gave up in the end. James pulls a face at himself in the now silent mirror. He can only imagine what kind of things the mirrors say to Draco Malfoy. He’s bound to be over even more these days, as perfectly coiffed as ever. Unlike normal people, the mirrors probably have kittens over Malfoy’s crushed velvet. So fashionable, darling. So avant-garde. James sticks his tongue out at himself and gives up on a bad job. There’s no way he’s going to get rid of those dark circles, so he might as well just get on with the day.
James puts on his clothes, getting ready for work. He doesn’t know how to tell Teddy or his dad that he definitely doesn’t want to be an Auror. The time for that would have been during school when he sat opposite McGonagall and she asked James what he really wanted to do with his life. When he said he wanted to be an Auror like dad, she gave him a sad sort of smile as if she already knew. Al gets to be a Slytherin and an artist. He draws ridiculous pictures that are so clever and funny they have everyone in stitches. He’s obsessed with Harold, Scorpius Malfoy and being so unlike Harry Potter he doesn’t even notice the similarities which shine through every time he smiles at someone. Lily gets to be as smart as Aunt Hermione and she, too, escaped Gryffindor. She’s a Ravenclaw through and through, although she doesn’t half spend time with a lot of Hufflepuffs. James looks so much like his dad people won’t stop commenting on it. Barnaby Snopes the Hufflepuff Head Boy (James lost that election by a Kneazle’s whisker) once checked James didn’t have a scar on his forehead too, as if saving the world was hereditary.
James gave being Harry Potter a good shot, he really did. He took his ridiculous aardvark Patronus and his first reserve Seeker position and made people think he’d love to save the world. He told stories of courageous battles as if they were his own, when his biggest adventure was spending time with the house-elves after everyone else had gone to bed. He’d sneak down to the kitchen and make all kinds of brilliant coffee and ice-cream. He got flavoured lattes just right and he made the finest mint choc-chip ice-cream the elves had ever seen. It was just a hobby, though. He couldn’t work in kitchens forever so he studied as hard as he could and he did okay and whenever anyone asked him what he wanted to do he just said he wanted to be an Auror, like his dad. His dad was so proud, too. His eyes went all misty and peculiar and he clapped James on the shoulder his voice rough with a that’s my son. James could hardly tell his dad he didn’t know what he wanted, after that. Not when he looked so proud.
James couldn’t even have a sexuality crisis by himself. His dad came out before James even knew what bisexuality was. All James knew was that boys from Teddy Lupin to Barnaby Snopes made his insides twist and his palms clammy when he thought too much about the way they looked fresh from the shower or after a particularly energetic bout of flying. James finally realised he was into blokes – exclusively blokes – but by that time his dad had already done countless interviews, instigated marches and all sorts. Being gay just didn’t seem like a thing anymore. His dad had made James’ sexuality cool, when James would have quite happily enjoyed at least a few moments of teenage angst, thanks very much. People thought he was copying his dad when he came out, like there couldn’t be more than one queer person in the same family or like Harry Potter had invented it or something. If he thinks about it long and hard, James supposes he’s grateful to his dad for paving the way but did it have to be his dad that did it? James got to go along to parades and look longingly at the chiselled torsos of the wizards who came out of the closet largely to rub shoulders with Harry Potter and his bloody rainbow flag. James longed for something like a troll in the dungeons or a best friend who might need the Marauder’s Map for an exciting Animagus related mission. The only time the Marauder’s Map really helped James was when he had an ill-advised snog with Gregory Nott in the Restricted Section. That was a kiss and a half, but that’s as far as it went.
That’s another thing. James hasn’t had sex. Ever. He tries not to think about it too much because he’s got just enough information to pretend he definitely has. Teddy talks about sex. All the time. He sounds like he’s had a lot of it. He knows James is as gay as he is and he talks like they’ve got shared secrets. Because James loves Teddy to death he pretends they have. He laughs at all the jokes about awkward positions and reads enough magazines to help him contribute to discussions around how to use your fingers or tongue. He made up a whole story based on something he read in Wizards’ Wands and Teddy laughed so hard he nearly missed one of Kingsley’s boring announcements. Teddy’s ace. He really is bloody brilliant. James likes him far too much. He wants to be with Teddy far more than he wants to be an Auror and that makes it all worthwhile.
James shivers, his body cold. The dull pain in his arm seems to have spread out along his skin, which tingles whenever he moves. He can’t shake the sense of lethargy which crawls through his body and everything hurts. His heart, particularly. Another wave of nausea overwhelms him and before he knows where he is, he’s bending over the loo and hurling up the glass of water he drank as soon as he woke up.
"James?" There’s a tentative knock on the door and a click as his dad pushes it open. "Everything okay in here?"
"Mm fine." James wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and his dad looks at his arm, exposed to the harsh light in the bathroom by the short sleeves of the t-shirt James shrugged on a moment before. "It’s nothing, don’t start."
"James." His dad sounds firm now, worry etched on his face. "Show me."
"It’s just a mark," James mutters.
His dad crouches down next to James, feeling his forehead. The touch burns and James can’t bite back the hiss which escapes him. God, it’s so cold. When did it get so cold?
"When?" His dad’s voice is clipped, his eyebrows knitting into a frown. "You look awful."
"Yeah, the mirror already told me. Thanks, dad." James rolls his eyes. Christ, people are so fucking rude. He doesn’t meet his dad’s gaze and he stares mutinously at the triangle on his arm. "It’s just a Muggle tattoo. I thought it might be cool."
His dad snorts and he helps James to his feet, putting a hand on his shoulder. James has to flinch away from it because being touched by someone else seems to make his skin crawl and the pain in his chest flares.
"I might look daft, but I’m not a total idiot. Whatever Dawlish has told you." His dad’s lips quirk into a smile and James is reminded – again – how much he loves his dad, even if he hates being in his shadow so much he aches with it sometimes.
"After that thing at Yaxley’s place." James waves his hand. "It just sort of…appeared."
His dad’s eyebrows raise. "Five days ago?"
