Teddy grabs James's arm, stumbling, but James steadies him and screams a hush. Teddy isn't sure how James manages to scream a hush, but he does.
"Shhh! I don't want to wake Mum and Dad! They'll tell us we're being…" James trails off, trips on a rock, and almost falls face first until Teddy grabs his arm, dissolving into laughter.
"Tell us we're being what? Fun?" Teddy asks. "They'd be angry we're—what are we doing?"
"Stumbling home from the pub," James says seriously. "A bit drunk."
Teddy pauses. "They won't be mad, though, will they?"
"Well no," James whispers. "But they'll give me that look, you know, and I'd rather get inside being very stealthy."
"Stealthy is my middle name," Teddy hisses, wounded.
"Says the drunk metamorphmagus whose nose is still shaped like Snape's from that impression and whose hair is hot pink."
Teddy laughs, still hanging on James's arm.
James catches the laugh, elbowing Teddy in the stomach. "Stop," he says, laughing harder.
"You stop," Teddy throws back, and it's remarkable how little has changed since they were kids.
A Lumos flares from inside the house, throwing a patch of light out the window and onto the gravel path. Teddy can tell it's Harry's Lumos; it's bright and flickery, whereas Ginny's is a cooler tone and steadier.
Teddy laughs harder, covers his mouth with his free hand, and tugs James towards the cottage.
The cottage sits down the path from the main house and has been home to Teddy for five years and James for three, aside from James’s stints in the Puddlemere team dormitory during the season. The cottage comprises two bedrooms, a living room, and a small kitchen. It sat empty for most of the time the Potters have lived here. Harry and Ginny had the cottage wired for electricity when they moved in (the main house had been too magical to allow Muggle wiring), and it had turned into the designated film-watching spot until the invention of magic conversion boxes (which allow you to plug any Muggle technology into a box that powers it with magic).
Harry originally hoped that Molly and Arthur would move into the cottage when they got older and needed more help, but, as Ginny reminded him, that time wouldn't come for ages, as Molly and Arthur are not yet eighty and still have decades of relative youth in them.
So in recent years, the cottage has been the haunt of the Potter kids, first as a good hiding spot for cousin games of hide-and-seek, then as an unsupervised spot for watching movies and playing games with friends (there's still an old Xbox in the living room). When Teddy was twenty-one and preparing to move in, he'd Apparated a box of stuff over only to find Albus sucking Scorpius off in the kitchen, something Teddy still prefers not to think about and that reinforces his desire never to have children, because how is anyone meant to deal with thirteen-year-olds looking for places to suck cock?
James opens the door and they stumble inside, flipping on the lights and closing the door behind them. It smells like the curry James heated up for lunch.
Teddy laughs, holding onto James's arm for stability as he steps on the heels of his trainers, kicking them to the side into the pile of things they discard by the door—James's Quidditch bag, mismatched wellies, coats, Teddy's work apron. Harry had hung hooks on the wall there, but the pile of shit on the floor never seems to make it to the hooks.
They collapse on the sofa and James Accios the remote.
Teddy blinks; they must have fallen asleep at some point. The telly blasts an advert for a blender with magical blades, and James's foot, wearing a purple-and-red-striped sock, is in Teddy's face. He groans, mouth dry, and pushes James's foot away.
He rubs a hand over his face, freezing when he feels a strange nose, which he wrinkles in confusion before morphing it back to his own. When he was a kid, his morphs never stayed during sleep, but they often do now. He wonders if that's normal, but he's never met another metamorphmagus to ask. He touches his nose; it seems like it's back to its usual proportions, but Teddy can never be sure if he's morphed back to Teddy, or if he's mimicking a copy of a copy. He sighs—it's close enough.
His bedroom and his toothbrush are much too far away. James looks peaceful, sleeping like that, his eyelashes resting on his freckled cheeks. Teddy reaches for the blanket Molly knitted in Puddlemere colours when James was signed to the team and arranges it to cover James, sticking his own legs under the extra. He grabs his wand off the table, casts a Hydration Charm at himself and then at James to ward off a hangover, spells off the telly, and collapses back into sleep.
When people finish Hogwarts, they often lament having to choose clothes each day instead of just wearing a uniform. They miss the simple routine of wearing the same thing, of not having to consider what their choice of clothes means. Sometimes Teddy feels that way about being a metamorphmagus. How does he want to look? What is most him? Fuck if he knows.
The essence of a metamorphmagus body is that the cells can transform to match one's will. Teddy has been able to change his appearance since he was an infant. It's cool, and a good parlor trick, but it's also disorienting—sometimes people don't recognise him, he doesn't look like his parents, he doesn't even have an inherent appearance. There is no default body underneath, beyond the morphing. The morphing changes his very DNA, so if someone takes Polyjuice of him, for example, they'll turn into whatever he looked like when they took the DNA sample. They won't turn into some true version of Teddy, because there isn't one. There's just…whatever he is now.
"You look like Uncle Bill." James leans on the door frame, looking at Teddy’s reflection in the mirror over Teddy’s shoulder.
Teddy smiles. "What, you don't like it? Maybe I should do Arthur." He concentrates and watches as his pate turns bald, the ginger hair around the circumference shortening and going grey.
James laughs, delighted, and reaches out to rub Teddy's head. "Make it like your mum's."
Teddy recalls photos he's seen of his mum and turns his hair into a pink shag.
James grabs a clump of the pink hair and smiles. "Just pick something and come have breakfast. You always look hot no matter what, Tedward. Well, maybe not when you look like Granddad, but you know. Other than that." James turns and walks into the kitchen.
Teddy's chest tightens as he watches James's back retreat in the mirror. He wonders at the way James can say things like that—like it's nothing to casually tell someone they look hot.
Teddy thinks James looks hot (more and more lately, if he's honest with himself), but he wouldn't say it matter-of-factly like that. Teddy tries not to dwell on it, really. He figures it's yet another symptom of his inability to know what the fuck he wants in life—his stupid ever-changing body deciding to find James hot. The whole bisexuality thing is fine; of course he's attracted to all sorts of people, right? He doesn't even have a stable body, much less a stable gender, so it'd almost be more bizarre if he weren't attracted to all sorts of people. But his own godbrother, his best friend? What's next? One day he suddenly wakes up a furry? It would be really fucking nice to feel like he wasn’t being sabotaged by his brain, his body, his desires.
Teddy sighs and shortens his hair, but leaves it pink. Somehow it feels better, more authentic, to subvert gender norms. Teddy isn’t sure why. It’s not like he feels like a woman, or wishes he were a woman, but he wants people who see him to know he’s different, to know there’s something different about Teddy, about Teddy’s body. If they don’t know, he feels fake. The easiest way to mark his difference is to subvert gender norms. Plus, pink hair looks incredible, and dresses are fucking comfortable. But right now he’s still in last night’s skinny jeans.
He walks into the kitchen, stretching his shoulders by reaching his arm across his body and pulling, one side then the other, and opens the fridge. "Is there any of that leftover pizza?"
"No, I ate it." There's a sound of cereal hitting ceramic.
"You ate my green pepper and olive?" Teddy asks, looking over his shoulder. "You hate olives."
James shrugs. "I was hungry. I picked the olives off."
"But you told me once that if you pick the olives off it still tastes like the 'essence of olive.'"
James leans onto one of his elbows, his auburn hair catching between his palm and freckled cheek. "I must've not been very hungry when I said that."
Teddy laughs, amused with James but disappointed because he really wanted that pizza. He could cook eggs, but then he'd have to…cook eggs. There's some kind of bottled protein shake, but those taste like chalk, and usually James drinks them only when he's training. He could have toast, except they're out of butter. There's a package of chicken but it's uncooked.
Cereal it is.
He flops onto the chair next to James and pours himself a bowl.
"You don't have work today, do you?" James asks around a mouthful of Lion Cereal.
"Nah." Thank goodness; Teddy doesn't want to deal with customers today. He works at a little organic grocery store in the magical section of Torquay, and he's slightly hungover and in no mood to answer a bunch of bougie witches asking him how to activate the charmwork on the Insta-Stew (Just add magic!). The instructions are right on the box, for the love of Merlin!
They make quick work of the box of cereal and James stands to look for more food. He throws open the cupboard and puts hands on his hips. "Where in the fuck are the PopTarts?"
Teddy clenches his teeth and sucks in some air.
"You ate all the PopTarts?"
Teddy throws his hands up. "I was hungry! I'll buy more."
"Not from your store you won't," James says, pointing a finger at him menacingly. "The organic ones are dry! And who the fuck wants pomegranate-pistachio 'PopTarts,' anyway?"
"Fair point," Teddy says, and an owl taps on the window above the kitchen sink.
James grabs his wand off the counter and waves it to open the window, which sticks if you try to open it by hand. The owl swoops in with two identical envelopes tied to its leg, and James unties the letters and fetches a handful of Eeylops Premium. No owl needs that many treats, but James is hungry, so he must assume the owl is, too.
Teddy stands and opens the cupboard, retrieving a jar of cashew butter and two spoons. He scoops out a heaping spoonful, walks to James, and sticks it in his mouth.
"Phftank oo," James mumbles, the handle bobbing in front of his mouth, holding the letters in one hand and the owl treats in the other.
Teddy grins and, scooping some for himself, says, "Anytime you need good fats, I'm your man."
James's eyes widen and he coughs, spluttering nut butter, and throws the letters on the table.
"Alright?" Teddy asks, laughing, and picks up the letters. "Oh sweet! Our test results are back."
James, still coughing, puts a fist to his chest and says, "What test?"
"The MyWizardry." Teddy tosses James's envelope at him.
Albus and Scorpius had gifted them testing kits for Christmas. They're in doctor/Healer training—well, Albus is in Healer training and Scorpius is in Muggle med school; they have big plans to take the medical world by storm and to share one full-time doctor/Healer position so they can each work "a sane, human number of hours per week" and so they can "have babies they actually get to see"—and had become fascinated by the new magical genetic testing.
Albus always buys gifts he would like for other people, but Teddy isn't complaining.
They tear open the letters and Teddy reads, licking his spoon of cashew butter. He's halfway through the opening paragraph (a bunch of bureaucratic pleasantries) when James heaves a dramatic sigh and says, "Well, fuck. Albus is officially my brother. I'd always sort of assumed he'd been dropped on our doorstep by like, some emo stork."
Teddy looks up, amused. "Jamie, Albus looks exactly like your dad."
James waves his hand. "That could just be magic or something. Hair pomade."
Teddy laughs, looking back at his own letter, trying to scan ahead to the interesting results, so as not to lag behind James. Hufflepuffs are terrible at skimming.
Ah, there it is, DNA RELATIVE FINDER.
"There are about a thousand Weasleys on here," James says. "How many of these kits did Albus buy for Christmas gifts?"
But Teddy isn't listening. His ears are ringing. "James," he whispers.
Romilda Vane. Female, b. 1982. Half Sister. 28.2% shared.
Sirius whooshed through the Floo, a wide grin on his face, pushed his hair out of his eyes, and held a bag aloft. "Our mission was successful and Moody arrested Karkaroff—the arsehole is in shackles. I come bearing tequila and spliffs. Choose your poison."
Remus, who was sat next to James on the sofa, clapped his hands and let out an exultant laugh, tipping his head back. "Karkaroff! Incredible."
Lily smiled, but lifted a disapproving hand to point at the baby asleep in her lap. "Karkaroff can rot, but you're an idiot if you think you’re going to smoke in here."
James hopped off the sofa to pound Sirius with a rough hug. "We'll round them up one by one," James said, slapping Sirius's back. "They don't know what they're dealing with, with Mad-Eye."
Sirius grinned, the thrill of success coursing through his chest. He shoved the spliffs into his pocket and raised the tequila bottle in a toast. "To catching every last one of these fuckers."
Peter punched a fist in the air. "Every last one!"
"Hear, hear!" Remus said, head still leaned back on the sofa, exposing his stubble-covered neck. He caught Sirius's eye and leered in a way that made Sirius's blood boil.
Eyes on Remus, Sirius stuck the tequila between his thighs and pulled off his leather jacket, tossing it by the hearth, then grabbed the bottle and took two long strides to the sofa. "Hello, sailor," he drawled, grinning, and placed a knee on the sofa next to Remus.
"All aboard," Remus said, laughing, grabbing Sirius's arse and pulling him to straddle his lap.
Sirius leaned closer, pressing their lips together in a deep kiss. His whole body already thrummed—with adrenaline, with success, with heady righteousness at having put away a truly bad guy—and Remus's hands and mouth augmented the feelings. Sirius rose onto his knees to press himself against Remus's torso.
"Fuck," Remus whispered.
A baby rattle soared through the air and hit Sirius on the head. Sirius sat back on his heels and turned to regard the others. It looked like James was the one who'd pelted the rattle.
"Go the fuck home," James said, smiling. "You fools may not get drunk on tequila and fuck in our house when you have a perfectly good flat of your own."
"Oh, Jamie," Sirius whinged. "Don't you want to get drunk on tequila and fuck, too? We're celebrating! I'll even let you fuck Moony, as long as I can watch."
James laughed, the sound filling the room, and rolled his eyes. "As appealing as that sounds, I'm exhausted. And this little bloke will wake us up in approximately…" He looked at his watch. "…Two hours."
"Yeah, we're off to bed." Lily stood, cradling Harry so as not to wake him with her movements.
"We have a meeting at ten with Marlene and Bagnold, right?" Sirius asked.
Lily nodded. "Don't be late; you know how Bagnold is."
Sirius threw her a mock salute and returned his attention to snogging Remus, hands threading through his hair and thumb dragging across the stubble on his cheek.
"Padfoot!" James hollered, already heading for the stairs. "Take this seriously!"
"Why would I do that?" Sirius asked, winking at Lily, then, seeing she was waiting for confirmation, he added, "Yes, ten. I won't be late."
"Remus, when’s your next mission?" James asked, leaning over to retrieve a burp cloth.
Sirius's chest tightened. No. No. Not now. They're celebrating. He leaned in to cover Remus's lips with his before Remus could say more about leaving, or ask for input on werewolf missions, or get sad, sad eyes that scream his worry—the worry he's one of them, that his proper place is there, rather than here with Sirius. Sirius pulled away to whisper, "No."
Remus's face relaxed slightly, lips curling into an amused smile.
Sirius grinned, pressed a kiss to a scratch on Remus's dimple. Sirius never felt more accomplished than when he erased pain from Remus’s face.
Remus reached a hand to tangle in Sirius's hair and pulled him closer—tongue, heat, grasping fingers—
"Okay then, I'll see you before you leave. Now go fuck in your own house!" James said, walking up the stairs and waving his wand to Nox the lights, throwing them into darkness.
"Well, that's my cue to leave," Peter said, leaning over to retrieve his jumper and waving in the sofa’s direction as he stepped into the Floo.
"It’s possible Prongs wants us to go," Remus whispered, kissing along Sirius's jaw.
"Apparate me," Sirius said, eyes closed, smiling, and the twist and pressure of Remus's Disapparition enveloped him.
They landed in a laughing heap on their bed, and Remus tugged off Sirius's t-shirt. "Aw shit, we left my jacket."
Remus pushed Sirius back onto the bed.
"How many days till the moon?" Sirius asked, reaching for Remus's belt. "Three?"
Remus nodded, pressing their bodies together.
"I don't know why James is so eager to grow up," Sirius said. "I thought he'd at least want some tequila. We got Karkaroff!"
Remus leaned up on an elbow. "I don't think he wants to grow up. He's just trying to get through the day. He's tired."
Sirius smiled. "We can get shit done while still being us, though. Like we did in school. Five Os and inventing the map. The rules don't apply to us, Moony."
Remus shook his head, his brown hair flopping into his eyes, and he snorted dismissively.
"We can do anything," Sirius said, pulling off his jeans and pants and reaching for the lube. "And fuck every day."
Remus gave a sad smile. "You can do anything, love. Not sure about the rest of us."
Sirius made a dismissive gesture with his right hand as he fingered himself with his left. "Not with that attitude you can't." He pulled fingers out and cocked an eyebrow.
Remus's eyes devoured him, trailing down his neck and chest, taking it all in, and Sirius fucking loved being on the receiving end of those eyes. Remus pressed inside, and Sirius moaned.
A couple of seconds and a few hot breaths later, Sirius asked, out of breath, "Think it'll be too late to go out dancing when we're done?"
"You," Remus said, thrusting hard and drawing an Oh! from Sirius, "are exhausting."
"Doing my job, then," Sirius said, planting his feet for leverage. "Harder."
"I—" Teddy starts, then pauses, mouth gaping like a fish. "I don't understand."
"Me neither!" James says. "Wasn't your mum like, three years old in 1982?"
Teddy turns his head to look at James. "Yeah, I'd say that points to my dad having been the one who…"
"Potted the mandrake?" James offers. "Put the Quaffle through the hoop?"
Teddy's lips curl up despite the shock. He can tell by the worried look on James's face he isn't making light of the news—he's trying to act normal to give Teddy a sense of stability.
"Just lightening up the mood," James says, eyes wide but with a small smile, "by reminding us of your dad's tendency towards cradle snatching. And also, apparently, cradle filling?"
Teddy looks at the paper in his hand, back to James, back at the paper. "My mum was nine, not three."
"Oh, that makes it way better."
"What the fuck," Teddy says. "How is this possible?!"
"Maybe he didn't know about it," James suggests, and that’s a reasonable speculation but it somehow that makes it seem even worse, like Teddy's dad was running around fucking half of England without Contraception Charms. "Shit," James murmurs, "you have a sister who is the same age as my parents."
"Your parents—" Teddy swallows the last of the cashew butter and throws the spoon in the sink, where a sponge shoots towards it and scrubs. "They must know her. They went to school at about the same time."
"Right," James says, grabbing Teddy's hand and pulling him towards the door. "We'll talk to Dad. He knew your dad."
Teddy, still shocked and not quite processing, is aware enough to be glad that James is taking charge. James is good for Teddy's moods—if Teddy is depressed, James gets him moving; if Teddy is excited about something, James is on board before he even knows what they're excited about; if Teddy is tired, James makes dinner (though it might be PopTarts with a side of protein shake); if Teddy wants to take up yoga, James will find them mats; if Teddy is falling into a void of angst about knowing nothing about his parents, James will subtly prompt Harry to tell Remus and Tonks stories.
When they reach the door, James kicks at the pile of shit on the floor until he finds a pair of garden clogs. Teddy slides into his Birkenstocks and James tugs him out of the door.
The air smells of grass, and the gravel crunches under their feet as they walk up the path to the main house. James is holding Teddy's report in one hand as he opens the side door into the large country kitchen.
Teddy slips off his shoes before stepping inside.
"Dad!" James yells, kicking his clogs outside by Teddy's and closing the door. "Dad!"
"Coming!" Harry's voice shouts from beyond; it sounds like he's in the study.
Teddy’s heart races as he hears Harry's steps fall on the wooden floor. James squeezes Teddy's arm and walks over to sit at the counter.
As Harry comes into view, he shouts, "Alexa! Make eggs and bacon!"
Ding. "Making eggs and bacon. Scrambled or fried?"
A dozen eggs zoom out of the cupboard and crack themselves into a skillet on the aga.
"Scrambled," James says.
"Will that be enough?" Harry asks. "Or do you want waffles, too?"
"Dad, we didn't come for food," James says, peeling a banana from the fruit bowl. "We need to talk. Is Mum home? Ask her to come in, too."
Harry comes to an abrupt stop. "You didn't come for food? What's wrong? Mom's at work."
James turns to Teddy, but Teddy doesn't know how to say it.
James holds out the MyWizardry report for Harry to take. "Looks like Teddy's dad…erm, sired another child. Before Teddy."
“What?! When?!” Harry opens his mouth, eyes wide, then snaps his mouth shut. "Did you just say sired?"
"I don't want to be derogatory!" James says. "It's 2025! How else do you say it without being slut-shamey?"
Teddy groans, walking to the stool next to James, and sits, letting his head fall onto the counter with a thunk.
Harry puts a comforting hand on Teddy's back, rubbing it absently up and down. "Okay, start over. Start from the beginning."
"Albus gave us all these magical genetic testing kits for Christmas," Teddy murmurs, cheek pressed against the cool countertop. "And we got our results back today. And it says I have a half sibling born in 1982."
"In 1982?!” Harry asks. "That’s right after the war, so like, post-war bacchanalia? Celebratory oat-sowing?"
"Ew!" James says, mouth full of banana. "Dad, can you not?"
"I'm just trying to reconcile this. It makes no sense," Harry says, leaning elbows on the counter. "Remus never seemed like that type. Maybe he didn't know about the baby?"
Three plates of eggs and bacon soar through the air, landing with a clatter on the counter.
"Should've told Alexa I'm not hungry," Harry says idly.
Ding. "Sorry, I'm not sure about that."
"I'll eat it," James says. He pauses, fork halfway to his mouth. "I've just done the math and realised your dad was my age when he, er, put the bun in the oven."
"Did they give you any way to get in touch with this person?" Harry asks.
Teddy sits up and looks at the food. He may as well eat. "Well, I know who it is, so I guess I could contact her. Her name's Romilda Vane."
Harry's mouth drops open in a way that would be funny in a different context. He points a finger at Teddy, then looks at his finger and drops it. "Romilda?!"
"Do you know her?" Teddy asks, scooping up some eggs and studying Harry.
Harry's black hair has just recently become peppered with grey, a look that makes him look even more distinguished. He'd won Witch Weekly's Sexiest Wizard Alive in 2024, after a twelve-year hiatus. (He'd won 1999–2012, then the magazine had apparently decided to let someone else have a chance. James had won in 2023, at nineteen, the mag taking a bold stance that a wizard under the age of twenty could be the sexiest alive, only for Harry to win again in 2024. Rita Skeeter had run a front-page article under the headline, Potters Face Off Over Sexiness! Family Feud or Rigged Rencontre? The photo she ran with the article showed Harry and James, arms around each other’s shoulders, smiling, and Albus behind them, scowling. James had thought the entire thing hilarious and framed the front page. It hangs in the cottage bathroom over the toilet, much to Albus's annoyance. Teddy privately thinks Albus will win this year, not that he's better looking than James or Harry, but just because that seems to be the way Witch Weekly sells magazines, and Albus is a good-looking bloke, if you like the whole dark, broody, good-hair thing.)
Harry looks as broody as Albus right now, though, his brow furrowed and his eyes wide. He runs a hand over his stubbly cheek, then lets it fall by his side with a sigh. "She was a Gryffindor two years below me. She's adopted, wizarding parents. She was in the DA. She slipped me a love potion, once."
"Oh Merlin," James says around a mouthful of bacon, "did you do it with Teddy's sister? This is too much."
"No!" Harry cries. "Shit, I need a cup of tea. Alexa, make a cup of tea."
Ding. "Making tea for," a short pause, "Harry. PG Tips. Strong. Two sugars. Milk."
"I didn't 'do it' with Teddy's sister,” Harry says. “She gave me dosed chocolates, but I didn't eat them. Uncle Ron did."
"So Uncle Ron did it with Teddy's sister?"
"Merlin, no! No one did it with Teddy's sister! Well, presumably someone has by now. But, you know. Can we stop talking about this?"
"Please," James says with emphasis, as if he isn't the one who started it.
"I didn't know Remus in 1982," Harry says with a tone of trying to regain control of the conversation. "Obviously, since I was a toddler at the time. I mean, I knew him, I assume, but don't remember him."
"It's useless," Teddy says. "Everyone is dead—it's not like I can figure it out. And I'm not sure it matters, anyway."
"We could count back nine months from your sister's birth," James says around a mouthful of banana, "and access Dad's latent memories."
"You can do that?" Harry asks, incredulous.
"Yeah, don't you read Popular Magic?" James asks. "It was in a couple issues ago. You can use the spell to access memories from childhood and from other blocked memories, like if you blacked out or something? Or were sick? Or for trauma treatment, too. I don't remember exactly."
Teddy stares at James. Freckles cover the bridge of his nose and his brown eyes are alight with excitement. Teddy knows James is smart; in fact, Teddy never underestimates James. But somehow you never quite expect him to come up with these brilliant insights. It's his manner, Teddy thinks. James doesn’t take himself too seriously or act pretentious, and he's always wearing joggers and playing Quidditch, so you forget, sometimes, that he's usually the smartest person in the room.
And fuck, he's fit. Teddy blinks. No. No. He's not supposed to let himself think that. That’s as wrong as the idea of Harry fucking Teddy’s sister.
"Wow," Harry says, leaning his elbows on the counter. "Yeah, okay. Go ahead and probe me."
"Wait, wait," Teddy says, his heart rate picking up again. "Are we sure about this? Are you okay with…with whatever we might turn up? Messing with memories is—messy, you know?"
Harry stands, suddenly serious. "Are you sure, Teds? It's up to you. I don't mind, but this is your history, even if it's my memory."
Teddy wishes he'd never got these stupid test results. What does he need with a fucking sister? He has Lily. He's got a family he's cobbled together to fill the holes left by his parents and the war; he needs nothing else.
But is that true? He could use his dad. He could use someone to talk to about the weight of expectations and feeling like you don't belong. He could use his mum. He could use someone to ask questions about how you're supposed to cope with an ever-changing body. He can't have his parents. And this Romilda person isn't related to his mum, won't know anything about being a metamorphmagus. But she might be able to tell him something about his dad.
Maybe they can unlock mysteries for each other.
And now that Teddy knows, there's no way he can let it go.
He looks at James, who is scrolling on his phone, looking for something, then says, "I'm sure. Let's do it. Do you know how, Jamie?"
James touches his screen a few times. "Okay, I got the article here. It's similar to a Gemimor, which extracts a copy of a specific memory, but it's different in that you give intention of time or place and direct it to dig deep into the subconscious. Cool, Dad?"
Harry shrugs, a smile on his face. "Yolo."
