Candid Alley

BY : Lomonaaeren
Category: Harry Potter > Slash - Male/Male > Harry/Draco
Dragon prints: 1890
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. I am making no money from this fanfic.


Title: Candid Alley



Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.



Pairings: Harry/Draco



Warnings: Angst, present tense, omniscient POV, mentions of character deaths, voyeurism.



Rating: R



Wordcount:  4000



Summary: In Candid Alley, one can find everything. Including truth.



Author’s Notes: This is a weird and somewhat surreal story.



 



Candid Alley



 



            It’s an alley that sprang up after the second war. One morning it wasn’t there, and the next day it was, a narrow path leading away from the wall that one uses to get into Diagon Alley behind the Leaky Cauldron, spiraling off to the side in dust-gold flagstones. The first wizards who walked it found the shops and stalls and spread blankets of the sellers already awaiting them, and the first bells swinging gently and tinkling in the sun.



 



            You’re never far away from the sound of bells, in Candid Alley. They’re the advertising and instrument of choice for any merchant with food, clothes, weapons, wands, living things, potions, or magic to sell. They dangle from the bridles of giant black cats with silver eyes, standing patiently beside the blankets spread on the flagstones and staring into the faces of passersby to find those worthy to own them. They spread from the wings of small, jewel-bright birds chained by their legs to perches, fitting food for the bronze snakes sold in the shop at the turning of the first path. They cluster so thickly around the bowls of the Pensieves in the Artificer’s shop that one hears a muted humming when one picks the Pensieve up, instead of a clanging of all.



 



            There are bells on the doors of the shops, and windchimes on the corners of the shadowy tents that, it’s said, are stirred only by the heavier footsteps of those who can afford to pay the asking price of the pale-skinned witches at the entrances of those tents. There are bells underwater in the tanks where the sea serpents splash, and bells buried under sand in the cages where no seller is visible and the amber battle scorpions come out of their own free will to display themselves. (You pay the scorpions carefully, sliding the Galleons onto a scale that bears their weight down into the sandy tanks, and lifts a single scorpion out on the other side).



 



            There are so many shops in Candid Alley that it would take a lifetime to categorize them all. There are some that are more famous than others, of course. The one that sold the silver sword that decapitated the thing that had taken Percy Weasley’s body. The bookshop in which Salazar Slytherin’s notebooks turned up after being lost for centuries, and revolutionized the history of the wizarding world when people learned his real thoughts about Muggleborns and pure-bloods. The tent in which a crone with eight eyes and a spider on either shoulder produced, smiling, the hollowed-out simulacrum of the Elder Wand that proved deadlier than the real thing.



 



            And then there’s the Buried Shop, so called for the low stone staircase that leads under its arching, earth-shrouded roof into its depths. There are windows in the shop, high in the walls, that look out on passing hooves, feet, paws, fins. The dim strands of sunlight travel in carefully arranged chains across the stone floor, and fall on the mirrors, bowls, cups, baubles, window panes, and shining knives that the shopkeeper displays. If it is made of glass, he sells it.



 



            The shopkeeper himself is a low man, with dark hair and golden eyes that bespeak more than a trace of goblin blood. No one steals from him. One mirror is full of the pinned shadows of those who have tried.



 



            He waits. And to those who come and ask, he reveals what they ask for. This shop is the reason for Candid Alley’s name, and not because the wares in the alley will show the seekers their heart’s desire, as so many wizards believe. It is because, in the Buried Shop, one finds the truth.



 



*



 



            It is a sunny morning when Harry Potter comes walking down the narrow, twisting paths that make up Candid Alley, shaking his head with a smile at an offer of unicorn horn, a dagger carved from a manticore’s sting, a small bone cube that the centaur selling it promises will make his dreams sing. He has no interest in singing dreams, and less in the illegal goods that the horn and the dagger represent. When he comes here, he is not an Auror, or an ally of Hermione Granger, who is taking the lead in attempting to ban trading in parts of magical creatures. He isn’t even the Chosen One. It’s possible that defeating Voldemort made it possible for Candid Alley to appear, but here, no one looks at him twice. They are too busy looking at money or into their own hearts.



