“Of course it is happening in your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” — Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams. -- John Barrymore
Of course, there is the awkward moment when Draco is helping him clear the table after dinner and as he sets the stack of plates next to the sink, Harry catches sight of the dark lines of ink on his forearm.
The glass he is holding slips from his fingers, hitting the floor and shattering loudly as Harry tries to swallow the sick feeling that is rising up his throat. He remembers so vividly his sixth year of school, all the time he had spent trying to see if Draco had taken the Dark Mark and here it is, right in front of him, menacing coal-black seared into the white flesh of Draco’s wrist.
Not here, he thinks frantically. Please don’t let that be true here.
He looks up, blinking swiftly, and his vision clears.
“Sorry,” he says almost automatically, “my hand slipped.”
Draco reaches down to clean up the glass, his sleeve riding up and away from the edges of the tattoo and Harry feels like an idiot. Instead of the horrible skull there is an unassuming line of text.
Casually, Harry asks as he sweeps up the rest of the shards with the broom, “What does your tattoo say? I forgot.”
“Oh, it’s that quote, remember?” Draco holds out his arm and Harry reads, ‘A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.’ “I got it before we met to remind me to live fully, without regrets. I know you were thinking about getting a matching one at one point. Did you change your mind?”
Harry stutters and Draco picks up the biro that is lying on the kitchen table, sitting them both down in the chairs on either side of it. “If you did, I’m kind of glad.”
Draco starts doodling something on Harry’s forearm with the pen, face scrunched up in concentration.
“You are? Why?”
“Well, you know what they say about relationships that are sealed in ink.”
“What do they say?”
“That they’re usually long over by the time it dries. And we’re not like that.”
“No. We’re not like that.” Harry looks at Draco’s blond head bent down in front of him and tries to remember when that became the truth.
“There.” Draco sits back, satisfied with his artwork and Harry looks down at his arm.
“Oh, what the fuck.”
There, written in between his wrist and elbow in elaborate calligraphy, are the words ‘PROPERTY OF DRACO MALFOY’.
Draco cackles gleefully and carefully moves out of Harry’s reach, hands up in a gesture of surrender as he takes refuge by the sink. “Just marking my territory. Don’t want anyone stealing you away from me.”
Moving towards Draco, revenge written all over his face, Harry growls, “I’ll show you how to mark territory.”
He grabs a dishtowel from the table as Draco flicks water at him from the sink, still cackling, and Harry can feel the laughter bubbling up from his chest in a way that hasn’t happened in so long.
And when he tries to attack Draco with the towel and gets kissed instead, both of them still laughing, and Draco’s hands are rubbing dishsoap bubbles into his hair, Harry stops trying to figure out how things became this way and simply lets himself be.
The next morning, or maybe the next week or month (Harry has long stopped trying to keep track of time in the post-war reality except to mark the nights where he wakes from another one of his limbo nightmares and Draco’s heartbeat isn’t there keeping time against his chest), Harry runs into Hermione on his way out of work. Or rather, Hermione runs into him, because Harry has stopped, standing stock still in the doorway of the elevator.
He’s seen a flash of silver hair ahead and it’s just like when he was back in school and he would spot Malfoy’s head down the hall from him, or across the Great Hall, and his whole body would suddenly be on high alert, except now it’s for a different reason. It’s not because he’s looking for a fight, but because Draco shouldn’t be here. This is Harry’s world.
“I forgot that he was back in town,” Hermione says from behind him and Harry remembers that he should move out of the way of the elevator doors. “He got married a few months ago, did you hear? His wife is Daphne Greengrass’ little sister. Do you remember her at all?”
Harry doesn’t say it, but he looked up Astoria Greengrass once in the Auror’s files, after he saw Draco at St. Mungo’s. She is a pretty little brunette a few years younger than him, from a good family — certainly better in reputation that the Malfoys anyway — and Harry tells himself that at least Draco is attracted to green eyes and dark hair and then absolutely refuses to try and figure out why that matters to him so much.
