Authors Name; Tarklovishki
Prompt Number: 153
Title: Reality Lies in Paintings
Pairing(s): Harry/Draco. Implied Pansy/Blaise, Ron/Hermione.
First Time scenario: First time Harry and Draco trust each other.
Summary: Isn't it rather funny that it takes getting sucked into a bloody painting for Harry and Draco to discover that they like each other?
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning(s): Minor dark themes - minor! - um, sex and ... kissing?
Epilogue compliant? Uh, no. No children, no Ginny, no receding hairlines at 30, no worries!
Word Count: 10k
Author's Notes: This is my Smoochfest fic from Livejournal. I decided to post it up here because those poor sods without Livejournal should have the chance to read it, too. Anyone who has Livejournal, add me as a friend; my page is on my profile. :D
Reality Lies in Paintings
Standing in front of the full-length mirror, Draco observed his reflection with a critical eye, his hands agitatedly pressing out some of the tiny creases around the buttons of his plaid shirt. He'd already fiddled enough with the jeans. He appreciated Pansy's attempt at making him look decent enough for an art exhibit, but something told him that she was hoping he'd meet someone there and stop moping around and being generally miserable.
"I'm going to an art exhibit, not a strip club," Draco had been constantly reminding her all week at every opportunity. As always, Pansy never listened to him, assuming that she knew him better than he did.
"Draco!" yelled Pansy, appearing at the doorway. She wore denim jeans with the end frayed from constantly stepping on them (before she realised that she was supposed to roll them up until they were at the preferred length) and a loose white satin shirt that Draco had bought for her last Christmas. "Are you finished yet? Blaise is anxious to leave."
Blaise and Pansy had married a good six months after the war, making this coming December their second anniversary. While they had their spats and bitter arguments (which normally ended with Blaise on the lounge for the night) they always pulled through. Draco always hated it when they argued; his bedroom was directly next to theirs, and whenever they made up they woke him up with their banging and screaming. He'd soon taken to putting a silencing charm on the room so he didn't have to listen to them having sex.
"Y-yeah, I'm ready to go," said Draco, nodding nervously. A brief stint in Azkaban had almost completely shattered his resolve, making it harder to hide his emotions than what it used to be. He hated having his one and only good defence stripped away from him. "Yeah, I'm ready to go."
It looked as though Pansy was going to open her mouth and spurt out supportive words, but she seemed to realise that it would only encourage Draco to throw off the clothes, get into his favourite pyjama's and climb into bed to hide away from the world. It had taken two years to encourage him to rejoin it, and she would not have her and Blaise's hard work ruined.
"Come on, then," were the words she settled for, nodding her head to the stairs. As Draco walked past her, she reached out, took his hand and squeezed it supportively. She didn't even wince when Draco nearly crushed her hand in his tight and clammy grip. "You know it will be okay, don't you? Luna will be there. Didn't you make up with Luna a few months ago?"
"That's the only reason we're going today," said Draco. At least his voice was controlled. "It was an invitation-only event, and Luna invited all of us. I don't even know who her friend is, but she said he's some top-notch artist from the States. I swear, he better be a good artist, or I'm coming back home."
"Mm, you might want to stick around for the show, though. I've done my research on this guy; his name is Wilfred Dughouse—don't even comment on the stupidity of that name, Blaise has already told me a hundred times through fits of laughter. Wilfred is possibly crazier than the Lovegoods. He just channels it through his artistry. But apparently he always does this 'mystical show' where he 'ominously' describes what his paintings are about."
Draco snorted. "I guess they must be so confusing no one else would be able to figure them out otherwise."
Pansy stifled a giggle behind her hand.
. . . .
Wilfred Dughouse's art exhibit had a nice turn-out. It was mostly Luna's friends that had showed up, as Wilfred's family over in the States had already hosted an exhibit of their own. However, the poor way that the exhibit was executed—did they really need a show and a running commentary about every painting that Wilfred had ever created, and how much it meant to him and what it was supposed to mean?—was laughable.
In the back row, Draco, Pansy and Blaise were almost beside themselves in silent laughter. They'd been trying for the last quarter of an hour to keep it hidden, but the moment that Wilfred tried to rip off his shirt like an out of control animal, they'd lost it. What kind of art exhibit was this? Only a true friend of Luna Lovegood could be this … strange.
"Thanks for making me wait for the show," Draco choked, red-faced. He pressed the side of his fist to his mouth, trying to calm himself down, but Wilfred howling like a wolf snapped his control, and he dissolved into another fit of giggles. "Thank Merlin this is the last painting he has to show us."
The painting's intention was supposed to draw out the differences between the love of two human beings and the love of material possessions. From where he sat, he stared at the twisted designs.
The face of a man, with all the things he loved drawn all over his face, but behind him stood a woman who obviously pined over him, making no attempts to hide it. Apparently, all her attempts to gain his attention had so far gone ignored. This painting did not move, yet it told its own story.
Draco understood what this meant immediately; this man was in love with material possessions, thinking that the only things that he could love were the things that money could buy. But he was stopping himself from loving a person who was capable of loving him back. The man was incapable of loving something that could love him back. In a twisted sense, it sounded a lot like Draco himself.
It wasn't that the paintings weren't good—in fact they were excellent, leaving a lot up to the imagination to make you think more about the work of art than a person normally would—it was just that it would have been a lot better if Wilfred had actually allowed them to interpret what the art meant to them without him adding his own two cents in. He'd made the art; it was time to step back and allow others to see it.
Finally, when the music stopped and the lights came on, Luna was the first one to her feet, clapping enthusiastically. After looking between each other nervously, the other twenty people, Draco, Blaise and Pansy as well, got to their feet and clapped with much less enthusiasm. Draco looked around and noticed that he and his friends weren't the only ones who looked like they had been laughing; a good portion of the crowd looked similarly bright and amused. Knowing this eased his burden of guilt, so to speak.
"Bravo," Luna shouted over the top of the awkward, mumbling crowd. "Bravo! Oh, how absolutely wonderful, Wilfred!"
