Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairings: Harry/Draco (present and past), past Harry/Ginny
Warnings: Disfigured!Harry, references to torture and violence, sex, profanity. DH spoilers but ignores epilogue.
Summary: When Harry returned from torture at the hands of former Death Eaters horribly scarred, his lover, Draco Malfoy, rejected him in revulsion. But since then, Harry has survived and prospered—and Draco has another chance to learn that more things beyond beauty matter when he hires Harry to protect his estate.
Author's Notes: This story is gratefully dedicated to tray_la_la, whose generous donation to livelongnmarry is the reason this fic exists. She asked for powerful!Harry and bottom!Draco, without any major squicks. This fic is a short WiP, probably eight or nine chapters. The reference in the title is to the Greek smith god Hephaestus, who was lame due to being hurled from heaven by Hera. As far as I know, the craft of metal-dancing is something I made up and unique to this story.
Chapter One—Beauty In the Bed
The clangor and heat of the small shed made Draco pause for long moments before he entered it, but in the end he put up his chin and did it anyway. The sooner he went through this unpleasant meeting and got it off his mind, the better.
He stepped into the smoke billowing from the shed, and then had to put his hand over his mouth and cough. He hadn't anticipated how much noise and stink even a small smithy would make, and he despaired of being heard over the clash of metal, hammers rising and falling. A misshapen figure darted past him and vanished into a cloud of soot. Draco started, then relaxed slightly. Of course. The Metal-dancers, as they called themselves, had hired dwarves to help with the work of forging the metal they needed.
Draco could deal with the ugliness of dwarves, their squat bodies and squinting eyes and vulgar language. It was someone more hideous he'd come to see. He lifted his chin even higher, in the hopes of avoiding the gazes of the other dwarves that might scurry past him, and marched on.
More smoke, more darting, radiant flames, more dwarves. The shed obviously had some wizardspace in it that Draco hadn't sensed from the outside, as he should have had time to cross and re-cross the tiny building three times now. He wondered if he was heading the right direction, and if it wouldn't be wiser to retreat and wait for later.
The relief that filled him at the thought made him swallow, then cough. No, he would never return if he waited. On he marched.
And then he froze, because exquisitely pure, powerful magic had struck him like a lance of sunlight. He'd never felt anything so focused. Usually, wizards like Voldemort, who had magic that leaked out of them and informed their aura, cast it in every direction, too involved in controlling the extra power behind their spells to bother with finesse.
But this magic stabbed through Draco and fetched a heavy hammer lying under an anvil, then sped past him again, obedient as a sheepdog to its master's whims, and grabbed a bucket of water. Draco squinted ahead as steam arose from the pouring of the bucket of water, and then the voice he remembered and revered and reviled said, "Thank you, Grishnazk! I think that's all the copper I need."
No help for it. Draco went forwards like a soldier going into battle.
The man he had come to confront stood in front of a pile of glittering strips, his head bent and his hands moving. Draco couldn't see what he was doing. He told himself he didn't care. He had come to get this finished, not to watch him do his job. What Malfoy would spend time watching hired laborers?
The dwarf at his side said, in the high, whinging voices that Draco had been sure they had, "And is that enough gold for you?"
The voice Draco remembered laughed. Listening to it, Draco thought bitterly, you would never reckon what he looked like. "I'm not using gold to protect this place! The idea is to keep the enemies out, not invite them in."
Draco narrowed his eyes. Does he think golden decorations would draw thieves in? Perhaps I ought to remind him that Malfoys protect their possessions well—when they want to.
He took a step forwards, but then froze as the figure in front of him backed up and waved his wand. What emerged from his mouth was no incantation, Latin or English. A high, shrill, sweet singing instead, it reminded Draco of the spell that Professor Snape had used to repair the Sectumsempra wound inflicted on him by the man in front of him.
Potter. The voice that snarled in his head sounded like his old teacher. You can say the name. He is not the Dark Lord, that you owe him fear or awe.
Draco lifted his head again and told himself that he could watch a bit of metal-dancing. He had hired Potter's men for the supposed excellence of their craft; he wouldn't be a Malfoy if he didn't check the product before he bought it, after all.
