For the first time in his life, Seamus Finnegan was free to do anything he chose…. and he hadn’t the faintest idea what he wanted to do next. His best friend, Dean Thomas, had already decided to spend an additional year at Hogwarts to make up for the one he had spent on the run. Should Seamus repeat his seventh year, or just go ahead and take his NEWTs? And once he took them, should he accept one of the jobs he knew were waiting for him in Ireland, or should he try for a career with the Ministry of Magic? And were Serena’s cousins actually hinting that he should join them in Los Angeles? He couldn’t imagine moving there, any more than he could imagine actually living in that weird glass box of a house Serena’s American-born father built on Manhattan Beach. Having a muggle father hadn’t prepared Seamus for wizarding families like Serena’s who lived cheek-by-jowl with their muggle neighbors.
Seamus wasn’t even sure what he wanted to do with the rest of his day. He could be forgiven that, he reckoned, considered all of its ups and downs. At dawn he’d been ecstatic, celebrating the death of You-Know-Who. A few hours later he was excited to learn that he could return to Hogwarts for a proper NEWT year. Then he had received the crushing news that Serena had been killed, but before he could even believe she was really gone, she’d appeared in the Great Hall, very much alive. At first he’d thought that You-Know-Who had scrambled her brains; then he thought that McGonagall was going to have her arrested, or at least banned from Hogwarts. Finally, at almost the moment that he began to believe he and Serena might get their NEWTs in Care of Magical Creatures together, her family had summoned her so they could fight about what she was going to do next, with none of the plans including an eighth year at Hogwarts. Which was really unfair, Seamus thought, because she hadn’t wanted to attend Hogwarts in the first place.
So here were his options for the afternoon: His mam and dad were waiting for him to return to Naas, his friend Dean was about to break the news to his family about what had really happened the past year and wanted Seamus there for moral support, Neville had asked if he’d help rebuild the greenhouses, McGonagall wanted to see him and Neville about something that he was sure had to do with Serena and he was sure he didn’t want to discuss, and Serena’s cousins wanted him to visit the campus of the University of Magic, California, Los Angeles. And here’s what Seamus wanted to do: sleep. Which he shouldn’t be faulted for, he thought, all things considered.
Asmodeus and Belial had sifted him to Cali and back again, which was nice of them, because Seamus hated to apparate over long distances. So now there he was in the Gryffindor common room, hoping that his old dorm bed was in any kind of useable condition.
Seamus heard footsteps in the stairwell, and Harry emerged from the tower, followed by Ron, and a red-headed young man who could only be a Weasley.
“Hey, Seamus,” said Harry.
“Hey Harry, Ron,” said Seamus. “You feeling better, Harry?”
“Yeah, loads. Thanks,” said Harry. “What’re you doing back here? I thought you’d left.”
Seamus ran his hand over her hair and yawned. “Nah. I haven’t slept in days. Thought I’d catch a kip. You?”
Harry gestured towards the red-headed stranger. “Ron’s brother was feeling nostalgic.”
“Charlie Weasley,” said the stranger, coming forward and extending a hand, “Former Gryffindor.”
Seamus shook his hand. “Seamus Finnegan. Once a Gryffindor, always a Gryffindor.”
Charlie grinned. “I guess that’s true. You from Ireland?”
“Don’cha know it.”
“Great dragons there.”
“That’s what I hear. Never saw one meself. Ministry must keep ‘em tight under wraps.”
“Well, you know, muggles everywhere now. Shame, really. Muggles would like them.”
Seamus found himself laughing. “You don’t know many muggles, do you?”
Charlie considered this, then said, “Come to think of it, I don’t really know any at all.”
“I hate to break this up,” interrupted Ron, sounding not at all sorry, “But Hermione’s waiting for us.”
“Yeah, sorry,” said Harry, much more sincerely, “but I really have to talk to her.”
Seamus turned his attention back to Harry. “I didn’t get a chance to thank you for….”
“Really, it’s not necessary. I just did what had to be done.”
“You mean, you’ve already talked to her? What did she say?”
