For the 2012 Hogwarts Games – Freestyle 2000 plus.

This story does involve a fair bit of my headcanon for Seamus and Dean, which is outlined in my fics The Things We Overcome and A Matter Of Culture, but it should stand just as well on its own.

There are tense switches all over the place in this fic. There's a method to the madness, I swear! Basically, the present tense occurs with Seamus in the gallery, and also the descriptions of the pieces of art are present tense because the art is, rather than was. The memories that accompany the pieces, on the other hand, are past. Sorry if it gets confusing.

I have no explanation as to why there's no quotation marks except the very, very end. It's all still grammatically correct, though, I'm pretty sure! My muse went psycho for this, honest. I have no control.

A billion fantastic thank yous to MissingMommy, who is an incredible beta, among so many other amazing attributes :D


Your steps into the gallery are far more tentative than your usual. This is weird, almost foreign, and though that doesn't usually bother you, this is different because it matters. Because he matters. This is his first time displaying his drawings so publicly, and you know that he keeps them fiercely close – you haven't even seen most of them. He deserves it, of course. You know that, but you also know he's scared, though he's not said as much. He won't. He doesn't say things like that aloud, but you always know.

You would have been with him since long before the opening if he'd have let you, but he'd refused your offer. He said there was something you needed to see by yourself, not with him standing next to you. You told him that your reaction would be the same whether he was beside you or not – you don't lie to him, not ever – but he just smiled that smile that you love and shook his head. When you asked him how you'd know what it was he wanted you to see, he just smiled and said you'd know.

You aren't quite sure what that means, so you walk around the gallery slowly, examining the exhibits. Some of them are his and some of them aren't, but none of them strike you as remarkable – or, at least, any more remarkable than all of his pieces always are. Medium doesn't matter; your boyfriend is the most brilliant artist on Earth, and no one will ever tell you otherwise.

And then you see it.

It's in a room all of its own. A series of sketches, pencil drawings. They're spread in a horizontal line across the wall, every one the same size and height. They all have a small caption underneath, and they're each framed in a thin black rectangle.

Above the series of drawings resides the title, in thick black letters. The DEvolution of Seamus Finnigan, it says. The D is squeezed in as though as an afterthought, and then firmly crossed out – as though the writer decided to add it, and then changed his mind.

You smile at how appropriate it is. It hurts, but it's true. You've overcome it enough to realise the truth of that.

Naturally, you wander to the left side of the series and examine the first sketch. It's clumsier than you've come to expect from him. The pencil lines are all thick and dark, without the subtle variance that he has such talent for. The angle, too, is strange – head on, which he so rarely settles for any more. It takes you a moment to realise why.

The image is of you – eleven-year-old you, with your bag slung over your shoulder and your trunk in your hand. You're beaming, the grin wide on your childish features. The caption underneath reads: 1a. I'm Seamus. Who're you?

It makes you grin – you remember how you were back then. Actually, you're still that way now. Up front. If you wonder, you ask. You don't believe in sugarcoating things in social niceties.

And you realise as you consider this that the reason why this piece looks unlike his recent work, is because it isn't his recent work. It must be something he sketched in first year, just after meeting you.

In that light, the sketch is absolutely phenomenal. It's quite recognisably you, though maybe your eyes are a bit too large and not quite symmetrical, and maybe your grin is just a bit off. As a work done by an eleven-year-old, though, it is incredible.

You marvel, and then you force yourself to move on to the second image – because you could spend forever just staring at the first.

The second sketch is you as well, though, really, you should expect that, given the series title. It's very different from the first, though. Where the first was all dark lines and minimalist design, this one is all light lines and lots of shading. The image is more pencil-gray than sketchbook-white.

It's you at an angle this time, though even you can hardly tell that it's you at first glance. Your head is down and your knees are hugged up to your chest as you sit on your bed. You're glancing at him – he's out of the sketch, as usual – sidelong, and your hair falls across your face. You'd forgotten how long it used to be.

