rosivan: (yuri hug!)
[personal profile] rosivan

Artwork by: [profile] star_sailor13
Title: Porcelain
Author: [personal profile] rosivan
Gift Fic For: [profile] otakuangel
Prompt: #92
Photo Prompt:


Word Count: ~9,700
Warnings: Alternate Universe
Rating: PG, innuendo, snark and hand!kink
Betas: M & K - thank you so much!
Author's Notes: Thank you to the mods for putting up with me ♥! To my dear prompter, you are freaking brilliant for posting the picture, and I'm so glad I snatched it up first. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did writing it; and I might have copped out with the ending, but I feel no shame. :D; Cheers, lovely!
Summary: The philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "In art the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can inspire." With a new student in his ceramics class, perhaps Harry can prove this true.


"I thought that we decided your interest in classical art forms was a good reason to take the Painting 1 class." Thumbing through the stack of sheets and forms that Draco had brought him, Tom Riddle examined the class syllabus. "It is only an introductory class and, as it is your third degree at the university, I can't see workload being a problem. So please, tell me why I'm seeing you in here before your next semester's advisory." Tom's green eyes flicked up to meet Draco's as he waited for an answer.

The blond heir to a corporate company sighed, undeterred by the stare. As far as he was concerned, he was more afraid of his father's glare than his academic advisor's. In addition, the educational path was just something to bide his time until it came time to step into his father's shoes.

"You did say something along those lines, yes." Draco smiled humourlessly, breaking their gaze to look at the time on his cell phone. "However, the class is teaching acrylics, not oils, as you said it would, and clearly the class is a fruit arrangement course with a few lessons in colour-mixing. I've made at least four different fruit baskets this week. I thought to bring you one, but I couldn't remember if you enjoyed papaya or not." After a beat, he added, "I'd like another class."

"Most of the studio classes are full," Tom said; his slender hands were already typing on the keyboard of his computer. "Which is why we pick them as soon as possible, not after the first week of painting when you suddenly decide that fruit compositions isn't to your liking."

"You're just upset that I didn't bring you a fruit basket," Draco said. "A wonderfully contrived fruit arrangement, with contrasting tones and textures, set tenderly in a woven basket that compliments the smooth surface of the rounded fruits."

Tom fixed him with an icy stare before returning his attention to the computer screen "You have a choice of Introduction to Ceramics, or Intermediate Sculpture. I suggest the former, especially as the latter has fallen to Luna this term, and, if I remember correctly, you fail to get along with her."

"She's absolutely mad," Draco muttered vehemently. "I could hand in a piece of string at the end of the semester, so long as the concept of this piece of string holds some deeper meaning."

"Thus is the nature of art," Tom said. He pulled a piece of paper from a file folder on his desk. "I'll again suggest the music program, as it increasingly becomes clearer that it's better suited for you."

"No," said Draco firmly. They'd talked about the music program several times and Draco's reaction to it was always the same. "I took liberal arts for my mother and business administration for my father. Something respectable like 'concert pianist' would please them, but not me."

"Yes, yes," the advisor said dismissively. "You want to do something that will have no use to you in the future as, unlike most students, you acquire degrees for fun. A simple 'no' would suffice." He typed into the computer a little while longer before clicking something on the screen. The printer started up. "I've removed you from the Introduction to Painting and placed you in the Introduction to Ceramics. Harry Potter will be teaching, and the rest of the information is on your new timetable."

Draco took the new schedule from the printer and examined it. "Harry Potter teaches a course in pottery?"

Tom sighed and folded his hands over one crossed knee. "A course in ceramics, and it might be best to get all the jokes out of your system now. They're old and tired and Harry is actually quite competent in his field."

"So I've heard," Draco said. He gathered up his things to leave, though he was still thoughtfully staring at his timetable. "Harry Potter, the man who can look at a piece of pottery and determine how it was fired in a kiln, at what temperature, and later with what glazes." The blond's mouth quirked up sarcastically, "The Saviour of Glazing Mistakes and the Prince of Porcelain, am I right?"

Tom shooed him from the office with a wave of his hand. "No matter the gossip, and his dizzying wall of awards and accreditations, he'll still blush and ask you to call him 'Harry, just Harry.'" The way he said the phrase made it sound like it was said quite a bit.

"How humble," Draco muttered, as if offended by such an idea. He left the office with a small wave to Tom, not even bothering with the pretence of saying 'thank you'. Tom didn't even look up.

--

Studio four, on the main level of the art department, like all the other main level studios, was large and open, with tall glass windows and faded white blinds. The walls were lined with cluttered shelves, and pottery wheels ran along the sides of the room, to echo the rectangular space. One corner was partitioned off, keeping a dedicated area for storing fired pottery, or clay pieces on their way to the kilns. Next to the partition were two doors - one marked 'DAMP ROOM - KEEP DOOR CLOSED' and the other marked 'OFFICE'. The office door was open, but no one was there.

In the centre of the main room were four heavy tables, each covered with stapled-down canvas stained red and off-white. Draco set his notebook on top of the cleanest of the four tables and waited the arrival of the professor. He'd contacted him earlier that morning for a time to catch up on missed material. Harry had sent him a short email back saying, 'Come in whenever you're free! I'll be here.' He'd been assured that any time during the week would be appropriate, so long as it wasn't during another class. As the professor only taught the one class that semester, it really meant that any time at all was a good time.

It also implied that Harry spent all his time in the ceramics room, and Draco didn't quite know what to make of that.

