Title: Once Out of Nature
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairings: Harry/Draco, Harry/AU!Draco.
Warnings: Violence, angst, surrealism, present tense, ambiguous ending.
Summary: Draco has been trapped in mirrors for so long that he knows very little. But now there may be, of all things, a chance of escape.
Author's Notes: The title comes from Yeats's poem "Sailing to Byzantium": "Once out of nature, I shall never take/ My bodily form from any natural thing…" This fic is a bit weird.
Once Out of Nature
He knows that once, he did something else. Once, he had purpose. He can remember striding, if he thinks about it, the way his body used to move when he did so, the roll of his hips and the blinding sense of motion. But that was when he lived in the world, and not its reflection.
He drifts from image to image now, and he has seen all sorts of things. He has looked out on deathbeds, duels to the death, the moments when marriages break down, the murders of beloved children. He has watched people wank, piss, kiss, walk, study, write, triumph, fail, perish. The experiences blur and flower in his memory like tropical vines placed under a lens, the colors grow and widen and flow, and he can't remember from one moment to another if he is in the same world or another world.
He can remember green, however, and he always tries to linger in mirrors that look out on green blankets or tapestries or gardens. Ultimately, he has no will, no control of the process. It will sweep him away again, to mirrors he does not know or mirrors he has looked out of before. His face appears in puddles, magnifying glasses, spectacles, spoons, panes of glass, surfaces of tin, planes of silver.
He never knows if anyone else sees him. He does not think so, because they do not stare or point or scream. He drifts, and even the memory of what was done to him, how he was plunged here, becomes fainter and less important, less important than the continued fact of existence here, and the unknowable amount of time that passes.
Until the day that he looks up and sees something he has not seen in all the years that he endured this drifting life.
Draco steps back from the mirror and smiles at his image, turning his head slightly to the side. He will never admit it to Harry or anyone else—though his mother and Pansy know about it—but he enjoys looking at himself this way, practicing his next speeches and his arguments in the privacy of the bedroom, watching the sheen of his own blond hair and the way his skin shifts with his breath.
Harry is beautiful, of course. And Pansy has matured into a striking woman, and Draco does not think he will ever see anyone as lovely as his mother. All those words have different resonances for him, which means it's not sick for him to think of his mother as lovely, the way it would be if he thought of her as beautiful, the way Harry is.
But he is glorious. And he enjoys it, and if he keeps that enjoyment private, then he doesn't know who it should hurt.
He bends closer and closer, and his eyes have depths he has never explored before, flecks of blue and black among the storm-grey he never noticed. Draco feels a thrill course through him, as though rising from wires concealed beneath the storm-colored carpet that Harry insisted on for the bedroom. He reaches towards the surface of the mirror, intending to tilt and polish it, to reveal more.
But a door slams somewhere towards the front of the door, and Draco starts and turns. That will be Harry, home from Quidditch practice. It's important to Draco that Harry never catches him at this, because then he might start thinking his friends who whisper that Draco is impossible and vain are right, and abandon Draco.
Draco hastens to welcome him, and shuts the door on the mirror. His image will need to wait, for now.
He was there.
He was there.
He was there.
The images cascade and turn and refocus. And he finds that it is easy, after all, to think about something else, to turn his mind to something solid, when he has a reason to do so.
He still remembers what he, himself, looks like. He still remembers that green was important. He still remembers that he did not choose this, that someone forced him into the mirrors and away from his body and the green.
But now there is a location and a time to focus on. There was a place where he saw the reflection of himself, and now it is not there. There was a time when it appeared, and then it was gone. So he thinks of time and place, and he finds himself waiting in front of that one mirror, waiting for something to happen.
The door to the room opens. Through it step himself—the reflection, he corrects himself—and another man. A man as tall as hope, as open as the sky, with a laughter that rings painfully like knuckles rapped on glass and eyes as green as the tapestries and blankets and gardens he has spent all the years staring hopelessly at.
