Harry doesn't like to brag, but he knows a lot of things. One of the things he knows is that he's no good at sports, especially not ones that require balance, which is why he mostly tries to stay as far away from Quidditch as possible. In his five years at Hogwarts, he's managed it fairly successfully. As a first year, they'd all had Quidditch classes, but he'd been allowed to drop it the following year, once they realized he was a hazard to himself with two feet firmly planted on the ground, much less suspended from a broomstick several meters in the air.
Another thing Harry knows is that Slytherin's Captain and Seeker, seventh year Louis Tomlinson, is very good at Quidditch.
Despite Harry's inability to play the sport, he knows a fair amount about it and has attended every school game since Louis joined the Slytherin team in his fourth year, and Harry's second. He'd be embarrassed about the reason for his investment in Quidditch, but he hasn't really told anyone why he developed a sudden interest in it after a year of attempted avoidance of the sport. He suspects Zayn, a year above him and Harry's best friend, knows, but he's been surprisingly mum about Harry's little infatuation, and Harry is grateful for that.
Harry first noticed Louis in his second term at Hogwarts. He had been lounging on the grass by the lake with Zayn and a Hufflepuff boy from his year named Niall, watching the giant squid bask its tentacles in the sun, when a group of laughing boys had nearly run them over in their haste to get to the lake. One of the boys, broad-shouldered with kind eyes and short, dark hair, had stuttered out an apology between fits of laughter, eyes catching on Zayn and cheeks flooding with color before another boy dragged him off. The other boy was shorter than the first, but his eyes had flashed bright blue in the sunlight, and he’d shot Harry a quick, crinkly-eyed smile before peeling off his robes and canon-balling into the lake with a shout. Harry has never really been prone to fanciful metaphors, but in that short moment, he had felt his heart leap into his throat and promptly land at the blue-eyed boy's feet.
It hadn't taken Harry long to learn Louis' name, or his reputation for being a bit of a troublemaker. Despite that reputation, though, he was well-liked. He was kind and clever and responsible when it counted, and it didn't hurt that he had helped lead the Slytherin Quidditch team to their first house championship victory in nearly two decades.
After the lake incident, Harry subconsciously found ways to run into Louis around the castle and grounds. He took casual strolls around the lawns that conveniently took him past the Quidditch pitch on days that Slytherin just happened to be practicing. He took the long way to Charms, up a rickety wooden staircase to the sixth floor and down the left wing corridor, past the Transfiguration classroom, and back down a magnificent granite staircase with a vanishing banister to the fifth floor, even though it added an extra five minutes to his trek between classes, because if he glanced into the Transfiguration classroom as he passed, he could catch a glimpse of Louis at his desk, face open and happy as he chatted with his friends before class started. At meals, he always sat facing the Slytherin table. Even when Louis sat with his back to Harry, he couldn't take his eyes off the boy; watched the way his robes shifted over his back and shoulders, and the way he made his friends smile and laugh, made them look at him like he was the most interesting person in the room.
It’s a bit of a problem, but not one Harry seems to be able to help. And despite three years of inventing ways to stumble across Louis, he's never managed to actually work up the courage to speak to him.
School has only been in session for a week, but Quidditch try-outs are beginning, and practices will commence shortly after, which means only a few short weeks until Harry gets his next opportunity to watch Louis without needing to go to excessive lengths to "run into him." They don't share any classes together, since Louis is two years above Harry, and they're in separate houses, so it's really Harry's only chance - something he personally finds a bit tragic. Louis is a Slytherin, yes, and a mischievous one at that - the entire school is fairly certain that he's responsible for the fireworks that went off in the fourth floor corridor during last term's final exams, though no one's been able to prove anything - but he's also funny and kind and absolutely, heart-stoppingly gorgeous, and Harry is completely, foolishly, head-over-heels in love with him.
The second Monday of term, Harry is stretched out on the grass beneath a beech tree reading about a potion to cure boils and scratching notes into the margins of his book with a quill, when someone says, "Excuse me?"
He looks up in bemusement, shading his eyes against a dying summer sun, and his mouth falls open when he realizes who is standing over him. Harry's mouth goes dry and he nods dumbly in response. Louis smiles at him and says, "What're you reading there?"
Harry holds the book up wordlessly, spine facing forward for Louis to see, and Louis nods, expression sympathetic. "Homework already? I've got a fair bit - I suppose they're loading us up in preparation for NEWTS, though I don't see why, since they’re nearly a year off." Unsure of how to respond, Harry just stares blankly up at Louis, who gives him a funny look and continues, "Mind if I join you?"
Harry knows he's gaping like an idiot, but he manages to nod as he scrambles up into a sitting position, legs crossed underneath his robes. Louis flops down gracelessly and Harry tries not to stare. Classes are done for the day, and Louis is dressed in muggle clothing - tight black jeans and a white scoop-necked t-shirt that dips past his collarbones and is nearly translucent in the sun. Harry feels clumsy and overdressed in his wizard robes, and he picks self-consciously at the fabric over his knee. He's got muggle clothes on underneath, but he'd look a bit foolish taking his robes off now. In an attempt to salvage what's left of his dignity, Harry spreads his book across his lap and forces himself to return to his reading so he won't be able to stare stupidly at Louis now that they're at eye-level.
He's dimly aware that his eyes have been traveling the same list of ingredients for nearly ten minutes now, not absorbing a single word, but he can't stop thinking about how he's never been this close to Louis before, and he's so lovely and quiet and his trousers are rolled up at the ankle and he's toed off his laceless trainers and is wiggling his toes happily in the grass, and Harry had never really thought much about feet, but Louis' toes are so cute, and. Harry feels his face heat up and he drops his head into his hands, palms digging into his eyes, and gives himself a mental talking-down.
"Er, you alright, mate?"
Harry's head jerks up, and he nods at Louis, eyes wide. Louis gives him a small smile and says, "You know, I don't suppose I've introduced myself. I'm Louis."
He holds a hand out for Harry to shake, and Harry only hesitates for a moment before taking it. Louis' hand is small and warm, his grip firm, and Harry tries very hard to ignore the tingles working their way up and down his arm as Louis pumps his hand a few times. Tries so hard, he nearly misses it when Louis says, tone amused, "You can speak, can't you?"
Harry laughs nervously and says, hand still clasped in Louis', "Yes." His voice is rough from disuse, so he clears his throat and tries again. "Yeah, of course, sorry. I'm Harry. Sorry."
He winces at the patheticness of his apologies, but Louis just laughs and says, "Stop apologizing, Harry, you haven’t done anything wrong. In fact, you've kindly agreed to share your shade with me, so I'd say you're doing pretty well."
Harry flushes pink again and ducks his head, acutely aware that his hand is still clasped loosely in Louis'. "It's not my shade," he mumbles, and Louis laughs again and squeezes Harry's hand before dropping it, and Harry's stomach absolutely does not lurch at that.
He's about to go back to pretending to read his Potions book when Louis props his elbows up on his knees and leans forward, chin cradled in his palms. "So, Harry from Ravenclaw.” At Harry’s bewildered look, Louis nods pointedly at his blue and bronze bowtie, then continues. “Tell me all about yourself. Where are you from?"
Harry stutters for a moment before managing to unstick his tongue from the roof of his mouth. "Cheshire. Small wizarding community in Holmes Chapel."
"Really!" Louis' eyes brighten. "I'm from Doncaster, myself. Muggle-born, so no exposure to magic until I turned eleven. Was a bit of a shock for my mum, though it did explain a few things growing up. I would have liked to have grown up in a wizarding community," he says wistfully, and Harry bites down on his lip to stop himself from telling Louis he's welcome to visit for the holidays. Having been secretly in love with Louis for three years doesn't erase the fact that they've only officially known each other for about five minutes.
When Harry doesn't say anything else, Louis sighs and says, "Really, Hazza, you're going to need to contribute to this conversation if we're going to remain friends. Relationships are a two-way street, you know."
Harry flushes at that, even as pleasure curls in his gut, and he lets out an uncertain giggle that has Louis beaming at him. "I know a little about you," he blurts out accidentally. He catches himself too late, eyes wide, but Louis looks absolutely delighted.
"Oh?" He says with a smirk. "And what do you know?"
Harry bites his lip again before whispering, "You're the Slytherin seeker." Louis nods, but doesn't say anything. "Um. You're friends with Liam Payne from Hufflepuff. My mate Zayn's a bit gone for him," Harry says, gaining a bit of confidence. Louis snorts, and Harry continues. "You're head boy, but you don't always stick to the rules."
When Louis raises an eyebrow at that, Harry stammers, "I just - I mean, you're - you're a bit of a troublemaker, aren't you."
Louis leans back on his hands in the grass and says, voice lazy and confident, "You can't prove anything."
Harry laughs at that, and Louis grins at him, pleased. They're silent for a while as they watch each other - Harry desperate to memorize everything about this moment, and Louis curious and amused at his new friend. After several minutes have passed, Louis leans forward onto his knees again, hands dangling just past his feet. He trails his fingers absently through the grass and says, "What are you doing on the weekend?"
Harry's eyes go wide and he says, confused, heart hammering in his chest, "The weekend?"
Louis nods. "Hogsmeade weekend. You should come with me. Bring this Zayn and I'll drag Liam along, we'll lock them in a toilet at the Three Broomsticks and let Zayn have his way with him."
Harry laughs nervously, unsure of what exactly Louis is asking him. He's pretty sure it's not a date - they've only just met, after all, and Harry doesn't even know if Louis likes boys, much less him. Louis had a girlfriend for most of his fourth year, but then again, Zayn has had girlfriends, as well. He tugs nervously at the hem of his robe sleeve for a moment, considering, before he says, "Okay, sure."
Louis' answering smile is blinding, and Harry has a moment of pure panic - oh god what have I done - before his muscles are responding of their own volition and he's beaming back at Louis like a fool.
At the very least, it will be worth several hours of valid excuse to openly watch Louis and the guaranteed entertainment of watching Zayn fall to pieces around Liam.
By dinner Monday night, Harry is convinced that he had accidentally fallen asleep by the lake and had dreamed up the encounter with Louis. He trudges despondently to dinner while Zayn and Niall chatter happily beside him, and when a hand that doesn’t belong to either of them claps him on the shoulder, he whirls around only to find Louis grinning at him from the fringes of a small group of Slytherins. Louis doesn’t say anything, just winks at Harry and disappears into the center of the group, and Harry stares after him in shock, warmth radiating from his shoulder.
Zayn says, “Was that Louis Tomlinson?” And when Harry looks at him, both Zayn and Niall are staring after the group of Slytherins, as well, confusion written across their faces. Harry nods, and when Zayn looks at him quizzically, he just shrugs. And if there’s a bit of kick in his step after the encounter, Harry tries not to think too hard about it.
The week passes at a tortuous pace, and Harry manages to make a fool of himself three separate times before Saturday.
On Tuesday, Harry takes his customary walk around the Hogwarts grounds, his Arithmancy book tucked under one arm. He only begins to doubt himself once he’s reached the corner of the Quidditch pitch, seven robed figures visible, flying in formation around the goal hoops. He stops and considers turning back, but the players are flying toward his corner now, and the one in front calls something out to the rest of the players, then breaks apart from the group and flies closer.
Harry panics when he realizes it’s Louis, and that Louis is flying straight for him. But Louis is close enough to call out, “Harry!” before he has a chance to flee, so Harry sticks his ground and clenches his jaw, face flaming red in embarrassment at being caught.
“What are you up to? You’re not spying, are you,” Louis jokes, and Harry holds his book up and mumbles something about needing fresh air and quiet. He manages to make an excuse - he's so mortified, he can barely think around the buzzing in his ears and he's not entirely sure what he's even saying, he only hopes it makes sense - and turns on his heel and strides off. He can feel Louis’ gaze on his back, but he forces himself to keep walking back toward the castle without even a backward glance.
Wednesday passes without incident, thankfully. Harry only sees Louis at meals and has decided to start taking the normal route to Charms, where there’s no risk of getting caught watching Louis, now that he knows who Harry is. On Thursday, though, Louis catches Harry as he’s leaving the Great Hall after dinner, calls his name and trots after him to the base of the marble staircase.
