James was getting used to waking up in the wrong dorm.
It wasn't a habit, of any sort. There were a few nights in sixth year, waking up next to Lily in one of their beds, sneaking about in the early hours of the morning in hopes of not being seen. After they'd broken up, there were a couple of others, but no one with any kind of regularity.
No one, of course, until Regulus Black. Regulus, who had the same eyes as his brother, but deeper. Who had the same long hair, but softer. Who had a deep-rooted hatred for James, which only made him all the more endearing. Who was a better Quidditch player than he was (though James would never admit it) and never let him forget it. Who got drunk on Firewhiskey and kissed him on the last day of James' sixth year, then didn't send a letter all summer. Who just stood there as James yelled at him for ruining his summer because all he could think about was that damn kiss, and eventually kissed him again just to shut him up.
So yes, James Potter would wake up in Regulus Black's bed. He tried not to make a habit of it; there were so many times he would believeably "crash in the library while studying," or even "hook up with the pretty Ravenclaw girl, you know the one, with the brown eyes." But Merlin, was it all worth it.
"Morning." Regulus had a lower voice in the mornings than he did the rest of the day, something James never would have thought but was certainly glad he'd found out. He also slept in black sweatpants embroidered with the Black family crest, and his shampoo smelled like eucalyptus. His hands were softer than they looked, with a permanent bruise on his finger because of how he held his quill, fingers that were always interlocked with James' when he woke up.
"Morning," James echoed, running his free hand through Regulus' hair. His head settled with a comfortable weight on James' chest, like it was meant to lie there. "Good sleep?"
"Mhm." Regulus shifted, stretching his arms and torso before looking up at his boyfriend. They spoke in hushed tones, trying not to wake any of the other boys in the Slytherin dorm. Not that they didn't already know. "You didn't have to come if you were studying."
"I know. I wanted to."
"—doesn't expect me to hand in my essay on time anyways," said James, stretching. "Are you really going to fight with me over something that happened last night? Are you telling me you didn't want me to come hold you until you fell asleep?"
"You fell asleep first, prick." Regulus gave James a playful glare, kissing him quickly on the cheek before getting out of bed.
James waited under the warmth of the covers as Regulus washed up in the bathroom, returning with his hair combed and button-up shirt tucked into trousers. He started searching for the other elements of his uniform, James tossing him his tie from the bedside table before disappearing into the bathroom as well. He'd have to make do with wearing yesterday's uniform.
Washed up and dressed, the two snuck out from the dormitory and into the Slytherin common room. There was a fourth-year girl asleep on the sofa, covered by a blanket clearly draped over her by someone else, open books scattered on the table beside her. The two boys shared a look of amusement on their way out.
"You ready for today?" James asked, wishing he could take his boyfriend's hand, but knowing the halls were too public.
"More than you are," said Regulus, grinning up at him. "You won't look so smug after the match."
"Oh, I don't know about that." James smirked. "I've gotten pretty good at ignoring your pretty face during games."
Regulus turned a soft pink. He still got flustered when James complimented him out of the blue. James hoped he never stopped. "Shut up, Potter."
"Make me, Black."
Merlin, he wished Regulus would make him. But they were in the daylight now, and as early as they were to breakfast, they would still most definitely be seen.
"Not now," said Regulus, who was far better at following the rules than James, even if it was their own rules. "But later, definitely."
They walked in silence until they reached the Great Hall, when James stopped him. "Bet you I'll win."
Regulus raised an eyebrow. "Bet what?"
"I dunno." James pretended to think about it, though he'd had the idea back at the other end of the hall. "Loser wears the winner's Quidditch jumper tomorrow."
Regulus held out his hand. "Deal."
James shook it. "Hope you like red and gold, Reggie."
The game was tied 8-8. Slytherin had been pulling ahead for the last half an hour, until the Gryffindor chasers started to catch up.
"Looks like your keeper's getting tired," James called out to Regulus as he flew by.
"Looks like your head's up your arse," Regulus called back. James only grinned.
They flew around in search of the Snitch, James tailing Regulus for awhile, then Regulus tailing James. James started to think maybe the Snitch had flown off of Hogwarts grounds for good (could Quidditch balls do that? Were they enchanted to stay on the pitch, or were they completely free and capable of going missing?) when he saw Regulus fly past at a faster rate than he had all game. That could only mean one thing: he'd spotted the Snitch.
James was quick to turn his broom around and follow suit. His eyes picked up the golden sphere quickly, and he tilted the handle of his broom to urge it closer, urge it faster...he moved around Regulus, reaching out...
