This story took goddamn forever to write, and of course when I finish it I realize there has to be a damn sequel. I don't know why I do these things to myself. Seriously though, most fun I've ever had writing fic. I would love reviews.

Warnings: Swearing, child abuse (not very graphic), preslash (unless you have a very large bromance radius), a bit of an annoying ending, and an American attempting to write a combination of Irish and British culture. Please, please feel free to Brit-pick

Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns all- but I have liberally interpreted context clues to such an extent I accept my view as canon ;)

Seamus hadn't wanted them to ask.

He had planned his speech perfectly, in a way that would lead to no questions. At best, there would be scattered laughter. A shared levity over the idea of muggles didn't know about magic and some joking imagination of the surprise his dad must have felt. Seamus knew how to play off emotions, he wasn't nearly in Slytherin for nothing, and he understood that even the supposedly acceptance-savvy Gryffindors shared the superiority complex of the wizarding world. Enough to, at least, brush off his comment as further evidence of the "silly muggles."

He also knew that he had to get the conversation out of the way, lest anyone ask him about his dad without him having prepared an answer beforehand. It was just strategy.

"I'm half and half. Me dad's a muggle. Mam didn't tell him she was a witch 'till after they were married. Bit of a nasty shock for him."

He hadn't wanted them to ask, but some twisted part of him had hoped they would. He had prepared a response to their questions too, just in case. He would laugh them off and say something like, "Oh, he was jumpy around her for a while." Seamus wouldn't lie, he didn't like to, but he would twist the truth enough, be so nonchalant, that everyone would dismiss it. Or even better, masochistically so, they wouldn't take his excuses and he would finally be able to tell someone.

But they hadn't asked, and Seamus kept trying to remind himself it was better that way.

The first time he did magic he was five years old. His mam had kept a glass container full of biscuits up on the top shelf of the cabinet in the kitchen. It was shaped like a cat that had a little porcelain bow around its neck. Whenever he did something good, like cleaned up after himself without being asked, she would drag a chair over to bring them down and he would get one. Or, if his dad wasn't home, she would just take out her wand and the jar would float over, bobbing through the air.

However, on that day, she had been out with friends, and he had wanted a biscuit. Seamus knew it was a naughty thing to do, taking a biscuit without even doing something good, but he couldn't help himself. They were up awfully high though, and he grew aggravated by his futile attempts. He scowled and kicked the bottom of the cabinet, frustration building up inside him. The biscuit jar floated down to him and he beamed, selecting one with chocolate chips.

His dad rushed in from the doorway, grabbed the jar, and threw it at the wall beside Seamus's head. When he brought his arms up to cover himself some shards embedded themselves in his left arm. His dad bandaged him up, and then grabbed him by the other arm and threw him into his room.

Seamus wasn't supposed to get supper that night, but his mam snuck him some and congratulated him on being a wizard.

"Do you have any siblings?" Dean asked him after they had gone over Dean's family. Dean had three sisters whose names Seamus had already forgotten. He liked listening to the stories about them though. They were younger than Dean and liked to torment him just as much as they liked to play with him. The youngest had painted him a picture for Hogwarts that Seamus knew Dean had hidden in his trunk because he was too shy to take it out.

Seamus remembered his dad asking his mam something of the sort once. "How is it that we've been married all these years and only have one to show for it?" He snarled at her.

She smiled thinly at him, and replied with placidity. "Must be some magical complication. Who knows? God doesn't seem to want it, in any case." He stormed away and she snarled at the door he closed behind him. "If he thinks I'm giving him another given how he treats the first, he has another thing coming." She smiled warmly at Seamus and encircled him in her arms. He rubbed his nose into her neck and breathed in her scent, marveling at how well they fit together.

"Nope," he told Dean.

If they ever asked why Seamus's dad had stayed with his mam, not that they would ever know enough to ask, he would tell him his dad was Catholic and Catholics didn't just divorce right off the bat. He would make it into another joke and mention the holy water and the Hail Marys as if they where a blip in someone else's life. He would make them sound like they didn't mean anything. Just a joke, see? Silly muggles.

He definitely wouldn't tell them about how his dad had lost sleep over whether to sin through divorce or through being married to a supposed devil worshiper. How he had sought out any holy water he could find and drenched his wife and son in it. How his dad's desperate prayers every night would echo through the walls into Seamus's bedroom, and Seamus would know that it was his fault his dad was forced to sin.

