Honestly, no one was really surprised about Hannah Abbott – her words were clear and pristine, written carefully around the skin of her inner elbow, and Ernie Macmillan had fallen out of his chair when she’d reached across his chest to borrow his inkpot.
It was Seamus then, usually with Dean and Justin, who had to watch, annoyed, as Ernie stutteringly tried to ask her about them six or seven times before he finally managed to get any words out.
Although, privately Seamus didn’t think much of them – after all, the scrawl was supposed to be romantic, wasn’t it? Swirling words of magic ink, how could they not be?
Say Person A and Person B were destined to be – everyone’s got someone, and A’s got B. Only thing is, A and B have just met. Casually, maybe, over brunch or in a work meeting. Maybe it’s just eye contact on a crowded street, or an awkward apology on the tube. Either way, come midnight, A and B both find swirling letters of magic black ink etched into their skin – a shifting tattoo. A direct line to their soul mate’s thoughts. It’s not exactly a science – not even the scrawl can keep track of every line of thought in a person’s inner monologue.
The thing about the scrawl, though, was it tended to be like a homing beacon. The closer A was to B – maybe they take the same train into work every day – the darker the words got and the more of a thought came through.
So maybe A had noticed B’s eyes, and the distinct shade of blue they were. Well, depending on the distance, maybe B would just get the word blue. Then, A and B lock eyes over the box of doughnuts the intern brought in, and B’s tattoo would swirl and change and instead of blue, it would say god, his eyes are so blue.
As far as soulmate matching systems went, it certainly wasn’t without its flaws, but it’s what the world had, and it worked well enough.
Ernie had tripped over Hannah’s bag, bending his finger back on the edge of the desk and tumbled to the floor. She’d just stretched her hand out to help him when he blinked up at her and said, clearly, “You have very nice fingernails.”
The words on Hannah’s inner elbow had swirled and changed, matching Ernie’s words letter for letter and she’d blinked, staring at them with her mouth open.
Romantic it wasn’t, but hey, they sure looked happy these days.
Although, Seamus couldn’t really say anything – he had no idea what it was like to look at someone’s skin and read his own thoughts etched into their body. Maybe something changed in your head – like a switch was thrown and all the lights were suddenly turned on at once. His own scrawl hadn’t changed much since he’d noticed it three years ago. It had started with “freckles”, written in crisp, tiny letters on the back of his left calf. He had no idea when it had appeared, because hey, how often was he supposed to examine the back of his calf?
He checked it every now and then, hoping to see a change, but usually it was just the same. Freckles. Someone was clearly obsessed with his freckles.
Seamus didn’t think they were particularly that great, but hey, whatever.
At least he wasn’t one of the unlucky tossers with his words out there on display. There was a third year Ravenclaw with her words etched across her forehead, and one of the Slytherins had his across his right cheekbone. People would only crane their necks and stare if they happened to look down while he was wearing shorts.
Hannah and Ernie were giggling together across the Great Hall, heads together as they whispered, and Seamus rolled his eyes affectionately.
“Disgusting, aren’t they?” Dean asked lightly, plopping into the seat across from Seamus and stealing a bit of toast from his plate.
“You can say that again,” Seamus swatted at Dean’s hand half-heartedly, and stole his pumpkin juice in revenge.
“What happened there, anyway?” Harry asked, leaning across the table.
Now there was someone Seamus didn’t envy one bit – he’d lost count of the number of girls and guys who’d come up to Harry after the War and thanked him for his kind words that they’d read on various body parts.
But Seamus was one of the few who’d actually seen Potter’s words – big and loopy and sketched right over his heart – and knew for a fact they were typically insulting. Harry said it didn’t bother him, but that didn’t stop his jaw from clenching minutely every time he caught a glimpse of the faded scarhead in the mirror.
“He saw his thoughts on her elbow,” Dean filled Harry in, munching on Seamus’s stolen toast, “and tried to tell her he’d fancied her for ages, tripped over his own feet, and complimented her fingernails.”
Harry raised an eyebrow. “Fingernails? Girls like that sort of thing, then?”
“Apparently,” Seamus smirked, “not that you need the advice, eh, Potter?”
Harry rolled his eyes at him and tugged on his shirt, pulling it down so Seamus could see the looped words over his chest. “Still insults, remember?”
Dean blinked. “Uh, mate…”
Harry frowned and looked down at his words. They’d changed – instead of scarhead, the words, dark and clearly visible, now read hair like he’s just been shagged, for fuck’s sake.
Harry yanked his shirt back up, scarlet to the tips of his ears, and Dean and Seamus roared with laughter.
“Good for you!” Seamus clapped Harry on the back, and the Boy Who Lived flipped him the bird before tilting his head back and draining his pumpkin juice.
