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Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas are best friends.  Obviously.  They have been ever since they met on the Hogwarts Express when they were eleven years old.  They tell each other everything and stay up late talking in whispers.  They share every joke, every secret, every idea.  Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas are best friends, partners in crime, comrades and confidantes, which is all they'll ever be. 

Or at least, that's what Seamus tells himself when Dean says that he and Ginny Weasley are dating.  He looks so excited that Seamus has to try and mimic his expression so his best friend won't feel bad.  It's easy, he's been studying Dean's expressions for years.  He likes to look at them.  "Hey, good for you, that's . . . awesome.  Ginny's cool." 

"She's amazing!" Dean practically shouts, and now it's impossible for Seamus to not laugh.  Seeing Dean this way always makes him smile, although he prefers when it's after Seamus has made a particularly good joke, or they've blown something up together, or finished mounds of homework and are finally free to relax. 

Ginny really is cool, and he really is happy for them.  Mostly.  When he listens to Dean talk about her, he can almost actually believe that she's the greatest thing in the world.  Greatest and most terrible. 

To avoid conflicting superlatives, Seamus generally keeps the conversation away from Ginny, though Dean will take any excuse to bring it back.  He worships her, and gradually, the amount of time they spend alone together decreases.  Ginny has a tendency to creep into things that used to belong only to the two of them.  It makes him feel like walls are slowly being built around him that he has no idea how to knock down. 

One of the few things that's still completely and totally theirs is chess.  They play on those rare occasions when they don't have anything else that needs to be done, and sometimes even when they do.  Seamus usually lets Dean win, even though his friend has a hard time staying focused on the game and keeps pulling out a sketchbook to draw different parts of it.  The way Dean's brows pull together in concentration when he works is probably a large percentage of the reasons why he wins these matches.  The way he bites his lip might also have something to do with it. 

"It's your turn, mate," Seamus reminds him one afternoon. 

"I know, I know," Dean mumbles, pen darting across the page.  "Now keep your hand still, I can't get the fingers right." 

Seamus sighs and briefly contemplates actually beating him this time, but he loses anyway.  His pieces scold him for it (he doesn't regret the loss in the slightest).  

Dean offers to let him keep the drawing to make up for it, although he really doesn't mind.  It's good, easily better than anything Seamus could do, and he says so without hesitation.  However, despite his obvious skill, Dean is terrible at taking compliments and has to lean over his shoulder while he's admiring it and point out everything he thinks he did wrong. 

"See, the angle of the index finger is off a little," Dean says, pointing out the flaw with the corresponding digit.   

"I honestly didn't notice." He smells like cinnamon. 

"The shading's off around the base of the pawn."  

"If you say so." Cinnamon and cloves. 

"It's not that good." 

"You say that about everything you draw.  Doesn't make it true." Dean's breath on his neck sends little tingles through his skin. 

"Whatever.  I just need to practice more." 

"You can find ways to make your art even more amazing." 

Dean protests, but Seamus can see him trying not to smile.  He's always been terrible at disguising his emotions.  It's one of the qualities they have in common. 

"I gotta go, mate, I said I'd meet Ginny, and she'll kill me if I'm late again," Dean finally says, standing. 

"You're not staying?" The desperation in his voice sickens him, but he can't quite make it go away. 

"Sorry.  Talk later, okay?" 

"Okay," he echoes.  As his best friend sprints off, the room automatically becomes ten times less interesting.  He can't (won't) play chess without Dean, so he decides to make a castle out of Exploding Snap cards, just for the sheer pleasure of watching things blow up.  Ron joins in after a while.  It doesn't help. 

They pass notes in class and antagonize Umbridge and play games and do homework, and all the while the amount of time they spend together further decreases, as do his excuses for why exactly he cares so much.  When one of his best friend's smiles can light up the world, making him forget who he is, he knows he has a problem.  Even so, he tries to fool himself into thinking that it's nothing. 

But he can't fool himself forever.  The breaking point comes on one of those days when everyone is bored and frustrated with classes, the result being that no one is paying attention.  They pass notes to distract themselves, Seamus making increasingly ridiculous attempts to impress Dean, and occasionally blowing little things up to see if Professor Binns will notice (he doesn't).  It's after he manages to set a fire on Binns' desk without the old ghost seeing anything when Dean turns to him, smiling so wide his whole face lights up, fighting to hide his laughter.   

