“Dad, look!” Chris ran ahead of me. “Wow.”
Wow indeed. The bookstore was glittering, and there were faces peering out of every window– some painted on, some real. Kids and adults, some in costume, some not.
Chris and I were in costume; I’d found an old velvet cape my mother had made in high school, when we all played Dungeons and Dragons, and Chris had been fitted out perfectly: a deep black robe, wand, the works. His mother had made the robe and hat, but I was proud of the wand I’d carved. I’d done a little carving in high school too, and was pleased to discover I hadn’t forgotten all of it.
Chris was mine, again, for the summer, and at eleven his mother and I had decided he was old enough to stay up until the midnight debut of the last Harry Potter novel– we’d been on the fence with the last book, but an unexpected bout of chicken pox had taken the decision off the table. He was brimming with excitement, and I had to admit it was contagious. We’d re-read all six of the previous books together, combing through the pages for clues about the future– we’d determined together to remain “spoiler free”– and trying to piece together Harry and Voldemort’s shared past. That our shared surname was Potter was simply the icing on the cake, to him. I was not half as interested as Chris was, but that didn’t matter.
Not at all.
My marriage had been a foolish, stupid mistake, but the one thing I did not– could not– regret was my son. He was lanky and lithe, athletic as his mother had been and book-loving and shy as I had been. He had a small circle of friends that seemed to sustain him, and the small fortune his mother and I had spent on counselors had paid off. He was happy, stable, doing well in school and at sports.
Allison had remarried, and he had a little sister he doted on. I couldn’t stand Allison’s husband and suspected Chris felt the same way, but we didn’t speak much of him. We had enough to talk about, between work and school and soccer in the fall and baseball in the spring.
And Harry Potter. Of course.
I parked and let Chris run in ahead of me. I didn’t expect to more than glimpse him for the rest of the night, but that was fine. We had all summer to read and talk together, and he would be having the time of his life.
As I walked in the door I looked for the snack table, glancing over at the cafe first, just in case.
I’d made a Thursday afternoon ritual of coming in here, getting a coffee, and doing work on my laptop. It got me away from the chaos of the office, where interruptions were a constant hazard, and I liked the atmosphere.
I liked the cafe manager, as well, a blue-eyed, auburn-haired young man with an easy smile and an appreciation of quiet. I knew he worked days, but I’d nursed a small hope that I’d see him at a special event like this.
Oh, well. This was Chris’ night, anyway.
He’d found his friend Ethan by a huge display announcing the costume contest sign-up, and they were already chattering at each other. Ethan was an energetic, clever boy, and I’d grown used to thinking of him as part of the family. His mother caught my eye and waved me over.
Susan was Allison’s best friend, a tall African-American woman with short, spiky blond hair. She’d never entirely forgiven me for the divorce, but we were friends for our kids’ sake, and Allison’s. “Hey, Terry. Some party, huh?” she said. She was in a business suit– she’d probably come here right from work, like me. I was already getting hot under the cape in my own suit.
“Dad dressed up, isn’t it cool?” Chris asked, and I grinned. Any doubt and discomfort was erased instantly.
“It is,” a voice said behind me, and my heartbeat picked up. John, the cafe manager. I turned, and he was smiling at me.
“My mom made it for me,” I said, trying to be modest. “Years ago.”
He was wearing a costume, too; a Ravenclaw robe, which brought out the blue in his eyes. “I bought mine on Ebay,” he said. “I tried to get the store to reimburse me, but no luck yet.”
“It’s awesome,” Chris said, and I could hear his admiration.
“Thanks.” John grinned at him, and I wondered how on Earth I could introduce them to each other, or even if I should. Chris, this is the guy I flirt with every Thursday didn’t seem quite appropriate. “Hey, you guys think I should get out some more snacks?”
“Yes!” Chris and Ethan chorused, and I sighed, pleased to have the decision taken out of my hands.
“I guess I should, then,” he said.
The boys ran over to the snack table and began stuffing themselves with the enthusiasm only growing preteens can muster.
“Do you think they actually taste any of it?” I asked Susan.
“God knows,” she said.
“You should try something,” I said. “John’s really good.”
“Thank you,” John said, gliding behind me with a tray of crumpets. He smelled a little like crumpets himself, at this point. “How are you tonight, Terry?”