The caption beneath this one says: 1b. That's not home to me, and that's all it takes for you to remember the moment. It was after exams, when you were supposed to be packing. He was already packed, of course, because that's how he is. Always prepared. You, on the other hand, have always preferred the method of last-minute chaos, which makes him roll his eyes at you in exasperation by now.

He'd asked you why you weren't packing. Aren't you excited to go home? he'd said. You'd replied with the line he's captioned, and it had baffled him. Haltingly, you had forced yourself to explain to him that your mum had kicked your father out before you were born because he was a Muggle and she "came to her senses" – her words, not yours – and divorced him. You'd explained that your stepdad thought you weren't worth the ground he walked on because of your father; the father that you so rarely got to see but loved anyway because he actually gave a damn about you, unlike the rest of the adults in your life. You'd told him about your mum, who loved you, you knew, but who saw you and thought of him, thought only of what she considered her mistake.

You told him everything you never let anyone hear, because in the past few months he'd become your world. And when you were finished speaking, finished staring at your knees, you'd glanced up at him sidelong, just like this image, and you'd found him sitting beside you, though he was standing when you started.

Without a word – because that was just his way – he'd wrapped his arms around you and held you tightly. Maybe it should have been weird, but it wasn't.

You smile at the memory, knowing you could stare for eons at this sketch too, but you push yourself to move on to the third instead.

The one labeled 2a tells you just how well he knows your face; that or he was sketching you without your notice. This one is a close up – almost too close – and every single freckle is sprawled across your face. Your expression is oddly soft and empathetic, but there's something fierce in your eyes at the same time. It's a weird look for you – not one you've ever seen on your own face, but then, you suppose you don't really stare empathetically into the mirror very often, so that only makes sense.

2a. It'll be all right.

It takes you a moment to pinpoint the occasion, because you've spoken those words to him more than once, and the sketch is such a close up that you have no background to draw from, but then you remember. It's another Hogwarts Express moment.

He'd been withdrawn upon your reunion before second year. He was naturally very quiet, you were the loudmouth of the pair, after all, but this was different. Somehow, in just a year you'd learned the difference between his being introspective and his being withdrawn, and this was clearly the latter.

You hadn't asked at first, because you wanted to let him tell you. Instead, you chattered on about nothing, filling the silence, as was your talent. But after a while, you figured out that he wasn't going to say anything, and so you'd initiated the conversation. He hadn't taken any probing to tell you about his summer – about finding out that his father, the man who had raised him all his life, wasn't his biological dad.

He wasn't angry about that, though. He wasn't angry that his real dad had left when he was a kid – though you rather thought he should have been.

He was angry that they hadn't told him. He was angry that they'd let him believe a lie.

It was something you understood. You knew exactly what it felt like to be told lies by those that were supposed to teach you what was right. It hurt. And he trusted his parents (you've never really had that problem), which you figured probably just made it that much worse.

But you hadn't had the words for all of that, so you'd simply told him that it would be all right in the end.

That had been enough for him.

In the next image, it isn't just your eyes that are fierce. Your whole body is tense, fierce, indignant. It's a side-view and you can see your fists clenched at your sides. You're pacing angrily. 2b. I won't let it touch you! it says, and you remember immediately. This moment was minutes after the message on the wall in blood – "enemies of the heir, beware."

You were furious, absolutely livid at the thought of anyone hurting him because of who his parents were. For all anyone knew, he could be a half-blood, but you knew full well that the Heir of Slytherin wasn't likely to care about maybes.

You didn't let him out of your sight for the rest of the year. He'd grown frustrated with you by the end, but you didn't care – for you, it was worth having him mad at you to have him safe (you're not really sure what you thought you could do against a monster of legend, but that never really crossed your mind at the time).

You smile at the memory of your protective naïvety before your gaze switches to the next sketch.

You have your head turned back over your shoulder and the widest grin across your face. It's evident that you're brimming with enthusiasm and eagerness. The background around you is natural – an outside sketch. 3a, the caption reads. Are you coming?

