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The Great Muster of Wiltshire

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As love stories go, this one isn’t too extraordinary.

Draco Malfoy loves Harry Potter.

Harry Potter — luckily — has no idea that Draco Malfoy pines for him.

Harry hasn’t the slightest clue that Draco has catalogued every shade of green cascading through his emerald irises; he has no real notion that Draco spends hours and sometimes days sketching and painting images of Harry. He has no idea that Draco started doing such things in service of a malicious therapy; that his implacable resolve to once again even the score with Harry Potter inevitably resulted in the illumination and enumeration of the darker parts of his heart. In his quest to depict Harry Potter on the canvas, to show him truly as he was, Draco discovered his capacity for kindness, mercy, and to his utter shock, his own twisted version of heroism.

“Is it Harry Potter?” he relives the memory over and over and over again.

“I can’t — I can’t be sure.”

Except that Draco’s known every inch of that face since his first year at Hogwarts, and shamefully must admit that there were few things he knew better than the details and figure of Harry’s form.

The first time Draco saw something new etched onto the features of The Boy Who Lived, it barely even registered. It was the momentous occasion when the man he’d grown up despising offered him a kind and level stare and seemingly forgave Draco his faults and his wrongs and proceeded to challenge anyone who dared do otherwise.

Well, in a matter of words.

It had all been very serious and overwhelming, Harry standing there facing the Wizengamot, standing up for Draco. It was the first time Draco had experienced the simultaneous feelings of indignity and arousal — and while there was definitely a path to kink exploration there, instead he followed the deepest yearnings of his heart. It took quite a long time to figure out what those yearnings were. He had a few drunken nights, more than a few pub brawls and skirmishes, and several dozen hours with a mind healer before he could admit what exactly those yearnings were.

1998 - Draco Malfoy loves Harry Potter.

He wanted so badly for the words that Harry had said to be true. Draco desperately needed to be redeemed, to be someone other than the young man that he was. He’d been handed such privilege, been given a place at Hogwarts where he utilised his clever nature and all the masks and subterfuge that had been ingrained in him. He’d had a hand in devious plots and people had died. And yet Harry Potter stood in front of all of wizardom and told a different tale. He spoke of a different side of Draco, and perhaps even shined a light on the truth.

“...heroic...kind...merciful…”

The truth was something Draco didn’t want to hear, but Salazar knows, it was what he’d needed. It was truth he sought with every stroke of his brush, and truth that he yearned for when he decided that one day their roles would be reversed. One day it would be Harry Potter on the spot, and Draco would have him on trial for the things that he’d done and he would show the world — and show Harry — his truth.

It may have started from a place of malice, but the more Draco painted, the more he understood the other man. And that’s when understanding turned to something a bit more inconvenient.

1999 - Draco Malfoy loves Harry Potter.

Of course, Harry Potter lives his life, a life full of friendships, relationships, celebrations, and like everyone, the occasional setback. Draco watches these events from afar. He sees Harry a few times a year at various fundraisers, auctions, charity events, or Ministry galas. They acknowledge each other with the simplest of nods, a cursory greeting that in no way could ever convey the breadth of their past relations.

And lest he forgets, Draco is always sure to see Harry Potter at the Battle of Hogwarts Remembrance Day Feast. It’s his yearly reminder that being on the wrong side of the war is akin to being painted into a pristine, magical canvas, forever forced to remain the same in the eyes of those outside the landscape and frame.

At first, he didn’t want to go to the feast, but at the urging of his mind healer and his mother, he’d attended. The first year, it wasn’t as bad as he’d expected, at least, hardly anyone noticed him. Everyone seemed distracted — haunted even — as if their eyes weren’t focused on the present but instead the events of the past.

“You’re looking well,” Harry Potter had said to Draco at the punch table. Potter stood rigid and looked almost ill, pale and squinting at Draco in the sunlight. “At least, I mean, better than last time I saw you. Er—you know, at the trial?”

Draco blinked and sighed, “A year of not having the threat of Azkaban looming over one’s head might do the trick.”

He bit his lip and tried to think of all the things he’d wanted to say to Potter, but at the time, they’d only evolved from Kindly fuck off to I’m sure you think I should be grateful. It wasn’t until a few years later that Draco had realised the true scope of his feelings, and the endless list of things he might say if ever given the chance.

2001 - Draco Malfoy loves Harry Potter.

