Dean and Seamus clicked the moment they met on the Hogwarts Express five years ago. Seamus remembers the day vividly; how he'd walked into a compartment he thought to be empty to find a skinny black boy sitting there with his head down, all alone. The boy, gangly and tall for his age Seamus could tell, had been focusing on a small leather-bound book in ink-flecked hands, holding a pencil and drawing intently.
"Oh hello! I'm Seamus Finnigan," Seamus had said amiably as the boy looked up startled at the strong and loud Irish accent coming from such a tiny child. "Are you drawing? My mam says I can't draw to save my life, but I reckon I could maybe draw a person or a flower, possibly. Come on then, let's see. I bet you're better than me. Well, it's not hard to be."
Seamus had babbled away happily and Dean had shared his sketchbook timidly with this odd, titchy little blonde boy, something he'd never done before in his life. From that moment on they were inseparable; you never saw one without the other. You could always hear Seamus before you saw him, but you could spot Dean from far away because of his height. Dean was calm, smart as a Ravenclaw and always diplomatic – something which, on occasion, frustrated his flighty and fiery counterpart. But Seamus, charming Seamus, understood Dean, and knew when to be soft with him, just as Dean instinctively knew when Seamus needed bluntness. They had an easy and warm friendship.
Now, it's different. They are still the best of mates, like Harry and Ron. It's not the same though, because Seamus has a problem, one he is sure neither Harry nor Ron have. He reckons Dean doesn't have it either. He's probably the only one in the castle – no, the world – who has this problem, he thinks.
Really, he has more than one problem. First and foremost is what happened last night in the shower while everyone was sleeping. He didn't mean for it to happen—absolutely not. He'd just gotten back from a tutoring lesson with Terry Boot and he realized he desperately needed to wash. He'd accidentally exploded a cauldron in Potions class earlier (it still happened on unfortunate occasion, though less and less now that he was getting older), and singed hair is not the most enchanting of aromas. And while he was soaping his freckled body (using Dean's soap because he'd run out earlier this week and hoping Dean wouldn't notice), relishing the hot water and the empty shower…
It was just a regular, everyday wank, he reminds himself now as he tries to concentrate on his Transfiguration theory in class. Just a wank. Except it wasn't just a wank because… Seamus pushes the thought away forcefully and desperately attempts to focus on his work. He can't though, because here is the second problem:
His mother. Well, his father too, but he knows it's his mother he'd fear the most if they ever found out the truth.
The truth is it was just a wank!
He is lying to himself.
His mother. Leanne Finnigan, née Lynch. She is paranoid, over-protective and extremely religious. There was a time Seamus was too, religious that is, though not to Leanne's extent. Irish Catholic, and all that. He'd go to mass every Sunday in the small chapel in Hogwarts for practicing students. He'd pray every night; he'd thank God silently for his food, his health, for his family, his magic, and for Dean. He believed. He always had; he'd never questioned God or the church or his mother before. He is, after all, a Gryffindor, and loyal to a fault. He does have a tendency to curse like an Irish sailor, and knows that's only the most minor of sins he's guilty of. But up until very recently (last night, actually), he'd worn a simple wooden cross around his neck under his school robes everyday. Dean knew and seemed not to care. He'd never asked Seamus about his religion just like Seamus had never inquired about his. It was understood that their religious beliefs were private things.
But last night, after the shower, something changed in Seamus. For the first time in 16 years, he'd taken off his necklace. Dean had probably seen it lying on his friend's bedside table this morning and had said nothing. Seamus is grateful; he doesn't know how to answer the questions that are surely swirling in Dean's mind, begging to be answered.
Seamus barely notices that everyone else has gotten up and left the class for lunch; he is too far gone in his thoughts. His parchment is blank, not having taken any notes at all during Arithmancy. A hand—strong, dark, graceful and masculine, fingernails forever stained with paint and ink—touches his shoulder and gently shakes him.
