Title: The Language of Hieroglyphs
Author: Arsenic
Rating: PG-13
Fandom/Pairing: HP/popslash BW/JC
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of JK Rowling, Bloomsbury, Scholastic and Warner Brothers, not me. I do not know any of the NSYNC members. All of this is strictly make believe.
Summary: JC takes a vacation.

AN: Thank you to Chased_Amy for supporting the production of this story through Fan The Vote by way of donating to Kerry and MoveOn.Org. It especially meant a lot to me as this story was already being written at the time she pledged to put up dollars for words. Go her.

For my beautiful Nyn, one of my oldest and dearest fan peoples, so old and so dear that I can no longer even compartmentalize her that way. Happy birthday, love, hope this is the year all your work pays off.


JC had formed the idea on a date with some girl with whom Justin had fixed him up. Justin was well-intentioned, but he was the worst matchmaker JC had ever met and JC only humored him because it was easier than having Justin harp on the issue.

This date had been one of the more spectacular of Justin's screw-ups, as halfway through dinner, Karen, one of Justin's friends from home who was in town visiting, said, "Look, I realize we're supposed to be on a date and all, but I feel awful lying to you because, well, I'm sorta gay."

JC had found that people who had to announce such things were anything but "sorta" gay, but he laughed and asked, "So why the hell did J set us up?"

"He probably doesn't know. I'm not out much back at home, what with it being a kinda small town, and I didn't have the heart to tell him when he seemed all excited… I mean, you're nice as hell and I think we get along all right, but my girlfriend's sort of, well, hotter."

JC figured he probably didn't even compare. The whole thing was unfortunate, because for once, him and Karen actually seemed to have a lot in common, once he got past being freaked out by her sharing his mom's name. "Hmm. Well, okay."

Karen blinked. "I really am sorry."

"You should tell J. He'll be fine with it."

"There's just never really been a good time, y'know?"

JC did. Intimately. All he said was, "We're still on for the IMAX, right?"

Karen had been the one to suggest going to the IMAX after dinner, but JC hadn't been in a long while and was fairly hyped up over the plan at this point. Karen nodded. "Oh sure, it's not like I made other plans or anything. So long as you're up for it, I'm cool."

So they'd gone and he'd bought her Thin Mints despite her protests because, "Honestly, I can afford it," and then afterwards they'd talked in his car for six hours about her girlfriend and his dalliance in painting and Justin's psychoses. He'd recorded her phone number in his palm and wished her luck with the rest of her Masters program and dropped her off back at her hotel.

Then he'd gone home and thought about the ginormous footage of the Pyramids and wondered if they were actually bigger in real life. Technically, he knew they had to be. He'd been listening to the program. It just seemed sort of…impossible. Particularly given how long ago they'd been erected.

In the morning JC called Chris, because Chris was always the first person he called when he got what might be considered by others to be a crazy idea. Chris, despite the practical streak that ran a mile wide in him underneath the surface, was actually very supportive of other people's craziness. "I'm thinking about going to Egypt."

"On a vacation type thingie?" Chris didn't sound terribly surprised. JC worried that his craziness was getting staid.

"Mm. I wanna see the pyramids."

"Sounds pretty fucking cool to me. Make sure you check out all the security issues before you leave."

"Wow, thank you Justin."

Chris snorted. "Speaking of-"

"She was gay. Don't tell J, she's gonna tell him herself."

"As soon as she does, can I mock him until time has long past and we are all mere spirits on the wind?"

"And beyond. I may even sneak in a word or two."

"Or three," Chris said knowingly.

JC grinned.


JC had been paying attention. He had, although he knew that when he told the story later, Chris would not believe him and Justin would lecture him about spacing out and Lance would laugh at him. Joey might believe him. Then again, he might throw JC over his shoulder and toss him in the nearest pool as a way of helping out with a friendly reality check.

None of this changed the fact that JC, being interested in what the tour guide was saying, had been paying attention. Only, there had been a hieroglyph on one of the walls they were walking past and it had been awesome, all curved lines and ancient coded messages that once hadn't been coded at all. So JC stopped for a second, to look. Just a second, though.

Evidently, the tour group had been moving really quickly, since when he looked up, they were gone.

Not being the most attentive person (JC could see where the guys came from, always thinking it was his fault, only this time it wasn't. Really.) JC was used to getting himself out of situations like this. He listened carefully, trying to figure out where the group had gone off too, following along his only corridor of choice until it split off into two. There were quite obviously voices to his right, so JC chose that way, thinking it couldn't be long until he met up with the group.

Only, what he found wasn't his group. Or the group before his. He knew, he had seen that group and none of them had been short and very obviously Not Human.

Not one to be terribly flustered by things out of the ordinary, JC blinked, cleared his vision, decided he wasn't hallucinating, and said, "Excuse me, have you seen the three o'clock guided tour group?"

A human that JC hadn't previously noticed spun toward him quickly, obviously startled, the thin piece of wood in his right hand shooting sparks. He muttered several words in quick succession that JC didn't understand. He was dirt-smudged, decked out in comfortable excavation type clothes, with red hair pulled back into a messy ponytail and an earring that was hot enough to make JC rethink his utter terror of needles. JC held out a hand. "JC Chasez. You an archeology team, or something?"

The human transferred the stick into his sleeve and reached out to shake JC's hand. "Bill Weasley. Or something."

The Non-Humans seemed to be glaring, but JC wasn't entirely sure that wasn't a natural expression for them. If it was, it was hardly polite to call attention to it. "Right, well, sorry to interrupt and all, I just got lost and was wondering if you could point me back where I came from."

There was a shared look between Bill and the little guys before Bill said, "C'mon, I'll lead you back."

JC who knew all about silent communications stayed right where he was. "Which way do you think they went?"

Bill frowned. "The same way they always go. Down toward the only tomb on exhibit and then up through the so-called Hiero Hall."

Not that JC didn’t want to see all that, but until he found out what exactly The Look had been about, he wasn't moving. Not that, when JC thought about it, this was all that much safer a place to be, but he hadn't been hurt standing here so far, and JC was a big fan of going with what worked for him. "So why the silent take-him-down-the-hall-and-stuff-him-in-a-pillar glance?"

Which was more abrupt than JC had technically meant to be, but it worked because Bill sighed. "I swear, no harm will come to you."

"Well, that leaves a lot safely unsaid." Then it occurred to JC. He wasn't telling the guys about this, they already had too much weaponry in the it-takes-JC-so-long-to-catch-on department. "I wasn't supposed to see this."

Bill didn't say anything, didn't even look askance, but JC always knew when he'd hit upon the right answer.

"I know how to keep a secret."

Bill said, his eyes flashing ever so slightly, "This is one I can't allow you to keep."

"What the hell does that mean?"

The sleeve that held the thin stick Bill had been holding earlier twitched and the stick was in his hand again. Almost like- Oh. "Magic? Is that a wand? A for real wand?"

Bill looked to be fighting a smile. "It's necessary-"

"To steal people's memories of magical things? No wonder the world is such a shitty place."

Whatever Bill had been expecting, that hadn't been it. "We're only protecting ourselves."

"I know that feeling," JC said fiercely, not feeling much compassion right at that moment. These were his memories Bill wanted to disassemble. Quietly, JC repeated, "I told you, I can keep a secret."

Bill shifted his weight slightly and JC put his hands on his hips. "For fuck's sake, I didn't even really see anything."

Bill looked past JC at the Non-Humans whom JC was quick coming to think of as Gremlin Dudes. More non-verbal conversation flew through JC until Bill shrugged and said, "Okay, you'll let me at least get you back? So you don't get lost again?"

Something in the sharp edge of Bill's tone, the way it announced a Pyhhric victory, told JC that he was safe. He stepped in behind Bill and let the Magic Man lead the way.


JC said, "Tell me about the pyramid. Just on the way, I've already missed half the tour."

Bill shook his head. "I know very little non-magic history."

"Then tell me the history you know."

"I'm not supposed-"

"I know," JC said.

Bill laughed. "You don't look like that much of a troublemaker at first glance."

"You judge all your books by their covers, or just the non-magic ones?"

Bill managed to look ashamed with quite a bit of grace. "Usually, if I did that, I'd be dead."

"High risk job?"

"You could say that. There are magical…traps in these structures, thousands of years old. It's my job to undo them."

"What happens if you get it wrong?"

"Oh, depends on the trap. Death by flesh-eating manticore, madness, lifetime erectile dysfunction, the list goes on."

JC grinned. "Just what I wanna think about when I get up in the morning."

Bill shrugged. "There's compensation. What do you do?"

"I'm a musician. Singer, mostly, but I write stuff, too."

"You any good?"

