For the "Let's End This The Way We Started It" Competition by MermaidGirl34 on HPFC. You must start a fic and end a fic with your prompt word (mine was green), and the word must also appear in the title. Minimum 1,000 words.
Also for the pairing diversity boot camp — prompt: Scrutiny.
Green has been known to symbolise, among other things, regeneration — things starting anew.
"Green, but not. How the bloody hell you manage that one, I'll never know," Dean mumbles as he sorts through his array of colored pencils. He plucks out an emerald and sets it to the side. It's soon joined by a jade and a kelly green. A sea green joins the pile, and after a moment's hesitation, so does a teal. Next he pulls out a metallic silver, and then a dark grey.
"Um, Dean? I'm pretty sure my eyes aren't grey."
"Of course they aren't; don't be obtuse," Dean says flatly without looking up.
Harry grins a bit at that, used to Dean's abrupt manner when he's working. Dean surveys his stack of pencils carefully, lips pressed tightly together in resigned disappointment before glancing up at Harry.
"Oh, no. That won't do at all. Serious, Harry! Like you were before. Serious, but with that bit of mischief you always have."
Harry's not really sure how to school his features into "bit of mischief," but after years of Auror work he can, at least, do "serious" at a moment's notice, and when he does, Dean nods very seriously. "Yes, precisely." He cants his head slightly. "Chin to the left just a bit. Bit more. Yeah, there. Lighting's better."
Dean frowns at the blank sketchpad propped up on an easel in front of him.
"Remind me again why I'm doing this?" Harry asks, careful to maintain the exact angle of his chin. Dean is pretty laid-back about most things, but when it comes to his work, he tolerates no deviation.
"Because I asked, and you said yes," Dean says shortly, sorting through lead pencils to find the best one for an outline.
"Mmm, there's that. But why'd you ask?"
Dean plucks out a pencil and nods in satisfaction before looking up, meeting Harry's gaze. "Because you're interesting."
Harry presses his lips together briefly. "That sounds like the sort of thing you say when you can't think of a good adjective that's not a lie."
"Interesting is a good adjective, at least for me."
A hint of a smile plays at the corners of Harry's lips, but he suppresses it.
"I'll take your word for that," he says, looking at the sketch-artist fondly.
"Serious," Dean reprimands mildly. Harry rearranges his expression.
There is a moment of silence where Harry concentrates on keeping his chin at the proper angle and his face serious and Dean concentrates on the sketch paper in front of him.
Then pencil meets paper and Dean comes alive, his hand racing, sketching lines and curves and erasing them just as quickly until the middle of the paper is a shaky, erased grey with two picture perfect outlines, which are joined quickly by eyebrows and then pupils and a vague, sketchily defined iris that will be returned to later.
The faint scratch of pencil on paper is repetitive and soothing and as his image takes shape on an easel, Harry remembers the first time he'd really watched Dean draw.
He'd been on a case — a burglary where the neighbor had seen the suspect as he'd made his escape. Harry had stayed with the neighbor while his partner, a slightly older Auror named Fletcher, went to find a sketch artist to give them an image.
Harry had asked Fletcher why they didn't just have a look at her memories, but Fletcher had explained that for most people, the extrication of memories was a violation of privacy — most wouldn't just consent to a memory extraction.
Harry had nodded and Fletcher had vanished and Harry had made awkward conversation with the neighbor in her kitchen until a half-familiar voice from the past had sounded behind him.
Harry whirled around. "Dean? Dean Thomas?"
And Dean had stood there, taller than he had been and much broader than the last time Harry had seen him — though, granted, the last time Harry'd seen him was after a year on the run, and that had a tendency to thin a bloke out. He had an athlete's shoulders and an artist's hands: twitchy and paint-stained. The grin, though, the grin was just as Harry remembered.
"Enjoying Auror work, Harry?" There'd been a twinkle of mirth in his eyes that had said that Dean already knew the answer was yes, but Harry answered anyway.
"I am, yeah. And you? Sketch artist, hmm? It suits you."
And it did. Dean had always been the artist, but he'd also always had that sort of soul where it was obvious that he liked to help people.
Dean had hummed. "Like drawing faces; like catching criminals. Win-win, really."
One chance meeting at work turned into coffee and catching up. Dean had talked about finishing his NEWTs — even though he didn't have to, more as a matter of personal pride. After that, he'd picked up bits of freelance artistry, just enough to get by as he tried to find something solid to do with his life.