But their paths rarely crossed at the Remembrance Day feasts after the first one. Draco was thankful for that. As memories of the loss and the violence faded, people’s eyes were steadily more focused present. All the feasts following the first commemoration, Draco had a distinct feeling — from stares to scowls to outright curses — that his memories and his experiences were best left remembered within the confines of his own mind.

You see, he realised, the losers of a war mourn death the same as the winners, though their loss and their scars are reminders of not just the inability to save those they loved, but also their failings in heart, mind, and spirit. Had Draco only stood up for the right cause sooner; if he’d only been less afraid; if he’d somehow listened; if, if, if

If I Had Only Known was the first show of paintings Draco did publicly.

He’d rented a small gallery in Diagon Alley and arranged the entire thing himself. It had been a testament to all his hard work doing figure sketches for months and agonising over the angular details and lines of his own hands. The paintings focused mostly on the various mistakes one can make with their hands: writing something and crossing it out, getting a parchment cut, not wearing protective gear near a hot cauldron, getting a splinter from an old broom. Draco had grappled with including his other paintings, settling on a few figure portraits, a vague interpretation of his own form doing ordinary, everyday things.

Draco had been so terrified of what might be said, he didn’t attend the gallery opening and hired an attendant. He mulled about and sulked, eyed the Prophet for the following two days before ultimately finishing off a bottle of Odgen’s and flipping to the Art and Leisure section. He was certain it would be the end of his career as an artist.

It hadn’t been half bad if he was honest. The show received mixed reviews. In fact, he revelled in the unexpected comments that congratulated the theme of accidental mishaps, going so far as to connect the daily faux-pas to much broader instances of one’s own undoing. Of course, Draco’s shock was replaced with mild contempt when he spotted the comments from show-attendee Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived had been there with friends, apparently, and when asked to give his thoughts on the works, merely stated, “Well, it’s much better than I could do.”

After that, Draco saw Harry Potter a few times in passing, but could barely look him in the eyes. Draco had reached a point where he knew exactly what he would see behind those token spectacles, yet he wasn’t quite certain what could be gleaned from his own metallic stare. And his feelings, every day a bit more complicated, could not be revealed to anyone, let alone Harry Potter.

2005 - Draco Malfoy loves Harry Potter.

His feelings settled on the inconvenient some years after his first showing.

He was standing at the bar drinking an obnoxiously fruity alcoholic beverage, eyeing the shimmer and shine of the wizarding world elite, waiting expectantly to see who might bid on one of his paintings. It had taken some years, but his work had gathered a following and gained acclaim from several rather ancient and haughty art critics. While Draco knew himself well enough to know what motivated him to paint, and although his truth was all he really needed, he constantly struggled with the reality of how nice it felt to receive such glowing approval from those whose mere words could elevate or destroy him. That kind of transaction, the sort of coveted notoriety that dictated people’s careers — and in some cases, their very lives — left a bitter taste in his mouth. It all reminded him a little too much of certain things from his past.

But the auctions were something a bit different. He was able to see the responses of the casual observers, the wannabe art collectors, the serious and the disturbed, and to his utter amusement, sometimes even Harry James Potter.

The Great Muster of Wiltshire was one of the oil paintings up for auction and it held subtle pieces of Draco in every single stroke. The Malfoys had cultivated peacocks for centuries, and when Draco’s mind healer had asked him to identify some of the things that he still loved about his family’s estate, the memories from his childhood of collecting feathers and terrorising the peafowl had brought a smile to his face. But the reality after the war was something altogether less familiar. Gone were the dozens of prideful peacocks. All that remained were two haggard old males, missing half their feathers, and there were disfigurations where their legs and wings had broken and healed over. Their injuries forced them to cobble around the grounds without a shred of the lurid and distinguishable figures that they’d formerly carried.

So Draco painted them.

He infused the melancholy of former glories, captured the imagery of a landscape that had clearly once been quite grand, manicured, prestigious with its expensive stonework and rare vegetation. Withered foliage and the decline of such noble, illustrious birds made for a depressing portrait of the collapse of Pureblood power.

“It’s the perfect size for that space over the mantle in the upstairs sitting room,” Harry Potter said to Neville Longbottom as he approached the auction claims desk at the end of the event.

“If you say so,” Longbottom replied.

Draco could hardly believe that Harry Potter had bought one of his works — twelve-hundred Galleons! — and one layered with so many personal touches.

