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1

Harry Potter doesn’t go to Hogwarts when he’s 11. The Boy Who Lived is declared dead four months before letters are sent out when a house fire destroys the home and the lives in it. Vernon, Petunia and Dudley Dursley all perish, and it is assumed so does the helpless Harry Potter. The wizarding world is thrown into peril, their saviour gone forever. But the truth is, Harry wasn’t gone.

A year before, when the Potter child was 10 years old, the Dursley family shed the burden of their nephew by sending him, abused and battered, to an orphanage home in London run by Sylvia Augustus, possibly one of the most non-paternal beings whom has walked the Earth. The true identity of Harry Potter was ceased when Petunia insisted they changed his name to Harry Evans, the woman certain the freaks would be able to find out what they’d done had the boy kept the famous name.

Harry grew up in less violent conditions but no more comforting. The orphanage was dingy and dark, and Harry was teased for years by the angry older children for his height and glasses. Harry was pushed around like a rag doll, forced to do all the older children’s chores for years because they didn’t want to do them, and out of fear of being punished like he was in the Dursley home, Harry did them without a fight. Kids from the orphanage came and went, but Harry was one of the only ones who stayed. 

But there was always something peculiar about the abused, orphaned Harry Evans - more peculiar than his John Lennon round glasses and his obsessive love for books. Harry can’t remember when it started exactly, but for as long as he can remember, he’s always been able to do strange things. From his hair growing over night to his glasses cracking on his face when he got angry, things have always happened around Harry and no one has ever been able to explain them. The worst one was when Harry was almost 13 and he’d read in an out-of-date newspaper from the library about a house fire in Privet Drive, Surrey, perishing a family of three. Harry had been so shocked, angry and scared that he’d set alight the wardrobe in his bedroom. The wooden block had burst into a glory of orange flames, almost burning the whole room apart. It had taken three of the older children to put it out and the fire brigade had been called. The room was in ruins, the walls and ceiling stained with black soot, the wardrobe a circus of burnt skeletal wood and ash. Harry had been given his worse punishment he’s ever had in the home: bleaching all of the floors in the home. He’d burnt his hands and knees, the skin red and raw and bloody when he’d finished. He missed four days of school when Sylvia made him do it, and it was only his abnormal, strange abilities that had enabled his hands to heal enough over night that they simply looked like they’d been scraped and skimmed from a fall. 

As he gets older, Harry’s ability grows behind closed doors. He doesn’t know what it is, but he slowly begins to discover what he is capable of. He practices in his room, wishing for things across the room to come to him, imagining them moving into his hand and marvelling when they do. It’s his little secret, his thing that is his and something he doesn’t have to share. There isn’t a lot in the home that is personal, but this was finally something Harry had to himself. 

Harry attends public school in London, and the biggest difference from the schools in Surrey is the lack of Dudley and his gang. For the first time in his life, Harry makes friends. From his time with Dudley and his buddies and the kids at the home, Harry never understood what it was like to have relationships with kids his own age.

When he’s 13, Harry meets Teddy, whose real name is actually Edward but has gone by 'Teddy' since he was a child. Teddy is new to the school when Harry first meets him, and the pair hit it off the moment Mrs Tomsett sits them together in English class. When Harry found out Teddy lives with his grandfather, Harry felt somewhat of a connection between them from their similarity in their lack of parents. While Teddy’s were alive, he didn’t actually live with them anymore.

Their friendship is sealed five months after Teddy moves to the school when one lunchtime the pair are sitting on the field alone under a large tree when Teddy sneezes suddenly and his nose is replaced with a pigs. Harry had screamed, falling back on the grass is surprise. Teddy had blushed so red he matched the maroon jumper he was wearing. He switched back a moment later, but the damage was done and Harry had seen. Out of guilt, to make Teddy feel better, Harry had made the juice in Teddy’s bottle bubble. With the pairs biggest secrets revealed, Harry had never felt closer to someone. 

As he grows, Harry becomes more in-tuned with his abilities, discovering more and learning how to control them. There’s little to no outbursts by the time he’s 16.

 

It’s a Sunday in October 1996 when Harry is at the pub in South London that he’d been working at since the beginning of August. Sylvia demands the children of the orphanage to have jobs when they turn 16 to contribute to bills and pay for all their own expenses, hence why three days after his 16th birthday Harry got a job at a local library and then a pub owned by a school friend whose father hired him despite him being underage out of a favour. 

