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In this alternate universe, Lord Voldemort is dead, but so is Harry Potter. Factions continue to fight, Hogwarts educates the next generation of witches and wizards, and the Ministry of Magic does its best to hold everything together.

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Hello, brother...

on Sun Nov 05, 2017 12:30 am
“James?”

He turned at the uncertain call for his attention, only to find a blonde woman heading his way, clearly focused in on him. It was definitely her that’d spoken up. So he stopped in the middle of the café, eyebrow lifted. He knew her. Why did he know her? Besides the whole Ministry thing, obviously, considering she was in the Ministry’s cafeteria.

“Hi,” she greeted, looking a bit red. So she wasn’t sure she wanted to speak with him. Interesting. “Sorry, I just- I had a question for you. Do you have some time?”

Yeah, he was definitely curious now. So he nodded, his lips pressing together a little as though he were seriously considering not doing it, but had given her what she wanted anyway. “Sure. I’m grabbing lunch, though.”

“Right, of course.” The blonde trailed along behind him, and although he felt certain she probably wasn’t usually this timid (hah, wrong), she looked properly nervous.

“You want to tell me your name, since you know mine?”

She laughed a little, easing up. “Yes, I’m Avery Bishop. I work in the Beasts Division.”

James halted, turning to look at her, eyes narrowed appraisingly. Avery? Maybe that name was more popular than he’d thought. But that wasn’t the interesting part. “Bishop? No. That’s not right. You married that Falcons player. The one that—Oh.” He straightened up a little, understanding perfectly. She probably just wanted information about Ivanov, or some sort of reference to him in the paper. Merlin’s sake. Why did she have to bother him about it? “What is it you’re after, then, Avery?”

She’d gone a bit pale, but that made sense. Except, it made even more sense when she explained. “Well, yes. He died several years ago, now.  Um. See, I’m not here about him. I’m here about your brother. Well, god-brother. About Teddy. I’ve been sort of seeing him for nearly a year, and… So he went really out of his way for my birthday this year but I didn’t ever know that his was in April. And I wanted to make it up to him and thought maybe you could help. I know things are weird between you all, but-“

“It’s been a little less weird lately,” James clarified. “But only barely. Continue?”

Avery frowned slightly, not understanding that they’d had that weird drinking dinner thing a while back. Or, at least, not putting two and two together. “Well, I’d thought maybe I could do something for his half birthday, since I doubt he did anything for his real one. He showed up at work on a random day once he realized mine had passed, and it was this really great gesture and I thought maybe a get together with his extended family might-“

“What?”

James stopped in the middle of the line, frowning at her again. “You want to invite the Minister of Magic to a party? That would ruin absolutely everything about it being a party. The word wouldn’t even apply anymore. No. Definitely don’t do that.”

“Okay…” Avery bit down on her lip, visibly thinking it over. “Maybe dinner somewhere nice.”

“That’s more reasonable, certainly. But who do you think would come? He doesn’t know them. He barely knows us,” James admitted rather bitterly.  

She shifted her weight, moving the wrapped sandwich she’d picked up between her hands, back and forth. “So he wouldn’t like it.” Frustration worked over her features. “I’ve no idea what to do, then. He’s always been quite honest with me about his family and how it’s so complicated, but I thought-…”

And Merlin help them all, but she looked so sad about failing Teddy that James couldn’t help it. The older man had finally found someone that he’d kept around for months and months, and she wanted to do something big for him. Something very, very stupid. But still sweet, considering her intentions. And she would probably hate him later for not stopping her, but he caved.

“Look, let me talk to Lily. She works with him. Maybe she’ll have some thoughts about it.”

Avery looked unconvinced by that idea, which made James pull his eyebrows together sharply. What did she know that he didn’t? Her expression became more neutral, likely in response to his reaction. So he softened as much as he could. “It’s definitely not a good idea to surprise him with an introduction to all of them. But I can appreciate what you’re trying to do for him. Doesn’t he just have some… friends you can invite or something?”

