"Things like that always sound cooler than they actually were. I've been trying to tell you that for years." Harry Potter

Seamus stayed close to Ron and Hermione during the crucial minutes after everyone arrived.

People just kept coming. Seamus didn't miss the way Harry's face lit up as Ginny climbed through with Fred and George Weasley. After them was Cho, bringing Oliver Wood, Alicia Spinnet, Angelina Johnson, Katie Bell.

But Seamus was hovering near Dean. He answered his friend's questions with a wave of his hand. "No, I swear it doesn't hurt, Dean. Really. It's just an old Sectumsempra. Madame Pomfrey fixed me up pretty quick."

Dean had seemed alarmed, and that made Seamus think he hadn't quite phrased everything correctly. After all, maybe getting tortured during detention was still a big deal to some people. "Seriously. No, don't touch it, Dean! Ouch!"

Dean's face twisted into a mask of rage and sorrow as his finger slid gently down Seamus' bruised and swollen features. "I should have been here."

"You would have been killed." Seamus said, bitter now. He quickly filled him in on the Carrow's plans to split up siblings who were causing trouble.

"What?!"

Seamus turned around to see Hermione and Ron gaping at him. He shifted his weight, embarrassed to be caught complaining in front of these two who had probably been through much more than a few terrible nights in detention. "Yeah, well, it seemed to be working, you know, threatening the Ministry workers by saying their families would be hurt if they didn't cooperate. So they tried it out in Hogwarts. Actually, Colin Creevey was just taken this morning, but we managed to find him."

Hermione looked like she was going to cry, or maybe scream, and Seamus hated when girls looked like that, but he didn't know how to comfort her. He was glad when Ron put an arm around her waist, murmuring some soft words to her.

Deciding to give them as much privacy they could get in a room that was getting steadily more crowded. (More people had joined them, adults this time…was that Professor Lupin?) So he turned to his friend, who's eyes still made Seamus want to reach out and hug him. "What've you been up to?" he asked, trying to sound as if they were merely talking about a fun summer vacation instead of a year living as a fugitive.

"We went camping, mostly." Seamus knew that Dean was trying to play along, trying to keep everything light and easy, trying not to think about the fact that all around them, people were preparing for the battle they'd been waiting all year for. But Dean couldn't quite mask the look of regret and compassion that laced into every one of his features.

Pushing his elbow into Dean's rib, Seamus' face quirked into a smile. "Any s'mores? Campfire songs? Girls?"

"Just this one goblin. Oh, and Ted Tonks. You know him? He was a good bloke, but apparently his daughter's in the Order, and they were trying to kill him."

Now Seamus knew how Dean must feel, hearing him talk so casually about the punishments the Carrows dolled out. Hearing his best friend talk about the reason why he was on the run made him feel sick to his stomach. Dean would have died. He would have been killed if he'd tried to come back to school. Because his mum had married another man after his dad took off, his younger sisters were okay to just stay at home, and his mum was a pureblood. So it was just Dean.

A tap on his shoulder made Seamus turn around. Ron and Hermione looked different from how they had just a minute before. They were standing straighter, their faces more grim, expectant, as if they knew something unpleasant was coming.

It wasn't like Seamus hadn't been in a battle before. There was that one night last year…the night Dumbledore died…Seamus and Dean had been in the library, studying for once, when everything seemed to erupt around them. One of the walls had been blown in by a curse. Dean had launched himself on Seamus, landing on top, so that he took most of the cuts and bruises that came from the rocks that rained down on the both of them.

But Ron and Hermione had been in so many sticky situations. Seamus could still remember the Philosopher's stone in first year, waking up to find Ron and Harry not in their beds. Both had been in the hospital wing. Then there was the Chamber of Secrets, their second year, when everyone had thought the school would close. Something happened the last night of finals in third year, but all Seamus knew about that was that Black had escaped. Fifth year was the epic fight in the Department of Mysteries. Last year, Dumbledore's death, and so many more over the course of this past year that they didn't know about yet.

So at the looks on their faces, Seamus tried to prepare himself for what they might expect. Deaths. Injuries. Destruction. They could lose. They could win. They could solve nothing.

"Shay, we need to get to the second floor. Is there a way to get there that doesn't make us too obvious?" Ron's voice was tense, and Seamus say that his hand was gripping Hermione's. Neither of them seemed to notice.

Seamus nodded, leading the way through the crowd to find the door they all used. He spoke softly, which, surprisingly, was the only way to talk in the din of the room. "This door comes out in a different place every day. Weird, right? But it makes it harder for the Carrows or Filch to find." Putting his ear against the door, Seamus listened hard.

He smiled. "You're lucky, you'll end up on the third floor. They never patrol there. They like to hang out around the common rooms. More kids to put in detention, you know." Ron and Hermione were at the door, half-way out of it. He called, "Good luck!" They didn't seem to hear him.

Lupin and some of the other adults had called for everyone to start gathering in the Great Hall. The crowd surged around Seamus and Dean, struggling out of the now-too-small door.

Seamus looked at Dean and felt a lump form in his throat that hadn't been there before. He had just gotten his friend back after a year of being apart. And now Dean could die. He, Seamus, could die.

As if he had heard and understood what Seamus was thinking, Dean enveloped him in a hug. Even in his friend's gentle embrace, Seamus had to remind himself not to flinch as Dean's hands landed unknowingly on some of the many scars that criss-crossed along his back. "We'll be okay." Seamus whispered, a promise, a wish. Seamus nodded, wondering in that second when exactly Dean had gotten taller than him.

They could lose. They could win. They could be captured and tortured. They could die.

Seamus found himself being lead out of the room by Dean, running to catch up with the garrulous crowd ahead. Their fingers touched and intertwined, connected. And Seamus was sure that not even the hoards of Death Eaters outside the school would be able to separate them again.

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