Harry snatches another glass of wine from a passing tray, his fifth, he thinks, or perhaps his sixth. He'd lost count somewhere around Gallery Three when he'd encountered the nearly ceiling-height canvas of The Artist and His Boggart, 2004. He shudders. The damned thing'd been exactly what he doesn't like about modern art: all this abstract 'self-revelation' is a bunch of bollocks, in his opinion. Residual trauma of the war or not, there's no bloody sense in going around wearing your heart on your sleeve. He's learned that much in the past twelve years, no matter what Healer Thero says in their weekly sessions. Life is what it is, and will be what it will be, and he loathes the current tendency towards narcissistic and deliberately public self-examination.
The wine's too tart and too dry for his tastes, but it's at least calming his nerves. Harry doesn't care for crowds any more. They unsettle him, make him tense, irritable, and nauseous. He'd rather be at home, safe in his sitting room with a cider and Stephen Fry on the telly. Hermione had convinced him to come to this benefit, pointing out it was Luna's big night and that, after all the work she'd done over the past two years to get funding, her friends owed her their support. Harry hadn't resisted too much; he knows how much this museum means to Luna, enough that she'd fought a phalanx of Department of Finance and Treasury accountants to convince the Ministry of the need for supporting modern wizarding arts. The least he can do is show up at this fundraising benefit and smile for the bloody cameras for her. The Great Harry Potter guarantees at least Page Two coverage.
His glass shivers in his hand, sloshing wine out over his fingers, and he swears softly under his breath, catching one hand with the other in a vain attempt to steady the tremble that stretches the muscles taut over his knuckles.
"Harry?" Hermione turns to him, her eyebrows drawn together. A wispy brown curl brushes across her cheek; she tucks it back behind one ear, then reaches for his wine glass, taking it gently from his clenched fingers.
"I took the potion," he says before she can ask. "Too much wine, I think."
She frowns at him. "You know what the Healers say--"
"Don't," he says and she falls silent, her pursed mouth a quiet reproach.
Harry's jaw tightens. He hates the lectures they all give him now. One damned accident involving one too-lucky curse, and suddenly you'd think he was five again, with their Harry, be carefuls and their quick Levitating charms ready the instant the potion gives way and his rebelling hands lose hold of whatever's in their grasp.
"I'm fine," he says firmly, and Hermione hesitates, then nods. Still, she sets his glass on the next tray that floats past, and she tucks her arm through the crook of his elbow, smiling up at him. He knows what she's doing, giving him a reason to hold on to her while looking as if he's merely being chivalrous. No one else would know that her fingers curled lightly around his arm are actually keeping him steady. He's grateful, but he can't help resenting the soft pressure of her fingertips through the black wool of his dress robe.
She leads him through the next gallery, both of them stopping to greet various Ministry officials along the way. The Prophet will be calling them a couple tomorrow, he knows. He just hopes Ginny laughs when she reads the headlines once the papers catch up to the Harpies. She's wickedly jealous when it comes to her girlfriend and too damned quick with a hex when her temper's roused. He still has small, crescent shaped scar on his shoulder from the night they broke up ten years ago.
They've just sidestepped one of the Council of Law justices--Hornberry, a horrific bore who fancies himself the font of all knowledge when it comes to wizarding culture--when Harry nearly stumbles into a tall, twisting vine that curls around a pillar in a shimmering coil of painted glass.
Hermione pulls him back. "Thanks," he says, but he can't tear his eyes from the delicate green leaves that almost seem to flutter in a non-existent breeze. A sweep of yellow-green paint gleams beneath the glass, seeping into a darker, shadowed emerald.
"That's beautiful," Hermione says, and Harry nods. It's the first thing he's seen tonight that's caught his eye. There's something about the fragile shoots of green vine curling out from a thick trunk, brown bark scarred and cracked. It feels alive. The shining black coils of a snake glint through the leaves; Harry follows the dark scales until he finds the flat snout peeking out, yellow-brown eyes watching him, copper flecks eddying around the narrow oval iris. He wonders if the serpent's real, and he can't stop himself from hissing softly, the sibilant syllables flattening his tongue against the back of his teeth. The snake doesn't move. Doesn't respond. Harry's almost disappointed.
"Who's the artist?" he asks.
Hermione steps closer to the pillar to peer at the card mounted next to the vine, but Harry already knows before her quick sharp breath and soft Harry. He's moved on to the next piece, obviously by the same artist, this one a bust of a woman, her head tilted slightly, chin raised, light blonde curls caught in a soft chignon at the nape of her neck. A small half-smile curves her thin, pink lips, and her blue eyes shine with an affection he'd never seen in the flesh. He's fascinated by the paint that moves slowly beneath the glass, spreading a faint flush across her pale skin. She's luminous, almost ethereal, but there are smudged wrinkles at the corners of her eyelids, and silver-grey hairs shine at her part, soft short brush strokes of paint that disappear into looser swirls of gold.
"Don't stare like that at my mother, Potter. It borders on the perverse."