“Well, yes, but-“

“So do that, then. If he wants your help in meeting the Lupins, he’ll bring it up, don’t you think?”

James wasn’t really paying her much attention anymore, instead focused on finding a table. But when he looked back over his shoulder, she looked thoroughly dejected. God, no wonder Teddy liked her. She was so simple. So just… grossly sweet. They complimented each other, if that was any indication. James didn’t think he was personally very fond of her, but that hardly mattered. When had he ever been a good judge of people or situations, right? Mr. Funny rarely read the room correctly, even after all of these years.

“You don’t think he will,” he determined, watching her. She shrugged, her steps slowing as if she were preparing to just give up and walk off. “Plan it for just friends. I’ll talk to the family. I’d rather not deal with the Minister, but-“

“Keiran’s friends with Robert. The Headmaster at Hogwarts? They’re good.”

Oh, for f*ck’s sake. She was excited again. It was so annoying, that weird mix of pessimism and optimism. What was wrong with her? She was perfectly good-looking and arguably successful if she worked at the Ministry, yet she’d lost her husband and ended up interested in Teddy, a regular stick in the mud. And she was still like this. What. The. Hell.

“Right, well. I’ll talk to him as well, then. Just... just stop freaking out. I’m sure he wouldn’t care if you didn’t do anything.”

“But--“ She faltered, frowning at him. Was that disappointment? What right did she have to be disappointed in James? “Nobody ever checks on him. How do you know he wouldn’t mind? Did you even send him anything on the day? A letter? Anything?”

James’s jaw tightened but he said nothing. She just nodded as though her entire plan must suddenly make sense to him. He rolled his eyes. “I already said I’d handle it. Are you happy now?”

“Not really. But it works, I guess.”

She’d wanted to do it herself. That much was obvious, and he understood it. But with her incredible lack of understanding, she wouldn’t do it right at all. So it would just work out better for all of them if he did it himself and went with the narrative that it had been her idea to begin with. It was mostly true, after all.

So, imagine his surprise when she sent him a letter not two weeks before the event, after he had talked to the Minister and the Headmaster of all people, had worked out who wanted to spend time with Teddy and would be available on the 29th, and everything else. He’d even thought of ways to make it more organic and less overwhelming. Avery had explained her fiasco of an attempt at bringing family together and including Teddy, so James wasn’t prepared to play that game. Not if he had to be there.

But now it wasn’t happening? Why? He strode into the lift with purpose, annoyed at having wasted all of his time on her and his sort-of-brother. When he showed up at her office, her door was shut but he knocked far too loudly to be polite nonetheless. The woman that opened the door was definitely not Avery. There was no way. This one was broken, and her hair didn’t have a hint of curl to it and she definitely hadn’t slept in a while.

“What-“ He’d began, holding up the letter. But his hand dropped to his side. “What happened?” James tried again, more gentle that time than abrasive.

Avery backed up, stepping out of the way so he could enter before she shut the door again. “It’s not happening. The plan was that T-Teddy and I would go out that Sunday since we met last year on the 27th. That was the-“ she stopped to draw in a shaky breath, “-that was the cover story for it. But that can’t happen now. He chose someone else. I obviously can’t go now, and he definitely won’t be showing up, and-“

“Slow down,” James lifted a hand, reaching out for her wrist to draw her to the couch and sit her down on it. Then he turned a chair and sat in front of her, leaning forward on his knees. “He chose someone else? Who the hell would he--?”

“We were going to his flat to pick something up,” she started quickly, her breathing increasing as she tried not to start crying again. James was thankful for that, because he definitely wasn’t a cry-on-my-shoulder kind of bloke. “And she was sitting there. And he’s- he’s loved her forever but she never picked him and then she just, she just shows up like he’ll jump at the chance. And… and he did. And Sophie’s been asking why he’s gone, and-“

“Sophie?”

“My daughter.”

Oh, shit.