After a half hour of waiting, Draco irritably wondered if Harry had been joking with the use of 'whenever'. He idly browsed the shelves to bide his time, curiously reading the labels on half-empty glaze jars, and poking through finished clay pieces that were stacked haphazardly. Two female students were working on pottery wheels side-by-side, and a row of wet clay cylinders were set out on the table in front of them. A third student was leaning back in a chair with his feet raised on the same table, sleeping soundly. Draco watched the other two work for a while, wondering if this was what he came to learn from the missing professor. He could ask the girls where the professor was, but they were chattering steadily, and Draco didn't quite feel like attempting to interrupt.

Another ten minutes passed before Draco decided that enough was enough. He pulled his cell phone out and dialled the contact number that the professor had given him. The number connected, rang twice in his ear, and then a phone somewhere in the classroom started to ring.


'Fantastic.' Draco sighed to himself, 'He bloody left it here.'

The sleeping student jerked awake, sweeping his long legs off the table top. The heel of his boot clipped one of the drying clay cylinders and knocked it over. It rolled slowly off the table, and the student lunged forward to catch it. It landed in the palm of his cupped hand and the young man winced as one side bent in.

One of the girls, the one with curly brown hair, gasped a little. She looked awed and horrified at the same time. The male student quickly put the cylinder back on the board it had been knocked from and gently smoothed away the marks his fingers had left on the sides. Within moments, he had also fixed the collapsed side and you could barely tell that anything had happened to the cylinder at all.

He shot an apologetic smile at the curly-haired girl. "Er, sorry about that, Hermione."

She shook her head, obviously relieved with the young man's quick save. "Your phone is still ringing."

At this, Draco closed his cellular with an audible 'snap'. "Harry Potter?"

The dark-haired man looked his way with a befuddled expression falling across his face. "Yes?" he asked. He squinted at Draco for a moment, before he seemed to realize something. "Oh! You're that late sign-up, aren't you? Sorry, I only meant to take a short nap – you haven’t waited long, have you?"

The two girls smiled to each other, but didn't offer anything. Somewhere between angry and annoyed, Draco managed to say, with some element of sarcasm, "No, of course not."

Despite Draco's tone, Harry seemed relieved. "Oh, good. Well, would you like to get caught up, then? Oh, wait!" He pivoted on the heel of one foot and rushed out of the room.

Draco could only stare after him, somewhat stunned. He glanced at the girls, who only shrugged at him as if to say it was something perfectly normal. He seriously started to reconsider the painting class – he had hated the bloody fruit baskets, but at least the professor had been normal.

After a few moments, Harry returned, slightly breathless and holding a sheet of paper. "Syllabus on one side, class schedule on the other. I have a department memo to give you to, but I'm not sure where it is, so I'll get you one later." Draco silently took the paper from the professor. Harry took a seat behind a pottery wheel that had already been set up and smiled brightly at Draco. "Ready?"

Draco sat in the chair that Harry had fallen out of earlier, and watched as the other young man smacked a chunk of clay onto the centre of the spinning wheel. Out of the corner of his eye, Draco noticed Hermione and the other girl start to pay attention again. They all watched as Harry quickly, almost effortlessly, shaped it into a cone while it was still spinning, pressed his thumb into it to create a hollow centre, and then seemed to lift the clay upward to form the straight sides of a cylinder. Draco knew there were several steps being done in quick succession, but the way that Harry handled the clay made it look soft and easily manipulated.

Harry pinched off the top rim and then cleaned the excess clay from the bottom of the cylinder with a wood tool. He used a piece of wire that had clothespins tied at either end to cut the cylinder off the wheel. With a different tool, one shaped like a half-moon, the professor scraped excess clay from the wheel. Quite quickly, he made three more pieces – one looked like a vase with a wide bottom and narrow middle curving into a small top. He made another that was wide and low like a bowl.

For the third, Harry took a chunk of clay that was nearly double the others, and dropped it onto the wheel. It took longer to centre, and longer to bring to height, but shortly he had made a thick cylinder that reached half up his forearm, and was just as wide. He slowed the wheel to a stop and pinched the corners to make the cylinder into a square vase. All three he set to one side, on wooden circles he called 'a bat'. When he was finished, the two girls went back to their own work. Draco was pleased to see that the humble Harry Potter wasn't beyond showing off a little.

"Things you'll eventually be able to do," Harry explained as he wiped his hands off on his shirt. The shirt, like his pants, were pretty generic, but covered in red clay and white porcelain smears. It seemed that he didn't believe in towels.

"Why don't you give it a try?" Harry suggested. He stood and moved so that Harry could take his place. "I'll walk you through it." He smiled encouragingly.

Grudgingly, Draco left his jacket and bag on the chair and rolled his shirt sleeves to the elbow. There was nothing he could do to save his pants, so he mentally wished them goodbye and sat down on the stool.

"Spread your legs wider," Harry said, tugging on Draco's knees. He had taken up a place on the other side of the wheel. "Sit closer so you can tuck your elbows close to your body."

Draco raised an eyebrow, but slid closer as he was told. The girl beside Hermione giggled, but looked quickly to her work when he glanced her way. Hermione bit back a smile and explained, "You want to use your whole body to put pressure on the clay, not just your hands and wrists."

Harry nodded at Hermione and then slammed a ball of clay towards the centre of the wheel. Draco jumped a little, startled, and Harry grinned. "Sorry. Need to make sure that it isn't going to slip away on you." Harry dipped his hands in the bowl of water and motioned for Draco to do the same. "What you want to do before anything is centre the clay so it seems to be still in the centre of the wheel, even while spinning."

Draco barely suppressed a wince at touching the cold clay, but let Harry manoeuvre his hands into the proper position. He listened with half an ear, preoccupied with the small touches of Harry's cool fingers, correcting the angles of his wrists. The wheel hummed between them, buzzing against the inside of Draco's knees.