“Hey, Harry,” he says, voice and eyes bright in the dim light from the torches, and Harry can’t really help the way he stares. Louis’ skin is practically glowing in the torches’ firelight. Harry isn’t entirely sure that Louis is a real person, or at the very least, isn’t part-Veela. “You alright?”
Louis’ voice snaps Harry out of his daze and he nods, forgetting to speak again. Louis just smiles at him.
“Did you manage to find your peace and quiet?” When Harry just stares blankly at Louis, he prompts, “Your walk on Tuesday...?”
“Oh!” Harry frowns a little at the memory of getting caught at the Quidditch pitch. “Yeah, I did. Found a spot by the lake in the end,” he makes up, lie falling awkwardly off his tongue.
But Louis just beams at him and leans against the banister, arms crossed over his chest. Harry tries not to stare at the way his muggle shirt - a button down this time - pulls across his shoulders. “Good! Are you keeping up with all your school work? O.W.L.s this year, yeah?”
Harry nods. “Sinistra is really packing it in. Got an Astronomy exam next week already.”
“Ah, Astronomy’s a bit of rubbish, isn’t it? Bloody star charts and mapping the craters of the moon and all that. Did alright in Astronomy, though, the stars are nice enough to look at. Let me know if you need a hand revising, I’d be happy to help.”
Harry gapes at Louis for a moment, shocked, before he manages to nod and say, “Yeah, alright, thanks,” voice weak.
“No worries.” Louis reaches over and pats Harry on the arm, then says, “Right, well. Late night Quidditch practice. See you!”
Harry watches Louis tug his wand out of the back pocket of his jeans and light the tip as he leaves through the front doors and slips out onto the dark grounds. He’s not quite sure how he’s gone from pining from afar to being study-buddies with Louis Tomlinson in just four days, and is even less sure of whether he’s pleased with this development or not.
It’s Friday, though, that makes Harry want to crawl into a hole and die. He’s sitting in his customary spot at breakfast, eating a sausage and glancing over at Louis every so often, when all of the sudden, Louis stands up and starts walking toward the Ravenclaw table. Harry turns his attention to Zayn with a jerk of his head and ends up choking on a bit of sausage.
Zayn is thumping his back when Louis reaches them and drops into the empty seat next to Harry. He watches them with concern. “Everything alright, Harry?”
Harry nods, eyes watering. He grabs the first goblet of pumpkin juice he sees, which turns out to be Zayn’s, and gulps it down. After setting the goblet down, he wipes his eyes hastily on the sleeve of his robe, then turns in his seat to face Louis. Louis steals a slice of bacon off Harry’s plate and says, “I just wanted to make sure you remembered about Hogsmeade tomorrow. Can’t have you standing me up, now.”
Harry watches Louis’ fingers shred pieces off the strip of bacon and carry them to his mouth while he tries to formulate an answer that doesn’t sound obvious and desperate. It takes him so long that in the end, Zayn leans around Harry and answers for him.
“Sorry mate, Harry’s just suffered a bit of damage due to lack of oxygen to his brain. He’ll be there, no worries. I’m Zayn, by the way.”
“Ah, yes, Liam’s friend!” Louis says with a wicked grin, and Zayn turns a sharp glare on Harry. Harry’s too busy watching Louis to notice it, though, and Louis laughs. “You’re coming along, aren’t you, Zayn?”
“Yes, he is,” Harry cuts in, and he ignores the elbow Zayn digs into his ribs. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“Perfect! See you tomorrow, then, boys.” And with a ruffle of Harry's hair, Louis is gone, weaving his way through the crowd of students leaving for their first classes of the day.
Harry drops his head onto the table as soon as Louis is out of range and groans. Zayn digs an elbow into his side again and hisses, “What the hell, Styles? You’ve got a date with Louis Tomlinson? And I’m chaperone?”
Muffled into his folded arms, Harry says, “It’s not a date! And you’re not chaperoning, god.” He lifts his head. “Liam will be there too. It’s not a date,” he repeats, but Zayn just raises an eyebrow and stares at him for a moment before stealing Harry’s goblet of pumpkin juice.
Harry wakes up on Saturday to grey skies and the gentle patter of rain. He lies in bed for a while listening to the rain and willing his heart rate to remain steady, even though all it wants to do is ratchet up into overdrive at the thought of his not-date with Louis.
He manages to keep calm until the other boys start waking up, succeeds in getting quietly dressed with shaking fingers, and follows Zayn through the common room and down to the Great Hall.
There’s already a small crowd of students milling about, waiting for the caretaker to start letting them out, and Harry and Zayn find a spot against a wall to wait for Louis and Liam. Harry doesn’t even realize that he’s fidgeting nervously until Zayn grabs his hands and squeezes them. Harry offers Zayn a weak smile, and Zayn huffs out a sigh and mutters, “It’s just Louis, Merlin.”
But he laces their fingers together nonetheless, and Harry tips his head onto Zayn’s shoulder and closes his eyes so he won’t keep looking around for Louis.
They’ve only been waiting a few minutes when Harry hears Louis laughing from across the entrance hall. His entire body stiffens and he straightens up, fingers squeezing Zayn’s, and then Louis and Liam are standing in front of them. Louis is wearing a puffy jacket with a fur-lined hood that nearly swallows him whole and a beanie that pushes his fringe into his eyes, and Harry’s fingers literally itch to brush it aside, so he concentrates on sliding his free hand into his pocket instead.
Zayn’s fingers clench painfully around Harry’s, so he looks over at Liam. Liam is staring at Zayn, who’s staring back with wide eyes, and Harry turns a smug grin on Louis. Louis isn’t looking at him, though; his eyes are locked on where Harry and Zayn’s hands are clasped and tucked between their thighs.
Harry clears his throat and unwinds their fingers, then pushes his nervously through his hair. People are starting to convene at the double doors, which have been propped open, so Louis beckons them forward and they manage to squeeze their way out into the misty rain.
The ground is muddy and slick, and Harry slips as soon as he steps off the cobblestones. Three pairs of hands reach out to steady him, one arm winding around his elbow in support, and when he looks over, he’s surprised to see that it’s Louis’. Louis smiles at him and murmurs, “Steady there, Harry. Don’t want to muddy those lovely trousers of yours.”
Warmth flushes through him and he leans on Louis a bit, and Louis doesn’t move his arm for the entire walk to Hogsmeade.
“Can we start at Honeydukes?” Louis asks, eyes on Harry. “I need to replenish my collection of sugar quills before I have to sit through another one of Binns’ lectures, and Liam’s promised his mum he’d send her some crystallized pineapple.”
They all agree, more than happy to get out of the rain, and they shuffle into the pleasant warmth and candy floss smell of the sweet shop. Louis ends up buying a large bag of sweets to send his sisters, and fondness bubbles up in Harry’s throat. Zayn catches Harry staring adoringly at Louis and pinches his side, and Harry presses his lips together and turns away before Louis notices.
Afterward, the four of them huddled under the awning outside Honeydukes, Louis suggests, “How about Zonko’s?”
Liam looks at Louis knowingly and says, “If you’re going to buy more fireworks, I’d rather not be there so I can claim plausible deniability after.”
Zayn pipes in, “Let’s go on ahead to the Three Broomsticks, Louis and Harry can meet us there after.” He wraps a hand around Liam’s elbow hopefully, and Liam stares dazedly down at Zayn’s fingers for a moment, blush riding high on his cheeks, before he nods his agreement. Harry winks at Zayn as he and Liam step off the front stoop and disappear into the rain.
Louis tucks his hand through Harry’s arm automatically after they’ve pulled up their hoods, and they follow Liam and Zayn out onto the path and turn toward Zonko’s Joke Shop.
“Are you?” Harry asks, and when Louis looks up at him questioningly, raindrops catching in his eyelashes, Harry elaborates, “Buying fireworks.”
Louis laughs and says, “Course not! You think I’d buy fireworks in town, where they could be traced back to me?” He glances back up at Harry and hastily adds, “Not that I’m admitting to anything, of course.”
“Of course,” Harry parrots, a smile in his voice. “You know,” he says, voice teasing, “You’re exactly the kind of student Prefects are there to watch over. I don’t know how you became Head Boy.”
Louis gasps in mock-indignation. “How very dare you! People love me. I am a model student, Harry, and I resent your implications otherwise.” But Louis nudges Harry’s side with his shoulder, and when Harry looks down at him, he’s smiling, eyes twinkling with laughter.
Louis doesn’t need anything in particular from Zonko’s, but he insists that they should give Liam and Zayn some time alone - with an accompanied eyebrow waggle - so he and Harry wander the crowded aisles discussing the merits and downfalls of various joke items. “Wheezing powder is rubbish, don’t bother. It does the trick okay, but it’s impossible to avoid getting it all over your own hands, and then you end up in the same state as everyone else. Fanged Frisbees are quite fun, though, as long as you remember the gloves.”
By the time they’ve been through the entire store, Harry actually has a few items in his own hands, and when they get to the Three Broomsticks, purchases in hand, Liam and Zayn have been waiting over an hour.
They don’t seem to have noticed, though. They’ve found a small table toward the back of the pub and are sitting crowded together, heads bent close as they talk. Louis stops Harry before they’ve been spotted with a hand on his arm, and they watch Zayn and Liam for a moment, heads tilted to the side and expressions pleased.
“I expect we’ll be planning a wedding soon,” Louis murmurs.
Harry laughs and says, “No need for that, Zayn’s had it all planned out since third year.”
Harry makes sure to rustle his bags loudly as they continue approaching the table, and when Zayn looks up, his eyes are a little bit unfocused, face pleasantly pink. Louis slides into the seat next to Liam with a, “Hello, love!” and a pinch to Liam’s cheek that has Liam batting his hand away with a laugh.
When Harry takes the fourth seat, Zayn smiles happily and pushes his butterbeer across the table toward him. The four of them spend a few hours at the Three Broomsticks, drinking butterbeer and chatting. At one point, Louis knocks his foot against Harry’s ankle under the table, glancing up at Harry through his lashes as he does, and when Harry smiles and pushes back, he leaves it there, a warm weight against Harry’s leg. By the time they decide to head back to Hogwarts, Harry’s had enough butterbeer and attention from Louis that there’s a pleasant buzz just under his skin and he can’t stop smiling.
It’s raining harder than before, and as they bundle back up and step outside, Zayn warns Louis, “You might want to hold onto this one,” thumbing at Harry.
“Hey,” Harry protests, but Louis just laughs and loops their arms together and they start the slow trek back to the castle.
Harry is soaked and shivering by the time they make it back. Zayn and Liam head into the Great Hall for lunch, but Harry and Louis pause by the doors. Louis eyes Harry critically, then tugs his wand out of his back pocket and steps closer to Harry. He’s so close that Harry could count his eyelashes if he wanted, and Harry tries not to stare, he does, but it’s hard not to. Louis is so close that, even though Harry’s teeth are chattering loudly enough that he can’t hear what he murmurs, he sees Louis’ lips move, and then his clothes have dried.
Harry breathes out a sigh of relief, and once Louis has tucked his wand back into his pocket, Harry whispers, “Thank you.”
Louis just smiles at him and says, “‘Course, mate. Can’t have you catching hypothermia, can we? Remind me later to put an impervius charm on your coat.”
They walk into the Great Hall where lunch is still being served, and when Louis follows Harry to the Ravenclaw table and sits down, no one says a word. Harry spends the entire meal alternating between talking and laughing with Louis, and staring down at his plate so Louis won’t see the smile that feels permanently stretched across his face.
Just before Harry’s about to head up to Ravenclaw Tower, having said a reluctant goodbye to Louis, Louis calls out from where he’s standing by the stairs down to the dungeons, “Hey, Harry, wait.”
Harry pauses on the bottom step of the marble staircase as Louis walks over. He watches Louis tug his fringe aside, fingers twitching nervously, and then Louis says, “D’you want help revising for Astronomy? The rain’s let up, I can meet you on top of the Astronomy Tower tonight, if you’d like.”
Harry bites his lip to stop another smile from spreading across his face and nods. “Yeah, alright. That sounds nice, thanks.”
Louis nods, and then they stand there staring at each other in silence for a few minutes until a group of Gryffindors comes crashing through the double doors and Louis jerks out of his daze, face flushed and eyes unnaturally bright. Harry can’t take his eyes off him, not even when the Gryffindors stumble past them, jostling him a bit on the stairs in their haste to get back to their common room.
