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Your Left Life

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“Are you heading home?” Dean asks him, while they’re waiting in line to register with the Ministry for an emergency portkey. Some people have been apparating out and they’ve set up an area for it down by the greenhouses, cordoned off from the rest of the grounds. Dean doesn’t think he could work up the strength to apparate right now if his life depended on it. It doesn’t, which he supposes he should be thankful for.

Seamus snorts. “No,” he says, turning it into two syllables. He’s been losing his accent some over the years, but it still comes back when he’s tired or pissed off. Dean looks at him sideways, trying to work out which it is right now, and then decides on both. Seamus probably feels the exact way he does; like crawling into bed and crying for a bit before passing out. Obviously Dean’s not about to admit that though.

“Alright,” he says, shrugging. Neither of them have been home in months; he knows Seamus hasn’t spoken to his mum in all that time, same as him. But if he doesn’t want to go home right now that’s not any of Dean’s business, even if it is fucking stupid. “You coming to mine?” he tries.

Seamus doesn’t answer, even though they’re coming up to the start of the line and he’s going to have to decide about it sooner or later. Dean doesn’t think they’re letting anyone stay in Hogwarts, even though McGonagall had tried to argue the point that loads of people didn’t exactly have anywhere else to go. She’d done that line that usually worked on people. Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it. The Aurors weren’t having any of it though. There’s dead bodies, they’d said, and she’d had to give up and start wrangling some of the smaller kids into groups to be evacuated first.

Dean wonders if she even has a house herself to go to, or if she’s going to have to book into a Holiday Inn somewhere with the rest of the Professors or something. The thought really is depressing. He wouldn’t half mind having McGonagall as a houseguest actually, except the mums probably wouldn’t appreciate yet another person clogging up the hallways or queueing for the bathroom in the mornings. He feels a bit sick, suddenly. He shouldn’t have thought about them, he doesn’t even know if they’re alright or if something happened or-- or if they’ll even be there when he gets home.

If he ever fucking manages to get home. It’s starting to get dark, even though they’ve been queuing since around lunchtime, and Ministry workers are beginning to buzz around handing out blankets and sandwiches and stuff, bottles of water and all that. Trying to be useful, he guesses, and it’s such bullshit. None of them were around when they were actually needed, and now they’ve just turned up and erected their shit little purple tents and tried to take control of a situation they weren’t even here for.

Harry and Ron and Hermione have disappeared, they’d been whisked away right at the start by a couple of Aurors in tough-looking, leathery robes. They’d not even had to wait around for a portkey, they’d just been side-alonged right out of there by the first Aurors on the scene. Dean saw them go and got really worried for a bit because it had only been about half an hour since they’d done Voldemort in, and people were still wandering around bleeding and stuff but they’d just… left, and everyone saw them leave and started getting agitated, wondering what was going on and if it was still safe or whatever.

Then the Aurors had properly started arriving, in big groups of ten and twenty, and started shouting orders and getting everyone organised, and the Ministry had come and started a field hospital in the courtyard for people who were only a little bit injured. Which was basically everybody. Dean still wanted to know where they’d taken Harry and Ron and Hermione though, so he’d tried to ask around but nobody had known until a big, gruff guy had said in for questioning, really sharp-like, as if that was supposed to be reassuring.

“What d’you think that means?” he’d asked Seamus, who’d been trailing around after him even though he didn’t really seem to care that much. Just to make it seem like he had something to do, Dean thought. They’d asked for volunteers to help in the hospital by that point, were sort of roping people into it whether they wanted to or not actually, and even though Seamus wasn’t opposed to helping he was shit around blood. He’d probably faint, which would just put another fucking problem on Dean’s plate. It was good to have him close, anyway, keep him out of trouble.

“Dunno,” Seamus had replied, staring hard away from a girl who was getting those self-stitch things put into her forehead. She’d had a bright trail of blood running down the side of her face. “Can we sit down or something, maybe?”

It had been chaos then and it’s still chaos now, except they’ve finally managed to ward off an area to keep everyone from walking off around the grounds or the castle, which is basically crumbling to pieces. They’re pretty far away from it now but every so often you can hear a bit break off and crash to the ground. An hour or so ago, maybe a little bit more, everyone had got the shock of their lives when the Ravenclaw tower had started to fall down, tilting to the side for ages before smashing in a big cloud of thick, brown dust. If people hadn’t been crying before, they were after that. Even Dean had had to just-- put his face in his hands for a second, tears leaking through his fingers onto his trainers. Seamus had put his hand on Dean's back, just for a second, which had been quite nice, but then when Dean managed to open his eyes again he’d walked off a ways, was just standing there with his head bowed kicking at the grass.

He’d tried, it had been something.

Dean looks over at him again, for the thousandth time. Seamus had been so, so happy when Dean had come through that tunnel, and it had been the best thing in the world to see his blunt, pale face again, and his crooked teeth as he smiled. They’d got about a half a second of that though, before Harry was on about some scavenger hunt, and then only about five minutes of that before they’d had to leave to fight. Dean doesn’t want to think about the fight. Ever again, if he can help it. He and Seamus had somehow only managed to get separated once, right in the messy bit where Harry had stopped faking dead. But by then it didn’t matter, because Dean had known they were going to come out of it alright. And they’d found each other in the Great Hall afterwards.

“You look like shit,” Seamus had said, smiling, and then covered his mouth with one bruised, scuffed hand, clasped the other on top of it hard. He’d been trying not to let anyone see he was laughing.

Dean just stood there and stared at him a bit, like an idiot, and couldn’t make his hands stop shaking long enough to clap one of them onto Seamus’ shoulder the way he wanted to. “Yeah,” he’d said. “So do you.”

He’d thought he’d had it rough, on the run, in the fucking cellars at Malfoy’s house, but Seamus’ face was-- well, it was something else. If Dean didn’t know who he was, if he wasn’t standing right next to him, then he wouldn’t have been able to recognise him. He feels a bit ill at the idea.

“If you want,” he says slowly, watching for Seamus’ reaction, “you can go and get your face looked at and I’ll hold our place in line.”

Seamus sighs. “I want to get the fuck out of here,” he says, lowly. There’s a first year in the line in front of them with her parents. They must have come here to collect her. Dean didn’t realise there had still been kids around during the battle, he’d not been focusing on anything except not dying, really, and not losing Seamus again.

“Yeah,” Dean says, and that’s it. They haven’t spoken much in the last two hours. He can’t think of what he wants to say, and when he tells Seamus about what happened in the months they’ve been apart he wants it to be far away from Hogwarts, in his own house.

At the front of the queue there’s a beleaguered looking guy sitting at the table with a pile of odds and ends beside him in a bucket. His eyes widen when he looks at Seamus’ face, purple and blue and swelled all over his cheekbones.

“You alright mate?” Seamus asks, confrontational even though he must be dead tired. Dean’s entire body aches, and there’s a sharp pain in his left shoulder that he doesn’t even want to think about right now.

The guy snaps back to himself. “There’s a few forms to fill out before I can assign you a portkey,” he says, and Dean already wants to fucking strangle him. They sit through it while the guy asks them their names and ages and how long they’ve been students and who their parents are, but then break somewhat when he says, “how would you characterise your level of involvement in the Battle?”

“What?” Dean asks, as Seamus’ face just gets harder, his hands clenching down by his sides where the guy can’t see. “Why d’you need to know that?”

“It’s on my form,” the guy tells them helplessly. He isn’t even wearing a uniform, he looks like he just threw on the first thing he found on the floor that morning.

“Let me get this straight,” Seamus says, “you weren’t here when you were needed, but you found the time to print off a couple of hundred interview forms to hassle people who are just trying to get the fuck out of here?”

“I’m-- our priority is making sure everyone here today has been registered with the authorities,” the guy says, like he memorised it in front of the mirror, “and beyond that, to get everyone away from the scene as fast and safely as possible.” He seems sincere, at least, like he wants to help.

“As fast as possible,” Seamus growls, “is that a joke?” He’s thinking about the hours they’ve waited, the people still behind them, quiet and listening to him try and start an argument. Dean touches his forearm. The longer they take to get this done, the longer everyone else has to wait to get away from this fucking place. The Hogwarts express is running a couple of times tomorrow, according to rumour, without any of its usual stops in the tiny market towns along the way, but that’s a joke. People are hardly going to wait around until tomorrow, all night sat outside or in tents, only to get the train back like they’re going home for the holidays or something.

“I would classify our level of involvement as high, mate,” Dean says tiredly, to the man, who checks off a little box on his form and doesn’t ask for any clarification. Seamus grumbles something under his breath but doesn’t offer any more commentary.

“Were either of you treated for any injuries?” he asks, in his posh fucking accent, looking dubiously at Seamus’ face. A flash of pain shoots across Dean’s shoulder, up into his neck, as he tenses. It’s stupid anyway, it’s not like he’ll get into trouble for not telling anyone he’s hurt.

“No,” Seamus says shortly. Does it look like it? is what he’s really saying, though.

“Right,” the guy says, finally finally finally, and puts the finished forms over a red paper circle taped hastily onto the wooden desk, where they disappear off somewhere. Dean can’t even be bothered to ask. He thinks maybe he shouldn’t have given his address out, but it’s too late now.

“Separate?” the man asks, looking between them, “or same place?” He picks up a dirty beer bottle between his forefinger and his thumb, encrusted with a smear of dried mud, and puts it down in front of them.

/

“Wait,” Dean says, on the pavement. The portkey didn’t work for shit, and dropped them off outside the tube station instead of a few streets over in front of his house. He’s out of breath, just from the five minute walk. There are lights on in the living room, in his sisters’ bedrooms at the front of the house, in the small porch beyond the glass door.

“You alright?” Seamus asks. He’s got his school satchel with him but it’s sagging and empty, and Dean doesn’t know what he’s got in there that he would have wanted to bring with him. Dean had left his rucksack in Hogwarts, he didn’t want it anymore, he’s hoping it got buried or something so he never has to look at it again. He hadn’t had much in it by the end, just a pair of shoes and a cheese and onion sandwich and someone else’s wand.

“I dunno,” he says, “I dunno what to tell them.”

He hasn’t seen his mum, his sisters, Helen, in-- months, ages and ages. He’d not really known what to say to them when he knew he was going to have to go into hiding. He didn’t want them to be in any danger but he hadn’t known how to make sure of that, and he hadn’t known who to ask for help.

He’d imagined asking McGonagall. How do I make sure nobody comes after my family? As if she’d have had the fucking time to worry about that. Also, he’d felt a bit stupid at the thought that Death Eaters could have wanted to track him down so badly that they might have gone to interrogate his family. It wasn’t as though he was Harry, or even really a member of the Order. He’d felt foolish, at the time, even thinking about talking to someone about it. He should have done.

“What did you tell them?” Seamus asks, leaning against the low front wall as though they’re going to be in this for the long haul. He crosses his arms, shivering a little bit. “Before like?”

“Um,” Dean says, feeling nauseous, “I told them I was going away for a bit.”

“Going away for a bit?” Seamus says. “And I s’pose they took that pretty fucking well.”

Dean smiles, if he’d had a bit more energy then he even might have laughed. “About as well as could be expected,” he agrees. Um, where, exactly, are you planning on going? his mum had asked, laughing in the doorway of their kitchen. He hadn’t been able to answer.

“So don’t tell them anything,” Seamus says, as though that’s actually a reasonable suggestion. “I didn’t tell my mam anything.”

Dean frowns because this is the first he’s heard of that. “What?” he asks. “She’s a witch, though, surely she knew.”

Seamus shrugs. “I don’t think she thought it was very serious.”

Dean does actually laugh at that, even though he doesn’t want to. “Serious,” he echoes. “Are you joking?”

Seamus gives him a look. “I know,” he sighs after a moment, unfolding his arms and pushing himself up. “Come on then, we’d best show our faces.”

Dean swallows hard and trails Seamus up the red front path, closing the gate behind him as silently as he can manage. He feels like he’s sneaking in after a night out or something, the way he used to when he was younger, going into the city with the fake ID Simone bought him. “I’ve not got my key,” he manages. He lost it somewhere and god only knows where it is now, definitely not in the backpack he’d emptied over and over trying to find it. Seamus looks at him, his face softening in understanding. Dean wants to cry at the thought someone might have it on them right now, wondering where it fits. He wants to cry at the thought he might have dropped it in Draco Malfoy’s fucking dungeons. He wants to vomit onto the feline fine! doormat.

“The lights are on,” Seamus says abruptly, pausing as he goes to ring the doorbell. “They’re fine, they’re home.”

Dean’s staring at the greenman door knocker. It was here when they bought the house and even though his mum hates it they’ve never bothered to get a new one. My car isn’t out front, Dean thinks but doesn’t say because it wouldn’t help. Anyway, they can hardly have packed up their entire lives and moved out in the few months he’s been away. Seamus waits for him to nod before pressing his finger to the bell, and they hear it echoing around the front hall for a few seconds before it’s drowned out by the sound of feet on wooden floorboards. Dean’s head is pounding, but he ignores it.

Odette answers the door, hairbrush in hand, already in her pyjamas. She sees Seamus first and her face folds in on itself a little, assuming the worst, until Dean steps forwards and pushes past him and puts his arms around her. “Oh my god,” she says, pressing the hairbrush really hard into his bad shoulder.

“Who is it?” someone calls from inside the house, from the kitchen where they’re playing Fleetwood Mac. The hallway smells like dinner, like tomatoes and spices and baked chicken. He hears Seamus close the front door behind them but doesn’t look up, rests his chin on her shoulder and closes his eyes. His chest hurts, he hadn’t realised how much he’d missed it here, or how tired he’d been, constantly, for months and months.

“It’s Dean,” Seamus says, in his lilt, and he laughs a little when Dean’s mum slams into the hallway with Yvonne and Julie behind her, a look on her face like she doesn’t know whether to kill him or not. She stops at the top of the three steps down to the lower hall, her hand on the banister.

“Where have you been?” she asks, trying to keep it light, and it might have been fine except that she’s crying and Dean can feel himself start to cry too. He feels so fucking stupid for not making sure they were going to be okay. He can’t ever do anything like that again, he tells himself, looking at her, he’s got to always ask for help even if it’s stupid. Simone comes down from her bedroom at the voices in the hall, and Helen makes her way in from the kitchen with her apron still on, and then they’re all shouting at him affectionately for a bit, Seamus disappearing off somewhere to give them all some space. It’s nice of him, Dean thinks, because he can’t make himself stop crying and he doesn’t really want anyone to see, let alone Seamus. Then he feels guilty about that because Seamus is basically family, isn’t he, and he also deserves to be shouted at by people who love him.

He resurfaces later in the kitchen with a bottle of Tennent’s he must have dug out from the very depths of the fridge, since Dean is the only one who drinks it. He raises his eyebrows at Dean, who’s since washed his face and hands on Simone’s advice, and is drinking cucumber water out of a pint glass on his mum’s.

“I’ve been using your car,” Julie’s saying, nervously, “not that much or anything, just sometimes to get into work. I found the keys in your room. I didn’t like, touch anything else though.” Dean would have been annoyed once, but he looks at her now, her gold hoops glinting, her high ponytail, and just doesn’t give a shit. She could punch him in the face right now and he’d just be happy to see her.

“I told her not to,” Yvonne pipes up, from where she’s checking on the garlic bread in the oven, “like, I said to her she shouldn’t.”

“No, you fucking didn’t?” Julie argues, turning in her chair. “Is that a joke, you drove it to visit your boyfriend like, seven different times.”

Dean laughs. “I don’t care,” he says, for about the third time. “I’m writing it off, if anyone used my car while I was gone it’s fine.”

His mum and Helen pull him away after a while, into the living room at the back of the house. He stands beside the windows and looks into the dark garden.

“Seamus’ face,” his mum says from the sofa. She’s got her hand on Helen’s knee. Helen’s a doctor and she works in one of the big hospitals in the city. When Dean was in primary school he went into work with her for one of those bring your child to work days. He’d thought it was going to be exciting, that he’d at least get to see some x-rays or blood or something, but they just sat around in her office all day while she did paperwork and he did colouring, sitting on the other side of her big desk like he was a patient.

“Yeah,” Dean says.

“What happened,” Helen blurts out, and his mum’s hand tightens around her leg, her knuckles going pale. “Did he get in a fight?”

It’s so ridiculous that Dean almost laughs, but they probably wouldn’t get the joke. “Yeah,” he says, “a pretty rough one.”

His mum’s mouth goes all sad and tight. “Was this a magic thing?” she asks, and then says really hastily when he goes to answer, “no, no, sorry, let’s not talk about this right now, you look exhausted.” She stares at him a bit, Helen leaning closer and closer into her side. Dean can imagine how badly they want to ask him about what happened, and he’s grateful for the idea that he now has at least twelve hours to decide exactly what he wants to tell them.