Your first Hogsmeade visit. You'd been nearly skipping down the path, and he'd been walking at a normal pace behind you, a bemused smirk set on his features. You'd turned to look at him and then asked that question, before demanding that he hurry!

He'd said that not everybody was an amazing bouncing boy, and that he would hurry if he felt so inclined, but until then he was going to enjoy the walk. And yes, he always talked like that when he actually spoke up, thirteen years old or not.

You'd scowled, but you'd fallen in step beside him, because it wasn't the fact that you were on your first Hogsmeade visit that had you so ecstatic – it was the fact that you were on your first Hogsmeade visit with your best friend.

You hadn't been able to contain the bouncing, though.

The memory makes you grin as you shift your sights to the next sketch.

In this one, you look young and fierce and stubborn and proud. Your face is set in a determined line.

3b. He's lucky I wasn't awake!

The light coloring of the sketch and something subtle in your face make the image an amusing one, which you didn't mean it to be at the time, but which you see it is in hindsight. You'd proclaimed the words after the night that Black broke into the castle and stood over Ron Weasley with a knife. You'd gone on to assert that you'd have captured him – you, a thirteen-year-old boy.

He'd been struggling not to laugh as he listened to you rant about this. He'd had his sketchbook propped upon his knees, and you'd never even realised he was sketching you.

You grin in amusement at your own obliviousness, but when you turn to the next sketch you laugh aloud. You have shamrocks painted on your face and a broad grin – the Quidditch world cup, clearly. He has completely captured your euphoria in that moment, and you gaze at the rendition in amazement. 4a, it reads. We won!

You'd screamed the words and then hugged him when you figured out the final score. He wasn't even the least bit thrown by your enthusiasm, and he'd simply grinned back at you – though not quite as widely – and agreed.

You like the fact that this sketch doesn't show what was going to come, because this moment is so overshadowed in your memories. It wasn't that way at the time. The image is pure, like that moment was.

Even at age fourteen, he had a talent for capturing more than just the surface of a moment, but the mood. Subtle things. Things that you can't quite place, but when you see it you know, because you can feel it.

The things he can do with a pencil are incredible, you muse as you move to the next image.

It's the first sketch that you aren't alone. You stand there with a smile that's slightly impish in your dark dress robes, and you have your arm around Lavender Brown. For a moment you have to just stare at her face, because the image is what she used to look like – before Greyback's scars. The lack of color doesn't make her any less pretty, and you marvel at his ability with shading. He was fourteen when he sketched this, and it could be a photograph.

It's the Yule Ball. There's something oddly telling, you notice in retrospect, about the fact that she's looking at you in adoration, but you, you're grinning at him, the artist. You never noticed it at the time, but it does make you wonder if some part of you always knew that it was him, that he was your everything.

But you're probably just over-thinking things.

4b. She said yes

You'd asked her because she was your friend, and she was funny, and because you knew she wanted you to. You don't regret it. You had fun.

You were never really attracted to her – oh, certainly, you could appreciate how pretty she was, but that didn't mean you liked her in that way. You didn't. And that didn't bother you.

You'd find the one eventually, you knew. You didn't realise that you'd already found him and you just didn't know it.

With that, you shift your eyes to the next sketch, and for a moment, you have to just stop and stare. This is the first sketch in which you've seen the abilities, not of the boy who would become a brilliant artist, but of that brilliant artist himself. Pencil and sketchbook paper seems at first glance such a simple medium, but that makes it all the more challenging, you think. It takes true skill to then be extraordinary.

He is extraordinary. The image of you is alive.

Your fists are brought up in front of you and your muscles are taut. Your stance is somehow both defensive and aggressive at once. It's just a sketch, and yet it thrums with anticipation, with energy. The background is skimmed – lightly there, enough that one familiar with it could recognise the Gryffindor dorms, but no detail. You are the centerpiece.