Seamus wouldn't talk about the nightmares he used to have of the savior's morose eyes staring out from the bloody portrait on his dad's wall. Or how his knees had ached when his dad made him kneel in front of it for hours. He hated that painting, with its doleful expression. Religion should be something happy and beautiful, not dank, he decided. He knew if he told his dad this, he would only be forced to stay there longer.

It wouldn't matter if they knew that Seamus had the prayer memorized. They wouldn't think to wonder why that was significant. Seamus didn't let on about it either way, though. The less they knew, the safer his secrets were.

Seamus asked about how Dean's parents had reacted to the news of him being a wizard with some trepidation. They were close enough that he felt vaguely comfortable with telling Dean information in return, if he was asked, so it couldn't hurt to hear Dean's story. Seamus knew enough to understand that whatever you asked you had to be willing to divulge. That was one of the reasons he didn't ask Harry about the Dursleys. Harry was a great bloke, but Seamus didn't exactly want to tell him any of his corresponding secrets.

"Well, they were a little surprised at first," Dean smiled. Seamus felt his heart stopper as he automatically identified Dean's version of 'surprised' with his own. Then Dean went on, "but you know what my mum's like. Once the muggle studies professor proved it, she wanted books on the whole thing. She planned out Diagon Alley trips and everything. My dad went along with it. Said he didn't care as long as I still appreciated a good footie match."

"And you certainly do," Seamus grinned, although he wasn't exactly sure if he felt like smiling just then.

On the one hand, he was more than relieved that Dean's parents had reacted well. If Dean, who he was coming to recognize as one of his favorite people, had been abandoned by his family Seamus would have been furious. It was one thing for Seamus, but there would be no explanation for anyone not recognizing how absolutely wonderful Dean was.

But Seamus wanted that. Seamus wanted that acceptance so desperately it burned. He imagined his father taking him to football matches. Or better yet, to Quidditch matches. His mother using magic around the house. Just for normal things, like fixing cabinets or stirring pots. The family degnoming the garden. That damn Jesus painting a relic of somebody else's life, and his grandfather's cross on the wall instead. The jealousy tasted bitter on his tongue, and he tried to focus on how thankful he was for Dean.

"Your dad's a muggle too, right?" Dean asked. Seamus froze. It was one thing for him to tell Dean about his family life if Dean had underwent something similar, but to explain such a contrast would be too much. "How did he react?"

"Had a nasty shock," Seamus blurted out. He stressed the wrong syllables, and even though he remembered to include a laugh at the end it sounded wrong. Forced. Not at all like he had practiced. He only hoped Dean hadn't noticed.

When, on a particularly hot night close to the end of term, Ron suggested they all go and swim in the lake, Harry told them, flushing faintly, that he had never learned to swim. The other boys gaped at him. They spent the night talking about their various swim lesson stories. None of them were quite as ridiculous as the Quidditch tales they had spun during the time that they were taking flying lessons, but that made them all the more dangerous.

"I learned over the summer when I was nine," Neville said faintly. "That's a little late for someone to learn, but, well…" he trailed off.

"At least you learned, mate." Ron smiled. "I learned along with Ginny. We've got a lake not too far from the Burrow. Dad taught all of us there."

"Swimming pool for me," Dean said. "Not many lakes you can swim in around London. What about you, Seamus?"

"Dad tossed me in the lake and told me to swim," Seamus beamed at them. "You're lucky Harry; that was a right awful way to learn. Damn near drowned." He had been four at the time. His mam had thrown such a fit. She hadn't even bothered to hide her wand, just brandished it and got him out of the water. His parents didn't speak to each other for weeks.

The other boys laughed. Seamus sighed with relief, and didn't notice Dean looking at him steadily, filing the tidbit away for later.

The worst part of his dad's treatment of him wasn't the occasions, few and far between, when his dad would cuss at him or throw things. It was the other instances, the more frequent times, when his father would drift through the house not really there. He would go to work, come home, and go to bed. And do the whole cycle over again.

Not being seen was a thousand times worse than the Hail Marys.

He had honestly been worried about inviting Dean with them to the Quidditch World Cup. Not because he didn't want Dean there. Honestly, the idea of Dean being there was overwhelmingly wonderful. Dean loved Quidditch almost as much as he loved football. Seamus could just see him yelling plays to the refs and tugging on Seamus's arm to make sure he had seen something that had occurred.