A little red in the face, whether from the exertion he'd taken out in the performances or embarrassment it was hard to tell, Wilfred bowed three times. Then, he walked off the little podium he'd erected, and walked right into Luna's outstretched arms as the crowd slowly headed in their own directions to check out the paintings. Wilfred, after a couple of minutes of talking, pulled away from Luna with the excuse that he needed to find a drink of water. Luna waved to him.
Draco walked up to Luna.
The two of them were on the path to friendship after Luna had been the only one to befriend him while he was trying to get a job somewhere in the Ministry, before they knocked him flat on his ass, forcing him to go and live with Blaise and Pansy. She'd written letters to him, and he wrote back. Sometimes she'd convince him to get a coffee with her, but they had never stayed out long. It was, simply put, just too awkward. Even Luna's stunning ability to break the tension in a room hadn't worked this time.
"Thanks for inviting me, Blaise and Pansy," he said, a stiff smile on his face. He might be on good speaking terms with Luna, but that did not make it any easier for him to talk to her. Not after so many years of publicly bashing the Light side before his fall from grace, then his withdrawal from society. "I really appreciate it." One thing he loved about Luna was that she held no grudge with anyone. She'd forgiven him the moment he'd apologised, and never once brought up his past mistakes.
Luna beamed at him, stepping forward for a hug and pretending she didn't notice him tense up. "Draco! Yes, yes, you're welcome. Frankly I wasn't sure if you would turn up. I was afraid that the Wrackspurts had warped your brain and stopped you from showing up!"
One thing he didn't like (but learned to deal with) was the Luna's prattling about creatures that did not exist. He'd never got on her back about it, deciding that a person had a right to their beliefs, and he had no right to change that. After all, wasn't that how Lord Voldemort had come to power?
"Right," he said, laughing nervously. "I should probably check out the art. Thanks again, Luna."
"Make sure to look out for the Nigglers!" she called after him. "They'll make you lose track of the time!"
"Will do, Luna," said Draco, amusement colouring his tone. "Thank you."
Turning away from her, Draco made a beeline for the Love painting. He didn't know what was initially drawing him to it. For some reason, he was just in love with the idea. He was a moth attracted to a flame, as the old analogy went. It truly was a remarkable piece of art.
"You like this painting too, huh?" said a voice from behind him.
The voice was familiar in that horrible kind of way. Like when you know someone is in a room, and you just know that they are going to find you somehow. They always do, even despite how much you try to make sure that they don't. Draco closed his eyes. A meeting with Harry Potter had to have come sooner or later.
"Yeah," he said in reply, keeping his eyes fixed on the painting. "It represents a lot to me."
"How do you mean?" Harry asked. He actually sounded intrigued by what Draco had to say. Which, he had to add, was a first.
"You do know that this is not a conversation I want to have, don't you? Least of all with you," said Draco rather defensively. To him, it was one thing to understand something on a personal level, but another thing to talk about it to someone who wasn't even considered as a friend. "If you tell me what it means to you, I'll tell you what it means to me."
Harry looked Draco over. If Draco didn't know any better, he would have said the other man was checking him out. Not that there was much to see since the war ended. Not much about him had changed, unless you counted relying on your friends to survive in a world that wanted you dead. Unconsciously, Harry moistened his lips, then, when he realised he was staring, turned back to the painting and stared at it.
"Well, it's obvious that the woman is pining for him," said Harry. He couldn't help but glance at Draco again out of the corner of his eye when he thought Draco wouldn't notice. "You don't need love hearts around her head if the painting is good enough for you to figure it out yourself like this one is. But the man is too in love with the things that he can buy that he doesn't notice. He doesn't even realise he's staring at a golden opportunity for love before he turns it down. It's almost like he's … afraid to love. So, what do you see?"
Draco stared at Harry long and hard, before he turned away. So softly that Harry thought he'd missed it, he thought he heard Draco say, "I see myself."
"What do you mean that you see yourself?" Harry realised to late that it wasn't a good idea to lunge forward and grab Draco's arm.
Flinching, Draco ripped his arm away with a heated whisper of, "Unhand me, Potter!"
Harry allowed Draco to yank himself free, yet was ready to make a grab for him again if he tried to escape. From the look on his face, Draco knew that as well. He sighed, shifted his weight from one foot to the other, and remained where he was, looking very sour about it, too.
"So," said Harry in a falsely sweet conversational tone, "what did you mean that you see yourself in this picture?"
Giving up on trying to get away, because Harry had that bloody look in his eye that screamed "you're never getting away from me without an answer", Draco span around on the balls of his feet and faced Harry head on. There was dark look in his eyes, and Harry had the fleeting impression that Draco's eyes had just turned into windows of his life; cold, dark and alone. The look was so captivating, that Harry's eyes locked onto it, then were unable to look away.
"If you've ever been obsessed with material possessions," said Draco softly so that Harry had to strain his ears to hear him over the low chatter of the surrounding people, "then you would understand."
Harry finally broke eye contact with Draco, and looked back at the painting. He suddenly felt as if all the joy had been sucked out of the piece. "It's not too late to change that."
Draco's eyes narrowed. He didn't understand why Harry was saying any of this, as if he cared about anything that went right or wrong with Draco's life. Harry Potter was always the boy who shunned him, who, if Draco was not attracting attention to himself, would ignore him as if he didn't exist. Ever since they were eleven this had been the way that their dysfunctional hate relationship had worked. Why was it that after the war, Harry finally opened his eyes to the pain he'd caused someone for years before Voldemort's second reign?
Maybe a persons life wasn't worthy of Harry's attention until he hurt them beyond repair. Then, when all was said and done, Harry would finally turn his attention to you, fix you up, and then send you on your way as if his band-aid attitude fixed everything. Covering up the pain, but never really drawing it out from the depths in which it extended to.
"Listen, Potter," said Draco, his hackles raising like rabid dogs sensing danger. "I don't know why you suddenly care. You've never cared—not about someone like me. Someone who, at the age of eleven, had the potential to change with just a little help. I'm not going to be your little after-war, to-the-side case!"
Draco's raised voice attracted attention from people standing within a ten foot radius of himself and Harry. Not that he cared; Draco was too angry to care.
"It's not like that," Harry whispered in a hurt tone, his green eyes flashing brightly.