"Harry," moans the reflection, and they reach up and kiss. Kissing has never mattered to him before, except as another thing to watch through the mirrors, but now it transfixes him, and he watches those lips part and his own face shine with happiness.
If it could happen to his image, it could happen to him. He could touch the green-eyed man with those hands, those pale hands that he still remembers, and he could kiss him with those pale lips, and he would find better things to stare at than his own face in a mirror.
The green-eyed man's name is Harry.
There is so much winding through him at the moment that he nearly loses his hold on the mind and the mirror and starts to drift away. But he sharpens his focus, and watches hungrily as the bodies twist on the bed.
The coverlet is green. That comforts him when Harry's eyes are out of sight.
When they part and lie, slumbering, intertwined, memories come back and whisper up and down in his skull, touching his ears with gentle fingers from the inside. Yes, he had that once. In another world, not this one, because there he is, the one who looks like him but is not him.
But he was Harry's lover, and he walked beneath the sky, and he made love to Harry, and he walked out of rooms that had mirrors in them and achieved a life on the other side. A life that includes wanking, pissing, kissing, walking, studying, writing, triumphing, failing. Never yet perishing, but he thinks he would be good at that, with a little practice.
Once, he had it. He is grateful now for all the mirrors that he looked out of, because otherwise he might not be able to imagine what life away from reflections is like, and then he would hesitate forever, not sure if he should sacrifice this existence to win something unimaginable.
Now, he knows. Now, he will have it.
And as he watches the way that his image opens one eye and looks towards the mirror, preening while Harry sleeps, he knows the way he will have it.
He has purpose again. And it is wonderful.
Draco keeps his head bowed as Weasley and Granger discuss interminable house-elf politics with Harry. He stifles a yawn. This is boring for him, but he agrees to come along because, well, it's important to Harry. And no one expects him to make a contribution, so as long as he sits there and doesn't obviously go to sleep, he can still be with Harry, and Weasley and Granger will eventually leave, and leave them alone.
At least when they're having dinner at home, the way they are now, he has an advantage. The silver spoons his mother gave them as a birthday gift are all kept highly polished. Draco can admire his reflection in the back of the one he holds now.
He has to keep his eyes up more than he wants, because he knows that someone will notice if they're down all the time, and then Granger will either tell Harry that he's asleep or guess the truth and blurt it out in shocked horror. Draco's not sure what will be worse. He doesn't want to find out. Better to admire himself in glances than to lose Harry.
Because Harry is—well. Not everything, because Draco survived before he dated Harry and he will survive if Harry leaves him, but Harry is comfort and pleasure and wonder. He makes Draco's life richer than it would be otherwise, and Draco has no intention of giving him up until he needs to.
He watches his reflection, and either he's closer to the spoon than normal or his powers of observation are improving, because he can see those flecks of color in his eyes again. The blue and grey ones that intrigued him the other day, the ones that he never noticed before. He wants to touch them. He wishes that he could. His fingers ache for them. He can imagine their smooth round shape, like pebbles polished by the sea.
He reaches out and glances his fingers down the back of the spoon, just once. Of course, nothing happens. He clears his throat, and Harry turns and smiles at him, taking his hand under the table. That's Harry's understanding smile, the one that says he knows Draco is bored and compliments him for putting up with Granger's bollocks, but also that he has no intention of ending the conversation any time soon.
Draco sighs and bows his head again, and this time rubs his thumb over the back of the spoon, although he knows that means he'll smudge it sooner and his reflection will be harder to see.
For a moment, he can feel it, smooth skin and soft cheeks, hair with a glow behind it that he's never seen in anyone else, even the Muggle models that Harry sometimes shows him pictures of. For a moment, the eyes of his reflection blink at him independently of his own. Their shine tightens his throat.
So beautiful. He has never realized how much.
He wants to touch it again, but this time, when his thumb taps the spoon, he finds only cool metal.
