Most candy making is an art—and most candy recipes require a considerable degree of patience, time, attention, and practice to get right. Being well prepared is absolutely vital. Timing is crucial …
—Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker, The Joy of Cooking
14 October 1996
Seamus Finnigan took only three things seriously: his friends, his hair and his healer training. The last of these brought him to Highly Advanced Potions seminar three times a week. Although he had no love for Professor Snape, he was determined to soak up as much knowledge and technique as possible from the man. With war coming, a friend's life could be in his hands, and he was damned if personal dislikes would derail his learning. His determination over the last year, if not his talent, had won him the grudging respect of his professor.
But lately he'd found it more difficult to maintain his focus. His rather confusing feelings for his friend Dean were not the problem. Thinking about Dean made him feel calmer, even more focused because Dean was so calm and focused himself. No, the distraction came from one of the other students in the small class, a student who had started sitting next to him every day. Seamus had been wondering what Draco Malfoy really wanted since Draco had asked him out two weeks earlier, and with the Ginny complication, he thought discretion the better part of valor and kept his own counsel.
This was difficult, since Draco made it a point to sit just a little too close to Seamus. Far enough not to attract attention but close enough for lots of accidental brushing of thighs and upper arms, usually followed by a sly smirk. This irritated Seamus no end. He was used to having the upper hand, to controlling any interaction whether he was the pursuer or the pursued. He decided to do what he figured Dean would do—wait Draco out and keep his own reactions to a minimum. Draco wasn't so attractive that Seamus was in danger of losing control and not nearly as sexy as he thought himself.
On this particular Monday afternoon however, Draco was not playing any of his usual little games but was absorbed in the tricky pain relief potion Snape had assigned. Seamus wondered at this, then recalled Harry mentioning a Quidditch captains meeting that afternoon in Hooch's office. Draco must have been concentrating on his work so he could get out of class in time for that meeting. He was relieved; Ginny would certainly take that as a positive development.
Draco had only decided to accept the captaincy the night before, during the usual horrible conference with Snape. The head of Slytherin house had been directed by Dumbledore to keep Draco from total self-destruction. His presence at Malfoy Manor the night of Narcissa's death was an unfortunate complication that made Snape's weekly conferences with Draco even more of a sarcastic battle of wills than they would have been otherwise. Of course, it had been Snape that had tipped Arthur Weasley off to the gathering in the first place, probably saving Draco's life, but Snape couldn't tell him that. Nor could he openly encourage the boy's rejection of the Dark, even though he clearly needed some support against the animosity of his house mates. Snape wasn't sure he was doing any good at all in these meetings but he had been prepared to do whatever he must to keep Draco as the Quidditch Captain. As a practical matter, Draco was the only player in Slytherin skilled enough to rebuild the team after so many key players had left Hogwarts but more importantly, Snape suspected only Quidditch could bring Draco back from the brink.
Snape stirred from his thoughts to see Seamus and Draco standing before him. "Well? What is it?" he asked grouchily.
"We've each finished the first part of the potion. Where should we store them until next class?" asked Seamus.
"Leave them where they are; I will store them myself. You are dismissed." Snape turned away from them and back to his book.
Once they'd walked out of the Potions classroom, Seamus pulled Draco into a side corridor. "Still interested?" he asked Draco, half hoping that he wasn't.
"Damn Finnigan, you're demanding. I concentrate on my potion instead of flirting with you for one class and you're ready to drop me?"
Seamus rolled his eyes. He was finding all the cutsieness a little irritating. "Fine. Five o'clock, this Saturday, room 204. Got it?"
Draco smiled lasciviously. "Looking forward to it." He turned and headed for Madame Hooch's office.
Seamus turned out of the corridor and went down to the art studio, where he met Dean. "Am I late?"
Dean looked up from where he was grabbing a sketch pad. "No, right on time. Leave your stuff here. We're going out to the lake."
Dean had been sketching Seamus since they were eleven. At first Seamus had found it nearly impossible to sit still for as long as Dean asked him to but eventually he began to look forward to posing for Dean. It became their own private ritual. Even last year when they weren't doing much else together, they had done this. Justin hadn't liked that Seamus wouldn't let him come along nor that Dean wouldn't show him the sketches, but then Justin hadn't liked anything about Seamus that he couldn't control. Seamus had ceded a lot of things, even nearly his friendship with Dean, but on that point he would not be moved.
