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A Life That We Share (I Owe It All to You)

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Harry keeps hopefully looking towards the door of the school every few seconds and then sighing once he realizes no one is walking out of it. He raises up on the balls of his feet to better see over the crowd as if his evident impatience will cause time to move quicker or for his son to come bounding out of the double doors.

 

He has gotten here too early again in an effort to keep his day on track, and as a result he’s had to endure listening to the dull exchanges of the other parents who are also there early waiting for the dismissal bell to go.

 

He reminds himself for the hundredth time that he needs to start leaving work later in order to avoid this. He tells himself that nearly every single day, and yet here he is again wishing he didn’t have to hear Charlotte’s mother go on and on about whatever it is this time that’s got her complaining.

 

The wind is cold as it picks up again, causing Harry to shudder and curse himself for not wearing something other than the thin shirt with the equally thin sleeves that he pulls tight over his knuckles. Oliver had tried to walk out of the house this morning with nothing on but a t-shirt as well. He had put up a strong, seven-year old fight about the coat that Harry made him wear in the end. The seasons have been playing tug-of-war for weeks. It’s obvious that winter is winning though, and also that Harry was right to make his son put something heavier on to keep him warm.

 

Harry ducks his face from the chilled breeze just as the bell rings. The inside of the building has been pretty quiet for the last few minutes, but now it’s bustling with the sounds of teachers and hundreds of pairs of small feet rushing towards the exit.

 

Oliver never makes it out first, so Harry doesn’t look for him as soon as the doors get propped open and the first wave of kids come out in search of their parents. The crowd starts to thin as teachers send their students home, so Harry steps forward, looking for his son along the group that’s just making it through the door. Harry spots his son coming towards him along with the coat that he mentally high-fives himself for making him wear.

 

He waves at Oliver and fondly shakes his head at the way he seems to always be straggling behind each day at pick-up. He’s quiet and a bit smaller compared to other boys in his class, so it’s not unusual for him to end up at the back of the line, but he’s never looked quite as small as he does today with the way he’s close and tucked into his teacher’s side as she walks him over.

 

Harry’s eyes do a quick sweep of his son’s body, making sure all of his essential limbs and appendages are still attached when Oliver glances up and his face is all pink like it always is whenever he’s been crying.

 

His teacher gives him a solemn yet understanding sort of grin when she sees the worry all over his face. Oliver leaves her side to go stand with him, turning his face away to watch everyone else leave rather than greeting his father with a smile like he does every other day.

 

“He was alright this morning, but he had a bit of a rough afternoon. I tried to find out what got him so upset, but he doesn’t seem to want to talk to me about it. Maybe he’ll talk to you?” she says with a hopeful lift in her voice before waving them goodbye.

 

Harry nods and offers her a thank you as an afterthought, still very much concerned about the little boy who hasn’t said a word where he’s trying to hide in the shadow that Harry casts along the ground.

 

“Do you want me to carry your backpack?” Harry asks. He feels better when Oliver nods and shrugs it off of his shoulders. Oliver sneaks his hand into Harry’s without a word.

 

They begin the five block walk home and get about a quarter of the way there before Harry can conjure up the courage to ask anything else.

 

“Do you have homework for tonight?” He gets a nod as an answer which is better than nothing. “Did you remember to wear your coat when you went out for recess?” He gets another affirmative nod, so Harry stops stalling with the easy questions and goes right for the kill. “Do you want to tell me what happened at school today to make you upset?” he asks quietly.

 

He feels Oliver’s grip tighten around his hand. He shakes his head ‘no’ and offers no explanation as to why his eyes are all puffy.

 

Harry can’t let them go home like this; not with Oliver refusing to speak and Harry losing his mind wondering what horrible thing has happened to his son. He racks his brain for a solution and comes up with none, so he asks the only other question he can think of that might make them both feel better.

 

“Would you like some hot chocolate?”

 

It takes a couple of seconds for him to respond, but soon Oliver’s head is nodding, his grip around his dad’s hand loosening a considerable amount as they head towards the warmth of the shop a couple of streets over.

*

Harry plies them both with large mugs full of pure sugar, grinning as he watches Oliver pour in more marshmallows than is probably necessary. They drink in silence for the most part, but eventually Oliver starts to act more like himself. He starts talking a bit, challenging his dad to see how many marshmallows they can fit into their mouths as well as trying to convince Harry to let him have a refill. He allows it, only because he looks so happy after he gets another steaming mug full of chocolate. Harry uses his son’s change in mood to his advantage, ambushing him when he least expects it.

 

“We’re having fun, right, Ollie?” Harry asks watching as Oliver stacks a column of marshmallows nearly twice the height of his mug.