It hurts him, inside his stomach. Draco turns his attention to the conversation, because the boredom hurts less, at the moment, than knowing he connected once with beauty and will never do it again in the same way. Or, worse, than it might have been a delusion. How can his image move independently of him, except by a spell? And anyone who knew enough to cast a spell on his spoon would know enough to denounce him, in a loud voice. And would.
It's just—unfair, is the best word he can find, that the reflection should shine, so beautiful, and practically immortal, while Draco has to leave the mirror and think about other things.
He has touched him.
And his name used to be Draco.
It is a great discovery. He had lost his name, and could never find it until now. Sometimes he thought he knew, but it was always a name heard through windows, lenses, puddles. Always a name beyond the water or the glass or the metal, a name that didn't belong to him.
Now he knows what name belonged to him. And he will hold and prize it, the way that his reflection does not.
And he knows how to prize Harry, while this reflection—this other Draco—prizes the way he looks more.
He can use that. Plans are returning to him now, memories blossoming in his mind like the colors he has seen. He was a schemer once, he thinks suddenly. He could plan. The words are associated with something called Slytherin, but it slides away again when he reaches for it.
Well. Those memories will return in time. And he has a notion that his plans failed, once, that he rarely succeeded in them.
This one, he will.
Draco snatches a moment to himself in the bathroom when Harry is waiting for him to dress up so they can go to a party. Well, Harry says he's waiting for that; in reality, Harry is the one running around and smoothing down his hair at the last minute, an impossible task that always takes longer than he thinks it will to reach an acceptable resolution.
And so Draco stands, looking into the mirror, not missed yet, watching the reflection of blue and white tile for a moment behind him so that he can avoid looking at his image.
Not because he wants to. More because, lately, that's starting to feel like a special treat, the ability to look at himself and see the way his eyes shine.
He's noticed other traits that he hadn't before. Not just the colored flecks in his eyes, but a wavy curl here and there, hidden among the straighter locks of his hair. He wonders if those come from the Black side of his family; Mother used to have a few portraits that would show men and women with heavy dark hair clustered around their faces. Draco thought that was only the style of those times, but now he has to wonder.
And he's started to look at his reflection before he thought he would, after all. Well. It's all right. He deals with his vanity by doing the vain things in private, and so no one else is hurt. He's the one who knows it's a harmless indulgence, and it can't interfere in his ordinary life or his love for Harry.
He puts his hands on the sink and leans nearer still, striving to find the most comfortable position so he can look for the longest period of time without taking his eyes away from the mirror. He finally finds one that's relatively comfortable, elbows bent and hands placed on the porcelain, and feasts his eyes.
Yes, he's right. There's a purity about his reflection lately that he doesn't think has ever been there before. He shines as if lit from the inside. If he was in the first few months of his relationship with Harry, then Draco would attribute it to that. He felt as if he would float off the ground on their first date, and all these months later, he's still not sure that it isn't a wonderful dream.
But this is something else, and Draco wishes he knew what it was. He knows that his beauty was more of a factor in Harry's choice to date him than Harry likes to admit. Sure, Draco knows that beauty isn't the only thing that counts, but it's awfully important, and why should Harry flush when Draco lets him admire Draco's looks?
Closer, and closer, and Draco thinks he might see it now. The light comes from his eyes. It's not the polished glass of the mirror, it's something else. If Draco was mad, he would say that, yes, it's there, the point of light like a star welling out, and it doesn't originate with him but with someone else, someone beyond the mirror, someone gazing at him with a mixture of pity and passion and awe and longing—
Draco jolts and leaps back, his shoulders pressed against the door before he thinks about it. Then he shakes his head. Harry has finished with his grooming and wants him out.
He can't help turning to look over his shoulder once, though, at the mirror and the lovely vision beckoning. He can't help wishing that he could stay here, with the vision, and not have to hurry away.
"I'll take a day next week," Draco whispers, his breath soft and filling the space between him and the mirror like a promise. "One where we can spend time together, and I can try to figure out why I'm so beautiful." Then he turns the knob and walks out, and that vow gives him the strength to smile at Harry and take his arm.