"Isn't it?" said Draco. A maniacal grin formed on his lips, and he stepped toward Harry, who stepped back, sensing the threat. "Tell me, Harry," he whispered in a sweetly mocking tone, his head reared back like a snake about to lunge, their bodies almost touching, "when have you ever given a crap about what happened to me? Last I checked, I wasn't hurt enough until you turned your wand on me. That is how I received the Sectumsempra curse—"
"You were about to cast Crucio on me!" Harry whispered, his eyes darting around the room to make sure nobody had heard.
"Oh, please," Draco scoffed. "It probably would have hurt to the equivalent of a bee sting! That's not worth trying to kill me over."
"Listen, Malfoy!" Harry hissed, his hand lunging out and gripping Draco by the wrist, "I don't know what you're trying to do, but—"
The painting suddenly emitted a low, poignant hissing noise. Harry stopped mid-sentence, his and Draco's eyes going comically wide as their heads snapped to the painting with war-toned reflexes—their reactions just a second after everyone else's. Harry had yet to let go of Draco's wrist; he was squeezing it tightly like a lifeline—
"Harry!" Hermione screamed, the same time as Pansy screeched, "Draco!"
As Harry and Draco's names left their lips, a streak of white light shot out of the painting—four foot wide and barrelling straight toward them. And there was nothing they could do to stop it; the speed of light was vastly faster than the speed of a human. It snared them up, lifting their feet off the ground—and before they could react, it sucked them right into the painting.
"Draco!" Pansy screeched again, taking Blaise's hand and running up to the painting, her eyes as round as saucers.
She was deaf to the commotion of Harry's friends—they weren't important to her, not like Draco was—and collapsed in front of the Love artwork, placing her shaking hand on the man's face, hoping that her touch would be enough to bring her best friend back. It wasn't, and, turning to Blaise, she buried her face into his shoulder and sobbed.
"What the hell was that?" Ron yelled, turning to Wilfred who had gone a white in the face and neck. "Your fucking painting just sucked them in—bring Harry back!"
"And Draco, too," said Blaise, standing up and taking Pansy's limp form with him. His eyes were bloodshot. "What the hell did your painting do to them?"
Wilfred took three hasty steps backwards, putting distance between the enraged group.
"I—I—I," he stuttered, holding up his hands. This had to be the first time in forever that he wished he could get to his wand and conjure a white cloth without everyone whipping their own wands out, thinking he'd attack them. "This is the love painting!" he cried finally. "I put a harmless spell on the painting to suck two people in—two people who are supposed to be together, but are in danger of passing each other! If I had any idea that the great Harry Potter would be sucked inside—"
"Oh, yes," said Pansy with awful sarcasm, lifting her head of Blaise's shoulder, glaring daggers into Wilfred. "Let's all forget Draco, let's all forget the fact that he exists too—and that he's gone into that wretched painting of yours! No, it is always Harry Potter's life that means something to someone—never Draco's! How about I shove your head up your ass, because clearly that's where your sense of decency went! Draco is human too, and if you don't pull them the fuck out of there, I'll be shoving you into the painting of Death!"
"Pansy," said Blaise soothingly, "calm down."
"I will not calm down!" she shrieked, pushing him away. "This," she gestured around the room, at the people who stared wide-eyed and slack-jawed at her, "is why Draco has been living with us ever since the war ended! Because he knows he doesn't matter to any of you! And now that his life is in danger, all you can think about IS HARRY FUCKING POTTER!"
"His life isn't in danger," said Wilfred in a trembling voice.
Pansy jabbed a finger in his direction. "Shut up!"
He did so with a nervous squeak.
Hermione, a little shocked by that outburst, stepped forward. "What do you mean about two people destined to be in love, but in danger of missing each other? You can't possibly be saying that Harry and … and Malfoy were destined for each other?"
"You make it sound like two men being destined to fall in love with each other is sickening," said Blaise condescendingly.
"No!" said Ron angrily, stepping forward. "What she means is that Harry is too good for Malfoy!"
"Yes, killing one insane Dark Lord tends to warp people's opinions on whom they should date, doesn't it?" said Pansy, glaring at Ron like a predator about to strike its prey. Blaise couldn't blame Ron for back-tracking. "Tell me, Weasley, have you ever fancied a ride on Harry Potter's broomstick?"
Ron almost said "yeah, I've ridden it before—the Firebolt" but managed to capture her meaning before he made a complete fool out of himself. "No!"
"Good," said Pansy. "Then you ought to shut your mouth. None of us but the people Harry's dated—I think Chang and Weaslette makes two—knows what he prefers. Just because you're his friend, doesn't mean you know his sexual preferences." She turned to Wilfred. "Get both of them out of there now."
"I can't," said Wilfred, shaking his head. "The spell won't allow for them to leave unless the two people recognise and act upon their feelings for one another!"
Finally, sensing an opening, Luna ran up to Wilfred and took his arm. "Come get some punch while we wait," she said, leading him away.
Ron rolled his eyes and groaned. "Harry and Malfoy falling in love with each other?" he scoffed. "Impossible!"
He quickly shut his mouth under the weight of Hermione, Blaise and Pansy's stares.
Landing on solid ground after a ten foot drop is never an easy thing. Even as a Quidditch Player, Draco had never experienced the pain of it before; at least when he got hit with a Bludger, he had the broom underneath him to cling to until someone came to help him. But dropping out of the air with nothing to cling to, and wildly flailing arms and legs? Yeah, ouch didn't even begin to cover the pain that lanced through Draco's elbows, back and knees. Maybe even his feet, but they were a little bit too numb to tell.
A groan echoes from Draco's left. Only because Draco didn't want to have to lug Harry's ass around with him all day, he asked, "Are you okay, Potter?"
Harry groans again. "Just peachy, Malfoy. Just peachy."
"Good," said Draco, grunting as he pushed himself up to his feet, wincing as something cracked in his back, but it didn't cause him any pain so he didn't worry about it. "Now you can get your ass up and help me figure out where we are."
He looked around at his surroundings; it looked more like they were thrown in the Forbidden Forest.
"You've got to be kidding me," he muttered in a toneless voice, his hands balling into fists. "I fucking hate forests. This has to be some kind of sick joke!"
