Important A/N: If you're still in any doubt as to who these characters are, go back to chapter 2 and read the 'Catch-up' section at the top. Thanks.
A/N: Oops, almost forgot to thank my reviewers. Serves me right for taking so long to update! My thanks to Theophania, steeps, nil-blaze, ma-kun, kitty, kt, precious Ebony and in particular LuvBug2, sak and Brenna8. I hope you enjoy this chapter too...
3. Harry Potter.
James had a wide smile on his face as he entered the restaurant to meet Martin and
Hetty for lunch.
"James! Hi. We were beginning to think you weren't going to turn up," Hetty said as he sat down. "How are you?"
James sighed happily.
"Shagged to within inches of my life."
Hetty's eyes widened in shock but Martin just laughed.
"Good for you," he said, slapping James on the back.
James couldn't do anything but smile.
"So, does he have a name, this person who's making you grin like an idiot?" Hetty
"He does," James said. "Daniel Milford. He lives in Manchester but runs a chain of restaurants in Ireland. He's six foot two, not quite blonde, drinks whiskey on the rocks and is an only child."
James could tell that she was impressed.
"You found all that out in one night?"
"Nope. In three and a bit weeks."
"Three and... but we saw you two weeks ago. You never said anything."
"I didn't want to jinx it. Besides, the time before that you'd been going on about how I should find myself a man. I didn't want you to think that I'd actually been listening to you."
"Well, I was right, wasn't I?" Hetty said triumphantly. "And you're happy."
James nodded. He was dying to tell them something else but suddenly felt shy.
"What?" Martin asked, in a surprisingly perceptive moment.
"Well," James started slowly, looking down and fiddling with the napkin in his hand. "It's just... it sounds stupid but... well, you know, I think... I mean, how would I know if-" Hetty looked puzzled and James took a deep breath. "I think he might be, y'know, the one," he said, feeling his face begin to heat up and avoiding looking at his friends.
Before he knew what was happening he found himself in one of Hetty's hugs.
"Oh, that's wonderful!" she exclaimed.
When he was released he saw Martin grinning at him.
"I mean, it's only been three weeks and I don't know him all that well, and anything could happen..." James said quickly. "But it feels right, you know?"
"So why didn't you bring him with you?" Hetty asked.
"I kind of told him you were like my family so... well, I don't want him to think I'm getting too serious on him. I don't want to scare him away."
Hetty sighed and rolled her eyes. "Men..."
James lay in bed, looking up through the sky-light in the ceiling. It was light outside but all he could see was grey; it was one of those days when the weather wouldn't even threaten to do anything interesting. He was glad it was his day off - he could lie in this warmth all morning. James rolled over to look at the man next to him. He watched as Dan slept on peacefully and smiled.
They'd been going out for a little over two months now and with every day that passed James became more contented with life. Every time he saw Dan he became more convinced that he was the one that he would wake up to for the rest of his days.
James wondered if Dan felt the same. Sometimes the way he would look at James made him think that maybe, just maybe...
He sometimes wished that he could be himself. He wanted to tell Dan about magic, to introduce him to Ron and Hermione, and to let him see his messy black hair and green eyes without fear, but, despite this, he was happier than he could ever remember being.
James ran his fingers along the smooth, pale skin of Dan's arm and kissed his
shoulder. Dan stirred and turned to face him.
"Morning," he said, stretching and putting an arm across James' waist.
James drew him into a kiss and moved closer, entwining their legs.
"I think," he said between kisses, "that we-" He rolled so that he was pressing against Dan's side. "-should stay in bed all morning." He leaned down and kissed Dan's lips, running a hand through his hair, as he felt Dan's arms round his waist.
"As much as I'd like to, I can't," Dan moaned. "Not today. Sorry."
"I've got to work. I'm flying to Dublin to oversee the publicity campaign."
James groaned and rolled onto his back, staring at the sky again.
If he hadn't known how important Dan's work was to him, James might have felt insulted. Dan never really spoke about it, but James guessed that he had had an argument with his parents and starting his own business was his way of proving that he could survive without them.
"So you mean you're leaving me in bed by myself so you can go and stare at
beautiful men all day?" James asked.
"Yes, that's exactly what I mean. But you know you love me anyway," he teased.
James turned to look at him, but didn't smile.
"Actually," he said slowly, swallowing, "I do... I mean... I love you."
Dan looked surprised. He opened his mouth to speak but no sound came out.
Time ticked by painfully until the pause was sufficiently long that James could no longer deny that Dan wasn't going to say those three words back to him.
