Halfway through the battle there’s a lull in the fighting, when Voldemort calls a ceasefire to give them a chance to come to their senses and turn Harry over, as though any of them are that daft. Well, some of the Slytherins are, it turns out, but they’re locked in the dungeons now, so Dean reckons they don’t get a say.
The castle doesn’t go quiet, exactly; people are still hurrying about, assessing injuries and pulling the dead from the rubble and reinforcing their defenses as best they can. Dean’s hurrying about as well, doing what he can to help, and if he scans the crowd in the Great Hall every so often, it’s not because he’s looking for Seamus.
He’s not, because Seamus is busy being some kind of leader, and Dean never would have believed it until he saw it with his own eyes. Looks good on him, though, and once this is all finished, Dean might even tell him so. That is, if they both survive.
The thought has him looking again, scanning the sea of battered faces for a glimpse of his best mate, who he’s barely seen in a year, and who he knows he might never see again. The thought keeps making his stomach trip over itself, and Dean’s heart beats as though it’s sprouted Snitch’s wings when he spots Seamus in the middle of the crowd.
Before he can think about what he’s doing Dean’s moving forward, stepping over broken bits of stone and what he hopes isn’t the blood of someone he knows in order to reach Seamus, standing in the entrance to the Great Hall and looking more than a bit lost.
“Alright?” Dean asks when he reaches Seamus, and it’s not what he means at all, but somehow Seamus seems to know.
He nods and looks up at Dean, and for the first time Dean gets a proper look at the bruises on his face. He saw them earlier, in the Room of Requirement when Seamus grabbed him and hugged him tight and Dean half-hoped he’d never let go. But what he didn’t notice then – what he didn’t have time to see – were the layers of damage on Seamus’ face.
There are dark red and black bruises on the surface, only a day or two old, standing out bright and angry against his pale Irish skin. But underneath the fresh bruises there are others, blue and green, then yellow and fading, almost healed but not quite, and when Dean thinks what he must have gone through to collect them all, his stomach turns for a whole new reason.
Seamus’ lip is bleeding, split open at the bottom and trickling a little, and Dean doesn’t try to stop himself from reaching out to touch. “You’re bleeding, mate.”
As he says it Seamus’ tongue slides out to taste blood, the tip just catching the edge of Dean’s thumb. “It’s nothing. Bit of stone caught me when we blew up the bridge is all. I’ve had worse.”
That much is obvious, Dean wants to say. He’s still touching Seamus’ face, fingers tracing a dark purple bruise right at the edge of his cheekbone. It’s made the freckles on that side all but disappear, and Dean swallows a wounded sound and lets his hand slide down to cover the fading bruise on the side of Seamus’ neck.
He doesn’t have the right to be touching Seamus this way, best mates or no, but Dean can’t seem to stop himself now he’s started. He can’t stop his fingers from tracing each mark, memorizing the color of each one and the way they make Seamus seem older, somehow – harder – than the last time Dean saw him.
They’re still standing just outside the entrance to the Great Hall, where anyone can look up and see him tracing the marks on Seamus’ face. But no one’s paying them any mind, because there’s less than an hour now until the battle begins all over again, and they don’t even have the time for this.
A hand comes up to catch his, and when Seamus curves his fingers around Dean’s and pulls them away from his face, Dean looks down to see that Seamus’ knuckles are marked too. There’s blood on them, and when Dean pulls their hands up to look he can see the tooth marks. His first thought is Greyback, whole body filling with dread, and Seamus must notice, because he shakes his head and squeezes Dean’s hand a bit more tightly.
“Disarmed a Snatcher, so he bit me like it was a bloody Muggle duel,” Seamus says, and he’s smiling as though he thinks it’s a laugh.
Dean nods a bit stupidly, still holding onto Seamus’ hand as though there’s not a battle being mounted around them. Then Seamus is tugging on his fingers and Dean knows he’s about to let go, braces himself for it and tells himself it’s for the best. Instead Seamus lets out the soft laugh Dean never thought he’d hear again, then he tightens his grip to drag Dean away from the crowd of people and duck behind a statue that Dean’s fairly sure until recently still had a head.
There’s a lot they both need to say, but there’s no time for any of it. There’s no time at all, because Seamus is important to the battle, and Dean’s not planning to let him fight alone. So he doesn’t argue when Seamus skips the talking in favor of dragging him forward, hand on the back of his neck and pushing up to kiss Dean hard. It’s fierce and messy and tastes of blood, it’s over far too soon and it’s all Dean can do not to drag him back for more.
“Mate, when this is over…”
“Yeah,” Dean interrupts, because there’s still no time, and anyway he already knows what Seamus is going to say. His thumb slides across the bruise just under Seamus’ left eye, and he thinks about how he’d like to paint Seamus like this. “Don’t you dare go getting yourself killed.”
“I won’t if you won’t,” Seamus answers, and when he grins at Dean the marks on his face don’t look quite so hard. A second later someone’s shouting his name and he’s gone, leaving Dean to lean against the half-ruined statue and wonder just how many new bruises Seamus will have when this is all over, and all the time Dean’s planning to spend tracing each one.