"Malfoy, as much as I love to see you ranting about forests, could you possibly find it in your heart to bloody help me up? I think I landed wrong on my leg." Harry's voice called to him, panting as the pain reached its unbearable peak. The best he could hope for was that he'd twisted his knee or ankle. The worst that he'd broken something. "You wouldn't, by any chance, be good at healing spells?"
"Depends on what I'm healing," said Draco, standing behind Harry and grabbing him under the arms to pull him up. He was incredibly light, as though his mouth hadn't eaten a proper meal his whole life. "Can you walk?"
Harry put half his weight on his leg to test it, then grimaced and started hopping foolishly on his good one. "No, I think it's broken."
"Well, then I think you're screwed," said Draco conversationally. This was a rather unfortunate situation—for him; if he didn't heal Harry somehow, he'd be the one to carry Harry around. "I think the only time I attempted to heal a broken bone, I vanished it. That being said, the pain was gone but … well, that person was still useless." He dusted his hands off on his pants, coughing and clearing his throat exaggeratedly. "Looks like you're gone have to start crawling."
"Malfoy!" Harry yelled, wincing as his voice echoed around the forest. He dropped the volume, but not the sternness. "If you don't heal my leg right now, I swear to God I will kick you!"
A tiny smile flickered across Draco's lips, and he bent down, whipping out his wand.
"You're going to drag your ass around even if I do vanish your bones," he warned. Clearing his throat, he pointed his wand at Harry's leg. He pretended not to notice when Harry clenched his eyes shut like he was preparing for the worst. "Episkey."
It was probably not the cleanest fix-up in the world, especially not from the blood-churning sounds the bones made when they settled in their natural place—Harry gave a short, sharp yelp and vowed never to let Draco to patch him up again—but at least Harry could walk, and that's what mattered.
"You're a monster when you try to fix things," Harry gasped.
"Potter, if you think that's bad, you should see me when I break them." Dusting off his hands, Draco returned to full height and glanced around the Forbidden Forest with ill-disguised contempt. Nothing but bad memories resided in these trees, along with creatures the devil himself would fear. Nothing good could possibly come from being sucked into a painting and dumped at this location. "Now, how are we going to get out of here?"
Harry shrugged. "How should I know? If I'd known the paintings had the power to suck people inside them, I never would have gone to the exhibition in the first place." He made a mental note to tear Wilfred a new one for this. If Harry had been thrown here with anyone else, this whole experience might have been more bearable. But considering how this was his former nemesis whom he could still butt heads with quite easily and most of the time without a cause, this was going to be one hell of an experience. "What direction should we go in?"
"I'd say the direction leading us back to the exhibit," said Draco, glaring at the forest as though daring it to start something with him. He was in no mood for bloodthirsty plants and hard-hitting, one-track minded beasts. "But I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that we're still trapped in the painting."
"But why'd it chuck us here?"
"Do I look like the buffoon who created this shit in the first place? No, I don't. So don't ask me pointless questions, because I know just as much as you do on this subject. I'm not an artist, nor do I go around manipulating paintings to lure people inside. Now shut your face unless you have any good things to say."
Harry was silent for a moment, then … "If we're inside the Forbidden Forest, do you think Hogwarts would permit us entry?"
"Maybe," said Draco curtly, placing his hands on his hips. He glanced toward the sky and frowned, unconsciously pulling his bottom lip between his teeth. "By my estimations, here it's nearly sundown. The sooner we get out of here, the better off we'll be. There could be all sorts of nocturnal creatures in here."
"I've never been attacked before," Harry pointed out. "Not in here anyway."
"Oh, well good for you," said Draco sarcastically, performing a mock-dance in Harry's honour, complete with waving his hands around his head. "So I'm supposed to believe that Voldemort killed you in another forest, huh?"
The blush that crept onto Harry's cheeks and forehead spoke legions; Harry Potter had forgotten that he'd been killed inside this forest. Why was Draco not surprised by that? Rolling his eyes, Draco stomped off in the direction he was facing. If he didn't get away from Harry soon, he was quite sure that he'd pop a blood vessel in his attempt not to wring the life out of Harry himself, and finish what the Dark Lord could never accomplish.
"Are you sure that's the right direction?" Harry nervously called after Draco's rapidly retreating form. He ran to keep up with him; bad things happened when someone got separated. And he didn't want to have to save Draco's life. Again.
"Any direction that gets me as far away from you as possible is the right direction, Potter!"
Harry rolled his eyes, choosing not to respond.
. . . .
"It wasn't snow season outside the painting was it, Malfoy?" Harry asked in bewilderment as snow began to fall from the sky, quickly covering the ground in a cold, white carpet. His glasses shielded his eyes as he craned his neck backwards to look at the sky.
Draco couldn't resist smiling as he brushed the snow off his clothes. "No," he said, his tone soaked with happiness, just like the rest of him was. "It wasn't."
Harry looked at him for a moment, and inside that moment he was struck with how beautiful Draco looked. If angels existed, Draco would have to be one of the sarcastic ones that had fallen to earth. He was also struck by how horribly cliché that description of Draco was, but how did you explain otherwise a person so beautiful?
Clearing his throat, he ducked his head down so Draco couldn't see his cheeks burning, whispering, "We should find somewhere to stay for the night." As he walked past Draco, their shoulders accidentally brushed. Electricity seemed to crackle between them at that momentary contact, and, if possible, Harry's face got hotter. "Come on, let's go before we're buried in snow."
What the hell had that been? Harry thought as he tried to will the heat out of his face—even in this cold it was possible for him to heat up this bad, who'd ever guess? The strange connection he'd felt to Draco had been unlike anything else he'd ever felt with anyone. And it had felt good, too. He had half a mind to touch Draco again and see if the electricity surge would start again, but he doubted that Draco would welcome unnecessary touching. Besides, Harry didn't want to give Draco another opportunity to look at him like he'd sprouted another head.
Draco wanted to ask what that had been about, no doubt about that, but the strange look on Harry's face stopped him. He chalked it up to something that he'd be better off not knowing. Spotting something just off to his left, he gasped and grabbed Harry's arm, spinning him around and pointing to an odd looking tree.