JC scratched at the back of his neck. "Some people seem to think so. On a good day I think that I've got something going for myself. On a bad day I have to wonder why I keep bothering."

"What's generally the answer to that?"

"Why do you risk your life day in and day out?"

"The rush of unraveling the trap. The feel of magic as it undoes itself under my influence."

"Because you love it," JC summarized.

Bill tipped his head. "That as well."

They walked in silence for a bit, JC still awed by the architecture, Bill making sure to pay attention to where they were going. They hit a juncture and Bill said, "If you go about ten meters in this direction, turn right and follow that hall, you should meet up with your group. If they ask just tell them you were a bit behind and followed their voices to catch up."

"That's sorta what I was trying to do."

"Sorry I can't take you the rest of the way-"

"I get it, they're not supposed to know you're here. Go out to dinner with me."

Bill blinked at the rapid transition. "I-"

"You're probably not supposed to date boring non-magic peoples like myself, but-"

"That sounds great."

JC raised his eyebrows. "Really?"

"I'm pretty good at going against my better judgment."

"That work out for you a lot?"

"I'm still here to talk to."

JC thought that over. "You have a point. Do you have a phone number?"

"No, but I have an owl."

"That's gonna require some explaining."

Bill explained.


JC spent the next day riding camels on a tour of the desert. It was pretty easy not to get lost, one leg on either side of an animal that probably wouldn't notice if it accidentally ran over him. The desert wasn't quite as interesting as the pyramid had been, but it had its high points, plants that grew without water, the oases that just sprung up, out of place and strangely beautiful. The sand dunes were pretty neat as well. They made JC think of the word austere, and JC liked that word.

He got back to his hotel late. There was a brown, bored looking owl sitting on the railing to his terrace. JC let himself outside onto the terrace. "Benedictus?"

The owl hooted softly and held out her leg. JC untied the scrap of parchment rolled around it. He said, "Wait here a moment, yeah?" and was delighted by the fact that she seemed to understand him perfectly. He wandered back into his room, found the mini-bar, excavated some crackers and brought them back out to her.

The note was short. "Six this evening? Be in the lobby, casual dress. Hope you're into trying new things. Bill."

JC found a pencil, doubtful that any pen would work on parchment and scribbled, "Six it is. The newer the better."

Benedictus was very patient with him as he struggled to reattach the note to her leg. She pecked him softly on the nose before taking off. JC hoped that was a good sign. He suspected it was, since he was pretty sure owls could do serious damage when they so desired. Joey had taken to watching a lot of educational programs since Briahna came along. JC was never sure what he had actually learned while draped over Joey or what he had grafted into his head from random conversations and decided was Undeniable Truth.

Six wasn't far off, so JC showered and re-dressed. He cracked the tour book he had brought with him and made some decisions about his schedule for the next day, then went to catch a downward elevator and meet Bill.

Bill came in a few minutes late, cleaner than the last time JC had seen him. His jeans had no holes in them and yet still managed to look about three days from falling completely apart and his shirt said something in Arabic that JC couldn't understand. JC considered proposing that they skip the date and go right to the casual sex. Instead he asked, "Where're we going?"

"What kinds of places have you eaten?"

"Touristy places." JC flushed. Justin had made him promise to be careful about what he ate. Justin had never really gotten over the time they'd all gotten food poisoning in Japan.

"Then I'm taking you to the best Egyptian you'll ever have. It's actually really popular but it's sort of a local secret. By unspoken agreement, no tourist shall ever be told of its whereabouts."

"Aren't you kinda taking a chance? Bringing me and all?"

"The rule applies to tourists. It doesn't say anything about out of town dates." Bill's expression implied that he was perfectly aware how fine the line he was drawing held and that he couldn't have cared less.

"And I'm pretty good at keeping secrets."

Bill smiled at that. "So I hear."


JC eyed the menu. "I think you're gonna have to do the ordering."

"I could tell you what things are."

"Nah, just, nothing with squid, okay? Too chewy."

"Squid's not a big Egyptian delicacy, but I'll be sure to avoid it. Anything else? Allergies, traumatic past experiences…"

JC'd had plenty of the latter, which was why he had learned to get over them quickly. It was that or stop eating. He'd tried that for a while, but it hadn't worked out to his specifications, so he'd jumped back on the food bandwagon. "Allergic to sunflower seeds. That gonna be an issue?"

Bill laughed. He scanned the menu for a few seconds and closed it, waiting for a server to notice and approach. "So, what is this, vacation?"

"My band is hiatusing."

"Is hiatus a verb?"

"I just made it one." JC stared him down, daring Bill to challenge him his right to do so.

"Verb it is. You have a band then. What do you play?"

"The vocal chord."

"Lead singer?"

"Sort of not really."

Bill paused. "Wanna talk about something else?"

"What's safe?"

The waiter came over and Bill chatted with him in Egyptian for several minutes. "I have three brothers and a sister."

"Whoa. I have one brother and one sister. Where are you age wise?"

"I'm the oldest."

JC winced. "Suck. Was this your way of running from home?"

"What makes you ask?"

"British accent, job half-way across the world."

Bill smiled. "While I will admit that going different places is a big perk of the job, the distance from my family isn't always optimal. The place I work for has offices around the world. One of them is in England, another here, I actually work for all of them in a sense. I'm in…recovery, I guess you could say."

JC asked, "You miss them, then?"

Bill thought for a second. "Fiercely. I had five brothers. Lost two of them in a…"

JC took a guess at the problem they were having. "I'm not going to tell. Not any of this if you don't want, not even that we went here and ate good food and made friendly conversation."

"There was a war. Dark Magic versus Light Magic, all that fuss."

JC said, somewhat reverently, "And the Light won."

"Not without." Bill stopped. "The Light won."

"And you lost two brothers."

"I can't imagine this is something you want to be talking about on a first date." Bill cracked an uneasy smile.

JC narrowed his eyes. "We're talking about you."

"We're talking about pain."

"I'd be suspicious if you were completely without it."

Bill nodded his acceptance of that. "Ginny, my sister, she's a sports star."

"What sport? I don’t really follow anything, but my friends can be a little hard core. Chris has taken to watching fucking golf, which we're planning an intervention for, but of late it's been a little hard to get all of us in one place."

"I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have seen this one anyway."

"Magic thing?"

"It's the football of our world, I guess you could say."

"Your sister plays football?" JC was impressed. Then it hit him. "Oh, wait, you're all British."

Bill frowned. "Huh?"

"Football soccer football, not football Thanksgiving day on the couch football."

Bill smoothed the perplexed look on his face over with a dose of amusement. "All right then."

"What do your brothers do then? I mean, that's a pretty hard one to top."

Bill grinned. "Yeah, well, let it not be said that any Weasley child didn't find their own way of doing it, though."

JC listened to tales of Fred and George's magical joke empire and Ron's attempt to build a standby "army" of Light magicians for times of need. Then he talked about Heather's plans to get married and Tyler's last year at college and said, "This food is ridiculously good."

Bill was polite enough not to let his I-told-you-so grin eat his face.


Bill stepped outside the restaurant to stand in the cooling desert night air. "Look, I don't want to be presumptuous or anything, but-"

"I'm in town for another couple of days and I'll probably be insulted at this point if you don't plan on sleeping with me at least three or four times before I leave."

Bill said, "That'll work out nicely. I've Saturday free, too, if you're up for daytime company."

JC shrugged. "Be warned, I'm probably just doing a bunch of touristy stuff."

"Well, I can either accompany and make fun of you or I can take you on a tour of the not-so-often seen stuff."

JC smiled. "Yeah?"

"Definitely didn't have anything better planned." Bill said it with just the right cadence to make it sweet.

"How far is it from here to my hotel?" They'd taken a cab on the way over and JC had been too busy looking out the window and pretending to pay attention to Bill to really remember how long the ride had been.

"We could make it walking in about half an hour."

"You up for that? I'd rather."

"That's fine. I walk most places anyway. Never really got comfortable with Muggle modes of transportation."


Bill flushed. "Wizard jargon. It means people who can’t do magic."

"Wow, flattering term you have for us."

"In our defense, Muggles haven't always been the most understanding and benevolent of people toward witches and wizards."

JC was about to protest that so-called Muggles didn't even properly know that magic existed when his brain caught up to the fact that Bill had said, "witches and wizards" as in Salem Witch Trials witches or Spanish Inquisition witches. "Still, it's probably not helping the general population to overcome their fear and dislike by hiding, altering our memories when you can't hide, and calling us names."

"It's not," Bill's hands moved in frustrated circles, "when I think 'Muggle' I don't automatically think 'bad.'"

"No, but you probably don't automatically think 'could go either way' and I'd be willing to bet there are wizards who do immediately jump to the 'bad' conclusion."