“It seems a bit depressing,” Longbottom added when Harry signed the paperwork and transferred the funds.

Draco tore his eyes away from the antiquities assistant who was packaging the painting.

“Depressing?” Harry smiled slightly and glanced in Draco’s direction. “It’s a commentary,” he said, “on the fall of Pureblood idealism.” He playfully elbowed Longbottom in the ribs. “It’s perfect for Grimmauld Place.”

2008 - Draco Malfoy loves Harry Potter.

Narcissa Malfoy has always been a proud and protective wife and mother, but her view of herself seemed to expand after the war. She set an example for Draco in so many ways, but first and foremost in the acts of reconciliation and forgiveness. With the foundations of blood purity all but demolished, what remained was simply blood — family — and the memories that bound them all to each other.

Andromeda became a devoted focus for Narcissa, and in turn, so did Edward Lupin. Luncheons and dinners evolved into holidays and vacations spent in each other’s company. For someone like Draco who had spent half his life in the solitary confines of his own rigid familial structure, the burgeoning new paradigm left him ill at ease and full of doubts. How could forgiveness come so easily? How could pain be replaced with hope? How could he ever look either his aunt or his cousin in the eye without feeling the excruciating remorse of having failed them?

So he painted.

He sketched.

He created scenes and landscapes of post Second Wizarding War life.

At first, he focused on the family unit — the thing that perplexed him most — and how it had changed; suffered; evolved. The permanence of empty chairs at dinner tables, he thought, showed the mark of loved ones lost to death, but also, from the Death Eater’s view, life imprisonment. His self-portrait of his family’s Christmas dinner showed two older matriarchs, a six-year-old boy, and Draco seated at a table for eight. The missing figures were replaced with shadows and empty spaces, the hollow reminders of loss.

But to Draco’s dismay, such moments of sadness were chased away with the immediate and surprising levities of simple moments. He’d quickly done the softer ink sketch of Christmas morning with big broad strokes; he drew the figures of himself and Teddy in their pyjamas, all smiles and playfulness while his mother and aunt looked on with cheery fondness and warmth. The moment plastered itself into his mind and heart as he catalogued the ease of his mother’s countenance, the cadence of Teddy’s laugh, and the light in Andromeda’s eyes.

It all felt familiar and yet still so unknown to him, but in a few short years, the togetherness became an intrinsic part of his happiness.

“Your paintings aren’t as dark and morose as they used to be,” Andromeda remarks one Easter after their luncheon. “I saw your recent Idleness and Morning Dew and I must say, Draco, dear, the use of pastels, the cheery airiness of it… That is not very… Slytherin.

Draco stills, quite shocked, questioning his memory of that particular painting and its private sale to an anonymous buyer. “Perhaps, your view of what is and is not Slytherin should be adjusted.” Draco calmly sips his tea and pauses. “Where, dear Aunt, did you happen to see the painting?”

“The main salon at Grimmauld Place,” she replies, but her attention is stolen by a raucous Teddy who’s just come in from the garden with his brand new Firebolt. She waves at Draco to excuse herself and attends to her grandson, leaving Draco alone with the astonishing revelation that Harry Potter has purchased another one of his paintings to hang inside his house.

Unable to pinpoint the exact reason why this information drives him to distraction, he sits there teetering between a sort of silent rage and mild, apprehensive yearning.

2009 - Draco Malfoy loves Harry Potter.

It’s the following year in mid-July when Draco receives the owl from Harry Potter asking if he’d be interested in the restoration of a few paintings.

Draco—

I hope it’s not too forward to ask. I know you don’t usually do this sort of thing. But Andromeda led me to believe you might be interested in helping, seeing as these are all Black family paintings. I’ve been putting this off for ages, but they’re the last things that need to be done before 12 Grimmauld Place will be well and fully restored. Would you be willing to consult on this? Would you be interested in restoring them yourself? I value and respect your skills. You’re the first person I thought of, anyway, and I trust you.

Yours,

Harry Potter

Draco mulls over the letter for half a day before attempting to draft a reply. He’s intrigued by the invitation to help restore the Black ancestral home and simultaneously mortified that accepting Harry Potter’s request would mean their interactions would increase exponentially. It’s all settled, however, when against his better judgment, he finishes off a bottle of wine and dares to send the succinct reply of Yes.