Harry steps back, suddenly aware of how close he is to the bust of Narcissa Malfoy. His face warms, but he slides his hands in his trouser pockets, ruching up the sides of his jacket as he turns. Malfoy's next to him, in a fitted black robe with a high collar worthy of Snape himself, his blond hair falling from a receding forehead to brush the sharp angles of his jaw.
"You're an artist." It comes out incredulous, perhaps a bit condescending. Harry can't help himself. Malfoy's always put him off-guard.
Malfoy's mouth twitches. "Among other things," he says smoothly. His pale eyes flick between Harry and Hermione, then he arches an eyebrow and lifts his wineglass to his mouth. "Lose your taste for gingers, Granger?"
"Only for the evening," Hermione says lightly, and the tiny half-smile that curves Malfoy's thin lips surprises Harry.
"And what, I wonder, did you promise Potter to obtain his services as an escort?" Malfoy tilts his head to one side, studying Harry. "Don't make that face," he says. "You're well-known for being a cultural philistine."
Harry could use another damn glass of wine at the moment, sod the potion. "I'm not making a face," he says tightly, though he knows he's lying. Malfoy's snort of amusement irritates him though. "And I wasn't coerced into coming."
Hermione, bless her, keeps her tongue for once.
Malfoy's lips quirk again. "Of course," he says, almost pleasantly and it disturbs Harry. He knows Malfoy's mocking him in that exceedingly Malfoy way of his, and he's the distinct urge to slam his fist into that annoying smirk.
Instead, Harry grits his teeth and forces a smile. He nods towards the bust of Narcissa. "Your work's…nice, I guess." He sounds ridiculous, and he knows it. He doesn't give a damn about art; the only decorations in his flat, aside from a few drawings still on the refrigerator that his godson had done as a toddler, are a framed Weird Sisters poster from their 1995 European tour perched on the mantel and a painting of poker-playing Crups hanging in the bathroom. Ron had given him the latter when Ginny'd moved out, saying it was about time he had a man's flat. Harry's fairly certain Ron just liked the fact that one of the Crups wears a Cannons jersey.
Malfoy frowns, sipping his wine. "Damned with faint praise?"
Harry just shrugs and he looks at the piece next to it, a vase nearly as tall as himself, and swirled with black paint. Silver-white flecks shimmer at the top, almost like stars, eclipsed by floating clouds of black. It's a strangely unsettling piece. Harry almost thinks he can see the shadows of Hogwarts through the darkness, but that's probably just his imagination. Still, he's drawn to it.
"It's lovely," Hermione's saying, still next to Narcissa's bust. "The way the paint moves beneath the glass—"
"Really, I'm not incredibly interested in your opinion, Granger," Malfoy says tightly, giving her a sharp glance. He moves closer to Harry, watching him. Harry steps back from the vase and rubs his stubbled jaw. He hadn't bothered to shave before Hermione'd dragged him out of the flat.
Hermione's mouth snaps shut, and her lips thin in a way that Harry knows from frequent experience means she's barely holding her temper at bay, but she looks between the two of them, one eyebrow raised. "Of course not," she says after a moment. "How could I have been so crass as to have a favourable one."
Colour spreads across Malfoy's pale cheeks, but he only shrugs. "I don't want platitudes." He fixes a cool gaze on Harry and twists his wineglass stem between his long fingers. There are cuts across his knuckles, thin red-brown scabs that he hasn't bothered to heal."What does it make you feel?" he asks, his voice quiet, and Harry knows this is important to him.
He licks his bottom lip. "I don't know," he says, with an apologetic half-smile, and Malfoy looks oddly disappointed. Harry can't--or won't, rather--tell him that he hasn't felt much at all the past few years, other than the ever-present pain in his wrists and fingers, dulled only by the potions, so he looks away. He clenches his fists in his trouser pockets, pressing his bitten-to-the-nub fingernails into his skin.
Malfoy's shoulders tense. "Philistine, like I said." His voice is cold and distant. He drains his wineglass and hands it to a passing elf. "If you'll excuse me."
Harry watches as he stalks off.
"Honestly," Hermione says with a sniff, "all these years and he's still an arrogant prat."
"Yeah," Harry agrees, and his eyes drift from Malfoy's arse back to the vase. He wants to touch the glass trapping the swimming brushstrokes of colour, to feel its slick, cool smoothness against his palms. His fingers twitch.
Instead he follows Hermione into the next gallery. When he looks back, Malfoy's standing among the milling throng, tall and willowy in his tailored robe, staring at him. He nods, a barely perceptible tilt of his head, and Harry turns away.
The silent gallery is brighter during the day. Light floods in from the skylights above, making the stark white walls even brighter. Luna's purple dragonhide heels click across the polished oak floor as she hurries towards him, a thick black notebook open in her hands. Her sheer violet robe floats open behind her, giving Harry a good glimpse of long pale legs and a short purple wool skirt.