"About that." Six, actually. James can’t be bothered to correct him. He’s too sore and that ache which feels like it’s eating his body from the inside out gnaws at him.
"No idea. I haven’t seen him, have I? I’ve been off sick." James looks at his dad, a wave of emotion crashing through him at the sound of Teddy’s name. "Why? What’s this got to do with Teddy?"
"Perhaps nothing." His dad rakes a hand through his hair and he’s still frowning. He doesn’t suit serious but when he does get like this it reminds James of everything his dad is and was. "Perhaps everything. You can’t go into the Ministry today."
"Dawlish is going to have a fit dad, I can’t just-"
His dad cuts him off, holding up his hand. "Don’t worry about Dawlish. Can you get yourself into bed again? I need to see a couple of people. I’ll be back in an hour or so."
"Okay." Really, his dad does sound very serious. It makes James’ voice come out small and worried. "I’ll be okay, won’t I?"
His dad’s face softens and he gives James a hug, the kind that usually soothes James to the tips of his toes. "Of course. You’re going to be fine. I promise."
James sniffles and definitely doesn’t let himself cry. He just wants to be normal, to have a shag and perhaps go on holiday somewhere cool where nobody knows who Harry Potter is and James doesn’t feel like the poor man’s substitute.
He pulls out of his dad’s arms and wonders why even hugs hurt.
He wraps his arms around himself and crawls back into bed, shivering and pulling the duvet up to his chin as he hears muted voices coming from the Floo downstairs and a crack of magic before the house is still.
"Wales, apparently. Something to do with a Cornish Pixie outbreak in a Muggle pub. He’s due back this evening."
"If he’s in the same state he shouldn’t be flying – or Apparating. He’ll splinch himself."
"I suspect Lupin’s fine, if this is what we think it is. Nevertheless, you should go and get him. I know you won’t rest until you do."
"Malfoy’s right, Harry. We’ll stay here with James and we’ll let you know if anything happens. We just need to get Teddy here as soon as possible."
The warmth of a hand hovering over James makes him shift and then there’s the sound of people kissing briefly. He pulls a face.
There’s a choked laugh from his dad and James cracks open his eyes. Malfoy’s there, his hand on James’ dad’s back and his lips curved into a smug smile, one eyebrow raised as he contemplates James. He looks as much like he’s got a broom up his arse as ever. James frowns at him. He’s much more relieved to see Bill, who gives James a salute.
"Not a kid." James grins at Bill – he told them to drop the Uncle ages ago – and waves. "What’s the occasion?"
"You are." Malfoy’s so obnoxious it makes James frown at him even harder.
Malfoy murmurs something and James’ dad nods, murmuring something back. James rolls his eyes. Christmas is going to be unbearable if his dad and Malfoy are like this on his bloody death bed. God, he hopes he’s not on his death bed. The air is heavy with a flat, serious sort of mood and even Bill’s usually wide smile doesn’t quite meet his eyes.
"What’s going on, then? Why do you have to get Teddy?"
"You go on, Harry." Bill pulls over a seat and Malfoy takes the spare chair, crossing his legs and looking like an oil painting of some sort. A stuffy, old oil painting. He even sits like someone’s about to take his photograph for Wizards With Everything. "We’ll explain as best we can."
James swallows and doesn’t miss the look his dad gives him, soft, fond and sad.
This doesn’t sound good at all.
"Bonded?" He says, faintly.
"It’s just a theory," Bill says. He gives James a warm smile. "Try not to worry too much."
"A fairly solid theory." Malfoy sniffs and frowns when Bill gives him a look. "What’s your problem, Weasley? Potter deserves to know the truth. He’s an adult, he doesn’t need mollycoddling."
"He also doesn’t need to worry until we know for certain." Bill glares at Malfoy and then turns back to James. "Don’t mind Malfoy."
"Don’t worry, I won’t." James gives Malfoy what he hopes is a superior look. A bit difficult when he’s in his pyjamas with his hair sticking up all over the place and Malfoy looks like something out of a fashion magazine. Still, it seems to do the trick because Malfoy looks at James in a way that’s almost kind, his lips twitching into a smile. Bloody hell, maybe James reminds Malfoy of his dad. James shudders at the thought. "What does it even mean?"
"We won’t know much more until Teddy gets here and Dawlish lets me go to Yaxley’s to investigate." Bill looks curious, as if the prospect of breaking some kind of curse intrigues him, which it probably does. "You said there was an ornament of some sort?"
"Yeah, I think so." James’ cheeks heat because he’d sort of been looking at Teddy at the time. "A weird looking thing, a bit like a gargoyle. It was dusty and there was loads of stuff around. It fell off one of the shelves and broke, then there was even more dust and it tasted weird." James swallows, the taste still surprisingly fresh in his mouth despite the numerous times he’d scrubbed his teeth and used up half a bottle of mouthwash. "It was sort of damp and coppery."
Malfoy’s eyebrows knit and he taps his fingers on his leg. "Copper. You know that fits my thoughts on all of this, Weasley? If I’m right…"
"Let’s wait until Teddy gets here before we start jumping to any conclusions." Bill and Malfoy exchange looks and James can’t quite figure out what they mean. He’s tempted to stomp his feet and demand that they tell him exactly what they’re thinking, he just doesn’t have the energy to do anything except lie there feeling disgruntled.
James huffs and then glances at Malfoy. If he can’t do much more than sit in bed, he can probably manage to make a nuisance of himself. He gives Malfoy his most innocent smile. "My throat’s really dry. I don’t suppose I could have another cup of tea?"
"I’m not a house-elf, Potter." Malfoy stands, nevertheless, raising an eyebrow at James before snorting softly. "Go on, then. But only because I won’t hear the end of it from your dad if I say no."
Malfoy leaves the room and James settles back under the duvet, smiling at Bill when he winks at him.
"Too good an opportunity to pass up." James grins. "He’s lucky I didn’t ask him to make me a cheese toastie."
When Malfoy comes back, the tea is warm and sweet and James feels half normal for the first time in ages.