“She loves him to bits. And I thought he—“

Avery shook her head, lifting her feet up onto the couch to turn away from him and lean against the back with the left side of her body. Okay, so they needed to cancel the dinner. That much was clear. But more than that, he needed to knock some goddamn sense into his brother’s head. Because yes, she was completely ridiculous, this woman. But he caught what she didn’t say just as easily as what she did. Her daughter loved him? Sophie clearly wasn’t the only one.

Worse, even: this woman had been through hell. He’d done the research that first afternoon, too curious to help it. She’d still remained so naïve and had loved the professor even back then. Why else would she do something so stupid? Yes, Teddy would’ve been thoroughly traumatized by it if it went wrong. But she was right. They never asked about each other, and that was just as stupid. At least she was doing something about it. And James would probably leave that office telling himself he would check in on Albus, and would probably never do it. Because Albus had never bothered either. He would find an excuse not to. But with Lily, he would. Albus could clearly handle himself if he’d never come back, never needed them. And Jack hadn’t mentioned anything about him, so he was probably fine. But Lily had come back, and they owed her.

“I’ll handle it. I’ll let everybody know it’s not happening. Teddy doesn’t--…” James sighed, leaning back and looking up at the ceiling. “He doesn’t deserve it anyway, if he’s that mental.”

Avery turned her head, frowning at him. “Of course he does. Just because he doesn’t want me? That’s no reason to punish him.”

“Then stop punishing yourself,” he demanded firmly, locking eyes with her. “If he’s being an arse about it, then you be one right back. You’re fine. I mean this in the nicest way possible, but I know you’ve been through worse. And your daughter needs you. It’s fine to still feel something for him. It’s fine to not be okay. But don’t be this,” he waved a hand at her. “You’re turning into a Dementor in front of my eyes. Stop it. It’s creepy.”

She glared at him and he almost smiled. She was still alive in there somewhere. Good.

“Go home. I’ll tell the secretary you’re horribly ill. If she’s seen you today, I’m sure she’ll believe me.”

“Hey!”

“Don’t you hey me. Look at yourself. Are you an adult or not?”

“I don’t like you very much,” she announced, looking even more like a child when she dropped her feet to the floor and stood up to face him, crossing her arms.

He merely smirked.

Her arms fell. “Thank you.”

“You got it, Blondie. Take your daughter out that night instead. Or visit family or whatever.” Something deflated behind her eyes and he sighed. “What now?”

“…Well, my best mate. He’s sort of my brother. And he’s sort of… pissed at me.”

“I’m amazed you even know that word,” he said without thinking. Innocence indeed. “You plan him a party, too?”

“No! His ex-wife came back, she’s trying to get involved in his kids’ lives again. And I didn’t think she’d really do it, so he thinks I just… didn’t warn him or something.”

James lifted an eyebrow, but dropped a hand onto her shoulder. “You kind of didn’t, Avery. But that, I think, is much more fixable than your other issues. Maybe work on that instead, and let me handle the idiot.”

He didn’t care that she looked ready to argue him on the word choice. That wasn’t the important bit. She didn’t say no, which hopefully meant she wouldn’t do anything about it while he handled things. Or, for that matter, while he found his god-brother and found out what was actually happening.

So James made his way to the castle, getting in the long way thanks to a patronus message to the Headmaster that Keiran mercifully decided to take seriously. Hayes met him at the gate, looking confused but oddly less hostile than usual. Instead, he looked tired. That happened, James supposed, when you ran off your best friend and lost her babysitting help in the process. After a bit of explaining and a series of shifted eyebrow-based looks later, Keiran was leading James up to the castle, showing him how to get to Teddy’s office.