5a, it says. Leave my mother out of this!

It isn't a moment you could ever forget. You were scared and furious and on edge and… and you can't even explain it. You tried to keep your temper – your famous, flash-fire temper – calm, but something in you snapped when Harry insulted your mother.

It's weird, you think, that you get so incredibly defensive over her. She sees you as a mistake, but you love her more than anything despite that. She may be a disaster at it, but she's still your mum, and that's what matters to you.

And you were on edge, because there were times that summer when you legitimately wondered if she would let you come back to Hogwarts, and you couldn't even bear to contemplate how close you were to the alternative. The unacceptable alternative.

You couldn't even imagine – can't, actually, because you can't imagine it any more now than you could have then – the horror of no Hogwarts. No Hogwarts meant no friends, no Quidditch to watch, and, worst of all, no him.

It made you furious that she would even suggest it, but it also terrified you, because you knew she would do it, if pushed. You trod on tiptoes for the rest of the summer and acted like there was never any question when your supplies list came, and then you thanked Merlin a thousand times over the minute you got on the Express.

So it was a bit of a touchy subject for you, and when Harry prodded it, you exploded. It's another of those moments that you regret – he does seem to have a talent for capturing those, doesn't he? – but you accept, because it's over and you cannot take it back, and there was no lasting harm done.

It's less the memory you find remarkable this time as it is the intricacy of the pencil-work, and it's many moments before you manage to tear your eyes away from it and move on to the next image.

As you examine it, you realise that perhaps he knew you better even than you know yourself. It's another Hogwarts Express image, and you wonder how you never noticed before how many important moments in your friendship happened on that train.

Your posture is nearly the opposite of the image before it – instead of fierce and proud and defiant, you are curled up into yourself, and your face is turned sideways, away from his vantage point. You stare out the window, and there's something wounded in your eyes. There's a sort of pain in the sketch – pain that you didn't even realise that you were feeling at the time, but that he still managed to capture in his drawing of you.

5b. If it makes you happy…

You hadn't noticed the ellipsis when you spoke the words, but in retrospect you can see that it was there.

This is the moment he told you about dating Ginny Weasley. It was before you knew how you truly felt, and you couldn't understand why you weren't happy for him like you should have been. You didn't even recognise the pain for what it was until much later.

Apparently he had no such limitations, and you wonder if he knew then what it meant.

You suspect that the answer to that is probably no – you were both rather thick when it came to each other, at least for a while.

After a moment, you swallow and move on to the next one.

6a. I'm not mad, it says on the bottom. But even to the untrained eye, it's clear that the caption and the image are at odds. Your fists are clenched tightly at your sides and your shoulders are hunched over as though you're protecting yourself from something. This is one of those images that hurts you to see, because it's not a flattering moment for you. You should have been happy for him – he was picked as Katie's replacement for Chaser, something he wanted. But you were shallow, and bitter. You didn't want to acknowledge that he, who had never played Quidditch before Hogwarts, was already better than you, who had been playing your whole life.

You'd told him you weren't mad. You'd told him that it was fine, that he'd be great. You told him a lot of things. But he was always better at hearing the things you didn't say – he didn't operate so much through words, really. He was an artist, and he lived firmly in the visual realm. He knew you were bitter, petty, jealous. He was good enough to pretend to believe in your lies because he knew you didn't want to talk about it, knew you just needed time. You hurt him, and all he was in response was kind.

In retrospect, this has always made you wonder how you got so lucky. Nothing you've ever done has been good enough to deserve a best friend – and now a boyfriend – as amazing and incredibly and good as he is. People don't always see it, because he's always been the quiet one in the back, but you know.

You mouth the words, I'm sorry, and move on to the next image.

In this twelfth image, you see once more the evolution of his abilities in the sheer intricacy and detail of the pencil sketch. It's the third image to feature others with you, but this one is different in that the others don't matter. Your face is singled out, clearly drawn with that fine attention to detail. Everyone else is blurry, fuzzy, faded – smudged. You are beaming widely, waving a Gryffindor flag in the stands of the Quidditch pitch.

