** Beta: groolover
*** Rating: PG-13
The next day was worse. Hermione left mid-morning, and Harry had a hard time not crying. It didn’t help that Hermione was crying herself. Ron didn’t come to the airport, but Harry saw George watching from across the terminal. When Hermione’d boarded, he walked over and stood with him, and the two of them watched the plane leave.
“You’ll see her soon,” Harry said, sniffling.
George nodded. “Yep.” They stood quietly together in the midst of a noisy crowd, and Harry felt a little better.
Then Harry went to his small office, the only space he had to work on his pictures. He really did need that studio, he realised. He’d learned how to cast spells on his pictures which did similar things to Muggle computers, enhancing and clarifying the basic components. Harry was good at it, he knew, and a couple of the pictures he’d captured the day before were spectacular. One, in particular, kept drawing Harry’s eyes again and again. It was a boy, his eyes half closed, his face lifted to the sky. His pink tongue held a flake, not quite melted, and his red and gold knitted hat slipped to the side. Then the eyes opened as his face came down, another snowflake catching on his long, black eyelashes.
Harry looked between that and his picture of Draco. Draco’s was an evening shot, taken indoors. He’d been completely in his own world and hadn’t even noticed Harry standing near the stairs. In the picture, which almost looked like a still, Draco stood at the window, evening light coming through in rays and turning one side of Draco’s hair to burnished gold. One long-fingered hand rested against the glass, and only the motes of dust floating in the air and one slow blink of Draco’s golden eyelashes showed it was a wizard photo instead of a Muggle one. His gaze had been on something no one else could see, and Harry loved everything about it.
He glanced back at the little boy, unsure which he would choose for the main piece. They were both good, but of course, Harry had stronger feelings about Draco’s – though he wasn’t sure if he’d ever have the courage.
The day continued to worsen from there. When Harry went home, Pansy and Draco stood at opposite ends of the living room, both red in the face. Blaise and Ron were there too, and although it was quiet when Harry opened the door, he could almost hear the echoes of their shouts.
“Well, what’s this then?” he asked, when no one spoke.
Ron rolled his eyes. “Parkinson’s being a bint, that’s all.”
“Shut up, Weasley! You’re not helping anything, you know,” Blaise said. And although it was calm, like Blaise always appeared, Harry heard tension there.
“Draco?” Harry asked, steeling himself. Those beautiful grey eyes met his, and something ignited in Harry’s stomach.
“It’s just a misunderstanding,” Draco said. “That’s all.”
“It’s not a misunderstanding,” Pansy yelled. “Dammit, Draco, when are you going to acknowledge me? Everyone else has forgiven me. Everyone else has let it go – but you can’t! I know why that is; I’m not stupid. I just don’t understand why you can’t at least try to forgive me. I love you, Draco!”
For a second, Draco looked distraught, and Harry lifted his hand, wanting to touch him, to soothe him. Then the usual mask slipped into place. “I apologise, Pansy. Of course, I forgive you. I did from the very beginning. But I can’t love you back – not like you want me to.”
Pansy’s façade slipped away, and by the time Blaise had pulled her into his arms, hiding her from view, her shoulders shook. Harry looked back at Draco, taking another step. Before he reached him, however, Ron moved up and pulled Draco back against him, hugging him from behind, and leaning over him to murmur in his ear.
Harry left before he fell apart. He ran up the stairs to his room, and once there, paced. “I can’t do this any more,” he said aloud. “I just can’t.”
Neville found him there an hour later, when he got home from the nursery. “Tough afternoon?” he asked, lying beside Harry.
“I don’t know what to do,” Harry admitted. “I thought I could do this, but I really can’t. I’m in love with him, Nev.”
They laid there together until a timid knock came on the door. “Harry?” Luna called.
“Come on in.”
She left the door open and joined them on the bed, curling up by their feet. After a few minutes, she said, “We’re going to decorate the tree now. You should join us.”
“I don’t think so,” Harry said, closing his eyes.
Luna put out her hand, and it landed on Harry’s thigh. “Harry, you should join us.”
He sighed. Luna got like this, and he knew from experience that she wouldn’t let up. “Fine. Coming, Nev?”
“He is,” Luna said, answering for him.
Nev turned his head to meet Harry’s gaze, a slight smile on his face. “Apparently.”
They went downstairs together, and in the parlour, which was well lit, Kreacher was placing boxes all around. Draco and Pansy, apparently over the earlier problem, were peering in them together, bickering gently over the contents. “Oh, not that,” Pansy said, wrinkling her nose. “That’s not for our tree.”
