For the Irrational Fears Challenge on HPFC

Character: Seamus Finnigan

Fear: Stairs

Prompts: fake | glass | chandelier

AN: I know Seamus is Irish, but I have a complete inability to write accents, so my apologies, but the dialogue has no accent.

A note on Canon: As far as I'm concerned, canon encompasses only what is written in the books. Anything given in interviews or from any other source, I don't follow, so I couldn't possibly keep anything in canon. Therefore, what we know from canon is that Seamus is a half-blood (from SS/PS) and that Dean's dad left when Dean was a baby (from DH, though, as far as I can remember, this is not mentioned at any point before then, and so it is highly possible that Dean did not actually know this until some point not long before then. I'm going to roll with that, and say that Dean's living with his mom and his stepdad, who Dean doesn't know is his stepdad because his mom's never told him).

Sorry for the freakishly long note on canon that no one's probably going to read.

Disclaimer: I don't own anything.


Dean Thomas has always been an intuitive sort of person. He has always preferred to silently observe. He's always been rather perceptive, and it doesn't take him long to figure out that the boy he's sitting next to is wearing a mask.

Seamus Finnigan presents himself as a happy-go-lucky kind of boy. He talks merrily with the people next to him, Dean included, and doesn't seem fazed by Dean's short responses, which Dean likes immediately, because it's really nothing personal; Dean's always that way.

Still, there's a weird sort a shadow in his eyes when he speaks about being a half-blood, barely there, but Dean can see it.

Dean can see immediately that despite the façade, Seamus is fragile, spun from glass. There's something about him, and Dean knows that Seamus is just inches from shattering.

He doesn't say anything about it, but when a pompous boy who introduces himself as Percy Weasley collects the first years, beckoning them to follow him, Dean purposely lines up right next to Seamus. They're in the back, followed only by a quiet girl with a badge with a P on it – the same badge Percy is wearing, Dean notes. He assumes it's a badge of some authority, as these two seem to be in charge of helping the first years find the common room.

They march out of the Great Hall in line, but Dean stumbles into Seamus when the boy stops dead.

"Sorry," Dean mutters. Seamus doesn't respond, which Dean can already tell is uncharacteristic for the chatterbox.

Seamus is staring up at the multitude of staircases, something akin to outright horror on his face.

"Is this some kind of sick joke?" he finally asks, but his face clearly says he doesn't think it's funny in the slightest. Dean tugs on the sleeve of the girl with the badge, gesturing to her to wait for them. He slides in front of the shorter boy, effectively blocking his forward view, despite being unable to block the view up, which is far more daunting.

"Seamus?" he asks. Seamus finally looks down at him, and Dean can see true fear in his eyes. "What's wrong?"

Seamus shakes his head. A staircase behind them moves out of place with a great BANG, and Seamus jumps three feet in the air. Pure terror radiates from him. He closes his eyes. "Please, please, tell me this is just a dream."

"I don't know why you'd want it to be," Dean says. "This place is amazing!"

Seamus shudders.

"You don't understand."

"Then help me to. I can't understand if you don't explain it."

Seamus looks down, flushing lightly. He mumbles something that Dean can't understand.


"I'm afraid of stairs, okay!" he yells. Dean blinks. "Go on then, laugh! I know you want to, everyone does."

Dean's shaking his head.

"I'm not going to laugh. Everyone's afraid of something."

"Not something as stupid as stairs," Seamus mumbles.

"It's not stupid. Fear... It isn't something we can control."

Seamus shakes his head.

"It doesn't matter. Stupid or not, there's no way I'm getting up those stairs."

"No way at all?"

"Uh uh. I can't do it. I cannot knowingly climb those stairs, I can't."

And that gives Dean an idea. He turns around.

"Get on my back."

Seamus frowns in confusion, but does as he's told.

The girl, who's been waiting patiently, finally speaks up.

"You can't be serious."

"And why not?" Dean asks, a bit flippantly, but he doesn't like being told what he can't do.

"You can't seriously be thinking of carrying him piggy back up seven flights of stairs."

"Well, I wasn't aware it was seven, but, yes, I am. Is there a problem?"

She shakes her head, muttering something about stupid firsties, but she tosses her hair over her shoulder dismissively and leads the way. Dean wonders who on earth decided to give this girl authority.

