A/N: Many thanks to mew-tsubaki for betareading!
milliseconds aren't reality
You think you have fallen in love with the completely wrong person, don't you? You think you should be punished, tormented in hell for a billion years for doing so; you regret it every second you spend awake…you wish you could go back and undo things so that you never would have to feel this way that you feel.
It makes you vulnerable, you just know it. It makes you so dependent and so fragile and so—so—so easily broken just because of him and you don't want to, don't want to, don't want to be so weak, don't want to know that he can crush you with just a look.
But he can, and you think it's you who have done something wrong, falling for him like this.
"Hey, James," he says to you, and you look up at him in approximately a millisecond because it's his voice and it makes you feel and when you meet his eyes they are deeply green and you don't dare to hope he means something by it, even though you know he knows you love his eyes in that colour. "How are you doing?" he asks, and he sits down and you're staring at the cereal package because it's too early in the morning to recall it's wrong to be in love with him, so wrong.
"Fine, thanks. What are you doing here?" you ask before you can stop yourself because you know just how he'll answer, that he'll say that he's been here to see Lily—of course he has—and of course you already know that because last night you heard them fucking in the room next to yours and you heard Lily trying to muffle her scream into her pillow and you heard Teddy hitting his legs into the wall and you heard your own heart break as though it was a bomb exploding and shattering splinters all over you like bleeding spears.
"I came to see Lily," he says as if he, too, knows that you already know that and are just trying to fill the silence with words that absolutely don't mean a thing but still have to be there. "She's still asleep, you know," he continues as if you really would care about it and, well, maybe you do care a bit about your sister but when she's shagging Teddy you really hate her, as though she's a traitor and should be tortured for an eternity just because.
"You do know Dad and Mum are coming back in a couple of hours," you say after another one of those silences that are so bone-crushing that you want to creep out of your skin and down under the floor like some kind of animal that can't bear to be in the light. "Just so you know," you add, knowing that it sounds exactly as though you want him to leave even though that is absolutely not what you want him to do; you want him to tell you that you make him feel just as he makes you feel. But he'll never ever tell that, so you don't mind that you're pushing him away, because if you can't have him it's lots better if he isn't there making you feel.
"Yeah, Lily said that last night," he answers. "Could I take a cup of coffee?" he asks then, and you nod as though you're saying "go ahead," but in your mind you're nodding as though you're saying, "Yes, yes, please fuck me against the kitchen counter, please make me beg for you, please, I want you inside of me, yes, Teddy, yes, yes, yes."
"Do you love Lily?" you ask when he's seated again, and you don't know why you even brought the subject up because he's bound to give you one of those answers that will make you unable to fall asleep, one of those that will be replaying in your head and reminding you of how wrong things are and how you and he will never be, but you still do it because when he poured his coffee he scratched his hair and made it even more ruffled than before, so you can't help but hope he'll answer something else than what he is bound toanswer.
"Yes, I do," he says quietly, and you already knew he does, didn't you? But when he looks down, you pretend that he's lying, that he's just saying it because he's as afraid as you are, and not at all because he and Lily have been together for four weeks in secrecy and you know very well that it's tiring him out, that it's making him sad, because he's Teddy and when he makes you feel as he does, it also comes with you suddenly being tuned in to his every emotion and feeling upset when he's upset, because you do want him to be happy.
You would only like it better if he was happy because of you instead, so when he's happy because of Lily it slowly rips you apart because he's happy and thus you are, too…but you're still unhappy because it's not you and it will never be you making him feel, never ever and you know that too well.
He looks at you and you realize you should say something so you reply, "Don't hurt her," because that is what the big brother is supposed to say, even though this big brother would like to scream, "Stop it! You're hurting me when you say that; shut the fuck up and LOVE ME INSTEAD!"
"I won't," he says, and he smiles and drinks more of his coffeeand you think of how this must look, two young men at a breakfast table, practically brothers but if everything goes as it will go, soon brothers-in-law instead, and you think of how no one at all knows how you're breaking and how you keep denying it, and how you keep hating yourself for doing it, for falling for someone who will never be yours.
You only nod for an answer and it feels as though the cereal is growing in your mouth, and you're suddenly disgusted and rise and spit them it out in the sink because you can't take another bite. Teddy asks "You okay?" when you walk out of the kitchen, but really you aren't okay at all but you can't say that—of course you can't—so you leave him there to his coffee and perfect life where he's waiting for his girlfriend to wake up so he can kiss her and say "goodbye, babe, I have to go now." You aren't part of that, except for being the girlfriend's brother, and you think that maybe it's better that you aren't a part of it bigger than that, because you'd probably just screw up anyway and it's wrong, so what's there to do except for leaving as you do right now?
You walk into your room and close the door behind you, sinking down on the floor in one movement and suddenly you're wrapping your arms around your knees and tears are spilling and it's all so wrong because you should be happy when he is happy because it means that you won't be there making him unhappy because of the wrongness you are…but the sounds from last night and Lily's muffled scream are replaying in your head and Teddy saying that he ("Yes, I do") loves her and it's just so loud and you're shaking and you can't even compose yourself to have the time to think You shouldn't have fallen for him in the first place, so don't even complain right now, for fuck's sake, James.
