A/N: Please do not repost, recreate or translate.
First and foremost, Tom is an artist.
Tom Riddle is no teenage boy who gets giddy over a bit of nudity – he knows that nude art can be quite tasteful, if executed right. He doesn’t think he is a pervert either for enjoying looking at nude art when human anatomy, despite Tom’s own researches and the like, was still so fascinating to him.
But that doesn’t mean Tom can’t enjoy the pleasures of the flesh (Tom is a man, and only human after all) or doesn’t feel attraction to models of said artworks.
Exactly what he feels for the boy in front of him, right now.
The boy can’t be a day over 17 – smooth skin, round glasses perched on his nose, his hair dark and messy. He’s new to modeling, too. Tom can tell by the unsure looks he sometimes shoots in Tom’s direction, as if looking for reassurance.
Tom isn’t going to tell this kid he’s beautiful even if it would be the truth. Tom knows the fashion business is exceedingly cruel, and he knows that whereas the boy has an amazing body and flawless pale skin, he’ll get a lot of shit about his height. He isn’t very tall and Tom wonders if the glasses are part of his outfit. If they aren’t then he’ll have to start wearing contacts soon because glasses won’t get him anywhere even if they did give him that innocent schoolboy look.
Tom doesn't enjoy his current job of shooting pictures of starving models for a famous clothing brand. Tom would much rather spend his time taking actual artistic shots instead of doing these commercial things but fact remains that this pays pretty well, and even if Tom has in no way financial problems, Tom thinks that it is always nice to have a large sum of money on his bank account.
The boy hooks his thumbs in his belt loops, twisting his body nicely. A flash of Tom’s camera follows. The boy poses again – one hand in his hair, the other teasingly tugging down the waistband of his jeans just so, making the letters on his boxershort visible. Another flash.
Sex sells, after all. And not everyone values beauty the same way Tom does.
The boy isn’t wearing a shirt because this photoshoot is all about jeans and underwear. Tom knows this – he has finished up with the model of the women’s clothing line just minutes before, mental images of how she so carelessly showed off her nonexistent breasts almost hopefully, as if trying to impress him, still very much there in his mind. Tom may have been impressed if she wouldn’t have been a woman.
Tom is gay, you see. That’s the reason why he got disowned after all, but Tom thinks that becoming one of the most famous photographers in the business was a big enough fuck you to his father. Tom’s mother, bless her soul, died when Tom had been only seven years old.
Another pose. Another flash. Another moment of eye contact before the boy turns his back to Tom and places one hand on his hip, the other hanging loosely by his side. The boy is nervous but he knows how to work a camera, and after the third shot Tom already has what he needs from him.
But that doesn’t stop Tom from taking pictures. Tom allows himself to enjoy the boy’s pale skin for just a short while.
Because, above all, Tom knows how to enjoy and appreciate beauty.
This boy doesn’t look as underweight as most models Tom has encountered before, and he isn’t prissy or arrogant either. He simply does what he was getting paid for and Tom can appreciate that in him.
No small talk. Just straight to the point.
No one is in the room except Tom and the boy. Tom likes it better this way – he can’t stand make-up artists touching up flawless models while Tom is finally getting into it.
Tom didn’t even catch this kid’s name. And why should he, really, when Tom will only see him again in magazines? Beauty is to be appreciated, but it doesn’t always have to carry a name. Beauty can be, just like Tom’s appreciation for certain types of it, fleeting. This boy probably will not make any difference.
The boy bites his lip, pausing and Tom lowers his camera from his face, tapping the side of it, not at all impatient. Merely watching him. Fascinated.
The kid kind of reminds Tom of a deer caught in headlights when their eyes connect. He constantly seems to want to say something to Tom but never seems to be able to do so. Tom wonders if it are nerves or if the boy feels intimidated by Tom. If it's the latter, then in turn it makes Tom wonder if it is Tom's fame or Tom's body or Tom's mere presence that makes the boy feel the way he does.
‘I’d like to try something,’ the boy finally says, his voice feigning confidence he obviously does not feel. Tom says nothing to acknowledge it and simply raises his camera to his face again, amused. He watches the boy through the camera lens and turns off his flash – wanting to play around with the shadows that fall upon the boy’s back so nicely. He already has all the fashion shots he needs from the boy anyway – they can go into his portfolio, all of them, if the teen would want them to. They are all that good.
The boy bites his lip and undoes his zipper, and oh, okay.
The boy glances at Tom as if asking if this is okay but Tom says nothing. Instead he just takes pictures, mesmerized, wanting to touch that pale skin already. The boy’s fingers hook into the waistband of his boxer briefs and shows just a teasingly amount of skin of his ass. Tom doesn’t think the boy is trying to be sexy, he looks like he genuinely wants to try this out. Try out someone seeing this.
There is nothing pornographic about the boy’s innocence and obvious desire for Tom to just see him.
