Actions

Work Header

This Must Be the Place

Work Text:

"Let me get this straight," James said, sitting in one of the chairs in front of his father's desk. "Let me make sure I'm hearing this correctly. You want me to pretend I'm fucking Teddy."

Harry rested his chin on his hands, elbows on his large, mahogany desk. The placard that read "Head Auror Harry J. Potter" tilted precariously on a stack of paperwork. Colourful photos and drawings covered the drab walls. James usually loved his dad's office, but at the moment he wasn't feeling charmed by it.

"I did not say I want you to pretend you're fucking Teddy," Harry said with a sigh. "I said I want you to pretend you're in a relationship. We need an excuse for Teddy to be with you. The team working on the case thinks they're close to cracking the stalker's identity. If we assign uniformed Auror protection to you, the stalker will realise we're on to them."

James blinked at his father. His father was not stupid, so he couldn't quite figure this out. "Dad. Teddy is an Auror. If he's suddenly with me all the time, I'm pretty sure it will have the same effect as you assigning me Auror protection."

"Jem, I know it seems that way. I thought so, too, at first. But I have our best Aurors working on this, and they've done research about celebrity stalkers. This person is not logical—they're mentally compromised. It's a whole disorder. We need them to keep sending these packages and letters because intercepting them is how the team is able to piece together clues. If we surround you with a team of Aurors, the stalker will change strategies and we'll lose the progress we've made."

"Teddy is an Auror." James enunciated slowly, like his dad was losing it. Which he seemed to be. "And I'm not a celebrity!"

Harry smiled sadly. "Yes you are. Sorry about that. And while it's true that Teddy is an Auror, if it looks like you're in love, the stalker will be so blinded by their pathological obsession that all they'll be able to feel is jealousy. There’s no reason to think they’ll act logically. If anything, the team thinks that Teddy being there will make the stalker more likely to try to contact you."

"Merlin, Dad, are you trying to bait them? With me and Teddy as bait?!"

Harry huffed. "No! Your safety is our number one priority! To the point that the Deputy Head has accused me of not being able to listen to reason because of my personal investment. This is their suggested plan of action. Teddy is one of our best Aurors, you know that, and they'll plant undercover Aurors at your work in St Mungo's and near your flat. I'm convinced the plan will keep you safe."

"I don't need all that!" James claimed. "I can take care of myself. It's really not a big deal."

"It is a big deal, Jem."

James sighed. There was no way he was going to get out of this, he could tell. And of course he'd be pragmatic. He was an adult. It wasn't like he could sulk at the Head Auror. Well, not for too long, anyway. Sulking had never been his style. He offered his dad a forced smile. "So I get a boyfriend without having to go to any bars or to sign up for Howlr? Sounds good."

Harry exhaled, seemingly relieved, and smiled fondly. "Thank you. I keep saying thank Merlin this is you, not Albus, because Al would be a right pain in my arse about it."

James laughed, but his chest was still tight about the whole situation. He knew he had been a pain in his dad's arse plenty of times, especially when he couldn't sit still for one minute at a time his entire childhood, but he also knew he was the easy child, these days. Albus was always having an existential crisis of some kind or other. (James had recently gotten a text from Albus when Al was in a Muggle bookstore. It was a photo snapped of a copy of Marx's Capital with an extremely bourgeois cover and pages with deckle edges, accompanied by a long rant that James's eyes glazed over without reading. Or the time Albus was visiting and got them kicked out of James's favourite hipster coffee roaster slash craft brewery by arguing that lo-fi magical gramophones didn't, actually, sound better than the new magical earbuds and cloud-based music storage.) Lily, at twenty-four, still lived at home and was always needing money because she had just started her magical landscaping company and it cost more than she earned.

So somehow James—James Sirius Potter! The silly, loud, outgoing, rule-breaking Gryffindor!—had found himself the responsible adult of the bunch.

If this was what being the responsible adult got him, James wasn't sure he was interested in responsibility.

"Good thing Al fucked off to the US, then," James said, trying to be amiable.

Harry pressed a button on his desk and said, "Jill, can you send Auror Lupin in?"

"Does Teddy know already?" James asked.

"No," Harry said. "I wanted to talk to you first."

That made James feel slightly better, somehow. "Thanks, Dad."

A moment later, Teddy walked in. James hadn't seen him in his Auror kit in awhile; he looked good as always, and today his hair was bright purple. His face split into a huge smile when he saw James.

"Jamie!" Teddy walked up behind James's chair and leaned down to give him a one-armed hug.

James tilted his head back. "Hey, Teddy."

"Why are you two so glum? Is this about the stalker?" He sat in the empty chair.

"The threats have escalated," Harry said, looking at Teddy, "but the team thinks they're close to piecing together the clues. We've decided that the best course of action is for you to protect James."

"Me?" Teddy said, giving Harry a strange look that James couldn't interpret.

James shifted in his seat. This was awkward.

"We want you to go undercover as James's, er, boyfriend," Harry said.

James tried to keep his eyes on his father, but found his eyes drawn to Teddy's face. Teddy's eyebrows rose, and he turned to look at James. James gave a small shrug.

"We'll say that you're taking your unused days of leave because you are besotted and want to spend time with James. It will probably make the stalker jealous, in which case they will keep sending packages and letters that we'll keep intercepting for clues. Meanwhile you'll be with James to protect him, and we’ll have other undercover Aurors at St Mungo's and near James's flat."

"Why do we need to pretend to be in a relationship?" Teddy said, sounding confused, and James felt all his adolescent angst return to the surface—all those years he'd spent pining after Teddy, dealing with the fact that Teddy was too old for him and thought of James like a kid brother. Of course Teddy didn't want to pretend to be in a relationship. James managed to suppress a sigh—this was ridiculous—he'd got over all this a decade ago.

"The team thinks that if we assign official protection, the stalker will change their behaviour. If it's a relationship, they think the stalker will be too blinded by jealousy to think about it rationally."

Even hearing this explanation for the second time, James thought it sounded like crap.

"But why Teddy?" James asked. "Is he even assigned to this case?"

Teddy sat taller in his seat, looking slightly annoyed.

"Well," Harry said, "no one will have trouble buying that you're together. You're both out and know each other and have been friends for ages. It won't seem staged at all. Everyone will believe it."

James opened his mouth, then snapped it shut. What the actual fuck. After all his teenage years of worrying about what his dad would say if it came out that James was wanking over his godbrother every night (and every morning and the odd afternoon), now Harry was sitting here calmly saying how easy it would be to believe the two of them were lovers. When had his whole world gone upside down?

"Dad. We're practically brothers!" James said. "You honestly don't think anyone will think that's strange?" He could feel all his teenage anxieties—worrying not about his sexuality, but about being called incestuous or something—simmering in his belly.

Teddy, strangely, whipped his head around. "We're not brothers."

Harry laughed. "Come on, James, of course everyone will believe it. Look at the two of you. Plus Albus and Scorpius already took the brunt of the semi-incestuous Potter press coverage."

James could feel his face going red. What the fuck.

"And you're…" Teddy said, sounding apprehensive, "you're…okay with that?"

Teddy was talking to Harry. Why wasn't Teddy asking James if he was okay with it?

"Not really sure Dad's the one you should be asking, Teds," James said with a hint of annoyance.

Teddy turned to look at him. "Are you okay with it, Jamie? You know I'll do whatever I can to keep you safe."

James wanted to roll his eyes. He didn't need a bodyguard, for Merlin's sake. "I will do it because Dad's asking me to. Not because I think I need to be kept safe. But I don't mind pretending to be your—your—" James wanted to say 'partner' but he worried it sounded too aspirational. "Boyfriend."

"Thank goodness you don't mind being the centre of attention, Jem," Harry said jovially.

That was only half true, James thought, though he smiled at his dad. Just because James was the kid who staged performances of Babbity Rabbity for the extended Weasley clan and the teenager who performed elaborate victory dances on his broom when scoring in Hogwarts Quidditch games and the twenty-eight year old who knew a choreographed karaoke routine to "When Doves Cry" didn't mean he liked being in the spotlight for shitty reasons. He didn't like being singled out because of who his father was, because of politics or erotomanic stalkers.

Teddy caught James's eye and frowned.

James and Teddy were close—had always been close. They saw each other at least once a week at family dinners (usually twice, Tuesdays at the Potters and Sundays at the Burrow), they went running together most Saturday mornings. They knew each other well. James could see on Teddy's face that Teddy knew James wasn't happy about this arrangement.

But how exactly was James meant to be happy about this? It had taken a long time for him to get over his adolescent crush, to get to the point where he and Teddy could be friends—actual friends, and not older godbrother and the little kid following him around, or Auror trainee and smitten fifteen-year-old. You can't really be friends with someone if every time you step in the shower you think about what their body would look like naked with water running down it, or if your hands feel magnetised to their body when you're near them.

James’d had to grow up. He had to stop all that nonsense because it was impossible and Teddy wasn't interested. When James finished Hogwarts, Teddy was in a relationship, and James did what people do—he got over it.

And then for the first time, they'd been able to be friends. Teddy seemed to love hanging out with James once James wasn't ogling him or confessing his feelings or, that one horrible time, unthinkingly reaching out to stroke his hair.

Now, what? James was supposed to sling his arm around Teddy's shoulder and give him a dopey smile and snog him? How on earth was that going to work? It would completely fuck everything up.

On top of that, now Teddy and his dad were probably sitting here remembering James's adolescence of unrequited love. Fucking hell.

And Teddy was looking at him all concerned because he knew James.

"It's not you," James assured. "It's just—you know I hate pretending."

Harry frowned. "You don't think it'll be a problem, do you? Because you do sort of have that face that broadcasts whatever you're feeling for all the world to see."

James laughed, because that was all too true. "Course not. Who'd have trouble pretending to be fucking Witch Weekly's cover model from May 2024?"

It was true that it wouldn't be hard to pretend, but that was kind of the problem.

Harry held his hand out in a stop gesture, seemingly trying to avoid the mental image of his son fucking his godson. But it was really his own damn fault for making them do this.

Teddy, on the other hand, groaned and ran a hand over his face. "That Witch Weekly thing was for charity," he mumbled with a tired voice.

James laughed and kicked Teddy playfully in the shin.

This would be fine. James could do this. It would be like normal—only pretending to be in love.

"Alright," Harry said, his voice shifting into an authoritative Auror tone. Or at least, as authoritative as he could muster when the only other people in the room were James and Teddy. "Alright. So you two go to Teddy's flat and get some things. I don't want you going anywhere alone, Jem. Teddy, do not let him go anywhere alone. You can go out if you think it's safe, one of the undercover Aurors will trail you if they see you leave James's flat, but you'll have to use the door, no Apparating or Flooing out. Teddy, you'll be working more than full time, of course, so you'll get overtime pay."

Teddy looked surprised. "You're going to pay me overtime for doing nothing but pretending to be James's boyfriend."

"Yes," Harry said. "I hope you don't mind, because it is a lot to ask—"

"No, no," Teddy said. "It will be an easy assignment."

James stared at the two of them, wondering what the fuck was going on here. "What about my work? I can't just stop working."

"Teddy can go with you to St Mungo’s, like I said. And it's fine to Floo to St Mungo's. I dunno, Ted, just make up some story about how you can't be apart from each other. Do you think that you can make that believable?"

"Even people who are completely, disgustingly in love do not follow each other to work," James said. "Look at Albus and Scorpius."

Harry hummed thoughtfully. "Do you think it will seem suspicious? Maybe you could pretend to have taken a soul bond."

James's heart thudded in his chest. "Dad!"

"What?" Harry asked. "It would be a good excuse for why you couldn't be separated. You know that new bonds take awhile to calm down."

"No new couple takes a soul bond! People take a soul bond when they get married!"

Teddy sat quietly, as if unsure whether to chime in. "Don't be so wedded to the institution of marriage, Jamie. It's outdated."

"Good pun," Harry said.

James gawped at them. "I am not wedded to the institution of marriage. I am saying that a soul bond is a serious thing. Also, I work at St Mungo's. You think I can 'pretend' to take a soul bond?"

"Oh," Harry replied, deflating a bit. "That's true, I hadn't thought of that."

"So we take it for real," Teddy said.

James jumped out of his seat. "What!? Teds! You cannot be forced to take a soul bond by your job! It's illegal! It's—"

"I hereby officially request to take a soul bond in the course of duty," Teddy said easily, "as laid out in Section 154 of the Auror Code of Conduct and confirmed by the Wizengamot—"

"Excellent," Harry said. "That settles it. If Jem agrees, of course."

Two sets of eyes turned on him.

James opened and closed his mouth like a fish. "Dad. Teddy. I don't want to be such a bother. I don't want Teddy to have to—"

Teddy reached over to where James was still standing and grabbed James's hand. "Jamie, seriously. We need to keep you safe, so we need to have a good act. I really don't mind taking a soul bond with you. You're one of my best friends. Unless." Teddy suddenly looked unsure. "Unless you don't want to be bonded to me."

Merlin, fuck. James had spent years imagining getting soul bonded to Teddy. But in his imagination, it involved a lot more romance and a lot less bureaucracy. A lot more sex and a lot fewer Aurors. And definitely no stalkers—or his dad setting it up.

"What does Draco think?" James asked.

"I am, strictly speaking, not allowed to discuss cases with civilians," Harry said, though his cheeks took on a sheepish blush.

"Come the fuck off it, Dad, you think I believe for a second you didn't talk to your partner about threats against your son? Drop the fucking act, and also, I am the subject of the case and I am asking you to ask him. You know Al is right about needing to get Slytherins' opinions on things."

"Do you want to talk to him yourself or do you want me to…" Harry trailed off and waved his hand at his head.

"You can ask him," James said, turning to look at Teddy when Harry's face took on the slightly vacant look that indicated he was speaking to Draco over their bond.

"A fucking soul bond?" James hissed at Teddy.

Teddy shrugged. "Who cares? We just need to keep you safe." Then he grinned. "You scared of being in my head, Jamie?"

"Ha!" James scoffed. "Only scared of getting inundated with bad music, like Bonnie Tyler lyrics, and bits of the Auror Code of Conduct all day long."

Teddy rolled his eyes, but the grin on his face betrayed his amusement.

"Draco says you should take the bond because it's a good plan," Harry said, interrupting their banter. Then his face turned red as he continued, "He also said you should stock up on condoms or a magical equivalent, because sometimes the bond—"

James's eyes flew open wide and he held his hand out. "Stop you right there, Dad."

"But Draco may have a point, though it’s hard to say whether that’s actually caused by the bond or—"

"Nope!" James said. "Nope, nope, nope! Please stop! I've been having sex for over a decade now, I do not need you speculating on it or giving lectures."

James chanced a glance at Teddy. Teddy's face was bright red, and his hair had turned a sickly sort of teal. Teddy's gaze was resolutely away from Harry and James.

"Right," Harry said. "Well."

"Well," James echoed.

Teddy said nothing.

"Well," Harry said again. "So, we will want you to get seen in public. Tomorrow. Probably we should pretend you were trying to keep your relationship secret, otherwise the soul bond will be a bit sudden."

"So you want me to pretend to have been in a secret relationship, get soul bonded, pretend to be in a relationship with Teddy, and stage an 'accidental' public reveal of our relationship. And you think we may end up fucking because maybe soul bonds have a tendency to make people…do that. And we can't tell anyone."

Harry pressed his lips together. "Yes. Well, you can tell your mum and Al and Lily if you want, I suppose. And your Gran," Harry added, looking at Teddy.

James hated this. He hated being coddled, being treated like a kid, getting screwed because of his dad's fame. He hated that it was Teddy of all people, and that he'd have to guard against the situation dredging up all his old feelings. He hated that it felt like his dad just assumed he'd be okay with it because it was Teddy and everyone knew James had fallen hard for Teddy in the past. But his dad was worried, and he loved his dad. And Teddy was worried, and, well. Teddy was Teddy.

"Are you really okay with this, Teddy?" James asked. "You know the press is going to pounce on us like flobberworms on a cabbage patch."

Teddy turned to him, still looking a bit embarrassed, but what he said was, "I just want to make sure you're safe, Jamie. It's fine." He turned to look at Harry. "How long will it be, do you think?"

"We really don't know. The team is optimistic."

James sighed. He'd been around Aurors enough to know that when they started spewing nonsense like The team is optimistic, it meant no one had any idea what was going on.

Harry pressed the button on his desk. "Jill, get someone certified to perform a Bonding in here."

***

That evening, James and Teddy sat on the sofa in James's flat and watched Harry, who was concerned, leave through the Floo.

James head pounded something awful. He closed his eyes and colourful stars erupted behind his lids. "Ow."

Teddy groaned next to him. "Yes. Ow."

"Should we take the pain potion they left us?"

"Ow. I don't know," Teddy said. "You know that the only kind strong enough for this type of pain is the kind that makes you all loopy. I hate taking that shit."

James cracked open an eye to look at Teddy. Teddy had his head tilted back, his long legs stretched out in front of the sofa, his eyes closed. His hair was its neutral brown, a rare thing in public but common enough at home.

The pounding in James's head made him want to scoot closer to Teddy, as if Teddy might give him comfort. Teddy's eyes flew open. Oh, they'd just been soul bonded. Being closer to Teddy probably would help.

James scooted closer. "Can I touch you?"

Teddy didn't move his head. "Yeah," he said and held his arm out along the back of the sofa.

James moved so he was sitting directly next to Teddy, shoulder pressing in front of his armpit, knees and thighs aligned, and the pain eased a bit. Teddy dropped his hand around James's shoulder and squeezed him tight.

"That's a bit better, yeah?" Teddy asked.

