Part four

The corridors are crowded and noisier than they have been in weeks, full of returning students and their friends, huddling together, thankful that everyone has returned – or remained – in one piece. The moment won't last; Seamus knows for a fact Snape has told the Carrows to disperse any lingering students within the hour. He knows this because he's taken to eavesdropping whenever he can, hiding well out of sight and desperate to hear any useful information.

He pushes through the crowd, impatient. Word is that Ginny hasn't come back. Neville's in bits and Seamus had wanted to lamp him one for falling apart. He hadn't of course, but the temptation had been there, which is why he's now pacing the corridors, trying to vent his frustration.

He tells himself he's not doing it to try and find Malfoy.

He reaches the end of the corridor and despite what he's been telling himself his heart sinks as he realises he's not spotted the familiar shock of blond hair. He swallows thickly, not daring to wonder why Malfoy hasn't made it back.

Soon enough, his anger at Neville has all but vanished, replaced with anger at the Death Eaters and their so called Lord. How are they getting away with this? Who the fuck is supposed to be standing up to them? Someone has to be-

Without warning Seamus feels a tendril of magic wrap around his shoulders and tighten, jerking him sideways as if a rope has been tied around him, pulling taught enough to yank him off balance. He cries out as he stumbles and throws an awkward hand out to stop himself falling and staggers straight through a tapestry into an alcove.

Hands grab his shoulders and he looks up into a familiar face, his heart skipping inside his ribcage.

"What the fuck are you doing hiding in an alcove?" he almost shouts, adrenaline and relief and god knows what coursing through him. "Jesus fucking Christ, Malfoy."

He falters as his eyes and brain finally catch up with his mouth. He stares at Malfoy, eyes wide.

"Don't shout," Malfoy says, his voice hoarse. He twitches, more violently than Seamus has seen in a long time, but that's not what Seamus is staring at. Malfoy's face is ashen and covered in badly healed cuts, all over his cheek, nose and chin. Some are small and shallow but some are almost an inch long and look deeper, more painful. It looks as if someone has smashed a glass in his face.

"What happened?" Seamus asks, horrified.

"Never mind that," Malfoy says urgently. "Thomas is alive."

Seamus's brain stops working for a moment, and everything else in the world disappears. The words ring in his ears above the thudding of his pulse, and then he manages a "what?"

"I saw him," Malfoy says urgently. "And Potter, and Weasley and Granger as well - they got brought to the Manor by snatchers and they escaped, but you can't tell anyone I told you-"

Seamus grabs Malfoy's shoulders and shakes him. "You swear to Merlin you're telling the truth?" he asks frantically. "You saw him?"

Malfoy nods emphatically. "Yes."

"And he got away? How?! What about Harry?"

Malfoy falters for the first time, his excitement fading. He looks down at the floor. "Potter stole my wand," he says dully.

Seamus gapes at him, and his eyes flicker over the cuts on his face again. "Please do not tell me that Harry did that to you."

Malfoy shakes his head. He raises a hand as if to touch one of the cuts and then thinks better of it. "A chandelier fell," he says. "Smashed and the glass went everywhere. Aunt Bella wouldn't let anyone heal them, said that I didn't deserve it."

"Why the fuck not?" Seamus asks fiercely.

"I had three wands in my hand," Malfoy says, looking down and sounding bitter. "Three, and I still got beaten by him. She said I was pitiful to have let Potter take them. Never mind that I had a face full of glass. I couldn't even see him, let alone…"

Seamus doesn't want to hear anymore. He grabs Malfoy in a fierce hug, one arm tight around his neck. "I thought they'd killed you when you didn't appear in that corridor," he whispers, and one of Malfoy's arms wraps around his waist in return. "You fuckin' idiot."

He doesn't even know how to feel. To know Dean is alive is the best thing he's heard all year. To not know where he's gone makes him want to die. To know Harry, Ron and Hermione are still out there fighting makes him ridiculously relieved. Seeing Malfoy's face makes him angry and upset, but at the same time he hates that Malfoy is still dithering between right and wrong. Malfoy knows what the right thing is, Seamus is sure of it, so why can't he just do it.

"Get your arse to the hospital wing," he finally says, pulling back.

Malfoy doesn't bother to argue. He just nods, but doesn't make any effort to move.