“Right,” Louis says loudly, voice echoing through the entry hall. He coughs and lowers his voice. “Right, well. I’ll...see you tonight then.” Harry nods once, then Louis mumbles, “Okay. Right. Later, then.” And strides off.
Harry watches him go, and can’t stop the ridiculous smile that dimples his cheeks when Louis sneaks a quick glance back at him and walks right into another Slytherin just coming up from the dungeons.
Harry sings happily the whole way to Ravenclaw Tower, and he drops into the seat beside Zayn in the common room, who eyes him suspiciously. “Why are you singing Celestina Warbeck? Are you ill?” His eyes narrow for a moment, and then he gasps, “Did you and Louis snog?”
Harry giggles and says, “No! He’s helping me with Astronomy later, is all.”
Zayn squints at Harry and studies him for a moment. “I’ve offered to help you with Astronomy for years, mate. You mean you’re going to snog on top of the Astronomy Tower.”
Harry rolls his eyes. “No, he’s helping me before my exam on Tuesday.”
“...And then you’re going to make out.” When Harry just glares at him, Zayn holds his hands out and says, “Hey, I saw you two today. We all know you want to snog him, but I’m pretty sure he wants to it, too. I’m just saying.”
Harry’s stomach flutters nervously at that and he goes quiet, chewing on his bottom lip as he considers what Zayn’s just said.
He tries to get some schoolwork done before dinner, but he can’t stop thinking about what Zayn said, keeps thinking back to Hogsmeade, trying to see what Zayn saw. By the time dinner’s come around, he’s only written six of the required eighteen inches of his Transfiguration essay on The Dangers of Silent T’s in Incantations.
Niall is waiting for them at the bottom of the marble staircase before dinner, and he loops his arm around Harry’s shoulders as they walk to the Great Hall. Niall has taken to eating with the Ravenclaws several times a week. They still get strange looks sometimes, but it’s been years and no one has ever said anything.
Harry slides onto the bench between Zayn and Niall and leans into it when Niall plasters himself to Harry’s side, peering around him to make a face at Zayn.
“So how was Hogsmeade?” Niall waggles his eyebrows at Harry, and Harry shoves him with his shoulder.
“Successful first date,” Zayn grins, hand resting on Harry’s thigh for balance as he leans over him a little so he can lower his voice. “They spent an hour alone in Zonko’s and basically held hands on the way back.”
“Ooooh,” Niall grins, “Sounds like true love!”
Harry rolls his eyes. “It wasn’t a date.” Then his expression turns mischievous and he says, voice smug, “You should have seen Zayn and Liam, though, Niall. Sat all close together in the Three Broomsticks looking like one of those adverts in the Daily Prophet for witch dating services. They were so cute,” he coos, and pinches Zayn’s cheek.
Zayn scowls and swats Harry’s hand away. He mutters, “Twat,” but there’s no heat behind it, and when Harry knocks their shoulders together, he sees the corners of Zayn’s mouth twitch up.
Louis sits facing Harry at dinner, so Harry determinedly does not look over at him, even when he senses Louis watching him. Instead, he throws himself into conversation with Niall and Zayn. He’s too nervous to eat much, and Niall frowns down at Harry’s plate, still half-full even as desert has started to appear in the golden serving dishes.
“You alright, Harry? You’ve barely eaten anything.”
Harry presses his lips together and nods, and Zayn puts in, “He’s meeting up with Louis tonight on top of the Astronomy Tower. He’s nervous, poor boy,” he says with a pat to Harry’s shoulder.
Niall hums his understanding as he nicks a roasted potato off Harry’s plate and pops it into his own mouth. “Don’t wanna hurl all over him, eh,” he asks with his mouth full of potato, and Harry grimaces.
“Wouldn’t be very romantic,” Zayn tuts.
Harry slumps down toward the table and mumbles, “I need new friends.”
Harry has to run back to Ravenclaw Tower to get his Astronomy charts and telescope, but when he gets to the top of the Astronomy Tower, Louis isn’t there yet. He takes the opportunity to catch his breath, then sets up his telescope and lays out his star charts, some parchment, and ink and a quill. When he stands back to look at his setup, he feels silly for having arranged everything so neatly, but just as he steps forward to roll his charts back up, Louis’ head appears in the open trapdoor.
He beams at Harry as he climbs the last few ladder rungs, and Harry smiles back, nerves and excitement battling it out in his belly and making him short of breath. Louis’ hair is unstyled, fringe hanging in his eyes, and he’s dressed in muggle clothes again, more tight trousers and a soft knit jumper with sleeves that fall past his fingertips, and Harry wants to touch him so badly he has to curl his hands into fists to stop himself from reaching out.
“You alright?” Louis asks as he steps closer to Harry.
Harry nods and breathes, “You?”
“Brilliant,” Louis says. “There was treacle tart for dessert, I ate nearly an entire pie.” He pats his stomach happily, a blissful expression on his face, and Harry makes a soft sound in his throat before he can stop himself. Louis doesn’t notice though, is too busy studying Harry’s setup with a smile. “You’re prepared, aren’t you?”
Harry shrugs self-consciously, ruffles his own hair. “I got here early,” he says a bit defensively. “Thought I’d be practical and save time.”
Louis reaches out to squeeze Harry’s arm, says, “Don’t worry. I think it’s cute.”
Harry’s breath catches at that, eyes flicking up to meet Louis’. They look stormy and unreadable in the dim torchlight, and Harry hadn’t realized just how close they were standing. The air between them is suddenly charged, awareness rippling over Harry’s skin like an electrical current that’s originating from the spot where Louis’ hand is still wrapped loosely around his bicep.
The palm of his hand is fever-hot against Harry’s skin, and Louis is watching him, expression guarded. Harry licks his lips nervously, watches Louis’ eyes track the movement. He instinctively starts to shift his weight to the balls of his feet, leaning slowly into the magnetic pull of Louis’ eyes, when an owl swoops past the tower with a screech and they spring apart. Louis' hand falls to his side, and the other comes up to sweep his fringe aside in what Harry is starting to learn is a nervous tell.
Harry breathes out a long, quiet breath, then looks up at the sky and says, voice low and deliberately even, “Good night for stargazing.”
He sees a twitch of movement out of the corner of his eye, hears Louis’ nearly imperceptible sigh of relief, and then Louis murmurs, “Yep. Not a cloud in the sky. Venus looks lovely tonight.”
The tension broken, Louis shuffles over to a bag Harry hadn’t noticed him set down and pulls out a blanket that he spreads across the flagstone floor.
“And I thought I was being practical,” Harry says with a grin.
Louis smiles, says, “You’ll be grateful when you’re not freezing your bum off on these cold stones,” as he toes off his shoes, then they settle onto the blanket and spread Harry’s star charts out.
They work companionably for a few hours, moving from charts on the floor to the telescope and back again. At one point, Harry sighs, hand resting heavily on the telescope, and says, "The stars are so pretty. I wish I could see one. You know, how it looks up close, or whatever."
Louis smiles. "I'm pretty sure you can't disapparate into space, mate."
"Of course not, no." Harry gives a little laugh at the thought. "It would be pretty neat though, wouldn't it?"
"Well you know, there are space shuttles that can take you into outer space." Harry looks at Louis blankly, and Louis says, "Shuttles? Aeroplanes?" Harry shakes his head, a bemused expression on his face, and Louis frowns. "You don't know what an aeroplane is?"
Harry bites his lip and racks his brain, but comes up empty. "Is it a muggle contraption?"
"Yeah, I suppose it is. Here, I'll show you." Louis grabs a piece of blank parchment from the stack Harry had brought and starts folding it, seemingly at random. When he's done, he holds it up to show Harry. It's folded into a three-dimensional triangle, with extensions like wings. Harry takes it carefully out of Louis' hand and turns it on its side, then upside down.
"And this is supposed to fly?" He asks, doubt coloring his voice.
Louis shrugs. "Physics, mate. I don't understand it, but it's pretty amazing. A bit like magic, actually," he says with a soft smile, and Harry looks up, smiles back even though he doesn't really get the joke. In a fit of inspiration, he tugs his wand out of his pocket and thinks for a moment.
Brow furrowed, Harry takes a breath, looks up at Louis before murmuring, "Volare vivamus" and tapping the parchment aeroplane with the tip of his wand. He waits a moment, then slowly opens his hand, and the little plane takes off, fluttering slowly around their heads.
Louis stares at it for a moment in disbelief, then laughs, bright and happy, and tracks the plane's movement around them. "Unbelievable!" He glances at Harry, eyes sparkling with delight. "I’ve never heard that spell before. How did you do that?"
Harry shrugs. "I've got a bit of a knack for languages and wand-work. Makes for good spell inventing." He pauses, then says, "Er...don't tell Flitwick about this, alright?"
Louis hums, only half paying attention as he watches the little plane zip around the tower roof. Harry smiles to himself, pleased with Louis' reaction and charmed by the way he's so enraptured with the spelled aeroplane.
After a few minutes, he goes quietly back to work, not wanting to end Louis' fun. He focuses on his star charts, only looking over at Louis every once in a while. A short while later, while he's carefully drawing Io onto a map of Jupiter, he hears a noise of disappointment. He turns to look over at Louis.
Louis is hanging over the edge of the stone wall that surrounds the tower, staring sadly off into the night. "Lou?"
Louis turns his head and says, "It flew away."
He looks a bit like a child whose favorite toy has been taken away, and Harry can't help the indulgent smile that stretches across his face. "I'll make you another one," he promises, and Louis sighs, but he steps back from the wall and walks back over to the telescope, and they go back to work.
Eventually, bored of the actual science of Astronomy and sleepy from a long day, they settle onto their backs on the blanket and take turns pointing out constellations. The night settles around them, crisp and clear, the only sounds the distant hooting of owls, the chirp of crickets coming from the Forbidden Forest, and their quiet murmurs.
Everything goes sleepy and soft, the dim light from the torches and the distant moon casting a hazy glow over the rooftop, and Harry hums contentedly in the back of his throat. As they run out of constellations to identify, Louis shifts closer to Harry on the blanket, scoots in until their shoulders are pressed together, then lifts his hand to point at a remote star. “See that one?” he asks, tipping their heads together so their gazes have nearly the same trajectory. Louis traces a shape in the sky, but Harry can’t see it. He shakes his head, curls brushing the side of Louis’ face.
He starts to murmur an apology, but then Louis is reaching down and grasping his hand, lifting it skyward, and the words die on his lips. Harry tries not to think about how close Louis is, how they’re pressed together all along their bodies, how Louis’ smaller hand is wrapped around his own, warm and firm and soft. He concentrates on regulating his breathing and listening to Louis’ voice.
“There.” Louis traces the shape again with Harry’s hand clasped in his, a small diamond with an elongated, ‘m’-shaped tail. “D’you know which that is?”
“Draco,” Harry whispers, and Louis nods.
“D’you know the story?” When Harry shakes his head no, Louis continues in a hushed tone, “I learned it in primary school. Greek mythology. When Hera wed Zeus, Gaia, the goddess of the Earth, gifted them with a tree that bore golden apples. She placed the tree in a beautiful garden, in a land of eternal twilight, the Garden of the Hesperides. The Hesperides were nymphs, you know. Nymphs of the evenstar, who spent most of their time gardening and tending Hera’s tree, and the rest of it singing and dancing. But the tree was a danger; because eating one of the golden apples meant immortality, but any mortal that plucked an apple would die. Hera didn’t trust the nymphs to watch over her tree, so she placed in the garden another guard, a hundred-headed dragon called Ladon. Ladon never slept, lived coiled around the tree like a serpent, guarding it from foolish mortals. But Heracles, the greatest Hero in Greek mythology, was tasked with collecting three golden apples from the tree. And so Heracles slew Ladon and took the apples. Stricken with grief, Hera cast Ladon’s fallen body into the heavens, immortalizing him in the stars.”
Louis falls silent, eyes still locked on the distant constellation, and Harry lets out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. “How sad,” he murmurs.
He feels Louis nod and shift slightly, then realizes that their hands are still clasped together, resting on the blanket between their hips. He bites his lip, unsure of whether he should pull his hand away, or leave it and hope that Louis either doesn’t notice or doesn’t mind.