The following morning he wakes up to an owl carrying Harry Potter’s response.

Today?

Two hours later, Draco stands in the grand foyer of the Black family residence after taking off his cloak, keenly aware that it’s the first time in over a decade that he’s been alone in a room with Harry Potter. Once he gets over that fact, it’s polite inquiries and awkward pauses and before he knows it, he’s upstairs peeling away the drop cloths from half a dozen frames and inspecting the canvases.

“These are very old,” he says as he examines the levels of dust and grime clinging to the surfaces. He can already safely assert that at least half of them were done before the Statute of Secrecy based on some daring depictions with Muggles and the various styles and strokes. A few have water damage, others spell damage, but with the exception of a charred tapestry, there isn’t anything Draco feels he can’t fix.

“You’ll do it, then?” Harry stares at him with wide, anxious eyes.

Draco nods and a fluttering feeling takes over his chest at the smile on Harry’s face. It’s something slightly different than the smiles he’s stolen glances at before; this one is directed at him, and it’s positively radiant. He loves it and hates it all at once.

“You’ll be rehanging these around the home?” Draco asks, a hint of surprise in his tone as he casts a glance at some of the undignified medieval depictions of Muggles.

“Yes, of course,” Harry says. He follows Draco’s gaze. “Look, I got rid of a lot of things. But these? This is a bit of history, like the house, and you can’t erase the past or these outdated views and opinions. But you can build on it and move on from a point of understanding.” He takes a deep breath and makes sure to meet Draco’s eyes. “That’s why I have The Great Muster of Wiltshire hanging front and center in the main room. There’s a whole story to be told. I can’t just skip over the parts I don’t like.”

Draco snorts and absently wonders how much space he takes up in the parts Potter doesn’t like. “Do you find yourself discussing ‘the fall of Pureblood idealism’ often in your sitting room?”

He offers him another wide smile and Draco blinks. “No,” Harry says, “but Teddy likes to talk about the peacocks. Narcissa keeps him entertained with lots of stories.”

“My—my mother?” Draco says. “She’s been here?”

Harry smirks. “Comes around for tea about once a week,” he says before idly stepping out into the hallway. “Let me give you the tour and I’ll show you where you’ll be working.”

The next few weeks are exhausting as Draco adjusts to the rather unfortunate increase in contact with the man that he tries to tell himself isn’t actually that attractive. He reminds himself that it’s all business, a simple transaction and a favour to family, but on the fourth morning when he sees Potter descend the stairs and meet him in the kitchen in nothing but his pyjama bottoms and a messy case of bedhead, Draco nearly loses his mind.

He greets Draco with a sheepish, stupid grin, saying, “Either you’re incredibly early or I’m extremely late.”

Of course, he’d look his best when he wasn’t trying at all — barely conscious — and wearing next to nothing. Draco spends most of the morning doing figure sketches, quickly putting down the lines and curves and shading needed to capture that moment forever. He tells himself the practice is good for him, that he needs to pay better attention to muscle definition and the — ideal — human form. With the restoration forgotten, he loses half the day, and it’s a wonder that he gets any work done with so many distractions.

...Draco Malfoy loves Harry Potter.

In the second week, Draco begins to lose track of time. One afternoon turns into evening and before he’s realised it, Harry cooks for him. Just as Draco walks into the kitchen to let him know he’s on his way out, he catches Harry uncorking a bottle of wine. Draco stills at the sight of Harry’s sleeves rolled up to his elbows, his muscular arms tan and taut and struggling with the cork.

“There’s a simple spell to do that, Potter,” Draco says.

The cork slides up with a pop and Harry raises a brow. “I know, but this way is more satisfying.” He walks the bottle over to the table where Draco had failed to notice two place settings laid out. “And how many times do I have to say...it’s Harry.

Harry pours two glasses of wine and motions for Draco to sit. Not only is the chicken carbonara fantastic, but the freshly baked bread and wine selection makes the meal complete. Perhaps it isn’t that shocking that Harry Potter can cook. Draco idly muses that pasta isn’t too terribly difficult. He admits that bread can be harder to master, but focuses on other things, dismissing that line of thinking. Later, when he’s alone, safe and secure and not sitting at Harry Potter’s kitchen table, he’ll imagine the care and attention Harry must’ve taken, his strong hands kneading dough in a simple, methodical rhythm.