Teddy can't help but grin, remembering countless times that Harry's natural game-for-it personality has led them to do crazy things. Like the time Teddy was twelve and James was six and Harry decided spur of the moment to take the two of them to New York City to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, because he never got to travel as a kid and he wouldn't let that happen to his kids. So James had gotten dressed up in a little bowtie over a long-sleeve t-shirt, feeling very grown-up to be included, and Harry took the three of them to the Portkey office with absolutely no prior planning except sending an owl to Andromeda. Or the time Teddy was called to the Headmistress's office in his third year, only to find Harry there with a shopping bag filled with chocolate, "because he was thinking about how Remus taught him to cast a Patronus in third year and he wanted to come teach Teddy."
James pulls his wand and casts.
Sirius stared at the letter from Dumbledore, re-reading it quickly to make sure he had the details down. Halfway through his second read, it burst into purple flames, tickling his fingers as they consumed the message.
Sirius looked up at James, who was standing by the sofa, bouncing Harry. "There's a leak. There has to be."
James frowned, wrapping his arm tighter around the baby. "Yes. But we knew that already, didn’t we?"
"But this—" Sirius sighed. "We can't—we have to assume they know I'm your Secret-Keeper!"
An awful possibility occured to Sirius. "You don't think," Sirius said, eyes wide, "you don't think Dumbledore waited to send us this letter until Moony would be up north? You don't think Dumbledore suspects Remus, do you?"
James threw his arm to the side. "I have no idea. Maybe! I mean, logically he'd have to suspect everyone, right?"
It couldn't be Remus. It couldn't. Remus would never endanger them. Sirius saw flashes of Remus's kind eyes, his laugh, the way he looked when he climbed atop Sirius in bed. No. It couldn't be. Remus would never let the werewolves radicalise him, despite his mistreatment by wizards, although he can't get a job and has to rely on James for money.
"I'm trying to stay calm," James said, bending at the knees to rock the baby in a way that made Sirius think it was more to calm James than Harry. "But what the fuck, Sirius! They’ve stuck us in this house for nearly a year! I'm losing my fucking mind! And for what? For someone to rat us out, anyway! Why are we even being so careful? And with Dorcas—" He cut off.
Sirius stood and walked over to him. "Give me Harry." He held out his hands.
James gave him an unimpressed look, but shifted Harry off his shoulder and let Sirius take him.
Sirius smiled at Harry. "Hey, little potato! I'm going to put you down for a minute, okay?"
"Ba!" said Harry.
Sirius cast a Cushioning Charm at the floor in front of the hearth and set Harry down, then cast a spell to make coloured bubbles fall on top of him. Harry gurgled and reached up at a pink bubble.
Sirius turned back to James and sighed, looking at the anguish on his friend’s face. He walked over and wrapped him in a tight hug. "It's fucked. I'm sorry, mate."
James exhaled, squeezing back, and dropped his head to Sirius's shoulder. "I don't know what to do. Dumbledore acts like he's got this all figured out, but he's using us like pawns. And I feel like a sitting duck with this leak."
"Fucking leaks," Sirius said. "Fucking pawns. Fucking ducks."
"And you're probably more in danger than we are," James said, pulling out of Sirius's hug. "If they know you're the Secret-Keeper—and you're a blood traitor—you'll be their number one target."
"I'll be fine, Jamie."
"Fuck, Sirius! No!" James flopped into the armchair, burying his head in his hands, his wild hair made even more messy by his pressing fingers. "It's not a matter of swagger! This is—if you die, we die. Harry dies."
Sirius turned to his godson, who reached his chubby little arm to bat at a bubble, but missed it. Sirius smiled sadly and sat down cross-legged next to Harry, running his hand over Harry's hair. "Tiny Prongs has bad eyesight just like you."
James snorted, head still in his hands.
Sirius sighed, leaning back on his hands. "I would never give you up. You know that."
"I don't think you'll give us up," James snapped, looking up. "I think you'll get killed."
"I'm not going to get killed. And if I do, I'll take that arsehole down with me."
"Sirius, he killed Dorcas. And I've seen Dorcas kick your arse in a duel before."
"That was one time!" Sirius said. Then, seeing James's raised eyebrow, "Okay, fine, Dorcas kicked my arse many times. But regardless."
James's eyes strayed to the stairs, looking towards the second storey, where Lily was closed in the bedroom, still consumed by grief.
"But just imagine for a moment that he did kill you," James said. "You've told everyone in the Order where we are, so they can contact us. We know there's a leak, so whoever is the leak already knows where we are, but they can't tell anyone. If you died, Voldemort would be here as soon as the leak opens their mouth."
"Who the fuck could it be?" Sirius asked, even though they've asked that question dozens of times already and he knows they don’t know. "I still think it's Sturgeon."
James laughed. "I know you take Podmore's hatred of disco as a personal attack against your gayness, but I don't really think that's reason to expect he's a traitor, do you?"
Sirius stared at James. "Of course it is." Honestly.
"It's probably Fletcher," James sighed. "But he doesn't know the secret, does he?"
"No, I wouldn't tell that rat even if Dumbledore gave me a direct order."
"I don't know what to do," James said, walking across the room to sit near them. Harry rolled over and scooted towards him.
James picked Harry up and sat him atop his crossed legs. "Nothing makes sense. He's just a baby!" James wrapped an arm around Harry's chubby middle. "How can a baby threaten Voldemort?"
"Don't underestimate my godson," Sirius said, reaching a finger to poke Harry's belly. Harry giggled. "Voldemort knows you'll never take shit from anyone, right Harry? Like, watch this, James." Sirius drew his wand and pointed it at Harry, casting a charm to turn his hair curly blond.
Harry looked up at his hair, his little eyes crossing, and frowned.
"Are you going to let me do that, Harry?" Sirius goaded. "Go on."
Harry's nose scrunched, and with a crackle in the surrounding air, his hair turned back to normal—a mess of baby-fine black.
Sirius laughed delightedly and reached a hand toward him. "Baby magic! Yes! Give me five!"
Harry grabbed Sirius's thumb.
Looking at those little green eyes, Sirius's chest clenched. The thought of anything happening to Harry, to James, to Remus—it was too much to bear. He met James's eyes."What if we changed the Secret-Keeper? To someone else, to someone unexpected? That way, no one in the Order would know who the Secret-Keeper is."
"But—" James adjusted Harry on his lap. "But then you'd still be targeted."
"I'm the target either way," Sirius said. "This way, if they succeed at killing me—the leak won't become Secret-Keeper."
"But who?!" James asked. "I trust you. And Remus, but…"
Sirius didn't look at James. They both knew that Remus's chances of survival were as bad or worse than theirs.
"Pete," Sirius said, the idea landing with a eureka. "Pete. No one would ever suspect him! You know how he is—no one sees him."
James's eyes were on Harry. "So what—we'd—we'd make him Secret-Keeper instead of you, and everyone else who's already a secondary keeper would retain the info but not know that the Secret-Keeper has changed?"
"Exactly. That way we protect the information from the leak."
"And you'll be the primary target either way," James said, his voice unreadable.
Sirius threw his hands up in a shrug. "I made that decision five years ago when I left home, mate." He flopped down, letting his head fall next to James's knee. He could see the fibres on James's jeans and the soft niffler-patterned fabric of Harry's babygrow. "I miss Remus."
"I know. But he can take care of himself. He'll be back soon," James said, drawing a hand through Sirius's hair. "You two will be shagging each other senseless before you know it. Stay with us, Padfoot, at least when Remus is gone. I'd feel safer with you hidden under the Fidelius."
"Okay," Sirius murmured. Not like agreeing was a sacrifice—to stay with friends instead of alone, worrying.
"Everything's all wrong," James sighed.
"But it's all right," Sirius sang.
James flicked him on the shoulder. "Don't sing Dolly Parton at me."
"Don't be like Sturgeon, Prongs."
Teddy looks at Harry in concern. He's pretty sure if he saw a memory of his parents loving on him, he'd be pretty fucked up. Harry looks frozen, blinking his eyes, and Teddy stands to wrap him in a hug. "You okay?"
Harry reaches his strong arms around Teddy and squeezes. "Yeah, yeah. I'm alright. It's just—fuck. He called me a little potato. That's so cute. My dad bouncing me around—he looked so young! He was as young as you, Jamie."
James walks up to them and wraps an arm around each of their shoulders, inserting himself into the hug without a second's hesitation. When Teddy was much younger, he hated the way James did that. But now it warms him more than he knows how to handle.
"You think Teddy's dad was sleeping around?" James asks, his face scrunched up against Teddy's shoulder.
Teddy snorts a laugh. "That’s so fucked up. Why does that seem so fucked up? It shouldn’t bother me. I call myself sex positive!"
"No one likes to think of their parents having sex," James says, "that's all. No offence Dad, but like, especially you."
Harry pulls out of the hug to shoot a mock glare at his son. "I'll have you know that plenty of people like to imagine me having sex. I have it on good authority that there are whole sections of porn on the internet of people role playing as me." Harry pauses and frowns. "Which is bloody disturbing and I hate it, so I don't know why I'm bringing it up."
"Ew! Dad!" James shudders. "It is a family pact to never mention this! I was scarred in year 3 when the other boys in my dorm found that."
"In year three?!" Harry cries, outraged.
"Can we just—stay on topic here?" Teddy asks, trying to avoid a descent into Tales of Things You Didn't Know We Knew When We Were Kids.
"Right," James says, sitting again and popping another bite of bacon in his mouth. "Your dad's promiscuity. Did you know about Sirius and Remus, Dad?"
Harry sighs, running a hand through his hair. "I—I didn't know, but I guess I wondered a few times. The way they were together, once we realised Sirius wasn't a traitor…it didn't seem strictly…platonic? I mean, the way they hugged, the way they were together. But I never saw them together. Then again, I was thirteen. They may have been keeping it behind closed doors? Or maybe at that point they were ex-lovers, so I was picking up on some sort of like, leftover tension or something?" He wrinkles his nose. "I don't know."
"Was Sirius gay?" Teddy asks, curious. "Why hasn't anyone ever mentioned that?"
Harry throws his hands up in a helpless gesture. "I don't know! I—back then—maybe it wasn't the done thing in 1993 to tell your thirteen-year-old godson at the centre of a war and who happens to be a stranger about your sexuality. You have to remember, I didn't ever get to know him well—our time was—it was—." Harry stops. "It was shit. I don't know what else to say. And back then—the people I knew at Hogwarts who are gay, they didn't come out as easily as your generation do now. I doubt anyone came down to breakfast one morning, saw a photo of Oliver Wood the front of Witch Weekly, and announced, 'I'm going to marry him,' and when his brother said, 'That'd make you gay,' replied, 'Obviously, you butt-head.'" Harry grins at James as he recounts one of the Potter family’s greatest hits.
James grins back, eyes flicking to Teddy for a second. "Sirius seems like he would've done that, to be honest, from what I know."
"I'm not sure if this dive into my dad's and Sirius's sexualities really helps answer the question about my sister, though,” Teddy says. “What have we established? Only that he was bi. And it's not like Sirius or James are still alive to shed light on it."
Harry frowns. "If you want to figure it out, I guess you'd have to contact Romilda, although Merlin knows that would be pretty awkward, if she knows nothing about it. Or you ask Grandma and Granddad. They weren't in the Order then, but Grandma's brothers were. And they knew Sirius and Remus in the second war—they were all in the Order in the second war. You should ask them."
Teddy's suddenly overwhelmed with it all, and Harry's looking at him closely.
"It's a lot. Ted, you should take some time," Harry says. "It's a lot and you shouldn't rush into it. Think about it for a bit, decide if you want to know more. You don't need to know more."
"Yeah," Teddy says. "Okay, good idea. I'll give it the old badger meditation."
Harry and James raise identical eyebrows, and Teddy sighs. "It gets old, being the only Hufflepuff, honestly." Teddy wants to stop talking about this. He needs a second to figure out what to think.
James assesses him for a moment, then says out of the blue, "You know what I think is the worst part of Muggle clothing?"
Harry blinks, pausing at the sudden change of subject. "The lack of pockets?"
"Well, yes," James says, "but men who wear these dress shirts and they tuck them into their trousers, and the shirt is too big, or like, poorly tailored, and it poofs out in the back like a poplin hot-air balloon."
Teddy bursts out laughing.
"I'm serious. It really makes me want to break the Statute to Shrink away some of that excess fabric. Or puncture it. Think it would deflate?"
Fuck, James is—is—he's smart and hilarious and fit and always knows the exact right thing to say given Teddy's moods. Teddy's chest feels warm with affection. He stabs a bite of eggs and says, "Oh, definitely. If you punctured it, would he shoot around the room in the air like a deflating balloon?"
"You two are weird," Harry says, pushing away from the counter and sipping his tea.
"Yep!" James says, sticking his tongue out at Harry, but Teddy notices the concerned look on James's face as he meets Teddy's eye.
Harry walks behind Teddy and pats his shoulder in an encouraging way. "Coming over for dinner tonight? I'm making your favourite."
Teddy smiles. "Of course. Thanks."
"And you'll let me know if there's any way I can help?"
"Dad, leave him alone," James says. "Give the man some space."
"I will, Harry," Teddy says.
Harry fumbles with his hair. "Alright. I'll leave you to it, then."
James rambles about Quidditch while they finish their food, and about an article he read in Witch Weekly on the walk back to the cottage. It isn't until they are sitting on the sofa in their messy sitting room that James lets the conversation drop.
They sit in silence for a minute.
"What do you want to do?" James asks. "Like, we could stalk your sister on the internet. Or we could completely ignore it and play some games. Or go out. Or really, whatever you think would help. We could go bother Albus."
"Is it too early to go get drunk?"
James casts a Tempus. "It's one o'clock. So like…yes, probably."
"Wanna play Gloomhaven?" Teddy asks, eyeing the stack of board games next to the telly.
"And then go to dinner with Mum and Dad, and then get drunk?" James asks.
"Sounds good," Teddy says.
"Oooooh, or instead of Gloomhaven, let me read your tarot. Or you could read my tarot."
James loves fiddling around with the Tarot. He loved Divination in school, even though he isn't a staunch believer in any of it—but it's impossible to discount the Divinatory arts when a prophecy has affected your family so deeply. James loves the practice of sitting down with a deck, drawing cards for someone and reading them, putting on a good show of it. He loves the art and is always buying new decks with bizarre imagery. His most recent acquisition is a pack of Hufflepuff-themed cards, where the entire deck is illustrated with badgers.
Teddy would watch James read the Tarot all day long. "Tarot first, Gloomhaven second?"
James grins and rubs his hands together. "Are you prepared to determine your destiny through the deeply rooted mystic powers of the Tarot, Mr Lupin?"
Teddy laughs. "Hit me."
James Summons the Hufflepuff Tarot from the shelf. "Hold on, I need my familiar." He hops up and returns a minute later with a stuffed Niffler, which he sits on his shoulder. He sits cross-legged on the floor in front of the coffee table. "Ask your question while I shuffle the cards."
Teddy thinks. He usually asks vague, boring questions, but at the moment he has something specific on his mind. "Should I try to figure out more about my sister?"
James nods, as if pleased with the question, and shuffles.
Most magical people shuffle cards by hand or using a Shuffling Charm. James can use wandless magic to shuffle by hand with magic, the cards soaring between his hands in long arcs, dancing in patterns in the air before they land in his hand. Teddy remembers when James decided to learn this, as a kid, and how he walked around an entire winter with a stack of cards, practicing. Harry and Ginny perfected the charm to Summon cards from the floor into a neat stack.
James places the deck between two flat hands, moves his hands apart, and the cards fan out between his hands, then reorder themselves into a random pattern. All the while, James keeps his hands moving (up, down, apart, together), and the cards follow him.
"Stop showing off," Teddy says, though he can't quell his amused smile.
James sticks out his tongue at Teddy as he claps his hands together and places the neat stack of cards on the table. "Lay your hands on the cards, then cut the deck into three piles."
Teddy complies, and James picks up the piles. The stuffed niffler almost falls off James's shoulder, and he puts it back, leaning its little head against his ear. James flips the top three cards and stares at them for a moment. "Ah," he says, smiling. "Ahhhh, yes! Right away," James says, his eyes lighting up, "we see you've drawn three cards of the Major Arcana, which signifies that your life is currently affected by other people rather than your own internal will."
Teddy smiles, enamored with James's performance, and has to remind himself to pay attention to James's words.
"You have the Wheel of Fortune, the Emperor, and the Chariot." James waves his hand over the cards with a dramatic flair and smiles. "The Wheel of Fortune represents your current situation—the ups and downs of life. Your current situation is getting the news you have a sister. But the wheel of fortune is ever turning, carrying people and their destinies up and down. Look here." He points to the bottom of the wheel. "This is Typhon, the god of evil, who can carry people on the descent into darkness or disintegration, whereas the sphinx at the top is equilibrium and stability despite the turning of the wheel. So this card shows that your current situation is one of being affected by the turning of the wheel."
"Huh," Teddy says, staring at the card.
James pauses, then leans up on his knees. "Will you be the sphinx, who stays stable despite the turning, or will you let Typhon drag you into darkness?"
Teddy snorts, but he can't tell whether or not James is being serious.
"The second card, the Emperor, represents the challenge you face. The Emperor signifies leadership, so your challenge is being a leader of your life. The Emperor indicates stability, look at him. He's all broad and four-square, a foundation. He's got the cross of life in one hand and the globe of dominion in the other, which shows that only through the feminine power of love can he balance spirit and matter and rule properly."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Teddy asks, shifting in his seat.
"Means you need to embrace all the forces of life to balance body and mind, masculine and feminine, and then you can be a stable leader of your life."
Teddy raises an eyebrow.
"And the third card!" James enthuses. "The Chariot! This third card represents guidance for your current situation with your sister, and the Chariot is the card of triumph, the card of those who achieve greatness. It is a conquest of mind over emotions. It means you need to not let your emotions cloud your judgement, and you'll triumph."
James rises up on his knees again, pointing excitedly at the card, and the niffler falls off his shoulder. "Look, look. This is the Hindu sign for the union of positive and negative forces, again, the balancing of mind and body, emotion and logic, masculine and feminine. The sphinxes are pulling the chariot and if the charioteer isn't careful, they'll pull him in different directions, but look! He triumphs."
"But what the fuck does that mean?" Teddy asks, laughing bewilderedly.
"It means," James says seriously, "that your guidance about what to do about your sister is: you need to not let your emotions get the better of you. Use your mind."
"So I shouldn't avoid finding out more because I'm scared of how I'll react to what I'll find out?" Teddy asks, feeling suddenly vulnerable.
James shrugs. "Is that what it means? You're the only one who can know exactly." He looks down at the table. "It's a great spread of cards though. Very auspicious."
"You're just saying that," Teddy says, smiling.
"Nah," James says with a mischievous, dimpled grin. "Although I'd make it up to sound auspicious even if it was a terrible spread, because I'm a good person."
Teddy laughs and watches as James gathers the cards and puts them away.
"Gloom now?" James asks.
Teddy nods, and hops up to grab a bag of crisps and some beers from the pantry.
When he gets back, James is setting up the game.
"Is it weird?" James asks. "To find out your dad was with a bloke? I mean, I know we're obviously okay with people being queer, but I think I'd still be a little weirded out if I found out Dad used to bone Uncle Ron."
Teddy wrinkles his nose. "That's a nope," he says. "If your dad was gay, I see him more with, like, Scorpius's dad."
James pauses, considering. "Yeah. Yeah, you're right. I'm definitely going to mention this to Albus and Scorpius next time we see them."
Teddy laughs, sitting cross-legged on the floor by the table. He doesn't want to deal with it right now. He doesn't want to figure out how to let his mind conquer his emotions, how to be the stable sphinx who doesn't get upset by the turning of the wheel of fortune, how to be the balanced and authoritative emperor. He especially doesn't want to think about his dad, who was possibly a fuckboy of the 1980s.
He wants to sit and play Gloomhaven with James.
Sirius had been back at their flat for an hour. He rushed back after Wolfie, Remus's Patronus, showed up, telling Sirius he was on his way home. Sirius fidgeted, and after pacing the flat for a while while blasting David Bowie, he poured a glass of Firewhiskey. Then another. And it was empty again.
His head swirled with the events of the last few weeks. Making Pete Secret-Keeper, a right tricky bit of magic (Dumbledore had done the ceremony on Sirius), but they'd managed. At Lily's insistence, a promise that Sirius wouldn't tell Remus about the change; a feeling like being stabbed as he agreed, knowing it meant Lily thought Remus could be the leak, that he was agreeing to lie to his love. Getting drunk with Marlene at a Muggle bar and playing Edwin Starr on the jukebox, screaming, "War! Huh! What is it good for?" as they danced, stumbling, until the bartender cut them off. Tense Order meetings where Dumbledore equivocated and refused to answer questions, which made sense because of the leak, but still drove Sirius absolutely mad. Night after night of worrying about Remus in the north with the werewolves, mind running through awful scenarios, anxiety convincing him that Remus had been raped or killed, then guilt for being a prejudiced arsehole and assuming the worst of werewolves—the very same attitude that harmed Remus. Watching the moon every night and knowing he wasn't there to help Remus through the transformation. Playing Scrabble with Lily and James, trying to stay upbeat for them because they couldn't leave the house, and laughing his arse off when James insisted that Lily's RIMJOB was not a valid word play. Getting chastised by Dumbledore and Moody for spying on Bellatrix without permission. Wanking while thinking of Remus, torn between arousal and bone-chilling worry, in James and Lily's guest bedroom—the worst wanks he'd had since he lived in the boys' dorm, before they learned Silencing Charms.
Sirius poured himself more Firewhiskey.
Sirius jumped up, wand raised and heart racing, and spun towards the sound.
It was Remus. Sirius's wand clattered to the floor, his feet brought him closer. Oh thank Merlin, thank Merlin.
But Remus raised his wand at Sirius.
Sirius froze, confused. "Moony?"
"What did you say the first time you saw me naked?" he asked, his voice tinged with weariness.
"We're going to need more lube?"
Remus ran forward, wrapping Sirius in a hug. He smelled like sweat and dirt and a bit like wet dog. Sirius melted into him, the worries of the last weeks easing.
"You're pissed," Remus muttered into Sirius's neck, inhaling deeply. "You smell good."
"I probably smell like whiskey. You have to catch up," Sirius muttered back, pulling away to look Remus over. Sirius wouldn't feel satisfied until he knew the status of every scratch and injury on Remus’s body. He reached up to hold Remus's cheeks. His face wasn't injured.
Sirius turned to grab his tumbler off the table, handing it to Remus, who took a sip. "Are you hurt?"
"I'll be the judge of that," Sirius said, waving his wand to spell off Remus's clothes.
At his sudden nakedness under Sirius's assessing gaze, Remus's penis hardened, but Sirius tsked, making a dismissive gesture. "Put that thing away until I'm done making sure you're okay." He meandered around Remus's body, retrieving his wand to spell away the dirt and dried blood, inspecting a deep gash on Remus's scapula, Vanishing burs from his hair, while Remus stood still and drank the whiskey.
When satisfied, every cut healed and every twig Vanished, Sirius stepped back and grinned. "You're home."
"I was home ten minutes ago," Remus pointed out.
Sirius pounced, grabbing Remus's hair as he pressed their lips together, a kiss that went from 0 to 60 faster than his motorbike, because fuck, Remus was home.
For now, a voice sounded in Sirius's head, but he pushed it away, forced himself to concentrate on the man in front of him, grabbing and holding and laughing against lips, rubbing thumb across stubble and tugging Remus towards the bedroom.
"What happened when I was gone?" Remus asked as they walked into the bedroom. Remus hated missing things—Sirius often wondered if he felt like he lived two lives now, always missing something here or there, his relationships in one world causing distrust in the other, time spent in one place making him less fluent in the happenings of the other.
Sirius let go of Remus's arse to pull his clothes off. He was still quite drunk, so it took more concentration than he'd like to admit. "I don't want to talk about shitty war things. I want to suck your dick."
Sirius hoped that Remus didn't consider him part of "the wizard world," but as his lover, no matter where he was. But it was hard to tell with Remus, sometimes; Sirius wasn’t sure if Remus thought of Sirius as different, as wizard. Remus had so many insecurities about his lycanthropy.
Sirius dropped to his knees, grabbing Remus's arse to pull him closer as he wrapped his lips around his cock, pushing it in as far as it would go.
"I missed you," Remus said, twisting his fingers in Sirius's hair and pulling. A dilemma: talk or suck.
Sirius pulled off the cock and grinned up at Remus. "Obviously." He let the vowels lengthen, to the point of preposterous, how you'd hear everyone talking at his mother's old magical teas.
Remus brushed Sirius's hair off his face and laughed.
"Fuck any werewolves?" Sirius asked, his tone light.
"Yep, loads. Pull any blokes at a club?"
"Nah," Sirius said. "Only a threesome with James and Lily."
Remus grinned, but his eyes were slightly vacant as he grabbed Sirius's shoulder and yanked him to stand. "I want to fuck you now."
Sirius had one goal: to chase that blank stare out of Remus's eyes. He looked at Remus's feet and let his eyes drag upward until they fixed on brown eyes. Without breaking eye contact, he Accioed his wand, cast the preparation charms, and fell to the bed.
He let a slow smile break over his face. "I'll give you everything you want, Moony."
Teddy groans, casting Aguamenti at his empty glass and chugging two glasses of water in succession. He walks out of his bedroom. Pieces of Gloomhaven cover the coffee table, and last night's crisps and beer bottles litter the floor.
James is asleep on the sofa, his t-shirt still reading, as Teddy had charmed it last night, "ASK ME HOW I BAILED AND FAILED IN GLOOM." His auburn hair flops over his forehead, the Potter-hair-messiness manifesting in sleep, before the Weasley hair-orderliness reigns during the day. His hand rests on his stomach, having pushed his shirt up in the night, fingers tucked under the waistband of his joggers.