He only catches one glimpse of them together before they walk out beyond the door of the bathroom and thus out of the range of his vision, but that glimpse is enough to tell him everything.
Harry shines in dark blue robes. They are the color of—the color of a peacock, he thinks suddenly, and he remembers peacocks, both the pale birds that his parents had stalking their lawn and the more normal blue ones. He has never remembered them before, especially not the exact sheen of the white birds' haughty dark eyes that would turn to look at him as he toddled among them.
He lingers there for some time, reveling in remembrance, before he moves on.
Draco, beside Harry, is beautiful, too. There is some sense as to how much time he spends admiring himself in mirrors. But he looked back at the bathroom. That reflection loves himself in the mirror, he thinks, more than he loves himself in reality, or spending time with the man he supposedly adores.
More than he loves Harry.
He smiles. He remembers smiling now, remembers the smiles he used to exchange with his friends at the Slytherin table, and the day that it felt as if all smiles died forever, the day he watched Vince perish in the Fiendfyre.
But this is different. This is knowledge that he has and his reflection doesn't. He knows that he can lure him closer to the mirror. And he knows what will happen when he has Draco—the other Draco—totally entranced and focused on himself, the image of himself, rather than the reality around him.
It will be right, and painless, and quick.
Draco leans back against the balustrade and swears under his breath. He doesn't remember Pansy's house being this shiny.
He had pictured, when she invited him, the house being the same old thing it always has been: dark and dim, with portraits faded into indistinguishability lining the walls and golden wallpaper that drooped like cut flowers. Instead, Pansy polished everything, and the balustrade behind Draco, once pale respectable birch wood, glows as if it is made of frozen snow. And the marble stairs gleam, and the chandeliers shine, and the candle-holders give back dazzling flashes of light as the old house-elves raise them up to guide Pansy's guests in. Perhaps hoping to curry favor with Harry, Pansy has given her elves a wash and a comb and made them intimately involved in the party, where once she would have demoted them to literally invisible servants, if that.
And the mirrors.
Pansy chose to flank the enormous ballroom downstairs with two huge mirrors, one of silver and one of bronze, facing each other on the left and right walls. The metal surfaces don't give back the clean reflection that Draco is used to in glass, but that doesn't matter. He still caught glimpses of himself as he wheeled around in Harry's arms, and the flashes were so glorious he tripped over his feet.
Harry stopped him with a hand low on his back and asked in a whisper if something was wrong. Draco shook his head and gasped out some lie about needing air, and then ran up these steps.
But he doesn't need air. He needs to go back to those mirrors and stand there until he knows if the metal has the same inner light as the glass does, if he can somehow store the glory in his head until he will remember it forever.
His secret is almost out.
Draco closes his eyes. He recalls the way that he used to squirm and complain when important guests came to dinner, until his mother took him aside and told him gently that the future of the Malfoy family depended on those guests. He might not like it, but he would have to sit up and sit still and eat the strange dishes the guests enjoyed.
And Draco understood. When you have a higher purpose, every lesser one can be stored away.
He promised himself a holiday next week. He will take it. For now, he has to accompany Harry and not think about himself reflected.
He opens his eyes to find Harry in front of him. Draco is not startled; for some reason, he expected it. He smiles and extends his arm. "I've had enough, I think," he says. "Enough of dancing, anyway. Do you want to go and find some food?" He knows the food is on the first floor, above the ballroom, and although Pansy has galleries where her guests can stand and watch the dancing, Draco also knows that he can't see the mirrors from there.
Harry smiles at him, always so beautiful, always so trusting, and nods. "Of course. Come along." He leads Draco up to the tables and tables of meat pies, larks' tongues, stuffed pheasants, roasted apples cut open and filled with fluffy baked cream, cakes of grapes and meat delicate enough to fall off the fork.