"Go on then," Seamus says, impatient. "I'm not escorting you up there."

Malfoy scowls. "I know that," he says, and then hesitates. "I know you don't take any notice of me," he says at his feet. "But is there any chance that you'll consider behaving this term?"

"Not a chance," Seamus replies automatically, then eyes Malfoy suspiciously. "Why?"

Malfoy scratches at one of the cuts on his cheek. "Since the mess with Potter escaping…they're upping the ante," he says carefully. "So I've heard, anyway."

"What do you mean, upping the ante?" Seamus asks warily, but Malfoy just shrugs. Seamus bites back a frustrated retort, knowing Malfoy is risking his neck by telling him that much anyway.

"Alright," he says. "Thanks for the vaguest warning I've ever heard in my life."

"Take it or leave it," Malfoy shrugs, and then steps away, disappearing through the tapestry and leaving Seamus alone.

It doesn't take Seamus long to realise that Malfoy was right about the fuckers upping the ante. The term has barely started when he finds himself carrying a sobbing second year back up to the tower in the dead of night. Apparently their mum works for the ministry – or had done up until that morning.

"Just stop crying, calm down," Seamus says desperately, cursing himself as he realises he has no idea how to talk to a sobbing twelve year old. "Come on. Back to the Tower."

The kid shakes his head, still crying. He'd taken his first ever Crucio that evening and his legs won't hold him up. It about breaks Seamus's heart, but he doesn't have time to stop and think because they've got to get back to the tower. If they get caught loitering they'll be in even more trouble.

"It's not far, come on," he pleads. "If we get back Parvati will fix you right up. You know, my friend? The pretty one?"

The boy draws in a shuddering breath, wiping his face on his sleeve. "She is pretty," he chokes out.

"Yeah, and she'll take good care of you," Seamus says, trying to coax the boy to his feet. "But we need to go now."

The boy draws in a jagged, shuddering breath. He wipes his nose on his hand and nods, and tries his best to walk with Seamus back to the tower. Seamus has to half carry him but it doesn't matter; now the boy is trying rather than just slumping down as deadweight at Seamus's feet.

They make it back in one piece and without being caught. Neville greets them and immediately sends for Parvati. Seamus holds onto the kid as they wait, and exchanges a worried glance with Neville over the top of the boy's head. Neville shakes his head almost imperceptibly, turning away and pressing a hand to his forehead.

Seamus ignores him and instead turns to the boy who is still curled up on his knee, leaning heavily against Seamus's chest.

"Okay?" he asks, the question probably completely redundant. Dean was always better at dealing with the little ones than he is.

The boys shakes his head. "No," he whispers, voice small.

Seamus sighs. "Me neither, mate. Me neither."

Seamus tries to pick up his goblet but his hand is shaking violently and he gives it up as a bad job. Across the Hall he hears laughter, and looks up to see Pansy Parkinson and Vincent Crabbe pointing at him, shaking their hands in front of them before collapsing into laugher again. He scowls, flips them the middle finger and then turns back to his breakfast.

He's not really bothered; his stunt yesterday had been worth the hex that was responsible for his current shakes. He'd decided to lighten up their compulsory Muggle studies session by loudly singing as many of the crude football songs that Dean had taught him last year. Everyone had found it hysterical. Everyone but Alecto Carrow, that was.

Swooshing above his head signals the arrival of the post, and he ignores it until an owl lands directly in front of him with a thwump.

He pokes it irritably. "Fuck off," he frowns, but it doesn't move. It just hoots balefully, and then he realises that it's a school owl. He hasn't sent any post out of the castle to be replied to, which can only mean that someone at Hogwarts is sending him a message in a very long-winded manner.

Curious, he reaches for the note attached to its leg. He glances around, looking for a tell-tale flash of white-blond hair. It's nowhere in sight, so he turns his attention back to the note.

Tell Longbottom to keep his head down. They're watching him.

It isn't signed but he knows exactly who it's from. As he re-reads the words they start to fade, and soon enough the parchment is blank, all evidence of the communication gone.

Seamus shoves the blank piece of parchment into his pocket and looks about, slightly worried. He's not missed Neville so far this morning, but now he thinks about it he realises that he's normally here by now. He glances towards the staff table and his heart sinks.

Neither of the Carrows are there, and Snape is watching Seamus with a undeniable look of curiosity on his sallow face.

