"Really," Daphne repeated. She was sitting, perched upright, on the grassy knoll flowing down to the lake. Above her, a small ray of sunshine threatened to break through the clouds, and its glow illuminated the edges of a patch of cloud.
It was a week since the battle, a week since the victory over Voldemort (though it sometimes seemed easy to forget it was a victory, in the tired sadness of clearing the debris and burying bodies).
"... Oh, it's just-" Daphne broke off and sighed. "Really!"
"What I was saying, Seamus." She glanced at him, (im)patient amusement in her eyes. "I know you're not daft, you're just not paying attention. What are you thinking of?"
"Oh," Seamus said, and paused blankly. What had he been thinking of? Had he even been thinking?
Dean, possibly? Dean, who had elected to spend time with Luna and Neville. They'd become close friends during their time at Malfoy Manor- but the thought of them being at Malfoy Manor still made Seamus' blood boil, especially when he remembered seeing Malfoy through the entire bloody year.
(It was amazing how like Dean, the old Dean, he was, now that Seamus thought of it. Not like Lavender, who had changed so much in front of his eyes, or Neville, who had just swelled and grown and made everyone else in Gryffindor who once laughed at him feel like a coward.)
But just then, he hadn't been thinking of Dean, at least not before. He hadn't been thinking of Fred- or George- or Professor Lupin, or his young wife, or Colin Creevey (he hadn't been so annoying in the end, a really nice bloke)- he hadn't been thinking of Harry, or Voldemort, or the battle. Guilt squirmed in his stomach like a giant tentacle thrashing against a weakening dam.
""Oh"," Daphne mimicked, amusement evident in her tone. "I suppose that must function for an answer now."
"But you were going to say something. Or you had said something," said Seamus with mild consternation. "I want to hear what it was."
Daphne gave a small rueful laugh and sat up, her eyes staring, unseeing, to the lake.
"It's not terribly important. Well, it is- dreadfully important- but I don't think anyone will listen. And in time, people will forget." She drifted off, her voice filled with that tired, sad strain. It seemed the war had infected everyone with it. "I think that was the problem, really- people forgetting. And then not caring, but just getting swept up in everything." She sighed, but when she spoke again, it was with some force and anger. "People can be so incredibly stupid!"
As she gave a heavy sigh, drawing her knees to her chin, Seamus began piecing together the many strands she had left untied. It was a habit of hers, he'd realised. When they'd first met, he'd thought it was to do with the circumstances (none of which had been ideal), but ever since they'd started spending more time with each other following the war, he realised it was just Daphne. She wasn't used to voicing all her thoughts, and she certainly wasn't going to piece it all together for someone else.
She had been saying something about forgetting, and forgetfulness being the cause of peoples' stupid actions. Or perhaps it was people being stupid that made them forget. But what made them forget what exactly?
"You know what I mean," Daphne said flatly, not looking at him. "You know, but you don't realise the implications, or you're trying to avoid them. But you know, Seamus, you can't not know. You saw it in your own House."
"Saw what?" asked Seamus, genuinely bewildered.
"Longbottom!" Daphne said, impatience beginning to seep into her voice. "Weasley! All those purebloods who tried to forget that they were purebloods, so that they could ignore what the war was about, as opposed to actually trying to address the fact that there is a difference when it comes to blood! It's no reason to adopt a supremist attitude but there is a difference- and it's as though everyone is simply wilfully ignoring it!"
Seamus blinked. He hadn't actually thought of that, not much. It hadn't seemed to make such a difference- bloody hell, Harry and Ron got along like a house on fire from the very start, and Harry had been raised as a muggle.
He was about to open his mouth to argue when memories of Mam and Da butted their way into his mind, elbowing excuses out of the way with a viciously uncaring abandon. Mam, telling him to stop talking to Michael, especially as the days drew nearer to the arrival of his Hogwarts letter- Da, losing it with Mam and telling her to stop controlling Seamus' life. Mam and Da arguing over the amount of time Seamus spent with Aunt Caitlin, on Mam's side- Da's face whenever he witnessed Seamus' accidental magic as a child.