"Close your eyes," he murmurs to Seamus, who he assumes obeys, though Dean can't actually see his face. The hold around his neck tightens when he begins to climb, but other than that, there is no response.

By the time they reach the Gryffindor common room and are told the password ("Caput Draconis") Dean is exhausted. He'll have to write his dad and thank him for putting Dean in every sport imaginable; Dean's not sure he'd have made it otherwise.

He collapsed onto a couch, Seamus flopping next to him and muttering, "Thanks," under his breath.

"Don't mention it," Dean gasps. The girl looks at them in disdain before pointing out the stairs to the boys dormitory.

"First years are at the top," she says primly, and a bit vindictively, though what Dean ever did to her is beyond him.

Dean sighs. "Of course we are. Fancy sleeping in the common room?" he asks Seamus, only half joking.

Seamus grins, but points out that all their books are up in the dorm already, so they'll have to go up eventually.

Dean nods, but he nearly falls asleep in the common room regardless. Eventually he gets up, followed by Seamus, and Dean wearily wonders if it's always going to be this way as he carries him up a very long spiral staircase.


The next morning, Dean is very pleased to learn that down is much easier than up. Still, he curses the fifteen million staircases that Hogwarts contains and the fact that every class seems to be on a different floor. By the time the day is over, Dean is exhausted and achy and a bit frustrated. He's heard that Astronomy is up in the tallest tower and is not looking forward to Wednesday night.


The weekend brings a much needed break for Dean – they only leave the common room once, and spend their day outside where there are no stairs whatsoever. He's getting stronger, and it doesn't ache quite so much anymore. Seamus appears to have finally realized how hard this is for Dean and is now ensuring that they go up and down as little as possible. Still, Dean can't help feeling a little bit resentful of the fact that his world now seems to revolve around Seamus, who is his best friend, a better friend than Dean has ever had before, but it still isn't easy. But Dean shoves the resentment deep down inside and ignores it, nodding his head as Seamus chatters on about something that Dean is half listening to as he considers which exact shades of paint he would use to shade the current sky.

And life goes on.


It's November, and tempers are high. They stayed up a little too late playing Exploding Snap and putting off their Charms essays. They've been having little spats all day, and this isn't normal for them. They don't usually fight. Dean, who's usually so calm, feels his temper boiling close to the surface.

"Let's go outside," Seamus insists. "It's one of the last somewhat nice days that we'll have this year, come on, Dean!"

"I have a Potions essay to finish, Shay! I need to go to the library!"

"You can finish it later; let's go outside!"

"No, Seamus," Dean says firmly, and he fully expects that to settle the matter, but Seamus is feeling obstinate today.

"Come on, Dean! You never want to have any fun!"

And Seamus finds himself unceremoniously dumped on the staircase.

"Fine!" Dean snaps. "Fine, you want to go outside? Get there yourself! I'm going to the library."

And he stomps off. And Seamus is now alone. In the middle of a staircase. Eyes closed, trembling.


"I'm sorry."

Seamus still hasn't opened his eyes, but he knows it's Dean's voice. He says nothing. He feels Dean come to stand in front of him, and he climbs on, but stays silent. He's furious.

Dean sets him down a few minutes later, and Seamus opens his eyes to find himself out by what he considers their tree.

"I'm sorry," Dean apologizes again. "I shouldn't have done that. It was cruel."

Seamus just looks at him. Dean can see the hurt in his eyes.

"Seamus, please. Talk to me."

Seamus puts his head in his hands. "I'm afraid to talk," he says very evenly – unnaturally evenly – "because I really don't want to yell at you right now."

"Yell, then. I deserve it. Merlin knows, I deserve a lot more than that." Dean's already picked up Wizarding slang, which Seamus would ordinarily be entertained by, but right now he isn't in the mood to be amused.

Seamus is clearly barely holding in his temper.

"I hate this, you know. I hate this."

"I'm sorry," Dean murmurs.

"Augh. That's not even… It's not even really your fault. It's not your fault. It's not… Ugh. It's just…" Seamus can never seem to find the right words when it's something serious.

"I hate being afraid, you know? I don't want to be scared. If I could just… stop, I would. I know that this isn't easy for you, but it's not exactly easy on me either. Difference is, I have to deal with this, and you, you can just walk away whenever you please." He looks up and sees the guilt in Dean's eyes.

"I'm sorry, Seamus. I really am."

