Harry Styles met Louis Tomlinson on the train to Hogwarts when he was eleven years and two days old. There were always a few of them, those born in the end of August who had little to no time to go from desperately waiting for their letters to frantically preparing to leave home.
Thus he was slightly bewildered and saucer-eyed when he passed the barrier at Platform 9 3/4 and stumbled up to the train. A group of boys knocked into him and made him lose his grip on his trolley. As he scrambled to grab it up again, he made a rude gesture at their backs, and someone laughed delightedly behind him. He whirled around to find the strangest looking boy with bizarre hair, and braces barely visible under his school cloak.
"Not many people give the finger to James Potter," the boy said and slung his arm around Harry's shoulders. "You're already my favorite first year."
He led Harry to one compartment of people after another, filled with people who cried "Louis!" but couldn't spare two seats together. They were just approaching another group of bewildered first years when a professor in a very tight black cloak snapped,
"The train is leaving now. You lot, that compartment. You lot, that one."
Harry followed Louis and a few other boys into the compartment and sat down. Louis pulled out a handful of Chocolate Frogs and passed them around and by the time they pulled into Hogwarts, they were on their way to being fast friends with Niall, Liam, and Zayn.
He retold the story to himself fairly often, for fear that he soon would actually forget that they hadn't known each other always. It was a pretty large situation he was trying and failing to keep under control, the problem of being desperately in love with Louis Tomlinson.
He was in fifth year now, and Louis was in his sixth, and nothing had changed except Louis's total lost of respect for house divisions.
"Remember when only Gryffindors knew where our common room was?" Jeremy Longbottom groused.
Louis, who was coming through the portrait hole grinned and tackled him saying "How else would I be able to come up and rock my sweet baby to sleep at night," He gathered Jeremy up in a parody of a nursing mother until Jeremy punched his way free.
Louis bounded over to Harry next, pulling his arm to make him stand. "Come, young Harry, the night is young, and so are we."
"I have to study for OWLs," Harry protested, but it was barely a token protest and he knew it. Louis knew it too because he barely paused long enough to yell for Niall up the stairs before towing Harry out the door.
"I can walk," Harry said once they made it past the Fat Lady, and pulled his arm out of Louis's grasp. Louis just caught his hand instead, and Harry let him; Louis's palm was warm against his as they walked.
Niall caught up with them after a minute. "Are Zayn and Liam meeting us?"
"Sir Zayn went after Liam in the wilderness of the Library," Louis said, gesturing theatrically. "Whether he is able to pry the young lad from his studies is another quest."
Liam and Zayn were in fact waiting at the top of the Astronomy Tower for them. Zayn had a large blanket with the Hufflepuff crest, obviously taken from his bed. Niall took out food from the kitchens, and they sprawled together, squabbling amicably amongst themselves.
"Got a Quiddich match tomorrow," Niall said after a bit.
"Are you finally starting then?" Liam asked.
"Yeah, Teddy told me at dinner."
"Well, then we'll all come out and support you," Harry said and Louis nodded. "We'll wear our brightest Gryffindor colors."
Niall started laughing. "Your house will kill you, we're playing Slytherin!"
"They already think he's mental, what difference will it make?" Liam said, and Louis socked him in the arm.
"Speaking of mental, how's your Charms project?" Zayn asked Louis.
He visibly drooped a little. "Still can't make it work. I know it's close though, but I just can't see how!" Louis was in an advanced practical with Professor Flitwick, and though his insane enthusiasm for charms was limitless, it was taking a toll. Harry, whose socked feet were close to Louis's leg, kicked him lightly. Louis returned the gesture and they kept going until they were just pressing their toes together.
"Weird," Zayn informed them.
Just before curfew, Liam made them pack up before Old Filch came after them, hobbling and shrieking about students out of bed. They solemnly swore to meet up again, and dispersed--Liam towards Ravenclaw, Zayn towards Hufflepuff, Louis down to the Slytherin dungeons, and Harry and Niall to Gryffindor Tower.
