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28 February 2013 @ 04:23 pm
Follow Me Down This Time, part 4  
part 3


The drive to London the following morning is long and uneventful, and they get to King’s Cross with just a half hour to spare. Once safely on the platform, Harry hugs his family goodbye before wandering off in search of Zayn or Niall. He finds them already in a train compartment, trunks stowed away overhead, and drops into a seat next to Niall with a sigh.

“I dunno if I’m ready for this term,” he announces, and Niall pats his knee consolingly.

“Don’t worry, lad. O.W.L.s are nothing next to N.E.W.T.s.”

Harry snorts. “Very reassuring, thanks Niall.”

They talk about their holidays until it’s time for Harry to leave for the Prefects’ compartment, and he approaches it with a smothering sense of trepidation. Louis is in there.

Teeth clamped down on his bottom lip, Harry slides the compartment door open and slips into the room without looking up. He only glances around quick enough to find an empty seat between two female Prefects, then drops into it. He knows Louis is sitting on the opposite side of the cabin next to the Head Girl, and he can feel Louis’ eyes on him, sharp and curious. But he studiously ignores Louis’ gaze and stares intently down at his feet until it’s time to pair up and make rounds.

He latches onto Margaret Chung, the other Ravenclaw Prefect, and they manage to avoid Louis for the most part, only passing by him briefly in the halls during rounds. Whenever he sees Louis approaching, Harry immerses himself in conversation with Margaret so that he can pretend to not notice that Louis is nearby. When their shift is over, Harry volunteers to take the second shift as well, nervous that Liam will have joined Niall and Zayn in their compartment, and that Louis will have, as well.

By the time the train pulls into Hogsmeade Station, Harry feels strung out and irritable. He meets Niall and Zayn out on the platform and they clamber into the first carriage they come across. A fourth year Gryffindor is just about to climb in after them when a voice calls out, “Sorry love, I’ve got to ride in this one.”

Harry tenses up, eyes trained on the door, and suddenly Louis is climbing through, expression stormy and closed off. Zayn shuffles along the bench to make room for Louis, and Louis drops down next to him, eyes never leaving Harry’s face.

“Thanks mate,” he says absently, hand patting blindly at Zayn’s knee. Zayn just looks at Harry, eyes wide and eyebrows raised in question. Harry bites his lip and stares back at Zayn, who inches his foot forward and presses it against the side of Harry’s in an attempt to comfort him. It works a little, and Harry tries to smile at him in thanks, but fails miserably.

The carriage ride from Hogsmeade to the castle is tense, and Harry spends it twirling his wand nervously between his fingers. At one point, a shower of red sparks fly out the end, and Harry flushes and stuffs his wand back into his robes. Without that distraction, he starts unconsciously tapping a rhythmless beat against the carriage floor with his foot until Niall shifts in his seat and drapes his leg over Harry’s knee, effectively stilling it.

Harry scrambles out of the carriage the moment it pulls to a stop and strides for the castle immediately. There’s so much going on that he doesn’t hear Louis coming until he’s at his elbow, hand wrapping tight around Harry’s bicep and pulling him to a stop.

“Harry,” Louis says, voice firm. Harry locks his eyes on the ground, and Louis squeezes his arm. “Harry, look at me, Christ.”

Determined not to give him anything, Harry schools his expression into nonchalance and lifts his gaze to Louis’ face. It’s already dark out, but the castle doors are open, light flooding out onto the lawn. In the dim light, he can see that Louis looks confused and unhappy, and conflicting feelings of guilt and irritation bubble up in his gut.

“What is it, Lou?” Harry asks before he can stop himself, and he doesn’t even register the use of the nickname till it’s already out, then fumes silently at himself.

“What’s going on?” When Harry just shrugs, Louis says, “You didn’t write.”

Harry shrugs again, but this time his shoulders slump and he says, quiet and uncertain, “I wasn’t sure you wanted me to.”

What?

Harry wrenches his arm out of Louis’ grasp and takes a step back. Most of the students have made it inside for dinner, and there are just a few stragglers left, hardly anyone around to overhear them, so Harry doesn’t bother keeping his voice down. “I don’t know, Lou. Everything was perfectly fine until we got to King’s Cross, and then you went all weird and ran off. What was that? What was I supposed to think?”

Louis shakes his head and cross his arms over his chest. “What are you talking about?”

Not sure whether Louis is being serious or not, Harry stares at him for a moment. When Louis just stares blankly back, Harry says, “Seriously? We were saying bye, and I asked if you wanted to say hi to my mum and you just...panicked. You got all weird and you just left!”

Louis opens and closes his mouth a few times, then drops his hands to his sides and says, “That was. I wasn’t ready. We haven’t really... you can’t just spring that on someone, okay?” His voice takes on a sudden note of hysteria. “You can’t just introduce me to your mum like it’s no big deal, Harry, we aren’t even dating!”