"Yeah," James said, closing his eyes. Teddy smelled like almonds.

"It's my soap. I have almond-scented soap," Teddy said.

James stiffened. "You could hear me thinking?"

"Yeah," Teddy said. "I mean not real clearly. I think it'll probably be easier when we're not both in pain. Pain makes things a jumble, I think."

This whole thing was too fucking much. James couldn't even think without Teddy hearing it. How was he supposed to keep his feelings controlled when Teddy was in his head?

"Let's take the fucking potion," James said. "He said we should take it today just one dose, so like, we should listen to the professionals."

"Alright," Teddy said, "but don't blame me if I act barmy." He leaned forward to retrieve the phials. He handed one to James and clinked. "Bottoms up!"

James pulled the cap off and drank it. Ugh. He hadn't tasted something so gross since he got pain potions for regrowing the bones in his left leg.

"Yeah, it's nasty," Teddy said, spluttering. "Can you hear me thinking?"

James could not. All he could hear were his own thoughts swirling around about how gross his mouth tasted and how much his head hurt. But the pain in his head was clearing already. He opened his eyes and tried to assess how he was feeling.

His head felt different, a tiny bit off, but not bad. Suddenly he could hear Teddy's voice in his head. Head spinning. Is that the potion?

"Mmmmm," James said. "This potion makes you a bit fucked, doesn't it? I think the spinning is the potion, but can you feel like, something else?"

"You heard me?" Teddy said.

"Yeah."

"Fuck, this is weird." Teddy tightened his arm around James again. Touching really did help.

James wanted to test the bond.

There was an old man from Godric's Hollow, he tried.

Teddy snickered. When he sucked cock he did not swallow.

James reached down and squeezed Teddy's knee. They could do this. His lover was not dejected.

Though his seed was ejected, Teddy returned.

For when your cock's sucked it won't do to wallow, James finished.

"This is so bloody weird," Teddy said. "Can you believe Harry and Draco walk around like this all the time? How do you keep things private from each other?"

Have a bunch of hot secrets you need to keep from me, Lupin? James asked.

Teddy laughed. Hardly. It's the Bonnie Tyler lyrics I need to keep from you.

James laughed, then twisted around to look at Teddy. The pain wasn't so bad anymore.

He heard Teddy's voice in his brain. Freckles.

James's eyes widened, and then Teddy's eyes widened when he realised James had heard that.

"I mean," Teddy said. "You have freckles. I am noticing your freckles."

James's head felt woozy. It was probably the potion. "Yes. I have freckles."

Teddy's face was flushed with embarrassment, but Teddy wasn't the type of person to get stuck on something like that, and he pushed past it with a laugh.

James couldn't tear his eyes away from Teddy's neck. Teddy's neck was super nice, had always been distracting.

Teddy's hand flew up to his neck.

"Uh!" James said. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't look at your neck. Maybe I just shouldn't look at you."

But Teddy only laughed. "Fuck, it's okay. I was looking at you, too. Usually every thought doesn't get broadcast to people. It's strange, isn't it?"

"Yeah," James said, resolutely not allowing himself to look or think about anything lower on Teddy's body than his neck.

You're not going to think about that, are you? Teddy's voice teased.

James groaned. "Don't make fun of me! It's not my fault I'm high on fucking pain potions! The bonding expert said to take them!" He didn't really think the pain potions were to blame.

Teddy laughed, then leaned back on the sofa and closed his eyes.

James reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone, opened the messages, and sent a message to Harry and Draco, who shared one phone. "Dad and Draco," the top of the screen read.

He typed, "How long until I can figure out how to stop broadcasting my every thought into Teddy's brain?" Send.

"Oh good," Teddy said, eyes still closed. "I want to hear what they have to say, too."

This was so weird.

A few seconds later an icon popped up indicating that they were typing back. "A day or two until you can stop it. A week before you realise you don't always want to," came the reply.

Draco was such a fucking wanker.

James sighed, and nudged Teddy's leg with his foot. "Can you concentrate on something else so I can talk to Lily?"

"Oh," Teddy said. "Sure. Let me just." He looked around the room. "Turn on the telly?"

James nodded, and Teddy turned it on, busying himself with finding an action movie.

James opened his messages to Lily. "Did Dad tell you I'm now soul bonded to Teddy and pretending we're boyfriends because apparently this is the Aurors' best idea to keep me safe from that fucking stalker?"

A moment later the replies began, and Lily just kept sending more messages as he read.

Yeah, he just told me
Wtf
Are you going to be okay?
Do you need me to Floo over and run interference?
Do you need me to look up like, anti-libido potions or something?
How are you going to manage this?
Do you remember how obsessed you used to be?
We cannot let that happen again you will DIE
Jem!

I know!
Can you ask Dad what he thinks?
I texted but of course I only got a response from Draco

Yeah hold on

James waited, tucking his foot under Teddy's thigh to decrease the throbbing in his head.

Dad says clear your mind, kind of like Occulmancy
Oh good, now he's ranting about Snape

James snorted.

haha

Really, are you going to be ok?
I can come over

Look, I'll be okay
Teddy is being great

I'll bet he is

I have to go but I'll talk soon

James threw his phone onto the sofa and leaned back against Teddy's body. Being close really did help. "Draco says a day or two until we learn to stop broadcasting thoughts."

"What am I thinking now?" Teddy murmured. Then James heard quite clearly, I want to kiss you.

James sighed. "Very funny. Try not to take the piss too badly, okay?" Merlin, fuck. This was such a disaster. He wasn't a teenager anymore! He was tired of being made fun of for all that!

"Mmmm," Teddy hummed, but he didn't seem to be making fun. "Wasn't making fun. I blame that potion."

"The potion made you think that you wanted to kiss me?"

"Well, I was trying not to think that. But you know, trying to not think about erumpents. I guess Draco's right, it will take awhile. But yeah, sure, I blame the potion. Or the bond. Whatever. I blame something."

"But I took the potion and the bond, and I don't feel any different," James said. He felt exactly the same about Teddy as he always had. It wasn't as if they'd taken a lust potion, it was just for pain, for Merlin's sake.

"Yeah, and do you want to kiss me?" Teddy said.

"No," James said, but then his traitorous brain whispered Yes.

"See? It's the potion." Teddy laughed.

"Um. Sure. It's the potion," James said.

"So we definitely shouldn't do it, then, because it's the potion. Or the bond. The bond potion."

James began to laugh. The entire situation was so preposterous. "You know, we're both pretty fucked up from pain and potions and the bond. So we should definitely not do anything except go to sleep."

"Alright," Teddy said, sitting up and turning off the telly with a flick of his wand. "I'll just go brush my teeth and stuff." Teddy stood up. James heard him think Dizzy fuck dizzy.

"You okay?" James asked, standing up and immediately the whole room felt like it was spinning. He reached out and grabbed Teddy's hands to steady himself.

Teddy pulled him into a grounding hug.

"Is that the potion or the bond?" James asked.

"I dunno, Jamie," Teddy said, squeezing. "Alright, I'm going to go get ready for bed."

When Teddy took a few steps away, James's head began to throb just as he heard Teddy's voice say ow ow ow.

"Fuck," James said, and walked over to hold Teddy's hand. As soon as their hands grasped, the pain subsided. "We'll just. Er. Get ready while touching."

Teddy laughed, his head tipping back. "Alright."

After an awkward ten minutes brushing their teeth, using the loo, and changing into pyjama bottoms while trying not to let go of each other's hands, they stood looking at James's bed. The only bed in the flat.

"I'd offer to take the sofa," James said, pointlessly.

"We can't even let go of each other to brush our teeth, Jamie," Teddy said. "It's fine. Which side do you want?"

James let go of Teddy's hand and walked to the closer side, where he usually got into bed. Course, he usually sprawled across the entire bed when he slept, but this was the side he usually entered and exited from. Teddy walked around the other side, their pain and internal ow ow ow growing until they scrambled under the covers and grasped at each other's fingers.

James sighed. "Thanks for doing this. I think the whole thing is stupid, you know, but I appreciate that you're doing it."

Teddy turned to look at James. His hair was still Teddy-brown, his eyes bright, his cheeks the slightest bit red. James wondered if Teddy heard him thinking that.

Nice chest. Freckles. Hair.

James's eyes widened as he saw Teddy's eyes fall to his bare chest. They'd not put shirts on in their haste to finish getting ready for bed without letting go of each other.

"It's really not a big deal," Teddy said. "You've always been important to me."

James sighed. Wonderful. He's 'always been important.' Something you'd say to an annoying little godbrother.

I didn't mean it like that, Teddy's voice sounded in James's head.

Can we just go to sleep now? James asked.

Sure, Teddy said.

James tried to get comfortable on his back for a minute, then gave up. "Budge over that way," James said, pushing Teddy away from him.

Teddy complied, turning onto his side, the pain returning as they let go of each other, and James slid up behind him, draping his left arm over Teddy's torso and pressing his chest into Teddy's back.

"Good?" James asked.

Good, Teddy answered, and they fell asleep.

***

James woke up to thoughts swirling in his head—someone else's thoughts.

It's just the bond it's the bond

James tried to stay still so Teddy wouldn't realise he'd woken, but he heard Teddy's voice in his mind saying Awake and knew he was less subtle than he fancied.

"Morning," James mumbled, trying to take stock of his surroundings before opening his eyes. He had fallen asleep pressed against Teddy's back, and he'd apparently stayed there all night. But now, Teddy's legs were tangled in between his, and James's morning-hard cock was pressing into Teddy's arse. It felt amazing—and because of that, it felt awful. Teddy hadn't agreed to this at all. James sighed.

"It's okay," Teddy said, seemingly answering James's thoughts.

Crap! How much had he heard?

"'S okay," Teddy said again, pressing back into James and reaching backward with his hand to pat James's hip.

James opened his eyes. Teddy's head was right in front of his face, the faint almond smell of his soap out of place in James's bed, but comforting. Teddy's hair was a sunshiny yellow, and James had a perfect view of the piercings in his ear. He wanted to lean forward and nibble them. Fuck.

"Hey, it's okay," Teddy said, turning onto his back. "It's just the bond, or whatever. Like Draco said. No sense being embarrassed."

"Embarrassed about what?" James asked, no idea how many of his thoughts he'd unintentionally sent into Teddy's mind. And of course, none of it meant anything, because Teddy thought it was all just the bond.

Teddy reached up a hand to rub his tired eyes. "Can only speak for myself. But like, I want to touch you so badly." He let his hand drop and turned to look at James.

James's eyes widened. He was glad Teddy was no longer pasted to the front of his body as if with a Sticking Charm, because he definitely would've felt James's cock react to that.

But Teddy just smiled, reaching his hand over to brush James's hair out of his eyes. "Doesn't hurt anymore, though, when we don't touch," he said.

Beautiful. Teddy's voice echoed in James's head.

James laughed, his calm confidence falling back into place. Teddy was okay with this, Teddy was cool, Teddy said it was just the bond. "Yeah, you're beautiful, too, Lupin," he teased, knocking his elbow into Teddy's ribs.

Teddy laughed, leaning up on his elbows. "We should figure out how to control the thoughts. We're smart, talented wizards—it can't be too hard, right?"

"Yeah, okay. Do you know the theory behind it?" James asked, sitting up to lean against the headboard.

"Not really. I didn't have time to research before being thrown into this, did I?"

The words thrown into this felt like a dagger in James's chest. Right. Because Teddy didn't choose this. This was an assignment.

"Hey," Teddy said, sitting all the way up and turning to sit cross-legged facing James. "It's not just an assignment to me."

Fuck! Teddy was not supposed to have heard that.

"Yeah, you're right. We need to figure out how to control the thoughts," James said. "Let me text the fathers, unless you have a better idea. The pamphlet the fucking Ministry gave us is bound to be as useless as all their other pamphlets."

"Yeah, Draco's advice over a pamphlet any day," Teddy agreed, reaching for the night table where James's phone sat on the magical charger. He passed it over.

How do we stop thoughts from sonorusing in each other's brains


Your dad wants to know if you told each other anything juicy yet

Draco, pls just help


Hold on, we're trying to remember how best to explain it. It's second nature now

"They're impossible and Draco's being smug," James announced, and Teddy laughed.

Meditate for a minute to try to calm down your thoughts
Then try to visualise your mind
When you hear the other person, you can sort of tell where they are in your mind, hard to describe
You need to stop the thoughts freely flowing there. As if there's a doorway and things only go through when you want them to
Hold on your father is prattling on over here
He says it's less like a doorway and more like a sieve that sorts out the thoughts meant to go through
When you want something to go through you simply direct it towards that part of your mind and let it through
Is that explanation sufficient?

It's a shit explanation but thanks

James passed the phone to Teddy so he could read Draco's messages.

"Alright, then," Teddy said. "Let's meditate. You want to do some yoga first?"

Teddy had taken up yoga upon leaving Hogwarts. He used to teach classes in Diagon before his Auror work started dominating his time. James used to go to Teddy's yoga classes every chance he got. It was a highlight of his teenage years, really, and not just because he liked watching Teddy in downward dog. (And he did like watching Teddy in downward dog.) But the flowing routine of it had turned out to be hugely centering for James. It had helped him learn to balance his body, to stop feeling so jittery in his skin. It had really been the first step of the career path that ended with James as a paediatric occupational therapist at St Mungo's. James even had a giant sparkling sign on the wall of his office that read, "Go upside down every day"—which was something that Teddy had always said in his yoga classes.

James grinned. "Yes. What are you thinking? Sun salutations? And then we see who can hold arm balances longer?"

Teddy rolled his eyes, but he had a smile on his face. Cute, Teddy said in James's mind. Aloud, he said, "Yoga isn't a competition. Don't be like one of these Instagram yogis."

James laughed and hopped out of bed, waving his wand at the floor to add Cushioning and Friction Charms to the wood planks.

Teddy's hair was turquoise now, the bright, happy colour he let it settle as more often than not. He started them in sun salutations, planting his feet firmly and reaching up. He made his breathing audible so James could follow his pace.

James loved watching Teddy do yoga, the way his body stretched gracefully in the poses, the way he would stop to adjust his alignment, the deep breaths. The joy that radiated from his face. But James took his eyes away from Teddy and allowed his mind to lose itself in the repetition of the poses, in the in-and-out of the breathing. He could feel the chaotic hum of his thoughts start to fall away in the vinyasa. After they'd completed the sequence four times, James turned his attention to his form, making sure to shift his weight forward in plank before lowering down in chaturanga. He didn't find time for yoga like he knew Teddy did, but he always loved it, fell right back in to the rhythm of it.

After they went through the sequence ten times, Teddy turned and whispered, "Savasana" with a smile, and they both lay on the floor, arms falling to their sides, fingertips touching.

For a few minutes, they lay in silence. James closed his eyes and tried to visualise his mind. It'd been ages since he'd tried to do any kind of Occlumency or other mind magic. He hated it. It was too precise, too subtle. James wanted to move, to be useful, to do something. But it was easier now, his body still feeling alive with the yoga movements even as he lay in stillness, his fingertips touching Teddy's.

"Think something," Teddy whispered. "I think I've got it."

The problem with an unfiltered mind bond was that you couldn't plan what to say, because the act of thinking about it was the act of saying it. So while James was fully in control of his mouth not saying the following out loud, he couldn't help that the first thing he thought when hearing Teddy say “Think something,” was I love you.

James's eyes flew open. Fuck.

But Teddy just chuckled and grabbed James's hand fully in his. "I love you too, Jamie."

James did not know what to make of that. What did that mean?! Was that the type of "I love you" people said to their siblings and pets?

"I think I've got it," Teddy whispered, still squeezing James's hand. "Can you hear me now?"

James tried to calm his erratic heartbeat as he listened. Nothing came. "No."

"What about now?" Teddy asked. Your hand is warm.

"Yeah, you said my hand's warm."

"Sweet!" Teddy said. "Okay so, you'll get it in just a second. Think about your mind, and then I'll send you a thought so you can figure out where it's coming from, and then you can do the doorway/sieve thing."

James took a deep breath, trying to visualise again, the warm strength of Teddy's hand helping him calm down even as it made him a bit anxious. Then he heard Teddy's voice. Figure this out quickly so we can do those arm balances.

James laughed, but he could see what Teddy meant—the voice was coming from a particular place. He needed to keep his own thoughts away from there.

I'm thinking about my socks. My pink striped socks. James thought about his socks, but concentrated on how those thoughts were far away from the doorway to Teddy. "Did you hear me?"

"No," Teddy said. "Say something to me."

Make your hair look like my pink striped socks. He thought about the doorway.

A second later, Teddy nudged James's hip with their clasped hands, and James opened his eyes to see Teddy's hair streaked in stripes of hot pink and orange. He laughed. "We figured it out? Merlin, we're fucking brilliant."

Teddy sat up. "Only because you want me to kick your arse at arm balances. What do you want to do, side crow?"

"With scissored legs," James challenged.

Teddy laughed. "You're on."

Where James lacked Teddy's skill, he made up for it with enthusiasm and absolute willingness to fall on his arse. James could've held side crow without scissored legs (probably not as long as Teddy could, but he could), but where would the challenge be, then? He may as well also try to stick one leg out behind him.

"Fuck," James muttered, his arms shaking, trying to extend his top leg, before he collapsed.

Teddy looked at him with a serene smile, hair still striped pink, arms bent in perfect angles as he balanced to the side, with legs impressively scissored.

Short of physically pushing him over, James could only think of one way to topple him. He visualised the mind door and thought Wonder what you could do with that balance and arm strength while fucking, Lupin.