James wanted to be angry but a small part of his brain - the logical part that sounded a lot like Hermione - told him that they'd only been together for two months. James hadn't even been sure that he was capable of love, and he certainly hadn't intended to tell Dan how he felt. He'd never told anyone that he loved them before. Perhaps it was because he knew what a powerful thing love could be; it had saved his life and defeated evil; it wasn't something to be taken lightly. However, that was how he felt and it was too late to take it back now.
Wordlessly, James got out of bed and put his dressing gown on before going into
the kitchen and filling the kettle with water. He switched it on and starred at
the little orange light glowing on the handle. Behind him, he heard Dan walk in,
then felt a pair of arms wrapping around his middle.
"I'm sorry," Dan whispered in his ear. "It's just... I loved someone once and... well,... it was complicated."
James didn't trust himself enough to speak.
"I do care about you," Dan said. "Just give me time."
James nodded and Dan kissed the back of his neck, making all the hairs there stand up on end.
"Have you got any plans for tonight?" Dan asked.
James shook his head.
"I'll come back this evening then. I don't need to stay overnight. I'll get an earlier flight."
"You don't have to," James said, his voice wavering and feeling very vulnerable.
Dan tightened his arms around him.
"Yes I do. I want to."
Whilst Dan was in the shower James made breakfast and tried his best to act
"I should get going," Dan said.
"Aren't you even having anything to eat?"
"I'll grab something at the airport."
Dan put down his bag and reached up to gently stroke James' cheek.
"I'll be back tonight.
"Okay," James said again, not meeting his eyes.
With a sigh Dan picked up his bag and kissed James goodbye.
James was miserable all morning. Occasionally he consoled himself with he fact that Dan had said he cared and that he was coming home early, but he still couldn't quite shake the feeling of rejection.
James had just finished watching the evening news when he heard the doorbell ring.
"It's open," he called out.
Moments later Dan came into the living room and collapsed onto the sofa beside him, yawning.
"How was it?" James asked.
James smiled. "Oh well."
"Here, I got you something," Dan said opening his bag.
He pulled out two bottles and gave one to James. They had no label on but looked vaguely familiar.
"Er, I can't remember what it's called but it's Irish beer. You can't get it over here," Dan said opening his bottle.
"I thought you didn't drink beer?" James accused as he opened his own bottle.
"I make an exception for this. Taste it."
James did, and he understood why his boyfriend broke his 'no brew' rule. It was smooth and had a similar taste to something else, although he couldn't decide what.
"This is good," James said, leaning to rest his head on Dan's shoulder.
Dan put an arm around him and started to stroke the bare skin below James' t-shirt sleeve.
"So am I forgiven then?"
"There's nothing to forgive. I told you how I feel. You told me you don't feel the same way-"
"It's not like you can do anything about it."
"So I can stay tonight?"
"Of course," James said as he finished his beer and put the bottle on the floor. He shifted to a more comfortable position in Dan's arms. "I'm hardly going to chuck you out when you got an earlier flight especially to be here."
Dan didn't answer. James turned to look at him and smiled when he saw that the other man had fallen asleep. James took the empty bottle out of his hand and his arm from around James' shoulders.
James wished, for what must have been the hundredth time since they'd started seeing each other, that Dan knew about magic; he'd be so much more comfortable if James could just levitate him to bed. Instead, James fetched a blanket, wrapped it around him and lightly kissed his forehead before going to bed himself.
In the weeks that followed, neither James nor Dan mentioned the incident, but James was sure that neither of them had forgotten about his one-sided confession. Dan had certainly become more affectionate and his flirtatious remarks weren't quite as throwaway as they had been previously. Dan never told James that he loved him, though, and James hadn't pressed him. In fact, James hadn't even repeated his own declaration, not out loud anyway; he didn't want to hear the awkward silence that would undoubtedly follow.
With this new step, came a new feeling of guilt for James. He had told Dan that he loved him but he was keeping one of the biggest secrets possible from him. He told himself that he had to, because of the Statute of Secrecy, but he knew that the truth was he wasn't up to putting himself on the line again. He'd already been disappointed once; he couldn't take it if Dan turned out to be like his horrid relatives.
As their relationship reached and survived the sticky three-month mark, Hetty began hinting ever less subtly that she wanted to meet this Dan who had practically moved in with her best friend, but James had learnt his lesson. He might well be head over heels but Dan wasn't ready yet; asking him to meet his 'family' might push him away completely.
However, when their four-month anniversary arrived, James decided that he couldn't let it pass unnoticed; this was the longest any of his relationships had ever lasted. And he had never before had feelings as strong as those he had for Dan.
