Afternoon sun is streaming in through the cracks in the blinds, turning the dust in the air to specks of gold and streaking James with warmth on one side, strong shadows painting his features on the other side the way most artists can only dream. But James in not an artist, and he doesn’t understand any of that, so he just sits.
Charcoal. Dirt smudges on a page at best, but somehow - charcoal is just different than paint, light, soft, there’s air in the art. Enough to have Lorcan convinced it’s the only way to get this right, at least, because in his mind James belongs in the air, and painting him - painting him would only weigh him down. For the lightness, only charcoal will do.
Gone are the days when this felt awkward for James, at least for the most part, and he sits with his chin raised high into the light, body relaxed, staring across at Lorcan with smiles abounding. He should technically be at Quidditch practice right now, the captain is going to kill him, but Lorcan had insisted the light in this room would only be right at the perfect time and well, James never has been good at refusing Lorcan’s whims. It just makes things easier for everyone if he gives in quickly.
James Potter is not an artist. Keeper as great as there ever was, Transfiguration natural, joker and lover and owner of a tongue from which sarcasm flows like a wave, sure, but not an artist.
Lorcan has always filled that role, instead.
Mind built for it from birth, he couldn’t personify art more if he tried, even looks as if he were molded from clay by some old master, plays up to it with his wrinkled clothes all splattered in colourful paint or smudged with his choice charcoal, his wide eyes and soft laugh and the way he’ll get distracted for hours by a single blade of grass rustling in a breeze. Nothing could suit him better than art.
“Oi,” says James, and though it’s full of his usual cheekiness it’s also quiet and soft and makes Lorcan’s heart thump. “Painter boy, you ready to start or what?”
“Quit whining, and it’s charcoal boy today,” Lorcan replies, eyes rolling, as he flips to a new page in his sketchbook. “Ready as soon as you turn your head a bit more to the left like - yes, like that, perfect. Stay still.”
There’s a sudden hush over the room, a quietness which seems to run deeper than the fact that they have both stopped talking. Underneath it, maybe, is everything that’s been going on for the last few months - last few years, really, if James is honest. Veritaserum would probably be the only to get to him to be honest about this, though, so instead he tells himself it means nothing, there’s no tension between them - or if there is, that there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation behind it.
Work has been keeping him busy, too busy to see his friend so much. Xander Harley has been writing dumb things in the tabloids again, that could be it. Yesterday he found out that Lorcan’s grandfather isn’t feeling well, that could easily explain why Lorcan isn’t being as chatty as usual.
(Zoe - Zoe has nothing to do with it.)
After a moment, James resolves to stop thinking about it, has to stop thinking about it. Breathing deep and straightening his back just a little, he tries to clear his mind, think about anything other than Zoe and Lorcan and the whole big mess which has become his life.
Careful not to move too much and disturb the position Lorcan wants him in for this drawing, James opens his mouth to say something, some kind of idle small talk - but then closes it again. Dancing around this thing is what they do, he doesn’t need to try at it any more than usual. Even if he could think of something to say, something safe and conversational and boring, it wouldn’t feel right to bring it up, somehow, in this silence.
Feel right. Going with that as a priority seems strange, since not much between them feels right these days - except everything does, kind of all at once.
He doesn’t pretend to understand it, and doesn’t have to, when Lorcan breaks the silence out of nowhere.
“I heard about you and Zoe,” Lorcan says, casual as you like except anything but, “I’m sorry, breakups always suck.”
James’s breath catches in his throat for a second. Kimberly Shrike had written about the break up of famous James Potter and Zoe Chang in every tabloid in Britain just after it happened, over a month ago - James knows Lorcan isn’t that blind, can’t have only just found out, and they’ve seen each other plenty of times in the month since - why bring that up now?
“Lorcan, shut up, you of all people know it was long overdue.”
“Maybe,” Lorcan admits after a long, long beat of silence in which James doesn’t breathe at all. Nervousness isn’t really in James’s repertoire, he tends towards cocksure arrogance even when it’s half an act, but for a second then he’d felt so, so, small - so worried that maybe, just maybe, he’d been reading the signs wrong all this time.
Of course, though, he hasn’t.