Teddy's eyes widened before he came toppling down. "Unfair!" he claimed. "Cheating! And I still won!"

James laughed, pushing his messy hair away from his eyes and sitting on his heels. "I can't help it, it must be the bond giving me impure thoughts," he said with mock seriousness, and smiled as Teddy shook his head with a fond smile.

An owl tapped on the window. It wasn't one James recognised, but he did recognise the Auror insignia on the envelope. He sighed, untying it. "From the Aurors."

Teddy stood up and walked behind James to read. The letter said that the team on his case had arranged for their relationship to be "accidentally" leaked. They'd invited Rita Skeeter to the Ministry for a meeting on Level 3 near the Register of Deeds. Teddy and James were to stand in the corridor outside of the Register of Deeds, holding a Certificate of Bond Registration, and get interrupted kissing. The letter assured them that this was the most private way the Aurors could come up with for them to get caught.

James sighed.

"Hey, if you don't like this plan, we can make them come up with something else," Teddy said. "I don't want to do anything you're uncomfortable with. Snogging in Ministry corridors is definitely the strangest directive I've ever been given."

"It's better than I expected, honestly," James said. "The whole thing is just shite." But then he realised what Teddy had just said—that he had been ordered to kiss James as part of his work. "Unless you're not comfortable!" James said. "Merlin! I can't believe they'd ask you to—"

"No, no, it's fine," Teddy said. "I don't mind. I'd quite like to kiss you, actually."

Teddy's thoughts from earlier floated back into James's mind. It's just the bond.

"Yeah. Just the bond, right?" James said, hoping his face didn't betray the tension he felt.

Teddy looked at him for a moment. "Yeah, just the bond."

***

It was Sunday, so the Ministry was thankfully quiet as they walked from the Floos to the lifts. James and Teddy chatted idly about Quidditch and Albus's recent Twitter rant (which had been about how phoney a group of American hipster wizards were for setting up a film festival of classic Wes Anderson films) as the lift clamoured to Level 3.

When the lift announced their arrival, James realised they were supposed to be acting. "Oh, crap. I didn't—I didn't act like your boyfriend."

Teddy grinned. "What, don't boyfriends walk around together while chatting?"

"Well, yeah," James said, but reached over and firmly grasped Teddy's hand. It was a bit of a challenge—James was doing this, was going to make a good show of it.

Teddy squeezed his hand and they walked out of the lift and down the corridor. "So we go into the office to get our certificate. Rita will probably interview them after she finds us."

James hummed his agreement. "So you want us to put on a show for the workers in the Register of Deeds."

Teddy turned and raised a teasing turquoise eyebrow. "If you can, Jamie. I'm not convinced that you can ever convince someone you feel something you don't. You're too open, like your dad said."

"Oh, you're on, Lupin," James said, grinning as they pushed through the door into the Register of Deeds.

A witch of about fifty sat at the desk wearing a pair of glasses that had no stems but were charmed to hover in front of the wearer's eyes and adjust size and position based on the wearer's current tasks. She looked up when they entered, and when she recognised them, she hastily shoved what looked to be a raunchy paperback novel underneath the desk. "Mr Potter! What brings you in this morning?"

"Good morning," James enthused, leaning forward to look at her name plate, "Marcia!" James leaned towards Teddy, wrapping his arm ostentatiously around Teddy's waist, pulling their bodies close. "Mr Lupin and I are here to register our soul bond."

Marcia's glasses expanded as she her eyes flicked wildly back and forth between the two of them. Her mouth fell open. "Your—your soul bond." She sounded a bit light-headed.

"Yes," Teddy replied, apparently unwilling to let James's performance become a one-man show. He leaned over to press his lips to the stubble on James's cheek. "We just had it performed yesterday and we'd like to file the paperwork and make it official." He winked at her.

Marcia leaned back a bit in her seat, her glasses growing a bit larger, as if to make sure she could see as much of this as magically possible. "Of course, of course, gentlemen," she said, her voice falling into the lull of bureaucratic routine. "If you can hand me the form from the Bonding, I can get that done for you right away."

James was enjoying this entirely too much. He did love a captive audience. He leaned in to Teddy's chest, the perfect image of a besotted newlywed, and pressed his lips to Teddy's neck. "The form is in my back pocket, Ted," he said, kissing under Teddy's ear.

James wasn't looking, but he heard Marcia's tiny gasp.

He also felt Teddy stiffen slightly in the onslaught of James's performance, and that made James pause.

Is this okay? James asked.

It's fine, Teddy said. You just—you—you're.

Distracting you from getting the form out of my pocket?

Oh yeah, Teddy said, reaching his hand around James's back and into his jeans pocket. He pulled out the form and handed it over to Marcia, who took it with wide eyes. She turned around to file it, but James kept pressing into Teddy's neck.

She's not looking, Teddy said.

Don't care, James replied, the almond scent making him feel heady. Unless you want me to stop.

No, it's—whatever you're comfortable with, Jamie.

James wrapped his arms around Teddy's back and squeezed. Despite the act, all he really wanted right now was a hug. Teddy always gave the best hugs—James had thought that since he was about seven years old. Teddy had told him once that Hufflepuffs pride themselves on being good huggers. "A limp hug in Hufflepuff is a bigger abomination than a limp handshake in Slytherin," Teddy had said.

Teddy returned the hug with characteristic warmth and strength.

Hugging Teddy was easy. It didn't require an act or any pretending at all, really. It was just—right.

After a minute, Marcia called them back from their embrace. "Alright gentlemen, here you go. Certificate of Bond Registration. All filed and certified. Congratulations on your bonding!" Her eyes twinkled with fondness.

"Thanks so much, Marcia," Teddy said, taking the certificate from her.

The certificate was the sort of thing that couples had framed—it was decorated in sparkling gold and purple and flashy calligraphy. James didn't want to look at it too closely—it was a bit too similar to certain of his dreams.

"Yes thanks, Marcia!" James echoed, as they left the office for the corridor. When the door latched behind them he said, "Marcia's going to have quite a story to tell when she goes home tonight."

"I wonder if she has any kids who read Teen Witch. Maybe they have those pull-out posters of you Spellotaped to their walls."

James groaned. "I do not want to talk about those posters! Or the six months Dad spent trying to get the Wizengamot to prohibit them before the Wiz determined that our faces as public figures are public property and therefore it can't be stopped."

Teddy laughed, the sound gleefully echoing off the walls. Teddy had always enjoyed James's popularity in Teen Witch much more than James thought he had any right to.

So where's Rita appointment? James asked, noticing how convenient the mind bond was—no need to whisper, ever. Merlin fuck, it made him wonder what his dad and Draco got up to with their bond. They probably chatted all through every meeting they ever attended.

At the end of the corridor, Teddy responded. So if we stay here, we'll be right in her path.

Okay, James said. So what's the plan? We stand here snogging for however long it takes for Rita to show up?

Teddy laughed. I guess so. You want to stand in the middle of the corridor? Or you want me to push you up against the wall? Or you want to push me up against the wall?

James's ears started to ring. Like, literally ring. He didn't know what was a thing that could happen. He started to laugh nervously. Um, we'll look like idiots if we snog in the middle of the corridor. I don't care who does the pushing, though. And then, because James couldn't let well enough alone (Gryffindor to the core, even ten years out of Hogwarts), he added, Do you care who does the pushing?

Teddy's eyes widened, a slow grin forming on his face. His hair slowly morphed into purple, including his facial hair, which Teddy usually exerted effort to keep brown because coloured facial hair really distracted people. James loved when it changed colour to match his hair. I like both pushing and being pushed, Teddy said.

Me too, James returned, flashing a cocky grin and leaning back on the wall.

Teddy leaned in towards him, the movement seeming unconscious—James wondered if that was an act or if Teddy really was magnetised towards him. Maybe Teddy was a fantastic actor.

James felt a buzz in his pocket and pulled out his phone. "Mum texted. She wants to know if our heads hurt and if we've killed Dad yet."

Teddy laughed.

James wrote back a reassuring message and promised to report back in full when what Ginny referred to as "The Big Reveal" was over. He tucked his phone back in his pocket.

A noise sounded down the corridor somewhere. It could be Rita, James said. Kiss me. He raised a challenging brow, waiting to see what Teddy would do. Would Teddy kiss him in some way that made it look intense, but was actually fake? Like, a lot of head movement but no tongue—like twelve-year-olds putting on a play?

But Teddy smiled, reached a hand up to push James's hair off his forehead. He leaned down, pressing his nose into James's cheek before pressing a soft, chaste kiss to James's lips.

And James was getting hard already. Fucking bloody Merlin's knickers.

James stared at Teddy, let his mouth curl into a smile.

The noises from down the corridor disappeared, so James, with some difficulty, didn't press back in for another kiss.

"You kiss like a Hufflepuff," James whispered, his eyes twinkling.

"I should hope so," Teddy laughed, letting his hand fall onto James's shoulder and then around to lightly hold the back of his neck. It made tingles erupt all down James's back. "If I was kissing like a Slytherin, you'd know I was a Polyjuiced imposter."

James grinned. "How do Slytherins kiss?"

Sounds of people talking and laughing filtered into the hallway, and while it probably wasn't Rita, Teddy seemed to decide it was enough excuse to show rather than tell how Slytherins kiss. "Like this," he said, and he seemed to be trying to smirk. But Hufflepuffs are constitutionally incapable of smirking and he ended up looking a bit manic. Teddy made a show of leaning in; he made a pompous little humming noise and pressed their lips together, nipping at James's bottom lip.

The group of people (not Rita) rounded the corner of the corridor and saw them, letting out a chorus of little gasps, and James reached his arms to clasp behind Teddy's back.

"I seriously doubt that's how Slytherins kiss," James said, grinning, as the people disappeared down the other end of the corridor. He didn't admit how much he'd liked the nip.

"I've kissed a Slytherin before," Teddy said. "Have you?"

"No," James said. "My dad and brother and their Slytherins have turned me off that forever, to be honest."

Teddy laughed. "But they're all so happy."

"I have enough Slytherins in my life," James declared, and he couldn't help himself from rubbing along Teddy's back while they stood there waiting to kiss again.

"What about Hufflepuffs?" Teddy asked, and his fingers on James's neck squeezed lightly. "Do you have enough Hufflepuffs in your life?"

Somehow the question seemed serious, and James wondered whether Teddy meant it that way, or if that was James's interpretation of it.

But before he could answer, the lift dinged in the distance and Teddy whispered, "Show me how Ravenclaws kiss."

James grinned, then wiped his face and tried to channel an Uncle Percy expression. He knew rationally that Ravenclaws were actually much more dreamy-creative and much less pompous than their stereotype suggested—but it was not the time for accuracy, it was the time for playing up the joke. He reached up and grabbed Teddy's chin, tilted his head with an expression like he was calculating optimal jaw angles, and pressed their lips together with harrowing efficiency.

The people from the lift must have gone the other direction, and Teddy burst into laughter, leaning over at the waist and grabbing his stomach. "What the fuck was that kiss, Jamie?" he asked once he'd got his laughter under control. "I can guarantee no Ravenclaw has ever kissed like that."

"You do not have the data necessary to make such a confident claim," James said, and Teddy burst into laughter again.

Teddy stood straight, visibly trying to contain his outburst. "I need to stop laughing, because I definitely do not look like someone overcome with lust."

A door slammed from somewhere nearby and James whispered, "Do you want to see how Gryffindors kiss?"

Teddy's eyes widened a fraction before he smiled and gave a quick nod.

James let go of Teddy's waist and grabbed his head, pulling him forward and crashing their lips together. Teddy let out an oomph of surprise before he steadied himself and started kissed back. James pushed off the wall, pressing his body into Teddy's space and licking into his mouth. Teddy's tongue found his and it was so warm, so good, so hot.

Too hot. It was just the bond making Teddy do this. So James pulled back and grinned. "Kinda like that."

Teddy looked a bit like he'd just been beat in a duel. His hair was messed from where James's strong fingers had grabbed his head, his eyes were wide and his mouth parted. Then he smiled and stepped forward, pressing James back against the wall. "I like how Gryffindors kiss."

"Oh yeah?" James asked, smiling in the confident way he knew often drove people a little crazy. The smile that the Teen Witch posters always tried to capture but never quite managed to get on film.

Teddy leaned forward, pressing his hips flush against James. "Do you want to see how Hufflepuffs really kiss, Jamie? That kiss before doesn't count. Well, it counts, but it's like, not best-form Teddy Hufflepuff kiss."

James smiled, his chest feeling floaty. "I want best-form Teddy Hufflepuff kiss."

Teddy reached a hand up and slid it through James's hair, pressing his fingers into James's scalp. He pressed their lips together and slid his tongue in James's mouth so sweetly that James though he might fall over, and Teddy's other hand came to cup James's cheek, where he rubbed his thumb gently over James's cheekbone. Their mouths moved together for a few more seconds, and then Teddy pulled away.

"Merlin, fuck," James whispered.

Teddy's cheeks were flushed pink, his lips glistening. "Sorry—no one was coming—I should've—"

But James didn't want to hear Teddy apologise for the best kiss of his life, so he leapt forward, throwing his arms around Teddy's shoulders and bringing their lips together again. Teddy met James's enthusiasm, and James was overcome with the thought that this was what he always thought kissing should be like, but it never quite was.

The first time James had kissed someone (Josh Creevey in year four), Albus had found out and asked him how it was. James remembered thinking it had been…fine. To Albus, he had said, "Wet?" Sure, he'd enjoyed kissing people since then—really enjoyed it, even—but he wasn't sure it had ever progressed past "nice."

This was—like his dreams? Or his fantasies. Which had, for a long time, been mostly about Teddy, anyway.

"Mmmmphh," Teddy moaned, pressing James into the wall, and James pulled one arm away from Teddy's neck to pull him closer by the waist. Teddy got the message and pushed James's back into the wall, slotting one leg in between James's as the kiss became more heated.

A delighted gasp almost broke through the haze of arousal that James found himself lost in, but his hand was tangling in Teddy's hair and the kiss felt so good. But then an audible click drew their attention away.

There was Rita Skeeter, in her mid-eighties, wearing a hot pink fuzzy pantsuit, her white hair twisted in an elaborate topknot, signature jewelled glasses on her powdered, age-spotted nose. A camera floated over her right shoulder, glowing faintly to indicate it had just snapped a photo.

"Well, well, well," she said, her face radiating joy. "If it isn't the eldest Potter and the honorary Potter locked in a decidedly unbrotherly embrace!"

Teddy tightened his grip on James's shoulder, and James wondered idly if Teddy was trying to keep himself calm or having some sort of protective reflex.

"What do you say, Teddy," James said, figuring he was the Gryffindor and he ought to just jump in. "Should we tell Rita the news?"

A shower of rainbow sparks flew out of Rita's wand in her excitement. She bounced on the balls of her feet and asked, "The news?"

Teddy sighed, and James could tell it was put-on, but he was fairly sure no one else would be able to tell that. "There's no use trying to keep it secret anymore, Jamie, is there?" He turned to smile at James, and the smile was so genuine, so sweet, so loving, that James almost forgot they were putting on a performance.

He quickly leaned forward to press a kiss to Teddy's lips, smiling when he heard Rita wheezing behind him.

James turned with a flourish. "We've been secretly dating for—how long has it been, Teddy?" He turned to look at his alleged boyfriend.

"Going on four months, isn't it?" Teddy asked. And wow, Teddy was really good at looking love-sick.

"Yes, and we're tired of pretending. We've taken a soul bond." James held his hand out and wandlessly Summoned the certificate, which had fallen to the floor at some point, and held it out towards Rita.

"A soul bond?" she whispered excitedly.

"A mind bond, to be precise," Teddy clarified.

"A mind bond?" Her wand vibrated in her hand, shooting out green puffs of smoke at random intervals. "Gentlemen, gentlemen. What do you say to a quick interview?"

James turned to look at Teddy, pretending to ask him if it was alright but really only taking in the flush of his cheeks, the way his hair was still out of place from the snogging, the way his stubble was still purple. James turned back to Rita. "Sure!"

***

James stood on the lift in St Mungo's on Monday morning tapping his foot. He was wearing his lime green scrubs (reserved for St Mungo's employees who required more range of movement than robes provided) and his work trainers, which were a blinding array of neon colours and the kids he worked with loved them.

He was nervous, because this would be the first real test of their fake relationship. They were supposed to convince James's coworkers—his friends!—that he and Teddy had been in a relationship for months and were so in love that they’d taken a soul bond.

"What are you supposed to know about me that you don't already know?" James asked suddenly, turning to Teddy, who was wearing jeans and a t-shirt and merry green hair.

"Huh?" Teddy asked. "What do you mean?"

"Are there things you don't know about me that will give us away?" James said, fiddling with his St Mungo's identification, which hung off a lanyard around his neck.

"I mean, not to sound arrogant," Teddy said, "but I'm pretty sure I know everything about you."

James narrowed his eyes. "You certainly don't know everything."

"We'll see," Teddy said with a grin just this side of cocky, and James found he wanted to prove him wrong. Teddy continued, "I am confident I know more about you than most people know about their spouses."

James considered this for half a second before realising Teddy was right. "You better watch what you say, Lupin, or I'll have to tell everyone about the time you were convinced you were going to become a famous musician playing jazz euphonium."

Teddy grabbed his wrist. "You wouldn't," he said.

"I wouldn't test me, if I were you," James said with a grin, and Teddy reached to grab his other wrist, but James (nimble in his neon trainers and in his old Quidditch agility) spun around, managing to grab Teddy's back jeans pocket.

