Title: The Robbed that Smiles
Disclaimer: Owned by J.K Rowling and the publishing agencies of her book. I am not gaining profit from writing this.
Warnings: periodic profanity, fantasy-violence, slash, slight OOC, an American writer attempting to write British slang :]
Pairing: cannon pairings, eventual dmxhp, mentioning of het.
Rating: M for mature
Harry straightens his hair and masquerades as his twin persona James; Draco is trying very much to get rid of his Death-Eater status. But how much of yourself can you change? How much of yourself can you run from?
Note: *Title is a quote from Othello, "The robbed that smiles steals something from the thief." I originally had these as two separate oneshots, one where Harry straightens his hair and the other where Draco is an artist with Harry his muse. But the stars aligned and I decided to mesh them together in order to make more than some sort of smut with a weak storyline. This will not be a long story. Maybe five chapters, seven max. However the chapters will be pretty long.
I am looking for a beta-reader, because I have this terrible non-ability to reread my own work thoroughly. PM if anyone is interested.
1. THE GOLD-WINNER
Twin green eyes stared back at me, the nearly invisible wrinkles lined in amusement. Or perhaps bemusement at the sight they were offered. It was strange, viewing the familiar features of my face without the usual barrier between. My glasses – banished, not eternally however. It was much too strange to witness, or perhaps experience the slopes and curves of what I once thought I knew well. Like the back of my hand… Ironically, I knew nothing at all. I never assumed that my eyes were so brightly green, nor my skin so tan; the colors stood out in relief, somehow surreal like muggle 3D. I ran my fingers over my skin like a blind man, searching the grooves, assuring myself what I saw was real. It was. I never particularly thought myself attractive, but looking at this double persona in the mirror, I felt myself understand… perhaps a little.
This was all Hermione's idea. Of course. She offered me the contacts, the spells, to exchange my trademarked teenage appearance for something more adult, to be able to feel free in public places without people gawking and gaping at my scar. Naturally, she had her motives too (the world is not a purely selfless place); to find me someone to… someone to take the place of Ginny. Or perhaps fill the place that Ginny never could, the idolized position after the 'and,' eternally linking our names together in holy matrimony. Which is all a part of a bigger plan – the one where 'Mione makes me less introverted in society blahblah and unmarried to my job blahblah, etcetera, etcetera.
I flattened the collar of my auror robes, trying to distract myself with thoughts of the ridiculous art show 'Mione was forcing upon me tonight, instead of my next trick. Carefully, I brought my wand to the crown of my head. The stranger in the mirror raised the corner of his lips in jest at my awkward position, and then pursed. I murmured the spell my supposed "best friend" (aka, Torturer) learned from Hair: A History, smacking my head with the tip of my wand as she also added.
Except for the sting of having smacked my head, the effects were non-immediate. I peered into the mirror, unconsciously squinting as I usually did without glasses. Very slowly then, the hair surrounding my face began to stand on end and carefully unroll like a scroll. Soon, my entire head looks like I stuck my finger in a muggle electric socket. Then, they fell, each curly strand as straight as Christmas tree tinsel.
I could not stand the sight in the mirror now. It was too foreign, too different. My infamous cowlick was flattened, the inky darkness of my hair now revealing hues and "highlights" I never viewed except in direct sun. I did not even realize my hair was as long; it brushed my collarbone now, my fringe diagonally hitting the sharper points of my cheekbones. I stared openly, blushing when I realized I was ogling myself. Carefully, I pushed away the hair hiding most of my forehead and viewed the scar. A sigh of relief. I was still me under all this voluminous hair. This was still me.
"Good Merlin Harry, what is taking you so long?" Hermione hissed from the other side of the bathroom door. "Did the spell work right? I once heard, from one of my coworkers, about a girl who did it wrong and -"
The New Harry opened the door and stopped her rattling story. She drew her hand to her mouth, eyes wide in what seemed like complete astonishment. I fidgeted in the doorway, unsure of what to tell her.
Slightly sobered, she said in a teasing tone, "Perhaps I did make a mistake in marrying Ronald."