 

“Yes. We always have fun,” he answers, carefully adding one more level to his tower. He smiles at his work when it remains standing despite the way it’s leaning to one side.

 

Harry’s heart warms hearing his son speak that way about the time they spend together. It makes him feel like even more of a dick for what he’s about to do.

 

“And you usually have fun at school too, yeah? You love school don’t you?” Oliver nods, trying his luck with adding another marshmallow to his structure. It comes toppling down when Harry pushes with, “Then, what happened to make school not so fun today, Ollie?”

 

Oliver looks down at his marshmallow tower, all broken and dismantled. He sinks back against his seat and looks every bit as sad as he had earlier when Harry picked him up. He shrugs when he meets Harry’s eyes again, but Harry isn’t letting him off that easy, pushing for his son to talk to him.

 

“I don’t want to get them in trouble,” he mumbles. “It’ll only make them hate me more,” he whispers.

 

Harry takes a deep breath, reminding himself to stay calm in the face of his child. He figured it had something to do with the other kids at school, but he’s still angry hearing it be confirmed.

 

“What happened?” Harry asks, minding his tone and the way he’s squeezing the handle of his mug.

 

“Nothing,” Oliver says. “They just don’t like me.”

 

“Love, that’s not true. Why do you think that?”

 

Oliver is a great kid. Harry can’t believe that anyone would think anything less of him. Harry can feel his stomach twisting around at the hurt in his son’s tiny voice when he shrugs and says, “Because they told me.”

 

It hurts; the realization that his son is having to go through the same thing he had to endure in school. He was never popular. He was never anyone’s first choice for teams whenever they played and Harry often had to entertain himself when they had recess, but he never thought that his child would end up sharing his fate. Oliver is amazing. He’s intelligent and funny and thoughtful and the absolute best person that Harry knows. He can’t believe that no one else sees it.

 

“Which kids? What are their names? Is it just the boys?” Harry demands, “I’m going to talk to your teacher tomorrow.”

 

Harry has half a mind to turn right back around and go talk to her today, but he figures she’ll have left by now. The fire in his chest dies out when Oliver softly asks him not to.

 

“Please don’t,” he begs with wide eyes that would ordinarily get him whatever he wants. Harry is very tempted to give in.

 

“Why not? You had an awful day because of them. You were unhappy at school and these kids made you cry, Ollie. I have to let her know,” Harry tries to reason with him. His son still shakes his head no to protest.

 

“They’ll just say I’m a baby.”

 

Harry cringes, remembering how the boys in his class used to call him the same name whenever he told someone about how mean they were. It’s hard to believe that after all these years that kids haven’t gotten any more original in the way they can hurt someone.

 

“I have to at least let her know what’s going on, love. I won’t go make a big deal, but I can’t just let it go either.”

 

Oliver sighs like his words are the worst news he’s ever heard. He doesn’t even want to finish the rest of his hot chocolate or rebuild his marshmallow tower afterwards, glancing up, barely even meeting his dad’s eyes when he quietly asks if they can go home.

 

*

Harry tries his best to keep his word to his son the next day when he walks Oliver into the building. He has to be at work soon, so he doesn’t have a lot of time to really discuss what’s going on with his teacher. He watches as Oliver gets started unpacking his things and then discreetly calls the teacher over to inform her that his son is being picked on by some of the boys in the class.

 

It feels just as immature and petty coming out of Harry’s mouth as it did when he said it for the first time nearly twenty years ago, but she assures him that she’ll keep an eye out for any signs of bullying from now on and put an end to it.

 

Harry doesn’t expect a miracle when he picks Oliver up later that day, but he didn’t think he’d still look so sad either. His eyes aren’t red so he doesn’t look as though he’s been crying today, but he still looks upset when he walks over to take Harry’s hand.

 

“How was today?” Harry asks when they’re a safe distance from the school and no one can overhear them. “Were those boys any nicer to you?”

 

“They didn’t say anything mean today.”

 

Harry feels a bit of relief from that, but it’s not enough to put him at ease. Not when his son looks this way.

 

“Then, what happened?” he asks, knowing that something must have.

 

“We played football at recess. Nobody wanted me on their team,” he admits after a few moments of silence.

 

It feels like someone has just punched Harry in the gut from how familiar it sounds.

 

“Did you tell the teacher?” Harry asks, not knowing if it’s better or worse to have him tattle-tale at this point.

 

“She saw and made them include everybody, but I told her I didn’t feel well, so I wouldn’t have to play. I know they didn’t want me to anyway.”

 

Harry’s feelings have never been hurt more than when kids used to point out how awful he was at sports and then made him feel even worse by refusing to let him even attempt to play.