He pushes the curtains to the side and puts his forehead against the cool glass of the outside doors, the floorboards creaking underneath his feet. “Are you hurt?” Helen asks, “we just want to know if you’re hurt.”

He shrugs, and there’s a dull twinge of pain in his shoulder. “Seamus is,” he says, “have we got any of that bruise healing stuff in the first aid kit?”

Almost as soon as Helen found out about magic she was on Dean asking him questions about medicine. And obviously he hadn’t been able to answer, but he’d gone with her to the weird old apothecary in Diagon Alley a few days later so they could buy stuff for the house. Bruise cream, skele-gro, the stitches that thread themselves, that foul-smelling gel that gets rid of burns in about three seconds flat. She’d been fine with most of it apart from skele-gro, going wide-eyed and frazzled when she read the label, and later at home Dean had overheard her and his mum talking. Selfish, she’d been saying, so fucking selfish, keeping all this to themselves. Dean supposes it is, actually, but he doesn’t think it’s malicious or anything. He thinks it’s more down to the fact that it never really even occurred to any Healers that Muggles might like their bones healed overnight.

“I think so,” Helen says, “I’m sure we have, and I’ll give him some coedine or something if he wants it.”

“Thanks,” Dean says, trying to nod. He’s bone tired, tired down to his marrow. Dean never understood that saying before, but he gets it now. He’s never felt like this, ever, like his whole body weighs three times as much as it does normally, like he’d have a panic attack if someone told him he had to stay up for another hour.

“Is Seamus staying with us then?” his mum asks carefully.

Dean yawns at her, doesn’t even have the energy to cover his mouth. “Yeah,” he says, then blinks a bit, realising. “I should have asked,” he says, “is that alright? I don’t know how long it’ll be for?”

She laughs. “I’m hardly going to chuck him onto the street, am I?” she says, all kind and amused, as though he was stupid to even ask, but Dean genuinely has no clue what Seamus would have done if his mum had said no. Normally he would have gone across town to Harry’s, but neither of them have any way of telling if Harry’s even at home right now, or if he’s at Ron’s, or if he’s still in some dark room deep in the guts of the Ministry being asked a billion questions. Dean hopes he’s in bed somewhere, safe, with Ron and Hermione close by.

There’s a soft knock on the door, and Seamus pokes his head round. “Dinner’s ready,” he says, “I’ve been told to collect you.”

His mum sighs. “You alright Seamus?” she asks, seriously.

He swallows, stepping a little more into the room. His feet are bare, Dean notices all of a sudden, because they live in a no-shoe household and Seamus didn’t want to wear his dirty socks around. He feels odd, guilty about it even though obviously if Seamus had cared then he would have asked for some. “I’m fine,” he says, smiling, “how are you two?”

Seamus is so familiar with his family, with his house, and it makes Dean feel very warm for a reason he’s too tired to think about properly right now. He loves watching Seamus move around the rooms; making tea without asking where the mugs or the teaspoons are kept, stepping over the loose floorboard in the entrance hall they all avoid by superstition, slamming the kitchen door because that’s the only way to get it to shut properly.

Before the war started they talked about getting their own place one day, somewhere in Diagon Alley, or over by Notting Hill Park where the University of Magical Arts is, or wherever they got signed to a Quidditch team. They haven’t mentioned it for ages; he wonders if Seamus even still wants to. He closes his eyes, just for a second, and when he opens them again it’s because Seamus is shaking him awake. They’re alone.

“Do you even want dinner?” Seamus asks, “because you can just go straight to bed.” Dean blinks for a second, clearing his eyes.

“I’ve got some bruise cream for your face,” he says, his arm still hot where Seamus had been touching him.

Seamus nods. “Your mam said it was alright for me to stay?” he asks.

“Yeah,” Dean says, “of course.” Seamus has stayed here a hundred times, more maybe, once lived here for a whole summer while his mum was out of the country on one of her weird retreat things in America. He doesn’t know why it would be different now, or rather, he doesn’t know why it is somehow different now.

“You should go up,” Seamus says, stepping sideways out of Dean’s path, “and I’ll catch up with you after I’ve had some garlic bread.”

“Brush your teeth,” Dean jokes, but it doesn’t quite land, hangs there in the air between them. He looks at the floor. It’s a weird house, way more flights of stairs than is actually warranted, loads of oddly shaped cupboards everywhere, like the builders just shoved one in wherever they felt like it. This particular room has orange light leaking out from the wide cracks between the floorboards, and if you get close to them you can see the backs of the spotlights in the kitchen downstairs. Seamus’ pale feet are right over the brightest part, and there’s a splinter of light stretching across the arch of his foot like a little ray of sunshine.

He wakes up again when Seamus climbs into bed, weighing down the mattress on one side as he thumps a pillow into the right position. He has to push Dean’s outstretched arm out of the way before he lies down, gently, like he doesn’t realise Dean is already awake. The sheets on his bed are clean for some reason, fresh and meadow-smelling from the fabric conditioner his mum uses. Seamus burrows his way underneath the thin summer duvet, taking a long time to settle into a comfortable position, a careful strip of space between them both.

/

“He’s in the garden,” Simone says, when Dean makes his way down to the kitchen in the late afternoon. She’s getting ready for work, pulling on a black cardigan that’s been drying on the radiator. “Mum had to teach him how to use the washing machine.”

This doesn’t quite make sense to Dean, who’s still fuzzy-headed from being asleep for thirteen straight hours. He watches her tie her hair back into a tight bun at the back of her head, little curls escaping at the nape of her neck. She says mum and she means Helen, who had four girls when she moved in with Dean’s mum, all of them older than him. Dean and his mum had lived in a flat before, after his dad left, and she was working in a cafe when she met Helen, who came in one day on her lunch break looking for beans on toast. Simone’s dad had died when she was a kid, after Yvonne had been born. Dean’s dad might still be out there somewhere, and she used to get upset at him sometimes when they were younger, as though he had anything to do with whose dad had died and whose had just left one day and never come back.

Simone works as a nail technician down near the New Cross Gate tube station. It’s also a hairdressers but she doesn’t like touching people’s hair so instead she gives manicures and pedicures and sometimes works at the reception. His mum and Helen get their hair done there, and can remember sitting in the waiting area when he was younger, watching them dip their heads back into the big, white sinks, reading the magazines in the holder beside the armchairs.

“Where is everyone?” he asks, running the tap until it goes cold for a glass of water. He looks out of the window, at the alley with the rubbish bins lining it, at the steps up the side of the house into the back garden.

“The mums are at work,” Simone says, “they aren’t home until later. So are the twins but I have no idea where Yvonne’s got to.” She kicks him in the back of his calf with her bare foot until he turns round from the sink, leaning back against the counter until it digs into the small of his back.

“What?” he asks, taking a sip of water, swirling it around in his mouth. It hurts a bit, he’s just brushed his teeth.

“Your car’s outside,” she says, “Julie had it parked down the road because there weren’t any spaces yesterday but it’s out the front now. She put the keys on the hook.”

“Okay,” Dean says. “Thanks.” The twins, Julie and Odette, work at a catering company in the city, always gone off at odd hours and coming home complaining about the rude rich people who tip for shit. He’d worked with them once when he was seventeen, when they needed some extra waiters for an evening event in the V&A. Everyone had been wearing evening gowns and tuxedos and stuff, and they all talked like some of the Slytherins did, like Malfoy’s mum and dad had.

“Yeah,” she replies, staring at him. “Listen,” she says, “you alright? You’re not in trouble or anything are you?”

“No,” he says, “I was for a bit, but it's sorted now.” She nods firmly, like that’s all she wanted to know. “Have you been okay?” he asks her. She’s the oldest, then the twins, and then Yvonne, who’s only a year and a half older than Dean is and goes to uni nearby. Yvonne’s easiest for him to talk to because they’re so close together, so even though he gets on with Simone and everything she’s still kind of a mystery to him, with her sharp, shiny nails and her love of horror movies and her sullen boyfriend who sleeps over but never talks to any of the rest of the family. Dean hates horror movies, couldn’t really even watch them before. Maybe he’ll have the stomach for them now, after everything that’s happened, everything he’s seen.

She looks at him funny. “Yeah,” she says, “nothing new with me really.” She chews on her lip for a second and pauses like she wants to ask him something else.

“What?” he asks, but then he hears a harsh screech and he’s barely even turned around before a neat, Ministry-issue eagle owl has finished nudging the window open, swooping inside to land on the kitchen table.

“Fuck off,” Simone says, running over to rescue a magazine from underneath it. She swats at it a few times half-heartedly, but it doesn’t budge, just sits there staring at her coolly like it could do this all day.

“Sorry,” he says, going to it. “They do whatever the fuck they want.”

She makes a face. “I’m leaving now anyway,” she replies, “if it shits make sure you clean it up.” He laughs, and then goes weirdly awkward when she kisses him on the cheek before leaving the room. She’s never done that before, not that he can remember anyway. Maybe she just really missed him. “We’re all having dinner together tonight,” she calls down the stairs as she’s leaving, “so if you go out be back for it.”

“Hey,” he says to the bird after she’s slammed the front door shut; it extends it’s leg out and doesn’t say anything. Not that Dean was expecting it to reply or something like that, but most of the time owls will hoot at you or chatter a bit when you take their message. This owl seems really up itself though, and Dean gives it a bit of leftover chicken from the fridge before shooing it outside. The envelope the bird was carrying is purple and a bit crumpled at the corners like it was handled badly before being sent off. There’s a Ministry seal on the front, and it’s addressed to both him and Seamus. Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan, New Cross, London. Reading that makes him feel weird, something shifting and then settling heavy in his stomach.

He goes upstairs after reading it, taking his time on the steps and holding on tight to the banister. His legs feel weak, still, even after a long sleep and a big glass of water. He wants to eat something, he’s starving, but he opened the fridge and nothing looked nice. The thought of eating eggs, the thought of crunching dry toast in his mouth, all of it has him feeling sick and lightheaded.

He stops at the back door out of the living room. It’s open, so he can see Seamus down at the end of the garden beside their washing line, hanging up a pair of ratty looking jeans. His face is clear now, a bit swelled up still, but looking so much better than last night.

He must have got up hours ago to have been able to do a whole load of washing, but Dean hadn’t heard him get out of bed. As Dean watches, Seamus gets a jumper out of the basket beside his feet and pegs it onto the line. He stops then, after that, and stares at the jumper like someone has pressed pause on him. Dean starts down the garden, over the hot patio and into the wild grass that nobody has bothered to mow while he’s been gone, apparently.

“Hey,” he says, walking over in his bare feet and trying to avoid the thistles growing tall towards the back fence. Seamus slides a wooden peg onto the shoulder of a white t-shirt; it’s got a brown, rust-coloured stain on the front. He turns, sees Dean staring at it.

“I know,” he says, “I tried to ask Helen about the stain remover but she was in a rush and I don’t think I did it right.”

“That’s blood,” Dean says, his brain catching on it and sticking. He doesn’t know why he’s so surprised, he saw Seamus’ face last night, the mottled bruising on his neck and his hands, the shallow cuts all over the backs of his arms. There must have been worse than that, underneath his clothes where Dean hadn’t been able to see.

“I’m going to have to borrow some stuff,” Seamus says, “if that’s alright. Until I can go out and buy some. I have to get my mam to send me some money, actually, don’t let me forget about it.”

Dean nods, still staring at the stain on the shirt. It looks like tea leaves at the bottom of a cup, reminds him of all those stuffy afternoons sitting at the top of the astronomy tower, drinking bitter tea and eating the shortbread biscuits they’d always smuggled into the classroom, handing them around while Professor Trelawney wasn’t looking. She’d always been pretty focused on Harry, always predicting his death and stuff like that, she hadn’t had time to teach anyone else how to do anything. Dean narrows his eyes, it looks like a dog if he blurs his vision enough. Not the Grim, just a normal dog with floppy ears and a smile. A sausage dog or something, something friendly.

“Yeah,” he says, a second too late, “sure, I can find you something.” Seamus usually borrows pyjamas, or occasionally swimming stuff if it’s a hot day and they’re going to the ponds at the Heath, but he never really borrows Dean’s actual clothes. They’re going to look ridiculous on him, way too long. Too loose around the shoulders, too baggy on the sleeves. Maybe he can dig out some stuff he used to wear when he was younger, there’s got to be something hanging around in the bottom of his wardrobe that his mum didn’t manage to donate to a charity shop.

On a normal day in a normal summer they’d be doing absolutely nothing, the day too hot for public transport or walking to the local swimming pool or even moving. It’s hot in the garden, even though the high fence keeps the overgrown lawn mostly in the shade. Seamus hangs up a pair of socks, starts to winch up the washing line until it’s a few feet over their heads and the clothes are bleached out in the sun. A few doors down someone’s listening to classical music while they do the housework, the sound of an orchestra floating over to them.

“I got a letter from Hermione,” Dean says, taking it out of his pocket and trying to hand it to Seamus; he doesn’t seem to want it, just stares at it for a moment and then looks away.

“It’s alright,” he says, “just tell me what she said.”

“There’s a DA meeting later,” Dean says, stuffing the letter back into his pocket, feeling stupid. “In about an hour, and they want us for dinner but I don’t think I can stay for that.” He pauses, “you could though,” he offers, “and I could pick you up after or something.”

“A DA meeting,” Seamus repeats in an odd, flat tone. He rubs his knuckles over his mouth, staring at the ground. “Why the fuck would they be calling a DA meeting?”

“She didn’t really say? She sent it from the Ministry so-- they must have stuff to tell us.” Dean says. “Or like, maybe they want to talk about what to do next.” He doesn’t even want to consider how long Harry and Ron and Hermione had been at the Ministry for, if they’ll even get time to sleep before people arrive to their house.

“What to do next,” Seamus says again, and suddenly Dean is too hot, pissed off.

“Are you just going to repeat everything I say?” he asks.

Seamus sighs, looks up at him finally, his eyes clear and blue and determined. “What is there to do?” he says.

“Well--” Dean starts, and pauses thinking about the letter, about Hermione’s neat, straight handwriting, how when he sees it he hears her clear voice reading the words. “She didn’t exactly say.”

“Fuck what Hermione said,” Seamus says impatiently, waving it off, “what do you think it’s about?”

“I guess funerals and stuff,” Dean tries, even though he has no clue if that’s the right answer or not. “And there’s still Death Eaters out there that weren’t caught yesterday.”

Seamus’ jaw clenches down hard, as though he’s biting back whatever it is he wants to say. He looks angry, angrier than he did yesterday, angrier than he had all throughout the battle. Dean can’t think what he did to make him look like that. “And we’re supposed to plan funerals on top of everything else now are we?” Seamus says finally, “is that our responsibility?”

“Who else is going to do it?” Dean asks, then says, “I was just taking a stab in the fucking dark anyway, it could be about anything.”

Anyone could do it,” Seamus says, tipping his head back into a beam of sunlight and screwing his eyes shut. Dean reaches out a tentative hand, touching his shoulder, the firm curve of his bicep underneath the t-shirt Dean had given him to sleep in. “Adults could do it,” he suggests wearily, “their families or whatever.”

What adults? Dean thinks. “A lot of people-- I mean, some people don’t have families, do they?”

Seamus doesn’t reply. The song changes, over in the house nearby. “I just want to pay my respects normally,” Seamus says. “That’s what you do. You get into your suit and you go to church and someone else will have organised everything.”

“I can’t believe we’re arguing about this,” Dean says, taking his hand away finally, even though he doesn’t much feel like it. “They probably just want to make sure we’re alright.”

“I want everything to be over,” Seamus says roughly, “and this is making me feel like it isn’t.”

Dean’s heart hurts, he wishes he hadn’t just touched Seamus’ shoulder because if he hadn’t then he would have been able to do it now. “You don’t have to come,” Dean says suddenly, “you can stay here. I’ll tell them you’re tired, hurt still or whatever. Obviously you don’t have to come if you don’t want to.”

“Course I’m going,” Seamus says, with a weird little laugh, “hardly going to stay here and mope am I?”

He could though, that’s the thing. Everyone saw his face yesterday, the beating he’d taken from the fucking Carrows, everyone knows how hard he fought even before the battle had properly started. Dean didn’t do anything. Dean fled and camped in the woods and got caught and didn’t do anything to stop it when Ted got killed.

“I’m going to shower,” Dean says, thinking he might throw up instead, actually, “and then we’ll drive over, alright?”

/

His car is baking hot from sitting outside in the sun all morning, and the air tastes musty and old like the air inside a garden shed. It doesn’t cool down on the drive either, even once they’ve opened all the windows as far as they’ll go and Dean’s turned the fans on, angling the little shutter things so they blow cool air onto his neck. Seamus hangs his arm out of the window and leans the side of his head onto the sill, his hair getting messy in the wind. He laughs when they drive over the Thames and sticks his head further out, watching the boats underneath them and the bright sky reflecting off the river. Something in Dean unknots at the sound, and he turns the radio up and up until he can feel the music in his chest instead of his thudding heartbeat.

