Title: Riddle me ree
Summary: There’s a trail of clues scattered across Wizarding London – Harry’s determined to follow it home.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Deathly Hallows compliant? EWE, acknowledges DH canon, but DH doesn’t really feature much!
Word Count: ~2,000
Author's Notes: Dearest irya_angelus, I hope you like this! I tried incorporating as many of your kinks and prompts as I could, but the boys were a bit stubborn. Many, many thanks to the mods for this fantastic fest, and to M for a lightning-quick beta!
My first is in life (not contained within heart).
My second's in whole but never in part.
My third's in forever, but also in vain.
My last's in ending, why not in pain?
The boy is asleep.
Mouth half-open, eyelashes creased against his cheek, not waving but drowning in a sea of pillows tugged under by cerulean washes of fabric. His age is indeterminate – one buttock curves above the rise of blue duvet, flushed cream.
The room is lit in an unearthly twilight – light filtering through photic ocean layers, parting to reveal its spoils on the ocean floor.
Harry runs the tip of his tongue along his lips, tasting salt.
He can barely make out the boy’s breathing, but there are faint suggestions that this is a Wizarding photograph, not a Muggle one. The thin lines delineating the boy’s underarm hair move as minutely as fronds underwater; the boy shifts towards the viewer, mouth trembling in a silent moan. On the second or third loop, Harry realises the covers slip further down pale hips, and that he can make out the faintest indentation of an erection.
The boy’s face is half-hidden by a head of fine, pale hair, so that all Harry can see are chapped lips and a furrowed brow, set in a lean face.
He turns toward the gallery owner, a quiet pinstriped goblin who delicately adjusts his pince nez, and says, after clearing his throat,
It takes another two months of weekends, ducking in and out of the galleries strewn along the Threadbare Lanes, hidden behind Muggle Piccadilly, before he finds another photograph.
Antique floorboards creak under his feet as he navigates the shop, pulling aside burgundy curtains which crumble like dust under his hands. Velvet pools under his feet and there is a tinkling of crystal beads when he finds the boy, half-turned away, lowering his trousers.
Again – that head of demiguise-spun hair, that coy, petulant downturn of the mouth. The boy is half-dressed in Wizarding robes, the pale outlines of his back, his spine, his arse swelling and obscene against the heavy black fabric.
The definition in the photograph allows Harry to see the pebbling of the boy’s nipples, the darkening of his aureoles. There is a slight gasp – Harry can see the hitch in the boy’s breath, before he lets go off the robes altogether, the blush high on his cheeks as the robes skim his pelvic bones –
The photograph stops, re-loops, and the gallery’s musty air makes Harry feel a little faint.
He had first come across the photographs at Dean’s art show. Dean’s face, bright with anticipation, beamed against the white lacquer frames and Baroque chairs of the tiny art establishment, where champagne glasses clinked and glinted in the afternoon sun. Intimidated by the swathe of vast, schematic landscapes that seemed to be Dean’s forte, Harry had retreated to one of the back rooms, where the minimalism of the display areas gave way to something more haphazard – paintings piled closer together, higgledy-piggledy; sculptures coalescing and murmuring in a corner.
Harry had never understood art – he guessed some things were nicer to look at than others – but the mixture of paintings and styles, strewn like dim jewels across Aladdin’s cave, piqued his curiosity. Muggle and Magical were thrown together – here, a Muggle painting that reminded him faintly of a Weasley, a sardonic marionette with its strings cut. An installation on the floor was shaped like a giant spider’s web, spokes catching the sunlight like flies, weaving prisms of colour.
Picking his way through the room, the low hum of laughter and conversation two walls away – Ron’s high-pitched giggles, brought on by the champagne, made Harry grin to himself – he was lackadaisically fingering a picture of a long-haired girl when it caught his eye.
Malfoy’s face, bereft of a sneer, tilted towards the camera; his eyes desultory and low-lidded. There was a faint trail of sweat coursing down the side of his face, darkening his light blonde hair – Harry felt a jolt of surprise. The pink tip of Malfoy’s tongue slipped out of his mouth, and then lazily, tauntingly, licked all the way up the side of a small Butterbeer bottle, lapping up the beads of condensation with kittenish little flicks.
Harry had the sudden mortifying realization that his entire face had gone bright, tomato red.
Like the Wizard photographs in the Prophet, Malfoy’s photograph only ran for about five seconds before it looped back to the beginning. Hypnotised, Harry watched it again…and again. That slow, defiant blink. That tilt of the head, and the submissive way he laved his tongue all the way up heavy glass – the dirty, lascivious maneuvering of his tongue, his half-smile.
Harry suddenly felt hot all over, like a candle wick set aflame.
Malfoy was…It wasn’t decent! He couldn’t believe…
Harry had no words.
Moving slowly, as if he were underwater, Harry reached out and took the photograph off the wall – he murmured a quick unsticking charm – and put the photograph into his pocket.
Head whirling, he stumbled out of the room.
On his way home, Harry racked his brains (oblivious to Ron’s increasing loud What’s up with Harry?) Surely – did the Malfoys need money? Could that explain why Malfoy had suddenly turned into a…a deviant exhibitionist? Harry snorted to himself. Alright, so he had always been some sort of an exhibitionist, but taking it into the public domain – Harry thought of that pink tongue flicking at him from a wall, a public wall, where anyone could have strolled by and bought it! He cringed, and ignored the slow curl of heat in his chest. That was just…bizarre.
He knew the Malfoys had had to pay war reparations after Voldemort’s death, but everybody had thought that’d been a light sentence, everything considered. And he knew Narcissa Malfoy had suddenly become the Daily Prophet’s star gossip columnist – the society section had never been so popular – but he’d just assumed, like everybody else, that she’d done it more to give the Malfoy name a more benign public profile than anything else.