Also, his mam would love Dean. She really would. He was calm and introspective, which was very different to her and Seamus, but was a personality type that meshed well with theirs. Dean had a quiet power over people that worked especially because he didn't know it was there. His mam would talk to Dean who would smile back evenly while they sat outside their tent. He would draw people passing by and flick bits of paper at Seamus.

Seamus wanted Dean to come with them more than almost anything else. The only problem was how was he supposed to explain to Dean why his dad did not join them?

The Triwizard Cup was her reward to her and Seamus, but Seamus privately thought she deserved the prize far more than he did. It was his mam that had finally decided it was over just a week after Seamus finished his third year. When he closed his eyes he could still see their personal belongings floating through the air towards her bottomless suitcase.

"You touch these, Conor Finnegan, and I promise you you'll be covered in boils and far worse," his mam shrieked as his dad, pale with rage, swiped at the floating objects.

His mam had never looked so beautiful, Seamus thought while absentmindedly rubbing his bruised arm. Her sandy hair was frizzy with fury and her quick spells were lighting up her face and casting shadows. He should have been happy. They were leaving the man who couldn't look at them without his eyes growing frosty. The man who had recently shaken Seamus so hard that he bruised.

He should have been ecstatic, but all he could do was drink in his dad's face just in case this was the last time he would see it. His greenish eyes like Seamus's, his equally freckly nose. His stomach felt sickly with guilt as he acknowledged to himself that it was his fault, in essence, that the marriage hadn't worked out. Without him, maybe his father wouldn't have felt so outnumbered by the magic in the household.

Seamus asked Dean to come with them anyway, because he mam said he should and he really, really wanted to. It went just like he thought it would. Dean and Seamus helped his mam decorate their tent with shamrocks and Dean poked light fun at Seamus's intense support for Ireland.

"Really? You support Ireland, mate? Wouldn't have guessed, what with you being so subtle about it."

"Piss off," Seamus responded good-naturedly, as he relished the easiness of his and Dean's friendship.

He decided not to say anything until Dean inevitably asked. Dean finally broached the subject that night, his cot close enough to Seamus's that he could hear him breathing if he listened carefully.

"Shay," Dean started awkwardly, and Seamus's skin prickled at the familiar nickname. He observed how Dean thoughtlessly scratched one of his hands, something he did when he was vaguely anxious, and knew the question was about to arrive. He mentally prepared himself. Quidditch makes dad nervous. Something that wasn't a lie, but not completely true."I didn't take your dad's seat, right?"

That was so Dean, to worry about something so off the mark, but so bloody noble. However it threw Seamus off balance enough that he butchered his reply. "Nah mate, don't worry. He wasn't going to come anyway." Inwardly, Seamus winced. Why was it that he was so awful at lying when it came to Dean? Dean was the person to who his responses were most important, because he was around Seamus enough to piece it together if he tried.

And why the hell didn't Dean ask? He had certainly been given enough opportunity.

However, Dean just looked at him thoughtfully and cuffed him on the shoulder before turning to sleep.

Seamus privately thought that his parents never would have broken up had he not bruised. His knew that his mam saw the shape of fingers on his wrist and immediately thought of all the other times she had to let him remain that way, because to heal him magically would only make the situation worse.

"And don't use your unnatural garbage on him either," his father would sometimes say on his worse days after he had boxed Seamus around the ears or something similar. "Part of the lesson is the normal healing process."

Sometimes Seamus would rather have been bruised a hundred times over if he could just go back to the way things were, the whole family living together. It wasn't all bad.

The good times. The good times were when his father's sister came to visit. She was all smiles because she didn't know about Seamus or his mam, and because she didn't know his dad could pretend that they were normal. She would coo over Seamus's sandy hair that curled just a bit and gush over how much he'd grown. His dad would sometimes pat him gently on the shoulder under her praise, like Seamus was actually his son.

The good times were when Seamus had caught a fish in the lake a little while away from the O'Neill's property. He had done it properly too, no magic, no charms, only a rod and a carefully speared worm. It hadn't been a big fish. If he were to be honest, it was a mite scrawny. But the look on his dad's face. Faint approval softened his eyes and the corner of his mouth tipped upwards slightly. They had that fish for dinner, and although they had all gone to bed slightly hungry (even his mam's salad hadn't offset how damn small it was) Seamus's stomach felt more full than it had ever before.

The good times were when his father was in a good mood for no apparent reason and would spin his mam through the house 'just like how they used to dance.' Seamus would put on an old Christy Moor record and watch his mam's shoulders carefully relax. Sometimes his mam would even allow herself to smile at the man she had once loved.

There were good times.