And you suddenly hope for Teddy to knock on your door and say, "What's the matter, James?" and then force the door open when you don't answer him, and then see you on the floor and quickly bend down next to you and wipe your tears away and say, "Sorry, James, I really don't love her, I love you" and kiss you forcefully so that you forget your tears and forget everything and just become engulfed in him and his kisses. But he will never come, and you know that, so when you've enjoyed the scene for not more than half of millisecond, you erase it as best you can because it's not Teddy saying that to you, it's only the Teddy in your mind, and he's not the real Teddy because the real Teddy is probably sneaking into your sister's room right now hoping to get a morning shag in before leaving so as not to get caught.
You raise from the floor and pull a hand through your hair and it's a bit wet from sweat and tears and you wonder how it's even possible to cry so much that it ends up in your hair, but then you hear steps outside your door and soon someone giggles in the room next to yours and before you know it you're on your bed and pulling the covers over your head and breathing as loud as you can not to hear them, not to hear them being happy, not to hear how it's no one but Lily who can make Teddy feel that way you want to be the one and only in the world being able to make him feel.
Time passes and you hide from everyone, finally getting work as an assistant to a journalist at The Daily Prophet who wears sharp stilettos and keeps flirting with you when she doesn't give you exhaustive tasks (such as researching everything on the subject of dragon breeding in the fourteenth century even though she's only writing the tiniest of articles saying that someone was caught illegally dealing eggs), and you end up not even mentioning the stuff you found for her.
But it's still good because when you're there, buried in the books and running around with paper stacks under your arms and her coffee in your hand, burning your fingers, it's so much and so noisy that there simply isn't place for Teddy in your mind. It's only when you return home and go to bed that he enters your thoughts, but lately you've begun to bring work home with you, and even though you know you're sleeping far too little you have to do it, because when you work your head's empty of thoughts—those unnecessary thoughts at least, those that you had hoped you would've gotten rid of by now, because they are so wrong.
And actually, the working pays off and you find yourself at a Sunday dinner with your family and Teddy—who you suppose is family but you still think he should be mentioned as not-part of your family—and you ask for everyone's attention and smile brightly which you almost thought you had forgotten how to do, and say, "I've gotten a promotion; in two weeks, I'll start writing my own articles."
"Really?" your mum says, and she walks over to hug you and her hair smells as it had when you were little and you realize you haven't hugged her for weeks and it feels so good. "I'm so happy for you; you've been working so hard, so I can't say you don't deserve it."
Your dad also gives you a hug, and Albus and Lily look sincerely happy for you and then you realize you're laughing and everything feels great for once and you had forgotten how much you love your family because right in this moment it feels as though they will always have your back, just as they should, and suddenly you meet Teddy's eyes and they are all big and green again and smiling and before you know it you smile back and everything feels like a huge smile-fest where everything's going to end happily.
"We've also something to tell you, actually," Lily then says, and she grabs Teddy's hand and things don't feel quite as good anymore, but it happens so fast that you don't even have time to start worrying because you remember when they informed your parents that they were dating and you sat like a stone statue in your chair smiling because that was what you were supposed to do and you already knew what they were going to say at that time…but this time you don't know and the only thing you can think of is that they are going to say something of which you don't want to think.
"We're getting married," Teddy says, and he's looking at everyone—including you—and you force a smile to stretch across your face, like, "Oh, really? I'm so happy for you guys, you're the cutest pair, I'm so happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy," when you really want to sink down on the floor and sit under the table as you used to do when you were little and Lily had teased you or Albus had cried because you had hit him and then felt ashamed.
So you keep smiling and Lily blushes and your dad shakes his head but beams and your mum pokes Albus in his ribs as though she wants to say, "So what's your big revelation?" and they both look really happy and no one notices you sitting in your chair with the biggest of fake smiles on your face, and you wonder when they stopped being able to tell when you weren't honest about something, because before everyone said your face was the easiest to read, like an open book, but apparently you've become better at acting because no one notices, no one notices how you hate yourself for what this all makes you feel.
"I thought," Teddy then says when everyone's calmed down a bit, and his voice is a bit more high-pitched than usual and his hair a bit more ruffled than usual and his cheeks are a bit more red than usual, "that maybe you would want to be my best man, James?" And his eyes are really green again as he stares into yours and then they quickly shift over to Albus. "No offense—"
"None taken," Albus says, and you think "Yeah, they were never as close as us when we were younger," and then you realize everyone's quiet and they look at you so you nod quickly and you remember how you nodded that time in the kitchen months ago and pretended you nodded, saying "Yes, please fuck me hard, Teddy" or something like that, but this time you nod just the same way but in your head you can't help yourself from saying, "Yes, please Teddy, just make me be your best man; it won't be like rubbing salt into my wounds, it won't hurt me at all, not even a little fucking bit," and you wonder when you became so bitter but there isn't much time to wonder, as Teddy rises and smiles at you and then he suddenly hugs you and you don't quite understand that he's doing it until he walks away and Lily hugs you instead and then it's your mum again and then your dad and then no one at all and you lean against the counter and focus on breathing in and out while they all keep being happy.