Before Louis turned off, he ruffled Harry's hair with both hands and smacked a big kiss on his forehead. "Sweet dreams, Curly," he said, and took off running.
"Come on then," Niall said, shaking his head.
Harry followed him, touching the spot on his forehead that was still sticky from the lolly Louis had been eating. It was hopeless, honestly.
As the weeks passed, the fifth years were really forced to double down on their OWL prep. Meetings with the boys became less regular and more of a rare treat to reward themselves. Louis, who had finished his OWLs last year, was spending all of his time in the Charms classrooms, working long hours on his secret project he wouldn't tell even Harry about.
One morning at breakfast, Scorpius Malfoy and a sixth year Harry didn't recognize dragged Louis over and deposited him on the bench next to Harry.
"What's this?" Harry asked.
"He hasn't slept in two days, and he smells," Malfoy informed him. "He won't listen to anyone else so we're making this your problem."
"Return him when he's fixed," the other boy said. "We'll miss him if he's permanently broken."
Louis fixed them both with a betrayed gaze. "How could you? My own brothers, my comrades in arms!"
"You want to sit?" Niall asked the other two, shoving over a bit, but they shook their heads and headed back to the Slytherin table. All of the houses mingled so much more than they did before the Great War but still, Louis was in the minority of Slytherins that actively sought out the other houses. Harry knew it bothered Louis sometimes, the razzing he got for how much time he spent with Harry.
"Here," he said to Louis, handing him a pumpkin pasty. After Louis had eaten enough to satisfy him, he used Liam's password to get them into the prefect's bathroom, shoed Myrtle out and made Louis soak for a bit. It was sort of alarming how pliant Louis was being, but he didn't question it, just hustled him upstairs and into Harry's bed.
"M'not actually tired," Louis said. Harry was having trouble looking directly at him, with his flushed cheeks and lounging against all Harry's pillows.
"That's because you've been mainlining coffee and alertness charms for 48 hours, and if you sit still for even ten minutes, you're going to crash."
"You're a gem of a best friend, Harry, but I have to--" Louis was betrayed halfway through his sentence by the yawn that escaped his throat. Harry grinned at him in triumph, and Louis rolled his eyes, and lifted the edge of the blankets up imperiously.
Harry toed his shoes off and climbed in, and curled up under Louis's arm. "Are you ever going to tell me what you're working on?" he said.
Louis carded his hand through Harry's hair. "Not yet, but I will tell you a hilarious story Flitwick told me about the Headmaster. "
When Louis trailed off in the middle of a sentence, Harry measured the rise and fall of his chest for a bit, and declaring it even enough, he squirmed out from under Louis's arm, and took a seat at the desk across the room. He cracked open a Arithmancy textbook, but he couldn't take his eyes off Louis, and how strange and foreign it seemed to see him actually still for once. Come off it, he mocked himself. You definitely want to say he's pretty.
He was so screwed.
A few days later, he, Zayn and Liam were taking a well deserved study break relaxing on the Quidditch pitch as Niall dived after birds above their heads.
"If you fall and break something before the Cup, your team will find you and break the rest of you, " Liam yelled up at him. Niall scoffed, and he turned another ridiculous dive just to make Liam flinch.
They heard Louis calling before they saw him, and sat up to watch him run, red-faced and sweaty, throwing his arms around like a demented monkey. "I did it!" he was yelling. "I did it, I figured it out!"
Without a word, they leapt to their feet and ran after him, pounding down the corridor to the Charms classroom and skidding to a halt inside. Louis carefully picked up an object that had a large glass ball at one end, and a silver base with complicated designs on the other.
Louis had such a delighted face as he caressed his little gadget that it almost took Harry's breath away. He hovered in the doorway as the others approached, and it brightened up, purring softly in his hands.
"What is it?" Zayn asked, reaching out one finger to touch.
"Proof of my brilliance," Louis said smugly. "I modeled it on a Sneak-o-scope, only it tells you the opposite. When it lights up, it tells you that people who are fond of you are near." He gestured at the colors dancing in the center. "Obviously you lot think I'm quite special, which is only right and good." He looked up at Harry, laughter in his eyes. "Well come on then, Harry, come tell me how smart I am!"