Fuck, Seamus mouths to himself, feeling a horrible twist of foreboding in his gut. All in all, it's not a welcome thought to realise that Malfoy is the only person in the castle who gives a shit about their wellbeing.

Unless both Malfoy and Seamus's instincts are very wrong, he suspects things are about to get

really nasty.

"Tell me who let him out of detention," Alecto snarls, her face inches from Seamus's. "Who unlocked the door?"

"A ghost," Seamus deadpans, and Alecto raises her wand. Something white-hot cuts across the bridge of his nose and he cries out. "Son of a bitch," he gasps. Blood pours down his nose, trickling over his mouth and down his chin. He spits the metallic taste away.

"Tell me where he's gone," she says slowly.

Seamus laughs. "Not a bloody chance."

Another flash of something white-hot cuts across his forehead. He gasps, vision swimming and stomach threatening to heave at the pain. He shuts his eyes as the world tilts underneath him, going black at the edges. He feels his eyes rolling back into his head.

"Enough," an echoing voice says. "You're wasting your time with him. Get him out of here. No, Crabbe, stay here. You can deal with Longbottom, if we ever catch him. Draco – take Finnigan back to the tower."

The ropes around him slacken and hands grab at him as he slumps forwards, hauling him to his feet. He's okay apart from being shocked and a little wobbly on his feet, and the fact he can't see because of all the blood in his eyes. He reaches out and a hand grabs his wrist, tugging him along. He tries to wipe his eyes but it hurts so he gives up and staggers along. It helps that he knows exactly whose fingers are curled around his wrist.

"Nice to see you, Malfoy," he says hoarsely when he thinks they're far enough away as not to be overheard. "Even though I can't actually see you."

Malfoy stops, and Seamus feels a hand on his arm, pushing him around. "Come here," he says roughly. "Wait. Aguamenti. Damn – aguamenti."

Seamus feels water run down his face and he gasps at the cold and the sudden sting of pain. He reaches up to rub his eyes, the water helping to wash the blood away. When the water stops he can see again, though his eyes and the cuts on his face sting like a motherfucker.

"Well," he pants, shaking his head to get the water off, "at least we'll have matching face scars."

"Stop it," Malfoy says. "That's not funny."

It isn't really, seeing as Madam Pomfrey couldn't quite heal all of the gashes on Malfoy's face. He now looks like someone smashed a glass in his face five years ago.

"Rescuing me again?" Seamus asks, reaching up to gingerly touch his jaw as it twinges in protest. He leans back against the wall, feeling knackered.

"You should have just told them where Longbottom is," Malfoy says, and he sounds angry. It's a relief to hear. Malfoy's been looking more and more like a ghost as the days go by, his pale, scarred face looking vacant and wasted. It's nice to find that there's still a speck of something other than defeat in there somewhere.

"I don't know where he is," Seamus lies. "He's hiding, that's the point."

Malfoy breathes out, rubbing his face with a hand. He swallows thickly.

"This is getting…" he tries. "I just want it to be over."

"Don't we all," Seamus says. "But only if the good guys win."

"I don't care who wins," Malfoy says, his voice shaky. "I just want an end."

"Coward," Seamus says, and Malfoy flinches. He doesn't say anything else. It's the first time they've been alone together for any length of time since the Easter holidays. The silence stretches out and out, but neither of them leave.

"Maybe you should go and hide with him," Malfoy finally says at the floor, breaking the still silence of the corridor. "I've heard stuff."

Seamus feels a prickle go down his spine. "Heard what?"

Malfoy swallows. "That they're threatening to off Longbottom because his Gran is causing problems," he says, and pauses. "That if you keep giving them hassle they'll off you as an example."

"They wouldn't dare," Seamus says.

Malfoy lifts pale eyes to his. There's a scar perilously close to the left one, and Seamus can't help but think what a shame it would have been had the glass done anything to those grey orbs.

"They don't care anymore," Malfoy says, and deep down Seamus knows he's right. "It's getting close to something. Aunt Bella – she's gone frantic."

"Aunt Bella," Seamus shakes his head. "Some Aunt."

"Don't," Malfoy cuts in with surprising force and venom, voice tight. "Just don't. I call her Aunt Bella because that's who she is, but don't think for a second I want anything to do with her once this is over."