These can go into Tom’s personal portfolio. He doubts he needs to give the teen tips on how to twist and turn his body or how to play with the lightning when his body is already a piece of art, housing a soul Tom does not know yet. The boy’s green eyes are bright and breathtaking, but almost tired.
And suddenly the thought of knowing the boy entirely, inside out, isn’t that unappealing to be honest.
The boy bites his lip and Tom lowers his camera, the silent click click click of his camera snapping shots, somehow so easily falling into a routine. The boy moves, Tom follows. Utterly obsessed with his body.
‘What was your name again?’ Tom finds himself asking in the process, too caught up to fully notice that he just broke one of his own rules by actually caring for such petty information.
The boy freezes, fixing Tom with a surprised look. Tom snaps another shot and can’t help but observe that the boy is adorable when he looks at Tom like that. Almost scared. Vulnerable.
‘H-Harry Potter,’ the boy named Harry stammers. Tom nods vaguely, remembering the name but outwardly not showing he actually cares. It is the only exchange of words they had so far, except from greetings, and it will be as far as their conversation would go for as much as Tom is concerned.
The boy – Harry, Tom reminds himself, his name is Harry and he has a beautiful body with smooth pale skin and it's just so compact he barely reaches Tom’s shoulder and he is just looking at Tom like that – seems to hesitate, before he moves again for Tom.
He is just all hipbones, shoulder blades, slender limbs. His eyes – God, they're even in the black and white shots Tom takes of him just so piercing. Tom is growing obsessed with him.
Tom knows he is supposed to take pictures of Harry’s body, of the clothing he is wearing but before Tom knows it he is taking portrait photos of Harry, constantly stepping closer until he is practically standing right in front of Harry and doesn’t even have to zoom in anymore to only see Harry’s face and nothing else through his lens.
Tom knows he is staring. Knows he is being exceedingly silly because as an artist, he sees beauty every day. He creates beauty.
But he knows that he isn’t moving his camera because he is trying to find a good angle, he is moving his camera because he wants to capture every angle of this beautiful boy who just looks at him, suddenly so insecure, his pink little nipples hardening just that bit under Tom’s gaze, goose bumps rising on his undoubtedly sensitive, porcelain skin.
Tom feels the strange desire to know everything about this boy. His secrets. His sorrows. That what makes the boy think he can just captivate Tom like this.
But he doesn’t ask.
Tom lowers his camera until his face is no longer restricted and the boy can see him properly, look him in the eye. Harry licks his lips and they shine with his saliva because of it, his adam’s apple bobbing up and down when he swallows.
Tom stares at the boy’s clavicle, at his collarbones, at how well the light and shadows accentuate the boy’s features. His ribs are showing, they seem to cut through his skin when the boy inhales a deep breath.
Tom realizes that the boy's body is a work of art in itself already, and that no matter how hard he'd try, any image Tom would try to create out of it wouldn’t be half as good as the real thing. It would be a crime to steal the light from this boy’s eyes and claim it to be one of his own creations even if Tom liked to believe that he is the one causing this look on Harry’s face.
Harry still looks like he wants to say something but he doesn’t and Tom, drawn in like a moth to a flame, reaches out a hand to grasp the boy’s chin. His skin is even softer than it looks and Tom knows how much time and effort models stick in taking care of their bodies, making it likeable and making it something that would sell whatever items graced it.
It is just that Tom has the feeling that Harry is not like other models.
Tom stares at Harry, at how compact – compact, not short, he just takes up little space and saying Harry is short would be suggesting that he lacks something – he is, at how his eyes stare up at Tom. His lips are quivering.
‘Would you like to come over to my house?’ Tom asks finally, full of intention. It is not like himself to take someone home. He doesn’t like having other people know where he lives.
But there is something about Harry. Something secret Tom can see in him, something he recognizes. Harry nods silently, little bare toes wriggling almost childishly on the floor. They finish up and leave for Tom’s house.
Harry holds Tom’s hand on their way to Tom’s car and Tom says nothing to keep him from doing so.
The following hours are spent with their limbs tangling, lips connecting, hands touching and feeling and pleasing, breathy noises bouncing off Tom’s walls. It is hard to tell where Tom ends and where Harry begins and they don’t even know what they want from one another, but it doesn’t matter because it shouldn’t matter.
They make each other feel good and that is all that counts.
They fall asleep together in the mess they made, spent and exhausted. Tom hasn't slept with anyone in his entire life before, never having trusted anyone enough before. He had meant to keep his eyes open and settle for watching Harry sleep but the boy's silent breathing forced him into a state of tranquility, and Tom's eyes had started drooping without his consent minutes after.
And the following morning, Tom wakes up in an empty bed and it's like last night had never occurred.
Tom can't help but feel cheated because normally he is the one leaving without a word.
Harry sneaks back into his house around 7 am, knowing damn well he should’ve been home around 5 in the afternoon yesterday. His hair is still a mess and his skin is still sticky with sweat and whatnot, his clothes in a disarray.