It’s the small hours of the morning, the shift coming to an end as Justin speaks to the last stragglers to leave at the door - the regulars who know how to push the closing time back one minute at a time. The lights have been turned on fully, illuminating the faded boarded floor. Harry stands at the bar, towel drying the freshly clean glasses out of the dishwasher. A small radio plays in the corner, currently blasting out Ini Kamoze's Here Comes the Hotstepper out of its tiny, tin speakers. 

Justin shouts goodbye to the customers before he’s closing the pub door firmly and locking it. He turns back to the room and heads towards the bar, rolling his eyes when Harry looks at him.

"Those bloody blokes," he swears, picking up a few glasses left on a table in the corner. "They sure damn do push their luck. Thought they were never going to leave!"

Harry snickers and takes the glasses, putting them in the dishwasher to run. "Saturday night wouldn’t be the same if they didn’t come in."

"True," Justin muses, leaning on his palms against the bar. "I swear when they come in we close later and later each week. It’s almost one in the morning, despite the fact that the pub closes officially at 12am every night. "It’s gonna be a late one, kid. Do you need to dash off or. . .?"

"It’s fine," Harry shakes his head, smiling. "Tubes go all night."

Justin reaches over and squeezes his shoulder. "Thank you, lad. You’re a champ. We should be out by half past if we work fast. I’m going to take the rubbish out, could you start on cleaning the tables?"

"Sure."

Harry finishes wiping the last of the glasses and puts the dishwasher on clean before he grabs a fresh damp cloth and sets about wiping down the tables that are sticky with spilled alcohol. As he goes, he puts the chairs on the tables he’s finished cleaning in preparation for the sweeping and moping. He bops and hums to the song on the radio playing: Curtis Mayfield’s Move On Up. With all the tables wiped down and clean, Harry tosses the dirty rag into sink over the bar and grabs the mop and bucket from the cupboard. 

Justin comes back in, cursing about the cold. 

"Ah," he says, going to the till, "Good idea. I bloody hate moping."

"I know, that’s why I’m doing it," Harry teases.

"You little cheek," Justin replies, but he’s smiling. 

It takes five minutes to mop the span of floor - Harry has always been a pro at cleaning since he did it for the Dursley’s and the children’s home. He wrings out the dirty mop before flushing the used water and putting it back in the cupboard. 

Justin is cashing up the till, counting the coins and writing them down in the book as he does religiously every night. Harry shoves the dirty tea-towels and wash cloths into a plastic bag after he’s wiped down the bar for the final time so Justin can take them home to wash. 

"Here," Justin says, handing Harry a sealed white envelope. "Sorry it’s late again, kiddo. I’ve put some extra in there for the inconvenience."

"You didn’t have to do that," Harry replies.

"I know how much that witch barrels you for rent and such, buddy, so don’t fake it to me. Take the extra and buy yourself something nice, like some food or something."

Harry chuckles and pockets the envelope. "Thanks, Justin."

"No more bloody books, you don’t need anymore."

"Ah, Justin, that is where you are wrong my uneducated friend," Harry drawls, jumping up and sitting on the bar. "For you can never have too many books."

Justin rolls his eyes. "Unfortunately, I know my wife would agree with you on that one."

"How is Eva?" Harry asks. "Derek said she’s had the flu."

"She’s fine now. It’s winter, there’s some awful things going around at the moment," Justin replies, smiling. "I’ll tell her you asked, she’ll appreciate it. Now, get your scrawny ass off my bar and get going. It’s almost one-thirty."

Harry smiles exaggeratedly sweet and hops off the bar. He grabs his rucksack that has his skateboard stuffed inside, one lip of it sticking out the top, and his coat from outback. He shrugs it on over his hoodie - its an old ragged thing he’d got from a charity shop a few years ago, the sleeves frayed and the brown canvas fabric faded and aged, but Harry loves it and despite the fur inside worn thin and almost non existent, it still warms him in the cold October winds. 

"Thanks for this evening, lad," Justin says when he comes back out. "You were a life saviour for starting early, trust Maeve to phone in sick again. I don’t know what I’m going to do with that girl."

Harry chuckles and pulls his rucksack onto his back.