"Teddy’s here, then." There’s a breathlessness to James’ voice and when the door swings open it’s like someone’s put all the candles on and the room’s suddenly bathed in warmth and light.
James has always wanted Teddy, but now when he sees him with the same dark circles as James and a strange expression twisting his mouth into a worried shape, James wants him more than ever. He wants to cling to Teddy and breathe in his scent, never letting him go. He wants to stand and fold himself in Teddy’s arms. He wants more than that. So much more. He wants everything Teddy can give to him and he’s almost embarrassed by the force of his emotions – sure that they must be written all over his face.
"Hiya, Jamie." Teddy’s voice is rough and there’s a reverence to it when he looks at James. His eyes blaze and a low growl leaves him when he takes in the full extent of James’ appearance. The look in his eyes frightens James because he really must look bad if Teddy’s giving him a look which is half panic, half affection and laced with something else James can’t quite decipher. Bill and Malfoy stand back to let James get close to Teddy. He perches on the bed and James edges closer. Before anyone can say a word they’re wrapped up in the biggest, warmest, best hug of James’ life. Teddy’s soapy and clean and his skin smells so perfect. His touch sends sparks of electricity through James’ veins and it’s all he can do to stop himself from tugging open Teddy’s shirt and mouthing at his neck. He wants to taste every inch of him. He wants to tongue at Teddy’s skin and feel his lips and his mouth and oh. His body shudders in Teddy’s arms and Teddy’s hand winds into his hair, his voice low and ragged.
"S’okay, J. I’m here now. I’ve got you. We’re gonna be okay, yeah? Just, look at me for a minute will you?" Teddy seems a little more in control than James but only barely. When James pulls back, he sees the want in Teddy’s eyes and it’s like everything he’s hoped for. It’s a look which featured in the best dreams he’s had over the last few years and it’s like everything’s been building up to this moment – this one, glorious crescendo. It’s only when he sees the strange, set smile on Teddy’s face that James’ mood falls a little. Because Teddy probably isn’t looking at him like this because he wants James. He’s looking like this because of some stupid bonding spell. He looks happy to see James because he’s forced to like James as a result of some kind of weird spell that nobody seems to understand.
His dad clears his throat, pulling James’ attention away from Teddy for the moment. He still clings on, as tight as he can, worried that Teddy might leave and he’ll feel rubbish all over again. Teddy rubs his hand over James’ back, soothing him a little.
"I promise it’s going to be fine." Teddy murmurs to James, soft and low. He keeps James close, bundled up in his arms.
"We’ll give you both some privacy. I think you might need it." His dad sounds and looks a bit awkward, shuffling his feet a bit. "But we need to talk about this and soon."
"I don’t feel so bad, now." James gives Teddy a hopeful smile and Teddy grins, his features soft and warm.
"Nope. Not so bad at all." Teddy casts a look at Bill and Malfoy. "I’ve been chatting to Harry about this. I think I’ve got some ideas. The copper…"
"We thought the same." Bill nods and Malfoy’s lips tighten. They don’t look worried exactly but they also don’t look thrilled.
"Is anyone going to tell me what’s going on?" James can’t help but sound petulant, left out of the discussion about his own bloody accidental bonding.
"I can. If you agree that’s what it is?" Teddy looks from Bill, to Malfoy to James’ dad.
"Animus Tenebris," Malfoy says. "A rough approximation of Dark Soul."
"That’s doesn’t sound good." James winces and he looks to Teddy for reassurance.
"Don’t worry, J. It’s not as bad as all that." Teddy exchanges a look with Bill and then he places a kiss in James’ untidy mop of hair, his breath escaping him in a slow sigh. "Could we just…have a moment?"
"Of course. We’ll be downstairs." James’ dad still sounds uncertain but he has the decency to shoo everyone out. It’s a bit embarrassing, really. Burning arousal still floods through James and they probably know - his dad, Bill and Malfoy. They all seem to know a lot more than James does about the weird triangle and his sudden, overwhelming need for Teddy. The last bloody thing he wants is them lot sitting downstairs listening for every creak of the bed as James loses his virginity. God, is he going to fuck Teddy? Is that what’s going to happen?
"Steady." Teddy’s voice is light and he lets out a soft laugh as he wraps James closer, slipping into the bed with him so they can stretch out. He casts a quick spell, locking the door to give them privacy. "I can feel you panicking. What’s up?"
"They’re all downstairs and they know and I don’t have a clue what’s going on, except you’re here and I’m…" James gestures uselessly to his crotch area, his cheeks on fire. "I don’t want to do it like this. Not when they’re all around. I don’t want to do it like this at all, not when you don’t really want to. Are we going to die?"
"Slow down, for fuck’s sake." Teddy laughs and the sound is so warm and familiar, James musters a grin. Teddy always makes him feel better. That’s nothing to do with any weird magical soul bond. "We don’t have to do anything and I’m certainly not planning on shagging you with your dad making tea and biscuits downstairs."
"You’re not?" James doesn’t know whether to be relieved or put out. "Oh."
"I’ll tell you what I know about this, then we’ll figure something out. We’re not going to die, don’t worry." Teddy shrugs, like it’s all going to be fine. Like they’re talking about the weather as opposed to whether or not they’re actually going to die. James isn’t sure he likes being an adult at all, not that being an awkward teenager was a barrel of laughs. He just wants to be back in the office, polishing Dawlish’s boots and making Teddy laugh – day-dreaming about escaping it all and getting a Muggle ice-cream van.
"So what is it, then? This bond?" James runs his fingers over Teddy’s arm, just like his own but without the mark. Why doesn’t Teddy have a mark? He trails his fingers over Teddy’s chest, suddenly even more eager to be close to him. Their proximity makes him shiver and he bites back a groan of pleasure.
Teddy coughs, looking at little uncomfortable. His cheeks are light pink and the way he looks at James – it’s like he wants to taste his soul. "Might want to stop that, Jamie."
