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who i've always been

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Seamus watches the name come in on his wrist and he tries not to cry.

He's been thinking about it… since he transitioned, honestly.

The names come in on the 19th birthday. It's not his name that's the problem, though.

It's his soulmate's.

His wrist says George Weasley, and Seamus knows that the Weasleys are a big family in wizarding England, a Hogwarts legacy strong enough that Seamus had heard of them even attending Beauxbatons.

But Seamus knows better than to hope that George's wrist says Seamus Finnigan.

It's not the name he was born with, after all.

He's not sure how he's going to bear seeing his deadname on his soulmate's wrist.

But he's nineteen years old and he's already signed a lease on a tiny flat outside London with a roommate he's never met, because London needs rebuilding. It's not where Seamus grew up, but he's all too aware that the war could've easily spread — that if the last battle had gone a different way, it probably would have. The UK faced the brunt of it, and Seamus wants to help.

His roommate turns out to be a man named Dean Thomas. Barely a month older than Seamus, but Seamus can see the hunted look in his eyes and he knows that Dean has seen things he can't imagine.

Dean is quiet, but Seamus senses that that's just a part of his personality. He doesn't say much, but he lets Seamus chatter at him, and he's a great listener.

And it's nice. To have a friend who doesn't know who he used to be. Who doesn't know him as anything other than the man he is.

Dean probably knows at least one Weasley, Seamus thinks. He could ask.

He doesn't. He keeps a band tight around his wrist. He doesn't say a word about it.

Dean keeps his own wrist covered as well, and Seamus doesn't ask.

Seamus gets a training position at St. Mungo's, learning how to be a Healer. He picks up some shifts at the Leaky Cauldron to keep himself busy, to meet more people.

That's where he meets a man with red hair that's long enough that it usually covers the scarred remains of a missing ear. He drinks whiskey on bad days and earl grey on good ones and he always sits at the very end of the bar. Sometimes on good days he smiles at Seamus, faintly, politely, and it's still bright enough to light up the whole bar.

Seamus isn't so oblivious that he can't admit he has a crush.

But the man makes small jokes as Seamus hands over his drink, and he smiles at Seamus's stupid jokes (for Merlin's sake, he even managed a smile when Seamus asked him if he was sure he wanted grey tea or if maybe he wanted Earl Brown instead, and even Seamus can admit that was terrible).

Seamus isn't going to do anything about it.

Dating is complicated enough when… well. It's hard. If he doesn't say anything about his past, he runs the risk of being accused of leading someone on, but if he does, then he runs the risk of running someone off before he even gets a chance to meet them.

He hates this.

He shouldn't have to deal with it. He should just be able to… God. He doesn't even know what he wants.

He wants to not have to deal with this.

But that's not how it works.

He's lucky, he knows. There are people who have it a lot worse than he does. People have been lynched and murdered for this. Seamus has been able to socially transition, has parents who try not to call him by his deadname (even if his father doesn't always succeed).

But that doesn't make it easy. It doesn't mean he doesn't wish things were different.

So he smiles at the man at the bar. He maybe flirts a bit. And he doesn't push it any further.

"Help me bake the Christmas cookies," Dean says, and Seamus can't believe it's been almost a year since he moved here.

But he gets up off the couch without protest and moves into the kitchen. "Can I bring a few to work?" he asks. He's thinking of the redhead — the one who's been coming to the Leaky Cauldron for the nine months Seamus has worked there.

Seamus doesn't even know his name. But he's been smiling more lately and there's been more days of tea than whiskey and maybe Seamus just wants to bring him a Christmas cookie.

Dean grins at him, and there's less darkness in his eyes than there used to be, and Seamus thinks maybe their world is healing. "Sure," he says easily, handing the bag of flour to Seamus.

Seamus hopes he isn't blushing as he hands the redhead a small bag of cookies.

"What are these?" he asks.

Seamus shrugs one shoulder. "Christmas cookies?"

The main arches an eyebrow at him, and god, but that should not be as hot as it is.

"Do all of your regulars get Christmas cookies?"

Seamus knows he's blushing now. "Uh, no,"

The man grins, and it's bright and leaves Seamus breathless.

"So I'm special?"

"Um," Seamus says.

"And here I don't even know your name," the man says.

"Seamus," he says with a grin. "Seamus Finnigan. You?"

"George Weasley," he says, and Seamus feels his world shift.

The handsome customer he's been flirting with for months is his soulmate.

And now he knows it, but George doesn't.

"Finnigan," George says thoughtfully. "Do you know an Aoife?"

Seamus works hard to contain the shudder at that name.

Nobody's called him that in over a year. The name is a wash of memories, of dresses he never wanted to wear and a person he never wanted to be. A person he never was, not really.

Aoife Finnigan is dead, as far as he's concerned. It's… better that way.

But what is he supposed to say, here? If he tells George… If he says he doesn't know anyone by that name, George will keep looking. And it'll feel like a lie. If he tells George he knows Aoife, George will want to meet her. If he tells George she's dead… It still feels like a lie and it's one that'll hurt George even worse.

"I…" he says. He drops the bag of cookies on the counter. "I have to go."

And he disappears into the back room, trying to get his breathing under wraps. "Fuck," he says. "Fuck."

He didn't expect this. He didn't have a plan for this. He doesn't know why. He feels like he should've.