"Let's just not tell him that," I joked back. "Are you sure I don't look like a bloody ponce?"
She laughed. "No; actually, you don't even look like Harry. If I could not see the scar, then I would have mistaken you for someone else."
"Right," I grumbled. "The Scar."
Hermione frowned, but then brightened, leaning forward to brush her fingers through my pin straight locks. "It feels like silk, Harry."
Instead of replying, I looked Mione over; she looked nice in her muggle dress, which shimmered in the light. It is still impossible to think of her as a mother of two. She is so slight and fit from tiring work at Mungo's, or running after her beautiful children, or painting, a stress-reliever she undertook since the war. She is always on the move; I rarely see her cuddling up to Hogwarts: A History anymore, yet she has a large library filled with books Ron will never read.
"Maybe you'll meet someone at the Gallery," she said in her Molly Weasely voice, stepping away from my hair in search of her robes.
"And perhaps I'll grow wings and fly. You know how I detest the artists at your gallery." They're all a pretentious sort, walking around like peacocks, wanting so desperately to be admired and praised. A slight criticism and they fall into some deep pit of internal despair. I remember once whispering to Hermione that I thought a certain painting looked more like something Rose and Hugo drew. Chaos certainly ensued after that; it was as if I insulted his being. It nearly got physical until two wizards pulled us apart.
"I know, but...," she smiled in a way that made me feel uncomfortable. It was the same smile she used back in school when she found a solution we would not particularly like. "Well. Maybe something will change your mind." With that, she pulled on her robes and instantly Apparated, leaving me perplexed behind a foreign face.
Originally, I did not want to leave Hermione's side.
The Ministry Gallery is huge and spread open ballroom, which for some unfathomable reason, was filled past maximum capacity. Or at least it seemed like it. I felt myself time and time again being swept away by the crowds, like a huge rip tide, towards the center of the room. Some grand artist was supposedly showing off a work, but for some reason I could not get a sense of who it was. Hermione was not too concerned, and did not complain; there are more people to admire her own painting.
Her painting is nice; it's a still life type deal her library. Ron's sitting by the window, his head on the pane, while Hugo is peering out into the darkness. It had a deep sense of realism, but also surrealism; the hues are brighter where the shadow fell and darker where the intense light is. There are more wrinkles on Hugo's face than on Ron's, giving them strange ages that tricked my eyes. It is, perhaps, more a poem than a picture, in my opinion anyway.
I wrapped an arm around her narrow shoulders, drawing her into an embrace. Teasingly, I whispered, "It is really is lovely, 'Mione and whatever barmy judge says it's not poignant," I pitched his voice to a pretentious drawl, "should get hexed six ways 'til Sunday."
"Harry!" Hermione squawked, though obviously pleased. "You shouldn't say things like that! Someone might actually believe you just might, especially in your auror's robes looking all quite official. I do wish you took time to change before coming down to the gallery though," she added with a sigh.
"I have to leave here to go directly to work, you know this. Kingsley's keeps me on a short leash, tossing me case after case." I frowned, but then cheered up, if only for her sake. The office remained at the office, not at home, nor anywhere else. "But if it bothers you so much, little witch, I'll go change."
"Tut tut then," Hermione said, pushing at his back. "Go on! And on your way, investigate the other works for me. Tell me how I size up."
"I don't even need to look at them to tell you yours is the best, 'Mione, but if you insist. I'll be back." I stalked off into the depths of the gallery, trying to dispute my sense of claustrophobia. I shot a look back at Hermione, just to check on how she was doing alone. She was talking animatedly with a wizened wizard half her height, probably explaining the crafty spells and color combinations she used in her magical artistry. She seemed happy enough, in her psychedelic robes, looking oddly reminiscent of Professor Trelawney, although she had another row with Ron not too long ago (hence why I am on Mrs. Weasley duty, trying to cheer her up and send back intel for Mr. Weasley).
I sighed, weaving around animated statuettes and portraits of wizards doing unwarrantable things to each other in search of a washroom. It would be too conspicuous to change my robe color in front of a crowd, especially if I got it wrong and the fabrics shriveled in flame. Luckily I found the restroom in the corner of the gallery. Unfortunately, it was bogged down with spectators in neon robes they must have chosen on muggle LSD.