He forgets about their hands, though, when Louis turns his head. When Harry twists his to look back at Louis, their noses are centimeters apart. Even in the dim lighting, Harry can make out a faint ring of brown around Louis’ pupils that fades into blue, and then Louis’ eyelids flutter, eyelashes fanning out across his cheeks momentarily in a way that makes Harry’s breath catch in his chest.
All of the sudden, the air around them is syrupy with tension and he feels Louis’ fingers tighten around his, sees Louis’ lips part around a sigh. Harry can feel his heartbeat drumming in his chest, his ears, wrists, the tips of his fingers and he thinks, this is it this is it this is it.
But instead of closing the gap between them, Louis holds Harry’s gaze for one long, heart-stopping moment, then blinks and rolls away abruptly, hand pulling out of Harry’s grasp as he pushes himself up onto his knees. He combs his fingers through his hair, then tugs his jumper down and doesn’t look at Harry as he says, voice unsteady, “We should probably get back, it’s past curfew. Don’t want to get in trouble with Filch, one more detention and I’ve got to sit out of the first Quidditch match.”
Harry just lies on the blanket for a moment, eyes on the sky as he tries to slow his heart rate and stop the pounding in his head. Once he can feel his fingers again, he gets up and starts packing away his things. Louis rolls up his star charts while Harry collapses the telescope, then he organizes everything neatly in his satchel and tugs his wand out, mutters lumos so light flares at the tip. They climb down the ladder and move quietly down the hall, wands held aloft so they can see where they’re going. They stop at the first staircase, wide, steep, and made of intricately carved stone. It’s the quickest way back to Ravenclaw Tower, but Louis needs a different staircase, deeper into the castle, to get down to the dungeons.
Harry shifts awkwardly on his feet for a few moments while Louis tugs on his fringe. Finally, Harry says, “Well, thank you for helping me.”
Louis nods, stuffs both hands into his trouser pockets, elbows locked, and rocks back onto his heels. “Anytime, of course, Harry.”
He looks up at Harry through his eyelashes, and Harry clears his throat and focuses on a tapestry just over Louis’ left shoulder.
“Well, you’d better get back before Mrs. Norris decides to check this corridor,” Harry mumbles, and Louis nods. He takes half a step down the hall, then seems to think better of it, and before Harry knows what’s happening, he has an armful of Louis.
Louis’ arms curl around his neck in a hug, and Harry only has enough time to wrap his own arms around Louis’ waist before he’s drawing back, eyes bright and cheeks stained pink.
“Goodnight Harry,” he whispers, and then he’s gone, jogging down the corridor and out of sight.
Harry makes it back to his common room without incident and only manages to toe off his shoes before falling into bed fully clothed.
That night he dreams of a tawny dragon with blue marble eyes, curled around a blood-red tree that pulses like a living heart. He dreams of a curly-haired Hero sent to slay the dragon and uproot the tree as a symbol of devotion to his Goddess. But the Hero’s arrow falls short, and his body is consumed by the dragon’s golden fire, and the Hero’s mistress casts his broken body into the sky, etches the shape of him into the stars so he’ll never be lost.
Sunday dawns bright and sunny, and when Harry blinks awake, head fuzzy with sleep and forgotten dreams, he rubs a hand across his chest, frowns at the way his skin is tingling softly. He shakes off the feeling that he’s forgetting something important and decides to finish his Transfiguration essay outside while the weather is still nice.
He stops by the Great Hall and wraps some sausages, several slices of toast, and a scone in a tea towel, then heads out onto the grounds. His usual beech tree is occupied by a noisy group of Gryffindors, so he heads for his second favorite spot.
The White Tomb of Albus Dumbledore sits on the bank of the lake, still brilliant white and untouched, save for a spidery crack that runs down the center of it. The story behind the tomb is a sad one, but Harry finds comfort in it, in the bravery and cleverness of the wizards that are part of it, and he’s always been able to concentrate easily there, back against the side of the tomb with a roll of parchment stretched across his knees and a quill in hand. He swears sometimes, when he’s sitting there and having particular trouble with something, that he can hear phoenix song. And if he listens close enough, the faint melody swelling gently inside his chest, the fog lifts, leaving behind a clarity that brings with it the elusive answers he had been grasping for.
Harry spreads the tea towel out on the grass, then folds himself down onto the ground. Despite being made of marble, the stone of the tomb is warm to the touch, and Harry leans back against it. He spends a few minutes reading over what he’s already written and picking absently at the scone before he spreads the parchment over his lap and continues his essay.
He's on the last inch and a half of the required length when he sees a shape approaching fast from his periphery. He looks up just in time to see a small figure go racing past, giggling hysterically and tripping over its own feet before crashing into the lake with a shout. Another figure goes chasing after it, taller and broader, and it takes Harry a moment to realize it’s Louis and Liam.
He watches them fool around in the shallows for a few minutes, watches them shout and laugh and dunk each other, fully dressed in muggle clothing, before he goes back to his essay. He’s determined to finish it before he really lets himself get distracted.
Harry is just putting the finishing touches on his essay, scanning it for any misspellings or obvious errors, when he hears Louis call out excitedly, “Hazza!”
He bites down hard on his bottom lip and forces himself to finish checking the essay before he looks up. It takes him just a little too long, though, because as Harry’s scanning the last paragraph, a shadow falls over him and he hears the rustle of wet clothes and the sound of water dripping onto the grass.
Resigned to the fact that he’s done being productive for the day, Harry lets go of the parchment. It springs back into a roll, and he tucks it carefully into his bag before looking up, hand against his brow to shade his eyes from the mid-morning sun.
Louis is standing half a meter away, chin tucked down against his chest as he stares evenly at Harry, waiting for him to pay attention to him.
Harry can’t help the smile that stretches across his face. Louis looks ridiculous. His wet hair is slicked back from his forehead, beads of water dripping steadily off the tip of his nose, and his clothes are sopping wet and clinging to his body like a second skin. Harry very deliberately does not notice how lovely and strong Louis’ thighs look in wet jeans, or how his damp t-shirt is completely plastered to his torso, revealing the way his belly button sticks out a little and making it very easy to track the steady rise-and-fall of his chest.
“Hiya, Harry,” Louis says happily, and Harry laughs, aware that Louis hasn’t actually said anything funny, but unable to help it nonetheless. There’s just this immense feeling of happiness bubbling its way out of his chest and into his throat, and he can’t help the way he’s smiling so hard his cheeks already hurt, or the small giggle that feels like it’s coming straight from his heart.
His heart that’s pounding double-time as he notes the way Louis is watching him, eyes bright and intense, hands stretched out in front of him with his palms up like he’s waiting for Harry to take them.
When Harry just looks at them with his eyebrows raised, Louis says, “D’you want to come swimming with me, Haz?”
Harry flicks his gaze from Louis to the lake, where Liam is sitting on the bank with his arms wrapped around updrawn knees, then back to Louis. “Oh, I don’t know...”
But Louis wiggles his fingers at Harry and wheedles, “Come on, it’s fun! And it’s not that cold, really. We won’t even go deep, I promise. Can’t you swim?”
Harry nods without thinking, and Louis beams at him and wiggles his fingers again, rocks forward onto the balls of his feet in anticipation of helping Harry up. They have a short staring contest, Harry uncertain and Louis cajoling, and finally Harry gives in, places his hands in Louis’ and lets Louis pull him to his feet.
“I’d much rather be wearing swimming trunks for this,” Harry mumbles. He can’t exactly strip off right out on school grounds, but he can take off his shoes and button-down at least. Louis watches him unbutton his shirt with hooded eyes, and Harry’s fingers fumble on a couple of the buttons when he catches him looking.
Once he’s barefoot and standing in jeans and a sleeveless shirt, Louis reaches out and grabs his hand, then pulls him toward the lake. The first lick of water around his ankles is like ice, and Harry hisses through his teeth and squeezes Louis’ hand. Louis just laughs and pulls him in deeper, water splashing up around them as they move through the mud and tangle of weedy plants.
“It’s not so bad, is it?” Louis asks, and Harry shuffles around a bit, unconsciously shifting his grip on Louis’ hand so their fingers are laced together.
“Not horrible, but I think it’s because my body’s gone numb.”
Louis rolls his eyes and tugs Harry in by his hand. “Such a complainer, Harold. Just enjoy it! It’s called being spontaneous.”
Harry stumbles closer to Louis, slipping a little in the mud, and Louis reaches his other hand out and grips Harry’s hip to steady him. They’re waist-deep in the water now, and there are goosebumps raised all along Harry’s arms and chest and back, making his skin feel tight and tingly despite the warmth of the sun.
Louis is watching him closely, smile wide, all teeth and just a hint of tongue, and Harry finds he’s having a hard time breathing, and not just from the icy coldness of the water lapping at his sides. Louis’ skin is all warm honey-gold, and his eyes look bleached of color in the bright sunlight, eyelashes wet and sticking together in small clusters like the rays of a star.
It takes Harry a moment to realize that he’s got his other hand curled tight around Louis’ elbow, and he has no recollection of putting it there. He’s grateful for it, though, when, face wiped carefully clean of emotion, Louis untangles their fingers and shoves Harry hard so that he topples back into the water. His grip on Louis’ elbow is tight enough, his hand still dry, that he drags Louis down with him, and they pop back up at the same time, spluttering and swiping dripping hair out of their eyes.
Louis looks shocked, like he’s not sure how or why he’s kneeling on the muddy bottom when he’d been standing just a moment ago, and Harry laughs so hard his stomach aches. When Louis grumbles at him, licking lake water off his lips and shoving at his freshly damp hair, Harry’s stomach swoops and thinks, now. He shuffles closer on his knees, until there’s hardly any space between them, slides his hands up the outside of Louis’ thighs under the icy water.
“You did it to yourself, you know,” Harry says matter-of-factly. Louis tries to glare at him, but the effect is ruined by the shiver that ripples visibly up his spine and the way his pupils dilate when Harry’s palms ghost over his hips and settle, cold but firm, on his sides, fingers slotting into the dips between his ribs.
“You were asking for it,” Harry insists as he tips his head forward a bit, and Louis swallows audibly, breaths coming in short, nervous pants.
Harry licks his lips, deliberately drops his gaze to Louis’ mouth when he does the same, and when Louis lets out a soft, trembly, “Harry...” he closes the rest of the gap, fits his lips carefully over Louis’ for several breathless heartbeats.
When Harry eases back, Louis’ eyes are closed, spangled eyelashes casting long shadows over his cheekbones, lips pink and parted slightly, and Harry has this sudden, overwhelming urge to wrap him up in a bone-crushing hug. Instead, he makes himself let go of Louis and shuffle back, then stand up. Louis’ eyes open slowly, expression slightly dazed, and Harry says, “I’m going to dry off in the grass with Liam, where it’s not bloody freezing.”
He starts to slide his feet through the mud, headed back toward shore, then turns back around, hands on his hips. Louis is still kneeling on the bottom of the lake, gaze locked on Harry’s retreating back, and Harry huffs out a breath and smiles fondly. “Well, are you coming, Lou?”
Louis snaps out of his daze with a quick shake of his head and clambers to his feet, trudges toward Harry. Harry reaches a hand out as Louis nears, and Louis only hesitates for a fraction of a second before twining their fingers together.
Back on the bank, they collapse onto the grass beside Liam, who’s dozing on his back, an arm thrown across his face to block out the light. Harry lies down and Louis follows suit, fingers still tangled between them.
When Harry turns his head to look at Louis, Louis shuffles closer to him so they’re pressed together shoulder to ankle, a mirror of the night before on top of the Astronomy Tower. Harry tugs their arms out from between them and settles their clasped hands on his stomach. Louis squeezes Harry’s fingers between his own, then lifts his leg and drapes it over Harry’s ankle, turns his own head to smile lazily at him.
The sun heats their wet clothes quickly, reflects off the beads of water still clinging to their skin so that Louis looks like he’s covered in a fine layer of glitter. Harry presses the back of Louis’ hand into his stomach, sure that Louis can feel the fluttering wings of the flock of butterflies that have taken up residence in there. But Louis just shifts up onto his elbow and leans over Harry, blocking out part of the sun behind him so he’s mostly in silhouette.