But what truly surprises him is the ease and flow of their dinner conversation. They talk about Harry’s current caseload, the state of things at the various Quidditch clubs, the news of new shops and old ones around Diagon and Hogsmeade and — a subject they both share most passionately — Teddy’s preparations for school.

“Has it really been eleven years?” Harry asks. He finishes off his glass of wine and stands. Draco is unable to stop himself from cataloguing Harry’s form as he clears their finished plates and returns to the table.

“Sometimes,” Draco says, “it still feels like it was yesterday. But other days…” He stares at Harry. “It feels as if we were completely different people.”

“I’ll say,” Harry agrees. He reaches for the bottle of wine and pours himself another glass. “I remember when I saw you at that first Battle of Hogwarts Remembrance feast. I barely recognised you.”

Draco feels the blood rush from his face. He’d been a git to Harry that day.

“For the first time,” Harry continues “it looked like you had hope. Plus, you’d filled out a bit.” He takes a sip of wine and bats his eyes at Draco. “You looked rather fit.”

Draco’s mouth drops and his gaze falls to the table. He’s sure his heart is about to leap out of his chest. He’s trying to come up with a reply, anything, something, maybe a taunt about Harry’s eyesight, but his mind and body and soul seem to be at odds deciding what the proper reply should be.

He’s saved the trouble when Harry says, “I’m sorry, I just realised the time. I can’t believe I’ve kept you this long, it’s nearly midnight.”

It’s a flurry of thank yous and the gathering of his cloak and his messenger bag and Draco rushes to get to the Floo and avoids meeting Harry’s eyes. But Harry is there every step of the way, an annoyingly attentive and charming host — is there a limit to things that man is good at? — to Draco’s utter dismay.

“I really enjoyed this,” he says, and his voice is low. He’s quite close to Draco. “Us. Having dinner together.”

“This has been the first time we’ve ever shared a meal,” Draco offers.

“I hope it isn’t the last,” Harry smiles.

 

...Draco Malfoy loves Harry Potter.

For all its history and notoriety as the residence of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, 12 Grimmauld Place soon becomes Harry’s house in Draco’s mind. He catalogues the collection of keys, glasses, packs of gum and quills that Harry keeps on a tray by the Floo and grows to appreciate the mess of paperwork and open texts spread out on the formal dining room table. When he asks Harry why he doesn’t use the rather large, ornately carved desk in the study, he gets waved away.

“Try doing anything in there other than sitting in one of those oversized armchairs brooding in the shadows,” Harry says.

One weekday afternoon after Draco has had lunch, he stretches his legs and heads into the study. For whatever reason, the single chandelier fails at illuminating the space, casting dark shadows and dim light across the dark wood shelves and intricate green carpet. Draco spends a few minutes taking in the room and thinking about what Harry had said. “You can’t erase the past...but you can build on it and move on…”

That’s how he ends up comparing paint swatches with Harry the next Saturday morning. He first broached the subject by suggesting Harry install half a dozen wall mounted light fixtures to illuminate the room before ultimately arguing that what it really needed was some paint to lighten the shelves and brighten the walls.

“You don’t think this would take away from the character of the room?” Harry asks, holding up a pale grey sample to the wall.

“The room you said you could only use for ‘brooding in the shadows’?”

Harry grins. “Point.”

Draco sighs when he realises the way the light and the colours of the room highlight the green in Harry’s eyes.

“You’ll want this room to be used,” he says. He thinks of all the history and emptiness that fills Malfoy Manor and pictures all the rooms that stay vacant and covered in drop cloths, unable to imagine a time when they would ever be used again. Draco wonders why he’d never thought to restore his family home, and then it hits him. “You’ll want it to be lived in,” he says, “By you, by Teddy, and...the people you choose to make a life with.”

Harry stares at him for a long time in silence and Draco wonders if he said something wrong. But then Harry pulls another light grey swatch from the pile and holds it up, smiling. “I think...this one! It reminds me of your eyes. It’s a bit silvery, and with the carpet, it would give us Slytherin colours which are in keeping with the Black aesthetic...right?”

“Right,” Draco agrees, though he isn’t sure if he actually speaks it aloud considering how winded he feels from Harry’s words.

...Draco Malfoy loves Harry Potter.