"Because of the bond?" Teddy looks slightly pained and James drops his hand, burrowing into the duvet and propping his head up on his hand so he can focus on Teddy without touching or stroking him. It’s a challenge, but James is good at challenges. He can do this. "Right, you were saying."
"The bond’s for lovers or for people who want to be lovers. It causes pain if it’s not satisfied, regularly. Both through proximity and sexually."
James definitely isn’t blushing. "Oh. But what’s dark about that? Isn’t it just like any bonding?"
"No, legal bonding doesn’t work like that." Teddy’s eyes look stormy. "Legal bonding does result in a mark and a magical connection but it just intensifies things that are already there. It doesn’t involve any aspect of compulsion or forced proximity, it just works to enhance certain things like sharing magic and stuff. It can also be dissolved by either party at any time and the marks fade away as soon as the bonding is dissolved. Most don’t even go in for proper magical bonding these days, it doesn’t really add much to the idea of marriage in the Muggle world."
"That makes sense." James is glad it didn’t hurt his mum and dad’s magic when they separated. He’d hate to think of them sadder than they were already, without the additional issues of dissolving a bonding. "But I still don’t get it. Dark Soul. And it was in Yaxley’s house. Surely it’s bad?"
"It is bad." Teddy seems to be toying with himself, then he sighs. "Look, Animus Tenebris has a really terrible history. It was used to basically compel the virgin partner in the marriage – the witch traditionally as there was no concept of same-sex marriage and Pureblood society demanded female virginity like the women were some kind of sacrificial goats…" Teddy harrumphs and scowls, before continuing. "It made them want to have sex with their partner. With a lot of Pureblood marriages being marriages of money and convenience, magic was used to ensure the sexual connection was satisfactory to the wizard involved. Not to mention, it made them crave the companionship of their partner. It suited Dark wizards to exercise that control far more than to allow their wives to have any true consent. Sometimes they would use the bond as punishment. Just disappear for a few days. Some witches went mad as a result."
James swallows, the description sending a shiver down his spine. He can almost feel the dark magic creeping through his veins and the coppery taste returns. It’s unpleasant and sets his teeth on edge. He shudders and creeps closer to Teddy, curling himself around Teddy’s warm body and trying to hold back a whimper. "That’s not a bond. It’s a curse."
"Yeah, I’d say so." Teddy sounds angry, a dark fury in his tone. "Bloody disgusting is what it is."
"How did it work on us, though?"
Teddy pauses and then he rubs his thumb over James’ cheek, his smile small but sincere. "Because one of us hasn’t had sex yet, I’m guessing and we were the only two in the room. I don’t know of an example of it latching on to a wizard, but it looks like gender isn’t the requisite factor."
Now James really does want to curl up in a ball and die. Everyone knows. Teddy, who’s laughed at all the jokes James made knows he was making half that stuff up. He remembers telling Teddy about all the snogging and the rest, the lazy conversations over pints in the Leaky Cauldron and lying on the grass during the summer, staring at the sky. His dad’s going to know and Malfoy that smug looking git. Probably all of the Weasley family by now. Nobody should know that much about his sex life, for Merlin’s sake. It’s private and it’s James’ best kept secret. His only bloody secret. He stares at Teddy and tries to find something to say. "I didn’t mean to lie to you."
"Don’t be daft. I’m not bothered. I just wish you didn’t think you had to pretend about stuff like that." Teddy frowns at James, studying him closely. "I don’t care how much sex you’ve had, you know. You don’t have to make things up to be…well…my mate or whatever."
"Your mate." James winces and he looks away from Teddy, a knot of anxiety tightening in his stomach.
"James…" Teddy’s voice breaks and his usual confidence seems to have disappeared. "I mean, what do you want me to say? You’ve been cursed into thinking you want me."
James swallows. "So if the bond was all one sided, does this mean you don’t feel anything for me?"
Teddy’s expression flickers and he stares at James. "Not because of the bond."
"Oh." James has never felt so small or so lost. "So I’m going to want to be near to you and shag you and you’re just going to…what? Have to? Because we’re mates?"
Teddy looks away for a moment, his lips tightening. "I’m going to speak to Dawlish. I reckon we should go away somewhere for a bit. Just the two of us. I’m due a holiday, anyway. Your dad and Draco are on this. Malfoy knows more about this kind of thing than any of us, even Bill. He’s going to speak to some people and find out how to break the bond. It’s been done before. We just don’t know how."
"But this is shit. It’s really, really shit. You can’t have sex with me just because you’re trying to stop me from going mad."
Teddy smiles at James and he looks so fond, it steals James’ breath from his lungs. He’s so in love with Teddy it makes this even worse. He doesn’t even know where the bond ends and his own feelings begin. He just knows he’s always wanted Teddy and he probably always will.
"First off, it wouldn’t be to stop you from going mad." Teddy’s fingers brush James’ hair from his face and his voice is a low, deep whisper. "You’re hot, Jamie. You’re fit and fun and stuff. Why wouldn’t I want to shag you?" He pulls a face. "Not sure I feel great about you being compelled to shag me, if I’m honest. I hate spells like this. I don’t particularly want to shag someone who’s only with me because of some stupid Pure-blood magic."
James keeps his voice low. He can’t look at Teddy, he can’t. "I wanted to. Before all this. I wanted to, so much."
"Christ." Teddy huffs out a breath. His angry tone changes and he sounds almost hopeful. "Really?"
"Really." James stares at Teddy. They’re so close and Teddy’s hair so blue. It’s all messy from a quick trip back from Wales and James wants to run his fingers through it and feel every soft strand. He knows that’s not the curse. He’s always wanted to run his fingers through Teddy’s hair, he’s just never been allowed. He lifts his hand and slides it through Teddy’s hair, keeping his movements slow and tentative. Although he’s the one who’s supposed to want this because of the bond, he knows the way Teddy’s looking at him now and the way he looked at James before. That wasn’t a curse. That was just…Teddy, looking at James like he hung the moon.
"Forever." James laughs, broken and breathless. "I dunno. Since you got Al that Pygmy Puff. Since then, I think."