Harry blinks furiously at the glow behind Louis’ head, and Louis smiles again, soft and sweet, then leans in and presses a barely-there kiss to the corner of Harry’s mouth. He feels the brush of Louis’ eyelashes against his own cheek and what he thinks is the barest hint of a scrape of teeth against his bottom lip that sends shivers racing down his spine, before Louis is flopping back onto the grass with a sigh and letting his eyes slide shut, a satisfied smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
The next few weeks pass in a blurry haze of revising and exams, with hardly any free time in between. The only time Harry and Louis manage to spend together is at meals or in the library, heads bent over dusty books and quills in hand.
By the end of the first week of October, they each only have one exam left before a reprieve, and Thursday afternoon finds Harry, Louis, Liam, Niall, and Zayn all sat in the library, studying quietly around a shared table. The only noise in the room is the sound of pages turning and the scratch of quills on parchment, and Harry’s eyelids are starting to feel heavy. He keeps shaking out his hair and tugging it aside restlessly, and he can feel himself chewing on his lip as a distraction, but he can’t seem to stop.
Part-way through a yellowing volume on popular hexes in the sixteenth century that weighs several kilos and smells like mothballs, Harry feels a hand close around his knee. He looks up to find Louis staring intently at him, quill hanging limp in his fingers. A small puddle of ink is forming where the tip of the quill is touching his parchment, but he hasn’t noticed. Harry nods down at the table and whispers, “Your notes, Lou.”
Louis just shakes his head and drops the quill, eyes on Harry’s bitten-red bottom lip. He squeezes Harry’s knee, then pushes back from the table and strides out of the library without a word. Harry frowns after him, rubbing his knee where Louis had gripped it. Liam gives him a quizzical look, and Harry shrugs, then gets up and follows, unsure of what’s going on.
As soon as the library doors snick shut behind him, he calls out softly, “Louis?”
A quick glance up and down the hall shows Louis standing halfway down the corridor, jittering impatiently. Harry strides after him, corners of his mouth turned down into a slight frown, and when he gets close enough, he says, “Lou? What’s going on?”
But Louis doesn’t say anything, he just reaches out and wraps his hand around Harry’s wrist, then yanks him through a door. Harry stumbles into him, hand coming up to grip Louis’ hip so he doesn’t fall, and when he looks up, he realizes that they’re in a toilet. A girls’ toilet, to be exact.
“Louis,” Harry whispers. Louis doesn’t respond, just tugs Harry along, past the sinks to the row of stalls. “Louis, we can’t be in here. This is a girls’ toilet. This is Moaning Myrtle’s toilet.”
As Louis shoves Harry into a stall, then squeezes in with him and pulls the door shut behind them, he hisses, “I know, that’s why we’re in here. No one uses it.”
Immensely confused, Harry looks around the stall. There’s no water inside the actual toilet, though there’s a small puddle of it on the floor in the next stall that’s seeped halfway under the dividing wall, and the tile walls are a dull, greying white that reflects their blurry faces back at them. Harry takes a breath, then starts, “Why are we -”
“It’s been three weeks, Harry.”
Harry finally settles his gaze on Louis. He looks a bit crazed - wild-eyed and flushed - and Harry reaches a hand out, lays it along the curve of Louis’ jaw and smooths a thumb across his cheekbone.
“Relax,” he murmurs, but Louis just shakes his head, dislodging Harry’s hand, then shifts them around and crowds Harry up against the side of the stall until his back is pressed to the cold tiles and their bodies are flush, hip to toe. Harry’s breath catches in his throat and his hands clutch at Louis’ hips automatically, thumbs slotted along the jut of bone and fingers digging into the dips at the base of his spine.
In the three weeks since their kiss in the lake, all they’ve managed is a few quick, chaste pecks after meals in the shadow of the marble staircase and one lingering brush of Harry’s lips to the corner of Louis’ mouth behind a suit of armor when they had passed each other in the hall on the fourth floor the previous week. It’s not that Harry hasn’t wanted to kiss Louis, they just haven’t really had the time. Even now their time is stolen - they should be studying, and their friends are probably wondering where they are.
But Louis’ eyes are inky blue and fixed firmly on Harry’s mouth, and his hands are wrapped around Harry’s shoulders, fingers pressing into muscle so hard he thinks he might end up with small, fingertip-shaped bruises, and Harry couldn’t really give a toss what the others think they’re up to.
He ducks down just as Louis surges up, and they crash into each other, lips parted and breath already rough in anticipation. Harry’s arms slide around the small of Louis’ back and he tugs him in impossibly closer. The angle is awkward, but Harry doesn’t care, is more interested in the way Louis’ tongue is sliding over his bottom lip, the way his fingers are flexing against the nape of his neck. He spreads his legs a bit and drops down a few centimeters, and - there. Their hips slot together and their chests align, and when Louis slips one hand into the hair at the base of Harry’s skull and tugs his head to the side, the angle of their kiss changes and Harry sighs into it.
They kiss desperately, teeth grazing lips and tongues sliding together, and when Louis drags his mouth down the side of Harry’s neck, he turns his face into Louis’ hair and breathes him in in an attempt to calm the rapid drumline pounding in his chest. But Louis scrapes his teeth over the juncture of Harry’s shoulder and neck, and a bolt of desire shoots down his spine. Harry moans, hips twitching forward and mouth going slack. The sound echoes through the bathroom, and Louis hisses a warning against Harry’s skin. Rather than relenting, though, he fits his mouth over the spot and sucks, hard. Harry pants into Louis’ hair, hands fisted in the back of his robes, and Louis is just sliding one of his hands down into the slight gap he’s made between their bodies, fingernails scraping deliciously against Harry’s abs, when a sharp giggle breaks through the sound of Harry’s gasping breaths.
Louis jerks back, head twisting around in search of the source of the laugh, and Harry whimpers at the loss of contact, head dropping back against the wall with a thump.
He whines, “Louis,” and slides his hands back around to clutch at Louis’ hips and drag him forward again. Louis stumbles into him, hands slapping against the wall for balance, and he laughs quietly, leans up onto his tip-toes and presses his mouth to Harry’s ear.
“We have company,” he whispers, and Harry shivers.
“So? Let her watch. She’s a ghost, and she’s had very little excitement in the past decade.”
Louis laughs again and pushes back into Harry’s hands as he slides them around to palm Louis’ ass and press him closer. “Cheeky,” he murmurs, then he drops a disappointingly chaste kiss to Harry’s mouth and steps back.
Harry’s hands drop to his sides and he sighs, then shoots an angry glare at the barely-visible top of Myrtle’s head where she’s peeking over the dividing wall between the stalls. Louis unlocks the stall door, then holds a hand out for Harry’s.
“Come on, Curly. The sooner we finish studying, the quicker exams will be over and then we’ll have more time for snogging.”
With another, drawn-out sigh, Harry takes Louis’ hand and lets him tug him out of the bathroom and back down the hall to the library.
They slide back into their seats without looking at the others. Harry can feel them looking back and forth between him and Louis, and he turns his head and meets Louis’ eyes, smiles bright and secretive, before looking back down at his book.
A moment later, when a hand lands palm-up on top of his thigh, Harry doesn’t even hesitate before sliding his fingers between Louis’. He tucks their clasped hands between his knees, then sneaks a look at Louis out of the corner of his eye. Louis is looking down at his own textbook, but he’s smiling so hard that his eyes have gone squinty, crinkles spanning out from the corners. Harry stares for a moment, heart thumping painfully in his chest. He knows Louis knows he’s staring, and when Louis squeezes his hand, he turns his attention back to his book, biting his lip around the wide smile spreading across his own face.
After the first round of exams, things do not get less hectic. Quidditch season is getting ready to start, which means Louis is tied up in practices nearly every moment he doesn’t absolutely need to spend either in class or eating and sleeping. At Harry’s request, he manages to convince the Slytherin team that Harry isn’t spying on them, so that he can do his school work in the bleachers of the Quidditch pitch while they practice. He’s not allowed to bring Zayn, though, and he’s definitely not allowed Niall, since Niall is one of Hufflepuff’s beaters. Instead, he sits either alone or with Liam, and they do their school work in companionable silence, pausing every once in a while to watch the team and their backup players toss muggle footballs around like Quaffles.
The temperature starts to drop the further into October they get, and Friday before the first match finds Harry conjuring small fires in jars for the players to hold during breaks from practicing so that they can warm their frozen hands. Harry is working on a particularly dull essay on Goblin rebellions in the twelfth century for Professor Binns when Louis dismounts suddenly on the bench beside him, teeth chattering pathetically. Harry sets his parchment aside immediately and grabs his wand and a jar from the floor by his feet.
“Incendio,” he mutters, and a small flame bursts to life inside the jar. Louis grabs it, small hands wrapping around it greedily, and he lifts it towards his face to warm his icy nose.
His eyes fall shut, lights and shadows from the flames dancing across his face, and Harry slides his hand across the bench, wedges his fingers underneath Louis’ thigh where no one can see. “You’re looking good out there.”
Louis snorts and opens his eyes, fixes them on Harry’s face. “Of course we are, we’re the best house team there is. And we’ve got me leading, so there’s no alternative, really.”
Harry rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling. “You’re a cocky little shit, you know that?”
They sit there grinning at each other for a minute before Louis blinks away. He peers down into the flames for a moment, then looks up at Harry through his lashes. “So.” He jerks his chin toward the pitch, where the rest of the team is still flying. “You like what you see?”
Harry leans in closer and drops his gaze to Louis’ mouth deliberately. His voice rumbles through his chest when he murmurs, “You know I do.”
Louis’ swallow is audible, and a satisfied smile works its way across Harry’s face as he leans back. When Louis speaks again, his voice is shaky. “Well...I should get back.”
He stands and puts one foot up onto the bench in front of them, then drops it and turns back around. He’s still holding the jar of fire. He bends over with the pretense of setting the jar down beside Harry, but uses the opportunity to brush a fleeting kiss across Harry’s lips.
“Thanks, Haz,” he murmurs before straightening up, then he grabs his broom and takes off into the air.
The first match is against Gryffindor. Louis doesn’t sit with Harry and Zayn at breakfast like he usually does on weekends, sits instead with his teammates to present a united front. He shoots Harry a nervous smile across the room, though, and Harry smiles back, warm and encouraging, and flashes him a cheerful thumbs-up.
Once at the stadium, Harry, Zayn, and Niall crowd onto a bench on the Slytherin side of the stands next to Liam, shuffling around so that Zayn is sandwiched between Liam and Harry. The wind is strong and bitter cold, so Harry conjures small fires in jars again to keep them warm.
Even though it’s been over a decade since the Great War, Slytherin and Gryffindor still don’t exactly get along, and as the two teams walk out onto the pitch, a mixture of cheers and boos ring up from both sides of the stands. Louis and the Gryffindor Captain shake hands amicably, though, and when Slytherin wins the coin toss, Harry whistles loudly through his teeth in encouragement.
The game starts out slow, both teams testing out each others’ skill level and abilities, and Gryffindor scores two goals before the Slytherin Beaters really kick into action. The game picks up quickly after that, and Harry shouts himself hoarse by the time Louis makes a dive for one of Gryffindor’s goal hoops, a predatory gleam in his eye. The Gryffindor Seeker is too far to race Louis, though he gives it a noble effort, and Slytherin ends up winning, 210 to 80.
Not wanting to interrupt their celebrations, Harry heads reluctantly back to the castle with Zayn and Niall, the two of them chattering excitedly about the match and Gryffindor’s new Keeper. It’s nearly lunch time, so they find a spot out on the cold grass to wait. They huddle around one of Harry’s fires and watch students and teachers as they drift back toward the castle from the match. The Slytherins are all rowdy and obnoxious, singing happily and laughing at the grumpy faces of passing Gryffindors.
Eventually, a small group of the Quidditch players stagger by, and Harry watches for Louis, only half-listening to the story Zayn is telling them about Connor Booth’s attempts to turn his Transfiguration textbook into a crocodile.
Most of the school has made it back into the castle by the time Harry spots Louis from the other side of the lake with what looks like Liam at his side. Zayn and Niall have given up on trying to include Harry in their conversation, so Harry turns all of his focus on Louis’ body, moving steadily closer. He’s changed out of his Quidditch robes, is dressed in muggle trousers and a zippered sweatshirt with his hands tucked into the pockets and the hood drawn up over his head.