I advanced towards the rooms, trying to swim through the crowd of witches and wizards to no avail. I could not deny my auror urges to overhear conversation; it was simple curiosity, and Hermione did tell me to check out the other artists. Plus, I am incognito; I could go practically wherever I wanted inconspicuously, although the auror robes do not help me one bit. Ex-Death Eater…beautiful painter… surefire favorite the judges…winning smile…. Curiously, I rocked onto the tips of my toes to look over the gaggle of wizards, trying to honor Hermione's request. All I could make out was a large, silver frame and over three dozen heads circled around it.
"Excuse me, sir," I asked solicitously to a wizard standing beside me. "Do you have any idea why there's such a crowd for this particular painting?"
"It's rumored to be the most beautiful," the man responded shrilly, plastering his horn-rimmed glasses more firmly on his face. "Of course, the fact that the painter was a Death Eater escapes no one."
Death Eater… I ruminated on that for a while as I escaped for the washroom. It was a sizeable, barren area which I was thankful for. If there was another crowd of the same caliber inside, I may just lose his mind. It was excruciatingly uncommon luck that I was not bogged down with fans, asking for a photo or if the recent stirring of Dark activity was anything to fear. I didn't need to push my luck.
I splashed my face with water, then glanced up at my reflection. Oh. No wonder. I forgot that I was temporarily someone else – someone tired. In the fluorescent light, I noticed black flesh encircling my eyes as if this person had many sleepless nights. Which was true. Kingsley worked me haggard. The head auror's desire to be a candidate for the upcoming Minister vote pressured him to work his office more diligently, as well as preen me for his spot. The familiarity of us which happened over the war was irrelevant. In the work space, he was Head Auror, and I was simply auror Potter, for better or for worse.
Wrenching my eyes away from the pity that was this stranger's handsome face, I turned towards the shimmering gold robes still adorned. It took a few tries to spell them any other color than a variant of yellow. Ultimately, I settled for a muddled brown. Slightly refreshed (but still overly curious), I stepped into the Gallery once more.
I was a faceless soul. I drifted from artist to artist, gazing at their wares appreciatively. They knew not who this stranger was, and I was surprised at the fact often times I was never approached or questioned after. I have grown so accustomed to people stopping for the Boy-Who-Lived, I forgot what it was like to have someone stop for regular Harry.
I love it.
I thought up new mannerisms, like flicking my hair from my eyes, or crossing my arms. I moved more casually with my hands in my pockets instead of my usual, precise auror-step. I named myself James, after my father, because I assumed this is how he was; cool, collected, understated. I flirted with a barista, and then, because of my anonymous position, made subtle moves on a younger man standing by a large frame of what looked like tiles. He was nice looking, for a bloke, with fine brown hair and gray eyes, and he was interesting. He made his art out of ice shards, which involved a complicated variant of a freezing spell. He also remarked that my eyes were an uncanny shade of green he would love to recreate if I had the time.
Time passed very quickly. I had to leave for work soon, regrettably. I was actually enjoying myself in this apex of what I used to deem hell. As James, I was this character, this person; this… this… the feeling is hard to explain. It was if my body was somewhere else, the ragged old thing, and I was showing myself as me, but still not. It's a conundrum of sorts, a perplexing irony, but I love it. I thought of running up and embracing Hermione for her wicked ideas, but I knew that sort of embrace would compromise myself as James. How many auror-built, brunets did she consort with as intimately as Harry Potter?
Instead, I made new acquaintances, earned a few numbers. Most of the questions were not who I was, or where I was from (for both questions I had no answers) but if I would like to be their muse, even if temporarily. Some of the offers were purely business. Others spoke of a more… sexual experience. I was enraptured. Was this how the real Wizarding-World operated? I have been offered string-less shags, but never so often by people who seemed respectable, by people who could care less if I was their Saviour or an ex-con. Were people usually this trusting in what they did not know?
