Chapter 67

It was Seamus' turn to brush the cat. She malted so much she needed brushing at least once a week and absolutely hated being groomed magically. Grooming spells always worked in a pinch but whenever he or Harry had tried it she'd always found a way to get her revenge, it just wasn't worth it.

Seamus sat cross legged in the middle of Harry's bed, it was one of the few things they actually used the bed for, running a comb through Simba's fur as she purred contentedly.

Across the room on Seamus' bed, Harry was anything but content. It was the day after the Hogwarts quidditch win and they'd been greeted at breakfast by the Daily Prophet. The front page had been emblazoned with a photograph of the winning team.

On the second page was the photograph of Harry throwing up outside the Three Broomsticks.

When the prophet had bought the picture they'd clearly decided to sit on it until the final, for both outcomes of the match it would make a good story. If they won then Harry had been caught celebrating a bit much, if they'd lost then Harry had been drowning his sorrows.

Seamus had immediately fired off an owl to his Mam, letting her know that the photo had been taken a week before and that Harry had 'taken a funny turn' after a dodgy dinner in the Hogshead and an unscrupulous reporter had taken advantage of him. His mother was very quick to believe everything printed in the newspaper. She was also very quick to believe that the British press lied at every verse end- a contradiction Seamus was more than willing to take advantage of to save his mother un-inviting Harry to their house for whatever moral reasons she might cook up.

Harry's parents, unfortunately weren't so easily tricked. He was likely in trouble either way but if they thought he'd sneaked out, unauthorised to the village and put himself in danger, then he'd most certainly be skinned alive by Mrs. Dursley when she saw him.

Harry had been writing letters all morning. He'd borrowed half-a-dozen owls from the Owlery and sent two letters, one to each parent reassuring them that he had been in school all night last night and that the photograph had been taken out of context. But that he was sorry for underage drinking.

He'd then sent an additional four letters to Sirius, Hermione's parents, Professor Lupin and Professor Burbage to try to get them to clear the air with his parents before he returned home in three days. He'd also sent a letter down to the dungeons for Snape, trying to explain the situation in the hopes that he would be able to avoid him until the end of term.

Harry sighed exaggeratedly and rolled over onto his back, looking over at Seamus upside down from the other bed. "I've never been grounded before, I don't think they know how to do that. I could just pretend it didn't happen- like not mention it until they do?"

"You've just sent a letter to everyone living at The Terrace, how are you going to play that?" Seamus pointed out, rolling Simba over to attack her other side with the comb. "I don't know what to say mate. They've fucked you over by waiting to publish it, if they'd done it straight away it would have been forgotten about in the news chaos after you won the tournament."

"I knew that the Prophet was awful but I didn't think they'd just save a picture to make up a story about me… how is that even an interesting story? I'm a teenager, getting drunk and puking up the side of a building is what teenagers do."

Ron plonked himself down on the foot of Seamus' bed, next to Harry and offered, "Your dad will know you weren't out last night. That picture in the prophet was clearly at sunset- you wouldn't have had time after he left to get into town and get that hammered."

"Would your mum see it that way if it was you, or the twins, or Ginny?" Harry asked, almost forlornly his glasses dangling from his forehead as he lay upside down.

Ron laughed, "You've got to be kidding, if it was me I'd have got the howler from my mum before the paper even arrived."

"Bet you're not feeling guilty about being a dick to those Ministry wizards any more?" Seamus asked.

Harry's only answer was a long drawn out sigh as he stared at the ceiling, his face shifting that slightly zoned out look he often adopted when stressed.

Seamus and Ron shared a look. There wasn't much either of them could say, their mothers would not be impressed if they'd been photographed drunk in the Daily Prophet- not that the Daily Prophet would want pictured of either of them.

"What time's your thing?" Ron asked Harry with a nudge, changing the subject.

"Three." Harry said, not moving from his upside-down position on Seamus' bed. "I need to go see the twins about the wands, set it up and then we're good to go. I'm not sure it's going to be that interesting, I've got big plans but I don't know if I can make them a reality- it probably won't be any more interesting than our usual training stuff."

"It's a paint battle." Ron pointed out. "Even if it doesn't turn out how you want it's still better than whatever else is going on in school this afternoon. How close can I sit to not get caught by paint splatter?"

Harry rolled his eyes, "I'll sort a bench or something for you- outside the paint splatter zone."

"Nice." Ron said, patting Harry on the stomach as he stood up and returned to where he'd been cleaning out his bedside cabinet for summer. "Moping like this isn't going to make your parents any less mad with you- no point stressing now… I found this fudge in my trunk, I think it's from Easter. Do you reckon I can risk it? Fudge doesn't go off does it?"

He held up a crumpled bag for Seamus to inspect as Harry rolled onto his belly with a groan and shuffled onto the floor to search through his floor-clothes-pile.

Seamus reached over and took the bag, giving it an experimental sniff. "It's not green, you're probably fine." As Seamus popped one of the sweets into his mouth Simba gave a demanding meow and Seamus tossed the fudge back to Ron, turning his attention back to his cat. "Tastes fine to me, doubt it will kill you."