Lucius, he knew, was still under house arrest, and probably not up to much besides editing his memoirs. As for Draco…he was one of the up and coming Ministry Potions experts. No one could mistake the snap of his robes as he drifted through the Ministry, like an elegant variation of Snape. Though it was well-known that the Ministry starting salaries were pitiful – even as an Auror Harry couldn’t afford to put away much at the end of the month.
Could it – could it really be for the money?
Absentmindedly flicking away Ron’s protestations, Harry got up from his Tube seat – Seamus had thought it a lark to take Muggle transportation for a change – and got off at the wrong stop, Malfoy’s grey, amused eyes burning a sultry, insolent little hole in his pocket.
The most irritating thing about Malfoy was that he never seemed to use the same establishments to…peddle his photographs. After that first, appalling introduction into Malfoy’s second revenue stream, he’d been a bit ashamed of his amateur shoplifting, and from thereon swore to pay the full price for any of Malfoy’s other photographs that he might come across.
He figured – if Malfoy needed the money so badly, it would get back to him somehow. Royalties from the sale, perhaps.
As for his sudden odd interest in the world of art and photography – well. It was simple. He had to save Malfoy from himself.
Harry carefully placed his latest purchase into the thrice-warded box under his bed, taking time to cast a few Refreshening charms on the photographs to keep them from fading.
Exhausted, Harry climbs up the stairs, pausing every few moments to rub his neck, soothing the knotted muscles there. It had been a harder shopping expedition than he’d thought, today.
He’d wanted to do a full sweep of the remaining shops around Diagon Alley and its surrounding streets. It had been six months since that first photograph, and he felt almost confident that he had the whole Malfoy collection – of the photographs still available for purchase, anyway. There were a dozen, all in all – from the risqué ones where Malfoy was semi-nude, long, pale limbs bared for the camera; to the quieter ones – his profile, wearing his reading glasses, smiling that sly, cocksure grin that didn’t look so confident now that Harry could watch replay, over and over again, the slight vulnerable cast to his mouth, his slitted, laughing eyes.
Sighing inaudibly, Harry jiggles the key into the lock, murmuring the charm that would de-activate the wards. His grey overcoat swings on his thin frame – its embedded warming charms giving out as the heat from the fireplace dissipates over its surface. Harry rubs a tired hand over his eyes, half-heartedly incanting a cleaning charm for his glasses – wiping out all evidence of February sleet and rain.
The open sitting room and kitchen are backlit in evening’s hushed red light, like an afterglow. For a moment, Harry thinks he is alone, and the sinking of his heart chimes in with the hollowness he has been trying not to feel, these few weeks – until all sensation snags on the few dying embers in the fireplace, and what they illuminate, sprawled on his sofa.
The boy – his mouth half-open, again, reading glasses perched spinsterishly on the bridge of his nose. This time, there is no hint of coquettish nudity – all the light reveals is his most comfortable, tatty Gryffindor pyjamas; the sinuous flick of a lion’s tail curling over the boy’s heart. One arm is flung upwards; his face presses against it, as if searching for a mooring.
The other hand drapes comfortably across his body, rising and falling with each breath, still half-clutching a book that Harry knows by sight is Most Potente Potions, Potion-Masters Edition XIII.
Unbidden, Harry’s face softens.
Quietly toeing his shoes off, Harry hangs his overcoat on the peg behind the door and pads towards the sofa. His hand finds fine, quicksilver strands and instinctively cards through them as he kneels, knees grazing the carpet. Harry leans into the hollow of the boy’s neck and breathes.
Draco smiles in his sleep – a faint crook of his lips, releasing a puff of something that sounds like ‘arry before he turns around, slithering deeper into the folds of the sofa, the book falling, forgotten to the floor. There is a squeak of metal against fabric as his glasses press deeper into the sofa cushions.
Harry feels something inexplicably tender well in his heart, but ignores it in favour of nuzzling Draco’s neck – more insistently now, placing a few kisses on his jawline, his clavicle, the freckle he never told Draco about in the bend of his ear.
‘Potter.’ There’s a hint of sullenness in Draco’s voice, and suddenly all Harry can see is the irate snap of those clear gray eyes, blinking into wakefulness. ‘Are you licking me like an overgrown puppy?’
Harry lets out a surprised laugh, before attacking Draco’s mouth – licking that annoyed little o into a softer shape of acceptance, leaning into him from above and thinking, no. Nothing but this.
Draco’s kisses are long, lewdly stealing all of Harry’s breath, as Harry wordlessly takes off both their glasses, removing their shirts and Summoning the pale blue duvet from the bedroom. He laces their fingers, tucking his forehead under the line of Draco’s jaw, pressing slow kisses as the rain patters against the windowsill in counterpoint to the beating of Draco’s heart.
Draco’s eyes are closing again when Harry blurts out, inanely, ‘I’m home. I missed you.’
Draco flicks one eye open, and his mouth trembles on the verge of a smirk before he says, portentously, ‘Don’t even try to be romantic. It doesn’t suit you.’
Harry rubs one hand slowly over the curve of Malfoy’s hipbone, hearing Draco’s breathing finally even out – and quietly, smugly buries all thoughts of sneaky amoral Slytherins and at least no one will ever get to see you like this.
Hidden in a silk-lined, warded shoebox in Draco’s wardrobe, a Wizarding camera – specially equipped with a custom-charmed self-timer device – lies next to a small jewellery box, containing a horrendously expensive goblin-hewn engagement ring, glimmering in the dark.
Is love the answer?