The Art Show
It was the Hogwarts Annual Art Show. And despite his protestations, Hermione Granger hadn't accepted a single one of Harry Potter's excuses. It was his duty as everyone's favourite hero who had defeated the Dark Lord, not to mention everyone's favourite Seventh Year student, to attend and lend support to the magical arts and crafts show. And of course there was the tiny fact that he was the subject for nearly half the portraits. His uncommon good looks had made him a popular subject for students studying how to paint magical portraits and Harry found it surprisingly eerie, seeing himself staring out at him from a variety of canvasses in all directions, seeing himself smile, wink or blush at students he knew or comments he'd overheard, seeing himself vanish from one frame to talk to another version of himself, perhaps not quite so perfectly done, in another canvas, or seeing and hearing his portrait self carry on a perfectly sane conversation with Hermione.
"Hermione! Do you think you could try talking to the real me?"
"Humph!" Hermione said, flicking her hair in his face in a way that made Harry laugh. Since Voldemort's defeat, he'd finally been able to relax and have fun, though a normal life still eluded him as he had quickly become one of the most popular boys at Hogwarts. After all, as everyone said, he was just so nice. But while he was everyone's friend, the person just about everyone in every year in every house, except Slytherin, went to when they had a problem, he'd become even closer, if possible, to his two best friends, especially Hermione. She was the only one who knew he was gay, and ever since he'd told her, they'd been mock-flirting with each other in a manner that had been described by Professor McGonagall as "outrageous", even if she was laughing as she said it. It was all just fun, and everyone in the school appreciated the comedy, but the two found hearing the rumours spread about them even funnier.
"Can I help it if your portrait self is more intelligent than the real you?" Hermione quipped.
"And can I help it if your ravishing gorgeousness makes me jealous whenever you talk to anyone other than me?"
"You're jealous of a portrait?"
"I'm not picky about my rivals."
"I don't know whether I should be flattered that you're so obviously in love with me, or insulted that you think so little of me as to imagine I could fall in love with canvas!"
"Well, you have to admit, some of these portraits are very good looking," Harry said with a faint smile, as he gestured towards what could only be described as a Picasso-like painting of some mythical subhuman whose only resemblance to mankind was a shared number of limbs, though its glasses, green eyes and prominent lightning bolt scar gave it at least a passing resemblance to the Boy Who Lived.
"Why would I want a portrait when I could have the real thing?" Hermione purred.
Harry cracked up, as did Hermione, and at that moment Ron appeared.
Harry and Hermione just kept laughing at the baffled expression on his face.
"They're doing it again," Neville sighed, from Harry's right.
"Oh, we're doing it, are we?" Hermione murmured, setting both her and Harry off again. Everyone stared in shock, still not used to the new, post-Voldemort, lightened up Hermione Granger.
"Do you two never stop flirting?" Dean asked, good-naturedly. The two bit back smiles and attempted to wear an appropriately apologetic look.
"Sorry, Dean," Harry said, obviously not meaning a word.
"Harry started it!" Hermione said, in a toddler voice.
"By looking so absolutely gorgeous," Hermione finished. They both collapsed into wails of laughter again, and this time their friends joined in as well.
"So, Dean, where to?" Harry asked. Dean was their unofficial guide as he had had works in the exhibition since his first year and was now head of the Magical Arts and Crafts Club and in charge of orchestrating the entire display. Everyone agreed that this year's was the best ever.
"Well, you've basically seen everyone."
"All we've seen is Harry!" Seamus jibed. Harry elbowed him, feeling himself blush. But it was true: there were a surprising number of portraits of him, though he really didn't know why. He guessed it was just because everyone knew he was too nice to turn anyone down for a sitting. After all, it wasn't like he was the best looking guy in the school, or even close to. There was Draco Malfoy, for a start. Not that there were ever going to be any portraits of him, the famed school bully and terror of all first years, no matter the house. Harry smiled as he thought of Draco. Not Malfoy, the evil ringleader of the Slytherin school bullies, but Draco, his boyfriend and lover of over a year. Draco, who had revealed to Harry a side of him that no one else had ever seen. Draco, who Harry loved, and who Harry knew loved him.