"Here, play with this one for a bit, and get used to the feel of everything," He wiped one hand off on his shoulder, and twisted to grab clay from a bag on the floor. Draco caught himself eyeing the man up, his gaze sliding down the lines of the man's body entirely too easily. When Harry turned back to him, Draco had suddenly developed an interest in the switches on the side of the wheel.

The professor pushed his glasses further up the bridge of his nose with the back of his hand. "Left handed, yeah?" he asked, handing him the clay. Draco nodded. "Generally, spinning clockwise with the hand placement you've got there should work well for you. If you find it awkward, reverse positions." He smiled down at Draco. "There's no wrong way about it."

"Right," Draco managed, and before he could stop himself, added, "What position do you recommend?"

The girls giggled, reminding Draco that they were still half-watching his interaction with the professor. Harry's head tilted a little and there was a sudden pause. Draco suddenly felt a little inappropriate, and readied an apology and laugh to save face. However, Harry suddenly leaned forward, his mouth set quite seriously.

Close up, though, Draco could see the amused expression that glinted in his eyes. "I highly suggest whatever positioning feels the best." As an afterthought, he added innocently, "But watch your wrist. Excessive bend can be painful."

"I'll keep that in mind, thank you," Draco murmured. Harry walked away and the blond idly wondered if had somehow managed to go a little insane since walking into the studio for the first time.

---

"I might be having some trouble," Draco said, catching Harry's attention as he walked by his pottery wheel. After playing around with the clay for a while, Harry had given him a handout on the steps for construction, and walked him through it step-by-step. That had been on the day they met, however, and the brief lesson was a little fuzzy in Draco's memory. It didn't help that he'd been a little…less focused on the lesson than on Harry, himself.

It was two days later, during class, and the room was filled with fifteen-odd students. Some were working on making clay tiles, but most were busy throwing pots and cylinder cups on the wheel. Harry generally tended to wander around, observing and commenting where needed, and often suggested corrections instead of strictly enforcing them. He seemed comfortable with everyone, and was engaged in conversation almost constantly; it was easy to tell if it was about ceramics or not, as Harry tended to take on a certain expression of concentration when talking about his chosen field. At all other times, he was relaxed and carefree, and watching several things at once.

Harry's green eyes focused on Draco almost immediately at hearing the question, before flickering down to the wheel, where a half-formed cylinder was spinning in place. It was lopsided and a little misshapen.

"Show me," Harry said, kneeling down on the opposite side of the wheel. He concentrated on Draco's hands and waited as he cut the old clay off the wheel and started a new one.

Draco placed a new ball of clay on the wheel and wrestled with it for a few moments before it centred completely. He forced the clay into a small cone-like shape, and then patted down the top so that it was flat. Like he'd seen several other students do, Draco cupped one hand around the spinning clay, and then with his other hand, started to press his thumb into the centre of the top, forcing an opening to make the inside of the cylinder. Halfway into the cone, however, it became quite clear that something was off, and the clay was wobbling at the centre of the wheel.

"Okay, stop," Harry said. He had picked up a piece of wire from the table, and held it taut between his hands. He cut the ruined piece off of the wheel and set it aside. "Start another."

Draco did, repeating the process to the point where the cone was formed and flat on top.

Harry wet his hands in the bowl of water and placed his hand around Draco's. "Maybe try using two fingers, like this," he said. With his thumb trailing along the outside of the clay, he made a slight indentation on the top of the cone. Slowly, he pressed down and towards himself, his fingers disappearing into the clay, up to his second knuckle, and then to the third. The hand around Draco's pressed firmly, keeping the now hollowed cone from sliding across the wheel.

"See?" Harry asked, withdrawing his hands to the edge of the splash pan that collected the extra water and clay from the spinning wheel. "Remember not to push all the way in, though - you'll lose the bottom if you go too far."

Draco nodded. His throat felt tight as he remarked, "It's not very cylindrical."

Harry took one of the wood tools he'd given him and trimmed the bottom of the clay a bit so that there was a ridge underneath. "You'll use all the clay at the bottom to make the cylinder taller." He placed the flat edge of his crooked index finger underneath the ridge, and slid his other hand inside the cone. "You want to apply enough pressure using both hands, to force the clay upwards. This is called a 'pull'." He pulled his hands away to dip into the water again. "Faster, Draco."

The blond blinked at him. "Sorry?"

He nudged Draco's foot that was pressing down on the pedal that adjusted the speed. "Faster. Just a little bit. You'll get to know your own speed when you have more experience."

"Oh," Draco said, tilting the pedal slightly. The humming of the wheel increased. "Of course." He had the sinking feeling that he was in very serious trouble.

Harry put his hands back the way they were and squeezed the clay together between the fingers on the inside and outside. Smoothly, he drew his hands upwards in unison, gradually easing off on the pressure as he reached the top of the clay. It looked distinctly less cone-shaped, but not quite like a cylinder. Using a small sponge, he dabbed up the excess water on the inside, cleaned the bottom of the cylinder on the outside, and repositioned his hands again for another pull.

Draco watched with a level of interest that alarmed him a little. It seemed his eyes were transfixed on Harry's slick fingers so expertly manipulating the clay. The muscles in the back of Harry's hand moved under his skin in response to something that he was doing, unseen inside the clay body that was now an almost-perfect cylinder. He made one last pull, his hand disappearing almost up to his wrist.

Delicately poised, as if to brush something away, Harry pinched the top of the clay piece, creating a neat rim along the side. Using the same tool from before, he also trimmed the bottom again, giving it a more defined shape.

"There we are," Harry said. Draco watched him wipe his hands on his shirt, fascinated by the wet red streaks of clay revealing tanned skin. He saw the thick veins shift across Harry's inner wrist, and then the open palm came quite close in his vision, as Harry waved a hand in Draco's face.