As they get closer, Harry realizes that Louis’ gaze is cast down at the ground, expression forlorn, and he frowns, stumbles to his feet so he can meet them by the front steps.
“Harry,” Liam says brightly when he spots him, and Louis’ head lifts, expression guarded.
“Hey.” Harry smiles tentatively around his teeth set into his bottom lip, eyes locked on Louis. Liam rolls his eyes and walks away to drop onto the ground beside Zayn and Niall.
“Hi,” Louis whispers, and when Harry answers, his voice is lowered too, though he’s not sure why.
“You were brilliant out there.”
“Yeah?” Louis’ eyes are still shuttered, a pale, stormy blue, but his tone is hopeful.
Harry smiles, dimple winking to life. “Yeah,” he insists, and he reaches a hand out, curls it gently around Louis’ wrist.
Louis looks down at the ground again for a moment, then back up at Harry from the corner of his eye. “Where were you? I looked for you after the match.”
Harry shrugs one shoulder uncomfortably. “I didn’t want to get in the way.” At Louis’ blank look, he says, “Of you celebrating with your teammates, your house. First victory of the season, and all, and against Gryffindor...”
Louis rolls his eyes. “You wouldn’t have been in the way, idiot. I wanted you there.”
His cheeks stained pink, head ducked down, it’s Harry’s turn to mumble, “Yeah?”
Louis tugs his hands out of his pockets and glances around quickly before raising them to Harry’s cheeks. They’re cold and chapped, but Harry doesn’t care. He raises his other hand so both of his are wrapped around Louis’ wrists, holds Louis’ hands steady against his face.
“Yes,” Louis says, voice firm. Harry’s cheeks round out under Louis’ hands in a beaming smile, and he squeezes Louis’ wrists once before tugging them down and using them to pull him over to where the others are sitting, pretending not to watch them.
They settle onto the grass beside one of the jarred fires, Louis curled into Harry’s side and tucked up under one of his arms. After a moment, Louis shifts away to look around again, then pushes up with his palm on Harry’s thigh and presses a firm kiss to the corner of Harry’s mouth before dropping back down against his side.
The rest of the month passes in a similar vein. Harry does school work in the Quidditch pitch stands while Louis practices. When practice is over and the rest of the team has gone, Harry slips into the changing room where Louis is waiting, hair damp from his shower and foot tapping impatiently.
Harry shuffles him back against the door of the storage cupboard, frames Louis’ body in with hands spread wide over his hips and his feet either side of Louis’. They kiss languidly, with Louis’ head tipped back against the wood of the door and Louis’ hands shoved up the back of Harry’s sweater, nails scratching lightly at skin.
They kiss until their lips are bruised and aching and they have to stop because Hufflepuff has the field next and the team will be arriving any moment.
Louis eats dinner with Harry and Zayn nearly every night, his left hand curled around Harry’s knee underneath the table. Between classes and Quidditch practice, they study quietly in the library, hands clasped between them. They continue to sneak kisses underneath the marble staircase before separating after meals, and it’s wonderful, really it is. Harry has never felt so content in his life. Unfortunately, he’s also never felt this sexually frustrated. Aborted make-out sessions and heated looks, loaded statements and spine-tingling brushes of fingers, and Harry can only make himself feel so good.
One dreary afternoon in November, Harry is on his way to Herbology and not pleased about it - the sky looks like it’s about to open up at any moment, and they’re foregoing the greenhouses this week to work on the edges of the Forbidden Forest behind Hagrid’s hut where he’s started growing the castle’s Christmas trees. He’s trudging down the second floor corridor, past a tapestry of a sleeping dragon, when a hand appears out of nowhere and yanks him into a dusty alcove hidden behind the tapestry. Harry doesn’t shout, but it’s a close thing, and he only relaxes when he sees Louis staring at him from behind a narrow pool of wand-light.
“Merlin, but you scared me. What’s going on?” He tries to look around, but it’s too dark to see much past Louis’ face.
Louis doesn’t respond, just murmurs, “Nox,” and they’re plunged into darkness. Harry freezes, heart still thrumming in his throat from being jerked out of the hallway.
He whispers, “Louis?” and reaches his hands out, feeling for him blindly. A solid weight connects with his chest a moment later, and Harry gasps out in surprise as his back hits the stone wall.
Louis’ mouth latches onto his neck immediately, and Harry’s gasp turns into a moan. Louis shushes him, lips pressed against his skin, and Harry has to bite his lip around another moan when Louis sinks his teeth into the chord of muscle at the base of his neck.
Arousal rolls down his spine and he whispers, “Lou,” chants, “Lou, Lou, Louis,” when he doesn’t respond. Finally, he reaches up to cup Louis’ face and tug him up so he can kiss him properly. Louis licks into his mouth, draws Harry’s tongue into his own and then sucks on it, hard.
Harry whines in the back of his throat, scratches lightly at Louis’ scalp, then whispers reluctantly, “I have to go to class.”
Louis just shakes his head and keeps kissing him. He sinks his sharp little teeth into Harry’s bottom lip, flutters the tip of his tongue against the roof of Harry’s mouth, then seals their lips together firmly so he can swallow Harry’s moan when he works their hips together. Harry is already hard, feels like he has been for weeks, panting and desperate and unable to control the noises he’s making.
Louis pulls back enough to whisper, “Haz, you’ve got to keep quiet,” waits for Harry to nod before ducking back in. Louis curls his hands over the tops of Harry’s shoulders and pulls down until he drops a few centimeters, feet shuffling out so he can spread his legs and tug Louis between them.
They fit better like that, and when Louis presses in again with Harry’s hands on his hips, Harry can feel Louis hard against him through multiple layers of pants, trousers, and cloaks. His fingers tighten on Louis’ hips, then he slides them around so he’s gripping Louis’ bum, pulls him in closer so there’s not a breath of space between them.
Before he knows it, they’re kissing again, breaths panting out between them as Louis shifts against him, hips moving in tight little circles within the confines of Harry’s grasp. This is a bad idea, Harry knows it is, but when Louis loses his footing momentarily and shifts left to catch himself with a hand on the stones behind Harry’s head, the angle changes and pleasure sparks at the base of his spine. He groans into Louis’ mouth, presses down on Louis’ bum with his fingers unconsciously, and Louis gasps, breath coming wild and ragged now as he pushes up onto his toes for better leverage.
Louis drags his mouth down the side of Harry’s neck, latches on to the same spot he’d bitten before, and Harry lets his head fall back against the wall, stares unseeing up at the dark ceiling. He can feel his orgasm building, pleasure coiling sweetly in the pit of his stomach. He tightens his grip on Louis, fingers digging in hard, and Louis gasps, grinds harder against Harry and comes, open mouth pressed against Harry’s collarbone, body trembling against him.
Harry rubs his hands up and down Louis' back in broad, calming strokes, is just about to whisper something about finishing himself, when Louis wedges a hand down between them. He rucks Harry’s robes up around his waist so he can fit his palm around him through his trousers. He presses down with the heel of his hand, rubs his thumb over the head of Harry’s dick through his clothing. Harry is overwhelmed by Louis - the soft brush of his hair under Harry's jaw, the insistent press of his fingertips against Harry's side, the delicious heat of his palm. He comes quickly and with an embarrassing whine, shaking apart underneath Louis' hands.
Louis lets out a shuddery laugh and steps back to let Harry’s robes drop, then presses back in, arms coming up to wrap around Harry’s neck. They kiss quietly and without urgency for a few minutes, the corners of their mouths turned up in small, private smiles, and when Louis eases back, he murmurs, “It was about time.”
Harry tilts his head to the side, hums questioningly when he remembers Louis can’t see him, and Louis elaborates, “Been wanting to do that for nearly two months now. ‘S about time, I was going a bit crazy.”
It’s Harry’s turn to laugh, and he says, “Me, too. There’s only so much kissing you a man can do, you know.”
Louis snorts. “Lies. I am great at kissing. You wish you could kiss me forever.”
Harry bites his lip, heart thundering suddenly in his chest. He swallows thick around the bundle of nerves in his throat, and before he can think better of it, he mumbles, “I would.”
He can’t see Louis, hopes he hasn’t just said too much, too soon, but after a brief silence, there’s the muffled sound of rustling clothing as Louis digs through his cloak for something. A second later, light is flaring at the tip of his wand, casting a pale glow across Louis’ face. Louis still doesn’t respond to Harry’s admission, and they stare at each other for a long moment, cheeks flushed, fringe matted to their foreheads and temples with sweat, before Harry says, “Well, I guess we should -”
“Yep,” Louis agrees quickly, wincing as he shifts his weight from one foot to the other. “Got to go get changed,” he mutters, and Harry smirks a little.
Louis pokes his head out from behind the tapestry to make sure the corridor is empty, then beckons Harry forward. They walk quietly to the top of the marble staircase, then pause there in awkward silence.
Harry shifts his gaze from Louis’ face to the banister of the stairs, to the floor, then to a spot of lint on Louis’ shoulder. He clears his throat uncomfortably. “Well, this is -”
“Awkward,” Louis agrees, eyes meeting, and then they’re laughing, smiles warm and genuine, relief spooling out in Harry’s chest. He reaches out and twines his fingers with Louis’, swings their hands between them and takes a step closer so their chests are nearly brushing.
“We should do this again sometime,” he says, voice pitched low and warm. He tracks the bob of Louis’ adam’s apple as he swallows, then nods.
“Definitely,” Louis breathes. He’s just about to say something else when a door cracks open down the hall, classroom noises spilling out into the corridor, and Louis glances over Harry’s shoulder, says, “Oops, gotta go. See you at dinner, love.”
He squeezes Harry’s fingers with his own, then goes to let go, body twisting away. He thinks better of it though, turns back and fists his other hand in Harry’s hair, drags him into a brief, heated kiss, and then he’s gone, taking the stairs two at a time.
Harry watches him go, hand holding onto the banister in a white knuckle grip. Louis glances up as he rounds the bottom of the staircase, lips pressed together as if he’s not expecting Harry to still be there but is kind of hoping he is. When he catches Harry’s gaze, he breaks into a brilliant smile, eyes going squinty and sharp canines gleaming in the sunlight streaming in through the windows. He taps his index finger to his lips and blows Harry a quick kiss, then turns a corner and disappears.
Harry blows out a heavy breath, slumps back against the wall and tugs his bottom lip into his mouth. He stares blankly at the spot Louis had been standing in just a moment before, until the sound of another door opening pulls him out of his reverie. He shakes his hair out and shoves it to the side, then turns to head for the staircase that will lead him back to Ravenclaw Tower. Herbology doesn’t end for another half hour, but he is in desperate need of a clean pair of pants before he has to get to Transfiguration.
After that, it’s like the dam has been broken. They don’t have any more free time than they had before, but they manage to sneak in alone time together anyway, as often as possible. They shave time off their library studies and cut it dangerously close in the changing rooms beneath the Quidditch stands. Sometimes they sneak out of their common rooms after curfew and meet outside the Prefects’ bathroom, where they hold hands and float quietly in the enormous bathtub, then rut against each other lazily in the sudsy water while the daft mermaid giggles and flashes her tail at them from the wall.
One night, feeling particularly daring, Harry plants his feet against the bottom of the tub and lifts Louis onto the ledge so only his legs are dangling in the water. Louis frowns and shifts on the cold tile, starts, “Harry, what -” but chokes on the sentence when Harry wraps his hand around the base of his cock and his lips around the head.
Harry wrinkles his nose against the soapy taste of Louis’ skin but doesn’t pull off, too wrapped up in excitement and an overwhelming desire to make Louis feel good. The angle is awkward and it’s Harry’s first time sucking someone off, but he makes up for lack of technique with enthusiasm, taking Louis as deep as he can, cheeks hollowing out as he sucks him down.
Louis falls back on one hand and reaches his other hand out so he can press his fingertips to Harry’s cheek, the corner of his mouth, his chest heaving and expression dazed. Harry looks up at him through lowered eyelashes, pride and arousal thrumming through him at the pretty blush that’s spread across Louis’ face and down his chest and the way he’s trembling against Harry’s hand on his thigh.