"Harry? You've got this weird dreamy look on your face," Ginny commented. He snapped back to reality, furious at himself for daydreaming about Draco in front of his friends. They didn't know, not even Hermione, and he wasn't planning to tell them any time soon. So he had to be more careful. He still had nearly six months of school left, and he wanted to survive to see the end of them. It would be a pity if after escaping Professor Trelawney's death threats, Draco's Death Eater buddies and of course, Voldemort, he managed to get himself killed by his own best friends!
"Sorry," Harry murmured. "So, have we seen your stuff, Dean?"
Dean glanced at him, but Harry didn't notice his nervous gaze.
"It's up the end," Dean murmured reluctantly. The group moved through the Great Hall, towards the dais.
"Dean Thomas: several." A small sign proclaimed. But Dean had done more than several. He had not only turned into a fantastic artist, but an extremely prolific one too.
They looked first at his 'serious' works, the ones he meant to send on to a magical art college.
"My God, Dean, these are amazing!" Hermione murmured in awe. The others just stared. The first painting was a series of views of a bare horizon, but the canvas kept flickering, magically enchanted to change to a new time period every few seconds: dawn, morning, noon, evening, night. Over and over. It was like the ceiling of the Great Hall, but with none of reality's imperfections. Then the next canvas held the same view, but with a tree painted in. The next, a lake as well as the tree. Then a beautiful redheaded young woman, obviously, if not specifically, Ginny. A unicorn. And finally Hogwarts in the background.
"I've called them "Study of a View"," Dead said, embarrassed, "and they're really not that great. See, I was just getting used to using oils for this one, so it's all messy here, and…"
"Dean Thomas! These are fantastic!" Ginny squealed, throwing herself onto him and kissing him exuberantly. Ron turned quickly away, but everyone else just smiled. Dean and Ginny were perfect together, and had been from the moment they started dating. Dean had been just what Ginny needed to get over Harry, and Ginny just what Dean needed to encourage him in his art.
The other serious work, which Dean also planned to send to the college, was of a boy, a very familiar one, easily recognisable to anyone who saw it. Dean had ironically entitled it "Study of a Hero", because the moments he'd chosen suggested nothing of the heroic about Harry and he'd deliberately left Harry's scar out of every painting. He'd tried to present the Boy Who Lived as an ordinary person, and Harry was grateful for it, though he was faintly embarrassed at having been painted so many times by so many different people.
"You're just so good to paint, Harry," Dean had once tried to explain to him. "You have the most expressive face. I can't describe it in words. But it's like I know all about you, just from looking at you."
And Dean did know all about him. Or at least, he knew a substantially large secret that no one else did, because Dean was the only one who knew about Draco. He'd been scouting classrooms for the Magical Arts and Crafts Club to meet, and had, of course, walked in on Harry and Draco kissing. They'd foolishly forgotten to lock the door, caught up in their own passion after being separated for all of twenty-four hours. They'd never forgotten to lock it again.
Surprisingly, Dean had been okay with it. Not great, but okay. And he'd kept Harry's secret. They'd become quite close friends since then, actually, and for all that Harry had protested he wouldn't come to the art show to stare at himself, everyone knew he would, if only to support Dean.
But he still felt uncomfortable when Dean said things like he could read Harry's life in his eyes. He knew it was artist talk, not pick-up talk, but it made him wonder if anyone could know about Draco, just from looking at him, or from seeing Dean's paintings.
But no one seemed to have noticed that. Instead, they were all ooing and ahing over Dean's incredible eye for detail, and Harry had to admit that the pictures were amazing. They were a series of ten in all, showing Harry in all his moods and vulnerabilites. There were fun ones, such as one of all the Gryffindor boys piled up on Harry's bed, talking. And another that shocked Hermione: Harry asleep on his Potions homework in the Gryffindor common room. But there were serious ones too. They all stared in a mixture of sadness and horror as they stared into Harry's blank, unseeing eyes in the third picture, a study of Harry taken mid-Sixth year after a run-in with Voldemort that he still hadn't described to anyone, it had been too painful. There was such horror, pain and fear in his expression that looking on the painting was almost as bad as seeing the events themselves. And while Harry was a little embarrassed at seeing his innermost turmoil expressed on canvas, he was pleased, too, to show the world that it wasn't fun or easy being a hero.