Once they reached the lake, Seamus and Dean walked into the tall grass at one end. Seamus sat down, leaning back on his hands with his legs outstretched. Dean positioned Seamus so that the afternoon sun fell over his left shoulder and across his chest, then sat down to the side about two feet away.
"Is it too cold to take your shirt off?" Dean asked.
Seamus shook his head. "I can take it." He unclasped his robe and took off his tie and shirt.
They sat silently for a long while, Seamus watching Dean sketch and seeing Madame Hooch and the four Quidditch captains in the distance, flying around inspecting the pitch. He breathed in the wet autumn smells of mud and fallen leaves and smoke from the fires in the castle. A slight breeze ruffled his hair but the sun was warm enough to keep him from shivering. He had a sense that all was right with the world and sighed deeply because of it.
"Is my bare chest turning you on, Dean?" he teased.
"Mmm-hmm. You always turn me on, Seamus," Dean said in that frustratingly mild way of his.
Seamus responded by sticking his tongue out at Dean, making the other boy chuckle. "So, how's Kevin?" he asked, having resolved to be a good friend.
"He's fine," replied Dean. He'd heard of taking things slow but this was ridiculous. He wouldn't have even been sure they were still dating but that Kevin had said something about Hogsmeade the last time they spoke. Sure, Dean had had dinner at the Ravenclaw table some four or five times since their first date but Kevin never really acted like he was with Dean. Seamus was more attentive. Hell, Harry was more attentive. Dean had a feeling that once Quidditch season started in earnest, he wouldn't be seeing much of the Ravenclaw captain. Well, maybe he'd get a quick how-do-you-do with Kevin before he got too bored. He was awfully cute which was doing wonders for Dean's ego. Though annoyingly, none of this kept him from thinking about Seamus.
"Going to Hogsmeade with him next week?" Seamus asked.
"Mmm-hmm," Dean replied calmly. "And you? Another mystery date?"
"Yeah," Seamus replied quietly.
"You don't sound very excited about it," Dean said.
Seamus shrugged. "I'm pretty sure nothing's going to come of it."
"Really? If he's so resistant to your charms, why are you going out with him?" Dean asked, a slight edge to his voice.
"He asked me out but he's really interested in someone else," Seamus admitted.
"So what are you going to do about it?"
"Hopefully, get him to admit it and do something about it, and get out of my hair. That's the plan, anyway," Seamus explained.
Dean stopped sketching for a moment. "Seamus, do you think that you can say a few magic words and people will do what you tell them to do? You're not that powerful a wizard," he said.
Seamus rolled his eyes. "No, I don't think that. I don't tell people what to do, anyway."
"Oh, you don't?" Dean raised his eyebrows.
"No, I don't. I show people what they want to do, already," Seamus replied.
"Oh, so you're not Seamus The All-Powerful, you're Seamus The All-Knowing," Dean said.
"Look, can we drop this?" Seamus barked.
"Consider it dropped," Dean muttered. "We're done here, anyway." Dean closed his sketchbook and rose to leave.
Seamus stood and put his shirt and robe back on, tucking his tie into his pocket. Looking up he saw Dean heading back to the castle. Seamus thought about what Dean had said and realized suddenly that he couldn't expect him to be able to see inside his head the way he used to; the time with Justin had ended that. Maybe they could get it back though, even if they were just friends. He caught up with Dean and reached out for his shoulder. "Hey?"
Dean stopped but didn't turn around. "Yes?"
"I don't want to fight with you," Seamus said sadly.
"We're not fighting. I'm not angry with you." Dean turned to face his friend and said, firmly, "I know that the Justin thing threw you. But running everyone else's life is not going to make you feel more in control of your own. You've got to trust someone at some point."
"No, you were right. Let's drop it. It's time for dinner anyway." As they walked back to the castle he said, "Hey, you'd better button that shirt or all the boys will be running after you."
Seamus grinned. "I knew you were turned on! You just do this sketching to get me out of my clothes, don't you?"
Dean chuckled. "Yes Seamus, it's all part of my master plan."
Having come in a bit late to dinner, Dean and Seamus had sat with Harry who'd come in late himself from the Quidditch captains' meeting. They lingered at their table chatting until the house elves, in their way, made it clear that the Great Hall was closed. By the time they arrived in the Gryffindor Common room, it was packed with studying students.
Dean went directly upstairs to change, while Harry and Seamus walked over to the table where Hermione and Ginny sat huddled over a parchment.