A high-pitched whistle sounded, signalling the end of the game. Regulus flew past James, the Snitch held tightly in his fist. He raised it above his head with a triumphant smile, hearing the roaring cheers of Slytherin house in the stands. The Gryffindors were nice enough not to 'boo', and while James was disappointed he'd lost, he was proud of his boyfriend's win. The teams landed, shaking each other's hands and congratulating each other on a game well-played. They headed into their respective locker rooms, showering and tossing their sweaty Quidditch uniforms into the laundry baskets before changing into their regular clothes.
James didn't bother putting it all together. He shoved his robes into his bag— it was too hot for it anyways— and left his tie hanging loose under the shirt collar that poked out from under his vest. When he stepped out onto the courtyard again, he noticed Regulus waiting by a tree not far away, and went over to join him.
"Good game, Black," he said by way of greeting.
Regulus smiled, looking up at him. "Not too bad yourself, Potter. I thought for sure you had it."
"So did I." James crossed his arms. "How do I know you didn't cheat?"
"Because I'd never stoop so low." Regulus reached up, not bothering to check to make sure no one was around before pulling James closer and kissing him quickly. James smiled, not hesitating to return the kiss.
It wasn't a voice James expected to hear. In fact, James wasn't expecting to hear anyone, but a familiar voice was worse. He pulled away from Regulus, feeling warmth flood his cheeks as he turned towards its source. "Hey, Moony."
Remus looked like he didn't want to be there, either. "Hey. Sorry. I..."
This isn't what it looks like, James was tempted to say. But what kind of a lie was that? Remus had seen him kissing their best friend's brother, it was exactly what it looked like. "I didn't know you'd be here."
"Yeah, uh...I was thinking we could walk to dinner together..." He ran a hand through his hair, clearly flustered. "I guess you're busy."
"A bit," said Regulus, who seemed somewhat insulted that they'd been interrupted.
"Reggie," James warned quietly, giving his boyfriend a look. The damage was done, so he kissed Regulus on the cheek quickly before going to join Remus. "I'll see you later."
"See you," Regulus echoed.
"Bye, Regulus," said Remus. The Slytherin didn't answer.
The two friends walked in silence for most of the way, neither one totally sure of what to say. It was James who broke the silence first.
"Please don't tell Padfoot."
Remus glanced at him. "I won't."
"I know you hate lying to him."
"And I know he's your boyfriend."
"But I'd really rather not have him kill me. Or Reggie."
Remus raised an eyebrow. "Reggie?"
"Regulus. Shut up."
"Sorry." But Remus was smiling, as if he found the whole thing amusing.
"You're laughing at me!" James whined. "I'm on my bloody death bed, and you're laughing at me."
"You're so dramatic, Prongs." Remus rolled his eyes. "Who said anything about a death bed?"
"Me. Five seconds ago. You really don't think Pads will kill me for going with his brother?"
"Oh, I'm counting on it." They were nearing the castle doors now, and Remus gave James a small smile. "Look, I promise I won't tell, but he'll find out eventually. You're not exactly the best at hiding your relationships."
"I've been doing just fine, thanks," James grumbled, but he knew Remus had a point. He and Regulus were more serious now, which meant it was probably about time Sirius knew. And it was definitely in James' best interest to tell his best friend himself.
James went to the Slytherin dorm again that night. Two nights in a row was risky, but in his opinion, that's what made it all the more fun. He told the others he was spending the night at someone's dorm, though he wouldn't say who. Peter was convinced it was the same Ravenclaw girl from before, while Sirius was convinced there wasn't anyone and James was just too proud to admit he'd be studying in the library until he passed out. Remus was uncharacteristically quiet, hiding a smirk behind a bottle of Firewhiskey he'd managed to smuggle into the castle after the last Hogsmeade visit, but the other two were too busy teasing James to notice.
James used their map to his advantage, making sure to avoid Filch and McGonagall and anyone else who might be patrolling the halls at this hour. He was lucky; he could use being Head Boy as an excuse with the prefects, but administrators weren't so easily swayed. He had his Invisibility Cloak with him, just in case, as he made his way to the dungeons. He got there without any issue, whispering the password Regulus had supplied him with ("Parseltongue") and slipping inside. He pulled the cloak around himself just in time to see a few Slytherin students in the common room, playing Wizard Chess and studying. He crept up the stairs to the sixth-year boys' dorm where Regulus sat alone on his bed, already in his pyjamas and reading Quidditch Through the Ages.
"Haven't you memorized that by now?" James asked, shrugging off the cloak. He didn't bother folding it, merely bunching it up in his arms and dropping it on top of Regulus' trunk.