Harry looked amused again. "You can stop the wheel, now."

"Right," Draco pulled the pedal back and then placed his foot on the concrete floor. He couldn’t remember the first demonstration being like that.

His attention no longer engaged with something of a ceramic nature, all the intensity seemed to go out of Harry. He stood and stretched, looking around at the rest of the class. "Why don't we all take a break?" He smiled. "Go get a coffee or something."


Everyone scattered and Draco left the studio room, wondering, not for the first time, if he should have stayed in the painting class.

---

Later that week while in line for a coffee at the shop in the cafeteria, Draco spent a good five minutes staring at the back of a dishevelled black hair cut before realizing who it was.

"Professor?" he ventured, peering over the man's shoulder. The face was definitely him, but he didn't seem to acknowledge Draco's query. "...Harry?"

Harry turned around, squinting at Draco through the smudged lenses of his glasses. "Hello..." He trailed off, obviously trying to remember his name. "Er..."

"Draco," the blond supplied. His mouth quirked with a strange smile.

Harry mistook it for an offended expression. "Sorry, Draco. I'm rubbish with names." He offered a hesitant smile.

Draco laughed outright. "It's not often someone forgets my name - it's faintly amusing." Normally he would have been insulted, but Harry seemed to be distracted. He usually seemed distracted, but today it was more so than usual. He was still wearing his clay-smeared shirt and pants that served as a smock, and Draco suddenly wondered if he wore anything else.

The woman at the counter waved them up. "What'll it be, Mr. Potter - tea, or something sweet today?"

"Tea for me, thanks." He rummaged in his jean pockets for a minute to produce a tattered bill and some change, as well as a bit of note paper. "Oh, right! Also a fruit juice and a handful of something called 'Poor Bens'." He shrugged, and offered her a look at the paper.

The cashier smiled and nodded, declining the note before she went to get the items. Harry stuffed it back in his pocket and started counting out his coin on the counter.

"Do you always buy things when you don't know what they are?" Draco asked; the question slipped through his lips in his curiosity.

Harry shot him a sheepish smile, and for a minute Draco forgot he was a professor at the university. In the studio he seemed knowledgeable and focused, but outside he was distracted and absentminded, and seemed more like a student then an instructor.

"A few of my friends are grad students - we take turns buying things." He smiled at the woman who returned with the juice, and a bag of what looked like small liquorices. "What're you getting?" Harry asked Draco.

"Just a coffee," Draco said. He liked the raw, bitter taste of it on its own, and didn't really enjoy other flavours with it.

"And a coffee," Harry told the cashier, while pointing vaguely at the cups. He paid quickly, before Draco could protest, and brightly handed him his drink as they walked away.

Draco took a deep drink before saying, "You didn't have to do that."

"I forgot your name," Harry reminded him. "Consider it my apology." He tucked the sweets into a pocket and sipped his tea as they walked in the general direction of the art department.

Draco usually didn't try to make small talk with professors out of class, but something made him fill the silence – not that the silence was awkward, it was perhaps too comfortable and it made Draco nervous. "Have you seen the new show in the gallery, yet?" he asked. They'd just passed a poster for it, and art was easily a safe topic of conversation. However, asking about the student shows was the visual arts equivalent of asking about the weather.

Harry nodded. "They needed to borrow a few pedestals from us, so I gave them a hand." He never clarified who 'us' was, but Draco assumed it was Ceramics. "You looked at it?"

"Yes," Draco said, and went on to describe the pieces that he had enjoyed. Harry listened intently, asking a few questions, and before Draco could ask what he thought, they were at the Visual Arts department.

"Well, I'm helping out with some plaster casts," Harry said, his voice trailing off at the end of the sentence. He considered Draco for a moment, as if he were going to say something more. Draco didn't press him, too distracted by Harry's hands playing absently with the string hanging down the side of his tea. He could smell the Earl Grey.

"I'll leave you to it, then," Draco said. He smiled slightly at the professor, forcing himself to look at his face. The gaze he encountered was soft and curious, making Draco feel as if he'd been caught doing something he'd rather not be caught for. "Good luck with the casts, Professor," he added, attempting to brush off the feeling with formality – something that had always worked for instances with his family.

The other man wouldn't have it. "Harry," he corrected, with a self-conscious smile. "Just Harry."

Tom had been right. Draco nodded before escaping through the department door.

-

The next class was the last time that Draco asked to be shown how to properly throw a cylinder again, because as much as he liked watching Harry's hands move across the slick surface of the clay, he hated playing the idiot.

Harry must have heard the reluctance in Draco's voice when he finally conceded that yes, he did understand how to bring the height of the clay body higher, because he looked at Draco for a long moment, something shifting behind his gaze.

"What?" Draco asked, taking his foot off of the pedal. For some reason, looking too long into this professor's gaze made him distinctly uncomfortable. He didn't know yet if that was a good thing or not.

"If you curious about technique," Harry said, after a heartbeat, "Especially some that I generally don't show in an introductory class, you're welcome to watch me work outside of class time." He grinned, chasing away his serious tone. "You'll know where to find me, of course."

"Of course," Draco murmured, watching Harry as the young professor turned to give instruction to another student. After a moment, he went back to work, making enough finished pieces to chase away any suspicions that he had been having difficulties working with the wheel.

He lingered after class and took his time putting his clay pots and cylinders into the damp room to slowly dry. Draco cleaned up his workspace more thoroughly than usual, and chatted with a few members of his class, until there were only a few people left puttering about the studio, intent on their own work.

Harry was already at one of the wheels, with a chunk of white clay beside him, wrapped securely under clear plastic to keep it from drying out. He was cutting off small chunks and setting them aside in another plastic bag, preparing them for use on the wheel. He also had a stack of bats with him, and it looked like he was ready to work for quite some time.