"You left me stranded on a staircase for two hours, Dean. Sorry doesn't fix that."

And Dean's hurt by this, but he knows it's only fair.

"I trusted you. I trusted you to be there, and now I don't know how to trust you anymore, because how do I know this isn't going to happen again?"

"It won't," Dean vows, and he means it. Still, Seamus isn't sure what to do now.

"I'll tell you what," Dean says. "There's only one real way to make sure this never happens again. I'm going to help you get over your fear."

And so it begins.


Dean starts by guiding Seamus down the stairs, one step at a time. The first step is the hardest. Seamus still has his eyes closed, and Dean keeps up a constant stream of senseless chatter, not exactly something that's characteristic of him. He's got one hand on Seamus's elbow and the other in Seamus's hand, and Seamus is gripping his hand so tightly, Dean's hand has turned white (which is quite impressive, really). Seamus's other hand has the railing in a death-grip.

"Come on, Shay. You can do this, I know you can."

"I can't," he whimpers.

"Yes, you can. You're Shay Finnigan, and you can do anything you set your mind to. You can do this."

Seamus squeezes his eyelids tighter shut. Hesitantly, he edges his foot forward.

"That's it, Seamus! Just a little farther!"

Seamus is trembling, but he inches his foot forward again. He reaches the edge of the step. Slowly, achingly slowly, he steps down. He beams.

"See? I knew you could do it!" Dean is ecstatic. It takes the pair of them ten minutes to get down one flight of stairs, but neither boy cares, because Seamus has done it. It took a lot of help and a lot of patience, but he's done it all the same.

From then on, Seamus walks down the stairs whenever they have the time. Dean's pretty sure his hand is dead, but he's too proud of his friend to say anything.

Slowly, they ease Seamus into one hand on the railing and one hand in Dean, and then Seamus is guiding himself by the sound of Dean's voice. By the end of April, Seamus is the only one who can navigate the school staircases blind. Dean doesn't even have to guide him anymore. Dean just walks beside him, listening with a smile as Seamus chatters on. Seamus is happier now, Dean sees, and that makes Dean happier too. Still, there's something fragile inside him, and while it's buried deeper now, Dean can still see it. Seamus is still made of glass, only now he's got a protective coating.


"Do you know why?" Dean asks one peaceful May day. Dean is sketching the Black Lake, Seamus reclining beside him. At Seamus's questioning look, he elaborates. "Do you know why you're afraid of stairs?"

Seamus looks down, and Dean knows what he's thinking.

"It's not something to be ashamed of, Shay."

Seamus nods, unconvinced, but he starts to speak anyway.

"When I was nine my… my stepdad pushed me down the stairs." The words are mumbled; Dean has to strain to hear them.

Dean gasps in horror, but Seamus shakes his head. "It's not… I mean… It's not as bad as it sounds. It's just…" And Seamus hates that he can't seem to pin down what he's trying to say. "He's never liked me, really, and that's understandable, because all I am is a reminder of… of when my mum wasn't doing what she was supposed to. Because if she'd have been a good girl and married him like she was supposed to, I wouldn't exist. But she loved my da until the day he left, and then some, I think. And she's always had this wild streak, and she didn't really care that he was a muggle. But he cared that she was a witch, and she didn't tell him until it was too late for him to ever accept it. And he walked away, and it broke her wild side, and she married my stepdad like she was supposed to, but I'm always just a reminder of the time she disobeyed."


"Don't, Dean. Don't try to talk it all away, like it doesn't matter. It does, Dean, it matters. Because I'll never fit in my own home. I love my mum, I do, but this isn't easy on either of us, because I'll always be a reminder of what she considers her mistakes, but I don't think it was a mistake at all. People are people, love is love, regardless of anything else, but he makes me feel like I'm somehow less than the rest of them for it."

"Seamus, when I was little, in muggle primary school, I… I got a lot of crap for the color of my skin. My mum, she told me something that's stuck with me ever since.

"She said, 'The people that hate, they hate because they have hate in their hearts, and that's them. It's not about you. They say they hate you because of the color of your skin, that's why you're inferior, but even if that changed, even if that was different, they'd find something else to hate you for. You just be proud of who you are, where you come from. As long as you don't hate yourself for it, that's what matters.' It's the same thing, Shay. He'll look down on you, and he'll say it's because of what your father was, but even if your father was a pureblood, he'd find some other reason to look down on you. But you, you have to be proud of who you are. Seamus Finnigan is someone to be proud of."