Ron shrugged, Seamus' answer must have been adequate as he immediately reached into the bag to pick out one for himself. "I have no idea where all this stuff comes from- I don't buy new things. Why is my trunk always so full by the end of the year- like what the hell is this." Ron held up the sleeve of a purple robe from his trunk. "I've worn this once in my life, I don't think it's fit me since I was twelve. Why would it be in here."

"I swear the elves do it as some kind of joke or something. You would not believe the shit I found when I cleared under my bed the other day." Seamus said glancing to the now empty space under his bed. To be fair most of the stuff was Harry's. Harry's things seemed to have been spread out across the dormitory and even down to the common room, he really was a messy fuck Seamus mused.

"Speaking of things not fitting- has someone cast a shrinking hex on that mate?" Ron called over to Harry who had been trying to dig out his muggle sports clothes to train in.

Seamus' mouth went dry as he glanced over to Harry.

Harry had dressed himself in an old football shirt and Ron was right, it did look like someone had shrunk it.

If Seamus hadn't seen Harry wearing it the previous summer and at Christmas he would have thought he'd robbed it from a Second Year. The shirt was too tight across Harry's chest, shoulders and biceps and had ridden up slightly, displaying a strip of skin across his stomach.

He saw Harry shirtless nearly every day but this was almost obscene. "Merlin." He said before catching himself and backtracking slightly. "Is it the Quidditch or the training… or the running. Where did all that come from." Seamus asked gesturing vaguely at Harry's torso, he was starting to feel a little bit warm under his collar.

"It can't be quidditch, none of my brothers have muscles like that," Ron pointed out.

Except Bill, Seamus added mentally.

Harry grinned a grin that seemed to take over his whole face, he reminded Seamus in that moment of a kind of human golden retriever puppy. "I've been doing pull-ups and press-ups, so I can hang from my broom if I need to and then get back on easily."

Ron looked confused. "Why would you need to do that? You're not a keeper, were you planning to catch the snitch between your toes?"

This in turn made Harry pull a confused face and for a second Seamus seriously wondered what was wrong with the pair of them- he wondered if he'd been living with idiots all along and had only just noticed. If that was the case did that make him an idiot too?

Harry shrugged, glancing to admire himself in the mirror. "It seemed like a good idea at the time. I liked the idea of it."

"At the time?" Seamus repeated incredulous, turning his palms up in the universal why gesture. "That is not an 'at the time body', you have clearly been doing this for quite while."

"Oh, well yeah. But I didn't think about catching the snitch. I just thought it would be cool to be able to do it."

"What the actual fuck?" There were three thoughts playing simultaneously in Seamus' mind. Number one, he wished he had Harry's willpower to exercise to the point of having those arms on a whim. Number two, he really wanted Harry to turn around so that he could see whether these exercises had had the same effect on his back and arse as they'd had on his torso- this was the first time he'd really looked at Harry in a while. Number three, for some reason Seamus was finding Harry's combined bewilderment and delight really attractive.

Seamus felt like his brain was melting too- maybe it was catching from Ron and Harry? "You need to change, you can't go downstairs looking like that. Every girl in the school will have a fit."

Harry tilted his head slightly at Seamus, his eyes widening slightly as a smirk played on his lips. "I don't really have much else to wear, you don't reckon it's a good idea to wear these shorts too?" Harry rummaged in his trunk and held out what must have been the tiniest pair of football short Seamus had seen in his life.

Seamus held back the retort that he'd been about to vocalise and said instead, "They have to be Hermione's, no way they've ever fit you. You can't go out in them-"

"Yeah mate," Ron added, oblivious to the fact that Harry was clearly trying to get a rise out of Seamus. "Everyone will be able to see you knob straight through them, imagine the headline in tomorrow's prophet then."

"Exactly. No one wants to see that." Seamus said primly.

"Oh, I don't know I bet some people would. You're just jealous of all the attention I'd be getting if I did it."

Too fucking right, Seamus thought, it was bad enough the way girls fawned over Harry already. Seamus certainly didn't want them to see what they were missing out on.

He wondered whether there was some way for him to lure Harry away, or to get rid of Ron for that matter. They'd recently had that going-further-but-not-all-the-way conversation, seeing Harry right now Seamus definitely felt ready to act on that conversation.

"Have a heart mate," Ron said. "You're Harry Potter, you've just won the quidditch tournament, you're about to go outside and do a cool paint shooting battle game with Ginny and Neville. If you go out there in that top and those shorts what chance will the rest of us have?"

"Exactly," Seamus put in. "Are you trying to stop the rest of us ever getting girlfriends?"

"Seems pretty selfish to me."

"Yeah. Selfish."

OOOOO

Seamus found Dean sitting out by the lake, half an hour later. Dean was laid out on his stomach under a tree, feet in the air as he focused intently on the sketchpad on the floor in-front of him. Sitting on the grass next to Dean, Seamus shuffled closer and peered over his shoulder at the book.

