For dearest Bex, who deserves the world.
Assignment 8: Potions 2: Write about someone taking a great risk to improve their life.
Sitting alone in a corner of the funeral parlour, George breathes in.
He feels like blown glass dipped in cold water, so close to shattering it hurts.
He curls tighter into himself and wonders if this is what it feels like when your whole world is falling apart.
Some days, Seamus feels weird letting Dean out of his sight.
He hates it. He hates it.
But Dean is his best friend and Seamus loves him fiercely, and when Seamus let him out of his sight last time, Dean got kidnapped by Snatchers and taken to Malfoy Manor.
Seamus doesn't know what happened there but some nights Dean wakes up screaming in the same way Seamus wakes up screaming, dreaming of Alecto Carrow turning her wand on a first year and forcing him to watch.
Seamus wants to talk to him, wants to tell him what happened during that dreadful year, wants to ask about what Dean experienced.
But grief keeps him silent. Trauma says, nobody wants to hear you cry about the grief inside your bones.
But his grief demands to be felt. There's no way around that.
So he and Dean sit together on the sleepless nights, sometimes miles apart and sometimes curled up together on the couch, seeking solace and warmth.
Neither one of them could stand the thought of living alone after the war. And besides, they were used to being roommates.
George breathes in. Lee looks at him.
"You want to talk about it?"
Lee shrugs, gets up, and offers George a beer from the fridge.
George sighs and takes it.
When Seamus says he wants to be a Healer, Dean looks at him like he's crazy and says, "Seamus, you're prone to pyrotechnics."
Which is a solid point, but Seamus has long since gotten that… mostly under control. And it's really only with new spells.
And here's the thing — Seamus's seventh year has sunk into his skin and he can't shake it. He thinks about watching children harmed in front of him, watching his friends tortured and being unable to do anything about it.
He's done fighting. He wants to heal.
Some days, George thinks Lee is the only thing holding him together.
Lee prods him out of bed on mornings when he needs and covers for him at the shop when what he needs is to be alone.
The thing is, George knows Lee is grieving too.
Lee loved Fred.
Lee and Fred and George had been inseparable since their first year. Every Christmas, Lee got a Weasley sweater, just the same as they did.
Lee was their long lost triplett.
Lee is grieving the loss of a best friend, a brother.
And if Lee can get up every morning and give George a shoulder to lean on, then George can get up and pretend to be a functioning human being.
Healer training is hard. The hours are long and the spellwork isn't quite like anything he's ever learned.
But he only lights one bouquet of orange flowers on fire, and no people. So he's calling that a success.
George needs it to stop.
He wants to give up, give in, sink below the surface and just stop.
But he can't.
Because he promised Fred.
They promised each other, when Voldemort rose and the war became all too close. They looked one another in the eyes and made a vow — if one of us lives and one of us dies, the one who lives will live his life to the fullest.
It seemed like a square deal, forward-thinking and practical. It seemed like a vow that would never be necessary.
But here he is. Alone.
Here he is, doing his best, because he made Fred a promise.
Seamus passes his training with flying colors. He throws himself into the work, because he loves it, and it makes him feel like he's doing something good, something right.
The nightmares do not go away, but he learns to breathe through them.
Dean works on his art, picks up a job at a nearby Muggle coffee shop, practices figure drawing on his regular customers.
They don't talk about the war. Maybe they should.
George starts to invent again. It hurts, but in a good way, like the pain of healing.
At first, he lacks the creativity he once had. He lacks the partner standing next to him, always on the same track, always understanding, ready to discuss.
Lee helps, but it's not the same.
But he gets better. He learns what it's like to work without that synchrony. He and Lee work together with weird gaps and silences where they both expect Fred to interject.
Except that he doesn't.
Except that he can't.
But George has always been quieter than Fred and it takes he and Lee a long time to grow into the space that Fred left behind.
But they do.
Seamus hates knocking people out, but sometimes he has to for trickier spell work.
But he loves waking them up.
"Rennervate," Seamus cries, and watches as the man in front of him comes awake.