"Have a good week," he says, heading for the door. "I’ll see you Thursday, yeah?"

Justin nods. "See you, kid. Stay safe."

"You too. Adios, amigo!"

Justin salutes with one hand, "Bon voyage, muchacho!"

Justin's laugh follows Harry as he steps out into the cold October wind. The pub is in Kings Cross, so Harry pulls his skateboard out of his bag. He rolls along the empty, dark pavements, pulling out his box of straights and placing one between his lips. He uses the tip of his finger, willing it to ignite the end of the cigarette and it does so with a crackle and a glow of orange. He inhales the nicotine and smoke greedily, feeling the beginnings of the tremors in his hands cease almost immediately. 

He looks at his watch: 1:35AM. In just under seven hours Teddy will be getting home from visiting his parents in Surrey, the teen having been down there for a week. Harry has missed him like he would have missed a limb.

He gets to the underground station within minutes. With the pavements being empty of people and the roads empty of cars, Harry has been able to speed on the tarmac and get to the station twice as fast. 

It takes four minutes to get from Kings Cross to Oxford Circus where Harry switches onto another tube line towards Kensington. He sits on the empty carriage, reading his beaten up paperback of The Catcher in the Rye by J. D Salinger. The train journey takes half an hour, and as Harry sways with the carriage, he ends up spending the last 10 minutes doodling in the inside front cover of the book with a pencil so old and used it’s the length size of his finger. Drawing on the inside covers of books is a habit Harry started doing years ago when he got bored and didn’t have any paper. It’s something he’s become accustomed to do when his mind can congest anymore story and words. This particular book has been read so many times not only are the pages falling out of the spine but the covers are almost completely filled with pencil and pen scribbles. He sits alone, the rumble and scream of the train the only thing he hears as he roughly sketches a fox in he corner of the cover and smokes another cigarette, not even taking it from his lips as he breathes out the smoke through his nose with practice. 

There is an underground stop by the home, so Harry gets off at the closest one and climbs the steps to the city streets. He skates the last stretch to the home, the chilly air nipping at his skin. The wind has drastically dropped since he got on the train in Kings Cross half an hour before so the air is still and cold, silent and eerie, but Harry isn't fazed - this is his normal routine for Thursday to Saturdays when he does shifts at the bar. 

It's gone two in the morning when Harry reaches Augustus London Children's Home. Out of nonchalant bitterness, Harry stubs out his cigarette on the house wall, grinding the ash and tobacco flakes along the brickwork. 

Inside, Harry re-locks the front door with practiced skill. Harry has been deaf in his right ear since he was seven when an ear infection went untreated. By the time he’d managed to convince his school teacher of how much pain he was in and taken to the school nurse, Harry’s hearing was completely gone and impair-able in that ear, and it has been ever since. His other ear is fine, and most of the time he continues as if he had both ears working. But, it often shows it’s colours when he’s in loud places, or when he accidentally lays on his right side and no one can get ahold of him without touching him. Despite this, Harry has mastered the art of sneaking in without making a single sound, even as he leaps up the wooden, rickety stairs, moving through the house as silent as a mouse. 

He dashes into his bedroom, closing the door with the quietest of clicks. The room he was given when he came six years ago looks almost exactly the same: small, empty and plain. The only difference is that there is sheets of paper taped to the wall by the bed and piles and piles of books stacked on the floor. Harry is a very clean person, and also a very private one. He learnt very quickly after moving to the home that nothing is truly yours and nothing can be kept personal in the home. He didn't come with many belongings anyways, not even a weeks worth of clothes - or more specifically, rags that Dudley had grown out of. 

Harry tosses his rucksack on the floor and lays the skateboard on the desk. He crosses the room in a few steps and pulls the curtains that he'd forgotten to open that morning. It's late enough that the streetlight outside his bedroom has turned off, leaving his room glowing only the large, white moon in the sky above. 

Harry looks up at the white orb, and can't help but strangely think that Teddy could be looking at the exact moon out the coach window in that very moment. 

He flops down on the bed, the frame creaking from the aged, cheap wood it’s made of. He lays in his jeans and jumper still, one arm folded behind his head and the other held up, his palm facing the ceiling. In the next moment, a flame is flickering from Harry’s hand, the skin blue as if it’s been dosed in gasoline. It ignites the dark room instantly, colouring the walls a soft, bright orange. The furniture and curl of Harry’s fingers beside the flame cast dancing shadows on the walls and ceiling. 