Harry flinches back, heart lodged painfully in his throat, and Louis shuts his eyes, scrunches his face up in frustration and regret. He stretches a hand out toward Harry, but Harry is already backing away. He can’t breathe. “Harry....”

Harry just shakes his head, mumbles, “My mistake,” and turns around, takes long strides toward the castle as he knuckles viciously at his burning eyes. Not hungry, he climbs the stairs to Ravenclaw Tower without even bothering to stop in the Great Hall, grateful that he doesn’t need a set password from Professor Flitwick to get into the common room. Once safely inside, he shucks his clothes, gets straight into bed, and forces himself into a fitful, dreamless sleep.

~~

The first couple weeks of term pass in a miserable blur. Harry doesn’t go to the Slytherin Quidditch practices, instead spends all of his free time by the fire in the Ravenclaw common room, working on his school work. He barely eats, and sleeps more than usual, and determinedly ignores the concerned looks Zayn and Niall shoot him.

Friday night of the third week of term, Zayn stops by Harry’s seat in the common room and lays a hand on Harry’s shoulder, says, “You coming down to dinner, Haz?”

Harry shakes his head without looking up, eagle feather quill scratching out an essay on cross-species transfiguration, and Zayn sighs. Before he knows what’s happening, Zayn has snatched his quill out of his hand and is dropping into the seat beside him, expression solemn.

“Harry.” Harry looks away, stares into the fire licking happily at logs in the common room fireplace. He’s definitely not ready for this conversation. Zayn growls and pinches Harry’s chin between his fingers, forces his head around. He stares directly into Harry’s eyes and says, “Tell me what happened.”

Harry bites his lip around its sudden trembling and lifts a hand to his face, presses his fingertips into his eyes for a moment before taking a shuddery breath and opening them again.

“He didn’t want to be with me,” he says with a shrug, gaze dropping to the arm of his chair, and Zayn lets his hand fall.

“How do you figure?”

Harry twists his fingers together and tells Zayn about their conversation in King’s Cross and the confrontation on the front lawn of the castle, and Zayn frowns. “Look, I love you and support you, Harry. You’re my best mate, and you know that. But I think you’re wrong.”

Harry jerks his gaze up in surprise. “What?”

Zayn shrugs and leans back in his seat. “I may have talked to Liam.”

Harry’s stomach lurches and he swallows nervously. “What did he say?”

“That Louis’ been a melancholy twat. Pretty much the same as you, really, minus the revising.”

Harry frowns down at his hands. “Did he say why?”

There’s a pause, and then Zayn says, voice soft, “It’s not really my place to tell you, Haz, I’m sorry.”

Harry nods down at his hands. “No, of course, I understand.” He looks up at Zayn then, a small smile curling up one corner of his mouth. “You’re a good friend.”

Zayn sighs and leans across the arm of his seat to pull Harry into a hug. The position is awkward, the chair’s arm pushing into Harry’s stomach, but he’s glad for the contact, and he buries his face in Zayn’s neck gratefully. Once they’ve let go, Zayn pushes to his feet. “Are you sure you won’t come down to dinner?” When Harry shakes his head, Zayn ruffles his hair and says, “I’ll bring you something back, alright?”

Harry nods and stares into the fire as Zayn leaves. Zayn pauses in the doorway to the corridor, calls out, “Hey, Harry?” Harry swivels in his chair to look at Zayn. “Just talk to him, yeah?”

Harry bites his lip, nods once, and with a smile, Zayn vanishes out into the hall.

~~

A week later, Harry is still studiously avoiding Louis and, by proxy, Liam. He’s still spending as much time as possible either in bed or in the common room, to the point that Zayn and Niall have started hanging out in Ravenclaw Tower just to be around him and try and cheer him up.

The Sunday before his birthday, Harry is woken up by someone pouncing on him while he’s sleeping. He grunts and curls up into a protective ball automatically, and hears Niall snickering into his back. He stretches back out with a groan muffled into his pillow, then says, “What’s happening?”

Zayn’s voice comes from the foot of the bed. “Since your birthday is on Monday and we have classes all day, we’ve decided to celebrate today, so get up!”

Harry rolls onto his back and starfishes his limbs out, drapes his right arm and leg over Niall. Niall wrinkles his nose. “Mate, no offense, but you need to have a shower first.”

Harry blushes and crosses his arms over his chest, mutters, “Thanks, Niall.”

Zayn slaps his ankle through the duvet and says cheerfully, “Come on, Harry! Go grab a shower, we’ll wait here.”

With a put-upon sigh, Harry rolls out of bed and pads off toward the bathroom.