“Persephone had her babies last week,” Lorcan says after a long, long silence, a welcome topic change which sounds so forced but James jumps on it anyway. “Quite the litter, I think we counted eighteen of them, but they’re hard to get a hold of so it might be more - I keep going to get a mug out of the cupboard and finding a tiny pygmy puff asleep in the bottom of it.”
“Remind me not to come over for a cuppa until you’ve rehomed them all,” James says wryly. “So I assume you’ve named all eighteen already? Tarquin and Phaedra and Indigo - or are they all named after household spells, or Celestina Warbleck’s backing singers?”
“Um, actually Lysander wants to name them all, so I said he could,” Lorcan admits, pausing in his drawing for a moment to smile across at James. “Verity, his girlfriend, she wants to help too, says its practice for naming their future kids, so I’m sure the names will all be -”
“Weird,” James concludes, wry smile abounding, “Because all your family has weird names - like your Grandfather I met at the wedding last summer and he made me waltz with him, what’s he called again?”
“Xenophilius,” Lorcan helpfully supplies, and then there is silence for a beat, the conversation somehow suddenly stopped and the air thick and James with no idea how to get back to the comfort of a moment ago.
“Yeah,” says James, voice quiet and more breathless than he’d like, “That’s it.”
Zoe’s grandfather was called John, and was no fun whatsoever. And James should really stop comparing the two because there’s nothing to compare because Zoe is his ex and Lorcan is his - his nothing, Lorcan is his nothing, a family friend who he spends a lot of time with. But has nothing in common with.
(Common is such a strange word, reducing connection down to the things you wouldn’t blink at telling a stranger, preferences for cool colours and a dislike of broccoli and a tendency to wake early, and isn’t it enough to say the sparkle in Lorcan’s eyes and the slow way his long fingers move across the page and his heart which shines through in everything he does - but no. Dictated by some unknown force, you are only allowed to like those who you agree with on everything, not those who move you through some unknown force and make you never want to spend a second with anyone else, spend your whole life listening to how weird they are - )
Every stroke of Lorcan’s charcoal against the parchment seems to calm something inside James just a little bit more. Frankly, James doesn’t even really understand art, can’t look at the work of some great master and be blown away from it - but somehow, watching Lorcan work is more like art to him than any painting he’s ever seen. Galleries full of priceless artifacts can’t compare to the gentle furrowing of Lorcan’s brow, the perfectly steady way his hand moves, the sound of his slow breath and the swoosh of the charcoal against the page.
He’s never felt like this. It’s cliche, but he just hasn’t. James has always prided himself on knowing what’s right for him - it’s why he dated Zoe for so long, because she was right, smart and driven and from a nice family. Kissing her was nice, she was pretty, all his friends liked her, there was no reason he shouldn’t have been in love.
Love. Maybe that’s his problem - maybe he hasn’t quite understood it yet. Now he feels like he doesn’t have a clue what’s right for him, doesn’t know anything except that Lorcan’s been there, always, ever since they were first years, a couple of Hufflepuffs who couldn’t have been more different but somehow always ended up hanging out, and James taught Lorcan how to fly but Lorcan refused to play Quidditch because he doesn’t believe in competitive sports, but he’d still always, always come to James’s games. Over the years they’ve changed a lot - but here they are still, finding their way back to each other in an abandoned room. Paper and charcoal, James feeling moderately ridiculous sitting in a chair while Lorcan stares at him, Lorcan oblivious to it all, focusing on nothing but his art.
Quinn Lieberman was the first person to hear Lorcan call James his muse, back when they were just fourteen - she was trying to flirt, asking Lorcan, who had a reputation for greatness even back then, if she could model for him, and he’d said no, thanks, he only really drew James these days because James was his muse.
Rejection is never so swift as with Lorcan, who doesn’t have a clue that anyone is hinting in the first place. Subtlety isn’t really his arena - but that’s why James likes him, in a way. The honesty.
Underneath it all, though, there is something subtle about Lorcan, something quiet and still and just - calm, something calm, evidenced by the slow way he goes about his life, and right then the slow way he is looking at James, taking long purposeful glances before turning back to his page, adding another stroke of his charcoal. Vision - that’s what Lorcan has.
Waiting like this is becoming tortuous and Lorcan seems to have stopped drawing so they’re just staring at each other now and James wishes he could see what Lorcan’s thinking. X-ray vision of the soul, that’s what he needs, anything to let him peer inside that strange and wonderful mind in front of him.