Seamus started the fourth year not quite believing that Harry put his name into the goblet, but willing to be noncommittal because Ron had latched on to him and Dean in the absence of his good relations with Harry and needed people to listen to him. Once in a while Seamus wondered resentfully why Ron couldn't spend time with Neville. Neville was an alright guy, Seamus got on quite well with him, and Neville kind of orbited around nothing so if anyone deserved someone to hang about with, it was him.

However, Seamus forced himself to remember, Neville also deserved someone who would not just be using him as a backup friend, as Ron was using him and Dean. It was alright for them, because after Ron patched his holes with Harry, Seamus would still have Dean and Dean would still have Seamus. Neville would have only been left with an absence had Ron sutured himself to him.

Seamus had tried to include Neville with them from time to time over the years, but Neville always drifted off, and shamefully, Seamus did little to reel him back in. He knew it was because he wanted Dean to himself, but it was still a pretty shoddy thing to do, leaving Neville to coast alone. He just couldn't bring himself to change that.

Seamus frequently had to remind himself that he actually liked Ron. Ron was funny in the rare opportunities he snapped out of his melancholy over his teetering friendship with Harry. He was also loyal if his furious glares towards Malfoy when he badmouthed Harry and Hermione (if Harry wasn't in the room) were anything to go by. But Ron was also a new face in the familiarity of Dean and him, and Seamus wasn't all too thrilled at that.

Dean was patient, of course. In a way Seamus couldn't be. He allowed Ron to trail off of them, and even invited him to come to Hogsmeade with them. "Not that I don't like Ron, mate, but I don't see how you do it. He's driving me mental, he is."

Dean's brows furrowed and he looked at Seamus carefully as was his habit. Dean always looked at Seamus as if he was putting every single thing he said to memory. It made Seamus feel prickly and nice, like he mattered. "How so?"

Seamus shrugged, "I just liked it before, is all."

Dean's expression cleared. "He's just a bit ridiculous right now because he's trying to be mad at Harry for whatever reason, I haven't really been listening to his rants. Anyway, the second he sees the first task he'll be right back at Harry's side." Seamus quirked his brow so Dean elaborated. "Well the tournament's supposed to be dangerous, innit? He's not going to let Harry go through something dangerous alone." Dean said confidently.

Seamus reminded himself of this when Ron came with them and spent nearly the entire time grousing over Harry's arrogance, treachery, and overall bad nature. However, he couldn't keep his tongue for long. He snapped about a week or so before the first task.

"It's just," Ron griped once again, his lanky body sprawled out over his bed, "why wouldn't he bloody say something? We're supposed to be best mates!"

"Hmm," Seamus said.

"And I have to tell you I am getting a little sick of it always being the Potter hour. Harry's a nice bloke and all, but he isn't all that. People think about him way too much."

"Which is exactly what you're doing here, of course," Seamus muttered, a bit more loudly than he had intended.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Ron's voice raised slightly and he sat up on his bed into a more confrontational position.

"It's supposed to mean that if you actually didn't care about him you would just let it die already, for fuck's sake! But no, all day and every day it's all 'curse Harry' and how Harry betrayed you. It's driving me mental!"

"Yeah, well you can take that shoddy attitude and shove it!" Ron's face was thunderous and his ears bright red. In any other circumstance the red of Ron's ears would have made Seamus giggle, at least internally. Right now though he missed having Dean to himself and he missed the Ron who didn't constantly complain and hang around like a bad smell

"You know you used to be a lot more fun before you became a whiny brat!" Seamus shouted. "Fer Christ's sake, get over it! If you had really dumped him as a friend you would be done talking about it!"

Ron sputtered incoherently and leapt off his bed, a move that Seamus followed.

"This is ridiculous," Dean said mildly from behind his Charms work before anything physical could result. "You're both being prats. Seamus, relax and apologize, you're acting like an idiot. Ron, stop being an even bigger idiot and make up with Harry because you're miserable without him." Ron and Seamus breathed heavily for a couple of minutes, glaring at one another and sending rebellious looks towards the back of Dean's head, before going back to their own beds and reading with surly brows.

What Dean had said to Ron was exactly what Seamus was trying to convey, but of course, Dean was able to do it in a way that didn't have Ron foaming at the mouth. Seamus wished he had that ability, but for the moment he was just grateful Dean did.

Later, when Dean had gone to the toilets, Seamus swallowed his pride, something he was well accustomed to due to the explosive temper that had him diving head first into arguments. "Ron, I'm sorry, yeah? I was out of line."