 



            He reaches the front of the Buried Shop and takes the steps in the half-crouching crawl that’s necessary, his head stirring the inevitable bells hung at the door as he passes. In the Buried Shop, the keeper awaits, the low man with the golden eyes, and if it were not for the mounds of cloth around his head and his face that make it impossible to tell if he smiles, one would say that he did.



 



            “Mr. Potter,” he says, and no more. That is the name that Harry Potter has chosen to go by here.



 



            Harry nods to him and pulls a cluster of Galleons out of his pocket, watching the gleam of them for a moment as though to count that there are enough, though the price for his entering of the shop has not changed and never will. “I’ve come for the usual,” he says, and holds out the coins, with no more fear than if he were ordering a pint at the Leaky Cauldron.



 



            The low man makes them vanish, never pulling a hand out of his robes as he does so. Then he nods and says, “You know where.” He gestures to a corner of the shop, not far from the mirror that holds the stolen shadows.



 



            Harry paces in that direction, and finds, with his eyes swimming in the maze of crystal, the single Pensieve that the shop contains. He draws it out, and looks for a moment at his hands resting on the slender, transparent sides, carved with leaping creatures, dolphin below and raven above. When he first came here and discovered what was in the Buried Shop, he studied legends about dolphins and ravens. They are both creatures associated with escorting the souls of the dead home, he found.



 



            Well, he is not dead. Not as long as he has the eyes to see and the breath to command this.



 



            And the coins.



 



            Harry gives a sinuous shrug that would surprise some who knew him. Well, his parents left him a fortune. And this is what Galleons are for, to be spent.



 



            He waits until the Pensieve beneath his fingers jerks and glitters and fills up. The liquid that rises within it is pure memory, or at least it looks that way, all clear and full of vivid light from the mirrors around the basin. It’s not memories that Harry puts in there. It’s not memories that anyone in this world puts in there.



 



            But there are other worlds.



 



            Harry continues lowering his head, down and down, until the crown of his shaggy hair touches the water, the memory, and the world around him jerks and flees, and drops him into the truth.



 



*



 



            This is a large, light room, different from the ones that Harry has seen the other times he visited the Buried Shop. But if it was not different every time, he does not think that he would come back. He leans against one wall and contents himself with a slow, leisurely look around the room, for the moment avoiding the bed in the center of it.



 



            The walls are plain wood, but the windows make up for that in sheer extravagance of beauty. The sunlight that falls through them is almost transparent, blue with a touch of white. The panes are decorated with swirls of wrought iron, of set rubies, of emerald-eyed lions—and Harry can’t make out whether the lions are carved like an intaglio, or set onto the glass in metal, or simply traced there. The brilliance of their eyes obscures the temptation to look at their bodies.



 



            The sunlight touches mirrors on the walls, two of them facing each other. Beneath each mirror is a small desk of red-grained pale wood, with a bureau next to each one. The bureaus are set so they face each other, Harry notes, and a smile spreads slowly across his face. These are the ones he likes.



 



            He faces the bed again, and lets himself savor the sight, parsing it by colors.



 



            First is the canopy, so rich a red that it makes Harry’s mouth water and think of rare meat landing on his plate in a splash of juices. Then there are the curtains that slide down from the canopy, in more subdued shades of red, until they reach black at the bottom. Not rare meat, then, but ripped and shining insides, looped with black blood—although Harry knows this is one of the times when the two men asleep in the bed do not draw out that side of each other. They undoubtedly chose the curtains for another reason.