He'd stumbled into the sketch artist job completely by accident. People had always been one of his favourite things to draw; everyone was different. Catching the subtle nuances that made a person distinct, unique, was the best challenge he could find, and it was always different, always interesting.
A bench in Diagon Alley provided the perfect vantage point to people watch. A pencil and paper in his hands and Dean would wind up sketching them without even thinking.
He'd sketched the man because there was a hint of something dark, something desperate in his features and Dean could tell there was a story there. A fleeting glimpse of the face was all he had to work from and half of it was cast in the shadow of his hood, but Dean felt confident that the likeness was good.
Fifteen minutes later, the Aurors had come by asking if anyone had see a short, medium-build man hurry by: the Quality Quidditch Supplies just a few stores down had just been robbed.
They'd asked Dean if he could describe the man, when Dean said he remembered him. Dean had shaken his head and watched their faces fall as he flipped through his sketchbook — he was three pages past the image already — but everything had changed when he'd flipped it over and shown them the image.
After they'd found the man, an Auror had approached Dean, who was still waiting for his sketchbook to be released from evidence.
"What's a kid with your talent doing on a bench in Diagon Alley in the middle of the day?" he'd asked.
Dean shrugged a bit in response.
"Got a job, kid?"
"Pick up a bit here and there. Not in the technical sense of a job, I suppose, then."
Dean had shrugged again. "Depends. Are you offering?"
The Auror had smiled. "Might be."
And Dean could tell immediately that the job was exactly what he'd been waiting for.
The chance encounter with Harry had turned into coffee just to catch up, which had turned into weekly coffee at a tiny little out of the way coffee shop in Muggle London. Harry loved talking to Dean because Dean was, in a way, separate from it all. Unlike the rest of Wizarding Britain, Dean never took the Daily Prophet or any of the news, because he didn't care. Most of it was about people he'd never met and would never meet, he said. Why did it matter to him?
It was, in a way, because of this very fact that Harry felt like he could vent to Dean — because Dean didn't care. Harry told him how it felt to have every move scrutinised by reporters and Dean sympathised, but he didn't spread it, like Harry often felt like everyone else did. So Harry continued to talk.
He told Dean about the media frenzy when he broke up with Ginny for good — why in Merlin's name do they even care? he'd asked.
Dean had shrugged and responded, "Because you're you, mate."
He told Dean about living in a house that reminded him of the closest thing he'd ever had to a father at every turn, and Dean had smiled gently and said, "I understand."
And the thing was, he actually did. Not like when people said they did, but he actually did, because Dean's stepfather, the man who had raised Dean as his own, had died in a car crash — a collision with a drunk driver — not long after the war ended.
He'd told Dean about feeling like he was welcome everywhere and nowhere all at once, about feeling like the hero that everyone wanted to be able to say they knew, but didn't actually want to know.
And Dean had replied, "I want to know you. May I draw you?"
And Harry had said yes.
Harry zones back in to see Dean's hand has slowed as he sketches in smaller details. After a moment, it stops entirely and Dean takes a step back, examining the image at a distance.
His gaze shifts to Harry, and Harry barely stops himself from fidgeting under the scrutiny. After a moment, Dean's gaze flips back to his sketch, and then he nods once, seemingly satisfied.
He picks up the first green pencil.
This seems an even more delicate art than the final sketching: his strokes are short, small, measured. Calculated. He switches pencils often, glancing up and meeting Harry's eyes in examination from time to time.
After a moment, he blows a breath out between his lips, setting his pencil down. He glances at the paper and then up at Harry, and then he nods.
And Harry stands, crossing the room and rounding the canvas eagerly.
What he sees takes his breath away.
The stunning part is obviously his eyes — they draw the viewer straight to them, gleaming bits of color among the shades of grey. Practically luminous. His profile is recognisably him, with the trademark messy hair (though shorter than it ever used to be) and perpetually crooked glasses. Beyond that, though, it's in the perfectly duplicated curve of his cheek and the proportion of his nose, to the point where, despite the pencil lines and sketch-quality, he could almost be looking in a mirror.
The eyes, though, the eyes still draw him in. He understands, finally, what Dean meant, why he pulled out a grey pencil. The first word he'd choose is emerald, but the fact is that that isn't quite right.
"It's perfect," he whispers, almost breathlessly.
A myriad of colors swirl in the irises, so they are his: simultaneously green and not quite green.