"Potter, look!" he said excitedly. He took off toward the oddly shaped tree that stood tall above all the others, looking slightly burned. The branches were right at the very top, poking out like broken arms. "That's a baobab tree! I heard that the ones in the Forbidden Forest have been structured to house people! We can stay here until sunrise tomorrow."
"Are you sure?" Harry called after him, following at a slower pace, unable to stop the hint of suspicion from gnawing at his insides. "Is it safe in there?"
"Honestly, Potter, the baobab trees here always have magic keeping them upright! Haven't you ever picked up a book in your life?"
"Sure I have," said Harry, stung by the implication.
"To learn?" Draco asked challengingly. He started knocking on the wood, searching for the hollowest place where the door would be. He couldn't see any groove markings that would have signalled the existence of a door. "Because if you had, you would have learned about this in our sixth year Herbology book. I really don't know how you got through school. Oh, that's right. Granger saved you."
Harry's cheeks went red again. "I'm capable of doing things for myself. Besides, I like doing things with my hands."
Draco shot him an amused look over his shoulder. "I'm sure you do like to do things with your hands."
It took Harry a moment to figure out what Draco meant, and when he did he was horrified. "No—I … I didn't mean that! Why would I—"
"Relax, I know what you meant," said Draco, rolling his eyes. He found the door and started shouldering it open. He didn't want to risk throwing spells at it in case something went wrong. On the third try, the door burst open and he stumbled inside, managing to get his balance before he was thrown into an ungraceful sprawl on the floor. Harry chortled, earning himself a glare.
It was to be expected that the walls were made of wood, but it didn't do much of anything to keep the cold air out. There was one wooden bed—extremely uncomfortable looking, Draco hastened to add—occupying one large space, and two armchairs in another. A baobab tree, they would learn to realise, was not the best place to live.
"It's not bad," Harry admitted, checking the place out. "Though I wish there were two beds instead of one."
"If you're that against sharing a bed with another man, then duplicate the damn thing," said Draco carelessly. He stood in the centre of the room, brushing the snow off his clothes. Then, once the snow was gone leaving him with slightly damp clothes, he crossed the room, his footsteps echoing dully, and jerked the plaid curtains across the window above the bed. "I hope it doesn't snow too hard. We'll need to get going first thing in the morning."
"First thing?" said Harry, groaning. "Why first thing?"
"Because I'm not going to risk having to sleep out in the middle of the Forbidden Forest at night, so therefore I am not risking sleeping any longer than dawn. If you're not up by then, tough luck. You can travel to Hogwarts on your own." Gracefully, Draco collapsed on the bed, kicking off his shoes. The bed clearly hadn't been made for the comfort of humans—or, indeed, anybody—and Draco winced as wood struck the centre of his back. "I suggest you get to sleep, Potter. We'll have a long day ahead of us tomorrow."
. . . .
Thankfully, Harry did wake up at dawn—possibly because when one of them moved, the whole bed shifted, so when Draco got up, the bed almost fell on its side with the loss of weight on one side. It had definitely given Draco something to laugh about, as Harry thrashed around like a madman, trying desperately to stay on the bed.
"You're a real crack-up in the morning, Potter," said Draco, chuckling, as he flung open the door. His laughter ceased immediately. "What the hell?"
Regaining his wits after the near accident, Harry frowned at Draco's suddenly tense back. Getting up, he leaned over Draco to peer out the door. "What the hell" explained the situation perfectly. What once had been a winter wonderland the previous night, was now a hot summers day, complete with the annoying buzzing of the bugs.
"How the heck ..." Harry shook his head, dazed. "What a turn of events, eh, Malfoy? I wonder what's going on."
"Maybe the painting is supposed to change like that. The seasons, I mean," Draco muttered, more to himself than to Harry, who gently pushed past him outside. "This is hardly the real world, so weather patterns and whatnot can shift at its own will. Paintings hardly have their own balanced weather patterns ..."
With that thought in mind, his urge to get to Hogwarts quickly and find out how to get the hell out of here, doubled.
"We should get going," he called to Harry, slamming the door to the baobab tree shut. The heat relentless bore down upon him, instantly breaking him out into a light sweat. "If the heat is this bad now, imagine what it's going to be like in the middle of the day, when the sun is the hottest."
"Or we could walk until we find another baobab tree?" Harry suggested, falling into step with Draco. "We're not going to make it to Hogwarts in one day."
He refrained from adding "we don't even know which way Hogwarts is" as he didn't want to bring Draco's wrath down upon him. The heat, he noticed, already had an effect on Draco, pissing him off quicker than what he would have been if the sun hadn't been glaring down at them like it was trying to melt the skin off their bones.
After a couple hours of fruitless wandering, Draco stopped, pulling off his shirts. He gasped at the sudden cool air that assaulted his over-heated skin. Without any prompting to do so, Harry followed his actions, relishing in the soft but cool breeze. Neither of them attempted to pull their jeans up from where they were slipping off their waists from the perspiration; the more cool air that got to their naked flesh, the better. Neither of them could help glancing at the other's bums as they walked. The tip of Draco's bum crack showed over the back of his pants, and with the way he wriggled his hips, he must have known that.
"Malfoy, we should put a sunscreen charm on ourselves," Harry called after a couple of minutes, when the sun began to bake his skin. "So we don't get sunburned."
He would never admit it, but he was more afraid about Draco getting sunburned than himself. Ruining that perfect, white skin seemed almost criminal. Besides, with Harry's tan complexion, he wouldn't burn as easily as what Draco would.
Draco looked over his shoulder, stepping over a tree root that threatened to trip him. "Do you know the spell?"
Harry whipped out his wand. "Yeah. Come over here, Malfoy; I'll do you first."
The sunscreen charm felt like stepping through a freezing shower for a few seconds. Draco gasped in shock, instinctively arching his back to get away from the cold. Harry, reacting quickly, wrapped an arm around Draco's wrist without really intending to, and drew him back closer. Rather shocked by the sudden intimacy of the contact, Draco didn't tell Harry off, and so Harry kept his arm there while he cast the spell, his brows furrowed in his concentration, sucking his bottom lip. If Draco were honest with himself, he liked it.