Or perhaps that's where the thrill lies.
"Oh Harry, Harry!" Hermione called and I almost did not react. I was speaking deeply with an elderly wizard who collected meteorite fragments and molded them into miniature creatures. It's an all consuming job, so I'm told, waiting for meteorites to crash upon Earth. He was lucky to complete a statuette in five years.
Annoyed that Hermione summoned him, I excused myself quietly from the wizard and circled around to meet Hermione, in hopes no one noticed that she called for someone named Harry instead of James.
She flushed red, slightly annoyed that I had taken so long for her summoning. "They're announcing the awards for this year's Ministry award in a few minutes. Do you think I've got a decent shot?"
"Definitely," I assured Hermione, and then retold the little I picked up about the "surefire favorite." I had pointedly kept away from the crowd of people around there in fear that someone may recognize me and the crowd's attention would shift. It's an old phobia of crowds that I cannot, even as James, put to bay. So therefore, I did not learn exactly who the artist was or what their painting was about, but I knew it was extremely astonishing and by some ex-Death Eater.
"Oh," she merely said, hanging her head. She gnawed at her lips and fooled with the sleeve of her robe, instantly dejected. "I guess there's no chance at all. I know exactly who that is then."
Now she started to pick at her nails. "You really can't guess, Harry? Haven't you seen the Prophet lately?"
"What…no? You know that Kingsley keeps me chained like a Crup on a leash to the Auror Department. I haven't been particularly keeping up with the gossip." I frowned, trying to understand her conflicted expression. "What is it that I should know, 'Mione? Who is it, Voldemort back to life as Picasso?"
"That's not funny Harry," she scolded, eyeing a wizard nearby who jumped at the name. "And I'm not stealing your surprise from you."
I fumed silently, running through names of released Death Eaters. None struck an artistic chord in my head. Maybe Goyle became possessed by the creative spirit.
"Regardless, 'Mione, you've got this award in the bag." I beamed at her. "I have not seen another painting that is as poignant as yours."
"Oh Harry, dear," she sighed, patting my shoulder in a resigned sort of way that reminded me of her mother-in-law. "Anyway, have you been enjoying yourself?"
I could not help myself; I spilled everything, telling her cheerfully about the Owl-addresses in my pocket and the bloke with the ice tiles. She seemed riveted, not particularly shocked when she heard I flirted with some men, but rather encouraging. Though of course, she had some remarks about my double personality.
"You know that it's unfair you are deceiving these people, Harry… James, whichever."
"I'm probably not going to Owl them anyway," I grumbled, which made her unleash another bout of moral-defining blabber. I ignored most of it, winking when a woman in a tight red dress shuffled by (why is it women feel the need to wear such constricting, uncomfortable, completely pointless outfits?).
"Harry!" Hermione hissed, snapping her fingers in my face. However, this time I was saved by the bell. Literally. A loud tinkling sounded overhead and the Minister of Magic, Gawain Robards, stepped onto a podium. Robards, a weasel-slick man with eyes much too big for his face and hair gelled so far back his hairline is receding, is a good enough Minister, focusing on healing the wounds of the war through merrymaking and parties. It works. His focus on bringing all wizards together is a great strategy, however, he rarely casts an eye on the Death Eaters we were still trying to reign in.
There was an awkward silence as Robards fooled with his wand in casting a Sonorus charm, the judges behind him trying not to snicker. Eventually he got the hang of it and his voice rang around the Gallery.
"I wish to express Welcome to every Witch and Wizard, and to humbly begin the process of awarding the Ministry Fine Art Award! I apologize for not offering a preamble, but I cannot wait to garnish," I choked at the word choice; "each individual with their piece of Gold. We have had a wonderful turn out this year, far outshining the last in talent, determination, and execution. We have had wizards from every inch of England join us today, some old masters of the art, or others new blood testing the water. We have those who have dedicated their entire life's journey on art's path and other's still who create in their spare time. Regardless, every individual in this room is talented abundantly.
"However, I digress. The first award of the night goes to those who follow a more strict, authentic guideline; the artists who, amazingly without magic, manage to create their masterpieces."