Seamus looks at Dean like no-one's ever said anything like that to him before, and maybe no-one has, but Dean means every single overly sappy, mushy-gushy word.


It's the week before they're to go home, and Seamus and Dean are sitting in the rain because it's the only empty part of the castle and reveling in the last of each other's company.

Seamus is describing an altercation he had earlier with a Slytherin fourth year, and Dean is listening intently and sketching the enthusiasm on Seamus's face. He's put an Impervius Charm on his sketchpad and his pencils, and it's times like these that Dean really loves magic, because this way he can really capture the rain.

Abruptly, Dean's sketchpad is shaded with darkness, and Dean looks up to discover that the source is the same Slytherin fourth year that Seamus was just telling him about. An ugly sneer is plastered across his face, and he looks just about ready to kill.

"Maybe I shouldn't have put him in the Hospital Wing?" Seamus whispers to Dean. Dean wonders how Seamus managed this without his noticing, because they were both on the first floor before they came out, unless Seamus had someone else walk with him up the stairs, which Dean thinks is unlikely because he's never done that before.

"Well, well. If it isn't the little firstie who thinks he's oh-so-tough."

Absently, Dean wonders how this brute actually manages to sneer his words. It'd be quite impressive if it wasn't so terrifying.

"Maybe we should teach the wee firstie a lesson, eh, boys?" the brute asks his cronies with a grin. Cue in-synch crony nods.

"Shay, you really need to learn to control your temper," Dean murmurs.

Seamus only nods. Dean slowly packs away his sketchpad. He gets up, deliberately turns his back to the Slytherins, and helps Seamus up. He tries to drag Seamus up the the castle, but finds his path quite efficiently blocked by a solid wall of muscle. Instinctively, he shoves Seamus behind him.

He's not sure what spell was cast, the rain dampens the noise and the voice doesn't carry, but whatever it is, Dean's pretty sure it's not something likely to be in the Standard Book of Spells. They don't teach schoolchildren spells that hurt like this. This is Dark Magic.

Dean can't contain the scream of agony.

The fourth year looks a little afraid of what he's done as blood begins to run. He scampers off, cronies right behind him.

Seamus looks terrified.

"Dean! Dean!" He swears, furious at everything. "Dean, are you okay?"

Dean grins feebly at Seamus's foul mouth – which Dean thinks is kind of funny, really, despite the fact that he never swears himself – and doesn't answer the question. He doesn't have to. It's quite obvious he's not.

But the Hospital Wing is on the third floor.

Seamus hesitates only for an instant.

"I'll be right back," Seamus says, pure determination flitting across his face. "You stay in there. I'll get Madam Pomfrey."

"Shay…" Dean catches his wrist as Seamus turns to walk away. "You don't have to."

Seamus closes his eyes briefly, before opening them again and looking Dean straight in the eye. "I do."

Dean holds his gaze for a moment before nodding once and sinking back onto the ground.

Seamus is absolutely terrified, but he knows that what he told Dean is true: he has to do this.

But he still can't open his eyes.

Blindly, Seamus navigates the three staircases it takes to get from the grounds to the Hospital Wing. The minute his feet hit level ground, he starts to sprint.

He bursts through the Hospital Wing doors.

"MADAM POMFREY!" He's screaming at the top of his lungs. "MADAM POMFREY, PLEASE!"

She comes out from behind a curtain. "No need to shout, dearie. What do you need?"

There's pure panic in Seamus's eyes. "It's Dean. Some Slytherin hit him with something, I don't know what but he's bleeding and screaming and… and… and you've got to come!"

Madam Pomfrey doesn't say anything, just rushes in the direction of the stairs, Seamus hot on her heels.

Seamus bolts down the stairs after her without even realizing what he's doing.

"Dean!" Seamus yells as soon has he's close enough. He can tell that Dean's eyes are closed. Seamus hits his knees next to his best friend without even slowing down.

"Dean, wake up! Hey! Dean!" Seamus is vaguely aware – in the back of his mind, the rational part that is so not in control right now – that he's a little bit hysterical.

Madam Pomfrey calmly ignores him, waving her wand rapidly over the boy on the ground. After a few diagnostic spells and a few stabilizing spells, she levitates him and rushes back to the Hospital Wing, Seamus right behind her.