For the last year Dean had been working on small illustrations of the castle and its grounds for his mum. It had been a project that had filled a lot of his spare time over the year but he'd illustrated the castle and its inhabitants throughout the changing seasons.

"Nice," Seamus said, nodding his head approvingly at the pencil sketch his friend was working on. He picked up the full sketch pad Dean had on the grass next to him and rolled onto his belly, propping himself up with his elbows to look at the pictures.

Seamus, as far as he was aware, was the only one Dean had shared this project with. The others knew he had been drawing the school, but they didn't realise the scale of the project. As he flicked through from the start of the book Seamus realised how much Dean had improved in the past year- it had been a while since he'd flicked through the sketch pad.

Deans' drawings had always been impressive to Seamus but now he was looking at them next to Dean's most recent pieces, he could see that the proportions and scale had been slightly off in the earlier pictures. Throughout the year Dean had experimented with a range of different mediums, both muggle and magical. Seamus' favourites were the chalk pastel, there was something nostalgic feeling about them, they were always slightly out of focus and a little bit lonely looking. There was just something about them that really appealed to him.

"I like this one." Seamus said pointing to a pastel illustration of Hagrid's hut which must have been drawn the previous Winter, snow blanketed the floor and the sky was dark but the hut seemed to be emanating warming a glow from the fireplace. "You should show it to Hagrid- or put a copy on a Christmas card for him next year. He'd love it."

Dean glanced over to the picture and cast a critical eye over it. "I might re-do it for him, I didn't get the roof right." He traced his finger over the slope of the thatched roof. "It's the wrong angle and I couldn't work out how to do the thatching realistically, I could do a better job now I reckon."

"Has your mum seen any of these yet?"

"I sent her a pencil sketch of the Great Hall a couple of months ago, but she hasn't seen many."

Seamus continued to flick through the sketch book, he didn't really ever have much cause to think about his dad but he did wonder whether, if he'd stuck around, he'd have been curious about Seamus' school.

"Does your mum know much about Hogwarts?"

"She's read 'Hogwarts A History' and asks a lot of questions about school, but I'm not sure she really knows about it. All of this is so different to life as a muggle, it's hard to explain to them. It's all so normal to me now but when I go home it reminds me how much I've changed. I'm part of a different world, one we didn't even know existed up until four years ago."

"Do you think the pictures will help explain? There is something magical about them, they just feel like Hogwarts."

Dean shrugged, still idly shading his current sketch of the castle. "I'd like to think so. Harry's dad and brother visiting made me think though, they've got to see Hogwarts but they still don't get it. It's a day drip- a weekend away. They get to visit our world but they don't live in it."

"Do you feel the same about the muggle world?" Seamus lived in a muggle community which had a disproportionately large magical population. He kind of lived between the magical and muggle world, one foot in each. He'd always had a fair understanding of both, just like Harry. That was unusual for a Hogwarts student, usually it was one or the other.

"I don't know. I've missed stuff from the muggle world, but I think I could fit back in fairly easily, if I wanted to." Dean closed his sketch book and rolled over onto his back. "It's mad to think how much my life has changed in the last four years. I know you've lived a bit in the muggle world but this is just so different to how my life was supposed to go."

"Different better or different worse?" Seamus asked.

"Different better, I think. Think how many muggles are out there and they have no idea about this place, about magic. It's insane. I don't think you can appreciate it- or see it when you're raised magical. They really have no idea about this, about any of it, and it makes it so much more special." Dean gestured vaguely around the grounds, his voice almost cracking with the emotion he was trying to convey.

Seamus hadn't really ever thought of it that. He'd stayed at Dean's house a couple of times over summer but Dean's family all knew about magic and seemed to take it in their stride. He almost couldn't imagine someone having absolutely no idea about magic, about their world.

"You're such a fucking artist." Seamus said finally, "You notice things and appreciate them. Some of the things you've drawn in your pictures I could have gone my whole seven years at Hogwarts without noticing- like this. Where even is this?" He pointed to a drawing of what looked like an archway carved ornately with the four house animals.

Dean glanced at the picture, then up at Seamus incredulously. "It's in the Entrance Hall, above the doors into the Great Hall."

"You're kidding mate, I've honestly never seen it before."

Dean snorted, "You've just got to pay more attention to what's going on around you."

Seamus lay back on the ground, folding his arms under his head, closing his eyes against the glare of the sun. It was hot, the sun shone down on them radiating heat onto every bit of exposed skin on his body. He relaxed into the grass, this was it- the official start of summer. They had no lessons left and could now really enjoy the weather and the grounds for the last few days before they'd go home.

They lay in comfortable silence for several minutes, soaking in the sun, the smell of the grass and the sounds of the school before Dean, without moving an inch said. "Muggle or magical?"

Seamus grinned, he'd almost forgotten about this game. They hadn't played it since they were homesick Second Years. "Have you got one in mind- now you've got more insight into the magical side?"