“Don’t be such a snob, Pans,” Draco said. “It’ll be perfect.”
Ron came around the corner, almost running into Harry. “Hey, mate, here’s the last box.” He set it down, going to stand next to Draco. Neville, who’d been leaning against the wall studying the tree, opened the box nearest his feet.
“Have you looked at these, Harry?” he asked.
“Since last year, you mean?” Harry said. But he went over to look. Soon, the room was filled with the sounds of teasing and even laughter. Harry, hanging yet another ornament with silver and green highlights, wondered why he felt so detached. They weren’t leaving him out. In fact, Draco had asked his opinion on a number of decorations. Every time Harry heard his voice, another butterfly let loose in his stomach. It was pathetic how much that man affected him, but Harry couldn’t seem to help it.
Neville hovered near, ready to reach out with a warm hand anytime he noticed Harry faltering. Ron watched closely, as well, his eyes tracking their movement. Harry felt like he was in a preordained play, except everyone but him knew their role and he was just guessing.
“Here it is,” Luna said, triumph in her voice. Everyone looked, and she held up a sprig of mistletoe. “I’ll put it right above the doorway – perfect place. Everyone who enters this room must kiss. It’ll spread Christmas cheer.”
Harry wondered if he imagined the wink she sent his way as she hung it. They went back to the tree, and by the time Kreacher called for a late dinner, it was done. The fairy lights twinkled, and the ornaments caught the sparkles and shone. Pansy put out the lights, and they all stared, entranced. Harry knew he’d have to try and capture this on film, though he wasn’t sure he could. Even magic couldn’t always capture…magic.
As they made their way out of the room, Luna made everyone stop in pairs and kiss. Pansy, who obviously wanted to leave with Draco, instead kissed Blaise. Harry almost smiled, until he realised Ron was next to Draco and would be kissing him. He looked away, a tightness in his chest.
Then Luna said, “Oh, you two see each other all the time. Neville, why don’t you leave with Ron.”
Harry watched in surprise as Neville and Ron kissed. Neither seemed that upset about it. He looked at Draco, who also seemed quite unperturbed at the sight of his partner kissing another man. “Harry?” Luna said.
He was still frozen, staring at the spot where Ron and Neville had stood.
Draco lifted his chin, looking uncomfortable. “I apologise for not realising you probably wanted to leave with Longbottom.”
Harry blinked. “Erm, what?”
Then Luna gestured, and Harry automatically went. He and Draco stood beneath the mistletoe together, and Harry couldn’t keep his eyes from Draco’s pink lips. He licked his own, and Draco made a funny noise. “For Merlin’s sake,” he muttered, and he leaned forward and pressed his lips against Harry’s.
Harry opened his without thinking, and for a second, his tongue touched Draco’s. Harry’s stomach was a flurry of butterflies now, and he sank into the kiss – except that Draco had pulled away, his grey eyes wide and a look of confusion on his face.
“What?” Harry said, his voice low. “What did I do wrong?”
Draco shook his head, but before he could speak, Ron appeared in the kitchen doorway. “We’re starving in here, and Kreacher won’t serve until you guys join us. Are you coming?”
Harry followed, but he doubted he could eat anything. He’d finally got his chance to be with Draco – even for a second – and somehow he’d blown it.
The days leading up to the art show were miserable though busy. Harry managed to avoid most of his housemates, though Neville continued to show up in his room at night. He never said anything while Harry cried. Luna also seemed to be around more than usual. She also kept her peace, but Harry could feel her eyes on him, and he knew she was worried.
In between working on his pieces and trying to gather his courage to include his Draco composition, Harry looked for a studio. The morning of the show, he thought he found one. It was across the city from Grimmauld, and he couldn’t decide if that was a good thing or not. On the one hand, it would make it easier to just stay in his studio at night; but then, it would make it easier to stay away from Grimmauld, and Harry couldn’t decide what he wanted.
Well, he knew exactly what he <i>wanted</i>. He wanted Draco. He wanted him so badly it made him almost sick. Still, when he saw the studio with its huge windows and open spaces, he knew he’d have to take it. It really was exactly what he needed to continue his work, and there was a small room off one side which would serve as a small bedroom. The counters had room for a tiny stove, though Harry knew he could also use magic or order in. He didn’t plan to truly live here, after all.