Harry took off. He zoomed down the hallways and took the secret passage up to the seventh floor, and flung himself into the room of requirement before he even processed anything else except, "I need to hide from Louis."
When he got inside, the room had made itself small and dark. There was a couch in the center of the room, large enough to throw oneself on, which he immediately did. Burying his face in the cushions, he thought, "What the fuck am I going to do?"
There was no walking back what would happen if Harry got anywhere near that thing. A sneak-a-scope got louder the more malicious you were; Louis would see his project go up like a flood light if Harry got anywhere near him and there was no amount of "best friends" that would make that explainable. Harry would rather get expelled from Hogwarts in disgrace then watch Louis let him down easy, or look at him with pity. That is, if Louis didn't punch him, which Harry reckoned was less than likely, but still on the list of possible outcomes. That Louis would be pleased was not on the possible outcomes list because Harry was not an idiot, and knew damn well how much Louis flirted with everyone who gave him opportunity. Harry had seen him through several of his grand affairs, and knew exactly what Louis in the thralls of a crush was like .
Eventually, he got a hold of himself and checked the time. He had missed dinner, and it was late enough that there wouldn't be many students in the corridors. He patted the door of the room in thanks, and slipped out, using passages and back ways to the Gryffindor common room.
Niall was waiting for him, as Harry expected, but he didn't say much. Harry sagged into a chair by the fireplace. Niall passed him a Chocolate Frog, and patted him on the knee in consolation.
The next morning at breakfast, Louis caught up to him. "What was all that, mate? What'd you leave for?"
"Got sick," Harry said shortly. "Bad stomachache."
"Aww, " Louis said, obviously relieved, and reached out to ruffle his hair. Harry, acting without thinking, ducked him, nearly walking into another student. Louis, who couldn't hide a single emotion on his face if you paid him, looked like he'd been slapped.
"Still sick, Louis," Harry said. "Probably contagious, you don't want to catch it." He sidestepped Louis, and went straight for the Gryffindor table, wedging himself in between Niall and Jeremy Longbottom. He ignored Louis's stare, boring a hole on his back.
Because Louis wasn't actually in his year, avoiding him during classes was easy. He started spending more time with Liam in the library, the last place Louis would look. It was good for his OWLs, but bad for his mood. Niall was usually with him in the common room, and for reasons only known to Niall, would warn him when Louis was planning on coming over. It perfectly orchestrated so that he hadn't actually exchanged more than awkward hellos with Louis in more than a week. The side effect was that the Slytherins all seemed furious at him for some reason, and also he felt like a limb had been torn off his body, and the remaining stump had been soaked in acid. Not to be overdramatic or anything though.
"Harry," Niall said after lights out one night. "Zayn passed me a note today about all meeting up this weekend."
Harry tried to muffle his groan.
"You're going to have to talk to him," Niall said bluntly. "This isn't going to work forever. He thinks you hate him, and he doesn't know why."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Harry lied, and didn't even protest when Niall lobbed a pillow at him.
In possibly the most cowardly move thus far, instead of meeting the boys like he promised, Harry snuck out with James Potter and a bunch of the rowdy seventh years to go down to Hogsmeade. Having never gone with them before, they teased him mercilessly until he did shots of firewhiskey with them, one after another, after another.
He got hopelessly smashed.
When he staggered with the others up to the castle, they all froze when they saw someone waiting at the top of the stairs.
"All of you, bed." Louis said forbiddingly.
One of the others tried to protest, saying Louis wasn't a prefect but most of them moved quicky. Harry tried to move with them, but a familiar hand reached out and snagged his cloak, making him stumble back into a wall.
"What," Louis hissed, "is your problem?"
"I'm not the one harassing students in the hallway after dark," Harry tried to point out, but Louis shook him a little.
"Drunk, out after hours, with blokes we hate? Skipping tower nights, avoiding me completely?"
"Well that's awfully dramatic," Harry said, and gazed somewhere over Louis's right shoulder.
