Title: Sympathy for the Predators
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairing: Harry/Lucius (one-sided Harry/OMC)
Warnings: Profanity, angst, manipulation, sex, lengthy discussions of philosophy and politics and art, past character deaths (Narcissa and Ginny).
Summary: Harry Potter has reinvented himself as a patron of the arts. Lucius Malfoy is still Lucius Malfoy. Both are predators of a sort. And either might find unexpected sympathy in the other.
Author's Notes: This will be updated irregularly, whenever I get a part of it finished to my satisfaction. It's also my first Harry/Lucius, so though I've thought about this fic in some detail, characters could be OOC.
Sympathy for the Predators
Part I. Pit Viper.
Seeking heat and warmth.
The man stood with his legs shifted apart, his head canted to the side as he listened with commendable patience to the deadly dull rantings of Bedivere Rossetti. The man fancied himself a poet. Merlin had seen fit to make him a painter, and no more than that. When he allowed the brush in his hand to speak for him, Lucius found him quite tolerable. Take the canvas that hung on the wall behind Rossetti now. The sunburst of white in the center framed the witch bearing her throat in trust to the Muggle who had come to stab her to death. The details were perfect: the white shoulders framed by a slipping dark red velvet robe, the tumble of her golden hair, her wide and luminous blue eyes, the look of helpless lust on her enemy's face.
Of course, while he stared at her, her left hand, hidden from his sight, gripped her wand. But that detail merely added a certain piquancy to the picture. Lucius would have thought less of Rossetti without it.
He admitted to being curious as to who could listen to Rossetti for so long, and drifted closer. Besides, the man seemed familiar, somehow, and stood with the confidence of someone long at home. But Lucius had attended every exhibition that included a Rossetti piece for the last six years, and he was sure he had never seen this man before.
This man, and this piece of art. Lucius had an eye for beauty in more than paint, and he could see clearly, now, the lines of lean muscles in his target's shoulders, the curling fall of his black hair that echoed the witch in the painting, the marks of quiet but good taste in his dark green robes. He held his head at an angle which afforded Lucius one of his simpler pleasures, that of admiring alertness. He knew already that this was someone who would sweep the room with a calm, assessing gaze, understanding the foibles of most he saw, underestimating none.
Except those who chose to be underestimated—a game Lucius had never been interested in. Power, like beauty, was meant to be worn openly on the skin.
Another step closer, and he would catch a glimpse of the man's profile. That should tell him beyond a doubt who it was. Lucius knew the features of a thousand pure-blood families, the chins and lips of a hundred at least. And it had to be a scion of one of those families who could look like this.
Perhaps young Claudius Tanton? Lucius thought. He has spent time out of the country, I know, and it would explain where he learned to listen to people like Rossetti. I hear Roman painters can be most tiresome.
The alert head canted towards him. The eyes turned.
Lucius caught his breath in pure appreciation of those eyes. Deep and stunning green, one of the rarest of colors when paired with dark hair. He would still have admired them even had they been brown, but this made the familiar surge of desire to possess rush to his mouth. He swallowed the saliva gathering there long before it could form, of course. No one would be able to say that Lucius Malfoy was less than impeccably polite.
The voice was deep and light at the same time, like the growl of a lion braced for a strike. Lucius could admire those qualities, but the tone was wrong. The owner of the voice sounded displeased. Yet how could that be, when Lucius must be on good terms with his family? He had almost no enemies left, and none among the only people who could have given this young man his looks.
Then he made out, for the first time, the line of a faded scar through the fringe.
Lucius stood still. It was the best way to catch his balance and to acknowledge his mistake at the same time. He waited, studying the face, willing those beautiful features to melt back into the ordinary, scrawny ones of the boy known as Harry Potter.
They did not. It was Potter, assuredly Potter—the years-old fashion of wearing scars in imitation of the hero had died a quick and violent death—but the assurance and the charisma he carried around him seemed to be his natural possessions now.
Not inheritance. Lucius had known many Potters, from portraits and wizarding photographs if not from life. He had seen the Mudblood mother. Potter had taken certain components from each of them and blended them together like Rowan Fedele creating a new and experimental style of sculpture.
The results should have been grotesque. Rather like Fedele's statues, they were not. Lucius did not comprehend why not.
"I reckon I shouldn't have counted on the common politeness of a response."
Potter's voice rasped over Lucius's mood like fangs. He was tense, his eyes traveling across Lucius's body not hastily but with ample speed, in a way that showed he could defend himself but would not be frantic. Lucius gave him a lazy smile and stepped closer, decided on his answer to this odd collection of facts at last.
"Mr. Potter. I am…startled. Surely you must give people a moment to recover from seeing you."
"I don't have the fame anymore to justify your saying that," Potter snapped right back. "And I never had the gullibility."