Teddy swallows. He cannot allow himself to get turned on by James. By James asleep. This is just not okay. Teddy checks the time: it's 11am. They'd arranged to go to the Burrow at noon.
"James," Teddy whispers.
He doesn't stir.
Teddy walks closer and, allowing himself to indulge a desire, pushes James's hair off his forehead. James's skin is warm and sends a tingle up Teddy's arm. "Jamie."
Teddy crosses his arms and frowns. He wants to wake James up by touching the tanned skin of his stomach, which is on view, trailing fingers to follow James's where they're tucked under his waistband, going even farther and—
Fuck. No. No! This cannot be happening.
Teddy sits unsteadily on the armchair, staring at James. He's recognised James’s good looks for ages, but that's all it's supposed to be. Teddy isn't supposed to want to reach down his trousers! He isn't supposed to want to suck that plump lip into his mouth. Fuck!
How had this happened? When had this happened? When did he stop appreciating James's looks in an objective way and start wanting? And how had he not realised as it was happening?
Teddy has an awful idea: it's all these worries about his identity: his finding out that his dad was fucking Harry's godfather, his never-ending angst over family and ancestor. And his stupid fucking brain has apparently decided that the way to settle his identity angst is to fuck James, his best friend, like his dad fucked his best friend, who gave James his middle name.
Teddy drops his head into his hands and groans. He'd thought he couldn't get any more fucked up, but now he's trying to use his best friend, his godbrother, to make himself feel better. Sure, he thinks wryly, angry beyond words at himself, that will solve everything. If I fuck James, I can be a real Potter and forget about all this other shite.
He blows out a giant breath of air, buzzing his lips against his hands, and looks up. No. He can't let himself be like this. He can't let his issues affect his relationship with James. James and Albus are the closest thing he has to brothers.
Brothers. What would Albus do? How would Albus wake James up? That’s what he needs to do—he needs to ignore the other stuff and act like brothers.
The thought amusing him, Teddy stands, grinning, and crosses to the sofa. He shouts, "INCOMING!" and bounces to sit on James's sternum.
James's eyes fly open and he inhales sharply, pushing Teddy away.
Teddy laughs as he topples over, face landing near James's feet.
"What was that for?!" James splutters.
Teddy meets his eyes with a grin. "I tried to get you up gently, but it didn't work."
"You fuckhead!" James says, rubbing his chest. "I think you busted my lung."
Teddy laughs, but he's immediately distracted by James's freckles, the way the dimple on the creases of his right cheek, betraying his amusement despite his harsh words.
Fuck. Apparently pretending to be Albus won't magically transform his feelings for James into brotherly ones. He’s an idiot. Teddy pushes himself up and clambers off of James.
"We said we'd meet your grandparents," Teddy says, feeling awkward now, trying not to look at James lest he be overcome again with misplaced, lecherous thoughts. Stop! Teddy scolds himself. Fucking James will not solve my problems!
"Ughhh," James moans. "Okay. We should not have got drunk last night."
"Do you need a Hangover Potion?"
"Nah," James says. "But do we have any PopTarts?"
"Do I look alright?" he asks James, instead.
James turns, curiosity on his face before he efficiently runs his eyes over Teddy and says, "Yep!" He turns away to fetch the Floo powder. “The Burrow!”
The Burrow smells like freshly baked bread, and Teddy can't help but grin.
Molly bustles into the room, her red hair mixed with white, her wand tucked into her apron and flour on her shirt. "James!" she cries, tugging her grandson into a hug. "Teddy! So good to see you. Why haven't you been around more? You know that Granddad and I don't eat as much as we used to—who do you expect will eat all the food, hmm? Is your mother feeding you enough? Let me look at you." She frowns. "Your mother never did learn how to make bread; that's probably the problem. Store-bought bread just doesn't have the same nourishment for growing boys. Arthur! Come look at the boys!"
She turns to fetch her husband and Teddy mouths, "The boys!" with glee on his face.
James laughs. "We eat constantly, Grandma," James calls towards his grandmother's turned back. "Don't worry about that."
Molly turns with a frown. "Hmph. Well that just proves that what you're eating isn't nutrient-dense enough. I'm going to make you some pemmican. Arthur!" She walks into the kitchen.
Looking at James's disgusted face, Teddy can only assume he's already been fed pemmican by Molly at some earlier time.
One truly enormous lunch later, the four sit around the table with cups of steaming tea and plates on which nothing of Molly's spotted dick with whiskey-spiked custard is left but crumbs. Molly and Arthur seem content to have them here, but their faces display open curiosity—they know there's a reason for the visit.
Teddy clears his throat. "Er, I wanted to ask," he starts, "what you know about my dad and Sirius Black. During the first war, I mean. And, er, anything else about my dad's…relationships, then."
James gives Teddy an encouraging look and clarifies, "Teddy's just found out that his father had another child then, born in 1982."
“Oh,” Molly says with a little gasp. She turns fretful eyes to Arthur, then says stoutly, "Well, if we're talking about the first war, we're going to need something stronger than tea." She pats her hands on her knees, then stands and disappears, rummaging in a cabinet, eventually emerging with a bottle of goblin gin.
"Yasss Grandma!" James enthuses, and Teddy laughs, grateful for a distraction.
"It's hard," Molly says, "to talk about Fabian and Gideon." She pours a measure of gin into each of their glasses. "It never gets easier, you know, no matter how much time passes. I miss them."
Teddy nods, his eyes understanding, and James reaches a hand to pat her comfortingly. "It's okay, Molly," Teddy says, feeling guilty, "if you don't want to talk about it."
She whips her head to him with frightening velocity. "There'll be none of that. Arthur and I got over all our compunction about discussing the past when Percy made us donate and annotate fifty years' worth of Pensieve memories during his genealogy phase."
Arthur sighs, as if he'd forgotten about the genealogy phase, but shakes it off. "That's right, son! Don't you worry your colourful head about us. We'll tell you what we can."
Teddy glances at James. He kind of wants James to take over. James is so good at talking in a way that puts others at ease. Teddy is too, usually. But he's off kilter just now.
But James doesn't save him; he gives an encouraging nod.
"Did you know that my father was in a relationship with Sirius?" Teddy asks, figuring it's as good a place as any to start.
"We all did," Arthur says, his eyes kind and his voice warm. "I'm surprised we never mentioned it off-handedly to you before now. I sort of thought you must know." He turns to his wife. "Though I suppose Andromeda didn't know Remus then, did she?"
"Sirius and Remus were a devoted couple since Hogwarts," Molly elaborates. "We were a few years above them, I'm not sure exactly when they started dating, but they were an established couple by the time they entered the Order after school. Arthur and I were on the outskirts of all that…in 1979 we had five kids under the age of ten and one on the way, you know. We couldn't be active in the war. But Fabian and Gideon were, so we heard about things, did the little we could."
"But you still knew about their relationship?" James asks.
Molly laughs. "Well they weren't very circumspect about it, were they? Sirius especially was a very…" She pauses, looking for the words. "He was a very in-your-face person, wasn't he?"
Arthur nods, a fond smile on his face. "The word might be flamboyant."
"Flamboyant like how people use the word to refer to certain mannerisms in the LGBT community?" Teddy asks, never knowing for sure with this generation.
Molly and Arthur turn blank faces to him, not seeming to understand the question.
"Like, campy?" James asks, gesturing, elaborating by ratcheting up every slightly gay mannerism he has.
"Generally flamboyant," Arthur says enigmatically, shedding no light on the subject. "Once he sent me a letter with a giant tropical bird! The thing must've been, what, Molly? Sixteen inches high."
"No, no," Molly says. "It was well over twenty-two inches. A parakeet."
"Parakeets are small birds, dear," Arthur says. "I feel quite sure it was a macaw."
Molly frowns. "Well, whatever it was, it suited him." She turns back to Teddy. "What were we saying?"
Teddy blinks. "I was wondering whether it was common knowledge that Sirius and my father were a couple."
"At the time of the first war?" Molly asks. "Yes, yes, everyone knew. One felt a bit bad for Peter, being the fifth wheel, as it were." She takes a sip of gin and leans forward conspiratorially. "Fabian told me he once got out of the shower to find Sirius and Remus snogging on the toilet."
Arthur laughs delightedly, as if there's no better pastime in old age than recalling the sexual exploits of a bygone era.
"So," Teddy says, trying to figure out how to corral this conversation, "when did they break up?"
"It was a breakup by default, dear, I think, when Sirius went to Azkaban. Of course, he was innocent, but none of us knew that until 1996."
"1994, I believe it was," Arthur corrects. "It was the year Bertha died."
"When did Sirius go to Azkaban?" Teddy asks. "It must have been someone he was involved with after, right? The baby was born in 1982."
"October 31, 1981," James says, and Teddy turns to him, surprised, having forgotten for a moment that the reason Sirius went to Azkaban is the reason James has no paternal grandparents.
"Right," Teddy says, crinkling his nose and trying to make a face that will indicate empathy for James. "So, who was my dad with after?"
"No idea," Molly says, holding her hands out. “After the war ended, and Fabian and Gideon passed…there was no Order anymore, we didn't have a connection with him in those years. It wasn't until he came back to teach at Hogwarts we saw him again. Is that right, Arthur?"
Arthur puffs his lips out, then presses them together, his cheeks jiggling. "I don't recall ever asking him what he did in those years between the wars. I think he was sort of…"
"In penury," Molly says frankly. "The working world was not kind to werewolves then."
"Do you think he gave up the baby because he was too poor to care for it?" James asks.
Molly frowns, her disapproval at the thought evident, though she says nothing to that effect. "I really don't know, dear. I'd only ever heard of him with two partners—Sirius, and then years later, your mum."
"Well unless Sirius gave birth to Romilda, that doesn't help us much," Teddy says, smiling sadly and scooping up a crumb off his plate, at which movement Molly Summons another serving of spotted dick to his plate.
"You don't—" James says, "you don't think it's possible they did that? Fertility treatments?"
"Highly unlikely," Arthur laughs. "They were only about twenty at the time. And having a good time of it, too, if I remember correctly, and I know I do. Can you imagine going through a course of fertility potions to get pregnant at your age, James? Of course not!"
James's eyes grow wide, as though he's just remembered they're talking about people who were younger than he is now.
Molly places a hand on her hip. "We had babies at that age, dear, if you've managed to forget. There's no need to throw around general statements like that. Maybe they did want a baby."
"A young twenty-year-old lad who wore a leather jacket everywhere and rode a motorbike and showed up to Order meetings—with Dumbledore presiding—drunk off his arse?" Arthur says incredulously, booming a laugh. "No, no. Not a generalised statement. A specific statement about that one couple. No."
Molly frowns but doesn't dispute the point, which Teddy takes to mean that Arthur must be right—that his father and Sirius had not planned a pregnancy. "Let me go get the photo album," Molly says, pushing herself up and bustling out of the room.
"Granddad," James says, leaning towards him and lowering his voice slightly, "do you think Remus was the kind of bloke who would—no offence, Teddy—go to a brothel or something? Or sleep around with strangers? We're just trying to get some leads."
"If I've learned anything over the years, boys," Arthur says sagely, "it's that I can't trust my own instincts about what people are capable of. I would've sworn on my life that Culbreth Wilkins was not the type to have a secret Animagus family on the side, and we all know how right I turned out to be there."
James meets Teddy's eyes with a horrified look. "Er, right, Granddad."
Molly bursts back in with arms full of a teetering stack of albums. "I brought the ones from when you were a baby, too, James. You were such a doll. I've never seen a baby who loved to be naked more than James!"
"Grandma," James sighs, but he's got a huge smile on his face, though he spares an apologetic glance for Teddy, as if Teddy minds looking at photos of baby James. "I still like to be naked, you know."
"Oh, you!" she says with a chuckle and slams the stack of books onto the table. She selects an avocado-coloured leather album and flips through the pages for a moment, then puts the book in front of Teddy. "There they are. Now James…"
In the photo, two young lads—so young! impossibly young!—sit with arms around each other's shoulders. They're unmistakably in love. Remus has his head leaned against Sirius's, his arm tightening around Sirius's shoulders. Sirius sticks his tongue out at the camera and lets Remus pull him closer. Then he turns his head and gives Remus a sloppy kiss. Remus leans into it, grabbing Sirius's hair and flipping off the camera with his other hand.
Teddy's heart races. It's—wild. He's seen photos of his dad, and of his mum and dad, of course. But not like this. Not with puppy love and youthful almost-optimism. This Remus is irreverent, unlike later photos, and looks like he might drop trou because the only thing he cares about is the man whose hair he's—yes, he's yanking it, and just as it seems like photo Sirius will climb into Remus's lap, the photo loops back to the beginning. Teddy feels almost jealous, that his dad had been this happy because of someone else—not him or his mum.
"You know who you should go see?" Arthur says. "Minerva McGonagall. She pretended to disapprove of Sirius and the rest of them, but she secretly doted on them. She knew them well."
"Sweet!" James said, raising his glass to toast his grandfather. "It's been a hot minute since I've seen McG!"
Teddy nods, glad for a plan of whom to talk to next, and looks back at the photo.
"Alright, Teddy?" James asks, looking at him from over a page of photos of his tiny bare arse.
"They were stupid in love," Teddy says, and he can't help but smile as he watches the scene play out again.
Dumbledore tapped his fingers on the table. "Though I agree the events in the Soviet Union are important, Dedalus, I—"
Sirius leaned back in his chair and sighed. This meeting made him want to gouge his eyes out with a fork. And to top it all off, he felt sick. Well, not sick exactly, but his stomach was weird. He needed a distraction, so he wrapped his fingers around his wand in the sleeve of his robe and cast a silent Legilimens at Remus, who sat on his left. Knock, knock, he prodded at Remus's brain.
Remus let him in, his expression steady.
Fuck me this is boring, Sirius said. Fuck me up the arse with an acromantula. Why are they still talking about the Soviet Union?
An acromantula? Remus returned. That's a fucked up image even for me, part-wolf, who has fucked you up the arse innumerable times. With an acromantula, really? And I know. We already got Karkaroff, there aren't any other Eastern European Death Eaters involved with Voldemort. If we're going to talk about Soviets this much, he could've at least brought vodka.
VOHD-ka, Sirius corrected, ignoring the way the thought of vodka made his stomach turn. And yes! This is why I love you. Za zdorov'ye!
How do you speak Russian? Remus asked.
I don't. In fact, I've made it a point to unlearn all the languages my parents taught me. Now I only know drinking toasts. Important information only.
"But Albus," Elphias Doge lectured, "we need to consider the effects of events in France. With Mitterand ousting Giscard in the Muggle world, the Gaullist wizards might be—"
I know we have no money, Sirius said. But think we can Confundus our way into the New London Theatre?
For sure, Remus said, turning in his chair to look at Dumbledore, who was now discussing the Ministry's policy on cross-national Apparition. Why? What do you want to see?
A new musical called Cats, Sirius said. When you were gone, I heard some blokes talking about it at Harpoon Louis. They were arguing about whether the cats in the show, who live in a human-dominated world, are a metaphor for the gay community. But regardless, the costumes are like flamboyant cat drag, apparently. We need to see it.
"Just a moment, Elph," Dumbledore twinkled. "Mr Black and Mr Lupin are busy making arrangements of the theatrical variety." He caught Sirius's eye. "Shall we wait while you pop over to Confund the ticket agent?"
Sirius twirled his wand. "No need, sir."
"The cat drag is fantastic, by the way," Dumbledore said. "I find it hard to believe they didn't use magic. Unbridled felinity at its jauntiest. Do take care to disguise yourselves when you go; the last thing we need is Voldemort showing up in the middle of the Journey to the Heaviside Layer. But sadly, we need to turn our attention from plotless yet whimsical musical eclecticism to our plans for following Rosier into Dystyl Phaelanges."
Gideon snorted at Sirius, then launched into a timeline of their plan of attack that was, in Sirius's opinion, woefully restrained.
"Or," Sirius interrupted, "I can become a dog and pretend to be a stray begging for food on Knockturn, sneak in past a house-elf at the back door, and we can forget all of this caution."
"Sirius," Gideon chided, and Sirius was so tired of Gid acting so wise all the time when he was only a couple years older. "On Knockturn, if a dog gets in a Death Eater's path, the Death Eater would kill the dog without a second thought."
"Not to mention," Doge wheezed, "with the leak, we have to assume that You-Know-Who knows Sirius is an Animagus. It's no disguise at all."
Sirius sighed, leaning back. Why do they even invite him to these meetings?
Remus tapped on Sirius’s brain. It doesn't surprise me nearly as much as it should that Dumbledore is a furry, Remus said.
Sirius burst out laughing, and every person in the room turned serious faces towards him.
We have literally fucked as canines, Sirius responded, getting his laughter under control, his chest warm with his affection.
Remus shrugged a shoulder. Takes one to know one.
"Sirius, can you do that?"
Sirius looked up, no idea what was being asked of him. "Excuse me sir, can you repeat the request? So I'm one hundred percent clear what I'm agreeing to?"
"Ah," Dumbledore enthused, staring into the distance, "as Pablo Neruda said, 'I should like to sleep like a cat, with all the fur of time, with a tongue rough as flint, with the dry sex of fire; and after speaking to no one, stretch myself over the world, over roofs and landscapes, with a passionate desire to hunt the rats in my dreams'."
Sirius stared at him, blinking.
"But alas!" Dumbledore gave his head a little shake. "We are not cats, and we cannot sleep. This is a war, if you've forgotten. So pay attention, my dear boy. We would like you to go to Knockturn tonight, in disguise, and station yourself in Tallow and Hemp. Stay as long as you can. I imagine you'll have no problem affecting an interest in poisonous wax products. Keep your eye on the entrance to Phaelanges. If Rosier goes in, you mark the time and manner of his approach, anything relevant that we might use when we're prepared for the mission to follow him inside."
"Under what circumstances should I take him down?" Sirius asked.
"None,” Dumbledore said. “Under no circumstances will you step foot out of Tallow and Hemp."
Take notes. In a candle store. Sirius sighed. "Yes, sir. No trouble."
James and Lily were in hiding. They were all in danger. Sirius was a target. The war was going poorly. And Dumbledore wanted him to stand in a candle store. They were all going to die due to an excess of caution. Wasn't this man supposed to be a Gryffindor? Sirius fumed. He needed to do something, to act. But action would disobey Dumbledore.
Later, when they left the meeting, Sirius whispered in Remus's ear, "Was that poetry Dumbledore's way of admitting to the furry thing?"
Sirius remembered being a child and his mother bringing him here. He was made to stand silently without touching—a task much too difficult for him even now. She used to magic his hands together behind his back so he couldn't wiggle. She'd talk to the clerk about the appropriate toxic tapers for dinner parties, tombs, necromantic rituals—Merlin only knew.
Nothing had changed, really.
He had a wild urge to wrap his fingers around the hemlock soy, to light it and breathe in the fumes, just to see what would happen. What would it be like to swipe his arm along the shelf, to hear the clatter of paraffin viper mingling with beeswax arsenic?
He peered out the dingy window. No one was going into Phaelanges. What a waste of time.
He wondered just how poisonous these candles were. Could they be used for wax play? Remus would be into it—
Rosier. Striding towards Phaelanges. Sirius froze, watching. His magic swirled protectively around him, and he took a deep breath and told it to calm down. Sirius would not let this fucker walk away; every atom in his body screamed with the desire to remove the threat.
Sirius slipped out of the door, a morose clinking of bells as it closed behind him. He very nearly tripped in his unfamiliar body, even though he'd chosen one with the same height and shoe size. Bodies were weird.
Rosier raised his wand to tap the door, and Sirius pulled his wand, a Stunning Spell coiling up, ready to strike at his command. As he was about to say it, a burst of magic slammed into his back, his body stiffened and he keeled over, head slamming the pavement as the door to Phaelanges closed behind Rosier. Rage swept over his paralysed body as Mad-Eye's face loomed over him.
Sirius wanted to scream.
"Your orders," Mad-Eye snarled, "were to take notes. You entitled fool. We need to wait until Rosier has more information before we bring him in, because we need the information he's about to get. You could've blown our entire operation!"
A curious hag had stopped to watch the tussle. Moody turned to her, scowling, and hollered, "Move along! Auror business."
"Go home," Moody sneered. "And do not leave your flat until you hear from Dumbledore."
Sirius felt a tingle of magic as Moody Finited the Body-Bind, but didn't remove his wand.
"Do you understand?"
Sirius tried to un-grit his teeth as he spit, "Yes."
"Don't misunderstand me, Black," Mad-Eye hissed, his eye whirling behind him and then back to fix on Sirius's face. "You are an infant. I don't know why Dumbledore is letting you and your little friends do anything. My Foe-Glass grows clearer when you and your little friends are at meetings. You may have fooled the old man, but you haven't fooled me. Go home. I'll know if you don't."
Sirius pushed to his feet. Reflections of curious eyes in the window of Tallow and Hemp blinked away as the excitement faded. He stared at the candles for a long moment, then Disapparated.
"Moony!" he hollered, slumping against the wall and wondering if the strange cramping in his stomach and chest was the Polyjuice wearing off. "Come up with something rebellious we can do! Without leaving the flat!"
Remus walked into view, confused. "…Twister?"
James throws his arms out and tilts his head back, inhaling deeply. "It smells like Spring." He's wearing a forest green t-shirt that fits snugly over his shoulders, which are not broad by any means but muscled from Quidditch training. The fabric, which Teddy knows is soft because he's worn that shirt before when he's low on laundry, stretches tautly across James's chest, and Teddy inhales, his sudden interest in James piercing through the good mood that came from food, drink, and the warmth of family.
Teddy can't let himself want to feel how that soft fabric feels atop James's firm chest. He needs to be a grown-up about this, he needs to make sure that his angst about his parents and his family doesn't somehow screw up his relationship with James. James is his best friend, his oldest friend.
It's strange, given their six-year age difference, how easily their relationship changed from older–younger family friends to friends. But by the time James left Hogwarts, he didn't act like a little kid anymore, and his natural confidence made him seem, at times, older than Teddy. James had gone to train with his team and had gained a level of independence quickly—more seamlessly than Teddy had.
Teddy doesn't feel like a kid, but he doesn't feel like an adult, exactly, either. He doesn't even know what he wants to do for work. He's been prevaricating since he left school—every option seems like a terrible plan.
A lot of people thought he'd be an Auror, follow in his mum's and Harry's footsteps. But even the mere thought of being an Auror is stifling. Teddy can't imagine going to work in an office day after day, following a boring dress code; Aurors may have only "naturally coloured hair." Teddy knows if he became an Auror he'd end up causing a ruckus, insisting that his turquoise or purple or fire-orange hair is, in fact, "naturally coloured". He wouldn't be able to stop himself.
Teddy might not know exactly how he's supposed to feel about being a metamorphmagus, but he knows he isn't interested in hiding or suppressing it.
In school, he'd excelled at everything—he was Head Boy, after all!—but he hadn't loved anything in particular. He was driven to perform well in his courses and on his exams, but he didn't particularly care about any of it beyond getting Os and making his grandmother proud.
He keeps thinking he'll figure it out soon, but it's really been quite a long time now—somehow he’s been out of Hogwarts for nearly ten years. He isn't sure how that happened.
Teddy wonders if time has flown because he's been happy, living with James in the cottage, going to work when he needs to, no work stress to follow him home, a friend at home to play games and eat snacks and watch films.
Teddy's friends from Hogwarts—Akira, especially, and no wonder, because Akira is married and has a respectable Ministry job—think Teddy is using his friendship with James to avoid his responsibilities. Akira thinks Teddy is refusing to grow up, and that he's using James—who is six years younger, after all—for this purpose.
Teddy knows that's not it, though he's never able to articulate why to Akira. James isn't a way to prolong Teddy's youth, or some shit. James is just James. James is his closest friend.
James's face is tilted back, eyes closed, smiling. It doesn't hurt that James is less boring than Akira is these days. But that has nothing to do with age, does it?
And all of these are the reasons he can't like James. He can't let his stupid brain that doesn't know who he is, what his parents were like, what he looks like, whom he's attracted to, what exactly his gender is, etc., etc., convince him he likes James. No.
Teddy shoves his hands in his pockets. "Does it ever feel really fucking dumb to you that everyone thinks people need to figure their shit out right away, choose a career at eighteen, get married and have babies at like twenty? Why? Why?! We're wizards! We'll live to like one hundred forty! What is the damn rush?"
James blinks away from looking at the sky to meet Teddy's eyes. "Er, yeah," he says, and laughs. "It's ridiculous. Why are you thinking about this now?"
Teddy sighs and starts walking down the path towards Ottery St Catchpole. "I don't know. Just—your grandparents were so young when they had your dad. They died at, what, twenty-one? And they died heroes. Your dad saved the world at seventeen and then he and your mum had you when they were like, twenty-three? I'm twenty-seven and what the fuck do I have to show for it?"
"You're really good at using Warming Charms on PopTarts," James points out, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
Teddy raises an eyebrow.
James laughs and holds his hands up. "Kidding! Just kidding! You know I love you." He takes a few steps ahead, turns to walk backward, and squints his eyes at Teddy. "Do you really need me to make a list of all the things that are great about you, because I will, but—"
"No," Teddy says, and he isn't sure whether to laugh or sigh so he sort of laughs out a shaky sigh.
"Is this about the stuff with your dad?" James asks quietly, falling back into step next to Teddy. "Or is this just like, normal life anxiety?"
"Both, probably," Teddy admits. "I mean—I'm kind of feeling like nothing is real. How can I know who I am, if I didn't know so much of this? What do I know? I don't even know what I want to do with my life."