After signing the lease, he went to his office and gathered his pieces. He included Draco’s, even though he still hadn’t decided if he’d actually put it up. He had the snowflake boy ready too, plus six others. Dean wanted him to have at least six altogether, so Harry felt pretty good.
The gallery looked fantastic, and when Dean showed Harry where his would be placed, he felt overwhelmed with gratitude. “Dean,” he breathed, looking at the wall at the very front which would showcase his prize piece. “You didn’t have to do this.”
Dean clapped him on the shoulder. “I really did, Harry. Do you want help?”
Harry made a split second decision. “Actually, I’m debating between two pieces for this spot – perhaps you can help me choose?”
He led Dean to his pictures, lifting them carefully with magic to ensure they were all safe. When they were all laid out, Dean immediately went to one of them. “This one, no?”
His fingers trailed over the title, My Muse.
Harry swallowed hard and nodded. “Yes.” He and Dean hung the pieces, and then Harry did a quick walk-through, paying close attention to the flow of the room. “It looks really good,” he said, nervousness beginning to prey on his stomach and breathing.
Dean put his arm around him. “It does. You’re an amazing artist, Harry, and I’m honoured that you joined me for this event. Now, go home, eat something, and get ready to come back and enjoy the accolades.”
Harry gave him a weak smile, but he did as Dean suggested. At Grimmauld, the house was quiet. Harry knew Neville had to work later than usual, but he also knew he’d be there. He didn’t know where Ron and Draco were, though they’d promised to come. By the time he’d choked down some stew, only Blaise, Luna, and Pansy had showed, however.
As the clock chimed seven, Neville ran in the door. “Let me change, and I’ll follow right away,” he called, running up the stairs. Harry couldn’t wait any longer, and he gave Pansy and Blaise a twisted smile before Apparating off.
At the gallery, Dean was in his element, and Harry didn’t really know what to do. The doors opened at half seven, and within minutes, the place was filled. Everyone stood and stared at the main piece, and Harry felt some of the tension of the past few weeks melt away. He almost didn’t have time to wish Hermione could have stayed for this, as person after person came and praised his work.
Then Blaise, Pansy, Luna, and Neville came. They stood in front of the front wall for a long time, and when the others wandered away, Pansy came straight to Harry. He’d been keeping one eye on them, though he could barely see them around the corners. Although he was talking with someone, when Pansy approached, he excused himself and turned to her.
She looked at him, tears swimming in her eyes. She opened her mouth, but she couldn’t seem to find the words. Finally, she pulled him into her arms, almost smothering him with her large breasts. Harry tried not to push away, but then he figured out she was whispering something. “—beautiful, so beautiful. I didn’t know, Harry. I realise I should have, but I didn’t. I’m so sorry – and I won’t stand in your way again. You need to tell him. Tell him.”
Harry swallowed and managed to get his face away from her chest. “I’ve tried --”
“Harry.” It was Ron’s voice, but it carried through the entire gallery.
Harry winced, gathering his courage and managing to walk on shaky legs to the front. Ron and Draco stood there, both still in their Auror robes. Harry couldn’t quite look at Draco; it was hard enough to face Ron.
Ron stared at the picture, awe written on his face. “This is amazing, mate.” He didn’t sound angry. Harry blinked, unsure what to do now. Ron shook his head. “I suspected it, but I was too jealous to see clearly, I guess. Draco, man, you were right.”
That got Harry’s attention, and he flashed a look towards Draco then froze. Draco’s mouth was slightly open, his eyes wide and a pink flush on his cheeks. He looked mesmerised, humbled, and –
Harry swallowed hard, wondering if he was mistaking what he saw on Draco’s face. He
stepped closer. “I’m sorry I didn’t ask --”
Draco waved a hand, stopping Harry immediately. He swallowed, and Harry followed the action with his eyes. “This is,” he started, his voice hoarse. He cleared his throat and tried again. “How? When?”
Harry wasn’t sure he could talk, either, but as his housemates slowly gathered around them, blocking them off from the rest of the crowd, he took a deep breath and said, “About two months ago. You’d just finished that case, the one with Dolohov, and you were exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.”
Draco turned his eyes to meet Harry’s, and the look in them stole any other words Harry might have had. “Harry,” Draco whispered.
And then, as quickly as they’d all appeared, their mates faded away, somehow taking the crowd with them. Dean and Luna manoeuvred Harry and Draco until they were in a corner near the back, all without Harry really understanding what was going on. All he could see was the grey of Draco’s eyes, the golden blond of his hair, the pink of his full lips.