Sometimes he wonders why he hasn't made a move for her. She's made it clear more than once over a bottle of wine that she wouldn't say no, and Harry, as much as he prefers a thick cock lately, has gone to bed with more than one woman over the years and enjoyed it rather a great deal. He and Ginny'd had a fantastic sex life--up until the night she'd found him in bed with Justin. Still, he likes having Luna for a friend, and he's aware that friendship and sex have never really mixed that well for him.
Luna twirls a twist of long blonde hair absently, a mannerism left over from their Hogwarts days. Her silver bell earring jangles softly as she does. There's a faint ink mark on her cheek. "It's thirty-eight hundred Galleons, Harry," she says, running a long, pink-polished fingernail down the page. "He priced it rather high for the benefit. Are you certain?"
Harry stares at the black vase in front of him. The card on the pedestal reads Scotland (June 1997), artist, D. Malfoy, London, 2010. "I'm certain," he says. "I'll have Gringotts transfer the funds into your account on Monday. How long will it take before he gets the money?"
"I take forty percent for the museum according to our agreement," she says, "and then move his portion into his Gringotts account. So, within a day or so of your paying me he should have the transfer." She pulls the notebook against her chest, crossing her arms over it. "I assume you want to remain anonymous?"
The vase sparkles in the light, the black paint eddying into dark green and blue swirls that the white stars shine against. "No." Harry looks over at Luna. "I want him to know exactly who bought it."
She just raises an eyebrow, then nods. "I'll have it delivered as soon as Gringotts firecalls."
Harry sighs. It's a horrible idea, he knows. But he hasn't been able to get the vase out of his head since the opening. "Thanks," he says.
He's not certain he means it.
The vase lies in its packing crate for two days. Harry's left it on the dining room table, half opened. Each time he passes, he can see the gleam of glass against a bed of black velvet. He wants to touch it, but something stops him each time. It's different having it in his flat. It's a tangible connection to Malfoy, and that unsettles him.
When the clock in the sitting room chimes half-eleven on Wednesday night, Harry finally puts down the thick case file he's been going over since he'd got home at eight. They've taken him off active duty since the accident, moving him into administration. It's a promotion, Kingsley's tried to say, and Harry knows they're grooming him to take over as Head Auror one of these days. Kingsley's hinted at his own, higher aspirations lately. Harry would rather be in the field, but he knows it's impossible. His hands are constant proof. He holds them out in front of him. His fingers are thick and gnarled, bent slightly in on themsleves--not much, but just enough to make using them difficult. The potion loosens them enough that he can hold a quill or a glass or a fork or his wand, but it only suppresses the trembling for a few hours at a time.
Harry touches the back of his knuckles, the skin thick and rough. His hands look like Dumbledore's hands once had; the curse aged whatever it struck. One Healer had the gall to tell him he should be grateful it had only harmed his hands. Only Ron's tight grip on Harry's shoulder had kept him from decking the idiot.
With a sigh, he realizes he hasn't eaten yet. He doesn't want to, but he can't take the potion on an empty stomach, and frankly, he wants a wank tonight--a good one, with no shaking hands. He rolls out of bed and shuffles into the kitchen. It only takes a flick of his wand at the open refrigerator to slap together a sandwich, spreading butter across thick bread and adding a few slices of cheese and a bit of ham. He plugs in the electric kettle and leans against the counter, eating his sandwich and waiting for the water to heat so he can pour it over the Yorkshire Gold bag in his favourite mug and add a few dashes of milk and a spoonful of the cloyingly sweet potion.
He looks over at the vase, lying like congealed memory in its formal black box.
"Damn," Harry mutters, and he sets his sandwich aside and pushes away from the counter.
It's foolish of him to touch the vase before he's had his potion, but his hands aren't shaking too terribly at the moment. He lifts the vase carefully from its velvet bed and sets it on the table. It's tall and beautiful, and he sits in front of it, mesmerised. The paint moves beneath the glass, and Harry sees the outline of the castle turrets again, the flicker of lights in windows. A tower becomes clearer, the paint sharpening around it, bringing it to the surface.
Harry touches the glass, lightly, his bent fingers sliding down the straight, smooth column. The paint swirls at his touch, drags beneath his fingertips. Harry can almost feel it, vital and slick beneath his skin. His heart thuds; he curls his palms around the vase. His fingers shake a little, but when he flattens them against the glass, they still.
A man stands at the tower parapets. His beard flutters in the wind, soft, faint wisps of white paint against the dark. And then he's falling, falling, falling until the black swirls wrap around him, consuming him, leaving only the stars shining above.
The paint washes over the sides of the vase, swirling and coiling beneath the glass until it's a solid black, hot and angry against Harry's fingers. The kettle whistles behind him; he barely notices.
When Harry finally pulls his hands away, he lifts them to his face, pressing his palms against his skin, breathing slowly.
It's only then he realises his cheeks are damp.
"Fuck you, Malfoy," he whispers, and he buries his face in his hands, crying for the first time in years.
Luna divulges the address of Malfoy's studio with great reluctance.