"You sound so sure."

"We Muggles have prejudices of our own, thank you very much."

"I think 'different.'"

JC thought about that for a minute. "Which is true, I suppose, if dangerous in its own way. When I catch myself thinking about that, I try to find ways in which I'm the same as the person I'm thinking it about."

"Did you think it about me?"

"How could I not?" JC asked.

"And what did you come up with? How are we the same?"

"We both love our families and our jobs. We're both interested in men and pretty easy-going about that, among other things. We both like this place and are excited by things that are out of our range of familiar experience."

Bill said, "That's a pretty good list to start with."

"Yeah well, as soon as we're at the hotel I plan on expanding it."

"I'm thinking about starting my own."

"Think pretty seriously," JC suggested.


JC's hand was splayed across Bill's chest, letting the rhythm of Bill's sleep fill him up, possibly inspire him. He wasn't looking for music, but he never minded when it came, and was generally no longer surprised. It was JC's last day in town. Bill would actually be taking him to the airport later and despite himself, JC was considering how casual it would be to say, "So…this was nice, how about we do it again some time?"

He thought Bill was on the same page as himself, but it was always hard to tell after six or so bouts of seriously mind-blowing sex, because that was the best time for someone to say, "Shit, you're amazing," and mean it, but not in the way JC wanted it to be meant.

There was a tap on the window, which JC had closed in the aftermath of sex, when the sweat cooling at the rate the night desert required had been a little intense. He looked over expecting to see Benedictus and was surprised by the sight of a large and gorgeous white owl.

One of Bill's eyes popped open and he looked in the direction of the window. "D'you mind?" he slurred.

JC didn't, so he got up and let the bird inside. Bill managed to get himself in a sitting position. The owl flew to him and he greeted her, "'Morning Hedwig. You're kinda far from home."

Hedwig pecked at his hair, a gesture JC had learned to define as one of affection. He picked up the phone and ordered a small breakfast for both of them, promising extra money if the order was rushed. Bill, meanwhile, unfolded the letter tied to Hedwig's leg. It took him all of a second to read it, after which he slumped back against the headboard.

JC hesitated but went ahead and asked, "Something wrong?"

Bill tossed the parchment to JC. It didn't get anywhere near him. JC sat back down on the end of the bed to pick it up. It read, "Bill, sorry to bother, but you're needed. More when you get here, love, Harry."

JC thought he'd start with the basics. "Who's Harry?"

Bill started strong with, "My," and ended weakly with an unsure, "brother."

JC suddenly found it rather fortuitous that they'd already talked about biological families because it leant him the ability to understand exactly what Bill's cautious explanation meant. "Oh, okay. So you're going back to England?"

Bill looked at him sharply.

JC shrugged. "I have some 'brothers'." JC placed a heavy accent on the word.

"I'm gonna use your shower," Bill said, and got up to do so.

JC waited a few seconds, took a deep breath and joined him. Bill said, "I'm not really in the mood."

JC said, "Actually, I'm just trying to save us time. There'll be breakfast by the time we get out and then-" JC stopped, having been about to say, "you can be on your merry way." He revised it to, "I'd like to go. If you'll let me."

"You don’t understand-"

"It's magic stuff and I'm not supposed to know about that, but I already do." JC held Bill's face between his hands, careful not to let any soap get in the other man's eyes, "I try and go with my instincts, and they're saying to stay with you."

Bill closed his eyes and tilted his head back, letting the water pour over his face, JC's hands still attached. He straightened out and said, "Harry wouldn't practically order me back unless they needed something I could give them specifically, which means they need someone who knows how to cursebreak. Any way this goes, it has the possibility of being dangerous, especially for someone who can't control magic."

"I wish that changed things for me."

Bill considered the man in front of him for several moments. "Get to cleaning then, we've got a fireplace to be at."

JC trusted that comment to actually make sense and grabbed at the shampoo bottle nearest.


JC stumbled out of the fireplace and into Bill, who very thoughtfully caught him. A woman with messy red curls and the friendliest smile JC had ever seen stepped into the living room. "Harry finally manage to find you? What were you thinking not answering your floo?"

She said all of this at the same time as she approached Bill to hug him for all he was worth. Bill said, "Hi mum," and, "I wasn't home."

JC tried not to feel that warm little tug that his heart sometimes did when grown men that he was possibly falling for said things like "mum." Bill's mum backed up a step and admonished, "Well, introduce me to your friend."

"JC, this is my mum, Molly Weasley, mum, JC."

"You have a last name, JC?"

"Chasez, ma'am."

Molly nodded. "Welcome to my house. Have you two eaten yet this morning?"

Bill nodded but followed her anyway when she turned abruptly toward the kitchen. JC walked after them, peering around in what he hoped was a discreet manner. The abundant colors and odds and ends in the house were making him happy. JC knew he tended to become careless in his happiness at times. Joey was forever gently scolding him about being aware of the consequences of his actions.

Thinking of Joey brought him to a sudden stop. Bill must have felt something, because he turned. "JC?"

"I have to make a phone call. I don't suppose you get cell reception here?" JC hoped he still had international minutes left. Bill looked clueless. JC waved a hand. "Nevermind, I'll just try it and see."

Inside the house turned out to be a deadzone, but once he was outside and a few feet away, the service picked up. The operator warned him that he had seven minutes of international time remaining. JC memory dialed Lance, since he was the most reliable about actually answering his phone.

It rang twice before Lance picked up. "C? Are you back?"

"No, actually, that's sorta what I called to tell you. I'm in England."

"You promised to call before you got on the plane. We meant any plane." Lance sounded frustrated.

"I know, and just, you're gonna have to trust me that I didn't break that promise. Listen, Lance, I don't have many minutes left, so I have to tell you stuff. First off, call the other guys. Also, if you can, can you see about getting more minutes added to my phone, my account number is in my aol email and you know how to get into that. If you manage, can you call me and tell me how many you put on there?"

"How long do you plan on being there?" Lance asked.

"I dunno. It's complicated. I met someone."

"Guy or girl, C?"


"You have him sign the papers?"

JC bit his lip and considered lying. "No, but I have something on him." He cringed and waited.

Lance didn't disappoint. "This is not just your career we're talking about, C."

"Lance, please, do you think I don't know that? Would I really risk it if I was at all worried? Seriously."

Lance sighed. "All right, so you're in England with some guy that you don't have any kind of confidentiality clause from, doing something that you can't tell me about having gotten there by way of…what, flying?"

JC fought not to grin, since he knew Lance would hear it. "Something like that, yeah."

"J is gonna go postal on my ass."

"Remind him that you're only the messenger."

"J," Lance said.

"Get me more minutes and I'll call him myself."

"Done," Lance said.

"I love you," JC said.

Lance's, "Yeah, me too," sounded awfully put-upon.


JC made it back to the house to find a considerably larger amount of people inside, one of them telling Molly that someone was on her front lawn talking to a non-sentient object. Bill caught sight of him just then and asked, "That wouldn't be you, would it?"

JC brought his phone up in his hand and waved it a bit. "Had to tell some people where I was."

Bill nodded. "JC, you've met my mum, to her right, the two blokes that look eerily similar are my brothers the twins, George and Fred, respectively, the kid with the crazy black hair and the dashing scar on his forehead is Harry Potter, next to him, the one who looks more like me is my youngest brother, Ron. On his other side is Dean, my absent sister's fiancée. Skulking in the shadows is Severus Snape. Everybody, this is JC Chasez."

Mostly they all just waved and murmured things like, "Pleasure." The Snape guy stayed still and silent and Dean frowned, finally asking, "You look awfully familiar, is there somewhere I'd know you from?"

JC, who hated lying, tried the tactic, "Muggle. Doubt it."

Dean waved a hand negligently, "Doesn't mean anything, I'm Muggle-born." At JC's perplexed look he explained, "Both my parents are Muggles, and my sister, for that matter."

JC's stomach dropped at the word "sister." It was obviously saying the word aloud that made something catch in Dean's head as well, because he snapped his fingers, "That's it, you're-"

JC's expression must've been plaintive enough because the rest of it was a mumbled, "Uh, maybe I was mistaken."

Bill's eyes narrowed. "I somewhat seriously doubt that. Somebody want to explain what's going on here?" The question was focused almost singly at JC.

JC sighed. Dean said, "Sorry, man."

JC shook his head. "I should've said something earlier. It's just, well, I'm kinda well known where I come from."

The rest of them looked at him expectantly. Dean helped out with a completely indecipherable, "He means that in a Harry Potter kinda well known kind of way."