The shimmering strips of metal rose from the ground, following the motions of Potter's wand. He was bobbing his head now, as if he enjoyed the sounds that emerged from his own mouth. Draco was grateful he hadn't turned yet, and not only because he had no desire for Potter to see him standing there.
The craft had a reputation for beauty, and Draco could see where it gained it. The copper strips, barely wider or thicker than wires, twined around one another like lazy snakes, and shrugged nonexistent shoulders as they rose higher and higher. Now and then two ends linked together, and a spark of gold fused them. Of course, Draco didn't think there was cause for Potter to bob his head like someone conducting an orchestra. Draco could have cast spells that would have levitated copper and fused it in the same way. He could perhaps even have done it nonverbally, and sung whilst doing it.
And then Potter flung his wand away, and extended his hands.
The strips of metal continued to rise, linking more often now, and passing through one another as though they were made of brown smoke. Draco blinked and gaped. Potter rotated his wrists, his voice rising to a high-pitched croon, and the copper rolled into an enormous circle like a serpent biting its own tail.
Potter took another step back, his head tilted to the side so that he could watch all the copper at once. A faint smile tugged at his lips. Draco looked quickly away before he caught more than a glimpse of gray, although he knew that the lips and eyes of his nemesis were perfect. God knew he had tried hard enough to live with Potter based on the promise of those lips and eyes.
Potter tapped one finger against the heel of his palm, and his voice descended to an eerie, commanding hum. The ball of copper broke apart, and the strands began to shine with a gold-white light that Draco found as unbearable as trying to look at the sun without a charm protecting his eyes. He glanced at the ground and watched the coiling shadows. They were forming loops on the top and bottom of the figure, and Draco gathered the wherewithal to sneer. He had hired a company that was famous all over wizarding Britain, and they were going to protect his estate by making the metal into an infinity sign?
But the loops gathered other loops within them, fringed themselves with delicate petals, and expanded in a way that Draco didn't think was possible, given the amount of copper in the original strands. Perhaps Potter had broken it apart or thinned it. Any magic seemed possible given how strange and insistent the thumping rhythm of Potter's music was, to which he had joined something that sounded like the stamping of one foot. His voice never faltered or slowed down, and never repeated a note.
He's not a good singer, Draco thought, trying to call up old memories as a defense against his awe. I remember that much. I know he was never a good singer, and he can't fool me into thinking he was.
Another shaft of pure magic struck past his body and left his mouth gaping again. An almost apologetic thought slinked behind the magic. Maybe he doesn't need to be a good singer when he has that much power behind the sound.
Now Potter, or maybe someone else, was warbling like a skylark, and the shadows of the copper had become a pattern that Draco's eye lost almost the moment he attempted to trace it. And it was still budding new signs, loops, half-melted shapes that resembled birds in flight and collapsed and dripping coils that were perhaps horses or unicorns. And then all resemblance to living forms was gone, and Draco found himself gazing straight into the heart of the pattern.
Repulsion struck him, a force so strong that his feet left the ground for a moment. He caught the wall of the shed and kept from being blown further back by a wind he could neither hear nor feel. The sight of the pattern still blazed in his mental eyes, and it occurred to him, dimly, that it was his own mind and magic that were acting against him, trying to push him away and further away.
"Oh, sorry about that," said Potter, his voice much calmer and more polite than Draco remembered it. Of course, the last time he'd heard it, it had been screaming at him, so it made sense that the slightest change would be an improvement. Draco staggered up, batting away Potter's outstretched hand.
When he looked again, the same green eyes he remembered were regarding him from that ruin of a face.
Draco wished he stood a chance of sounding as unaffected as Potter, but he knew he didn't. His glance slid reluctantly over the chipped gray ridges and folds around Potter's eyes and mouth that had once been skin; only because they had the eyes and lips and were bounded by crisp black hair and two ears could Draco think of them as a face. Normal people didn't look as if their faces were made of solidified volcanic ash.
And even more normal people would have had the courtesy to cover their faces with a glamour, both visual and tactile. Draco could have stayed with Potter if he'd done that. But Potter, from the very day he'd left St. Mungo's after recovering from the magical torture at the hands of former Death Eaters, had insisted that this was what he looked like now and he was going to be honest about it.