"It's bad business," she says, scrawling the address on a scrap of parchment, as he knew she would. Luna almost always does what he asks of her. "Most of artists prefer their privacy." She hands it to him with a frown. "You're not going to hex him, are you? I know how you two were in school..."
"No," Harry says, and he doesn't think it's a lie. As long as Malfoy's not more than his usually annoying self. "I just want to talk to him about the vase."
Luna doesn't look convinced. "Harry."
He kisses her cheek. "Thanks, love," he says, and he feels a twinge of guilt at the smile that lights her face.
Malfoy's studio is in Camden, in a Edwardian brick townhouse overlooking the Regent's Canal. Harry rings the bell and waits, his hands in his pockets. He hears the clatter of footsteps coming down stairs, sees a dark blur through the frosted panes of the gleaming white door just before it's thrown open.
Harry's breath catches. Malfoy's standing in front of him in bare feet and a worn black jumper, black glasses perched on the tip of his nose. Wiping his fingers on a paint-stained rag, he blinks at Harry.
"What the hell do you want, Potter?" he asks. He tucks the rag in his back pocket and pushes his hair off his forehead. There's a spot of fresh, bright yellow paint on the cuff of his jumper sleeve.
Harry can't stop staring at Malfoy's long feet. He's wearing jeans, flecked with black and green and yellow paint, and the hem's rolled up enough to show his bony ankles. Harry shifts, suddenly uncomfortable. He doesn't like the thoughts that the sight of Malfoy's perfectly manicured toes dredge up.
"Potter?" Malfoy says again, his voice sharper, and Harry looks up at him.
"You wear glasses." It's an inane comment, and Harry considers turning on his heel and walking away. He doesn't.
Malfoy snorts. "When I'm working, yes." He leans against the door, a long stretch of black and denim against the crisp white edge. "You Apparated across London to discover that I wear glasses?"
Harry wants to say the glasses are sexy. He manages to hold his tongue. "I bought your vase," he says instead.
"I saw your name on the invoice."
They look at each other for a long moment, then Harry sighs. "Can I come in?"
Malfoy hesitates, then steps back from the door. "Wipe your boots."
Harry closes the door behind him, making sure to scrape any bits of mud from his soles onto the woven mat inside the door, and follows Malfoy up the steep, narrow stairs. He fights the urge to lick the tendon on the back of Malfoy's ankles as Malfoy climbs the steps in front of him. His hands tremble slightly. He's due for another dose of potion soon.
The studio is wide and open; tall, paned windows fill the room with light and offer views of the canal below. Two high tables along one wall are covered with bits of painted glass. Another holds a sculpture that takes Harry's breath away. It's fragile and delicate, unlike anything Malfoy had displayed at the gallery. Thin curving swathes of glass twist in on themselves, coiling together into an abstract shape whose form teases at the edge of Harry's mind.
"I was going to call it Flight," Malfoy says, watching him, and then Harry can see it, the sweep of the broom and the hunch of the rider's shoulders.
He looks over at Malfoy. "Quidditch?" he asks, and Malfoy seems pleased.
"Not precisely, but there's an element of that to it." Malfoy runs a finger along one glass coil. "I'm not happy with it, though. It's missing something."
Harry thinks he's mad. "It's pretty."
Malfoy shoots him a baleful look. "Pretty doesn't make good art, Potter." With a grimace, he snaps off the coil, and Harry winces at the sharp crack. Malfoy examines the twist of glass in his hand.
"Why'd you do that?"
"Why not?" Malfoy tosses the glass at Harry; he catches it, but just barely. Malfoy arches an eyebrow, but doesn't comment.
Harry turns the glass between his fingers, avoiding the sharp ends. "You just ruined it."
"It was already ruined." Malfoy walks over to a kettle on the gas stove in the corner. "I suppose I should offer you some tea, or my mother would be appalled by my lack of manners."
"I went to her funeral," Harry says because he doesn't know what else to say. He sits on one of the stools next to the worktable. He'd been in the back of the church, and had slipped out before the service ended.
Malfoy pours steaming water into a white china teapot, and Harry knows by its simplicity that it's old and expensive. "I know," Malfoy says. He doesn't look at Harry. "I saw you."
"She saved my life," Harry says quietly. "I was sorry to hear she was ill."
"Cancer doesn't just affect the Muggles." Malfoy keeps his back to Harry, but his shoulders are tense as he reaches for two teacups from the cupboard next to the stove. "Father hasn't been the same since."
Harry keeps silent. He doesn't particularly think Malfoy would care for his opinions on Lucius. The glass fragment in his hand quivers and he nearly drops it as he lays it on the table. It clatters loudly in the quiet room, but Malfoy doesn't turn around. After a few minutes of looking curiously around the room, taking note of the neatly labelled boxes of paints and the bins filled with glass shards and the slender sable brushes, freshly cleaned and lying on a white cloth to dry, Harry clears his throat and shifts on his stool. It scrapes across the wood floor.
"It made me feel."
Malfoy looks over his shoulder at him. "What?"