When he looked back, Dean was watching him. Seamus shot him a smile, and Dean grinned back before looking away, getting caught up in a conversation with Neville on his left.
Not for the first time, Seamus wondered about Dean’s words. Dean’s scrawl was somewhere intimate, that was for sure, because not even Seamus had ever seen it. Not that he’d been looking, mind you, but… Ok, it wasn’t anywhere noticeable, let’s go with that.
It had nothing to do with the fact that Seamus was achingly, desperately jealous of whoever had their thoughts scrawled onto Dean’s body.
Nothing at all. Shut up.
Carefully, Seamus leaned back in his seat, trying to casually catch a glimpse of his calf without making it too obvious. No one wanted to be caught ogling their own words after all.
It said the same thing it’d said the last time he checked. Black, dark, visible against his pasty calf – lick his freckles.
Just three words – lick his freckles – but they never failed to send a blush skittering across Seamus’s face. And when he blushed, he blushed, the scarlet coloring flooding his own face, burning for the world to see.
Who was it? Who on earth looked at him and thought about licking his freckles?
He sat forward again, stabbing his fork into his sausages with unnecessary vigor.
“Oi, Finnigan, what’d the sausages ever do to you?” Ron had sat down at some point on Hermione’s left and was piling his plate full of breakfast. Seamus flashed him an automatic grin, ignoring his question.
Ron’s scrawl was easy – neat, crisp little letters stenciled precisely on his left hip in very familiar handwriting, it left little guessing required.
Seamus grabbed his goblet and tipped it back, feeling uncharacteristically petulant this morning. For some reason, the scrawl was at the forefront of his mind. Someone out there wanted to lick his freckles, damn it, and he wanted to know who.
“Right, Harry? Harry?”
Harry jerked, blinking from where he’d been staring blankly into space and turned sheepishly to Neville.
Seamus tuned back into the conversation. “What’re we talking about, then?”
“The scrawl,” Dean supplied, reaching across Seamus for the decanter. Seamus held his breath, resisting the urge to breathe in the scent of his best friend’s hair.
Get ahold of yourself, Finnigan, for fuck’s sake.
“Oh,” he said instead, leaning back slightly to give Dean more room. Dean retreated back to his seat and Seamus frowned into his breakfast.
“I think it’s marvelous,” Hermione piped up. “Although, I’d love to know how it actually worked…”
“Of course you would,” Ron snorted through a mouthful of food. He swallowed. “You gotta let it go, ‘mione. It’s not something that can be explained.”
Hermione shot him a look and sighed. “You’ve got a bit of—” she motioned at her own face. Ron frowned, scrubbing at his cheek and completely missing the smear of sauce at the corner of his mouth. Hermione huffed and leaned forward, cupping his cheek in the palm of her hand and swiping her thumb across his skin.
Ron’s cheeks bloomed scarlet and Harry shot Seamus a long-suffering look as Hermione and Ron flew apart, both suddenly extremely interested in their breakfasts.
The rest of breakfast passed without mention of the scrawl again – Hermione seemed determined to keep the subject away from soulmates and no one at the Gryffindor table was fool enough to try and fight her on that.
First lesson of the day was double Charms with the Slytherins. Honestly, Seamus didn’t really mind lessons with the Slytherins anymore. Sure, they were sneaky, conniving bastards at times, but if there was anything the War had taught him, it was that hate solved nothing.
Seamus threw his bag onto the desk and sank into his seat, close enough to Dean to brush his shoulder. Seven years ago, he and Dean had had their first class together in this very room. He smiled, slightly, to himself.
“What’re you smilin’ about then?” Dean asked, grinning at him. He’d really grown out, long and lanky and stretched out in the chairs. Hard to believe he’d once had trouble touching the floor with the tips of his toes in first year.
Seamus shook his head. “Nostalgia. Remember charms first year?”
Dean snorted. “You lit that feather on fire.”
“Accidentally!” Seamus protested, nudging him. Dean nudged him back, laughing.
“Oh, so the next hundred fireballs weren’t an accident, then?”
Seamus stuck his tongue out at him as the rest of the room slowly filled up. This was what he loved – this easy, easy conversation, the back and forth, the laughter, the teasing, the light in Dean’s eyes when he was thinking of something particularly smart.
Dean was easy in ways the others never were.
Seamus watched him pull his things out of his bag and arrange them on the desk, watched his long fingers play lightly over his wand, his battered copy of Achievements in Charming.
He bent down and scratched his calf, which was itching something fierce, and forced himself to survey the room. Ron and Hermione were sitting together, and Harry had taken the empty desk next to them, digging through his bag for a quill. As he watched, Draco Malfoy came darting into the classroom only seconds before lesson was set to start, pale blonde hair flyaway at the top of his head. He looked flushed and irritated, like he was annoyed at his own tardiness, and Seamus watched with interest as Malfoy’s pale face paled even further when he realized the only open seat remaining was next to Harry Potter.