James slipped quietly out of bed and into the kitchen. It was barely light outside and he took great care not to clatter about whilst he prepared breakfast. He got out a tray and placed the coffee, orange juice, toast and Dan's favourite jam on it. There was something missing. James wasn't really a flower sort of person, but that was the sort of effect he wanted to recreate. Looking around the kitchen he spotted his front door keys. He hesitated. Was it too much? Dan practically lived in his flat already and it wasn't like he would be inviting him to move in; he was just giving him a front door key so he could let himself in if he was early and James was out.
Opening a drawer, James picked up his spare key, fingering the cold metal in his hands and biting the inside of his lip. He closed the drawer again and put the key on the tray before carrying it into the bedroom.
Setting the breakfast things down on his bedside table, James got back under the
covers. He pressed himself up against Dan's back and, when he stirred, whispered in
"I've got something for you."
Even before Dan turned over, James knew there would be a smirk on his boyfriend's face.
"I'll bet you have," Dan said.
James pretended to look shocked.
"Not that." He reached and brought the tray in front of them. "This."
James was pleased to see that Dan looked genuinely surprised.
"Breakfast in bed? What did I do to deserve this?"
"Well," James said, feeling a little nervous, "it's been four months."
Dan smiled. "I've put up with you for that long?"
"And I intend for you to put up with me for much longer."
Dan pulled him into a passionate kiss but pulled back just as they were about to knock over the orange juice.
"You shouldn't have done this, you know," he said.
"Because now I've seen this lot I'm hungry and I'll have to save ravishing you 'til later."
James smiled. "Is that a promise?"
Dan smirked, raised an eyebrow and started spreading jam on his toast.
"What's this?" he asked, picking up the key, which James had forgotten about.
"Oh, well... Don't worry, I'm not asking you to move in or anything. It's just, you know, I thought it might be useful."
"Thank you," Dan said, kissing him briefly before biting into his toast.
James felt his stomach leap. It wasn't the biggest sign of commitment that they could have between them but it was certainly a start. He smiled and poured coffee for them both.
"Actually," Dan said, finishing off his toast, "there's something I need to tell you
and now seems as good a time as any."
Dan moved the tray from between them and took one of James' hands in his own, looking at him solemnly.
"It's just that... don't take this the wrong way, but..." He sighed sadly and James' heart sank. "... well, you make the worst coffee."
"What?" James asked, unsure if he'd heard correctly.
"Your coffee. It's terrible. I've tolerated it for as long as I can but, I'm sorry, I can't take it any more.
James laughed and hit Dan's arm.
"You bastard. You scared the shit out of me."
Dan smiled. "Hey, who are you calling a bastard? You're the one who can't make coffee... Neanderthal."
"Weirdo," James said, sticking out his tongue.
Dan lay back down, propping himself on his elbow and smiling at James.
"Nincompoop," James said as he joined him.
James laughed out loud.
Dan's free hand reached under the covers and slid round to James' back. James took advantage of the fact that Dan's side was now exposed and began to tickle him. Dan let out a girlie shriek and rolled over, trapping both of James' hands by his side.
Dan's smile faltered momentarily before reappearing.
James did a quick mental check. 'Dragon breath'. Okay, so it was a wizarding expression but Muggles have heard of dragons. Dan had no way of knowing that James had actually got close enough to one to know that their breath smelt of stale smoke.
"I said dragon breath."
Dan sat back and was giving him a searching look that James couldn't quite figure out.
"What sort of dragon?"
James began to panic. Surely Dan couldn't be a...? A Muggle would expect him to say 'a fierce one' or perhaps 'an ugly green one'. That's what he should say. But what if...? James had to know. He picked the first name that came into his head.
"A Hungarian Horntail."
He held his breath, his heart thumping rapidly in his chest.
Dan raised a single eyebrow.
"Really? I always considered myself as more of an Antipodean Opaleye."
James sat up sharply, his head in a spin.
"You're a wizard," he breathed, hardly able to believe his ears.
"So are you," Dan replied.
For a moment they both sat facing each other, frozen and speechless. James swallowed.
"Well... I suppose that makes things... easier," he said, trying to cover the slightly uncomfortable feeling he was experiencing.
"Mmm," Dan agreed.
James thought he looked uncertain though.
An uncomfortable silence stretched between them.
"So," Dan said, "where d'you keep your wand?"
He smiled and James tried to smile back, but he was sure they were both aware that something had changed. James just had to work out if it was for the better or the worse.
"Um,... so, what d'you want to do today?" he asked, deciding to steer clear of the subject
that had just been unexpectedly broached.
"Aren't you meeting Martin and Hetty?"
"Not until tonight."
Dan shrugged. "You decide."
At that precise moment, James felt like flying and almost suggested it. But then he began to wonder; how many people had a Firebolt? Dan would certainly ask if he liked Quidditch; should he tell him he'd played Seeker at school? Had these facts about him been reported in the Daily Prophet? Would Dan put two and two together?
