Practice Makes Perfect

Hugo suppressed a groan when the impromptu Quidditch game was announced. Hugo hated Quidditch, mainly because he was pants at it. Thanks to a fall from a broom as a child, he had developed a fear of hitting the ground at a high velocity and it always coloured his ability to fly, much to the chagrin of his athletic relatives. Hugo had always expected that one day he would wake up and no longer be afraid to fly. At sixteen, he was beginning to realize that magical day would never come.

"Rose and I are Team Captains!" James announced.

"Why always you and Rose?" Albus demanded.

"We're the oldest," James said.

"Rose is only older than me by a month!" Albus protested.

"It counts." James smirked at his brother and Albus crossed his arms with annoyance. "Don't worry, little brother, I'll choose you first if I win the toss."

Albus glanced at Hugo and then his eyes slid away. Hugo didn't need him to spell it out. No one would ever choose him first. Normally, he didn't even have to play, because it was usually James and Lily against Rose and Albus, or James and Albus versus the girls. But ever since Albus had started bringing Scorpius Malfoy around, they needed Hugo to balance the teams, even though Hugo's skill would never compare to the willowy Malfoy. Whatever team ended up with Hugo invariably lost and they all knew it, unless the designated Seeker caught the Snitch before they called the game.


"I hate Quidditch," Hugo muttered, sitting on the stairs and listening to his mum and grandmum arguing in the kitchen. He liked coming to the Burrow, even though the adults spent most of their evenings getting drunk and reminiscing about the glory days of their youth.

A pair of boots appeared beside Hugo and he knew whose feet they encased without looking up. A hand dropped to Hugo's head and then the boots continued on for two more steps, and then James sat down heavily beside him. The hand left Hugo's hair to curl around his neck and drag him into a rough embrace.

Hugo tried to still his racing heart. The knuckles of James' other hand dragged over the top of Hugo's head in a familiar gesture. "Don't take it so seriously, Hugo. It's just a silly game."

Hugo set his jaw and said nothing. It might have been a silly game, but James hadn't chosen him over Lily, had he? That, perhaps, stung more than anything. The hero worship Hugo had always felt for James had changed over the last three years, growing sharper and more painful until Hugo had been forced to acknowledge it for what it was. A crush. He had a stupid, ridiculous crush on James Potter.

"Come on," James said with a chuckle. He let go of Hugo and stood up.

"Come on where?" Hugo asked petulantly.

"Outside. We have to cure this flying phobia of yours. Let's go." James clomped down the stairs.

Hugo stood up, despite his trepidation. "How...?" He coughed and tried to sound less nervous. "How are we supposed to do that?"

"I'll show you." With that, James held out his hand invitingly.

Hugo could not have resisted the pull of that gesture even with borrowed willpower. He walked down the steps and put his hand into James'.

They bypassed the adults by crawling through the washroom window—a method Hugo always expected the parents to figure out, but they never had. Hugo dropped to the ground and followed James around the house to the broom shed. It was fully dark and Hugo glanced back at the house, wondering where the other kids were. For a moment, he feared a Potter plot to lure him out here and leave him tied to a tree, or something.

Only the fact that the Potter trio had never done anything like that to him stopped him from panicking and running back to the house. The Potters were ruthless when it came to other people, but to family they were generally well-behaved.

James opened the shed and stepped inside only to reappear a moment later with two brooms. One was an old Cleansweep, badly scratched and banged up. The other was a Nimbus something-or-other with so many missing bristles as to almost be more of a stick than a broom.

"Which one?" James asked.

Hugo sighed and pointed to the Cleansweep. The Nimbus seemed to have issues flying in the direction one pointed it.

James grinned. "Good choice."

He tossed the Nimbus back into the shed and strode past the garden, beckoning imperiously to Hugo. Hugo hurried after him, not wanting to be left alone in the dark. "Don't you need a broom?"

James only chuckled.

They walked a familiar path, only slightly ominous in the dark, until they were out of sight of the house.

"James," Hugo began uncertainly, not at all planning to fly alone at night, but unsure how to refuse without looking like a coward.

To his surprise, James straddled the broom and beckoned to him.

"Come on, then. This is a sturdy old broom. She can take it."

Hugo swallowed down an entirely new set of nerves and walked forward like an inferius before stepping over the broom in front of James. He nearly made an undignified sound when James' arms went around him and pulled him back to rest snugly in his lap.

"Ready?" James asked in his ear, sending a tingle through Hugo, who leaned forward and gripped the broomstick tightly without bothering to nod assent. James leaned with him, so his torso remained pressed against Hugo's back. James' hands joined Hugo's and then there was a lurch and they were airborne.