Harry doesn’t realise how long he is staring at the stuttering flame on his hand until suddenly, there’s a knock on the door. A moment later, it opens and Stan pokes his head in.

"You better get up," he says, "otherwise Sylvia will maim you when she does." 

Stan is a year older than Harry, making him the oldest kid in the home, despite him arriving in the home two years after Harry. The pair are the oldest kids at the home, the rest being at least five years younger than them. Stan had instantly attached himself to Harry when the older kids had shoved him around some, the pair finding comfort in their similarities. Harry never spoke about the conditions he lived in at the Dursley's, but he recognised things in the way Stan acted in the same way Stan recognised them in him. Signs of abuse are clear in the eyes of those who have been on the receiving end. Harry had taught Stan how to survive in the house, what to do to stay out of trouble and to keep the younger kids out of trouble too. 

"I'm up," Harry murmurs, climbing off the bed. 

Stan looks at the jeans and jumper that he is still wearing. "Have you even slept?"

"Of course."

Stan raises an eyebrow. "Really?"

"Take a wild guess."

The older boy rolls his eyes. "It's not healthy, y'know, not sleeping. It can really harm your body, not just now but--"

"But long term too. Heart disease is a growing problem!" Harry finishes, flashing a shit-eating grin as he grabs a pair of clean jeans from his closest. "I know, Stan. You only tell me every morning."

"Yeah, well, if you slept some maybe I wouldn't have to remind you," Stan scolds, watching Harry move around the room. When Harry stands straight, he looks at him. "You look like shit, by the way."

"Thanks, I'm aiming to be on your level by the end of the week."

Stan rolls his eyes again before he disappears from the doorway. Harry dashes into the bathroom and splashes some cold water on his face. He looks up into the mirror. Harry has always been thin, and his permanent sleep-deprivation has made the bags beneath his eyes look like bruises, but people are so used to them now they're natural. People expect him to have tired eyes as they expect him to have a birds-nest of hair on his head. They'd be worried if it was any other way. 

He showers in record time, washing off the bar from the night before off his skin. He dresses in his black skinnies with a tear in the knee from years ago and a  cosy jumper. He grabs his skateboard and rucksack before heading out of the bedroom. 

Downstairs, he finds Stan by the stove, trying to crack an egg on the side of a pan. Harry leaps forward and grabs his wrist.

Stan wordlessly moves away - while he has the best intentions, Stan couldn't cook if his life depended on it, so Harry always take the cooking duties under his belt. If it's anything more than toast or soup, Stan can't do it.

"Is Teddy coming back today?" Stan asks as he fills the toaster with bread and slams the bar down. 

"Yeah. He got back this morning."

"Does that mean you're going to stop moping around now like a kicked puppy?"

Harry flips him off and ducks when he reaches to cuff him. 

Harry cooks enough eggs and sausages to feed an army. He trusts Stan with the toast and cutting some of the fruit while he stacks the sausages on a platter and grabs the juices from the fridge. He's setting down the cartons in the middle of the table when, as if a get opened at the zoo, the kids come pouring in. 

One of them runs straight into Stan, almost knocking the plate of apples out of his hands. He holds it above their heads as he bellows, "Oi, watch where you're going, Rugrat."

"Sorry!"

He sends Harry an exaggerated exasperated expression as he puts the plate on the table. Harry chuckles and goes back to the sausages. 

The kids are loud and boisterous, but breakfast is the only time they can be because Sylvia isn't there. For a woman so observant, she sleeps like the dead until 8:30 every morning, so the kids tend to get their energy out over breakfast so they can behave enough during the day. 

Harry sets down the plate of sausages as Stan sits down next to one of the youngest, piling food onto his own plate. Harry grabs his rucksack from the floor and shrugs it on after his jacket. 

He looks at Stan, "Will you be alright cleaning up?"

Stan nods. "It's cool, I've got my slaves to help me."

Harry knows he's talking about the children, and that he's joking. 

He grins, grabbing a slice of toast and taking a large bite. "Cool. See you later!"

"Don't get yourself killed and say hi to Teddy for me!"

"Will do both!"