It was a mistake. One slip up. He shouldn’t have done it - even if Harry longed for someone else’s touch for so long, even if he wanted someone to just want him for so long.
Even if he wanted Tom to just see him the moment Harry lied his own eyes on him.
‘Where the hell have you been, boy?!’
Harry freezes, his hands trembling on the door handle, fear gripping his heart. He had so desperately hoped that he would’ve been capable of sneaking in, that he would’ve been able to pretend he hasn’t been gone for the night.
‘…At a photographer’s house,’ Harry says, his voice trembling when he turns around to meet the purple, angry face of his overweight uncle. ‘H-he was impressed by me, and he knew a couple of people in the business who could-’
The slap comes hard and unexpected. Harry loses his footing because the sheer force behind it and he falls to the ground, a soft, pained noise escaping his lips when his elbows bang painfully against the wooden floorboards. Tom’s marks throb but it’s nothing compared to this – he can feel his cheek bruising already, pulsing with the blood that rushed to it.
Uncle Vernon usually never hits him in the face. This is bad.
‘You son of a whore,’ his uncle Vernon hisses, ‘who the hell is going to bring in money now that I lost my job, huh?! This entire family depends on you and you just go out and about chatting up with people while we sit here, waiting for you to come home? Do you have any idea how bad Petunia, Dudley and I would have it if you would lose your job?’
Harry swallows and nods, cradling his cheek and feeling hot tears stinging in his eyes.
How bad they’d have it if Harry lost his job. Because Harry's well-being didn’t matter.
Harry knows. He knows it all too well.
When that modeling agent had approached Harry while shopping for groceries with Petunia, Harry’s relatives had practically forced him to become a model – giving him even less to eat so that he’d be even thinner, beating him less often so his skin wouldn’t be marked all the time, stealing away all the money he made and settling for verbal abuse instead.
They had never cared for Harry and had often told him how ugly and worthless he was, and it hurt to know that Vernon only cared for himself and his family, a family that had been forced to take Harry in after Harry’s parents had died in that car crash, and how he didn’t care for Harry at all.
Harry has never been loved once in his life and it hurts to come home from a night where he had gotten an inkling of what it meant to be wanted to this.
Beaten, like he is nothing. Cruelly reminded of life outside the safety of Tom’s home.
Vernon glares at Harry and Harry doesn’t dare to get up, not yet, his heart beating quickly in his chest. One of these days Vernon is going to kill him. There is no matter of if, merely of when.
Harry is sure of it.
‘Go put some ice on your face before it starts swelling,’ Vernon finally barks and Harry nods, lips dry, stumbling up to his feet. He is throbbing between his legs but he forces himself to walk in a straight line – he has walked on runways in a straight line when he should’ve been limping, biting the inside of his cheek to keep himself from whimpering with every step he takes. If he is going to have any bruises his make-up artists would simply slap on some concealer and foundation on his face.
At least Vernon didn’t hit him with his belt.
For a while, the memory of Tom is all that Harry clings onto. How could he not? The desire in Tom’s eyes, the way he had used his hands not to hurt Harry but to please him, the whispered words of encouragement when Harry did feel slightly uncomfortable… It had been more care than Harry has ever had the pleasure of experiencing in his entire life.
Harry has always admired Tom’s work from afar, but he finds that the man behind the art is far more interesting than the art itself.
And that has nothing to do with a lack of quality.
Tom sees Harry again three weeks later at the launch of a new clothing line.
He doesn't go just to see Harry – the invitation had been in his mailbox because Tom is a famous photographer and he was the photographer of the shoot -, Tom is simply bored. Lately Tom has been feeling bored a lot. It isn’t because nothing inspires him the way Harry had that day, though.
Or at least, this is what Tom tells himself.
Tom hangs around at the party, doesn’t intend on staying too long. Tom actually plans on going home soon after making a quick stop at the men’s room but when Tom enters it he instantly notices Harry standing there in front of a mirror, applying a liquid in the same shade of his skin on a rather nasty looking purple bruise on his jaw. Tom had thought that Harry had left already after walking on that catwalk.
The door falls shut behind Tom with a soft click and Harry’s eyes shoot up, green orbs wide as he turns around. Harry's hand quickly cups his own jaw as if to shield it from view.
‘Haven’t seen you in a while,’ Tom states dryly. The color of the mark on Harry’s skin is almost cheerful, perhaps inappropriately so for the occasion.
‘Mister Riddle,’ Harry says, sounding breathless. He stares at Tom for a long moment and when Tom steps closer to him Harry’s shoulders tense and Harry presses himself against the sink, a quiet whimper falling from his lips.
As though Harry expects Tom to hurt him.
‘What happened?’ Tom asks, frowning. He stops right where he is, instinctively trying to keep from intimidating Harry more. He should not care. In fact, Tom usually just doesn’t. But there is this strange sense of… Tenderness that overcomes him when handling Harry. Something he can’t quite explain.