Before James can process what’s happening, Teddy’s gathering James into his arms and their lips meet in a kiss. It sends pleasure through every inch of James’ body. It’s like magic travelling along his skin, making it tingle. Teddy is warm, solid and so gorgeous it pulls a ragged exhale from James. He presses close to Teddy, groaning into the kiss and rocking against him. Teddy knows what he’s doing, that’s for sure. His kisses are firm and practiced and when his lips part and his tongue finds its way into James’ mouth it’s divine. James presses closer, the need flooding through his veins and his cock painfully hard as he presses against Teddy.
"J, I…can’t…fuck…" Teddy groans into the kiss.
"Please. It’s not the bond, I promise. Wanted you for ages. It hurts, Teddy." It does, too. It hurts, wanting Teddy this much and getting it in such a strange way. In a moment of blissful pleasure, Teddy’s hand slips under the waistband of James’ pyjamas. His hand is sure and firm, wrapped around James as Teddy presses hot-mouthed kisses along his neck. They gasp and pant into one another’s mouths, James finding Teddy’s cock with trembling fingers. He unzips Teddy’s jeans and pushes his hand inside, finding Teddy hard, hot and long. He feels so fantastic. A heavy weight in James’ palm. Different but familiar all at once.
"You’re not doing this because you think I have to…because of the bond?" James murmurs against Teddy’s lips, pleasure fusing them together once more. He can’t get enough of Teddy. He wants to fuck him and be fucked by him and take everything he can get. Every stroke of Teddy’s hand has him bucking forwards with a low groan of pleasure. It’s too much yet not enough. He can’t imagine it being anyone else now he’s here and Teddy’s in his bed.
"No, love." Teddy’s words leave him in a ragged breath and he squeezes his hand around James. They stroke one another until they’re both spilling over each other’s hands. It’s difficult to know who comes first and the bed creaks beneath them as Teddy presses his forehead to James and he lets out a rough laugh which doesn’t have much humour in it. "Your dad’s going to kill me."
"Never mention my dad again when you’ve got my cock in your hand." James pulls a face. He uses a quick spell to clean them both up and he nestles close to Teddy, a wave of exhaustion crashing over him. "Can we sleep for a bit?"
"Yeah." Teddy sounds unsure, the edge of something James can’t decipher in his tone. "We can sleep for a bit."
James smiles against Teddy’s skin. If he can pretend, just for a moment, they’re both here because they want to be, perhaps he’ll be able to sleep after all.
Tiredness takes him and he drifts into a deep sleep, with the taste of copper and Teddy rich on his tongue.
"Who just has an apartment in New York?" James rolls his eyes and Teddy grins, pushing his hair out of his face.
"Draco Malfoy, that’s who. I bet it’s swanky as you like."
"Satin sheets and one of those fridges just for wine," James agrees.
"It’s Muggle." Teddy looks thoughtful. "Don’t you think that’s weird?"
James shrugs. "Hadn’t given it much thought, to be honest."
"It just doesn’t seem very Malfoy-like, having a Muggle place anywhere. I’d have thought he’d be all about having lots of big stuffy books and spooky talking portraits. An unplottable wizarding house in the country sort of bloke."
"He dresses Muggle."
"Sort of." Teddy grins and James laughs, his chest already so much lighter after a few hours in Teddy’s company. The dark circles under his eyes are fading and he feels happy and warm. "Perhaps he’s got some magical artefacts stashed away in a cupboard somewhere. We can have a proper snoop around."
"You’ll do no such thing." Malfoy interrupts them, entering the room with James’ dad by his side.
"You’ll like the apartment." James’ dad smiles and he gives Malfoy a wink. "It’s very comfortable."
Malfoy laughs and the sound is so unexpected it takes James by surprised. "Delighted to hear you find it so pleasing, Potter."
"Oh, I do." James’ dad’s voice is teasing and low.
"Dad." James is actually going to throw up. He folds his arms and glares at his dad. They’re really going to have to have a word about this. "When the bloody hell were you in New York, anyway?"
"A few months ago. He’s been there a few times." Malfoy gives James’ dad a quick look and something unspoken passes between them. The moment passes as quickly as it came and Malfoy uses a shrinking spell, handing James his now tiny luggage.
"Gross," James mutters. His dad gives him a hug which he reluctantly returns. "Stop talking about your sex life, will you?"
His dad looks amused. "I just said it was comfortable."
Teddy winks at James. "Comfortable and pleasing, apparently."
"Just…no more." James holds up his hand and ignores the look Malfoy gives his dad. It’s weird, seeing Malfoy looking so expressive. His face is full of affection and desire and James wonders if Malfoy knows he looks head over heels. He watches his dad, whose smile meets his eyes for the first time in ages and James supposes he can get over Malfoy being a poncy prick if he makes dad this happy. Probably. "Where’s Bill?"
"Yaxley’s." Malfoy’s usual haughty look returns. "I’ve got a little experience with this particular bond. I believe between us, we should be able to get you unbonded in no time."
"Good." James looks at Teddy, who seems deep in thought. "In the meantime we’ll just…" His cheeks heat again and he clears his throat. He already wants to be closer to Teddy again, the taste of his kisses and the sound of his low, ragged breaths making James shiver.
"We’ll manage. Besides, who doesn’t love New York?" Teddy smiles, but there’s a wariness in it and he exchanges a look with James’ dad. "Come on, then. Ready?"
"Ready." James reaches for Teddy and then drops his hand when Teddy doesn’t immediately take it.
As they make their way downstairs, the triangle on his arm itches again and everything feels cold.