A white cup was already on the wheel, and it looked like Harry had been working on it. Draco wasn't sure what he was doing, as the surface didn't seem to be any different than had it just been thrown.

Harry looked up at Draco as he approached and smiled, wiping off his hands on the front of his work shirt. "Hello," he said. Harry popped the plastic pins out of the bat and set it aside. He held the small cup in one hand.

"What are you doing?" Draco asked, sitting down at the wheel beside him. He felt oddly interested in what Harry was working on. "That's white clay, yes?"

"Er, technically, yes." Harry handed him the cup. "It's mostly kaolinite, and feldspar, and I think some bone ash, but I don't remember. In short – porcelain."

"I see," Draco said, examining the cup. It was delicate and thin, and extremely light weight. The surface was smooth, from what he could see, but there were indications of designs under the glaze. He couldn’t make them out very well. "It's so… fragile."

"Lift it and look at it in the light," Harry suggested. Draco did, and the pattern suddenly became quite clear. There were flowers carved into the clay, arranged in a beautiful pattern around the cup. "It's a Chinese porcelain technique called 'anhua'," Harry explained with a smile. He continued to cut small chunks off the larger block of porcelain. "It means 'hidden decoration', and can only be seen if you look at it closely, or if you hold it to the light." He grinned, "Neat, yeah?"

Draco handed the cup back to him with a certain sense of regret. "This is what you're working on? It seems a very specific method."

"A friend's brother brought me a vase like this from China," Harry explained, setting the cup to the side. "He travels a lot for work, and is usually stationed in Egypt, but he visits when he can." He set the cutting wire aside and wrapped what was left of the large block of porcelain tightly in the plastic. "I'd like to go there and see the experts make it, one day." He laughed, a little embarrassed. "It's really hard to make."

"This one is quite beautiful," Draco said, genuinely meaning it. He rather liked the idea of secret decorations on pristine porcelain. "Surely, you're good at it."

Harry laughed again, though this time he was blushing a little. Draco was startled to find it endearing. "No, no. I didn't make that. An old friend had that – she's letting me borrow it to figure it out."


"You're fortunate in your friends," Draco observed. He didn’t mean anything by it, but he was curious about the sort of people that his man had befriended. So far he hadn't heard of any of them by name. He didn't expect to, really, as it was honestly none of his business.

"I am," Harry agreed. A strange smile came over his face. "Real top notch." He smacked a ball of porcelain onto the wheel and wet his hands. Draco's curiosity must have shown in his expression, because Harry continued on. "Never knew my family," he admitted quietly. "My godfather raised me, and they lived next door – had seven kids, can you believe it?" He flicked a wet hand in the direction of the empty row of pottery wheels. "Their youngest is in the class. I've known her for years, but she's got a bit of a thing for me." He seemed uncomfortable with this fact.

"Must be awkward for you," Draco said, playing with one of the tools lying beside the splash pan.

Harry shrugged. The porcelain on the wheel centred and he started building up the shape he wanted. "I'm used to it," he said. "But you’d think she'd realize I'd make a move if I were interested." Conversation lost out to concentration, and Harry focused on the wheel.

Draco silently continued to watch him work, wondering if this admission was a warning or a promise, or just merely something in passing.

---

"You've got a problem," Blaise said bluntly. He shoved one of the steaming cups of coffee he was holding in Draco's direction. "One of them being your not taking your damn cup from me, and I want to pop the top of mine so I can actually drink it."

"Oh stop," Pansy said, reaching over to lift the tab on Blaise's coffee. "He's got boy issues and you're just grouchy because it's before eight."

"No, I'm grouchy because I've been awake since six, and this is still my first sip of the brew," he drank deeply, not seeming to notice the scalding temperature of the coffee. He visibly relaxed after doing so, and favoured Pansy with a smile afterwards. "Thank you, love."

"You both disgust me," Draco muttered, taking his cup from Blaise as he locked his dorm room door. "And I don't have boy issues."

Pansy smiled sweetly and fixed the hair pin that was holding a dark curl of hair behind her ear. The three of them walked single file down the narrow residency corridor in the general direction of the cafeteria. "No, but you’ve always got a raging hard-on after Ceramics, and that's got be someone bothering you. Or rather, not bothering you."

"Christ," Draco said into his coffee. "I forgot you've started a Bachelor's in crude observations."

She hit him hard on the arm. "What, you lads can comment on the visible state of a woman's breasts underneath her top and I can't mention the clear tenting of your trousers? Hypocrite."

"Pansy, please," he stopped walking to turn around and look at her. "We've agreed to leave all strong feminist statements until after breakfast, remember? I also don't have much tendency towards staring at a woman's chest, if you recall."

"Ah," Pansy said, with a wicked grin, "But the tendency is still there, is it not? 'It happened once' doesn't excuse you!"

Blaise gave them both a firm slap on the behind as he passed them. Draco gave him a startled glance, and Pansy looked furious. "There, now that you've both been indiscriminately harassed, Pansy, can we go eat, now? I can smell my next cup of coffee from here."

"You should have real food," Draco said, also moving past Pansy so that there was space between her and Blaise. Before he could answer, Draco also added, "Coffee is not real food, even if it does come from beans, and no, that doesn't make it a part of the 'meat and alternatives'."

"Well, you should just hurry up and shag the professor," Blaise said with a shrug, "But if you honestly want to leave up camp on your crotch, I suppose that's up to you, isn't it?"

"I like you better before you've had caffeine," Draco said darkly. He let Pansy go in front of him, suddenly not caring if his stupid friend was the early morning victim of a dual Feminist Studies/Human Justice major.

