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Fading With Every Day

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"Tell me—who rests there?"

Seamus Finnigan glanced up from his friend, Dean Thomas', grave, but he had no energy to scowl at the face he saw. "Me best mate," he replied.

The frighteningly unlined face of Narcissa Malfoy—Black, as she went by once more in these post-war times—didn't alter as she nodded in acknowledgement. "I…I've heard he was a good wizard."

"Damn right 'e was." Seamus closed his eyes briefly before standing up from his kneeling position to face the older witch. "What're you doing 'ere?"

"While my contemporaries may not have been the most innocent of people, some were still my friends…my family."

"None of your kind was a hero." His eyes burned darkly, heavily aspirating the final word of his sentence.

Narcissa tightened her grip on her sleek jacket's now messily wrinkled hem. "Severus was a friend."

Seamus clenched his jaw. "We wouldn't be 'ere if 'e 'adn't—"

"I suggest we pay our respects and let our loved ones to rest in peace," she quietly interrupted. She ducked her head in respect as she walked past Dean's grave and said nothing more to Seamus.

The Irish lad gazed fretfully at his friend's headstone. He looked around him; few others were visiting the hillside cemetery today, so no one would notice if he left early. "I—I'll come again next week," Seamus said—to Dean's spirit, though he'd wondered if spirits could hear and if they'd continue to listen even eight years later.

By some combination of will and being led by his own feet, Seamus trotted down the row, forcing himself not to look at the names. He watched as Narcissa stood up from a grave and began to leave.

The words came tumbling from his mouth: "Are you 'ungry?"

It was a funny sight to see Narcissa Black's blue eyes widen, even if only for the slightest fraction of a second. Then her lips curved upward into a smirk as though it were instinct…but she might have realized her involuntary action, for her mouth softened into a relaxed smile. "No, not very." She paused. "But I suppose my throat is a tad dry."

"Oh." Seamus cleared his throat; he'd interacted…now he had to see this out, though a voice nagged him, reminding him just who she was. "I was on me way ter th' Three Broomsticks. You can tag along, if you like."

Narcissa said nothing. She turned and continued to Hogsmeade, but she didn't mind when Seamus fell into step with her. Though silence settled between them on their journey, nothing quite felt amiss, and the witch nodded her thanks when the wizard opened the door for her. Even the other patrons didn't care that it was Narcissa Black with whom Seamus Finnigan sat.

"Two firewhiskies," he ordered, and Madam Rosmerta waved her wand to produce the drinks on their table. Seamus sipped his and felt his face grow hot when Narcissa raised once etched eyebrow. "Oh, er…sorry. You can get something else… 'S bit o' instinct, gettin' this. My treat, though."

"No, it's fine." A hair fell from her perfectly formed coiffeur, and she hastily pushed it behind her ear. The gesture suggested she had become frayed from visiting those graves, but Seamus didn't call her out on it. Though he once would've loved nothing more than to point out a pureblood's—especially a Malfoy's—flaws, he sensed that he was the same way.

He eyed the bead of water that condensed on the neck of his bottle. "In th' beginnin', I could barely leave."

Narcissa resumed her previous silence, but she watched him. Seamus could see that in the inverted reflection from the bottle cap he'd laid face-up on the table. Her dark, rouged lips were pursed.

As she gave no motion for interruption, he babbled on, "I think th' shock didn't sink in or fade fer…fer a year or so." He closed his eyes to the flashes of memory back then. "But—But I told meself, 'Dean's not comin' back.' I repeated it over an' over an' over, until it became some sort of sick mantra…" He reopened his eyes and flinched at the human compassion he saw in those blue eyes. "I cut back ter once a week, but even now I'm not stickin' very close ter tha'… I s'pose it's fer th' better."

For what seemed like the longest time, the two of them listened to a loud kind of quiet, their words stuck in their mouths as the sounds of the bar and diners in the background overpowered the mood of their table. When the sky began to turn orange, heralding evening, Seamus wondered if this had been such a good idea. So far, all he'd done was reopen his own old wounds. It was likely little else would come from this encounter.

Seamus finally put some money on the table and made to leave when Narcissa's head jerked. He saw her eyes were wet.

"Some pain disappears…," she finally said. Her voice was very soft and quiet and hinted at none of the usual haughtiness Draco's had always carried. "But some pain intensifies as the years go by."

The Irish lad sat back down. "I know…I know tha' all too well."

"It stings." She blinked back her tears and cleared her throat so she could speak properly. "My life turned into a large number of 'what ifs,' and I've never had a day…where I don't regret most of my choices."

"But we all do."

Narcissa shook her head. "Mr. Finnigan—yes, I recognized you by your accent—Mr. Finnigan, you've yet to make your bed and lie in it. But my bed rivals the princess' in that fairy tale with the princess and the pea. My trouble was that I had not just one pea at the bottom, but innumerable…with several rusty nails and blades thrown in."