The corner was not only fairly private, it was also a bit darker. That didn’t seem to bother Draco, though, and the second Dean and Luna had left, he stepped closer to Harry – so close Harry could feel his chest when he took a breath. “Ron was so sure you were in love with Neville, but I hoped it wasn’t so. It got harder to believe this past month, when you were together all the time – you were even sleeping together --”
“Sleeping only,” Harry put in, closing his eyes and revelling in the warm breath washing over his face as Draco talked. Draco’d had chocolate recently, no surprise, and that scent combined with just Draco was making him a little high.
“Well, I hoped that, as well.” He leaned closer, his lips almost touching Harry’s. “Harry,” he said again, and then he wasn’t talking at all as his mouth was devouring Harry’s.
Harry didn’t hesitate to open up and seek out Draco’s tongue, and by the time he remembered this really wasn’t the place or the time, they were pressed so closely together than note even the thinnest parchment could get between them. Harry couldn’t tell if it was his heart or Draco’s, but the thumping made his entire body shudder, and the feel of Draco’s lips and his tongue moving against Harry’s made every muscle in his body melt.
Harry heard Dean, but it didn’t process right away. It wasn’t until Luna joined in, her hand on Harry’s arm, that he recalled where he was. He let go of Draco and stepped back, heat flooding his face. “Sorry,” he mumbled.
Dean grinned, though he looked a little embarrassed. “No worries, mate. But there are others who want to talk to you.”
So Harry did what he had to do, only it was good this time, because Draco didn’t leave his side. Everyone wanted to know how he’d got his ‘boyfriend’ to pose for such a perfect shot – and no one believed it had just happened. Harry didn’t bother to correct them about the boyfriend part, and neither did Draco. By the time the show closed, at just after midnight, Harry felt like he’d entered a new world.
Draco, still attached to his side, looked like he felt the same way. “It’s snowing,” he said, as they helped Dean and Luna clean up.
“Well, the good news is you sold every piece,” Dean said.
Harry blinked and then panicked. “What? I didn’t want to sell --”
“<i>I</i> bought that one,” Draco put in.
“You did?” Harry asked, stunned. “When?”
“When Luna showed it to me, the day after the mistletoe.”
Harry gaped at Luna. “You showed him?”
Luna shrugged. “I could see you needed some help. Even the mistletoe didn’t work, so it was time to step it up,” she said. Dean chuckled, apparently not surprised by his girlfriend’s sneakiness.
Harry looked at Draco again. “But you seemed so surprised.”
“It wasn’t framed when I saw it – and I had no idea you’d make it your front piece.” His face flushed. “That was…nice.”
Harry couldn’t help but touch that silky hair, his hand trailing down to cup Draco’s cheek. “I love you, you know,” he murmured.
Draco lifted his hands to Harry’s face, as well. “Good. Because I love you.”
They walked home in the falling snow, hand in hand and stopping frequently to kiss. “I was so sure you and Ron were more than partners for work,” Harry said for the third time.
Draco laughed and stopped him for another kiss. When they pulled away to breathe, he said, “Ron’s in love with Neville. He’s been using me, really, to make Neville jealous.”
Although Harry had heard about the Neville part the other two times he brought it up, this was the first mention of the jealousy plan. “Well, it worked – I was horribly jealous.”
Draco laughed again, his head thrown back. Harry lifted his free hand and caressed Draco’s throat.
That stilled the laughter, and Draco showed Harry again how much he needed him. Then, as they resumed their slow journey, he said, “You don’t ever need to be jealous. There’s only been you for a long time, Harry. Even before RP.”
Harry blinked at that, and tightened his grip on Draco’s hand. After a few seconds, he said, “Well, I can’t say I knew myself well enough to realise it that early, but I can say that no one has ever captured my attention the way you have – from the first second I met you.” He hesitated then asked, “Did you happen to notice the title?”
“Muse?” Draco asked.
“My Muse,” Harry said.
Draco pulled him in for another kiss, his hands tangled in Harry’s hair, his tongue stroking and licking. “God, Harry.”
“Love you,” Harry said, when he could.
“I love you.”
And as they strolled through the deepening snow towards Grimmauld, Harry felt his worries leave like they’d never existed in the first place. Suddenly, he could believe that everything really would be okay – Luna’s motto made sense. George would join Hermione, and they’d discover something Hermione could never have had with Ron. Ron and Neville, too, would find love together. Even Pansy might find someone.
Maybe RP wasn’t so awful, after all, he realised. After all, it had brought him his muse.