"I don't see what the problem is," Blaise said. They exited the residency building and crossed the open area to the cafeteria lounge. "Isn't he interested?"

"How should I know?" Draco said, dropping his cup into a rubbish bin and heading immediately for the basket of muffins by the cooler. "I don't think it matters. I doubt he's making up pottery innuendo to drive me mad."

"You said he's all about his art," Pansy said. She'd made a bowl of cereal and was picking through the apples near the till. "Maybe he thinks he's being sweet."

Draco shook his head, unconvinced. "I doubt it." He paid the woman at the register for his food and left his two friends to find a decent table in the lounge. He was more convinced that he had been without a relationship for too long, and was starting to imagine connections where there were none. When Blaise and Pansy joined him, he suggested, "Let's go to the bar tonight." Perhaps it would get his mind off of the too-young professor.

---

In the weeks that followed, they made more cylinders in class, before moving onto cups and cup handles. Anything dry enough, and ready to be fired in the kiln, was stacked on a cart and wheeled away, regardless of quality; anything incomplete or useless would be used later to test glazes.

Spring passed and gave way to early summer, and soon there were only a few weeks left in the course. Draco remained uninvolved with the professor, or anyone else, for that matter, and chalked everything up to a dry spell in his love life. Harry gave them their final projects to be completed and presented on the last day; they were to make a set of cups or bowls and use them to serve something to the class.

After spending a week miserable with a cold, Draco had enough inspiration to start work on small, handle-less cups accompanied by saucers. After he had a test cup that he was satisfied with, he spent one quiet afternoon making the saucers by hand, instead of trying to throw them on the wheel. The studio had been oddly empty that day, except for himself and Harry, but Draco attributed it to the opening of the graduate show in the student gallery. Most of the department was there looking at the new work of the visual arts graduate students, and talking to the artists in question.

The redheaded girl in Draco's Ceramic's class, whose name Draco never bothered to discover, came into the studio to try and convince Harry to attend the opening. When she saw that Harry had set up a wheel with a huge chunk of porcelain on a trolley beside it, she sighed heavily.

"My brother has a set of sculptures that I think you'd find interesting," she said. She was leaning over the table enough to discreetly flash her cleavage at Harry. Draco smiled to himself, as Harry didn’t seem to notice. "You should come downstairs and look."

The porcelain vase that Harry was throwing was at least four times what Draco had seen him throw in class. The base was tapered, but quickly ballooned out on both sides. It wasn't very high in comparison, but with his arm inside the piece, the porcelain easily reached Harry's elbow. Distractedly, Harry responded, "Saw it when they were setting up." He picked up a thin wood tool and started putting grooves on the inside of the large bowl, his gaze sharp with concentration.

"But I'm sure it looks different when the lighting is finished and everything else is set up." The redhead went to sit at the wheel beside Harry and jostled the cart of porcelain. Harry didn't flinch, but his eyes darted over to her. She smiled at him. "Just a few minutes?"

A muscle in Harry's jaw flexed briefly. "After I finish this, maybe," he switched tools. "I want this in the kiln before the weekend and it will take time to dry."

"I'll hold you to it," she said with a wide smile. "And I'm sure my brother will be happy to see you there, too."

"Ron already knew I wasn't going to the opening," Harry said. He squeezed the water from a sponge and dabbed at the inside of the piece. "But I suppose you're right." He smiled briefly at her before going back to the porcelain.

It seemed to please her. "I'll see you later then, Harry!" She left after that, and the studio went quiet again with only the humming of the pottery wheel to interrupt the silence.

Draco didn't comment and Harry continued working like it hadn't happened.

After Harry had lifted his latest porcelain piece onto one of the tables where red clay was not allowed, he wandered over to where Draco was working. He'd wiped his hands on his shirt, like usual, before using a towel to further wipe the porcelain slop away.

Draco watched as Harry carefully picked up one completed saucer to examine the scrolling lines that he had neatly carved along the inside edge. "No handles," Harry murmured. He cradled the test cup in both hands and peered into it, as if he were examining its contents. "What will you serve in them?"

"Soup, I think," Draco said. "A broth. Something you can drink without spoons. I suppose that's what comes from being sick while starting a project." His gaze followed Harry's hands as the other man traced the bottom of the cup.

Harry set the cup back down on the table. "Looks good," he said to Draco, smiling at him. He absently rubbed his chin with the back of one hand and left a white streak there without seeming to notice.

Something clicked together in the back of Draco's mind, and without thinking, he raised the sponge in his hand. He'd been using it to smooth the saucer edges, but he now pressed it to Harry's chin, gently washing the porcelain smudge away. He pulled the towel from Harry's motionless hand, looked for a clean spot, and then wiped the water away. Harry's eyes were fixed on Draco's face, in that same expression that he reserved for ceramics.

Draco brushed his thumb across Harry's lower lip. He felt like he should say something, but after idly watching the man for so long, he instead leaned forward enough to press a soft kiss against Harry's mouth. It lasted a brief moment and was mostly innocent, but as Harry pulled away, there was regret in his eyes.

"This shouldn't happen," he murmured, glancing away from Draco. He looked at the porcelain he had just thrown on the wheel.

Draco pulled away, as well, firmly placing both hands on the table. He was shaking, but he'd be dammed if he'd let Harry know it. "'This' what? There is no 'this'." It was a lie and both of them knew it. Draco wanted to kiss him again, and more urgently. A small voice in the back of his mind told him that he should have known better than to try to start anything. He should have known better.

Harry stepped back, his mouth twisted in something like a grimace. "I'll see you in class, Draco. The saucers look wonderful." He turned and fled the studio, and it occurred to Draco that he didn't know where else to find the young professor.