"I mean, neither do I," James says. "I have a job but you can't play professional Quidditch for long, so I'm really just putting off the decision until my body is so wrecked I have to change careers. And Albus doesn't even know. I mean, he's in Healer training, but if you ask him what he wants to do when he's done, he has no idea. He and Scorpius talk a lot of shit about their plans but they're clueless. Even Victoire has no idea what she wants to do; how many jobs has she quit in the past two years? It's just the way it is."
Teddy sighs. He knows James is right, but it doesn't feel the same. "Yeah." He doesn't want to talk about this. "What do you want to do now?"
James shrugs. "What do you want to do? Are you alright? That was kinda heavy in there. Let me see that picture you took."
Teddy grins and pulls the photo out. "Maybe it's strange to keep a photo of your dad snogging someone, but it makes me happy to see him happy."
James takes the photo and studies it. "Holy shit."
"I know, right?"
"No," James says, "holy shit. This is like—"
"This is like porn!"
James shoves the photo towards Teddy. "I really don't want to get turned on by a photo of your dad and my namesake, so you'd better take this." He pauses for a second. "Urgh, I hate being reminded of the time Matty Thomas-Finnegan kept playing Harry Potter role play porn in the common room, and that's twice now in two days."
Teddy bursts out laughing. "It's all so weird."
"Life is extremely weird," James says. "Where should we go? I could eat."
"Let's go out," Teddy says, not wanting to deal with going back to the cottage and being forced to think about everything he's learned these past few days.
"Alright," James agrees easily. "Somewhere that serves food."
"You pick something," Teddy says, and James pulls out his phone, frowning at the screen as he scrolls around, presumably looking for somewhere to go.
Teddy puts the photo of his dad back in his pocket and looks up at the sky. It's that odd time of day when the sun has set enough that the ground looks like night but the sky above the treeline still looks like day. Like that painting by that bloke—what's his name.
"Ah!" James says. "Yes! Perfect."
"Magritte," Teddy says.
"No, the Glory!" James says. "Want me to Side-Along you?"
Teddy holds out his arm, James grasps his forearm with strong fingers, and a second later they appear in an alley.
"Where are we?" Teddy asks.
"I told you," James says with a laugh. "The Glory! We're in Haggerston. It's an LGBT bar and they're having a non-binary cabaret tonight." James grabs Teddy's wrist and tugs him towards the street. He stops, though. "Wait. We can't go to a non-binary cabaret wearing clothes we wore to the Burrow."
He looks down at his t-shirt and frowns.
"Keep the shirt," Teddy says. "I like it."
James looks up, surprised. "Er, okay. You do me, then." He holds his arms out to let Teddy transfigure his clothes, and Teddy sucks in a shaky breath, trying not to let his imagination go wild at the invitation.
Teddy pulls out his wand and concentrates, waving his wand at James in a few swishes and flicks. When he's done, the t-shirt is the same except it now reads "GAY AF" with a rainbow, and Teddy has turned James's jeans into a pair of booty shorts.
"Did you just put me in jorts?" James asks, laughing delightedly and looking down at his exposed legs.
"They look good!" Teddy insists defensively.
"Well obviously," James says. "I have nice legs."
Teddy clamps his mouth shut. James does have nice legs, and they are very much on display.
James grins and holds up his wand. "On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is Glinda the Good Witch and 10 is Stanley Kowalski, what gender of clothes are you feeling for tonight?"
Teddy barks a laugh. "Er, 5."
James considers for a moment, then waves his wand. Teddy’s trousers tighten and smooth and his shirt seems to half disappear. When he looks down, he's in tight leather trousers and a mesh vest.
Teddy's mouth drops open. "You know how to turn denim into leather?"
"Never know when it'll come in useful," James says, and winks.
James waves his wand again, conjuring a shower of glitter that sticks to their skin and clothes as it falls towards the pavement.
"You put my nipples on display," Teddy accuses, still somewhat stunned.
"Yeah," James says with a grin. "Let's go!"
They walk inside, Teddy keeping his eyes on James. He can't help his eyes trailing down James's glittery body, over the swell of his arse in the jorts, then he realises what he's doing and snaps his eyes away.
When they walk inside James looks around for where to buy tickets to the show in the basement. Teddy hands James a twenty for his half and looks around.
A man wearing head-to-toe leopard print stands nearby, grinding on a person bedecked in leather. Music blares, and people sing along in joyous, not-too-drunk-because-it's-early-yet voices, and drag queens dance on stage.
"You have just enough time to grab a drink before the cabaret starts!" the man selling the tickets hollers over the noise.
"Sweet, thanks!" James says, taking his change.
The crowd is mesmerising. Every person here would be an outcast elsewhere and Teddy has never felt so much like he belongs. If they weren't all Muggles, it'd be even better—there'd surely be wild Glamours and appearance magic and stuff—but even without magic, the place is magical.
James laughs and nudges Teddy with his shoulder. "Look!" he hollers, thrusting his chin to draw Teddy's attention to someone dancing wearing a shirt that says "GENDER CAN SUCK MY AMBIGUOUS DICK." Teddy can feel the stress melt off his shoulders as a smile breaks across his face.
"What should we drink?" James asks, approaching the bar.
"Should we keep going with gin? Grandma Molly's choice?"
James laughs and nods. "Two gin and tonics!" he shouts. "And an order of chips!"
"Extra lime!" Teddy hollers, and someone slams into his back, pushing him into James.
They end up holding onto each other as they make their way to the basement with their drinks and chips. James's natural exuberance and confidence seem to increase with the noise and freedom of the revelers, and Teddy finds himself unable to stop staring at him. Teddy doesn't want to think about his life, or who he is, or what he's supposed to be doing, but he knows at least he wants to be here, with James. He wants to dance.
They find seats, and James balances the chips half on Teddy's lap. They're perfect—hot, salty, greasy, and Teddy is overcome with contentment as the surrounding chairs fill with other guests. It's warm, and the press of bodies all around and the atmosphere of noise, drink, makes Teddy feel limp, like all his muscles are relaxing. James must feel the same, because he seems to melt into Teddy's shoulder; they lean their weight against each other.
"Folks and people! Humans and compatriots!" the emcee shouts, walking onto the small stage to a chorus of cheers. "Welcome to the Glory's Non-binary Cabaret!"
Teddy laughs and claps, looking at James out of the side of his eye while the emcee introduces the first act.
James leans his mouth close to Teddy's ear. "Would Albus love this, or hate this? It’s one or the other."
"He'd love it!” Teddy laughs. “As long as we weren't here and he and Scorpius could do their thing without worrying about getting teased or judged by us!"
James frowns. "We'd never judge him! He knows that! We've been super supportive!"
A singer walks on stage, holding a microphone, wearing leather shorts, fishnet tights, and a puffy-sleeved jacket.
Teddy narrows his eyes. "We never judge him for his sexuality or anything. But we judge him all the time! Last time we saw them you made fun of Albus's hoodie for like an hour. And the time before that you made fun of them for refusing to drink the pumpkin juice because it wasn't non-GMO."
James grins. "Yeah, okay. Albus would like it if we weren't here."
The music begins, the person on stage walking around with a heavy-shouldered strut. The song is about the experience of changing genders, and Teddy watches with fascination, not used to people talking about this sort of thing so openly.
"We pinched high heels from JC Penney," they sing, "can you sympathise, finding our size was never easy."
Teddy laughs delightedly, watching as a bunch of audience members shout their sympathy.
"And we sensed an end to our feminine era as we painted our moustaches with our mascara." The singer does a little twirl, then sways left and right.
"Ooh! moustaches! Do a moustache," James whispers. "No one's looking."
Teddy snorts. "No way!"
"Come on, pleeeeease?"
Teddy is happy. Warmth and contentment and belonging and James. He relents, closing his eyes and concentrating his appearance magic on his lip, lengthening the hair and ensuring it matches the rest of his hair—currently purple. James watches, mouth splitting into a wide grin as the moustache blooms.
"Good?" Teddy asks, feeling awkward at James’s open assessment.
"Perfect," James says, eyes on Teddy's lip. Teddy’s heart races, and James turns away.
"MTFTM," the singer croons, "boy to girl and butch to femme, endless transition."
It's not quite Teddy's experience, really. This singer and these Muggles don't know what it's like to be able to change your body on a whim. They're more familiar with the pain of the body's intransigence than they are with the instability that comes from variability. But it's close. It's real and it's true and all the usual frustration Teddy feels when other people don't seem to get him, or when they look at something about his appearance and make assumptions based on it, is gone.
He thinks of the photo in his pocket and wonders what Sirius and his dad would've made of this place. Would they have loved it? Did they feel the same kind of alienation from much of mainstream society that Teddy does, especially with his dad’s lycanthropy? Was Teddy's dad attracted to his mum because she, being a metamorphmagus, had a better innate understanding of these issues? Teddy wonders, not for the first time, if metamorphmagi, in their ever-changing, not-conforming-to-any-binary bodies, are more likely to be queer. He wishes there were enough of them that he could find out the answer to that question.
"No pink no blue no black no white," the singer intones, their nasally voice loud and insistent, "it's all a spectrum.” They pause, making sultry eye contact with the crowd. “But a rectum is a rectum!"
The crowd roars, James dissolves into laughter, and Teddy grabs his hand without thinking about it. Their fingers are greasy and salty from the chips and Teddy squeezes James's hand, not letting his worries about any of it—his long-lost sister, his dad, the weirdness of his attraction to James—into his head.
"Is a rectum is a rectum!"
In this place, it feels okay. It feels possible. James squeezes back.
Sirius squinted, trying to make anything out in the pitch blackness they found themselves in. "Fabian?" he whispered.
"Here," a voice returned.
Sirius reached out.
"Don't touch me," Marlene grumbled, shaking him off her arm.
"Fuck, sorry, I can't see anything," Sirius said. "Where the hell did they go?"
They were in a field that had, until moments ago, been illuminated by a full moon.
Sirius hated full moons separated from Remus; he felt guilty, like he was ignoring a responsibility or breaking a promise. But Remus was in Oban, looking for a pack of werewolves. He would be fine, Sirius knew—Sirius himself was in much greater danger at the moment—but he kept looking at the moon.
Or he’d been looking at the moon until it snuffed out like a candle.
"Darkness powder?" Marlene asked in a whisper. "Lumos doesn't work, nor do conjured flames. Or sparks."
Sirius racked his brain, then tried a lightning spell originally intended for weathermancy, then adopted by goth wizard teens who wanted to affect a certain aesthetic. He heard it sizzle, but no light. "I thought Peruvian darkness powder didn't work against lightning."
Fabian cursed somewhere to his left. "Must be the Turkish stuff. Fuck! Doesn't that take 24 hours to disperse?"
Darkness powder, darkness powder. Think! Sirius had gone through a phase around age thirteen. He tried to remember. "Reflections," he hissed. "Cast a Speculo!"
He felt Fabian swish his wand, and an eerie mirror-like surface appeared, reflecting Sirius and Marlene's faces, and behind them, stepping out from behind a tree, Travers and Goyle.
Sirius threw up a Shield before he even recognised them, the force of it shimmering around him and reverberating through his skull. Whoa. He would've loved to have cast a Shield like that in his O.W.L.
There was a bang, and he struggled to see what was happening in Fabian's conjured reflection. He blinked and the reflection disappeared. Shit. Sirius dropped his Shield to cast another Speculo; there was a whizz of magic coming towards him; he cast his Shield again, and in the reflection saw Marlene and Fabian on the ground.
A cold fury shot up Sirius's spine. He cast a quick Diagnostic Charm at his friends, his throat tight with worry. Dead. Dead.
Sirius whirled to unleash his furore on their attackers, looking over his shoulder at the reflection, thinking wildly it was like trying to drive his motorbike in reverse. There were at least five of them coming straight at him.
A wave of self-preservation washed over him. Sirius cursed and Disapparated.
He landed without finesse on a shag carpet. He felt woozy and wondered if this is what it felt like to be in shock. "FUCK!" he screamed, and realised he was in the same room as McGonagall, Dumbledore, and Pomfrey. Having tea.
They looked up at him, alarmed. Tea cups clinked on saucers.
"FUCK!" Sirius screamed again, losing his balance and hitting the wall, sliding to the floor.
Dumbledore stood slowly. "What happened?"
Sirius hated him. Sitting here drinking tea while Death Eaters murdered Marlene and Fabian.
"Marlene and Fabian are dead!" he shouted. "It was—" His head swam with fuzzy black spots. He stopped, and blinked, trying to dispel it. "Fuck. It was Travers and Goyle and some others. Darkness powder—I couldn't—" The black spots sizzled, obscuring his vision.
Pomfrey bolted across the room, and the last thing Sirius saw before the world went black was her wand drawn, calling to McGonagall for her bag.
The Order's Healer sitting vigil at his bedside. What a fantastic portent.
She looked up and saw he was awake, stuck a bookmark in the book, and set it to the side. "Mr Black," she said, smiling. "Gave us quite a scare until I realised the problem."
"What happened?" His throat scratched.
Her eyes pierced him. "Do you already know, or am I about to tell you?"
Sirius looked around, wondering if this was a riddle. "I was dizzy, and I passed out, but—why? That's never happened to me—is something wrong with my magic?"
"No." She sighed, and with a face that could only be described as 'relentlessly professional', she continued, "You're pregnant."
Sirius stared at her, the words not making sense. "Come again?"
"You must have been having nasty cramps and other symptoms these past few weeks, as your magic forced your body to…accommodate."
"Pregnant?!" Sirius burst out laughing, leaning forward. "Oh, good one. I knew your affinity for jokes, but this was more than I expected."
Her face didn't change. "Sirius. You are pregnant. My charms put the foetus at about eleven weeks gestational age."
Sirius's jaw dropped open. "But—"
She raised her hands in a gesture of defeat. "I know. Male pregnancy is rare and generally catalysed by specific factors, such as fertility potions or creature magic, but it's possible with the augmentation of emotional factors and your highly magical blood…"
"Creature—" Sirius halted, suddenly glad that the person he was having this conversation with was Pomfrey. "It's Remus, obviously."
She nodded, nonplussed. "It's probably a factor. We can't know for sure."
"Will the baby—" Sirius paused. "Is it okay?"
"For now," she said. "You're both fine. You were dehydrated when you passed out, and pregnancy brings with it an increase in blood supply that can sometimes—take a toll."
"I—" Sirius stopped. "I have never once considered that I could get pregnant. Isn't male pregnancy something that has to be—chosen? Even the gay couples I know who wanted babies—"
She raised an eyebrow. "While it doesn't surprise me you think witches experience unintended pregnancy while wizards only experience it if they choose to, I had hoped better from you. Male pregnancy is much less common, in general, but it's certainly possible for anyone engaging in sexual intercourse to become pregnant."
"What about oral?" Sirius asked, half curious how she'd answer and half hoping to get a smile out of her to make this seem a little less insane, a little more normal.
Her eyes rolled to the heavens, but she smiled. "Do not split hairs with me, Mr Black. And didn't you listen to my talk in year 5?"
"No," Sirius said. "I am gay. I didn't have to worry about that reproduction stuff."
The look on Pomfrey's face suggested a world-weariness beyond her for forty-odd years. "Where to begin. I presume you see the error of that, given your current situation. And the part about sexually transmitted diseases, both magical and biological? Does that not apply to you, either?"
Sirius grinned at her, relying on his latent schoolboy hope that cheekiness would get him out of most trouble.
She leaned forward, eyes kind. "If you want to terminate, we can do it right now. No one need ever know."
Given the conversation, it’s surprising he didn’t anticipate this topic.
He thought of Remus, coming home from missions and wrapping Sirius in his arms and burying his head in Sirius's hair, and the feeling of home. He thought of baby Harry, and all the time he'd spent holding and rocking and shushing and getting spit on. He thought of James and Lily, sleep deprived and endangered yet still somehow happy. He thought of his childhood, being treated like a pure-blood pawn since before he could walk. He thought of Fabian and Marlene, Dorcas. He thought of love, and how he might never have another chance.
"Absolutely not,” he said, meeting Pomfrey’s eyes.
The letter is from McGonagall, confirming he is welcome to drop by Hogwarts this evening and that she will leave the Floo open. He scribbles his agreement and sends the owl off with a treat, unsure how to feel. He is eager to talk with her and hopeful to find out more information, but he also isn't sure if he can handle more revelations that are crazy or bad. Or crazy bad.
He finishes his shift without quitting, though he spends the best part of the last hour imagining different ways in which he could. His favourite involves wearing a Marx t-shirt underneath his shirt and apron and busting the shirt off like Superman, screaming something about the exploitation of the working class, and running out the front door with the apron streaming behind him like a cape.
He Floos home when there are five minutes left on his shift, but Teddy can't be arsed to care, as the market is empty in the mid-afternoon slump.
"Jamie!" Teddy calls, tugging the apron off and unbuttoning his shirt immediately, wanting to get the smell of work off him. The market doesn't even smell like much of anything, and yet somehow the smell sticks to his clothes and skin, driving him crazy as soon as he's home. He might be able to blame the coffee bar for the smell. He tugs the shirt out of his trousers and over his wrists, crumpling it in his fist as he wanders towards the bathroom.
James's running clothes are on the floor of the hallway, vaguely near the door to the bathroom. Teddy is heading towards his bedroom to wait his turn in the shower when the bathroom door opens and James steps out, toweling his hair, naked.
Teddy freezes and a hot blush spreads over his face and chest, which, to his horror, is as naked as James. At least Teddy's still wearing trousers, but he can't stop looking at the droplets dripping down James's chest, at James's, at James's, at James's—
James lets out a little nervous chuckle—in any other situation it would be the perfect way to ease the tension in that way James has of making situations less awkward.
Except Teddy is still staring and doesn't snap out of it; much like he's been put in a Full-Body Bind, he just stares.
James looks like what you'd expect to see on the cover of an erotic magazine. His penis isn't hard, exactly, but it doesn't look quite flaccid either, in Teddy's opinion, and Teddy, horrified, finds himself facing the probable knowledge that James just whacked one off in the shower.
"Teddy!" James says, still trying to laugh it off even as he tries to jolt Teddy out of his stupor, but the look on his face showing he knows he just caught Teddy checking him the fuck out.
"I—" Teddy starts, but then has no idea how to finish the sentence.
James, in what he probably assumes is a helpful manner, turns away towards his bedroom, but now Teddy has a perfect view of his perfect arse. Teddy clamps his eyes shut, realising belatedly that he should've done that immediately, and a second later he hears the door to James's room close.
Teddy exhales, letting his eyes open and his body slump against the wall, and the feeling of horror somehow deepens now that James is gone.
"I'm, er, just going to shower," he calls.
"Sure," James calls back, and Teddy wonders if James's voice is shaking as much as his or if that's just in his head. Maybe Teddy's ears are shaking.
In the shower, Teddy replays the incident over and over. What is the appropriate reaction when you accidentally see someone naked? What would he do if Albus or Harry or Ginny had come out of the bathroom naked? Teddy groans. He knows what he would've done—he wouldn't've looked. He would've averted his eyes and laughed it off. He wouldn't've blushed. He wouldn't have frozen.
He's a complete idiot.
Once dried and dressed, Teddy walks into the sitting room full of apprehension; James is on the sofa. He's never felt so awkward in this cottage before.
"Er, hey," Teddy says.
"Hey," James says, "how was work?"
"Fine." Teddy shoves his hands in his pockets. "Sorry I was gaping at you before."
James turns around to meet Teddy's eyes. He gives a small smile and shrugs. "It's alright, Lupin. Everyone's distracted by my incredible physique. Besides, it was my fault. Don't walk around naked if you don't want people to see you, right?"
Teddy forces a laugh. "It's okay." He stands there like an idiot, no idea what to say.
He's known James forever, and this is the first time he can ever remember not knowing what to say. They talk about everything. They talk about nothing. One time a few months back they talked for an hour about the Mayan calendar. They've long been the two at family gatherings who are able to fill silences—Teddy and James were the only ones who talked at all during one dinner after Albus's fourth year, and they had also been the ones to guide the conversation away (repeatedly) from difficult topics the first time James's parents had dinner with Scorpius's parents. In the past week alone, Teddy can remember talking to James about blenders, saturated fats, William Shakespeare, Tony Blair, and impressionistic art.
Teddy can't think of a thing to say, and, surprisingly, James doesn't fill the silence, either.
"I had a letter from McGonagall," Teddy blurts.
"Oh, what'd she say?"
"She says we can Floo to Hogwarts today."
"Will you come with me?" Teddy asks, realising suddenly that he's been assuming James will come with him but he's never actually asked.
James's face softens, not that it was really hard before—Teddy can't tell exactly what he's thinking, but James looks closer to normal when he says, "Yeah, of course. When do you want to go?"
After a still-awkwardly-silent snack (fresh almond milk that Teddy gets half-off with his employee discount, four apples sliced with a Segmentum, and peanut butter), Teddy pockets the MyWizardry results, and they walk into the flames.
"Mr Lupin, Mr Potter! Wonderful to see you."
Teddy blinks, wiping soot from his eyes, and takes in the familiar sight of his old Headmistress, upper-level Transfiguration professor, and Potter family friend. Teddy remembers her from his early childhood, how she'd sit at parties at Harry's house, chatting with Hagrid or Hermione, primly holding whatever baby was new and informing the infant in her no-nonsense voice that she expected excellent behaviour when they came to Hogwarts. He remembers her as Headmistress, her twinkling eyes when Teddy was sorted into Hufflepuff.
It's wonderful to see her, but it also makes him nervous—he should have more to report back to her. He should have more accomplishments for her to smile at, and he has nothing. If she asks him what he's been doing, he has nothing to offer but the inventory of bulk grains he performed that morning.
But James is closer to her and ignores her outstretched hand to wrap her in a hug. Her face is drawn tight but obviously pleased as she pats his back and looks at him assessingly.
"You're looking well," she says to James, then turns to Teddy. "Mr Lupin! The students are all so drab of hair since you've left."
Teddy smiles. It's been too long since he's heard her voice. The lilting Scottish tones are familiar and soothing. "Professor!" he reaches his hand out and shakes hers, then pulls her into a hug.
"Well, gentlemen, sit, sit," she says.
James makes to sit at an armchair in front of her desk, but she tsks and guides him to a sitting area to the side of her desk with a sofa and a stiff-backed chair.
"You're no longer a trouble-making student, Mr Potter. Let's be comfortable." On the table is a tray of tea and a platter of biscuits, and Teddy sits, gratefully accepting the cup of tea that soars towards him.
"So what brings you boys here?" she asks swiftly. "I hope nothing's wrong. I saw Harry a few weeks ago and he didn't mention anything, but—"
Teddy sometimes forgets the extent of their mish-mash of extended family, how many people care and worry and support, even from afar. "Everything's fine," he reassures quickly. "Everyone is great. It's just—" He pauses. He laughs, pushing his hair away from his eyes. "It's hard to know where to start. Albus and Scorpius bought us MyWizardry tests, and it turns out I have a half sister. My father had another child born in 1982. We're just trying to figure out—well, anything. We know that he was with Sirius Black, but we don't know who the mother could be—someone after Sirius, we expect? It's—we—I just want to figure it out so I can process it and move on, you know?"
McGonagall's face, if Teddy is right, pales. She looks old, which of course, she is, but she looks sad, too. Weary. She presses her lips together and places her cup in its saucer.
"You knew," James says. His voice isn't accusing, merely observant.
She nods. "Those boys. Somehow causing me trouble even after they've been a long time dead." She shakes her head and lets out a small laugh. "As it should be, I expect. Sirius would've laughed at that."
She stands and walks to a cabinet on the far side of the office, where she waves her wand in a series of complicated patterns. They can't see what's inside the cabinet, but after a few minutes she comes back with a black case, which she sets on her lap as she sits.
"I promised Sirius that I wouldn't divulge this information to anyone except Remus or their…progeny. At the time you weren't alive, of course. Your mother was but a bairn driving Andromeda loopy."
Teddy smiles, but his chest is tight, his heart racing. He wants to know; he doesn't want to know.
"But I trust Sirius would want you to know. And Remus, too, I suppose, although Remus never knew about what I have here, because he never asked after I told him I’d been to see Sirius."
"About what?" James says, glancing at Teddy and then back at McGonagall.
"During the first war, before the Potters were killed, Sirius and Remus were a couple—inseparable, in love. They had been since school. It was my unhappy task that year to get Poppy to stock the dorms with prophylactic potions—we could no longer keep our heads in the sand, with Sirius and Remus sharing a room. They were—" She pauses, seeming at a loss for words. "Incredibly smart. Ridiculous. Happy."
Teddy swallows, ignoring the prickling at his eyes.
"After they left school, they joined the Order straight away. It was stressful. Of course it was; it was war. I was at Hogwarts, not on the ground, but I helped when I could. Sirius, Remus, James, and Lily—they were on the front lines, as it were. Remus was sent to parlay with the werewolf communities, so he and Sirius were separated quite a bit, but they lived together when Remus was here. I remember their flat." She stops again, pats her leg distractedly. "They invited me over for haggis. Can you imagine? Two nineteen-year-old lads inviting their former professor over for haggis? They were like that, though. They showed up dressed as dogs to an Order meeting once."
James laughs delightedly. James has the look on his face—curiosity, excitement, sadness—they all have whenever the older generations drop pieces of information about those who died. It's strange, to have so many who were lost. Their generation has learned not to ask, because the asking is painful. But you don't have to ask; you have to pay attention for the moments when the details come out, when Uncle George recalls something Fred did, when Andromeda recalls a detail about Teddy's mum or grandfather, when something reminds Harry of Sirius.
This learning of details in a slipshod manner is nothing new. But Teddy doesn't feel the usual delight and curiosity—he feels only apprehension. His father. His father, so happy with someone else, someone who wasn’t Teddy’s mum. Teddy had gotten the wrong idea, somewhere along the way. He'd thought his dad was a quiet professorial type. And maybe he was, later. Maybe he was, to Harry.