Ron's hunched shoulders relaxed somewhat. "I am jealous of Harry," he said dully. "How could I not be?"

If Seamus had been any good with words he would have said something about how being friends meant you could play up on each other's strengths and make up for each other's flaws. Since he wasn't good with words he just said "No one thinks about you as less, 'specially not Harry." Ron's brow furrowed, but he said nothing and the air eased between them somewhat.

Later, Seamus also apologized to Dean for letting it get that bad. "It's alright, mate," Dean said easily, but not without solemnity. "You have a temper. Just make sure you learn to reign it in before it gets you in trouble."

Seamus promised he would try, but then You-Know-Who was back and Harry went off on his mam.

This is how it had happened: It had all came down to which his mam would prefer to believe; that You-Know-who was back and going to start killing people (possibly even her son) or that he was a roommate of a rowdy attention seeker who couldn't leave well enough alone. The choice for her was clear no matter what Seamus tried to say.

"Harry's not like that," he tried weakly at another one of their dinners that consisted of resentful silences and loudly spoken invectives. These were becoming the norm, but they hadn't discontinued the meals altogether. "Even if You-Know-Who isn't back, and he probably isn't, Harry is more likely just mistaken or confused. He's been through a lot, mam." Seamus honestly had no idea whether he thought You-Know-Who was back or not, but he wasn't going to indicate that to his mam who was so paralyzed with fear for him.

His mam rolled her eyes and stabbed her potatoes harshly, "Don't you try to talk me down. I've been reading the prophet! He has no regard for anyone else in that thrill-seeking haze, he's going to get himself killed and everyone close to him, you mark me!" She sniffed, "and the nerve of him! Spreading such dreadful lies. I've half a mind to not send you back to Hogwarts at all. Dumbledore should be policing this insanity! Not encouraging it!"

"Mam!" The word sprang from Seamus's mouth as his stomach clenched painfully, his head a mess of Dean, Dean, Dean. "You can't do that!"

"Don't you tell me what I can't do! I have devoted me entire life to keeping you as safe as I could, don't you dare think that's stopping now!"

There was the rub of it, because for all that Seamus could fight with her he could never, ever forget her love for him. The nights she fielded his dad's fury, both the harsh words and the sporadic physical aspects. The days his dad was out and she danced around the house with him enchanting furniture to join in. Her soothing words at Seamus's heartbreak and the bandages she coated his pains with when necessary. Her hearty laugh, her strong embraces, and most of all her flashing eyes when she finally left her husband for Seamus.

The summer devolved into a mess of cold words and Seamus begging and shouting and promising to stay away from Harry. It was just Harry after all. He was a nice bloke, but his mam was everything. When she included that as a stipulation for his returning, he jumped on it. Besides, he now grappled with a festering resentment of Harry for not having just kept his mouth shut so Seamus wouldn't have to deal with this. Losing the slight friendship he had with Harry wasn't such a heavy burden.

He could not help thinking that if his mam had asked him to stay away from Dean he would put all she had done for him to shame for how fast he would have refused her.

Fifth year was incredibly lonely for a long time. Although Dean never abandoned him, his quiet disapproval (and occasionally not so quiet disapproval) cut deeply.

Seamus knew that things were all right with Harry now, or as good as they were going to be given their blowout, but he felt incomplete. Whenever he looked at Harry he felt the same guilt that had overridden him for almost half the year, but there was also a sense of something unfinished. The thing was; Harry hadn't apologized. Oh, Seamus knew he was mostly in the wrong. Harry had felt victimized by everyone and so of course lashed out at the first person that openly questioned him.

But still.

So Seamus stayed behind after a DA practice. He clenched his hands at his side and they shook because he was about to reveal more of himself to Harry than he had to anyone before. It was weird that Dean wasn't the first person he was going to talk to about this. Dean with his warm smile and warm hands and warm laugh. But Dean was gravitating towards Ginny, so Seamus had to take a step back or it was going to hurt.

"Alright Seamus?" Harry asked amiably. A good guy, Harry was.

"Erm, yeah. Can I have a minute?" Seamus answered. Harry nodded. "Okay, so this is going to sound worse than I mean it to, so give me a second to get it out."

Harry turned to fully face him. Seamus took a second to admire the patience in Harry's stance that had never been there before; DA had done far more than help the group's defense skills, Harry had a new calmness. "Okay. Right. So I wanted to talk to you about what happened."