It’s impossible to find a place to park outside Harry’s house and they end up having to leave the car a few streets over on one of the pay and display meters that Seamus doesn’t know how to use. They walk over slowly, in the shade of the trees overhead, and it’s lovely for a while; dinner with his family tonight, Seamus here beside him with a smile on his face and his cheeks red from the heat. Everything’s fine. Not good, but okay. Better than it’s been for ages and ages. Until they arrive at Harry’s and George answers the door, and suddenly it feels like an insult that Dean had been happy a few seconds earlier. Like something stupid and slimy and mean, that he’d forgotten for one second how fucked everything is.

“Alright?” George asks, looking absolutely done for, and Dean finds himself unable to do anything apart from nod as he ushers them inside and down the hallway.

Dean’s only been to Grimmauld Place on a couple of occasions, and he doesn’t know why but this time he’d been expecting it to be different, cleaner maybe, less cursed objects. They pass the living room and the drawing room, both of the doors taken off their hinges and lain out on the dusty, cobwebbed floor. This place is stagnating, Dean thinks, peering inside at the tightly closed curtains and the horrid, discoloured carpets. It’s like Miss Havisham’s house, like she could appear around a corner at any moment in her stained wedding dress and start demanding all the men in the house fuck off.

Everyone’s in the kitchen, sat around the big table and not talking to each other. It’s cleaner in here at least, and much brighter where Kreacher or somebody has opened the windows and the shutters to let in the breeze. Ginny’s standing over beside the fridge with a terrible blank look on her face, but she straightens when Dean comes in, gives him a weak, watery smile. He wants to go to her, put his hand on the back of her neck and fold himself over her, but he’s very conscious of Seamus behind him, right on his heels. And Luna’s with her anyway, holding her hand from a hard, wooden chair beside Ginny’s waist.

“Hi,” Neville says, pushing himself up out of his own chair with a quiet groan. He pulls Dean into a hug, extends one arm out to Seamus and bundles them all together. Seamus puts his hand on Dean’s back, polite, barely-there, and Dean could almost kick himself for not hugging him properly this morning. He does it now, his hand pressed hard against Seamus’ side.

“How’s things?” Seamus asks him, muffled and unintelligible, the way his voice goes when he’s upset about something. He pulls away from them, wipes his cheeks briskly with the back of his hands, angling his body away from the table a bit.

“Shit,” Neville says seriously, his hand still on Seamus’ shoulder. Dean envies the easy way Neville has with him, the casual touches he doesn’t even have to think about before doing. “You?”

“Oh you know,” Seamus says, running a hand over the back of his neck, “pretty much the same as you.”

Neville laughs, a tight, panicked sound in the silent room. “Have you seen your mum yet?” he asks.

Seamus shakes his head. “Staying at Dean’s,” he tells him, “for-- um, for the foreseeable future I think.” Neville nods thoughtfully, sucking on his teeth. He looks different than he did before the battle, than the last time Dean had seen him in school. He’s still broad, with thick forearms and a soft, curving stomach underneath his jumper, but he’s standing straighter and his dark eyes are more serious. He has a scar on his neck, cutting up into the edge of his jaw, silvery and puckered like he’s had it forever. He looks well, considering everything that’s happened.

“I’m back at my grandmother’s,” he says, “but it’s better here.”

Looking around the kitchen, Dean almost wants to argue with him. There’s barely anybody here, and the ones who are are sat around the kitchen table as though they’re in a fucking board meeting or something. Kreacher’s over beside Padma and Cho handing them cups of tea. Everyone looks blank and drained and pale, and Terry has what looks like an actual open wound on the back of his hand. He keeps making a fist every so often and wincing at it.

Eventually Hermione comes into the room from a door at the far end of the kitchen, followed closely by Ron, who nods when he catches sight of Dean. There’s a small uptick in the noise levels as everyone says hi to one another, but then they go silent when Harry makes his appearance in the doorway, pausing just on the threshold before he enters and sits down at the head of the table, his elbows propped up on the arms of his chair.

“Right,” he says, without even a hello, and frowns down at a little piece of white paper in his hand. “First of all, I wanted to thank you all.” He looks up, makes weird, deep eye contact with all of them one by one, as if Hermione told him to do it, as if he’s been coached.

Seamus snorts softly from beside him; they’re both still standing but Neville has since taken his seat again, and George has disappeared entirely. “Yeah,” Ron says gruffly, folding his arms, “we couldn’t have done it without you lot.” He’s better at this, Dean thinks, he’s managing to sound as though he actually means it.

“There’s more to be done though,” Harry says briskly, “before everyone goes getting complacent.”

Seamus snorts again and this time Dean thinks it’s actually warranted. Complacent. Voldemort died yesterday. He thinks about saying that but Hermione’s already stepped forward and said something by the time he’s decided.

“We went to the Ministry yesterday,” she tells them, “and it’s-- well, not to be crude but it’s a shitshow over there, none of them have any idea what’s going on. They’re busy deciding who’s going to be the next Minister and they listened to hardly anything we said to them in terms of a plan of action.”

“Plan of action?” Seamus says, and everyone turns to him. “For what?” There’s a hint of annoyance in his voice, but Dean doesn’t think anyone else will be able to hear it.

Hermione nods. “Right, yeah,” she says, “exactly. There’s still so many things to get sorted, and I think everyone here knows we can’t count on the Ministry to do anything.”

“The Aurors are fine though,” Harry says, abruptly and out of nowhere. Nobody really knows how to respond to this, they’re all thinking of how the Aurors actually did absolutely nothing during the battle yesterday.

“We’ve written a list,” Hermione says, getting her wand out and starting to write; shimmering golden letters in the air in front of the dark stone hearth.

Dean usually likes plans. He likes making lists with neat bullet points, separated with headings and subheadings, and sometimes he’ll colour code them. In primary school they’d done a test every year at the start of term. What kind of learner are you? Dean always got visual, which never really meant anything to him except that he was encouraged to use a lot of colours whenever he did anything, and to highlight things he liked in books in his favourite colour, which used to be blue. He’d had to take a test to get into secondary school, even though he never ended up going, and his mum used to sit down with him at the kitchen table and help him revise from the textbooks they gave you with cartoons in them.

He’d arrived at Hogwarts and found that all of the stuff they’d taught him in school was basically useless; maths, English, French, geography. Everything apart from the way he’d revised, because the teachers in Hogwarts never told you how to do anything like that, always expected you to just get on with it. Seamus always used to look over his shoulder when Dean was making a to-do list or a mind-map and tell him it looked like code or something.

Dean feels comforted by plans, he feels that the best way to make sure the future goes in the right direction is to split everything into small, achievable goals, and to go from there. He isn’t sure this situation is the type that can be controlled by a plan though, or a well-drawn list, even one with colour coding and alphabetisation, and that becomes even more obvious when the first thing Hermione writes is ‘Dragon on the loose - find.’

“What?” Terry asks, looking away from his fist for the first time in a while, “um, what dragon? Since when was there a dragon?”

“Since we broke out of Gringotts on its back?” Ron replies, as though everyone should already be up to date with whatever escapades they’d been up to before the battle. Hermione tries to stifle a smile as Harry looks over to her.

A lot of the time it seems like they’re always thinking the same thing, like those triplets in the psychic magazines Simone sometimes gets that can tell when the others are hurt or in trouble or want a cup of tea. It’s the same kind of thing his sisters all have with each other, now that he thinks about it. Like, the way they assume all of them are thinking the exact same thing at any given moment, like they’re just on the cusp of having the same idea in perfect unison.

Dean remembers them at Shell Cottage, the three of them planning something big and never telling him anything about it. He remembers falling asleep with Luna on the sofa in the conservatory every afternoon, walking with her on the beach. He remembers Harry catching him on the stairs one night and kissing him roughly, ferocious and eager with his hair long in Dean’s hands. You and Seamus though, Harry had said afterwards, upstairs in the unmade single bed he slept in every night, his arm across Dean’s stomach. Yeah, Dean had said, and they hadn’t done it again.

“Oh,” Dean says, because he supposes that must have been what they’d been planning all those times they never said anything. It kind of makes sense now, why they’d not told him anything about it. He probably would have said you’re all going to get killed, let’s stop and think about this, let’s get out the whiteboard.

“Why were you in Gringotts though?” Terry asks, which is a fair question, albeit not the first one Dean would have picked.

“They have dragons in Gringotts?” Luna pipes up. “Isn’t that really sick? I’m not going to help you put a dragon back into a bank Hermione.”

“Um,” Hermione says, slightly pained, “I think we’re getting a bit off track, there’s more to the list.”

“Is it in order of priorities?” Padma asks, “because I think dragon on the loose probably warrants an entire list to itself actually.”

“It’s-- it’s not in any particular order,” Hermione tells her, thrown off, “that’s just the first thing we came up with.” She writes Death Eaters still out there next, and Hogwarts needs rebuilding, Elder wand needs destroying, Funerals attend/plan, Set up fund for people affected.

“Jesus,” Seamus says, loud enough for everyone to hear, “wasn’t everyone affected?”

“The focus would be on people whose houses were damaged,” Hermione explains, “people who have nowhere to stay, people who’ve lost family. The Ministry told us they were going to help get people into temporary housing but--”

“Well why don’t we let them do that?” Seamus asks her, “if they’ve said they’re going to do it.”

“Do we trust them to do it properly though?” Ginny asks, and nobody says anything.

“There are going to be trials,” Harry says after a minute, his voice low. “Hundreds of people are going to be arrested, hundreds of people are going to have to prosecuted and charged. There’s going to be takeovers of most of the stately houses, ones that have been in families for centuries, the Ministry are going to claim them. People are going to want money from that, and the Ministry - such as it fucking is - isn’t going to want to give people money. There’s going to be lawsuits, and distractions, and resources spread very thin on the fucking ground, and the Ministry is going to do what it always does, look out for itself. We’re still Dumbledore’s Army,” he says, furiously, “and there’s still stuff we need to take care of.”

Ron sits down heavily but Dean only sees it out of the corner of his eye, busy staring at Harry. Everyone in the room is staring at him, gone quiet and still. He’s sitting there at the head of the table, clutching a piece of paper he’d had to write ‘say thank you’ on as a reminder, and he looks like the general of an army. He’s scruffy and scuffed and has unwashed hair, and he’s wearing a t-shirt with a hole in it beside the neck, stretched out like he’s been fiddling with it too much. But he still looks like the young king in a fairytale, beautiful and solemn. Yesterday is fresh in their minds too, how Harry killed a dark wizard with expelliarmus, and maybe before that moment he’d been their odd, sullen friend but right now he’s untouchable. He’s uncanny. And Dean would follow him into another war if he asked.

“Dumbledore’s dead,” Seamus says, after a second.

/

“It’s pathetic,” Seamus says, as Dean unlocks the car door and rests his arm on the burning hood, looking across as him; his sandy hair, his blunt nose, twisted from breaking it three times in a really unlucky streak in second year. They’re on their way home for dinner even though mostly everyone else stayed at Harry’s, to order a takeaway and start to clean out the upstairs living room so they can use it as a base of operations.

“Why?” Dean asks, because he doesn’t think it’s pathetic at all.

“It’s fucking tragic,” Seamus tells him, gesturing widely, “everyone just waiting around for Harry to tell them what to do because they can’t think of anything themselves.”

“Well, they seemed to-- I don’t know,” Dean says. “They seemed to have a pretty good idea of it.”

Seamus stares at him. “Death Eaters still out there,” he spits, “what the fuck do you think we’re supposed to do about a bunch of Death Eaters? The only reason we even got close to them yesterday was because Voldemort was so obsessed with killing Harry that he came to us.

It was yesterday, Dean thinks. It doesn’t feel like yesterday, it feels like it was days ago, months ago. “Rebuilding Hogwarts?” Dean asks him, “you think we’re capable of that?”

“I’m not a fucking builder,” Seamus mutters, but then perks up a bit when he says, “I wouldn’t mind hunting down a dragon though.”

“Somehow,” Dean says wryly, “I can’t really see us doing that.”

“They just want something to do,” Seamus says softly, kind of desperate, “you can see that right? They don’t know what to do with themselves now that the thing they’ve been trying to get done for the past five years is finally finished.”

“What’s wrong with that?” Dean asks, but Seamus just shakes his head. “I think we should be doing something.”

Seamus looks at him for a long, unbroken minute, standing beside the opened passenger door of Dean’s black Ford Escort. He got it last year, paid for half with birthday money and half with whatever he earned working at a coffee shop twenty minutes from his house.

“Okay,” Seamus says, “so we’ll do it.”

“You don’t have to,” Dean replies, surprised.

“What else am I going to do,” Seamus says wearily, and that’s that.

/

Dean’s room is in the attic, at the top of three flights of stairs, with a view over the back garden and the gardens of their next door neighbours. A group of students are renting on the left, eleven of them in a house meant for far fewer, and on the right hand side there’s a family like theirs. They have three young kids who all go to school nearby, the one Dean went to when he was younger, and they get the bus there by themselves every morning, three stops on the number 47. They have a dog too, a ratty looking little terrier who lives in their garden and spends his time trying to dig holes under the fence so he can come and visit Dean’s family’s garden, which is a little bigger and has nicer grass. He sleeps outside in a kennel near the back fence and sometimes Dean can hear him howling late at night, and wonders if he’s howling at the moon, and if dogs really do that or if it’s just a myth.

Dean can see him sometimes from his bedroom window, sleeping in patches of sunlight or splashing around in a kiddie-pool they’ve given him for the hot weather. He’s out there now, sunbathing in the last of the evening light, on the patio with his tongue hanging out of his mouth. Dean watches him, sitting on the tiny IKEA sofa with his arm dangling out of the opened window, smoke trailing inside. They’ve just had dinner, a chickpea curry that Odette made, with rice and naan and the homemade mango chutney Helen cooks in big batches and gives out to her friends after dinner parties. They’re pissed at him, the whole family; he couldn’t answer their questions the way they’d wanted him to.

“I didn’t know you’d spent all that time with Ron and Harry and Hermione,” Seamus says all of a sudden, “at the cottage.”

“Yeah,” Dean replies, and feels guilty about it. He’d basically had a beach holiday while Seamus was back at Hogwarts getting beaten up by a pair of sadistic twins. He doesn’t actually know if the Carrows were twins, but they sound like they were from what Seamus has told him.

“I thought you’d been hiding out in the forest or something,” Seamus says, conversationally. He’s lying on Dean’s bed, spreadeagled on the West Ham bedsheets. They look stupid, childish, and Dean wishes he had another set. Something muted, maybe some grey linen or something. And they clash with his yellow walls.

“No,” Dean says carefully, “that was before. Until we were-- taken to Malfoy Manor.”

“I can’t believe you were kidnapped,” Seamus says, tilting his face to the side to glance over at Dean. “That’s--” he cuts off and shakes his head.

“I don’t know if it was actually kidnapping though mate,” Dean says after a moment, when it becomes clear Seamus doesn’t know how to finish. “Nobody was demanding a ransom for me or anything.”

Seamus shudders. “Do you want to talk about it?” he asks, staring determinedly at the ceiling.

“Um,” Dean says.

“Are you okay and everything?” Seamus asks, his words toppling over one another as he rushes to get it out. “Did anything happen or--”

“No,” Dean interrupts, “nothing happened, literally nothing happened.” Nothing happened to him anyway, and Dean has a lot of conflicted feelings about whether he should be guilty about that or not. Usually he lands on not, unless it’s a bad day.

“Malfoy have nice dungeons then?” Seamus says.

“Lovely,” Dean replies, “some of the nicest I’ve seen, actually.”

“Nicer than the ones in Hogwarts?”

“These ones didn’t have Snape lurking around in them,” Dean says, and then remembers that Snape’s dead. He doesn’t know if it’s okay to make jokes about him now, if it’s more disrespectful than when they did it while he was alive. Seamus laughs though, so maybe it’s alright.

“I really missed you,” Seamus says, quiet.

“Me too,” Dean tells him, even though that doesn’t feel like the whole truth. I missed you, I thought you were dead, I thought I would die and I’d never get to see you again.

Seamus lets out a shaky breath through his nose, sits up. “I’m going to go shower,” he says, nodding his head toward the door, “and then-- bed, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Dean says, feels like he’s all he’s said for the last forty-eight hours. Yeah and Do you want to? and You don’t have to. He doesn’t know when he became nervous around Seamus.

/

Later that night, or maybe in the early hours of the morning, Dean wakes up to Seamus getting back into bed, the covers rustling as he slides underneath them. Dean’s mum had offered to dig out the air mattress but neither of them mind sharing, they used to do it all the time when they were younger. It didn’t make him feel like this when they were younger though, something slick and hot and anticipatory twisting in his stomach.

“Were you outside?” he says, and Seamus stops in his tracks, the floorboards creaking as he shifts his weight. The yellow outdoor lights have come on in the garden, filtering in through the wide gap in the curtains where he hadn’t pulled them closed earlier.