A moth buffeted past him, against the wind. Its wings looked like the fabrics he'd seen Da's sister, Aunt Nora, stitching. It was part of her work for the Church, to hem the slightly coarse and ripped cotton, loose ends threatening to spill.
"I never thought of that," Seamus admitted quietly. He wondered if Daphne would even hear what he was saying, or if the wind would just carry it away like that struggling moth. He half hoped the latter would occur. "It seemed- wrong during the War, to think that- that-"
"That blood makes a difference?"
Daphne turned around to him, a strange, anguished half smile on her face.
"But it does, Seamus," she insisted, "Blood does make a difference. There's a language, a culture- old houses and ancestors, magical mishaps, Beadle and the Founders instead of those- those brothers' fairytales. That comes with blood, and no matter how brilliant a muggleborn is, nothing changes the fact that it's a completely different heritage."
"Yeah- but heritage and difference isn't any reason or excuse for a war!" said Seamus, a horrified sensation of sinking strangely rising up his windpipe.
She's a Slytherin, mate.
And had Dean ultimately been right?
He glanced worriedly at Daphne, whose lips were pursed ever so slightly, and whose brow was darkened ever so lightly.
"No, nothing can excuse the horror of the past few years," she said, and the horrible sinking feeling started slowly to recede. Nevertheless, she chewed at her lower lip. "Still, I can't help but think that magical and non-magical relations are problematic. Is our solution of hiding away until some wizard or witch falls in love with a muggle really so sustainable?"
"I love yer mother, Seamus, I do- but if I'd known then as I know now-"
He saw his father, shoulders drooping, Guinness in hand.
"You'd what, Da?"
"Don't yeh fret, Seamus, we gotta get yer to London soon. Packed?"
"And then asking that muggle to put behind their life and live a secret, aside from their family and friends," Seamus muttered, his gaze dropping to the grass. It was green, fresh from the rain- green for martyrdom. Glasmartre. "Because their kid might just prove to be magical."
"Seamus, what the bloody- oh Jesus, oh Jesus."
His father, cradling his hand.
"I'll take yer to yer Ma, she'll fix this. It's ok, son, it's ok."
He felt a cool, soft pressure on his hand and looked up, startled, as Daphne quickly drew her hand back to her robes.
"Well- anyway," she said, looking mildly flustered, "it- it is problematic. But 'blood' was only ever a pretence for- for- most of the Death Eaters, for this past year or two. Fighting for purity of blood when half of them were halfbloods- absolute bollocks."
"D'you know, I've never heard you swear," he grinned, and she pulled a face at him.
"Clearly it's the insidious influence of being near a rogue Irishman," she retorted, but laughed with him; a clear, low laugh that made all comparisons about bells and whatnot seem derivative and cheap.
Soon- too soon- her laughter died away, and the air was as still as the lake lying ahead.
The question burst forth before he had really had much time to consider it, but as the words came and he tested them, he realised they were exactly what he meant to ask.
"What d'you think should be done, then? With- well, what you were saying."
"Well, there should be-" Daphne paused, and looked at the ground, almost shyly. "I was thinking something more needed to be done for integration- I have thought so, for a while. It would be a drain on taxes and resources, or so people will argue, but we need more research done into integration and non-integration, not merely of Muggle-borns but of their parents, and from that we'd need people who could begin to develop policies and-"
"You've thought this fairly well, haven't you?" said Seamus, grinning.
Daphne smiled modestly and looked down at her lap.
"Well, thought," she said, "although no one will want me to spearhead any new department now, seeing as I am a Slytherin." She looked down at her hands, the corners of a frown lightly touching her eyes.
"That's not true," Seamus protested, and she raised a carefully sculpted eyebrow at him. "Well-" he paused. "Harry and the others won't be so black and white. And I'm sure-"
"Ah," Daphne smiled, looking up, "so you're talking about nepotism. It also works, in the end- deep down, I think everyone is at least part Slytherin."
Then she laughed, a real laugh, and despite the half-protests that bubbled up to his lips, Seamus felt them slip away, until a small laugh escaped from his lips, too.
"Thank you," she said, eventually, her voice small. Her eyes flickered to Seamus' (had she always looked so small?) before falling to the grass. "People don't usually listen to me- let alone understand. And think. People hardly think."