“I’m well,” I said. “Didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Hope it’s a good surprise.”
“Yeah,” I said. “It is.”
Out of the kitchen, he seemed taller, and I realized he was slightly taller than I was; over six feet then, easily. “So which one’s yours?” He nodded over at the boys.
“Chris, with the light brown hair,” I said. “This is his best friend’s mother, Susan.”
“Ah,” John’s eyes registered– something. I hoped it was pleasure. Susan smiled at him, a happy, flirting smile, though her eyes were still steel. I realized she would hate anyone I dated on principle. “I’m afraid I’m going to spend most of the night in the kitchen,” he said. “But I think everyone’s going to have a good time, anyway.”
My heart sank a little, but I nodded agreement. When had I grown so attached to his company?
“You’d better run along,” he said, grinning at me. “Your son just disappeared.”
“I’d sort of expected him to,” I chuckled, but he had dropped out of my vision, so I walked over to the children’s section to get an eye on him.
As I passed the record section, I saw a flash of blue and orange. A tall auburn-haired man– but I had just seen John, so that wasn’t possible. I put it out of my mind and joined Chris at the prize table.
“Look!” Chris said, almost vibrating with excitement. “There it is!”
The top prize was a hardcover set of all the books, autographed by JK Rowling herself. Chris had emailed me about it weeks ago when it was first announced. There was an official Harry Potter wand and several House scarves, but the author’s autographed work was clearly the prize, at least as far as my son was concerned.
I tugged at my tie under my cape; I should at least have taken that off before I picked Chris up.
“The girl over there said there are gonna be games soon,” Chris said. His voice pitched higher with his excitement; how long, I asked myself, would it be before it began to crack?
“Good,” I said, and wondered where I could escape to while my son celebrated. Perhaps I would get something to drink and sit in the corner of the coffeeshop….
…hoping to glimpse John. I was pathetic, and I needed to focus on my son.
So I threw myself into the games, joining in the parent/child trivia team and earning a respectable third place finish. As we received our bronze medals– tacky plastic circles with Gryffindor ribbons– I caught auburn hair and Ravenclaw robes again, grinning from the Reference section. I smiled back, but John was gone before I could catch his eye.
“Cookie to celebrate?” John said, suddenly appearing at my shoulder. I almost jumped.
“Oh,” I said, hoping I didn’t look to awkward. “I didn’t notice you were there.” That at least was true enough.
John was holding a large tray filled with decorated cookies, which he bent down to distribute to all the players. I grabbed a gryphon; they were lemon-flavored, and excellent. “Good?” he asked. He was standing so close to me our robes were threatening to touch.
“Very,” I said, and caught the steady blue of his eyes. He truly was lovely.
“We aim to please,” he said.
“I see,” I said, and realized to my extreme discomfort that we were flirting. I hadn’t dated much since the divorce; men thrilled me, but dating them always seemed impossibly intimidating. The anonymous encounters I’d had before the divorce had been easy, but also cold, and too brief, and no longer what I wanted. Sometimes I thought I had started too late, and would never learn the rules of the game. I managed to smile, at any rate.
John smiled back, and a thrill went up my spine. Somehow, being with him felt…easier, though still awkward.
“This must be a long day for you,” I said, in desperation.
He winked. “Came in late. But yeah, it’s still a long day with all the prep work. We started baking over the weekend, just to get everything done.”
I decided to take a risk. “Must be rough on your social life,” I said. If he had someone else in his life, I might as well crush my hopes now and get it over with.
“I get by,” he said cheerfully. “No one’s home waiting up for me, at least.”
With that, he disappeared, leaving me somewhere between hope and confusion.
Chris tugged at my arm. “Dad,” he said. “Come see this!”
This was a magic act. Chris found us two chairs, and we sat and watched, though my attention was pulled away by a man a few rows back wearing Ravenclaw robes. I swore I saw John’s auburn hair again, though he was heading back to the kitchen the last time I saw him.
“Sir,” the magician said suddenly. “Tell me about your medal!”
“Um,” I said. “It was a prize–”
And then I was pulled into the magic act, and away from John’s distracting double yet again. It was just a resemblance, surely. Or perhaps my feelings toward John were making me see coincidences when they weren’t there.