“Yeah,” he replies, in a whisper. “Sorry, it’s too hot in here, did I wake you up?”

“Oh,” Dean says through a yawn, watching Seamus as he folds the duvet over and lays down on the white sheet, curled on his side. “You can crack the window,” he says, and holds his breath when Seamus leans over him to slide it open, his hand pressed against Dean’s hip for balance. Seamus slumps back down against the mattress with a sigh, closer than he had been before. Dean’s hand twitches and he has to actually restrain himself from reaching out and touching Seamus’ shoulder, the pale curve of his neck, his freckles one by one.

Maybe he should reach out; he wonders what Seamus would do if he did. Dean looks at Seamus and feels the way his own face changes, the way his blood goes hot in his veins, and he thinks there’s no possible way Seamus hasn’t realised what Dean wants from him. It even doesn’t make any sense, Seamus looks the same as he did before the battle, he speaks and moves and breathes the same way but Dean can hardly control himself with how much he wants him. Dean’s the one who’s changed, Dean is the one who has somehow decided their friendship isn’t enough anymore, Dean’s the one who’s probably going to fuck everything up for them. He can see himself doing it, pushing the duvet to the bottom of the bed and rolling over, feeling the warm line of Seamus’ body beside him, kissing him. He knows he’s going to eventually, he can hear the start of it in his head. You fought in a war, this should be nothing.

The thing is, is that there’s no way Seamus would ever be angry at him for it, there’s no way Seamus would want to stop being his friend over it. The worst case scenario would be Seamus pushing him away, gently, with a polite little frown on his face, or a nervous laugh. But still Dean genuinely can’t think of a more terrible thing in the entire world. It would be the worst thing to ever happen to him, he’d probably rather go back to the dungeons, he’d probably rather relive the night he was captured. He’d boil over, he’d spontaneously combust, he’d melt into a puddle on the floor and drip through the cracks in the floorboards.

“Is it sick that I didn’t want to?” Seamus asks him, out of nowhere, urgent and too-loud in the silent room. Dean breathes hard for a second, blinks at him. There’s no way Seamus heard what he was thinking, unless he’s suddenly got ridiculously good at legilimency.

“What?” Dean asks, struggling to follow, and Seamus makes a noise of frustration.

“It was selfish, wasn’t it,” he says, “everyone thinks I’m-- selfish, and lazy, and that I don’t give a shit what happens to them now that-- Voldemort’s gone.”

“What?” Dean repeats, his brain trying to catch up, “nobody thinks that.” Nobody could think that, because maybe Seamus wavers sometimes but nobody could ever deny he didn’t fight just as hard as the rest of them.

“Just because you don’t think that doesn’t mean nobody does,” Seamus says, which is technically true.

“I don’t understand what this is about,” Dean tells him.

“Is it bad of me to not want to plan funerals,” Seamus says, voice low and harsh, “or catch more Death Eaters? Is it bad to want-- a break from all that?”

It doesn’t sound as though Seamus is actually asking, it sounds more like he wants Dean to agree with him. “No,” Dean says, “of course it’s not.”

“You want to though,” Seamus says. Dean pauses for a second, and tries to come up with a way to tell Seamus he feels as though he’s obligated without actually using the word obligated.

“Yeah,” Dean says hesitantly, “didn’t we already have this conversation though? About four hours ago?”

“I know,” he says, “we did, yeah.”

“We don’t always have to do the same stuff,” Dean says, even though they always have before.

“I don’t trust Harry with you,” Seamus says, ignoring him, “I don’t trust him not to lead you into an early grave.”

“You’re going to keep an eye on me then,” Dean says, trying desperately to keep his voice sounding light. He can feel his heart beating in his throat.

“Yep,” Seamus says grimly, and closes his eyes. “Potter’s not starting another war on my watch.”

“He didn’t start the last one,” Dean points out.

Seamus doesn’t say anything, for ages and ages. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there before,” he says weakly, clearing his throat before continuing. “I can’t imagine what it must have been like out there.”

Dean blinks at him. It hadn’t even occurred to him that Seamus might feel bad about leaving him alone. Dean was the one who left, Dean was the one who abandoned him there in Hogwarts to be beaten up, tortured. “You don’t have anything to apologise for,” he says, his voice catching.

Seamus reaches over, suddenly, burrowing his arm underneath the bundled up duvet until he’s got his hand around Dean’s wrist. He seems surprised that he did it, turning his face into the crook of his elbow, but he doesn’t let go. “Maybe we don’t always have to do everything together,” he says, as Dean’s heart thuds against his ribcage. “But we should, I want to.”

/

It’s raining the day of Tonks’ funeral, with dark grey clouds on the horizon like it’s going to thunder later. Dean hadn’t known Tonks very well, not like Harry or any of the other members of the Order, but he saw her occasionally with her bubblegum hair and her pretty face, always winking all over the place, and thinks she would have hated it. Lupin seemed like the kind of guy who’d want his funeral during a thunderstorm, he probably would have thought it was appropriate or funny or something, but Tonks deserved a sunny day for hers. He’d heard all about her from Ted, how she was funny and clumsy and really excited about having a kid, and he feels sick with how it ended for her.

This week has been rough on everyone, loads of funerals and memorials all falling in the same short space of time, and Dean’s already been to Colin’s and Lupin’s and Fred’s, as well as a couple for people he didn’t really know that well. He hadn’t gone to Snape’s, nobody had really except, for some inexplicable reason, Harry.

Ron and Hermione had stayed behind, drinking sullenly in the living room while it was going on and giving one word answers when people asked them questions. Harry had taken Neville, which Dean thought was kind of a cruel and weird thing to do considering how awful Snape used to be to the both of them, but they’d come back looking fine, flushed from the heat of the day and a few drinks in a pub near the graveyard. Dean doesn’t know where Snape was buried, he doesn’t want to know.

In her will, Tonks had asked for a wake. She’d also asked to be buried in a forest underneath an oak tree, for some reason Dean can’t really work out. The gravesite had been horrid, damp and muddy and smelling all of wet earth, but it’ll be nice in the summer probably, or when the bluebells start to bloom in the spring. He’d stood underneath the thick canopy of trees and watched as the pale beech coffin got lowered into the ground and simmered; sick and guilty at how he didn’t feel as sad as he probably should. Harry had looked terrible, like someone had stuck a pin in his side and he was slowly leaking air, and the only time he’d moved had been to clench his hand tightly around a lump of earth, to throw it into the grave and close his eyes as it rattled onto the lid of the coffin.

Dean doesn’t know what to think about Harry a lot of the time. There are three, maybe four people in the world who are qualified to talk to him and understand what he’s saying and use that information to attempt to make him feel better, and Dean isn’t one of them. Also, Harry has to be handled in a certain way, like an artefact, or a bomb, and Dean doesn’t have careful enough hands.

“Beer,” Seamus says, jolting Dean out of his thoughts, as he rounds the corner of the pub. He stumbles on a crack in the pathway, and catches himself with his shoulder against the white pebbledash, steadying the glasses carefully. Neither of them laugh.

Dean lets his cigarette drop to the ground. “Thanks,” he says, accepting his pint. “How much was it?”

“Open bar,” Seamus says, shrugging and leaning back against the wet wall. Dean takes up the spot next to him, even though it’s directly underneath a small leak in the drainpipe above their heads. He sips his beer and watches a dark patch of water spread across the front of his suit.

“I don’t want to go in yet,” Dean says.

“It’s fine,” Seamus says, like this is a reasonable request, like they’re not just standing out here in the rain and being rude. “It’s crowded anyway.”

“I’d never been to a funeral before this week,” Dean says, and then immediately realises that’s not true.

“Dumbledore,” Seamus reminds him.

“Yeah,” Dean agrees. “That wasn’t much of a funeral though.”

“It was a memorial,” Seamus agrees. “It was like something for a head of state. I bet he planned it himself before he died.”

“Pomp and circumstance,” Dean says, because it sounds like the right thing.

“It was all… ceremony,” Seamus says. “Not that there’s anything wrong with ceremony, obviously, when it calls for it. But-- I don’t know, a funeral doesn’t call for it.”

“Do you not think?” Dean asks. For someone who didn’t want to plan funerals Seamus seems to have pretty strong opinions on how they should go.

Seamus says, “right,” and turns to Dean. “I just think you need space to be sad like. And I can’t imagine anyone feeling comfortable enough at Dumbledore’s funeral to cry. On that fucking-- lawn?”

Dean can’t imagine anyone wanting to cry at Dumbledore’s funeral in general, never mind where it was held. Dumbledore was such a mystery to him, this odd, powerful wizard who was obsessed with Harry and hardly ever spoke to anyone else. “I thought it was kind of fitting,” Dean admits. Seamus shrugs beside him and lifts his glass to his lips, his throat moving as he swallows. Dean allows himself three seconds to stare and then looks away fast to watch a car speed past on the slick road in front of them.

“Horrible,” Seamus says after a moment, summing up, and Dean just nods. He doesn’t exactly know what Seamus is commenting on, whether it’s Dumbledore’s funeral or this funeral or the entire year they’ve just had, but it would be true either way. Dean’s never felt like this, like he can’t even imagine a good day occurring in his future.

They finish their beers in silence and Seamus stacks the glasses carefully beside his feet, making no move to go back inside and get more. Dean has to drive home anyway. He’d given Harry and Neville and Ginny a lift up here but they’re all invited to some special gathering after this one at Andromeda’s house, and it’ll just be him and Seamus on the way back. He’d not realised how much he liked having Seamus up in the front seat beside him until Ginny commandeered it so she could fiddle with the cassette player and roll her window up and down and ask Dean what all the buttons on the dashboard were for.

It feels odd to look at Ginny and remember what it was like to be with her, it feels odd that he knows things about her that a lot of people don’t. She hums in her sleep, she only ever wears sports bras, she has three freckles in a triangle at the base of her spine that Dean only got to see twice. Dean feels weirdly embarrassed that he knows that, and that she knows things like that about him. He’d like to forget he ever knew them, because sometimes knowing those things makes it hard to be her friend. Dean gets turned on still when she’s sarcastic, it’s terrible.

It’s different than having slept with Harry, because that only happened once.

“Shit,” Dean says, at the thought of Shell Cottage, and Seamus’ neck clicks when he snaps his face around.

“What?” he says. “What?”

“I just remembered,” Dean replies, and presses the heels of his hands close up against his eyes, digging them in. “I went to Dobby’s funeral. I can’t believe I forgot about that.”

“Oh,” Seamus says, and sounds relieved, of all things.

“I was-- Dobby did more for me than Dumbledore ever did,” Dean says, something hot growing in his stomach.

“He--” Seamus says, then hesitates.

“Helped us escape from--”

“Oh yeah,” Seamus says, his face screwed up. “Sorry.”

Seamus is the type of person who apologises even when he doesn’t need to. He uses it to punctuate sentences, to join phrases together. Sometimes that makes it difficult for Dean to know when he’s actually apologising, or if he’s just saying sorry because it’s something to fill the silence.

Dean falls into a crouch and puts his hands on the back of his bowed neck. He thinks he’s probably falling apart. He shouldn’t be doing that.

Seamus kneels down next to him, his nice suit scratching on the rough concrete. His jacket smells like the cheap fabric conditioner Simone buys from the pound shop on the high street. Fresh Linen. Summer Evenings. Seamus puts one arm around Dean’s shoulders and clasps his hand tight on Dean’s knee, surrounding him. It reminds Dean of the future, the one he wants. A couple of tears drop onto the grey fabric of his suit. He’s tired, creased, and he thinks he’d like someone to iron him out.

“Let’s talk about something else,” Seamus says, his face close to Dean’s. If Dean felt like it, and if it were a good idea, he could lean in right now and kiss Seamus.

“What?” Dean asks thickly, blinking some more tears away.

Seamus shrugs, before pulling away a little. Another car goes by, pushing a wave of water up from under its wheels as it accelerates through a puddle on the tarmac. “I think I might need glasses,” Seamus says, squinting after it as it disappears around the corner.

Dean is surprised into a wet laugh, and he wipes his cheeks with the back of his hands. “I’ll take you for an eye test if you want.”

“Hm,” Seamus says in agreement. “Let’s book me in. Where does your mum go?”

“I dunno,” Dean tells him. “I can ask her when we’re home. I think her mate owns one? Or just works in one, and she gets them for a discount or whatever.”

“I am a sucker for discounts,” Seamus says amiably. “Can we stand up now? My legs hurt.”

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” Dean says, shaking out his arms as he straightens. That isn’t strictly true; a war is what’s wrong with him, all these funerals are what’s wrong with him. Seamus lets out a deep breath and shakes his head.

“Ah come on,” he says, and then knocks their shoulders together. It’s the kind of thing he’d say back in school when Dean told him something very innocuous, like I’ve fucked up on this potions worksheet, or I’m not ready for the match this afternoon. It’s Seamus’ way of telling someone they’re being too hard on themselves.

Dean doesn’t know what to say after that. His mum and Helen have got Seamus into Frasier somehow, and he could ask Seamus about the latest episode except that he doesn’t know enough about it. Everyone on that show is way too mean, apart from maybe the dog, and usually Dean just reads on the beanbag in the living room while everyone else watches it and shouts at the television. Also, Dean doesn’t think it’s right to have a normal conversation while he’s loitering outside someone’s wake, too nervous to go inside.

“It’s Andromeda,” he says out of nowhere, once the silence becomes too much. Seamus looks at him out of the corner of his eye, unsurprised and considering.

“Yep,” he says, and then sniffs. “I thought as much.”

“Fuck off,” Dean huffs.

“Listen,” Seamus says, turning to him. “She seems really nice, all you have to do is say, you know, sorry for your loss and all that.”

“I don’t want her to ask me about Ted,” Dean says. A look of understanding passes over Seamus’ face, before he wrinkles his nose. “I was-- there when he died.”

“I know,” Seamus says. “Look, I-- pretty much everyone in there was there when Tonks died, she’s not going to-- she won’t blame you. I doubt she even knows what you look like, actually.”

Dean doesn’t know how to reply to that statement. “It’s not that,” he says, and then stops talking.

“What is it, then?” Seamus asks impatiently.

“I just don’t want her to ask about it,” Dean says, then swallows. “I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

Seamus levels him with a steady look. “She’s not going to fucking ask you about it,” he says. “Mate, come on, this is her daughter’s funeral.”

“She might want to know what happened,” Dean replies, almost whispering. He can’t make his voice work the way it usually works, can’t make it sound the way he knows it usually sounds. He thinks, from the look on Seamus’ face, that he’s being stupid right now.

“Everyone knows what happened,” Seamus informs him briskly. “It was on the radio, the death announcement. Snatchers got him.”

Dean shakes his head, even though it’s true. It wasn’t as simple as Seamus is saying it was though. It was chaos, shouting, their campfire going out when someone kicked dirt and pine needles all over it in a big pile. Ted had told Dean to run, and he had, and it hadn’t made any difference at all except now Dean was alive and Ted wasn’t.

“There was someone else with us,” Dean says. “A goblin, he didn’t talk to me but he spoke to Ted sometimes.”

“Yeah,” Seamus says. “I don’t know his name.”

“He died, I guess,” Dean says.

Seamus nods, frowning. “I think so.”

“Whatever,” Dean sighs, after a while, “If it was me, I’d want to know what happened.”

Seamus lets his head fall back, stares up at the heavy clouds for a moment. “Okay,” he says, “I’ll go in, pay my respects, and then we’ll go.”

Dean’s stomach roils, something guilty and sick writhing within him, but it’s easy to say: “Yeah,” and then, “okay.” He knows the right thing to do would be to go inside, and he also knows it’s not the huge deal he’s making it out to be, but he can’t, he can’t do it, he can’t move.

Seamus pats Dean on the shoulder, the way you would an elderly dog or the roof of a broken down car. “Back in a few,” he says, and leaves Dean alone outside, with the empty beer glasses and the wet road and the green, dripping trees.

/

Seamus doesn’t want to talk on the way home, so Dean turns the radio on and they listen to the tail end of a musty BBC play. They’ve missed the part where the murder happened, so it’s just a load of posh people sitting around in their living room arguing about bequeathments. Dean suspects it's meant to be funny, but he’s lacking the necessary context.

He’s undoing his suit jacket in the front hallway when his mum comes downstairs, humming a song he doesn’t recognise. She freezes when she sees them, her eyes darting back and forth between Dean’s face and Seamus’ just behind him.

“Where have you been?” she asks, deliberately casual. Dean isn’t really fooled by that, he’s heard it used a million times on his sisters, and probably even more than that on himself.

“Just--” Seamus says, and then comes to a halt, as though he’s only just realised it would be rude to lie to Dean’s mum when asked a direct question. “Um,” he says, and then pokes Dean in the back where his mum can’t see.

“At a funeral,” Dean admits, flinching away. Seamus has sharp fingers, and he knows exactly the worst place on Dean’s back to dig them in, right under his ribcage.