"Sweets." Dean offered.

"Muggle."

"Really?"

"Give me jelly beans and a marathon any day over Bertie Botts' and and chocolate frogs." Sweets didn't need magic Seamus thought, they were good enough without charms and weird flavours. "I don't like snacks that try to trick you."

"Didn't you ever read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when you were little? Magical sweets are like everything good about being a little kid again."

"Speaking of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- muggle or magical books?"

"Muggle." Dean replied immediately.

"I'm going to say muggle, with the caveat that magical fairytales are better."

"I wasn't aware we got caveats in this game. I disagree about the fairytales, you have clearly not heard enough muggle ones, but anyway, clothes?"

Seamus said 'magical' at the same time as Dean said 'muggle'.

"Music?" Seamus asked.

"Muggle- no question."

"Yeah, same. I swear the last 15 years or so have been insane for muggle music. One thing I hate about being at Hogwarts is a lack of muggle wirelesses- there aren't enough days in the holidays to catch up."

"Sport?"

"Magical."

"Muggle."

Seamus sat up, appalled. "Are you actually going to sit there and try to tell me that football is better than quidditch?"

Dean laughed and propped himself up. "I knew this would be controversial. I love quidditch, but that's essentially magic has to offer in terms of sport. It doesn't compare to muggle sports- we don't have a magical Olympics we just have quidditch and quidditch isn't as good as all the muggle sports combined. It just isn't."

Seamus shot Dean a look of reluctant acceptance and nodded. "Fine, I'll allow it. Don't go saying that in the dormitory though, Harry and Ron will disown you. Um, magical or muggle… school?"

"Easy. Magical. What about celebrities?"

Seamus thought about that, he wasn't even sure what constituted a celebrity or what about them he was supposed to actually like. "Magical I suppose… Harry's a sort of celebrity isn't he? He was in the paper this morning- they do that to celebrities."

"But there are more muggle celebrities."

"That was your argument for sport too, you can't play it twice."

"This game has developed so many rules since last time we played. Muggle celebrities are really attractive, like some of the actresses are really fit. I can't think of any magical ones other than Harry and some famous quidditch players- do you reckon Harry'll be offended that I said muggle actresses are fitter than him?" Dean joked with a laugh. "He does make a good celebrity to be fair."

Seamus nodded thoughtfully, fit actresses weren't going to make him cast his vote against Harry.

It made him feel guilty that he hadn't told Dean yet. He didn't think Dean would mind in fact he knew Dean wouldn't mind. Dean told him everything, about his homesickness, about his illustrations, about how Padma Patil had sucked him off in a broom cupboard on the fourth floor after the Yule Ball, about how jealous he was of Ron's relationship with his siblings and even his fears that his step-dad and sisters liked him less now that he was a wizard.

He could trust Dean, but if he told Dean would they have to tell Ron and Neville? It wouldn't be fair not to and once all three of them knew that would be a lot of people who knew. Too many people.

He'd recently come to a kind of impasse with regards his newish sexual identity. To begin with, it was definitely not a phase, he was sexually attracted to men and it didn't matter how guilty and embarrassed it made him feel, that fact was not going to change- not that he really wanted it to. He also really cared about Harry, cared so much it was scary. He couldn't even do an audit of those feelings because they were something too big and frightening to even look at right now- once he opened that door he wouldn't be able to close it again.

So he'd come to a realisation that he had to accept being bisexual, if he only fancied girls then he couldn't be with Harry. But at the same time he found the whole thing terrifying and embarrassing and every single time he kissed Harry there was this nagging feeling of guilt in the back of his mind because his mam definitely wouldn't approve and maybe neither would his friends back home or the rest of his family.

"Sorry, you could offer up a thousand fit actresses but I'm not voting against Harry even hypothetically. I'd be a dead man."

"Are you off to watch his thing this afternoon?" Dean asked, sitting up and shielding the sun from his eyes as he looked over to Seamus?

"Ron reckons it's going to be worth watching." Seamus said with a casual shrug, as though he hadn't really thought about it. "If it's all running about and ducking behind stuff, they're going to fucking melt in this heat. Not sure how long it's going to go on for but you wouldn't catch me running more than ten metres with the sun out like this."

"I honestly can't remember the last time I saw you run."

"Too fucking right. It's entirely unnecessary, we already get a tonne of exercise just going up and down all those stairs every day- it's probably why wizards all live so long, our muscles have got strong from all the steps. You won't catch me running unless it's an absolute emergency."

OOOOO

Harry had set up a sort of battleground just beyond the quidditch pitch on the edge of the forest. He'd transfigured little fences to mark a boarder around a fifteen metre square patch of ground and had dispersed various boulders and fallen tree limbs across the space to create obstacles.

When Seamus and Dean arrived at the battleground they found Ron, Hermione, the Weasley twins and Luna Lovegood sitting on a row of benches Harry had set up on one side of the pitch. Harry himself was stood in the middle of the battlefield doing warm up stretches with Neville and Ginny.