 

He’s torn, knowing that forcing the boys to play with Oliver will only make it worse, but he can’t let his son come home upset everyday either.

 

He has no clue how to handle this. His parents never did either, so Harry just learned to ignore it. He doesn’t want to tell his son to do that, but for right now he’s out of other ideas.

 

“We can play football together after homework,” Harry tells him with a playful nudge that puts the shadow of a tiny grin on his son’s face. “Hopefully tomorrow will be a bit better,” he says, praying that it will.

 

 

Every day that passes during the next week is worse than the one before. One day the boys didn’t want him on their football team and the next day they just didn’t speak to him at all.

 

They aren’t technically bullying his son. They aren’t attacking him, but they are isolating him, and honestly, that’s just as bad. It hurts Oliver’s feelings and makes him think there’s something wrong with him even though Harry reminds him every day and night about how incredibly special he is.

 

Harry’s looking into switching him to another school one night when Oliver comes into the living room and quietly asks to have his hair cut. His question makes something tight clench around Harry’s heart as his eyes fall to the beautiful curls framing his son’s face.

 

Their hair is pretty much identical except for the fact that Harry keeps his pretty long. His son has never mentioned disliking his hair before, so Harry wastes no time trying to figure out what has changed all of a sudden. Anger boils up inside of Harry when Oliver says that the other boys were laughing at it, and that is the very last straw.

 

Harry goes into the school on Monday and informs the front office that today is going to be Oliver’s last. He tells Oliver too so he knows that today is the last time he’ll ever have to deal with these boys being awful to him. He looks as relieved as Harry had hoped he would, but also a bit sad when he waves his father goodbye.

 

 

It’s cold and windy again as Harry waits outside of the school for his son. The bell rings and the double doors are propped open just like they are every other day, but instead of Harry having to wait for the crowd to disperse to see him, Oliver comes running out of the building at full speed, barreling into his legs as he hugs Harry hello.

 

His sudden burst of energy, although refreshing, takes Harry by surprise as he staggers back. He laughs when he sees the bright, happy smile on Oliver’s face, knowing that they’ve made the right choice by moving him to another school.

 

“Well, hello there,” Harry chuckles, stepping back to see the way his son’s face is all lit up.

 

“Hi, daddy!” he says, happily placing his small hand in his like he hasn’t a care in the world.

 

“You’re excited because it’s your last day here, I guess?” Harry laughs. He stops when his son scoffs and shakes his head.

 

No,” he grins. “I made a new friend today!” he exclaims. Harry blinks down at his son to watch his eyebrows crinkle together. “Dad, do I really have to change schools?” he asks, sounding like that’s the last thing he wants to do.

 

Harry is at a loss as he starts them walking again.

 

“Er- I thought you wanted to move because of the other boys, Ollie. It’s great that you made a new friend, but aren’t those mean boys still giving you problems?” Just a couple of nights ago the child wanted to shave his head before having to face his peers again, and now he looks devastated at having to leave. “Who’s this new friend again?” Harry asks, intrigued at this complete transformation that has taken place in just one school day. Oliver is all too happy to tell him as he smiles.

 

“Daniel! He just moved here. He’s in my class and he’s so cool. He has a Star Wars lunch box and he’s really nice and he’s good at football, like really good, Dad. Everyone wanted him to be their friend today. The mean boys wanted him to be their friend too, but Daniel didn’t talk to them. He only talked to me,” Oliver beams, sounding so proud of his new friend already.

 

Harry is happy for his son, ecstatic even, but he’s wary all the same. This Daniel kid seems too good to be true; he even has a Star Wars lunch box for fuck’s sake. He’s glad that someone in his class has shown his son some kindness, but he’s still not sure about it all. He doesn’t know if seven year olds are capable of befriending someone as a cruel joke, but he really, really hopes not.

 

“Your new friend sounds amazing,” Harry smiles down at his son.

 

*

 

Oliver asks to stay at his current school, and although Harry is still skeptical about the whole thing, he allows it. Every day he picks his child up from school and every day Oliver entertains him with some new fact or cool thing that Daniel did or said.

 

Apparently he’s the best in art and always tells Ollie that he’s the best in music. He has a pair of white shoes that his father lets him draw on in Sharpie and he told the other boys that curly hair is the best because hardly anyone else has it.

 

The most impressive thing that Harry has heard was when the other boys formed football teams at recess again and wanted to leave Oliver out, so Daniel decided to make his own team and only let Oliver be on it.

 

Harry wouldn’t even have the balls to do that sort of thing now and he’s a grown man. He never would have been able to stand up to his classmates that way when he was younger, and sadly Oliver has followed in his footsteps. Harry didn’t have close mates until he was older. He’s glad that Oliver has someone looking out for him now.