It’s pretty obvious, they’re both in mourning colours, but Dean’s mum still raises her eyebrows in shock. “Whose?” she says then, her face falling when what he’s said properly sinks in. Somewhere else in the house Julie starts to shout, and Odette comes slamming down the stairs a second later clutching a pair of jeans. She looks at the scene in the hallway for a moment, and then darts into the front room and bangs the door closed behind her.

“Mum!” Julie shouts, a disembodied voice in the doorway of her room on the half-landing. “Can you please tell her?”

“You’re both adults!” Dean’s mum calls back, but then pounds her fist on the living room door. “They’re hers,” she says, and Odette starts laughing, muffled through the thick wood. “I’m not giving you that tenner if you don’t give them back,” she says, and then looks to Dean and Seamus. “Kitchen.”

At the top of the stairs, Seamus pulls on his shoulder. “Is this like-- a conversation that warrants my participation?” he asks, eyeing Dean nervously. “I don’t want your mum to shout at me.”

Dean considers that for a second, then he tells Seamus that his mum wouldn’t shout at them. Seamus still looks apprehensive, which Dean also considers. Seamus had just had to go into a wake by himself because Dean didn’t want to face it, which probably buys him a get-out-of-jail-free card for the conversation that’s about to happen. On the other hand, friendship isn’t supposed to be a series of alternating favours. On yet another hand, Seamus shouldn’t do anything that makes him feel bad.

“I’d prefer if you were there,” Dean says honestly. “But you can just hang out in my room if you don’t want to.”

“Fine,” Seamus says, rolling his eyes. Dean isn’t sure what the final decision actually is until Seamus continues on down the stairs, running his hand along the brass banister as he goes. Dean watches him, just for a moment, his red hair cropped short, neat around his ears, the freckles on his jaw and the backs of his hands.

“Whose?” Helen is saying as they come in. Her gaze snaps to them, and she frowns. She’s sitting at the kitchen table where she writes her reports before dinner, looking up at his mum. As he watches, she takes her reading glasses off and folds them up, setting them down beside a stack of papers. Dean is suddenly struck vividly with the memory of Harry taking his glasses off, wiping sweat from his eyes as he breathed hard, leaning with his arms crossed on the handle of a wooden shovel. “You were at a funeral?” she asks, and it’s directed at the both of them.

“Yeah,” Dean says roughly. He pulls a chair out from the table and sits down heavily, kicking the one beside him a fraction so that Seamus will get the hint.

“Do you want a cup of tea?” his mum asks, her hand on the back of Helen’s head, but doesn’t actually wait for a reply before she puts the kettle on.

“There’s more going on than what you said,” Helen says in a soft voice, leaning towards them. On anyone else it would seem patronising, but she just sounds sad.

“Yeah,” Dean says, “but it’s over now.”

Seamus scoffs, but doesn’t say anything. “Can you expand on that?” Helen asks tentatively. “There was some sort of… battle, you said. And people died.”

Dean opens his mouth, but nothing comes out. He doesn’t know how to tell her about Voldemort, and Harry, and a thousand other things that you could only really understand by seeing them or living through them. Helen’s had some bad stuff happen to her, Dean knows that, and being in a relationship with another woman hasn’t always been easy, especially around here where people sometimes talk about them, but the war was another thing entirely.

“Yeah,” Seamus says, after a moment of Dean sitting there with his mouth open. “I don’t know how much you know about-- wizarding Britain?”

“Hardly anything,” Dean’s mum says, pouring water into the big, special-occasion mugs they only really use when there are guests over.

“They’re very secretive,” Helen says, with only a tiny hint of bitterness. Her hand twitches where it’s settled on the report she’d been writing.

“Well, yeah,” Seamus says gently. “We kind of have to be.”

“Let’s maybe not get into this argument now,” Dean’s mum pleads. The wind chime magnets on the fridge door clang against each other as she opens it to get the milk out, and the sound rings through the kitchen. She sighs.

“If you’re not allowed to tell us--” Helen starts, but Dean interrupts her.

“That’s partly the reason,” he says. “But like--”

“What the fuck happened that you had to go to four funerals in the last week?” Dean’s mum snaps. She slams the milk carton down on the countertop. “I’ve seen you leaving in your suits, this wasn’t--”

She stands there shaking, and Dean has just made to stand up and go over to her when Seamus says, “there was a war,” and he trips back down into his seat.

“Jesus,” Helen says. “I don’t even-- I don’t know what to say,” she admits, rubbing a thumb over one eyebrow.

Dean’s mum brings the tea over and sets it down in front of them quietly, onto the felt coasters she made herself because she was sick of everyone making rings on the table. She sits down. “Tell me what happened,” she says, and there’s not much room for argument in her tone.

“There was this-- guy?” Seamus says, looking to Dean nervously, “who-- wait, okay, so you know how Dean is a muggleborn? And my mam is a witch but my dad isn’t?”

“Maybe a muggleborn,” Dean mutters. “We don’t know, ‘cause of my dad.”

“Yeah,” Dean’s mum says, and Helen nods. They were both there when McGonagall came to the house with Dean’s letter, explained everything to them in her lovely accent. Dean had been so impressed by her at the time, her hat, her robes, the way she’d made the coffee table levitate when Dean’s mum had called her crazy. It had been the best day of his life.

“It was this guy, Voldemort,” Seamus says, like it’s easy, “who hated anyone muggleborn or-- anyone who wasn’t from an old wizarding family I guess. They call them purebloods.”

“Oh fuck me,” Helen says, dropping her head into her hands. “Of course they do.”

“And Harry-- that’s, our friend Harry, there was this prophecy about him that he was going to kill Voldemort, I guess, so Voldemort was always after him when we were in school, trying to get to him. I don’t really know how to explain it, but basically it was like-- Voldemort and his army against us,” Seamus says. He makes a face. “There’s loads more but--”

“You’re-- schoolchildren,” Dean’s mum says. “Us means schoolchildren?” She has a look on her face Dean has only seen a couple of times before, like something about this is so tragic she can’t even comprehend it.

“A lot of us, yeah,” Dean says. “I don’t really-- I wasn’t really part of it, except from the battle at the end. That was at Hogwarts, I was there for that.”

Seamus gives him a strange look. “Where were you?” Dean’s mum asks dangerously.

Dean takes a shaky breath in. “Like, in the wilderness,” he confesses. “I was just hiding out, it was really dangerous for anyone of like-- questionable birth.”

“You weren’t together?” Helen asks.

“No,” Seamus says shortly. “I was at school.”

“Whose funeral were you at earlier?” Dean’s mum asks.

“Someone on our side,” Seamus tells her. “A woman we didn’t really know very well. She was an Auror, it’s kind of like a police officer.”

Dean’s mum takes a gulp of her tea. “I don’t even know what questions I should be asking right now. I know you were hurt.”

“It’s awful,” Helen says. “Making kids fight like that.”

“Nobody made us,” Seamus says. “There was nobody to make us, that’s the whole point. Everything was completely fucked, the people on the wrong side had taken control of the Ministry. It was fight or-- just abandon everything, leave Harry to get killed by an evil fucking wizard.”

It didn’t really matter in the end, Dean doesn’t say, because Harry had gone to him anyway.

“Dean said it was over.” Helen addresses this to Seamus, who does something odd with his lips to indicate that he thinks Dean is definitely wrong about that. “You don’t think that’s true?” she asks.

“Um,” Seamus says, and all Dean can think about is the hundreds of times they’ve had this same conversation in the last week, the same arguments, the same conclusions. He wants, just once, to talk about something that isn’t the war or funerals or Death Eaters, or one of his best friends almost dying, or his friends who did die, or fucking Voldemort. As if they didn’t talk about Voldemort enough when he was alive.

“There are people who still sympathise,” Dean says, taking it off Seamus’ hands. “And they’re like, at large or whatever. Seamus thinks that we’re going to be asked to help track them down and capture them, because we fought in the battle. I think-- he’s right, probably.”

“Well,” Dean’s mum says, and smiles weakly. “I don’t know about you, Helen, but I’m pretty sure there’s no way in hell I’m allowing that to fucking happen.”

“That’s literally what I’ve been saying,” Seamus says tiredly, slumping back in his seat.

“No offense--” Dean starts, but Helen cuts him off.

“You’re banned,” she says simply. “We’ll ground you, I don’t care. Nobody is tracking anybody down.”

“You can’t ground me,” Dean says. “What happened to that not being an effective punishment slash deterrent?”

“Okay well obviously we can’t ground you,” Dean’s mum admits. “That would be bad parenting, but you can’t seriously be thinking about continuing with this.”

“This is exactly what I’ve been saying,” Seamus mutters.

The further Dean gets from the battle, the less he wants to help out with whatever there is left to do. He thinks that’s fundamentally wrong though, that if everyone backed out just when things got tough then nobody would ever do anything. “I don’t know,” he admits. “I don’t want to.”

“Listen to that urge,” Helen advises. “Because probably we will ground you if it becomes prudent to do so.”

“Okay fine,” Dean says, giving in a little, “like, you don’t have to get all posh about it.”

/

In the half-darkness of Dean’s room, after they’ve eaten a quiet dinner in front of the TV and taken their suits off, Seamus sits up in the sofa beside Dean’s window.

“Look,” he says, “I don’t know if you were just saying that so your mam didn’t worry or what, but-- you were a part of it.”

Dean’s on the floor, flicking his lamp on and off at the switch in the wall. “I dunno,” he says, “I don’t think I did as much as I could have done.”

Seamus lies back down. “You’re being an idiot,” he proclaims. “I was doing exactly the same thing you were when you were on the run. I wasn’t being brave and plotting to murder the Carrows every night after I’d done my homework. I was just staying out of their way, trying not to get murdered, like you were.”

“Alright,” Dean says, hitting the switch again. The light goes out. Seamus is a silhouette against the window, his arm curved up above his head. Dean presses his back harder into the cold wall.

There’s a knock on the door, and he turns it back on. “Come in,” Seamus says lazily.

Dean’s mum pokes her head into the room. “Dean, can I talk to you?”

“I’ll er-- shower,” Seamus says, and collects his things hurriedly before darting out of the room. Dean’s mum sits on the edge of his bed, smoothing her hand over the covers.

Dean goes to lie beside her, and she puts the back of her hand onto his forehead, warm and soft. “I was talking to Helen,” she says, “and I think it would be good for you to speak to someone about all this.”

Dean thinks for a second. “Like, a professional, you mean,” he says. She hums in agreement. “Maybe,” Dean agrees, thinking about it for a moment. He thinks it would be useless, it’s not like he could tell his therapist about anything important. Magic, Hogwarts, The Ministry, Harry.

“Think about it,” Dean’s mum offers. She takes a little bottle out of her pocket and holds it out, angling it so that he can see the pale purple label. Lavender oil. “Do you want this on your pillow?” she asks.

Dean nods, and she puts a few droplets onto the fabric. The smell reminds him of when he used to get sick as a kid and she’d sit with him until he could sleep. She strokes her palm over his forehead. “Whatever you do,” she says, “stick with Seamus this time.”

/

There are some really awful things about Grimmauld Place that Dean can mostly put up with if he doesn’t have to look at them too long. Those things include the portrait of some random woman in the hallway who screams racist stuff at him as he walks past, the creepy chandelier in one of the upstairs toilets that Dean thinks is definitely made of bones, and the rug in the living room with all the old blood stains on it. The hardest thing is probably the lack of a proper fridge, because even though Ron insists it’s basically the same, a cold larder doesn’t fucking cut it.

Dean and Seamus have spent the last few weeks driving over to Harry’s most days to hang out, even though they never get much done and end up lazing around in the garden drinking warm beer. Seamus brought up the fridge issue with Harry a few days ago, but he’d just looked baffled for a bit and then said I’m not buying anything for this house in a dark tone of voice, and they’d been forced to leave it at that.

“This is so dire,” Ginny says one day, in the late afternoon sun. They’re in the kitchen looking for the last few cans of cheap beer Ron had brought back yesterday from his shopping expedition with Hermione. Mostly everyone else is out on the patio underneath the shade of the weeping ash, apart from Neville and Harry who’ve disappeared upstairs, as is their habit lately. Nobody’s come out and said it, but they’re definitely fucking.

“I know,” Dean replies, steeling himself up to reach for a can that’s rolled right to the back of a dusty cupboard. “Oh god,” he says, when his hand brushes a spiderweb. “Oh, fucking hell. Sorry, where is Kreacher in all this?”

“I think he’s off at Hogwarts,” Ginny says. “Do you think there are any eggs around here? I could do fried eggs for lunch?”

“That’s so depressing,” Dean replies, making a face she can’t see, being that he’s halfway into a cupboard.

“Guys,” Seamus says, coming into the room. “We’re getting takeaway burgers from the pub on the canal, do you want to put in an order?”

Yes,” Ginny says, dropping the frying pan she had out with a clang. “Beef one with chips, please. You can take the cash out of my backpack, it’s in the hallway with the shoes.”

“Gross,” Seamus says, “You should definitely be wearing shoes inside this house. But yeah, fine. Dean, you coming?”

“Yep,” Dean says, abandoning the can of beer and dusting himself off. “This house sucks, don’t tell Harry I said that.”

“Oh, Harry knows,” Ginny informs him, sliding her heart-shaped sunglasses back down onto her nose. “Harry is head of the Grimmauld Place sucks committee.

“Grimmauld Place is grim,” Seamus says, then starts beaming. “I’m amazing, that was the best joke I’ve ever made.”

“I’d be more impressed if that wasn’t the first thing that popped into my head when Harry told me what it was called,” Ginny replies, leaving the room, “but sure.”

/

It only takes a minute to walk down to the canal basin from Harry’s house, but it’s kind of nice to get out of Grimmauld Place for a little while. The air is always thick and heavy with dust, and whenever he and Seamus leave for the night Dean feels as though he’s been coated in a layer of invisible grime, the kind of oily sticky-skinned feeling he gets after being out in the city all day. Dean pauses on the bridge for a moment as Seamus keeps walking and turns his face into the breeze coming off the canal. A houseboat floats slowly by underneath him, and a man waves from where he’s sitting on the deck surrounded by bright flowerpots. Dean waves back.

They order inside the pub and then go out onto the deck to wait, leaning their arms on the warm wood of the barrier over the water.

“Jesus,” Seamus says, almost immediately after they’ve sat down, and Dean opens his eyes, squinting in the harsh light. There’s a tiny owl on the table in front of them, almost as small as Ron’s but not nearly as scruffy.

Dean takes the letter from around its talon and feeds it a bit of chip that’s been left on the table from whoever was sitting there before them. It seems to like it, gulping it down with relish before flapping off southwards towards the city.

“Why are you always the one getting letters?” Seamus asks, the tip of his nose gone red from all the days spent in the sun.

“The last one was for both of us,” Dean says absently, turning the envelope over in his hands. This one is undoubtedly only for him. Dean Thomas, London, in big, swirling letters, nothing like Hermione’s hasty scrawl. The writing shimmers in the sunlight, glinting gold and blue and silver all at once.

“Open it then,” Seamus says, leaning back in his chair, watching.

 

Dear Mr. Thomas,

Forgive me for not getting in touch sooner but I’m sure you can imagine it’s been an understandably busy few weeks for myself and most other wandmakers in the country. However, it has come to my attention that you are still without a wand, and I must take some of the blame for that, having been unable to craft you one when we were last together. It was a difficult time for all of us, and you must know how much I appreciated your reserve and kindness. I’d like to invite you to come to my shop, and I’ll see what I can do about getting you a suitable replacement, free of charge of course. Please visit at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Garrick Ollivander.

 

“Jesus,” Seamus says again, once Dean has finished reading it to him. “Reserve and kindness,” he echoes, and laughs.

“Hey,” Dean says, mildly offended. “Do you not think I’m reserved and kind?”

“I-- I think you’re kind,” Seamus offers, still laughing, and then ducks out of the way when Dean tries to punch his shoulder. “Are you going to go?”

“Obviously I’m going to go,” Dean replies, looking up from the letter in shock. “He said free of charge. I’m hardly turning down something that’s free.”

“Yeah that’s fair,” Seamus says mildly, smiling. He gets like this in the sun, slow and lazy and warm and even more freckled than usual.

“Hey,” Dean says, folding the parchment into the pocket of his trousers. “Can I ask you something?” Seamus nods, and makes a kind of go ahead motion with one hand. “Do you think there’s something going on with Harry and Neville?” Dean asks.

Seamus laughs, tilting his head back into the shade of an umbrella over the table next to theirs. “Yeah,” he says, his chest shaking. “Do you?”

“I mean-- yeah,” Dean says, “I just wanted to double check.”

“Just wanted a second opinion,” Seamus continues.

“Exactly,” Dean agrees.

“If you want my take on it, I don’t think it’s that serious,” Seamus says. “A summer fling, if you’re the kind of person who’d say that.”