"Getting there." Regulus looked up with a smile, moving over to give James room to join him. "It would do you some good to read it, you know."
"I'll have you know I did read it, in fourth year. Remembered all I need to know."
"And what's that?"
"To let your boyfriend win to stay on his good side." James kissed his cheek.
"Mhm. 'Let' your boyfriend, purposefully." Regulus raised an eyebrow. "What if your boyfriend is just a better Quidditch player?"
"Hm...no." James leaned back against the headboard, wrapping his arms around Regulus torso and pulling him closer. Regulus leaned into him, adjusting to be comfortable before James rested his chin on his shoulder. "Read to me?"
"I knew you were illiterate," Regulus accused, his smile evident in his tone.
"Only on Saturdays," said James, already closing his eyes. "Start from chapter four."
"Why am I not surprised?" Regulus looked up, kissing his boyfriend's jaw sweetly before focusing his attention on the book. "Chapter four: the arrival of the Golden Snitch."
James didn't remember drifting off. It was somewhere around chapter six, probably, which often put him to sleep. The detailing of the rules was enough to knock anyone out, and there was something about the words in Regulus' voice that made him very, very sleepy.
When he awoke, he was lying down, Regulus curled up beside him with his head on James' chest. He bent down to kiss the top of Regulus' hair, exhaling slowly as he closed his eyes again. He could feel the sharp poke of the book's binding against his side, which meant Regulus had fallen asleep while reading. James used to tease Sirius for loving that quality in Remus, but now he understood.
Regulus woke slowly, the two of them enjoying the warm comfort of the early morning for as long as they could before having to get ready. It was Sunday, so uniforms weren't mandated and breakfast would be late, but they had to get ahead of everyone else. They had to be early, because of their stupid, stupid rules.
"You didn't forget, did you?" Regulus asked as James came out from the washroom, running his hands through his hair in a fruitless attempt to style it.
James blinked, lowering his hands. "Happy birthday?"
Regulus barked out a laugh, eerily similar to his brother's. "No, you prat. The bet."
"Oh, right." In all honesty, James had forgotten about the bet. There were other things on his mind, like keeping Remus from snitching. "So...I wear your jumper."
"That was the deal."
Regulus met his gaze easily, almost proudly. "Ideally."
James bent down to get the green and grey jumper from the trunk at the foot of the bed. "Remus promised not to tell."
He raised a perfect arched eyebrow. "And we can trust him? He is dating my brother, after all."
"I trust him with my life," said James, not even remotely exaggerating.
"Alright." Regulus had never questioned what exactly bonded James so closely to his friends, and James was grateful for that.
"But..." James tugged the jumper over his head. It was smaller than his Gryffindor one, though not uncomfortably so. Just enough to fit snugly, and by the look in his boyfriend's eye, in all the right places. "Someone should."
"Should what?" Regulus asked, clearly distracted. His voice had gotten a lot less cocky.
"Eyes up here, gorgeous." James smirked, bending down to kiss Regulus quickly. "Should tell your brother. About us."
"There's a saying among writers," his boyfriend recalled, reaching into his trunk in search of a jumper for himself, "to show rather than tell."
James leaned against one of the poles of the four-poster bed. "I won't have to say anything with the jumper."
"Black, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you orchestrated this whole thing."
Regulus only grinned, adjusting the collar of his turtleneck. "No comment."
James shook his head, chuckling. The boys gathered their things before heading out, holding hands unapologetically. There was no one in the common room to see, so it didn't matter much, but the act itself gave James a rush of adrenaline. It was strange to see himself in another house's colours, but he didn't hate it. They weren't just any house colours, they were his boyfriend's house colours.
They passed a few students in the corridors, mostly younger years who didn't know enough about the boys to be surprised by their being together. A young Gryffindor boy's eyes widened when he recognized James and turned to whisper loudly to his friends about The James Potter, Who Told Professor Binns Exactly Where To Shove It. They tittered excitedly and hurried away, and Regulus rolled his eyes.
"You're like a bloody celebrity," he commented, not for the first time.
"Don't like the spotlight, Reggie?" James asked, though he knew the answer.
Regulus shook his head. "I'm just glad you and my brother take up so much of it."
"Leave you to skulk in the shadows," James teased.
They reached the Great Hall shortly thereafter, the chatter of people inside growing louder the closer they got. The corridors were busier now, people rushing to breakfast before getting to work on all of the weekend assignments they'd neglected on Saturday, looking less like a mass of students and more like individuals in their casual clothes.