Draco is standing facing away from Harry and towards the fountain, irritation written in every angle of his back as people pass him and glare when they catch sight of his face. The Malfoy name is still mud after all this time.
“Astoria,” he says, loud enough to carry over to where Harry and Hermione are standing, and Harry spots Draco’s new wife a few feet away, craning her neck to get a better look at the sculpture of the witch and wizard, long ropes of hazelnut hair hanging down her back against her periwinkle robes. “We have an appointment for lunch, remember? You’ve been staring at that statue for a quarter of an hour and we’re late.”
“Oh, but Draco! This is so cool!” Her voice is bright and airy, like springtime breezes and sunlight filtering through trees, and all Harry can think is that she seems so very, very young. “Look at the little house elf’s ears!”
He sees Draco’s shoulders rise and fall in a sigh and he turns toward the exit without another word.
“Draco! Wait! Draco!”
“Well, they seem happy,” Hermione says sarcastically as Astoria rushes after him and Harry feels strangely disconnected from the man that just walked out the doors of the Ministry. He has the same face, the same body as the Draco Malfoy he’s been spending his dreams with, but somehow they are not the same person at all.
“Harry, what’s that on your arm?” Hermione tugs at his sleeve and Harry’s eyes widen when he looks down, train of thought suddenly breaking down. The hand-drawn words “PROPERTY OF D —“ are peeking out from under his sleeve, the dark ink of the pen startlingly clear against the pale skin of his forearm.
Covering the letters with his palm, he jerks away and lies, “It’s nothing. I was… drunk. Last night. And so I drew on myself. It was very stupid.”
“O…kay,” Hermione says curiously. “Do you think you — “
Harry interrupts, backing away towards the loo, “Sorry, I have, uh — a thing. That I have to — “
He ducks inside the door abruptly, mind moving a hundred miles an hour. Nearly ripping back his sleeve, Harry stares down at the writing. How could he have missed that as he got dressed this morning? Lately, everything was a little hazy when he wasn’t with Draco in the other world and he just hasn’t been paying attention
The words written on him, ‘PROPERTY OF DRACO MALFOY’ — maybe he had done it himself in his sleep? It wasn’t a far stretch to think that he might have progressed to sleepwalking.
But the handwriting is clearly not his and the angle is all wrong and Harry remembers
Draco writing it, the cold pen in his hand marking him, warm fingers wrapped around his wrist, and Draco telling him that they were something he never planned on regretting, like ink that dried too quickly on fragile skin.
Draco had said all that in Harry’s imagination, but the words he had written are still there.
He rolls his sleeve down again, trying buttoning the cuff to hide the mock tattoo from sight, but his hands are shaking uncontrollably and the little white button keeps slipping through his clammy fingers. Instead, Harry takes off his glasses and splashes some cold water on his face from the tap in an attempt to slow the racing of his mind and heart. Rather than calming him down though, the water makes him feel as if he can’t breathe and Harry backs away from the sink, gasping for air as the droplets slip from his chin and soak his dress shirt, turning it from light to dark blue.
That had happened in his dream. It just isn’t possible
, isn’t real
, he tells himself, covering his eyes to shield them from the searing light of the restroom lamps that outline his reflection in the mirror, shoulders still heaving and lips chalky-pale.
But Harry knows, without a doubt, that if he were to take a sample of Draco Malfoy’s handwriting and compare it to the writing on his body, the two would be an exact match.
It’s never the fact that Draco is another man that is the issue. Harry has almost completely forgotten that it ever bothered him before now and has accepted this part of himself.
The problem is that sometimes Draco will do something — like reach for his glass across the dinner table so Harry can see the way his veins stand out, a vivid blue against the ivory skin of his forearms and hands, or he’ll walk around without a shirt, with the hard planes of his back and the shape of his shoulder blades bare to the air — and Harry’s mind will blank out completely.