As they made their way over to the benches Seamus quietly wondered when Luna Lovegood had joined their friendship group. He didn't mind it per-se but he'd spent the last few months wrapped up in Harry it seemed like she'd suddenly gone from someone they didn't really know, to a permanent fixture. He wondered what else he'd missed this year with his new focus on Harry.

Fred and George began explaining their part in the set-up, as the trio in the middle of the battle field continued to warm up. They'd been responsible for creating the wands Harry would be using but they'd also created some tricks and traps to create more of a challenge for the participants.

It wasn't really a spectator sport and the battle began without any fanfare. One minute Harry, Neville and Ginny were stood in the middle of the field as Harry seemed to be giving some kind of instruction and the next they were duelling.

For the first twenty or so minutes they seemed to begin with a fairly standard one vs one duels, no obstacles or anything extra. They'd duel for several minutes blocking, dodging and getting hit by blue, yellow and purple paintballs until one of them was hit by a red and then they'd switch with the person observing.

The paintballs moved fast, like proper spells and seemed to hit hard too. Even from the benches Seamus could hear the slapping noise the paintballs made as they impacted against bare skin or else a grunt or hiss of pain from the person being hit.

He was pleased to see that Harry seemed to be getting the most hits in, but the other two were giving as good as they got. Both Ginny and Neville seemed to fight more aggressively when up against Harry. Those duels were faster and more exciting both Harry and his opponent taking every opportunity to get in as many hits as they could, as quickly as they could.

As suddenly as these duels began, they stopped. One second Neville and Ginny were duelling; circling each other like tigers, both slower to cast spells when up against each other. Ginny cast a spell at Neville, her whole body twisting gracefully with the movement of her wand. The spell hit Neville hard in the shoulder, a mist of purple spreading across his shirt. Neville immediately fired back and Ginny blocked, his paintball impacting against her shield and spreading yellow paint into the air. The previous spell had barely even hit Ginny's shield before a second followed, hitting Ginny square in the chest and causing her to stumble back as red paint exploded over the front of her robes.

Seamus was expecting Harry to step back in and replace either Neville or Ginny so that the duels could continue but instead, as if on cue, the trio retreated to the other end of the battlefield. There was no introduction to the duels, or any effort on Harry's part to explain the challenges.

That didn't mean Seamus wasn't enjoying it, he was. He liked getting to see Harry like this, active, entirely focused and without the peril associated with the specific way Harry flew his broom. Even without the perk of getting to watch Harry, the duelling was exciting and Fred and George's explanation of their role in proceeding suggested that there was a lot more to come.

Some of Harry and Ginny's Quidditch friends had joined them on the benches and a small crowd had begun to gather around the pitch, they weren't exactly spectators but students who had previously been sitting together by the lake or on the quidditch pitch had moved slightly closer to Harry's battleground in order to keep one eye on events.

The second round began as a two against one match and this time they were using green paint which Seamus assumed was supposed to be the killing curse. The team of two seemed to be playing Death Eater whilst the objective for the person on their own seemed to be just to stay alive as long as possible. This time they were using the full course and there seemed to be an element of stealth involved.

After watching a few rounds the rules became more apparent to Seamus, the Death Eaters only used green paint, the others used whichever colour their wand shot; Harry had blue, Ginny purple and Neville yellow plus red for Stupefy. If hit by a red the Death Eaters had to stay down until revived by a team mate and if the non-Death Eater was hit by a green the game ended and they changed teams. Added to the mix, one of the Twins' traps seemed to be various motion activated alarms and fireworks that seemed to go off without warning, alerting everyone on the field to each other's locations.

Seamus had assumed at the beginning that the objective for the non-Death Eater was to just stay alive as long as they could until one particularly tense game where Harry and Neville were hunting Ginny and she managed to catch them both with red before either could revive the other.

Seamus hadn't even realised that there had been a way for Ginny to win this game and found himself cheering, along with the other spectators as Harry and Neville, who hadn't been expecting it either, pulled Ginny into a hug, roaring in delight.

The second game lasted just over an hour and by the end of it all three participants were dripping with sweat and looked exhausted. It was nearing four o'clock and it hadn't got any cooler since lunch time, even Seamus felt too warm just sitting on a bench watching.

This time when they took their break they came over to the benches where Hermione handed Harry a backpack filled with water, fruit and flapjacks.

"You've absolutely nailed it mate." Harry said to Fred as he collapsed onto a patch of grass in front of the benches. "They're absolutely perfect, feel like proper wands too- really easy to wield. That fucking paint though." He pulled down the front of his shirt to display a purple welt that was already showing just below his collar bone.

"Yeah, we need padding or something next time. The paint's brutal." Ginny said in agreement, reaching forward to accept an apple Hermione had offered her.

All three of them were absolutely covered in paint and still breathing heavily from their exertions. Neville had emptied an entire bottle of water over his head and collapsed backwards onto the grass, eyes closed.