 



            And beneath the gleaming ebony posts that the curtains cradle is the bed, simple and stark in the dark coverlets. The pillows are huge enough to crush together like clouds and obscure the suns that Harry has come to see. He steps to the side, walking cautiously on the wooden floor covered with braided rugs, and then reminds himself that this is a Pensieve memory and they will not hear him no matter how hard he treads. That makes it easier to step right up to the bed and see what he has come to find.



 



            Two heads, one higher than the other, but only incidentally, as if they tried to cling to each other exactly equally and at last had to admit that it was uncomfortable to lie ear to ear. The blond one is tangled, so much so that Harry can only imagine slender pale fingers sinking in and pulling tight until he cries out in surrender. The black one ruffles his fringe with his snores. The face is almost entirely hidden, but Harry knows what he would see if it turned, the bright scar and the green eyes that he faces in the mirror every morning.



 



            The blond head rolls to the side and says something in a sleepy mutter. The black head rolls the other way, pauses as though coming awake, and then pushes hard with legs and arms in a coordinated shove.



 



            Harry leaps back in spite of himself as Malfoy’s body shoots out of bed. There have been few times that he’s watched one of them wake the other with that kind of move, and he feels the smile spreading on his face, deepening, as he watches Malfoy sit up and stare at the bed, his face puffy with resentment—and sleep. That rather softens the scowl that he is trying to bring up for the Harry who pushed him out.



 



            “What was that for?” he whispers, and Harry shivers at the sound, like the grinding of jaws at a contented distance. “What did I say?”



 



            “Confusing me with someone else you used to fuck deserves at least that much,” the other Harry says, and drags himself partway out of the covers so that Harry can see him. He blinks when he sees the shining scars that cut across his chest and down towards his waist. It looks as though someone used Sectumsempra on him, in turn, or as though he barely escaped the grasp of one of the lions that decorate his windows. “I can give you a harder thump on the head than that, if you like. If you think about it and agree with me that you deserve more than that.” He smiles.



 



            Harry never smiles like that. On the other hand, he doesn’t bear scars like that, either. He would not come to Candid Alley if the truth was the same every time. He sits down on the floor and prepares to watch with some delight.



 



            The Malfoy on the floor coils himself up in the edge of the trailing blanket as though needing warmth to wake up, but Harry can make out the way his legs tense, and he thinks the Harry in the bed can, too. “I called you Harry,” Malfoy says, with a simple, stark dignity that matches the wooden walls well. “By your name.”



 



            “No,” Harry-in-the-bed says, tilting his head and making the hair fall over his eyes. Harry wonders why he can see so well without his glasses. Another mystery, another tickling question that won’t be answered in the short time Harry has here. “There was a distinct Z sound in there. And the name might have ended with ‘abini.’ Just might, you understand.”



 



            From the way that Malfoy ducks his head and then brings his hands down underneath him as if bowing, Harry knows this is a way they play, and that the argument will lead to nothing serious. Well, nothing that will leave more than a few bruises, anyway.



 



            Probably ones that will fade inside a week. Surely.



 



            “I didn’t call you that,” Malfoy says mildly. “I’m sorry that you feel threatened by my past relationships. I’ve let them go and moved on. I would have expected at least as much of a Gryffindor.”



 



            Harry-in-the-bed rolls over to look at him and opens his mouth to say something that Harry-against-the-wall hopes would be spectacularly cutting, except that’s the moment Malfoy chooses to spring on him.



 



            They roll on the bed shouting at each other—not curses, but sheer violent yelling, joy in their voices, done for the sound of the thing. Harry bows his head and closes his eyes. He thinks of the sounds that echo in his own life, and the silences. He places the memories carefully within his own head, to be recalled later in his own Pensieve, back in the silence.



 



            The shouts cease. Harry looks up to find that Malfoy is pinning Harry-in-the-bed against the edge of the bed, his head dangling down so that all the blood can rush to it, and a hand on his throat. Malfoy smiles like a shark about to take a bite out of his third fish of the day.