"Golly gosh, a backbone," Seamus says in not-altogether-mock surprise. "Impressive."

"Shut up," says Malfoy, but it's half-hearted at best.

Seamus pauses. "Thanks," he says, and Malfoy looks up. "For the heads up."

"So you'll go?" Malfoy asks quietly, and it's strangely touching – as well as convoluted – to see his concern.

Seamus shrugs, but he knows that a tactical withdrawal is pretty much his only option right now. Things are getting too dangerous, even for him. He wonders if he should ask Malfoy to go with him, but he already knows what the answer would be. Instead, he asks, "will you be alright without me?"

Malfoy gives him a look that's almost as good as a fifth-year-Malfoy-death-glare. "I'm not completely useless."

"I'll miss seeing your stupid face around," Seamus says, and the words echo off the stone.

Malfoy blinks and the glare goes away. "I'll miss hearing that stupid accent."

"You love my accent," Seamus says dismissively. "I'm the sexy Irish hero, remember?" Malfoy almost smiles at that and Seamus feels something odd go through him. They've been through a lot together in the past year, and he feels oddly connected to Malfoy in a way he never thought he would. When it comes down to it, he doesn't want to leave him here, not when it appears there's at least some good in him, if only a little bit.

"For what it's worth, I'm sorry," he says.

Malfoy blinks, confused. "For what?"

Seamus hesitates, for once thinking about what he's going to say before he says it. He thinks about it for a moment, and then says it anyway. "For fucking you on the floor of a bathroom."

Malfoy stares at him. "Would you rather it have been in a four poster bed with rose petals and candles and music playing in the background?"

The comment is so bewildered it makes Seamus laugh. He claps a hand over his mouth and then promptly regrets it as he catches a cut on his chin. He ignores the pain. "I'll tell you what," he says, seized by impulse. "If we both make it, we'll do it in a four poster bed with rose petals and music and candles and fuckin' champagne. The works."

Malfoy stares at him, looking like he's torn between laughing and walking off. "Liar. If this all ends like you want it to, you wouldn't be seen dead with me."

"I would, you just watch me," Seamus says. "Just don't kill anyone."

Malfoy blinks at him. "Do you even know me?" he says flatly, and whilst anyone else might think Malfoy means that as a Death Eater it's his job to kill people, Seamus knows better. He knows that Malfoy means that he couldn't kill anyone even if he tried.

Seamus shrugs. "Don't want you to forget that you're actually a good guy whilst I'm not about."

Malfoy opens his mouth as if to argue, and then appears to think better of it. "You know I can't just…" he says awkwardly, the words lost somewhere before he can say them aloud.

"I know," Seamus says, and he reaches to put both his hands on Malfoy's cheeks and leans in to kiss him. Malfoy kisses him back, breath catching in his chest. They stay pressed together for as long as they can get away with, Malfoy's hands curled around Seamus's hips.

They break apart only when they need to breathe.

"Do what you need to do to stay safe," Seamus whispers. "But don't do anything if you think I might punch you in the face for it."

Malfoy swallows thickly. "What do I do if they force me to do something you'd punch me in the face for?"

Seamus strokes his thumbs across Malfoy's cheekbones. "Not the foggiest," he says quietly. "Just promise me you'll at least do the right thing when you can."

Malfoy is silent for a long time, and then he finally says the single word that Seamus has been hoping for. "Promise."

Seamus smiles tiredly. "There you go then. It'll work out just fine," he says, sounding very matter-of-fact. "Trust in the luck of the Irish."

Malfoy laughs thickly and then Seamus kisses him once more before he leaves, disappearing into the depths of the castle to find Neville.

Tension weighs heavily on the castle, permeating the very stones of the building and making the air they breathe feel ready to snap. The evenings grow lighter but it just makes everything worse, stark and open for all to see. It's as if they had hoped that the darkness would have gone away with the winter.

The only sanctuary is the Room of Requirement, safe and warm and hidden far out of reach. Seamus is grateful for the safety, but at the same time he feels like screaming, breaking out and doing something, not hiding away like a coward.

His heart thuds inside his chest and he presses his palm to his sternum, wondering if it'll still be beating when this is all over.