Seamus decided to just rip it off, like a plaster, fast and hopefully painless. Or at the very least done quickly enough that he could one day go back to a time before he peppered his sentences with erms and okays. "See, I know I was wrong. You-Know-Who is back, and I get that. And I shouldn't have pressured you right then. It was in bad form," he chanced a smile which Harry returned just as awkwardly. "The thing is though, I like you quite a bit, mate, so I want to make it so nothing like that ever happens again. With me so far?"

"Sort of,"

"When people go off on me mam, even a bit, I go mental." He said, in a rush. Harry opened his mouth to defend himself, but Seamus soldiered on. "I know you didn't mean it as an attack, but, okay. Look at it like this. When you grew up, there was no one to protect you from… things, yeah?" This was the closest Seamus had ever come to hinting at Harry's probably less than ideal home life.

Harry nodded slowly, so Seamus continued. "Well, I got lucky, me mam protected me, as best she could. So, I can't help but try to, you know, do the same."

Some recognition dawned in Harry's eyes, "ah," he said quietly. Seamus fidgeted, wondering if Harry was going to ask, if Harry even knew what he meant, and cursed himself for putting himself in a position where anyone could ask. However, Harry didn't raise the question. "I didn't mean anything by it, but if we have another argument, mate, I'll be sure to steer clear of her."

Seamus was relieved, and they parted under the innate understanding that nothing was going to be said about the conversation that occurred. Some of him wanted to finally reveal everything that had happened when he was a kid, he knew for sure that Harry wouldn't pity him for it, but Seamus also knew that telling Harry everything wouldn't be right. Somewhere inside him, he was still waiting for Dean, and Dean alone, to ask.

Seamus had never known anyone he hated more than Ginny Weasley other than Dean when he was with her; and he was always with her. The problem was that Ginny wasn't necessarily hate-able. She was a fecking mess of good qualities; like God didn't bother breaking the mold the make her but rather expanded it just for her. She was funny as anything, a witty sort of funny more than slapstick. She was moral and kind, like Dean. She was so damn beautiful that it had Seamus wanting to scratch her stupid brown eyes out. The worst thing that could be said for her was that she had a bit of a temper, but Seamus was hardly one to talk.

But he rarely ever saw Dean anymore, and he couldn't help blaming her for it. Dean would smile at him when they woke up and wish him a "morning, mate" and sit next to him in class, but immediately afterwards he'd swan off to find stupid Ginny Weasley. And even when they did get a chance to talk, the conversations were filled with red hair and funny jokes and "her body, Shay, christ!" He'd even stopped looking at Seamus like he was memorizing Seamus's words and actions.

One morning Dean pranced off with a quick "Later Shay" and Seamus could not keep his shoulders from slumping. He used to like being called 'Shay,' but lately Dean had only been using it to blow him off. Like if he used the nickname they were closer than they had actually been lately. Not like Seamus would tell him to stop though, he scoffed, coward that he was.

"You should talk to him," Neville said while unbuttoning his pajama top. They were alone in the dormitory now because Harry and Ron were off doing something that was presumably heroic, but who really knew with them.

Seamus thought about dancing around the question, but decided that it would be a waste of time. It wasn't like it was the question, anyway, although Dean was starting to feel like a more heavily guarded secret that his dad was. "And what would I say, Neville?" Seamus rolled his eyes. "Mind abandoning your bird for a bit, mate?"

"How about you miss him?" Neville's voice was steady.

"That's a mite awkward," Seamus responded, pulling on his shirt slowly so Neville couldn't see his expression. "He likes her, Neville. I'm a big boy, I can deal with it."

Neville scoffed slightly. "You're acting like an idiot, Seamus."

"Yeah, maybe." Seamus replied, trying to resent the new confidence thing Neville had started building on, but not being able to bring himself to do so.

"Well, you ever need anybody, come hang with me and the others. Might as well." Neville tossed a grin at him from over his shoulder and left the dormitory.

And so Seamus tried, he really did. Without Dean, Seamus learned to make do. His friends and he had all been in the DA together, so sometimes they would practice. (You-Know-Who was the monster under their beds) He and Neville would play exploding snap and talk. Seamus, Justin, Terry, and Michael would explore Hogwarts on quests for the kitchens before inevitably giving up. Luna would tell him about Nargles and he would explain about the Dhobar-chu that looked like an otter and would attack people by the rivers who weren't careful. Ernie and Justin were great for lying outside in the sun and doing essays with. Parvati and he would spend long sessions bitching, because Lavendar was just as absent as Dean, if not more so. Hannah, Susan, and Padma sent him sympathetic looks that bothered him as much as they comforted him. Seamus liked them all, but they didn't make it better, just manageable.