He cared more about his honesty than about me, Draco thought, his bitterness bubbling up again. He would have done anything I asked if he really wanted to keep me, since I was doing him such a favor by staying with him.
"Potter," he said, and if his voice wasn't as cool as he would have liked, at least it made the slowly forming smile vanish off Potter's face. "I came to see how the work was proceeding, and of course you nearly killed me."
"I'm sorry about that." Potter cast a glance back at the hovering figure of copper. Draco looked at it under his eyelashes; no way in the world would he look at it directly, now that he knew what it did. "The new patterns are usually the most powerful, and I didn't know anyone was nearby."
He sounded—still calm. Not frantically apologetic as he once would have been at the thought of causing Draco harm, and not defensive the way he had sounded when he insisted it was his choice to go into public looking like a monster. Draco clenched his hands into fists until he felt the comforting sensation of his nails drawing blood from his palms.
"You don't mean to do a lot of things, but they still happen," he snapped.
Potter raised his eyebrows. He had a touch of genuine sorrow in his face now, but it still wasn't the soul-ripping emotion Draco wanted to see. For God's sake, he was meeting Potter for the first time in three years, and in a professional context, and he still couldn't cling to the masks he'd spent those years perfecting. Why was Potter, who'd always been a poor actor, doing better than he was?
"Yes, they do," Potter said. "Of course, the craft of metal-dancing aims to increase the proportion of deliberate deeds and decrease the proportion of unintended ones." He turned his back on Draco, as if he had finally decided that Draco needed some time to recover from the shock of seeing Potter's ugly face again, and limped over to the copper pattern. Draco's eyes followed the motion with a fascination that even he knew was sick. Potter limped because so many scars covered his back and the upper parts of his arse that it cramped and crippled the muscles of his right leg.
So ugly. Draco could conceive of himself surviving such a thing, though the temptation to die of shame would have been strong; what he couldn't understand was not covering it with glamours or not going to St. Mungo's and badgering the Healers until they came up with a cure. Potter claimed that he wasn't ashamed and that the Healers had said they could do nothing further. Draco didn't believe that. For the Boy-Who-Lived, they would have found a solution. They should have found one. It was Harry's fault for not trying hard enough.
And of course Draco hadn't had any choice but to leave him and temporarily marry Astoria Greengrass, because he needed beautiful children, and he needed the solace of beauty next to him in bed after the horror of the one time he and Harry had made love when he was scarred.
The marriage with Astoria had been a business arrangement, providing a Malfoy heir for him and the experience of being a mother, as well as numerous Galleons, for her; Astoria had wanted to see what it was like. They were separated now, and Scorpius was growing up in Draco's new estate and Malfoy Manor combined, raised by a loving father and doting grandparents, far away from the horrors that had wrecked Potter's life and Draco's happiness.
But it could have been Potter, if he had only tried harder.
Draco abruptly couldn't take it anymore. He'd seen for himself that Potter's magic worked, and he had no reason to stay here. He whipped around and strode towards the entrance of the shed.
"Contact me again when you're ready to be paid," he said. "Or better, send one of your minions. They—" And he clamped his teeth on the words, because he would not allow Potter to hear how unnerved he was, even now.
It was wonderful to step back into the clean air and gaze on green, living trees, the color they were supposed to be, and feel the sunlight pouring over his own fair skin.
Harry shook his head and leaned for a moment on the wall, watching absently as Grishnazk began hammering and heating silver on the forge, in preparation for creating the thin strips that Harry would use to create another protective sigil. The copper one hung quietly on the wall now, reminding Harry of a hooded figure standing with its head hanging towards the ground and its arms folded. It would have no more power until Harry filled it with his own magic and hung it in the air outside Draco's estate.
Draco. Even now, so hard to excise the name from his head.
Harry rolled a shoulder and felt his lips pulling into the quiet smile that had, finally, replaced the bitter grimace as his most frequent expression after three years of working at it. He'd had to struggle during those three years to accept what had happened to him instead of resenting it and resenting everyone around him, those people who still had whole faces and who walked without stabbing flares of pain through the scars, and the insistent pulling, as if his leg were always attached to heavy ropes. He'd had to work even harder to get used to the looks of horrified pity directed his way.