"Turn around," said Harry, his voice suddenly low and husky that went right to Draco's cock. "I still have to do your front."
Draco turned around, trying not to react when more of his skin came into contact with Harry's. It was ridiculous the way that mere skin on skin contact could make Draco feel, could make him want to lose control of himself and simply rely on instincts to get what he wanted. But what did he want?
You already know the answer, said a gentle voice in Draco's head as his eyes met Harry's. He gulped, watching as Harry got down on his knees, never breaking eye contact with Draco.
Something was passing between them, some kind of silent communication where the words were lost, yet not needed, for words would only break the peace Draco had thought was unattainable for him. He gasped involuntarily, pushing his hair behind his ears, as Harry cast the spell on his chest. The barest flicker of a smirk crossed Harry's lips, before it faded; the longer they stared at each other, the heavier his eyelids became, and the more of this unknown—but definitely good—feeling filled him up.
For once in his life, Harry wanted to rough Draco up and yet show him how intimate he could be. He wanted to kiss those soft lips, run his fingers through that silky blond hair. He wanted to know that whatever he did now, Draco wouldn't push him away. Wouldn't pretend like this never happened.
Finishing the spell, Harry slowly returned to full height, still never breaking the eye contact. Between them, there was only two inches of space. And yet that was too far. If Harry couldn't feel the warmth of Draco's skin, feel his heart beating in his chest, then Draco stood too far away.
Just as he reached out to pull Draco against him, the bushes ruffled, disturbed by something other than the wind. Before Harry knew what he was doing, he had his wand trained on the offending bush, pushing Draco behind him, protecting him.
"Who's there?" he demanded roughly.
"What do you mean 'who's there'?" Draco hissed in his ear, angry about being treated like some damsel in distress. He didn't need Harry's protection! "This is a forest inside a painting, what do you think will be in there? Besides, I'm pretty sure that it was just a sudden high wind, that's all."
"Then why didn't we feel it?" Harry countered. He rolled his eyes at the lack of response, sensing the petulance radiating off his companion. "Just stay here, okay? I'm going to check it out."
"Well, be careful." Draco blushed under the disbelieving look Harry sent him. He reiterated, "I just don't want to have to do this on my own, don't flatter yourself."
"Right," said Harry, who still didn't believe Draco, but decided against starting an argument right now. "Just stay there. I don't want to have to rescue you from the clutches of a madman."
Draco's jaw dropped. "I can take care of myself, thanks!"
"No one said you couldn't, Malfoy. I just want you to watch out for yourself. Like you said; I don't want to have to do this alone." With that being said, and leaving Draco rooted in position in shock, Harry turned back to the task at hand. The satisfied grin slid off his face into a look of concentration and determination. Already there was a curse upon his lips.
With one flick of his wrist, the bushes parted neatly down the centre to reveal—Nothing. How could there be nothing when Harry had heard something disturb these bushes?
"See," said Draco triumphantly, gesturing to the bush, an undertone of 'I told you so' in his voice. "There was nothing in there, just like I said there wouldn't. Now, can we please cut the crap and keep going? We're wasting time, and I'm sure Hogwarts isn't that far aw—why are you looking at me like that?"
Harry had turned around to face Draco, and blanched in horror, his eyes focused on a point just above Draco's left shoulder.
Draco, nearly hyperventilating from fear, didn't move. He doubted he could have even if he hadn't been ordered. "Why is there a spider on me? Harry, get it off! Get it off!"
"Stay very … very … still ..." Harry raised his wand, hoping that his spell wouldn't strike Draco and make a monumental cock-up of everything. "Stupefy!"
The spell just grazed Draco cheek. He gasped, stumbling off to the side to avoid it, then, hearing an ear-splitting screech, he span around, his hand flying for his wand. A figure in a black hooded robe lay on the ground just mere feet from where Draco had been hiding, his pale, slimy hand outstretched. He had been reaching for Draco! Just as Draco turned away to ask Harry what he thought that had been, it broke the curse and screeched. Draco screamed. He ran for Harry without needing to think about it, hiding behind him, staring at the creature over Harry's shoulder as it rose to its feet.
What happened to you being able to take care of yourself? Harry thought irritably, but nevertheless he protected Draco with his own body. Out of the two of them, Harry had the most experience with fighting creatures that wanted to kill him.
"When I say go," Harry whispered out of the corner of his mouth. Ever so gently, he started to press his weight back against Draco's, so inch by inch they were moving backwards, "I want you to run as fast as you can back to that baobab tree."
"But that's hours back," Draco hissed, terror making his voice a little stronger. "We'll never be able to outrun it!"
"Well you won't," said Harry waspishly. "Not with that attitude."
The creature—whatever it was—started toward them. From beneath the hood, amber eyes glinted at them murderously as its hand outstretched toward them.
"Go!" Harry yelled, spinning around and pushing Draco to get him moving.
. . . .
"There's one thing I forgot to mention," said Wilfred, jittery. He and the rest of the group were sitting around the painting, awaiting Harry and Draco's return.
Hermione looked up at him, the glum expression transforming into that of intrigue. "What's that?"
"If you take too long in getting together," said Wilfred, wondering if he should divulge this piece of information, "then there's a monster that lurks in the forest, waiting. If it finds the couple trapped in the painting, then …. it'll kill them."
There was a pause, and then, suddenly, Ron was on his feet with Blaise following amidst howls of outrage.
"Why you treacherous little bleeder!" Ron shrieked.
. . . .
"I … c-can't … keep running," Draco wheezed. Give him a broom and he'd fly miles, but running? He doubted he'd ever run so much in his life, and it had only been five minutes!
"You can't stop now!" Harry exclaimed who, most unfairly, was still on even breath. He grabbed Draco's arm and started to pull him along. "I don't know where that thing went, but I'm not letting it get you, do you hear? If it gets you, it's going to kill you. Now we got into this mess together, Malfoy, and we're going to get out of it together. So keep moving!"
Bolstered by Harry's words, Draco sucked it up and started to run again.
Behind them, the hooded figure continued to glide at an almost leisurely pace, as though it were simply chasing them for the fun of it, and not because it was out for their blood.
. . . .