During the day Seamus throws himself into supporting the re-formed Dumbledore's army. It's like a game of cat and mouse against Snape, one in which they have a home-field advantage. Seamus swears down that the castle itself is on their side, helping them in their crusade to cause as much trouble for the management as possible.

At night, he lies in his hammock and listens to the quiet breathing all around him. He wonders where Dean is, if he's safe.

He wonders exactly the same about Malfoy. One night he wakes with a shudder after dreaming about him and Malfoy in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. He's hard and aching and covered in a fine sheen of sweat, and feels his stomach twist as he realises that in the dream they were face to face.

The next day he hears someone mention Malfoy's name, and his hands falter on his newspaper. It's Michael Corner and he sounds furious. Seamus hears the words 'curse' and turns away, for once not wanting to listen.

He often wonders if Malfoy is still resisting in his own awkward way, or if he's just given in and has stepped up and taken his place with the Death Eaters. Even though they've kissed more times than he can count – even though they've had sex, for god's sake – Seamus honestly doesn't know what Malfoy will choose in the end.

It aches, deep in his chest, to think that he might have lost Malfoy already, and he wouldn't know a thing about it.

The room is in chaos; shouting and yelling and people running. Seamus's first thought is that the Carrows have finally found a way in, but then he registers Neville's excited voice and the buzz of animated conversation, moments before he hears the word 'Harry.'

He pushes through the crowd and his heart leaps into the base of his throat and his stomach twist in a knot because Harry is there, right there, standing and talking to Neville and looking frantic. There's no mistaking him, not now, not ever. Not the glasses or the hair or the sense of purpose – the only thing hidden from view is the bloody scar, shielded by hair that looks as if it's not been properly cut in weeks. Mouth hanging open, Seamus spots Ron and Hermione too, and he can't bloody believe it; they just waltz in after how long and he's so fucking glad he'd kiss them all, even Hermione.

Excitement thrums through him. This is their chance, their chance to act. Everyone'll follow Harry if he asks it of them, and Seamus is ready to follow him without second thought or hesitation. After that debacle in fifth year Seamus has definitely learned to just trust him, even when he's acting crazy or being a moody arsehole -

And then Harry says they're not here to help, and Seamus feels the room go tense all over again. "You don't understand," Harry says. "We – we can't tell you. We've got to do it alone."

It's lucky that Neville is stood in front of Seamus because Seamus is suddenly so angry that he would happily lamp Harry one, just like he did to Malfoy all that time ago. Seamus doesn't give a fuck that Harry is the Chosen One and is meant to be doing this alone, or whatever his bullshit heroic principles recommend he should do. For someone who supposedly hates all the special treatment and glory, at times he comes across as very unwilling to share. He hasn't been here, he's not got a fucking clue how hard they've been fighting, fighting so the others don't win, fighting for him-

Only a miracle would stop Seamus weighing in and giving Harry a mouthful or a good shaking. He thinks of first years being Crucio'd and the scars cutting across Malfoy's pale chest and steps forwards -

- just as the portrait opens and Dean and Luna topple through.

Seamus's heart stops, he's sure of it. For a wild moment he thinks he's mistaken and it's some other lankly bastard that's fallen through the portrait, even though he'd recognise him anywhere. But then Dean looks up and Seamus forgets all about Malfoy and his scars, and Harry and his sodding hero-complex that he can't quite make his mind up over. Without thinking or even considering an apology, he shoves Neville out of the way and runs to grab Dean in a hug, holding him so tightly that Dean probably can't breathe.

Dean hugs him back just as tightly and for once in his life Seamus knows he doesn't have to say anything. He does anyway.

"Where the fuck have you been?" he asks, voice muffled in Dean's shoulder.

"Hiding," Dean replies, laughing. The sound is thick with emotion. "I've been all over the place – with some blokes and some goblins, and then I found Harry and Ron and we ended up in Malfoy Manor-"

"I know, I'd heard," Seamus says, pulling back. "Malfoy told me he'd seen you."

Dean looks confused. "You spoke to Malfoy? Shite, Seamus – what happened to your face?"

Their conversation is cut short by the rising argument behind them. They pause and turn to listen; Neville is angrier than Seamus has seen in ages and even Michael Corner is wading in to snap at Harry. It's getting rapidly out of hand when the portrait swings open once again and more people stumble in, looking eager and excited.