Without another word, Harry found himself being dragged along to the dungeons, and into the Slytherin common room. It was actually the first time he'd been in there; normally he waited for Louis outside the door. The few students left in the common room looked up, appalled.
"Louis," one of them said. "You're bringing him in here? After--"
"Shut up," Louis said, and pulled Harry along to the bedroom.
Before Harry really knew what hit him, Louis had his cloak off, and bundled him into bed. He disappeared for a minute, and reappeared with a glass of water and a headache potion which he put on the nightstand. Then he slid in beside the sheets next to Harry, but without touching, his body stiff as a board.
"You're not going to run away again, Harry," Louis said, biting off each word. "Sober up, because in the morning we're going to talk."
Harry's whiskey-addled brain came up with the brilliant plan of staying awake until Louis dropped off in order to sneak out, but before he knew it, he was fast asleep.
When he woke, he thought at first that he had left a warming charm on his sheets too long, and went to fumble for his wand when his hand connected with someone's ribs.
Instantly, he was awake, knew whose bed he was in, knew who he was sprawled on top of, and was horribly, horribly hungover. He closed his eyes again, tightly.
"I know you're awake," Louis said, unsympathetically.
"Am not," Harry mumbled. He rubbed his face into Louis' s chest and felt Louis take a deep breath.
He froze, and rolled over, remembering why exactly he had been avoiding this very situation. He sat up, swinging his legs over the side, and swallowed the headache potion and the glass of water.
"Can we please talk now," Louis said.
Harry turned to face him, folding his legs underneath him. Louis was sitting up too, with his knees pulled up to his chest, and his arms looped around them. He looked younger than Harry had ever seen him, and horribly tired, with dark circles under his eyes. Harry didn't think he could feel worse in this situation, but apparently there was just that much more bottom left to hit when Louis said pleadingly, "What did I do?"
"Nothing, Lou," Harry said. "Nothing, I'm not--I just needed--" he stopped, frustrated with himself.
Louis was staring at him. "You're talking to the others. Everyone else says there's not a problem, that you're normal with them. But with me, you keep running away, you can't wait to get away, and I am trying to fix it, Harry, I am, but if you don't--"
"Where's your charms project?" Harry interrupted, steeling himself.
Louis stopped, surprised. "The Snog-a-scope?" At Harry's eyebrows, he coughed. "Niall named it. It sort of stuck."
"Go get it," Harry said, and he tried to quell the panic in his chest as Louis ran downstairs to the common room. When he reappeared in the doorway, he started to say something, but only got another two steps before the thing lit up like the sun, flooding the entire room with light before burning out with a pop.
There was a series of death threats from the other beds as curtains were drawn tighter, but Louis only had eyes for Harry. "Tell me that was a freak accident, and I'll drop the whole thing," he said quietly.
Harry shook his head.
Louis started towards him carefully, "I mean it, Harry. It's my first working model, and if..."
Harry cut him off. "It's not a mistake," he said hoarsely. "Lou, I'm sorry, but it's not--that thing is telling the truth."
Harry's back hit the mattress hard as Louis landed on top of him, smashing their mouths together. Harry bucked up to meet him, getting his hands into Louis's stupid, stupid hair and tried to pull him even closer. They kissed until Harry saw spots from lack of oxygen and then pulled apart, breathing raggedly with their foreheads pressed together.
"You're in love with me," Louis said. It wasn't really a question, but Harry nodded anyways. "You're such an idiot, Harry. How could you not tell me?"
"You're my best friend," Harry said helplessly.
Louis started to laugh, and he pressed his mouth to Harry's neck to try to stiffle his chuckles. "Are you seriously laughing?" Harry said, squirming.
"My house was preparing to murder you," he wheezed.
"What?" Harry said. "Why?"
"Because you dumped me, you prat!"
"I did not!"
"You totally did," Louis said, and he raised himself up to look Harry in the eyes. "And if you ever do it again, I will help them, I swear it."
"I won't," Harry promised. "I won't."
"Plus," Louis said. "You owe me a new Charms project."
"I'll make it up to you," Harry said, and pulled him back in.