Harry puts the blame all on his coach, honestly.
If they hadn't gotten carried away before school, talking about football plays and what they're going to do at the next practice, Harry would have gotten to first period on time, and he wouldn't be staring at Tom holding Louis up against a locker, fist directly in front of Louis' squinting face.
Harry's seen this before, obviously, but there had always been more people around. A large group or some of Tom's friends. Something about just the three of them being there changes this whole situation. And the fact that Harry knows he's the only thing standing in the way of Louis being punched in the face, makes him very uncomfortable.
He's never been good with violence or blood or anything of the sorts. It makes him queasy and scared and he can't even imagine how Louis must be feeling right now.
Right. Well, he has two options. Possibly three. He could (a) go up and tell Tom to leave Louis alone, and then escort said boy to his class, (b) go get a teacher, or (c), run away. And Harry being Harry, obviously chooses the latter because he doesn't even know Louis. Why does he need to go be a knight in shining armour? Why is it up to him to go help Louis? Sure, Louis' a sound lad, but Tom's on the football team and he really doesn't want to get involved.
As Harry turns around and goes a different route to class, he can barely hear the sounds of Tom mocking Louis and using crude words. He tries to ignore the sound of what he knows is Tom's fist colliding with Louis' face.
All Harry can do is go to class and hope a teacher walks down the hall.
Throughout the rest of the day, Harry doesn't see Louis at all. He sees Tom, of course- who looks exactly the same as he always does. Hair messed up and an ugly scowl covering his face. Harry's only worried because usually he sees Louis eating alone at one of the back tables, reading a book, or hanging his head down. But, Harry also knows that sometimes Louis hides in one of the bathroom stalls, not wanting get his milk poured on his head, or a pizza slammed in his face. Harry really does feel bad for him.
Harry has one class with Louis. First period Chemistry. They'd been lab partners at the beginning of the school year, the teacher having been too lazy to make a real seating chart, and just assigning partners through last names. Harry could barely get a word out of him, but Louis had usually done all their work, and if he saw Harry copying his test every once in a while, he didn't say anything about it or go to cover his paper. But after a month, they got new partners, and he never really talked to Louis since.
It was October of this school year that Louis came out. It wasn't really voluntarily. Just someone on the football team seeing Louis kiss another guy, and sort of telling the whole school. Harry didn't think it was a big deal, and it's not like anyone really cared. Except for Louis. Once the whole school found out, Louis hid himself away and stopped talking to all his friends. He became a sort of recluse, and it was then that Tom and the rest of his friends started bullying Louis. Only because they knew Louis would never in a million years stand up for himself.
"What?" Harry asks, breaking out his daze and furrowing his eyebrows. He looks over and Niall must be trying to mock him or something, because he raises his left eyebrow and then reaches across the table to flick Harry in the head.
"What's up, lad? You're a bit off this morning." Harry just shrugs his shoulders and picks at the chips on his plate.
"Just tired, I guess." Niall nods his head and goes to take a bite of his sandwich, seemingly happy with that response. "Err, actually. Have you seen Louis Tomlinson at all today?" Niall sets down his sandwich and through a mouth full of food says,
"Tommo? Dunno mate. Wasn't in second period. Why?" Harry blushes and shrugs his shoulders again, trying to be nonchalant.
"Oh. I missed half of first period and like. Louis' in that class so I was thinking I'd just ask him what the homework assignment was..." Niall gives him a look.
"Mate. You were there for the second half, yeah?" Harry nods his head. "Why wouldn't you just look at the assignment on the board?" Harry blushes even deeper and then sputters for an answer. Niall laughs, loudly, and spits out part of his sandwich on the table. "Haz. Each to their own, I guess. If you wanna get with Tommo, that's fine. I just don't think you're his type, is all."
"What! No, Niall. It's not that I just.. I was just thinking that, like.." Niall laughs some more and goes back to his sandwich. Harry looks over to Liam for support, but all he gets is a sympathetic pat on his hand.
When the final bell rings, Harry walks to the front of the building to pick up some football forms for the lads on the team to sign, and that's when he sees Louis walking out of the nurses office.