“And don’t take too long, alright? A man’s gotta eat!” Niall calls from Harry’s bed. Harry just flips him the bird and shuts the bathroom door behind him. Just to spite Niall, he takes his time, turns the water on boiling hot and stands under it for ages to let the heat flush away his sorrows. It doesn’t really work, but it feels nice. He washes his hair twice, then again for good measure, and scrubs his body until his skin is pink and tingling. Afterward, he shuts the water off and stands at the sink, staring at himself in the fogged up mirror while he gives himself a mental pep-talk to help him get through the day.

After a few minutes, he registers vague murmurs coming from the bedroom, and he presses his ear to the door to try and hear what they’re saying. His stomach lurches when he realizes that Liam is in there. He can’t hear everything, but at one point, he hears Liam say, “I told him it was Harry’s birthday.”

Zayn’s response is too quiet for Harry to catch, but Niall says, surprise evident in his voice, “He sent a gift?”

“He told me not to tell Harry it was from him, though.” Harry frowns. Louis bought him a birthday gift. They haven’t spoken in nearly a month, fought the last two times they did speak, but he still sent him a gift. Harry heaves a sigh and scrubs his hands over his face, not sure what he’s supposed to think.

He stands there contemplating everything for so long that a knock sounds on the door, and he hears Zayn say, “Harry? You alright in there?”

Harry steels himself and pulls the door open. Steam billows out in a cloud, and Zayn blinks at him through it, eyes worried. He can see Niall still sprawled out on his bed, and Liam standing behind it, shifting his weight nervously from foot to foot. Determined to appear cheerful, Harry says, voice soft and pleasant, “Hi, Liam.”

Liam gives him a small wave and says, “I hope it’s alright that I’m here...Zayn invited me, so I figured -”

“Of course it’s alright,” Harry cuts in, and Liam smiles at him, relieved. They fall into a short silence, and Harry coughs. “Right, well I’m going to just get dressed, and then we can...do whatever it is you’ve planned.”

They end up hanging out in the common room for a little while. Niall had asked the house elves in the kitchens for a cake, and they had provided him with a beautiful one in the Ravenclaw House colors, with thick blackberry jam in the center. It’s delicious, and despite Harry’s recent lack of appetite, he manages to devour three enormous slices. They eat the cake by the fire and play a few rotating rounds of wizard chess, and Harry finds himself actually having fun.

Once they’ve demolished the cake and Harry’s hair has dried, Zayn insists that they go outside for some fresh air. It had snowed overnight, so they bundle up and have a snowball fight on the front lawn, Ravenclaw against Hufflepuff, that ends with Harry and Zayn gasping for mercy, sprawled out in a snowdrift with Niall and Liam standing over them grinning madly.

Liam flops down on top of Zayn, pushing him into the snow, and Harry tries not to be jealous of the way they’re laughing and wrestling, but it’s hard. Niall settles down on the ground beside him and tugs him in close, tucks Harry’s head up under his chin, and Harry sighs into the embrace.

“Happy birthday, Haz,” Niall hums into the top of his beanie, and Harry tightens his arms around Niall’s waist. “I love you.”

Harry turns his face into Niall’s shoulder, overwhelmed with a confusing, whirling combination of sadness, love, joy, loneliness. “I love you too, Nialler.”

Still full on cake, Harry opens his presents alone in his room later that night while everyone else is at dinner. His family had sent a gift via owl that morning, and Harry curls up on top of his duvet and pulls the packaging open. A tin of homemade cookies slides out, along with a knit jumper and a few muggle books that Harry had asked Gemma to look for. There’s also a heavy box with a thick, leather-banded wristwatch that Harry puts on immediately, even though the watch won’t work on school grounds. Harry opens Niall and Zayn’s gifts next, leaving Louis’ for last.

Stomach twisting in anticipation and a small amount of trepidation, Harry sets his opened gifts aside, then stares at the small, unassuming package. It’s wrapped in plain, creamy parchment and is devoid of writing. For a moment, Harry isn’t sure he’s actually going to open it, isn’t entirely sure he wants to know what’s inside. In the end, though, his curiosity gets the better of him and he tugs the small parcel across the blanket and picks delicately at the spellotape.

Inside the parchment wrap is a long, narrow box. Harry chews nervously on his lip, thinks about what could possibly be in there. It’s too small to be sweets, like he had gotten Louis for Christmas, and he can’t really think of anything else Louis might have thought to get him. With a shaky sigh, Harry lifts the lid slowly off the box and peers into it. He has to pull back a bit of gauze, and underneath is a gleaming silver necklace. The chain is similar to the small cluster of necklaces he usually wears, but there’s a charm at the end that makes Harry’s heart stop.

