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Exposure to Morning Light

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Harry had never been an early riser, but people can change, even at the advanced age of eighteen, when dark lords are finally dead for good, and the end of school is a fast-approaching reality. Harry leaves his warm bed in the dark, to meet the first light of day, camera in hand. He has a school project; "project" is the word his professor uses, but "obsession" better reflects the compulsion that drags him out every morning. He spends every spare minute thinking about and planning his next photo opportunity, and working in the new Muggle Studies computer lab to digitally finish his photos.

Harry grabs his camera bag, and he feels a pang of regret remembering Colin Creevey, and thinking how ironic that he shares this with him now. It's getting better, he thinks. His camera differs from Colin's; it's Muggle and takes only still shots. The entire term in Muggle Studies, since Christmas, has been devoted to art creation from Muggle forms of expression.

Harry opens the front door of the castle, and as he descends the steps the possibilities unfold, and his heart lifts. From a low hill a short distance from the castle, he sets up his tripod and fiddles with the settings. The sun is still below the horizon, and the clouds look interesting; they are dark grey-blue shapes now, but have potential for colour and they tell stories within stories. It's chilly, but not too cold, and Harry enjoys the brisk early spring day. Judging by the temperate early morning, it will probably be unseasonably warm later.

Finally, the sunlight starts hitting the clouds and Harry clicks away at pink, light orange, blue-grey. There is too much happening, too fast, and unfortunately he can't look everywhere. The top of the nearest turret of Hogwarts is suddenly reflective and bright, and Harry turns his attention to the shadows and contrast of the beloved building as it lights up in the new morning sun. Dawn as always quickly transitions to sunrise, and an almost unbearable brightness peaks out above the hills. Harry catches that first piercing ray and the bright glow of the surrounding clouds, the sky turning day-blue in patches behind. Harry sighs, a sigh of contentment and sadness, too. Another day has dawned in spectacular beauty, beauty that will never happen again.

Harry spends another half hour taking pictures of Hagrid's hut and the dark green-blue of the Forbidden Forest. A small bird lights nearby; Harry switches to his zoom lens, and snaps away, catching the red-breasted robin picking insects from the ground, stilling it in time, and looking to capture that brightness of eye that makes a still photo come alive.

**

"You should be working on your final projects by now, class. We will have a gallery show for the media artists and photographers. Performance artists, please see Professor Flitwick today; he will make the brave attempt to organize a coherent show amidst your genius. Dean, your finished film will fit into the art show beautifully."

Professor Currer believes strongly in creative endeavours, and some say she is encouraging the Muggle arts to help mend the rifts of war. Given a wide variety of choices, some students pick a speciality right away, and others, like Harry, try a few alternatives before settling on their area of concentration. Harry discovers that he isn't musical at all and that guitars hurt your fingers. He tries to draw, but while interesting, his results are hardly inspiring.

But once he picks up a camera, it opens up the world.

At first he haunts the castle, capturing the peculiar twisting bannister rising to Dumbledore's (or rather, McGonagall's) office, the silent armoured sentries, the endless fussy detailed architecture of the castle, noticing light and dark, curves and turns. He finds himself arrested by a glimpse of flowing white hair as Luna turns her head with a shy smile. His camera strays to the students, some serious, some mischievous. He captures the young innocence of a first year looking amazed as his classmate shows off his latest skill with a wand, prompting Harry to experience a wave of nostalgia remembering Ron at that age, his first friend. He is surprisingly comfortable with the slightly aloof distance created by the camera. He almost feels nothing real happens any more unless it's safely stored on film.

But then one day Harry opens the front door, camera in hand, and the vistas beckon. Suddenly the indoor spaces feel dark and gloomy in comparison, and each successive hour Harry spends outdoors lifts his spirits higher, until at times he feels suspended in an almost euphoric state. He's never been so absorbed in something in his life.

The artists meet with their Professor to discuss possible dates toward the end of term, their works and the space they'll need for the show. They decide to partition an area of the Great Hall, erect dividers and set lighting. Harry (as always) is keeping an extra eye on Draco Malfoy, who has settled on pastel painting. Malfoy frowns slightly as invitations for families are discussed; his father is still free at the moment, but the Ministry has been extraordinarily cautious in arresting for war crimes, and no one knows if or when Lucius will be charged.

"Will we have a theme for the show?" asks Dean.

"Rebirth" says Harry, looking at Malfoy, and so it is.

**

Next morning Harry decides to visit the kitchens before he leaves the castle. The elves are busy in the candlelight of the dark early morning, baking bread, stirring oatmeal, and mashing and mixing pumpkin juice from fresh pumpkins. He grabs a basket with the essential food and hot tea, and Shrinks the lot to fit in his camera case. He races to the front door of the castle, anxious as always to catch the ephemeral morning light.

