A dream is itself but a shadow. — Hamlet
Psychology doesn't address the soul; that's something else. — Carmela Soprano, The Sopranos
“Tell me about how we met,” Harry murmurs, stroking Draco’s hair absently as they are lying together on the couch one day. He doesn’t know why he’s doing it, but his hair is fine and shining, like silver thread, and it feels nice between his fingers, so he does it anyway.
“You already know how we met. You were there, stupid.”
“Tell me again anyway.”
Draco huffs and rubs his head deeper into Harry’s shoulder. “You were my patient. You came in complaining you were having night terrors and your boss had you come see me because he thought you were becoming paranoid after working a stalking case.”
“Harry, you know this. The Levinson case.”
“Levinson?” The name rattles around in his head like he should remember it. “You mean the stalker case, with the – ?”
His heart catches in his throat a bit as he recalls the panicked calls from the office, the weeping, desperate parents, blood patterned on carpet of the hotel room like some kind of Rorschach test –
“Yes, you said you’d been having screaming nightmares about those crime scenes for months and couldn’t sleep without having these awful lucid dreams, so you came to me.”
“…Well, we knew each other in school, a bit. But – different houses, different tables, different classes – I hadn’t seen you since then, and I – I liked you.”
Harry tries to imagine going through Hogwarts without being harassed by Malfoy on a daily basis. The idea is unsettling and bizarre. Professor Snape, at least, would probably have still hated him and Harry takes some twisted comfort in that.
“You liked me? I was your patient!”
“You liked me too! You were the one that asked me out first!”
“Was I?” Everything feels fuzzy, all twisted up in cotton wrapping, and Harry almost could swear that he remembers
this. The case was real, he knew that. It had been one of his first with the Aurors back in his real life and had been devastatingly gruesome, but it was nothing Harry hadn’t already seen during the war and so he had put it out of his mind until now. But the images he has of Draco smiling at him, dressed in his Healer robes, of the restaurant they had gone to on their first date, of him shyly grappling to hold Draco’s hand as they walked the streets of downtown London…
How could he remember things that had never really happened to him? Things from a dream he’d never had?
Draco’s hand brushes the nape of his neck, pulling Harry’s face so he can look him in the eye. “You took me to see your favorite Christmas window display at Selfridges, remember? The one with the Muggle toy trains.”
“That’s so cheesy,” Harry grumbles and Draco’s eyes seemed to shine in the light.
“It was horribly cheesy, you twit, and I loved it.” Draco leans over then, and before Harry can stop it, he is being kissed.
Draco’s lips are soft, and the way he sighs, tracing the outline of Harry’s lower lip with his tongue, makes it obvious that they have done it enough that he knows what Harry likes. It isn’t like the kisses before, the ones for a quick goodbye or good morning, or a thank you that he has gotten over the past few weeks. Harry is almost used to those, chaste and dry and hardly anything. But this — he can almost taste the memories that are written on Draco’s lips and the whole thing nearly has him pressing forward to try and make the words out more clearly.
But it is Malfoy
Harry pulls away sharply, chest heaving, and stands up from the couch. “I have to go get something.”
“What? Harry, what is going on with you? You’ve been so weird lately. It’s almost like… you don’t want me anymore.”
Ignoring him, Harry shuts the bedroom door, the orange sliver of light that frames Draco’s head going dark, and falls back on the bed heavily. He tries to imagine meeting Malfoy back in his own reality and asking him out on a date, holding his hand, cuddling with him on the couch, kissing him with his hands in his hair.
The idea is revolting.
Rolling over onto his side, Harry feels satisfied that nothing has really changed and lets his eyes close, the soft sound of the sleep machine lulling him into unconsciousness.
It’s been a long time since Harry has had to go to St. Mungo’s. Honestly, he’s not quite sure coming here is the right thing anyway, but the dreams have gotten to the point where Harry feels like he has to do something or else he’ll go mad.
“Harry Potter, it’s been a long time.” He had asked for Padma Patil by name at the front desk, something he really shouldn’t have been able to do, but being Harry Potter did sometimes have its advantages. Padma is just as pretty as he remembers from school, but now her hair and skin seem even darker against the mint green of her Healer’s robes. She is the one Healer he knows personally enough to be able to ask for a favor. “What can I do for you?”
“Padma, I’m sorry to call you out like this. I know you must be busy.” Her eyebrows raise as if to confirm the fact and Harry ploughs on, “I had a bit of a problem I was hoping you could help me with. Is there any way you can give me some Dreamless Sleep potion?”
She eyes him, not suspiciously, but curiously at least. “We don’t give that out without at least a consultation because of its highly addictive nature.”
“I know, I’ve just…” Harry runs a hand through his hair, a gesture from his school days that he’s never quite been able to kick. “I’ve been having these awful nightmares lately and haven’t been able to get any real sleep.”
Padma’s face darkens and Harry can see in her eyes that she is thinking about the war, about all the horror and violence they had all had to endure when they should have been allowed to be schoolchildren. Everyone had come away from that with nightmares. He knew she would understand. “Let me see what I can do. How much were you thinking you’d need?”