"The vase." Harry fidgets slightly on his stool. "It made me feel."
"Feel what?" Malfoy's tone is cool and even. He pours the tea into teacups.
Harry hesitates. He smooths his damp palms over his thighs, the denim of his jeans rough-soft against his skin. "It just made me feel," he says again, and he's frustrated by his inability to explain. "I haven't felt much lately." He waits for a snide reply.
"Milk and sugar?" Malfoy half-turns towards him. At Harry's nod, he reaches for a tin at the back of the counter. His jumper rides up just enough for Harry to catch a glimpse of a pale hip, jutting sharp and fragile above his faded jeans. Harry wants to touch it, to feel it against his palm, to drag his tongue over the warm skin. His breath huffs out softly.
Malfoy walks over, carrying the teacups. He gives one to Harry, and Harry swears under his breath when his hands tremble, rattling the teacup in its saucer and splashing hot tea over his fingers and onto his jeans. Malfoy doesn't say anything, he just Summons a teatowel from the counter and hands it to him.
Harry wipes the tea off. His scalded skin is faintly pink, but the slight pain doesn't bother him. He's far too embarrassed by his clumsiness in front of Malfoy. It shocks him when Malfoy's fingers curl around his wrist. He looks up. Malfoy's staring down at Harry's hand, and his thumb strokes lightly across Harry's knuckles.
"How did it happen?" Malfoy asks softly.
"A curse." Harry doesn't pull his hand away. It's not often someone touches him like this. His friends are too afraid to hurt him. Malfoy turns Harry's hand, studying it. "We were going after one of the Macnairs in Edinburgh. He didn't take kindly to me cornering him and casting an Anti-Apparation Ward."
Malfoy hmms as he drops Harry's hand. "I can imagine not. The Healers couldn't reverse it?"
"No." Harry rests his shaking hand on the worktable. It feels cold now without Malfoy's warm touch. "It could have been worse."
"It always can." Malfoy sits on a stool next to him. Part of the glass sculpture curves around Harry's shoulder and over Malfoy's head. Where the light catches it, it glows, casting a dark golden halo around Malfoy's pale hair. He crosses one leg over the other and sips his tea. Even in a jumper and jeans, his bare foot flexed in the air, he looks every inch the society scion. Harry's sure it should disconcert him. Instead he's intrigued.
Harry hooks one boot over the rung of his stool. He feels awkward and oafish next to Malfoy's lean grace. He always has. "Why the Astronomy Tower?" he asks, and when Malfoy looks blankly at him, blinking behind his glasses, Harry frowns. "Don't play an idiot, Malfoy. You and I both know--"
"Why not?" Malfoy says, cutting him off. He looks at Harry over the rim of his teacup before setting it delicately back into its saucer. A flush rises in his cheeks. "It's not as if it wasn't a pivotal night in my life."
"It's all about you, is it?" Harry's chest tightens. "Painting a great man's death like that--"
Malfoy sits straighter, his chin jutting up. "You bought it, Potter."
Harry falls silent. They glare at each other, and it's almost as if they're sixteen again, facing each other in a Hogwarts corridor.
"I dream," Malfoy says, then he breaks off, staring down into his teacup as if it held the proper words. He sighs and rubs his thumb over the lip of the saucer. "I dream about that night a lot." He doesn't meet Harry's eyes. "Even now. Sometimes I wonder if I would have done things differently. If I could have..." He swallows hard and lifts the teacup to his mouth.
"You couldn't," Harry says after a moment. "I've seen a lot of killers since the war, and you don't have that in you."
Malfoy's mouth twists. "I'm a coward then?"
Harry shrugs. "It's not a bad thing to be in this instance." He reaches for his teacup with both hands, tensing the muscles in his trembling fingers as he lifts the fragile vessel of bone china. Tea sloshes, then stills, a few ripples on the surface the only signs of his tremors. He has the cup halfway to his mouth before his hands convulse. Tea flies everywhere, over Harry's clothes, the worktable, Malfoy's bare feet.
Harry flings an arm out powerlessly, then stares in horror. The cup tumbles to the floor, smashing into tiny shards. His hands are shaking, and he clenches them together, willing them to steady, as he waits for Malfoy's tirade or, worse, his pity.
Malfoy sets aside his teacup, then reaches for Harry's wrists, pulling his hands apart and turning them palm up. Harry's fingers curl in, the muscles spasming. Harry feels vulnerable. Exposed.
"What did you feel?" Malfoy says quietly. His thumbs trace tiny circles over Harry's pulse points on his upturned wrists. "When you saw the vase."
Harry licks his bottom lip and takes a ragged breath. His fingers twitch violently. "Sad. Scared. Like..." He breathes out and closes his eyes. Malfoy's hands are warm against his. "Like I could have stopped it if I'd really tried. But I couldn't catch him in time."
"Well, that's ridiculously stupid of you," Malfoy says sharply, but when Harry opens his eyes, Malfoy's just watching him. He doesn't pull away. "We were sixteen, the both of us. We couldn't have kept any of it from happening the way it did. " Malfoy's mouth thins. "We were children fighting in the war of two old fools."