As the Headmaster left, James leaned in to listen and after a few moments, felt assured that the professor was not with a student. So he just pushed the door open, leaning against the doorframe and crossing his arms over his chest. “Hello, brother.” He greeted a little sarcastically. Mostly just snidely. “You wanna tell me why a beautiful, kind woman went ridiculously out of her way for you, only to be tossed aside? Or do I have to guess? Because, I’ll admit, even I can’t come up with anything for that one.”
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Re: Hello, brother...

on Thu Dec 21, 2017 1:06 am
Work had been especially hard without someone to talk to. Things were too new with Lily to feel as though they could share a heart to heart, and he had been avoiding Maddie ever since he had broken things off with Avery, too afraid for her to look into his brain and say everything he was afraid to say. He had taken on more responsibilities outside of school, substituting for club leaders and volunteering for detentions, anything to minimize the time he spent alone in his quarters, staring at the wall, wondering why he had ruined everything.

He hadn't even spoken to Bernice-

He sat in his office, shooing away another owl and pushing the scroll to the side of his desk with the others, trying to focus on the gradebook in front of him. He circled another name of a student he was calling in for an academic conference, musing idly that he was now inventing work to be done-

He jumped in surprise at the sudden voice in his doorway, looking up as a few of the scrolls on his desk fell off and bounced against the floor. "Merlin, James-" but even a cry to the divine was not going to he help him now. Not while James Potter felt vindicated.

"Wh-what... What are you talking about?"
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Re: Hello, brother...

on Thu Dec 21, 2017 7:43 pm
James had been thoroughly irked upon entering Teddy's office, but the professor's inability to put two and two together made him livid. "Do you know what I've been doing for the past three months?" He snapped, striding forward to drop his palms to the top of Teddy's desk.

"I've been helping that idiot ex-girlfriend of yours plan you a half-birthday party, because she thinks that's a thing. You know she just about lost her mind when she realized it lined up with the anniversary of when you two met? And she tried to invite the bloody Minister so you could-- bond or something with the other Lupins. No wonder you were into her. She's completely mental."

He dropped into a chair across from Teddy and shook his head. His stance and voice changed -- lucky for the Hufflepuff -- into something almost tired rather than irate. Avery was a complete piece of work, but she cared about Teddy more than James could say he had ever cared about... well, anyone. And that was interesting, to say the least.  

"I can't believe you're taking Bernice seriously, mate. Everybody could see how she's been jerking you around, so you do realize that this makes you a rebound, right? That she just needs someone? How is she worth destroying someone as pathetic as Bishop? You have to know it won't last. I mean... If you don't actually care about Avery or Sophie, that's fine. You can't really help that. But you seemed pretty serious when you told us about her."
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Re: Hello, brother...

on Wed Dec 27, 2017 5:35 am
Teddy was wholly overwhelmed. Perhaps the Potter with the most consistent grades, he considered himself the least clever and James seemed to forget that he was not as quick on the uptake as he was. The part of him that had learned the Weasley temper by sheer exposure alone wanted to pop off and remind James that he didn't know anything his brothers were up to because they didn't answer his owls. But even if he had given in to his less mature impulses, it wasn't like he had any time to respond.

"James. James, what are you even- can you-"

It was fruitless. James persisted and his voice only grew stronger and faster as he continued on. So Teddy sighed and let James lay him out.

Finally, he looked up. "First thing... you don't know Bernice. You don't know hardly anything about my old life, and you didn't know anything about my life with Avery until recently it seems, so please don't jump to conclusions when you haven't even bothered to get my side in it. If you don't want my side, that's one thing, but I am your brother, and that should count for something."

He stared James down and then pointed at the seat across from him.
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Re: Hello, brother...

on Wed Dec 27, 2017 6:06 am
"Yeah, you're right," James replied flatly, looking thoroughly unimpressed. "I don't. And whose fault is that? Not solely mine."

Arms crossing over his chest, the eldest biological Potter shook his head. "For the record, though," he added, unable to stop himself, "I've been dealing with her oddities for months now, so don't pretend I don't know her. Not as well, surely, but if you'd seen the hell she put me through in an attempt to give you the help you so obviously don't want, you'd be bloody well pissed off, too. She wrote me an owl. An owl! Telling me that all the work I'd done over weeks and weeks was pointless because you don't like her." He gestured on the emphasized word, visibly frustrated that he wasn't getting a fight in return. Discussions weren't fun once he got into a mood.