“Uh huh,” Dean says intelligently. He thinks for a moment. “You’re the kind of person who’d say that,” he points out.

“Why aren’t we having summer flings?” Seamus asks, slouching down in his seat so that he can rest his feet on the metal planter beside their table. “We should get on that.”

Dean flicks Seamus on the ankle. “Like you’d have the energy,” he says, his heart thudding, and Seamus sighs deeply.

“Yeah you’re right, maybe I’ll just wait until school starts back up or something. I never got a third date with-- that Ravenclaw guy, glasses,” he says, waving his hand around like Dean is supposed to divine this person’s name from Seamus’ hand movements.

“Whose name you don’t even remember,” Dean points out, sweat prickling on the back of his neck. It shouldn’t be this difficult to talk to Seamus about dating, they used to do it all the time in fifth year when Dean was seeing Ginny and Seamus was pining after the seventh year Hufflepuff seeker. It was fun then, something they’d laugh about. Dean doesn’t feel anywhere near capable of laughing right now.

“I had other things on my mind,” Seamus says, affronted. “But whatever, fuck you, I think it was Paul, does that sound right? Peter? Was there a Peter in our year?”

“I have no idea,” Dean tells him flatly, then remembers he can’t really get annoyed at Seamus when Seamus wasn’t even the one who’d brought up this topic. It’s tiring, trying to be rational all the time, and on top of that Dean expends a lot of energy being annoyed about things that are entirely his own fault.

Seamus gets a sick look on his face all of a sudden, his mouth gone downturned at the corners. “God,” he says, “I hope he’s okay.”

“Shit,” Dean says succinctly, before he can think of something more sensitive.

“I didn’t even think about it,” Seamus says quietly.

“No you’d-- you’d have recognised his name if it were on that list in the Prophet,” Dean says, wildly uncertain as to whether that’s true or not, but Seamus starts nodding.

“Course,” he says, “yeah that’s-- I would have, yeah, you’re right. Fuck.”

“So you can ask him out again if you’re both back this year,” Dean says, and his whole body starts to hurt when Seamus smiles.

“You’re full of good ideas,” he says, full of wonder and entirely sincere, and Dean almosts laughs in his face.

“Okay,” he says, rolling his eyes as a compromise, “if you fucking say so.”

Seamus looks at him, then blushes hard, inexplicably. “Whatever,” he mumbles, picking at a splinter in the arm of his chair. “I wasn’t-- I was just worried for a second, It’s not like-- I don’t really want to date him anyway.”

/

Eight days later Dean goes to Diagon Alley, the passenger seat empty beside him. He swears liberally and profusely at the traffic and at the other drivers, and at the pedestrians on Charing Cross Road who dart out in front of the car sheepishly with their hands raised.

Ollivander’s looks almost the same as it used to from the outside, except now you can’t just walk straight in through the front door. Dean rings the bell beside the shop window and waits for a few minutes, long enough to think he might have got the wrong time, but eventually it swings smoothly open.

“Mr. Thomas,” Ollivander says, pleased, in that formal way he has of talking that always sounds put-on. He seems frazzled, and as he steps back to let Dean inside he trips slightly, a thick pair of dragonskin gloves swinging from a cord looped over the back of his neck. “Come in, come in,” he says, “can I offer you some tea?”

“Um, no, I’m alright thanks,” Dean replies, looking around while Ollivander closes the door behind him, a bell ringing loudly over their heads.

Whoever fixed the place up did a pretty good job, Dean thinks, even though he can’t exactly remember what it used to look like. He’d come in when he was eleven, like everyone else, and had been completely overwhelmed after just having been in the pet shop down the street. It’s just as dusty as he remembers, with low, golden light filtering in through the front windows even though it’s just about to rain. Tall shelves line the walls, stacked to the brim with battered paper boxes, ones that have been taken down and opened and then put back up hundreds of times over the years. The air smells like cut wood, like pine, and vaguely like a crackling fire, and Dean breathes in deeply, filling his lungs.

There’s a marked contrast between the oldness of this room and the oldness of Grimmauld Place, where everything is damp and rotting and falling apart. Ollivander’s shop is full of potential, and magic so thick in the air that Dean can feel it sitting on the surface of his skin.

“We’ll go on through to the back,” Ollivander says, lifting up the hatch in the counter at the back of the room. It folds back on itself with a bang, but he seems unconcerned, just gesturing for Dean to follow as he wends his way through a narrow corridor, lined with even more wands.

The boxes start to change the further back they go, turning to wood, or dark red velvet, or even a couple made of shining silver. Dean can’t remember how much his wand had cost, but it had made his mum wince even though it had definitely been one of the cheap ones. He hadn’t had time to feel guilty on the day, but he had afterwards when they got home and spread all his new stuff out on the bed, and then later when Yvonne had had to miss three weeks of piano practice to make up for it.

“So,” Ollivander says from up ahead of him, “I hear Hogwarts will be open again in September.”

“Oh, yeah,” Dean replies, hurrying to catch up, his footsteps muffled on the thick green carpet. “I haven’t been up since the battle but I heard it was almost rebuilt. Like, completely.”

“They did fast work,” Ollivander agrees. “I didn’t see it, of course, but by all accounts it was a ruin after everything.”

“Yeah,” Dean says.

Ollivander turns to look at him. “I rather wonder what you did without a wand, Mr. Thomas.”

“I… won one,” Dean tells him, abashed for some reason. “I just punched some guy and like, wrestled it off him? It didn’t work that well for me though.”

“No,” Ollivander replies, thoughtful, “I don’t suppose it would have.”

“How did you know about Hogwarts? Has it been in the paper?”

Dean asks this even as he knows full well that the news about Hogwarts hasn’t been in the papers.

After the first few DA meetings where everything was fraught and busy, and everyone had a thousand opinions on what they should be focusing their energy on, everything sort of died down. Dean and Seamus had kept going over to Harry’s obviously, because it wasn’t as though they had any other pressing plans, but more to lounge in the sun than plan the downfall of the remaining Death Eaters. Seamus was visibly pleased with the way that had panned out, but he’d always liked being aimless. It suited him, made him gain weight and start smiling more.

Dean was relieved too, in a way, but still felt a responsibility to listen when Hermione came back from meetings with McGonagall and gave huge progress reports in the sitting room at the top of the house. She’d requisitioned it as some sort of weird office, even though most of the time she was up at Hogwarts helping coordinate the building efforts and only came back to London to see Ron and Harry, or to collect a book from the huge library in Grimmauld Place, wand twisted on the back of her head to keep her hair out of the way.

She’d told him they were trying to keep it out of the press in case they couldn’t finish somehow and then everyone would be disappointed. Dean can’t really relate to that; he wouldn’t go back to Hogwarts if you fucking paid him.

“Mr. Potter came to visit me a few weeks ago,” Ollivander says absently as they arrive in the back room, and Dean looks upwards through the glass ceiling, sees the dark brick buildings of Diagon Alley rise above them. Ollivander sees him looking. “Oh, yes, it’s for the light.”

“Harry came to see you?” Dean says, tearing his gaze away from the rain on the windowpanes. Ollivander sits down at a huge wooden worktable in front of what Dean is like, ninety percent sure is a school-issue microscope.

“Yes, well, he was wandless much like yourself,” Ollivander explains, and then laughs. “Although, he did bring me a plastic bag full of wands he and his friends had apparently won, although none of them worked for him as well as his last.”

“I didn’t know that,” Dean says.

Ollivander waves him into a chair. “It seems to me as though Harry Potter isn’t in the habit of telling people much about himself,” he says. “I had to practically wrestle the younger Malfoy’s wand out of his hand to examine it, and he kept a very close eye on me while I did.”

“God,” Dean says.

At Shell Cottage, there was a routine to all of their days. Wake up, eat breakfast, go for a walk in the rain, overhear another ‘Ron and Hermione vs. Harry’ argument on whether or not he should keep using Malfoy’s wand. That too lost its novelty after the tenth time Dean had heard it.

He’d had no idea Harry was still using Malfoy’s wand, after all this time. He’d had no idea Harry had even kept it after the battle.

“Yes, well,” Ollivander sighs. “I was ready to make him a new one of course, but it’s difficult to do when someone has a single wand still attached to them, let alone two, and let alone the most powerful ever made.”

/

“It was the fucking best,” Dean says, as Seamus chucks him his house keys down the entire length of the hallway. Dean catches them out of the air. “He was like, touch these wood samples, which feels nicer? Which speaks to you? And the cores, oh my god.He pauses to do his shoelaces up.

“Yep,” Seamus replies. He’s wearing one of Dean’s shirts, looking at himself in the long mirror at the base of the stairs, turning to see it from the side. “I know, you’ve been talking about it for three days. Do I look alright?”

“You look great,” Dean says easily. Then: “I think I want to be a wandmaker.”

Seamus leaves off pulling at his collar and snaps his head around sharply. “Seriously?” he asks, “what happened to the Quidditch dreams?”

“Quidditch player is something you want to be when you’re a kid,” Dean says, leaning his back against the front door. “Are you coming?”

“You didn’t even know what Quidditch was when you were a kid,” Seamus says under his breath, starting down the corridor.

“Can I ask you something?” Dean says, as Seamus slips his shoes on. They’re wrecked, the sole making a break from the rest of the shoe. He’ll need a new pair soon, once his mum finally sends him some money.

“You always say that,” Seamus says, balancing with one hand on the wall, “and I always say yes. You don’t have to ask me when you want to ask me something, just-- ask me.”

“Alright,” Dean says mildly, then pauses for a second. “Are you going back to Hogwarts?”

“Oh,” Seamus says, his shoulders slumping.

Oh what?”

“I dunno, I said I was didn’t I?” Seamus replies, biting at the inside of his mouth.

That’s true, Seamus had said that, once they’d found out there was even the slightest possibility Hogwarts might reopen in September. “I don’t want to,” Dean says. “Whatever happens, I don’t want to.”

“Yeah,” Seamus says, looking at him hard, slightly confused. “It’s okay.”

Dean looks at him for a while and then reaches out slowly, hooks his finger into the hole on Seamus’ shirt, his finger brushing against the back of Seamus’ wrist. “It feels like I’m leaving you there again.”

Seamus shakes his head. “It’s different,” he says, voice solemn, then glances up, eyes gone soft. “And you hardly left me, Dean. You’re not responsible for me.”

There’s a cluster of brown freckles on the fragile skin underneath Seamus’ right eye that Dean’s been looking at for weeks. He brushes his thumb over them now before he can even think to stop himself, and it’s almost like the whole house inhales around them and then holds its breath. Seamus doesn’t move.

They both know they’re winding towards something, and it’s so slow that maybe Dean should feel impatient, but he doesn’t. It’s easy to wait and to watch Seamus wait. It’s easy to take the time to be sure.

/

They don’t talk about it because they don’t need to. They lie around Dean’s house and don’t touch, then they go to Grimmauld Place and do the same thing, where it’s easier because there are other people to watch them. They leave their wands behind when they drive south to the sea, to Camber Sands and Rye Castle. They take Harry and Neville down to Botany Bay and spend the day walking along the coastal road to Broadstairs, to get fish and chips from the place Dean’s mum used to bring him when he was younger.

Dean sits on the stone steps leading down into the sand and watches Seamus and Harry and Neville all strip down to their boxers and plunge into the ocean, shouting at the cold and the breaking waves. He allows himself to watch Seamus more than the others, his pale back and his raised hands, his laughing mouth when Harry’s glasses get knocked off and he has to accio them back. Dean licks the last of the salt off his fingers and lies down on the hot concrete to wait for them.

Later, Dean keeps space between their bodies when they sprawl together on a trimmed patch of grass in the garden in the sun. They stare up at the washing on the line, listening to Peter Gabriel playing from the kitchen while his mum reads, and Seamus clasps his hand loosely around Dean’s arm, and Dean doesn’t mind. It’s easier for him to do these things now that he knows they’re leading somewhere, that they’re building something between themselves. Dean thinks wouldn’t it be great to kiss Seamus and then doesn’t, but knows that soon he will.

Dean feels every day that this is what his whole life could be like.

/

Someone’s voice calls Dean down into the living room while Seamus is still getting dressed. It’s Friday and everyone in the house is going out; there are a couple of empty wine bottles on the coffee table already, and Julie is lying on the floor laughing breathlessly at some story Odette is telling her.

“Why wasn’t I invited?” he asks, from the doorway.

Simone snorts. “No boys allowed, obviously,” she says without any heat, from her perch on the arm of the sofa. The phone rings and she darts forward to grab it like she’d been waiting. She turns from them, says hello, the cord stretching around her waist.

“Obviously,” Dean echoes, even though she’s not paying attention. “Thanks guys.”

“Here love,” his mum says. There’s a twenty in her outstretched hand. “Get a taxi home, let someone else drive you around for once.”

“Thanks,” he says, surprised, taking it off her and tucking it into his pocket.

He doesn’t mind driving but it’s nice of her to offer it anyway. He likes London at night, when there’s less traffic on the roads and the streetlights are on and he can drive for long, long stretches without having to queue at roundabouts or anything. He likes driving his friends too, when they’re drunk and happy in the back seat with the windows open. Ginny half in Harry’s lap, all of them singing along to the radio, shouting over the street sounds at him to make it louder, Dean, turn it up.

“Where you going?” Yvonne asks, looking up from painting her nails, glittering purple out of a butterfly-shaped bottle.

Dean shrugs. “Some karaoke place in Peckham, just opened.”

She laughs and looks back down. “I should get Seamus to video it for us.”

“Like I’ll be singing,” Dean tells her drily.

“We’re having some mates over later,” she says, not looking at him, “come in and say hi when you’re back, yeah?”

Odette whispers something Dean doesn’t catch and then laughs brightly, Yvonne smiling beside her, humming in wordless agreement.

Dean doesn’t exactly feel left out when they’re all together like this, but sometimes he gets the idea that they have secrets between themselves that they’d never tell him, not necessarily because they wouldn’t want to, but because it wouldn’t even occur to them he’d want to know. It had kind of always been like that. They’d invented a new language for themselves before Dean even knew them, they’d sent notes to each other in a code he hadn’t known how to read.

Seamus comes into the room while he’s still standing there and touches his fingers against Dean’s shoulder, insistent. Dean turns to leave.

Maybe it doesn’t mean anything, maybe it’s stupid, but Dean’s never had any problem knowing what Seamus is trying to say.

/

Ron makes his way up the steps to the stage deliberately, his hand clenched tight around the silver banister. He’s drunk, wobbling, his other hand loosely holding the microphone. He straightens and grins out at them, laughing delightedly when Harry whistles, thumb and forefinger in between his lips.

“Hey,” Ron says, and then remembers about the mic. “Hey,” he says again, and this time people can hear him. “This is… Right Down The Line, by some guy, and I’m dedicating my performance tonight to my fiancée. What’s up Hermione, you look fit tonight.”

Seamus collapses against the table in laughter, stamping his feet against the ground as people applaud.

The music kicks in and Ron starts swaying under the lights, laughing at himself too.

“He’s going to fuck this up,” Dean says under his breath, and Seamus turns his head on the surface of the table to look up at him.

“Have you not heard Ron sing?” he asks, eyebrows raised. “You know he has a pretty good voice on him.”

Dean glances over to Hermione at the table next to theirs. She looks embarrassed out of her mind, but also a little bit fond, a little bit indulgent. Dean feels kind of the same way and Ron didn’t even dedicate the song to him.

“Dunno how I didn’t know that,” Dean says. “How do you know that?”

“Haha,” Seamus says. “I shared a dorm with him for seven years. Seven? Loads of years anyway. I’m more worried about how you missed it.”

“I miss a lot,” Dean informs him, leaning back in the booth.

“Isn’t that the goddamned truth,” Seamus mutters. Dean kicks his ankle.

They’ve been here for a long time and Dean’s started to get drunk. There’s a two-for-one special on tonight on Long Island iced teas, a drink that Dean hadn’t had the pleasure of trying before earlier this evening. He feels warm in his stomach, content to just wait for Ron to make a fool of himself, until Seamus leans closer.

“You should sing me something,” he whispers, Dean straining to even hear it in the first place. He swallows, the rest of his body gone warm now.

“Yeah?” he asks, carefully avoiding eye contact.

“Mm,” Seamus says. “You should sing me this song.”

Dean blinks up at Ron, surrounded by silver streamers, already tangled and ratty even though this place has only been open about two weeks. “I don’t think I could follow this,” he says, gesturing weakly.

“Some Mariah then,” Seamus says, only half teasing by the sounds of it. “Some Backstreet Boys.”

Dean considers asking Seamus how he even knows about the Backstreet Boys, but then decides on something else instead. “Is that your idea of romance?” he asks, “Backstreet Boys?”

Seamus fucking-- grins at him, laughs. “You’re so fucking obvious,” he says, delighted about it.