Tom remembers their night together and can’t help but feel cheated by the way Harry was behaving himself. Tom has never given Harry reason to fear him, if anything he has only done things that ought to encourage Harry to desire his touch. What's wrong with this boy?
‘I tripped,’ Harry replies, his voice wavering as if he is still expecting to get hit. Like the wrong answer will anger Tom. Harry is jumpy – he wasn’t this jumpy when Tom first met him. Tom notices this too. ‘I – I was just covering up my bruise, after that I’ll be out of your way-’
Harry cuts himself off with a sharp gasp when Tom grasps his chin, like he has done those weeks ago, and turns Harry’s head to the side to inspect his bruise. It looks dark and fresh and Harry really couldn’t have caused that by himself.
And for some reason it angers Tom to imagine anyone hurting someone as beautiful as Harry.
‘Who did this to you?’ he all but growls and Harry shivers, staring at him with those big, expressive eyes of his again. Tom remembers all the pictures he has taken of them, the beautiful expressions on Harry’s face that day. The way he felt against Tom.
Their skin on each other and Tom sliding inside of Harry in a way that had left the both of them breathless.
‘I told you, I -’
‘Don’t lie to me,’ Tom snaps. Harry’s eyes widen and then he nods meekly, as if he is too afraid to deny Tom of the truth. He then lowers his eyes almost submissively, like this is something that he experiences on a daily base. Tom finds himself becoming angry, not at Harry but at the boy’s relatives. He hates them without good reason.
‘My uncle,’ Harry whispers and the two words seem to take him great difficulty. Tom’s eyes narrow dangerously.
‘Why?’ he demands. Harry shakes his head and his eyes flick to Tom, before they stare at the floor again.
‘He thought I was leaving his family and that he wouldn’t get my money anymore, I -’
‘And you just let him do this to you? You just let him take your money and beat you up? Are you stupid?’
Tom can’t help the words from spilling over his lips, outraged as though Harry’s abuse was a personal offense, pissed off at the thought that Harry just let them do all of this without telling anyone about it. Most of all, Tom is ticked off at the thought that Harry snuck out of his bed like a thief in the night just to return to these disgusting, unworthy pigs.
The unfairness of it strikes Tom hard and he finds himself growing angry.
Harry stares, his eyes wide, mouth opening and closing. For a moment Tom thinks that Harry is going to cry,that he is going to shy away from his touch because of the harsh, demanding tone in Tom’s voice but much to Tom’s surprise Harry’s eyes just seem to harden. Tom feels as though Harry thinks that he just crossed the line and Tom can’t bring himself to care about Harry’s opinion when it was obviously already, without a question, wrong.
Why does Tom care about Harry’s wellbeing?
‘I don’t have another choice. It’s either this or being homeless,’ Harry snaps, and then he grabs his little bottle and walks out.
Just like that.
Tom stares at the door for a moment before he curses under his breath and tightens his hand into a tight fist, struggling to keep himself from punching a hole into the wall.
He wonders to himself why Harry’s sudden departure doesn’t anger him half as much as the thought of Harry being hit by a nameless, faceless man does.
Tom can’t sleep that night.
Domestic violence has always seemed petty in his eyes – he has always thought that people who just allow themselves to be beaten up weak-willed. Not special.
Now all he can do is think about Harry and feel like Harry doesn't fit that role at all. Abused, fiery, submissive yet strong-willed Harry, with the milky pale skin and piercing green eyes and messy black hair. Tom wonders about where Harry is now, if he is hungry or cold, if he got hurt again. If Harry thinks about Tom at this very moment.
Tom’s mind goes back to the night they spent together. Of how Harry flinched and shied away when Tom made quick movements with his hand, like Harry had feared being hurt, how surprised Harry had looked when Tom started working on making him feel good. How he had whimpered and moaned so prettily. Tom feels himself twitch in his boxers at the mere mere memory and he ignores it.
Tom knows Harry was a virgin before he met Tom, that much is blatantly obvious. But up until now it hadn’t made sense as to why Harry would’ve given his virginity to someone he barely knew when he is so obviously innocent.
Now Tom knows that it was because Harry had been eager for affection, any of it. And the thought that Harry may do this with another man when the opportunity rises doesn’t weigh so well on Tom’s mind.
Tom makes an aggravated noise and sighs, running his hand through his hair. He forces himself up and walks into his red room, looking at the pictures of Harry that hang there, drying. He gazes at Harry’s eyes and wonder what horrors they had seen throughout Harry’s short life, and then realizes that they look similar to his own.
Tom calls Harry’s home phone number in a random upwelling the following day.
It is the boy’s aunt who picks up – Tom doesn’t pretend to be any less than the man he is. He says he has seen Harry’s work and that he wants to take pictures of Harry for his upcoming art exposition.