There are even a few moments, like when Draco comes from the bathroom, shirtless, his hair still wet and dripping from the shower like cobwebs in the rain, to check on dinner and Harry has the urge to go up behind him in front of the sink and walk the trail of each of the water droplets down the skin of Draco’s back with his mouth. The beads start at the nape of his neck and slide down the deep hollow of his spine, finally disappearing into the top of his sweatpants. Harry finds himself wanting to slip his fingers beneath the waistband and trace the rest of the water’s course on Draco’s skin like a map for future reference —
The worst part is that he doesn’t even know why he’s started imagining these kinds of things. He’s never wanted stuff like that before and it’s unnerving.
Instead, Harry reminds himself that Draco is kind of short and his nose is too pointy and everything about him, his skin, his eyes, his hair, even the color of his lips, is just too pale, like all the color was sucked out of him at birth and he had to be printed with failing newspaper ink instead.
Harry also has to remind himself that all of those things were once very unattractive to him because sometimes it’s like he’s forgotten it all.
It’s hard not to forget, though, when he goes in to brush his teeth and their toothbrushes are standing side-by-side in the holder and he can see Draco changing for bed out of the corner of his eye.
And it isn’t that Draco is mindblowingly attractive or anything. He’s a bit too slim, collarbones winging out from the center of his chest starkly, and he’s pale — pasty is what Harry would have called him back when they hated each other in school — but now that Harry has had a closer look, he can see the sprinkling of freckles across his nose and chest. If he was a bit younger, Draco might have been described as gangly, but as an adult, he’s wiry, architectural, from the too-pointy lines of his nose and chin to the harsh cut of his torso into his hips and the bony angles of his knees and elbows.
So while it’s true that Harry rationally thinks that Draco isn’t all that attractive, that hasn’t really stopped him from looking.
“I ran into Zacharias Smith today. He asked after you.” Draco is standing in the doorway of the bathroom, watching Harry as he brushes his teeth, his t-shirt riding up to show a pale strip of skin above his pajama bottoms as he leans against the moulding.
Harry only pauses for a moment before beginning to brush again a little more irritably, spitting around the plastic, “Oh?”
“Yeah, he wanted to know if we were still together or not. I think he wanted to ask me out again.”
Harry feels the dull flame of jealousy ignite in his chest and he shoves his toothbrush back into its holder roughly. Zacharias had always been such a prick back in school. “How nice for you then.”
“Harry.” Draco’s arms snake around his waist from behind. “Don’t worry. I told him we were wildly happy and you were the best boyfriend I could ever hope for. Well, you would be if I could ever get you to put your dirty underwear in the hamper anyway.”
Finally meeting his eyes in the mirror, Harry feels his breath go out of his lungs. Draco is smiling quietly, intimately at him, chin resting on his shoulder and his lips speaking next to Harry’s cheekbone.
“You don’t ever need to be jealous. Especially not of Zacharias Smith.” Draco turns him around, away from the mirror and looks at him earnestly, grey eyes catching the light and shining silver underneath his gossamer eyelashes. “You know I only like the best, and you’re it. You’re the only one I want.”
And Harry can’t explain why he does it, but before he can stop himself, he’s grabbed Draco’s collar and pressed their mouths together fiercely. It’s not the best kiss; there’s a little too much teeth, his glasses cutting his cheek almost painfully, and Draco is caught off guard, but before too long, he’s gathered Harry into his chest and softened the kiss, smoothing it out like a wrinkled bed sheet or a crumpled piece of parchment, and Harry’s spine shudders and goes limp.
Harry can finally admit to himself that he likes being with Draco like this — likes kissing him and fisting his hand in the front of Draco’s shirt to pull him closer while Draco traces the pattern stitched on the back pocket of Harry’s trousers with his fingertips and pulls their hips towards each other. Even more than that, as they make their way into the bedroom and Draco pours him across their bed, body covering his, one hand pressing into the small of his back while the other strokes the skin around his navel, and his lips are kissing the hollow of his collar bone, Harry knows that he has
thought about this. And unlike before, when the very idea of it was repulsive, Harry thinks that maybe being like this with Draco is something he really wants. That he has simply been waiting, hoping it would finally happen.