"Shay? Coming to eat?" says a deep voice behind him.
"Yeah, sorry. I was just thinking," Seamus says quietly, getting up and gathering the things scattered on the desk.
"You? Thinking? That's odd," Dean jokes, but Seamus' mouth barely flickers into a smile.
They begin walking towards the Great Hall slowly; Seamus is still mostly lost in thought and isn't moving very fast. Part of him, though, is very aware of Dean walking beside him, and that every now and then their hands brush. He flinches each time, and when Seamus chances a look into Dean's eyes he sees worry and confusion.
"Are you okay?" Dean asks and Seamus closes his eyes at the sound of his concern.
"I'm fine." Another lie. Seamus knows Dean has picked up on it. "I'm not very hungry. Want to skip lunch and go to the common room?" Dean nods confusedly, but follows his short friend to Gryffindor tower.
Being sixth years, they have two free periods this afternoon and they waste it on quiet chess games and awkward silences. Seamus isn't used to this; he usually always tells Dean what's on his mind, but today he just can't bring himself to. Really, he doesn't even know what's on his mind.
Sunken into large, comfortable armchairs, they are both staring into the fire almost dreamily, when Seamus shakes himself and decides to break the silence.
"Dean…" He doesn't know how to phrase the thoughts that are tumbling through his head a hundred kilometers an hour. Dean looks at him expectantly, his long legs curled up to his chest, supporting a weathered sketchbook. More emotional than Dean ever was, Seamus' eyes well up at the sight of a scene so familiar. He swallows what he was going to say. "Do you pray?" he blurts out instead.
They've never spoken about this before.
"Not really," Dean says, refraining from adding the why? that Seamus knows is on the tip of his tongue.
"I do. Or, I used to," says Seamus quietly, looking intently at the crackling fire.
"Used to?" Dean inquires, looking up to watch Seamus breathe deeply in the armchair beside him. His legs unfold and he sets the sketchbook lightly on the table beside him, giving Seamus his full attention
"Up until last night." Seamus sighs, his breath shaking.
'"What changed?" There is the why Seamus was expecting, but without the judgment he imagined. He doesn't know how to answer without scaring Dean away.
"Do you believe in God?" Seamus says instead of answering. He reaches up to rub his necklace reassuringly with his thumb but lowers his hand awkwardly when he realizes it isn't there.
'"I never really thought about it." He pauses, thinking. The silence stretches into minutes; Seamus knows not to push for an answer. Dean's words are always carefully chosen, unlike Seamus, who usually spits them out like fire so they tumble into the air haphazardly, meant to be heard.
Finally: "I suppose… I suppose there may be a higher power out there, but I don't know if I could give it a specific name."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm not quite sure. Let's see…" He stares thoughtfully into the flames. Their crackle fills the silence. "I think that this power, God if you want to call it that, isn't necessarily a person, you know? It could be a force, a feeling. Love."
"Love…" Seamus repeats slowly. Oh, but wouldn't Ron laugh and tease if he heard their conversation now. Under different circumstances, so would Seamus.
"And Jesus, well, he probably existed as a person at one point, and though He's gone now, it's his message that lives on, right? The whole 'Love thy neighbour' thing and everything else. That's the point of it all, yeah? That's the higher power, I think. Love." Dean nods his head slowly as if trying to process his own words.
"Love… no matter what? God will love me no matter what?" Seamus says, looking at his friend with wide, almost frightened eyes. For the first time, Dean sees his friend's eyes are brimming with tears.
"Yes. No matter what," says Dean loudly, with conviction now. "Shay, what's this about?" he says this quietly, genuinely concerned for his friend. This is a moment where softness is needed. Seamus is acting to strangely and he doesn't know what to think of it.
"No matter what…" Seamus repeats, seemingly to himself. "Do you love me, no matter what?"