Lucius thought of a young boy who had stood in front of him defiantly after freeing his house-elf, and opened his mouth to say the words that that boy deserved. But Potter stood taller as though to meet an attack, and the past melted and swirled into power and beauty. Lucius had met an illusionist once who could raise trees of silver and emerald from specks of dust with what looked like no more than a flick of his hand, and before the man died, he had taught Lucius the trick.
Those trees could not compare with what he saw in Potter's face.
The little boy was dead. Lucius was interested in dealing with the man.
"It is not the fame that makes you so stunning," he said, softly, knowing that his honesty would earn him more points with Potter than anything else could.
Potter squinted at him. Lucius tried to look truthful. But his face had little practice in that expression, and he knew he should not feel as irritated as he did when Potter snorted and turned back to Rossetti, not even bothering with a response.
Apparently, Rossetti had been waiting for that. "You need to let me paint your portrait," he told Potter, leaning towards him. Lucius curled his lip. He did not admire the juxtaposition of their bodies. Rossetti was too tall, his coloring too violent, to appeal to any admirer of art. "What happens if you die tomorrow, and we have no exact likeness of what our hero looks like?"
"Do you know how many photographs there are of me?" Potter rolled his eyes. "The wizarding public could be supplied for a thousand years out of that. Besides, what they see when they look at me isn't an exact likeness anyway."
Lucius breathed slowly, because to do otherwise would be to break the exquisite delight settling around him like a web of dew and light. There was an entrance to Potter's soul, unguarded. That no one had stormed it before now simply proved that no one else in wizarding society had the subtlety of perception that Lucius had.
Potter was not seen as he should be. Everyone approached him with awe shining in their eyes like a light set to blind, and so of course they saw only what could filter through that awe. Why should Potter respond to compliments? He must suspect that half the force of those compliments came from the imagination of the person talking to him, the person who had already invested him with more glory than killing a dozen Dark Lords was worth.
He wanted to be admired, to be seen, for himself. It was a natural desire. Lucius had felt it at times, but, older and wiser in the ways of victory than Potter, he knew he could not hope to gratify it except with someone like Narcissa.
Potter had lost his Weasley around the same time he had lost Narcissa, if Lucius remembered correctly, almost seven years ago. But he had not filled the time since with lovers. The papers could say he had all they liked. Now that Lucius had seen him again, he knew the tone of the Prophet stories was all wrong. Those who claimed to have slept with him would have spoken with more reverence, in softer tones, if they had been allowed to touch all that beauty shining naked like a dragon's hoard.
Why should Potter take someone to bed who would rather make love to a half-seen image of an hero than to him?
Lucius cocked his head at his own thoughts, half-amused that he had already formed the intention of taking Potter to bed instead of looking at him or engaging him in conversation. Either would have been a reasonable reaction to seeing him unshielded. Where did the deeper response come from?
But, unusually for a pure-blood, Lucius had always been more interested in destinations and process than in origins. It was enough that he felt the desire, and that it was as true as an emerald. He laid the question of why aside for the time being and stepped forwards far enough that Rossetti and Potter had to acknowledge him.
Rossetti did it with an open stare. He had wanted to paint Lucius, too, at one time. Lucius had refused, but he could see the legacy of Rossetti's fascination in the flowing golden hair of the witch in this picture, and many other images.
Potter set his jaw, but also looked at Lucius. He was old enough to understand that ignoring someone would make him seem childish,Lucius thought approvingly. Good. It distanced him still further from the demented child he had once been.
"If I might interrupt and give my opinion?" Lucius extended his cane between them as if he intended that the mouth of the carved snake's head should speak for him. Potter studied it with loathing and a twitch of respect that he couldn't conceal. He knew fine workmanship, then. Another point in his favor. "I think our Mr. Potter does indeed require a portrait—"
"I told you, Harry," Rossetti said smugly, with a familiarity that Lucius knew in his flesh he had not earned.
Potter, meanwhile, gave Lucius a look of such steady hatred that he knew he had mistaken his intentions. Lucius bowed his head and continued, "To attempt to capture and tame that fire about him that is uncatchable and tameless. Like all great art, it will be only a fleeting edge of that burning shadow we call inspiration. And the portrait should hang in a private collection, not in the open. The public feeds on their countless images of the Savior, as Mr. Potter has put it. Let them be contented."
Potter narrowed his eyes until they seemed likely to vanish. When he spoke, his voice burred and snagged. Lucius enjoyed even that, which told him how very far he had gone in the direction of admiration. "A portrait to hang in your collection, you mean."
Lucius held Potter's eyes, enjoying the way he clenched his fists as if he would struggle and widened his eyes again as if he couldn't look away. "I can afford it," he said, and invested the words with all the depth of meaning he could.