Seamus' heart starts working overtime as blood rushes up into his cheeks, making him feel like his face is on fire.  He's not quite sure if he's still breathing.  All he can think about is the sudden realization that's just crashed into him like the Hogwarts Express: Dean Thomas is Seamus Finnigan's best friend.  And Seamus Finnigan is hopelessly in love with him.  

"What're you thinking about?"  

Seamus nearly has a heart attack when he hears Dean's voice next to him and turns to see his best friend raising a curious brow.  "Nothing." 

"Hmph." Dean obviously isn't satisfied with that answer, but he accepts it.   

He'd hate you if he knew what you were thinking right now, a little voice in his head whispers.  You can't like him.  You shouldn't be pining after him like an idiot. 

But what if he does like me? A smaller voice argues back.  He tells it to shut up and goes back to not paying attention in class. 

Over the next few days, he tries to shove his realization to the back of his mind or make it go away completely.  Wishful thinking, he says over and over again.  Stupid.  But every time he sees Dean with her it makes him feel like someone is slowly driving a knife into his chest.  There's a wrongness to it, even though it does seem right that he'd have her.  He should have her.  Wishful thinking.  Stupid.   

Staying away from Dean seems to be the only thing he can do.  The problem is that there's really nowhere else for him to go.  Harry and Ron are still a little frosty around him because of his behavior earlier in the year (he can't blame them), and he was never very close with Neville in the first place.  He has other friends, yes, but they're not friends the way he and Dean are.  Brushing off Dean whenever they try to hang out always results in the same thing: Seamus spending several hours alone while Dean spends yet more time with Ginny, which serves only to make Seamus more jealous and moody.  Which he hates. 

"Hello, there.  What're you doing?" A soft, musical voice inquires from behind him. 

Seamus jumps.  He'd been hanging out on one of the many moving stairways, hiding from people and thinking about nothing in particular (aka Dean), but now all of a sudden there's someone else there, and although they've never really talked, he still recognizes the voice.  "Hey, Luna.  Nothing much, I'm just . . ." he trails off, not really sure what he was going to say. 

"Oh, I see.  You look a little lonely.  Have you seen Dean anywhere? I've been looking for him." Luna brushes a lock of blonde hair behind her ear and smiles at him hopefully. 

"No, I haven't," Seamus tells her shortly.  Of course, it would be about Dean.  What else? 

"Well, that explains it, then," Luna says.  "Why you were lonely," she adds at his questioning look.  "I don't see you two apart very often." 

"He's busy." The words leave a bitter taste in his mouth. 

"Alright, then." Luna seats herself on the step next to him.  It takes some effort not to scoot away, as she's a little too close for comfort. 

"If you do see him, give him this," Luna says.  She thrusts a piece of folded paper into Seamus' hands.  "He dropped it when he left the library after we were spending time together there." 

"You know him? What were you doing?" Seamus asks.  He's only rarely heard Dean mention Luna, and if he has, it was usually in passing. 

"I was just showing him some of my paintings," Luna says breezily.  "We're both artists, you know, although I do more with paints—I like the feeling of them and they look very nice, too." 

"Oh." Dean does paint, but Seamus knows he prefers to draw.  He's never seen him without that little black notebook tucked under his arm.  The image of him pulling it out and suddenly starting to sketch in the middle of the hallway or staircase pops into his head before he can stop it, sharp and vivid as a photograph.  

"So, he dropped this?" Seamus says, desperate for a change of subject. 

"It fell out of his book as he was leaving, and I don't think he noticed.  Do give it back when you see him.  I thought you'd be the most likely person to know where he is." 

"You could've gone to find Ginny," Seamus says.  "She's probably with him right now." 

A strange expression crosses Luna's face for a fraction of a second.  But in a moment, she shakes it off, gripping her books tighter.  "No.  You're better for him." Before he can ask what that's supposed to mean, she's halfway down the staircase.  In another few seconds, she's gone. 

He refocuses on the paper in his hands.  It's small (only about half a sheet), and the edges are rough, like it was torn out of a little black notebook.  When he leans closer, he notices that it smells a bit like Dean.  A few light ink marks are visible through the parchment, but not enough to tell what the picture shows.  His trembling fingers unfold the drawing. 