Dean nudged Seamus with a pointy elbow as Malfoy crossed the room, head tilted proudly, and slid into the seat next to Harry without a word.
Harry dropped his quill. Seamus glanced at Dean, who had raised his eyebrows so high they’d practically blended into his hairline.
Without thinking, Seamus leaned in. “Mate, Harry’s scrawl. You don’t think—”
Dean barely flinched and Seamus realized exactly how close they were, his lips millimeters from Dean’s earlobe, and jerked back so fast he nearly fell out of his seat.
An awkward tension descended over them as Seamus stared at the desk and Dean stared at the side of his head.
“Seamus…” Dean began, uncertainly, but whatever he’d been about to say was interrupted by Professor Flitwick as the lesson started.
Charms passed like molasses, long and seemingly without end. Seamus was aware of every tiny movement Dean made, every breath he took, every shift of his body, scrape of his foot across the floor.
It was agonizing. It was torture, it was brilliant, it was awful. Seamus barely heard a word Professor Flitwick said all lesson, doodling instead on his parchment and fiddling with his wand.
“Ok!” Flitwick squeaked, and Seamus lifted his head from the snitch he was sketching. “Now you all try! Go on and give it a go!”
Well, shit. Seamus glanced at Dean who was already rolling up his sleeves.
“I’ll go first then?” Dean smirked and Seamus half-grinned back, shoving the snitch sketch under his copy of Achievements in Charming. Dean stretched out his wand, holding it loosely between two fingers and frowned, focusing, as he pointed it at Seamus.
“Obscuro!” Dean gave his wand a tiny flick and Seamus’s world went suddenly and completely black.
He yelped in surprise, hands flying up to his eyes. He’d been blindfolded – cloth was wound around his eyes and tied securely in the back. He fluttered his fingers over the cloth, slipping on the smooth silkiness and somewhere in front of him, Dean chuckled, low and warm.
“Teach you not to pay attention, mate.”
A pair of hands, fingers calloused and rough, touched Seamus’s and he went completely still. Dean’s hands were larger than his, just a bit, and warm. His fingers brushed the backs of Seamus’s hands, trailing down to his wrists and then back up to his fingertips, peeling them away from where they’d been resting gently on his eyes. Seamus allowed Dean to pull his hands away, letting them hang between them, clasped together loosely like they’d been holding hands forever.
Seamus could barely hear beyond the roaring of his heart in his ears and he could feel his cheeks burn. He was blushing, he could feel it – blushing hot and scarlet. There was no way Dean wasn’t noticing.
One of Dean’s hands disentangled itself and seconds later, fingertips brushed Seamus’s burning cheek, just under the edge of the blindfold.
It slid under the blindfold, cool now against his hot skin, and trailed its way around to the back of his head.
“Here,” Dean’s voice, strangely hoarse, came far closer than Seamus thought it was, bare centimeters from his ear, and Seamus couldn’t stop the shiver that fluttered its way down his spine. “Let me…”
Dean’s other hand released Seamus and went to the back of his head, undoing the knot on the blindfold.
The cloth lifted away from Seamus’s eyes and he blinked as the world swam back into hazy light after all that darkness.
Dean grinned at him. “Hi there.”
“’lo.” Seamus swallowed, hard. His calf itched.
All around them, pairs were blindfolding each other, flicking their wands and laughing. Dean cleared his throat and stepped back, away from Seamus, and put the blindfold on the table.
“Your turn,” he said, putting down his wand. Seamus’s gaze shot up from where he’d been staring at Dean’s fingers, eyes flicking to his face and then away, to where Ron was pointing his wand warily at a trusting Hermione.
Next to them, Harry was fumbling with his blindfold, trying to take it off, while Malfoy stood there and watched, wand dangling loosely at his side. There was something in the Slytherin’s face and Seamus frowned slightly, trying to decipher it. It was almost like… nah, couldn’t be.
Seamus snapped his head back to Dean, who was looking at him curiously.
“Sorry,” he lifted his wand, pointing it at Dean. “Just a little flick, then?”
Dean nodded and Seamus practiced the motion, twisting his wrist a bit. Dean snorted.
“No, no, no,” he stepped in, close, and wrapped his fingers around Seamus’s wrist. “Like this.” Dean twisted Seamus’s wrist for him, a bit sharper than he had been.
Seamus stared down at Dean’s fingers, stark against his pale wrist, and squashed the sudden urge to turn Dean’s hand over in his.
Suddenly, Dean jerked his fingers away from Seamus, stepping back sharply and knocking his Achievements in Charming off the desk onto the floor. Seamus blinked, shaking his head like he was coming up for air after minutes underwater.
This was getting bloody stupid.
Dean muttered something under his breath, bending over and kneeling under the desk to reach for the book.