Harry's resolve lasts about three minutes after that. Seamus has no idea what Ron mutters in Harry's ear but he's happily considering offering to get on his fucking knees for that lanky freckled git, because Harry takes a deep breath, nods and then relents.

Adrenaline thrums through Seamus's veins. This is it, he thinks as he listens to what Harry has to say, bolstered by Dean's presence at his side. This is their chance.

The castle shudders beneath their feet, the groaning and rumbling almost deafening. Seamus has lost track of Dean but he can't stop to think, he just shoots curse after curse down through the window onto the advancing horde of death eaters. A jet of light shoots his way in return, cracking against the stone of the window frame and showering him in malevolent orange sparks. He turns away, panting and trying to think where to go next.

He runs away from the window, ducking another jet of light which hits a portrait and sets it aflame, the canvas blackening and curling as the occupant screams and tries to flee into the next frame. He sees Parvati and Padma crouched by a window and goes to join them, but is distracted by a flash of unmistakable blond hair at the end of the corridor.

Sound roaring in his ears like he's underwater, he slows his pace and goes completely still, his entire world narrowing down to him and Malfoy because he's there at the end of the corridor, moving out of sight too quickly for Seamus to do anything other than stumble and stare. All he can hear is his heart thudding in his ears like a drum, and somewhere beyond that muffled screams and shouts -

There's another deafening crack and he feels a hand grab his wrist, yanking him down to the floor out of the way of an ominous green bolt of light.

"Don't just stand there!" Parvati shrieks, and suddenly Seamus comes back to the moment, trying to refocus and help and breathe, but all he can think is why the fuck is Malfoy still in the castle and who is he fighting for? There's a sick feeling in the bottom of his stomach as he shoots a jinx down at a masked figure that is trying to force open a window, and he realises that he doesn't want to know.

And it's over.

Seamus feels like he could sleep for a week. His ear is still throbbing and his arm aches and all he wants to do is sit here, leaning back against the wall and clutching his wand in his hand. People that survived pass him by as they gravitate towards the Great Hall, and Seamus is strangely aware of himself in a way he hasn't been before. He's made it, he's still alive.

He wonders who else is.

He's trying not to think. Images of Neville with that sword and Harry squaring up to the Greatest Dark wizard of all time flicker through his mind, like scenes from a film he watched a long time ago. He remembers Lavender lying on the floor. Remembers the roar of the giants outside, the moment where he'd been convinced he'd been squashed flat by their stampeding feet. He remembers Luna's hands, pulling him to his feet with surprising strength. Remembers the look of determination on Harry's face, the strength that had radiated from him at every turn.

Seamus is honestly fucking fed up of thinking. He can save that for when they undoubtedly chuck them all into therapy. Instead, he wants to go and find Dean and tell him that he's an idiot, just because he's alive and he can. After that, he just wants to pass out on his face.

He struggles to push himself to his feet and limps along the corridor. He manages to smile as people nod at him, but for once in his life he doesn't want to talk. He wonders if he'll tell Dean about Malfoy. Maybe he should find out if Malfoy is alive or not before he does.

He walks slowly, stepping over broken stone and splintered wood. Pieces of metal are scattered everywhere, the plinths that had previously housed the suits of armour now empty. Seamus had been right; the castle was on their side.

A black robed body is slumped on the staircase nearby. Seamus takes a cautious step closer and then spots a mark on the body's forearm, bent at a strange angle and sticking out awkwardly from the robes. He stares for a moment and then turns on his heel, planning to take the scenic route down to the Hall instead.

He passes through a shattered doorway and then stops dead in place. His heart clenches and twists inside his chest as he spots a lone figure sitting on the floor outside where the Room of Requirement should be. For a moment, Dean is forgotten.

Malfoy is curled up with his knees against his chest and his fingers around his ankles. His face is hidden from view. Seamus doesn't even consider leaving him there. He can't feel a lot other than the bone-numbing weariness that has settled in his limbs, but he feels something in his chest to see that Malfoy is alive. In all honestly, he feels like laughing. Or maybe crying, he's not sure which right now.

"What the fuck are you doing up here?"

Malfoy looks up and Seamus's chest aches. His face is smeared with dirt and soot and his hair is filthy. As Seamus limps closer he sees tear tacks on Malfoy's cheeks, smearing through the grime. He looks lost.

"Crabbe died," he says blankly.