"There wasn't a choice." Harry's voice is thick. Raw. His hands have steadied somewhat in Malfoy's light grip.
Malfoy snorts. "Why don't you get angry, Potter?" He drops Harry's hands and Harry misses his touch immediately. His fingers begin to shake again. "At least I've an outlet for how I feel." Malfoy gestures around the studio. "I can bleed some of it off here. You--" He scowls at Harry. "Stupid Gryffindor, flitting around the bloody country, asking every petty criminal to hex you or kill you, maybe, just so you've a reason to keep it all turned in on yourself because you're too much of a damned fool to blame the right people--"
"That's rubbish," Harry snaps.
"Is it then?" Malfoy's familiar sneer falls into place. "Loyalty without thought--how very Hufflepuff of you."
The old urge to hit something is too much to resist, and Harry's off the stool, fists clenched. He strikes out blindly; his trembling fingers slam into narrow strips of glass hanging next to Malfoy's shoulder. They shatter at his touch, and his skin stings, but he doesn't care. The sculpture on the worktable tilts and then it's falling, a shimmering coil of colour that crashes around them, sending sharp fragments skittering across the floor. Harry freezes, but Malfoy's looking at him, his cheeks red and his mouth open just enough.
"Yes," Malfoy says, and before Harry can protest, there's another curl of glass in his hands. He can barely hold it; his fingers flex uncontrollably and his palms are slick with blood. It falls to the floor, and at the jangling crash, Malfoy reaches for Harry, grabbing his jacket and pulling him into a rough, eager kiss.
Glass crunches beneath Harry's boots as he turns, pressing Malfoy against the worktable as he kisses him. Malfoy's mouth is warm, his lips soft. He tastes like tea and milk, and when his tongue swipes against the back of Harry's teeth, Harry groans and rocks his hips forward.
Malfoy shifts beneath him, and Harry pulls back slightly, certain that Malfoy's about to come to his bloody senses and push him away. He doesn't. Instead he lifts himself up, pushing with his hands against the top of the worktable as he writhes against Harry.
"Help me, you tit," Malfoy says breathlessly, and Harry realises then that Malfoy's trying to clamber on to the table. He steadies Malfoy, one hand on either side of his narrow hips as Malfoy slides onto the tabletop. Harry can't resist leaning in to drag his tongue against the strip of pale skin exposed as Malfoy's jumper ruches up. Malfoy tastes sweetly bitter, just the way Harry'd hoped he would.
And then Malfoy's tugging at him, pushing his jacket off his shoulders. Harry shrugs out of it, letting it fall to the floor with a whisper of wool. He jerks his t-shirt off, tossing it aside, and he pushes up onto the worktable with Malfoy, reaching for him, pulling him into another desperate kiss. Their glasses knock together; Harry swears and he pulls his off as Malfoy sets his own aside.
Malfoy rolls him over, his teeth sharp against Harry's jaw. He straddles Harry on the tabletop, pulling back to look down at him. Malfoy's hair is mussed, and it falls into his eyes, across his cheek. He smiles, a slow, almost feral curl of his thin lips, and when he pulls his black jumper over his head, he rocks his arse back, pressing against Harry's hardening cock. The room behind Malfoy is fuzzy, out of focus, and for a moment--this moment--Harry could believe they're the only two living beings in the world.
Harry groans and grabs Malfoy's hips, holding him still. Malfoy's chest is criss-crossed with scars, most nearly faded, though a few are still raised and shiny pink. Harry traces a finger across one, from Malfoy's waist to just beneath his nipple. His palm is still bleeding; his shaky fingertip leaves a wavering red streak across Malfoy's pale skin.
"Sectumsempra," Harry whispers, and Malfoy nods.
"You could have killed me."
Harry feels a twinge of guilt, but it disappears as he looks up at Malfoy. "You don't seem too upset by that."
Malfoy smiles faintly. He catches Harry's hand and drags it lower, letting Harry's fingertip slide over another scar. "I would have done it to you as well if I'd been able."
"Doesn't make it right." Harry lets him guide his fingers. He can see the swell of Malfoy's cock against his jeans, and he takes a shallow breath. He doesn't care if this is mad--and he knows it is. He wants Malfoy. He's wanted him since that night in the gallery. He wouldn't have come here otherwise.
"One day, Potter," Malfoy murmurs, leaning in close enough to let his mouth brush Harry's. "One day you'll learn that right doesn't always matter."
Harry tries to kiss him, but Malfoy pulls away with a laugh, and he leans to pick up a paintbrush and a tube of apple green paint. "Hold out your hands," Malfoy says. Harry doesn't bother to object. He holds them up, and Malfoy positions them so they're nearly touching. Harry starts to speak; Malfoy taps the wooden end of the paintbrush against Harry's lips with a frown. "Hush."