What he sees is enough to take his breath away.  His own likeness stares back at him in profile, the details rough but clear.  Suddenly, he's seeing himself through Dean's eyes, and it's much more complimentary than his own thoughts.  The drawing is small but expressive, his face caught in mid-laugh.  It somehow carries every feeling from every second they've ever spent together, and Seamus can remember all the times Dean has ever made him smile. 

How long could it have taken Dean to make this? How much time would he have spent watching his best friend's face when Seamus wasn't looking? Was it even close to the amount of time Seamus has spent looking at him? Has he just been carrying it around with him? Does it mean . . . 

No.  He cuts off that train of thought before it inevitably crashes and explodes (and not the good kind of explosion, either).  Shoving the picture out of sight, he goes off to find a different place to hide. 

Dean's drawing burns a hole in his pocket for another few days before Seamus finally gets up the courage to give it back.  His best friend is distracted by the brilliance of the stars they're staring at from the tiny Gryffindor Tower balcony, and it's too dark for either of them to get a good look at the other's expressions, so what better time to return the thing? It's not as if he wants to keep it . . . right? 

"Hey, mate," Seamus says, nudging Dean to get his attention.  "Um, Luna Lovegood gave me this to give to you.  She said you'd dropped it?" He holds out the paper. 

"What?" The other boy has to squint a little to make out the sketch.  When he does, he nearly falls off the roof in surprise.  He snatches it out of Seamus' hands, their fingers touching for the briefest of seconds, and Seamus isn't sure, but he thinks he sees Dean blush.  "Oh god . . . where'd you get this?" 

"I told you, Luna Lovegood gave it to me to give to you because she said you'd dropped it outside the library." He has to admit, he's slightly stunned by this reaction. 

"I've been looking everywhere for this . . . you mean Luna had it the whole time? God, you weren't even supposed to see this thing . . ." The muttered half-sentences coming out of Dean's mouth seem to be directed at both Seamus and himself, leaving Seamus thoroughly puzzled.   

"Sorry?" He offers. 

Dean shakes his head vigorously while folding the paper into quarters.  "No, no, don't . . . if anything, it's me who should be . . . was being presumptuous . . ." He stuffs the picture into his pocket.  "Look, just please forget you saw that.  I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable." 

"I'm not," Seamus says.  "Uncomfortable, I mean.  It was a good picture.  And, you know, I'm kind of flattered." He smiles at his friend and gets a hesitant smile back. 

"Only 'kind of'?" 

"Shut up. 

They laugh a little, and Seamus can't help but think about how much he's missed hearing Dean laugh.  Maybe spending time with him is painful now, but even worse would be to continue to stay away. 

Who am I kidding? He thinks, lying awake in the dark dorm room as he listens to the others breathe.  I can't stop myself from liking him, even though he'll never like me back.  He'd hate me.  He should hate me.  He rolls over and squeezes his eyes shut.  I wish he'd like me instead.  But since that's not going to happen . . . well, you can at least stop denying that you're in love with your best friendyou hopeless idiot.  Life sucks.  He falls asleep shortly after out of sheer exhaustion, but remembers the new resolution in the morning, something he hopes won't turn out to be too terrible of a decision.  

"It's your turn," Seamus reminds Dean over yet another chess game.   

"Yeah, yeah, I know." Dean says.  He finally looks up from his drawing and prods a bishop into action.  "Oh yeah, I meant to tell you—Ginny broke up with me." 

Seamus nearly knocks over his king.  "What? Why?" He tries to conceal the fact that his heart is currently doing somersaults inside his chest. 

Dean shrugs in answer, as if he hasn't just shot Seamus' hopes through the ceiling.  "I dunno, she was pretty vague about it.  I think she was just getting it over with, we'd been a bit rocky for ages.  Ginny's cool and all, but we just sort of stopped liking each other.  It happens." 

"I wouldn't know," Seamus says, desperately forcing his pulse under control. 

Dean laughs and smacks him playfully on the shoulder.  The contact sends a jolt through his body.  "It's alright, mate, dating's overrated anyway." 

"Maybe." He does his best to hold Dean's gaze.  "I guess it would depend on who I dated." 

"Right.  Yeah.  It would." Dean flicks his eyes to the side and Seamus immediately feels guilty.  He loses the chess game to make up for it. 

"God, are you even trying?" Dean asks, smirking. "Actually, don't answer that, I don't want to taint my victory." 