But this—this is a whole separate idea of who his father was. A joyful, painful reality.
"Sirius became pregnant by your father," McGonagall says and exhales.
"Wha—" Teddy stammers.
There’s a silence. James puts his cup in his saucer.
"Why would they take fertility potions in the middle of a war?!” Teddy asks. “At twenty?!"
James, on Teddy's right, reaches his hand to grab Teddy's, squeezing lightly, providing a warm steadiness that Teddy barely registers.
McGonagall sighs. "It was unplanned."
Unplanned. Unplanned male pregnancy.
"And Sirius was—biologically—male? Was he trans?"
"No," McGonagall says. "It was an accidental male–male pregnancy without fertility potions."
Teddy's mouth drops open. He didn't even think that was possible. "How?!"
"We could never be sure. Poppy thought it was a combination of factors—creature magic, Sirius's magical blood, who knows what kind of blood magic the Blacks had done over the centuries…" She trails off, looking down at her lap.
"But what happened to the baby?" James asks. "Did they put it up for adoption?"
"The baby was born in Azkaban and taken away from Sirius, who was, at the time, a prisoner." Her voice breaks, and she pulls a handkerchief from her sleeve. "I went to visit him in Azkaban. We knew he'd been pregnant, you see. Well, not most people, but Albus, Poppy, and I. And the Potters. And Remus, of course. But after he was imprisoned—" She stops, seems to gather strength. "We thought he was a traitor. I went to visit anyway, because…well, because people are people even if they make horrible mistakes, yes? Because he was my student, and I felt I'd failed him, somehow. I felt I should've realised. I should've done more. Been more." She shakes her head. "And I wanted to know what happened to the baby. Poppy and I—we were going to offer to take the baby to Hogwarts, if the baby had survived birth in Azkaban. Dumbledore knew nothing about our plan. So I went to see him, to assuage my guilt, to offer him some solace? To see what needed to be done for the baby."
"Holy shit," James says, and Teddy is so shocked he doesn't even laugh at McGonagall's small reprimanding glance at James for his language.
"It was one of the harder things I've done in my life, to be frank," she says, clasping her hands together. "Though I never regretted the visit. He was…not well. The dementors do that, of course. They'd taken the baby from him. He talked to me, but—I couldn't pick truth from fiction or lucidity from insanity. I thought he was speaking from a place of being unwell—he was saying he wasn't guilty, and I thought I knew him to be guilty. He asked me to take memories, in case they were ever needed for the baby or for Remus. Remus—your father—I don't know if he ever found out what became of the baby."
"How—" Teddy says, hot tears breaking and running down his cheek.
"I don't know," she says, holding her hands up. "Before Sirius went to Azkaban—Remus didn't want a baby affiliated with him. He was worried about what discrimination the baby would experience, if they were known to have a werewolf father. So I don't know. After I visited Sirius, I wrote Remus a letter and told him I'd been to visit. I figured if he wanted to know, he'd ask. He never did."
A ringing in his ears. "How could he not—"
James reaches his arm around Teddy's shoulder and pulls him tight to his torso.
"You can't judge too harshly, Teddy," McGonagall says. "Sirius was in Azkaban. Your father thought Sirius was a traitor. His other friends had all been murdered. He thought he couldn't be a father to the baby, that the baby was better off without him. Perhaps he thought he was doing what was best. We're all Jock Tamson's bairns."
Teddy nods; his vision swims.
"We ought to go home," James says, looking at Teddy with concern. "Thank you, professor."
McGonagall holds out the black case. "Sirius's memories. I never looked at them, just kept them safe here."
Teddy tries to think straight, not to collapse in a pile of tears, and lets James say goodbye and usher them back to the Floo.
He steps out of the hearth and into their sitting room, walking forward a few steps and collapsing face first onto the sofa.
The Floo whooshes behind him and he hears James step out.
"What the actual fuck," Teddy mumbles into the cushion.
The sofa dips by Teddy's feet. "I really thought we were joking when we said maybe the baby was Sirius's," James says. "I feel like I should brush up on contraceptive charms. I've never used them."
Teddy knows James is trying to cheer him up, to distract him, but the thought of James having sex with someone is enough to make him want to vomit, given his current state. He can't even pretend to laugh.
He turns his face to the side. "I thought if I figured it out, everything would be fine, but now I feel—I dunno."
"It's fucked," James agrees.
"What do I do now?" Teddy asks.
"I don't know." A minute passes, the silence and stillness pressing in, then James continues, "We have ice cream. Milkshakes?"
"Milkshakes." The scratchy tweed of the sofa is rough on his cheek.
"Then we could watch those memories, if you want. Or we could, I don't know, go flying. Or to the cinema or something. If you don't want to watch them."
Sirius had to tell Remus. He didn't know how to tell Remus.
Remus was all Sirius could think about in the days leading up to Remus’s return home. Sirius tried to read the pamphlets Pomfrey gave him (they were out of date—looked to be from the 1950s—one was called Becoming Daddies: Homosexual Men Gestate Too!) but all he could think about was how he would tell Remus. What Remus would think.
How were you supposed to tell your partner you'd magically become pregnant? Not hyperbolically, but with literal magic? This was supposed to be the one good thing about being gay! Besides getting to suck cocks and have your prostate rammed by dick. That was the deal: you dealt with discrimination and bigotry in turn for not having pregnancy scares.
Well, Sirius mused, he hadn't had a scare. He supposed he'd at least missed out on the experience of having scares.
Remus was due home any minute. He'd sent a Patronus from a check-in with Dumbledore to let Sirius know he was on the way. Yet Sirius was no closer to an idea of how to tell him.
He tried to come up with a ridiculous slogan to charm onto a card to give to Remus. I seem to have a uterus temporarily! or You have potent sperm! or The good news is there's only one pup in this litter! No.
He heard the crack of Apparition in the kitchen and flinched. His heart raced; he was flooded with a strange mixture of apprehension and excitement and worry. But mostly worry.
"Pads!" Remus called, and Sirius took note that the voice didn't sound too weary—just an average amount.
Sirius walked towards the kitchen, but Remus found him in the hall. Remus froze, his feet planting as if stuck with a Sticking Charm, and he stared.
"What?" Sirius asked, looking down. He was wearing a pair of jogging bottoms and a jumper. He was so damn cold all the time and, even though he hadn't yet gained any weight, the very existence of waistbands offended him.
Remus's eyes were wide, his hands reached out. "Your smell."
"What?" Sirius had just showered that morning, and Merlin knew he never exercised enough to break a sweat.
Remus walked towards him and reached for his face, pulling him in for a hug, buried his face in Sirius's hair, and inhaled.
"You smell—" he exhaled, inhaled again. "You smell—"
Maybe Sirius hadn't needed to worry about how to tell Remus, after all.
"I had an interesting visit with Pomfrey," Sirius said, his face smushed into Remus's shoulder. "Which reminds me, are you alright? Your mission—"
"I'm fine," Remus dismissed. "Why did you see Pomfrey?"
Sirius began a mental count before his uncommonly astute werewolf lover figured it out: three, two, one.
"You're—no way. You're—"
"Knocked up," Sirius said, and Remus pulled him closer. "Mandrake's planted. Bun in the oven."
"Are you—okay?" Remus's voice was frantic. "Isn't it dangerous? I don't know much—"
"Pomfrey says I'm fine. No worries, perfectly healthy. Maybe my Black blood, with all its blood magic or whatever, is finally good for something."
"Either that or the magical blood is to blame, since, if you were a Muggle, we wouldn't be in this disaster." Remus sighed, inhaling Sirius's scent again.
Sirius stiffened. "Pomfrey says the little pup is due in February."
"You're not—" Remus pulled away, fixing Sirius with a horrified look. "Sirius, we can't—we can't keep it!"
It felt like the floor tilted; Sirius had to grab the doorframe.
Remus took a shocked step backward. "What if it inherits my lycanthropy?" His voice was terrified. "I cannot—can not—put a baby through that."
Sirius's mouth dropped, and it took a moment to find his words. "Lycanthropy is an awful ordeal, Moony—I know that! But you are alive and you have it and your life is still worth everything in the world. How can you say the same isn’t true for a baby? Our baby?"
"You don't know!" Remus shouted, and Sirius's eyes flitted across his face—he didn't look angry, he looked scared. "You do not know what it's like, Pads. You've seen it up close, and I'm not trying to downplay that, but the only times in your life you haven't had privilege are the times when you chose to renounce it. You do not understand."
A cold sensation seeped down Sirius's neck, his eyes prickled hot tears. The accusation of an unbridgeable difference between them felt like a knife lodged in his ribs.
"You don't get to say that," Sirius said, his voice garbled. "You don't get to compare the ways our lives have been shit."
"No one thinks you should be euthanised," Remus said, slumping against the wall. "Or locked up. No one thinks you should be sterilised. No one thinks you should have your citizenship revoked. No one thinks you shouldn't be able to work."
A tempest of heat whirled around Sirius's head, so fierce was his indignation.
"We cannot in good conscience bring a child into that," Remus whispered. "I can't escape the—the curse of my body. But I can stop someone else inheriting it!"
"But the baby isn't certain to get lycanthropy!" Sirius cried, throwing a hand in the air. "Pomfrey says—"
"But is there a chance?" Remus pressed.
"Yes, of course, but—"
"Moony, there isn't a child born, magical or Muggle, who isn't at risk of developing some disease. It's part of the human condition!"
"Don't throw the human condition into my face," Remus said in a low voice. "Even if the baby didn't have lycanthropy, they'd be treated poorly if people knew I was its father. Which means that, if these anti-werewolf measures go through, our baby might not be able to attend Hogwarts. Which means no one could know that I was its father. Which would mean we can't be together. Which means secrecy and lies and hiding."
"There are ways around all of that, we can—"
"Sirius!" Remus shouted. "It's the middle of a war! We are both nearing the top of the list of Voldemort's targets right now. What will happen when Voldemort finds out you're pregnant? After he already knows that your best friend's baby can supposedly bring him down?"
"So we'll go somewhere else! We'll run away!"
"Every country discriminates against werewolves!" Remus let out an agitated groan. "There's nowhere to go!"
"You sound like," Sirius said, shaking his head but no longer shouting, "you sound like you don't think your life is worth living."
Remus met his eyes, but didn't answer.
“You don’t, do you?” Sirius's chest clenched tight, suffocating him. "But I love you," Sirius gasped, a tear hitting his cheek. "We love each other. Don't you see? Your life is everything. Your life is—"
"Pads," Remus said, "I love you, too. But I’m telling you that—"
"And I'm trying to tell you I already love this baby, no matter how it comes out!"
Remus pushed off the wall, standing tall, looking tired. Sirius noticed a half-healed cut on his hand as he pushed his hair off his face. Before walking into the kitchen he said, "Pads, love isn't enough this time."
"Do you sometimes think about how ridiculous our families are?" James asks. "Like, sometimes I list all the things that happened to my dad and it doesn't seem real. And then all this stuff lately, like, you almost just want to laugh because it's like, how much weirder can our lives get? My dad’ godfather was the person who birthed your sister. He was wrongfully imprisoned and was killed by his cousin, who's Scorpius's dad's aunt."
Teddy snorts. "As far as I can see, every family has weird shit like this. If they seem not to, it's because they do a good job of hiding it. Remember my friend Ahmed? Did I ever tell you how he found out his mum is his grandmother? I mean, the person who he thought was his mum was actually his grandmother. The person he thought was his sister was his mum."
"Fucking hell," James sighs. "I know I'm older than her, but if I found out Lily was my mum I think I'd have to move to Cleveland."
"Cleveland?" Teddy asks, laughing.
James shrugs, sipping his milkshake. "Seems far. And depressing. Which would be my mood if I found out Lily was my mum."
"Fair enough," Teddy says. "Since I just found out my sister exists, I don't think the sentiment would be quite the same if I found out she was my mum."
"It's kinda fucked up you had a sister without knowing about it," James says, emphasising the point by gesturing at Teddy with the milkshake. "What if you met her in a bar and didn't know who she was and shagged her?"
"That seems highly unlikely."
"You know what else seems highly unlikely?" James asks, grinning. "A man getting pregnant—without potions!—by sperm up his arse."
Teddy wrinkles his nose in agreement. "Magic's a bit fucked sometimes, isn't it?"
"Oh yeah," James says. "All the time, really."
Teddy pushes out of the slump he's reclined into. "So. Shall we watch these memories? Like, the day has already been a mindfuck. I might as well get it over with, eh?"
"If it's really bad we can get fucked up after," James offers, and Teddy can see unabashed worry on James's face.
He isn't sure how he feels about James being such a source of support. It's odd—Teddy hasn't thought of James as a kid in ages, but he hasn't really thought of him as someone who can offer a shoulder to cry on, either. Not that Teddy plans on crying again. But he's not used to thinking of James as a strong pillar of support, and that's exactly what James has been these last few days.
It's jarring—to see James not only as an adult, a friend, and someone whose intense sexiness has become an inconvenience, but also someone who can care for Teddy, who can understand him and all this weird shit and know when Teddy is overwhelmed, and know when Teddy wants a distraction, and who looks at Teddy and sees.
No one else can understand the position Teddy's in—the way their families are shaped by the wars and deaths that shadow their lives, making even the happiest of events sometimes seem bittersweet, the absences felt even by people who never met the dead. Harry and Ginny are part of the wrong generation to understand Teddy—their pain comes from having lived it, not from having lived the aftermath. Lily's too young. Albus could understand, but Albus doesn't get Teddy the way James does, and Albus is preoccupied with Scorpius. When Albus learns about something, he thinks, how does this affect me-and-Scorpius? Not like James.
James's offer to get fucked up might seem like puerile avoidance, but Teddy knows that James sees Teddy's mood, wants to assuage his worry, wants to emphasise that he'll be there too.
And maybe it is puerile avoidance, and fuck it all if that isn't okay, too.
"It's a plan," Teddy says. "Hey, thanks for doing all this with me. It'd suck to do alone."
"Of course," James says, brow furrowing. "You don't need to thank me for that."
"Yeah, but I appreciate it," Teddy says. "You don't have to. And it's kinda your history, too, and I am aware that it's a shitty feeling."
James turns away, walking to the table to grab the black case they got from McGonagall. "Right." His voice sounds tight. "Do you remember the charm Dad used to project memories without a Pensieve basin?"
They set about opening the case and pulling out the vial of memories, casting the projection charm, then they sit on the sofa and James waves his wand to start the memories in chronological order.
Watching memories like this is strange—it's more immersive than watching a film, because it's not two-dimensional and there's no screen. It's not quite three-dimensional, either, though the memory sort of inserts itself over the room. It's not like watching a memory from inside a Pensieve, where you're part of the scene. It feels more like watching a bunch of ghosts acting out scenes.
But Teddy can see Sirius's infectious energy. He can see his father's intensity. He can feel their love. A creepy shiver runs down his spine when he sees James's grandfather with baby Harry—he's never known much about the first James Potter, and while he doesn't look identical to James, the way they move through space is indistinguishable. Despair washes over him when he sees dementors.
Teddy and James sit stock still on the sofa, knees touching, and watch the memories play out. It's like watching a Greek tragedy or Shakespeare or something. Teddy’s chest is a hollow husk, like the memories have reached in and torn out his heart, leaving him as devoid of happiness as if the dementors were not a memory.
The final memory flickers out.
Teddy realises he's shaking before he realises he's crying. "What. The fuck. What the actual fuck. What the—how? How could—"
James puts his hands on Teddy's knees—he'd got off the sofa at some point—and presses firmly. "We should not have watched all of that. Fuck. McG would never have given us that if she had known it had all of—of—"
Teddy's sobbing. He can feel his shoulders shaking, his chest heaving in that way everyone does their best to avoid, but he can't fight it.
"Teddy," James says, standing from where he's kneeling on the floor. He sits and wraps his arms around Teddy, holding him tight. "It's okay. It's wrong, but it's alright. That was a long time ago."
"I—I can't—" Teddy can't talk, and settles for letting his head drop onto James's shoulder.
James holds him.
Teddy's not sure how much time passes before he can speak. "Everything about my dad is sad. I've always known that. You know what his childhood was like—there's nothing fair or right about it. But to know that he—that he loved—like that—like, I don't know. And when—the baby—"
James tugs him in tighter. "It's understandable that he didn't want to keep the baby. It's not like that makes him an arsehole or something. You know? He knew they couldn't be good parents to a baby, especially with the war—look what happened to my dad."
"He would've been different for you."
Teddy sniffles. "I was conceived in a war, too, you know. I want to go back in time and hit him over the head with a fucking crate of contraceptive potions."
"Do contraceptive potions work on werewolves?" James asks, and Teddy pulls away from the hug.
"Contraceptive potions. I wonder if they work on werewolves, you know? Like how McGonagall said creature magic may have affected the conception. Maybe that was part of your dad's shit luck."
"You could be right," Teddy says, blinking with something like confusion. "Does it matter?"
"No," James says. "Does any of it?"
James laughs, but it's a pained laugh, and he looks like he might start crying too.
"Are you okay?” Teddy asks. “Your grandfather—shit. He walked like you."
James blinks. "He walked like me?"
"Yeah, I can't describe it. Like you have this way of moving that's really sort of natural and confident. Most people don't move like that."
James looks down at his lap. "I don't think I've ever seen something as awful as those prison memories."
"I can't imagine," Teddy says, and his words sound hollow next to what he's trying to describe. There aren't words for it. "I—I wonder if my dad ever knew."
"Seems like he didn't. Or at least, he'd only have guesses, right? Not know anything for sure. Since he didn't get the memories from Minnie."
"Is that better or worse?" Teddy asks, and his throat makes an odd hiccuping noise.
"Uhhhhhh," James says. "Not sure. Can you imagine being your dad, and thinking Sirius was pregnant with his child and was a traitor? And not knowing what would happen to the baby, but thinking you can't do anything because the baby would be better off without you because you're a werewolf and society is a despicable hellhole?"
Teddy leans forward and drops his head into his hands. His cheeks are wet, his face is hot. "It's so weird. I just—you wouldn't understand. You have your parents. But like, I already—I already feel like I have no idea who I'm supposed to be, and now I feel like even the things I thought I knew are wrong."
"I'm sorry," James says. "Ugh, sorry for saying sorry—it sounds so pointless. But I hate this." He reaches to pull Teddy into another hug.
James feels strong. Not in like, a muscular way. But in a steady way, in a warm body, firm stance, won't-let-you-fall way. And he smells good. Teddy exhales, letting his face press into James's neck, and hugs back.
Maybe James feels so real in contrast with the ghost-like images from the memories. Maybe James always feels this real.
A few moments later, Teddy pulls back.
James gives him a sad smile and reaches forward to push Teddy's hair away from where it's sticking to his tear-soaked face.
Fuck, Teddy thinks, he's so lucky that one thing in his life feels this right. Everything else is a shitshow, but James. He still has James. And James is perfect.
Without thinking, Teddy leans forward, pressing his lips against James's. James freezes, surprised, but his hands are still on Teddy's shoulders and his fingers squeeze, grounding Teddy, who opens his mouth a bit.
James kisses back.
Teddy’s body's melting, melting into it like he's swimming in honey. It's thick and oozy and sweet, a tingling around his body that feels like a transcendent contentment—the kind that comes from realising that everything's right even when everything's wrong.
James pushes forward, his tongue sliding into Teddy's mouth, and a jolt of arousal shoots down Teddy's torso to his groin.
It jolts him back to reality. Shit. Shit. Fuck.
Teddy pulls away, taking his hands off James's back and his mouth away and jumping back on the sofa.
James sits, looking at him, lips moist and plump, in utter confusion.
"Shit," Teddy breathes. "I'm so sorry. Holy shit. I'm so sorry. That was a mistake—I wasn't thinking—"
James's brow furrows. "It's okay—"
"I am such a fuck up," Teddy says, standing. "Fuck. I'm going to go take a shower."
"Teddy, really, don't—"
But Teddy backs away. "I'm sorry, I can't—I can't talk right now, Jamie, okay?"
As Teddy backs out of the room, James's bewildered face blinks at him.
Sirius lay in bed, unable to sleep. He'd never been more tired, or more incapable of sleep. Growing a human was, turned out, hard work.
He looked at Remus, asleep next to him in bed. Remus sprawled across the bed, his foot under Sirius's leg. Only in sleep did their interactions lack strain, these days.
Sirius wasn't sure if it was worse when they talked about it or worse when they didn't—either way, it was always there. Especially now his midsection looked less like he'd been drinking too many beers and more like he'd been drinking all the beers. His leather jacket didn't even zip anymore. He'd sacrifice a lot for the little pup, but he would not ruin his leather with Expansion Charms, so unzipped it had to be.
They’d have to tell people soon. So far only Pomfrey, James and Lily, Dumbledore, and McGonagall knew. Sirius didn’t want to tell anyone. He wanted to protect the pup, to keep the information from whoever was the leak. Though he didn't say it, Remus didn’t want to tell, either. To Sirius it seemed like a combination of fear for Sirius’s safety and eagerness for Sirius to change his mind about carrying to term.
But Mad-Eye wasn't an idiot. Nor Doge, nor Diggle. Even Mundungus had frowned at Sirius last he'd seen him.
It helped, with the not telling, that most everyone else was dead. And Pete hadn't been around; he’d taken Dumbledore's orders to "lie low" very seriously. Sirius sometimes imagined how Pete would’ve taken the news, in happier times. If he'd have stammered and blushed, if Sirius would've teased him.
It was almost dawn. Remus needed to get up; he needed to be in Oban before the preparations for the werewolf tribe's Samhain festivities began. Sirius didn't ask questions about the nature of the festivities; it was probably better not to know.
He sighed, turning towards Remus, and brushed Remus's hair off his face. "Moony. Come on, Moony, time to get up."
Remus stirred, nuzzling towards Sirius. He shot an arm out to wrap around Sirius's torso, pulling him close.
"It's Samhain tonight," Sirius whispered. "You were supposed to go yesterday. Come on, Old Deuteronomy."
"'M not a cat," Remus grumbled. "You smell good."
In the past months, Sirius had often wondered if all people who impregnate someone have such an internal battle between fear and protectiveness, or if that was the wolf versus the human. Or if that was just Moony.
It was fucking annoying. Sirius didn't want the wolf's approval. Well, who was he kidding, he did, obviously, but that was secondary. The wolf's approval wasn’t necessary; Remus's was.
"Fine," Remus said, sitting up and blinking. His eyes found Sirius and, taking in the swell of belly under the Queen tour t-shirt, he stiffened, His eyes shuttered.
A wave of nausea made Sirius lean forward to put pressure on his stomach.
Remus got out of bed and dressed, the silence tense in their bedroom. Their bedroom used to be an escape.
Remus, rucksack on his shoulder, turned. "I can't talk about it now, okay?"
"Oh—okay. When you get back. You have the salve I made?"
Remus nodded, turned, and left.
Sirius sucked in a shaky breath after he heard the Disapparition. Remus never left without saying goodbye.
Remus in Oban meant constant fidgeting for Sirius. He wanted to Floo over to James's, but he was waiting for a message that Harry was awake from his nap. He should be up from his nap by now, shouldn't he? It was pretty late. And James had asked Sirius to check on Peter, so if he did that now, it should give Harry enough time to wake up.
Most years, Sirius loved Samhain. He loved the bonfires and magical traditions, he loved Muggle costume parties, all of it. The war put a damper on the festivities, though, like it put a damper on everything else. He'd have to settle for a mini celebration with the Potters; at least Harry's bubbly toddler happiness enlivened any situation.
Sirius threw the book on the coffee table and pulled on his leather jacket. He stuffed the Bazooka's Baby-Proof Sparkler he'd picked up for Harry into his pocket, stuffed his wand in his sleeve, and made to Apparate. A glance at the clock showed it was still too early, though, and an awoken-from-nap Harry was a grumpy Harry. He'd take his motorbike.
It was a fabulous idea to take the bike, for the autumn evening was crisp and pretty, and Muggles celebrating Halloween roamed the streets. Sirius passed them with a smile, their joy infecting him. He wondered if the little pup would want to dress up for Halloween someday, and took pleasure in his imaginary future self being able to say Yes. (His mother had said No.)
Pete's flat was a fifteen-minute drive, and in town Sirius didn't dare take to the sky, but the drive through the streets cleared his head, and when he pulled to a stop in front of Pete's, he was feeling better, more free, than he had in months.
He walked into the building, frowning at what seemed to be a foreboding magic in the air. But he dismissed the thought; that couldn't be. He jogged up the stairs, walked down the corridor until he found 2A. He knocked at Pete's door and leaned against the door frame. No answer. Knock. No answer.
Sirius stepped back. That was odd. He focused on the ambient magic in the air; something was wrong. He looked all around. There were no signs of forced entry. No Dark Mark, though presumably, that'd be in the sky over the building, not in the dingy-carpeted and ugly-sconced corridor.
"Pete!" Sirius called, his heart hammering. No answer. He pulled his wand and cast a strong Protego at his belly. He magicked a ping-pong ball out of his wand—aimed at the little pup, to test the Shield—the ball flew in the opposite direction before it even hit skin.
"Pete! I'm coming in!" Sirius tried the handle; the door was unlocked. Wand aloft, he walked into the flat.
Everything as it should be. A pile of Field & Stream magazines on the table. A pack of Butterbeer on the kitchen island.
"Pete?" Sirius proceeded farther into the flat, dread washing over him. He peered into the bedroom. The bed was made, a scratchy beige and goldenrod coloured spread tucked neatly around.
That was—odd. Sirius had shared a dormitory with Pete for seven years. Pete never made his bed, even after they learned the charm for it in second year. Somehow even after the elves had been through to tidy things up, Pete's bed would still be a mess.
Sirius threw open the wardrobe: no clothes.
That absolute fucker.
James and Lily.