Seamus didn't know the tale, but he could easily understand her description. He placed his hands on the table on either side of his empty bottle of firewhiskey.

She bit her lip, and a wet laugh broke free from her chest. "Great Salazar, I wish I had never been so stuck-up about poise and that rubbish…"

"It was 'ow you were raised, though, wasn't it?" he asked.

"Yes, yes, it was, and I've never felt so condemned to lead such an unfulfilling life." Narcissa took several deep breaths; she seemed to have regained her composure. "If I were your age again, I would not redo any of it."

"But you love Draco," Seamus pointed out. "I 'eard from l'Arry an' I caught a glimpse o' it—when th' battle was over, you only looked fer him. Nothin' else was on yer mind."

"That's true. Even during the battle, I wasn't thinking of Death Eaters and non-Death Eaters… I was thinking of Draco." Narcissa pursed her lips once more. "But I know I'm supposed to feel bad for my husband's death—yet I don't. He brought that darkness into our home… My sister was no help… Draco was never going to have a fortunate future…" She wrapped her slender hand on the neck of her bottle, and her grip was so tight that her knuckles turned white.

Tentatively, Seamus reached out and brushed his fingers on those knuckles. She jolted but didn't move away. Taking that as a sign of acceptance, Seamus merely rested his whole hand on hers, and he felt the muscles in her hand relax. "But 'e's alive. An' married, last I'd 'eard."

For the first time, Narcissa gave him a genuine, sincere smile. "That, too, is true. But it cannot wipe away all my misgivings and grievances."

Seamus tried to return her smile. "Then…maybe it's one of those pains you need ter let fade. Then it won't intensify anymore."

Narcissa shook her head, but she still smiled. "If I did that, I wouldn't be myself anymore."

"If you did tha', you might feel a lil' more human than you might expect."

Her face twisted its features until she looked positively curious and thoughtful. Then her eyes darkened, and her brow knit together in uncertainty. "If you're shaped to be a monster, then you'll be a monster, Mr. Finnigan."

"I see a broken witch, not a monster," he retorted.

Narcissa shook her head again, but her smile had disappeared. She grabbed her cloak from her seat and headed for the door.

Seamus frowned and went after her. "Please, Miss Black—just stop a moment!" he barked when she continued to ignore him. He jogged to catch up to her and grabbed her arm. "I wasn't tryin' ter be rude!"

"You weren't rude," Narcissa replied. Her eyes rested on the ground for a brief second before she looked at him again, blue eyes meeting blue, and touched his cheek with her hand. "But you are young…and naïve. In that way, you are very lucky."

Though the breeze that blew by was cold, his cheek felt singed by her fingers. He furrowed his brow, his frown still not leaving his face. "Then maybe you need ter regain some o' tha' naïveté."

The blond witch blinked, for such a thought had never occurred to her. Then again… Narcissa smirked, looking for all the Galleons in the world like a cat that was finally feeling very victorious after a bothersome day. She removed her hand. "Still so naïve, Mr. Finnigan."

"Still all edges, Miss Black," he remarked. "But tha's not really true, is it? Otherwise you would've never been so frank back there," the Irish lad said, and he jerked his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the Three Broomsticks.

Narcissa looked apprehensive. "My life can't return to normal. Please, leave it be."

"I'm not sayin' it should be 'normal'—I'm sayin' you ought ter at least be comfortable with it." Seamus raised his eyebrows. Truly, everything was up in the air. And he was pretty sure his mind was, too, for it had to have flown off somewhere for him to have ever been friendly with Narcissa Black…right?

The witch turned and walked back into the cemetery, though Seamus followed at her side. When they came to Dean's grave once more, Narcissa stopped. "He'll always be your friend."

Seamus inhaled deeply. "Snape will 'ave always turned out ter be good," he stated gruffly.

"But the shock will go."

"Th' pain will fade."

"Nothing will be normal…" Narcissa covered her mouth with her hand, thoughtful.

"But you can at least make th' most of it." Seamus knelt once again at his friend's resting place and touched the headstone. "An'…I should. Dean wouldn't 'ave wanted me millin' around 'ere all th' time."

Another long moment of silence passed. Seamus wondered if he listened hard enough he'd hear a pin drop or a tree fall in the far off, empty Forbidden Forest. The sun was halfway out of the sky, casting the water of the Black Lake in little gem-like glitters, and only one other person was in the cemetery staring at an epitaph. All in all, the night was practically there.

The Gryffindor stood up and faced his companion. Narcissa met his stare openly and confidently, but her eyes were soft, not hard.

Narcissa kissed his cheek and patted it. "You are a sweet boy, Seamus Finnigan. Naïve and sweet."

"Then you won't mind, Narcissa Black, if I ask again—"

She quirked an eyebrow.

"Are you hungry?"