Harry runs out and slams the door behind him. He takes another couple of bites of the golden toast before he tosses the rest in an overflowing bin that hasn't been emptied for months. He grabs his skateboard from his bag and leaps on just as it touches the pavement floor. He skates to the station and gets the underground to Islington. 

Living in London has made Harry somewhat of a city kid. He prefers it to Surrey, where the town was small and boring, where everyone knows everyone. In a city like London, it exciting and new, and you rarely see the same stranger twice. 

Back on the pavements of Islington, Harry skates a little further, his heart already racing with excitement. When he gets to Teddy's road, he skates faster. He checks his watch: 9:14 and knows that Teddy's grandfather would have already left for work at the bank, so he doesn't hesitate to leap up the white stones steps and pounds loudly on the door. He shouts, pounding his fist again and again and again like a child. 

The door opens wide a moment later and Harry doesn't hesitate, the moment he sees the flash of bright blue hair he's leaping and tackling Teddy in a bear hug. 

"Teddy-cake!" Harry shouts. 

Teddy is taller than Harry and built with more muscle instead of bone, so he catches Harry with little stumble and hugs him back just as tight. He spins Harry around like a romantic film moment, his height preventing Harry's feet from touching the ground. 

"Harry-kins," Teddy replies, "I'll take it you've missed me."

Harry jumps down, brushing his hair off his forehead. "Not at all. What gave you that impression?"

Teddy flicks him on the forehead and Harry gasps. 

He flicks him back.

"Ouch!"

"Of course I missed you, you big oaf."

Teddy rolls his eyes. "Everyone is big compared to you."

"Harsh."

"But true!"

Harry grumbles and picks up his skateboard from the floor, closing front door behind him. "Oh, shut up and put the damn kettle on!"

"Yes, mum," Teddy replies, heading into the kitchen. 

"And don't sass me either, Mister, or you'll get 20 spanks and no dinner!"

Teddy's laugh is loud and roars through the wooden-floored home. Harry follows him into the kitchen diner and climbs onto one of the bar stools while Teddy flicks the kettle on and grabs two mugs. 

"So, how was Surrey?" Harry asks, eating a grape from the fruit bowl on the side. 

Teddy shrugs one shoulder. "It was alright. No matter how often I go I'll never get used to the quietness of a town. My parents are good, though."

"That's good," Harry nods, taking another grape. "You're mum's hair still pink?"

Teddy nods. "Like bubblegum."

"Mad. Still, at least it makes your neon blue hair not look so outrageous."

"Fuck off," Teddy laughs. "My blue hair is my best feature, beats your birds-nest any day."

"My birds-nest is original."

"It's a mess," Teddy corrects, handing him a steaming mug of black coffee. "Hey, y'don't have a ciggy I can have, do you? Haven't been able to have one for the last week and I'm actually going to chew a finger off if I don't have one soon."

Harry laughs at the statement and fishes out his cardboard box from his coat pocket. With practice, he pulls out two straights and grabs his lighter from the other pocket. 

Teddy snatches one and the lighter with desperation and lights it before it even reaches his lips. He scurries to the kitchen window and opens it wide, exhaling the smoke with a moan.

"Yes. Yes, that's the stuff."

"Jesus, don't orgasm too hard, might break your last braincell," Harry says, lighting his own with the tip of his finger. He exhales, feeling the familiar buzz of a first morning cigarette. He looks at Teddy, half hanging out the kitchen window. "You're such an idiot. And give me back my damn lighter, you buffoon!"

Teddy tosses it over his shoulder and stands straight, keeping his hand out the window. 

"You know my grandad doesn't like us smoking in the house."

Harry rolls his eyes but Teddy knows he's not being an ass, Harry loves Teddy's grandad, Edward, as much as his own family. The amount of times Ed has given Harry a place to crash for days on end when he was just too mentally exhausted to withstand Sylvia or the home. Edward is the closest thing Harry has ever had to a father. 

Harry opens the french doors in the dining room out onto the garden decking. He sits on the steps and takes a drag and Teddy comes over and sits beside him. 

"My parents want to come down here in a couple of weekends to see me," Teddy says, looking out over the garden. 

Harry's head turns to him, eyebrows raised. He's surprised: in all the years he's known Teddy and Edward, Teddy's parents have never come to London. It's strange, and Harry has never understood why but Teddy has never had the guts to ask anyone why it's the way it is, so Harry hadn't pressed either. 