The lift dinged, and when the doors opened on James's floor, they revealed James and Teddy roughhousing in the lift. Jorgen, the wizard who worked the welcome desk in James's department, stared at them as they stood, frozen, mid-wrestle. A woman sat behind him, looking slightly out of place.

Auror Sloane, undercover, Teddy's voice echoed in James's head.

James straightened up. "Hello, Jorgen!" he called cheerfully, ignoring the embarrassment that was insistently creeping up his spine. Okay, so he just had to convince his coworkers that he was the type of person who roughhoused on lifts with his lover. Well, he supposed, that wasn't even out of character.

James took a breath and grabbed Teddy's hand as they walked off the lift and towards the desk. "I don't think we've met," James said, holding his hand out to Auror Sloane. "I'm James Potter."

"Cindy Vance," she said, shaking first James's hand, then Teddy's. "I'm new here. Jorgen is teaching me the ropes."

"So was there news about me in the Prophet this morning?" James asked Jorgen. "I haven't seen it yet."

Jorgen, who was about fifty and as uptight as his hairstyle suggested, silently picked a paper off his desk and held it up for them to see.

JAMES POTTER AND TEDDY LUPIN IN A RELATIONSHIP: They Refuse to Discuss Marriage Plans, But Are Already Soul Bonded!

Below that was the photo that Rita had snapped the day before: Teddy, hair purple, pushed James into the wall, kissing intensely and grabbing James's neck; James had one hand in Teddy's hair and one at the dip of Teddy's lower back, holding his hips close; Teddy's leg moved in between James's; then, without moving apart, they both looked towards the camera.

Holy shit. Their photo selves were overflowing with, with lust, and when they looked at the camera, they looked like they'd just tumbled out of a broom closet after a quick fuck.

Teddy laughed, his free hand flying up to cover his mouth. "Oh sweet Helga."

James couldn't tear his eyes away from their photo selves. "It's like watching porn," he breathed.

Jorgen cleared his throat and threw the paper pointedly into the bin.

"Right," James said, trying to salvage the shreds of his respectability. "Jorgen, this is Teddy Lupin; Teddy, this is Jorgen. Teddy and I, as you've already seen, are in a relationship and are two days into a mind bond, so Teddy's accompanying me to work today. Any questions?"

Jorgen shook his head.

"Alright then, have a fantastic day!" James enthused, pulling Teddy by the hand down the corridor towards his office and big movement room.

Teddy snorted. "That went well."

"Jorgen's not a bad bloke," James said. "Just a bit of an arse. On the bright side, he treats everyone that way, so it's not as if he hates us."

They entered a large room divided down the centre with a shimmering magical wall. James walked to the more colourful side, which was filled with magical equipment: a trampoline, a ball pit, a slide, multiple swings hanging from the ceiling, a little pod, a giant bean bag. The walls were painted in a solid blue with faintly shimmering paint. In the corner was the door to James's office, where he had a messy desk, a wall full of books both magical and Muggle about occupational therapy, sensory integration, autism spectrum disorders, movement disorders, motor skills, and the like. Colourful children's drawings covered the walls, as well as photos of various Potters and Weasleys. There was a photo of James and Albus that had been enlarged to poster size on the far wall: the two boys, about 5 and 7, took turns jumping off the roof of George's house, where their uncle had charmed the ground below to bounce them back up. Little James jumped with a wild joy in his eyes, punching the air when he bounced up towards the sky.

"I can't believe I haven't been to your office before," Teddy said, looking around with interest. "I love it."

James shrugged, feeling unaccountably awkward about it. He loved his work, and it wasn't really something that his family knew all that much about. "Thanks."

James sat down at his desk and opened a filing drawer, rifling around until he found the form he was looking for. "St Mungo's Magical Confidentiality form."

Teddy smiled and signed the form, magically binding himself to keep James's patients' details private.

A witch wearing full lime green St Mungo's robes bustled into the room.

"Healer Clearwater!" James said. "Teddy, this is my excellent, fabulous, understanding boss. Healer Clearwater, Teddy Lupin."

Healer Clearwater gave James a fond smile and stuck her hand out to efficiently shake Teddy's hand.

"James Potter," she scolded, turning her gaze back to him, "you went and got a soul bond without talking to me first? And you let the oafs at the Ministry perform it?"

James held his arms out to the side, hoping to placate her. The truth was, under regular circumstances he absolutely would've found someone at St Mungo's to perform the bond.

"You let those experts in bureaucracy perform magic on your mind?" She sighed, looking between the two of them. "Well how does it feel, then?"

"It's feeling much better," James said, "and we've managed to control it."

She nodded, then turned to Teddy.

"Er, it's feeling fine, Healer Clearwater."

"With your permission, I'm going to cast a spell to visualise the bond, make sure they didn't fuck it up."

James laughed. "Alright." He grabbed Teddy's hand.

Teddy smiled at her. "That's fine."

"Don't look if you're squeamish." Healer Clearwater cast a spell at James first, which he thought was making his head and skull translucent. Teddy squeezed James's hand, but turned his gaze away. She walked slowly around James, looking intently at his brain, then waved her wand to cancel the spells.

"Alright Auror Lupin," she said, "now you." James watched in fascination as Teddy's head became translucent and a thin line of magic became visible, tangled through the folds of his brain. Healer Clearwater scrutinised, apparently looking for problems. When she saw James looking, she smiled, and said, "Look." She waved her wand again, making Teddy's torso translucent, and James watched the magic strands of the bond travel down from his brain to the centre of his torso, the magical core, and then out into the air, towards James.

"Wow," James said, squeezing Teddy's hand again.

Healer Clearwater waved her wand to cancel the spells. "Well, it all looks to be in order. But next time you decide to let someone meddle with your mind, you will come to me, do you understand?"

James stepped forward and wrapped her in a hug. "Of course. And thank you for checking on us."

She clapped him on the back and smiled, shaking her head. "You never do anything by halves, James." She turned to Teddy and held her arms out. "Are you a hugger, Auror Lupin? Welcome to the family."

James's throat felt tight. Welcome to the family.

Teddy hugged Healer Clearwater, and she bustled out of the room with a, "Back to work!"

"She seems great," Teddy said, looking at some silly toys James had on his shelves. "So what's first on your agenda?"

"Want to see my new swing?" James asked, excited to show it off. He was still so happy he convinced the hospital board to buy it.

Teddy nodded and James bounded out of his office and into the big room, where he pushed Teddy to sit in a cushy swing that moulded itself to Teddy's body. "Feels nice and snug, right?"

Teddy reached down to feel the material. "Yeah. Does it have some sort of Swaddling Charm on it?"

"Something like that," James said. He didn't understanding the charms theory behind the swing at all, though he knew exactly how it worked. "Okay, so I give it a little push to start spinning it, and it will sense how well all of your different senses—vestibular, tactile, proprioception—are balanced, and it will adjust the swinging in order to give you more or less of what your body needs to balance. So for a kid who needs more pressure on their skin, the material will tighten itself more."

"Wicked," Teddy said. "Okay, do it."

James reached over and gave the swing a careful push, and it started to swing back and forth and gently spin around. Teddy laughed, tipping his head back to look up at the ceiling. After just a few moments, it slowed.

"Why's it stopping?" Teddy asked.

"Because it sensed you were getting dizzy," James said with a laugh, and pulled Teddy out of the swing. "Step back and I'll show you what it does with someone who needs a bit more sensory input to be balanced."

Teddy stepped back and James sat in the swing. It immediately tightened around his body, coming up around his shoulders in a way it hadn't for Teddy. James pushed the swing off using his neon trainer on the floor, and it began swinging him around like a top. He let his brain stop whirring for a moment, concentrated on the feel of the wind whipping at his face, the pleasant spinning feeling of the swing, the tight squeeze of the material. After a couple of minutes, it slowed, and he steadied it with his feet on the ground before getting out.

Teddy stood watching him with a wide-eyed smile. "You….you needed to spin around that much in order to balance your sensory system?"

James hummed in agreement. "Well, vestibular system, mostly. My other sensory-seeking area is oral."

"Oral?" Teddy said, raising an eyebrow and half his mouth in a grin.

James leaned in, a teasing smirk on his face. "Yeah, that's why I'm always putting things in my mouth. Kind of a miracle I haven't taken up smoking or something. But I can manage it. 'Swhy I drink smoothies so often—the cold helps."

"And here I thought you just liked being a bougie hipster, putting kale and spinach in your fruit purees."

"Well," James said, shrugging. "If I'm going to make smoothies, I may as well put my vegetables in them so I don't have to eat them on their own. I fucking hate salad."

Teddy laughed. "You know, I forgot how you used to always be sucking on lemon drops and sugar quills."

James grinned. "See, I'm very good at my job. I wouldn't be much of an expert in sensory issues if I hadn't managed to control my own oral fixation, would I?"

Teddy's voice whispered Oral fixation in James's mind. And, what? Was Teddy trying to tease him? Merlin.

Jorgen's voice projected into the room. "Mr Potter, your first patient is here."

"Right," James said, looking at Teddy, "Come on." He jogged out of the room down the corridor, leaving Teddy to catch up with him. Teddy switched into Auror mode when they entered the waiting area, looking this way and that as if the stalker might pop out from anywhere.

Elena, age six, whom James had been seeing every week for over a year, stood next to the desk waiting for him. James kneeled down. "Good morning, Elena! How are you today? Did you get to the next book of Unspeakable Ulta?"

"Yes!" Elena said. "And Ulta and Jitters went on an adventure to the mines!"

"No way!" James said, gently moving Elena's hand from where she'd reached out to touch his bright trainers. "Hold on a minute, I just need to talk to your mum before we go back."

James asked Elena's mum a few questions and then led Elena down the corridor.

"Who're you?" Elena asked Teddy, putting her hands on her hips.

James dropped to a squat. "Elena, this is Mr Teddy. Mr Teddy, this is Elena."

"Mr Teddy sounds like the name of a stuffed animal," she said, squinting her eyes at Teddy as if she were sure the name was a fake.

James reached up and tugged Teddy's hand, pulling him down to child level.

"Er, nice to meet you," Teddy said with a smile. "My full name is Edward." He stuck out his hand for her to shake.

"Mr James, is he telling the truth?"

James nodded. "Yes. He's my best friend." It wasn't a lie. He didn't think he could lie to his small patients. He adored them.

At that, Elena held out her hand and shook. Teddy made his hair turn purple when she pumped his fist, and she jumped and gave a little squeal of joy.

That's the only way you know how to entertain children, isn't it? James asked.

Well yeah. And it always works, Teddy answered.

"Alright Elena!" James said, sitting fully on the floor and gesturing for Teddy to sit in the chair against the wall. "First thing today is working on our strong tummy muscles. Do you remember why?"

"Because strong tummy muscles help us sit still!"

"Exactly!" James said, Conjuring two medicine balls. He grabbed the big one, she grabbed the little, and they got to work.

As he went through Elena's therapies, James periodically looked over to where Teddy was sitting, expecting to see him reading a book or checking his phone. But every time he looked, Teddy was watching James with what appeared to be rapt interest. James could feel his cheeks flush under the attention.

The day passed quickly, Teddy observing quietly and James enjoying his sessions with his patients. Teddy talked to Harry twice on the phone, going into James's office so as not to disturb the kids. James and Teddy chatted in between sessions, ate lunch in the cafeteria ("Cindy Vance" accompanying them), and every single one of James's coworkers accepted their relationship without batting an eye.

***

Back at James's flat that evening, they ate takeaway curry at the kitchen table and made bets on how long it'd be until Harry Flooed to see if they were okay.

"I've got to answer texts from about forty people who saw today's Prophet," James said, offering Teddy more rice. "I think every single one of my cousins texted me."

Teddy laughed. "I think at least half of them texted us both. Louis just texted me, 'ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME' in capital letters."

James laughed. He thought he might find this part of the fake relationship—pretending to their families and friends—hard, but he was enjoying the antics of it. "If we were, er, a real couple—" he started.

"A real couple," Teddy echoed, looking at his food.

"—How would we respond to their texts?" James finished.

"We'd do something ridiculous for sure," Teddy said, meeting James's gaze.

"We'd do something that they'd say, 'Ew, TMI' to."

"Make a gif of us making out?" Teddy asked.

"And put the words 'GET OVER IT' across the bottom?" James asked.

Teddy's face split into a huge grin. "Yeah."

James shrugged. "Okay. Should we wait until after dinner or do it surrounded by curry containers?"

"Surrounded by takeaway is probably more authentically Teddy and James, don't you think?" Teddy asked.

"You have a point." James Levitated his phone and set it to take a video in thirty seconds. "…How should we….?"

Teddy stood up from his seat, turned his hair fire-engine red, and straddled James. "Is this okay?"

"Um. Yep." Yes, fine, certainly okay, totally okay and not going to make him explode, not at all.

The phone said "5, 4, 3," and James reached for Teddy just as Teddy reached for him, and they were suddenly kissing, really kissing, at the kitchen table surrounded by takeaway. And filming it.

Probably they would only send about five seconds of this to their nosy friends and family.

But they kept kissing—the thought of stopping didn't even cross James's mind. Teddy reached down to James's waist and pushed a hand up his shirt, which was thrilling enough to make James realise they should probably stop. Some of his cousins were still underage. James pulled back.

Teddy grinned, and James waved his wand to stop the recording.

"Fucking hell," Teddy said, and he actually sounded a bit breathless. Was it really the bond? "I really like kissing you."

James smiled. "Course you do. I like kissing you, too. That fucking bond, right?"

Teddy's eyes shuttered a fraction. "I guess we should finish our supper," he said, climbing off James.

"Yeah, let me edit this video." James ate while trimming the video and adding their sassy caption, and then mass texted it back to everyone who had sent something that day.

"Did you check who you were sending that to?" Teddy asked.

"Not really," James said. "I can't be arsed."

Teddy picked up his phone, which had just buzzed, and immediately flushed red. "Um. You sent it to your dad. My boss. My godfather."

James froze, fork hanging in the air halfway to his mouth. "Um. Oops? What's he have to say?"

"'Don't look like this assignment is such a hardship, there, Auror Lupin.' And then a cry-laugh emoji."

"Oh sweet Merlin," James said, laughing. "He and Draco are probably enjoying this way too much."

"You don't think—" Teddy started, then stopped. "You don't think they were trying to set us up, do you?"

"Um," James said, putting his fork down. "He did very clearly set us up, but I don't think he like, invented an elaborate stalker ruse to do it."

"I mean like, opportunistically," Teddy said. "You don't think they figured this was a chance to get us together, do you?"

"Why would Dad and Draco want to get us together?" James asked, honestly confused. He hadn't really thought of what his dad's reaction would be to him and Teddy in a relationship in years—but last he'd considered it, he'd definitely been of the opinion that Harry would not have been thrilled at the prospect.

Teddy sighed. "I dunno, Jamie. Just a thought. Forget I said it."

James's phone had been buzzing non-stop since they sent the gif. "Can I just ghost all these people? It's too much to respond."

"Well, yeah, you can ignore them," Teddy said. "They'd understand. But you do realise you just sent them a video of us making out and if now you don't reply they're definitely going to think we're fucking right this minute."

"Oh dear Godric, let's respond to Dad at least."

"Yeah, that's a good idea," Teddy said. "They probably think we're going to live-stream ourselves fucking to prove the fake relationship or something." James laughed.

Once they'd sent a series of texts to Harry (via Draco) to set his mind at ease that his son and his godson were not mid-fucking, Teddy Vanished the empty cartons and flopped onto the sofa in the other room.

"I really like your work," Teddy said as James lay his head on the other arm of the sofa and stuck his feet in Teddy's lap. "I mean, I like the work you're doing. You're so incredibly good at it."

James wasn't really used to that kind of compliment. General compliments, sure. But specifically about his work? From Teddy, a person he'd looked up to for his entire life? He felt all warm and bubbly and proud.

Teddy's eyes flew open wide. "I just felt—you were feeling proud."

James froze, his foot that had been tapping Teddy's thigh stilling. "We can feel each other's…emotions?"

"Fucking hell, that's crazy, isn't it?" Teddy said. "I'm glad you're proud. Your work with those kids is actually incredible."

"No fair. I want to feel what you're feeling," James said, and then he cringed at how petulant he sounded. "It's only fair," he added with a playful nudge to Teddy's knee.

"I can try," Teddy said. "But it's not like I really know how."

James watched Teddy close his eyes, and for a minute, nothing happened. It felt like their morning meditation after yoga.

And then, suddenly, James was flooded with a wave of intense emotion. It was so intense at first he couldn't figure out what emotion it was, just that it was sudden and intense. Then his brain acclimated and he realised it was lust. And—andlove.

"Holy shit," James hissed.

Teddy opened his eyes. "Did it work?"

James never answered the question, because he was up and scrambling to straddle Teddy's lap, leaning in to kiss him hungrily, the feeling of Teddy's lust propelling him forward and making it impossible to ignore the swelling of his own answering arousal.

"Wait," Teddy mumbled against James's lips, and when James didn't stop Teddy pushed him away by the chest. "Wait! Jamie."

"What?" James said, reaching down and pulling off his own shirt.

Teddy appeared momentarily robbed of speech by James stripping on his lap. "Um."

James grabbed Teddy's chin and tilted his face up to look at his eyes. "Stop looking at my chest and maybe you'll remember what you wanted to say."

Teddy smiled. "We can't do this if you're only doing it because you're feeling what I feel."

James ran his fingers through Teddy's hair, which was still red. "I have never been so certain of anything in my entire life as I am of the fact that I want to do this regardless of being able to feel what you feel."

"Are you sure?" Teddy asked.