What was indecipherable to JC was evidently plain English to everyone else in the room, because there were a whole bunch of nods, and "ah, okays." JC kept his eyes on Bill. Bill said, "You could've just said something."

Harry intervened. "No, probably not. It's the first thing I avoid doing when around Muggles. It's quite possibly the most brilliant sensation in the world, people not knowing who you are and not caring."

Nothing about Bill spoke of conviction. "But he- you know my biggest secret."

JC was befuddled and relieved all at once. Relieved because Bill didn't sound whiny, merely cautiously hurt. Befuddled because, "You know mine too."

Bill inclined his head. Dean intervened with a bit of cultural commentary. "I'm pretty sure Muggles think your friend here is all about the ladies."

If anything, this seemed to just confuse Bill more. "So?"

JC tried, "It's not widely accepted, the boy on boy thing, where I'm from."

"Then you're not supposed to be sleeping with me?"

"No more than you are me," JC reassured him.

Bill thought about this for a moment, grinned a bit rakishly, and turned his attention to the gathering of people in front of him. "So then, what the hell have you dragged me here for?"


The twin that JC was nearly positive had been introduced as George looked positively miserable. Neither Harry nor Ron nor Dean looked much better, but George was definitely taking the prize for completely despondent. Fred said, "We found another one of her letters."

Bill seated himself on the sofa. He looked up at JC. "Sit?"

JC thought it less an invitation and more a request. He settled next to Bill. Bill asked, "May I see it?"

Ron got up and handed him a piece of parchment. He only reluctantly let it go but Bill just waited. "Where'd you find this one?"

"On my dresser." George looked up from the rug threads he'd been examining. "I figure she must've put it on a delayed Portkey meant to find me after a given amount of time."

Bill opened the letter. Rudely, JC read over his shoulder, but he didn't feel this was really the time to ask for permission.

Last one, I swear. It is not that I wanted to drag this process out, but considering the information each of these letters has contained, having it all recorded in one place felt a bit foolish.

I can only hope that each of my last letters have reached you, as they should have in the event of my death in the Voldemort conflict. The final notes from my research have been safely kept on Fiji. A quick Revealing Charm will show you a map where my writing currently is. I haven't left my work merely lying around, however, and you will need to work of a more-than-adequate curse breaker to reach the papers. I dearly hope Bill is still around. If this is not the case, Snape, McGonagall and Flitwick all have excellent contacts, see if one of them will help you.

Since this is my last letter, I'm going to indulge myself a bit and say things that I've held off saying as of yet. This is of course all written on the assumption that others will survive and that they will be shown this letter. Completely at your discretion, my dear, I would not have sent them to you otherwise.

I hope Harry, that your pain dies along with Voldemort and that you find a way to allow people who would love you to do so. Ron, stop looking to Harry for signs of what your next move should be. Your momentum is every bit as good as his. I love the both of you.

Our inside jokes are still inside, George. I'm saving them for a long, long time from now, when you come to laugh at them with me. Love, Hermione.

Bill curled the letter back up. "This is going to be a bitch. Your girlfriend never could make anything easy."

George's smile was sharp. "What’s the fun in being with someone who doesn't make you work for a laugh?"

Bill nodded. "Can this wait till tomorrow? I need more sleep than I've gotten to walk into that."

After a long silence, Harry said, "She probably would've mentioned a time limit. She was pretty thorough about things like that."

Snape "helped" Harry to his feet from the chair he was in, lifting him briefly off the ground in the process. "Tomorrow then." He swept off with Harry firmly in his grasp. It was abrupt and rather cold but JC sensed the rock solid vein of compassion embodied in the man's actions.

Bill said softly, "Get back to work, lazy arses."

There was a moment of stillness before the air exploded with the cracks, snapples and pops that evidently preceded people disappearing. Ron was the first to leave, his eyes enormous and wet, George the last, his entirely dry, but his murmured, "Thanks," more a crack of the vocal chords than a word.

Molly said, "Let's have some tea," when it was just the three of them left. "It'll aid in the explaining."

JC nearly sang praises in relief, as he was not going to be the one to ask.


Bill offered sugar, but JC declined. The tea was strong enough without anything aiding it. Bill stirred some milk into his and took a sip. He set the cup down on the saucer. "Thanks mum."

Molly nodded. "There are gnomes in the garden," she said, and disappeared.

"That code for something?" JC asked.

Bill shook his head. "No, just an excuse to get out of hearing distance. She doesn't want to have to hear this again."

"Obviously you don't want to have to say it either. We don't have to-"

"I brought you here."

"I kinda forced you to."

Bill's smile was odd. "JC, I'm a wizard."

JC crinkled his forehead at that before sitting back in his chair. "Oh. I mean. So you could probably've just killed me or something, I guess. I hadn't really thought about it. Your power."

Bill leaned in to kiss JC. "I try and make it a practice not to kill anyone."

"Why'd you bring me? If you had a choice."

Bill looked like he was going to say something dashing, insincere, boyish until the second when he opened his mouth. "Because you're the first person to stay in quite some time. The first person I've wanted to stay."

It wasn't a segueway, but JC made it one. "Who was Hermione?"

Bill's voice was strained. "Harry and Ron's best friend. Practically another sister. George's lover. She would've been his wife, I'm sure, if she'd lived. He could make her laugh and she and Fred grounded him. The two of them were a force of nature."

"She was killed, then?" JC tried to keep his questions gentle.

"As a demonstration of Voldemort's power. Voldemort was a Dark Wizard. Harry killed him but not before he was able to capture a significant amount of control over the Isles' wizarding population."

"What is it she needs you to get hold of?"

"Hermione was the smartest person I've ever met, regardless of species or otherwise. She was doing research into Runes at the time of her death, and ways to create… I suppose you could call them purifying weapons, for lack of a better term. Basically, spells cast with Runes to draw Dark energies from magic itself. The problem is, have the wrong person get their hands on this…well, it's not like the Dark Magic is sucked into a vacuum. Magic always exists, it's just a matter of where and how. I sense this part of the research is on how to store that magic safely so that it cannot be used. We have everything else. There are kinks, of course, she hadn't gotten to the stage where she could be testing these things practically, but Harry and Ron have made it pretty much their life's goal to figure all this out and patent the Rune work in her name."

Bill took another sip. "We were all a little banged up by her death."

JC put a hand over Bill's and let silence fill the room until it got crowded and was spilling out the door. "This curse you're going to have to break. Will it be hard?"

Bill smirked, the first sign of true amusement JC had seen on his face in hours. "It's going to be a bloody hellion."

JC sighed. He had promised himself that after Lance he was going to stop crushing on the thrill-seekers. It took too much out of him. "You're going to be fine, though, right?"

Bill must have registered the restrained worry, because he wound the fingers of one of his hands in JC's hair. "She wouldn't have sent me in if she was worried about my ability to deal with whatever she put together. Seriously. You have no idea, she was so protective of all of us. She killed several times to keep us safe."

JC was a very aural person. Hearing stories and songs and poems often gave him a better understanding of things that a million pictures or paintings or collages could not. That said, there were times when visual props were a considerable boon. "Have any pictures of her?"

Bill lead JC into the living room. He reached into a hidden cabinet near the fireplace and began pulling out photo albums, one after another after another. JC opened one to see a picture of a girl with completely unruly brown hair, an ink stain below her right eye and a smile that rivaled Joey's, being swung in between the two twins. The picture moved and she swayed back and forth, obviously laughing with each downswing.

Her feet never touched the ground.


JC woke the next morning to find himself alone in the bed, which hadn't been the case the night before. He rolled off the side and blinked a few times, then headed out to the stairs so as to find his way back to the kitchen and whatever smelled so fetching.

He ran into a small obstacle in the living room, where the photo albums that Bill had pulled out the previous day were still sprawled. The tall, considerably older man -- JC racked his brain, right, Severus Snape -- was flipping through one. Less flipping than staring at each page for a considerable length of time, really.

Snape looked up at JC's emergence from the stairs. "Have fun digging up all his nightmares for him?"

JC knew how to handle mean people. He'd done it every day of his life in high school until the MMC had come along. Mean people who were acting out of hurt rather than spite were a little bit trickier, but JC was still a master. Admittedly, it was slightly throwing that Bill had woken up gasping and dry-heaving in the early morning, but JC had gotten him water and sung to him, just a little bit, and then made love, when it was obvious that was the only permanent solution. Bill had fallen back asleep almost as soon as they were done and JC had listened carefully to the rhythm of his breathing for nearly an hour before allowing himself to slip back under. "Is it the fact that I'm Muggle or that I sleep with men?"

Snape looked slightly thrown by both of these assumptions. He cleared them up. "It's the fact that you're an innocent." The last was said like a four letter word without any of the fondness most people allowed curses. "You know nothing of us or of this and you have no right to it."