"How does it look from over here?" Harry asked, propping himself up on his knees and facing the group as a whole. "It feels like we're doing well but maybe it's like when you're running and feel like you're going fast but actually you're not?"

"It looks great from where we're standing," said Montague, who had joined them along with Cedric, Davis and a few girls from Beauxbatons. "If there's time after you've done I wouldn't mind a go at this myself."

There were a few murmurs of agreement and Harry shared a gleeful look with the Weasley Twins. "I reckon we'll be done in an hour or two- seven at the latest. Tell you what mate, if you can get down to the kitchens and sort us some dinner, so we can stay out here, I'm happy for anyone to have a go." He glanced again to Fred and George. "If you're okay with that?"

It seemed like a nice, spontaneous idea of Harry's, but Seamus couldn't help but wonder if this was all part of Harry's plan to avoid seeing Severus until after he'd had a chance to get his parent's on side.

Fred shrugged, "That could work. We've got a few spares we could add to the mix."

George glanced out to the field and then back to Harry. "We've tested them, you've tested them. They're safe. If we get them all back by the end and some substantial feedback on functionality and usability this could work in our favour. Are you thinking duels or a team game?"

"It'll have to be duels, possibly games another day?" Harry suggested.

They were certainly up to something, Harry and the twins clearly had bigger plans for the paint wands that they'd yet to share. Seamus glanced over to Hermione to see if she'd step in, either to chastise them for planning to raid the kitchens or at least question why they were apparently using other students as test subjects. However, Hermione seemed to have no reaction whatsoever. In fact, if anything she also seemed to be in on the plotting. For some reason that bothered Seamus.

Seamus knew that Harry and Hermione were like siblings and he tried not to let himself be jealous but it always felt like she was one step ahead of him. Every time he learnt something new about Harry, Hermione seemed to know it first. It was uncanny the way they could anticipate each other's needs and wants, Seamus would watch some mornings when they'd communicate entirely non-verbally, working completely in synch. On more than one occasion he'd seen one of them begin preparing a drink at the breakfast table and hand it to the other at the exact moment that they arrived and sat down.

It made him feel guilty, being jealous of Harry and Hermione. Somehow it felt wrong to be jealous of their relationship. He didn't even really know if they behaved like typical siblings or not, he'd seen Fred and George do similar but never any of the other sets of siblings he knew.

Not for the first time, Seamus wondered if he'd missed out on some kind of essential childhood experience by being an only child. It left him with an isolated feeling that, out of all his friends, only Neville seemed to get.

OOOOO

The final game Harry, Neville and Ginny played was a kind of treasure hunt game. A bell had been hidden somewhere in the course and they had to race to find it and bring it back to their designated corner.

Across the course were the same fireworks and alarms from the previous game along with a teleporting swamp, trip wires, paint grenades, a patch of ground that seemed be super sticky and a similar patch that was extraordinarily slippery. When found, the bell rang continually alerting the other players to its location and giving them the chance to steal from its possessor to take it back to their own corner.

There was something about Harry taking part in the games that was unexpectedly attractive to Seamus. He always got a bit flustered watching Harry play Quidditch, but this combat style game was something entirely different.

There had been one particular moment when Harry had come close to the benches and had to duck to avoid a volley of yellow paint from Neville. He'd landed on his chest breathing heavily and had then crawled, commando style between boulders to sneak up on Neville and ambush him from the other side.

He wasn't sure if it was the way the muscles in Harry's thighs and arse flexed as he crawled across the pitch, or if it was absolute confidence and determination with which he tackled the course, but Seamus found himself shifting uncomfortably on the bench planning out how he would get Harry alone after the games were over.

The game ended an hour later. Harry had taken possession of the bell and was so focused on avoiding a paint grenade that he ran straight into a teleporting swamp and promptly sank up to his knees. Ginny leapt from a boulder and snatched it from Harry with Neville close on her heels. By the time Harry had managed to haul himself out of the swamp Neville had taken the bell from Ginny and was steps away from his own corner.

As Neville passed the line marking out his corner the bell immediately stopped ringing and the the Weasley's traps vanished.

All three of them, Harry, Neville and Ginny looked utterly triumphant as they met in the middle of the field. They were sweating, exhausted and covered with paint- Seamus noted with a little bit of smugness that Neville and Ginny were sporting a lot more of Harry's blue paint than he was of either of their colours.

Not long before the game had ended, Montague and a few others had returned with several heaped baskets of sandwiches, roast potatoes and jam tarts. They'd set up a sort of makeshift picnic blanket from their various outer robes and jackets and Harry, Neville and Ginny made a beeline to them, vaulting the fences around the battleground and collapsing onto the various robes.

"Mate, you were amazing." Seamus said to Neville, who had sat on the mat closest to Seamus and Dean. He clapped him on the back and reached forward, offering the other boy a sandwich.

"Yeah, I had no idea you could do all that stuff." Dean added in agreement. "I get why you've been out here training so much now."

"That was like an afternoon off compared to some of the session Harry's put us through, but it's nice to see how far I've come, I wouldn't have even been able to manage all the running and jumping this time last year."