"Yes," James said, but he had already slid off of Teddy's lap and onto the floor, fumbling with the fly on Teddy's jeans.

"Jamie, um," Teddy said, his head falling backward.

"Oral fixation, remember?" James smirked. "Okay?"

Teddy nodded, and then his mouth fell open as James pulled his jeans and boxers down around his ankles.

Teddy's cock was erect and staring at him, and James found himself overpowered by a wave of lust at the sight of it. Then he thought maybe he should share that feeling back with Teddy, so he tried to direct his emotions to the mind door as he reached forward to grab Teddy's cock by the base.

Teddy gasped. "Merlin fuck, Jamie, did you just hit me with what you're feeling? Or am I having a stoke?"

"You might be having a stroke," James said with a smirk, pumping his hand gently, "but yeah that was me."

"Helga and Circe," Teddy whispered, grabbing the arm of the sofa.

James found himself shamelessly admiring Teddy's cock and wondering at the fact that the hair around it was dark brown, and not red like Teddy was currently sporting on his head.

"Can you morph your cock?" he asked.

Teddy raised his head up and stared at James, eyes wide with shock. "Does it not suit?"

James started to snicker. "No, no, no. I just wondered if it was possible."

"It's definitely possible," Teddy said. "But I don't generally find reason to morph my cock."

James hummed thoughtfully.

"Jamie!" Teddy exclaimed with disbelief and a huffed laugh.

But James didn't want to keep having this conversation, and without any further preamble he took Teddy deep into his mouth.

It had been awhile since he'd sucked a cock. It'd been awhile since he'd been with anyone doing anything, really. The last time was months ago when Albus was visiting and dragged him to that club and he drank an inadvisable number of Dirty Cauldrons.

But James loved sucking cock. He didn't think most people did, even if they claimed to. They liked giving pleasure, maybe, or they liked the trust of it, or they wanted oral in return or something, but he didn't think most people actually enjoyed the act.

James, though, had spent the entirety of his teenage years getting chastised by his parents and teachers for chewing gum and sucking on sour candies. He couldn't study without a sugar quill. When he had to take a trip to the Dental Healer one too many times and subsequently gave up the candies, he'd started chewing ice (which the Dental Healer told him was not advisable, though better than sugar). He's always been fairly proud of his willpower that he never picked up a smoking habit, though he was constantly chewing pens, pencils, quills, and anything else at hand—including on one memorable and moronic occasion, his wand, before it hit him with a stray jolt of magic.

So it really wasn't a surprise that he loved having a cock in his mouth—the taste, the feeling, the texture, the movements. And, what's more, this was Teddy. James paused his bobbing and sucking actions, pulling off with a slurp to unfasten his own jeans.

"Did I ever tell you how much I love sucking cock?" he asked with a smirk.

"Fucking fuck, fuck, Jamie. You're going to kill me," Teddy moaned, his head falling back again as James dove back in.

For a second, James's professional brain overtook his animalistic brain as he considered the fact that someone with oral sensory defensiveness probably wouldn't be able to suck a cock at all, and what a shame for them. He wondered if they could benefit from some sensory integration therapy. It wasn't a therapeutic application that he knew much about, working as he did with children. And he had no experience with that particular issue because—

Fuck, he loved the way it felt, the way Teddy was overloading his senses, hitting his nerve endings. In fact, he thought, circling the base of Teddy's cock with only thumb and fingers instead of his whole fist, he wanted to take it deeper, he wanted to feel it.

Teddy moaned incoherently, and then James heard Fuck fuck so good yes mmmmmm Jamie faster.

The realisation that Teddy had either lost conscious control of the mind bond or was choosing to send those thoughts to him sent another jolt of lust through James, and he remembered that he could talk to Teddy, too, despite his mouth's current occupation.

Faster? He thought. I can do that. God, I love the way you're moving.

Teddy's legs tensed as he reached his hands into James's hair and James sucked Teddy's and stroked his own cock.

Pull my hair, James thought at Teddy.

Deeper, Teddy thought back and yanked James's hair, sending a flash of pain and sensation straight to his cock.

James could feel his own orgasm approaching, his senses—taste, touch, thought, smell—overwhelmed with Teddy, and when Teddy thought I'm going to come, Merlin fuck, James sped up the hand that worked his own cock and moved his other hand to grab Teddy's balls and press against his perineum.

"Fuck!" Teddy moaned, and came, the taste filling James's mouth. James swallowed, keeping his mouth limp around Teddy's cock as the contractions of Teddy's orgasm slowed, and turned his attention to his own cock, spilling over his fingers just a few seconds later.

James swallowed again and pulled off Teddy's cock. He sat back on his heels, wiping his mouth on the back of his clean hand and staring up at Teddy's face. For a long time, they just stared at each other.

"Wow," Teddy said.

James smiled, feeling for once like he hadn't the slightest idea what to do. He had actually just sucked Teddy off. It was about forty percent of his teenage dreams (both daydreams and night dreams) come to fruition.

"Was…was that the bond?" James asked, not really knowing what he was asking—if he wanted to know whether the intensity of it came from the bond, or if they'd done that because of the bond in the first place, or if he wanted to know whether the wave of lust and love that Teddy had been feeling was real.

Teddy reached up to fiddle with the moon-shaped stud in his ear. James hadn't seen Teddy do that in years.

"You tell me, Jamie," he finally said.

James had no idea how to answer. He sat back, sliding his feet out from under his bottom, crossing them in front of him and looking down at the mess on his hand.

Teddy pulled his wand and cleaned James up.

James muttered, "Thanks," and tucked himself back in his jeans.

"I cannot believe the first thing you did when you saw my cock was ask whether I could morph it," Teddy said, tilting his head back and laughing.

"Like that's the first time you've been asked that question," James challenged, grinning. "In fact, I'll bet you ten chocolate frogs that you did it once in the Hufflepuff dorm. I still think you Puffs are a lot raunchier than you'd have the rest of us believe."

'Ten chocolate frogs' had been the standard bet in the Potter family since James was about four years old.

Teddy laughed harder. "Evander Quimby bet me fifty Galleons in year five that I couldn't morph it to twelve inches. I used the money to buy those boots you liked so much."

James's mouth fell open. He really had loved those boots. "What the fuck else did those perverts bet you to do?"

Teddy brought a hand up to cover his face. "What didn't they bet me to do? I didn't agree to most of it, though. Like, in year three a couple of wankers wanted me to morph into a woman so they could see a naked girl."

James burst into laughter. "I can't decide if that's desperate straightness or repressed gayness."

"Probably both," Teddy said, looking up at the ceiling. "I did morph myself breasts once. That bet paid for a Portkey to France."

"You did not!" James said, inhaling too much air. "No fair! I want to see you with tits!"

Teddy lifted his head up and raised an eyebrow at James. "I didn't think you were into tits."

"Everyone likes tits, Teddy," James sighed dramatically.

"No tits right now," Teddy said. "I decided years ago—no more morphing my body like a circus act for other people."

James grinned. "Fair enough. I can't believe those wankers. I told you Hufflepuffs are deviants."

Teddy laughed, but then he turned serious for a moment. "I used to constantly be trying to morph myself to look better: broader shoulders or bigger muscles or firmer abs. Smaller nose. Hairier legs. Merlin, Jamie, it'll fuck you up. You like…forget who you actually are beneath all the changes. These days I only morph my body if it's for my own enjoyment, if it's for me. Like my hair," he said. "My hair changing colours is who I am, but the rest of my body needs to stay like, just me. So maybe you can see me with tits someday. But if you do, it'll be because I wanted to."

"Wouldn't have you with tits any other way," James said, his face in a huge smile, as he scrambled to his feet. Teddy was just sitting there on the sofa, hair red, cock softening, jeans around his ankles, talking frankly about bodily autonomy, and James was overwhelmed with love. He flopped next to Teddy and leaned into his side. Teddy's arm fell down to wrap around James's shoulders.

"I really like your cock just as it is," James clarified. "It was just curiosity—I hope I didn't make you feel weird. I would only ever want authentic unmorphed Teddy cock."

Teddy squeezed James's shoulder and James could feel him smiling. "Is that so?"

"I mean, from my perspective. If you had your own reasons for wanting to morph it, I would happily accept that version of you, too. Good Godric, I keep talking and making myself sound worse."

But Teddy laughed. "No, you sound wonderful, actually. I didn't take it the wrong way—I knew you were just curious. I never feel like I need to be anyone but myself when I'm with you."

James's pocket buzzed and he pulled out his phone. There were a bunch of replies to the gif he'd sent out earlier, and a text from Albus.

What the actual fuck is going on, James?!!?
Lily tells me you're pretending to be with Teddy because Dad insisted
Then like a million people from school I haven't talked to in fucking years are texting me photos of you two in the Prophet and asking for inside scoop on your MIND BOND
Then I get a text from you with a gif where you and Teddy look like youre in the first scene of a porno called like "It Happened Over Curry" or sth
Then Scorpius gets turned on by the gif and I don't know whether to be really offended that he wanted to have sex with me because of my fucking BROTHERS or if I should thank you like you're some sort of cross-Atlantic wingman
the fuck is going on?!

James groaned and threw himself face first into Teddy's lap before remembering that Teddy was still naked in that key area. James sprang back to upright by Teddy's side, laughing as Teddy pulled up his jeans, and James threw his phone into the armchair across the room. He didn't want to deal with any of those messages right now.

Later, they fell asleep wrapped up in each other, and James dreamt of flowers that disappeared when he picked them.

***

The next morning when James woke up, Teddy was doing yoga. After James pushed away his disappointment at not waking up tangled in his fake boyfriend slash real godbrother slash actual person he got off with the night before, he opened his eyes to watch Teddy's serene movements.

Teddy's hair was his natural brown, and the sun shining through the window made him look luminescent as he moved through the poses, breathing audibly.

James wanted to tease him, to see him smile, to make him laugh. Boo, he said through their mental link.

Teddy sat back on his ankles, toes still gripping the floor, and smiled. "Good morning!"

"Any news about the case from Dad?" James asked, yawning.

"He sent a message, said they were working on it, keep doing what we've been doing. He wanted to know if you're feeling cooped up."

"It's only been a couple days. I'm usually just here and at work, anyway. Probably after a few more days I'll want to go out somewhere, but we can do that with the Auror tailing us, right?"

"Yeah," Teddy said, standing up and stretching.

James sighed. "This is so annoying."

"Yeah," Teddy said, a strange look on his face. "I'm going to go take a shower, okay?"

"Sure," James said, sitting up in bed and reaching for his phone. He'd finally responded to all the people who wanted to congratulate, tease, or interrogate him about his new relationship. He wandered to the kitchen and rummaged around in the cabinet for his Magimix (their WWN jingle—"A cauldron with a blade!"—immediately got stuck in his head), gathered a banana, some coconut milk, spinach, and berries, and set to making a smoothie while he texted Lily.

Lils, you awake?

Did you make sweet sweet love to our godbrother yet??????????

OM shut up

That's a yes, isnt it
I have like five thousand condoms in my room from that time I went to the safe sex festival. Do you need any

Lils
Please stfu

Ok ok. What's up?
Dad can't stop talking about the case
He's pissed the team hasn't figured it out yet
You and Teddy are still coming for dinner, right?

Yeah, Tuesday, wouldn't miss it

So really are you fucking
Jamie that gif you sent definitely convinced literally everyone including possibly Dad and Draco even though they told you to fake
Someone forwarded it to Grandma and I think she's going to start wedding planning with Aunt Andy

Depends on what you count as 'fucking'

!!!!!!!!!
Just tell me or I'm going to start listing sex acts and making you Y/N each one

I sucked him off

JEM! OH MERLINS PANTS!
So are you really together now?

I dont know!

Maybe you should, like…….ASK HIM?

It's awkward af Lils! He is here on assignment! I can't be like,
"oh hi hey are we boyfriends now?" because if his answer is no he WOULDNT BE ABLE TO LEAVE

Yeah that is awkward
But maybe you should ask before you put his cock in your mouth again

That's an idea
I am trying not to get swept away by the whole thing but it's like the world is trying to fuck me over with this
He's in my head! And with me constantly!
And I can feel his emotions through the bond and he wants me but like
Does he really? Or is it just the bond?
And how much of is just pretending? Like when he came to my work he was touching me and stuff and everyone was watching and it was nice, but it was also like, is it real?
I can't even tell what I want anymore
Like if you asked me last week if I still wanted Teddy I would've said no with no second thought!

Well yeah, but Jem, that would've been a lie
Or at least like, denial
Dont you think?

The shower shut off and James put down his phone with a sigh. He Conjured a straw and poured his smoothie.

***

A few hours later, James sat at his desk using charms to file paperwork and Teddy wandered around his office, poking at books. A gasp caused James to whirl around, but what he found was Teddy scowling at a toy that had stuck itself to his hands when he grabbed it.

"Ew!" Teddy said. "What's it doing?"

James laughed. The tiny bear was Charmed to stick to the user's hands until they relaxed about the bizarre tactile sensation. It currently looked like a bizarre sea creature, having spread itself thin to stick its gummy material to Teddy's hand.

"You've gotta relax and it'll let you go," James said.

"But I feel like I've been swallowed by a flobberworm!" Teddy hissed, shaking his hand as if that would get it off.

James hopped up and gently touched Teddy's arm to get him to stop shaking. "Teddy. It's to help with tactile defensiveness. Take a breath and calm down about it and it will go back to being a cute little bear."

Teddy turned to James, his face embarrassed as he realised he just freaked out about one of James's therapy toys. As he looked at James the bear slowly released his hand, its shape returning to that of a bear. Teddy turned to look at it, sitting innocently on his palm. "You just therapied me, didn't you?"

James looked to where his hand was on Teddy's arm. "Huh. I think I did," he said with a smirk.

Teddy laughed, looking up at James with intense eyes. But they were interrupted by Jorgen's voice. "Mr Potter, Jonah Price is here."

"Oh," James said, turning serious eyes on Teddy. "Um. Please stay calm when Jonah's here. He's intense."

"I think I can handle intense," Teddy said with a smile, reaching up to tuck James's hair behind his ear.

James laughed. "Seriously, Teds. I don't want anyone to get hurt. I don't want to end up on the second floor for magical depletion."

Teddy's eyes widened, taking in James's uncharacteristic seriousness. "Yeah, of course."

James walked down the corridor to the waiting room, feeling Teddy right behind him.

Jonah Price was nine years old and quiet. He stood when he saw James and walked over, hands shoved in his pockets, shoulders hunched.

"Hi Jonah," James said, keeping his voice much calmer than he used with other patients.

"Hi Mr James," the boy said and followed James back into the big room.

"Jonah, this is Mr Teddy," James introduced.

"You're married," Jonah said. "I saw it in the Prophet."

James smiled. "Not married, but a couple. We got bonded." James sat down, crossing his legs, and Jonah sat next to him. "Teddy, you can sit with us, if it's okay with Jonah," James said. Jonah nodded, and Teddy joined them.

"So how's your magic been this week?" James asked, leaning back on his hands.

"Got in trouble at school yesterday," Jonah grumbled. "My teacher said I wasn't listening. You know the 'no magic' rule."

"Yeah," James said. "What happened?"

"They had us in the classroom for maths for a long time and I started feeling really itchy, you know? And I tried really hard but I ended up making the lights flash and I miiiiiiiiiight've zapped up some of Ms George's magic."

James blew out hard through his mouth. "It's not your fault, mate. They know they're supposed to make sure you're around magic every thirty minutes. It's in your IEP. Are you alright now?"

"Yeah," Jonah mumbled, picking at his trousers. "Ms George was mad."

"Well, people don't like getting their magic zapped," James said. "I am going to call your school first thing tomorrow morning, okay? But what do you say we do the pod?"

For the first time since getting there, Jonah's eyes lit up. He jumped to his feet. "Yes!"

James smiled, staying seated next to Teddy, as Jonah jumped into a sparkling child-sized pod floating in the corner of the room.

"I'm ready!" Jonah called.

James flicked his wand and the pod closed off and glowed faintly. "He's got Magical Modulation Disorder," James explained softly. "It's pretty rare, but he craves magical stimulation if he doesn't get it, and then he has disordered behaviour and things get…out of control. His school is supposed to make sure he's exposed to magic at a minimum of once every thirty minutes, but they keep thinking he can make it through a forty-minute lesson, which he can't. All the teacher would have to do is like, have a Patronus run around the room for a minute, or make some twinkle lights or something."

"If it's such an easy fix, why don't they just do it?" Teddy asked, watching the pod.

"Because they think he can stop it if he tries harder. They think it's like accidental magic, but it's not. If he's not around a certain level of magic, his body will take it. That's what he meant when he said he 'zapped' his teacher. It's like a flare of accidental magic that will actually take some magic from nearby. In his classroom," James sighed, "that's his teacher."

"Merlin, that poor kid," Teddy said. "What's the pod do?"

"Basically bombards him with magic. It's not like he absorbs it—magic doesn't work like that—but it satisfies his senses so he's better in control after. His family had to move to Diagon to be around higher levels of ambient magic, and he goes to a magical school, but." James smiled. "It'll be better when he gets to Hogwarts."

"How's the magic in the pod right now compare to the ambient magic in Hogwarts?" Teddy asked.

James grinned. "It's probably a hundred times higher than in Hogwarts. The average magical person would not be happy in there."

Teddy laughed. "Have you ever tried it?"

"Yeah, of course, have you met me?" James asked. "Though in retrospect I probably shouldn't've. I was jittery for a week. Doesn't make him jittery though. Calms him right down. I've been trying to think if there's some kind of magical object he could take with him to his desk. That the school would allow. But you know how schools are—they think the kids should be able to do it on their own, through willpower or something. Never mind he's got a disorder that makes it way harder for him than it is for anyone else."