He never saw Harry outside of class again, which was both a shock, as Harry still managed to get his work done without being seen, and a slap to the face, as it was one kiss and could have been easily forgotten.

Draco told himself this, but as he stood there staring at the door, the feel and taste of Harry's mouth lingered too sweetly.

-

The studio was hot and hushed on their last day, and filled with mingling students who were sampling food and drink from handmade cups and bowls. There were tall cups for drinks, small clay shot glasses, soup bowls, stew bowls, and endless cups of tea. Draco served his chicken broth, hot from a pot, and Hermione offered a dish of small sandwiches, cut into squares. Everyone ate and drank well, cleaned up the dishes, and then left everything to be marked.

Draco left quickly, unwilling to linger in Harry's presence, especially as he had managed to avoid looking at him the entire class. He knew that Harry had taken one of his bowls to drink from and it was all he could do to not imagine his mouth on the rim and all sorts of other inappropriate things.

He stormed down the hall past the private studios, fuming privately to himself. He had known better than to start anything with Harry, and yet he attempted to, anyway. Draco was starting to hate his moment of weakness, and was becoming increasingly more pleased with the notion that he only had to return to the ceramics studio once more to collect his marked projects.

It was also a bitterly satisfying thought that he had no further obligation in the ceramics classes. "Intro to Fruit Baskets, here I come," he muttered to himself. Perhaps he would accept the switch over to the music program when Tom suggested it at his advisement session the next week. With his choice of open art courses dwindling down, the idea wasn't as horrible as it perhaps once was.

"Hey!" A redheaded man stepped into the corridor from one of the graduate studios. Draco breezed past him without apologizing, determined to lock himself up in his dorm for the rest of the day. The graduate student followed after him, "Hey wait a minute."

With a loud sigh, Draco stopped to look at him. "What?" he asked irritably.

The redhead squinted at him. "You're in Potter's class, yeah?"

"Was,' Draco corrected, turning to leave. "Today was the last day, and therefore I am done with that class and, therefore, not in it any longer."

"Great," the redhead said with a grin. "You can help me with something, then. Two minutes; it'll be quick. I just need another set of hands."

"Why would it matter if I were in his class or not?" Draco asked. He considered the idea of just turning and walking away.

The other man shrugged, "It doesn't, but you just came from that direction and I know his class times. C'mon." He vanished into his studio.

After a pause and a heavy sigh, Draco followed him. The studio was cleaner than some that he'd seen, with the typical overflowing stack of reference books and magazines, and a table that looked stressed to have so much pressure on it. A light box against the wall was lit, and there were stacks of paper and drawings about the room. Most of the Drawing graduates preferred private studios in the department section on the second floor, but overflow must have forced them to take a main floor studio.

"I'm Ron," the Drawing grad said, closing the door behind Draco and offering him the chair at the desk. Draco took it, wondering what he needed a hand with. "I'm going to just say it, because I don't do tact well." He held a breath for a moment as if trying to figure out to put what he was going to say. "I know you're Draco, and Harry's my best mate so I don't appreciate you harassing him."

That had Draco standing again in a shot. "Excuse me?" He snapped, "I didn't harass him."

"Well, you forced yourself on him, and now it's haunting him, so I'm pretty sure that qualifies as harassment." Ron blocked Draco's path to the door and continued, "So, I'm saying stop it."

"Are you completely daft?" Draco stared at him disbelievingly. "Did he put you up to this?"

"No," Ron said slowly. "But he's not the sort of fellow to do that. He's been brooding over his porcelain and, as best mate, it's my job to cheer him up, understand? I think it'd be best if you left him alone."

"I haven't spoken with him outside what has been necessary for the class," Draco hissed, pushing Ron out of the way. He yanked open the door, despite his voice rising in volume. He didn't care if the whole department heard. "I don't bloody know where else to find him, it was one blasted kiss, and after I pick up my materials, I'll likely never see him again, anyway." He stormed out of the studio and down the corridor. "Christ!"

Ron seemed satisfied with himself. The studio door next to his closed quietly.

-

The week after, when marks were posted and material could be taken home, Draco spent some time in the ceramics studio wrapping his cups and saucers carefully in newsprint paper to take home with him. Sitting among his work was a single porcelain cup that he had not made. A piece of folded paper was pressed beneath it.

Draco ignored it after noticing it, knowing that there was only one person he knew that would be making porcelain cups that were that light and thin. The redhead girl, whose name Draco inadvertently discovered was Ginny, glanced at it when she passed by on her way to collect her own work. Unlike Draco, she merely stacked her ceramic pieces in a box.

"Did you make that?" she asked once she had everything of hers collected. Her water bowl and wooden tools were also stacked in the box. Everything jangled together, but she didn't seem concerned.

He was tempted to ignore her, but it was a simple question. "…No." She was the sister of the redheaded moron who had pulled him aside the week before, and it was difficult to remain nice to her.

"Must have been put in the wrong pile, then," Ginny said evenly. She watched him as if trying to gauge his reactions to what she said. He didn't respond. "I'll just put it on the finished cart, then. Someone will see it there."

Draco glanced at the cup, feeling his mouth pinch into a slight frown. "Do what you like," he said quietly. Carefully, he started packing his wrapped cups into a canvas bag.

Ginny took the cup and, after he didn't protest, she picked up the note, too. When he still didn't make a move to take them back, she shrugged and left him. She put the cup on the appropriate cart by the office and flipped open the note.

Draco watched her reflection in the windows, but she had her back turned away. She folded the note in half again and slipped it under the cup on the cart. Her hand hesitated over the cup, but then clenched into a fist as she pulled away. Ginny left the studio without another word.