"Ridiculous." Teddy stares at the apartment, mouth open. "It’s so…"
"Nothing like Malfoy. It’s nothing like Malfoy." James drops his luggage, returning it to its usual size. The apartment couldn’t be further from his expectations. He’d expected chintzy furniture smelling like mothballs with imposing oil paintings of funny looking old blokes. Instead, the apartment is warm and cutting edge. There’s a large sign on one of the brick walls, which lights up when Teddy flicks a switch. It says passion on it, in slender, joined up writing with curves and flicks in the letters which curl against one another. The place is decorated with minimalist art-work, some of the pieces looking curiously abstract and full of sharp lines or minute, interesting details. There’s a dark violence in some of the pieces, a bareness and an anguish which makes James’ chest feel funny when he looks at them for too long. The bed sits above the enormous expanse of living space on an open mezzanine level, dressed in simple white cotton with huge pillows and several cushions which provide a splash of colour. There’s exposed steel and bricks, the kitchen brushed stainless steel and impeccably clean. James can’t imagine Malfoy cooking and he tries to picture his dad here, frying eggs and wrapping his arms around Malfoy while they watch a Muggle film on the huge television which is perfectly positioned at the end of the room by comfortable sofas.
"Perhaps we don’t know Malfoy at all," Teddy muses. "He comes here a lot, doesn’t he?"
"Must do, if dad’s been here. He’s always on about America."
"Look at this," Teddy murmurs. "Christ. They’re so young."
"What’s that?" James moves close to Teddy, partially because he wants to see what Teddy’s looking at but mainly because Teddy smells and looks so good James is dizzy with it. "That’s the Empire State."
"Yeah." Teddy runs his fingers over the picture. James’ dad’s laughing, his eyes shining as he reaches for the invisible person behind the Muggle camera. He’s got a Slytherin scarf around his neck and his eyes look greener than ever, his hair all over the place, casually mussed up. "You reckon Malfoy took this?"
"Must have done." A fist of emotion clutches at James’ heart as he studies the picture. "This was before he married mum."
"A bit before, I’d say." Teddy puts the photograph down and picks up another. "Jamie…"
"Yeah, I see it." James swallows, thickly. It’s a picture which looks old as if someone’s taken it out of the frame a lot, just to look at it. It’s Malfoy and he’s got the kind of look he had earlier. It’s different, because Malfoy’s younger and there’s an uncertainty to it but there’s the same kind of open vulnerability in his expression, a fondness that’s impossible to miss. He’s got his shirt half unbuttoned and he looks slimmer than usual, his collarbone pronounced and his hair free from its usual impeccable style. It’s soft and he looks warm and happy, his cheeks lightly flushed. There’s a small, surprised smile on his lips and his eyes are dark with arousal. There’s a note tucked into the frame and Teddy opens it slowly, their breathing soft in the still room and the paper rustling.
"I like the way you look when you look at me. Fondly yours. Scarhead." Teddy laughs softly, shaking his head. "Harry. God."
"It’s been ages." James takes the note from Teddy, looking at it closely. "They’ve been together for ages."
"There haven’t been together all this time, obviously."
"Yeah, but still." James has the strangest desire to cry. He thinks of his mum and dad when they were at their happiest. The way they would dance in the kitchen and kiss under the mistletoe on holidays. He thinks of his dad when he had his darker moments after the separation, mooching around the house and looking harassed and careworn. He remembers the way his dad’s mood would lift when Malfoy started coming over for chats which now seem so ludicrously engineered, James can’t believe how blind he was. Nobody comes over to get into a wild debate about flu draughts and the seating plan for the next Ministry Ball. His dad couldn’t give a fuck about the seating plan, but he’d still sit with Malfoy, their heads bowed together while Malfoy pointed out one seat or another with his long, slim fingers. James thinks back to those times of opening the door to find Malfoy there looking past James with an eagerness he can only see now with hindsight. He looks at the strange, sad paintings and the reminder of passion which lights up the whole room with its persistent glow. Perhaps Malfoy goes Muggle because he has to – when half the wizarding world thinks he’s a bit of a pillock and when his dad did so many unspeakable things. A cretin, James’ dad called Lucius Malfoy once. James puts the photograph of Malfoy down, picking up the picture of his dad again. He wants his dad to look like that all the time – young and so, so happy.
"You look like that sometimes." Teddy’s voice is quiet. "I’ve seen you looking like that."
The time for pretending is long gone and James puts the photograph down, meeting Teddy’s gaze head on. "You probably have. I think it’s what we look like when we’re happy with someone." He pauses. "You were weird earlier."
"Was I?" Teddy pulls a face and looks at his feet. "I’m still not sure I know what’s real and what isn’t. I don’t want to take advantage."
"You’re not." James points to the photo of his dad again. "Did I look like that before the curse?"
"A bit," Teddy acknowledges. "You did. Sometimes. Maybe I was I imagining it, or thinking you looked happy because I wanted you to be happy with me."
"I was. I am. I’ve already told you that." James stands closer to Teddy, sliding his hands over his arms and just breathing in his clean, soapy scent. "Don’t be soft."
Teddy’s lips tug into a smile and he brushes James’ hair from his forehead. "Were you just going to wait for some dark curse before you told me? I thought you were shagging your way around London. Didn’t think you’d want someone like me."
"What?" James almost splutters out the word and he stares at Teddy. "Well that’s just fucking stupid. I was so obvious. I don’t even want to be an Auror, I only do it because I love spending time with you."
Teddy looks shocked and his brow furrows. "You don’t? Why didn’t you say?"
"I didn’t want to disappoint you. Or dad. He practically cried when I told him I was going to work at the Ministry. I don’t reckon anyone’s going to cry over a cinnamon spiced latte, even if they’re bloody amazing."
"A what?" Teddy’s frown eases and now he looks confused.
"It’s what I want to do." James shrugs. "Make coffee and perhaps ice-cream in the summer."
"You want to make ice-cream?" Teddy begins to smile, that broad grin which steals James’ breath away. "Ice-cream?"
"Yeah, so? What’s wrong with ice-cream? It’s a thing."
"Madame Puddifoot is looking for someone to take over the lease, did you know that?" Teddy, mercifully, doesn’t laugh but he still looks amused. "You could do it. You must have saved some cash."
"A bit. Dunno if it’s enough."
