This a masterful, delicately wrought tale of regrets and identities and second chances, told through the eyes and mind (and a little of the heart) of Horace Slughorn. The POV here is one of the most impressive pieces of ventriloquism I've ever read, and the voice is so feathered and layered with astute psychological phrasings, idiomatic drollery, an almost feline sensitivity to nuance and the uses that can be made of it, all soaked in a touch of rue and with a dash of optimism, that - well, it's an astonishing performance and an irresistible character. Because Horace, with his veneer of sophisticated hedonism and the migratory instincts of a social butterfly, is also an aging pedophile brushed by loneliness and shadowed by moral cowardice. The narrative shows him to be aware of his failings, although he's as civilized in holding himself to account as he is in pursuing the ambiguous young man of the title.
It's a charade and a dance of unmaskings, as Slughorn, wintering in British Columbia, encounters one Benjamin Jink, who reminds him in shards and fragments of a student who was once a member of his House. He's drawn like a moth to a candle flame, and the wooing begins.
This story is pretty nearly perfect. The pleasure of Horace's company is hard to convey, since he's virtually a buffoon in canon and that might conceivably interfere with a potential reader's willingness to surrender, sight unseen, to his cultivated peculiarities. In this fic, he's witty, perceptive, self-aware and self-deceived, an aesthete with very particular tastes. He's as Slytherin as they come, and he's proof that Slytherins can be genial and sympathetic. He's also a predator, though an affable one, and a man for whom the past conceals shadows and regrets. His prey, as it turns out, is both more dangerous and more burdened than he is, although uncertainty about the truth informs every step of their progress toward intimacy.
If you're in a mood for a superlative fic with a charming, deeply intelligent and subtle narrative voice, this is the fic for you. Here, let me quote a mere two lines to give you a sample of the quality of the writing:There was something about an enfant terrible that never failed to drive him to foolishness.It was perhaps the most satisfying maybe he had ever received in a lifetime full of ambivalent responses.
Go. Read. You won't be sorry.The Courtship of Benjamin Jink