It’s not long before Louis is tugging on Harry’s damp hair in warning, and Harry pulls off, wraps his hand around Louis in a slippery tight grip. Louis tangles his fingers in Harry’s hair and looks down at Harry’s face, at the hectic flush of his cheeks and his swollen cherry lips, and comes with a strangled groan. His arm buckles and he falls back against the tile, gasps at the ceiling as he recovers.
Harry can’t stop touching him, even though he’s so hard it aches. He runs his hands up Louis’ calves, trails his fingers up the insides of Louis’ thighs, rubs beads of water into the jut of Louis’ hips.
When Louis sits up slowly and slides into the water, Harry shies back, suddenly insecure. But Louis crowds in close, one arm around Harry’s shoulders and the other wrapped around his cock, and when Harry whispers, “Was that okay?” Louis presses a smile to Harry’s mouth and murmurs, “It was perfect. You’re perfect.”
Two weeks before Christmas holidays, there’s another Hogsmeade weekend. It’s not raining this time, but it’s cold enough that Harry pulls on two jumpers and a coat, along with his gloves, scarf, and beanie. He and Zayn meet Liam, Louis, and Niall by the front doors, and as Filch lets them out, Harry tugs his scarf up over his nose and pulls it tight so it won’t slip down.
Louis giggles at him, then tucks his hand into the pocket of Harry’s coat, stares up at the sky. It’s a cloudless day, but the sky is a blinding white, not a spot of blue in sight. “D’you think it’ll snow?”
Harry scowls down at Louis, catches Liam doing the same, but Zayn says, “I hope so!”
“What!” Liam squawks, and Zayn laughs and wraps his arm around Liam’s waist.
“Well, if it’s snowing, we won’t have to work on Hagrid’s bloody trees anymore, will we? If it snowed, I reckon Sprout would let us back into one of the greenhouses. It’s warm in the greenhouses,” Zayn points out helpfully, but Liam doesn’t look appeased, even as he slides a tentative hand around Zayn’s shoulders.
“Warm in the greenhouses doesn’t mean warm everywhere else, though,” Harry reasons. He curls a gloved hand around the back of Louis’ neck protectively and says, “Snow means a cold castle and a freezing Quidditch pitch. There’s still one game before hols! Do you want Louis to freeze his lovely bum off on his broomstick, Zayn?”
Louis beams up at Harry at that, pulls his hand out of Harry’s pocket and laces their arms together, squeezes them against his chest. “You said I have a lovely bum.” Harry watches fondly as he turns to smile at Liam, who shakes his head at him. “He said I have a lovely bum!”
“Well, you do,” Harry says quietly, but he’s smiling so hard his cheeks hurt. He grins down at Louis’ profile for a moment, cheeks rosy from the frigid wind and eyelashes casting feathery shadows across his cheekbones. He turns to look at Niall, who’s humming as he walks and swinging his arms back and forth at his sides like a toddler, then at Liam and Zayn, who are tucked so close together that they keep stumbling a little over each others’ feet, and he’s struck by blinding happiness that swells inside his chest until his heart feels about four sizes too big.
Once they get to Hogsmeade, Niall announces that he needs to buy Christmas presents. Harry agrees, still needs something for his stepfather, so they wander the streets window shopping for a bit, ducking in and out of stores when something catches someone’s eye.
Harry slips into Olivander’s to buy his stepdad a wand cleaning kit and drags Zayn with him, waving the others off. It’s a small store, and tightly packed, the wizard that runs the shop doesn’t need five boys pottering around inside it. Harry is browsing the different cleaning kits when Zayn taps his elbow. When Harry looks up, Zayn is staring out the window to where he can see the other three. Louis is chatting with Liam and Niall, but he keeps glancing in the window, like he’s looking for Harry, ready for him to be done.
“What’s going on with you two,” he asks when Harry turns to see what he’s looking at and his expression goes soft and fond.
Harry whips his head around, eyes wide. “What? You don’t -”
Zayn rolls his eyes. “I know what’s going on, Merlin’s beard, Harry, I’m not an idiot. What I mean is, are you properly dating, or...?”
Harry’s cheeks go pink and he frowns, shifts back and forth on his feet. “I’m...not really sure. We haven’t really talked about it,” he mumbles, and Zayn sighs. Harry’s head jerks up suddenly, and his eyes are even wider than before. “D’you.... do you think I need to buy him a Christmas present?”
Zayn blinks at Harry for a minute, then his lips are turning down into a frown and Harry watches him in confusion as he strides toward the door and sticks his head out. Niall joins them inside a moment later, chafing his hands together to rub some heat back into them.
“What is it?” He asks, looking back and forth between Harry and Zayn. “I don’t really know anything about wand cleaning kits -”
“Does Harry need to buy Louis a Christmas present?” Zayn blurts out. Harry watches Niall’s reaction closely - his mouth falls open and his eyebrows shoot up.
“Ah... well. You’re friends, right?” When Harry opens his mouth to respond, Niall says, “I mean, aside from all of that. Underneath, you’re friends.”
Harry shifts uncomfortably. They had gone from acquaintances to...whatever they are now fairly quickly, but he nods slowly in answer to Niall’s question. At least, he thinks they’re friends.
“Are you....more than friends?”
“I’m not sure,” Harry says slowly, and Zayn cuts in.
“Like, they shag, but they’ve not called each other boyfriends.”
Harry coughs, embarrassed, and Niall sighs. “Well, I’d say buy him something small, like you would get for a friend, nothing too personal. Unless....” He squints at Harry. “You want it to be personal?”
“Well.” Harry clears his throat nervously. “I mean, I.” He makes a soft, distressed noise.
“He’s been in love with Louis since second year,” Zayn says. “Soppy idiot,” he murmurs fondly as he cuffs Harry on the shoulder.
Harry is just about to say something snippy and indignant at Zayn, the hypocrite, when the door jingles open and Louis pokes his head in. “Oi! What’s taking so bloody long? It’s just a cleaning kit, not the deed to a bloody house!”
With a sigh, Harry turns and grabs a nice looking kit he had been considering off the shelf and goes to pay.
In the end, he manages to sneak into Honeydukes and buy an assortment of sweets for Louis, and grabs extra bags for him to give his sisters as an afterthought. He tosses a large box of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans in with the lot for Liam, then slips his purchases into his bag from Ollivander’s so they won’t see it and meets the rest of the lads outside Dervish & Banges. They get a drink in the Three Broomsticks before heading back to the castle, but the whole time, Zayn and Niall’s questions niggle at the back of his mind.
The next week, Harry and Louis barely see each other as Harry studies desperately for his pre-holidays Transfiguration practical exam and Louis prepares for the next Quidditch match. Slytherin is playing Hufflepuff, and Hufflepuff had come in second the previous year and are fighting hard for the trophy this time round. Harry knows because he has to listen to Niall natter on about it every time they’re together. His rants are getting increasingly aggressive the closer they get to the match, and Harry wonders if maybe he should worry a bit for the Slytherin players.
Meanwhile, Christmas decorations are going up all around the castle. Harry gets caught under a sprig of mistletoe with a Gryffindor girl in his Astronomy class one day, and the entire class takes up a chant until he presses a hasty, blushing kiss to her cheek and stumbles off.
His Transfiguration exam goes well. Harry has always had a knack for wand work, and the rooster he’s transfiguring into a peacock comes out beautifully, with deep, rich colors and a high, widely fanned tail. Professor McGonagall even smiles at Harry as he’s leaving, and he’s in a terrific mood as he makes his way down to the Great Hall for dinner, excited about spending time with Louis before they have to leave for the holidays.
It’s Friday evening, and the Slytherin - Hufflepuff match is on Saturday, then Sunday everyone clears out for Christmas holidays. Harry hasn’t given Louis his gift yet, hasn’t even mentioned that he has one for him. He and the lads are having a small pre-Christmas celebration Saturday night after the match, in an abandoned classroom Harry and Louis had discovered one night after curfew. Niall’s managed to nick a load of food from the kitchens, and Louis snuck a crate of butterbeer into the castle the previous week, so Harry has planned to hand his gifts out then.
It snows Friday night and well into Saturday morning, so that by the time everyone is trekking out to the Quidditch pitch, they’re having to trudge through knee-deep drifts. Harry is shivering by the time he, Zayn, and Liam make it up into the stands, but he forgets to be cold once the match begins. It’s hard not to root exclusively for Slytherin, and Harry has to keep reminding himself that he likes the Hufflepuff team, as well, and that Niall is one of his best mates every time they score.
In the end, though, Hufflepuff’s Seeker can’t outmatch Louis, and after several hours of playing, Louis spots the Snitch and wins Slytherin the game by a narrow margin. This time, Harry follows Liam down onto the pitch, pride and affection shining on his face as he opens his arms for a congratulatory hug when Louis spots him. Louis shifts up onto his toes so he can throw his arms around Harry’s shoulders, jittery with adrenaline and happiness, and Harry presses his face into Louis’ neck, not caring that he’s cold and clammy with sweat. Louis clings back, humming happily in his throat, but he can’t stay long, has to go chat to his team in the changing room. Before he leaves, though, he wraps his hand around Harry’s forearm and squeezes.
“I’m glad you stayed,” he says, voice soft and eyes intense. Harry nods, his own eyes wide at the sudden heat pouring off of Louis, his heart thrumming wildly in his wrists, temples, the base of his throat. Louis lets go and walks backward for a few steps, eyes locked on Harry’s, before he turns around and heads off. Harry stares after Louis as he pushes his way through the throng of celebrating Slytherins, watches the top of his head bob through the crowd until it disappears through the doorway of the changing room.
That night, Louis tugs Harry aside the moment he gets through the door of the empty classroom and presses him up against the wall so he can lick into his mouth and kiss him breathless.
“Oi! None of that in here,” Niall exclaims as he walks in, and Louis pulls back reluctantly, a small smirk on his face. He licks his lips, slow and deliberate, and Harry tracks the movement with his eyes, pupils blown wide and breath coming in short pants. He’s contemplating foregoing the party altogether, and just dragging Louis off to the Prefects’ bathroom right down the hall when Liam walks in, the last of their small group to arrive.
Zayn locks the classroom door and casts muffliato on it so that anyone wandering past won’t hear them, then they dig into the food and butterbeer with fervor. Louis sits next to Harry at the desk they’ve all claimed, and Harry reaches out, drags Louis’ chair closer until their shoulders are pressed together and hooks his foot around Louis’ ankle. The smile Louis gives him is blinding, and Harry doesn’t realize he’s staring until Zayn kicks him under the table.
Once they’ve done eating, Harry clears his throat and pushes back from the table, drags a bag out from the corner of the room. He rubs the back of his neck uncomfortably, then says, “I, uh. I got everyone gifts.”
He hands Zayn and Niall their gifts, returns their hugs and presses quick kisses to their cheeks at their promises of gifts arriving on Christmas Day. Liam accepts his with wide eyes and a stuttered thank you, and when he gets to Louis, Louis is watching him, face curiously blank. Harry clears his throat nervously and hands Louis the box.
“It’s just some sweets, I. I wasn’t sure what you’d want, really. I put some smaller bags in there for your sisters, though. Wizarding sweets are quite different from muggle sweets, you know, so. There’s like, Pepper Imps, Cauldron Cakes, Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum... I think I tossed some Cockroach Clusters in there, as well. I thought they might like them.”
When Louis looks up at him, his eyes are nearly as wide as Liam’s had been, but his expression is unreadable. “You got my sisters sweets?”
Harry scuffs his heel against the floor and shrugs. “Just thought it would be nice.”
“Yes, that’s -” Louis clears his throat. “Thank you,” he murmurs, voice gone soft, and he sets the box aside and stretches up onto his toes to wrap his arms around Harry’s neck in a hug. Harry clings to him with arms curled tight around his waist, and Louis pulls his head back a few centimeters, nuzzles against the side of Harry’s face and rubs their noses together sweetly. “You’re very lovely, Harry Styles.”
Harry’s hands squeeze Louis’ sides, and he manages to whisper around the lump in his throat, “You’re quite lovely, yourself, Louis Tomlinson.”
When Louis settles back down on his heels, he says, “Harry, I didn’t -”
“It’s alright,” Harry interrupts, not wanting Louis to feel uncomfortable. “I just...like buying people things.”