"I feel like I haven't seen you lately," Dean would say. And Seamus would think 'and whose fault is that?' hating Dean desperately at the same time that he loved him and wanted him back.

Some days he fantasized about Dean and Ginny breaking up. In vivid detail.

This is the story he told Luna: "When I was a kid, 'round six years old I reckon, me mam took me to her folks' house. They lived in a right lovely part of Ireland, all green and flowing rivers. We went to the river by their house and she started to read a book while I played by the side, right? She didn't notice that I had stumbled upon this otter thing, and bein' a kid and all I went for it. It was a Dhobar-chu, though, so it immediately tried to bite me fool head off. Me mam heard me screaming and whipped out her wand fast as anything. Sent it back to the water without hurting it, and then damn near hugged the air out of me."

Luna told him, "Your mother sounds lovely," and patted his arm in an airy fashion.

Here is what Seamus had left out: "We were getting away from me dad for a few days while he got over finding me mam's spell books under a loose floorboard. He was scaring me because he kept stomping around and screaming, so me mam didn't want me near him. When he heard about how I could have been hurt he wanted us back, so we went. "

It felt like Seamus's entire life was full of half-completed stories.

Of course, when Dean and Ginny actually broke up, when Ginny went ahead and snogged Harry right in front of him, it was all Seamus could do to reign himself in enough not to punch her. Yes, they had been perfectly insufferable together as a couple. Yes, there had been times where he had fantasized about it ending. But never like that. Never because she had wanted it. What could she possibly want to toss Dean for, anyway? There must have been something fundamentally wrong with her.

A glass had cracked under Dean's fingers, but other than that Dean had waited a few minutes before excusing himself from the party. Dean was good about controlling emotional outbursts. The sound of the glass breaking had felt almost physical to Seamus because that tiny lapse of control proved how deeply affected Dean had been, by Ginny.

As much as he loved Dean though, this year had really hurt him. Part of him wanted to make Dean come to him, but only after Dean realized how awful it was to be abandoned. He wanted Dean crying alone on his bed, wishing that he hadn't so easily let Seamus drift away, and cursing the day he had ever met stupid Ginny Weasley.

Those thoughts lasted all of thirty seconds before Seamus went after him. Dean was a morose lump on the bed and was staring at the ceiling in consternation. Seamus almost opened his mouth to say "not the ceiling's fault, mate" but dismissed it as being not the right time. Similarly, he couldn't ask if Dean was alright, because of course he wasn't alright. Seamus had been wrong before, the hatred he had felt for Ginny had only been preliminary. Now he understood what true hatred felt like.

"Dean," he said instead. It was the most pathetic conversation starter he could have chosen, but the only one he could find where he could include absolutely every emotion he was feeling into one syllable.

"I saw it coming," Dean's voice sounded like it was coming from very far away. "Not just because Harry kept looking at her, that wouldn't mean anything. It was when she looked at him when I knew I had to worry." Seamus quietly sat on his own bed. "Once she noticed him looking she kept getting mad at me- trying to find a good reason to end the relationship, I s'pose."

"Did she end it?" Dean sent him a dry look. "I mean, before tonight."

"Yeah, a couple of hours before the Quidditch match today. S'pose that doesn't make it cheating, really." That wasn't comforting to Seamus. He almost pointed out that Ginny's manner was the shoddiest way possible act after a relationship had just ended, but he knew Dean already knew, and that pointing it out would only piss him off.

"I don't care, she shouldn't have done it." Seamus couldn't keep that comment to himself. "She shouldn't have."

Dean shrugged, not really smiling. "But she did."

They sat there in silence. Seamus wished that he could think of something to say that would make it better. He was no stranger to idle chatter, but when it came to meaningful conversation he had a lifetime of artful avoidance in his repertoire, and no practice with actually sitting down and hashing it out. His experience was useless for the occasion, and he briefly wondered if maybe Neville would be better suited. He just wanted Dean to be okay.