Harry almost flattens Malfoy as he comes around the corner. He pulls up short and stares. Malfoy has a wooden easel slung around his back, and is carrying a very Muggle-looking canvas bag over his shoulder. He's not even dressed in robes, just trousers and a shirt, with a sage green jumper.

"What the hell, Malfoy? It's a bit early, isn't it?"

"I could say the same to you. I'm just going out for a bit of painting."

"Me, too. Well, not painting; I've taken up photography." Harry pauses and the conversation lags. "Muggle photography," he adds unnecessarily.

Draco rolls his eyes.

"Shut up," Harry says, but not with any venom. He's still anxious to get outside. "C'mon, or we'll lose the light."

Together they burst out into the pre-dawn glow, leaving the castle doors open behind them. Harry as usual feels his spirits instantly lift, his senses awaken, at the scent of the crisp, moist morning air. He heads out quickly to his favorite rise, conscious of Malfoy following at a slight distance.

Harry sets up his tripod, and looks over to see Malfoy surveying his surroundings.

"So, where are you going to paint?" Harry asks.

"I don't know. I thought I'd follow you to see where you were headed; this is the first time I've been out. I've only painted in the studio before." Malfoy is looking around, upright and tall, his face dark and his hair standing out even in the faint light of the still-sleeping sun.

Harry wants to catch the morning light on the Forbidden Forest this morning; he is anxious not to miss it, and fiddles with his camera settings. But something about sharing his space with Malfoy is intriguing. "Do you want to paint landscapes or buildings like the castle and such?"

"Maybe a bit of both."

"Well, I'd suggest Hagrid's hut then." Harry points over to the next rise. "The shadows around the hut will be great in about a half an hour, and the rise of the hill and that stand of trees just beyond make a great setting." He watches Malfoy curiously; Hagrid has never been quite a favourite with any of the Slytherins, and Malfoy in particular…

"Thanks, Potter, appreciate the tip." Harry watches him take up a position in the slight depression below. Hmm, good choice. The hut will light up beautifully and the trees will look particularly looming from that vantage point.

Harry is soon absorbed in his own "project" or whatever-it-is-called. He clicks away as the light catches the tops of the trees of the Forbidden Forest, and fiddles with the shutter speed to catch the peculiar pink-purple of the lower sky just beyond. Above the trees, Venus is rising in a pinprick of light. Harry could almost wish for an easel like Malfoy's, as he knows the light of the planet won't show on his photograph.

The light continues to grow, and Harry's glance is arrested by the sight of Malfoy, still in shadow just below. He takes a few quick shots of his unlikely companion, framed perfectly by the rising hill and the hut beyond. He switches his lens over to the zoom, and zeroes in. It's lucky he always uses a tripod, because for some reason his hands are shaking as he sees Malfoy take shape in his magnified view. His white-gold hair is particularly striking, and the grass around him still has an unworldly purple blue tinge. Just as the sun rises, and Harry feels the warmth on his left cheek, Malfoy turns his head towards the sun, and then towards Harry. Harry is shooting as he sees the flash of brilliant rising sunlight in Malfoy's eye through his lens. Quickly, though, almost shyly, Malfoy turns away, and Harry is left stunned, feeling pierced and a little exposed. He shakes his head, pointing his camera back at the trees and the hills and the sky.

***

A week later, the sun is stubbornly lurking beneath the horizon. Sometimes, when Harry is ready and his tripod is set and he knows what he wants to photograph, the interval before the sunrise can seem interminable. Today he feels itchy and restless. Every day for a week Malfoy has joined him, and they have practiced their Muggle artistic skills side by side. Today Harry sets up out of Draco's sightline, but nearby. He's planning to photograph only Draco today, and he's quite nervous about wanting it to turn out well.

Finally the light co-operates, and he begins his soothing clicking ritual. Draco must be growing taller; his legs seem to go on forever from this angle. The light increases, and it falls upon Draco at last, the shadows behind him changing rapidly in the rising sun. Through his lens, Harry sees Draco looking at him, and the glint in his eye turns knowing just as Harry snaps his last picture. Harry lowers his camera slowly. He is euphoric, and a little terrified, but he doesn't look away, and neither does Draco.

"Harry," Draco breaks the spell and calls him over, just as if he always calls him by his first name. "Look at my canvas."

Draco's pastel painting is wonderfully clear and colorful, although unfinished. The scene is one of Harry's favorites: descending, rolling hills to the left, the forbidden forest a darker green splotch to the right, and in the distance the lake just brightening under the first light of day.

"You've photographed this same scene. Let's pair up a couple of our works for the show. I think it will be interesting to show the same scene using different media."