The pod stopped glowing and the door reappeared. Jonah stepped out, smiling, and walked back over to James.

"How're you feeling?" James asked.

"Good!" Jonah said.

"Do you think we can try to do the game?" James asked.

"The game is hard," Jonah said, scrunching his mouth to the side. "But yeah, we can do it."

"Good man," James said, and gestured for Teddy to move back. "I'm going to cast the charm to reduce the magic in the air around you now, okay?"

Jonah nodded, though he looked apprehensive.

James cast, then waved his wand again to put a bunch of shimmering orbs in the air around Jonah. "Can you tell Teddy what the orbs are?"

"Visible magical energy," Jonah said, frowning at the orbs.

"Alright, do your best," James said, sitting nearby.

Almost immediately the closest orb began to stretch towards Jonah.

"You don't need that magic," James whispered. "Ignore it."

"I can't," Jonah whinged, his face screwing up in concentration.

"Relax, even if it's uncomfortable," James said gently.

Jonah pressed his eyes together even tighter, his little face covered with annoyance.

Then it happened all at once. All of the magical orbs zoomed to Jonah, crashing over his body, which was pulling for even more magic. James flinched, knowing too late that he was about to get 'zapped,' but the zap never came.

James blinked, the chaos over, and saw Teddy, wand raised, casting a barrier between James and Jonah. James grinned at him, then waved his own wand at Jonah to cancel the Magical Dampening Charm. James scrambled onto his hands and knees and reached forward to pull Jonah into a hug.

"I'm sorry that happened. Ugh, you must be feeling awful about that. Go take a spin in the pod, mate. No more of that game today, alright?"

Jonah nodded, a bit shaken, and walked over to the pod.

James waved his wand to start the pod, then turned to Teddy, fussing with the neon blue laces on his trainer with his left hand. "What spell was that?"

"Magical barrier," Teddy said. "Doesn't let magic through. Are you okay? Did he 'zap' you?"

"Nah, I'm fine. Wouldn't have been the first time," James said. He shook his head, smiling. "We make a good team, Lupin."

"Yeah," Teddy said, returning his smile. "Think he'd take to yoga?"

***

They Flooed straight to Harry and Draco's from St Mungo's, "Cindy Vance" following them as far as the Floos, chatting non-stop questions about what it was like growing up with Harry Potter as a father. James wondered whether she was enjoying the chance to put on this little act, gossiping about her boss.

James went through first, stepping out into Harry and Draco's cosy yet stylish living room. The sofa was leather, but overstuffed; the paintings were traditional, but kitschy if you looked closely; the telly was an enormous, top-of-the-line flat screen, but it was encased in a traditional carved mahogany cabinet. Everywhere were signs of what James knew to be the result of belaboured compromises between Harry's and Draco's tastes. James smiled. He loved it here.

Teddy came through the Floo, knocking into James, who had forgotten to step out of the way.

"Dad! We're here!"

Harry came into the room with a big smile. "James! Teddy!" He wrapped one arm around each of their shoulders and pulled them in for a hug. "Merlin, it's good to see you. I've been spending my days listening to worst case scenarios about your safety. Not a parent's ideal way to spend time."

James planted a loud, performative kiss on Harry's forehead. "We're here, we're alive," he said, grinning.

Harry shook his head and laughed. "Draco!" he called, turning to direct his voice at the stairs. "The boys are here!"

Teddy grinned at James over Harry's shoulder and mouthed, "The boys!"

"Dad, Teddy's thirty-four. I'm twenty-eight. I think you can stop calling us 'the boys.'"

Harry waved a hand to dismiss James's comment as Draco ran down the stairs.

"Teddy!" Draco said, clapping him on the shoulder. "Excellent. I need your help to beat Ron at chess."

"Ron's here?" Teddy asked.

"No, we're playing on a charmed set. It's a fairly high-stakes game," Draco informed vaguely, and James wondered what the fuck he and Ron had bet on this time. They were bizarrely competitive.

"Draco is overthinking every move," Harry whispered. "Jem, Mum's in the kitchen."

"Mum's here?" James said. "I didn't know she was coming."

"She wanted to see you after all this stalker nonsense and press coverage of the bond," Harry said.

James grinned at Teddy as Draco led him to the chess game, and walked into the kitchen.

"Mumsy!" he said jovially.

Ginny turned around from where she was chopping lettuce and flashed him a big smile. "How's my favourite recently soul-bonded cover story of the Prophet?" she asked.

James groaned and wrapped her in a hug, letting his cheek fall on top of her head. She smelled like lavender and he let himself soak her up through the hug. He saw his mum less than his dad and Draco, because she was often travelling with the Quidditch team she coached, and James realised he'd been craving some mum love.

One of the things his parents' divorce had made clear to him was the way that different parents offer different things. When he was fourteen and had magiglandular fever, Draco had been the one who carried in a tray of tea and sat in the armchair reading aloud from (boring) books. Harry had been the one who solicitously saw to every need and brought sweets and comics and didn't want to leave him alone for even a minute. Ginny had been the one who let him lay on her while she read a book and stroked his head.

"Are you alright?" she asked, looking up at him.

"Yeah," James said, and sighed. "It's just a lot."

"Your head still hurting from the bond?" Ginny asked, turning back to the knife that had finished chopping the lettuce, waving her wand to put it in a salad bowl.

"Nope! Bond was easy." That was true, surprisingly.

"Is it weird?" Ginny asked, eating a cherry tomato.

"Kinda, at first, but now it's just like…nothing, really." James took one of the tomatoes. "We've mostly been ignoring it."

"Really?" Ginny asked, her eyebrows up. "I would've thought you and Teddy would be teasing each other mercilessly if you had access to each other's heads." She grinned.

They had teased each other surprisingly little, now that James thought about it. If he and Albus found themselves mind bonded, they would annoy the pants off each other all day long and never get tired of it. But he and Teddy had not been treating the bond that way. They'd used it most notably for sharing emotions and talking during sex when they had occupied mouths. Yeah, they really hadn't been using it like brothers.

"What?" Ginny said, giving him a strange look.

"Nothing," James said, knowing he better get away from her before she somehow figured it out by the look on his face. "I'm just going to go check out this chess game. What'd Ron and Draco bet?"

"If Draco loses, he has to go to every Cannons game with Ron next year. You know how no one ever wants to go with him."

James laughed. "And if Ron loses?"

"Draco gets to use magic on Ron's camping trip."

"No way!" James shouted. "If Draco gets to use magic, I'm using magic."

Ginny laughed. "Take it up with Ron, Jem."

James laughed, calling, "I will!" as he walked into the other room. Teddy was sitting on the floor next to where Draco sat regally in the green wingback chair that Harry refused to sit in because 'there's a limit to inter-house cooperation. One has to draw a line.'

Harry, who hadn't played a game of chess since he and Draco got together and Draco could fulfil Ron's chess needs, walked over to stand by James.

"How's it going, really? You okay? Smith thinks they're close to catching the stalker."

James had no idea who Smith was. "Yeah, it's fine. Do they think that the relationship thing helped?"

"Yeah, they do," Harry said, running a hand through his hair. "They've intercepted even more letters and packages since the story broke. It's good. Is it strange to pretend to be with Teddy?"

It wasn't. That wasn't what was strange about it. "Kind of," James said. He didn't think he'd be able to explain what was strange about it if he tried. Well I sucked his cock but I'm not sure if that was real or not—well, the cock sucking was real, but why we did it—and that's kind of strange didn't seem like a thing to say to his dad.

"The mind bond is pretty cool," James said. Soul bonds were rare. He didn't know anyone who had one except Harry and Draco and Bill and Fleur. He found he was interested to hear his dad's thoughts on it.

"Yeah?" Harry asked. "Oh, good. I was worried about having made you do that. But yeah, mind bonds are pretty incredible. Honestly I can't really remember what it was like before I had it. Like watch this." Harry looked over at Draco, his brow furrowing a bit.

Draco turned from the chess board, his face going blank and then red as he stared at Harry. "Fuck off, Potter, we're trying to play chess here!"

Harry burst out laughing.

"I do not even want to know," James said. "When do you find you use it most? When you need to talk and you're in different places?"

"Yeah, I guess. Or, that's when it's most useful. A lot of time we use it and it's kind of superfluous. Or redundant or something."

Like if your mouth is busy sucking a cock, James wanted to say. But he didn't, because he did have some filter, despite what his friends said about him.

The Floo roared, and Lily stepped through. She was wearing cargo shorts and a t-shirt, and she was covered in dirt.

"James!" she called, making to run to her brother, but Draco held up a hand. "You're covered in dirt. Go change before you get it all over the house. Also, you know that 'no cargo shorts at supper' is one of my hard rules."

Lily kicked off her boots next to the Floo, and they zoomed off the floor to a shoe shelf. She waved her wand to Vanish the dirt from her body and the floor, and bounded over to hug James. She squeezed him hard, and he laughed as her short hair tickled his nose. "James is coming with me for a minute!" she announced, pulling him by the hand up the stairs.

"Did you know Mum was coming?" James asked.

"Did she come?" Lily asked, looking over her shoulder. "They're worried about you. They keep asking me if I think you're taking their instructions seriously."

James let out a disbelieving laugh as they walked into Lily’s room. "What do they think I'm going to do? Sneak away from Teddy? Although, if I was smart I'd probably get a Portkey to go stay with Al and Scorp for awhile. They're probably the least annoying option at the moment, and that is saying something."

Lily laughed, pulling her t-shirt (a threadbare Liz Phair tour shirt) off and throwing it in a laundry pile.

"Merlin, Lil," James groaned, turning around. "I don't want to see your tits."

"Whatever," she said, making a load of noise with her drawers. "Free the nipple, Jem. And anyway, I grew up with you and Al running around playing penis games—it's your fault."

She had a point.

"So are you two like, properly together now?" she asked.

James stared at the giant Gryffindor banner on her wall, his eyes finding the scorch mark on the edge from the time Albus had tried to burn it in a fit of year-five aggro. "No. I don't think so, anyway." He turned around, relieved Lily's tits were covered with a Draco-approved top. "I heard him thinking 'it's just the bond.'" James raised his fingers in air quotes.

"Are you sure?" Lily asked, stepping into a pair of jeans. "That doesn't sound like Teddy. It also doesn't sound like Teddy to let you give him a blowjob just for kicks."

"Honestly? I don't know."

"Well," she said, buttoning the jeans and shooting a Charm at her hair (to get the dirt out? James wondered), "do you want him?"

James didn't answer, just gave her a look.

Her face turned sympathetic, and she walked forward and pulled him into a hug. "Teenage James's wishes are coming true, but it's not as perfect as you thought, is it?"

"Don't make fun!" James said, poking her shoulder.

"I'm not," she said.

A few minutes later, everyone settled around the dining table. James laughed at the latest installment of Ginny's story about her player who kept getting caught having sex in locker rooms ("Honestly, I'm not even trying to catch her! You'd think she was trying to get caught!") and listened patiently to Draco's recounting of his latest Floo call with Scorpius and Albus (I think that story about the Floo call had to be longer than the actual call, don't you think? James thought to Teddy).

"So has it been hard to convince people you're dating?" Harry asked, and everyone turned to look at James and Teddy.

"Nah," Teddy said with an easy smile. "James and I barely have to try."

"Is that so?" Draco asked, and then laughed. "I would've thought people would give you trouble about it because you're kind of related."

"We're not related!" James and Teddy objected in unison, which caused the entire table to laugh.

"You're not technically related," Draco agreed. "But Teddy is James's father's godson and James's stepfather's cousin."

"Thanks, Draco," James said, amping up the sarcasm. "I had forgotten."

"I didn't think they'd give you trouble for that," Ginny said.

James smiled.

"I thought they'd give you trouble for the age difference," she continued, and James looked up to the ceiling, as if for strength. "Six years, you know, people say strange things."

"Six years isn't so much when you're as old as we are," Teddy said.

James jumped slightly when he felt Teddy's hand on his thigh, squeezing. Well, okay. That was new.

"I thought they'd give you trouble because everyone knows James fancied Teddy when he was thirteen," Harry added.

"Dad!" James objected.

Teddy squeezed James's leg again.

"Well, or because James is a very authentic person and can't lie to save his life," Ginny said, pointing her fork for emphasis.

"So!" Lily said loudly. "Who wants to hear about the new client I scored today? Uncle Nev referred me and I'm going to be designing the landscaping for the entire new performing arts centre in Godric's Hollow!"

As the table erupted with congratulations and questions about her new client, James breathed a sigh of relief and mouthed, "Thank you" at her from across the table.

***

James was on top of Teddy, his knees on either side of Teddy's torso, watching Teddy's face contort with pleasure. Teddy moaned, and James leaned down to kiss him. Teddy's hands came to James's head, grabbing with strong fingers and pulling him closer. Teddy moved his hands, reaching between them for James's pants—

With a gasp, James woke up, his eyes flying open. It was early the next morning, by the position of the sun outside the window.

For the moment, Teddy was still asleep. James studied him. His wavy brown hair fell on his forehead, his face peaceful. James's body thrummed with adrenaline from the dream, but fuck if he was going to touch his cock while in bed with Teddy, asleep, whom he'd been dreaming about. James closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He had just reopened his eyes when Teddy's eyes flew open.

"Fuck," Teddy said. "Dream. You were—"

"I was dreaming, too," James said, reaching over to stroke Teddy's hair, wanting to use his slightly more awake state to reassure him.

"Whose dream was it?" Teddy whispered, eyes on James's lips.

"I don't know," James said. "Maybe it was both of ours. Can mind bonds do that?"

Teddy raised his eyes to James's. "Can I kiss you?"

James—still half asleep, his body still reacting to the dream—didn't even stop to think. He leaned forward to brush their lips together.

Teddy moaned, rolling over until he was on top of James, and it felt so good, so right, so perfectly Teddy. James lost himself in the movement of lips and tongues and press of hips and fingers. He reached up and ran his hands down Teddy's back, pressing his fingers in the fleshy part of Teddy's hip where James knew there was a scar from a flying accident that happened at the Burrow when they were little.

"Wait," James said, pulling away, and Teddy stopped, his normal calm confidence absent from his face. "I don't—" James continued. "We can't have sex just because of the bond. I don't want it to be like that, with us."

"It's just the bond?" Teddy asked, but James wasn't sure if it was a question—and if it was, how could James answer it? How could either of them know?

"I don't know," James answered. As usual, he didn't know what to say except whatever was brutally honest.

"Okay," Teddy said, sitting up. "Yeah, you're right." He ran a hand over his face, seemed to be taking a few breaths. James took a deep breath, too, closing his eyes and trying to push away his body's reaction to the dream and reality of Teddy.

"Hey, Jamie," Teddy said after a minute.

James opened his eyes to see Teddy sitting there with a pair of huge, bushy, neon blue eyebrows. James burst into laughter, fondness and affection heavy on his chest. "You always make me laugh."

Teddy reached out, eyebrows still outrageous, and brushed James's hair away from his forehead. "You always make me happy." James felt his heart clench, but then Teddy hopped out of the bed. "It's Wednesday. I always practice inversions Wednesdays. Come do it with me."

James sat up. "Go upside down every day, right?"

"Yep!" Teddy grinned, closed his eyes, and his hair abruptly changed to the same neon blue as his eyebrows. "I'm doing headstand. What do you want to do?"

James grinned. "Forearm stand."

Teddy rolled his eyes fondly. "You always pick whatever seems flashiest."

James looked at Teddy's blue hair and matching bushy eyebrows, the five piercings in his ear, and his bright yellow t-shirt with a cartoon badger that read, "I DON'T GIVE A HUFFLEFUCK."

James grinned. "Yep."

***

After the morning at St Mungo's passed wildly with an assortment of James's loudest patients, they ate lunch in James's office to avoid the crowd (and Auror escort) of the cafeteria.

"Do you actually like being an Auror?" James asked around a bite of sandwich.

"Yeah," Teddy answered. "I do."

"I think you're barmy," James said, smiling. "You and Dad both."

"It's a good combination of tasks for me," Teddy explained. "Like, there's some action, but not too much. I can find satisfaction in filling out paperwork well, but it'd be too much if that was all I did. The work is creative sometimes, when trying to solve hard cases. Makes me feel like I have a connection to my mum." He shrugged. "I dunno. It works. I'm not sure I want to do it forever, though."

James's eyebrows rose. "Really?"

"Don't tell your dad that," Teddy said with a smile. "I mean. I wouldn't want to tell him that unless I actually had plans to do something else. Which I don't—not yet. Whatever. I'm 34. That's young. I have like eight decades of work ahead of me.” He ate a crisp. “I was really pissed when I found out that they wouldn't let me on the team working your case—the case of your stalker."

"Really?" James asked, surprised.

"Yeah," Teddy said. "They said I was 'too close.' When I yelled at them about it, they told me I was proving their point. I’m pretty sure the Deputy Head wanted to fire me. It's kinda funny that I ended up here with you, after all that."

"I wouldn't have been so keen to do this with some other random Auror," James said, smiling.

Teddy laughed. "Thanks, I think."

"If you had ten million Galleons, what would you do?" James asked, snagging a crisp and crunching it with some drama.

Teddy smiled. "Probably just teach yoga again. I mean, depends what else is going on in my life. Teaching yoga doesn't make any money, though. What would you do?"

"This," James said, gesturing around his office.

Teddy's face slid into a warm smile. "Yeah, of course." He ate a crisp, then said, "Your dad sent me an update about the case, but nothing interesting."