"It's him that I have a right to." Finders keepers, JC thought.

"This is no place for you. Your ignorance will only hurt him and endanger you."

JC was pretty sure he'd never seen a real sneer in his life until this moment, or maybe it was just that this one made all the others pale in comparison. "Nobody else seems to think this is a problem."

"Gryffindors. They ignore problems because the immediate pay off is to their benefit."

JC wanted to ask what the hell a Gryffindor was, but he sensed this was not the moment and would only prove whatever point Snape was trying to make. Or, well, making quite plainly. JC planned his next words carefully. Striking where it hurt at someone who was already lashing out from pain was a dangerous proposition. "She was Muggle born, wasn't she? That's why there are stills of her and George in the album. They're from her family."

JC made himself go through everything he knew, made himself remember Snape pulling Harry out of the chair- "Is Harry too?" That didn't make as much sense. There were no stills of Harry, and Dean had said he was famous, but Snape's priority was obviously the boy.

JC's mind stopped rushing at Snape's interruption. "Your stabs in the dark are pitiful."

"Throw me a light."

"You can never be what he needs."

JC felt dizzy. In his experience, the truest cause of meanness in a person was insecurity. "Maybe not, but I'm going to give it a shot here, if that's all right with you." Even if it wasn't really, but it didn't hurt to be polite.

"He needs someone who can remember with him."

"Maybe he needs someone with their own set of memories to offset his."

"How will you be able to support him-"

"With my hands, the way you did with Harry."

Snape's, "You don't know anything about it," was fierce.

"I know you're afraid of letting anything into this circle on the chance that something will happen." Then it hit JC, "There's more than enough room for one more."

Snape paraphrased himself with, "You understand nothing," but it was defeated, lacking in the spite it had carried previously.

"Not yet. But I will."


The thing about being the stay at home half of any intrepid duo was that it was sort of anti-climatic. Bill traipsed off with Ron and Harry to go break the curse and get the notes and JC was left asking Molly if she wanted him to make some tea. JC wasn't entirely sure how to operate her stove, but it seemed like the polite thing to do, seeing as how two of her surviving sons had just strolled blithely off to possible doom, and all.

Molly just chuckled at him, though. "They'll be fine, dearie. Nothing Bill knows better than curses and nothing Harry and Ron know better'n Hermione. Don't tell Severus I said anything, though. Harry would be lost without him, honestly."

JC shook his head. Molly hooked her fingers around his elbow. "Let's the two of us go and have some fun, yes?"

Fun sounded like a good idea to JC, so he fell in step when Molly started to lead. When they got to the fireplace, Molly asked, "Bill's shown you how to do this, right?"

JC nodded. "Just repeat whatever you say before throwing the powder down. I got here before, didn't I?"

"Fair enough." Molly called the name of a place and threw the powder. JC was still a bit unnerved by the being-eaten-by-green-flames part, but it hadn't hurt before, so he put all his faith in the Baby Jesus and let himself be whisked away by spontaneous combustion.

He stumbled out into what looked like a tavern from the late nineteenth century. Molly asked, "Want anything to drink before we go?"

It just didn't look like the type of place that poured up Shirley Temples, so JC passed. Molly worked her way through the room, checking every once in a while to make sure that he was following. She stepped out the door and to JC's surprise, they weren't in the middle of a street, they were near to a large sports field. Or at least, he was pretty sure that was what it was. It didn't have any of the markings JC was familiar with, but the British were always playing weird games, so that wasn't surprising. Also, JC was getting used to nothing being the way he knew it to be.

"Bill tell you that my youngest is a Quidditch star?" Molly beamed as she walked closer to the bleachers on the far side of the field.

"Quidditch?" JC asked before it hit him, "Oh! Ginny! He told me she was a sports star!" He blushed, "I sorta forgot, with everything that's been happening."


Players straggled out onto the field as Molly and JC took seats higher up in the bleachers. Each of the players was carrying a broom, and JC remembered Bill saying something about them working as flying automobiles. Sure enough, no sooner had he thought it than the players began straddling their brooms, pushing off the ground and gliding up into the air. One player, a girl with red hair whom JC recognized from some of the pictures, flew over to them. She grinned. "Hey mum, who've you got with you?"

"Ginny, this is JC, Bill's boyfriend. JC, my daughter Ginny."

JC held out a hand and Ginny zoomed in close enough to be able to take it. JC was totally awestruck. Ginny took in the expression and laughed. "Dear Merlin, however did Bill manage to find himself a Muggle?"

"Oh, I found him," JC assured her.

It was the right thing to say. She giggled. "Brilliant. I'll be wanting to hear all about it after practice. I'll spring for drinks, yeah? Well, better be getting back to the field before coach takes the time out of my hide. Nice meeting you, JC!" The last of it was nearly lost as she sped the other way into the wind.

JC spent the afternoon watching people dip and twirl and defy simple rules he had believed in all his life and not thinking, "Let me see Bill again tonight, let me see him, let me."


Dean joined them before practice was over. Ginny waved to him before disappearing into a small building off to the side of the field with the rest of the team. She reappeared ten minutes later, much cleaner than the last time any of them had seen her. "So, drinks? Or are we skipping and going home to make sure the boys have gotten themselves out of whatever trouble Hermione got them into?"

Molly said, "The latter, I think, dear."

Ginny didn't argue, just popped out of existence with a cracking sound, Dean quick on her heels. Molly led JC back to the building with the fireplace and they went the way they had come. When they tumbled back into the Weasley's living room, Harry and Ron were seated practically on each other, pouring over a roll of parchment. Snape was right next to Harry, muttering things at them every once in a while which inevitably produced a nod from Harry. JC made his way to the kitchen where, sure enough, Bill was seated, sipping at tea. There were small scorch marks on his face and his knuckles looked a bit torn up, but other than that, he seemed no worse for the wear. Without ceremony, JC dragged him up to his feet and kissed him. When JC finally let go, Bill smiled a gentle smile and leaned his forehead up against JC's. "Worried?"

"Not anymore," JC said, a bit defensively. "I take it you got what you went in for?"

"And some stuff she hadn't told us would be in there. Which was probably just a safety precaution on her part, in case somebody got past all of the protections and encryptions and everything else she had put on her instructions."

JC nodded. He was surprised to feel a buzzing on his leg before he realized that his cell phone was ringing. Knowing he wouldn't get any reception in the house, JC said, "Be right back," and ran to the area where he remembered being able to connect. He pressed the talk button and panted, "Hello?"

"JC?" Justin sounded a bit robbed of his righteous indignation. "Are you all right?"

"Fine." JC took a deep breath. "Just had to run to somewhere that actually had service."

Which gave Justin leave to go on full steam. "What the fuck are you doing in England with some guy who you haven't made sign any forms?"

JC heard something and looked behind himself to see that Bill had followed him out. Bill mouthed, "Everything okay?" JC sighed but nodded in the affirmative. "Relax, J."

"Don't fucking tell me to relax, C. You're with some stranger that I don't know at all whom you're convinced that you've learned enough about in less than a week to make sure that he won't completely bury your career for money-"

"I need you to try trusting me, J. Please."

It brought Justin up short. "Shit, C. I do trust you. It's everyone else that's the problem."

"I wish I could explain this, but it's not my thing to explain. Just believe me when I tell you that I'm safe and happy and I'll be back. I don't know when, but I will be. And until then, can I assume you're calling to tell me that Lance managed to get more international minutes?"

"Lance probably did tell me to mention that, yeah," Justin muttered. "Are you ever gonna tell me what's going on? I mean, being that you've been telling me secrets for over ten years and I haven't yet squelched?"

"Maybe, J. I'm not promising anything."

Justin made a huffing noise. "Fine. Go back to your prince. Oh. Wait. Why didn't you tell me that Karen was gay?"

JC stifled a laugh. "Not my thing to tell."

"Yeah, fine. You seem to be saying that a lot. Bye."

"Bye, babe."

The endearment softened Justin, because he snuck a, "Love you," in right before hanging up. JC pressed the end button and sagged into Bill. Bill ruffled his hair. "Family?"

JC nodded into his chest. "I have to figure out something to tell them."

Bill didn't say anything, but he didn't let go either. JC took it as a positive sign.


Dinner was a loud affair, with Ron and Snape arguing over something in Hermione's notes, Fred repeatedly slipping items onto dishes that caused the food to take on a glamour, giving it a most unappetizing look, Ginny trying to talk calmly with Molly and Dean about wedding plans, and Bill attempting to interpret everything JC was missing. After awhile, JC heaped a serving of what seemed to be mold but turned out to be potato pie onto his plate, smiled at Bill, gave a little wave of his hand that could only be interpreted as "Nevermind," and people watched in a way similar to the time NSYNC had performed at Atlantis and JC had spent five hours in the aquarium tunnel.