 



            “Surrender,” Malfoy suggests coolly.



 



            Harry-in-the-bed breathes for a few seconds, as though he thinks that Malfoy will let him up if he’s good enough. But Malfoy seems to be on to all his tricks, and simply bears down harder, with his eyes shining fit to rival the sun through the windows. Harry-against-the-wall bites his lip and decides to remember that, as well.



 



            “No,” Harry-in-the-bed says, and heaves under Malfoy, legs coiling under him as though he thinks he can throw him off that way. Malfoy simply settles his weight more heavily, though, and Harry-in-the-bed gasps as the last of the air flees his lungs. Malfoy makes it worse by kissing him, thievingly, taking still more air away.



 



            “Surrender,” Malfoy whispers, and then licks Harry’s collarbone and begins to move down his body, pushing the blankets away so that Harry—the one against the wall—can see. They are both naked, of course. Harry has seen few worlds where they wear clothing of any kind in bed. He does, so he thinks that this must be something the Malfoys of the worlds have persuaded their Harrys into. “I’ll make you.”



 



            “I’d rather be made to surrender than do it of my own free will to the likes of you,” Harry-in-the-bed spits, and Harry-against-the-wall smiles even as his hand moves lazily down to his own trousers. That’s the spirit he likes to see, the one that tells him that, even as Malfoy’s lovers, the Harrys of other worlds still haven’t changed and become mindless slaves.



 



            (Well. There was the one world where that happened).



 



            Malfoy smiles at him, and nods, and says, “We can do that, too. Or I can. I have doubts about your ability.”



 



            Harry-in-the-bed draws in a breath as though to scream at Malfoy, and then lets it go and simply sighs instead. The reason comes from Malfoy’s mouth, which isn’t speaking anymore but drawn in a tight circle at groin height.



 



            Harry-against-the-wall watches, his hand moving steadily, as Malfoy sucks. And if he thinks of what it would be like to touch the same tangled pale hair, and have the same hands sliding up his hips and then locking in place on smooth skin as though Malfoy must have more of skin no matter how full his body is, and the same tongue making him cry out, that’s not something he needs to admit at the moment, with his eyes full of sunlight and his ears full of lovemaking.



 



            It doesn’t seem to take a long time; it doesn’t seem to take a short time. Harry-in-the-bed seizes up with his head arched back and his hands scratching at the coverlets, and Harry-against-the-wall doubles up at the same moment, his head bowed and his body curled around his hand as though he wants to savor his pleasure. Malfoy draws back and watches Harry-in-the-bed with the possessive look that’s so common to him in so many worlds, as though Harry is a prize he’s hunted and snared.



 



            “My turn,” he says at last, and stands up and swings his leg around Harry-in-the-bed’s body, holding him down as he begins to rub against Harry’s stomach, his eyes closing and his hips thrusting strongly even at this awkward angle.



 



            Harry-in-the-bed lies there and looks up at him, and at this point—well, not the same one all the time, but the point where the other Harry gets a certain light in his eyes—Harry-against-the-wall looks away. He listens to Malfoy’s climax with muted ears, and stands with his head bowed as he listens to them kiss. Malfoy gasps, and then begins to laugh as the other Harry tickles him.



 



            And this is worse than most of them. Harry turns, and steps, and yearns, and the memory vanishes around him as he rises from the Pensieve. He finds himself in the Buried Shop again, his hands clenched down on the sides of the delicate glass basin so hard that he fears he might shatter it. He pulls back sharply and stands there, watching the shadow of his head in the trembling silvery liquid, until it swirls and vanishes back into the bottom of the Pensieve and whatever world it came from.



 



            He turns and finds the shopkeeper standing there, watching him. His eyes are like a werewolf’s, but Harry can’t blame him for that. He was the one who came here, and he’s the one who knows that the truths you find in Candid Alley aren’t always the ones you came seeking.