After the magic act, I checked my watch. Thirty minutes to midnight.
“Is it close?” Chris asked.
“Half an hour.”
“I’m gonna go play the Sorting Hat game, okay?”
“Sure,” I said, and watched him run off.
“He’s adorable,” John said, dangerously close to my ear.
“Thanks,” I said. I was smart enough not to jump this time. I turned. For once he wasn’t carrying a tray, and he didn’t have the baked-good smell I’d noticed earlier. And…
He was wearing an earring.
“Hi,” the guy who wasn’t John said. “Terry, right?”
“Yeah,” I said. He was as attractive as John, as tall as John, with the same coloring and the same robes….
“I’m his brother Andrew,” not-John said, and I all but sighed with relief. “Nice to meet you.”
“It’s…a pleasure to meet you too,” I said, finally beginning to recover my composure. He was…just as good-looking as his brother, certainly. I wondered if I could tell them apart.
“John says you work over at Newtel,” he said. “I’m at Hypotech, in the R & D division. Just started a couple of months ago.”
Newtel and Hypotech had worked together on countless projects; I’d done publicity work for many of them. “Are you working on the Davis project?”
“Then we’ll be working together,” I said, “as soon as the prototype’s ready.”
We ‘talked shop’ for quite a while; Andrew had the same easy, casual style that John did, and his enjoyment of work was clear and contagious. Working with him would be a pleasure, I was sure.
I was lost in conversation until Chris came, tugging at the sleeve of my suit again. “Dad, look!”
There it was: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, at last.
“Congratulations,” I told him.
“Can I go home and read it? Please?”
I considered. It was summer, after all. “Only for half an hour,” I said.
“Thanks, Dad!” His smile was all the reward I needed. I excused myself from Andrew, who shook my hand. It might have been my imagination, but it felt like he held on just a bit too long.
The half hour passed quickly for Chris, but he went to bed amiably enough.
“I hope you had a good time,” I told him, and he smiled up at me.
“Yeah, Dad. Thanks.”
I decided to read for a while before I went to bed myself. The Harry Potter book was a bit tempting, but I decided to finish the book I was working on first. I realized I’d left my cape on and went to pull it off.
The last thing I expected was a knock at the door.
Well, the second to last thing. The last thing I expected was to have John and Andrew, standing side by side in my doorway, holding a set….
A set of autographed Harry Potter books.
“Your son should’ve stayed for the drawing,” John said brightly. “He won!”
“He’ll be so happy,” I said, flabbergasted. “Um. Come on in.”
“You’re on our way home,” Andrew said. When they were side by side, it was somewhat easier to tell them apart. Andrew was just a half-shade darker, and the earring helped. “We saw the address on the slip and figured we’d drop it off if he was still awake.”
“Afraid you missed him,” I said. “But…do you want some coffee?” It was an absurd thing to say at one o’clock in the morning, but letting them just walk away felt equally impossible.
“Sure,” John said, sliding past Andrew and into the house. “Coffee sounds great.”
I started a pot, and they settled onto the living room couch, side by side. They were alike as photocopies. Twins; they had to be. “Are you two–”
“Twins?” John said, as I came back into the living room. “We are.”
“Fraternal,” Andrew said. “Not that you can tell by looking at us.” They were sitting so close to one another no light showed through. It was…awkward to look at, like I was seeing something private.
John caught my eye and winked, and I had to stop myself from jumping. My face was heating up and I hoped dearly that I wasn’t blushing. My heart was pounding, and I felt as awkward as I’d had when I was a teenager.
I could hear the coffee dripping. “Aren’t you going to sit down?” John said, and his smile was so seductive I could hardly hear the words. Something about them eased my mind, as disquieted as I felt; my every instinct told me to trust them.
I sat. I still hadn’t taken the cape off, much less my suit or tie. At least all the clothing would hide my…growing interest in the two of them.
We made small talk; very little of it registered. What registered was their gestures, their clear and intimate familiarity with one another, the coordinated, smooth way they finished one another’s sentences. I got up to pour the coffee, and John said, “Wait.”
“You really are sweet,” Andrew said. “John was right about you.”