Fingers trembling, he lifts the necklace carefully out of the box and holds it up to the torch beside his bed. Harry reaches his other hand out, heart lodged painfully in his throat, and touches the charm with the tips of his fingers before settling the small silver paper aeroplane into the palm of his hand.

He studies it carefully, thinks it was foolish of Louis to assume that he would believe it came from Liam. Swallowing thick around the lump in his throat, he sets the necklace carefully on his bedside table, not quite sure what to do with it.

Suddenly exhausted, he decides he’ll think on it in the morning. He tucks the rest of his gifts into the drawer of his bedside table to deal with tomorrow as well, then draws the hangings around his bed. He leaves them open a crack, though, so that he can prop his head up on his hands and look at the necklace as he tries to sleep.

It doesn’t take long before he’s drifting off, the torchlight winking off the gleaming silver so that lightning bolts play across the backs of Harry’s eyelids long after he’s shut his eyes.


The day of Harry’s actual birthday is, for the most part, uneventful. Upon waking up, he decides to wear the necklace, but to make sure that it’s tucked into his shirt so that no one can see it. He clasps it around his neck himself, then settles it against his chest, where it lays over his heart. It’s cold in the room, but the little aeroplane is warm to the touch, and Harry takes a moment, presses the charm against his chest with his palm and makes a silent birthday wish, even though there are no candles for him to blow out, no shooting stars to see winging their way across the sky.

Classes go surprisingly fast, and Harry gets birthday wishes from class and housemates throughout the day, makes himself smile and thank everyone politely. He goes to all three meals, and even sits facing the Slytherin table for the first time all term. He can feel Louis’ eyes on him throughout the meals, but he’s still afraid to look at Louis, afraid of what he’ll see written on Louis’ face, afraid of what Louis will see on his.

His housemates throw a small, unexpected party for him in the common room after dinner, with wizard crackers and another cake. At one point, one of the seventh years pulls out a bottle of firewhiskey and pours Harry a celebratory birthday drink (and then another, and another). It burns horribly on the way down, but it settles, warm and pleasant, in Harry’s gut, and by the end of the evening, Zayn has to drag him upstairs and put him to bed. Just as Zayn is going to leave, Harry reaches out and grabs his wrist.

“Zayn,” he mumbles, and Zayn looks down at him, fondness and exasperation written across his face. “Zayn, will you stay with me?”

Zayn sighs, but he toes off his shoes and clambers over Harry’s prone body, settles into the bed behind him and spoons up against his back. Harry hums happily when Zayn drapes his arm over Harry’s side, and he twists their fingers together over his stomach.

“Love you, Zayn.”

He can feel Zayn smile against the back of his neck, squirms a little at the scratch of Zayn’s beard against his skin when he says, “I love you too, Harry. Go to sleep, babe.”

So he does.

~~

Slytherin has another Quidditch match the following Saturday, against Ravenclaw. The entire house is buzzing about it, and at dinner one night, Niall grumbles that Ravenclaw better crush Slytherin, otherwise Hufflepuff won’t have a chance for the house cup. Harry ignores Niall and Zayn as they talk about Quidditch and focuses on his Astronomy essay on the moons of Jupiter that he’s working on instead of eating.


Zayn shakes Harry awake Saturday morning. “Harry, up. Up up up! Quidditch match today, come on.”

Harry squints one eye open and scowls at Zayn. “Zayn,” he croaks. “Did you honestly think I would go to this match?”

“Your own house is playing, mate, show some support.”

Harry tries to roll over, but Zayn clambers up onto the bed and pins his arms down with his knees. He grabs hold of Harry’s cheeks and says, “Harry. Aside from your birthday, you’ve not left this tower for a month and a half, except to go to classes and the occasional meal. It’s not healthy. I know you’re sad about Louis, but you need to get out of bed and either sort it out with him, or get on with your life. Now you’re going to get dressed, and you’re going to come down to breakfast with me and eat actual food, and then we’re going to go cheer on our Quidditch team. Understand?”

The paper aeroplane charm pulses against Harry’s chest, and he bites his lip, squeezes his eyes shut against a sudden upwelling of sadness, but he nods against Zayn’s hands. He hears Zayn sigh, then one of his thumbs brushes against Harry’s temple, smearing a stray tear, and he leans over to press a warm kiss to Harry’s forehead before climbing off.

Harry dresses slowly, layering himself in protection against the icy February winds. Down in the Great Hall, he lets Niall butter a slice of toast for him, manages to choke down a couple of sausages and a bite-sized pasty stuffed with eggs and potatoes before the trek out to the Quidditch pitch.