And there is a moment, when Harry’s hands are clutching at the pale skin of Draco’s back, lungs grasping for air again, and his heart has never been so full, and the words slip out. A part of Harry is glad that Draco doesn’t treat it like the first time he’s ever said that, mostly because he doesn’t think it is. But there’s a chance that he might not have even heard it, since it had been barely more than a whisper against the smooth column of Draco’s neck.
But then Draco says it back and it’s different, because Harry has finally reconciled himself to the fact that there is Malfoy, the spoiled brat that he had known in school, and then there is Draco, this Draco, who loves him back and is now together with him in every way possible. And while he still can’t stand one of them, he doesn’t think he can live without the other.
Later, as he is sandwiched between the soft sheets and Draco’s skin, Harry decides he can’t remember when he’s been more comfortable, and the warm fuzziness of sleep starts to envelope him like a down blanket. If he never has to move again, it will be too soon.
Draco shifts, causing a draft of cold air to find its way underneath the covers.
“Smuph,” Harry snorts sleepily, tightening his arm around the other man’s shoulders. “Don’t move.”
“Harry,” Draco whispers again, “you need to let me up. Our bed is not a toilet.”
“Murmph,” Harry says into the pillow again. He raised his head slightly. “No, ’s cold. You’re warm.”
“Did you know that males have a higher skin temperature than females?” Draco’s suddenly chipper tone of voice chirping right next to his ear cuts through the warm cotton of Harry’s sleep and he huffs again. “Their actual body temperature is the same, but females keep it in their core and males, like, radiate — “
“Right when I was thinking about how I wanted to keep you around, you open your mouth. Why do you do that?”
He rolls away onto his back and Draco pats him affectionately on the stomach as he climbs out of bed.
“Just trying to brighten up the world with my wit and intelligence,” he says smugly before disappearing into the bathroom. "Plus, you like me with my mouth open."
Harry's eyes pop open, but Draco shuts the door before he has a chance to retaliate and he ends up huffing into the quiet of the bedroom instead.
Rolling back over, he presses his face into the pillow and is assaulted by the soft scent of Draco’s hair.
Harry had never considered how different the idea of this being their
bed, instead of just the bed he woke up in during his dreams, would be. It smells like them and they picked out the sheets together and Harry wishes he could wake up here every morning for the rest of his life.
It’s moments like this where Harry finds himself having trouble deciding which reality he belongs in, which one is actually real. He used to be so sure this was all a dream, but now…
He is asleep before Draco comes back from the bathroom.
A/N: For me, this chapter is a real turning point in the direction of the story. After this, there's only one chapter left, and I'm really curious as to how everyone feels/thinks about the bit with Draco's doodle. It was one of my first ideas for the story, one of those formless things that hang around until you put them into writing, and honestly, I think that that bit might be one of my favorites. Anyway, what do you think? What is really real? What's going on with Harry?
I just recently found out (because I am a pabo and never check these things) that The Satellite Heart was voted Ravenclaw's Story of the Month for November! Thank you so much! I'm so incredibly surprised and flattered and so so proud that this, of all my stories, is one that seems to have caught people's interest. Thank you all for voting!
(On a side-note, the idea for Draco's tattoo came from a member of the kpop band Beast, Junhyung. It is honestly one of the most beautifully placed tattoos I've ever seen, so if you're curious, look it up!)
Wham, bam thank you ma'am to my glorious beta, Janechel (TenthWeasley), to Melissa (witnesstoitall), for helping me figure out Draco's tattoo and to all my wonderful friends. I have no idea why you keep me around, but I am forever thankful for every one of you.
Disclaimer: The wonderful world of Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling. I own nothing you recognize.