The label says, 6b. You'll be the greatest Chaser Gryffindor's ever seen. It's something you said before the moment in the sketch, when they were both on the ground, but it's still appropriate. It was the moment you let go of your stupid jealousy and decided that you could just be happy for your best friend.

The fact that he's chosen these two moments makes you smile, because you see what it means – the two of you may fight, but when it matters you know the other is there. He's showing in quick succession the worst of you and the best.

You truly hesitate here, more so than you have on the others. You know what's coming. You've figured out by now the pattern – two images per year, numbered accordingly. Year seven wasn't pretty, by any sense of the word, and you don't really have any desire to see it immortalised in pencil drawings.

You close your eyes briefly, suck in a deep breath, and shift your gaze to the next sketch. It isn't nearly as bad as you are expecting – yet.

It's the way you must have looked when you first saw him again. Your face is so mangled that it's nearly unrecognisable, but the pure joy on your face is unmistakable. The shadows under your eyes and the bruises on your face are shaded in a pencil with a darker lead than the rest of the image, enhancing their prominence. It's almost enough to make you wince at the memory, but just as you didn't at the time, you don't now. In your mind, every single bruise was – is – worth it.

7a. Dean! You hadn't even known that was what you'd yelled when you'd seen him again after months of panic and worry and fear; you'd figured it was just some unintelligible noise of pure joy, but then, that's pretty much what his name is to you, just without the 'unintelligible' bit. You remember the feeling well, because it was like a weight had lifted, and maybe that's cliché but you don't care because it's accurate. You'd been so afraid, and it hadn't helped hearing his name on the radio, knowing no-one knew where he was and that was the last you'd heard. For all you knew, he could have been dead but then he stepped through that portrait so alive, and the only sensation had been pure euphoria.

In retrospect, that really should have been the point where you realised you were head over heels for him.

In that moment, though, all you could think was that he was safe, he was okay, and that was what mattered.

It was the moment before everything fell apart.

You swallow and turn to face the next sketch.

Unlike the last, this one is as bad as you're expecting. It's the moment that you regret more than any other, the moment you wish you could take back. It's the moment he stopped you from tipping into the abyss, pulled you back, rescued you. The moment you started to learn that you were nothing without him.

The angle is strange. There are three bodies in the frame, but it isn't the easy side view. In the foreground is the back of a little girl, maybe three or four years old with dark hair that tumbles all the way down her back. She's clinging desperately to the leg of the tall figure in front of her, who also has his back to the artist – though, also, he is the artist. It's him, and this is the first sketch in the series that he's been in. His stance is firm, fierce. It is the stance of someone who has put up with too much.

You're in the background, wand raised. Your eyes are flashing and the scowl across your face makes you wince.

7b, it says. I couldn't recognise him anymore.

It's the first caption that isn't your words – they're his. And they make you ache.

You don't even know how to explain what happened to you after the war; the only way you know to put it in words is that you went a bit mad. Seventh year was hell for all of Hogwarts, but you were the only one that wound up cracked. It wasn't instantaneous, though.

The first time you'd seen someone hurt by them, it had triggered something in you – something fierce and primal. You'd thought about the kid, that little girl, and what if she was someone else's him? What if she meant to someone else what he meant to you? How could you stand by and let that happen?

The answer was that you couldn't. You couldn't bear to see them hurt her. So you'd saved her, distracted them. They hurt you instead, of course, and perhaps worse than they'd have hurt her, but you didn't care because the moment you gave her the opportunity, she scarpered, and that made it worth it.

You became something of a champion for the younger kids at Hogwarts. You were their hero, but that wasn't why you did it. Some part of you saw him in every single one of them, and that was enough.