"Look into it. Your dad just wants you to be happy, you know what he’s like. Besides, now he’s shagging Malfoy again I reckon he’s going to be even more relaxed."
James makes a face. He might have a new sympathy for his dad’s new relationship, but he definitely doesn’t want to picture anything to do with Malfoy and relaxing. "Do you mind?"
"Sorry." Teddy laughs now, tugging James over to the sofa. He noses through the cupboards and grabs a bottle of posh looking wine, pouring them both a glass and sitting next to James. "How long, then?"
"What?" James takes a sip of his wine. It’s rich and fruity.
"How long have you been carrying this torch of yours?" Teddy looks terribly pleased with himself and James snorts, punching him lightly in the shoulders.
"There’s no torch." He takes another sip of his wine and shifts closer to Teddy. "A while."
"Right." Teddy stares into his own glass before looking at James out of the corner of his eye. "Well, me too for the record. With the torch."
"Oh." James can feel the flush rising to the tips of his ears, a delighted grin spreading over his face. "Okay, then. What now?"
"Don’t know." Teddy shrugs, stretching his arm across the back of the sofa. His fingers brush the nape of James’ neck and even that one touch feels so good. "What if we shag and then they break the curse and you don’t want to anymore? That would be pretty bloody awful."
"Not going to happen." James cocks his head to one side, staring at Teddy. "You want to shag?"
Teddy’s the one to blush this time. "Might do. Do you?"
James rolls his eyes. "Obviously. I’m under the influence of dark magic."
"That’s why?" Teddy narrows his eyes and scrutinises James.
"Only reason. You’re not good looking at all." James takes Teddy’s glass and puts it down with his own, shifting closer. "I definitely never wanked over thinking about you fucking me before this curse business."
"Fuck, James." Teddy growls, low in his throat. His hand moves from the nape of James’ neck and into his hair, tugging lightly. He moves forward and runs his lips over the column of James’ throat until James is ready to melt into a puddle of goo. "You can’t just say stuff like that."
"Why not? It’s true." James tugs Teddy close and kisses him soundly. "This curse does something weird with my skin, though. It’s like…magic. When you touch me. It’s like I can feel it everywhere. Is it always going to be like that?"
"Probably not." Teddy pulls back to look at James. "At least, I doubt it."
"Well, then." James attempts to sound more confident than he feels. "We should probably make the most of that then, shouldn’t we?"
"Yes." Teddy leans forward and captures James’ lips in a blissful, heated kiss. "Probably should."
Teddy takes James’ chin in his hand and looks at him closely. "You’re sure about this?"
"I’m sure. I was sure before the curse and I will be afterwards." James tugs at Teddy’s jumper, impatient. "Come on, then. I want you to fuck me. Why are you still wearing clothes?"
Teddy laughs and he brushes his fingers against James’ belly. They’re hot against James’ skin. He pushes up James’ t-shirt a little and every press of his fingers against James’ skin sends pleasure through his body. "You need to be naked too."
"I’ve got that, thanks." James rolls his eyes and he tugs off his t-shirt, popping the button on his jeans and lowering the zip with tantalising slowness, holding Teddy’s eyes the whole time. "Like this?"
"That’ll do." Teddy’s throat works as he watches James. He looks so good when he’s turned on.
They arrange themselves on the bed, Teddy crawling over James. He captures his lips in heated kiss after heated kiss, until James is writhing beneath Teddy and whispering soft pleas into the night.
"I’ve got you." Teddy’s voice sounds thick with emotion and he whispers a spell which makes his fingers slick. He takes his time, fingering James slowly open. The first touch makes James gasp and arch up as Teddy works one finger inside James. It’s a strange sensation at first, but James soon adjusts. When Teddy adds a second finger, James can’t help the moan that escapes him. Teddy knows what he’s doing and his fingers brush over a spot inside James which makes him see stars.
"Teddy." James sucks in a breath and tugs Teddy in for a kiss which is sloppy and messy. He doesn’t even care. It just feels so good having Teddy slowly push his fingers inside him. He doesn’t know where Teddy ends and he begins anymore. The pleasure rolls through him in waves and Teddy kisses him hard, sucking at a spot on his neck and working his way down James’ body. When Teddy reaches James cock and takes him into his mouth, he’s so warm and tight that James nearly comes on the spot. With Teddy doing maddening things with his mouth and his fingers, James is so close to coming he has to squeeze the base of his cock and push Teddy back a little. "Stop…wait…"
"J?" Teddy pulls back and his voice is rough. Rough from what he was doing to James and oh fuck that’s a glorious thought. James has to squeeze himself tightly again, letting himself settle a little.
"S’okay. It’s good." James manages to make words, but he’s not quite sure how. "I just want you to fuck me, that’s all."
"Oh." Teddy looks relieved, happy and still a bit uncertain. He clears his throat and shifts back just a bit. "It’s definitely what you want?"
"I told you, I’ve wanted it for ages. It’s what I want. What I want, even if the curse makes it feel bloody brilliant it’s still me. I’ve wanted you for as long as I can remember, I just thought you wouldn’t want me." Apparently being horny turns James into someone who overshares. He would be embarrassed but the look on Teddy’s face tells him he’s said the right thing. Teddy looks so happy, James can understand someone wanting to capture that sort of look in a photograph. Because he did that. He, James Potter, made Teddy Lupin look like he’s fucking in love or something. It’s almost as good as the touching – just watching Teddy smile. Almost. Not quite.
"Alright." Teddy’s voice shakes a little and it occurs to James he’s actually nervous. He wonders at it, with all of Teddy’s experience. He wonders what he’s done to make Teddy’s voice shake and his eyes mist and shine.
"Please." James bites his lip and watches Teddy, who closes his eyes and counts to ten.
"You’ll be the death of me, Jamie." Teddy sighs, but it’s a happy kind of sigh. The sort that comes from the depths of your lungs and slides through your bones. He murmurs James’ name and it’s not J or Jamie it’s just James, the whisper stroking over the still night air. He settles over James and he pushes inside him so slowly James aches with the delicious pleasure. Teddy’s obviously taking care not to hurt James but it doesn’t hurt. Not a bit. Well, it’s a bit strange and he feels so full but it’s not the bad kind of sore. It’s the good kind. The kind that James knows he’s going to feel tomorrow and that makes him shiver with pleasure.