Seamus laughs it off easily.  Nothing can ruin this day, not even himself, though he's always been good at ruining things.  "Hey, what're you drawing?" 

"It's nothing," Dean says, much too quickly.  He flips the notebook closed with a snap.  "Rematch?" 

"Sure, why not?" Seamus says.  He loses that game too.   

The summer sneaks up on them all, and the year is over before he knows it.  They've finally gotten rid of Umbridge, Seamus feels fairly confident that he did well on his O.W.L.s, and he's looking forward to a nice long vacation.  Social groups have even started going back to the way they were, like a friendship Pangea.  They're drifting out of each other's orbits, Dean and Ginny; even though they're still nice to each other, they just sort of stop talking.  Ginny's started hanging out with Luna, which is an interesting development, to say the least.  There's a familiar look that appears on Luna's face when Ginny isn't watching, and it makes something in Seamus' chest tighten.   

Of course, hanging out with Dean now is hardly any better than before, not when almost everything he says or does makes Seamus want to lean over and . . . 

No.  Acknowledging his feelings for his best friend doesn't mean he's actually going to act on them.  He refuses to be responsible for breaking his own heart. 

"Hey," Dean whispers from above him.  "You awake?" 

"No," Seamus says.  It's the last night of the school year and Dean is still keeping them up late to talk.  

"Not funny." The sort-of silence after this sentence lasts just long enough for Seamus to think that Dean is going to let them both go to sleep before he speaks up again.  "What would you say if I told you . . .?" 

"What?" 

"Nothing." 

"What.

A sigh of breath and a creak of the mattress.  "I was just thinking about opportunities." 

"What about them?" 

"Well, if you have a chance to do something, should you always do it? What if the opportunity won't be there for long? What if the payoff is huge, but so is the risk? What if you fail, and it really hurts you, and . . . and . . . someone else." 

"Since when did you get so philosophical?" Seamus asks, telling himself to calm down.  It's not what you hope it is.  Shut up and control yourself, idiot. 

"I don't know.  I was just . . . thinking.  Y'know." 

"Right." Seamus pulls the covers over his head to shut out the thoughts all shouting at him at once.  He doesn't hear anything else and eventually falls asleep out of sheer boredom.  His dreams are uneasy, formless things that slip away whenever he tries to hold on. 

The next day, they find a compartment together on the Hogwarts Express, just like they always do.  No one else ever shows up to bother them, so they have hours to kill and nothing to do.  Seamus suggests the chess set (he can always think of new and creative ways to lose), but Dean says he's bored of chess.  Apparently, it's too predictable.  Silence settles over them, and for a while the only noises are the train and Dean's quill scratching a drawing in his notebook.  Grabbing a random textbook in desperation fails to distract Seamus, as he's always had trouble focusing on anything for too long, especially now. 

"What're you drawing?" He asks, looking over Dean's shoulder.  The question is mostly rhetorical; he just wants to be able to say something.  As expected, Dean closes the notebook immediately. 

"Could you not look at that? It doesn't really matter." This only makes it more than apparent that it does, in fact, matter, but it's also apparent that Dean isn't going to tell him about it anytime soon.  They're both stubborn, but Seamus always backs down first. 

It gets quiet again.  They both retreat into themselves and Seamus stares out the window, drumming his fingers gently on the sill.  The countryside blurs by so fast he has to blink several times before his brain can make sense of the scenery, so he quickly looks away before he gets dizzy. 

"Finished!" Dean says, almost to himself.  Seamus immediately slides over again and asks his usual question, not really needing an answer. 

"It's not— " He stops himself mid-sentence.  "Actually . . ." He takes a deep, shuddery breath.  "You can see it.  You probably should.  I'm sorry." 

"What d'you need to apologize for? I haven't even seen the thing yet." Not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Seamus leans over the other boy's shoulder, preparing himself for anything. 

Well, almost anything.  "It's me," Seamus says numbly.  If possible, it's better and more detailed than the last one he'd seen, and certainly bigger.  "Um . . . wow." All the features are sharp and precise.  Even that little freckle by the corner of his mouth he's always hated is captured perfectly.  He's smiling in this picture too, bright and happy, so much so he can't help but wonder again if this is really how Dean sees him.  The thought makes his ears turn red and he looks away. 