Not long before the end of it all, Neville had been telling you to back off, that you were going to get yourself killed, and you figured that maybe he was right, but you couldn't not, at the same time. That was when Neville had rather gone out with a bang – the Carrows were chasing him when he just seemed to vanish off the face of the Earth. You'd talked to people about where he could have gone, and Ginny was the one to suggest it – the Room of Requirement.

You'd stopped looking in the mirror by then, because you couldn't recognise your own face. You couldn't remember the last time you'd been free of hexes, curses, and bruises all at once – a while, it was. Things weren't going to last much longer as they were; everything was coming to a boil. The Carrows were getting nastier, the students getting more defiant, and there wasn't much time left before a student would die and everything would explode, you knew. So you decided to go the way of Neville – out with a bang.

You threw a few good hexes at them. Nothing serious, nothing like what you wanted to do to them, but enough that it would be an inconvenience. Then you'd been forced to run.

You'd slid into the room with only a few new bruises and a broad grin on your face, and Neville had promptly declared you absolutely nutters.

Somewhere, though, you tipped over the edge. Lines blurred, and all you could think about was making sure nothing like your year of hell ever happened again. During that year, things had devolved into us versus them, and you didn't know how to change that mentality.

Ariadne Carrow had been found wandering the decimated halls of Hogwarts after the battle. She was a pretentious child who already had a stubborn sense of her own superiority. She infuriated you, because all you could see when you looked at her was her growing up to be like her relatives.

He'd been telling you that you'd changed. You hardly listened – you were too busy trying to make sure all of the Death Eaters were in Azkaban, too busy trying to make sure people paid for what they'd done.

You didn't notice that you were slipping. You didn't notice that you'd become as bad as they were, until you came face to face with Ariadne.

She was young, innocent. Misguided. But all you saw was who you figured she'd become, and you'd been fully prepared to hex her until he'd stopped you.

He'd been afraid of who you were becoming, and that was the last he could take from you. He gave you an ultimatum – he couldn't be friends with the person you were becoming, he'd said. It killed him, he'd said, but he just couldn't, and so either you had to change, or he had to walk away.

He saved you from yourself. He showed you that you were as bad as them, blaming a child for what her relatives had done.

He helped you forgive, even though you know you can never forget.

You remember his reaction, weeks later, when you told him why, when you told him that you'd done it because you saw him in them – he'd called you a bloody idiot, but he'd been almost laughing as he said it, and that was when you truly knew you were forgiven.

It took you several weeks past that to even begin to forgive yourself.

By the pattern, that should be it. That's two images for every year you spent at Hogwarts.

But there's still one sketch left, because that isn't the end of the story.

It's a study in contrast – half of the image is dark, almost black, almost brown, and the other half is all light grey and white. It's him and you. The entire right side of the sketch is his face in profile, and the entire left side is yours. It's a breathless moment where you're almost in contact with each other but not quite. For the first time in this series, he's used a color pencil. He's used it on your eyes. The bright, sky blue is the most prominent feature because of the contrast of it against the black-white-grey almost monochromatic scheme of the rest. His own eyes are done in color pencil as well – warm brown, the exact shade they are in real life.

Everything else is still in pencil-grey – your hair, your freckles. His own profile is done in a darker lead, but when you inspect it you can tell that it's still a simple (or not-so-simple, really) pencil sketch.

7c, it reads. May I kiss you?

His words.

You'd laughed as you'd asked him to please do.

You smile at the memory, and then you nearly jump as suddenly there are arms wrapped around your stomach. You can feel his laugh as you scowl playfully, twisting your neck to face him. You stop, though, at the look of trepidation in his eyes.

"They're beautiful," you say, and you twist around in his arms and stand up on tiptoes to kiss him. You aren't short, by most standards, but he is still quite a bit taller than you – which maybe you should mind, but you don't.

You watch the worry melt away, and you see the corners of his lips turn up into a small smile.

"You aren't mad?" he cannot help but ask.

"They're beautiful," you repeat. "And they're real. And you, you are the most brilliant artist I have ever met." And you kiss him again.