Potter broke the tableau between them with a bitter snort and a shake of his head. "Have it painted, then," he said, and turned away. "I'm sure Bedivere has stared at me long enough to be able to paint me from memory." And he stalked away into the crowd as if he imagined that could hide him.
Lucius gazed after him, feeling the heaviness of his own eyes, the unmistakable languor in his limbs. He felt as if he had just rolled out of bed to gaze down at his sleeping lover. He had never encountered that feeling before from simply observing someone he intended to sleep with.
Perhaps the feeling will stale in a short time, he thought, as he turned to speak with Rossetti, who was eager to secure the commission. Novelties pale so quickly.
But he had stood and spoken to Potter for five minutes, gazed at him for ten, and that beauty was still like a needle pressed against his throat. He thought the desire might last longer than that.
Harry ground his teeth as he walked past portraits and statues, busts and delicate mosaics of river stones and ivory, murals and miniatures. He shouldn't have allowed Malfoy to get under his skin so much. He told himself that repeatedly until he finally ducked into an alcove off to the side of the vast room and closed his eyes in an attempt to calm down.
Yes, he shouldn't have allowed that. But he couldn't help it. The smug, smiling, silky, sleek Lucius Malfoy was a symbol of all that was wrong with the Ministry, everything that had finally driven Harry away from the job as an Auror that he had thought would bring him happiness and satisfaction.
Harry had tried. He really had. He had tried to be happy in an endless row of doors that all looked the same, in crowded offices, in meetings where only the officious paper-pushers listened to the Head Auror. He was doing important work, he thought. And even if he didn't catch a Dark wizard every day, he was still close to the center of wizarding Britain, where everyone powerful came and bargains and laws hatched. He could be aware of bad things before they happened and counter them.
Or he could try to.
He had understood, long before he saw the bitterness become a permanent part of Hermione's face, that change in the Ministry was an illusion. The powerful were at the top of the hierarchy and intended to stay there. Hermione couldn't win rights for house-elves. Harry couldn't ensure that Death Eaters who had pure-blood families and enough money to bribe the Wizengamot stayed in Azkaban. Ron couldn't earn respect from people who would always see him as the son of Arthur Weasley, whom they despised.
What they'd done in the war, and what they'd promised themselves they would do, had never mattered.
Worse, the people Harry sometimes met who listened to his stories and told him with serious faces that things could change always turned out to be wankers who merely wanted to use the power of the Boy-Who-Lived. Harry learned to recognize them as predators. Some roared like lions, intending to make him part of their pride by force. Some howled like wolves and wanted to involve him in endless games of useless posturing, which would always end with him licking their feet.
Some were pit vipers, who charmed him close and then tried to sink their fangs into his throat. Those were the ones who wanted to sleep with him.
Lucius Malfoy was like that.
Harry sighed and swore softly. He didn't understand people like that. Yes, he had the scar on his forehead, and yes, he had the glasses, and yes, he had the hair that "expressed his untamed nature," as the Daily Prophet liked to put it. He looked like the icon of Harry Potter they carried in their heads.
But if they were so obsessed with his appearance, couldn't they use Polyjuice or glamours and get their fantasies fulfilled that way? Harry was sure some of these people—well, a few of them—had partners who loved them enough to say all the right things and act like the Harry Potter of their dreams.
They would have been disappointed in him if they'd ever had him. He wasn't a madly skilled lover. They could imagine someone who was. They would be disappointed with the reality.
Harry smoothed a hand over his face. Now Rossetti would paint the bloody portrait, and then Lucius Malfoy could brag to all those who still trailed after him, tongues attached to his robes, that he had it.
Then Harry rolled his eyes and stepped out of the alcove. Why was he spending so much thought on this? Malfoy didn't deserve it. Harry was here to admire the new art, but behind that was a deeper purpose. He knew now that Rossetti wasn't the sort of artist he wanted.
Someone else here was.
He moved slowly among the displays, pausing to stop and chat when he saw someone he knew—six years of being involved in the art world had netted him a large number of acquaintances—until he reached his destination. A Muggleborn witch stood scowling at her painting of a woman with a long green robe on descending into the sea. The woman was graceful, the curling seafoam looked real, but Harry knew that this particular artist wouldn't be satisfied unless she had somehow managed to make the picture look more real than reality.
"Risa," he said.
Risa Turner nodded in acknowledgment, but didn't face him. "There should have been something else," she murmured. "A color I could have used but didn't. A curl here, a curl there...I wonder…" She snatched up a brush that lay beside the painting and looked around as though she expected a palette to materialize out of the air.
Harry moved up beside her so he could see her face. Risa was a few years younger than he was, with a sharp nose and eyes that made her look as though she'd been around for decades and seen dunderheads come and go. Harry had the feeling she and Professor Snape would have got along quite well.
"It looks wonderful," he said. "You know that."