Across the table, George gave him a sympathetic look, right before slipping something else into the pie. JC decided that was best left alone for the rest of the evening. His suspicions proved correct when Snape ended up with mouse ears and immediately cursed both of the twins with pig snouts. Fred protested loudly and George carefully kept a straight -- if mildly shocked and insulted -- face.

When he was finished eating, JC tried getting up to help Molly, but evidently there was magic involved in clean up as well, so he was quickly sent on his way. Since Bill was embroiled in whatever argument Ron, Snape and now Harry were all having, JC snuck upstairs to see if he could catch some quiet. It was nice having people everywhere, JC liked the feeling of being in the middle of something (everything) but there were also times when the quiet halls and rooms of his own house felt even further away than they really were.

The colors of the house called to JC in the same way that paints in an art store did. Everywhere he looked as he climbed the stairs, walked down the hall, found the room, there was color. Red was the most prevalent, shades upon shades of red and all the memories stored in each shade of red, Bill's hair, Chris's Space Cowboy costume in the Pop Odyssey concert, Joey's Superman memorabilia, one of Justin's first cars, Lance's Dr. Seuss room, the blanket JC'd never let go of until he was ten, when his mom had put it away in a chest so that nothing could happen to it. Orange was there too, orange like Lance's shirts and Chris's favorite fruit, the only fruit he would really eat at all if given the choice of any other food. Yellow like the first apartment he'd lived in on his own, and greens the color of Orlando in the spring. Blue the color of his own eyes, which were his favorite part of himself and the color of Justin's oldest pair of blue jeans, the ones that were absolutely falling apart but that he couldn't give up because they were "lucky."

JC's goal had been to go to the room, but he got lost in the colors and Bill found him on the landing, staring at the way the oil of the portrait hanging there literally moved. The tiny red-haired lady who'd been watching him watch her frowned at Bill. "Your friend is touched."

"No, gran, he's Muggle."

"You're his gran? Hi, I'm JC." He almost put out a hand before he realized that the oil always moved across-ways, it didn't pull out from the frame.

"Pleased to meet you, JC. That grandson is a little hasty in his conquests, but if he's brought you here I suppose you must be worth the time of day at least. Will I be seeing you again?"

For a second JC forgot all about the four people that he never lied to, all about the fact that this was thousands of miles from the world (place) he called home, about the fact that Bill and he hadn't really talked about anything that meant something longer than just this escape, "I hope so."

Bill's gran gave him one last, thoroughly assessing glance. "Me as well, young Muggle."

JC noticed how the word could be oddly musical when said with affection.


It was George who cemented things, pulling them completely apart and then gluing them all back together. Or rather, flicking his wand and lazily ordering, reparo. Only, JC and Bill weren't glass or porcelain or even earthen clay. They were a boy and a boy, not even a completely matching set. George didn't seem to notice.

He found JC watching Harry fly against Snape of all people, who would evidently only let his feet leave the ground for one person and one person alone. George said, "Odd couple of the century, them."

JC didn't take his eyes off the "floor" show. "They seem to love each other."

"Hermione once told Harry that there were two kinds of hate. The kind that came from ignorance and the kind that came from love."

"Not always. It's possible to hate someone because you hate them."

"But nearly always because they have perpetrated some harm to either yourself, whom you hopefully love, or to others that have claimed your affection."

JC supposed that was true. "Harry listened then? He hated Snape?"

"It was mostly mutual, and no, Harry never listened to Hermione unless it was about schoolwork. He always blithely went along against the current of logic until she'd been proven utterly correct." George sounded fond.


"So Snape saved my brother's life while completely buggering his own situation and Harry had to take a minute to reexamine everything he'd previously held true."

"Just a moment?"

"Sometimes that's all a person needs."

JC thought about Bill being ready to steal images from his head. Thought about Bill's ease at JC's advances, the touch of Bill's lips against JC's pelvis. George was looking at him with all too knowing eyes. JC said, "He'll go back to Egypt and I have people who are waiting for me in the States. Even if that wasn't the way of things, what would I tell my family?"

"Egypt is three lengthy Apparitions from the States, two more than it was for me to get to Hermione for most of the time we were dating. Assuming you trust your family, I would tell them the truth. Wizards marry Muggles all the time. Some of them keep quiet until nothing can be affected by the truth, but mostly, partners get told. It's a well kept secret because everybody is careful about who they tell."

"And those who aren't?" Because JC didn't care what George said, there were always exceptions to the rule.

"We swipe their memories." It was said without malice.

"And if I don't want to tell them things that could end with that eventuality?"

"Then decide whether he's worth a lie or not."

Harry swerved toward the ground, heading there at breakneck speed. Behind him, Snape followed, evidently confident that the maneuver wouldn't end in a nose dive and obviously willing to follow if it did. "He's worth the truth." It was a different decision than George had asked him to make, but it was still valid.

George cast a spell that caused Harry to spin as he was heading back up in the air. Harry shouted, "Bugger off," laughing even as he cursed. George grinned. To JC, he said, "You might work out."

JC hoped that applied to the situation as well.


Bill found JC singing as he de-gnomed. Molly had shown him how it worked yesterday, and while JC had at first been a little bit taken aback at the aggressiveness of the action, by second or third pitch, he'd found his rhythm. It was actually a pretty good way to release tension.

Bill put his hands on JC's hips. "With a voice like that it's a good thing you're famous or I'm not sure I'd be able to keep on believing in things like justice and balance in the world."

JC found the statement ironic, since he was pretty sure that Bill didn't believe in either of those things, but angled his face for a kiss. When he had received one, he said, "Thanks."

Bill exerted a little pressure with his hands, turning JC toward him. "You've met my family."

JC grinned. "They're pretty cool. I mean, for wizards and everything."

"Right, well, there is that."

JC waited. When Bill didn't take him up on his offer of listening he changed the offer to, "I could sing some more. I don’t know if I know anything you'd be familiar with."

"Just," Bill tilted his head, "whatever."

JC sang the one art song he remembered learning from his voice coach, a Brahms, not particularly in his range anymore, but he made it work. He belted an Ethel Merman number that he had learned during the first years of his intense, all-too-overwhelming crush on Joey, Broadway boy extraordinaire. He sang "No Strings Attached" because it was his and relatively easy to do even without the back up harmony. He stopped to brag. "I wrote that."

"Did you mean it?"

"Oh, well, I mean at the time-" Then JC figured it out. "I don't know if I know how to do that. But it might be an interesting experiment."

"I haven't felt excited by anything but curses since the war. Charlie and I-" Bill stopped, chased after a particularly annoying gnome, twirled it ferociously and threw it twice as far as JC had even imagined himself doing. "Cheeky little bastards. Charlie…was my best friend. He worked with dragons, not the fairy-tale kind, the nasty, fire-breathing devil-natured kind. We had competitions sometimes, not spoken ones, just, one-upping each others danger levels and then we'd tell each other stories."

Bill took a deep breath. "I kind of lost myself after he died. My sense of…what life meant. Mostly I just kept doing the living thing because someone had to. Fred was hanging onto George by a mere thread and the strength of their bond, Dad was dealing with Mum's reaction to Percy's death, Ginny was pretending none of us existed for a bit there until she could get her feet back underneath her and Ron was busy pretending to be jealous of Harry and Snape even though Ron is damned well straight and that had nothing to do with anything."

JC said, "I'm sorry," which he was pretty sure was inadequate, but there really just wasn’t much else to say.

"You should be." Bill smiled weakly. "Show up at my work which is everything to me, where I can risk everything because there is nothing else and take that away."

"I just wanted you to leave my head alone," JC said, because he knew that sometimes the worst thing that could happen to a person was also the best thing.

"And you ended up screwing with mine instead," but it was said lightly, affectionately.

Since there was no going back after doing something like that, JC said, "You should meet my family."

Bill didn't disagree.


Bill talked with his dad, who finally managed to make it home from the Ministry (as JC understood it, this wasn't all that common an occurrence these days after some kind of hefty promotion), about arranging for something referred to as a Portkey that would make it easier for both of them to get back to America. Evidently it wasn't possible to Apparate a second party and traveling that far by floo could be seriously sickness inducing.

Arthur, as Mr. Weasley had insisted on being called, said that he thought it might take more than one Portkey for that large a distance and that he would look into it as soon as he got back into the office. Bill told him there wasn't any hurry and taking one look at how tired Arthur seemed, it was all JC could do not to say, "Actually, I don't really need to return at all. How 'bout you just stay here?"