Louis shakes his head. “No, I just -”
“Really, Lou, it’s fine. I promise,” He reassures him. Harry turns to look at the others and says, “Now, where’s my butterbeer? I’m not going to bed until I’ve got a nice buzz on.”
Some time after 2am, they’ve all stopped being able to control their yawns, and they decide to call it a night. Louis insists on walking Harry back to his common room, and Harry is too pleased to protest. Before they leave, Niall presses drowsy, affectionate kisses to everyone’s mouths, and then they all pretend not to watch Liam and Zayn say goodnight. Liam hugs Zayn close and sneaks a quick glance at the others before, much to Harry’s delight, he ducks down and brushes a fleeting kiss across Zayn’s lips.
Zayn strolls back to Ravenclaw tower with a dopey look on his face, and Harry and Louis giggle at him quietly, pinkies linked between them. The three of them pause at the door to the Ravenclaw common room so that Zayn can give Louis a quick hug before he lifts the brass knocker, answers the riddle, and slips inside, leaving Harry and Louis alone in the darkened corridor.
Harry shifts awkwardly on his feet, then leans against the wall, hands tucked behind his back. Louis is staring at him, the box of sweets set on the floor by his feet.
“So,” Harry prompts, and then Louis shuffles forward and into Harry’s space, hands clinging to his narrow hips.
“Will you miss me, Harry Styles?” He murmurs his question against the corner of Harry’s mouth. Harry swallows around the returned lump in his throat and nods, clinging wordlessly to Louis’ shoulders.
Louis turns his head then and presses a careful kiss to Harry’s lips, light and sweet, but when Harry moves to deepen it, tries to tug their hips together, he shakes his head and skitters back, bends to pick up his gift. “I’ll see you on the train tomorrow. Goodnight, love.”
Louis shoots a quick glance over his shoulder as he goes, expression soft, and Harry sighs from where he’s still leaning against the wall, watches Louis’ retreating back until the dark corridor swallows him up.
As a Prefect and Head Boy, Harry and Louis are required to spend the first part of the train ride policing the halls. After they’ve switched off with another set of Prefects, they spend the rest of it in a cabin with Zayn, Niall, and Liam, talking and laughing and eating sweets from the food trolley. Louis plops himself in Harry’s lap for the last hour of the ride, and Harry wraps his arms firmly around Louis’ waist and doesn’t let go until the train is pulling into King’s Cross.
Their families are waiting for them on the platform, and Harry chats briefly to Zayn’s mum and dad before moving to greet his own family. They’re distracted, talking to Zayn, when a hand taps Harry on the shoulder. When he turns, Louis is standing there, looking unsure. Harry smiles and grips Louis’ elbow.
“Is that your mum?” he asks, nodding at a woman standing a few meters away with Liam and a man that he presumes to be Liam’s father. She’s small and curvy, just like Louis, with a friendly face, and Harry likes her immediately, even though they haven’t even spoken.
Louis nods, then says, “We’ve got to run. The neighbor’s watching my sisters, but mum doesn’t want to leave them too long, and -”
Harry nods his understanding, then slides his hand up to cup the side of Louis’ neck. “Well,” he murmurs. “I guess I’ll see you in a few weeks, then?”
He feels Louis swallow against the pad of his thumb, and then Louis is nodding. “Yep,” he croaks. “Few weeks. Uh.” He glances quickly back at his mother, but she’s still chatting unconcernedly to Liam’s dad. “Well, then.”
Louis turns back around, then goes up onto his tip-toes, wraps his arms tight around Harry’s neck and presses his face into the curve of his shoulder. Harry curls his own arms around Louis’ back and hugs him close. He can feel Louis blinking, the brush of eyelashes over his collarbone, and he shivers. Louis turns his head, and there’s just the barest press of lips against the side of his neck, and then Louis is drawing back.
“Write to me?” He asks, and Harry nods.
“Of course,” he says, voice thick, hand still resting lightly on Louis’ side.
They stare at each other for an interminable moment, then someone pokes Harry in the side and he snaps out of Louis’ gaze. When he turns, he sees Zayn looking at him knowingly and his mum and sister standing off to the side, watching with open curiosity on their faces. Harry turns back to look at Louis and says, “Hey, do you want to meet my mum and sister?”
Louis’ eyes go wide at that, gaze flicking back and forth between Harry and Zayn and Harry’s mum and sister, and he says, voice panicked, “Oh! Sorry, I. No, I.” He backs up a step. “I can’t, I’ve got to go. My sisters, I.” He swallows, then says, weak and a bit desperate, “I need to go.”
Zayn shoots Harry a wide-eyed, confused look, then wraps Louis up in a quick hug. Once he lets go, Louis murmurs goodbye to them both and slips off to join Liam and their parents. Bewildered, Harry stares after him for a moment, until he feels someone cup his elbow.
“Who was that?” His mother is saying, and Harry swallows, thick, around his heart in his throat.
“Just a mate,” he whispers. When Zayn hugs him goodbye, Harry clings desperately to him and mumbles, “What was that,” into Zayn’s shoulder. Zayn rubs his hands up and down Harry’s back, murmuring reassurances, and presses a kiss to his cheek before letting Harry go. He trudges out to the car park with his family, but throws one last look over his shoulder as they walk away. Louis is still standing with his mother, head hanging between his shoulders. As if he can feel Harry looking at him, his head twitches to the side as if he wants to look back, but he keeps it firmly facing down and Harry leaves with a sigh.
The drive home is long, and Harry is exhausted, hurt, and confused. He passes out as soon as they get out of central London, head lolling against the window, and he wakes up in Holmes Chapel with a crick in his neck, a damp spot on his shoulder where he’d drooled a bit, and an aching heart.
The house is quiet, too quiet for Harry after the bustle of hundreds of students moving about the castle, and he unpacks slowly, sadness settling around him like a blanket. He’s tugging his Transfiguration book out of his trunk despondently when something falls out from between the pages.
Frowning, Harry picks it up to inspect it. It’s a parchment envelope, long and nearly flat, and when Harry opens it, a note slides out. The handwriting is a familiar scrawl, and his heart lurches painfully in his chest.
I had this for you, but I wanted to give it to you privately.
Saw this in the shop and thought immediately of you, I hope you like it.
Happy Christmas, much love,
Harry snatches the envelope back up and shakes it upside down. Out slides a magnificent peacock feather quill. The dim lights of his room reflect off the rainbow array of colors, and Harry’s breath catches as he runs the quill between his fingers reverently. He picks up Louis’ letter and reads it through again, eyes lingering on the last couple of lines. He wonders what’s changed since he wrote the letter, and his eyes burn a little at the memory of Louis’ stilted, panicky response to Harry asking him to meet his family.
Shaking his head, he pushes himself up off the ground. He sets the quill and letter down carefully on his bedside table, then strides out of his room and down to the kitchen where he can hear his mum and Gemma chatting, and throws himself into the distraction of family.
Harry doesn’t write to Louis. After the bizarre exchange at King’s Cross, he’s not sure Louis wants him to anymore, and he doesn’t know what to say anyhow. Instead, he spends the holidays moping around the house and driving his family mad.
Christmas itself is lovely, at least. He helps his mother cook up a storm, and they don’t head to bed until well after midnight, curled up in the parlor with hot cocoa and a series of Christmas-themed films on the muggle television Robin had set up years ago.
Harry sinks back into a sullen mope soon after, though, and the day before New Year’s, Gemma stomps into Harry’s room without so much as a knock and says loudly, “Get up and get dressed.”
Harry groans from where he’s wrapped up in his duvet like a cocoon and tries to go back to sleep, but Gemma is having none of it. She stalks over to his bed and yanks on the blanket until she manages to pull it completely off and glares down at his sleepy face.
“If you don’t get up now, I will drag you out of bed myself, you lazy arse.”
“Why,” Harry demands, voice scratchy from sleep and disuse.
“We’re going ice skating, and you have no say in the matter.” She starts for the door, Harry’s duvet still clutched in her hands so he can’t curl back up and fall back asleep. Just as she passes through the doorway, she tosses over her shoulder, “Wear two pairs of socks, it’s bloody freezing out!”
Harry stares up at the ceiling for a moment before deciding that if he doesn’t actually get up and ready, Gemma will come back, and he’s not ready to deal with her temper. So he drags himself out of bed and shuffles into the bathroom to make himself presentable for the first time since Christmas Eve. He figures he should probably be ashamed of that fact, but he can’t bring himself to care.
He dresses warm, then stumbles downstairs where Gemma is waiting impatiently. Her expression softens when she sees Harry, though, and she tucks her hand through his elbow for the short walk to the frozen pond.
Even though they do this every year, Harry gazes doubtfully at the ice and says, “I’m going to fall on my face the second we get out there.”
Gemma laughs and squeezes his arm. “You know, you’d think that your skill would have improved over the years.” When Harry just glares at her, she sighs and says, “Don’t worry, babe, I’ll hold your hand so you don’t mess up that pretty face of yours.”
True to her word, Gemma holds his hand the entire time they skate, steadying him when he wobbles and tugging him up when he still manages to slip right off his feet. She only laughs a little when he does, tries to fold her lips into her mouth to stifle her laughter, but Harry knows and shoots her a dirty look every time.
By the time they head back to the house, Harry’s bum is sore, but he feels better than he has all break. He curls his arm around Gemma’s shoulders and pulls her close, murmurs, “Thanks, Gem,” into her hair.
Gemma wraps an arm around Harry’s waist and says, “Want to talk about it?”
Harry thinks about it for a moment before shaking his head no. Gemma sighs.
“Well, you know you can tell me whatever it is, right? I won’t even snitch to mum if you don’t want me to,” she says with a pinch to Harry’s side, and Harry squeaks and wiggles away, takes off for the house at a run with Gemma laughing and chasing after him.
That evening, Harry’s mum and Robin throw a small party for their friends. They fill the house with floating candles and turn the Wizarding Wireless Network up so that it drifts through the rooms. Harry plays exploding snap with the children for a while, then a couple of rounds of wizard chess with Anthony Hopkirk, a Hufflepuff the year below him who lives down the road.
A couple of minutes before midnight, Harry slips up to his room and curls up on his bed, runs the peacock quill Louis had given him between his fingers over and over as he listens to the people downstairs chant the countdown along with the radio. He falls asleep at four seconds to midnight, the quill resting soft against his cheek and a hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach.
The end of Christmas holidays sneaks up on Harry. Between his moping and his family’s attempts at cheering him up, he doesn’t realize it’s time to go back until the night before, when his mum knocks on his door and pokes her head in.
“Hello, love. All packed?”
Harry frowns at her from where he’s sprawled across his bed, head hanging off the side. “Packed?”
Anne laughs and walks into the room, sits down on the edge of the bed and strokes her hand through Harry’s hair. “We’ve got to leave for London early tomorrow if you want to catch the train.”
Harry sits up, blood rushing out of his head and making him momentarily dizzy. “Tomorrow?” When Anne nods slowly, Harry says, “It’s time to go back already?”
“Babe. You’ve done nothing but mope around this house your entire holiday, don’t you tell me it’s gone by quickly for you.”
Harry drops his gaze to his lap and shrugs. When he doesn’t say anything, Anne sighs and pats his knee. “Come on, I’ll help you.”
Anne fills the quiet room with chatter as they pack, passing things back and forth and tucking them neatly into Harry’s trunk. Nearly done, she watches Harry carefully slide the peacock quill back into the parchment envelope and press it between the pages of his Transfiguration book again. As he sets the book inside of his trunk, he looks up and catches her watching him, her expression soft and worried.
“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?”
Harry bites his lip and looks down at his lap, shakes his head silently.
“Harry,” she starts, but he cuts her off.
“I’m fine mum, really. I just miss my friends, that’s all.” He knows she can tell that he’s lying, but she doesn’t call him on it, just stares at him for a moment before sighing.
“Okay.” She leans forward and presses her hand to Harry’s cheek. “Just remember that you can tell me anything, alright?” Harry nods, and she brushes a kiss across his forehead. “Go to sleep, love. We’re up very early tomorrow.”
With that, she stands and walks out of the room, tugging the door shut behind her. Harry flips off his bedroom light, then drops into bed and rolls himself into his duvet, pulls it up over his head. It takes him a while, but he manages to fall asleep, stomach churning nervously at the thought of seeing Louis.
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.”
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 drops 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.”