"I’m good, please. Want you to fuck me." James licks his lips and then Teddy’s kissing him into blissful oblivion. They move together in a way which feels so right, their bodies fitting together just so. James kisses Teddy as hard as he can, urging him on until Teddy’s snapping his hips and his eyes are dark and searching. There’s no gentle tenderness now, it’s just fast and furious and it sends sparks of pleasure through James’ whole body. He can feel Teddy’s magic. It’s warm like a blanket, it’s hot and urgent and it sparks through James’ skin and if this is the curse it’s working out just fine for him. Every push of Teddy’s cock inside his body hits a spot that makes James cry out, Teddy’s name over and over again.
Finally, James lets himself go. He comes from a quick, slick stroke of Teddy’s hand over his cock. He comes with a shout, the warm stickiness coating his belly. He clenches around Teddy who continues to push inside him, perspiration on his forehead. After another few moments, Teddy comes too. He groans into a messy, broken kiss and then he settles over James while he catches his breath. He rolls off after a moment and James feels empty without him.
"Mmhm." Is about the only response James can manage. He tilts his head and looks at Teddy, who’s staring at the ceiling. "Was it okay?"
"I’ll say." Teddy turns to look at James, a smile playing on his lips. He lifts his arm and James insinuates himself beneath it, his head on Teddy’s chest. He breathes in, then out. It feels right and he’s so certain it’s not the curse. It’s just Teddy. It’s always been Teddy, for so long now.
"It feels right, doesn’t it?"
"Yep." Teddy presses a kiss to James’ hair. "Tell me that when this bond’s broken, will you?" He still sounds uncertain.
"Obviously." James kisses Teddy’s chest and settles himself in a comfortable sleeping position. He closes his eyes with a yawn. He hopes they can have sex again in the morning. Maybe they can go and see the Empire State. Or go to Brooklyn. He’s heard good things about Brooklyn. They do good coffees in America, too. James has done his research on coffee. Lots of coffee shops all over the place, apparently.
"Jamie?" Teddy’s voice is quiet in the still night. James can hear his heart beating as he presses his ear to Teddy’s chest. He aches in places he didn’t even know it was possible to ache. It’s brilliant.
"You reckon your dad and Malfoy have had sex in this bed?"
James hits him with a pillow.
James drinks the potion Malfoy offers him and he feels something shift. The ache and pull towards Teddy loosens and the tingly, electric feeling on his skin eases. The itch on his arm disappears and when he looks at the triangle, it’s already fading slightly. He’s almost disappointed. Teddy’s watching him curiously, an uncertain look on his face.
"Hey." James reaches for Teddy. "Why are you so far away?"
Teddy’s cheeks flush and he smiles, moving closer to James and wrapping an arm around him. He presses a kiss to James’ cheek – they are in front of his dad, after all – and James can tell Teddy’s breathing him in.
"We’re together now," James informs Malfoy and his dad who both seem to be hiding their smiles.
"You don’t say." Malfoy turns his eyes heavenward.
"We gathered that," James’ dad says. He gives James’ hair a quick ruffle and then nudges Malfoy. "We should go to that thing."
"What thing?" Malfoy stares at James’ dad and then he snorts softly. "Subtle as ever, Potter. Yes, let’s go to that thing. Leave the lovebirds to it for an evening."
"He’s a fine one to talk," James mutters under his breath. Lovebirds indeed. Bloody Malfoy.
He doesn’t mind though, really. He’s got an evening with Teddy all to himself, he’s finally home and his dad looks happier than ever. He can even see Malfoy in a new light after spending time in his apartment and finding photographs of a past before James even existed.
"Have fun." James waves to his dad and Malfoy as they get ready to leave, before turning to Teddy. "Now. Where were we?"
Teddy’s eyes shine and he dips his head to James, whispering against his lips. "Here?"
James sighs into the kiss, tugging Teddy closer. "That sounds about right."
He’s smiling at Teddy who’s hidden behind the camera. He’s flushed and happy, the New York air making his cheeks pink. They’re on top of the world, looking down from the Empire State building on the rest of New York city. He looks happy, his eyes shining and his smile wide.
Tucked inside is a small note, written hurriedly in Teddy’s familiar hand.
I like the way you look when you look at me.
James puts the note carefully in is drawer and has the best night’s sleep he’s had in ages.
"Any reason for the triangle, lads? Quite popular, this." The man with the needle furrows his brow as he works, his tongue poking out of the side of his mouth. Eventually he wipes James’ arm and sits back in his chair. "All done."
"Brilliant. Thanks." James looks at the mark on his arm. His dad’s probably going to kill him. He’ll have to make sure he tells him one morning after Malfoy’s been round. That might help. He points at the seat and pushes Teddy towards it. "Your turn."
"I know." Teddy rolls up his jumper sleeve and takes James’ place. "Same again, please."
"You got it." The man leans forward again, the buzz of the tattoo gun starting up again after he changes the needle. He begins to work on Teddy, who looks up at James.
"Your dad was okay about that job thing?"
"Fine." A rush of happiness floods through James as he thinks of the long chat with his dad about his future. "He’s going to help me out with the lease while I get started. We signed the contracts today."
"Cool." Teddy admires his tattoo when it’s all finished. "Now we match."
"Yeah." James takes Teddy’s hand and tugs him into a deep kiss, ignoring the whistles and catcalls from those nearby. "Now we do."
It’s cold outside, winter setting in. In the pub it’s warm and fun, with Muggles laughing and dancing to a very serious looking band in skinny jeans, white socks and thick, shiny shoes. Teddy’s hand is a solid presence on James’ back and when he pushes his fingers under James’ jumper to stroke lightly over his skin, a flicker of electricity passes through James’ body.
And, yeah. That’s magic.