(Young and naive, he has once thought Lorcan was easy to read, but being straight forward doesn’t make him obvious.)
(Zoe was always obvious, but never straight forward.)
“Are you almost finished?” he jokes after a few more moments because he can’t stand the silence any longer, though his voice is shakier than he’d like. Basically, what he’s really saying is I could sit here forever, except then I might not ever stop thinking about you, and I think I’d like that a little too much, so maybe we should cut this short.
“Can’t rush art,” Lorcan says simply, smiling back at him, and then there’s another beat of silence, a few more strokes of charcoal, before Lorcan suddenly drops the stick and stands up. “Don’t fret, I think it’s done now.”
Effortlessly navigating the clutter of the room, Lorcan hops over a few broken chairs and comes to stand in front of James, who rises from his chair as well, rubbing at his knees a little where they’re stiff from sitting still for too long. Facing Lorcan, they suddenly seem far, far too close - and James is presented with the sketchbook. Gazes down at it, feeling oddly put on the spot, just like he does every single time Lorcan draws him.
He stares down at the drawing, but honestly, he can’t see if there’s beauty in it or not - can see that it’s technically perfect, that Lorcan has caught every line and angle and shadow of him just right, but -
“It’s me,” James says, since that’s all there really is to say. Just like everyone always tells him, he’s blind to this sort of thing, but he can’t help it - is he supposed to appreciate something about the curve of his own jaw, the curls in his own hair? Keeping his eyes on it for a moment, he tries to force himself to come up with something, anything else to comment, but his mind is blank.
Lorcan, though, is used to this, just rolls his eyes and sets the sketchbook down on a table next to them.
“Maybe I should know better by now then to ask your opinion on this kind of thing,” he says, playful twinkle in his eyes.
“No, you definitely should,” James responds. Only he doesn’t even really register what he’s saying, because without the sketchbook in between them, they really are stood far, far too close. Possible outcomes of this are racing through James’s mind one after one, and they all, all end in disaster.
“Question,” says Lorcan suddenly, his voice so quiet it hardly even reaches James’s ears. “Really, honestly, truthfully spell this out for me - why did you break up with Zoe?”
Suddenly James can’t breathe, and it seems like Lorcan is getting closer and closer and he can’t handle that, except his body won’t move, he’s frozen there and he can’t -
“Truthfully,” his mouth says, somehow without consulting his brain, “Truthfully a lot of reasons, but maybe, kind of mostly, because - because she’s not you.”
Understanding flashes across Lorcan’s face, and he doesn’t say anything else. Very, very slowly, he reaches out the tiny gap between them, and his hands brush across James’s waist.
What are you doing, James wants to ask, except he knows the answer so there’s no point, he just swallows hard and stares into Lorcan’s eyes, because this doesn’t even make any sense and Lorcan’s not saying anything, and watching his expression reveals nothing, and James can’t process this, beautiful strange incredible Lorcan holding onto him like this, it’s like - it’s like - it’s like something which doesn’t even make sense.
Xylophones in an orchestra, an acrophobic Quidditch star, Celestina Warbleck still being alive and pumping out singles, Lorcan’s hands wrapping around James’s waist, he can’t figure out how any of it fits, only that at least as far as him and Lorcan go, it’s kind of never felt so right.
“You’ll get charcoal smudges all over me,” he says quietly, a faux protest which Lorcan rightly ignores. Zoe had always been scrubbed clean, organised, neatly pressed. A spot of ink on a shirt was enough to get her to throw the whole thing away.
But Lorcan is not Zoe. Charcoal, paint, ink, he’s covered in the stuff, and somehow it just suits him, a life in colour, a life not caring how he’s presented to anyone else. Daring - that’s what he is. Extraordinary, and daring, and - and -
Flirting. Grasping at James with a wide smile on his face, looking up at James between his lashes. Hovering just an inch away from James’s lips. It’s not like they’ve never been this close before in all their years of friendship, they have and it’s always send James’s heart racing, but this, this has intent and it’s more than James has ever felt before, it’s more than he can resist.
James makes up his mind.
“Kiss me, painter boy,” he says, voice soft and low and all full of playful challenge.
Track This Story: Feed
Write a Review
JOIN HARRY POTTER FANFICTION
Get access to every new feature the moment it comes out.Register Today!