“Oi, Seamus! Check it out!”
Seamus turned around, glancing to where Neville was grinning and pointing. He’d blindfolded his Slytherin partner on his second try, and he grinned, shooting Neville a thumbs up.
“Brilliant, Neville!” he called.
When he turned back, however, Dean was still on the floor.
“Dean?” Seamus looked down. “Hit your head or something, mate? What’re you doin’?”
Dean cleared his throat, not looking up at him. “Your uh, robe’s a bit…” he motioned faintly in front of him and Seamus looked down bemusedly. His robes had caught on the edge of the bench, hiked up without his noticing. Hiked up, revealing his legs, toned from the year of fighting but still shockingly pale – except his left, which was marred by the swirling, sprawling letters.
Letters which Seamus could read, twisting his ankle so his leg was better in view –
want to kiss him so fucking much
Seamus blinked. “Blimey – not about my freckles for once.” He forced a laugh, shaking his robe down over his leg.
“Freckles?” Dean’s voice was strangely strangled and Seamus frowned at the top of his head.
“Yeah, well, that’s what it’s usually on about.” Seamus crouched down onto his haunches, so he was eye-level with his best friend. Strange, actually – he hadn’t been eye-level with Dean Thomas since fourth year. “Weird, innit?”
Except it wasn’t weird, not in a bad way. It was weird in a good way, in a twisty kind of gut-clenching sort of warmth, a pleased bubbling that rolled around in the pit of his stomach when Seamus remembered that someone very near to him liked the way his freckles painted a constellation across his skin. Especially when he let himself imagine, lying in his four poster in the dark, staring up at the curtains, that it was Dean’s hand, invisible, sketching each letter across his leg.
Dean was silent. All around them, the voices of their classmates murmured in an ebb and flow of swelling sound, like a tidal wave that beat against their little fort under the table.
Finally, Dean moved his hands to his robes, shoving them away and reaching for his trousers. Seamus turned red as a tomato.
“O-Oi!” he yelped, but Dean ignored him, undoing the button on his trousers so he could slide the waistband down over his hipbone.
The scrawl was there, white and thin, in handwriting Seamus recognized instantly. As he watched, the scrawl swirled and shuddered, fading and reforming in the blink of an eye.
fucking hell that’s my handwriting
He choked out a noise – it might have been a giggle, it might have been a wheeze – and pointed at Dean’s hip. “Fucking hell,” he began and Dean joined him in finishing the sentence, chorusing it in unison. “That’s my handwriting.”
Dean burst out laughing and Seamus sat back onto the floor, heart expanding until he was sure it was going to burst right out his chest and go spiraling across the room.
“You want to lick my freckles?” he demanded and Dean choked on his laughter, eyes bright and mischievous.
“You don’t want me announcing what I’ve read on my hip, there, mate,” he teased and Seamus shoved at him with the toe of his trainer. Dean batted him away and Seamus couldn’t stop smiling.
“Mr. Finnigan! Mr. Thomas!” Flickwick’s voice was a squeak of reproach from the front of the room. “Perhaps you’d like to come out from under the table and demonstrate your obscuro charms for the class, then?”
Oops. Seamus had completely forgotten about charms. He and Dean swapped sheepish grins and scrambled out from under the table.
“Sorry, there, Professor.” Seamus said as Dean’s hand twitched towards his, like he was aching to wrap their fingers together again. Well, bugger it all, if he wanted to hold hands… Seamus grabbed Dean’s fingers in his and grinned widely at Flitwick. “Just doin’ some reading, we were.”
Hermione gasped, clasping her hands together. It took the rest of the class a few more seconds to realize what had happened – then Ron whistled and Harry muttered something that sounded suspiciously like “fucking finally”.
Seamus gave him a look, flicking his eyes between the Boy Who Lived and his current charms partner and Harry suddenly found another place to point his gaze as the rest of the class gathered around to clap them on the shoulders, grinning and congratulating and generally being a nuisance.
“Children please! Control yourselves!” Flitwick attempted to regain control with little success, but Seamus couldn’t really bring himself to care – not when Dean was standing close enough to him to touch, fingers wrapped together like they’d been designed to fit, like they’d been holding hands for years.
“Hey,” Dean’s voice was quiet, cutting through the rabble that their classmates were making around them and when Seamus looked up at him, he dipped his head and pressed a quick, fleeting kiss to his lips.
The warmth in Seamus’s stomach built until it was singing through his blood and he opened his eyes to find Dean grinning at him and even the whistles and taunts of their classmates weren’t enough to distract from the moment.
I love him. Seamus thought, and felt his calf burn as Dean’s fingers flitted to his hip and wondered in that moment if their scrawls matched. Somehow, looking at the mischief and affection liquid in Dean’s eyes, Seamus couldn’t help but believe that they did.