Again, he fails to register the stairs he's now climbing.

Seamus finally falls asleep in a chair next to the Hospital bed after Madam Pomfrey tells him that Dean will eventually recover.



Blearily, Seamus opens his eyes. Dean is smirking at him sleeping upright in a chair.

"Why are you sleeping in a chair?"

Seamus is ever-so-slightly abashed. "I was worried."

"Awww," Dean coos teasingly. "That's so sweet."

Seamus flushes, but he's grinning. "Shut up, you," he says without feeling. Dean grins.

"It's okay, Shay! We all already know you're a girl at heart, there's no need to deny it!"

Seamus socks him lightly in the arm, and Madam Pomfrey chooses that moment to show up.

"Stop tormenting my patient, Mr. Finnigan!" she snaps. Dean smirks, and Seamus looks indignant.

He opens his mouth to protest, but it's like Madam Pomfrey is psychic.

"And no buts, Mr. Finnigan! Mr. Thomas is a patient in my ward, and you will be respectful of that or you will be asked to leave."

She casts a few spells over Dean.

"You, Mr. Thomas, are a very lucky boy. Too much longer, and the damage would have been permanent. As it stands, you'll be sore but ready for class by the end of the week." She glances at Seamus. "You're very lucky to have Mr. Finnigan as a friend."

Dean smiles. "I know I am."

Madam Pomfrey nods once, sharply, before placing a potion on Dean's beside table.

"See that you drink that within the hour, Mr. Thomas. Mr. Finnigan, you have one hour."

She walks away to treat a third year covered in suspicious looking burns.

"Shay," Dean says slowly. Seamus nods. Dean looks like he's not sure he wants to continue, but he knows Seamus won't let it drop now that he's said that much.

"I'msoproudofyou," Dean mutters, and the words come out in a rush like he's not quite sure how to say them because Dean doesn't do mushy. He can do comfort, but he can't initiate the mushy.

Still, Seamus comprehends mumbled nonsense, and so he beams broadly at Dean's words.

Dean takes this as encouragement, and continues. "You did it. Without any help at all."

Seamus smiles softly. "That's not true. I never could have done it without you. Thanks."

And now the conversation is way too touchy-feely for either of them, so Seamus rubs the back of his neck awkwardly before beginning a long rant on what, exactly, he's going to do to the (insert choice plural swear word here) that dared to hex Dean. He does slide a subtle apology into this rant, and Dean sinks back into the pillows and lets the familiar voice wash over him.

For right now, everything is okay.


It isn't like, BAM, he's done it, and now Seamus isn't scared anymore. That's not how it goes. He's still scared, and he still usually navigates blind, but Seamus isn't afraid to be alone on the stairs anymore because he knows he's good enough, brave enough, to open his eyes for a moment if he needs to. He still chooses not to be alone, though. He and Dean are still stuck together at the hip. But, for the first time, Seamus feels like maybe he really does belong in Gryffindor after all. For the first time, he doesn't feel fake here.


When the Hogwarts Express comes to take them home, Dean spends the entire ride hoping that Seamus will come back whole, not shattered into a million pieces. Because yes, Seamus is less fragile than he used to be, and yes, he's built up a protective coating, but the summer tends to rub that sort of thing raw until it frays and can't hold up any longer. And Dean doesn't trust Seamus's stepdad not to undo all of the progress they've oh-so-gradually made.

In the train station, he doesn't want to say goodbye.

"You'll write," Seamus says, and it isn't a question, it's a demand. "You'll write, and I'll talk my mum into letting you come visit, and maybe your parents will let me visit you, and if Ireland makes the World Cup again, I can probably talk my mum into letting you come along, despite the fact that it's in America this year."

"Of course, Shay. We'll see each other, and we'll write, and it'll be next year before you know it." Dean smiles, but it's a worried smile.

Abruptly, Seamus throws his arms around Dean. Dean's a bit surprised, as they aren't typically affectionate, but he knows how Seamus feels, and he wraps his own arms around Seamus.

"I'll miss you," Seamus murmurs, and Dean returns the sentiment. Seamus turns around to walk away, but Dean catches his arm, looking him straight in the eye.

"You're better than him. No matter what he says, you're better than him," he says fiercely.