Harry hears her question but before he can reply, his eyes catch sight of Draco Malfoy speaking to another Healer down the corridor, the green Healer’s robes making him even more pale and ghost-like, and he can feel his heart stop for a few beats. “What is he doing here?”
Turning, Padma glances in Draco’s direction and frowns. “He started working here a few months ago. I heard he got married and moved back here from wherever he and his parents were hiding out after the war.”
At that moment, as though he could sense that they are talking about him, Draco turns, eyes catching Harry’s from down the hallway. His face shows nothing, not even surprise as he nods slightly in recognition, before turning back to his conversation as though nothing out of the ordinary has happened.
Padma continues more softly, “Unfortunately, he’s turned out to be one of the best magical psychiatrists in the world, after studying in some program in Germany or something, so they jumped at the chance to bring him here. I can’t say I enjoy seeing his face around much though.”
Harry watches as Draco reaches up to adjust the collar of his robes and there is a shiny silver band glinting from the fourth finger of his left hand and Harry thinks, of course. Of course, he’s married. Padma just said he got married.
And they never got along back in school and Draco fought on the wrong side of the war and they hate each other. That is how things have always been. How on earth could things have ended up so differently in his head?
He wants to laugh and act casual, telling her that she had no idea how little he enjoys seeing Malfoy around, but everything inside of him seems frozen, jerky and robotic. Malfoy is here, in his real life. This is not how things work. “I, um, just remembered something. I have to go.”
“Harry? Wait!” she calls after him, concerned. “Don’t you want your potion?”
“Never mind. Sorry, Padma,” he stutters, still backing away. “I’ll just — deal with it somehow. Thanks anyway — “
He fumbles with the buttons in the elevator, the space feeling cramped and stuffy. Seeing Draco standing there, so indifferent to his very existence, is like a slap in the face. Harry has almost gotten used to the vision of Draco he has built in his head that the reality of his personality is jarring and cutting in the deepest way.
There is a feeling in the very pit of his stomach that something, whatever is causing these dreams, is so very wrong with him and deep down, he is beginning to think that nothing, not a potion or any kind of medicine, will be able fix it.
Sometime during January, Harry comes down with a horrible cold.
At home by himself, when he is awake, he is free to wallow in his misery in peace. But somehow, as he’s trying to sleep the whole thing off, he finds himself fading in and out of the dream world with each doze. And because nothing in his life makes sense anymore, the cold follows him there, and Harry has to put up with Draco trying to take care of him.
It actually turns out to be kind of dangerous because Draco isn’t the most caring person in the world and Harry gets through the first day of dream illness by telling himself that it’s the thought that counts. By the second, he’s reached the end of his rope.
“Draco, I’m not entirely sure I should — “
“Shut up. I am a professionally trained Healer with awards from countless medical foundations.”
“Yes, for psychiatry. Me having a cold has very little to do with my brain!”
“That’s just what they want you to think. Maybe it’s all in your head!” Draco shoves him back into the blankets and attempts to force a mug of soup down his throat. “Carl Pretziger says seventy-five percent of body ailments have mental roots. Colds are a disease of the mind! We need to free your mind, Harry!”
He shoves the mug of soup at Harry’s face again and he accepts it with a sigh, taking a sip. Choking, Harry flails around with his free hand and clutches his throat because apparently Draco has tried to sneak him boiling hot lava disguised as soup.
“Is your idea of freeing my mind trying to melt my brain through my esophagus?” he coughs out when he finds his voice again.
“Did it burn you?” Draco’s eyes go wide and concerned and he mutters, “Damn heating charms! So hard to control.”
Harry looks into the mug suspiciously as Draco blows on the soup to cool it down. “You didn’t cook this yourself, did you?”
“I’m sure you aren’t implying that my cooking skills are sub-par. You know what that does to my sex drive.” Harry cringes, repulsed by the implication that he has ever been in bed with another man like that
, but Draco obliviously assumes he is cringing at the latent threat and says, “And no, I bought it and heated it up because I didn’t have time to make anything. Now eat.”
“You’re so pushy
,” Harry mutters, thinking that no matter what, Draco will always be a spoiled brat who has to have his way. Draco shoves the soup at him again petulantly and he takes another taste.
,” Harry sputters, choking. “Damn it, Draco! It’s too hot!
“You’re just being an infant. It’s fine! You need soup!”
There is a tussle as they shove the mug back and forth between them until it inevitably spills onto the comforter in a boiling splash. Harry yelps in pain as Draco, seeming to momentarily forget he is a wizard, runs in panic for a towel.
Five minutes of frantic dabbing and an irritated Scourgify
later, Harry collapses back into his pile of pillows, head pounding and throat still on fire.
“Harry?” He hears the door open and after a moment, Draco’s face is peeking over the edge of the bed tentatively. Harry crosses his arms and huffs. “I brought you some water for your throat?”
He is tempted to ignore him, but the painful roughness of his mouth and throat convinces him to hold out his hand for the glass. The edge of the bed sinks as Draco sits down and carefully hands him the cup.
Sitting up, Harry takes a drink and eyes Draco’s apologetic expression suspiciously. “You know, for a Healer, you aren’t very… caring. Don’t they give you training for that or something?”