Arthur did go back, though, the next day, after several meals continuously provided by Molly, being the victim of two of the twins pranks and having a long conversation with Ron and Ginny about some type of cannon. A Chudley? JC was beginning to wonder if things here would ever make sense. It wasn't that he minded the slight disorientation of everything being slightly altered -- magical -- he was just beginning to feel like the kid in class who's always last to catch on.

Arthur sent a girl improbably named Tonks to the house at the lunch hour to give Bill the Portkeys. To JC they looked a lot like litter. Bill assured JC that Arthur hadn't made a mistake.

Tonks stayed for lunch and flirted a whole bunch with Ron, who flirted right back while seemingly oblivious to the fact that he was actually doing so. JC watched as Fred patted her on the back and said, "Points for effort," when she left. It was the most sincere thing JC had yet seen Fred do and it made him wonder just how long Tonks had been pining.

After lunch Bill had a lengthy conversation with a goblin's (not a Gremlin, as JC had discovered) head, floating in the midst of flames. He then hugged everyone in the near vicinity, even Snape, who said, "Get off me, Weasley."

JC took the safer hand-shaking route, except with Molly and Ginny, who just wouldn't allow "such nonsense."

Bill held out the first of the objects that his dad had sent home and said, "Put your hand on it."

JC decided to hold on, just in case. His decision was validated seconds later, when the world seemed to turn itself inside out, sucking JC right through the middle of the switch. The sensation must have lasted for all of thirty seconds before JC was standing on solid ground again, still next to Bill, still holding what he had been pretty sure was trash. Bill asked, "You okay?"

"Little tipsy feeling."

"Think you can take another go?"

"Just one more?" JC was pretty sure Arthur had only sent home two of the magical objects.

"That's all."

JC let go of the object he was currently holding and waited for Bill to hold the other one out. Bill said, "I'll count to three."

JC closed his eyes on three, but it didn't help. When they came through the other side this time, JC sunk to his knees and concentrated on breathing. Bill ran a hand over his back. "It's okay, a lot of wizards sick up after their first time, and they're more used to the feel of magical pulls just from having worked with the magic."

When JC thought it wise, he opened his eyes and smiled at Bill. "I'm never complaining about flying again." JC thought about that and specified, "In a plane."

Bill shook his head, "I've heard of them, but…"

Which changed JC's smile into a grin. "Finally, something I know about that you don't."

Bill laughed. "Feeling a little out of your depth?"

"Feeling like the victim of a lobotomy is more like it."

Bill shook his head. "No, you're really doing amazingly."

JC threw him a don't-patronize-me-bitch glare. Bill shrugged. "Don't believe me, it's not like it changes anything for me."

JC debated for a minute and then slowly got to his feet. He looked around. "Where are we?"

"We should be in a place called the Florida Keys. It was the closest location of a wizarding village that father could find. Can you get us home from here?"

"As soon as we’re back in my world, you can leave all the logistics to me."

Bill got them there and handed over the reigns to JC. They were back in Orlando by nightfall.


JC called Joey in the morning. "I'm back in town."

"How was your trip?" Joey asked, not a hint of censure in his voice.

"Complicated," JC said. "I'm having a barbecue. You wanna come?"

"Nobody else is in town, C. Not that I mind hanging out by our lonesomes, but a barbecue's a bit extensive for that sort of thing, don't you think?"

It actually wasn't, considering how much the two of them could eat when they put their minds to it, but barbecues were group activities when it came down to it, and they had never done one without all five of them there. There was tradition involved. "I'm calling the others after you."

After a considerable silence, Joey asked, "Everything okay?"

"Lance or J tell you I disappeared to England with someone?"

"Chris, who evidently heard it from J, but you know how that kinda telephone works, I wasn't sure that the original message wasn't 'I got drunk and ended up in bed and am staying there for a few days' rather than 'I managed to country hop in a day without stepping foot on a plane.'"

Joey's logic wasn't particularly faulty, so JC said, "That's why I'm calling them back. To explain. And so you guys can meet him."

Another silence and Joey said, "Like that, then?"

"You believe in love at first sight?"

"No, it took me four years to figure out I was in love with Kelly and another four to figure out what the fuck that meant."

"I believe in it."

"I know, C, but you also tend to believe in things like magic." Joey's tone wasn't unkind, merely worried.

JC bit back laughter. "Sometimes a little bit of faith pays off."

Joey, who JC knew had faith in specific things, like music and family and hard work, said, "What day were you thinking of holding this shindig?"


JC said, "I'm back in town," and, "There's someone I want you to meet," and "There's something I need to tell you," and, "I'm holding a barbecue, will you bring the chips/buns/soda/coleslaw?" and by the end of a few hours, he had himself a party planned in two days time.

JC took Bill shopping for all the stuff they needed, which turned out to be a fascinating experience between JC's need to stay safely under his baseball cap and Bill's rampant curiosity about the whacked out world of Muggle groceries. JC answered his questions about the refrigeration units and the concept of canned vegetables and what exactly went into a cracker called Chikin'-In-A-Biskit. Admittedly, on the last one, JC had to consult the box for help.

JC bought Bill a bag of Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and a Nestle Crunch, because it had become apparent that wizarding treats were not the same as Muggle, and JC simply could not abide the thought of Bill being ignorant of these products, so central to his own life. Once home, JC taught Bill about the numerous ways to eat a Reeses before leaving him to explore on his own. Bill decided that Spelling the peanut butter and chocolate inside to wrap around the more firm chocolate of the outside was the best way to go. JC, unsurprisingly, had never come up with that one.

JC took Bill for drives to show him around Orlando. He showed him Dr. Phillips and the Disney lots and drove them down to the beach. He narrated every street with memories and whenever he looked over to check that Bill still cared, the other man's eyes were hooked to whatever JC was talking about and he was obviously listening.

When JC finally took them home, he parked his car in the garage but didn't move. "Are you nervous about meeting them?"

Bill was silent for a few seconds and in the dark of the garage JC could barely see him. "Nervous in the same way I am before I defuse a curse. I have faith in my ability to overcome the obstacle, and even enjoy overcoming it, but that doesn’t mean I'm willing to negate the danger it represents."

"Good description."

JC draped himself over the cup holders and stick shift. "As soon as they get how good you are for me, they're gonna be putty in your hands. J, especially, he's gonna think you're the coolest thing since New Orleans found a bread pudding recipe that worked for them."

JC thought for a second. "Chris too. Chris is like Fred and George. Combined."

Underneath him, Bill shuddered a little bit. Then, "Is it true that Muggles like to have sex in their cars?"

JC laughed. "Where did you hear that?" Of all the things to find out about Muggle culture, JC couldn't say that he regretted this being the one on which Bill was informed.

"Hermione once said she'd always wanted to get George into the back of a Peugeot, just to see what kind of damage they could do."

JC felt a momentary pang for this girl he'd never meet. He kissed Bill. "My backseat is pretty accommodating. It lacks the adventure, but…"

Bill pushed him nearly upright and then into the back seat. "You're more than adventure enough."


Lance cornered JC in the kitchen when he went inside to fetch the Worcester sauce. "Where the hell did you find him, and does he have any brothers?"

"Three still living, but I don't think it'd work with any of them."

Lance cursed under his breath. "Hot, C."

"Good in bed, too," JC mused, because sometimes he just couldn't stop himself.

Lance groaned. "So what are his major detractions?"

"He's a wizard and dating a non-wizard is kind of a taboo back with his set, plus, non-magicals aren't really supposed to know about them, so everything is all sticky, but he's worth the stickiness, I think."

"You could've just said, 'I dunno, Lance, we're too new and I haven't found any yet.'"

JC didn't even blink. He hadn't been expecting success on the first try. "C'mon."

Lance shrugged and followed him. JC took the bottle outside and tossed it to Joey, who caught it easily. JC sidled up to Bill from the back and whispered, "Um, this is evidently gonna take some proof. Is there something small you can do?"

"Which one is having trouble believing?"

"I've only told Lance so far."

"Maybe you should tell the others before I give a practical demonstration," Bill said in a somewhat strained voice.

"Hey," JC said.

"Sorry, just. Sometimes it's hard not to feel like a freak show in front of Muggles. They used to burn witches and they have traveling shows with "magicians" headlining. See where I might be a bit hesitant to perform?"

JC frowned against Bill's shoulder blade. He lifted his chin up onto the shoulder. "They burned witches out of the misguided belief that they were devil worshipers. Satanism is now a registered religion in the United States. And magicians are illusionists, it's the skill people pay to see. If you don't want to show them, though, I can just tell them, and if they don’t believe me, well, it wouldn't be the first time. Shit, when we were young I could never get J to believe that Wednesday had a d before the n, and Webster's was willing to back me up on that one."