The three of them squeeze into the stands on the Ravenclaw side, a veritable wall of blue and copper. Harry occupies himself by staring intently at the way the winter sun is glinting off the goal hoops, and is startled out of his reverie by someone shuffling past and plopping down beside him, where Zayn had previously been sitting. He turns his startled gaze on the person, and his heart stutters against his ribs. He reaches up and pats his chest to make sure the necklace is still hidden, sighs internally with relief that it is.

“Hey, Harry,” Liam says pleasantly.

Harry whispers, “Hi Liam. You alright?”

“A bit of alright, yeah, thanks.” He leans around Harry and says, “Hey Niall, Sprout was looking for you earlier. Said she’s got something for you, you might want to find her after the match.” He turns his attention back to Harry, startles him by laying a warm hand on his knee. “How are you doing, mate?”

Harry clears his throat, then gives a jerky nod. “I’m alright.”

Liam just stares at him shrewdly, hand still resting on Harry’s knee. Harry knows he’s a terrible liar, knows that his appearance betrays him anyway - cheeks more hollow than usual and bruises under his eyes from exhaustion and lack of appetite. To his surprise, though, Liam just nods back at him, then turns his gaze out to the field. Harry lets out a small sigh of relief that the conversation is over, but then Liam says, “He’s miserable, you know.”

Harry’s entire body goes rigid and he has to clear his throat a few times before he can respond. “L - Louis?”

“No, Professor Flitwick. Yes, Louis, you prat.” Liam turns to look at him again, shifts his entire body around so he can see him properly. “Look, Harry, Louis is an idiot, but he has a lot of pride. He won’t come to you first. But seriously, if you don’t sort this out, I will actually kill him. And then I’ll probably kill you for letting this ridiculous misunderstanding perpetuate and making me murder my best friend.”

Not sure whether to take him seriously or start laughing, Harry stares at Liam in shock until, all of a sudden, a massive cheer goes up from the stands and Liam looks away. The teams have walked out, and Harry can just make out Louis leading the Slytherin team across the pitch to where Madame Hooch is waiting with the chest of balls and a whistle.

As he watches, Louis swivels around and sweeps his gaze across the stands. The necklace pulses again, hot against his skin, and Harry bites his lip, hard. He knows, logically, that there’s no way Louis should be able to find him in the massive crowd, all the way from the ground. All the same, he can’t take his eyes off of Louis’ distant form, and he has to press his trembling hands between his knees and squeeze them tight.

Ravenclaw wins the coin toss, and Madame Hooch blows her whistle to start the match.

The game is an absolute mess. The wind is so strong that it’s blowing the players off course, and they’re taking their frustrations out on the balls and each other. For the most part, the Seekers get to avoid most of the melee, but about an hour into the game, Slytherin are up 120 to 30, and one of the Ravenclaw Beaters bats angrily at a Bludger and it veers wildly.

The next thing Harry knows, the crowd is in an uproar and Niall is gripping Harry’s hand so tight his bones are grinding together. Harry isn’t entirely sure what’s going on, but he knows it’s not good, and his heart is pounding madly in his chest as he stands up and tries to see what’s happening.

When he turns to ask Zayn, he notices that Liam is gone and Zayn’s face is ashen. Harry’s stomach drops and he says, voice thick with worry, “Zayn? What’s happened?”

Zayn turns to look at Harry and his eyes are wide and over-bright. “I don’t.” He swallows. “The Bludger went wide. I think - it hit Louis.”

They don’t cancel the match, just put the backup seeker in for the rest of it, so Harry knows it must not have been a life-threatening blow, but he can’t breathe. He wants to leave, he has to leave, and Zayn and Niall go with him. They walk back to the castle with their arms around him, keeping up a litany of reassurances to calm him down. Once they reach the castle, they loiter in the entry hall for a while, not sure where to go. Harry can’t stop running scenarios through his head, each one more terrible than the last until he has to force himself to take calming breaths.

“D’you think -” His voice quavers, and Harry fidgets nervously, picking at the frayed hem of his jumper sleeve. “Do you think they let Liam in to see him?”

Zayn opens his mouth to answer, but Niall interrupts. “Come on, let’s go to my common room. We’ll see if he’s there.”

Zayn shoots Niall a surprised look, but they follow him down a level and along a narrow, warm corridor toward the kitchens. They stop in front of a large stack of barrels, and Harry and Zayn avert their eyes while Niall opens the entryway. The common room is cozy, fitted with yellow and black overstuffed sofas and decorated with hundreds of plants. There’s no one there. Niall checks Liam’s dorm room, then shakes his head.

“Maybe we should just wait here? Surely he’ll come back eventually.” Zayn looks at Niall expectantly, and Niall nods.

“Of course. Come on, we’ll play a game or something while we wait.”

Harry curls up on one end of a sofa, hands tucked under his cheek, and watches Zayn and Niall play wizard chess while worry churns in his gut. He hadn’t seen the hit, but it still can’t have been good if they had taken Louis to the hospital wing rather than treating him on the pitch and putting him back in the game.