With one final frantic look around, Sirius Apparated to his motorbike, straddled it, tightened his knees on the frame and hands on the handlebar, and Apparated again to the Potters' house in Godric's Hollow.
The green reflection of the Dark Mark was the first thing he saw.
"NOOO!" he screamed, swinging his wand out as he stumbled off the bike and ran towards the house. A massive body blocked his path at the front door.
"Sirius." It was Hagrid, sniffling and holding a wailing Harry in his arms. Harry was alive. Harry was alive. His forehead was gashed, but Harry was alive. "Don't go in there."
"Hagrid, what happened?" Sirius’s hands shook, blood drained from his head.
Harry, still crying, calmed when he saw Sirius. "Pa-fa," Harry cried, reaching out his chubby arms.
"You-Know-Who," Hagrid said between sobs. "It's James an' Lily."
The ground dropped. Sirius fell to his knees, his head swimming, his heavy middle making balance impossible. He reached for his belly. "No. No."
"I'm so sorry," Hagrid sobbed. "James an' Lily are dead."
A ringing in his ears. Hagrid's face blurred. Peter—Peter had been the leak.
"We don't know wha' happened. You-Know-Who is—gone. Disappeared. Lost 'is power? I don't know, Dumbledore wants Harry—"
Sirius looked up from where his knees had crashed into the gravel path, a searing anger pressing against his eyes and cheeks. He wanted nothing more than to grab Harry and hold him tight, keep him safe forever, go live in seclusion somewhere, just him and Remus and the two babies; they could pretend to be Back-to-Earthers and brew their own vinegar, make their own potions with homegrown ingredients.
But first he needed to find Peter. Find him and kill him.
"Pa-fa!" Harry wailed, trying to wriggle out of Hagrid's enormous arms.
Sirius stood and let Harry grab onto his neck, patted his unruly baby hair and muttered, "Shhh, shhhh," even though he was vibrating out of his skin with adrenaline and fury.
"How is Harry alive?" Sirius whispered, looking up at Hagrid.
"You-Know-Who tried to kill Harry but couldn't—we don't know—"
Lily. Sirius knew it must've been Lily. What had she done? That clever, clever witch. What had she done?! He knew she'd been reading all those old books, but how had she done it—a love sacrifice?
"Harry," Sirius said, looking down at the somewhat calmer but still crying boy, "I need to go do something. Hagrid is going to take you to see Professor Dumbledore; they'll keep you safe. And then I'll come find you there, okay? It'll be alright, okay?"
Harry reached down to pat Sirius's belly. "Kay, Pa-Fa." He patted again. "Lil pup."
"I love you," Sirius said, blinking the tears out of his eyes because he needed his full wits to go murder that traitorous rat, then he would come back and spend the rest of his life trying to give Harry back what had been taken from him—family, love, home.
"Ove oo," Harry said, putting his head down on Sirius's shoulder in his tiny hug gesture, and Sirius handed Harry back to Hagrid.
"Take the motorbike," Sirius said, pointing at it, "since you can't Apparate."
"Much obliged," Hagrid said, still sobbing, hoisting Harry to his shoulder, well above Sirius's head. "Sirius. Er, don't go in there."
If it weren't for Peter—if it weren't for Harry—Sirius would be tempted to go inside. Even if he knew the sight would kill him. But other things demanded his attention.
"See you soon, Hazza Haz," Sirius said, trying to put on a brave face, and watched Harry wave as he Disapparated.
Next morning Sirius awoke in Azkaban.
It’s foggy, so he hits it with an Adsicco. The mirror clears, and Teddy stares at the face looking back at him.
His skin is all red and splotchy, from crying and from the hot shower. His hair looks like his dad's did in the memory—he must've let it morph in his empathy for his dad, but the sight of it makes him angry.
"Fuck that," Teddy says, and watches with satisfaction as his hair turns back to a Teddyish turquoise, straightens, one side shorn short, the other hanging down.
I'm not like that, Teddy thinks. He thinks this even as he knows the truth is he has no idea if he's like that—he never lived through it. It's easy to say what you'd do in a war, from the outside.
His nipples stand out, dark-peachy pink against his light skin, and he looks at them, trying to remember if he's ever morphed his nipples. Is that him or some remnant of trying to be something else, trying to make his body look different somehow? He doesn't know.
He pokes his stomach. It's not chubby—he's tall and lanky, but he has a bit of a belly. It comes from all the eating and not exercising. He wonders if he should morph himself thinner, and if he did, would that be more or less like Teddy?
He sticks his tongue out, watching it with interest. The tongue ring he got after finishing Hogwarts pokes out. It usually makes him feel a sense of contentment—something unchanging, that he chose—but right now he feels disconnected from the whole thing. The whole reflection. The whole life.
He can't believe he was so fucked up he let himself kiss James. What had he been thinking? Well, obviously he hadn't been thinking; he'd been acting. He'd let his body do what it wanted, and his stupid fucking body had wanted to ruin his life by acting on its ridiculous desire to kiss someone he wasn't allowed to like.
He wishes James had been mad. If James had been mad, he'd feel less guilty. But James had to be so accommodating—so understanding. It made Teddy feel even worse for taking advantage of his kindness.
Teddy wants to blame someone. He wants to blame his dad, for being fucked up and complicated and for not wanting the baby. He wants to blame Sirius, for existing. He wants to blame his mum, for being a metamorphmagus. He wants to blame all of them, for dying. He wants to blame everyone who has ever asked him what he's doing with this incredible chance he has, to live life when his parents didn't get to. He wants to blame Albus and Scorpius, for gifting him the MyWizardry. He wants to blame his body, for being fickle and impossible. He wants to blame himself, for being a mess. He wants to blame.
When Teddy was dating Victoire after Hogwarts, he tagged along to a bunch of feminist theory classes with her at her Muggle uni. He remembers how enchanted he was with their discussions about bodies. He remembers a book cover that had a photo of a realistic-looking clay face being distorted by a pair of hands. He remembers one reading saying something like, "The body is so problematic we want to shrug it off and travel as a disembodied spirit." He remembers a book called Unbearable Weight and how he, a metamorphmagus, and Victoire, part-Veela, related to these readings, to this feeling of the body being a strange gift-curse.
He should call Vic. It's what made them a good couple, while it lasted—they got each other. Even though they couldn't entirely relate to each other's experience, they still got it.
He can't call Vic, though. Vic has a partner, Jo, and is six months pregnant, and Teddy feels like the dirty ex who makes Jo nervous any time he's around, as if he's a constant threat because he and Vic used to give each other orgasms.
Being an adult blows.
He squints and moves his face closer to the mirror, trying to see his dad there, but he can't. Maybe he's trying too hard to see it.
Would he have been enough, for his dad? Harry's spent Teddy's whole life telling him he's enough, he's Teddy, he's perfect, he can do anything and will still be loved. Harry knows how much Teddy needs to hear that.
But that's Harry; that's not Teddy's parents. He has no idea what his father would think. Harry and Ginny's unconditional love is everything, but it's not all.
But Harry is who he's got.
He should go see Harry. His grandmother is too matter-of-fact, too of-another-generation for this type of problem. And Harry's right next door.
He gets dressed and pokes his head out, wondering if he'll see James, but it looks like James is in his bedroom. The door is shut. Teddy winces; James never shuts the door. Is he letting Teddy have some space because it seems like Teddy needs it? Or is he trying to get some space for himself? Either way, Teddy feels like shit.
He needs to get out.
Teddy shoves his feet in James's garden clogs and opens the door, taking a deep breath as he crunches out onto the gravel in hopes that the outside air will somehow erase the pain of all the shit he's learned in the past few days, and the way he's fucked everything up with James on top of it all.
He tries to focus on his breathing as he walks to the side door of the house—that's supposed to help you calm down, isn't it? Problem is his heart hasn't got the message that it's supposed to be calming down, as he can hear it thumping away in his chest despite the breathing.
He kicks the clogs off and walks into the kitchen. "Harry?"
"We're in here!" Ginny shouts, and Teddy follows her voice into the sitting room. Harry and Ginny are on the sofa watching the Great British Bake Off. Harry has his arm slung over Ginny's shoulders and as Teddy walks into the room, Ginny shouts, “What do you call that whisking technique, Albert?!”
Harry looks over his shoulder. "Hey, Teds! Want to join us? Where's James, raiding the pantry?"
"Harry, can I talk to you?" Teddy asks.
Something in Teddy's face must alarm him, because Harry nearly jumps off the sofa in his haste.
"Don't worry about me," Ginny calls, pushing herself upright from where she fell upon Harry's extraction, eyes still on the telly. "No! Don't open the oven yet! They'll sink, you fool!"
"What's wrong?" Harry asks, coming over and putting a hand on Teddy's arm.
"Er, nothing. Well, no, that's a lie. We went to go see McGonagall."
Harry frowns and leads Teddy out onto the back patio. The night air is cool; clouds obscure the stars. Teddy sits on the wide wooden swing and Harry joins him.
"Would this be an easier talk if we did something manly, like smoke pipes?" Harry asks, nudging Teddy playfully with his elbow.
Teddy groans a laugh. "Yeah, that sounds like us."
"So what did McGonagall say?"
Teddy sucks in a breath. "Sirius was the—my dad and Sirius—my dad got Sirius pregnant."
Harry's mouth drops. "What?!"
"I know. It was accidental. Pomfrey didn't know how—maybe creature magic, maybe some Black family blood magic?"
It occurs to Teddy that he has Black family blood, and if the preternatural fertility is owed to family blood magic, he'd better be extra careful when having sex. His mind unhelpfully supplies an image of Professor Sprout lecturing about "responsible ejaculation" in year four, and he shudders.
"Wow. Wow," Harry says, shocked. "So Sirius had the baby and they gave it up for adoption?"
The hot tightness behind his eyes that signals impending tears starts up again, and in a bid to fend it off Teddy tips his head back, looking up at the sky. "Sirius wanted to keep the baby; my dad wanted to get rid of it. The memories were—shit, really. They fought about it. My dad thought the baby would be worse off if people knew it had a werewolf for a father."
"It was a war," Harry says, as if this explains any of it. Maybe it does, to Harry, to other people who have lived through wars. "So adoption was where they landed?"
Teddy turns his head towards Harry, still leaning back against the wooden back. He presses his lips together, trying to control his emotions. "He was still pregnant when he went to Azkaban. They took the baby away from him."
Harry's face slackens with empathy. "Oh, Teddy. That's—" He cuts off abruptly and slings an arm around Teddy's shoulders. "Poor Sirius. Your poor dad. I can't imagine—the way it feels to hold a baby for the first time—and then—"
Teddy leans into Harry's warmth. It feels like when he was a little kid. He looked up to Harry so much, sometimes like a dad, sometimes like a brother, sometimes like a friend. Harry has always been whatever Teddy needed him to be.
"I don't know what to make of it all," Teddy says. "I mean, I know it doesn't affect who I am, but it feels like it does, you know? It's not about me, but it kind of is. What else don't I know?"
Harry sighs. "I think 'What else don't I know?' is the constant mood of any orphan. But I also think that's true of people with living parents. I learn new things about Molly and Arthur every time I see them. Maybe that's just what it is to be human, you know? You can never know everything about other people."
"But it feels like I don't even know anything about myself," Teddy says, hating how wet he sounds. "Like, if my dad had that reaction to Sirius's pregnancy, and then never knew what happened to the baby, how did he react when he found out about my mum's pregnancy with me?" Teddy picks his head up. "Well, you knew him then. What was his reaction? Was it different from his reaction with Sirius?"
Harry's face goes horrifically blank, and Teddy knows that Harry knows what his dad's reaction was, and that whatever it was, it won't make Teddy happy.
"I don't know," Harry says. "I know how excited he was when you were born, he came over all glowing and proud and asked me to—"
"You're lying," Teddy whispers. "What was his reaction?"
Harry looks at his lap, pushes the swing forward with his foot.
"Look, I already found out all this other shit, I may as well get it all over with at once so I can process it, you know?"
Harry meets Teddy's eyes. "He was scared, Ted. He was so scared. Your mum was this young, bubbly, optimistic person. But he was—I don't know if 'hardened' is the right word, but he'd seen so much hatred and so much evil. It was a war, again. None of us knew what would happen. He couldn't find work, even, because of his condition. He worried about what the stigma would mean for you. He worried that you would inherit his lycanthropy."
"So he didn't want me."
Harry shrugs. "I was seventeen, it's not like he confided in me. I don't know. He wanted you by the time you were born. He wanted you once you were here. That's all I can say for sure."
“Having watched those memories,” Teddy says, “I can’t help but wonder if he wished he had his first family, rather than my mum and me.”
“Oh, Teddy,” Harry says. “I don’t—I can’t—” He sighs. “I understand.” He stops talking, though it looks like he wants to say more.
It's funny how you can think you're over your childhood issues, and then something can happen that brings them right back to the surface, like you've never worked through them at all. The Hufflepuffs with a psychoanalytic bent had always been keen on 'revealing' these things, but Teddy doesn't think it's that he's repressed anything, just that new events or knowledge can make you reassess. He spent most of his childhood worrying about what it meant that his parents had died in the war—that they'd left him, a weeks-old infant, to fight; that he was their legacy; that he was like Harry, but not in the ways that made Harry special. But he'd always thought, at least his parents loved each other, at least they wanted him, at least they'd died doing what needed doing. They were heroes.
A hero whose heroism made him not want Teddy, not want Teddy's sister.
"I gotta go," Teddy says, and stands, moving away as the wooden swing arcs back towards him.
"Teddy," Harry says, his face sad. "I know what it's like to learn things about your dead father that put him in a less-than-wonderful light. But you're an adult, yeah? You know that nothing is black and white. Your dad was one of the best."
James dead. Lily dead. A green reflection in the sky. Remus wanted to abort. Peter a traitorous rat. Fabian and Marlene's dead eyes looking up at him. Frank and Alice insane. Lily's face when they found out about Dorcas. Sirius's mother shrieking he no longer had a family. Aurors thinking Sirius responsible for the Potters' deaths. James dead.
The dementor slid down the corridor, away from Sirius for the moment. He pressed his back against the stone wall, shivering, hands on his belly.
Of course, he was responsible for the Potters' deaths. This was the one thing he was sure about, after his weeks here thinking about it. He should never have entrusted the Fidelius to anyone else. It should've been him. He should've gone to the Potters’ earlier. He should've paid more attention to Peter.
James dead. Lily dead. A green reflection in the sky…
Remus didn't know Sirius had no longer been Secret-Keeper. Remus didn't know. What did he think? Did he think Sirius capable of such treachery? Of murdering his best friends by proxy and then murdering another friend in cold blood? Remus wouldn't think him capable of that, would he? Remus would figure it out.
But no one knew. Even Dumbledore didn't know Peter had been Secret-Keeper. Everyone who knew was dead, or in this cell.
A green reflection in the sky. James dead. Lily dead…
He rubbed his belly in a circular motion. "It's okay, little pup. It's okay. Just you and me now. We have each other, that's all we need. Family's what you make of it, little pup, remember that. I choose you. And you chose me, kind of. We'll take care of each other."
James dead. Lily dead. A green reflection in the sky…
A guard slamming the door, throwing a disgusting potion at him. "Nutrient potion in accordance with the Magical Congress's Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners."
Sirius didn't want it, but he looked at his distended stomach and choked it down. It tasted worse than arse, and Sirius suspected they brewed it to taste bad on purpose.
The dementor turned at the end of the corridor and glided back; Sirius clenched his teeth. I'm not guilty. I'm not guilty.
James dead. Lily dead. A green reflection in the sky…
His stomach clenched with pain, like a horrible bout of diarrhoea but also as if his body was tearing apart. An alarm.
A guard opening the door, eyes wide, wand drawn, grabbing Sirius by the arm and yanking him out of the cell. Calling him a bitch, a whore, a slag, a cocksucker, the guard spitting insults like seeds out of his mouth, but Sirius in pain, clenching eyes shut, trying to remember anything good, anything anything, I'm not guilty. Little pup. Little pup. "Fairy," the guard spits.
Remus thought him guilty. Peter, rat. A green reflection in the sky…
Magic-absorbing shackles on wrists and ankles. A Healer, an old contemptible wizard, efficiently and with no empathy magicking the little pup out. A wailing baby on his chest, eyes puffed shut. Merlin, a baby. So small. So sweet. His chest bubbled with joy and a dementor abruptly changed course to come at him.
James dead. Lily dead. A green reflection in the sky…
In tears, clutching baby, scared to think about the baby, to think about the baby would be to summon the dementor. Touching shackled but gentle hand to dark, downy hair. Remus, Remus should be here, Remus, look what we made.
"It's a girl," the Healer said. "You must name her."
Sirius looked down at the tiny human. Remus, Remus. He thought of long, mind-numbing tutoring sessions with a faceless procession of governesses in Grimmauld Place.
The priestess was thrown into prison, Romulus and Remus were ordered to be thrown into the river. The tradition goes on to say that after the floating cradle in which the boys had been exposed had been left by the retreating water on dry land, a thirsty she-wolf from the surrounding hills, attracted by the crying of the children, came to them, gave them her teats to suck and was so gentle towards them that the king's flock-master found her licking the boys with her tongue….Romulus and Remus were seized with the desire of building a city in the locality where they had been exposed.
"Prisoner!" the guard demanded. "You must name the bastard."
"Romilda,” Sirius said, looking at her.
"Who's her other father?"
Remus didn't want her. "She has none."
"Next of kin?"
Sirius had no family. James and Lily were dead. James’s parents were dead.
"She has none."
James dead. Lily dead. A green reflection in the sky…
Holding the baby, mind numb from happy thoughts being sucked out. Touching her face. "Romilda. Romilda."
The guard walked up and reached for Romilda. Sirius grabbed her, held tight. "No." He trembled. "No."
"Murderers don't get to keep infants," the guard spit, and drew his wand. Romilda floated away from his chest, a scratchy wail escaping her tiny mouth.
Sirius sobbed. "No!"
The guard slammed the door.
"She'll build cities!" he screamed at the guard, tears streaming down his face, a stabbing feeling at his chest.
A dementor floated near.
Romilda floating away, crying. A green reflection in the sky.
Teddy isn't sure whether he's ever felt this unwanted, which, given he was orphaned as a newborn, is saying something. He first finds out he was unwanted by his father, and then he had to go and kiss James, like a complete moron. Taking advantage of James's kindness and friendship by making a move on him, unwanted. Unwanted, unwanted. Could he be more of an arsehole?
Unhelpful, hurtful questions fly into his head like persistent gnats. Had his father wished he was with Sirius instead of Teddy's mum? Did his father wish Teddy was the baby he'd made with Sirius, his first love? Did his father resent Teddy for being alive when his first family had been torn away from him? How did his father deal with learning—years later!—that Sirius had been innocent? How did he deal with not knowing what happened to his first child?
"Fuck!" Teddy shouts into the silent field. "FUCK!" He screams, but his voice doesn't carry through the emptiness, and he's left with the wind in the night sky.
Don't focus on what you can't change, the psychoanalytic Hufflepuffs would say, focus on the future.
Teddy can't change the past, or his dad, but he can change how he relates to it, right? But how? It seems impossible.
He can fix the problem he made with James, though. That, he can do.
Teddy turns around and heads back towards the cottage, wondering if James is still there, and what he should say. I'm sorry I kissed you while you were comforting me and I was in tears about my dead father, I've been thinking you're hot for months and apparently suffer from Florence Nightingale syndrome?
The cottage comes into view and Teddy shoves his hands into his pockets, still no idea what he'll say to James. He'll have to wing it; it's not like he usually has trouble talking to James, anyway.
He opens the door. "Jamie?"
"Hey." James is at the table. In front of him are three open boxes of cereal and a bag of marshmallows.
Teddy kicks off the clogs and walks over, feeling awkward. "Are we going to make marshmallow crispy squares?"
James smiles, plants his elbow on the table, and rests his cheek on his hand. "Too lazy to cook, so eating the ingredients and letting them mingle in my stomach."
Teddy sits. "I'm sorry about before. I really, really shouldn't have done that. I was taking advantage of you, and you've been so amazing."
James's freckled nose wrinkles. "You don't need to be sorry. I'm not upset about it."
"Well, I'm upset about it," Teddy says, throwing a hand up. "I was so upset about the memories that I just—I just—I did that, and I shouldn't have, and I'm sorry. I feel terrible."
"It's fine," James says, voice clipped, turning away to shove his fist into the box of Rice Krispies.
"I was just talking to your dad."
James tips a handful of cereal into his mouth, chews. "Oh yeah? How's Dad? Did he make any puns?" James isn't acting right. He seems—detached, or something, but Teddy doesn't know what to make of it.
Teddy leans back in the chair. "I was asking him how my dad reacted when he found out about my mum being pregnant with me." He runs a hand through his hair. "Turns out he reacted pretty much exactly the same as he did in the memory when he found out about my sister."
James grimaces. "That's shitty." After a second, he adds, "But like, he was happy when you were born! I know; I've heard Dad talk about that a lot."
"I don't know what to make of all this," Teddy says. "Like, I already felt like I have no idea what I want to do with my life. Every time I look in the mirror I feel like I don't know who I am, what I'm supposed to look like."
"It doesn't necessarily change anything," James says.
Teddy sighs. "You wouldn't understand."
James rolls his eyes.
Teddy's taken aback—not the reaction he'd been expecting. Not a very James reaction.
"Teddy," James says, and his voice sounds like a mixture of weariness and annoyance, "do you really think I can't have an opinion on this? After I've been with you through all of it?"
"Of course you can have an opinion. I just don't think you can understand how it makes me feel."
"What, because I know my parents? You think everything is automatically easy for me because I know my parents?"
Teddy frowns. "Well no, but like, it's not just that I don't know my parents. How'd you feel if you found out that your dad knocked up Ron back in the day?" He winces. "Pretending Ron isn't your uncle."
"So things are easier for me because my parents were never with anyone else? Because my dad knew how to use condoms? That's really fucking annoying if you think that. Plus, who knows if my dad ever hooked up with Aunt Hermione? I try not to think about it, if I'm being honest."
"You're making me sound ridiculous."
James doesn't break eye contact as he says slowly, "You're making yourself sound ridiculous."
"Look, Teddy, I love you. You know that. But like, everyone deals with shit. I have to deal with fame I didn't earn and expectations that come from being the oldest Potter kid. I have to deal with everyone accusing me of getting preferential treatment, of getting my spot on the team because the manager thought it'd be good for ticket sales rather than because I'm the best choice for the team."
James waves his hand. "It's irrelevant. I don't care about any of that. The point is, we're all in the shit. That's life, right? You can't let it define you."
"I can't let it define me?!" Teddy says, feeling like James landed a blow with a cursed lance. "Of course it fucking defines me! It's my father! It's my being a metamorphmagus! These things are defining!"
"You think I know who I am because I look the same every day?" James says, his face creasing with anger. "That's bullshit, and if you'd stop and think about it for a second you'd realise it's bullshit. I know who I am because of like, my consciousness, because I know what I want."
"Well fuck, that must be nice! Because I don't know what I want!" Teddy says, heart racing, feeling like he's losing the one stable pillar of support he's had through all of this. "I work at a fucking grocery!"
"I'm not talking about a job," James says. "But even with that, like, just pick something! You need to grow up and make some choices!"
"I need to grow up?!"
"Yes!" James stands, the chair making an awful scrape as it slides back. "Just like, make a fucking decision! Your changing appearance doesn't make you incapable of making other decisions! Just fucking—I don't know! You think your dad would want you to be afraid to live?"
"I'm not afraid to live!"
James leans against the counter and raises an eyebrow.
"And I can't believe you are telling me I need to grow up!" Teddy continues. "You're right there with me getting drunk at clubs and eating PopTarts."
"I'm not talking about those things!" James cries. "Fuck, who cares about that? I know what I want. Meanwhile you're letting this shit with your dad get to you and then kissing me and then apologising for it!"
"You said you didn't care about that!"
James sighs, and he seems to deflate, his shoulders sinking. "That's because I know what I want, Teddy. You don't. Figure it out."
James walks out of the room.
James is the one person he's always counted on being there, on understanding, on supporting him. He counts on Harry and Ginny, of course, and his grandmother, but he doesn't count on their really understanding him. He assumes there's a rift between them, the way one assumes about people from other generations. But not with James.
And James—fuck. He scolded Teddy. What the fuck?!
It's not Teddy's fault he's been dealt this ridiculously hard hand. He wishes his life were easier, too, but wishing doesn't make it so. James said Teddy doesn't know what he wants, but how is he meant to know what he wants?
Teddy takes a breath and stands, pacing around the kitchen and sitting room for a minute, nervous energy and the remnants of shock coursing through his body. After a few minutes, he collapses onto the sofa.
He doesn't know what to do. He needs to go after James, to make things right, but it's clear he can't rush into James's bedroom right now. They each need to cool off, and Teddy needs to figure out what he wants to say.
Right now he’s numb.
Everything is fucked. Teddy stares, unseeing, at the fireplace.
James has left a deck of tarot cards and a book on the Tarot on the coffee table.
Teddy hits the deck with a Shuffling Charm and watches as the cards randomise themselves into a neat stack. He spreads the deck and picks a card.
Oh, for fuck's sake. Teddy, unhinged, starts to laugh—at what, he's not sure. At the universe. Fuck the universe. Fuck the universe for dropping all this shit on him and then giving him the fucking Fool. The Tarot can go fuck itself on its fucking wheel of fortune.
Teddy's not a fool! He groans, and when he closes his eyes he's transported back to the horrifying memories—the sadness, the pain of Sirius and his father. The bleakness of Azkaban. Were they fools? No, they were young. They were in love. They had no idea what they were doing.
Teddy picks up the tarot book and flips to the page on the Fool.