He feels like a coward, sinking down among boxes of storage in the backroom, trying not to collapse.

He ran away. He met his soulmate and he ran away.

But George is his soulmate. His soulmate, with a name Seamus never wants to see again emblazoned on his arm.

His soulmate, who will never know they're soulmates until Seamus chooses to tell him about his past.

And sure, maybe if he was going to fall in love with someone and try to make a life, it was going to come out eventually. But it should be Seamus' choice how. And when. And he shouldn't have share that name regardless.

He hates this.

It's… God. Seamus is sick and fucking tired of ranting about how the world isn't fair but it isn't and sometimes he just wants to be allowed to sulk about it.

"Seamus?"

George's voice is soft. Seamus lets his head thunk back against the wall.

"You're not supposed to be back here," Seamus says. His voice comes out shakier than he means it to.

"Pretty sure you're not supposed to leave the bar unmanned either," George says, tone somewhat wry.

Seamus sighs, and then George is there, kneeling in front of him.

"Did I do something wrong?" George asks. "Because… I mean, you don't have to talk about it if you don't want to. I get that. But… you took off like a bat out of hell and if I did something to cause that I want to know so that I can never do it again."

Seamus huffs out a wet breath. He's not crying, but he's infuriatingly close.

"It wasn't…" he says, but it's kind of a lie, and he can't finish it.

There's only so many ways this can go and Seamus has already fucked it up and… this is going to be the point where the stakes are the lowest, because right now it's just a crush but it could so easily be more and it could so easily get to the point where Seamus can't bear to lose him.

So fuck it. Fuck it.

"It's me," he says. He takes in a wobbly, breath, tearing up by trying not to let them fall.

"What?" George asks.

"It's me," Seamus says again. And then he sucks in air and says the name he never wanted to say again. "Aoife Finnigan. It's the name I was born with."

His breathing is wobbly and he hates that he's still so emotional over this.

Seamus has always known who he was. But It's been a long journey trying to get the rest of the world to see that.

George looks… confused. And Seamus feels the tears start slipping down his face and he hates this.

"It… It's never been who I am. But, I… fuck. I'm transgender."

He looks up at George, but the confusing hasn't waned, and Seamus hates this part, too. Hates having to explain, trying to find the right words when they all feel broken and awkward in his mouth.

"I was… assigned female at birth. My parents… gave me that name. But that's… It's not who I am. It's never been who I am."

"So… you're my soulmate?" George asks, hesitant, clearly afraid he's getting it wrong.

Seamus smiles, hoping it doesn't look as wobbly as it feels. "Yeah," he says. "Yeah, I… sorry." He's not even sure what he's apologizing for. He hopes it's the emotional mess he's making. He hopes he's past the part of his life where he apologizes for his transness inconveniencing other people.

But he's not entirely sure.

George shakes his head. "You don't have to be sorry." And it's clear that George means for any of it. It's also clear that George is still a little confused, but he evidently doesn't want to pester Seamus with questions.

And then a voice comes from the other room, loud and slightly annoyed.

"Does anyone actually work here?"

Seamus sucks in a deep breath, and wipes away the tears that have fallen. "I should…"

"Yeah."

George stands, offers him a hand up.

Seamus takes it.

And when he's done serving the customer, George is back on his usual stool, and he smiles up at Seamus and takes a bite of a cookie.

Seamus smiles back.

A week later, George invites him to dinner. Seamus smiles as he accepts.

"Just trust me," George says. And Seamus has been dating him for six months now and god help him but he does trust George.

"Fine, fine. Can you at least tell me where we're going?" He takes a bite of his hotdog, because honestly, George was right about the hotdog stand being the best in London. It's the part after the hotdog stand that has been unexpected.

"That would ruin the surprise. Just… It's just a little further."

George is dragging him through Muggle London, an area where Seamus hasn't been before.

He stops in front of a tiny, shabby, dark looking shop front bearing a sign that says Pincushion.

"Is this… a tattoo shop?"

"Just trust me."

George leads him inside.

The inside of the shop is pristine, clean and organized, a contrast from the outside. George leans across the counter.

"Appointment for George Weasley," he says.

"Welcome, Mr. Weasley. Reggie is ready for you now."

He smiles. "Thanks," he says, and he drags Seamus to a room in the back. A slim man with dark hair is sitting in the room.

"George!" he says. "Can I guess this is Seamus?"

Seamus smiles and sticks out a hand, but his confusion must be clear, because Reggie shakes his hand with a laugh. "Surprise, I'm guessing?"

George grins. "Uh, yeah."

"Well," Reggie says. "Take a seat. I'll show you what I've got."

And he pulls out a stencil.

It's a sketch of waves, something that reminds Seamus of their second date, when George took him to the ocean. Underneath, in the same sloppy handwriting that Seamus has seen his whole life, is the name.

Seamus Finnigan.

It takes Seamus a moment to understand, but when he does, he lifts his hand to his mouth. He's breathless.

"George," he says, his voice breaking.

George's face goes worried. "Is this okay? Fuck, did I mess this one up? Reggie specializes in rebranding, he's done a lot of soulmarks, it should look fine, but if you don't want this…"

And it's all Seamus can do to hug him.

"George," he says again.

George hugs him back firmly. "I know… how happy seeing my name on your arm makes me. And I just… you deserve the same."

"Thank you," Seamus says. "Just… thank you."