Hugo felt the familiar sense of panic as the ground fell away beneath them, but it was alleviated by James letting go of the broom with one hand to wrap around his waist. "Hey, relax. I've got you."

Surprisingly, Hugo did, sinking back against James with a sigh. James flew them in lazy circles and his voice was soothing in Hugo's ear as he explained what Hugo did wrong when he flew.

"Mostly you have to relax, Hugo. I can see you are always tense and I just want to fly over to you and massage your legs to get you to loosen up." To demonstrate, his hand moved from Hugo's waist to his thigh and squeezed, earning a yelp and causing Hugo to go board-stiff again. Merlin, James was so close and touching him and Hugo was beginning to panic for another reason.

James chuckled. "I said relax, Hugo." He stopped the broom and hovered. Hugo took a deep breath and tried to unwind, even though it was difficult with James' hand still on his leg. "Let go of the broom and lean back against me. Hold onto me, instead. Just trust me."

Panic resulted from the words, but Hugo swallowed gamely and did as James asked. He let go of the broom with his left hand and placed it on James' wrist, then took a deep breath and did the same with the other. A sharp spike of fear caused him to jump for a moment, but James' right arm was still wrapped tightly around his waist, so he forced away the sick feeling and let himself go.

"That's right," James murmured. "You're doing great." His lips brushed Hugo's cheek as he spoke. His breath was warm, as was his body wrapped around Hugo. Despite Hugo's nervousness, he felt safe in James' care. James would never let him fall.

James flew them in circles and then took them high into the air before plummeting toward the ground in a dive. Hugo's hands tightened, but for the first time the sensation was exhilarating rather than terrifying.

James pulled out of the dive and laughed, chest rumbling against Hugo's shoulders. "You okay, Hugo?" he asked.

Hugo turned his head and tipped it back to smile at him. James grinned in return and the moon chose that moment to shine through a gap in the broken clouds, limning James in silver and making him look like an ethereal wind sprite. The breath seized in Hugo's chest and his heart thudded almost painfully.

Merlin, he thought, I want him.

James' eyes widened and his smile faltered. Hugo tore his eyes away, looking at nothing while his thoughts whirled. He hoped his stupid infatuation hadn't been obvious. He swallowed hard and let go of James' wrists to put his hands back on the broom handle.

"Can we go back?" he asked.

James' hands hadn't moved, one on the broom and one wrapped around Hugo, and they neither tightened nor loosened as James guided the broom back to the ground. As soon as Hugo's feet touched the earth, James released him, and Hugo swung his foot over the broom, moving quickly while taking care not to kick James by accident. He took a step, but James' hand reached out and snagged his wrist.

"Hugo," James said quietly.

Hugo glanced at him nervously and then away, knowing he should thank James, knowing he should say something, but unable to process a word in his haste to escape.

"Hugo," James repeated in an even softer tone. Instead of letting go of Hugo's wrist, James took a step closer. He dropped the broom, whose handle hit the grass with a soft thud, and raised his hand to touch Hugo's chin. His fingers exerted just enough pressure to turn Hugo to face him.

Hugo darted a glance into James' dark eyes and then away before shutting his eyes completely. His heart was racing and he thought he might tear his wrist from James' grip and bolt for the safety of the Burrow—

And then he felt a light pressure against his lips.

His eyes flew open and he wondered if he was dreaming, but James was there, too close to see clearly, and his lips pressed a bit harder against Hugo's, who instinctively opened his and shifted just enough.

James made a sound that Hugo couldn't define, but stopped his racing heart for a moment and seemed to ignite a heat that sped like dragonfire through his veins. James' tongue brushed over Hugo's lips and then slipped past his teeth to gently nudge his tongue. Hugo's stasis broke. He curled his free hand up and pushed it into James' hair, deepening the kiss and drinking eagerly of James' sweetness, knowing it might be nothing more than a passing fancy.

They snogged for longer than Hugo could process, minutes or hours, he wasn't sure, but neither of them broke their pose, James' hand on his wrist and one on his chin, and Hugo's hand wrapped in his hair. He never wanted it to end, but finally James pulled away, lips wet, eyes gleaming, and looking even more magical than he had before.

Hugo swallowed, afraid to move or even speak.

"So, Hugo," James said casually, "I guess this makes us kissing cousins?"

Hugo's relief exploded in a shaky laugh and James grinned… just before stepping closer and claiming Hugo's lips again.