"But it's not enough." Risa rapped the brush against her wrist, and then paused and stared down, apparently enraptured by the bump of her own wristbone.
Harry made sure to hide his smile. Risa was touchier than most of the other artists he knew, half-conscious of what she looked like in the eyes of people who didn't spend their days covered in paint. "Would anything be enough for you?" he asked.
"Two years to work on my painting," Risa said, tossing her long dark hair over her shoulder and frowning at the painting again. "Without having to sell anything except what I wanted to, and with the ability to take on students and teach them the way people should be taught, if they're going to transfer the world to the canvas." She leaned in to touch the glimpse of curved silver shore that lay, hardly visible, behind the seafoam. "The bloody moon," she said softly. "That's it. I should have showed the moon's presence more clearly."
Harry didn't know exactly what the moon could have to do with the seashore, but he didn't entirely care. Risa was one of a very few artists he knew who not only was free of the Ministry, but showed no interest in their patronage. She wanted to create, and then she wanted others to admire what she had made. She demanded their admiration. She wouldn't, or couldn't, work to order, unless someone expressed a wish for a painting that she had already begun.
"What if you could have that?" he asked quietly.
"Yes, it would be nice of you if you would go back to my flat and fetch the paint I'll need to make the moon," Risa said distractedly, tilting her head to the side and squinting with her eyes almost shut. "As well as those moon studies I'll need."
"I meant," Harry said, letting the smile have free rein since Risa wasn't looking, "if you could have the time and the room to train your students and to work, without having to pay for anything."
Risa whipped around to face him, staring. The stare went on for so long that Harry became sure he'd offended her somehow and she wouldn't accept his offer. He'd done that more than once in the past before he and Risa had managed to settle into a comfortable partnership of creator and admirer.
"I'd heard about that," Risa whispered at last. "That you were a patron sometimes, and the best kind, because you didn't demand anything, you just gave."
It's no wonder she never got along with the Ministry, Harry thought, barely refraining from laughter.
"But I thought you only supported political artists," Risa said, extending the brush towards him and tracing the curve of his shoulder in the air. "The kind who would make work that spoke against the Ministry."
Harry shook his head. "Sometimes, yes, but I also support people who want to be independent and can't be, people who are producing the sort of art the Ministry ignores. I wanted to be sure that you were a steady enough worker before I made the offer to you, though."
Risa snorted. "Those pictures that you saw unfinished were all apprentice pieces," she said. "I'm a steady worker now." She looked again at the woman stepping into the seafoam, and this time she seemed to have forgotten all her impatience with its imperfections. Harry had seen mothers look at children less tenderly. "Or do you think I could have completed that if I wasn't?"
"I thought so," Harry said. "So, would you accept the offer?"
"There are no idiots here," Risa said. "Except you, for thinking that I wouldn't leap onto it right away."
"Sometimes people have concerns about independence—"
"Those idiots are somewhere else, I told you." Risa leaned towards him, eyes shining. "I know you. I trust you. What were you thinking of?"
Harry began to discuss possible options for a studio with some relief. He hadn't offended Risa, and he finally had something else to do with his money, which weighed on him like a golden yoke when he didn't use it.
It was ridiculous, how much money he had. The Black vaults and the Potter ones combined made a fortune much larger than a single person could ever spend—except if the person was a Malfoy, perhaps—and somehow, Harry had found himself the heir to the Lestrange vaults when all the paperwork was laid out. It seemed that Bellatrix, mad as she had been, had assumed that Regulus Black had survived somewhere and had directed that her fortune and her husband's were to pass to him if they both died. Rabastan had been killed shortly after she had, and when the goblins couldn't find any trace of Regulus's survival, they had decided that it should simply go back into the common Black fortune.
Those vaults had been the only ones Harry was happy to accept. It made a vicious smile come to his face, still, when he thought about what Bellatrix had probably experienced, if the dead were capable of seeing what the living did.
The smile always slid off his face when he remembered the other reasons that he had to hope for the eyes of the dead.
The bargain with Risa concluded, Harry turned away and walked towards the front doors. The exhibition was in a huge, empty hall, built since the war by the contributions of pure-blood families who wanted to show how "sorry" they were that they had supported Voldemort.
Harry felt his skin prickle every time he walked through it, but at least few of the sponsors ever actually appeared here.
Because he was as curious as the next wizard, Harry paused and glanced over his shoulder when he reached the doors. Had Malfoy left? Or would Harry see him involved in a conversation with someone else who had escaped the harsh punishments they should have had after the war, tapping wineglasses together with thin and evil smiles?
It turned out to be neither. Malfoy stood next to a silver statue of a stalking leopard, his eyes fastened on Harry and his smile smug and complacent.
Bastard's probably been standing there for half an hour, just to pose, Harry thought in annoyance, and went home.