Everything had suddenly become very complicated.
"Let's... let's go to the cinema or something."
"Yeah. We can catch a matinee then grab some lunch."
"If you like."
James couldn't help but notice that their conversation had become a little strained. After all the times he'd wished he could tell Dan about magic, he began to doubt the idea. He was convinced that at any moment Dan was suddenly going to leap up and point at him saying 'It's him! Look, it's Harry Potter!', or else ask for an autograph or a photo. This was a nightmare.
"Listen," Dan said as they were about to leave the flat to go to the cinema, "this is stupid. We're still the same people we were before. I... You know I haven't felt like this about anyone in a long time. I don't want to ruin it over something like this. Blood and such shouldn't matter. There's no reason anything should change."
James sighed. He wondered if Dan would still feel the same way if he knew he was going out with Harry Potter. A niggling part of his brain told him that it would be better to be up-front and honest but James couldn't bear the thought of losing Dan. He'd waited so long to be happy, for someone to love him... Well, Dan didn't love him just yet, but surely it was just a matter of time? If he exposed his real identity Dan might turn out to be one of those people who was too awe-stuck to see past the name. James didn't think he could stand to lose him like that. It would be far too much like another victory for Voldemort and he'd already lost too much to that particular cause.
James stopped halfway through putting his jacket on.
"Dan... what happened to that promise about you ravishing me later?"
"You decided we were going to the cinema, remember?" Dan told him.
"Yeah, well, I changed my mind. We never go to the cinema. I don't see why anything should change."
A considerable amount of time later, Dan and James were getting ready to go out once again. The morning's activities had cleared any awkwardness between them and James was seriously wondering what he had ever been worried about.
"Hey, James," Dan called from the bedroom, "will you put your contacts in for me?"
"Not today, I'm starving. Come on let's go eat," James said.
Dan appeared in the hallway.
"Oh, go on. It can be your anniversary present to me."
All James' anxiety from this morning flooded back.
"You know they make my eyes itch. Another time. Come on," James said, employing his usual excuse.
Dan leaned against the doorframe, one eyebrow raised questioningly.
"Contact lenses? Please. We don't have to pretend any more. A quick cambio coloras'll only take a second. Here, I'll do it for you."
"No," James said, taking an unconscious step backward.
Dan stopped and they looked at each other before James broke eye contact.
"Okay, never mind, it doesn't matter," Dan said hastily, although James thought he could hear a trace of hurt in his voice.
James felt like something was stuck in his throat. He swallowed heavily.
Very slowly, James walked the short distance to the living room and sat down. Who had he been trying to kid? Of course things had changed. There was no getting away from it. James was always saying he wished Dan knew about him and here was the perfect opportunity to tell him. To do otherwise would be to live a lie.
James reached into an invisible pocket in his trousers and pulled out his wand. He was vaguely aware that Dan had come to stand in front of him but he didn't look up. James closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and took off the Concealment Charm.
He felt his body morph slightly until it had reached it's natural form. Harry heard Dan's sharp intake of breath but didn't look up. This was it; the moment of truth. Slowly, he forced his eyes to leave his lap, travel across the floor and finally rise until they were level with Dan's. Dan was staring, his mouth slightly open.
Harry felt his eyes starting to water.
"Say something," he whispered.
Dan blinked, as if trying to make sure that the image in front of him was real. Harry saw him open and close his mouth, as if the words were trying to escape but couldn't. Harry's heart felt like it was slowly turning to lead.
Eventually, Dan spoke.
"I love you."
Harry turned away, closing his eyes and letting a tear escape down his cheek.
"Get out," he said quietly but as firmly as this wavering voice would allow.
Harry tried not to let his emotions get the better of him. It wouldn't do for his voice to fail him now.
"I said get out."
This seemed to snap Dan out of his reverie.
Harry stood and looked him straight in the eye, his jaw clenching and his arm raising so that his wand was pointing at his former boyfriend.
"Get out now before I hex you into next week."
"But I can explain-"
"I don't care. Take your sorry-excuse-for-a-wizard arse and your toothbrush and get out."
Dan looked like he might object but then he turned and headed towards the door.
"And don't bother to ever come back."
With a final glance, Dan left.
To be continued...
In chapter 4: Well, by now you should have worked out what the title of chapter 4 will be. And if you've worked out the title, you'll probably also know who's going to make an appearance.
A/N: I was going to end this chapter at the point where James took off his Concealment
Charm but I thought that would be too cruel. Instead I left him heart-broken... Okay so I'm
Well, you know what I'm going to say now - it would be nice to hear from you lot out there - all comments, compliments and (constructive) criticisms are gratefully received.
Until the next (last?) chapter,
myrtille et mure