He realises quickly that Harry had been sincere in his initial letter when he’d said he valued and respected Draco’s skills. Once Harry had left him alone on the first day of the project, Draco had taken several walkthroughs of the home for the sole — hand to Salazar — purpose of inspecting the installations of his paintings. He was impressed with the positioning of Idleness and Morning Dew as the light managed to draw attention to it no matter where one sat in the room. But even more so, Draco was pleasantly surprised by the small gold plaques that adorned the center of the frames on both his works.

Idleness and Morning Dew

Oil on canvas 2007

Draco Lucius Malfoy

Son of Narcissa Malfoy nee Black

The Great Muster of Wiltshire

Oil on canvas 2004

Draco Lucius Malfoy

Son of Narcissa Malfoy nee Black

Harry had taken care to showcase the paintings and their artist, and the consideration for the work and for Draco and his family heritage was almost too much to fathom. There were no other works of art with such careful placement, and the only explanation Draco could imagine was that Harry was in fact trying to preserve the Black family history in one way or another.

But on the fourth week of the project, Draco begins to feel a bit out of sorts. He fancies a Pepper Up and decides to nose around in Harry’s pantry and potions lab just off the kitchen. He hasn’t exactly avoided the space, but he’s never needed to use it as he brought most of his supplies and tools from home.

When he walks into the small room, he’s met with the heavy scent of orange and bergamot, and the maddening sight of Harry’s favourite chocolate biscuits left out on a tray by the sink. Draco shakes his head and walks down the long row of cabinets and shelves toward the potions table at the back of the room. He peruses the haphazard row of vials until he finds a Pepper Up, turns on his heel to leave, but stops when something old and familiar on the wall above the table catches his eye.

“It can’t be,” he whispers.

Draco leans in and examines the painting. It was from his first public show all those years before, one of the more complicated scenes he’d done of a man placing a bowl on a countertop, not realising it will fall. Draco’s eyes fill with tears as he takes in the simple, elegant frame, as he traces his fingers over the gold plaque at the bottom.

If I Had Only Known, 2001

Watercolour

Draco Lucius Malfoy

Son of Narcissa Malfoy nee Black

He had no idea Harry bought it. Back then, he’d been too embarrassed and insecure to do much of anything and had used a gallery attendant to be the middleman in all his art sales. He suddenly remembers Harry’s interview in the paper after the show. It had seemed like something done in passing, a coincidence that Harry Potter had gone to his art show because surely he went to all sorts of events all over town. But something churns in Draco’s chest when he thinks about the other paintings, the reverence Harry seems to have for Draco’s work, and the way he’d said, “I really enjoyed this...us…” after they’d had dinner together.

He finishes the painting restorations and sees to their installations, making sure everything is exactly how Harry wants it. His feelings for Harry — still technically his employer — reach an inappropriate pinnacle when Draco finds himself daydreaming of scenarios where Harry comes home to the finished project and thanks Draco for his work in several different ways, in several different rooms, in several different positions. Draco’s never been one to be distracted with idle fantasy, but every moment he spends in Harry’s home, every moment he stays as a fixture in the man’s life, the measure of his passion and devotion increases.

He wallows in shame and when everything’s finished, he decides not to wait for Harry to get home. He can think of no reason — no apparent need — to see Harry’s reactions and hear his praises directed toward Draco’s handiwork. Near the Floo, Draco leaves a concise and professional parting note, but can’t seem to stop himself from signing it;

Yours, Draco

He’s been back in his own studio for two days and the absence of green eyes and Earl Grey first thing in the morning has left Draco feeling listless and empty. He’s somehow become conditioned to seeing Harry’s smile, and hearing his voice, and feeling as if he could possibly have belonged somewhere in the other man’s routine. He thought he might receive a note from Harry in response to the project’s completion, but to his unadmitted disappointment, there has been none.

So it is with resignation that he starts his next painting which quickly becomes his latest attempt at portraying Harry Potter’s truth. Draco uses the sketch of Harry uncorking the wine bottle as inspiration to create a figure portrait of him looking determined in his Auror robes. He hangs up his previous attempts, the various depictions of Harry’s green eyes, the sketches of him from past events, the darker and more disfiguring works from an earlier time before he’d known what Harry had truly meant to him.

Fourteen hours later, he gives up and throws a drop cloth over the canvas, beyond frustrated that he still can’t get the right colour of green to highlight Harry’s eyes. A few minutes later, an owl comes billowing in through his open studio window and he recognises it immediately as his mother’s eagle owl. He gives it a treat and snatches the letter. It’s an invitation to a final luncheon for Teddy before he leaves for Hogwarts.