"Hey, what's going on?" Seamus asked.
Ginny looked at Hermione, then at the boys. "I'm still trying to write this note to Draco." It felt odd, admitting that to Harry. She hadn't talked to him about her feelings for Draco though she knew he'd figured it out that night at the Burrow. "It keeps coming out wrong. I think I've gone through about five feet of parchment in the last week."
Harry nodded. "Draco's playing Quidditch after all. He was at the captain's meeting today."
Ginny smiled. "Thanks Harry, that's good to know."
Seamus asked, "So, what have you decided to say to him?"
"I'm asking him to meet me in Hogsmeade next weekend. I figure it will be easier to talk in a public place, someplace neutral."
Seamus thought quickly. "Have him meet you a little late. Say, six o'clock."
Ginny looked confused. "Why?"
"Um, it will give him more time to think about it. And maybe you'll get dinner out of him."
Ginny nodded. "Okay, that's fine." She wrote for a moment.
Harry leaned over the table and asked, "Ginny, are you sure this is what you want?"
Ginny looked Harry directly in the eyes and nodded. "I've never been as sure of anything else."
"If he hurts you again, I'll kick his arse," Harry declared.
Ginny laughed. "You'll probably have to stand in line behind six or seven large red-haired men."
"Speaking of which," Harry said, "you'll have to talk to Ron about this sometime, if you're going ahead with it."
"Well," said Seamus a bit overly loud. "Speak of the devil."
Ron walked into the common room, his chess men in a box under his arm. Seeing that all his roommates had afternoon plans, he'd invited Padma to an early dinner at the Gryffindor table followed by another game of chess.
Ginny quickly hid her note to Draco under the other parchment on the table. "Who won?" she asked.
Ron rolled his eyes. "Padma. I think she's charmed our nook. I registered a protest with the judge but it was overturned," he joked.
Ginny gathered up her courage. Ron was usually in a fairly docile mood after an encounter with Padma; now was as good a time as any. "Ron, can we go someplace and talk?"
Ron looked confused. "I suppose so. Why?"
"Oh, I'll tell you when we get there." Ginny slipped the note to Hermione for safe keeping, then led Ron out of the common room.
Hermione watched them leave. "That conversation is not going to be pretty."
"No," Harry agreed. "Well, I'm off to take a shower."
"Please do," Hermione said.
"Hey!" Harry protested. "There are plenty of witches who like my manly scent."
"Well, I am not one of them." She remembered how nice Jack had smelled. Jack was not some big sweaty jock. Though he was nicely toned …
"Earth to Hermione?" Harry teased. "Where did you go?"
Hermione scowled. "If you must know, I was thinking about the very clean young man who took me out in Hogsmeade and how much I am looking forward to seeing him again."
"You never did tell me who that was," Harry said, curious.
"No one you know," Seamus said quickly, sitting in the now vacant chair next to Hermione. "Now run along to the showers, sports hero."
Harry held up his hands. "I'm going, I'm going. I'll see you later."
Once Harry was out of earshot, Hermione leaned over to Seamus and whispered, "Speaking of Jack, what do you have planned for us next?"
Seamus smiled devilishly. "I think he should meet Miss Pommery 1926, don't you?"
Hermione stared at him, a bit stunned. "Seamus, I don't know if that's such a good idea."
"Nin, what are we trying to do here?" Seamus reminded her.
"But, nothing." Seamus put his hand on Hermione's arm to reassure her. "Don't worry. You won't let yourself get completely out of control and Jack's a very honorable guy. It will be perfectly safe."
Hermione thought for a moment. "Why do I trust you?" she asked.
"Because I am trustworthy." Seamus grinned, then said seriously, "Because you know this is for your own good. On that first date, Jack met the intelligent, witty Jackie. He should also meet the sexy, fun-loving Jackie."
"I don't even know the sexy, fun-loving Jackie." Hermione sighed and looked at the floor.
Seamus rolled his eyes. "I do! I met her in London about a year ago." He bent his head to meet Hermione's lowered eyes. "Hey? You can't keep denying that she's a part of who you are."
"Acting like that in a club full of gay men and acting like that on a date are two different things, Seamus." Hermione looked back up at him. "Anyway, I don't think I can pull it off."
Seamus winked. "If you're wearing that orange dress you can pull it off."
She smiled, in spite of herself.
"Come on, Nin. You need to stop being afraid of this."