Robards continued to ramble in ways grating on my ear, introducing each artist in specific detail as if trying to sell them. The man I spoke to about the ice tiles won a silver award for his category, which he held up to lips and kissed a number of times, waving with a grin in my direction. A woman who pasted fresh fruit skins in abstract assemblies won gold. The old man with the meteorites tied with a younger man who molded semi-precious gems into moving Cupids.
"I think he's announcing the painting winners next," Hermione said, hopping on one foot, then the other, gripping my arm tightly all the while. I crossed my fingers for her, hoping she won something.
"And now, on to the next category; Painting." Hermione squeaked eagerly, Robards overwhelming the sound in his nasally voice. "There are some painters who unleash their talent through magical means, by precisely magicking the paint where they wish it to be on the canvas. There are others who influence their mixtures of colors. And then there are others who do this all by muggle-hand. Regardless, we are all rendered completely breathless by their hue-combinations and skill."
Robards paused to take a drink of water before pressing on. Sweat was beginning to gather at the neck of his dress robes; obviously his long winded role as announcer extraordinaire was a trying one.
"This artist is certainly deserving of his award. His painting, titled, Nevada's Grace, is a breathtakingly detailed painting of an ocher lilac (the color combinations are fascinating) growing from the seed of an oak underwater." I resisted the urge to laugh; Robards was making a fool of himself by describing the artwork. The painting was lovely, but his terrible wording was just…. Terrible to be put plainly. "Thus, I award Geoffrey Deval a prestigious Bronze Award."
There was a scattering of applause for Mr. Deval. The gangly middle-aged man hobbled up to the stage and was "garnished" with his bronze plague. Hermione hooted her happiness and explained they had spoken for a majority of the evening; his painting was besides hers.
"This next artist, a war veteran and mediwizard, managed to encapsulate a tender moment between her son and husband, which she titled by date only. It is an oddly beautiful painting, which makes us question the vulnerability of ourselves. Thus, I award a Silver Medal to Hermione Granger."
The applause was earth-shattering; it rang in my ears and nearly struck me blind. Hermione began to cry as she ran through the crowded sea for her award. I smiled back at her when she waved the silver plaque in the air before jogging back to her place besides me.
"Congratulations, 'Mione," I said, lifting her up and swinging her around in an embrace. She giggled, obviously dazed. It was when I began to shuffle her away from the crowd that she awoke.
"No, I want to see who won," she persisted. I sighed, but allowed it, casting a Tempus nonverbally. It was quickly arriving to quarter-of-ten.
"The last artist, and recipient of the Painting award as well as the all around Fine Art Award," besides me, Hermione gasped, hand on her lips, "is one we feel is worthy of much more. His painting, titled by a poignant," I shouldered Hermione with a grin, "and simple name, Blue, enchanted the judges with one glance. What is more interesting is that he created the different hues by hand and with raw material. When we inquired to the length it had taken this lad to finish his project, he candidly replied, 'A long time.'" Some of the crowd ventured an artsy chuckle at the joke; one I did not particularly think was amusing. "Without further ado, I congratulate Mr. Draco Malfoy and celebrate him as 2003's recipient of the Ministry-Approved Fine Art Award for the category he entered in, but also as the all-around Gold-Winner."
I stared blankly at the podium. What?
"Mr. Malfoy, come and take your prize!" Robards said cheerily. The applause was a confused ruckus, some outraged, others amused, and others still glad for Malfoy's win. The trophy-woman besides Robards held merely the plaque while a golden copy of the Statue of Magical Brethren loomed behind her, another part of Malfoy's prize. Besides that, the 2002's Gold-Winner held out a purse of gold.
But Malfoy never walked up the stage.
"Has anyone seen Mr. Malfoy?" Robards asked
"Maybe he went home early."
"Maybe he's in the lavatory. I'll go check."
"Maybe he's too ashamed to show his Death-Eater face!"
"That's right, the filthy Death-Eater! He better not show his face or I'll definitely hex him!"
"What does a Death-Eater even known about artistry?"
Where the fuck is Malfoy?