"So, -- then, fine," he huffed eventually, sinking into his seat. "Go on, then, with your side. And-and, don't you bother trying to make it all polite or whatever. I can hardly stand her anymore -- and I can't say we were ever going to be close. So I damn well won't be reporting back."
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Re: Hello, brother...

on Sat Feb 24, 2018 4:27 am
Teddy had to remind himself who he was dealing with. He wasn't sure if it was the age difference, the level of trauma, or the actual blood running through the veins of the Potters, but they were all so stubbornly set in their version of the truth, reality be damned. It was Teddy who had left owl after owl, who had asked for aunts and uncles to pass along any scrap of information they had on them, going as far as to send each of the Potters a copy of his house key. As far as he knew, those keys had ended up at the bottom of the sea for as much as they were used.

And part of him wanted to argue it, to finally put his foot down and demand that his efforts be recognized. But that wasn't Teddy, and that certainly wasn't helpful. So he deflated, resigned to the fact that he would never see the justice part of him sort of wanted-

His head lifted immediately at James' explanation of the time spent with Avery. It was a surprise, of course, and somehow sparked a sense of... ew, what, jealousy? He had no right, naturally, and also no reason. It wasn't like...

He had to stop before he conjured himself a mental image that he couldn't forget.

He let out a long sigh. "Look. I like Avery. A lot. A lot." He stared at James, because he wasn't sure he understood. "A lot. I was getting to a point where I... I had never been with... well... anyone. And then Bernice showed up. And I haven't, I didn't..." He sighed. "I used to be head over heels for Bernice. Would have thrown myself in front of a killing curse for her. Convinced there was no one else. And of course, she never gave me the time of day. And I didn't have any real, active feelings for her when I met Avery. But she showed up one day and she told me that... that she was done with her ex and she realized she... she loved me or whatever."

He sputtered out of energy, as though he was just now realizing how convoluted and fruitless this whole thing was. It made him sound like someone he knew he wasn't and his life was much more romantic or something. When really the whole situation was just... pathetic.

"I just... do a lot of relationships wrong. Obviously. And when Bernice showed up my doorstep, I still wanted Avery. I was just worried... that I'd always wonder. And Avery doesn't deserve that. She's always had so much doubt about where she stands and I just... I refuse to contribute to that."
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Re: Hello, brother...

on Sat Feb 24, 2018 5:52 am
Here's the thing, right? James had no real attachment to Avery - not that he could admit, anyway. What he really cared about, or told himself he cared about, was the time he had been wasting trying to help her help Teddy. Surely she could have just come to whine at him about the professor and left him to do something about it on his own. Then she wouldn't have ruined his efforts and made him, like, care. Disgusting.

So, okay. Teddy liked Avery. That... did not need to be addressed. If they weren't on the same page about their feelings, James was super not going to touch that. As much as he wanted to, just to see the look on his godbrother's face, that probably wouldn't do him any favors. Instead, he decided to be a real brother figure. For once. So he sighed, frowning but trying to soften his expression.

"Look, don't take this the wrong way... But I'm sorry. I never realized you lacked the self-confidence to put yourself first. Surely you know she isn't serious? Bernice, I mean. Mate, ..." James turned his hands palm-up in a vague sort of gesture as he searched for words. "If she felt nothing before, and suddenly shows up claiming a serious emotion like love? It'll never be as real as something that developed naturally. And maybe you don't know it, but... I mean... You deserve better than that. And it doesn't need to be Avery. She's... I mean, hell, mate. She's kind of mental. But at least she doesn't turn loneliness or rejection or whatever's going on with Bernice into love for someone who's always been there, ready and willing to be the backup plan."
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Re: Hello, brother...

on Sat Feb 24, 2018 5:35 pm
He felt rotten for having put that all on James. Adults or not, Teddy still felt he had the responsibility to lead by example and be the well put together adult for the other Potters to look to as a pillar of strength. Despite the fact that he had not been so for so long, it felt wrong to lay out his problems, especially ones so abstract and deep rooted. He had been able to complain with James about more elementary problems, lack of confidence with girls or embarrassing himself in front of peers. But they hadn't spoken like that since Teddy had graduated, and they had rarely spoken like this.