"Why didn't you mention this before?" Hermione demanded, so far blocking the curses Ron would have sent at Wilfred's trembling form. "How could you just forget such an important detail? Harry and Malfoy are stuck in there, and it's been an hour! Has it been too much time for them?"
"Half an hour is one day in that painting," Wilfred explained. "Another half an hour is two. An intended couple is supposed to fall in love within that first day."
A horrible, sarcastic laugh echoed around the room. Pansy placed her hands on her hips looking stern. "You can't put love on a time limit, Wilfred! Do you have any idea what you've done? If those two don't get out of there soon, they are going to die. And don't think I don't know a decent tracking spell, either; there won't be a single place on this earth that can hide you from me."
. . . .
Warm rain dropped down from the sky by the bucket load. Normally this would not have been a problem, if the sky wasn't still as perfectly blue as before. Taking pity on Draco, Harry allowed them to stop so that the both of them—Draco especially—could catch their breath. Draco bent over, placing his hands on his knees.
"Do you think we lost him?" he gasped.
Right on cue, the crows of dozens of ravens hit the sky. Spinning around, a whole flock of ravens surged into the sky ominously, seen clearly even though the rain had started to thicken. Draco stumbled over to Harry, clutching his arm tightly. This was a sign of a bad omen, he was sure of it.
"I don't like this," he whispered, trembling with fear. Tears brimmed his eyes. "Potter—Harry—I don't like this at all!"
Wrapping an arm around Draco's shoulders, Harry pulled him close.
"I know," he whispered, rubbing Draco's back comfortingly. "I know; I don't like it either."
When the last of the squawking ravens were gone, nothing but silence remained. Eerie, heart-stopping silence that set Draco's teeth on edge.
"We should keep going," said Harry finally. He'd gotten a mere two feet away, when a horrible crunching sound filled the air. Slowly, ever so slowly, a tall willow tree began to sway dangerously in the wind and rain. It started to fall, with Harry directly in its path.
"Harry," Draco screamed. "Watch out!"
Just when it looked like the tree was about to crush Harry, a pair of hands grabbed his arms and hauled him out of the way. Harry and Draco skidded along the ground, grunting with pain as their skin grazed against the unforgiving forest floor. They lay there panting for a few moments, adrenaline pumping through their veins.
Harry looked over at Draco, amazed and grateful. Their eyes met.
"You saved my life," he whispered. "Thank you."
"Don't mention it." Draco stumbled his way to his feet, grabbing Harry under the arms to help him do the same. He brushed his hands on his jeans, his eyes trailing over the fallen tree that had once stood proudly in the forest. "Do you think that creature did this? Do you think it's trying to kill us?"
"Without a doubt," Harry muttered grimly. "Come on, we've still got to get to that baobab tree."
He wished he could understand why they were being targeted.
"But if that thing cut down that tree, what makes you think it won't do that to the baobab tree?"
"With the right enchantments, Draco, it won't even know the tree is there." With a jerk of his head, he started running again, hearing the sounds of Draco hastening to catch up.
A tree, this one much smaller and skinnier than the last, separated from the stump as they ran. Draco shrieked, putting on an extra burst of speed, feeling a branch graze his back. But he managed to avoid the worst of the hit. Harry reached back, taking his hand and pulling him along, unwilling to get separated now.
They reached the baobab tree in under half an hour with regular rest intervals to catch up on their breath. Harry ordered Draco to get inside the tree house where it was safe for him, while Harry set about casting the protective spells around them. Hoping that whatever was chasing them wouldn't find them, he opened the door to the tree and stepped inside. Draco stood in the centre of the room, drying off his clothes with a heating charm, but left his damp hair the way it was. Seeing Harry watching him, Draco turned his wand on Harry and dried his clothes off for him.
"Heating charms damage your hair beyond repair," said Draco, when Harry inquired why he wasn't magically drying his hair. "I rather like my hair the way it is, thanks."
"You would," said Harry, grinning. "Your hair is your only redeemable feature."
He dodged a pillow that sailed across the room, aiming for his head.
"I'll have you know," Draco said testily, "that I have more than just one redeemable feature! What about you The Boy Who Lived to Never See a Comb?"
Without waiting for an answer, Draco turned away, picked the towel back up, and began to pat dry his hair. The care that he took with it, one would expect his hair to fall out if it was met with more than gentle treatment. Then, when he was satisfied, he tossed it back down again.
"How long do you suppose we'll have to be here?" Draco asked. He stretched out all the kinks in his arms and back, grimacing.
My God, thought Harry, shaking his head in wonderment, he's beautiful.
How had Draco's beauty gone unnoticed to him? Surely the war with Voldemort hadn't made him that blind?
Without giving his actions a second thought, Harry closed the distance between them and pressed his lips against Draco's. Draco gasped, his eyes widening.
With his lack of experience in the kissing department, Harry hardly knew what he was doing and if he was doing it correctly. There were no complaints from Draco, though, as his eyes slipped closed and his hands slid up Harry's muscular chest to lock around the back of his neck, keeping him right where he was.
People say that kissing the person that you love most is a breath-taking experience, something that can't ever be duplicated or distorted. Kissing Draco now, Harry had to marvel at how well those words summed it up and yet never came close to describing what it felt like. There were so many words to use to describe it, but no matter which way it was put, it could never be described in full detail. Lifting Draco off the ground easily, Harry carried him over to the bed. The fact that neither of them had had sex before didn't bother them at all. They trusted the other so completely that they knew that it would be spectacular no matter how much it hurt, or how long it took them to get a cock up one of their asses.
Draco ended up pinned to the bed, fighting to get his and Harry's pants off; he wanted no barriers between them. Once their pants were discarded on the floor carelessly, they couldn't stop touching each other. Somehow they were both magnets and metal at the same time. They were metal for the others magnet and vice versa.
"I love you," Harry whispered in Draco's ear, feeling goosebumps rise on Draco's arms as he gasped, arching up into his body.
Having sex without lubricant isn't what anyone would call fun. Under Draco's instruction, Harry lathered his fingers up with his own spit—it wasn't the best lubricant, but it was all that they could come up with at that point—and inserted two fingers, one before another, into Draco's hole, waiting for the nod that would allow Harry to continue. He continued stretching Draco for a while, feeling the muscles on the tips of his fingers, then pulled out and, shaking from the nerves, replaced his fingers with his cock.