Harry smiles. "That's a great idea…Draco. Artistically, it will be really different from the other exhibits. And I think we just might surprise one or two people, too, with our co-operation."

Draco turns away, but Harry sees his pleased look. It is decided.

***


On the day of the art show, Harry and Draco are setting up their collaboration. In addition to their lake view pairing, they have each produced their own best interpretation of Hagrid's hut in the dawn light: Harry's on a stormy day with multi-coloured wild clouds, and Draco's with mist surrounding, and the Forbidden Forest lighting up in the morning sky. They hang a few more paintings of Draco's, and several more of Harry's favourite shots.

At the very last, Harry hangs one of his best photos of Draco, pastel-wielding fingertips frozen in place, looking at Harry with that piercing gaze, long legs extended out over the grass of the moor. Draco has painted one of Harry, too, behind his now ubiquitous camera, concentration in every line and the Hogwarts castle rising behind in the dawn light. The finished exhibit looks fantastic, and Harry sighs in satisfaction.

"I'm excited for the show, but it's sad, too," Harry says.

"I think I know what you mean." Draco's face closes down slightly.

**

Harry manages to lurk behind Draco as he reviews the art show, pretending to look at a few of the other displays, but really staying close behind Draco as he makes his way to their joint presentation. A small crowd has gathered around, but it parts to welcome Harry and Draco. They stand together, silent companions, enjoying the effect of the magical lighting and the multi-coloured framing that subtly changes and perfectly complements their works.

Hermione joins them, Ron in tow. "Harry, your photographs are lovely. It's amazing to see what you've accomplished in such a short time."

"Yeah, now we know what you've been doing while you're missing breakfast," Ron chimes in.

Hermione gestures to Draco's portrait of Hagrid's hut. "Malfoy, I love this one. I feel as if Hagrid is just about to come out of his front door. Now that he's gone to France, I do miss him."

"I can't say I'm missing him, Granger, but his hut does make for a lovely quaint setting." In the succeeding silence, Draco suddenly adds, "If it means something to you, I want you to have it."

Hermione catches her breath. "Oh, no, I couldn't. It's too much; you should keep your art."

"Granger. Hermione." Draco stops, and Hermione looks up at him. His voice is hesitant, but sincere. "I want you to have it. I owe you; we all owe you so much. Please, take it, if you'd enjoy it." He looks at Hermione intently.

"Thank you, Draco." Hermione's surprise is obvious, but after thinking a bit she graciously responds. "I would love to have it; such a perfect memento from Hogwarts." Hermione turns towards Draco with a determined shake of her head, and firmly extends her hand. "Now that we're just about to finish school, I hope that we can be friends."

Harry sees that Draco is touched. He takes Hermione's hand, and they shake. "I'd like that very much," he says, smiling a shy smile that Harry finds irresistible.

Draco looks over Hermione's shoulder and catches his breath. Harry follows his gaze to Narcissa and Lucius near the entrance to the hall. Narcissa is looking a little frail, but her curious gaze reaches to their grouping. Harry sees Lucius as if for the first time; he is tense and uncomfortable, a man under the threat of arrest at any moment, his reprieve only possible because of the chaos at the Ministry. Harry feels Draco's tension beside him, and he regrets that he's lost Draco's company for the rest of the evening. He steps in front of Draco, blocking his parent's view and taking his hand. Draco colours, but he doesn't pull back.

Harry leans in, speaking low into Draco's ear. "Go to them, Draco. But tomorrow morning meet me at our usual time at the entrance hall."

***

When Draco joins him in the pre-dawn hours, Harry immediately takes his hand again. Draco's fingers are cool, but feel so natural in Harry's grasp. Harry gives his hand a familiar squeeze.

"Is everything okay with your parents?"

"I think so. Father is frustrated, and they are both scared, but I was glad to see them. They are still hoping…well, we'll see what happens. It's hard to wait."

"I know." Harry gazes at Draco, and the silence stretches between them.

"Why did you want me to meet you, Harry?"

"Come with me, I have an idea I want to try."

Harry leads Draco down the hall and into the empty Muggle Studies classroom. His camera is resting on a desk.

"It's up to you, Draco, but if you don't mind, I want to take your picture."

Draco looks at Harry seriously, and then his lips tilt up in a half smile. Harry smiles broadly back.

"Don't you want to know why I want to take your picture, Draco?" Harry teases.

"I know why, Potter. I'm irresistible."

Harry laughs. "You git. It's only too true, though. Go ahead and sit down there; I want a photo of you pretending to be studious."

Harry sets candles alight with his wand. After a series of photos with Draco at a small desk, from an angle that accentuates his long, long legs, Harry sends him to stand against the classroom wall. Draco is tall and lean, skinny even. He poses for Harry, and teasingly moves like a model would, putting his hand on his hips, then running his hand through his hair. He looks up at the ceiling, extending the line of his long neck, and then turns in profile.