"How'd you feel about that?" Harry asks, draining the still scalding-hot mug of coffee. 

Teddy shrugs one shoulder. "I don't know. They've. . . they've never really shown interest in coming here and now they're just. . . coming. I mean, it's not even for a special occasion."

"Is that really the problem, that they don't have a special reason to come here?"

"No. No, it. . . I don't even know. I don't even know what's wrong. It just feels weird, it feels wrong for them to be here."

"I'm sure they'll be able to deal with the home you live in, you high-class ponce," Harry teases. 

Teddy raises an eyebrow. "High-class what?"

"A p—"

Harry is cut off by Teddy grabbing him by the shoulders and dragging him to the floor. He yelps in surprise, almost dropping his cigarette as Teddy wrestles him on the ground. 

"A what?" He shouts, laughing. "What did you call me?"

"A— ow! A ponce— Te-Teddy, shit! Stop! N-no tickling! Stop-p!"

Harry withers and thrashes on the floor as Teddy attacks his ribs with wiggling fingers, turning him to a screaming fit of hysterics. 

"S-sto-op!"

"What's the magic work?"

"P-p! Ah! P-piss off!"

 "Na-uh," Teddy sings. 

"Oh, fuck! P-please! Please! Stop-p!"

Teddy stops as once, sitting back on his heels and looking down at the boneless puddle that is his breathless best friend on the floor. 

Harry looks up at him. "You're a monster."

Teddy winks. "Raw."

 

They leave with Teddy's arm around Harry's shoulder and a skip in their strides. Harry never has to wonder why people think Teddy is Harry's older sibling, despite the blue-haired teen being only a few months older than Harry, his towering height and broad shoulders add to his age while Harry's shortness, messy child-like hair and thin limbs make him look more 14 than 16. While Teddy could easily get served in a shop for alcohol Harry would be like if he could buy a parental guardian movie. 

They head to a skatepark in Lambeth, where their school group hangs out daily despite having finished school a few months before. 

They don't do much apart from slump on one of the outside ramps, lounged around. They smoke and talk, watch the skaters and bikers and often have goes themselves. It's out of the local city attractions, half underground on the rivers edge. Every inch of the wall is covered in some kind of graffiti in every colour under the sun.

Harry spends ages trying to teach Stevie how to roll cigarettes, but her clumsy fingers can't get the hang of it and the thing ends in hysterics when she licks the paper and ends up licking up half the tobacco. 

"Shit," she whines, coughing and chucking down the ruined, crumpled paper and filter. "Screw that."

Teddy is still howling with laughter and Harry and Derek are close to tears. 

Stevie glares at them all. "You're such a bunch of asses."

"That was an appalling attempt at rolling," Derek laughs. 

Stevie flips him off before grabbing his hand and yanking him up. "Come on. I want chips."

Derek rolls his eyes but gets up with her anyways. As they walk off Harry lays down with his head in Teddy's lap and looks up at the blue-haired teen. 

"Want a rollie?"

"Only if you do a better job than Stevie."

Harry grins. Stevie and Derek are a duo in the group that switch from having the relationship of bickering siblings to non-romantic lovers within seconds. There's absolutely no chemistry, with Stevie's rock-band grunge look and Derek's well-kept private school upbringing, it's a wonder they get along at all.  Stevie is loud and rude, with a wickedly dark sense of humour to match her black clothes and dark makeup. She was brought up in Harlesden, a few blocks from Harry on the similar gritty streets, in a large family with a single parent and a tight income. Derek, on the other hand, was raised in Kensington, in a clean, large semi-detached house. He dresses like he could either be going to a business meeting or a English lecture, with his buttoned collars and pea-coat jacket. He's an only child, and his parents spoil him like the sun shines out of his ass. 

Harry rolls two perfect hand-made cigarettes and they both smoke them by the time Stevie and Derek are back with two large portions of chips. 

"Look who we found!" Stevie shouts, and Harry instantly spots Shaun behind them. 

Shaun is like Teddy - middle ground. They're neither poor nor rich, tramp nor posh. They grew up in normal homes with semi-normal families. They didn't have a lot, but they had food in the cupboards everyday and clean clothes to wear to school. 