"Are you okay?" Albus asks then, and he stands next to you and you're glad you're still longer than him, even though everyone said he was bound to be the tallest one in the family, because you like being the tallest of all of the Potters. "…James?"
"Yeah, why wouldn't I be?" you answer, and you hand out another fake smile, and then you look down at your wristwatch because Albus' eyes have narrowed so maybe you aren't that good at faking anymore. "Oh, shit, I really have to go; I have a meeting booked in half an hour." And of course you haven't, but it's the only thing you can come up with as your brain is still trying to wrap itself around the fact that you are still feeling when Teddy is about to get married and slip out of your grasp forever, and he hasn't been in your grasp even once and you're trying to find out if you don't regret that a little bit, that you never even fought even though you've always told yourself the only battle you would fight was against the wrongness of you falling for Teddy.
And you walk out the door to the sound of everyone's "Bye, James" and "We'll talk soon" and "Take care" and "I love you" and you just give them another fake smile and look at everyone but Teddy and then the door is closed and you're on the street and you walk quickly before running and then you think, "Maybe I should Apparate somewhere," but then you think, "Well, where would that be?" so you just keep running as fast as you can.
You wish you didn't live at home, that you had gotten yourself an apartment or something else, but you have nothing except for your room in your parents' house and there you can't obviously go even though you want to go somewhere enclosed, because out here under the grey skies you feel too exposed as though everyone's still watching you.
And as though it's all a part of something bigger that's out to get you, it begins to rain and you're soaked in no matter of time and soon you can't tell the raindrops apart from your tears and you hate yourself because you're always feeling so much and you're always so weak and no one sees that even though you don't necessarily want them to see it. But just sometimes it would be nice to have someone to confide in, someone who won't judge you and tell you how wrong it is—because, well, it is—but you wouldn't mind someone lying to you about that if just for a moment, if you're being honest.
You wipe away the strands plastered to your forehead and bend your head down, because there are people across the street now and you don't want them to see your stupid tears when they really just exist because you're a mess who can't help but be tempted by things that are wrong and always have been and always will be.
For about a quarter of a millisecond you wonder if maybe you should try and hate Teddy instead of hating yourself…but then you remember his green eyes when he asked, "Will you be my best man?" and then you can't hate him; it's impossible because his eyes were green and he was Teddy even though he was just as out of your reach then as he always has been…even though you are stupid for having fallen for him, just as you always have been.
"It suits you," you say, leaning in to the chair and wanting him to walk back into the changing room because he's never looked better and you can't stop looking at his arse as he turns in front of the mirror with a concerned look on his face.
"I see what you did there," he says with a chuckle, and for a while you don't get it because his eyes are sparkling, but then you groan and want to tell him it was unintentional that you said the suit suited him, but you stop yourself because it has been years since you last made Teddy laugh.
So you just smile back and then his eyes wander to his reflection's bowtie while yours stay on his eyes.
"Do you think Lily will like this one, or should I pick something a bit more daring?" he says, fingering on his collar, and you want to say, "She'll like it; she'll see you and ravage you and forget that she's in a church; she'll fuck you in front of everyone, because you look absolutely stunning and she'll not be able to control herself, or at least she shouldn't—if she can, then I think something's seriously wrong with her," but of course you don't say that.
"I think it's fine," you say instead, and he nods and walks into the changing room again and you wonder what you did to deserve this, why you have to feel so much even though it's never going to happen, even though it's wrong and completely unnecessary as it will never turn out any other way than this and you wouldn't want it to anyway because, yes, that would be wrong.
Lately, you realize as you wait for Teddy to reappear, you've been telling yourself much more often that you and Teddy would be wrong. You wonder if it's some kind of defense mechanism that has been activated now that it's all too late, a mechanism that is trying to save you and prepare you for the moment when you can't even lay in your bed at night and make up stories of how Teddy tells you that he never loved Lily, that she never made him feel, that it all was a plan to get closer to you.
But then Teddy pokes his head out of the changing room and he isn't wearing a shirt, and he says, "Hey, I think I do want to try that grey shirt, too—could you please get it for me?" and you rise quickly and think, "Yes, it would be wrong, we would be so wrong, I better just realize that right now."
You hand him the shirt and watch him try it on and watch him being happy because he is a man who's going to get married to the woman he loves and you're just the pathetic mistake in everyone's perfectness even though you are pretending you aren't that.
You're pretty good at pretending.
And you'll keep doing it, won't you? Keep pretending that it's wrong—or right, you don't even know anymore, you can't tell one thing from the other—and keep pretending that you don't feel. You walk out of the shop with Teddy next to you chatting away about things that probably mean nothing except that he's happy, and you're in a kind of vacuum because finally you know what you have to do, what you will focus on—you'll pretend and maybe then forget what is real and what isn't. The made-up world where Teddy is gasping your name and playing with your hair will slowly become mixed with the real world where Teddy is patting your back and fucking Lily and you'll soon not be able to tell them apart and you'll then be happy.