The change in Neville had been so gradual over the year that Seamus had barely taken note but he'd definitely got leaner, his face had thinned out and Seamus wasn't sure if it was due to weight loss, a change in posture or even just confidence, but Neville even looked taller. "And now you've just beaten Harry and Ginny." Seamus pointed out.

Neville rolled his eyes, but a hint of a grin pulled at the edge of his mouth. "I won one game and it was mostly just luck. If Harry hadn't fallen in the swamp and Ginny hadn't slipped on that ice patch…"

"But that was all part of the game, you won because you didn't fall in the swamp or slip on ice," Dean said, letting out a puff of breath as he picked up one of the roast potatoes and immediately dropped it again. "Careful, they're still really hot."

"Exactly," Seamus agreed, "and Harry and Ginny have both been training for more time and they've been doing quidditch too. You were really impressive out there and did you see all the people watching? There were some fifth year lasses definitely eying you up."

Neville blushed and attempted to wave their comments off. "I didn't think I'd enjoy all this so much. I've been writing to my Gran about it and she's absolutely thrilled, I don't think she's ever written such pleasant letters."

Seamus wondered if that was an only child thing too, like Neville he was a bit of a mammy's boy. Maybe if you didn't have brothers and sisters to worry about you got more wrapped up in what your parents, or parent in Seamus and Neville's case, were doing. It bothered Seamus slightly when Neville brought up his Gran's opinions, it made him all too conscious of how often he brought up his Mam and her ideas.

"Well I'm not surprised, I bet she's well proud of you. And as a bonus no one in school is gonna try and cross you three any time soon, after that show. Are we gonna have to start paying you off to protect us from Weasley?"

"Fucking Weasley mate." Dean said admiringly. "You're going to have all the girls chasing you but I don't know if that has hurt or helped her chances- the Quidditch too I suppose. It's confused me, that's for sure."

"Sexy but terrifying." Seamus mused. Ginny had absolute confidence on the battlefield, it was definitely attractive but also alarming, he'd always known how dangerous Harry was but he hadn't really seen that in Ginny before. Neville's fighting hadn't been the same. Both Harry and Ginny were vicious, they brandished their wands like swords, slashing at the air and showing no mercy. They acted without hesitation, firing off spells almost before they'd even thought of them. Neville on the other hand was just determined. There was less passion in his fighting and more of a sense that he was doing what needed to be done. It was scary in his own way, Neville was purposeful and almost couldn't be stopped, he thought, he calculated and he was unwavering.

"I kind of liked it." Dean said.

"I think everyone liked it. You can't go there though mate… well you could, but don't blindside Ron with it or anything."

"Ron doesn't really think he gets a say though does he? Weasley's not going to like it if he starts interfering in who she wants to start seeing."

"Well no, she can handle her self but you're one of his best mates. Best mates don't go out with their best mates sisters. You wouldn't like it if we went out with your sisters."

"Yeah but my sisters are six."

"You know what I mean."

"Have you got your eye on her? You did disappear off at the end of the Yule ball…" Dean asked, waggling his eyebrows suggestively. "Because if that's the case, I get it."

Seamus blushed, wondering what Dean would say if he did know where he'd disappeared off to at the end of the ball. "No, of course not. I just think you can't go about asking out your best mate's sister and expect him not to be annoyed, even if he doesn't actually get a say in who she goes out with."

"That's assuming she even would go out with me, she's fit and tough. That probably puts her out of our league."

"Hang on, since when was I in the same league as you?"

"Are you saying you're more of a catch than me?"

"I've got an accent. Girls like an accent."

"I mean, if we're looking at success rates then I'm in a whole other league, mate. Also I'm better looking."

"Not a fucking chance."

It wasn't until later that Seamus realised that Neville had been conspicuously quiet and entirely focused on his sandwich as soon as the topic of Ginny came up. He wondered whether he needed to have a serious chat with Dean about him pursuing Ginny romantically.

The evening felt like one of those evenings you looked back on fondly. It was a warm evening and they stayed out until dark. Once the food had been eaten, Harry cleared a space in his battleground and they took turns using the wands to have practise duels. There was a friendly, relaxed buzz in the air and Seamus found himself relaxing in the company of the students from other houses who seemed to have been drawn in by Harry's demonstration.

As the evening wore on and it began to get dark, students began to make their way up to the castle. Seamus found himself walking with Ginny and, when he looked around at the group walking back to the castle, couldn't see Harry anywhere.

"Where's Harry?"

"He's got to clean up the battleground and then lock the spare wands in the changing room, it was one of the conditions for McGonagall to let us to the tournament."

"Is anyone helping him?"

"Wouldn't let me or Neville, you know what he's like when he decides to be all noble and giving."

"Cover for me?"

"Do I really need to cover for you? When people don't see you at the castle I don't think anyone is going to assume you ran off into the night to snog Harry."