When Draco turns his back to Harry, he puts his hands up high against the writing board, and the mood in the classroom changes. His back bows in a glorious curve, and as Harry snaps several shots, Draco hides his face beneath his arm. The classroom is silent, except for the hypnotic click of the shutter.

As the dawn starts to show through the windows, Harry pauses to extinguish the candles. He steels himself; he has to ask. "Draco, would it be too much…I want you to take your shirt off. You don't have to."

Draco stills, his back still to Harry, then wordlessly unbuttons his shirt and drops it to the floor. Harry shudders a bit in reflexive sympathy, as the cool air hits Draco's skin: smooth and brightly pale, and mouth-wateringly alive. Harry snaps a photo in the growing morning light – the dark trousers and beautiful line of his bare back, white shirt pooled on the floor.

Harry backs up slightly, and Draco peaks out of his hair, dropping his arms to his side. "Put your hands back up against the wall, Draco." Draco turns, self-consciously, and Harry thrills to see him do his bidding. He reaches high on the wall, one hand above the other, and drops his head back. He is a beautiful study in shadow and smooth white, the dawn beginning to glow on warm skin.

Harry snaps a close up of soft, soft hair under his arms, and then one of his own blunt fingers caressing the silky, baby fine texture. Draco's breathing speeds up, but he stays still where Harry has placed him. Harry watches, fascinated, his mouth dry, as goose bumps erupt across Draco's chest. He takes a photo of skin reddened by the flush of arousal, and catches a stiff nipple in profile.

He snaps away as if in a trance, the light shining more and more perfectly. A glow suffuses the room. Finally, Harry cannot resist the urge to touch, and he shifts closely behind Draco, running his free hand down his spine. Draco's trousers are low and hugging his hips. Harry's fingers rest on Draco's waistband, tugging down in suggestion. Draco inhales, and Harry's breath hitches, suspended, waiting.

"Draco?" Harry asks, and Draco is still, deciding, but then he moves and reaches down to his belt. The buckle makes a clanking noise in the quiet. The sound resonates in Harry's bones, and he groans, "Merlin, Draco." Thank you, he thinks, but the words stick in his throat. Harry guides and helps as Draco tugs his trousers and pants down below his bum. Draco's breath is fast, and a pink blush stains the back of his neck.

Harry's head feels a little light. "Wow. Hold them there, that is…so gorgeous."

Harry takes photos of Draco's slender arse, the slight swell at the bottom, the line of the belt cutting just below. His eyes caress the dark valley of the cleft, the shadow beckoning, its dark curve rising up into a point, and disappearing into his back. The dimple on his arse cheek accents the shadowy light. Perfect.

"That is marvelous, wonderful…Merlin, I love your body…You are beautiful." Harry reassures his nervous model, the words pouring out as he shifts position between sets of photos. Draco had better get used to being photographed. Finally he winds down, needing to connect, needing to touch Draco. He places a kiss on Draco's shoulder, caressing his bare bum, and Draco sighs, melting into his touch. Harry feels a rush of emotion that he barely understands, and an overwhelming gratitude for Draco's trust, and for such an extraordinary morning.

He helps him pull his trousers back up, and Draco turns and looks at him, still leaning against the classroom wall, the light of day now fully bright and no longer dawn-colourful. His eyes are hooded and his lips parted; he is the sexiest thing Harry has ever seen. Harry reaches for him, touching his eyebrow, then kissing his mouth for the first time. A chill runs through his whole body as their lips move together.

Draco breaks away with a smile, and takes Harry's camera. He sets it carefully on a nearby desk, and turns back to Harry. "C'mon, Potter. One of us still has his shirt on."

Harry laughs, and reaches his arms up around Draco's neck, leaning him back into the desk. Their kisses start slow and sweet, extending the surreal mood of the photo shoot. Harry feels Draco's lips turn up at the edge, and finds himself, so impossibly, kissing the curve of it. Draco sighs an incredulous laugh, and Harry's tongue breaches Draco's open smiling mouth. Playful nips turn needy and hot. Draco unbuttons Harry's shirt, pushing it back over his shoulders, slowly licking across his collarbone, and running his fingers lightly over Harry's nipples, making Harry squirm with desire.

"Merlin, Draco, we can't do this here. Someone might come by."

"You're right, we need some privacy. I wonder what's around the back of Hagrid's hut? No one is ever out there until after breakfast."

"You are brilliant. That sounds absolutely perfect."

Draco picks up his shirt and drapes it around his shoulders, taking Harry's hand. He leads him out into the early daylight. It promises to be another beautiful morning.

**

The End.

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