“I–” I said. Andrew was rising from the couch, with John just behind him. “I’m….”
And then Andrew leaned over and kissed me.
Andrew smelled wonderful; he was wearing some kind of musky, light cologne. His mouth was warm and wet and his breath tasted of the pastries we’d been eating half the night. I was too stunned to do anything for a moment, and then I felt John’s arms encircling me, his solid weight at my back. I kissed Andrew back, fiercely, and leaned back into John’s embrace. I was sure, at that moment, I was dreaming; but it was a dream I had no inclination to interrupt. The only thing, I think, that kept me from panicking completely was that wonderful, dreamlike sense; though the strength of their arms and the warmth of their bodies didn’t hurt.
“Is this all right?” John asked. I broke the kiss to gasp, “yes,” and turned my face to kiss him over my shoulder. The steady hum of desire that I’d felt was roaring in my ears now; everything was forgotten– the coffee, the books, even Chris sleeping two rooms over. The only thing in my mind was this reverie, these men touching and tasting me.
I gave in. I let them strip me slowly of cape and clothing; at one exquisite moment, John undid my tie while Andrew carefully unbuttoned my shirt. I reached over and pulled John’s robe over his head; he wore shorts and a t-shirt underneath, and Andrew quickly pulled those off.
Andrew, in contrast, was fully naked under the robes, and I hissed in my breath with pleasure when he pulled them off. “Too hot otherwise,” he said, reaching down to stroke his thick, circumsized cock.
My mouth was watering. He must have realized. “You want a taste?” he said, winking.
“Yes,” I said, and dropped to my knees.
John stroked my back. “Get on all fours,” he said, and I didn’t think twice about obeying. They were both amazing naked, muscular without being overbulky, with thick auburn hair on their chests and cocks pulled from my most overheated fantasies.
I pulled Andrew’s cock into my mouth and sucked hard. Andrew grunted approval and put his hands into my hair, guiding my head as I tried to remember every technique I’d ever learned. He was almost too big and my jaw ached after a few minutes, but it didn’t matter; by then John was working his own magic, rimming me with his slick, slender tongue. Before I knew it, his equally slick, slender fingers were entering me, and I gritted my teeth past the discomfort and let him push in.
“Lube in the robe,” Andrew said. “Couple rubbers if you want.”
I moaned, hoping to suggest yes, yes I do want. I wanted so much I could hardly stand it.
He must have taken it as a yes, for in a moment, there was a hard, insistent pressure at my asshole. John felt bigger than Andrew did, in my mouth, but perhaps it was just the placement. He eased inside me, not too slowly, and soon I was rocking back against him, the pain of entrance erased by my desire and the pleasure of being fucked. Andrew came, grunting as he flooded my mouth, and as I licked him dry, he dropped down and kissed me. I kissed back, and he reached down and touched my cock, and I couldn’t hold off any longer; I came, feeling the sensations roar through my body, and I could feel John coming, too.
We stayed in one position, locked together for a moment; I felt overfull, and incredibly good, and I could feel the sweat drying on my back. My knees began aching soon enough, though, and I shifted my weight and let John slide out of me.
“Nice,” Andrew said.
“Are you all right?” John asked. He kissed the back of my neck.
“Yes. Yes…more than all right. Yes.” I turned and let him kiss me.
“We probably shouldn’t stay,” Andrew said, as I sat up carefully. He slipped his arms around my waist. “But perhaps we could stop by another time?”
They did stay, though, through coffee, and kisses, and eventually a long, shared shower that we finished just as dawn was breaking over the horizon. They hurried out, quietly, and I settled back into my chair, newly dressed in a fresh pair of boxers and my bathrobe. I opened my book and read until Chris woke up.
“Ready for breakfast?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said, rubbing his eyes and picking up the new book.
“There’s a surprise on the table,” I said, grinning.
“Really?” He ran out to the kitchen, and I listened for his reaction. “Dad, I won! I can’t believe it!”
“One of the guys from the bookstore stopped by and dropped it off,” I said. “I was lucky I’d kept the light on.”
“This is awesome,” he said. When I walked into the kitchen, he was holding it the way I expected Arthur held the Grail. “This is gonna be the best summer ever!”
“It just might be,” I said, and kissed his forehead. “Let’s eat.”