Seamus nods once, sharply. He doesn't say thanks, but he doesn't have to, because Dean can read it in his eyes.

"Alright?" Dean asks.

"Alright." Seamus says, and what's typically a greeting works as goodbye, and Dean watches Seamus walk away, and maybe Dean's just biased, but when he sees Seamus's stepdad, Dean thinks he looks like a shady bloke.


Dean's not sure what he's expecting when he arrives at the Finnigan household – scratch that, it's actually the… well, Dean's not actually sure what Seamus's stepdad's last name is, but it's his household – but it isn't this. The outside looks polished and pristine, set in the beautiful Irish countryside amidst rolling green hills. Dean's mother oohs and ahhs at the scenery, but Dean's more concerned with the house. For one thing, it's enormous. It's a gigantic sprawling beast of a house, dominating the landscape. Dean gapes.

It's gothic-looking, archaic and ancient, but in good repair. It's dark and shadowed, but not forbidding, though not exactly welcoming either.

Still, the outside isn't even the most surprising part.

The door is opened by a pipsqueak with dark hair that Seamus has never mention, but Dean assumes must be his half-brother. The boy looks about three, and he's timid. He stares at Dean and his mother as though he's never seen anything like them before, but he eventually beckons them in.

They step into a grand entrance hall, but the glory is marred by a shattered chandelier laying on the floor. Dean steps carefully around the broken glass, toward the yelling he can here.

"…can't believe you choose now to tell me this, Seamus Gabriel!"

"And I can't believe that you still can't call me by my last name! My name is Seamus Gabriel Finnigan, mum! It always has been, and it always will be! I don't know why you're trying to force me into your perfect pureblood world, because I don't fit! And you aren't happy there. You think I couldn't see how much happier you were with da? I was seven, mum, not blind.

"I'm not going to be ashamed of who he is just because you are," Seamus murmurs quietly, but Dean's close enough now that he can hear it. He doesn't know if he dares go closer.

"That is not the issue here, Seamus! The issue here is that I want to know who I'm letting into my house, and I'd prefer to know before two minutes prior to the arrival time!"

"I thought I'd give you some warning," Seamus mutters insolently. "That way you could freak out, you know, before he got here."

Seamus's mum takes a deep breath.

"You test my patience, Seamus."

Dean knows Seamus well enough by now to know that his eyes are likely flashing and his temper raging.

"If you don't want my son here, you can just say so," Mrs. Thomas declares suddenly and rather loudly. The voices stop. Seamus's mum marches into the room followed by a mortified Seamus, who stalks right toward Dean and deliberately hugs him as though they haven't seen each other in years. Dean feels ever-so-slightly like he's being used to taunt Seamus's mother, but he hugs his friend back regardless. Seamus mutters "I'm sorry" quietly into his ear, which helps.

Dean's mum is used to dealing with ignorant, prejudiced people, but Dean can tell she's got the wrong issue in her head – she thinks this is about race, not magic.

"I mean," she continues, "If you're going to look down on him just because of where he comes from-"

"Mum," Dean interrupts. He knows she means no harm, that she's only angry because she loves him, but Dean knows that it isn't going to help anything.

She glances at him.

"Mum, I'm staying." Dean leaves no room for argument. She looks as though she wants to protest, so Dean continues. "Seamus is my best friend, and I'm not a little kid anymore." He's only twelve, but she still wants to see him as her baby boy. He knows what she's afraid of – she only wants to shield him from the hatred in the world. "It's going to happen eventually," he tells her. "And you raised me to be strong enough to face it."

She blinks, wondering when her baby boy got so wise. Then, slowly, she nods.

"All right."

Mrs. Thomas looks like she wants to talk to Seamus's mum, and Seamus can tell, so he mutters, " Come on. I'll show you around." He leads Dean out of the room.

As soon as they're out of earshot, Dean asks, "What was with the chandelier?"

Seamus's voice is flat as he replies. "My stepdad got a bit… angry… when I told them you were Muggleborn. As did my mum, obviously, but at least she didn't blow up the chandelier and stomp out of the house."

"Why'd you have to tell them at all?" Dean asks, not accusing, just curious.

"They'd have noticed the car, I think," Seamus points out, and Dean nods, feeling a bit stupid for not having thought of it, but he's still not used to wizarding ways of travel.