To his shock, he sees Dean blushing as well.  "I understand if you think it's weird.  I just . . . I can't get you out of my head and I thought drawing would help.  It's the reason why I made the last one.  This one's better, but it hasn't really done anything.  Since I spend so much time looking at you anyway, I figured I could at least do something productive with it.  Sorry." 

"I've never seen you looking at me," Seamus says.  One thought is racing over and over through his head, lightning-quick: was I wrong? It's so powerful that he finds himself going out on a limb.  "And I look at you a lot." 

The corner of Dean's mouth quirks adorably.  "Maybe I'm looking when you're not looking?" 

"That would explain it." Nervously, they both start to laugh a little, more relieved than anything.  Their eyes lock. 

In theory, he only has to move his hand a few inches to connect their fingers.  That's all he has to do, in theory.  In practice, the muscles in his arm freeze up when he tries to begin the process.  Slowly, purposefully, arduously, he places his hand over Dean's, feeling like he's moving his arm through drying cement.  After a few tense seconds, Dean laces their fingers together.  Seamus simultaneously melts with relief and explodes with joy. 

"I have to ask you something," Seamus says, very seriously.  Don't think, don't think, don't think, he chants silently to himself. 

"What's that?"  

He swallows.  Feels his heart pounding so loud it drowns out everything else.  "Can I kiss you?" 

The silence stretches long enough for him to worry, despair, then mentally curse himself for ruining the only thing he cares about.  Dean looks away, biting his lip, and Seamus hates the way he can't stop staring, even after he's long past convinced himself that the boy he's in love with hates him now.  His heartbeat comes in stutters, as if it's not certain whether it should stop or not. 

"Okay."  

The word is so quiet that at first Seamus thinks he's imagined it.  "What?" 

"I said, okay." Dean grabs his other hand.  "C'mon, I like you a lot.  It'll be fun." 

He can feel the temperature of his entire body rise.  That's before he realizes he has no idea what to do.  "Um . . ." He moves in a bit, tightening his hold on Dean's hands.  "Shit." 

"Oh my god," Dean says, one hand flying up to hide a smile.  "Have you never kissed anyone before?" 

"I have," Seamus snaps at him.  "Last year." The Yule Ball isn't something he particularly likes to relive, especially the awkward dancing with Lavender where he kept tripping over his own feet.  He'd only kissed her to make up for the all-around terrible-ness of that night, and was very glad when it was over. 

"Mm-hm." Dean leans towards him and carefully places a hand on his cheek.  "Seeing as I'm the only one with experience here. . . let's see, you just sort of . . ."  

There's a bit of awkward fumbling, but then they're actually kissing and it's amazing.  Well, the kiss itself isn't particularly amazing, but just knowing that he is kissing Dean Thomas makes it perfect.  They're impossibly close, fingers entwined, knees pressing against each other, and all he can think about is that Dean smells like cinnamon.  Cinnamon and cloves, just like before.  Only now he knows that Dean tastes a bit like cinnamon as well. 

They break apart when they both start to laugh.  Seamus doesn't want to open his eyes for fear of losing the feeling of the kiss so soon, but the promise of seeing Dean's eyes alight with laughter is a promise too great to resist.  It doesn't disappoint; he's almost glowing.   

Laughter fades off into giggles, which in turn fade off into a golden silence.  For a while (it could've been forever), all they do is stare, eyes wide.  Drinking in all the details of that moment to commit each one to memory.  They can't seem to let go of each other's hands. 

"So, does this mean you like me?" Seamus is the first to break the silence.  The question is practically begging to be asked, though the obvious answer doesn't come to him until after the words are out of his mouth. 

Dean blinks once, twice, then swats Seamus' arm with a delighted laugh.  "Of course, I like you! Why else would I have kissed you?! I've liked you since—god, I don't even know how long, but I thought . . . well, I thought you didn't like me back.  Did I not make that clear?" 

"I, uh . . . well, I guess you did, but I had to make sure.  I liked you for . . . a while, and I didn’t think . . ." He can feel his face heating up and resists the urge to bury his head in his hands until he's sure the blushing's stopped.  "I'm . . . sorry?" 

"Don't be sorry!" Taking his hands, Dean unknowingly makes resisting a whole lot easier.  "You are officially not allowed to be sorry for asking stupid questions." 

"Officially?" 

"Yeah.  Educational Decree Number Three-Hundred whatever.  Now c'mere and kiss me again; it'll be fun." 

"Okay." 

"Okay!"