Draco takes his first bite of an apple and feels better. The cream slops and sloshes in his mouth, and Harry kisses it from his lips, tongue darting out to take Draco's in. He can't see the mirrors from here, and Harry is loving and attentive as always.
And he will see the mirror tomorrow.
He floats, and he waits, and he dreams.
He has not seen Draco in hours. That does not matter. He knows all the mirrors in the house now, and all the spoons, and the corner in the sink where water tends to gather instead of draining immediately and thus might reflect a face. He could have followed him this evening to the party he went to—
He mentioned Pansy, I remember Pansy—
But he chose not to. So now he waits for him to come back, locked in time and space, and ready. The mirrors churn around him. The mirror world rises. There is opalescence here, and power for the taking.
He came too near a mirror, once. He loved to look at himself. It seemed a harmless affectation, and so it remained until something lunged at him out of the glass and condemned him to be a prisoner forever, held away from his love, separated by a sheet of gloss.
He has no idea where that world is, now, or what Harry it was. Perhaps even this one. Perhaps his reflection stepped out of the mirror and replaced him, and that reflection is the Draco he looks at now.
But he knows this:
It will not happen again, not now. It will happen in a different way, and the power of the world rises around him, memories leaking back as through a crack in the glass. He reaches out and gathers it into him, and he is pure light, he is pure beauty, he is the stars in Draco's eyes.
A day next week. Or tomorrow. All time inside the mirror is one to him now, but time outside the mirror will not be.
A day should be enough.
Draco sighs as he takes his cloak off and runs his fingers through his hair. It has been harder than he thought to take a holiday. When he accepted the post of Undersecretary to the Minister, he thought that he could use it as a stepping stone to political power, but he never imagined how much sheer bloody work it was going to be. Even this morning, the day he intended to spend in front of the glass, required him to go in and sign a few documents before he could leave.
He spends some time now standing near the fire, his eyes shut, and lets the warmth sink into his bones. When he steps in front of the mirror, he wants to be calm. The expression of joy reflected there will sustain him. But it cannot do that if his face shows no joy.
Strange, to think he is the source of the reflection, and not the other way around.
He stands, and he steams from the rain outside, and he imagines what a fright his hair must look. Does he want to comb it before he confronts the mirror? Or would it be better to do it in the bathroom, where he can look at himself all the while and have the reassuring confirmation that he is still beautiful?
In the bathroom, he decides at last, and pads his way there, pulling off his clothes as he walks. Formal robes, shirt, and undershirt go first, littering the floor. That doesn't matter, of course. Draco intends to pick them up before Harry comes home, so that Harry can't lay the sin of untidiness at his door.
He doesn't want Harry able to lay any sins at his door, just in case he reconsiders his decision to date Draco someday.
As he steps inside the bathroom, Draco feels the last of the tension fall from his shoulders, as though half-nakedness calms him down. Well, considering what tends to happen when he's naked—either a long night's sleep, or a long fuck with Harry, or a relaxing bath—perhaps that's natural.
He bends down to remove his boots, and after them his trousers and pants, but he catches a fleeting shadow in the mirror, and he straightens up and stares.
And then it's all over, because he can't stay away from that vision of beauty. Every time he thinks he understands the source of the star-like light behind the mirror, he realizes he doesn't. Because that vision is all him, but even now, he doesn't understand where that glory comes from.
Is this what Harry saw, when he chose Draco? Draco doesn't know. Sometimes he believes so; sometimes he thinks that no one but him can see and appreciate it, so it would make sense that Harry wouldn't choose him for this, but something else.
On the other hand, Draco chose Harry for his beauty. And other things, but the beauty was there.
Perhaps Draco can explain this to Harry, someday. Perhaps he need not think forever that Harry would hate his indulgent little hobby, and would despise him for his vanity.
Because is it vanity, when one approaches a shining beacon and stands in front of it in adoration, one's hands resting on the glass?
He feels it. The opalescent swirling around him condenses and coalesces, rises around him and grows talons and wings. Then it covers him, and now he can feel himself changing.