Hey, Teddy-cake and Harry-kins," he greets, dropping down in the circle and crossing his legs. Stevie and Derek set down the chips and Stevie instantly drowns one of them in tomato ketchup. 

Through a mouthful of chips, Shaun adds, "How was your folks, Teddy?"

"They're good," Teddy nods. "Same old, same old."

"Where's Kyle?"

All eyes fall to Harry, who'd gotten his paperback book from his back pocket and had been reading while munching on chips. He lowers his book and looks at them all. 

"He's got a new girl friend, so he's most likely with her," Harry replies. 

"Ooo!" Stevie coos, "Do you know her name?"

"No, he just told me a few days ago when I was at his that he'd been seeing this girl," Harry explains. "She's not from London, though."

"I wonder what you were doing at his," Shaun teases, and Harry tosses a chip at him, hitting him in the eye and causing him to cry out. 

"I've been shot!" He wails, falling backwards and almost knocking Stevie over, clutching his face. 

Harry lays back down on Teddy's lap, the latter playing with his hair unconsciously. While the group talk, Harry loses himself once again in his book. 

 

They disband at dinner time. Everyone goes home as the sun has already begun to set across the city skyline, everyone apart from Harry and Teddy, whom  stays out with Harry as he isn't ready to go back to the orphanage. 

Like most evenings, the pair walk around London, one of them sometimes skating on Harry's board while the other walks beside it. Teddy drags Harry into one of the back-street record stores. He flicks through records, and Harry stands beside him, gnawing on his thumb nail.

His eyes catch a record and he still’s Teddy’s hand. He pulls it out.

"This," he says, "is the best piano score to date."

Teddy takes it, looking at the cover quizzically. "Who is Ahmad Jamal?"

"A legendary pianist," Harry answers. 

"Of course you’d give me a piano score," Teddy laughs, ruffling Harry’s hair, "You little piano prodigy."

"Piss off."

"I bet you couldn’t play piano like. . ." he reads the name with squinted eyes, "Ahmad Jamal." 

"Not in my wildest dreams," Harry agrees. 

Harry has played piano since he was 11 when he started secondary school and in his first music lesson, fell in-love with the feeling of the keys beneath his fingertips. His music teacher at the time, Mr Gent, had given Harry lessons every week and run to the music room for an hour after school whenever he wished. He said Harry had a natural 'nack' for playing, and his long, slender fingers giving him an advantage to dancing on the keys. It was Mr Gent who pushed Harry to pursue music in college.

They wander around for as long as they can, but when it gets to eight o’clock, Teddy has to go home before Edward starts to worry. Harry walks him to the tube station before he takes his own long, slow and leisure walk home. It’s dark and the temperature drops so rapidly Harry is shivering before he knows it and his hands are so cold he doesn’t even risk or attempt bringing them out of his pockets to smoke a cigarette. 

When Harry gets in, it’s almost 11. He goes inside slowly, quiet like he was the night before. His stomach growls so he goes into the kitchen in search for something small to grab, when he finds Stan sitting at the table.

Harry slumps against the doorframe. "Hey."

Stan smiles at him, "Hey, kiddo."

Harry rolls his eyes. "You know I hate it when you do that. We’re only 11 months apart."

"Deal with it, kiddo," Stan replies. He looks at the clock on the wall. "I’m surprised, I thought I’d be waiting till well after midnight to scold you for being out so late on a school night."

"Jesus, mum, you never normally wait up," Harry frowns. "What’s the difference tonight?"

"There’s been a terrorist attack a couple of towns over," Stan replies. "It was on the news today. Was just checking you were okay."

Harry grins cheekily. "Aw, be careful, Stan. Or I might start thinking you care."

"What a disaster that will be," Stan sighs, standing up. 

"Hey, seriously though, thanks for handling dinner. I’ll do the dishes to make up for it."

Stan smiles, "Why do you think I left them?"

"You’re such an asshole," Harry scoffs.

Stan points to the fridge, "I left a plate in there for you. You should eat it before you waste away."

Harry flips him off, but doesn’t duck in time to avoid the cuff to the back of the head.

After he’s done the dishes and scoffed down the small plate of food, he goes upstairs and collapses into bed. The lack of sleep and days events catch up to him and he’s asleep before he even has time to open his book.

 

— tbc.