Louis’ got a nasty looking black eye, and what seems to be a blood stain on his sweater. They make eye contact for all of half a second before Louis bows his head and runs out of there.
Louis' in first period the next day, but he's still as quiet as ever. He sits next to Perrie, who is nice enough- but even she can't get a word out of Louis. Harry feels like absolute shit when he sees Louis’ black eye. It's starting to swell pretty badly, and Harry hears Tom talk about it in the locker room when they’re getting ready for practice, saying it only 'spurs him on'.
Harry wants to throw up.
On Thursday, there's a sub in Chemistry, who tells everyone to find a partner and start working on chapter six questions. Harry brushes off the people calling his name, and walks to back of the classroom and to Louis' seat.
Louis looks up at him, and up close like this, Harry can see just how bad Louis' black eye really is.
"Err, hey. Want to be partners?" Harry asks. Louis scoffs at him and looks back at his book.
"Why? So I can do all the work and you can copy?” Louis sounds very spiteful and it makes Harry’s stomach churn.
“Uh, no? I just... You’re the only one without a partner...” It’s a lie, obviously. Nobody in the classroom has even started working on the assignment yet.
“No.” Louis says, tone flat. Harry scratches his head and looks around the room uncomfortably.
“Well... Can I at least sit next to you? My spots been taken.” Louis sighs and waves his hand around.
“I could care less where you sit, Harry. But you’re not copying my work.” Harry frowns, because does Louis really think that little of him? He sits down next to him, anyways, and only frowns a little when Louis puts in his headphones and doesn’t speak to him for the rest of class.
Harry’s not in first period on Friday, only because the coach wanted the football team to meet for a little talk about their first game tonight. Harry’s only nervous because it’s his first game as football captain and there’s a bit of pressure on him.
All through the day, everyone is super hyped, and at the end of the day, the school gathers in the gym for a pep assembly.
It’s super lame, but somehow it manages to get everyone pumped up. Harry only smiles when he looks up into the stands, and sees Louis. He’s sitting all dejectedly with his arms crossed and a bit of a frown on his face. Harry can’t help but think that Louis looks absolutely adorable.
When the assembly is over, Harry tries to catch up with Louis, but he loses him somewhere in the crowd. Harry’s about to turn around and walk back to the gym so he can meet up with Liam, until he turns and collides with someone.
“Oh, sorry I- Louis. Hi.” Louis raises his arms and steadies Harry before patting his shoulder.
“Sorry, mate. Can’t just turn around in these hallways, you know?” Harry just watches Louis for a minute, until Louis clears his throat. “Right. Well.” Louis goes to walk away, but Harry stops him, holding out his arm.
“Wait. Louis. I...” Harry swallows loudly. Really, he has no idea what to say. “Are you going to the game tonight?” He settles for. Louis rolls his eyes.
“Yeah. I’m going to the game tonight.” He says, very sarcastically. “Why would I go to the game?” He asks. Harry shrugs his shoulders.
“I dunno. Support the team?” Louis scoffs loudly and begins to walk away. Harry follows him.
“And why would I support the team?” Louis asks. Harry feels like an idiot because why would Louis go to the game, stupid.
“Maybe for me?” Louis stops walking and turns to look at Harry.
“And why would I do that?” He doesn’t say it in a rude or condescending voice. Actually, if Harry were thinking straight, he would think Louis’ voice was almost flirty.
“I dunno. Cause I’m cute?” Louis scoffs, and pats Harry’s cheek.
“Don’t get your hopes up, love.” Louis walks away then, and Harry feels like he’s in some sort of a daze. He’s almost positive Louis just flirted with him. Which can’t be right, because Louis hates him. Louis thinks he’s a dick and associates Harry with the rest of the dicks on the football team that give him endless torchure everyday.
It still doesn’t stop Harry from smiling like an idiot.
They win the game, 4 to 0. Harry is completely buzzing, running around and high-fiving everyone he sees. After a very long group talk from the coach, Harry takes a quick shower and changes out of his sweaty football gear. The team made plans to go meet for some pizza and relax and celebrate their win. However, when Harry’s walking out of the locker room, gym bag in one hand, phone in the other, he sees a group of his teammates standing in a circle, and some particularly bright red trousers in the center of it all.