If he hadn't had Ginny, who had been captured at the same time and gone through some of the same torture, and Ron and Hermione, and a talent for metal-dancing, Harry doubted he would have survived.
And put like that, it did sound silly. His survival hadn't hinged on just one person, or on his art. Many, many things had helped him. Harry resolutely straightened his spine, as much as he could with the fried skin that connected the base of his spine to his arse. He had come far in his life, and participated in the creation of a new craft. He doubted there were many people, even Malfoy, who could say the same.
"Ready in a few minutes," Grishnazk said without glancing up. His hands flew marvelously over the hammer and the fire and the anvil. Harry tried to follow the movements with his eyes, but the dwarf was too skilled a craftsman to separate his artistic process into discrete steps. Besides, a cloud of steam rose a moment later as Grishnazk plunged a hot lump of silver into a barrel, and that obscured the motions further.
Harry yawned, wrinkling his nose, and raised a hand absently to touch his face. The sharp ridges were like pieces of obsidian naturally, and so he did wear a spell that protected anyone who touched him—including himself—from having their skin sliced open. But he had refused to wear a glamour.
He could still remember Draco's fury over that.
If he closed his eyes, he could see Malfoy standing in front of him, eyes closed, furious words emerging from between tightly-shut lips. He'd been naked. Had that been the last time Harry ever saw him like that? He thought so.
"All I want to know is why you won't try." Draco's voice soared and broke. He forgot himself and glanced at Harry's face, then wrapped his fingers around his forehead, as if that would erase the sight from his eyes, and shuddered.
Harry kept his expression locked in a glare, but he felt as though Draco had killed Ron in front of him. The one thing he had never thought to encounter from Draco, after everything else they'd been through, after Draco and Harry had both fought to reconcile their friends to their living together, after Draco had been willing to defy his parents and withstand the attention of the press, was simple rejection because of ugliness.
It made him wonder if Draco had ever really loved him at all. Maybe he hadn't loved the fame or the scar, but had he loved the green eyes and Harry's scarless skin and nothing else?
"Because it would be dishonest," said Harry. "And I don't want to hide from the world and indulge their stupid sensibilities. They'll get used to me or they won't. This is a way of seeing who my real supporters are. And I don't want to act as if this is something I should be ashamed of. I didn't do this to me. It was Lestrange, and Greyback, and—"
"I know that!" Draco's voice had risen to a shout. "But you act like you're proud of it, displaying it everywhere—"
"Tell me, Draco," Harry demanded. "If I'd lost a limb, or if the scarring was somewhere other than on my face, would you have said the same things to me?"
"It would be different if you could cover it up with clothing," Draco snarled into his hands. "And you could get artificial limbs. They make them—"
"Not well, or Mad-Eye Moody would have had one."
Draco shuddered. "There are things you could do to repair it," he murmured. "There are things you could do to make your skin smooth and pure again.—"
"So I'm impure because I'm scarred?" Harry wanted to smash, to hit, to destroy things. He turned away so that the magic pulsing out of control around him would only hurt vases or tables and not Draco; the destruction tended to follow the line of his eyesight. He swallowed, and it felt as though part of his throat had been torn out, too. His torturers hadn't had time to reach his neck before Harry's magic went mad and killed them, but he knew they'd intended to. Would Draco have accepted scarring on the neck? He wondered for a moment, but he knew the truth. Draco couldn't really accept it, no matter what he said. He only thought that scars elsewhere would be easier to cover up.
"That's not what I meant." Draco had gained some semblance of control over his voice, but that only made it sound all the tighter. "You—you need to show that you have some regard for me, too. I'm showing you more love than I ever knew I could by staying with you at all."
Harry gritted his teeth, and a flash of pain exploded behind his eyes as a vase exploded in front of him. He couldn't help hearing Draco's faint gasp even over the sound of breaking porcelain. He opened his eyes and stared bleakly at the shards lying on the ground in front of him, then shook his head, wondering if Draco had gasped out of fear or anger or simply surprise. "I think that I never knew what your love was based on," he said.