"Okay," James said, not particularly wanting to talk about why they were spending so much time together this week.

"Let me ask you something," Teddy said, leaning back. "You can say no."

James raised an eyebrow.

"Tonight is the monthly club night for my Hogwarts friends. Not really people you know, except Vic. Do you want to go? I can skip it otherwise."

"You never invited me before," James said. He wasn't sure if he was happy to be invited or annoyed that it was only because Teddy was under orders not to leave James's side.

"Yeah," Teddy said, offering no further explanation. "We don't have to go. But your dad said it's okay if Genevieve comes along."

"Who's Genevieve?"

"Oh," Teddy said, smiling, "that'd be our friend 'Cindy Vance.'"

"Yeah, okay. That'd be great," James said, deciding not to worry about it and enjoy it for what it was—a chance to get out somewhere other than the flat and St Mungo's.

Teddy's face lit up. "Sweet!" He grabbed a crisp. "Open up," he said, and threw the crisp straight into James's nose.

***

"We can't tell Vic," Teddy said, pulling his t-shirt off and rummaging through James's drawers looking for something to wear.

"You really think she'd leak it?" James asked, surprised.

"I mean, no, I don't," Teddy said, pulling on a kelly green jumper and then looking in the mirror to change his hair colour. Pink, orange, purple. He turned to James. "Purple?"

"Purple," James agreed.

"But the problem is she does work for the Prophet and so does Lyle, who will be there, and I don't trust Lyle, and I don't trust Vic not to insist on talking about it if we tried to tell her but not the others."

"So we need to convince my cousin who is your ex-girlfriend that we're together? She's not going to be super easy to convince, is she? She knows us too well."

"Well," Teddy said, "we sent her that gif the other day. We just need to be reasonably believable and I think it'll be fine."

"Are you sure we should go?" James asked.

"They have karaoke," Teddy said, and James grinned, arm twisted. "Genevieve texted to say that she's there, so we can Floo over now."

"Alright," James said. "Just so you know, Lupin, I'm going to snog you in front of your friends until you're well and embarrassed."

"Not possible," Teddy said with a challenging look, and they headed through the Floo.

They stepped into the club; it was one he hadn't been to before. It was dark, but easy enough to see with colourful lights flashing around. There was a small stage and a dance floor filled with bodies, but Teddy grabbed James's hand and pulled him across the room towards a table where Teddy's friends were sat.

Genevieve is in the blue jumper at the next table over, Teddy said.

James found her, knowing he should care about the Auror protection, but not able to bring himself to care more than superficially.

Teddy walked them up to the table of his friends, and James smiled at Vic, glad to see one friendly face, even if it was his astute and take-no-shit cousin.

"Teddy!" the group shouted.

Teddy smiled. "This is James, as you probably know, and this is Lyle, Esme, Jordan, Lu, Akira, Clive, and of course you know Vic."

James waved, and decided his best course of action tonight would be to just act on all of his desires that he usually repressed. He slid his arm around Teddy's waist and pulled him close.

Teddy turned to look at James and smiled, then slung his arm around James's shoulders and nudged him to the seats next to Vic.

When they sat, two glasses appeared—the group must have already started a tab. James smelled his drink, wondering what the magical bar thought he wanted to drink. Whiskey, by the smell.

As he took a sip, he saw the group staring at them.

"So, a fucking soul bond?" Vic said, wasting no time. "How long have you two been together?"

"Four months," James said, trying for a cocky grin.

"How the hell did you manage to keep it a secret that long? I've seen you two together at Grandma Molly's."

"We didn't want the vultures at the Prophet putting our brand new relationship on the front pages of every newsstand in magical Britain," Teddy replied, easily taking the dig at his two journalist friends.

"Yeah," James said, "it was awkward enough to try to explain to my Dad, you know? We couldn't just immediately tell everyone." He turned to look at Teddy, let his eyes fall to Teddy's lips. "Though I wanted to."

Teddy raised his eyebrows, which were purple to match his hair. "Oh, did you?" he asked, amused.

"Course," James said.

"But you two haven't been acting any differently!" Vic said, her long blonde hair brushing on the table as she leaned forward. "I would've noticed!"

Teddy looked annoyed. "Vic, maybe we aren't acting any differently around each other because we were already there."

Vic fixed Teddy with a piercing look before turning away to talk to Akira, but James's mind had got stuck on Teddy's words, which seemed genuine.

He took a long sip of his drink, then leaned in to Teddy's ear and said, "Want to dance, Lupin?"

Teddy grinned and they stood, pushing their way to the dance floor. James registered Genevieve getting up and surreptitiously joining the dancers a few feet away, but he was distracted almost immediately by the music, which became much louder when they crossed the threshold from the table area to the dancing area.

Someone was on the karaoke stage belting out a Celestina Warbeck classic, and James laughed as he threw his arms around Teddy's shoulders and they began to dance.

The dancing shouldn't have felt new, really. James had been dancing with Teddy his whole life. When he was a toddler and his parents would put on the Weird Sisters for a dance party. When they went through a phase listening to One Incantation before Teddy left for Hogwarts. When Harry and Draco got married and James and Teddy mimicked them in the background of their first dance. When Albus started his emo phase and they danced to Frogspawn, trying to embarrass him. When James got over his crush on Teddy and they would go out to Muggle clubs, allegedly trying to pull, even though they never actually did when they were out together.

But it did feel new, somehow. Like something had finally shifted, and Teddy was there. He'd always been there, but it was different, somehow.

The wizard running the karaoke called for a new singer, and James, remembering his promise to embarrass Teddy and convince everyone they were a couple—smirked at Teddy and ran onto the stage. He leaned down and whispered to the wizard.

A bit of a hush fell over the crowd as they realised that James Potter—the James Potter—had just taken the stage. James was eager to start the song, because he loved being the centre of attention if it was for things like the performance he was about to put on.

A whistling filled the room, and James (whose whistling talent was uncanny) whistled along, the Sonorus Charms built into the stage projecting the whistling around the room. The crowd began to cheer. James watched recognition cross Teddy's face as he realised what song it was just one moment before James sang, "Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby, I'm gonna show you how to do it."

Teddy stood stock still in the middle of the dance floor, gaping at James, who was dancing suggestively and pointing at Teddy every time he said "you" or "baby."

The crowd sang and danced along, delighted to see James Potter putting on a show like this. A few people had phones out recording video.

"And we start real slow, You just put your lips together, And you come real close, Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby."

James pointed at Teddy and crooked his finger in a come-hither motion. Teddy gave him A Look, but he walked up to the stage, as James knew he would.

It wasn't the first time they'd performed karaoke together. It was, however, the first time Teddy grinned, eyes twinkling, wrapped his arms around James's neck and pressed his body against James, grinding into him in time with the song.

James managed to keep whistling.

"It's like everywhere I go my whistle ready to blow," James sang, but then he lost track of the lyrics (which shimmered in front of his face with a charm that made them visible only to people on stage) as Teddy leaned in to suck his neck.

How much of a show do you want to put on for them? Teddy asked.

How much of a show do you want to put on, Lupin? James challenged, then jumped back into the lyrics. "Show me your perfect pitch, You got it my banjo, Talented with your lips, like you blew out candles."

James dropped his hand down to grab Teddy's arse, knowing it was in full view of the crowd. A bunch of people in the crowd shrieked their approval. But somehow, even with all of this, James still wasn't ready for what Teddy did next: push James backward so he faced the crowd straight-on and then drop to his knees in front of James.

James stopped singing for a brief moment, and then realised this would be more awkward if he didn't continue. "Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby, Let me know."

As if in answer, Teddy pressed his mouth forward into the front of James's jeans, nuzzling his head. The crowd cheered wildly, and James's mind completely blanked. Logically he knew that the crowd could only see the back of Teddy's head, but Teddy was actually, really pressing his mouth and nose hard against James's erection. The lyrics caught in James's throat as he grabbed at Teddy's purple hair.

"You just put your lips together, And you come real clllll—"

James had to stop singing or else a wanton moan would've be Sonoroused through the club.

You haven't embarrassed me yet, Teddy thought.

That smug bastard! James stopped singing, grabbing at Teddy's shoulders and pulling him back up to stand. As soon as Teddy was upright, James grabbed his head and brought him in for a searing kiss, which Teddy returned eagerly, the crowd hollering and throwing things at the stage. (In his haze, James couldn't quite tell what they were throwing? Condom packets?)

Do you think we've given these folks enough of a show? James asked. Do we need to go talk to your friends more?

Fuck no, Teddy said, sucking on James's bottom lip. Forget this. I want to suck you off. Or fuck you, or get fucked, or fucking something. Let's go home?

Just as the last whistle of the song echoed through the room, James tightened his grip on Teddy and Disapparated.

They landed, breathless, in James's bedroom.

For a minute, they just looked at each other.

"I think we probably convinced Vic we're together," James said eventually.

Teddy laughed, leaning forward to kiss James again. "I really, really want to fuck now. Can we?"

James tilted his head back, moaning at the way Teddy sucked just under his ear. "Mmmmm, yes, I want to. I want you."

"I can't believe you picked that fucking song," Teddy said, laughing against James's skin and fumbling for the hem of James's shirt.

"Teds," James said, and something in his tone must've made Teddy stop and lock eyes. "It's not the bond, for me." He reached out to brush his fingers through purple hair. "Put your hair back to normal?"

Teddy put his hair back to its brown default and reached his hand up to James's cheek. "It's not the bond for me either, Jamie."

James hadn't realised how much he'd been waiting to hear those words, and his face broke into a blinding smile. He pulled his shirt off and then leaned forward and pulled his green jumper off of Teddy. "What do you like?"

Teddy smiled, leaned in to whisper in James's ear. "I'm flexible—what do you like?"

"My position preferences are about as stable as your hair colour," James said with a grin.

"I'd really like to suck you," Teddy said, "and then I want to ride you. Would you like that, Jamie?"

James couldn't help but let out a disbelieving chuckle. "Uh, yes, that sounds like it would be a bit of alright."

Teddy laughed, reaching forward to unfasten James's jeans. "You look so fucking fit in these jeans, and they were in the way before."

"I'm not really sure I would've wanted them out of the way with all those people watching," James said, laughing. "I'm pretty sure Dad is going to see video of that."

"Morgana fucking Merlin," Teddy said, pushing James onto the bed and tugging his jeans and boxers off. "Do not talk about your dad right now."

"Sorry," James said with a cocky smile, but then his smile fell off as Teddy dropped to his knees and wrapped his lips around James's cock. "Fuck."

Teddy licked and sucked for a minute, then popped off with a slurp. "Am I doing it right? What was it? I just put my lips together, and I come real close?"

"Shut the fuck up," James laughed.

Teddy stopped singing and got back to his task, and James grabbed a fistful of sheets, his body swirling with pleasure from Teddy's mouth and fingers. "Teds, stop. Stop! Unless you want me to come."

Teddy took his hands away first, holding them out to the side innocently as he sucked his way off James's cock.

"You are so ridiculous," James said, smiling what he knew must be a dopey smile.

"You love it," Teddy said, shucking off his jeans.

"Yeah," James agreed, scooting back on the bed and staring openly at Teddy's naked body.

Teddy climbed on top of James, leaning down to kiss, but not bringing their bodies together yet. James kissed back, swimming with lust, an ache deep in his gut calling for more. He thought of the mind door to Teddy and sent the feeling through.

Teddy moaned, dropping his head on James's shoulder. "Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck, Jamie. Me too."

"Charms? Um," James was bordering on incoherent. Merlin. "Do you want my fingers or do you want to use charms? And nghhhh, I think I have condoms in the drawer, or do you want Protection Charms?"

Teddy reached for the table and grabbed his wand. "Charms are faster." He pointed it at himself first, whispering a series of incantations, shivering as they took effect. He then turned his wand on James and incanted the Protection Charms again.

James reached over to the drawer and pulled out a bottle of lube, pouring some on his fingers to coat his cock, and passed the bottle to Teddy, who reached behind to coat himself. James held his cock steady as Teddy raised himself up and then back down, pressing James inside.

James's eyes closed at the intense feeling, but he forced them back open to look at Teddy, who was watching him.

"You can watch me," Teddy said, reaching for his cock and stroking it as he settled fully on James's cock.

James smiled, a warm feeling enveloping him as Teddy returned a fond smile of his own. James would've thought this—watching Teddy fuck himself on James's cock—would feel overwhelming in its illicitness or in how sexy it was, but in the moment, all James could think was how fuckingsweet it was. He reached up to stroke Teddy's thighs, watching in awe as Teddy rose and then lowered back down. James moaned, "Fuck, Teddy," jolts of pleasure shooting through his body.

Teddy smiled, head tilted back, and set up a rhythm. James planted his feet on the bed and pushed himself up to meet Teddy, the feeling swirling through his body. The look on Teddy's face combined with the visual of his cock disappearing into Teddy's body was doing incredible things to James's mind. Fuck. He used to dream about this, but it somehow wasn't this he had dreamed of, because this was real. This was a feeling of hot, wet, sliding, Teddy, and James let himself enjoy the sensations—he knew this wasn't enough to make him come, but he was glad for that because he wanted to enjoy it, he wanted it to last.

Teddy leaned forward a minute later and whispered, "Feels so good, Jamie."

"Can we switch?" James asked, voice breaking over the pleasure as Teddy pressed down again.

"Now?" Teddy asked, amusement in his voice.

"Fuck, yes, I want you inside me," James said, thrusting up hard as he said it, and Teddy whispered, "Yes," but then they lost themselves in a haze of pleasure for a few more minutes before Teddy said, "Do you still want to switch?"

"Yeah," James said, pausing to reach for his wand and casting the Preparation Charms on himself and a Lubrication Charm, too. "Can't be arsed with manual lube right now," James said, laughing, his head falling back at the pleasure still rolling through his body from Teddy's thrusts.

"Okay," Teddy said, raising onto his knees and pulling off of James's cock.

James scooted down a bit, stuffed a pillow under his lower back, and pulled his legs up. Teddy stared at him, still stroking his cock, and he seemed a bit overcome at the sight.

"I'm ready," James said with a grin. "Any day now."

Teddy laughed, then leaned forward, pushing James's knees up and pressing his cock in. "Tell me if I go too fast. I'm not going to fucking last, Jamie, fuck."

"Mmmmm, go faster, it's fine," James said, his head falling to the side as Teddy leaned in to press kisses to his neck. The feeling of Teddy stretching him open, sucking his neck, the feeling of tightness around his cock still fresh in his memory, the feeling of Teddy starting to move—James babbled his pleasure into Teddy's ear, "Yes, so good, fuck, yes, yes, Teddy."

After a minute, Teddy adjusted his legs for a better angle and managed to hit James's prostate, James's mind going completely blank in pleasure. "Yes, there, there," James whispered, moaning, and Teddy whispered back, "How hard do you like it, Jamie?" James moaned and answered, "Harder than that." Teddy hissed in James's ear, and lost his grip on James's leg, which fell to the side as James whispered, "I'm so close, can you touch my cock?" and Teddy moved his arm to stroke James. James reached behind to grab Teddy's back with rigid fingers, and Teddy whispered, "Scratch me," so James dug his nails in Teddy's back, which drew a moan from Teddy's lips and a squeeze of his hand on James's cock, which tipped James over the edge, his orgasm hitting him hard, the feel of his muscles contracting around Teddy drawing a joyful laugh from his mouth and Teddy moaned against his shoulders as he came, too. James stroked his hands through Teddy's brown hair while Teddy's breathing started to even out.

A few moments later, Teddy whispered, "I'm going to pull out, okay?"

James grabbed his wand, Teddy pulled out, and James Vanished their come.

Teddy rolled off James, and James stretched his legs out, his right leg cramping. He flexed his foot to try to reset his muscles.

"That was—" James started.

"Yeah," Teddy said. He leaned up on his arm, looking at James. "That was amazing."

James felt like he should say more—but he didn't know what. He didn't know what would be well-received. Blurting out, "I want to keep doing that with you for the rest of our lives and also hang out constantly and tell you everything that happens at work every day and make you laugh as much as humanly possible" seemed like maybe it would be too much. James sometimes overdid things.

He opted for reaching up to touch a finger to Teddy's lips. He smiled, and Teddy leaned down to kiss him again.

"We should shower," Teddy said. "Come with me?"

"I just came with you," James joked. "It might be a little too soon to go again, especially with your age."

Teddy rolled his eyes and yanked James out of the bed and towards the shower.

***

James was roused the following morning by almond-scented kisses on his jaw. He smiled without opening his eyes and reached out for Teddy, pulling him in for a hug.

"Don't let this ruin the smile on your face," Teddy whispered, "but I've checked my phone and your parents, my grandmother, Molly and Arthur, and I think every person in the magical world saw a crowd video of me pretending to suck you off while you sang Whistle."

James's eyes flew open. "Um."

Teddy kissed his neck. "Your dad and Draco sent us a message that accused us of perhaps taking the fake dating assignment too seriously."

James started to laugh as Teddy dragged his lips to James's temple. "Fucking hell."

"I think the only people who haven't seen it and sent us a message about it are Albus and Scorpius, and only because it's still the middle of the night for them."

"You know, the remarkable thing is that I don't really care," James said, smiling and curling his hand around the back of Teddy's neck.

Teddy grinned, leaning in for a slow kiss. "Do you think your dad and Draco really think we were just doing that for the sake of the investigation?"

James smiled. "Well, they do know about our flair for the dramatic. Remember when we were kids and we went for Halloween as Cornelius and Darla Fudge?"

Teddy burst out laughing. "Oh, Merlin. I had forgotten about that little bowler hat you wore and my magenta pantsuit."