He squeezes a small amount of paint onto Harry's chest and dips the brush in. With a whispered spell, he drags the paint-laden brush around Harry's wrists. The paint hovers in the air, just millimetres from Harry's skin, shimmering and moving slowly as Malfoy twists the brush around Harry's hands, between his unsteady fingers. Harry can see the brushstrokes, some short and quick, others long and curly and langourous. The few times the brush touches his skin, it's warm and tingly, and Harry shivers. When Malfoy leans back, head tilted to one side as he studies his work, Harry's hands have been encased in a beautifully intricate green filigree.
"Well enough," Malfoy says, and he reaches for his wand. Another spell--Harry's too busy watching the paint swirl to catch the incantation--and Malfoy drags the tip of his wand across the coils of paint. As he does, they crystallise with a shiver, turning into brilliant green knots of glass caging Harry's hands. Harry's breath catches.
Malfoy settles back against Harry's hips, rolling his arse into Harry's cock. Harry groans and his body stretches, arches beneath Malfoy. "I could do anything with you right now," Malfoy says, and he slides his hands up Harry's chest, resting them above Harry's heart. "You realise this, yes?"
"Should I be more upset?" Harry asks. He meets Malfoy's direct gaze. Malfoy gives him a small smile.
Harry rocks his hips up. He aches. "You won't hurt me."
Malfoy's thumbs scrape over his nipples. "You want me."
"Observant, Malfoy," Harry says. He licks his bottom lip. He wants Malfoy's mouth on his again. Or at least for him to keep rubbing his arse against his prick the way he's doing right now.
"If only the Prophet could see you now," Malfoy murmurs. His hands drift down Harry's stomach to the buttons of his jeans. He slides back, his arse resting on Harry's thighs. It only takes a moment for Malfoy to undo the buttons and to pull Harry's heavy prick from his pants. Harry watches Malfoy, shivers at the way his grey eyes darken as he strokes a thumb over Harry's foreskin, pulling it back from the swollen head. And then Malfoy shifts, quick and graceful, and he swoops to take Harry in his mouth, sucking hard.
Harry cries out, and his hands jerk, shattering the glass surrounding them. Shards fall on Harry's chest, slice into his wrist and palms. He barely feels it. Instead he grabs at Malfoy's head, tossing glass chips everywhere, and twists his shaking, stinging fingers into Malfoy's hair.
"Please," Harry says, and even though it hasn't been that long since he's had someone's mouth on his cock, it feels like it's been an age when Malfoy drags the flat of his tongue up the underside as he slides his mouth along Harry's prick.
Malfoy sucks cock with experience, his tongue pressing and flicking, his mouth sucking just right, and Harry's close, so close when Malfoy pulls back, his mouth wet and red, his breath coming in sharp, short gasps. Blood from Harry's hands is smeared across his temple, glass chips and dark red drops threaded through his hair.
"Here," Malfoy says, and, reaching for his jumper, he wipes the blood and glass from Harry's fingers.
"Fuck," Harry says, and he reaches for Malfoy, pulling him down into a kiss as he rolls them over, the worktable creaking dangerously beneath them. Harry's hand hits Malfoy's teacup, and a moment later there's a crash against the floor. Neither of them care. Malfoy bites Harry's bottom lip, grunting as Harry reaches between them and jerks at his jeans, pulling at the zip. "I want to feel your cock," he says into Malfoy's ear, Malfoy's hair against his lips, and Malfoy groans and shudders.
His hands grip Harry's bare shoulders. "It's not as if it's hard to find," Malfoy says. He turns his head and nips Harry's throat, his teeth sharp, and then he licks across the aching bite, once, twice.
Harry's fingers curl around Malfoy's prick. It's thick and short and hot, and the head is slick and sticky already. Malfoy hisses softly when Harry's thumb finds his wet slit, and he digs his fingernails into Harry's skin, dragging them down Harry's tight back. "Potter," he chokes out, but Harry hushes him with a hard kiss, pressing his tongue against Malfoy's with a groan.
As they kiss, sloppy and eager, Malfoy moves against Harry, pushing his cock into Harry's tight grip. "Do it, you bastard," Malfoy says. He drags his teeth across Harry's bottom lip. "I want--" He breaks off in a gasp as Harry jerks his cock hard. "Fuck."
Harry laughs--it's the first time he's laughed in weeks, he realises, but the thought flits away as soon as Malfoy reaches for his prick, soft, strong fingers wrapping around his shaft. "Oh."
Malfoy pulls him into another kiss, and they move together, their hands sliding across damp, heated skin, and then Harry rolls onto Malfoy, pushing his hands away, shoving their jeans and pants down their thighs. "Yes," Malfoy says, lifting his hips, his hands sliding down Harry's back, over his bare arse, fingers slipping through his crease.
"Fuck," Harry says this time, and he leans over Malfoy, their cocks dragging together. Harry's boot slips against the worn surface of the worktable with a squeak. A set of brushes flies off the edge, scattering across the floor. "Sorry."