"How are you feeling, sir?" he asks. The man feels for his side, where the wound from the dog that attacked him used to be.
The man smiles when he feels smooth flesh. "Much better, Healer Finnigan. Thank you."
George has been fiddling around with a tricky potions recipe for the Skiving Snackboxes for a few weeks, but for some reason, he can't quite get it to produce the chills and sweat of a fever without the actual temperature rising to dangerous levels. It's similar to the fever fudge, but they've been having a few problems with delirium in people susceptible to internal temperature fluctuations and he figured this would be safer.
He tweaks the amount of pepper in the recipe and pours it into the candy molds.
When it sets, he tries one and then casts a temperature spell on himself.
It holds steady.
It holds steady.
He's done it.
Dean starts dating Theodore Nott, and it throws Seamus for a loop.
Theo Nott was quiet, during that year. He slipped through the cracks as much as he could, kept his head down, never came to the detentions.
He didn't revel in the torture the way some of his classmates seemed to.
And he disappeared at Christmas, never came back.
Seamus never wondered what happened. He figured one less Death Eater's son at the school could only be a good thing.
Dean tells him that Theo couldn't take it, couldn't take being asked to hurt people, couldn't take being forced to watch.
Dean tells him Theo ran because if he came back, he'd wind up exposing himself, wind up dead.
Dean tells him that he knows what it means to run.
And Seamus is forced to face what he'd forgotten: that the war has hurt all of them. That not everyone he fought against was evil. That so many of them were doing what they had to, to keep themselves and their families safe.
He is forced to admit to himself that he's been letting the prejudice slip in, assuming that all the Slytherins were his enemies.
Dean clasps his shoulder tight as Seamus shakes loose the worldview that's been finding a foothold.
"It's too easy," he says to Dean. "It's too easy to slide into us versus them. But that's how this all starts, isn't it? That's how it happens again."
Dean breathes deep, and he nods.
"It can't happen again," Seamus says.
"It probably will," Dean says. "But not until the memories fade. Not until we, as a people, forget how much it hurts."
"You like him?" Seamus asks.
Dean looks him in the eye. "Theo's as fucked up as any of us. But he's also still fighting. Yeah. I like him."
Seamus nods. "Good enough for me."
George is trying to enchant a children's toy when something goes wrong with the spellwork combination and the toy starts shooting off spell-sparks.
He doesn't duck fast enough.
Lee finds him on the floor of the workroom, speaking fluent Japanese, sprouting an elephant's trunk, and lit up glowing blue.
Lee takes one look at the situation and says, "We're going to St. Mungo's."
George tries to say, "That's fair." What comes out is a string of Japanese that he's not even sure means the same thing.
Seamus is on a shift in spell-damage when George Weasley smacks him in the face with an elephant trunk, ignores Seamus swearing and muttering that hurt, trumpets, and then says "I'm sorry" in clear Japanese.
Except that when Seamus says, "It's fine," back, George doesn't seem to understand him.
Lee, standing next to George, cackles. "He doesn't actually speak Japanese," he says. "That's part of the spell. I admit, I'm surprised you do."
Seamus shrugs. "I like languages. Da taught me Gaelic growing up, and when that stuck we started trying a few more. Never learned any more than basic Japanese, though. No one to practice with. Any idea what happened to him?"
Lee shrugs. "He was in the workshop, so who the hell knows."
But when he asks George in English, George explains the spells he was using in Japanese.
Except that Seamus's Japanese is really not good enough for that.
He sighs. "We're going to need a translator."
He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and sends a Patronus to Pansy Parkinson.
With Pansy translating, George explains the spells he was using. Seamus looks thoughtful for a moment before his wand starts moving.
George can't take his eyes off of him. Long, lean, pale hands move in intricate, delicate patterns. He bites his lip in concentration, but the motions are smooth and confident.
He's beautiful, George thinks.
The elephant trunk disappears with a pop, and a few moments later, the light from George's skin fades.
"Thanks," George says in English.