James reached over and ran his thumb along Teddy's cheekbone. "So I guess it makes sense they believe we were acting."

Teddy pressed a kiss to the hollow between James’s lips and his chin, and then jumped out of bed. "Do you want to do yoga with me?"

"Yeah, of course," James said with a smile. His body was getting used to the daily exertion imposed by Teddy's routine. "I'll be right fit if we keep living together."

Teddy smiled.

***

When James eventually checked his phone in the lift at St Mungo's, he scrolled past all his friends and family screaming at him about the video that the Prophet had put on the front page of the morning edition. He opened Lily's message:

Merlin's. Fucking. Balls.
JEM!
WHAT THE FUCK AM I EVEN LOOKING AT! TEDDYS FACE IS IN YOUR FUCKING JUNK AND I AM SCREAMING! WHY ARE YOU SINGING FUCKING 'WHISTLE' ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND! TEXT ME BACK RIGHT NOW! PLEASE TELL ME YOU TWO ARE ACTUALLY TOGETHER NOW BECAUSE I KNOW YOU TWO AND NEITHER ONE OF YOU ARE THAT GOOD AN ACTOR!
(Dad and Draco are fucking idiots and actually think you did that to convince people)

James pressed his lips together, trying not to smile at Lily's messages.

He kept scrolling, and opened a message from his mum.

James Sirius Potter!
*Whistling*
Call your mum!
Do you and Teddy want to come over for dinner tomorrow?

James groaned. "I'm never going to respond to all of these messages," he muttered.

"Did Al wake up yet?" Teddy asked, smiling.

"It's still 4am in New York," James said. "Though I look forward to those messages in a couple hours."

"I had about twenty messages from Vic," Teddy said. "TL;DR: She says she's sorry she doubted us and hopes we used protection."

James laughed, leaning back against the lift. "It's kinda weird you used to fuck my cousin."

Teddy raised an eyebrow (turquoise today) and slid his arm around James's waist. "That's what's weird about this to you?"

James laughed, finding Teddy's fingers with his own. "Yeah okay, I'm not going to try to catalogue all the ways it's weird."

"It doesn't feel weird, though, does it?" Teddy asked, his voice quiet.

"Not even a bit," James said, smiling.

The lift dinged and Jorgen's pinched face came into view. James slipped out of Teddy's arm and walked confidently off the lift. "Good morning, Jorgen!" he sang. "I do hope you saw the Prophet this morning!"

Jorgen's face became impossibly more pinched.

"Good morning, Ms Vance!" James said, nodding to Genevieve, who gave him a bemused look in return.

Crap, we never told Genevieve we were leaving, did we? James asked.

I think we made our departure pretty obvious, Teddy returned, grabbing James's hand for the walk to James's office.

Halfway down the corridor, though, Genevieve shouted "Auror Lupin!" and sprinted after them.

Teddy whirled around, dropping James's hand and grabbing his bicep tightly instead.

"Message from the Head Auror," she said, pointing at her ear. "You and James are to go to his house immediately."

"Now?" Teddy asked, looking around.

"We're safe here, as far as I know," Genevieve said, eyes scanning the room. "But orders are to Floo directly to Auror Potter's home."

James sighed. At least by this point in his life he was accustomed to his status as Harry Potter’s son interrupting his life. "Can you tell Jorgen to reschedule my patients for today?"

"After we get you through the Floo, I can," she said, grabbing James's other arm as they walked back into the lift to get to the Floos on level one.

The ride to level one was silent and tense.

I doubt it's anything to worry about, Jamie. You know your dad errs on the side of caution when it comes to the safety of you, and well, everyone, Teddy said.

Genevieve marched them out of the lift and to the Floos, threw a handful of powder in and said, "The Chosen Manor." Teddy pushed James into the flames first. He spun, stepping out into Harry and Draco's living room. It felt like his body took longer than usual to stop spinning, and he wondered if it was from the Floo travel or the sudden law-enforcement protocol.

Harry was there, wrapping James in a sudden, intense hug. "Jem, you're okay," he said, relieved. James hugged him back, soaking up his dad's warm, strong hug. Draco stood a few steps behind them, holding a mug of tea.

"I'm fine, Dad," James said, just as the Floo roared and Teddy came through.

"What's happened?" Teddy asked, stepping forward and placing a hand on James's and Harry's backs.

"Why don't we all sit down," Draco said. "Everyone's safe. We should have some tea."

Harry let go of James and brought them to sit on the sofa, while Draco Levitated a teapot in from the kitchen.

"The team has finally gathered enough intel to go after the stalker,” Harry said. “They're doing it now, and I just wanted you both here while the operation is underway. We can't be too safe."

James gave what he hoped was a reassuring smile. Harry had a hard time whenever someone in the family was sick, or floundering, or in danger. Harry wanted to spare his children the pain that he had in childhood and early adulthood, and he sometimes forgot that it was impossible to shield them from all pain. "Dad, it's alright. Really, I'm fine. Teddy and I have been having fun, even. He's got me doing yoga every day."

Harry smiled.

"So the team thinks they'll have the stalker in custody soon?" Teddy asked, holding a mug of tea. "What a relief."

"I imagine you're eager to go home," Harry said. "Let's not count our dragons before they're hatched, though."
James's chest constricted. It somehow hadn't occurred to him that his days of forced cohabitation with Teddy might end so soon. It felt like they were on the precipice of something big, but they were only at that precipice because Teddy was assigned there, and if they were forced apart…

He was getting anxious. Fuck. No! They hadn't had enough time.

"James," Draco said, looking at him astutely. "Are you alright? You're certainly safe here. You know how strong our wards are, and you're with two Aurors and one stepfather who isn't afraid to use dubiously legal defensive spells to protect family."

James tried to give a smile. "How long until we know?" he asked, tapping his foot.

Can I touch you? You're all jumpy, but...the dads are here… Teddy asked.

James turned his head to look at Teddy. His face calm yet concerned—Teddy wasn't worried. James moved closer on the couch, right next to him, and Teddy put his arm around James's shoulders.

"There's no way to know how long it will take," Harry said. "We'll probably know in the next couple of hours. Maybe much sooner."

"If they catch the stalker," Teddy asked, "what then?"

"Well, we can take you two into the Ministry to remove the bond. You can have the next week off from work, Teddy," Harry said. "You deserve a break after this."

James could feel himself getting angry. What if he didn't want to get rid of the bond? What if he didn't want to get torn away from Teddy? This whole thing was such a load of crap. He was twenty-eight years old! Why did he still have no control over his life?

James leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees.

"We'll catch them, Jem. Don't worry," Harry soothed.

And of course, they all thought he was upset about the stalker. He'd never given a fuck about the stalker. James was annoyed at the way his unwanted fame controlled his life, at being controlled by the Aurors, that now all of that was going to tear away this new thing with Teddy. This thing with Teddy that was new and fragile but so sparkling with hope and joy.

The Floo dinged, and Harry rushed over, accepting the call.

"Auror Potter," a voice said, and James didn't even look up. He'd long ago got bored of the details of his dad's job. "The team has apprehended the suspect. They're in custody at the Ministry now, everyone is safe, no casualties—"

James couldn't deal with this bureaucratic retelling right now. It was the sort of nonsense he and Albus used to make fun of in the other room, but Albus was in the US and it was actually about James this time. And now he was going to have to get rid of the soul bond and go back to sleeping alone in his apartment and it was all too much.

He got up and walked out of the room.

"James!" Harry called over his shoulder. "Don't you want to find out who the stalker was?"

"Not interested," James said, and ran up the stairs two at a time, not stopping until he got to the room he used to share with Albus on the weeks they lived with Harry and Draco.

There was still a deep gouge in the floor from the time he and Albus had argued and decided they needed to separate their two sides of the room. Albus's half of the room still had music and film posters (Frogspawn, Crooked Cauldrons, Fight Club), while James's had Quidditch players (Krandall Kaspar, who'd been Chaser for Montrose Magpies 2010–17 gave James a saucy wink as he flew around the poster) and Gryffindor flags.

James dropped onto his old bed, planning to take some calming breaths, when Teddy came in.

"What's wrong?" Teddy asked, coming to sit on the edge of the bed.

James sighed, biting at a fingernail. "It feels a little…anticlimactic."

"Isn't that good?" Teddy asked, turning to lean against the footboard, bringing his knees up and wrapping his arms around them. "Climaxes are usually pretty bad unless you’re fucking. Or wanking."

James raised an eyebrow, huffed a half laugh. "I just—you're going to go now. Now that your assignment is over."

"Is that what this is about?" Teddy said, looking surprised, stretching out a leg to nudge James with his foot. "What the fuck? You think I would do all of this with you and then just pretend it never happened?"

"Dad's going to make us go get rid of the bond. You won't have to stay with me!" James cried, frustrated. "How can we be sure any of this is real? How do you know it wasn't just the bond, like you said in the beginning?"

"What?!" Teddy objected. "I never said that!"

"You thought it."

"If I thought it, it was because I was worried that's what you thought. I didn't want to take advantage of you!"

"Because James, little kid brother James, is at risk of being taken advantage of?" On some level, James knew he was being ridiculous—but he couldn’t stop.

"Merlin, no! Fuck, Jamie! I haven't thought of you as a kid in about ten fucking years." Teddy sighed. "I've wanted you long before the bond, but you never showed any interest. Then we got the bond, and I didn't want to like, I dunno, opportunistically shag you because our guards were down or you were being affected by some barmy mind magic. I care about you too much for that!"

"But you've been putting on a show!" James said, letting all his insecurities out now that they'd started talking about it. "You've never shown interest before! I used to be all…fixated on you, and then I left Hogwarts and you were with Vic and I got over it, and you haven't ever said anything different, and these past few days you've been putting on a show! For my co-workers and your Hogwarts friends and the cousins and those people at the club!"

"Jamie," Teddy said, letting his knees drop and leaning forward, reaching out for James's hand. "The show was foryou."

James looked down at their hands, how Teddy was grasping on to his fingers. He raised his gaze to Teddy's face. "For—what?"

Teddy pushed up on to his knee and pressed a kiss to the corner of James's mouth. "The show was for you. We could've fooled everyone else without any of it. I did those things because I wanted to make you happy, because it made me happy."

James sucked in a shaky breath. Suddenly he had an image of Teddy imitating a Slytherin kiss in the corridor of the Ministry, of Teddy climbing onto his lap in front of curry takeaway, of Teddy with his trousers down opening up about being a metamorphmagus, of Teddy turning his hair neon blue to make James laugh, of Teddy dropping to his knees as part of James's karaoke act, of Teddy taking interest in James's work, of Teddy getting annoyed at Victoire's invasive questions, of Teddy egging James on in side crow and handstand, of Teddy saying You haven't embarrassed me yet in James's mind, of Teddy saying "How hard do you like it, Jamie?"

"It wasn't a show at all," James said, a slow smile breaking out across his face.

"No," Teddy said, laughing against James's cheek. "I love you so much."

"Just to be clear," James said, reaching around to pull Teddy closer, "when you say that, you mean it in a different way than you'd say it to Al or Lily."

Teddy laughed. "Ew. Ew. Yes, entirely different."

"I love you, too," James said, and suddenly Teddy was pushing him back on his childhood bed, lying fully on top of him, kissing him.

"I don't want to get rid of the bond," Teddy said, pulling away, "if you don't. We can always get rid of it later if we change our minds."

"I don't want to get rid of it either." James smiled, then reached up to trace one of Teddy's turquoise eyebrows. "I am going to miss having you at my flat full time. Though I assume you'll still spend the night sometimes. Or at your flat."

"Both our flats are shite," Teddy said, smiling. "Maybe we should look for a new flat. With enough space for a yoga room, and whatever else. Enough counter space for your Magimix."

"That sounds brilliant," James said, then reached around and slid his hand under the waistband of Teddy's jeans, grabbing his arse, and Teddy reached forward to push James's shirt up, his hand pressing against the squishy middle of James's stomach. They kissed, James arched his back into it, letting out a moan—

The door opened.

James's and Teddy's heads turned in sync to the door, where Harry and Draco stood, mouths open.

"Um," Harry said, turning to stare at Albus's Fight Club poster, "just checking you were okay."

"I'm okay," James said, unable to keep a grin off his face, hands still down Teddy's trousers. Teddy dropped his face to James's chest and started laughing.

Draco grabbed Harry's wrist and pulled him out of his paralysis and into the corridor.

"We're not getting rid of the bond!" James called.

"Can anyone in this family partner up with someone who's not also in the family?!" Harry called back.

"I dunno, you ought to ask Lily!" James shouted.

Teddy was still laughing a moment later, muttering about how James had finally succeeded in embarrassing him, when James's phone buzzed in his pocket. He pulled it out. "Oh Merlin. Albus is awake."

Teddy braced himself on a forearm. "What's Albus have to say?"

James unlocked his phone and started laughing. "He just wrote, 'Flo Rida? You're dead to me.'"

"What are you writing back?"

"I'm writing, 'Well, he did blow my whistle, so it worked.'"

"James!" Teddy cried, laughing and grabbing at the phone.

"Already sent!" James said.

Teddy grabbed James’s wrist, wrestling the phone out of his grip and sticking it in his own pocket, but he didn't let go of the wrist. "You know," Teddy said, "I dreamed about you. I dreamed about this."

James grinned. "Me too. Do you want to Facetime Albus and see how much we can gross him out?"

***

Two Months Later

James kicked off his neon trainers in a pile of shoes at the side of the big room in St Mungo’s and looked around. They'd set out child-sized yoga mats rather than using charms on the floor, so that the kids could have a sense of the bounds of their space. Jonah sat quietly on one of the mats in the back row, and Elena sat in the front, wiggling her toes. The rest of the mats were filled with James's other patients. Lily, in Gryffindor leggings, wandered between the mats, trying to help keep the kids under control.

Teddy stood at the front of the room, hair a brilliant rainbow, using his wand to get some music Sonorusing through the room.

Healer Clearwater stood in the back of the room, officially there to "oversee" the new programme, but she had arrived wearing leggings and seemed inclined to participate.

James smiled, pulling out his phone to dial Scorpius's number. After a minute, Scorpius's sleepy face appeared. "Morning, James."

"Hey Scorp, did you still want to see this?"

"Wouldn't miss it!" Scorpius said, managing to sound cheery even at 5am his time. James watched him scramble out of bed and heard Albus groan from beneath a pile of blankets behind him.

"Alright, I'm going to Levitate the phone so you can see," James said, and managed to get the phone in a good position.

That settled, he walked to an adult-sized mat on the left side of the room and pointed Lily to the one on the right.

"Good morning!" Teddy said, but the kids didn't stop chattering. Two were playing Stone-Cloak-Wand.

James let out a piercing whistle. "Listen up, friends! Mr Teddy is in charge this morning!"

The kids stopped talking, turning to look at James, and then quietly turned back to Teddy.

Teddy flashed a brilliant smile at James, then addressed the group. "Good morning! We're going to do yoga together this morning! The first thing we're going to do is some animal poses. We'll go around the room and I want each of you to tell me your name and what you think your Patronus will be when you get older. Alright?" The kids nodded. "I'll go first. I'm Teddy and my Patronus is a hedgehog. Everyone start on hands and knees like a hedgehog."

Teddy demonstrated, and all the kids (and James, Lily, Healer Clearwater, and Scorpius) assumed the position. "Now let's round our backs. That’s it! Stretch out our spiny backs!" Teddy rounded his back, and James smiled at the kids' attempts to imitate before he followed.

After they'd stretched their spiny banks a few times, Teddy sat up on his ankles, smile on his face, and pointed to Elena to go next.

"I'm Elena and I think my Patronus will be a bat!"

"A bat! Excellent!" Teddy said. "We're going to go upside down! Everyone lie down on your back, then we'll put our legs straight up in the air and hold our lower backs off the mat with our hands, like this." Teddy raised his legs in shoulder stand. "Everyone go upside down like a bat!"

James felt so full of love he wasn't sure he could keep it in his body. As he raised his feet into the air, he focussed on the mind door to Teddy and sent his emotions through it. James adjusted his hands on his back, drawing his elbows closer together, and felt a flood of love wash back over him from Teddy. He smiled up at the ceiling.

Teddy worked through each of the children's animals (including Lily's lion, which saw all of the kids roaring in Sphinx pose, and Scorpius's sparrow, which got them "flying" in Warrior III), then had everyone stand up to practice tree pose.

"The thing about the tree pose," Teddy said, "is that it will make you lose your balance. But that's okay, because if you wobble, you just try again, okay? You can't get stronger if you never fall over. Everyone plant your feet in the earth. Your feet are your roots. Imagine roots growing down out of the soles of your feet."

James wiggled his toes and let the grounding feeling root him to the mat. He couldn't take his eyes off Teddy.

"Okay, now we're going to raise one leg. If it's hard, just point your toe like this." Teddy kept his right toes on the ground and raised the heel to rest on his left leg. "Or, if that's too easy, you can bring your foot up to your shin or your thigh like this. Just don't put it on your knee."

James pulled his foot up to his thigh, smiling as he saw that Gertie had already fallen over, and Adi was trying to grab onto the person next to him for balance.

"Now raise your arms up," Teddy said, "those are your branches."

James raised his arms, locked eyes with Teddy, who was smiling at him over all the kids' heads.

"Spread your fingers," Teddy said. "Let your leaves grow!"

James closed his eyes to make it more challenging. He stretched his fingers, relishing the opposite feelings of being rooted down and growing tall.

“That’s it!” Teddy called.

James fell, laughing and joyful, and got up again.