"So that's a yes then?" He bumped Ginny with his shoulder in a friendly way. "You were great out there today, looked really fit- I think Dean and Neville both fancy you."

Ginny put a hand to her heart in a mock swoon. "Two suitors? What a perfect outcome from today. That's why Harry planned it you know, to ensnare the boys."

"I did assume it was all to put on a show just for me. If it was I've definitely been ensnared."

"Well off you go then, go be ensnared. If he's not at the pitch he'll be at the changing rooms."

Seamus set off back towards the battleground and, in the distance he could see Harry finishing up moving the boulders back into place. He decided to cut across the Quidditch pitch in order to meet Harry by the changing rooms.

On the left hand side of the changing rooms there was an old stone broom shed which backed out onto the forest. The gap between the shed and the changing rooms was about a metre wide and dark. When Harry cut through the gap Seamus followed, calling to him.

Harry, it seemed, had realised that someone was following and Seamus realised a second two late that this perhaps hadn't been the best course of action, not when Harry was already always on edge and had just spent the afternoon in battle mode.

Seamus wasn't exactly sure how it happened but one second he'd shouted Harry's name and the next he was on his back, Harry straddling his chest with his wand pressed hard into his throat.

"Harry, it's me. What the fuck?"

Harry blinked and seemed to hesitate for a second before his resolve clicked back into place. "Prove it."

"Oh for fuck's sake. How would someone even know to impersonate me?" Harry's only response was to press the wand harder against his throat. "Just so you know, that's not my wand in my pocket…"

"What did you call me, that night in the pub, when I was drunk?"

"Is this just a ploy to get me to say it again? Because, if I'm being honest amhuirnín, this isn't exactly a turn off." Seamus wasn't sure why he was trying to tease Harry, or why he couldn't shut up. He knew he should never have snuck up on Harry and that Harry wouldn't hurt him intentionally but the whole thing was kind of scary, kind of arousing and massively confusing.

Harry reached his hand down the front of Seamus' robes and, misunderstanding Harry's intention, Seamus leant up to try and kiss Harry. A second later Harry pulled out Seamus' necklace and Seamus collapsed back on the grass frustrated. "Look, I know you're being all Professor Moody 'constant vigilance' stuff but you've got to think about this rationally. Is a Death Eater really going to sneak into school alone, get hard when you straddle them, then try to kiss you and call you mo mhuirnín?"

"I need to be sure. I know it doesn't seem rational, but please let me be sure." Harry looked almost embarrassed as he held up Seamus' necklace. "Show me what this does."

"Fine, you're going to have to let me get up so that I can reach my wand." Seamus stood and pulled out his wand and as he reached to take the necklace from Harry he caught sight of the wand that Harry was gripping in his hand. "Were you planning to paintball me to death if I turned out to not be me?"

Harry looked pained. "Please Shay."

Seamus sighed and pulled out his wand, tapping the necklace once to turn it into his pensive and then a second time to turn it back to the necklace. "There you go, happy now? Am I allowed to kiss you now?"

Harry looked skeptical. "Do you still want to kiss me now?"

Seamus pushed Harry back against the stone wall of the broom shed and kissed him hard, pressing their bodies as close together as he could. It still didn't feel enough. He thought back to Harry this morning in the tight t-shirt, Harry on the battlefield and even Harry pinning him down on the warm grass.

He pushed down the guilt that was bubbling up at the thought of what he wanted to do and laced his fingers though Harry's hair, deepening the kiss.

Harry broke the kiss. "So you did come to accost me?"

Seamus groaned, his lips pressed against Harrys jaw. "Why are you speaking?" Harry shrugged apologetically and recaptured Seamus' mouth with his, pulling Seamus firmly against him.

Seamus' hand snaked around Harry's waist before he dropped it to the waistband of Harry shorts, slipping the tip of one finger tentatively just below the band. Harry seemed to pause for a second then, almost questioningly imitated Seamus.

"You followed me out here so that we can wank each other off next to a broom shed?" Harry asked pulling away from Seamus and resting his head against the wall behind him. "I'm not misreading this am I? Because I really want to and you did say the other day you wanted to do more, is this more? Is this what you meant?"

"Why are you still talking?"

Harry let out a nervous little giggle that Seamus had never heard before and which made his heart swell with affection. "I think I might be nervous. I thought you didn't believe in wanking? Doesn't your man god dissaprove?"

That made Seamus pause. "My man God? My man? You've got that from me. That's an Irish phrase. I don't think anyone uses it to refer to God though. My man? I kind of like it though- you're distracting me now too, look." He was babbling, but like Harry couldn't seem to stop himself. "It just makes me feel guilty but right now I can handle guilt much better than I can handle whatever it is you've been doing to my brain all day, I haven't been able to think of anything else."

Harry grinned and leaned back in, his hand moving further below Seamus' waistband. "Well I can definitely help you with that."


AN: This is as explicit the story will get. But with the swearing suggestion of sexual activity I'm not sure if I need to change the rating. If anyone has any opinions or advice on this please met me know.

Thanks,

-Bec