Hermione let out a long sigh. "Right as usual Finnigan, which is annoying. I'm the one who's supposed to be right all the time. You're the one who's charming and funny."
"So we switch places for a little while." Seamus paused. "Anyway, maybe being right will get me further with Dean. Charming and funny sure hasn't worked."
Ron and Ginny slipped into the empty Arithmancy classroom. Its several chalkboards were still covered with the multicolored diagrams of one of the more advanced classes. Ron walked down one of the aisles, then turned back to his sister. "So?" Ron asked.
Ginny hopped up on one of the desks, her legs dangling. She paused a moment to gather her courage and said, "We need to talk. About Draco."
Ron put his chess set down and leaned back against a desk, his arms folded. "I thought that was over. I hoped that was just a mistake on your part."
"It wasn't a mistake at all, Ron." Ginny sighed. "And it may not be over."
Ron tried but failed to keep his temper. "I just can't understand what you see in him! After what his father has done to Dad! After what he's done or tried to do, to all of us! Look at what happened to Hagrid and Buckbeak, not to mention the constant insults to Hermione! And what he said about Cedric Diggory!"
"Ron, keep your voice down," Ginny said. "He apologized for what he said, you were there."
"And you believed him? Come on Gin, he's a con artist," Ron replied.
Ginny sighed. The conversation was not going as she'd hoped. "This isn't about Draco Malfoy, anyway. It's about you and me."
"How?" Ron asked.
"I'm not a little girl anymore," Ginny replied. "You have to trust me to live my own life and make my own decisions."
"It's Malfoy I don't trust, not you." Ron scowled and walked away from Ginny, further into the classroom, his arms still crossed. He sighed, then said softly, "I don't want you to get hurt."
Ginny found herself smiling slightly, in spite of her anger. "That's the thing, Ron," Ginny replied, calmer now. "You have to let me get hurt."
"What about Colin?" Ron asked. "Or Harry? He's better for you than Malfoy. Anybody is."
"Harry doesn't want me," Ginny said. "Five years is enough time out of my life wasted chasing after someone. For all that Mum and everyone else have thrown me at him, he doesn't want me."
"How can you be so sure?" Ron challenged.
Ginny smiled and said in a quiet voice, "Because I know now what it feels like to have someone want you." She looked up at Ron. "You don't have to like him. You don't have to forgive him for the things he's done. You don't even have to get along with him, though that would make my life a lot easier. But you've got to trust me."
Ron sighed. "Ginny, you're my little sister. You're my responsibility."
Ginny shook her head. "No I'm not. You're barely a year older than me. You're my brother, not my father."
"Molly is still trying to run Bill's life and he's almost thirty. Why do you think he and Charlie live abroad? She'll never quit." Ginny paused. "I am responsible for myself. No one else is. How can I grow up if you people won't let me make my own decisions?"
"This thing with Malfoy is the wrong choice, Ginny. He's already hurt you once."
"It's my choice to make." Ginny walked toward her brother and took his hand. "I can take care of myself. If you're right, then you get to say, 'I told you so.'"
Ron sighed. "Can I scowl menacingly in the corner?" he asked.
Ginny laughed. "If it will make you feel better."
"I can't stop you?" he asked.
Ginny shook her head, then said firmly, "You can't stop me. You will only hurt our relationship. Never make me choose. I won't do it."
Ron raised his eyebrows at Ginny's resolve. "What if Malfoy makes you choose?"
"No double standards. He gets the same speech." Ginny looked up at her brother. "Come on, let's go back up to the Tower."
"I need to think about this, Ginny. I don't like it." Ron said as he followed her out of the classroom.
Ginny nodded. "I know. Think about it. But whatever you do won't affect what I do. I'll do what I want."
Ron looked at Ginny, surprised. "When did you get so determined?"
Ginny smiled. "I've always been like this. I'm a Weasley too, you know."
The next morning, Draco was eating his usual solitary breakfast when an owl swooped overhead, dropping a note next to his plate. He hoped it wasn't a communication from Lucius, but it didn't look like his handwriting.
I know you're thinking of me and I wanted you to know that I am thinking of you, too. Can we meet? This Saturday in Hogsmeade? I will be at the Three Broomsticks at six o'clock. Please be there.
PS—I heard you're playing Quidditch, after all. I'm very glad of that.
Draco wondered, as he put the note in his pocket, if that silly necklace had actually been a good idea. But he'd work out what to do about Ginny later.