Harry looked bemused. “What are you talking about?”
Now it was Seamus’ turn to be confused. “What are you talking about?
Harry shook his head. “Let’s start over.”
“Merlin, Harry! You need a kip, too! I was thanking you for talking to McGonagall about letting Serena finish out her NEWTs… if her folks’ll let her come back.”
“Who are you talking about?” asked Ron, “Not Serena Serpentia? Surely she couldn’t come back here?”
Harry said hastily, “I’ll explain later, Ron.”
“She was Voldemort’s biggest fan!”
“Not actually,” said Seamus, “Her family never supported You-Know-Who.”
Ron looked doubtful. “Even if they didn’t, she’s no one I’d like to see again. Serpentia was the president of the “I hate Hermione” club!”
Seamus looked sheepish. “Well, that much is true.”
“I’ve heard of her!” said Charlie unexpectedly.
“Yeah!” said Ron, “On a wanted poster!”
“No!” said Charlie, “Hagrid mentioned her. He said she has a knack for handling thestrals.”
“When was this?” asked Ron.
“Oh, at Bill’s wedding, I believe.”
“Good memory!” said Harry.
“You don’t forget the name of someone who can train thestrals.”
“Well, then don’t forget my name, either,” said Seamus, “because I can do it, too.”
“What?” exclaimed Harry, “Since when have you been able to…?” He caught sight of Ron, who looked very impatient, and dropped the question. “I’ll catch you later, Seamus. Have a good nap.” He clapped Seamus on the arm and followed Ron to the portrait hole.
“Nice to meet you,” said Charlie, shaking Seamus’ hand once again. And then Seamus was alone in the common room once more, hoping fervently that he’d be left in peace for a few hours.
Seamus woke in his four-poster at sunset feeling very rested, only to leap up in terror when he realized that someone was sitting on his bed. He aimed his wand before even looking at the intruder; then he heard familiar laughter. He lowered his wand and realized that his hands were shaking.
“Merlin, Serena!” he shouted, thoroughly annoyed. “You scared the piss out of me!” Serena laughed some more. She was looking particularly beautiful, which was a sign that she was capable of doing something particularly evil. She’d done something to her hair that made it perfectly straight and iridescently shiny. She also wore an outfit that was utterly inappropriate for any part of the wizarding world. From her neck hung a large, colorful sequined butterfly, which covered her from collarbone to lowest rib. Her shimmering skin-tight black pants rested at her hip bones, exposing several inches of bare midriff and the sparkling diamond that hung from her navel ring. Save for two thin strings that probably did nothing to keep the whole contraption up, her back was entirely bare. The outfit didn’t necessarily mean anything, however. Serena’s California cousins hung around the house in clothes that muggles would wear clubbing. The fact that Seamus knew what clothes muggles would wear clubbing showed that he had been spending entirely too much time with the Serpentias. Voldemort’s brief reign had interrupted that, and it was probably better it didn’t resume. UMCLA was a bad idea.
On the other hand, he did feel relieved to see Serena. For the five minutes that he thought she had died, his life had felt sickeningly empty. He hadn’t realized until that moment just how intertwined their lives had become. And it had nothing to do with romance, or sex, or any such relationship. His friends in Ireland, the wizarding ones who attended Gola Prep and the muggle ones he knew through horse riding, were always hoping to get a glimpse of Serena and her friends from the Academy of Magic. If any of the Cali crew deigned to talk to them, they bragged about it for weeks. He knew that any typical boy, viewing Serena as she was dressed now, would be filled with desire. But that was the funny thing about being surrounded by such creatures for an extended period of time; you got used to it. It became normal. Now Seamus was happiest when Serena wanted to hang out with his family. She was more casual, more relaxed, “more witchy,” as his mam said. Certainly friendlier. Which she definitely wasn’t going to be tonight, he knew. When Serena was done with something, it completely left her mind, as if it never existed, and Seamus suspected that any empathy she had felt for anyone in the wizarding world this past year had died with Voldemort. Just as well she’d dropped by then; it looked like he was back on the job his mam had tricked him into ten years ago: keeping Serena in line. Odd that he didn’t feel more put-out.