Petunia Dursley merely asks him what he is willing to pay.
Tom feels disgust rise in his chest but he suppresses it and promises the woman ten thousand, and he hears her gasp on the other side of the line. He says he will pay half of it in advance, the other half after Harry has done his job. The woman doesn’t even ask him questions about what he has in mind for Harry. He could be a child molester, for all they care. Which they do not.
As long as they get their money.
Tom takes a long sip from his coffee and scowls out in front of himself, twisting his golden ring, his only family heirloom, around his ring finger. Memories of the orphanage reoccur him and he slams his cup down so hard it shatters into pieces and stains the sketches on his desk.
He can’t even find himself to care.
He's too angry to do so.
Harry gets dropped off at Tom’s doorstep by his uncle that evening, just around 7. It is still light outside but Tom has drawn most of his curtains already. Harry's uncle has a disgustingly eager glint in his eyes and undoubtedly he has studied Tom’s house and envies Tom’s wealth.
Tom takes Harry by the shoulder and slams the door in the man’s face without a word after handing him the money.
‘Why are you doing this?’ Harry asks him as Tom guides him to his studio where he sits Harry down on a wooden stool. He has lied to the boy’s aunt – he is not to take pictures of Harry, not today.
‘Please remove your shirt,’ Tom simply instructs him. Harry looks at him in surprise before he seems to hesitate, but his fingers already rest on his top buttons. He stares Tom right in the eye and Tom sees that the boy has lost weight again. His cheeks look gaunt.
He tells himself to feed the boy once they’re done.
And once more he wonders why he cares.
‘Tom?’ Harry asks again, sounding unsure. Intimidated, Tom realizes. He is intimidating Harry and that was to be expected, with the boy’s history of abuse and his own tall height. He is towering over Harry and has a clear physical advantage.
Tom brushes his fingertips over the boy’s cheekbone and relaxes his eyebrows (he had been scowling, Tom realizes) and Harry sighs, turning his head into Tom’s touch. He becomes so very clearly soothed by it. Tom knows that no one before him has ever touched Harry in a way that wasn’t meant to induce harm.
Once more he is reminded of the orphanage and cold, lonely nights and getting beat up by kids twice his own height and age.
And then he realizes he himself is never touched in any loving way either. People always desired things of him, whether it be money or sex or anything in between. The only one who genuinely seems to see Tom as a person is Harry.
‘Don’t be afraid of me,’ Tom finds himself murmuring. Harry’s eyes stare at him and then back at his hand, as if Harry sees no other use in it than inflicting harm. But then Harry’s eyes seem to soften and he nods.
‘Do you trust me?’ Tom asks as he slowly starts unbuttoning Harry’s shirt. He doesn’t see reason why Harry should. Tom wouldn’t have trusted himself, either. Much to his surprise, however, Harry nods.
Harry’s shirt falls off his shoulders with a soft rustling sound and it pools on the floor behind the stool, instantly forgotten. Tom’s eyes linger on the dark bruises on Harry’s body and then nods slowly as well, anger simmering in his heart again. Tom speaks no words about these bruises however, because the damage is already done and Tom now knows why and how the boy has gotten them.
The colors of the bruises are bright and almost cheerful, eye-catching like fireworks and almost just as loud in their own eerie silent way. Some were shaped like fingers, others had strange shapes, like Harry has been hit with unknown objects. Tom finds himself remembering the location of his shotgun and he wonders to himself if he could get away with murdering Harry's uncle on Tom's doorstep when the man is to pick Harry up. He wonders if Harry would be even more scarred by the sight.
Last time Tom saw Harry exposed like this he had been so very eagerly pressing himself against Tom, practically clinging onto him. His chest hadn't been bruised like this before. The abuse is becoming worse lately, for whatever reason Tom doesn't know.
It is a bit chilly in the room and Harry shivers, his nipples becoming hard, rosy buds. Tom makes no move to close the window, there is a vulnerability about this that he particularly likes. It gives him an upper hand of the situation even if the boy doesn't seem to be aware of the state Tom is in right now.
‘Could you take off your pants and shoes as well?’ Tom asks. Harry nods again and kicks off his shoes, never once breaking eye contact with Tom. He unbuttons his jeans, zipping down his fly. He stands up and it instantly pools around his feet – sliding down so easily. The fabric looks worn. Tom suspects that this pair of jeans has never fit Harry to begin with, it is far too big on his frame.
The little hairs on Harry’s arms are standing up straight now, goosebumps arising on his skin. Tom has half the mind to go upstairs and fetch his camera, but he knows that today he isn’t in the mood for photography.
‘You may sit down again.’
Harry is completely mute as he does as told. Tom drapes a white sheet over Harry’s lap in a way that covers up his batman boxer briefs in an artful way, making it look as though Harry was nude underneath the fabric of the silk sheet.
Tom feels mild amusement at Harry’s underwear but most of all it plays at his heartstrings. Harry is so painfully young.