Harry digs the necklace Louis had given him out from under his shirt and wraps the chain around his hand, worries his bottom lip until it feels raw and puffy. At one point, Niall climbs up on the couch and settles himself on top of Harry’s legs, hand curled around his hip as Zayn drags a table over for them to play on.

They wait for what feels like an eternity. Harry appreciates Niall’s warm, comforting weight and Zayn’s sporadic pats to his ankle, but he can’t stop thinking about Louis lying broken in a hospital bed, and how the last time they had spoken, six weeks ago, they had fought. He knows Louis’ not going to die from a Quidditch injury, but he feels horribly guilty, nonetheless, and even more-so after Liam’s admission before the match.

When the common room door swings open a little while later, Harry bolts up and he, Niall, and Zayn all stare at the entryway until someone walks in.

“Liam!” Niall exclaims, and Liam looks up in surprise.

“Hey, Niall, what -” His eyes focus on Harry, then Zayn, and he says, slow and confused, “What’s going on here, Niall? Why are there Ravenclaws in our common room?”

But Harry is already scrambling up, shoving Niall off his legs with a grunt. “Where’s Louis? Is he alright?” He skirts the cluster of sofas and stumbles up to Liam, tripping a little on his own feet. Liam grabs his arms to steady him and Harry huffs out an annoyed breath. “Is Louis okay?”

Liam nods and pats Harry on the shoulder. “He had some broken ribs and a broken arm. Nothing Madame Pomfrey couldn’t fix right off, but she wants him to stay overnight in case he’s got a concussion.” Tone wry, he says, “You can fix nearly anything with potions, but there’s not much you can do for a head injury.”

Harry blows out a relieved breath and presses a hand to his stomach. Despite Liam’s words, it’s still twisting madly, a mixture of anxiety and guilt and nerves that are making him feel slightly ill. He needs to see Louis, just so he can reassure himself. “D’you think they’d let me see him?”

Liam shakes his head sadly. “No more visitors today, she said. She’s just kicked me out, that’s why I’m back here. Sorry mate. Maybe tomorrow?”

Harry tamps down on a surge of disappointment and lets Liam lead him back over to the sofas. He insists that they all play a round of Exploding Snap as a distraction, and they spend the next few hours playing various games, though Harry only half-pays attention, still too wrapped up in thoughts of Louis.

The four of them sit at the Hufflepuff table at lunch. Ravenclaw still lost the match, and the general mood at their table is far too depressing for Harry’s already foul one. He doesn’t eat much, despite everyone’s attempts at shoveling food onto his plate, and after lunch, Zayn suggests that they all go outside and spend some time by the lake, enjoy the fresh air.

He conjures up a couple of small bluebell flames that crackle bright and lovely in the weak sunlight and keep them nice and warm. Harry lies down with his head in Zayn’s lap and they all talk quietly. At one point, Harry falls asleep. He’s not sure how long he’s been sleeping, but when Zayn shakes him gently awake, the sun is dipping low in the sky and his fingers and toes have gone numb.

He shakes his hair out as he sits up, and when Zayn says, “It’s nearly time for supper. You ready to go inside?” He finds that he’s actually ravenous. They all sit with their own houses for dinner, and Harry takes servings of roasted chicken, sweet potato pie, sweet corn, and buttered mushrooms. He even makes room for treacle tart for dessert, though it makes him think of Louis, and a few bites in, he finds that he’s lost what was left of his appetite.

After dinner, Harry and Zayn head back up to Ravenclaw Tower.

“I guess we should do some school work,” Harry mumbles. They pull out various books and rolls of parchment and work quietly in armchairs by the fire until Zayn is yawning so hard his jaw cracks and they call it a night.

“You going to be alright?” Zayn asks, and he laces his fingers through Harry’s as they climb the stairs to their rooms. They pause on the landing outside Harry’s dorm and he nods.

“Liam said he’s fine. I trust Liam.”

Zayn nods back, pleased, then leans in to press a light, friendly kiss to the corner of Harry’s mouth. “Goodnight, babe.”

With a quick rub of Harry’s arm, Zayn turns and continues up the stairs. Once Harry strips off and gets in bed, he finds he’s not tired. He lays in bed while his housemates settle around him, slowly drifting off into soft snores, and fidgets anxiously, head filled with thoughts of Louis lying alone in the hospital wing, wrapped up in bandages.

Before he’s even made a conscious decision, Harry is sitting up and slipping into a pair of track bottoms, a coat, and a pair of slippers and is tip-toeing quietly out of the room and down the stairs.