With his tools and ceramics packed, Draco left the studio, as well. He was halfway down the hall when he slowly came to a stop, thinking about Ginny's reaction to the note. He didn't want to see what it said, but her muted response sparked a terrible curiosity in him. He wanted to know what Harry thought he needed to say. One of the doors in the hall opened, and before Draco could talk himself out of it, he went back to read the note.

The piece of paper was small, a plain sheet of printer paper. On the inside had been written an Oscar Wilde quote, 'The secret of life is in art.' Draco ran a thumb over Harry's chicken scratch handwriting, familiar from class notes on the blackboard, and thought the words over.

Draco remembered what Harry had shown him about anhau pottery, and lifted the fragile cup so he could see it directly under the ceiling light.

Incised into the porcelain was an elaborate vine pattern that scrolled and tangled effortlessly with a neatly scripted phrase, 'It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul. ' Another quote – Draco didn't recognize it, but it didn't seem like something that Harry would say. He felt a horrible, wonderful, swelling in his chest, and suddenly it was difficult to breathe.

He didn't understand why Harry would give him this, after the weeks of avoidance, and a defensive attack from Ron. Was it an apology? A confession? A goodbye? He hadn't thought him cruel, or mysterious, and this cup was making him seem both.

Draco took the cup and note with him, clutched protectively against his chest. He didn't know what to make of this, but it was clear that he had to find the man. Pulling out his phone, Draco punched in the number for Harry's cell phone. He'd done it many times before, but now was the first time he'd actually had the nerve to press SEND.

He listened to the dial tone ring as he walked down the hall past the private studios, sparing a glare at the redhead's door. If Harry didn't pick up, Draco decided to go ask at the office where else he could find Harry. In case he did pick up, though, it suddenly occurred to him that he should have something to start with other than, "Why'd you leave me this, you bastard?"

In one of the studios he'd passed, Draco heard a ringing, followed by a thump and then muffled crash. Draco stopped and turned to face the way he'd gone, disbelief sneaking into his features. From the phone pressed to his ear, a voice answered hesitantly, "Er, hello?" He could hear the voice echoing nearby. "Hello? Bugger, what's wrong with his thing…?" The voice trailed off into muttering about dropping things and slippery hands. "Hello?"

Draco snapped his phone shut and followed the noise to a studio room with the door slightly open. A badly faded label on the door read 'RM 687 – Professor of Ceramics, H. Potter.' It was right beside Ron's studio. Draco hadn't even noticed, but to be fair, he'd been pretty pissed off. Had Harry been next door when they were talking? He pushed the door open.

Harry was sitting at a porcelain-splattered pottery wheel, crouched over to examine his cell phone, which looked like had been dropped in the slop water. On small circle bats all around the room were different versions of the cup that Draco was holding. There was a desk to the side, but it was stacked and covered with books so thoroughly that Draco first mistook it for a bookshelf. On an open desk drawer, a laptop was perched precariously with the screen open, but the laptop was turned off.

The coat rack to the immediate left of the door held an assortment of clothing, all of which were surprisingly clean. A pair of jeans, a battered red t-shirt and a soft blue suede jacket seemed so out of place to Draco that he had to stop and look at them. It would have been absurd to assume that Harry had only clay-covered shirts and sweats to wear, but he'd never seen any sign of him in anything else.

The cell phone in Harry's hand slipped away, dropping into the splash pan (for what Draco assumed was the second time). He had porcelain on his hands and across his forehead, but he didn't wipe it off on his shirt like he usually did. Harry just stared at Draco, as if wondering if he were real. "Did you-?"

"Yes," Draco said immediately. He set down his bag of cups and uncurled his hand to show the cup. "Why did-?"

"I had to," Harry interrupted and the pleading expression to 'please, understand' he made was almost too much for Draco to handle. "I didn't want you to go without knowing."

"Your friend accused me of harassing you," Draco said evenly. He closed the door behind him and leaned against it, resisting the urge to throttle him.

Harry had grace enough to wince. "Er, about that… He means well, really. Sometimes he just gets overprotective. Really overprotective. I didn't know he was going to do that; I'm sorry…"

"Don't worry about it," Draco muttered. His hand clenched dangerously around the cup. "I should go. He was right about leaving you alone, I think." He set his hand on the handle of the door, about to turn and leave.

Harry stood and moved closer to Draco, closing the space between them in two steps. He reached around Draco and held one hand against the door. "Wait." The studio was suddenly much smaller and Draco was sure that the sound of his blood rushing was amplified in his ears.

Harry lightly touched one wet, porcelain-white hand to Draco's cheek. He shivered at the coolness of it, staring into Harry's ceramics-gaze. His green eyes were piercing, but alongside the focused intent, Draco could see a shimmering regret. "You were my student," he said softly. His tongue flicked out to lick his chapped lips. "I couldn’t start anything with you."

Draco stared at him. It wasn't what he had expected at all. "That's it? Then why didn't you say something?" His throat tightened on another question when Harry suddenly pressed closer to him, almost pinning him against the door. A wet line of porcelain across his chest made their shirts cling together.

"I knew," he said, "That if anything more happened, I wouldn’t be able to look at you casually." He dragged a kiss up Draco's jaw; they both shivered. Draco could feel Harry's heartbeat against his chest, staccato, like his own.

"I don't mind that," Draco murmured. He had one hand under Harry's shirt, but he never remembered putting it there. His skin was smooth, like the surface of the cup he had in his other hand. "Spare me the casual gaze, Mr. Potter." His anger had faded away, somewhere.

"I intend to," he said with a smile and they shared a proper kiss. He pulled them closer together, his hands smearing porcelain across Draco's clothes. Draco clutched at his back, uncertainty forgotten. "And it's just Harry."

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