He wants to be excited for Teddy, and perhaps on some level he is, but he’s also deeply scared for him. Draco thinks of himself when he was eleven, of his deepest thoughts and desires and how so much of the world and the war robbed him of normal things. He aches for Teddy when he thinks of their cobbled together family, of a boy who doesn’t have a father or a mother to steady or reassure him. But then Draco thinks of himself, his mother, and his aunt, and how they’ve loved Teddy and given him everything they possibly could. He tries not to think too much about Harry, and how he’s managed to insert himself into their makeshift family unit with his devotion to Teddy, his respect for their heritage, and his quiet appreciation of Draco’s art.

Draco becomes so wrapped up in his thoughts that he ends up being twenty minutes late on the day, and arrives to a bustling and crowded 12 Grimmauld Place. It isn’t just the family; spread throughout the house are most of the Weasleys, Kingsley Shacklebolt and Minerva McGonagall herself. Suddenly Draco realises his fears were just his own projections, that Teddy has so much more than he’d ever had, and the boy will be just fine — more than fine.

He finds his way into the kitchen and spies the table filled with wrapped gifts and envelopes, and mortification hits him that he’s forgotten to get a gift. He rushes home through the Floo to find an empty sketchbook and set of charcoals for Teddy.

Draco makes his way past the sitting room, down the hallway toward his room and studio. He’s in a hurry and finds the items quickly, not noticing the bouquet of a few dozen red roses set down on his desk until he’s turned to leave.

“What—” he stops and stares, his mind unable to process what’s in front of him. It takes a few moments, but he blinks and licks his lips, and turns toward the open doors leading from his room to his studio.

Draco has an idea of what he’ll see when he steps through but still isn’t prepared for the shock of seeing Harry Potter staring at the unfinished painting of himself and the slew of sketches and smaller paintings hung on the wall behind it. Harry’s facing away from him, and Draco’s immobilised with an amount of fear he hadn’t known possible.

“I’m sorry,” is all Draco can bring himself to say.

Harry turns around. His face is a blank canvas — unreadable — and pale and empty.

“I’m sorry,” Draco says again. He takes a step forward and gulps. “I’ve made you uncomfortable. I can explain.”

Harry blinks. “Uncomfortable?” His mouth falls open and he briefly shakes his head. “This is...overwhelming. I can’t believe you’d spend this much time...on me. That you would…” He breaks their gaze and looks back over the collection of sketches and paintings.

“Don’t,” the words are out before Draco can stop them, “look at those.” He begs. “Please.”

“Some of these are dated,” Harry says. “They’re more than a decade old. You’ve been drawing me…”

“You made me feel,” Draco starts, but he has to turn away. He can’t look at Harry. He can’t let him see his face. It feels like too much to bear his soul, he doesn’t think he could take Harry seeing the pain, the shame, the love in his eyes. “You made me feel redeemed. You saw me, my truth, before I could even think of myself that way.” He takes a shaky breath and continues, “It angered me that you knew me so well. I wanted to return the favour, to show you, and everyone else, who you truly were. But I — I could never quite get you right. It always felt as if there was a detail missing or…” Draco stops. “I realised I could never really recreate how I feel about you.”

“Well,” Harry says after a while. “It seems as if you never stopped trying.”

They stand in silence for minutes, hours, what feels like years, until Draco thinks back to earlier, to the flowers on his desk. He whirls around and faces Harry.

“Why did you bring me roses?” Draco asks.

Harry offers him a coy smile. “Because there’s no mistaking,” Harry takes a step toward him, “what two dozen red roses mean.”

“There isn’t,” Draco says, eyes wide. “Is there…”

“A rose,” Harry leans in, “is a rose is a rose is a rose.” He’s inches from Draco’s face and gazing at him as if Draco is worthy, and precious, and loved. “You can’t be anything other than what you are,” Harry whispers and kisses Draco softly. “And that’s the man that I love.”

“But what about all the sketches and paintings,” Draco pulls back.

Harry laughs. “Keep trying. You’ll get it.”

Harry Potter loves Draco Malfoy.

And as love stories go, this one isn’t too extraordinary, but Harry Potter — luckily — knows how much Draco Malfoy loves him.

All great masterpieces start with a blank canvas.