In the corridor, he murmurs, “Lumos,” and uses his wand-light to guide himself down the halls and up staircases toward the hospital wing. Breath held, Harry eases the door to the wing open and slides through as small a crack as he can manage. He lowers his wand so the light isn’t cast as far, in case Madame Pomfrey happens to be in the room, checking on Louis.

The room is thankfully empty, save for a bed against the far wall, and as he pads quietly across the floor, he hears a harshly whispered, “Who’s there?”

Harry’s heart slams into his throat, pulse going wild, before he realizes that it was Louis; that Louis is sitting up in his bed and squinting toward where Harry is currently frozen.

“Madame? Liam? Professor Slughorn?”

Harry shuffles closer, and once he’s only a couple of beds away, he lifts his wand to illuminate his face.

Harry?” Louis says, tone disbelieving, and Harry nods as he moves closer. He perches awkwardly on the bed across from Louis and stares at him, bottom lip drawn into his mouth. “What are you doing here?”

Harry shrugs. “I had to see that you were alright.”

“Didn’t Liam tell you...?”

“Yeah, of course he did, I just. I dunno, I had to make sure.” Harry shrugs self-consciously. It sounds silly now, but Louis is just staring at him like he’s unsure what to make of him being there.

“Why?” He demands suddenly, and Harry frowns.

“What do you mean, why?”

“Why are you here?”

Harry’s stomach clenches painfully and he looks down at his lap, whispers, “You know what, you’re probably right. I should go.”

He gets up and starts around the bed and back down toward the door, but then he hears Louis say, “No, wait.” He pauses but doesn’t turn around. “Harry. Harry, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean - you broke curfew and snuck up here just to check on me, and I’m being an arse. Come back.”

With a sigh, Harry turns back around and settles onto the opposite bed again, but he doesn’t quite meet Louis’ eyes. He trains his gaze just over Louis’ shoulder instead and mumbles, “How are you feeling?”

Louis shrugs. “Like I got hit in the back with a Bludger and took a tumble off my broom.” When Harry doesn’t laugh, he says, “I feel embarrassed, mostly, if I’m being honest.”

Harry frowns and looks up at Louis’ face. He’s watching Harry carefully, expression chagrined. “You’ve got nothing to be embarrassed about, Lou.” Louis sucks in a sharp breath at Harry’s use of the nickname, but Harry ignores it. “The Bludger shouldn’t have been anywhere near you, it’s not your fault. And besides, you still won in the end.”

“No thanks to me,” Louis mumbles, and Harry just shakes his head at him.

After that, they fall into a silence that’s not uncomfortable, despite everything. Harry stares down at his hands, where he’s gently twirling his wand. He can feel Louis watching him, but he doesn’t look up, isn’t sure what he’s supposed to say at this point. Finally, after several minutes have passed without a word, Louis says, voice quiet and hesitant, “Hey, Harry, about last term....”

Harry flinches. Suddenly, he wants to be anywhere but this room, doesn’t want to hear what Louis is about to say. Because if he says it was a mistake, that it all meant nothing... Harry’s not sure he can handle that. He keeps his head down, body tensed for flight, and says, “Lou, I don’t think we should -”

But there’s an unexpected hand on his wrist, and when Harry lifts his head, Louis is standing over him. He hadn’t even heard the bed creak. Louis’ expression is sad, and Harry drop his gaze, stomach swooping unhappily. But before he can say anything, Louis is talking.

“I didn’t mean it, Harry. Not the way it came out, anyway, and I’m sorry. You just took me by surprise, alright? This isn’t...” He looks off with a small noise of frustration. “Look, I’m in seventh year and you’re only in fifth. In four months, I’m going to take my N.E.W.T.s, and then I’m going to be finished with school.”

“So?” Harry argues, and he turns his hand over in the bracket of Louis’ on his wrist, circles his own fingers around Louis’ arm to hold him there.

Louis frowns. “Harry, I’ll be off to London or wherever, and you’ll still have two years here. And it just doesn’t make sense to get involved. Right? It doesn’t make sense.”

There’s a pleading note to his voice now, hand tightening around Harry’s wrist, and Harry looks back up at his face. His hair is a mess, matted to one side and sticking up slightly in the back like he’s just woken up. He’s got on baggy flannel pants that hang loose off his hips and a ratty old t-shirt, and Harry can see the shadow of a compression bandage beneath the worn material of it, wrapped tight around his ribs. His fingernails are still dirty from his tumble, like he hasn’t had a proper shower, and there’s a faint bruise high on his arm. Harry thinks he’s never wanted anyone or anything more in his entire life.

He pitches his voice low and even, and says, “Louis, if you think I care that you’re going to be an old, boring, responsible adult come June, then you really are daft.”

Louis makes a noise of protest. “Hey, no one said anything about being responsible! I just meant I won’t be here, and you will, and how could that possibly work?”

