December finds the unlikely band of travelers in the Scottish highlands, camped out for a few days in the ruins of a church. It’s long-since dark already, and Dean casts the Muggle-Repelling, Muffliato, and Disillusionment Charms himself under Ted Tonks’s watchful eye.
“Excellent work,” Ted says, clapping a hand on Dean’s shoulder. “You’re a natural, son.”
“You’re a good teacher,” Dean says honestly. Those first few weeks on the run on his own, before he ran into Ted, his command of concealment charms had been weak, and he’d been relying primarily on his ability to navigate (and disappear into) the world of dodgy Muggle council estates and abandoned warehouses.
Inside the ruins of the church, Dirk, Gornuk, and Griphook have set up camp and built a fire. Dirk’s done some sort of spell to conceal the smoke that should be rising from it but isn’t. Griphook is warming the tinned beans Dean shoplifted from a Muggle grocery a few days ago and roasting the rabbit he snared on a spit. Dirk is fiddling with the Wireless, trying to tune into Potterwatch. Dean hopes Romulus or River will be on tonight -- he needs familiar voices.
When they hide out in Muggle cities, Dean invariably longs for his family -- his mum and dad, Olivia, Nicola, and Gemma. He hasn’t been able to send them any sort of communication for weeks, and they must be beside themselves with worry.
Here, though, in the Scottish highlands, even though they really aren’t close to Hogwarts at all, all he can think about is Seamus. Longing snarls through him vicious and sharp like a trapped animal. What is he doing? Is he safe? The story Dirk passed on two months ago about Neville, Luna, and Ginny breaking into Snape’s office to steal Gryffindor’s sword confirmed Dean’s suspicions that Dumbledore’s Army had re-formed at Hogwarts, and Dean’s just as sure that Seamus is a part of whatever they’re getting up to, but that makes him as anxious as he is proud. With Death Eaters running the school and rule of law essentially dissolved in the Wizarding world, it seems unlikely a rebellion, even one led by children, will be met with any leniency. Dean hopes Seamus has the sense not to get himself killed or tortured. Especially now that Dean isn't there to be the voice of sense for him.
He feels utterly useless out here, unable to do anything but run and hide and wait. He wishes for the thousandth time that he and Seamus had had the foresight to come up with some secret way to communicate over the summer before it was too late; Ted and Andromeda have charmed mirrors that they use, though Ted is careful never to take his out in view of any landmarks that might alert her to his actual location -- they’re both safer if she truly does not know where he is.
Dirk still isn’t picking up anything but static and a bit of music on the Wireless -- it sounds like Celestina Warbeck singing “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The hare has a ways to go before it’s cooked through. Griphook and Gornuk are speaking in Gobbledegook again. Dean’s started trying to learn it from them and from Dirk and he’s gotten much better, but he doesn’t have the energy now to try to follow their conversation.
He reaches into his pocket and furtively draws out the magical sketchbook that’s been his most valued possession since he worked out how to spell it in his fourth year at school. When closed and tied, it’s roughly the size of a wallet, but when he unfurls the roll of sketch tools and draws out the book, the whole lot expands and the book becomes 21cm by 30cm. The first page is always blank, and as soon as he draws on it, a new one grows in before it. The further back in the book he flips, the older the sketches, going all the way back to fourth year. Though the book appears to be standard size, there are thousands of pages; Dean uses up at least five a day, easily.
It’s clever, too, at helping him find what he’s looking for. Seamus, he thinks now, holding his wand over the open book. Pages fly by -- landscapes and cityscapes and drawings of Ted, Dirk, Griphook, and Gornuk -- until the paper stills on the last drawing he made of Seamus. It’s from his visit over the summer before all hell broke loose, and he’s sitting on the steps to Dean’s house, eating ice cream with Gemma and smiling. Dean smiles bitterly down at the image himself, before encouraging the pages to keep flipping with another flick of his wand. This time the book lands on a more detailed sketch, a Life study he somehow convinced Seamus to pose for. In it, Seamus is naked, of course, lying mostly on his stomach on Dean’s bed in his room in London. Dean remembers he was trying to work on capturing the muscles and skeletal structure of his back. Seamus is quite thin, but not scrawny -- absolutely perfect for drawing. Dean runs a finger over the lovely column of Seamus’s vertebrae, but of course all he feels is the texture of the paper. Seamus’s warm, pale skin, his smattering of raised moles, his spine, his ribs, his muscles and the rising and falling of his breath are all miles away at Hogwarts, hopefully in the dorm room he now only shares with Neville, and not somewhere more sinister.
“What’s his name?” Ted asks quietly from beside him, and Dean jumps. He didn’t even hear Ted approach -- so much for constant vigilance.
His cheeks burn in shame -- of all the pictures for Ted to see! He doesn’t even have very many of Seamus naked. But it’s far too late to hide it now, and Dean refuses to apologize for this or bullshit it away. He could be dead tomorrow. There are more important things to worry about. Or, rather, there aren’t more important things to worry about than Seamus.
“Seamus Finnigan,” Dean says hoarsely.
“Where is he now?” Ted asks.
“Hogwarts,” Dean says.
There is a pause in the conversation there where someone might say, I’m sure he’s safe. Dean appreciates that Ted doesn’t. He studies the sweep of Seamus’s eyelash over his cheek -- or rather the sweep of charcoal that Dean used to capture it all those months ago. Because of the way he’s posed, only one side of Seamus’s face is visible.
“Tell me about him,” Ted says.
For a moment, Dean isn’t sure where to begin: Irish. Causes explosions, frequently without meaning to. Dreadful temper. Juvenile sense of humor. All of these things are Seamus, yes, but they’re the other Seamus, the Seamus on the surface that everyone sees. This drawing is of the Seamus that only Dean knows, only Dean sees -- quite literally, in fact, because Seamus is profoundly self-conscious of his body and is fairly careful when changing in the dormitory or coming to and from the showers.
“He’s the most generous person I know,” Dean decides, and, as he says it, he is struck by how true it is. “Not just with things, or even with his time, but with himself. And he’s brave, too. He knows how to admit when he’s scared. And when he’s wrong. Even if he’s really wrong.” As he stares down at the sketch, he remembers the first time Seamus took off his clothes to pose for Dean. He was terrified -- he kept tensing up his muscles -- but he still let Dean scrutinize him, draw him, take this from him and keep it. He regrets, with sudden force, that he never actually reciprocated, never let Seamus see all of him. And now he might never have the chance.
Dean is startled from his regrets by Lee Jordan’s voice, which suddenly fills their corner of the ruins. “River here, with an update on recent deaths and disappearances,” he is saying from the Wireless.
“Got it!” Dirk exclaims triumphantly. “They’re getting tricky with the passwords.”
Dean slams his sketchbook shut and hurriedly winds the wrap-case of pencils and charcoal around it, tying it closed to return the bundle to its diminutive size. He shifts his focus towards the Wireless, but Ted puts a gentle hand on his arm, pressing insistently until Dean turns his head to look him in the eye.
“Dean,” Ted says. “I’m sure he knows.”
Dean nods jerkily. By the fire, Griphook is serving the food onto tin plates. The wind howls around the stone church and spills in cold gusts through the gaping holes in the ruined walls. Just a few days until Christmas. Nearly half a year since Dean has seen the people he loves. And here he is: cold. Hiding. Waiting.
But not alone.