Dean looks up, startled. He's never said that he loves Seamus before. It just isn't something you say to your best mate. Softness, he remembers. He does love Seamus, he's just never spoken the words before.
"What if…" Seamus gathers all his Gryffindor courage, but still he struggles to get his question out. "What if I was g-g-gay?"
He's sure of it now that he's said it aloud. He's sure, though his stutter says otherwise.
Dean has a small knowing smile on his lips. "Finally," he says, chuckling. "Yes, Shay. No matter what."
"Finally!" Seamus exclaims, aghast. Dean laughs again, louder. The tension dissipates quickly. "You knew?"
"Since we were 13."
"And you didn't tell me!"
Dean is still snickering, shaking his head. "I figured it was something you had to discover for yourself."
The mood shifts again just as rapidly as Seamus sighs sadly, looking into the hissing flames once more. They stay silent for a few long seconds, each boy thinking deeply.
"My parents…" Seamus murmurs, searching the fire for answers he knows won't be there.
"…will have to learn to accept it."
"You know they never will. They're too set in their ways. My mam will disown me and my da will kick me out."
"Then you'll come stay with me." Dean's simple answers calm Seamus, so he makes up his mind. So what if his mother and father don't see the world the same way he does? He can still believe in God, right? He can still pray and wear his cross. But now he knows, he really does, that God will love him no matter what. Straight, gay, what-have-you.
"Dean…" he murmurs quietly.
Seamus takes a deep breath.
"I really want to kiss you right now."
He prepares himself for the rejection that is sure to come after those blunt and probably unexpected words. He's already bitter. Why did he say that? Dean isn't attracted to men, there's just no way. He was dating Ginny just a few weeks ago! And anyway, statistically, it's impossible Dean would be attracted to him too, probably. Why did Seamus ever think it was a good idea to tell Dean he wanted to kiss him? It's not fair, he thinks. Dean's always known what to say and which direction he should go. Why hasn't his tactfulness rubbed off on Seamus more?
He steels himself for the horrible response he knows he's about to hear, or worse, the sight of Dean backing away slowly with a look of disgust on his face. Dean can say he'll love Seamus no matter what, and that may be true, but the fact remains that Dean is straight and Seamus is not.
"Finally," Dean says with a wide, gleeful smile, and gets up so he can walk over to Seamus' chair. He leans in happily for the most wonderful kiss of his short life, done at the most awkward angle. He pulls back after a few seconds of bliss to observe Seamus' stunned expression. The blonde's green eyes are wide with shock and joy, and the sight causes Dean to laugh again. Seamus has always been so expressive.
"I said I'd love you even if you were gay, but what I meant was especially if you were gay," he says, and Seamus finally remembers to breathe. His heart jumps in his throat.
"Finally?" he says in a calm voice that doesn't reflect his turbulent thoughts. "And you didn't tell me?" His lips are occupied for another moment.
"Eventually I might have given you a little—oh, mmph—nudge in the right direction," Dean says between kisses. He pulls Seamus up from the chair so he doesn't have to bend down quite so much and kisses the shorter boy once more. Sweetly, tenderly, softly, he wraps an arm around Seamus' waist and lifts him up on his tiptoes. It isn't so different, kissing a boy than girl, Seamus thinks, apart from the stubble and comforting solidness. It's better, sure, but that's because it's, well, Dean.
"Come on," Dean murmurs, "let's go tell the others." Seamus quickly wonders if maybe that's not a good idea, if maybe they're moving too fast, but quickly dismisses the thought. This is Dean and he's Seamus. Dean-and-Seamus. They've always been together. Now they just get to kiss each other. He takes Dean's hand in his, and it feels so natural.
"Wait!" Seamus cries out suddenly and sprints up the stairs to their dorm. Barely a minute later, he returns, running happily to Dean and grabbing his long artist fingers again. "Let's go."
With his free hand he reaches up to rub his cross and smiles, genuinely happy for the first time in a long while.