Here we have a youth about to step off the edge of a precipice. He symbolises the Lifepower before it enters into manifestation. Therefore he represents inexperience, which can certainly be foolish. He faces northwest, the direction of the unknown. The sun behind him is still rising, for the spiritual sun never reaches its zenith. The wand over the youth's shoulder is a symbol of the will, and tied to it is the wallet that is thought to carry universal memory and instinct. The Fool is about to pass into the cycle of life through which each soul must journey. Divinatory Meaning: The subject of the reading is a dreamer, a mystic. He has the desire to accomplish a great goal. He must be careful to make the right choice.
The great precipice, the unknown. What's Teddy's unknown?
The rest of life, Teddy supposes. Isn't that the main task facing anyone in their twenties? To figure out which unknown to jump into? It feels less like needing to step off the edge and more like needing to choose which ledge. And step off.
Romilda floating away, crying. A green reflection in the sky…
Sirius sat on the rickety mattress, his head in his hands. Not guilty, he thought, not guilty. James wouldn't want me to lose my mind.
The Healer had magicked Sirius's abdomen back to normal. There was no sign that Romilda had ever been there, no marks of her on his body. He wished that wasn't the case. He wished the skin would stretch and sag, as proof he'd really done that.
No one would tell him where she was, who they’d given her to. He had nightmares, worse when the dementors were near, of her tiny body being thrown in the trash heap on this island. When the dementors were farther away, he knew that wasn't a very logical possibility. But when the dementors were near, logic evaporated.
Sirius tapped his fingers on his head. Stay sane. Stay sane.
"Something kind of hit me today," he sang, recalling synthesised chords. "I looked at you and wondered if you saw things my way. People will hold us to blame. It hit me today, it hit me today."
Piecing lyrics together was good. Good for the brain, good for the soul.
"We're taking it hard all the time, Why don't we pass it by?"
A dementor turned towards Sirius's cell so quickly it made a breeze. Sirius whipped his head up, confused. The dementor came at him like a freight train, and the music died on his lips.
Romilda floating away, crying. A green reflection in the sky…
Sirius blinked from where he laid on the mattress.
He sat up.
"You have a visitor," the guard sneered.
Remus, Sirius thought, forgetting for a moment he wasn't allowed to hope.
But when the cell opened, it was Professor McGonagall.
She looked uncertain, out of place, wearing a pair of jeans, brown leather loafers, and a tartan cape coat. She pressed her lips together.
Sirius had never been so happy to see someone. He smiled, but his cheeks didn’t move.
"Mr Black," she said, and sighed.
"Where is she?" he asked wildly.
McGonagall's eyebrows furrowed. "She? …The baby?"
Sirius nodded, his stomach dropping as he realised she didn't know.
"I have heard no news of the baby. She is—born? Healthy?"
Sirius sat. "Yes. Professor, I—"
She held up a hand. "I am not here to listen to your tales and excuses. I've been hearing it non-stop in the Wizengamot; that's not why I came here."
"Why did you come?" Tears prickled his eyes as he looked up at his former teacher, head of house, fellow Order member.
"I knew no one else had been to see you," she said, chin high, "and that wasn't right. I wanted to check about the baby. Poppy and I—we've been worried. About the baby."
"She was healthy," Sirius said. "She was beautiful. They took her afterward. I had no time—I don't know what they—Remus didn't want—"
She nodded curtly, took a step back as if making to leave. "Very well. Remus is alive."
Sirius sucked in a breath, one small worry eased. "Thank Merlin. Professor, I really didn't—"
"No, Mr Black. No. I have been listening to what you 'haven't done' for too long."
A tear ran down his cheek. "And Harry?"
"He's with Lily's sister's family."
"What?!" Sirius said, recalling stories of Lily's family. "No! Harry? No!"
"In truth, I quite agree with you," she said, tucking her hands into her cape pockets. "But it was not my decision." An awkward pause. "Well, I'll be going."
"Professor," Sirius said, surprised when his voice, which he hadn’t been using much, came out like a plea. "Please—take my memories about the baby—if she, if she ever needs to know about me, it could be important, what if she needs to know about a medical condition or some such, I can't—what if I lose my mind in here—no one will know, she will be—"
She pursed her lips.
"For the baby," he pleaded. "You don't even have to look at them, just keep them safe until Remus or the baby need them—you can just, hold on to them."
She opened her mouth, then shut it again.
"Please." He pushed his hair back, shocked at how greasy it felt. "I don't know how much longer until I'm as good as Frank and Alice."
McGonagall sighed, took a step closer. "You understand I'm doing this for the baby, not for you."
"Well, they took my wand. But it shouldn't be any trouble." Her eyes twinkled with a magical challenge. She rummaged in the pocket of her cape, arm sinking down to the elbow, coming up with a small leather case. She opened it to reveal a set of empty vials and pulled a medium-sized one.
"Concentrate on the memories, and I will cast Gemimor."
Sirius reached out and grabbed her arm. She stiffened, and his heart ached with the realisation that he scared her.
"Professor, use Extraho."
She blinked. "If I use Extraho, you won't retain the memories. They will be gone."
Sirius's eye flitted to the door, beyond which the dementors were staying away since there was a visitor. "I know. Please."
She paused, then nodded, something heavy and sad in her eyes. She raised her hand towards his head. "Extraho."
He closed his eyes. He thought of the darkness powder and passing out, of waking up to Pomfrey's news, of Remus's reaction, of James and Lily's cautious happiness, he thought of Harry patting his belly and saying "lil pup!", he thought of the many arguments with Remus, he thought of Pomfrey's check-ups and prenatal potions, he thought of the guards taunting him for being pregnant, nutrient potions for pregnant prisoners, he thought of labour pains and shackled, inhuman childbirth, he thought of the baby, it's a girl, Romilda, he thought of the guard magicking her away from him, of the Healer patching up his belly.
He blinked. McGonagall pressed a cap to a vial.
There was a tear on his cheek.
She put a hand on his arm and patted, once. "May the Spirit of peace bring peace to this house, this night and all nights." And she left.
Two dementors glided towards his cell, as if to punish him for having had a visitor. He hadn't gone so long without them near since he arrived. He winced.
James dead. Lily dead. Harry's chubby arms reaching for him. A green reflection in the sky.
Trouble is, he isn't sure what he wants to do with his freedom. But he's alive, and he's free, and he has support and family and money and skill. He needs to do something, even if it ends up being stupid and he ends up changing his mind a thousand times.
Change is okay. Stagnation, not so much.
He knows one thing for certain, and luckily it's the easiest thing to tackle: he needs to fix things with James.
He walks into the bathroom and relieves himself, then splashes water on his face.
As he does every morning, he scrutinises his reflection, wondering what he should do to his appearance. He thinks his nose looks a little wonky, and his hair morphed long, like Sirius's, in his sleep, though it kept the turquoise colour from yesterday.
He thinks of James standing behind him, leaning against the door frame, saying You look fine however; it doesn't matter. Like James always says.
James never blinks at changes in Teddy's appearance. Neither do the rest of the Potters or his grandmother, really, or Vic—but the others still notice. Albus assesses that day's hair, or Harry compliments his chin, or Ginny notices his attempts to increase his muscles. They accept him, but they notice.
But James doesn't notice unless he's asked for his opinion. James accepts Teddy for who he is, so deeply that it doesn't matter at all how he looks. It's like James sees right past Teddy's body, to whatever the essence of Teddy is. It's one thing Teddy appreciates most about James—it makes Teddy feel steady, less erratic.
James—everything about him—makes Teddy feel steady.
Teddy decides to forego doing anything to his appearance; he doesn’t even shorten his hair. He hits his hair with a Hair-Tying Charm and watches, with the fascination of someone who doesn't use the charm often, as the hair pulls away from his face. He wanders back into his room and pulls on a grey floral t-shirt and a pair of jeans.
James isn't in the kitchen, and the door to his bedroom is open. Teddy peeks in. "Jamie?"
It's empty. The bed is unmade; there's shit all over the floor. A Puddlemere pennant is pinned to one wall, and on the dresser there's a photo of all five Potters, Teddy, and Scorpius in Albus and Scorpius's empty flat the day they moved in. On the other wall is a framed copy of James on the cover of Witch Weekly's Sexist Wizard Alive issue; it had been a gift from Albus, and Albus had charmed the cover to read "Stupidest Wizard Alive"—a gift that only a then-seventeen-year-old brother could give, really.
James’s laptop screen is still on; he must've just left. Teddy walks over to the desk and glances at the screen. It's a Google search results page. Adoption.com: "What It's Like to Meet a Biological Relative for the First Time." Medium.com: "Why Meeting Your Long Lost Family Can Teach You So Much." OurEverydayLife.com: "Bonding With a Long-Lost Sister."
Teddy sucks in a breath and sits on the end of James's bed. Somehow, after Teddy cried all over him, kissed him, apologised, and then got into a huge fight with him, James was still sitting in his room trying to figure out how to help.
Teddy can't help but feel guilty. He's not sure about what, exactly. It's not like he forced James to do this stuff with him, they just always do things together.
He sighs and flops backward onto James's unmade bed. It smells like him.
Teddy has to fix this.
James said Teddy needs to figure out what he wants, but the prospect of figuring it out is overwhelming. Where does he want to live, what does he want to do, whom does he want to be with, does he want kids, is he living up to his potential, is he caring for his mental health and wellbeing, is he doing enough for his grandmother, is he doing enough good for the world, how should he spend his free time, should he go back to school, how can he help other people who have gone through situations similar to his? It's too much to figure out.
Well, not all of it. Some of it's easy. He wants to be with James.
He—he wants to be with James.
The moment he thinks it, he knows it's true. It's the only clear answer to any of the questions he feels like he should be answering.
And holy shit.
It's not that he's fucked up and confused about everything and thinking James is fit and wanting to kiss him is part of that confusion. It's not that at all, and Teddy has never even let himself think about it because he's been so focused on all the ways his life isn't settled, isn't stable, isn't figured out.
He's been thinking he needs to figure everything out all at once, which is, of course, impossible.
But if he knows one thing, he can do one thing. And then another. And eventually he'll be forty and he’ll probably still feel like he's not quite a grown-up and still feel like he doesn't have his shit together, but it'll be more together than it is now because he can do one thing at a time.
It doesn't have to be all happiness or all confusion.
Shit, he's been such an idiot. Teddy sits up and walks over to the window. James is flying—lazy circles around the field behind Harry and Ginny's back garden. The sun is shining and this, Teddy can do.
He finds a matching pair of Birkenstocks in the heap by the door and runs outside, the shoes, not meant for running, trying to slip off his feet, and he gets to the edge of the field.
"James!" he shouts, a smile on his face. "JAMIE!"
James turns on the broom, notices him, and waves.
Teddy makes an exaggerated come-here gesture, and James flies down, landing a few feet in front of Teddy.
"Hey," James says.
"I'm an idiot," Teddy blurts. Fuck, not what he meant to start with. But apt, at least. "I'm such an idiot."
James presses his lips together to quell a smile. "A bit, maybe. But not like, generally."
"I have no idea what I want to do for work," Teddy starts, and when James starts to frown, he shakes his hand to tell James to withhold his judgement. "I have no idea what I'll be doing in ten years. I don't know what I'll look like tomorrow. But that doesn't mean I don't know anything I want."
James crosses his arms over his chest and squints against the sunlight, listening attentively, but says nothing.
Teddy takes a step forward and holds his arms out to the side, smiling. "I want you."
James's eyes widen.
"I didn't realise—or, no, I did realise but I thought I couldn't trust myself or something but, fuck, Jamie, I want to be with you. Not like, roommates. Or friends. Or godbrothers. I want to be your boyfriend. And holy shit that is the scariest thing I've ever said out loud and I really need you to respond because I feel like the earth might open up and swallow me."
James, though, smiles—a cautious, wide smile that slowly extends across his beautiful face. "I want to be with you, too. You can keep talking."
"Er," Teddy says, laughing nervously. "I love spending time with you? I love your enthusiasm and your antics, and I love how soft you are underneath it all, and I love how so many people don't realise that about you but I do. And we're a perfect team, and I want to do everything together. And I know who I am when I'm with you. No—you help me realise that I always know who I am."
James points a finger at him. "Fuck you if you make me cry, Teddy Lupin.” He laughs. "I love spending time with you, too. And you know I think you're too hard on yourself. You're perfect. I've always thought you're perfect." James takes a step forward and slides his arms around Teddy's waist, bringing their chests together, and smiles.
"It's hard to believe you're perfect when you can look in the mirror and change anything, any imperfection."
"No such thing as imperfections," James says, grinning. "You're just Teddy. Like, do you think my freckles are imperfections? Nope, that's just James. It's the same with you."
"Your freckles aren't not imperfections; they're perfection," Teddy says, and he feels like he must have a starry-eyed dopey look on his face, but he doesn't care. "Can I kiss you? Just to be clear, I want to, and I wanted to last time—I just went about it really poorly."
James doesn't answer, but crashes their lips together, and it's warm, wet, grasping hands and moving lips, the breeze blowing hair into each other’s eyes. Teddy feels his body melt forward, against James, and wishes almost immediately that there was a surface for them on which to lean or lie.
Teddy pulls away, smiling, and James chases his lips, pressing a kiss to his cheek, then his chin, then his ear, and Teddy feels swaddled in love.
"My friends from school think I'm using you to escape adulthood," Teddy blurts.
James frowns. "Yeah, I know. They think I'm like—"
"No, no, but they're wrong. They're so wrong." Teddy grabs James's hands and lets their connected hands hang by their sides. "I'm not using you to escape adulthood. I like spending time with you because I feel most myself when we're together. You make me feel grounded. You don't let me drift off into like, a weird plane of Hufflepuffian existentialism."
James laughs, his cheeks flushed pink.
Teddy grins; he can't believe his compliments have made James Potter blush. He wants to do it again.
"Let me fly us back to the cottage," James says.
Teddy frowns. "You know I hate flying."
James picks up his broom and straddles it. "Yeah," he grins, "but you trust me! Come on!"
Teddy slings a leg over the broom, wraps his arms around James's waist, and holds on, petrified, as James zooms them into the air and across the field, garden, and path, landing just a second later in front of the cottage.
Teddy stumbles off. "I hate that."
James grins and sticks a finger into Teddy's chest. "See? You do know what you like and don't like. Flying? No. James? Yes."
Teddy, feeling bold, lets his eyes run down James's body, wanting to see how James reacts. James doesn't blush, but he does trip over the step as he stumbles into the cottage.
"If we're going to be together," James says, walking backward with a huge grin on his face, "you need to know from the beginning that I will always tell you exactly what I want. Because I know what I want. Where it counts, anyway—Merlin knows what I'll do when I retire from Quidditch, but I know what I want to do with you."
"Is that so?" Teddy asks, trying to keep his shit together and not trip over the pile of shoes.
"And right now," James says, "if we're together, and if you want to, I want to get naked and have orgasms."
Teddy bursts out laughing and does trip over a clog that's escaped the pile. He catches himself, though, and says, "Orgasms?"
"I'm being specific because I know what I want. Orgasms. I don't care how. Do you know what you want, Teddy?"
"Merlin, fuck, yes," Teddy breathes.
"Tell me," James teases, reaching forward to hook his finger in Teddy's belt loop.
"I want you to read my Tarot," Teddy whispers, smiling.
"And I want to make you marshmallow crispy squares because you're too lazy to stir ingredients."
James's cheeks redden.
Teddy takes a step closer. "And I want to buy you the good PopTarts not from my store, and I want to watch films with you, and I want to come up with ways to make fun of Albus together, and I want to watch you fly, and I want to go back to the Glory with you, and I want to get a karaoke machine for our house, just for the two of us."
James blinks again and smiles. "Er, okay. You'll be shit at karaoke."
"And I'd really like you to fuck me."
James's smile widens. "I can do that."
"I'm sorry I've been such a mess," Teddy says, sighing as he runs his hand down James's cheek. "I really appreciate all you've been doing for me."
James shrugs. "You've been handling it pretty well, I think. It's a lot."
"Yeah, but you were right about what you said. When you were yelling at me. In the kitchen."
"Yeah," James says, nodding, "I was right. I'm always right. But truthfully, I think I was more annoyed about you kissing me and taking it back than anything else. You're allowed to be confused." He pauses. "But not about me. You're not allowed to be confused about me. Like, make sure you're not confused about that."
Teddy reaches forward and grabs James's face, bringing their lips together and trying to pour all his emotion into the kiss. He pulls back, and James flashes a dazed smile. "I'm not confused about you."
James pulls back. “I’ve wanted to feel that piercing in my mouth for a really long time.” He grabs Teddy's wrist and pulls him towards the bedrooms. "Yours or mine?"
"I haven't changed my sheets in like six weeks," Teddy says, and it's true but it's only partially relevant because he wants to be in James's bed, he wants to smell James all around him.
James laughs and tugs Teddy into his bedroom, kicking the door shut with his foot and pressing Teddy against the door.
Teddy feels drunk with it, high on James, only completely clear headed, which makes no sense, but all he knows is he wants to put his hands on James's back, pull him closer, feel his flesh, the way he's so real, real, alive under Teddy's fingers.
"I want you to know, in the interest of full disclosure," James says, tipping his head back so Teddy can kiss his neck, "I've wanted this for a long time. If that freaks you out, you should like, stop now."
He looks confident, almost challenging, rather than embarrassed, and Teddy smiles, pulling him closer. "We're idiots. I've been attracted to you for months but didn't understand."
"But you understand now?" James asks, rolling his hips forward, pressing his hard cock into Teddy's hip.
"Fuck. Yes," Teddy says, and walks James towards the bed. "Are you sure about this?"
James narrows his eyes. "You can ask yourself if you're sure. But don't second-guess me."
"I'm sure," Teddy says, and pushes James onto the bed, where he flops onto his elbows and yanks Teddy on top of him.
James wraps his arms around Teddy's back and pushes his shirt up. Tingles erupt down Teddy's spine as he leans in to kiss James, sucking his bottom lip into his mouth as he relishes the feeling of their bodies pressing together on the bed.
"I'm probably not going to last," James says with his characteristic frankness and confidence, laughing. "It's been awhile."
Teddy blinks, realising that he and James have never really talked about their respective sex lives, despite living together for years and telling each other everything else. He wonders why he's assumed that James hasn't been having sex lately—but it's probably just because he and James are always together. He'd've sort of known by default, wouldn't he?
"Same," Teddy says, letting his forehead fall against James's collarbone. Then he remembers something. "Do you have condoms?"
"Yeah," James says, "I think." He pushes Teddy off him as he leans to reach for the drawer next to his bed. He pulls out a box of condoms and inspects it, frowning. "There are a couple left, but they're past expiration." He frowns at the box. "How did I let that happen? That's supposed to make me feel quite shit about my life choices, isn't it?"
Teddy laughs and then groans, pulling James back towards him and wrapping him in a hug. "Soooo this is maybe awkward but I don't want to use charms. Because no one knows why Sirius got pregnant, and it could be Black family blood magic, and I have Black family blood, and it could be something to do with creature magic, and I have my dad's blood even if I don't have his lycanthropy."
James presses lips against Teddy's neck. "Good thing we have hands then. And mouths." He pulls away to look at Teddy. From this close Teddy can see every freckle, the way the auburn of James's hair looks on his eyelashes, the way his eyes look blueish with the reflection of Teddy's hair. He frowns. "Except then I'd be the only one getting what I wanted."
"What do you mean?"
"I said I wanted orgasms. You said you wanted me to fuck you."
James says this with the funniest look on his face, a combination of lechery and complete seriousness, and Teddy has to kiss him.
"I don't care. I just want you. I'm getting what I want."
But James pushes Teddy off him and hops off the bed. "Nope! We're going to the store."
"What?!" Teddy says, laughing.
"Do you need a charm to stop your erection or are you alright?" James asks, leaning over to grab a hoodie off the floor.
"Er, I'm alright." Teddy hates those charms.
"Well come on, then!" James says, grinning, and holds out his hand.
Teddy stands, taking James's hand. "We really do not need to go to the store. I am like 100% happy with alternative sex arrangements."
"Oh, but," James says, stepping close and looking intently into Teddy's eyes, "you're underestimating how much I want to give you what you asked for."
Teddy swallows. Fuck, James is—like always, impassioned. He does nothing by halves. It's a rush to be wrapped up in him, and Teddy's been wrapped up in him for years. He smiles. "Alright, then."
James grasps Teddy's forearm tightly and Apparates. Teddy inhales sharply against the pull and lands, stumbling, in an alleyway in town.
"Fuck," Teddy says, laughing, "I always stumble when I Side-Along."
James turns to him with a bawdy look and says, "You can Side-Along me home, then, baby."
Teddy laughs, amused as always with James's antics, and a bit thrown by how much he likes the endearments and suggestion when they come from James's mouth.
"I think there's a Superdrug right up here," James says, rounding the corner.
It's chilly. Teddy wishes he'd grabbed a hoodie, but the Superdrug isn’t far. They walk inside; the fluorescent Muggle lighting makes Teddy squint.
They stand, staring at the signage for a moment, confused about where to go. James walks to the check-out counter and asks the cashier, "Excuse me, can you point me towards the condoms?"
The cashier, a middle-aged woman wearing red-framed glasses, doesn't even blink. "Aisle 9, sexual health."
"Ta," James says, and gives her a wide smile.
"I would never have asked," Teddy whispers as they walk towards aisle 9.
"Sexual health is nothing to be embarrassed by, Tedward," James scolds, a smile playing at his lips.
"I'm not embarrassed," Teddy claims.
"You are," James says, and Teddy lets it go because really, he is, isn't he?
James stops in front of an enormous display of condoms.
"I never know which ones to pick," James says, crossing his arms. "It's like, some of the flashy packaging calls to me, but I should be more concerned about like, functionality."
Teddy inspects the shelf closest to eye level. "Why the fuck would you want condoms marketed as Vanish? Of all the things you want in a condom, vanishing is not one."
James snorts and pulls a box that says Mutual Climax off the shelf. He reads in a dramatic voice, "Ribs and dots designed to speed her up. Performa lubricant to slow him down."
Teddy bursts out laughing.
"Where are the workers?" James asks, pretending to look around. "I need to ask if these work for gay sex, or maybe they have special ones somewhere that I'm missing."
"Excuse me," Teddy says, trying not to smile, "where are the prophylactics meant for anal sex? Your selection seems to assume there will be a vagina involved?"
"Oh sir, I'm terribly sorry," James says, "if you are looking for condoms intended for a rectum you'll need to go to our sister store, Gay Superdrug."
Teddy bursts out laughing, and an older couple looking at a shelf of paracetamol turns to give them a disapproving look.
James laughs, too, and Teddy thinks, somewhat incongruously, that he's never had so much fun having sex before, and they haven't even started yet.
The older man puts his hand on the woman's elbow and they leave the aisle, shooting looks at James and Teddy as they leave.
James manages to stop laughing. "In all seriousness, I looked it up once, and you're supposed to buy the extra-strength ones for anal. Er," he scans the shelf. "This one?" It's Durex Extra Safe.
"Looks good," Teddy says. "You know me: I'm not just safe, I'm extra safe."
James laughs and tucks the box under his arm. "I guess we should get lube, too, since we're here."
"I've never used Muggle lube," Teddy says with curiosity. "I always get it in Diagon."
"It's pretty much the same," James says. "You know, they do make lube specifically for anal, but they don't usually have it in stores. You'd have to order it."
"That is so fucked up," Teddy says, frowning. "We should open a pub like the Glory and sell all these 'sexual health' products in a little side shop."
James turns to him and smiles. "You should. Like, really. The magical world is in dire need of an amazing LGBTQ performance venue and bar. And a source for anal lube."
It's a thought.
James grabs a bottle and they head towards the check-out. The cashier takes a long sip of coffee before ringing them up. James pays £16.98 with his Muggle credit card and declines to pay 5p for a plastic bag, shoving the condoms and lube in his hoodie pocket. They walk back to the alley.
"You want me to Apparate us?" Teddy asks.
James holds his arm out. "You do me, then I'll do you." He winks.
Teddy laughs. "You are too ridiculous." He grabs James's arm and Apparates them home. They land in front of the cottage, and Teddy opens the door.
"Is this awkward?" Teddy asks, as they walk inside. "I've never stopped sex halfway through for a condom run before. I'm also not sure I've ever had sex at," he glances at the clock, "eleven thirty in the morning, stone-cold sober, before."
James grins. "It's not awkward." He reaches into his hoodie pocket, throws the condoms and lube at Teddy.
Teddy scrambles, hating when athletic people assume athleticism in him, but manages to catch the items and stuff them in his back pockets.
James pulls off his hoodie and t-shirt, throwing it on the floor with the shirt inside the hoodie.
Teddy lets himself look.
He's spent so long trying not to look, thinking he shouldn't look, thinking that his wanting to look was confusion, that the looking is a revelation. James is gorgeous, of course. His chest is sprinkled with freckles, but his shoulders are covered in them. He's fit and lean, not muscled like he would be if he were a Beater or a Keeper.
But it isn't his body that makes Teddy's heart race, it's that he's James. It's that there's a scar on his right hip and Teddy remembers the day he got it, how James and Albus had been playing knights and Albus's accidental magic had somehow turned the wooden sword into a real one. It's that James has a way about him that makes people want to be near him, that he's funny and loving and devoted, that they're best friends, that they watch out for each other all the time, that Teddy feels most himself when they're together.
Teddy steps forward and rests his hands on James's hips, relishing the sense-feeling of warm skin. "I could get used to touching you," Teddy says with a grin. "I could get addicted to it."
"Good," James says, and grabs Teddy's biceps, pulling him in for a kiss. They stumble into James's bedroom and James reaches his hands around Teddy's arse, pulling the condoms and lube out of the pockets and tossing them on the bed. "Get naked, Lupin."