To any passerbyer, it would look like a bunch of rowdy teenagers having some fun. But Harry knows that's not what’s going on at all. As soon as Harry hears the word 'faggot'' come from Tom's ever extensive vocabulary, he drops his sports bag and runs over to the circle, breaking through it right as he sees Nathan shove Louis onto the ground.
"Woah, woah woah! What are you guys doing? Leave him the alone!" Harry yells, extending his hand to help Louis up. Choosing not get involved, several of the guys leave immediately, but quite a few are still standing there.
"Oh come off it, Styles! We were just having a little fun with our pal Louis here." Tom says, pointing over to Louis, who’s got his head hanging down.
"Yeah! Why's it matter, anyways. He’s just a faggot." Someone calls from the crowd, earning a couple of 'yeah's in the process. Harry notices Louis visibly tense out of the corner of his eye, and Harry turns to boy who'd said it.
He recognizes him as their goalie, Mark. "No, he's not. And if I hear one more word about one of you giving Louis a hard time, I'll bench you for the rest of the season, and don't think I won't. Now. You lot get out here." Most of the boys leave after that, but a few stragglers stay behind- Tom and Nathan among those few.
"No. Why should we leave gay boy here alone? What's it to you?" Tom asks. Harry stares at him in disbelief, even though he really has no plan for this.
He looks over at Louis, who's staring back at him, completely shocked. He looks so defenseless, fed up with everything- with school, with Tom, with all these other bullies, with life. Harry blurts out the first thing that comes to his mind.
"Because Louis' my uhm, my boyfriend. Louis and I are dating. We're together." He doesn't dare look at anyone, just reaches out to intertwine his hand with Louis’. Louis tenses at the touch, but doesn't let go. Harry can hear someone in the crowd gasp, another 'oh shit' coming from somewhere in the audience. When Harry looks at Tom, he's standing a bit gobsmacked, just like everyone else.
Tom stutters a bit, coughing awkwardly into his fist, and mumbling a 'alright then lads?' and then backs away. Harry and Louis are left standing there, watching as everyone leaves after Tom. They wait there for a long time, still holding hands, but looking everywhere except each other. After several minutes of complete silence, the stadium lights go off, and Harry's pretty sure they're the only people still there.
Louis' the first one to move, turning to look at Harry before snatching his hand out of Harry's and hitting him. It's not hard, but Harry's still offended by it.
"What the fuck was that!" Louis asks, eyes wide, utterly confused as to what the hell Harry was thinking.
"Why did you just do that?" Louis exasperates.
"What? Save you? Sorry for looking out for you." Harry mumbles, trying to act casual.
"I can look out for myself, just leave me alone." Louis turns around and starts walking towards the car park. Harry runs back to get his bag before catching up with Louis, and grabbing him by his shoulders to turn him around.
"Lou, please just talk to me. This doesn't have to be a bad thing! We tell everyone we're dating, you'll get left alone, and we all live happily ever after. It's not like we have to like, do anything or anything. Just, come on." Harry's practically begging at this point. He knew Louis was thick headed, but not this much.
"Why are you doing this?" Louis asks, glaring at Harry with his arms crossed around his chest.
"What? Trying to make high school easier for you? Trying to help you go a week without some sort of new scar? Sorry for caring." Harry says, maybe hoping to guilt Louis into this.
"Is this some kind of joke? When have you ever cared about me? You let me walk around that bloody school for 4 months, being slammed into lockers, and being spit and kicked on, and you didn't do shit about it. You didn't even spare a second glance at me when we were lab partners for Christ's sake! And now you expect me to believe that you're just going to pretend to be my boyfriend? No. Fuck off. You're a twat." Louis made to turn around, but Harry grabbed his wrist, stopping his movements.
"You're making this so much more complicated than it needs to be! Half the footie team already thinks we're dating, anyways. Tom won't fuck with you anymore, and we don't even have to see each other! Maybe just sit with me during first period and at lunch or something. You'd have to spend a total of like, two hours at school with me everyday. It's either that, or getting the shit beat out of you by Tom and Nathan. Your choice. I'm just trying to help. But if you don't want it, then fine." Louis stared at him for a minute, before rubbing his hands on his face, and pulling at his hair.