Harry shrugs as he sets his wand aside, then lifts his other hand and fists it carefully in the back of Louis’ shirt. “I don’t know,” he says honestly. He drops his gaze to stare fixedly at Louis’ chest, too nervous to look him in the eye. “All I know is that I’ve been in love with you since second year, when you nearly ran me over on your way for a swim in the lake.” Louis sucks in a breath and his grip on Harry's wrist tightens, but Harry plows on, not leaving an opening for Louis to cut in. “It took three years, but I finally got you, Louis, and then you bloody ran away. And I was so mad at you, Lou, because I just wanted to be with you and you were such a jerk.”

Louis makes a soft noise of agreement, and Harry twists his fingers in the material of Louis’ shirt and shrugs again.

“But I can’t stay mad at you anymore.” He lifts his gaze to Louis’, finally, and says, “I just want to be with you, Louis. We can figure out the logistics in four months. Please, just be with me. These past months have been awful, I can’t stand us not being together after everything.”

He watches Louis chew on the inside of his cheek for a moment, brow furrowed. But then his forehead smooths out and he says, “You do look like shit, you know.”

Harry frowns. “Hey! You’re no spring rose yourself, Louis Tomlinson.”

“Shut up, I’m gorgeous,” Louis says with a mock pout.

Harry fights against the smile threatening to split his face, murmurs, “Yeah.”

Louis doesn’t respond to that, he just plants a hand on Harry’s chest, shoves him back so he scoots further onto the bed, and climbs clumsily into his lap.

Harry holds his breath, unsure of what to do with his hands, while Louis’ fingers work quickly at the zip of his jacket and Louis mumbles, “Why are you wearing a bloody jacket with your pyjamas, you freak, get it off so I can touch you.”

He slides the jacket off Harry’s shoulders, and Harry realizes suddenly that he didn’t put on a shirt. He hunches his shoulders and says, “Oops. That’s why.”

But Louis just grins and slides his hands up Harry’s chest to wrap around his neck, murmurs, “Cheeky,” before closing the gap and sealing their lips together.

Harry drags Louis closer with arms around his waist and they kiss, soft and open mouthed.

After a few minutes, Louis pulls back and fiddles with Harry’s tangle of necklaces absently. “I really am sorry, you know. I was horrible.” Harry shakes his head in protest, but Louis rolls his eyes. “Don’t defend me, I know I was being absurd. I -” He stops speaking, eyes locked on his hands where they’re wrapped in Harry’s necklaces. He slowly extricates them and picks one necklace out of the bunch. “You’re wearing it,” he murmurs, soft and awed.

Caught, Harry’s heart starts to beat double-time and he opens his mouth to say something, but then Louis is kissing him, hot and desperate, the paper aeroplane charm clutched tight in his fist. Harry melts into it, any reply he’d had ready forgotten at the first stroke of Louis’ tongue over his.

Eventually they slow to a stop, mouths still pressed together sweetly, breathing labored. Their lips brush softly as Louis teases, “So. Does this mean you’re going to be my boyfriend, then?”

Harry’s heart flutters in his throat and he pauses, not sure how to answer. In the end, he settles for, “If you want me to be.”

He can feel Louis’ breath hitch in his chest where it’s pressed against his own, and he opens his eyes, watches the blurry flutter of Louis’ downy eyelashes as he thinks. Finally, Louis opens his eyes, pupils dilated, the dim light from the torch between the beds casting starbursts in the soft blue of his irises. He whispers, “I want you to be.”


fin.

 
 
 
michelle: otp: bowtie/braces [Harreh and Louieh]certainthings on March 1st, 2013 04:15 am (UTC)
--Liam turns to look at him again, shifts his entire body around so he can see him properly. “Look, Harry, Louis is an idiot, but he has a lot of pride. He won’t come to you first. But seriously, if you don’t sort this out, I will actually kill him. And then I’ll probably kill you for letting this ridiculous misunderstanding perpetuate and making me murder my best friend.”--

you know, this was one of my favourite scenes.
baby, i'm a dreamer: stock/ make your own rainbowkeeplistening on March 7th, 2013 08:51 pm (UTC)
ILU :)
mozarts_piano: coeur de piratemozarts_piano on March 6th, 2013 11:43 pm (UTC)
this was really cute! i liked the hogwarts dynamic, i felt it worked well :) and i liked how full of youth harry and louis were, that they were horny and messy but also nervous and awkward.

good job :D
baby, i'm a dreamer: stock/ make your own rainbowkeeplistening on March 7th, 2013 08:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, I'm glad you enjoyed it! :)
(Anonymous) on March 24th, 2013 05:19 am (UTC)
YOU LITTLE...I AM CRYING.