He is not Draco anymore, not at the moment. His memories condense and coalesce, too, and he remembers what lunged at him out of the mirror. It looked like a crystalline dragon, and this is the form he wears, now.
For a moment, he wonders if this is right. Is it right to take another Draco from the world and subject him to the torment in the mirror he has endured?
But then he thinks of the fascinated glow in the eyes watching him—no, not him, this Draco does not see him yet, he sees only himself and thus the center of the universe—and his resolve grows as sharp as shards of a broken mirror. This Draco does not only value himself. He values himself before all else, including the Harry he lives with.
And that is unacceptable.
He drifts near the surface of the mirror, and waits.
There it is again, the fugitive gleam of light that Draco can make out beneath the surface of the mirror. It's as though the eyes of his reflection want to look beyond him for a moment, as though they travel towards the open door of the bathroom and watch for something else. Someone else. Harry, perhaps? Is it thinking about the clothes that Draco left strewn on the floor of the bedroom?
That is unacceptable. If Draco obsesses over his reflection, it needs to obsess over him. And who, having looked at him, would want to look away?
He leans closer, and the eyes come back to him. They are storm-colored, Draco thinks dreamily. Black, and blue, and hazel, and grey are there, and glimpses of other colors, deeper colors, darker colors, colors that he will never see outside the mirror.
He thinks of being inside the mirror forever, looking out on himself, gazing on himself. It would be quiet in the mirror, calm, surrounded by silver and glass and still water. Draco imagines being there, and his longing increases until he is panting and his breath makes steam and fog appear on the mirror.
His hands rest there. His head comes closer, and his forehead rests there, and his eyes.
Opalescent, the mirror splashes.
A reaching creature, wings and claws and coiling limbs from the deepest seas of memory, surges out and seizes the shoulders of one Draco. It lowers its head, and breathes, and cold mist and beauty is there, and sinks, and rises at the same time.
Glass, liquid glass, falls and solidifies. Then the temporary statue breaks apart with a ringing sound, and there is a breathing man in the bathroom, springing back from the mirror.
And the surface of the mirror rushes back, and is again still.
Draco touches his shoulders, expecting to see talon marks there. But no, he is whole. He is still dressed in his boots, his trousers, his pants. The rest of his clothes lie on the floor, and he knows that he will pick them up, that he doesn't want Harry to see them and mistake the kind of person he is.
But there is something he must do first.
He picks up his wand, hawthorn tingling against his fingers, and speaks, the incantation crawling out of his throat. "Frango specula."
The mirror in front of him, with a pool of sparkling white behind the surface, cracks and crazes. Then all of the glass leaps out of the frame and disintegrates like sparkling, whirling snow in midair. From the other rooms, from their bedroom and the second bathroom, comes the sound of the other mirrors shattering.
Draco then leans over the sink beneath the empty frame and casts a spell that repairs the little crack where water used to gather. Then he walks out of the room and towards the kitchen, where he will tarnish the silver spoons.
And when Harry comes home, Draco is there to greet him, open mouth and hungry hands, and he takes Harry into the bedroom, beneath the empty mirror, and fucks him until Harry lies empty and spent and lipping lazily at him, and has to spend a long moment taking deep breaths before he can ask the question.
"What made you get rid of the mirrors, Draco?"
Draco pillows his head on Harry's chest and closes his eyes, still seeing black and green and healthy pink, not whiteness, not blond, not pallor.
"I realized I didn't need them." Draco pauses, and his hands tighten on Harry, in silent proclamation of what he needs.
Harry laughs, and turns over, and kisses him again. And they tumble across the bed in passion, in love, with no reflection.
He knows he was different, once. He knows there was a world outside the mirror.
But all around him are silver, and glass, and still water. No matter where he turns, his face comes back.
And if sometimes other mirrors flicker past him like doorways, well, he has no interest in them. He has what he wants: the freedom to contemplate beauty, forever.
He wants nothing else. He misses nothing else.