Dean’s cheeks heat, and he’s grateful it’s not obvious the same way it is when Seamus blushes. He turns away again. “I’m not trying to hide it,” he says after a moment, digging his finger into the soft cushion beside him, scratching against the velvet.

“Christ,” Seamus says. “Dean look at me.”

Dean does, and Seamus sits up, a languid movement that doesn’t sit quite right on his body. Dean is used to seeing him be economic in his gestures, not wasting time, not wasting energy. Seamus nudges their shoulders together. “What?” Dean asks, but it’s a stupid question.

“I’m sick of waiting,” Seamus tells him, more serious than Dean has maybe ever seen him. He feels like laughing to break the tension, but he would never do that, not when it’s important.

Dean doesn’t know what to say. He can’t even remember how he acted before. Everything about him feels like it’s been distilled down into wanting Seamus, and it’s awful, it’s embarrassing, it’s taking over his life. Then he thinks maybe he doesn’t have to say anything at all, so he nods, and Seamus must see something on his face then because he fits his head into the curve of Dean’s neck, his cheeks flushed.

Dean touches Seamus’ back nervously and thinks he can feel Seamus’ blood beating underneath his skin, or possibly his own heartbeat in the palm of his hand.

Dean doesn’t look over to see if all their friends are watching, mostly because he already knows they are.

He wants to say something; now feels like the time to say something. But Seamus leans into him before he can, his mouth sweet and soft on Dean’s lips, and Dean is only surprised for a moment before he kisses back, opening his mouth, breathing in sharply through his nose.

Dean thinks he’ll always remember the fact that Seamus kissed him first.

“Okay,” he says against Seamus’ skin. “Same,” and Seamus smiles.

When Dean thought about it, he didn’t think their first kiss would go like this. Mainly he thought he’d fuck it up. Other times he thought it would drag out forever, for months, that he’d wake up one morning with Seamus hard against his thigh and they wouldn’t be able to wait anymore. Sometimes he thought maybe they would argue, that maybe Dean would have been reading everything wrong this entire time and that they’d fight over it.

But Dean doesn’t even know how to do conflict with Seamus, he doesn’t even think it would be possible. They’ve always wanted the same things. And now it makes sense that it would happen like this, Seamus saying okay? and already knowing the answer.

Dean kisses him again, and eases his fingers under the waistband of Seamus’ boxers, sliding them against the soft skin over his hipbone.

Seamus pulls away, his lips wet and red. “I want to fuck you,” he mouths. Dean nods helplessly.

/

They keep a seat between them in the taxi. Dean puts his hand down onto the tacky leather and leaves it there. He did it on purpose, but his stomach still jumps when Seamus tangles their fingers together.

/

Music is flooding in from the kitchen when they get home, something electronic and wordless with a heavy bassline. Dean doesn’t like it very much, but he warms considerably when Seamus pushes him against the wall and bites a little at his neck. Dean gets a hand on the back of his thigh, encouraging it when Seamus grinds against him. They’re both hard, Dean can feel Seamus’ erection through his jeans. He thinks about going to his knees in the hallway and sucking Seamus off right here. He’s not done that before but he’s reasonably sure he could do a good job of it, and on top of that he really wants to know what Seamus tastes like. That shocks him for a second, that particular want. Dean doesn’t know how he could have gone through life without ever realising he wanted to know what Seamus’ dick feels like on his tongue, but he managed it somehow.

His stomach feels funny when it dawns on him that after tonight he will know, and that he’ll keep on knowing for the rest of his life.

A door slams from the direction of the kitchen and Seamus steps back, panting. He looks at Dean’s crotch, and then reaches forward to cup Dean’s dick. “Upstairs,” he says, pushing forward just a tiny bit, and then drops his hand. Dean lets out a deep breath.

“Yvonne said I should come in and say hi,” he says.

“You’ve got a hard-on,” Seamus laughs. “But by all means let’s go see how long it takes them to notice.”

“I should just stick my head in,” Dean says, then rearranges himself inside his boxers. He looks down. “Is this obvious?”

“Um,” Seamus says, smirking. “You’ve got a big dick, yeah.”

“Fuck off,” Dean says, shocked into laughter. Seamus gets close to him again and untucks Dean’s shirt from his jeans. He’s quick about it, perfunctory, but Dean’s skin still buzzes where Seamus’ hands have been.

“That covers it,” Seamus says, doing the same thing to himself, smoothing it down. “This is such a weird night,” he continues wryly, but he’s almost laughing. Anyway, Dean can tell he’s having a good time; he doesn’t think it’s cocky to assume that.

The air in the kitchen smells like beer and chinese food, and it’s warm and filled with strangers. Odette sees them first and beckons them over. A boy is standing behind her with his hand wrapped around her waist, his hair cropped short, a tattoo peeking out of the neck of his t-shirt.

“Back early,” she says, her eyelids low. “You sing?”

Dean makes a face at her, but Seamus answers. “I wouldn’t let him embarrass himself like that.”

She laughs, her head tipped back onto the guy’s shoulder. “I bet,” she says meaningfully.

“I’m Jack,” the guy says suddenly, and shakes Dean’s hand, stretching to reach Seamus.

“I’m Dean,” Dean tells him, he doesn’t know if it’s obvious or not. “Odette’s brother. That’s Seamus, we’re at school together. He’s staying for the summer.”

“Ohh,” Jack says, nodding, “you go to that fucking-- boarding school or whatever,” he continues, gesturing widely. His hand glances off Odette’s shoulder, and he puts his palm to the spot in a silent apology.

“Yeah,” Dean agrees, “I’m done now though.”

“Are you going to uni?” Jack asks, over the music, and then, “oh, do you want a beer or something?”

Seamus is close behind him, their arms brushing together, and Dean wants more than anything to take him upstairs to his bedroom and lay him out in his bed. “Actually,” he says ruefully, running a hand through his hair, “I think we’re heading to bed?”

Seamus laughs, but Dean doesn’t think he can bear a whole hour of chatting to strangers when they could be doing something objectively better. It’s probably rude, but Dean weighs the pros and cons and thinks he’s come to the right decision.

“Alright, yeah, nice to meet you,” Jack says, and then shakes their hands again. He’s nice, Dean thinks. It’s nice that he’s nice.

Odette curls an arm around his neck, the fabric of her sweatshirt soft on his shoulders. “Night then,” she says into his ear, and pulls back. She darts a look between them. “Use--”

“No,” Dean says loudly, cutting her off. “No, that’s cool, we’re going, bye.”

“Later,” she says grinning, all white teeth and slick lipgloss. “Later Seamus. Stay cool.”

Seamus follows Dean upstairs. On the half-landing on the rough carpet, beside the door to the big bathroom, Dean pauses. “Did you want to stay?” he asks. He didn’t exactly consult with Seamus, who-- well, Dean doesn’t think Seamus would have wanted to hang around talking to his sisters but, maybe.

Seamus looks at him like he’s said something completely idiotic. “No,” he says slowly. Which. Alright then.

Dean’s out of breath when they reach his bedroom, the stairs up to the top of the house always somehow do a number on him. And he’s way more nervous than he was downstairs, which is reasonable, probably. It feels different up here, where there’s Dean’s bed where they sleep each night and a bottle of lube in his bedside table and Seamus unbuttoning the top of his shirt.

Seamus kisses him again, his fingers on Dean’s jaw, and Dean has already lost track of the amount of times they’ve done that now. Seamus has to tilt his face way up for their mouths to be able to fit together comfortably, and after a few seconds he makes a frustrated noise in the back of his throat. Dean tries to make himself shorter after that, leaning down into it and licking at the closed seam of Seamus’ lips. Seamus smiles and then opens his mouth a little, hot and wet and sliding their tongues together.

Dean walks him backwards until they hit the bed, the backs of Seamus’ knees catching on the mattress, and they tumble down hard. “Fucking-- ow,” Seamus complains lightly, rubbing his elbow against the covers, but doesn’t let Dean stop kissing him long enough to apologise.

Dean holds Seamus’ hips, the rough denim pressing hard and painful into the palms of his hands. “What do you want?” he asks.

Seamus bucks against him. Dean doesn’t think he’s hard anymore, but he’s getting there and his cheeks have gone all red and hot. “Whatever,” Seamus says, and then laughs at himself. “I-- no let’s-- you’ve got lube, yeah? Condoms?”

Dean swallows. “Protection spell,” he says. He wants to fuck Seamus, wants to get inside him, and he’d be equally up for what Seamus said earlier. Seamus doing that to him, opening him up and fucking him until Dean can’t think.

“I want you to fuck me,” Seamus says, looking straight at him. Then, as if that was slightly too much for him, he glances away for just a moment and goes even redder, down on his neck and the top of his chest. “If that’s--”

“Yeah,” Dean says, and kisses him firmly, once. “How do you want to-- what position is cool for you?”

“Cool for me,” Seamus echoes under his breath to the ceiling. He moves under Dean for a moment, and then flips them over somehow. Dean knew he was strong, but he’s small, compact, probably shouldn’t be able to do that.

“I’m going to the loo,” Seamus says, clambering off him, and doesn’t make eye contact. “So like-- clothes off.”

Dean makes it down to his boxers before he thinks it would be weird to just lie there naked on his bed and wait for Seamus to come back. But this whole scenario is kind of weird to him, actually. He can kind of guess what Seamus is up to in the bathroom, obviously, but it still makes Dean nervous to wait here. Like, what if Seamus didn’t come back. Or what if Dean was supposed to offer to do something and completely missed the cue. He can’t think what, but still.

It worries him that he might not do it right, and then remembers that, well, sex is pretty subjective. Or that’s what Hermione’s said to him, on several terrible and informative occasions.

Seamus is naked when he comes back in, and his shoulders are a little bit wet from the shower. Dean takes a sharp breath in, watches as Seamus puts a knee on the mattress. He licks his lips, tugs at the hem of Dean’s boxers. “You okay?” he asks. He’s hard, his pubes wet and dark with water. Dean doesn’t even-- it’s so stupid, so stupid, but he looks too pretty to touch right now. Dean nods then, because it’s all he can manage. He can’t remember the last time he was this much in awe of someone, and then does, because it was Harry.

Seamus leans down and presses his face against Dean’s crotch, making him twitch upwards. He puts one hand in Seamus’ hair, brushing through his fair curls. It’s too long. He’s been talking about cutting it for weeks, but Dean likes it this way, soft and slightly damp at the roots. Seamus tugs his boxers down, sucks hard right at the base of Dean’s dick. He gets hard fast.

Seamus straddles him and Dean’s hands come up to his waist again, smoothing down over his hips. He tilts Dean forward with one arm around his middle so that he can kiss him again, fast and bruising. Seamus bites at his lip, urging his hips forward until his dick is sliding against Dean’s stomach, catching in the hair on his belly.

“Come on,” Seamus whispers against his neck, sucking hard on his skin. It’s painful, dull and throbbing, but it makes something twist in Dean’s chest.

He gets a hand on Seamus’ dick, finally, and runs his thumb over the soft head to hear Seamus gasp, to feel him shiver. Seamus gets wet quickly, so much precome that Dean thinks he could wank Seamus off without using any lube, just the slightly tacky slide of his hand against hot skin.

“Okay, okay,” Seamus says, breathless, and pulls away far enough to get the lube out of the second drawer down in Dean’s bedside table. He hands it to Dean, who knows how this part goes at least, and then straddles him, Seamus’ knees tucked tight against his side.

When Dean slides his fingers down to Seamus’ hole he finds it already slick, already open, and Seamus tucks his face close to Dean’s neck when he hooks the tip of his finger just inside. “You--” he says, not really knowing what he’s trying to ask.

“I did a charm,” Seamus breathes, against Dean’s skin. “And I’m not telling you who taught me.”

For what? Dean wants to ask, but then doesn’t. He knows you can conjure lube, it’s oily and gross but it’s easy, but Seamus feels-- like he’d been fingering himself open for longer than the ten minutes he was in the bathroom.

Dean slides two fingers inside, easy as anything. “That’s proactive,” he says. He’d thought-- he’d had it planned out in his head, that there would be steps they’d both have to follow. Fingering Seamus open, sucking his dick to take away some of the sting, saying are you sure you’re ready.

“You don’t have to--” Seamus starts, cutting off when Dean curls his fingers forward, stroking. Seamus is hot inside, wet and soft, and hot where his skin is touching Dean’s, and hot where his dick is pressed against Dean’s arm. “It’s good,” Seamus tells him, “come on.”

Dean pulls away, his hand slick on the top of Seamus’ thigh as he arranges them, the head of his cock sliding over Seamus’ hole. He says the spell, such a small one he doesn’t even need his wand for it, and Seamus sinks down onto him a bit, tight around the tip of Dean’s dick. They’re so close together right now, Seamus heavy on top of him, and Dean leans forward to kiss him again, sloppy because of the way Seamus is concentrating and panting, a little crease between his eyebrows.

“Is it too much?” Dean asks, not meaning anything by it, but Seamus gives him a look anyway, slides down further. Dean tightens his grip on Seamus’ waist, digging his fingers in to stop himself pushing up too fast like he wants to. “You feel--” he says, but then stops when Seamus looks up at him, the words sticking in his throat.

“What?” Seamus asks, with a harsh breath out. Any other time Dean would think he was hurt, but his dick is hard still, and leaking when Dean brushes his fingers over the head.

“So good,” Dean says, way too honest, his voice so fond it probably sounds fake. Seamus is sitting on him fully now, rocking forward into the circle of Dean’s hands. It’s not enough for Dean to get off, but Seamus feels amazing, tightening around him every so often with a weird noise in the back of his throat.

“Good,” Seamus manages, lifts himself upwards and sinks back down. Dean’s head thumps back hard against the wall.

It’s hard to focus on everything at once, but Dean gives it his level best, tipping his face down to lick at Seamus’ skin, at the salty sweat beading on his shoulder. They’re closer together than they’ve ever been, Dean is inside him. And if it wasn’t so brilliant, if it wasn’t the best thing he’d ever done, he’d want to laugh with how ridiculous it is. Seamus’ dick rubbing against his belly, his breath harsh in Dean’s ear, the muscles in his legs tensing and untensing under Dean’s hand as he moves. His hand, curling around the back of Dean’s neck, holding him tight.

Dean bites his shoulder, just gently, just enough so Seamus can feel it. Seamus hisses and clenches around Dean’s dick somehow in response. “Faster,” he says, urging Dean on with his hips. Dean holds him tight, fucking into him the way Seamus asked for. It feels better now he’s doing more of the work.

Seamus is so red. His chest, his cheeks, his open, panting mouth. Dean wonders what he looks like right now, if Seamus likes the way he looks, if he’ll want to remember everything about it the same way Dean does. Seamus smiles and his eyes fall shut, but Dean wants to watch.

Seamus has always been compact, muscled, but his body looks different doing this than it does doing anything else. Which-- obviously it does. Dean supposes it’s kind of close to the way he gets when he plays Quidditch. Out of breath, concentrating, sweating. Seamus had been so jealous of Dean’s growth spurt in fourth year, even though sometimes Dean had grown so fast it almost hurt. Seamus had expanded in a different way, become sturdy and strong and louder than ever.

Seamus had never really told anyone else, but he’d wanted to be a seeker. Seamus never even said anything when people started telling him he had the body for it.

“What are you thinking about?” Seamus asks, and Dean stops moving, crowds in so he can get his arms around Seamus’ waist. Seamus makes a noise of complaint, but lets him. “What?” he asks, his forehead against Dean’s shoulder, his hands on Dean’s back.

Dean doesn’t say anything for a moment, just feels the weight of Seamus on top of him, the thick heat of him. Then he says: “I love you,” helplessly, and immediately wants to bite it back. He hopes Seamus believes him, he knows that maybe during sex isn’t the right time to say that kind of thing.

Seamus kisses his neck, then says “I love you too,” and bites him hard. Which Dean understands, it’s pretty embarrassing.

Dean doesn’t want to let go of him, so he wriggles his hand in between their stomachs and starts wanking Seamus off, fast and hard and a little bit dry. “Hey,” Seamus says, and presses the cold bottle of lube against Dean’s arm. Dean lets him dribble some into the palm of his hand and goes back to it. He’s not really moving inside Seamus anymore, just twitching upwards slowly to give Seamus something to feel. Seamus moans, muffled against Dean’s neck but still nearly drowning out the slick sound of Dean’s hand on his dick.

It doesn’t take long until Seamus is shuddering through an orgasm, spilling hotly into Dean’s hand and dribbling down over his fist. Dean’s arousal had kind of been on the back burner for a while, but that-- that really does it for him.

“Do you like-- can I keep going?” Dean asks, voice thick, his hand still cupped around Seamus’ cock. He’s trying very hard to be tender.

“Not hard,” Seamus breathes, “but yeah. Come inside me.”

“Oh my god,” Dean says, kind of laughing, and Seamus moves on top of him.

“I want to feel it,” he says. “When you do.”