"Sorry about that, by the way," Seamus apologizes. At Dean's questioning look, he elaborates. "That… fiasco. I tried to tell her early enough that you wouldn't have to see her explode."

Dean shakes his head. "Seamus, that fiasco was not in any way your fault."

Seamus sighs and changes the subject.

"This is the parlor."

Dean's a bit surprised that they even have a parlor, but he figures that in a house this big, they probably have every room Dean could ever think of and more. Touring the first floor alone takes nearly twenty minutes, and by the time they reach the entrance hall again, Dean's mum has left and Seamus's has disappeared somewhere.

Seamus glances at the grand staircase – nearly four times as wide as Dean is used to – and mutters, "Um. I'm sure you don't need to see the whole house. Everything important is on the main floor anyway."


Seamus looks up from where's he's been staring at his feet.

"Have you gone up the stairs yet?"

Seamus looks like he doesn't want to answer, but he eventually mutters a reply in the negative. Dean looks disappointed.

Dean doesn't usually hate, but in that moment, he feels it welling up inside him, hot and heavy. He's furious and mad and appalled all in one, and he honestly thinks he hates Seamus's stepdad. It scares him just a little that he can hate a man he's never met, a man whose name he doesn't even know, but he can't stand seeing Seamus so afraid.

Seamus's stepdad chooses that moment to stomp in the door. He freezes the instant he sees Dean and Seamus.

Dean shifts infinitesimally, so that he's now standing just a little bit in front of Seamus, protectively. He's the tallest one in their dorm and he doesn't lack for muscle, but he's still twelve, and he still looks preposterous attempting to stare down Seamus's stepdad, who is built like King Kong.

Still, the man must not be entirely dense, because he can see the rage in Dean's eyes, and he can see that any sort of confrontation, despite the fact that he'd inevitably come out on top, wouldn't do him one bit of good.

He stalks off. By the look of it, Seamus is still trying to figure out what the heck just happened. Dean, for once, doesn't bother to catch him up. He simply points up the grand staircase.

"Climb it."

Seamus looks at him like he's insane, but Dean's not particularly concerned. "Seamus Finnigan, you get your butt up that staircase right now," Dean demands, because he's furious and it's fueling his determination to not let this idiot hurt Seamus.

Abruptly, Seamus faces the staircase, takes a deep breath, eyes closed, and then stalks up the staircase. He reaches the top and turns around.

"Happy?" he calls back to Dean.

"Ecstatic," Dean drawls, and they both laugh, because Dean really shouldn't ever attempt sarcasm.

And summer passes far too quickly for either boy, and before they know it, they're back at King's Cross, reminiscing about moments from their time at Dean's and memories of dodging family at Seamus's.

Dean has a hard time explaining to his mother exactly why Seamus's family harbored a dislike of him, but once he does, she becomes pensive, and she's been retreating into her thoughts throughout the rest of the summer. When she calls Dean over to say goodbye on Platform Nine and Three Quarters, the look on her face makes Dean think that maybe he might finally get to know why.

"Dean? The other kids, are they… horrible to you, because you're Muggleborn?" she asks hesitantly.

Dean thinks about this for a moment before answering honestly. "Some of them."

"And… And would it be… better for you, if you were only half Muggleborn?"

"A half-blood, you mean? Yeah, I suppose. But why does it matter? I'm not going to lie about it."

"No, that's not…" She looks like she's not sure of what she wants to say. "Dean, your father… He might have been a wizard."

Dean blinks. "What? Dad's a Muggle, mum."

"I know. I mean…" She closes her eyes, taking a deep breath. "Dean, your dad isn't your father. He's your stepfather. Your real dad took off when you were just a baby. He… He might've been a wizard."

Dean's not sure what to feel about this. Right now, all he feels is shocked. He doesn't know how to respond.

He hugs his mother goodbye, says, "I'll see you at Christmas hols, mum," and boards the train without looking back. He immediately finds Seamus and collapses next to him. Seamus can tell immediately that something is wrong. He can hardly ask what before Dean is spilling the whole story, and now that he's retelling it, he's mad and sad and confused and depressed all at once.

And Seamus finally gets a chance to show Dean that friendship goes both way, that what a person gives out, he gets back.

And they are now, absolutely, without a doubt, 100 percent cemented in their friendship. Not that either of them doubted it before now, but, really, it's adversity that makes relationships stronger, makes them real.