"Dean!" Harry protested, after they'd all stared in horror at this painting for a moment. "I haven't felt like that in ages! When on earth did you do this?"
Dean shrugged, a guilty look on his face.
"I've been sketching you since you were eleven years old, Harry Potter."
Harry just gaped. "I keep telling you, you're the most amazing subject I ever have or will come across."
Harry just nodded blindly, and moved on.
The next painting was a complete contrast to the previous. It was Harry and Hermione walking into the Great Hall for breakfast, flirting ridiculously with each other. He was laughing, his arm around her waist, and her face was in profile as she batted her eyelashes ridiculously and flicked her hair. Hermione blushed as she heard her portrait self make several hideously lewd, suggestive comments to the portrait Harry, and both the real and portrait Harrys laughed.
The next painting, much larger than the others, was of Harry flying, or, more accurately, diving. There was a look of singular concentration on his face as his hand stretched out for the snitch, always just a moment away from his grasp.
Then there was Harry crying. He wasn't sobbing, nor were his eyes red or blotchy. He wasn't seeking comfort from anyone. The common room was empty, save for Harry Potter who was staring into the fire, tears trickling steadily down his face and a look of unutterable sorrow and loss in his eyes. Harry wasn't sure when the portrait had been done, he'd felt like that so many times. He turned to ask Dean quietly when he'd taken it.
"After Hagrid's death," Dean whispered. Harry gulped, and nodded, not daring to ask how Dean had seen him when Harry had been sure he was alone in the Common Room, because he knew his voice would sound croaky. He still missed Hagrid and couldn't yet get over the guilt he couldn't help but feel. Hagrid had died trying to save him from Bellatrix Lestrange, just like Siriues. This time, Harry had made sure Bellatrix paid for it, first in blood and pain, and then later with her life.
The next portrait was of Harry asleep, his face contorted in horror as he twisted and turned in his sheets, murmuring spells to himself. Another of the nightmares that still plagued him. Faintly disturbed that Dean was watching him even when he slept, Harry wondered if there was any aspect of his life Dean wasn't aware of, and quickly moved away from what was the smallest and, in his mind, the most disturbing picture of them all. He wasn't used to watching himself, let alone seeing himself looking so vulnerable.
Harry stared at the next picture, for a moment unsure of when it had been taken. He could see himself standing at the front of a classroom, obviously struggling with something. Yet if Harry didn't know better, he'd say he was struggling with his own mind. It was even more confusing to hear his friends commenting to Dean about how accurate and lifelike the portrait was.
"When you first fought off Imperius, in class, in Fourth Year," Hermione informed him, before he could finish his question. Harry looked at Dean, impressed.
"Actually, no. This is just a touch-up of a painting I submitted to the exhibition in Fourth Year."
"I don't remember…"
"You were in the Hospital Wing."
And that's what the next one was of: Harry in the Hospital Wing, unconscious and covered in a ridiculous number of bandages after the final defeat of Voldemort. This painting was odd, in that for the first time Harry saw his own face absolutely expressionless. It wasn't rigid with horror, or smirched with tears, or even faintly smiling. There was no pain in the face, as there usually was even at the best of times. No evidence of suffering. It was completely expressionless, a dubious result of the dreamless sleep potion. But without his glasses, Harry looked as he often felt: vulnerable and alone.
The final painting was less chilling. In fact, it was almost inspiring. It was a scene from one of their DA meetings, but it showed only Harry, staring challengingly out of the portrait, his wand out, wearing what his friends fondly referred to as his 'hero face', as his stag patronus pawed the ground and looked calmly around the room.
As his friends gasped and congratulated Dean, Harry found his eyes wandering along the pictures, finally seeing Dean's point. He could see his own history through his eyes. Well, all of it except for Draco. And while on the one hand this was a relief, on the other it was almost a disappointment. Draco had become such an integral part of himself, not only his past or his present or his future but his own character that it felt wrong somehow for him not to be part of the show.