Seamus looks down at him. "A lot of people did."

He holds out a hand and Malfoy stares at it for a moment before he grasps it and lets Seamus pull him to his feet. He stumbles slightly and Seamus catches him with a hand on his shoulder.

"Why are you all sooty?" Seamus asks with a frown.

Malfoy shakes his head and wipes his eyes with the back of his hand, smearing the muck even further. His eyes stand out amongst the dirt, bright and grey and exhausted. He doesn't want to talk about it, Seamus can tell. It's alright; Seamus probably doesn't want to hear about it.

They stand in silence for a long time. It's almost too much to take in, the fact that it's finally over. It's still raw and open; the dust is still settling even as they stand there, swirling through the light that pours in through broken windows and demolished battlements. The castle feels warm for the first time since they can't remember when, and Seamus finds himself ridiculously thankful that Malfoy is still here.

"So, did you kill anyone?"

The question is out of his mouth before his brain can tell him it's a fucking stupid thing to say. Malfoy blinks at him, eyes wide.


Seamus's shoulder slump in relief. "Well, thank fuck for that. I didn't know what side you were fighting for."

"Neither did I," Malfoy mumbles, and presses the heels of his palms against his eyes, exhausted.

"Did you – what did you do? Did you hurt anyone?" Seamus asks, reaching out to pull Malfoy's hands away from his face. He has to know, he needs to know.

"No, I-" Malfoy tries, his voice breaking. "I did a stupid thing. No - I tried to do a stupid thing – but I didn't, I didn't know what I was doing. I just wanted – wanted it to be over, and I just wanted my wand back but it was Crabbe, he just wasn't listening and now he's dead."

More tears run down Malfoy's face, cutting tracks through the smudged dirt. He looks at Seamus and shakes his head, still crying. "I just wanted my wand back," he says pitifully. "He's still bloody got it."

Seamus fights the urge to touch him. "Well, you can ask him for it back, can't you? If you didn't actually do anything wrong…"

It's a question – a challenge – and Malfoy knows it. He swallows and wipes his face with the back of his hand again. Seamus waits, and then waits some more, breath held in his chest. If Malfoy refuses to go and ask Harry for his wand back then Seamus will know he's done something to be ashamed of, something that Seamus won't forgive him for. If he does have the guts to do it, then that means something else entirely.

"I – " Malfoy whispers, and then he nods. "Yeah. Yeah, I can," he says and Seamus feels like he's about to either burst or collapse in giddy relief. "If you come with me," Malfoy adds hurriedly, and Seamus smiles faintly; Malfoy might have a bit of spine but Seamus doesn't really blame him for not wanting to face Harry alone. He wonders how that'll go down, him appearing with Malfoy in tow.

He finds he doesn't really give a fuck.

It's as if he always knew what that aching, twisting feeling in his chest was, but it would have been idiotic to acknowledge what it could be until now. Maybe now it's got a chance in hell of surviving.

"So, what was the deal?" he finally says. "Candles and music and rose petals?"

Malfoy looks up at him and laughs brokenly. More tears spill down his cheeks. "And champagne," he adds, voice catching.

Seamus smiles weakly and reaches out to slip a hand onto the back of Malfoy's neck. "I can't get over how relieved I am to know you're not dead," he says, and Malfoy laughs and cries harder. "Considering that less than a year ago I hated your guts."

"I know," he manages, wiping his face. "Me too."

Seamus doesn't know if that means Malfoy is glad that he's not dead or if he's glad that Seamus isn't dead. He finds he doesn't care. The sun is warm on his shoulders and the castle is quiet and all that matters in that single moment is that Seamus doesn't have to give up that flicker of something special he found amongst the ruins of a war.

He brings his mouth close to Malfoy's and hopes to whatever god is listening that he won't later find out that Malfoy's lying and he has done something terrible. He likes to believe that somehow he knows Malfoy didn't; all in all fighting hasn't really seemed to be his thing. Seamus thinks that he somehow brings out the best in Malfoy, managing to break through the layers of spite and cowardice to find someone else beneath.

What he thinks is enough for now.

"Thank you," Malfoy whispers, and Seamus doesn't know for what but Malfoy closes the last of the space between them and kisses him gently.

Seamus feels his heart still thudding along inside his chest, smiles, and kisses him back.