Draco had never felt so full before. How he'd gone so long with such emptiness inside him would remain a mystery to him. Of course, being filled up like that hurt. Muscles he didn't even know about were being pushed aside to make room for the intrusion.
"Move," Draco whispered finally, once he was used to the feeling. The burning pain receded to a kind of dull ache that he knew he could put up with.
Harry's hips started to move, thrusting into Draco's body. Their foreheads were pressed together, lips inches apart. It would be a miracle if they had found the will to stop touching each other. But after wasting so much time and passion on hating each other, they figured they would be allowed.
Harry hooked his arms beneath Draco's legs, forcing them back until his knees touched his chest, keeping them out of the way. Their orgasms were building, they could feel it building deep inside them—almost gut deep—and soon Draco had found a way to manoeuvre himself so he could push against Harry's cock once Harry plunged it inside his body.
"Harry," Draco chanted in a breathy whisper. He didn't seem aware that he was talking at all, as he was too wrapped up in the building pleasure inside him. "Harry, Harry, Harry..."
When they came, they came together, their cries mingling together loudly across the room of the baobab tree. Releasing Draco's legs, Harry pulled out of the tight heat and collapsed against Draco's body. Harry's breath puffed onto Draco's chest in hot bursts, their chests rising and falling together as they worked to catch their breath for the hundredth time that day it seemed.
"I love you," said Draco.
Harry smiled. "I love you, too."
Outside their room, the rain continued to fall.
. . . .
"Oh my gosh, are they okay?"
Screams and shouts echoed around, never ceasing in volume. To Harry's disorientated mind they sounded scared—whoever "they" were—and he clenched his eyes shut, jerking his head as though some pesky fly annoyed him. He rolled over, his arm seeking out Draco. He needed the warmth and tenderness of Draco's touch to know that it was all going to be okay.
"He's waking up!"
"Somebody get something warm for them—a blanket, or something!"
Forcing his eyes open, Harry was about ready to tell the voices to piss the fuck off; he and Draco were trying to sleep, and it was incredibly rude to interrupt that.
Wait a minute, a voice inside Harry's mind whispered as it kicked into gears, waking him up. We were in the Forbidden Forest alone, Draco and I were. Since when were their voices in there? Where did the voices come from? How did I get here of all places?
It came as a shock to see that he was back where it all began in the first place; the art exhibit. And in the clothes they'd been in before they were taken, no less. Except they weren't ripped or torn, or even muddy. If one were to examine their clothes carefully, there would be no sign that they'd ever been sucked into a painting at all.
Kneeling over him were the frightened faces of Ron and Hermione. They looked as pale as ghosts, or rather like two people who saw someone die and come back to life. As soon as Harry's eyes opened fully, a choked sob left Hermione's lips and she swept him off the floor for a bone crushing hug.
"Draco," Harry whispered, weakly pushing against Hermione in search for Draco. "Where is he? Did he get back okay?"
Ron nodded pointedly to the left, the mistrust in his eyes as sharp as daggers. Ignoring that, Harry followed his gaze. Pansy and Blaise were kneeling over Draco's form, grinning down at him as he woke up. Gently pulling himself out of Hermione's grip, Harry crawled on all fours toward Draco.
"Hey, Harry," Draco moaned in a thick voice, catching sight of Harry with a tender smile. "We're back."
Harry chuckled, relieved to see him okay. "Yeah, we are."
"Who knew it'd take sex to bring us back here?" Draco held no regard for the other people in the room, most of whom flinched at the thought of Harry shagging Draco. "Then again, I'm not complaining. Help me up, would you?" he added, holding out his hands. "This floor is extremely painful to lay on."
Harry quickly scrambled to his feet, pushing through the dizzy spell. He grabbed Draco's hands and pulled him up, then pulled him close, burying his face into Draco's shoulder, breathing in that delicious scent he would grow to love almost as much as Draco himself. Behind them, Ron coughed loudly as though hoping to gain their attention and stop their public affections, all it gained him was a swift elbow to the ribs from Hermione.
"Alright," said Blaise, turning to the crowd. He started to flap his arms to shoo them off. "There's nothing to see here. This is a private reunion. Move on, move on, move on!"
He ignored the groans of protest from the crowd as they dispersed.
"I thought we were going to die in there," Draco whispered, allowing a tear to escape through his barriers and slide down his cheek. "I was almost expecting it."
"We're alright now," said Harry, rubbing soothing circles on Draco's back. "Nothing can hurt us now."
"Yeah, I know that now. But … but I just didn't expect to be back here. How did we get back here?"
Wilfred finally stepped forward, holding a shaking hand high above his head. "Perhaps I can clarify that?" At Harry and Draco's nod, Wilfred cleared his throat loudly. "Well, a couple would be sucked into the painting when they are in danger of passing each other by. It would take an act of pure love to set them free."
"So that explains how sex got us out of there," Draco muttered, scratching awkwardly at the back of his neck. "But why would you create something like that? We were almost killed!"
Wilfred winced. "I'm sorry; I just wanted to be of help to intended couples such as you two. If it makes you happy, I'll get rid of the paintings—all of them."
"I don't know," said Harry slowly. "They were made with the best intentions, and we did get out of their in peace. I say you should make a business out of this."
"Really?" Wilfred squeaked excitedly. "You think I should do that?"
Draco shook his head. "We know you should do that."
Positively beaming with pride, Wilfred ran off shouting, "Oh, I have to tell Luna the good news!"
"So I guess this means you'll be moving in with Harry, huh, Draco?" Pansy asked. She didn't sound at all disapproving. More like relieved. If Draco moved in with Harry, there would be no fighting to get into the shower before Draco, no more waiting for Draco to stop hogging the bathroom mirror, and no more whining.
Blaise stepped up behind Pansy, putting an arm around her waist. He seemed to know what she was thinking, and his smug pleasure seemed to wrap around them both, as if the contact between them transmitted their emotions to one another.
Draco looked up at Harry, grinning. "If that's what Harry wants."
"It is what Harry wants," Harry replied, and bent down to press his lips to Draco's.