"They do if you speak," Seamus said. "Maybe you should just speak louder."
Her eyes filled with amusement as the corners of her lips quirked.
"Oh Seamus, you're such a Gryffindor," she said fondly, turning to him.
Maybe it was the way that the light was sneaking through the lazy clouds, or the way that the wind had just died down so that the world seemed to fall into a lull. Maybe it was just the tone of her laugh, or the way she was looking at him. He wasn't sure at the time, or even in later times, when he thought back to it. But whatever it was, the words tumbled out of his mouth before he'd even known they were there, and it was only when he heard them that he realised how much he meant them.
The funny thing was, he couldn't remember much of what he said past "Daphne", but what did it matter when she was looking at him like that, with a glowing, almost achingly warm light in her eyes that he'd only seen previously as glimmers in dark and lonely hallways?
"Well?" he said, and licked his lips.
Daphne's mouth fell into a little "o", then she blinked and laughed, biting her lip.
It was the first time he'd seen Daphne speechless, and anxiety flared up, tearing at everything in its path.
Daphne only shook her head and gave another strange laugh.
"You don't have to and it's ok if you just leave and ignore me," Seamus babbled, thinking that it would be anything but ok if Daphne chose to do anything remotely like that.
"Me?" Daphne said, and her voice was filled with so many emotions Seamus couldn't begin to untangle them. "You'd ask me- a Slytherin."
"As if that matters to me what House you're in!" Seamus said, disbelievingly. "You know what I think, aren't you the one who told me not to judge people in groups anyway?"
"You hardly know me!" she half breathed, her voice fearful and desperate and slightly wild all at once.
"I know you well enough to know I want to know you better," he retorted. "Daphne!"
She looked at him, her eyes a pool within which rays of (fear? hope?) melted, clashed- resolved.
"Well-" he swallowed. "Daphne, will you?"
"Will I what?" she whispered, her hand sliding between his. Seamus hoped he wasn't imagining the anxiousness in her voice that buffeted like a moth's wings in the heavy autumn wind. "It would be awfully easier to answer if you asked a real question, you know."
Now would have been a nice time to have had some sort of, well, something, prepared. Go on a date with me seemed so trivia, so menial, in the light of all that had passed. Be my girlfriend seemed simultaneously serious and simultaneously juvenile. "Come on a picnic with me?" he finished, lamely.
Daphne raised one eyebrow at him, clearly amused.
"Go on a- date with me?" he asked lamely, hoping the words did not sound so dreadfully lame to her.
She turned to him, her face filled with uncertainty, and she looked so young he had to remind himself that they were still, after everything, only just eighteen.
"Me?" she asked, and her voice half cracked with uncertainty. "Seamus, you don't want to ask me- I'm a Slytherin, my parents-"
"You know I care bollocks about that," he retorted fiercely, trying to ignore how the cauldron near his chest was threatening to spill with boiled bubbles. "Just one. Will you come?"
Panicking, he saw the light in her eyes flicker, dim.
"With the promise of more to come," he added, hastily, and the cauldron was bubbling and roaring so loudly it had some reached his ears, and how could she not hear?
"I-" uncertainty bubbled and swirled into hesitation- and was that glee, eagerness? Was he reading, seeing correctly? And then she was glancing away, at the ground, and he counted the blades of grass as she expertly flicked, pulled- one, two, three... five... seven-
- but then her eyes were raised and looking at his once more, and the light in them was almost unbearably rich, and he knew, even before she spoke, even before she breathed, "I think I'd like that; very much" what she was going to say.
He reached out for her- how small her frame was, how easily she fit against him- and almost of their own accord her arms seemed to wind around his neck, into his hair. And as he lowered his face to hers,he felt bluebell flames whispering through the darkness of night, and knew that somehow- somehow- it had all converged not only in, but for, this.
A/N: A mildly edited version of "Ease". The title is meant to be a pun, based upon sewing discourse where the fibres of a fabric are pulled together more closely than upon their initial make. This is where I've wanted my Daphne/Seamus storyline to head, ever since "Like Bambrack, or an Inauspicious Meet" so I hope it has worked!