 



            “Thank you,” he tells the shopkeeper in a muffled voice, and then rushes out of the Buried Shop and up the steps. His head brushes the windchimes again, and he leans against the wall of the shop as he leaned against the wall of that Malfoy and Harry’s bedroom, his eyes shut, his legs trembling.



 



            Every week, or sometimes every month, he comes here in order to see them, to see other worlds where the truth is different. Every week, or sometimes every month, he lets the mask of lies fall from his face and the truth creep in.



 



            But it’s only a temporary stronghold. The truths you find in Candid Alley are not the ones you came seeking, or only sometimes, and Harry knows that he can’t have those glimpses of another world here. It’s a dream, and it flashes and flickers and disappears when he thinks about it.



 



            This one affected him more than most. It’s unusual, but he’ll get over it. He’s seen more violent acts before, and more beautiful places. Let the beauty and the violence tangle in his head for a while, and he thinks they will separate and become mixed with other memories and truths and lies until he can stand them.



 



            “What are you here for?”



 



            The voice is low and ugly and challenging, and cuts through the constant sound of bells like a jeweled sword. Harry stands up, staring. No one challenges anyone else in Candid Alley. The people who come here, seeking truth or otherwise, know that they could not stand for the desires in their own hearts to be questioned, and that means leaving the squirming wishes at the bottom of others’ alone.



 



            But it is not no one who stands before him now, or someone, or anyone. It is Malfoy, Malfoy from this world, with burnished golden hair like the dusty flagstones that lead here and eyes like the memories in the basin.



 



            It is Malfoy, and he leans forwards on the balls of his feet and repeats his growl. “What are you here for?” but one bit of emphasis changed, and it’s all Harry can do to avoid vomiting.



 



            He wants to challenge. He wants to bite back. He wants to tell Malfoy not to question him, that there’s no reason for him to think that he needs to know the reason Harry’s here—



 



            And he wants to kiss him, seek his hands deep in the gold, haul the silver closer to him, kiss and bite and lick the red and already mangled lips, as though someone has been at them before him, he wants to dive deep—



 



            But he turns and walks away, and ignores the way that Malfoy calls after him. This is Candid Alley. One has to seek the truth, and Malfoy doesn’t care enough to rush after him and seek it that way.



 



            But Harry does look over his shoulder when the calling stops, and sees Malfoy vanish into the Buried Shop. He came for that, then. He wasn’t simply passing by when he saw Harry there and decided to bark at him.



 



            Harry images Malfoy’s legs flexing as he walks down the stairs, imagines the flash of the Galleons that he will toss to the shopkeeper, imagines the clarity of the Pensieve in which he will lose himself—



 



            He doesn’t know that. He isn’t brave enough to seek the truth behind Malfoy’s sudden appearance, either. He doesn’t know what Malfoy is here for.



 



            He doesn’t think so.



 



            And no one can make him learn it. Despite the suspicion of the truth hanging about his shoulders like a crown or a serpent, flicking its tongue against his ear, making him laugh the way that Harry and Malfoy laughed in the vision.



 



            Harry flees, and behind him comes the shadow.



 



*



 



            Anything lies in Candid Alley. Here is the shop where Rowena Ravenclaw’s wand came forth of its own free will, drifting in the air on a wave of starlight, to flourish itself above the head of a Ravenclaw descendant and free her from the Imperius that had been controlling her for long years. Here is the tent where a man can let you, for a small fee, feel the touch of your unborn children’s hands. And here is the dip in the flagstones, and the bend, where you can walk along a road of broken glass into a sunrise, and never return.



 



            Anything lies in Candid Alley, and people find what they seek.



 



            And if they look for it once, there is no guarantee that they will find it lying hidden again if they come back. No guarantee that it will ever lie again.



 



            But spread wings, and hunt, and stoop down on them when they think they are free of it.



 



            Truth is in every ring of the bells.



 



            The End.



 



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