That’s like, the best thing anyone’s ever said to Dean. It’s the best thing he’s ever heard. He pushes into Seamus, slides out again, slow and gentle but fast enough to get him there, and he doesn’t think he’s going to last very long at all. There’s a tendon on Seamus’ neck that Dean wants to get his mouth on, so he does, digging his nose into the soft skin under Seamus’ jaw.

His orgasm builds for ages, he can feel it underneath his skin, syrupy in his stomach. “Fuck,” he says a couple of times, rhythm gone shaky. He kisses Seamus’ throat, his chin, his open mouth, and Seamus runs his hands through Dean’s hair until he’s shivering. He manages a few more thrusts before he’s coming, heat pooling in his belly and his feet and the palms of his hands. He stretches his neck backwards, fucking up into Seamus twice more before he has to stop, the way gone even slicker with his come.

Seamus goes straight to the bathroom after they’ve both got their breath back, and Dean is too tired to protest that he kind of wants to-- see. Also he doesn’t want Seamus to stay uncomfortable for too long, which. It seems like it might be uncomfortable.

After a few minutes he gets his legs under him to join Seamus in the bathroom. He’s washing his face, splashing cold water over the flush of his cheeks. Dean looks at him from the doorway, because it’s something he’s allowed to do now.

Seamus turns, surveys his body, eyes flicking up and down. “You should shower before you come to bed,” he says. “Or at least wash your dick.” His mouth is turned up at the corners, and Dean just loves him so much. Loves and hates him at the same time, when he’s like this.

“Oh my god,” Dean says, for what feels like the hundredth time that night. “Don’t be gross.”

“You’re the one with come all over you,” Seamus says, grinning. He steps forward into Dean’s space, and licks at his left nipple. “Hurry,” he says, and goes to flop into bed without putting any clothes on, wriggling under the covers.

“Great,” Dean says, mostly to himself, “cool.” He looks down at his chest, his one wet nipple.

He is a mess, actually, but he just uses a flannel to get the worst of it off, scrubbing a bit where Seamus’ come got stuck in the hair on his stomach. This part is not romantic at all, and it’s no wonder Seamus didn’t stick around to watch.

They don’t say anything to each other when Dean climbs into bed and rests his head on Seamus’ chest, his arm flung across Seamus’ stomach. Seamus sighs, kind of fondly, and hooks their ankles together. Earlier, Dean thinks, not twenty minutes ago, Seamus had told Dean he loved him.

It’s dark in his room even though the curtains are still open and the moon is right overhead. Dean opens his eyes and stares at Seamus’ face, just barely able to make him out. His eyelashes laying on his cheek, the smattering of freckles over the bridge of his nose. The sight of him makes Dean’s entire body hurt, just like it usually does, except now he can spread his hand out over Seamus’ stomach and watch him smile. He can think about how he loves Seamus and not get upset at himself, because Seamus loves him too.

Seamus said it, Seamus told him, Seamus kissed him and took him home and will keep telling him and kissing him and taking him home.

Dean wonders how long they’ll be able to do that for. Wizards live way longer than humans. A hundred years, maybe. Maybe even more than that.

/

A couple of days later they end up at Grimmauld Place again, by mutual agreement that maybe they need to get out of the house and get some fresh air. Dean puts his sheets on to wash while they’re out; after a while the cleaning spells start to smell funny, kind of like burning toast, and make the fabric hot to the touch for a full thirty minutes afterwards.

Luna opens the door, looking sunny and pretty and fresh. Dean hugs her tight. She’s back to smelling like a meadow, her hair all soft and sweet smelling where it’s spilling over the back of his hand.

“Everyone’s in the living room,” she says. “We were waiting for you.”

“Seriously?” Seamus whispers, as she walks ahead of them. “That wasn’t creepy to you, what she just said?”

Dean elbows him. “It’s Tuesday, you wanker.”

“So?” Seamus says, bewildered. “So? Why does that make any difference? What are you on about?”

“Tuesday like weekly meeting Tuesday?” Dean tells him. Like, Seamus should definitely fucking know that by now. Obviously Dean knows that Seamus doesn’t really pay attention to stuff unless it’s about explosives or Quidditch or him or occasionally History of Magic, but they’ve been coming here every Tuesday for the entire summer. Granted, Seamus does usually just sit in the back and flick through the stack of old Playboy magazines he found in Sirius’ room, but seriously.

“Luna,” Dean says, when Seamus just shakes his head like he’s never even heard of that before. He catches up to her halfway down the long hall. “You alright?” he asks.

“Yes,” she says seriously. “Are you alright?”

“I’m good, yeah,” he says, “I missed you around here.”

She sighs lightly. “I had to be home,” she explains with a frown that doesn’t look right on her face. “The house needed a lot of work after Hermione blew it up.”

Dean has to try really hard not to laugh, because her house was destroyed, but-- he’s heard that story from Hermione. “Are you going back to Hogwarts?” he asks.

“Yes,” she says again. “I have to, I haven’t finished. Aren’t you? Is Seamus?”

“I am,” Seamus pipes up cheerfully, at the same time as Dean says, “no, I think-- I’m thinking about doing an apprenticeship.”

“Oh!” she says, “Mr. Ollivander told me you’d asked him.” Then, when he gives her a blank look, she says: “We exchange owls. He doesn’t have that many people to talk to.”

Dean deliberates for a second. “Do you think he’ll say yes?” he asks.

He’d sent Ollivander an owl about a week ago, hunched over the kitchen table for half an hour thinking about it until Seamus had snatched the letter out of his hand and gone to do it himself. They’d had to use one of those rent-an-owl services, and it had shat all over the kitchen floor while everyone was trying to eat breakfast. Ollivander had replied saying he’d think about it. Which is better than nothing, Dean supposes.

Luna looks up at him. She pats his arm. “I think so,” she says, and then they’re at the door to the living room.

It’s a dire scene as usual, everyone sat around the table picking at sandwiches like it’s the last meal they’re ever going to eat and they can’t be bothered. Harry’s the only one who looks halfway normal, chatting happily with Ginny at the top end of the table. “Oh, hey,” he says, looking up as they come in. “Neville’s not here because he’s gone to his gran’s for the week.”

“Okay,” Seamus says, kicking a chair out rudely and sitting down. “Everyone good? Any craic?”

“Nobody understands you when you say things like that,” Harry laughs.

“Anything going on,” Seamus says, making a face.

“Yeah actually,” Harry says brightly. Dean catches Hermione’s eye but she just shakes her head. Which-- doesn’t bode well, he thinks.

“There’s been some news from the Ministry,” Ron says flatly.

“Yeah,” Harry says. “They sent us an owl and then we went in for a meeting, which was shit, but. It doesn’t matter, anyway, we met with Gawain Robards and he said that if we wanted to jump straight into the Auror programme then we could, without doing another year in Hogwarts.”

“What,” Seamus says, and then laughs in a really panicked manner.

“Yeah,” Harry says again, a little more nervously. “It’s kind of a waiver thing, anyone who fought in the battle of Hogwarts just goes straight into the advanced training course. I think it’ll be good, I don’t think any of us have liked feeling so useless over the summer.”

Dean thinks everyone has liked the time off, actually, but he knows better than to say that out loud. And to Harry, of all people.

“That’s mental,” Seamus says, as everyone else goes quiet. “Don’t tell me you’re thinking of actually doing that, Harry.”

Harry’s face goes hard, so sudden that it’s almost scary. “It’s none of your fucking business, I don’t think.”

“You’re saying you want to go into Auror training completely unqualified. Sorry if I don’t think you should get yourself killed after you only just got out of it the first time,” Seamus snaps.

“We’ve already had this argument,” Hermione tries, but Harry speaks over her.

“Didn’t expect you to be into it in the first place Seamus,” he says cruelly. “You’ve never been one for that kind of thing, have you mate.” It’s not a question, and Harry doesn’t stick around for long enough to hear what Seamus might have said. The door crashes shut behind him.

“This is crazy,” Seamus says, looking around, looking at Ron and Hermione, “you can’t let him do that.”

“We’re not his fucking parents,” Ron mutters, and then grimaces. “But like-- he won’t.”

“He’s going to get himself killed! Again!”

“Seamus, we know,” Hermione tells him, voice harsh. “We know. We can’t make him do anything, but that’s-- it would be a senseless thing to do, and I think Harry already knows it’s a shit idea.”

“I don’t think we should talk about him where he can hear,” Luna says in a low voice, and another door slams closed somewhere close by. Maybe the kitchen.

Seamus stands up. “He has no idea what he’s doing,” he says. “And obviously he’s being such a dick right now but he saved our lives and he’s our mate and we can’t let him do something so completely fucking stupid. I’d actually like to see what he’s like in ten years when he’s grown out of whatever phase he’s going through right now, and I can’t do that if he’s dead.”

Ginny takes a deep breath and leaves the room, through the same door Harry used. Dean stands up. “I think we should go.”

Fuck,” Seamus says tiredly, collapsing his face down into his hands, folding into himself. “This is so fucking--”

“It’s okay,” Luna says, reaching around Dean to pat Seamus’ shoulder. “Wrackspurt infestations don’t usually last long.”

/

They sit in the car for a few minutes without talking and without starting the engine; Seamus has his arm out of the opened window, simmering. “He has no idea how to protect himself,” he says roughly. Dean doesn’t really have anything to say in response to that statement. It’s true though.

He puts a hand on Seamus’ bare thigh where his shorts have ridden up, and Seamus’s hand drops down to cover it almost by reflex. “If anyone’s going to persuade him out of it, Ron and Hermione are going to be the ones to do it,” Dean says.

Seamus breathes in shakily. “I’m surprised you aren’t thinking about it too,” he says. “Perfect way to avoid Hogwarts this year.”

“Don’t be a dick,” Dean says mildly.

Seamus doesn’t say anything for a while, keeps looking out of the window. At the road in front of them shimmering in the heat, up into the crowd of trees at the side of the road where the path leads down to the canal basin. “Yeah,” he comes out with eventually. “I’m trying not to be.”

/

It’s fucked, Seamus says later in bed, and Dean agrees even though at the start of the summer he would have thought about doing it too. Somewhere in the back of his brain he’s still considering it, and he does for three more days before the letter from Ollivander arrives offering him an apprenticeship. Seamus deflates with relief as he reads it over Dean’s shoulder, like he knew what Dean had been thinking about that whole time.

/

I think I should see my mam, Seamus says with only a few days left in August, so they book a last minute ferry over to Dun Laoghaire. They drive up to Wales in Dean’s car, leaving early in the morning before any of the shops on the high street are even open. The weather’s awful the whole way out of London and all the way up the traffic-clogged motorways, the road gone slick and dark grey with rain. Then all of sudden when they’re crossing the white bridge onto Anglesey the skies go clear and blue, the clouds swept away as they drive over the strait.

In Beaumaris there’s an old castle, sturdy and squat with ivy up the sides and a wall running all the way around the outside. They only find it because they went the wrong way a few miles back, but they’ve got time to kill before the ferry leaves later in the evening. Seamus pays for both of them to get in and they wander around for a bit in the grassy courtyard in the sun.

“I wonder if you can go up on the battlements,” Seamus says, eyes half shut against the bright light. They’re closed to the public for a few weeks while they get repaired, the woman at the front had told them as she gave them their tickets; flimsy raffle papers from a bright red roll.

Dean looks around. A couple of kids are running around in the other corner, but nobody’s paying them any attention. “We could probably sneak up pretty easily,” he suggests, and Seamus grins.

/

When Dean was in primary school he and a friend got to take the day off and go on the ferry from Dover to Calais and hang around all day in a French shopping centre, and it was the coolest thing he’d ever done. They ran into trouble when it turned out his friend’s mum was terrified of driving up slopes and hills and stuff, and froze when they were supposed to drive up the ramp into the car level. A whole line of traffic passed them, beeping their horns, as she worked up the courage to do it. It was embarrassing but they forgot about it when they were in the passenger deck and she gave them the money to get a bar of overpriced nougat each in the gift shop. Then they had to go through the exact same process on the way back.

Dean and Seamus had tried to book a fast ferry, like that one had been, but they were all sold out because it’s so close to end of the summer holidays. Instead they’re loaded onto a kind of freighter ship with a bunch of vans and lorries in the queue ahead of them. As they wait in the car park Dean looks up at the rows and rows of shipping containers sat on the outside deck, yellow and red and blue and drying in the watery sunlight.

Their cabin is small and spare, with two bunkbeds bolted down to the white metal floor and a porthole that looks out over the sea wall.

“Will it be rough?” Seamus had asked the porter who’d shown them to the room.

“It’s been good weather,” he’d said, with a wide smile, “so should be fine. Long crossing though, hope you brought your crosswords.”

Dean thinks he has a pretty similar sounding accent to Seamus, but Seamus just laughs when he voices that opinion. “He’s from Dublin,” Seamus says, as though it’s supposed to be obvious. “We sound nothing alike.” But his accent has already become broader and thicker than it usually is.

Dean puts his backpack down on the bed and sits down, testing the mattress. They’ve left most of the rest of their luggage locked in the boot of the car, but Seamus had wanted a jumper and Dean hadn’t thought he could do almost five hours on a ferry without something to read.

“I think I get seasick,” Dean says, when the engines start, a low rumble beneath their feet. The ship starts to move and Seamus comes to join him, dropping his head down onto Dean’s shoulder.

“You think?” Seamus asks. “I definitely do, but only right out to sea for some reason.”

Dean tells him about the ferry to France. “I threw up in the loos, but that might have just been the pound of nougat I ate. My mate was fine though.”

Seamus laughs against Dean’s side. He’s always laughing around Dean, which Dean thinks is so nice. “You didn’t have to come with me,” he says.

Dean gets a hand in his hair, still too long. “Yeah I did,” he says, and thinks maybe that sounds way too serious. “I wanted to, I mean. And I want to see where you grew up and all.”

“Meet my mam,” Seamus says, in an odd voice.

“Yeah,” Dean replies. “See your house, your old school, all that stuff.”

Seamus knows everything about Dean’s life. He’s met Dean’s parents, his sisters, he’s lived in Dean’s house for a whole summer. He knows where they keep the hoover, he knows where the notches in the doorway are where Dean’s mum used to measure his height, he knows the patch of earth in the back garden where Dean buried a time capsule he’s supposed to open at the Millennium. He’s seen Dean’s old school, the lido where Dean learnt to swim, the house of his best friend growing up who moved to Bath. And Dean-- Dean knows Seamus, there’s no question of that. Knows him better than anyone probably, but still sometimes feels like he’s missing out. Seamus is loud and funny and often really odd and serious, but he’s a pretty secret person when you get down to it.

Maybe it’s superficial, but Dean wants to see all the stuff in Seamus’ life that he hasn’t yet. The small stuff, the posters on his bedroom wall, his favourite mug in the house he grew up in, how he talks to his mum.

“Do you want to go up to the deck?” Seamus asks. “They close it later into the crossing, but it’s a good view as we leave the port.”

“Okay,” Dean says, and they do, climbing the metal studded stairs a few flights up to the top deck, swinging the door open with a clang as the wind pushes it back against the wall.

The deck is painted bright white, blinding white, much like the inside of the cabin except out here they’re in direct sunlight, and all Dean can do is look outwards at the receding island, at the mountains beyond the ferry port. Wales is such a green country, and he doesn’t know how he didn’t notice that before, when they were driving through it on the winding road through the mountains.

“Hey,” Seamus says, from the outside railing beside one of the lifeboats. He nods down towards the sea and Dean hooks an arm around his waist because they’re the only people out here. Seamus leans into him, smiling.

Dean watches the seagulls wheel beneath them, close to the white crests of the waves where the ship is churning up water. Once every so often one of them will dart down to catch a silvery fish in its beak, flipping around as the seagull flies off with it. “They’re huge,” he says, because they’re nothing like the little ones you find in London, or at the seaside in Kent even.

His mum says that when seagulls fly that far inland you know there’s a storm out at sea. Dean doesn’t know how true that is, he thinks they probably just come to London so they can get a good meal alongside the pigeons.

Seamus shrugs. “Sometimes you see dolphins out further,” he says. “There used to be more when I was little.”

“Did you come to Wales a lot then?” Dean asks.

“Only a couple of times on the ferry,” Seamus responds. “Mostly we’d just get a portkey across to Liverpool. My mum has friends there and-- she doesn’t trust Muggle stuff that much.”

“Do you think she’ll like me?” Dean asks. He doesn’t know if Seamus is going to tell his mum that Dean is his boyfriend. He thinks he probably won’t but-- maybe someday.

“I hope so,” Seamus replies. “She’d fucking better.”

“Mm,” Dean says seriously, “because it’s not like you’re getting rid of me anytime soon.”

Seamus pulls away to look down into the water, at the dark blue and the pale, sickly green of the waves. He’s smiling, something small and private that Dean almost doesn’t want to look at. His mouth twitches. “Same here,” he says eventually, and Dean laughs.