Harry licks his bottom lip and fiddles a bit with the sheet, instantly stopping when Tom tells him not to.
‘Have you ever modeled for an artist before?’ Tom asks. Harry gives him a distinct shake of his head in response. He looks so compact, like the room is going to swallow him up. Tom can see Harry’s ribs more prominent now with every breath he takes and he thinks to himself that the night he took Harry’s virginity he hadn’t been this thin either.
Tom grabs a stool of his own and sits down, his sketch book in his lap and his pencil in his hand. There’s an eraser in his pocket but he doubts he’ll need it.
‘I need you to sit very still for me, for about 20 minutes or so before I ask you to take on a different position.’
Harry nods silently and his shoulders tense. Tom wants to tell him to relax his shoulders but then he realizes that this is as honest as Harry will get. He is a model and is used to people looking at his body, but not like this. No one is allowed to see the boy with the bruises. There’s only so much photoshop could do.
To compare Harry´s beauty with that of an angel is an insult to the boy – it is denying him of his authenticity, denying Harry of everything that makes him human and loveable. Thus, Tom does not and instead focuses on the little, vulnerable things like the slight tremble in Harry’s fingers, the way Harry’s ribs are showing. Tom probably would count them if he didn't already know there were 12 ribs at each side of Harry's ribcage.
It is not that Harry is underweight because he needs to be model thin, it is just that his relatives leave him no choice. Tom knows that now and he feels betrayed by his own intelligence. Tom hasn’t seen this coming at all.
‘When is the last time you ate?’ Tom asks. The boy is starving – he starves for a good meal, starves for love, starves for just some attention. For proof that he is not the freak his relatives make him out to be.
‘Two days ago,’ Harry answers, his lips barely moving, the words barely audible. He keeps his body still, just the way Tom told him to and Tom’s pencil makes scratchy noises as it all but flies over the sheet of paper he is sketching on.
Two days. Two days of hunger - no wonder Harry was a bit snappy earlier. What was the longest period of time Harry had gone without food?
Tom finds himself drawing inspiration from the boy and they don’t mentioned what happened at the party at all, not yet. There is a certain tension in the air because of it.
Harry’s collarbones seem sharp, like they can cut through Harry’s porcelain skin. Tom gazes at the bruises on Harry’s chest, the only place where clothing will constantly cover them up. He vaguely mulls over what Harry must've done wrong in his relatives’ eyes to obtain them.
‘What did you want to be when you were little?’ Tom asks. He does not know why he is asking these things but there is a certain calmth that Harry induces in him whenever he’s around, above the desire to touch him. Tom can focus completely on his art when Harry is around and Harry is the first person Tom doesn’t mind having around while creating art.
Tom makes his greatest works when Harry is around.
‘Happy,’ Harry instantly replies, his lips just barely moving. The answer is heartbreaking because only someone who is greatly unhappy would say such a selfless thing. Only someone who doesn’t enjoy life in the slightest would have no other goals but to become happy one day.
And the worst is that Tom knows exactly how that feels.
Harry isn’t elaborating, maybe because he is still upset, maybe because he is just tired. Maybe it is just because he doesn’t want to disobey Tom. Tom doesn’t know and he has no interest in asking him when he is working so well right now.
There is a lot that Tom doesn’t know when it comes to Harry and it’s entirely unsettling. He is practically stabbing his paper with his pencil and it surprises him that it hasn't ripped in half just yet.
Tom pauses, his pencil hovering above his paper while he gazes down at Harry's face on it. There is something inside of him that wants him to look up to the real Harry and he does, meeting Harry’s eyes straight on. Harry’s gaze is unwavering but there is great pain behind it, pain that runs deeper than the uncomfortable feeling of bearing such bruises on his body.
Harry is still a kid – only 17 years old. Technically speaking, he is still little but Harry’s youth seems to be stolen from him, along with his dreams. No boy of his age should go through all of this.
Tom should know. He went through all of this himself.
‘What do you want to be now?’ Tom asks, his voice softer now. Their conversation is simple, almost one sided. Harry’s replies are curt and Tom’s questions aren’t hard to answer. Tom can’t help but feel reminded of the first time he met Harry.
Harry's body always tells Tom things the boy is afraid to say out loud.
‘Yours,’ Harry replies, voice monotone, almost sounding bored. The simple truth in that single word is haunting and Tom freezes from where he had been about to lower his pencil again.
Harry has nothing left to lose. No one loves him, no one takes care of him. If he tells Tom about his feelings and Tom doesn’t return them then that is just another thing Harry will have to learn to deal with – he doesn’t blush, doesn’t stutter.
It is unfair, the impact is has on Tom.
Tom is up and in front of Harry in mere seconds, his mind almost in a daze. Harry doesn’t flinch when Tom’s fingers brush over his cheekbone. Why fear that what you want most?
Harry closes his eyes and is completely docile when Tom kisses him.