"There's a couple more of Harry round here, actually," Harry heard Dean say. He swivelled his head quickly, sure that Dean had told him he'd only be doing ten. He met Dean's nervous gaze and suddenly had a hideous sense of foreboding.
"You've done more?" Ginny shrieked, kissing her boyfriend again despite the milling crowds. Dean smiled, still looking very nervous and his gaze continually twitching towards Harry.
"Well, I wanted to experiment with pastel drawings, so… Anyway, I've called it "Lovers or Enemies"," Dean murmured, as he led the group round the corner, a crowd following them. They'd spent too long gazing at Dean's works, and had now been caught up by the masses of hysterical first, second and third years, not to mention the more jaded fourth, fifth and sixth years who had earlier shot amused comments to Harry about the excessive number of portraits of him, but who now avoided his gaze. Dean's portraits had shown too personal a side of the Boy Who Lived for anyone to be comfortable with, when they only wanted to hero-worship him, not understand him.
There were giggles and shrieks coming from the mob surrounding Dean's surprise drawings, but they all curiously hushed as Harry and his friends rounded the corner and the group parted silently to give them access to Dean's work. Harry's sense of foreboding increased. Steeling himself for what he was about to see, Harry looked up.
The first thing he noticed was that they were Muggle drawings. The extraordinary thing was that Dean had still managed to capture a sense of life and vitality, even movement, on the paper despite the still figures.
The drawings were nearly life size, and were almost overwhelming. Before he'd even gained a sense of the overall, Harry found himself sucked into the minutiae, the incredible detail of every inch. They were amazing, undoubtedly Dean's greatest works.
They were also the reason Dean had to die.
The first drawing was not, perhaps, so unusual. It was a sight seen almost everyday by the Hogwarts students: Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter, fighting. The two were standing in the centre of a ring of people, Gryffindors on one side, Slytherins on the other, the hostility and tension palpable despite the still figures. There was a half-flush dying along Harry's throat, staining Draco's cheeks, and both their hands were clenched in fists by their sides as they spat insults at each other, both faces filled with absolute loathing. It was a decided contrast to its caption: "Lovers?"
The next drawing was a complete contrast. Where the previous had been filled with faces, all artistically blurred, though bright red hair suggested Ron Weasley and butter-yellow pigtails Pansy Parkinson, the next was devoid of any spectators. The paper was the same size, as were the two central figures, and deep pools of black suggested the darkness of night-time in an empty classroom.
Likewise, where the previous picture had been characterised by its distinct school context: Seventh Years uniforms, rumpled in Harry's case, and pristine in Draco's, a school corridor and students milling everywhere, the next picture suggested almost an abandonment of the rules and regulations of school. Harry and Draco's cloaks and ties were massed in a pile to the side of the work, and the two figures were clad in the ordinary clothes that many students wore under their robes, despite the uniform restrictions. All marks of Gryffindor or Slytherin were gone. They were two ordinary people, unremarkable in almost every way.
And of course there was the obvious difference: the lack of hostility. In fact, the complete opposite of hostility. Every line, colour and form suggested tenderness and affection. The two figures were kissing deeply, passionately, drinking each other in. It was exactly as Dean had seen them. Harry, leaning back against a classroom wall, his knee bent to bring Draco closer to him, his hand wrapped in Draco's platinum blonde hair, as Draco pressed close to him, as if he could never be close enough to Harry, his hand caressing Harry's face. Their faces were strangely illuminated in the dark room.
It was both beautiful, and confronting. It wasn't like you saw in the movies, where professional actors kissed to stylistically fake love. It was undeniably real. There was passion and desire and lust in every brush stroke of the boys' bodies. But there was tenderness too, and love. And while it was a beautiful thing to behold, it made all the viewers uncomfortable, as if they were voyeurs of something meant for only two people. It was too intimate. It was a moment that only Draco and Harry should have shared. And Harry was angry.
"Enemies?" the caption asked.
Their entire group of friends went silent, some wondering if this was real, most wondering what else featured in Dean's sick fantasies.