It felt surreal to hear James apologize. His family didn't know Bernice very well, or Val, or Audrey, and only knew Sawyer on the basis of him being their cousin. But they didn't know that he had briefly formulated a new family of sorts, a group of friends so close that he could rely on them for all of his social needs.

He let out a long sigh.

"I know."

It wasn't until James said it all and he found himself thinking 'duh' alongside the words did he realize that he had known all of this the entire time. Perhaps he was scared of it, then. Scared of his ability to be so shaken from something so good. Certain he would not be the stability for Avery that he so believed she deserved.

"I know," he repeated, now meeting James' look. "I knew then, I think. I've just... I have failed time and time again to be the stabilizing force. And Avery deserves stability, and... I don't think I'd be able to ever look at myself in the mirror again if I promised her something I fail to do."
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Re: Hello, brother...

on Sat Feb 24, 2018 9:54 pm
"I don't know how much my advice really counts on this," James admitted reluctantly, his eyes darting around the room a little before finally settling back on Teddy, "considering I haven't dated seriously since school. Maybe not even then." He squinted as he considered that, but went on, shaking his head. "But I never really thought that relationships were about promises. I mean... Okay, so vows and stuff are pretty serious. But that's a promise not to, like, cheat or to... I don't know. You get my point. It's about feelings, even early on."

He shrugged. "You told me and Lily that you'd been seeing her. Like it was all official. That's a promise, isn't it? To care and, again, to not cheat. And to bring stuff up early, like you did with this whole Bernice thing. It sounds like you're doing a pretty decent job. Avery told me that she--" He stopped, changing direction immediately. "That she trusts you with her daughter. What mum isn't trying to provide stability for their kids, right? Yet she brought you in anyway. You don't trust yourself yet. That's alright. But do you trust her? If nothing else, your conscience sounds strong enough to make sure you don't do anything like this again."

James sat forward, his face suddenly quite serious at the idea of a little girl who'd lost her father, only to lose another father figure all over again. "Sophie's like you, y'know. Just like you. If you could have dad back, wouldn't you want that? Ted, you've gotta make up your mind on this. If you're gonna go back, you can't leave. Not again. Don't ruin her like we were. And don't go near that woman again if you don't mean it. ...She's a wreck, mate."
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Re: Hello, brother...

on Sun Feb 25, 2018 6:34 pm
Teddy wasn't sure why James wasn't hearing the problem, even as he laid it out. It was ringing loudly in his own ears, assaulting him with the very fear that had made him pull away and had started this whole mess. His elbows somehow found the table and his calloused thumbs rubbed aggressively over his eyelids, showing no mercy as he couldn't help but rub away as though he could rub himself out of existence.

"I know," Teddy groaned, which he had hoped would sound more like a growl than a groan. He lifted his head, eyes red from the poor treatment, and said, "I am trying to make my mind up about it. I know that once I go back, it's forever. It has to be. And I want it to be. But I went from absolute certainty that forever wasn't in the cards and now it's that or no Avery and I can't help but worry that I'm going to go back and it's all going to go wrong and then what- then I'm the asshole that changed his mind like the wind just to break her heart and I won't do that to her."

He deflated. He hadn't spoken so harshly in... ages. He couldn't remember the last time his voice had reached that timbre even. And it all rushed out of him, and with it, it left clarity.

There would never be certainty. People died. People ran away. People started doing drugs, people turned their lives around. He would never had a guarantee.

But if he didn't do something, he was guaranteed to lose her.

He stood up suddenly, blinking nervously and hands fidgeting as he tried to figure out what he was trying to do, what he needed. "I-I have to go. I need to, um..." He reached out and grabbed his jacket off the hook. "I have to go."
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