"Shut it." Malfoy kisses him again, sucking at his tongue. His hips press up, twisting against Harry's. He kneads his knuckles against Harry's arse, and he hooks one bare foot over Harry's calf. "Just get me off, for Christ's sake--" Harry captures his mouth with his, and they kiss until they're breathless and gasping. Harry's balls slap against Malfoy's thigh as Malfoy ruts against him, one leg between Harry's, twisted denim and cotton catching against each other, scraping over flushed, damp skin.
Harry comes first, with a shudder and a cry, his body jerking as he pushes himself up. He watches his come splatter in thick slick strands across Malfoy's red prick, over his taut white belly, the jut of his hip. He grabs his cock, stroking it hard, milking every last bit of spunk from the tip before he smears it over Malfoy's soft skin, into the crisp dark gold curls covering his balls.
"Oh, God." Malfoy grabs Harry's hips and rocks up. His fingernails bite into Harry's skin, and he's swearing between gasps, his long face flushed and damp. Strands of white blond hair catch on his cheek, and Harry leans in to kiss his wet mouth. He can feel Malfoy's muscles shivering beneath him,Malfoy's prick sliding urgently against his skin, and then Malfoy's hips buck and he comes, warm and sticky across Harry's hip.
They lie limply on the worktable, breathing hard. Harry's face presses into the curve of Malfoy's throat.
"That," Malfoy says finally, "was not half-bad for a philistine. Or a Gryffindor."
Harry snorts and lifts his head. "Thanks?"
Malfoy reaches for Harry's hand. The shaking's slowed some, and Malfoy rubs small circles against Harry's palm. "How disturbing is it that I get aroused by your breaking things?"
"Probably very." Harry's jeans pinch his thigh. The buttons dig into his skin. He winces and slides off Malfoy, trying to tug his jeans back up over his hips. Malfoy watches him. He doesn't seem to feel any embarrassment lying draped across the table, his jeans bunched around his knees and his spent cock limp against his balls. His stomach is smeared with come--his and Harry's--and Harry can't stop himself from leaning over and licking Malfoy's skin, tasting their spunk on his tongue. He's fairly certain he's lost his mind.
Malfoy's hand rests on the back of his head, his fingers gently carding through Harry's hair. "We could do this again." His voice is light. Too light.
Harry lifts his head. He's silent.
"Or not," Malfoy says, and he sits up, slides off the worktable, being careful to avoid the scattered glass. He pulls his pants and jeans up over his tight, smooth arse. Harry studies him. He's lithe and graceful, and Harry can see the ridges of his ribs beneath his pale skin. There are streaks of drying blood on his arms, his hips, his chest. Harry looks down at his hands and wrists. They're covered with cuts, long and shallow, still seeping blood.
Malfoy picks up his wand and he turns to Harry. "Hands."
Harry doesn't stop Malfoy as he heals the cuts, one at a time, his hair falling against his cheek. It feels surreal, this. He can't believe he's done it, that he's come against Draco Malfoy's skin, that it feels so... He hesitates. Right, perhaps.
"Why'd you do this?" Harry asks softly, and Malfoy looks up at him, his fingers still on Harry's wrist.
A faint smile warms his face. "Because I wanted to, Potter."
Harry doesn't know what to say. Instead he slides off the worktable. Glass and china shards crush beneath his feet; he reaches for his t-shirt and shakes it out before pulling it over his head. It sticks to the patch of paint on his chest, green seeping through the thin red cotton. His glasses have been knocked off the table. He finds them, along with Malfoy's, on the floor beneath the teatowel. He drapes his jacket over his arm. "I should go."
"Probably," Malfoy agrees. He takes his glasses from Harry, but doesn't move when Harry brushes past him.
Malfoy stops him at the door. He presses a piece of broken, apple green glass into Harry's hand. The delicate filigree glitters like a gem against his palm. "First rule of my art," he says, curling Harry's unsteady fingers around it. "Sometimes you have to break something to make something more beautiful from it. The whole world shatters and we make the shattered world whole."
"I'm good at breaking things," Harry says with a rueful smile.
Malfoy just looks at him. "I know," he says quietly, and he closes the door behind Harry.
It's cold when Harry steps outside. He pulls his jacket on, wrapping it tight around his chest. He walks down the steps to the pavement, then stops. He rolls the coil of green glass between his fingers and stands silent for a long moment, watching the paint eddy beneath the surface. Life is what it is and will be what it will be, he thinks. He rubs his thumb lightly across the smooth surface of the glass to the rough broken side. But maybe Malfoy's right. Maybe he needs to be angry. Maybe he needs to feel. More.
Malfoy makes him feel, Harry realises.
When Harry looks back at the building, Malfoy's standing at the window watching him, still in nothing but his jeans, glasses perched on the edge of his nose, arms crossed over his narrow, bare chest. Their eyes meet. Harry raises one shaking hand. The glass gleams between his fingers. I'll be back, Harry mouths.
Malfoy nods in assent, and then he's gone, disappearing into the shadows of his studio.
Harry turns and walks away, the glass clenched tight in his hand.
He'll be back.