"You ready?" Regulus asked.
James looked down at him. "Are you checking in on me?"
Regulus shrugged. "You're the one Sirius is going to kill, not me."
James laughed at this, dropping a kiss to his boyfriend's forehead before letting go of his hand. "I'm leaving you in charge of my funeral, then."
"I'll place an order for lilies."
"You mock me," said James, pouting dramatically as they headed to their separate tables.
There was no lull in conversation as James walked down the hall, as he had so dramatically led himself to believe, but people were definitely looking. What was James Potter doing in a Slytherin jumper? More importantly, whose jumper was it?
Remus, always the most observational of the group, was the first to notice. He locked eyes with James from halfway across the hall, grinning like a madman. James overhead Sirius demanding to know what was so amusing, turning his head just as James reached their group and took the empty seat beside Peter.
"Morning," said James casually.
"Morning," said Peter quietly.
"What the fuck?" said Sirius angrily. "What the fuck?"
Remus tried and failed to stifle his laughter, causing him to end up coughing into his elbow. "Very subtle, Prongs."
"Go big or go home, Moony." James shrugged, serving himself eggs.
Sirius' eyes were narrow, looking from James' face to the sweater he wore, trying to come up with any and all possible explanations. "Tell me that isn't it."
"Isn't what?" James asked innocently.
"Tell me that sweater doesn't belong to who I think it belongs to, or so help me Merlin, I will strangle you to death right here and now."
"Kinky." James reached across Peter for some toast. "No, thanks."
Sirius whipped around again, scanning the Slytherin table for a familiar head of hair. Regulus sat beside Barty Crouch Jr., listening to him animatedly tell a story, his eyes trained on the four Gryffindors. He met Sirius' gaze and raised his hand in a half-wave, smirking over the rim of his goblet.
"Right." Sirius turned back to James, cheeks burning a furious shade of pink. "Right."
"Relax, Pads," said James. "It's only a jumper."
"I'm going to fucking kill you."
"Babe." Remus rubbed his hand along Sirius' back gently. "Deep breaths, and whatever."
"How long?" Sirius demanded.
James pretended to think about it, though he didn't have to. "Four months."
"Four months?" Sirius echoed. "Are you kidding me?"
"And were you gonna tell me?"
"Tellin'ou now, aren't I?" James asked around a mouthful of eggs.
"Merlin." Sirius ran his hands through his hair, gathering the strands as if to tie them together and then letting them fall free. "So that's where you've been, when you don't sleep in the dorm? You're fucking my brother?"
"Not always. Sometimes we just sleep." James had to admit, as scary as the fire that burned behind his friend's eyes was, this was all somewhat amusing. He glanced over at the Slytherin table, and by the look on his boyfriend's face, Regulus thought so, too.
"I might actually kill you," said Sirius.
"And break your little brother's heart twice?" James asked.
"You shut the f—"
"James." Remus wasn't smiling, his tone much more serious. "C'mon. Boundaries."
"Sorry," James mumbled. "Look, Sirius, we're not just playing around. I...I love him."
Sirius still looked rather murderous, but he relaxed noticeably. "You actually care for him?"
"And you're not just stringing him along for laughs?"
"No, 'course not."
Sirius tucked his hair behind his ears. "Right, well, I guess...if you're not being a dick about it, and he's happy...I guess it's okay."
"Glad to have your permission," James said sarcastically, but a small part of him meant it. He could tell by Sirius' expression that he knew this, too.
"But I swear, Potter, if you break his heart, I will break your spine."
"Noted." James held out his hand across the table. Sirius took it, and they shook once.
"Oh, thank Merlin," Remus breathed, snatching a piece of bacon from Peter's plate. "I thought that secret was going to kill me."
"You knew for less than twenty-four hours, Moons." James rolled his eyes.
Sirius turned on his boyfriend. "You knew?"
"Prongs swore me to secrecy!"
"Blood oath and everything." James nodded gravely. "I almost bled out in the courtyard."
"Yeah, right." Peter laughed.
With the tension between the friends dissolved, breakfast passed as usual. They stole food from each other's plates and complained about homework, Remus chastising them once again for distracting him from the weekend homework. The hall started to clear as students finished their meals, and James looked up as Regulus passed by them on his way out.
"Looking good, Potter," said Regulus, his hands in his pockets.
James couldn't help but grin. "Not bad yourself, Black."
"I'm going to be sick," Sirius announced.
The others laughed, Peter kicking Sirius under the table as Remus downed the rest of his juice. James held Regulus' gaze for a few moments longer, feeling like he could properly breathe for the first time in months.