The following week was a mess of Ginny and Harry being public with their newfound happiness, Dean trailing off of Seamus away in a cloud of his own thoughts, and Seamus struggling not to go and rip stupid Ginny Weasley and stupid Harry Potter a new one. But Dean being with Seamus again meant Dean was also included in Seamus's new activities, and Seamus could not help but feel grateful for that. They played exploding snap with Neville, went hunting for the kitchens with the Ravenclaw boys, talked about creatures with Luna, did essays with the Hufflepuffs, chatted with Parvati, and Lavendar once she had been broken up with by Ron, and Dean bore the brunt of Susan, Hannah, and Padma's sympathetic looks.

It probably didn't say anything good about Seamus that he was happier than ever even though Dean was miserable. He brought up that worry to Neville.

"Seamus, you're not a bad person," Neville soothed. "You just missed him is all. No shame in that."

Seamus groaned into his pillow.

Dean came up to him a couple of days later, rubbing at his hand. "Shay," Seamus internally cringed, suspecting the worse, "I owe you an apology, I think."

"What for?" Seamus asked.

"When I was dating Ginny," Dean winced, "I wasn't really… around. That was bad."

There are a number of ways Seamus could take this conversation. He could smile (falsely) and say "No worries, mate. As if I missed your scrawny arse," and start talking about Quidditch teams. In this scenario it would all be brushed under the rug. Or he could start weeping and moaning about how abandoned he had felt. Not Seamus's style. Or he could scream at Dean. Before Hogwarts, before his mam leaving his dad, and before Dean no other alternative than those would have occurred to Seamus. He would have gone with the first because confrontation was usually messy and even if it wasn't the only type of confrontation Seamus had ever learned had been of the messy variety.

But this Seamus was a different one than the Seamus who had so craftily concocted answers to unasked questions, just in case. Instead, he answered, "Are you planning on doing it again?"

Dean shook his head fervently. "Never."

"Alright then," Seamus said. And that was that.

His mam wanted him to come home before Dumbledore's funeral, and all Seamus could think about was that leaving would abandon Dean. Dean who had gone pale when he heard about their headmaster's death, whose hands had quavered, and who had left indents on the arms of his chair because he was clutching it so tightly.

"I'm stayin' mam," he tried.

Her eyes narrowed. "Don't even think on it, boy. That man, rest his soul, never did enough by the students for their safety. The least he could do in death is excuse an absence from his funeral so I can get you out of this place."

Seamus tried to keep them whispering, but his temper was near as explosive as his mam's. They weren't even in a private place; the middle of the hallway with Dean a good distance away in front of the door that led to the common room, swaying awkwardly from foot to foot. He had tried to leave, but Seamus had glared and told him to "Hold up, it won't be a minute"; an action he was starting to regret.

"Mam, I am not leaving before the funeral!"

"We're going to be staying at your aunt's place," she says, voice rising slightly in response to his. "Good riddance to this lot. Mental, all of them."

"Dumbledore was a brilliant headmaster. Where do you get off acting as close-minded as dad did?" He roared. Even before the words left his mouth and echoed through the hallways, his stomach dropped. Why on earth had he said that? The one thing that was sure to both make his mam back down and tear through her very being. Why on earth?

His mam's eyes widened and her mouth trembled slightly. "Come home after the funeral then," she murmured, voice shaking.

Seamus was too proud, and too unbelievably guilty, to stop her when she walked down the hallway and out the door towards the exit. Dean had frozen; his expression completely still.

"Seamus?" He asked when Seamus brushed by him on the way to the fat lady.

"Leave it, Dean," he said in response, and for once in his life he meant it.

Dean was quiet for a while after that, their friendship too newly restored for him to push. For once Seamus was grateful for the aspect of tentativeness in their relationship. It had changed after Ginny. Part of it was Dean's guilt over abandonment, but that wasn't the whole thing. There was something different in the air was all, although Seamus couldn't define it for the life of him. They were just as close as before, perhaps even more so since Dumbledore died, but there was a new nervousness that accompanied the closeness.

Seamus figured he had gotten away with it, he had for years after all, so when Dean dragged him out to the lake, a couple hours before they had to be dressed for the funeral, and sat him down solemnly Seamus was inordinately surprised.

"I'm not going to leave it. I've been leaving it for years." Dean said. Years. Seamus's mind flashed through all of the instances in which his guard had dropped. He suddenly imagined Dean writing those times down in a list in his careful, flowing handwriting. He could see Dean mulling over the half completed stories and the carefully timed sentences like they were puzzles.

There were a thousand different directions Seamus could take the conversation in, and he opened his mouth prepared to do so. But then Dean asked. "What does a nasty shock mean?" His mouth formed the words carefully, like the question had been running around in his head for years. He had finally asked.

And so Seamus told him.