Draco shrugs. “I always did get terrible marks in bedside manner. Made up for it by seducing my attending Healer though.”
“I’m kidding. I would never do that.” Harry closes his eyes again, but Draco adds smugly, “I just sabotaged the other interns to make myself look better instead.”
Harry sighs and hands the glass back. “You’re really just the same, aren’t you?”
“Just the same as what?” Draco asks, cocking his head curiously.
There is something in his look that makes Harry pause. He is right: Draco is the same. But he is also here, in this bed. He brought Harry soup and stayed with him even though he was sick and so many other things.
Draco is the same. But he is so different all at the same time.
Harry rolls over and punches his pillow sourly. “Nothing.”
It’s not a nightmare, exactly.
It’s more like something creeping into his mind while he’s in that limbo space between worlds, a mixture of all his fears wrapped up into one dark figure — a magnetic black hole, monstrous and vile — and Harry is helpless to do little more than scream as it consumes him — eats him up, gnawing and ripping at his very soul.
He wakes tangled in the ropes he’s twisted the sheets into, neck muscles straining and hands balled into fists as his fingernails carve deep crescents into his palms.
“Harry?” Draco croaks, still half asleep, and reaches for him. His mind still filled with sticky, dark cobwebs and blood and the image of the villain of the dream smiling widely, like a Cheshire cat, everything dark except his teeth, which glint fiercely and cut into his skin like a scythe, Harry clings blindly to Draco’s neck and concentrates on trying to stop his body from shaking.
Draco’s hand is drawing long, soothing strokes up his spine while his mouth spells unintelligible words of comfort into Harry’s hair, and he can feel his heartbeat finally begin to slow.
“It’s okay,” Draco mumbles, “you’re awake now. The dream wasn’t real. It’s okay. I’m here.”
After a few moments, Harry can feel Draco drifting off to sleep again, his arm and leg thrown carelessly over Harry’s side and he realizes it was this. This
was the reason the nightmares had stopped. Not counseling, or any amount of dreamless sleep potion. Having someone there to cling to, to not wake up alone. Someone there to tell him the dream was over.
Harry wonders, if he were to find Draco Malfoy in the real world, his world, and somehow have him spend the night in his bed, would the dreams of this reality stop too?
But the thing is, instead of thinking about what a ridiculous idea that is, Harry can't decide if having these dreams, this world, come to an end is something he even wants anymore.
Lying on a couch in a psychiatrist’s office is not how Harry would choose to be spending his Saturday afternoon in the real world. The fabric of the couch is scratchy and there is a small crack in the ceiling above him, a tiny pin-scrape of a black line that has him imagining the ceiling crumbling and falling to pieces around him. It would be one thing if he had decided to come here himself, but the fact that Kingsley Shacklebolt had, ahem, strongly suggested
he visit a psychiatrist made the whole thing so much more irritating.
“Is there something you want to talk with me about, Harry — do you mind if I call you Harry?”
Harry shakes his head stiffly and says, “No.”
“Good. You may call me Roddy, if you like. I find that being on a first-name basis with each other helps promote closeness.”
Harry resists saying that he’d like to promote closeness between ‘Roddy’s’ face and his fist and crosses his arms tightly over his chest instead. He’s not here to discuss his anger issues.
“Now, is there anything bothering you lately? Feel free to talk about anything here. This is a safe place.”
“I’m only here because my boss thinks I’ve been acting strangely lately and made me come.”
“I see. Acting strangely how?”
Sitting up abruptly, Harry sourly mutters, “How the hell should I know?”
‘Roddy’ hums and makes a note on his tablet. “You look tired, Harry. Are you having trouble sleeping?” When Harry shrugs, he presses, “Do you have any problems with insomnia? Strange dreams?”
Well, damn, Harry thinks. He’s hit the nail on the head.
Warily, he nods.
“Interesting. Do the dreams have any kind of pattern? Is there a recurring character or theme?”
“Ugh,” Harry growls, balking at the question as images from his dreams the night before swim in front of his eyes. “Even Malfoy would be a better psychiatrist than you. No wonder I went to him instead.”
“Is that your regular Healer?” The man smiles at him pleasantly, seeming unaffected by Harry’s insult, and taps his biro on the notepad in an aggravating tattoo. Harry glares at him and he switches tactics. “What exactly is your relationship to this Malfoy person then?”
Sending ‘Roddy’ a look laced with venom, Harry promptly storms out of the office, because no matter what Kingsley said, if he knew the answer to those questions, he wouldn’t need to see a psychiatrist in the first place.
A/N: As always, the most enormous thank you to Janechel (TenthWeasley), my awesome beta, to Melissa (witnesstoitall) for encouraging this idea, and to all my peeps, who know who they are and if they don't, it's probably because they've gone on an icing binge. Without you all, I would spend my days listening to Dashboard Confessional while crying in my bathroom.
I forgot to mention, part of the title is taken from a beautiful Anya Marina song, called 'Satellite Heart'. Go listen to it, it's wonderful.
Disclaimer: The wonderful world of Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling. I own nothing you recognize.