Teddy laughs, pulling back and watching as James unfastens and shimmies out of his jeans. He steps out, pushes his boxers off, and looks at Teddy expectantly. He’s naked and Teddy is still clothed, and Teddy’s short-circuiting brain knows that won’t do. Teddy grabs his shirt and pulls it off, then takes his jeans off as he watches James, who is standing there, completely naked, scrutinising the condom box.
"These things last for five years. Nice to know I haven't had much sex since I left Hogwarts."
"Unless you've been using Charms?"
"Nah," James says, smiling. "Too hard to pull in the magical world, between being famous and being gay, you know?"
"Yeah," Teddy says, thinking about the few times he's pulled someone at a club in Diagon. Usually witches because, if he doesn't morph his appearance, that's who assumes he'd be into them. Not that Teddy minds witches; he minds other people making assumptions about what he will or won’t want.
Teddy climbs onto the bed and pushes the box out of James's hands. "No rush, eh?" he says, and leans in for a slow kiss.
James melts into the bed, his fingers reaching to grab at Teddy, kissing back with all his usual fire. After a moment, he pushes Teddy off and onto his back and straddles his waist, his arse pressing down against Teddy's cock. Teddy sucks in a breath.
"You know," James says, reaching for the lube and breaking the plastic with his teeth, "I don't want to minimise your reaction to all of this stuff, but I want you to know that from my perspective, I feel the same about you no matter what happens. With your dad, with Romilda, with your body or appearance, with whatever you do or don’t do for a career. You're Teddy no matter what, and the rest is just like, irrelevant, you know?"
Teddy lies there, looking up at him, awed at the easy way he says this stuff, the authenticity in his eyes that shows how much he means every word, the way he's saying it even as he squirts lube into his hand and warms it in his palm.
"I love you," Teddy whispers, smiling. "Is it too much to say that when we've never even had sex before?"
James grins. "It's not the first time you've said it to me. And I love you, too. I'm going to finger you now, okay? You want me to do any prep charms?"
"Yeah," Teddy says, and watches as James casts on him with his left hand, then carefully slides his lubed finger inside. Teddy's eyes flutter closed, and he reaches up to run a hand down James's arm.
"Good?" James asks, after adding another finger. "I like bottoming, you know. Next time you can do this to me, yeah?"
"Yeah," Teddy says, the possibility of it all—this entire future with James—overwhelming him. His head falls to the side as he resists reaching for his cock.
James leans down to bite playfully at Teddy's collarbone, then kisses it. "I'm going to take my fingers out."
He pulls out and looks around, grabbing a stray t-shirt from the side of the bed and wiping his hand on it.
"Remind me not to wear that," Teddy says, grimacing, and James laughs. He unwraps a condom and inspects it for a second, checking which way it goes, before reaching down to put it on.
"I wanna do it," Teddy says, leaning up and grabbing James's cock. "Why wasn't I touching you already? Fuck, sometimes it's hard to multitask."
James huffs a breathy laugh, looking down at Teddy's fingers on his penis. "It's cool,” he says, slightly breathy. “I'm not worried that my cock will be neglected."
Teddy tightens his fingers as he unrolls the condom, doing it unhurriedly and with as much pressure and touching as he can manage, given he's also trying to do a responsible job putting it on.
"Your hands," James says, eyes closed.
"You like them?" Teddy asks, voice and chest warm.
"Oh yeah," James says, and grabs the lube, slicking himself up.
Teddy lies back, and they stop talking. They don't need to, because Teddy's hands are on James's back, pulling him close, and James nudges Teddy's legs back, shoves a pillow under Teddy's arse, and lines himself up, and Teddy feels him there and pulls his mouth in for a kiss, grasping James’s shoulders and pulling him closer, and James takes the hint and presses forward, pushing inside. And Teddy’s overcome with feeling like he belongs, he’s wanted, a feeling he's been missing so often lately, a feeling that everything is right and good, no matter what happens outside their little cottage, no matter how much shit goes on out there.
James thrusts, gently at first, but then harder, and Teddy moans on those harder thrusts so James does it more, Teddy swirling with pleasure and love. James breathes hot into Teddy's ear. Teddy reaches to grab James's arse, urging James forward, and they're slamming into the headboard, Teddy letting out half a laugh at his banged head before he's overcome with pleasure and it turns into a moan. James puts a hand between Teddy's head and the headboard, and Teddy grabs his cock and wanks in time with James's thrusts, his head cradled from hitting the wood by James's steady hand.
James comes first, thrusts faltering as he presses his hips flush against Teddy's arse and lets his head fall against Teddy's collarbone with a wordless moan. A second later, he blinks. "Sorry, you didn't come yet—I—"
“Shhhh.” Teddy lets go of his cock and rubs a hand up and down James’s back, pulling him forward into a hug so he can have a moment to come down. James starts to sit up and Teddy pushes him away, dislodging his penis, and says, "Don't you dare apologise for coming first. I plan to keep you coming first for a long time, Jamie."
James sits back on his heels and smiles, his penis hanging long from his groin, the full condom tight around it. “Is that so? That’s the worst pickup line I’ve ever heard.”
Teddy grins at him, grasps himself and wanks. He's so close already, and the sight of James there like that...
"Let me do it," James says, flopping onto his side and swatting Teddy's hand away. He grabs tight and wanks, watching his hand on Teddy's cock with something like awe in his hazel eyes. Teddy reaches a hand to brush the hair from James’s eyes, and James leans forward to press his lips to Teddy's nipple, running a tongue over it and then sucking it into his mouth.
"Fucking hell," Teddy whispers, and James speeds up his wanking. James doesn't have a chance to suck Teddy's nipple into his mouth again before pleasure crashes over Teddy, and he comes in James's hand.
James stills his hand but leans up to press their lips together, his tongue hot and sexy in Teddy's mouth. Teddy’s not sure he’s ever enjoyed sex so much. Certainly not for a long time, and even when he was with Victoire, in love, he’d not felt so carefree, so authentic, so loved.
"Where's the dirty shirt?" Teddy asks, smiling, and James chuckles, reaching behind himself and using the shirt to wipe off his hand, then hands it to Teddy to wipe off his cock.
"I think we need a shower," James says, pulling the condom off his penis and tying the end. Then he looks uncertain for a second and says, looking up at Teddy, "That was incredible. Yes?"
"Yeah. Perfect," Teddy says, fascinated with the way James sometimes looks to him for reassurance. He grabs his wand from the side of the bed and Vanishes the condom from James's hand. "You're perfect, Jamie."
"I have been called the Sexiest Wizard Alive," James says, all hesitation gone from his voice and his face full of his usual confidence.
Teddy laughs. "That you are. But I wasn't talking about sexiness."
James looks at him for a moment, jolts forward to press a hard, hot kiss to his lips, then jumps up and declares, "Shower!"
Sirius and Remus lay naked on the bed. Sirius watched the rising and falling of Remus's chest and ran a finger down his sternum. There was a large bruise on the side of his rib.
It had been a bad day. They'd spoken with Dumbledore; things were looking worse, not better. Voldemort was about to take over the entire Ministry; Dorcas was dead. Supper had been a tense affair, neither of them able to speak much.
"What do you think will happen?"
"Do I look like a Seer?" Remus asked, smiling. "I wish I knew."
Sirius pushed himself up on one elbow to peer at Remus, blowing hair off his face. "Are we doing enough?"
Remus frowned. "What more could we possibly do?"
Sirius sighed. "It doesn't feel like enough. You know?"
"Yeah," Remus said, reaching an arm out to snake around Sirius's shoulders, pulling him closer.
Sirius let his head fall onto Remus's chest. He could hear Remus's heart. He put a hand on his stomach, needing the reassurance of skin, heat, life, his lover, under his fingertips. Remus reached his hand around to rest on Sirius's hip.
It felt like magic. It always felt like magic with Remus.
"At the moment," Remus said, "victory seems impossible."
"Yeah," Sirius said, smiling when he realised that Remus's finger was tracing his moon tattoo. "Maybe the only victory lies in the far future, long after we're dead."
Remus snorted a sad laugh. "That's depressing."
"Not as depressing as no victory at all, right?" Sirius asked, looking up to catch Remus's eyes. The waning moon shone through the bedroom window, reflecting off his eyes.
"I guess that's what we've got," Remus said, "whether or not it's less depressing."
"That's what we've got," Sirius echoed, then leaned up and grinned. "You're what I've got, lover."
Remus smiled and tugged Sirius on top of him. "At least some minutes each day are still good."
"Like, which minutes?" Sirius asked, feigning innocence. "Like, the minutes we spent with Dumbledore, right?"
"I mean the minutes we're in here, and the world isn't." Remus rubbed his hand down Sirius's back.
"Oh so," Sirius said, all coy, "so this is still good?" He pressed his hips forward.
"This is still good," Remus said, closing his eyes. A smile spread across his face in the moonlight.
"I plan to enjoy every single minute we're alive," Sirius whispered in his ear.
"That's our victory?" Remus asked, laughing.
"Yes,” Sirius said and brought their bodies together, thinking their embrace was as much a rebellion as were their Order missions. "We win."
Teddy bursts out laughing.
James hands the cards to Teddy. "You shuffle them. It's better than me doing it, since it's your question."
Teddy takes the cards. "What should I know as I go to meet my sister?" He separates the cards into two piles, shuffles them together a few times, and cuts the deck into three.
James picks up the piles and glances at the clock. "I'm going to do the three-card spread with the Major Arcana." He closes his eyes and takes a breath.
Teddy still has no clue whether James takes this seriously. One second he's pretending a scarf can balance his chakras, and the next he's giving such good card readings that Teddy suspects he has the Sight.
James flips three cards onto the table. The High Priestess, the World, the Hermit. For a moment James stares at the cards, then his face breaks into a huge grin. "It's your past, present, and future."
Teddy shifts off the sofa and sits on the floor by the table, one leg drawn up and the other bent behind him. "How?"
"The High Priestess is the card of hidden influences, the link between the seen and the unseen. She represents all the things you didn't know about yourself and your family, all the ways you hadn't yet figured it out. See how she guards the knowledge on this scroll? She may also represent the past that came before you—all the secrets that your father and Sirius had to keep, which weighed on them and, through them, on you."
Teddy nods, distracted for a moment by James's excited eyes.
"The World is your present. The World is a card of oneness, of unity, of triumph. Look at how the legs of the dancer form a cross, and the triangle points upwards. That signifies the spirit surmounting the burden of the material world. That's you, Teds. Figuring out that your identity is you, not the material stuff. And look at the dancer. At first it looks like a woman, but the dancer is neither a man nor a woman. The dancer is one. The dancer is manifestation of everything together as one. Completion, triumph. The path of liberation. That's you, too, Teddy."
Teddy’s cheeks blush as he stares at the cards.
"Your future is the Hermit."
"Well fuck you very much," Teddy says, laughing.
"No, no! Look!" James points. "The Hermit stands here with his light. The light stands for truth. He waits there to shine the light for anyone else who needs it. He provides counsel to others who are seeking. That's you. It’s you shedding light for Romilda, and maybe for other people, too."
Teddy laughs, taken aback. "How am I supposed to do that?"
James shrugs. "I don't know, do I look like a Seer?"
"Yes," Teddy says, pointing at the scarf.
James grins and pulls the scarf off his shoulders. "Are you ready?"
"Ready as I'll ever be," Teddy says, eyes still on the cards. "At least that card of hidden influences was in the past. Moving forward from it, right?" He stands and searches through the heap of shoes.
James, still on the floor, squints up at him. "Not the point, Tedward." He jabs his finger at the middle card, the World. "The point is you can deal with anything. You're the dancer."
Teddy's breath catches and he walks over, squats down, and kisses James. Really kisses him, hands on his face, lips together, hot, trying to pour all his love into the kiss.
"I'm glad you think I'm the dancer, not the fool," Teddy says, grinning.
"Oh, but we're all the Fool," James says, and winks. He casts a spell at the cards to put them away in their box, hops up, and pulls on a pair of sneakers.
"Nervous?" James asks, after a second.
"Yep." Teddy grabs his bag, slinging it over his shoulder, and tries to put on a brave smile.
James stands up and opens the door, walks outside, and waits for Teddy to join him. Teddy walks outside and closes the door behind them.
Up ahead, Harry stands outside the side door to the house carrying a big basket, and Ginny comes running outside after him, hopping along on one foot as she pulls on her other shoe.
Teddy had been nervous to tell Harry and Ginny that he and James were together, but they'd been great. They looked surprised, but Teddy suspects the surprise was more from the timing than any surprise it had happened. When James and Teddy finished telling them, and Ginny and Harry had said their congratulations and how happy they were, Ginny and Harry had shared a silent look, and then Ginny had pulled James out of the room by his arm, and Harry had given Teddy a talk about not hurting James, because James had been—"you might not know this, Teddy"—in love with Teddy for ages and it wouldn't be fair to him to not take it seriously. Teddy, surprised, had reassured Harry that he was taking it very seriously, and Harry had patted him on the back and then pulled him in for a hug. Later, James reported that Ginny had given him a talk about not hurting Teddy.
Besides those and a few other awkward conversations (the most memorable having been with Albus and Scorpius, in which Albus had shouted, "Don't fuck with me! What?! Tell me everything!" and Scorpius had frowned, asking, "Wait, didn't you tell us you started dating like a year ago? I swear that happened. I must've dreamed that"), nothing else has changed.
"Hey!" Harry calls, pulling James into a hug. He shows them his basket. "I've got a whole basket of food, photos, other mementoes..."
Ginny crosses her arms and gives Teddy an assessing look. "Are you okay? Tell us the truth. We put a Calming Potion in the basket, just in case."
"I'm alright," Teddy says, smiling.
It's nice to know they have his back.
Harry runs a hand through his hair and gives a slight grimace. "I'm not sure there's any way to know how this will go. It's not every day you go to see an old schoolmate who once tried to drug you with love potion and whom, you've later discovered, is the daughter of your godfather."
James gives Harry's arm an encouraging pat. "It'll be fine, Dad. You're famous. She'll pretend to be fine, at the very least, in front of you."
"Oh that makes me feel better," Harry says.
"Are we all ready?" Ginny asks, looking between them. "Let's do the Portkey from over at the end of the path, where there's more room." Ginny leads the way, her black Chelsea boots crunching away on the gravel.
"James," Harry sighs wearily, "you have a hickey on your neck."
James turns with a cheeky smile. "Oops?"
Harry pulls his wand and Heals it. "I would've thought my days of cleaning you lot up before we go round someone's house would be over by now."
"Thanks, Dad, you're a real mate," James enthuses, slinging his arm around Harry's shoulders.
"Are you two using protection?" Harry asks, his voice hushed but somehow carrying.
Teddy, walking a step behind them, cringes.
"Yes, Dad, every day, twice a day!" James says, grinning.
"I don't think this family needs any more accidental children," Harry says. "What with me and Teddy and Romilda."
Ginny looks over her shoulder. "And me. And Rose. And Louis."
"For fuck's sake!" James cries. "I can guarantee Teddy and I are being a lot more careful than...than any of the rest of you, apparently."
"That's my boy," Harry says. "Just checking. It's my job, you know."
Harry looks over his shoulder, then halts his step to fall in next to Teddy. "You ready for this, Ted? It doesn't have to be anything you don't want it to be. She doesn't have to be anything you don't want her to be."
Teddy nods. "I know."
James steps on Teddy's other side. "It's cool, Dad. Teddy is the World."
"Yeah, yeah, James, I know you've always thought that."
"No," James says. "The Tarot! The World! Teddy is triumph. Teddy is the dancer."
"Is that so?" Harry asks, amused, one eyebrow raised.
James turns to walk backwards, in front of Teddy, and grabs Teddy's hands. "Tell him, Teddy!"
Teddy turns to Harry. "I am the World. I am the dancer. Oneness. Triumph of spirit over the material world."
James tips his head back and laughs, and Teddy tightens his grip on James's hands and spins them in a circle. James meets Teddy’s eyes and grins.
"Okaaaay," Harry says, catching up with Ginny, where she's holding the standard-issue four-person Portkey, a ring about twelve inches diameter. "Are you two ready? Shall we go meet your sister?"
James lets go of one of Teddy's hands and turns to him in question.
Teddy squeezes James hand and smiles. "I'm ready."
Teddy stands on Diagon, squinting up at the sign they’d just hung. "Does it look dumb?"
"No, looks incredible!" James says, grinning up at the sign.
THE BLACK WOLF, it reads in gold block letters. A few days ago they painted the front of the building with a black paint that reflects absorbed light through tiny sparkles, shimmering brightly both in sunshine and at night.
James steps behind Teddy and wraps his arms around Teddy's middle. "You look hot," James murmurs in his ear. "Do you think we have time before—"
A crack of Apparition is the only warning they have before Albus and Scorpius appear on the pavement.
Albus's hands are filled with stacks of folders, and he grins at Teddy and James while Scorpius gives James, then Teddy, a hug.
"You look incredible," Scorpius says, pulling back to look at Teddy's outfit.
"Thank you, thank you, I know," Teddy says, grinning, and Scorpius laughs.
"I wish I could pull off something like that," he says, frowning.
"You could," James says, patting Scorpius on the shoulder. "But Alby might have a heart attack if you show up in a dress, so maybe you'd better not."
"James, shut up," Albus retorts.
"I can't believe you morphed the colour of your leg hair," Scorpius says, staring. "You have really nice legs."
"Scorp, can you stop talking about Teddy's legs?" Albus asks.
"No! I can't! Look at them!"
James takes pity on Scorpius and changes the subject. "So what did you guys find?"
"Oh!" Albus says. "Look! We found an incredible picture of Teddy's mum at Andromeda's and had it enlarged at Marberry's Magical Moments." He opens the folder to show a photo of Teddy's mum at about 19 or 20 wearing a Nirvana t-shirt and Doc Martens, her arms around the neck of a woman wearing flannel.
"Oh, Mum," Teddy says, laughing. "Apple, tree, all that. Let's go inside."
Teddy opens the door to the Black Wolf and holds it open, following them inside.
The place looks almost finished. The walls are dark wood, and all around the room hangs the art they commissioned from Harry's friend, Dean. It's a queer tarot deck with a lot of wolf imagery, and Teddy and James are both enamored with how they came out. They're going to sell the tarot decks in the little shop attached to the bar, where there will also be a selection of non-hetero-default sex supplies. Teddy has dreams of eventually leading sex-ed programmes in the magical community.
But for now it will be a bar and performance space. One thing at a time. What makes Teddy giddy is thinking of all the people that can come here and feel like they belong.
"It looks amazing!" Scorpius says, spinning around to take it in, a huge smile on his face. "So the bar is here, and then through the door there will be the performance space? Have you thought about booking acts yet?"
"It's a little early for that," Teddy says, frowning. The whole thing is taking forever. "But we're planning to have a drag night once a week, a non-binary cabaret once a week, regular lip-sync battles, stuff like that." He sighs. "At first, at least. Presumably it will expand over time, you know?"
"It's wicked," Albus says. "We need a place like this."
"Are you going to do drag for us, Alby?" James asks, throwing an arm around his brother's shoulder.
"If you're lucky," Scorpius says. "Albus looks—"
But they never find out how Albus looks in drag, because Albus slaps his hand over Scorpius's mouth and, when Scorpius laughs, takes his hand off and kisses him to make sure he doesn’t keep talking.
Teddy laughs with delight. "I have the frames over here."
They wander over to the under-construction bar, where Albus drops the folders. There are three ornate gold frames on the left side of the bar. One is filled with an enormous photograph of Sirius Black. He wears his leather jacket, his hair long and collarbone tattoos on display beneath the low-cut neckline of his t-shirt. He turns, looks over his shoulder, and winks, before the photo loops back.
Harry had found the photo in a pile of old things from Grimmauld. It had been one part of a photo with other people in it, but the talented witch at Marberry's extracted and enlarged it.
James sets about taking the back off a second frame, and Teddy places the photo of his mum in it, then turns it around for inspection. Tonks steps away from the other witch in the photo, crosses her arms over her chest, and sticks her tongue out.
"It's perfect," Teddy says, smiling at her, and morphs his hair to match hers—pink and spiky.
"The one of your dad is in here, too," Albus says, opening one folder and rifling through. "I also have this old one of Granddad Weasley in short shorts and rollerskates, which I figure would make a great decoration for the men's loo."
James laughs. "Incredible! Did he agree to that?"
Albus shrugs non-committedly, but Teddy knows Arthur wouldn't care. He'll ask next time they go to the Burrow, just to be sure.
"Here it is!" Albus says, pulling out the photo.
Teddy freezes. He hasn't seen it yet—Albus and Scorpius had agreed to be on photo duty. Teddy takes hold of the edges of the photo and stares.
"We found it in a box of old stuff from the first war at Dedalus Diggle's," Albus says, shifting into storytelling mode. "Most of the photos he had were rubbish—the man does not know how to operate a shutter, but in any case there was Remus in the background of this blurry photo of the Longbottoms."
In it, his father sits on a wooden chair. He's wearing a pair of tight jeans and a ringer t-shirt, his brown hair shaggy, long enough to cover his ears. He leans back, the front legs of the chair rising off the floor, and he's giving this look that is...intense and alive.
"What was in the rest of the photo?" Teddy asks, though he knows the answer.
"Sirius," Scorpius says, laughing. "He was in the corner, dancing, while the others were looking at some sort of map."
James looks over Teddy's shoulder; Teddy can feel the shake of James's laughter against his back.
They place Remus in the third frame.
"Our foreparents," Scorpius says, leaning into Albus's side. He places his hands in a prayer position and bows. "For contributing to the paving of a very gay path for us."
"Hear, hear," Albus says with solemnity. "Should we hang them?"
Teddy glances at the clock. "Let's wait for Romi—she said she'd be here by three."
"How much longer do you have at the grocery?" Albus asks, leaning against the bar.
"Three weeks," Teddy says. "I wish I could've quit already but, you know, money."
"Teddy refuses to let Dad pay for the whole thing," James whispers, eyes wide.
"I let him give me money!" Teddy objects.
"Yeah but he would've just let you link it all to his Gringotts. You're a bit of a chump."
"I'm not a chump," Teddy says, laughing. "I'm just being independent."
"Independent," Scorpius echoes, as if testing out the taste of the word on his tongue. "I wonder what that's like."
"We won't be students forever," Albus says reassuringly, patting Scorpius on the arm with a smile.
"Won't we?" Scorpius asks, dropping his head to the side with an exaggerated sigh.
"How's all that going?" James asks, pulling a bag of crisps from under the bar and opening it to share. "Isn't it like, nearly time for the—"
Scorpius throws his hand up in a stop gesture, and Albus pulls up the hem of his hoodie, revealing his t-shirt underneath, which says, "DON'T ASK ME ABOUT HEALER TRAINING."
James widens his eyes and holds both hands up. "Ooooookay. Merlin."
The door swings open, and Romilda walks in, looking around curiously. She has shoulder-length black hair and and a silver crescent moon pendant hangs down over her black shirt. She's holding hands with her ten-year-old daughter, Maeve. Maeve has on black sequined Doc Martens, and Teddy knows he will never be as effortlessly cool as this niece of his.
Teddy waves, feeling, as always, a bit awkward around her.
It's been fine. Romilda is great, and Maeve—Teddy's niece—is a sweet kid. She can't wait to go to Hogwarts next year, and has been asking Teddy and James non-stop questions whenever she sees them. Romilda had taken the news well—or, as well as could be expected. She seemed happy to have answers about her biological parents, and to know that they loved each other, though she's opted not to watch the memories, at least for now. She's been looking into Azkaban's current policies regarding pregnant inmates, and it has put all their minds at ease to know that things have improved since 1982.
She doesn't feel like a sister, though Teddy expects that's normal, under the circumstances. She's not a sister, really. Sisters are people you grow up with. Sisters are Lily. Romilda is more like an in-law, someone who finds themselves linked with the family because of factors beyond their control. She fits in fine, but it's a slow process for someone to feel like family.
"It looks great!" Romilda says, and hands Teddy a basket. "Bread so you'll never go hungry, salt so you'll always have flavour, honey so you'll see the sweetness of life. Congratulations."
Teddy breaks out into a huge grin. "That is so thoughtful. Thank you!"
She waves her hand to dismiss him and says hi to the others.
"We wanted to show you the photos we got," James says, leading her and Maeve towards the bar. "Here's Sirius. Remus. And Tonks, that's Teddy's mum."
Romilda puts her hands on the edge of the bar and leans forward. Her eyes show that mixture of melancholy and joy that seems to appear on their faces whenever they discuss their parents.
"Can you see, Maevie?" Teddy asks, looking at the petite girl. "Need a boost?"
Maeve sighs. "I wish I was a little bit taller."
"I wish I was a baller," Albus adds seriously, and then has to cover his mouth with his hand when Romilda turns to him and bursts out laughing.
"Want me to pick you up, or Levitate you?" Teddy asks.
"Pick me up," she says, and Teddy hoists her up.
"This is Remus. He was your mum's dad, and my dad."
"And this is Sirius Black, your mum's other father," James says. "I was named for him. And this is Tonks, Teddy's mum."
"They all helped win the war," Teddy says.
"They look happy," Maeve says, tucking her dark hair behind her ear. "I like Sirius's jacket."
"They do look happy," Scorpius says, looking at the photos. He and Albus pick up their wands and charm the frames into place above the bar.
"You know what, though?" Teddy says. "I think we're even happier."
"I think they'd like that," Maeve says.
Romilda turns to look at Maeve and smiles at Teddy. And maybe she's not like an in-law, after all, because Teddy feels sure he knows everything she wants to say but isn't quite saying.
Maeve jumps out of Teddy's arms. "I'm going to go explore, okay?!"
"Okay," Teddy says, smiling.
"The frames look perfect," James says, flashing a thumbs up to Albus and Scorpius. He turns to Teddy. "What's next?"
"Ugh," Teddy groans, looking around the bar, at all the things that still need doing. "Everything."