For the Title Swap Competition: Dreaming of Days Past, Seamus Finnigan.
He is scared.
Dean is missing, and Seamus supposes that's the point, but he is still so scared.
He spends his days in a waking nightmare where torture lies around the corner and he cannot shake the uncertainty of everything.
Merlin, but he is so scared. But not for himself. No. For him.
Seamus thinks of Dean out there not knowing, not knowing where is safe, not knowing what lies around the next corner, and he is more afraid for Dean than he is of the Carrows.
The canopy doesn't give a damn about his fears, doesn't give a damn about his tears. For that, at least, he is grateful. He's sick of pretending to be so impassive.
Seamus startles, but he relaxes back into the pillows when he recognises the voice. Neville, if anyone, understands what it is to be perfect in public and crumble in private. It's the role they've taken upon themselves, as the eldest of the Gryffindors. He and Neville and Lavender and Parvati.
"What if he doesn't come back?" His voice is a rasping whisper and it cracks on the last word. Neville steps forward, standing beside his bed. He rests a hand on Seamus' shoulder — the angle is weird, but human contact that isn't painful is such a rare thing this year, so neither of them moves.
"He will," Neville murmurs softly, knowing immediately who Seamus is are talking about.
Seamus swings his feet over the side of the bed and sits up abruptly. "You can't know that." His voice is intense, more than he means it to be, and he deflates at the wounded look that flashes briefly through Neville's eyes. "Sorry," he mutters. "Sorry, sorry. I'm just…" He groans in frustration. "I hate this, y'know? I bloody hate this. I almost wish he was here with me, but they'd slaughter him so I can't wish that, but it's just so damn hard not knowing."
"I know," Neville murmurs, and Seamus wonders briefly if he does know, wonders who he's missing.
"I feel like everything is backwards," Seamus says, almost offhandedly. "I'm living the nightmares and dreaming my life."
Neville exhales what might be a bitter laugh. "Better that than living and dreaming nightmares."
Seamus winces at the thought of it. Asleep is the only time he can escape. When he's asleep, it's like the last few months don't exist. He is back in the summer, on a day when the sun was shining for once and the wind blew gently and the meadow behind Dean's house was empty. A small smile crosses his lips at the memory — the wind had been just crisp enough that Seamus hadn't felt at all awkward curling into Dean's side and using his chest as a pillow, burrowing within his arms as a shield from the wind. Dean had said nothing, but he'd smiled in that fond way of his.
That is what he dreams. He dreams of summer meadows. He dreams of their first kiss, in the common room nearing three a.m., Seamus near-delirious for lack of sleep. He dreams of their second, where they'd actually both been lucid — to start with, at least; by the end he'd been out of his mind with joy. He dreams of curling into Dean's side and using his shoulder as a pillow, of Dean's fond smile only ever aimed at Seamus, of watching Dean's intense expression as his pencil skimmed across his sketchpad.
He dreams of the past, even though he knows he can never go back. Even if they both make it out of this alive — and that's a big if — things won't be the same. Won't be as innocent, won't be as carefree.
He can't imagine losing the dreams to nightmares.
But Neville just shakes his head. "We all have different troubles, Seamus. Don't apologise for not having mine when you've got plenty of your own."
"It will end," Seamus says, but it's just as much question as it is statement.
And Neville sighs. "Eventually."
It's the most negative — or perhaps realistic — thing Seamus has heard Neville say in a very long time. He is abruptly reminded that they are all human. They are all weary. And they are all waiting. Waiting for this to end. Waiting for things to change. Waiting for something to give. Waiting for the hell to stop.
"Do you believe in God, Neville?" The question is abrupt, but it's Seamus so Neville doesn't even seem phased.
Seamus nods. "My mam didn't, and my stepdad neither, but my dad did. I was never quite sure, but…" He sighs. "If there is a God, he isn't here." He shakes his head. "There is no God here."
"Seamus, I sometimes think God is the silver linings. You are here, you are alive."
"I don't give a damn about me, Nev. It's him that matters. I don't even know if he's alive, let alone if he's okay. Where's the silver lining in that?"
After a moment, Neville says, "Not knowing doesn't mean that he's dead, Seamus."
"It doesn't mean he's alive, either. He's missing. He stopped contacting his family — they haven't heard from him in a month." He gestures to the letter on the nightstand. "His mum wrote me." He swallows. "Every two weeks. Every two weeks, he sent them something. Even if it was just a sketch with a note dashed off on the back." He sucks in a deep breath. "Helena, his owl, she showed up without a letter, and she never left. Won't leave."
"Don't, Neville. There are only so many reasons an owl won't return to her wizard, and none of them are good."
A moment of silence, and then Neville says softly, "Seamus, sometimes we have to hang on to hope because the only other option is crumbling, and that's not an option at all."
A beat of silence, and then Seamus says, "I'm not sure who I am without him anymore." He leans forward, rests his elbows on his knees, stares at the floor.
Neville puts a hand on his shoulder. "Then let's hope you never have to find out, yeah?"
Seamus pulls in a breath. "I'm scared. I'm scared and I hate it."
"I would be worried if you weren't." Neville sits down next to him. "It just means you're human."
"Some days I wonder if it might be easier if I weren't. Easier not to feel."
"But that's what being human is. We suffer the pain for sake of the pleasure. You're saying you'd rather never known him at all?"
Seamus recoils at the thought. "No," he says instantly. "No."
And Neville nods. "That's what being human is. That's what we won't give up. That's what we're fighting for. The right to be human."
And that is exactly why they can never give up.