“What?” demanded Serena.
“You’re looking at me funny.”
Seamus sat back down on the bed with a sigh. “What are you doing here?”
“Nice to see you, too.”
“I didn’t mean it that way. You know I want you to come back to Naas. Mam owled me; she’s done up the guest room for you. But I thought your father wanted you to stay in Cali.”
“Mum overruled him. She wanted to see if the mobs raided Cherrystone.”
“And had they?”
“If they tried, they didn’t get in.” She gave a snort and a nasty smile. “They were elsewhere, though. You should’ve seen what they did to Grey Gables.”
“Which one is that?”
“The Malfoy’s. Trashed.” Serena looked gleeful, in a disturbingly vengeful way.
“Can’t say I’m fussed,” said Seamus.
Serena scowled. “They burnt down Dormingroof, though. That was wrong. They weren’t even Death Eaters.”
“Which one was that?”
“The Parkinsons. Don’t you know anything? Why don’t you know anything?”
“Amazingly enough, I’m not up on my fancy English houses. Why do you care, anyway? You hate Pansy Parkinson.”
“I don’t hate her house.”
“Maybe you can go back and accio some valuables out of the rubble.”
A look of wonderment came over Serena’s face, followed by a naked greed as she hissed, “I could do that!”
“Stars above!” Seamus was shouting for the second time in as many minutes. “I was joking!” Now he was feeling put-out. He got up and pulled a fresh shirt from his wardrobe, which had been miraculously untouched during his absence. He pointed a finger a Serena. “There is something seriously wrong with you!”
Serena didn’t reply; she just grinned and kicked her legs back and forth against the bed.
“I’m not kidding! You are not looting your neighborhood!” Seamus absently grabbed a peppermint from a box on his night table and tossed it to her. She ate it while Seamus buttoned his shirt. When he finished, she asked, “So what have you been doing?”
“Since this morning? Sleeping. Showering. Perhaps you’ve noticed I’m no longer covered in blood.”
Serena said abruptly, “I’m bored. Let’s go somewhere.”
“I don’t care. I’ve been stuck in this horrid castle for months. Ibiza.”
“Mum wants to check our holiday home in Antibes tomorrow morning. We could meet her there for breakfast and then crash on the deck.”
Another sign that he had spent too much time with the Serpentias before the war was that he knew what “crash” meant. Also, he knew Serena wanted to spend the entire night clubbing on a Spanish island. Also, he knew that her American and French friends were still in school and couldn’t join them, so she would be calling her cousins, who were older. And most importantly, he knew it would be a good five hours before the clubs got going, so he had plenty of time to divert her. Because Seamus really hated that whole scene. It was the opposite of everything he enjoyed in life. The more he thought about it, the more strongly he resolved that Dean, Neville, Hogwarts, the whole state of California and the entire country of Spain could do without him, and he was heading home. Preferably with Serena, because Merlin knew what she was capable of right now.
“It’s too early for Ibiza,” said Seamus casually, “Let’s stop at home first. I want to see my folks.”
Serena made a face. “I don’t.”
“Yes, you do. You love it when mam makes a fuss over you. And there’s two new babies; a pair of fillies.”
He had her. She might think nothing of vaporizing baby muggles, but she loved baby animals.
She pretended to consider. “Maaaaabye….” Then she dramatically flopped on Seamus’ bed, head on his extra blanket, feet on his pillow. With a sly grin, she asked, “Got any chocolate?”
Got her again! He opened the drawer in his night table and opened a box within. He showed her a dark chocolate truffle and said, “You can have this when we get home.”
Serena snarled, which of course no longer had any effect on Seamus. He said, “I’ll be in the gents — stay here ‘till I get back.”
This was, as it turned out, a little too much to expect.
NOTE: One of the fun challenges of writing this story is remembering all the fashionable clothing, places and music of the late ninetines. There's even more of that in the next chapter. Also, researching Irish geography and Irish idioms. Like Seamus' favorite sport? Wonder where I got that idea from? ;)
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