"Give me one reason why I shouldn't have your head on a fucking platter this instant," Harry hissed at Dean. "And it had better be a bloody good one."
Everyone stared in absolute silence, not entirely surprised at Harry's extreme reaction. Dean began backing away from the murderous glint in Harry's eye, looking even more nervous, but also as if he wished he had a paint brush right then and there to capture yet another facet of Harry's personality.
And Harry felt even more annoyed.
"Now, look, Harry," Dean was saying, "let's not take this too seriously, okay?"
"Oh, so how do you want me to take it? Every single work you've done gives away another little part of me: my nightmares, my sorrow, my nervous breakdown, my pain, even my goddamn patronus! Things that I never wanted, or needed, anyone else to know. And now you give away the one little part of my life that I specifically asked you to keep a secret! How could you, Dean?!! I fucking trusted you! I thought you were my friend."
"I am your friend! I'm doing this because I am your friend."
"Oh, so you're hoping a mob of rabid Slytherins will kill me, are you? How friendly!"
"Merlin, Harry, just listen! I was trying to help, okay? I didn't think it was good for you to keep this secret much longer. You've got enough problems as it is."
"Oh, so you were trying to help me," Harry said in a heavily sarcastic drawl that just reeked of Draco Malfoy. "Of course! Why didn't I see it before?!! Because logically forcing me to reveal something I wasn't ready to tell yet is helpful, as is alienating all my friends when I've still got to spend six months in the same dorm as them! Thank Merlin you pointed out you were trying to help me, otherwise I might have been angry with you or something!"
"Harry, stop being stupid. You can't just keep bottling everything up."
"And you shouldn't assume that just because you can paint me, you know me or what's best for me!"
"I just thought that – "
"Lover's quarrel, Potter?" A cold voice broke through their argument. A voice Harry loved more than anything in the world, even when it was taunting him in an attempt to pretend that nothing had changed and to hide their relationship from the world.
"Malfoy," Harry snarled, falling back without thinking into his well-practiced role of public hatred, forgetting that the drawings had changed everything.
Whispers fluttered around the room as the school gossips got to work. Draco strode through them, flanked by his two bodyguards, or his 'pet imbeciles' as Draco affectionately called them, either oblivious to or ignoring the whispers. Restraining himself from hitting Dean only with a severe effort, he turned towards his boyfriend.
"Take a look at those, Malfoy, will you?" he gestured in what he hoped was an off-hand manner to the drawings.
Draco was startled, that much was certain. He stared at the drawings for a long moment without saying a word. His body was oddly rigid. The room went silent, watching him and wondering who was going to be the first to be hexed, or for that matter, who was going to be the first hexer: Harry or Draco.
"Well, what d'you think?" Harry asked, when he couldn't bear the suspense any longer.
"Not bad," Draco said in a calm, almost amused, tone of voice. Harry could barely keep the shock from his face. "Not bad at all, Thomas. Don't you think Harry? After all, it does look like us."
He turned around to face Harry, his face entirely straight, but a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. The twinkle that Harry loved, even if it usually meant that someone was going to be fooled, swindled or hideously surprised. Harry was guessing the last in this instance, so he just waited for Draco to take the lead.
"Of course," Draco continued, stepping closer and looking deep into Harry's eyes in a way that made Harry's knees buckle, "I find myself wondering…do we really look that good when we kiss?"
And Harry now knew where this was going. He didn't even attempt to answer, though he felt his expression change from extreme anger to a mischievous grin.
"Well," Draco whispered, his face now barely two inches from Harry's, "I guess there's only one way to find out."
Draco's lips were incredibly soft and kissing him was, as always, amazing. Harry could hear the unmistakeable sound of people fainting and thumping down onto the hard stone floor, others whispering among themselves. There was the flash of a camera, the sound of a pencil racing across a sketchpad: it seemed Dean was out to record yet another private moment in the eventful public life of Harry Potter. But Harry felt completely content. Here he was, kissing his boyfriend in public, and everything was out in the open. His entire self, the Hero's double life, had been revealed. And Harry had never felt better.
As he leaned in to kiss Draco once again, Harry made a mental note to thank Dean Thomas.