Louis sighed, before finally giving in. "Fine, Harry. But if this doesn't work, I swear to God..-" He cuts himself off, breathing out deeply through his mouth, before turning around for a minute. When he looks back at Harry, there are tears in his eyes.
"Oh, f-fuck, Louis. Don't- Don't cry." He reaches out and pulls Louis into a hug, crushing their bodies together. "Shhh. It's okay, Lou. I promise. Everything's going to be okay. I swear on my life. Please, just don't cry." He pulls out of the hug, but keeps his arms at Louis waist, holding him at arms distance. He brings his hands up to Louis' petite face, swiping his thumbs under his eyes, and getting rid of any tears threatening to fall out.
That seems to only make Louis cry harder, and then next thing Harry knows, Louis is burying his face into his neck, bringing his arms around Harry's shoulders and sobbing. Harry just holds Louis, not caring about his good football shirt getting tears and snot and saliva on it. He figures it's been a while since Louis had a good cry, and he stands there whispering sweet nothings into Louis' ear until he stops crying. Harry holds him even after the tears stops, not wanting to ruin the moment.
He pulls Louis out of the hug, this time using his sleeves to wipe away the tears and some of his snot. It's kind of gross, but Louis' eyes are red rimmed, and his nose is still a little runny, so Harry smiles at him, before grabbing his hand and placing a chaste kiss on it. “Okay?” Harry asks. Louis nods his head and wipes his face with his sleeves. Harry can’t help but notice how completely adorable Louis looks right now. All small and cuddly.
"D'you need a ride home?" Harry asks, grabbing Louis’ hand and leading them out of the stadium.
Louis silently nods his head, worrying that anything he says will end in him sobbing again- even something as simple as a 'yes'. Harry doesn’t care though, just squeezes Louis' hand tighter before walking to the passenger side of his car and opening it for Louis. He reluctantly lets go of Louis' hand, going to the drivers side and turning on the heat as soon as the car starts.
They ride mostly in silence, until a Coldplay song comes on and Louis starts to shyly sing along. Harry smiles before turning it up a little, singing it with Louis. Louis' got such a lovely voice. He always used to be the main actor in all the school musicals, and everyone thought he was completely brilliant. Of course, after the whole 'coming out' thing, Louis quit drama.
Harry turns down the radio after the song finishes, and looks over at Louis, who has his eyes closed, and is sitting criss cross on the passenger seat. Harry thinks he looks like he's meditating, what with his slow breathing and his hands gently laying over his thighs.
As if feeling someone looking at him, Louis opens his eyes, and a gives a small, shy smile to Harry. Harry chuckles, before turning back to the road, and drumming his fingers on the steering wheel to match the song.
"So, did you want me to drop you off at home, or do you want to go get something to eat, or see a movie, or..?" Harry asked hesitantly, not sure if he was pushing this thing with Louis too far or not.
"My house. My mum's working tonight and I've to watch my sisters." Harry tries to hide the disappointment on his face, nodding at Louis.
"Okay, um, where do you live?"
Ten minutes later, they're out in front of Louis' house. Harry can see Louis’ hesitance to get out the car, so he leans over and rubs Louis’ arm soothingly.
"So, I'll see you on Monday then, yeah? Did you want to pick me up, or meet me somewhere? Should I change my relationship status on facebook?" Louis asks, only half jokingly to try and lighten the mood.
Harry smiles at him. "Yeah, I s'pose I can pick you up. What time do you usually leave for school?"
"Well, if we're going to start 'dating'," He puts air quotes around the last word, "then I think it's best you know that I absolutely loathe being late, so maybe just pick me up at 7:40, yeah?" He smiles brightly at Harry, who nods his head professionally.
"Yeah, okay. Gimme your phone so I can put my number in it." Louis reaches to get his phone out of his pocket, and places it in Harry's hand. Harry gives his own phone to Louis so he could do the same, and tries not to melt when Louis says, "Thanks for doing this for me," and places a kiss on Harry's cheek before he gets out of the car.
Harry spends the rest of the car ride trying to get his heart beat to calm down.