Bill laughed, JC could feel Bill's stomach move beneath the hand JC had placed there. "Go talk to them. If you need a little bit of flash to get to the actual acceptance part, I'll give you some."

JC unlatched himself and collected Chris and Justin, herding them next to Joey, who was talking with Lance over the grill. Lance already knew, but it would seem weird for him to just be hanging off to the side. JC said, "I'm really glad all you guys came."

Chris rolled his eyes. "This one's a keeper then?"

"Well, I mean, he lives in Egypt most of the time, undoing curses in the tombs of the ancients so that the wizarding bank he works for can collect on the gold. But I think we're gonna try the long distance thing anyway. He can travel by Apparation, mostly it seems he just thinks about where he wants to go and then he's there, so it's not like it would always be long plane rides. He said he could get me Portkeys, which is how we got back here so fast, so that I can visit him, but I almost think I'd prefer the plane. We'll see."

Chris blinked. Justin tried to swallow a sip of soda and ended up nearly on the ground, coughing. Joey eyed Bill suspiciously, as though he might be slipping JC 'shrooms to keep him around. Lance laughed. "You've really thought this all out, haven't you?"

JC sighed. "Bill?"

Bill didn't even respond. Without any seeming motion on his part, his wand was in his hand, and all four doubters were suspended roughly four feet from the ground. JC said, "Put Chris down."

Bill didn't question, just set him gently on the ground, where Chris waited until he had calmed down enough to glare before looking up at Bill again. Justin, on the other hand, was practically squealing. "Cool, how the fuck'd you do that?" He leaned over, testing his mobility, and was soon flipping around. Lance, still suspended, was watching Justin and Joey carefully, as though trying to understand the trick. Joey just asked, "Hey man, can you let me down? The burgers are gonna turn to ash."

Bill set him down as carefully as he had Chris, along with Lance. He waited until Justin was safely upright to take care of him.

JC asked, "You listening now?"

Justin wasn't, he had too many things to ask Bill, but the rest were.


They traded Bill between themselves, vetting in a series. JC wanted to listen in, but Bill seemed to be holding his own and one of the other guys was forever preventing him from moving any closer. It was planned, he knew, probably by hours of telephone conference, which only made him struggle against the tide harder, but when the guys were protecting him, they were implacable.

Chris was the final to take Bill on, which made JC sort of sick to his stomach, since Chris could be vicious when in guard dog mode and he still wasn't particularly happy about the whole being-stuck-up-in-the-air thing.

By the time Justin finally let JC out of helping with clean up though, Bill was laughing at something Chris had said. Chris patted him on the back and got up to walk over to JC. Chris looked JC over thoroughly. "He says that no spells have been used in the seduction of one JC Chasez and that he has the thoroughly honorable intention of fucking you and only you for so long as you both deem it appropriate."

"You believe him?" JC asked.

"He seems pretty stand-up. I'd like to meet these brothers of his."

JC made a mental note to make sure that never happened. He would not be the one responsible for the downfall of the world as they all knew it, he just wouldn't. "You're being awfully cool about this."

"It's been a while since you brought anyone back to us, Chasez. Unless he was really unacceptable…"

"There hasn't been anyone worth bringing back."

"We know, it worries us."

"Not to call anyone the kettle, but you and Lance are constantly single."

"That's because Lance and I have yet to face up to the fact that we're meant for each other. One of these years, C. And we're better at being single than you are."

JC frowned. "That's not true."

"We remember to eat and that we have a maid who cleans our houses and don't call other people at four in the morning because there's nobody else to talk to. Okay, well maybe the last one, but only when something big has happened, not whenever the hell we feel like it, or, more precisely, every other Tuesday with a few Sundays thrown in for good measure."

JC shrugged. "There are things I want to tell people. They're more exciting that way."

"We want there to be someone for you to tell."

"So he's," JC held up two thumbs.

"Ebert and Roeper are in total agreement." Chris tucked a curl behind JC's ear. "Even if only you could find someone who does fucking magic, of all things. I swear."

"Oh, c'mon, you totally think it's cool."

Chris laughed. "Either way, you do. That's what matters, right?"

JC nearly knocked Chris over with the force of his hug.


Bill pointed his wand at the fireplace, lit it, called his family, talked for a few minutes, threw in a hello from JC and severed the connection. He then spent twenty minutes making shapes from the flames. Watching a flame horse gallop across his fireplace, JC said, “You’re in.”

Bill said, “I know. I overheard Joey talking with Lance.”


“Used a spell to eavesdrop, overheard,” Bill shrugged in a way that told JC he was no more comfortable with what he had done than JC was. “I had to know. Especially after I accidentally did the suspension thing with Chris, which believe me, had I known-“

“No, I didn’t even- Right, I know.”

“Lance still doesn’t necessarily believe me, he just likes the way you act around me. He thinks you breathe easier.”

“Lance is afraid to believe in anything, even the things he should.”

“I think that may be a Muggle thing.”

“I think that’s the reason wizards believe Muggles are different. Because they’re afraid to think anything else.”

Bill didn’t respond. “Justin is very innocent.”

“Justin holds to what he needs to. A fragmented semblance of childhood is among those things. There’re other things there, but you haven’t been around long enough to have the privilege of seeing them.”

“How long would that be?”

“Long enough for him to be able to envision forever.”

“Wizards conceptualize that differently.”

JC could believe that. “I guess you’ll just have to feel your way along, then.”

“He loves you.”

“They all do. It’s not about what they say or how they act. For fuck’s sake, you know Snape loves you.”

Bill laughed. “Sometimes.”

“Enough to remember it the rest of the time. And they’re more demonstrative than most. You put them on guard. We’re used to being taken advantage of and having to check that the others aren’t getting the same treatment. Don’t you have to do that with Harry?”

“We let Snape and Ron and Mum take care of it for the most part. They need it.”

“When there’s only five of you, your options are somewhat lessened.”

Bill put the fire out. “I’m glad they approve.”

JC was too. He was pretty sure he would’ve fought if they hadn’t, but it was easier (and better on his nerves) that it had gone this way. “Give them a couple of days. They’ll come around to full blown appreciation.”

“I’m not usually this considerate,” Bill said.

JC laughed and went in for a kiss. “In that case, let’s screw.”


Bill woke JC up with a kiss to his stomach. JC let his eyes flutter open, then closed, then open again. When he was paying attention, Bill said, “I have to leave. The goblins are threatening to send their goons after me.”

“Goblins have goons?”

“Like nothing the Muggles have ever seen. Trust me, you don’t want to have to identify my body after they’ve gotten hold of me.”

JC made a face. “Thanks for the visual.”

“Can you come back with me?”

JC felt the temptation like a living thing inside of him, as forceful as his heart or his lungs. “We should try me not doing that.”

Bill rested his chin on JC’s hipbone. “Why, why should we do that until we have to? And we will have to. Look, what have you got planned for the next month?”

“Mostly just writing. I mean, there are studio people I need to be talking to, but I just have to get a different cell, or a landline over there that I can use for that sort of thing.” JC thought Bill might be right about not leaving each other until there were no other options. The time would undoubtedly come all too soon, and last all too long. JC had lost significant others to lesser situations, which made him ask, “But how do I know you’ll want to see me after I’ve gone away for a bit if I don’t try it now?”

Bill frowned. “How do you know you’re going to want to stick around after living with me for another week? It’s not exactly a process with a guarantee any way we choose to do this. Kind of like curse-breaking.”

“So basically you’re saying you want to try me out for the challenge.”

Bill reached down to run his hand from JC’s ankle to his inner thigh. “I like a challenge. And you present one in so many ways. But mostly, I just don’t want to say goodbye, and I’ve done that against my will too much up to this point to make myself when I don’t technically have to.”

JC, who couldn’t imagine losing two brothers and continuing to walk straight, said, “A month, but then I have to come back here for at least a bit, start recording. There’s no set date for the album, but if I don’t get on recording it, that will never change.”

Bill nodded. “I’m not asking you to give up your life for me, just to allow me a little piece of your time.”

“Which is a piece of me, no matter how you ask or how you phrase it.”

“Oh, I want more than a piece, but sometimes magic requires patience.”

JC rolled his eyes. “I’m not magic.”

Bill surged up, pinning JC’s gaze to his. “I think I’m far more qualified than most anyone you’ve ever met to tell you that you’re the most magical thing I’ve ever found.”

JC sensed that magic in this sense might have a different definition. He sensed that Bill’s opinion on that was subject to change. He sensed that he was falling for sweet words and a pretty face. Mostly he sensed that he didn’t care.

With Bill above him, JC could feel his own magic. That was all he needed.

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