"That's not fair." Draco's voice was ragged. "Harry, do you know how hard it's been for me in the past weeks, since you were captured? First I had to fear that you were dead. Then I heard you were rescued, and I wasn't even able to help with that. Then I heard you were wounded, but no one would tell me how bad it was. And the end of all that uncertainty was learning that you look—like this—and you refuse to honor even my request to repair it."
"Repair it." Harry held out a hand and watched as the fragments of the vase rose and began to orbit one another, gradually forming a whole shape out of the air and the dust. "You make me sound like a precious object, Draco, one that you don't know the Reparo spells to fix yourself."
"And that's not fair, either!" Draco spat. "Don't you ever think about me, Harry? Don't you ever think that I might not want to be seen in public with someone like you?"
"Is this about my face?" Harry asked, turning to stare at him. "Or my history?"
Draco immediately stared at the floor. Harry couldn't see the whole of his expression, but he saw the pale cheeks and the tinge of green around his lips, and that was enough.
"You didn't care about dating the Boy-Who-Lived," Harry whispered. "That much was real. But it seems that you cared more than I ever thought about dating someone good-looking."
"I was raised with beauty all around me!" Draco flushed with outrage, but he still didn't look up. "You can't blame me for finding it hard to love someone who looks like you do now. A monst—" He stopped, breathing through his nose.
Harry had turned and walked out of their house. Years together, and it wasn't enough, he thought dimly as he paced down the steps. In the end, blood prejudices were easy for Draco to give up, easier than Harry had expected.
He had to wonder, now, if it was because blood differences weren't visible on the skin.
Harry opened his eyes and sighed. Such a struggle to move on from that, to stop raging and missing Draco's presence in his bed. But he had done it, and though Draco's words might bring back bad memories, they couldn't make Harry regret his decision. He needed to be able to live with himself because he could live with anyone else, and that meant accepting honesty and not covering his face with more than spells intended for safety.
The sight of his face alone did harm to no one. Draco had never understood that.
Harry straightened, aware that he was smiling, and that Grishnazk was casting him a curious glance under half-lowered eyelids. He would be wondering why Harry looked so happy after such a violent encounter with a former lover. But then he seemed to realize that Harry was looking at the copper pattern, and he bobbed his head like a bird pecking after crumbs. "It's lovely, yes it is," he said.
"It is." Harry moved forwards, his fingers hovering above the endless melting but solid loops of the material. He tried to trace the direction of those loops with his eyes, and couldn't. Whilst he was singing the tune for the metal to dance to, he understood the pattern in its entirety, but he always lost it the moment he returned to normal.
He had needed this craft when Malfoy lost him, needed something that would absorb him entirely. And so he had worked to perfect it, his own bitterness acting as a goad. He couldn't be good at most of the things he had been good at anymore; the crippled leg wouldn't let him play Quidditch, and the Auror training he had been half-heartedly pursuing was also out of the question. Even a simple meal in a restaurant became arduous when he had a hundred stares to contend with and no lover at his side whose love he had depended on.
He had decided, after reading an article in the Daily Prophet one day about the damage that Memory Charms did to the brain—the article had been prompted by Gilderoy Lockhart's recent death—that there should be a means of protecting wizards and their property from Muggles that didn't involve the need for Obliviators. And that combined with his newly-discovered fascination for music and forging, crafts intricate enough that they needed all his concentration, to create metal-dancing.
Grishnazk hauled another series of strips, dripping and shining, from the water, and Harry turned to face them, gathering and settling his thoughts. This sigil would be silver, which was perhaps the most powerful protective metal in wizarding magic, with all sorts of associations—but, precisely for that reason, needed to be handled more carefully than the copper. He couldn't think of Malfoy when he was doing this.
But he could spare one thought for him, and the fact that, disgust or not, he'd still come to seek Harry out when there was no reason to do so, and he'd still been powerfully affected by the sight of him.
They would have to work at Draco's estate for at least a week more. There was time, perhaps, during that period for Harry to help Draco towards the same sort of reconciliation, of making peace with circumstance and reality, that he had managed to arrive at himself.