Tom remembers that night quite clearly, the way Harry had gasped and clung unto his shoulders, whining, biting his lip to stifle his own voice. The way Harry had almost shyly pressed a kiss to Tom’s forehead, and then another to his lips. Thanking him for everything even though Tom had given him nothing. If anything, Tom had only taken something precious from him. Tom had known it from the way Harry had kissed – he had taken his first kiss, his virginity. The only things that made Harry innocent.
The kiss is chaste and sweet, and Tom’s hand is resting at the back of Harry’s head to angle it up, even after they break apart again. Harry’s hair is soft to the touch, his messy strands tickling the palm of Tom’s hand.
‘Have you ever been able to call something entirely your own?’ Tom asks softly. He wants to know everything about Harry.
‘No,’ Harry whispers. Tom stares at Harry for a long time, his fingers still cradling the back of Harry’s head, his skin smooth with innocent youth Harry no longer possesses on the inside.
Is it the right thing to do? Tom has been thinking about what he is about to do for days, weighing off the pros and cons. It is like the more he thinks of it the less obvious the answer becomes to him and he knows that things will change if he does this. Once he’ll go through with this he’ll either become happy, or fall into the darkness that had seemed to swallow him up in the first 20 years of his life. He is 23 now, young, but a man of stature already. He has so much to lose.
And his mind keeps working and working as he gazes at Harry.
Tom does not like not knowing things. He has always found safety in his own intelligence because his own intelligence, facts he knows, won’t change. Feelings could. People would.
But as he looks at Harry, at the way Harry is almost silently worshiping him, he knows the answer already. And he wonders to himself why he is still asking himself if he should really say this when they both want it so bad.
Harry’s breaths fan over his hand, fleeting, barely there.
And Tom knows that he wants this because this boy has already captivated him. They are just so alike. Both abused, hated for something they cannot change, both so hungry for love. Dragged down by people who have their expectations of them.
Harry licks his lips and Tom is instantly drawn to the little movement.
He feels mild amusement at himself for even thinking he has a choice in all of this. Tom did not stand a chance anymore since the first time he had taken Harry to his bed and made love to him.
A thrill goes through Tom when he places Harry’s hand at the center of his chest, Tom’s heart beating slow underneath their joined hands, their joined touch.
‘Would you like to?’ Tom murmurs, squeezing Harry’s hand, eyes full with intent. Harry’s eyes flicker down, right to where Tom’s heart is located, and then he licks his pale pink lips again.
‘Yes,’ he whispers. Tom nodded.
‘Then take it.’
Harry stares at Tom as though he can’t understand those words. Like they were spoken in a foreign language. Tom knows Harry is struggling to keep from moving, from speaking too much and inadvertently disobeying Tom.
Tom kisses Harry’s forehead as if to say it’s okay, as if to say I’m new to this as well, and then straightens up, Harry’s hand now sliding lower because he can't reach Tom's chest as well when Tom is at his usual height. Harry's hand remains there as if to ensure that this was really happening.
‘It can be mine?’ Harry asks finally, looking up at Tom like he was an otherworldly creature. There is a childish disbelief in Harry’s eyes, like he has received a gift far too big on a Christmas morning. Tom suspects that Harry probably has never celebrated Christmas the proper way, before.
He finds himself wanting to change that along with a million other things that were unjust in the boy’s life.
‘Yes,’ Tom confirms. Harry’s eyes widen and he stares at Tom, his fingers flexing in Tom’s shirt. Tom presses his lips to Harry’s knuckles and then sits back down at his previous place, feeling that strange sense of tenderness again.
He erases that what has made Harry appear sad and replaces it with a look of genuine, innocent happiness. In both the real boy and his sketch.
In his head he knows which is the real artwork and which is only a sad imitation.
Harry sneaks out of his house more often after that, meeting up with Tom after his photo shoots and backstage at his fashion shows.
They make art, they make love, they make each other forget. When Harry takes a quick nap at Tom's place and his head is pillowed in Tom's lap, Tom thinks of the sleepless nights he spent in the orphanage, waiting for someone to walk in and harm him up and knowing that Harry spends his nights in the same way. Tom thinks of the hunger and the poverty and the drive to just become something, someone in this world.
Harry nuzzles his thigh in his sleep and Tom thinks that maybe he has finally found someone worthy enough to be his companion.
Someone who understands him without question and who wants nothing more than just Tom and everything he stands for.
Someone who can be trusted with his heart, however small and damaged it may already be.
Harry is hospitalized two weeks later.
His cheekbone is broken, as are his ribs, which caused internal bleeding and caused Harry to get a room on the Intensive Care department of the hospital. He is covered in bruises and there's a stitched cut on just above his eyebrow, shaped like a lightning bolt. His leg is broken and so is his wrist. He is covered in bandages and looks so small in that hospital bed, his eyes staring unblinkingly out of the window.