"Thank God," Pansy says, and walks out of the room.
To be honest, Seamus hadn't expected her to stay. He only knows her distantly, through Theo, but he's pleased she deigned to help him.
George grins at him.
"Eh," he says. "That's Healer Finnigan to you, Weasley."
George laughs. Lee looks startled.
"So that's how it is?" George says.
"That's how it is," Seamus says.
George leans in. "What if I took you to dinner? What could I call you then?"
Seamus raises an eyebrow. "I think I'd be hoping you called at all."
George tips his head back and laughs.
Seamus tries not to get distracted by the line of his throat, skin pulled tight over his Adam's apple.
Seamus kind of wants to lick it. But he thinks that would be unprofessional.
"If I promise I'll call?"
Seamus smiles. "Then I guess I could make that happen."
George wonders what he's doing.
It's been a year and a half since… since, and he can put up a good show but he is a mess.
He stares into the mirror in his tiny bathroom, eyes fixed on his ear.
He shouldn't be subjecting anyone else to his life right now. He wakes up sobbing half the time and some days he sinks into himself and doesn't move for hours.
But he thinks about Seamus smiling at him, soft and genuine and cheerful.
He thinks about that smile and he wants this.
He wants this enough to take the risk.
Seamus flops on the couch with a sigh.
Dean, who is currently making himself a cheese toastie in the kitchen, looks over.
Seamus sighs again, louder. He knows Dean is probably rolling his eyes.
He sighs one more time, pointedly.
Dean sighs in return. "What?"
Seamus springs up, looking at Dean. "How do you do the whole… dating thing?"
Dean blinks at him.
"You have a date?"
"Don't sound so surprised."
Dean shakes his head. "It's not that. I didn't… think you were looking?"
Seamus shrugs, moving into the kitchen of their shared apartment.
"I wasn't, really. But… You know how I was always kind of enamoured with George Weasley?"
It wasn't ever an all-encompassing thing, but it was the kind of passing crush that would keep popping back up from time to time. Always George. Seamus could always tell them apart.
"It was him. George. Asked me out."
Dean looks at him calmly, head tipped thoughtfully. Seamus sighs, flopping into a seat at the table.
"I know," he says. "This is either going to be really good, or really bad."
"Yeah," Dean says.
Seamus pulls in a breath. "But… don't I have to take the risk?"
Dean looks at him intently and says, "I don't want to see you get your heart broken."
Seamus nods. "But who am I if I don't try?"
Dean sighs, and turns back to his meal.
"Who indeed?" he asks.
Things start out so well.
They go to dinner. Conversation flows, with only a few stilted silences. George laughs more than he has in a long time. Seamus is beaming.
And then Seamus goes to the bathroom, and George has time to think.
To think about how many ways this could go terribly, horribly wrong.
What are you doing? You're not ready. You're going to fuck this up. You're going to hurt him; you're going to hurt yourself. You should've waited. You'll never be ready. You think he's enjoying himself but really he's gone to the bathroom to search for an escape route.
It spirals. He can't breathe. His lungs are gasping for oxygen.
The world spins. Time slows, stutters, skips.
And then Seamus is there, standing beside him, carefully not touching, telling George to try to match his breathing if he can't.
George thinks, well, that didn't last long.
But when George catches his breath, Seamus doesn't make excuses to leave, just sits back down across from him and starts telling a story about an idiotically stubborn patient and the places burn cream should not need to go.
George is staring at him in shock. Eventually, Seamus seems to notice.
He shrugs. "I'm a Healer, George. I've seen worse. Hell, I've had worse. At one point I had a nightmare so bad I woke up thinking I was back there and it took Dean tossing a bucket of water on my head to bring me back." He reaches across the table and takes George's hand. "It's nothing to be ashamed of," he says, his voice fierce with conviction.
"I promised Fred." His voice shakes, but he thinks it needs to be said. "That I'd live my best life."
"You can't live your life for somebody else, is the thing. You've gotta live for you."
For the first time in a long time, George breathes out.