His smile looks so out of place.
‘Harry,’ Tom says softly when he walks into the hospital room. Harry had called him in the early morning, effectively waking Tom up. They were supposed to meet up between Harry's shoots today but, well, that obviously wasn't going to happen. Harry had the nerve to apologize for that, too.
Harry turns his head to Tom and keeps on smiling. His eyes look bloodshot and in Harry's lap rests a book and a pencil.
‘I’m 18,’ Harry says, without greeting Tom, like being here doesn’t bother him and like Tom was here all day. Like it is the best thing to have ever happened to hi-
If Harry is 18 then that means he now has free access to his own bank account. Legally he is no child no more. Harry’s relatives can’t use, starve, beat or hurt Harry anymore.
‘I’m homeless right now, but…’ Harry trails off, his eyes averting to the window again. Tom has never thought to see anyone this happy to be homeless before and he can't help but tighten his grip on the flowers he had bought Harry on his way to the hospital, nearly breaking the stems in half. '...I'm free. They won't hurt me anymore.'
The look in Harry's eyes was one of utmost happiness, and Tom can't remember ever having seen someone this genuinely happy before. Tom's thoughts of murdering Harry's relatives are shoved into the back of his mind once more and his grip on the flowers relaxes when Harry smiled again at him.
The light is back in Harry’s eyes and Tom can only assume that his relatives beat him up for one last time, for good measure. Because they knew too that they no longer could control Harry anymore. Harry is free now, just like he said.
Tom sits down at Harry’s bedside and Harry looks at him again. He places his hand at the center of Tom’s chest with a surprising amount of courage.
‘I want this,’ Harry says and Tom says nothing in return, 'and I'm going to take it. Just like you said.'
Tom stares at Harry for a long time before he places his hand over Harry's and squeezes it, not saying anything to acknowledge it at all but secretly thrilled beyond measure. No one ever bothered to get to know Tom, the real Tom, the one behind the camera and the one behind the handsome face. The thought that Harry was going to try his damnedest best... It was enough to distract Tom from his anger, if only just.
‘What’s this?’ Tom asks when he glances down at the book in Harry's lap though the answer is already clear when his fingers brush over the cover. The actual question he is asking is may I see?
Harry hums, holding the book out to Tom. Tom takes it and glances up at Harry before he starts flipping through the pages.
It's kind of like a scrapbook of Harry's life, Tom supposes. A diary, maybe, with Harry's utmost desires and most precious memories trapped within its pages. There was a photograph of a woman with red hair and Harry's eyes in it, and its corners were folded and a bit torn, like Harry had shoved it into his pocket a couple of times. There were sketches too, beautiful sketches of flowers and...
Tom pauses when he comes across a portrait of his own face. The work of details is impressive, and Tom finds himself tracing his own lips on the paper just a moment before he flips a page and finds a sketch of a man beating a child with Harry's eyes and messy hair.
However morbid the likelihood is, Tom has to admit that Harry is talented.
‘Do you think Tom Riddle would want me as his apprentice?’ Harry asks and Tom has to tear away his eyes from the book with some difficulty to look Harry in the eye. He looks playful and Tom has never seen him like this before.
He feels himself smirk and he closes the book, holding it in his own lap while his fingers stroked the cover like it was something precious, like Harry's skin.
Tom remembers the first job he got, at a local bookstore and how he had slowly worked his way up. He thinks of how selfish he was, driven by his lust to make something out of his life, to be everything people had never thought him to be.
Tom considers the option of Harry becoming just as cold and bitter as Tom was, but then he realizes to himself that Harry probably would not become like him. Harry was opening his heart to Tom right now. Tom could crush him, right here, if he'd want to. If he'd reject Harry right now Harry would have nowhere left to go, no one to rely on.
Tom stares Harry in the eye, and Harry was staring at him all along. The boy doesn't blink, doesn't blush. He knows it, too. Harry isn't showing a thing but he knows that if Tom walks out right now he'll have nothing anymore. And a part of Tom wants to do it, too. A part of Tom wants to stay alone because loneliness is all that Tom has known his entire life.
But Tom knows that he also has lived in fear his entire life and he wants to stop doing that. And watching Harry like this - so strong, so fearless, so willing to start a new chapter in his life... It was inspiring.
Tom wants this.
Harry's hand finds his own and he squeezes it, nodding slowly. The relief and look of utmost joy that spreads upon Harry's face is entirely new to Tom. He has never made another person happy before, never felt the need to, but with Harry it brings him this strange sense of satisfaction.
‘I think we’ll be able to work something out,’ he finally says, and Harry nods, smiling more brightly now.
'Can I have a kiss now?' Harry asks, taking him entirely by surprise. Tom leans over slowly and presses a kiss against Harry's scarred forehead, thinking that in a strange way, the lightningbolt-shaped scar could symbolize the way Tom and Harry had both changed each other's lives for good from the day lightning struck between the two of them.