 

Harry still gives it a couple of weeks just to see where this mysteriously magnificent child’s intentions lie before calling the school he was going to transfer Oliver to and telling them never mind.

 

It’s a Thursday when his son comes bounding out of school towards him with a piece of notebook paper clenched in his fist.

 

“Daniel asked his dad if I could come over one day after school and he said yes! This is his phone number. You’re supposed to call him and tell him that I can.”

 

His son all but shoves the piece of paper into his hand as he waits for an answer. The other kids in his class have never invited him anywhere, not even the girls, so Harry knows that he must be excited.

 

“Well, I guess I better call him up soon then,” Harry tells him before taking Oliver’s hand to start the journey home.

 

 

Harry has no idea why he’s feeling so nervous later that night as he dials the string of numbers that are so crinkled up and faded from how tight Oliver had been clinging to them that he has to squint to make some of them out.

 

Oliver has talked his new friend up so much that Harry is pretty much in awe of him too; he can only imagine what Daniel’s father must be like for him to have raised such a kid.

 

The phone starts ringing and Harry can’t decide on what exactly to say to the parent of the child that has essentially saved his son from the stress of starting over at a new school. He thinks a simple thank you would go a long way, but he decides against it at the last minute when someone finally answers.

 

“Hello?” the unfamiliar voice asks.

 

Harry can hear a show or a movie playing in the background and a muffled shifting sound like the man who answered has just wedged the phone between his ear and his shoulder to multitask. Harry hopes that he hasn’t called at a bad time.

 

“Hi. I’m Harry Styles. May I speak with, uh-?” Harry shakes his head when he realizes he doesn’t even know this man’s name. Their kids were so eager to hang out outside of school that neither child thought to give Harry the name of the person he was instructed to call as soon as possible. He chooses another approach. “I’m Harry. I got your number today from Oliver who got it from Daniel…They swear that they’re telling the truth, but I think you said it’d be okay for Ollie to come over sometime this week? I’m just checking to make sure before I say yes.”

 

Dishes continue to clang and clatter in the background, and Harry wonders if the man even heard him, but then, “Right, you’re Oliver’s dad.” Harry’s eyebrows shoot up from the tone of familiarity in his voice. “It’s nice to talk to you finally. My son thinks your son is like, the coolest person ever. It’s all he ever talks about.”

 

Harry grins a little, happy that Oliver has found such a good friend who thinks the world of him.

 

“I know what you mean. Ollie hasn’t stopped raving about Daniel’s shoes or his amazing football skills since you moved here,” he chuckles.

 

“Oh, God,” the man laughs. “Those shoes are awful; doodles and mud all over them, but the amazing football skills? Now those I’ll lay claim to. Those are all genetic,” he brags.

 

“The lack of coordination and overall clumsiness are all genetics too when it comes to Ollie,” Harry jokes back. He likes Daniel’s dad already. Harry can tell from his voice that he’s a young guy and from the sound of what’s going on over at their house, he’s a little on the frazzled side of things. Harry understands completely. He feels like a mess on most days too.

 

“So, how do you feel about Ollie coming over after school one day so Daniel and I can try to fix all of that lack of coordination?” the man asks. He sounds like he’d be delighted to have Oliver over.

 

Harry has never let Oliver go anywhere by himself unless it’s to his parent’s house or one of his close mates. He knows Oliver is getting older and could most likely handle his first play date alone, but still. It would make Harry feel better to be there at least the first time he goes over to Daniel’s house.

 

“Um, do you think think those football lessons could include me too?” Harry asks, hoping he doesn’t sound crazy for not letting his kid go over to their house without him. He feels less insane when the other man simply laughs into the phone and answers with, ‘the more the merrier and sweatier’.

 

Their conversation comes to an end shortly after their plans have been solidified. Harry is set to pick both boys up from school the next day and then walk them over to Daniel’s. Both men say goodbye as soon as Harry has been given the address. Harry is just about to hang up when he realizes that he’s been talking to this man for nearly twenty minutes and still doesn’t know his name. “H-Hey, wait!” Harry calls to get his attention before he goes.

 

“Need something else?” he asks, sounding a bit amused that Harry has just yelled down the phone at him.

 

“Yeah. Your name please?” Harry asks. A small grin tugs at his lips when he finds out that it’s Louis.

 

*

 

 

The clouds have been threatening rain for hours and look about ready to burst by the time Harry has collected both boys from school the next day.

 

Harry pulls the sleeves of his jacket over his knuckles to shelter them from the cold. Usually, Oliver’s small hand wrapped around his would be warmth enough to keep him from noticing the temperature, however today, Harry and his hands have been abandoned for the little boy with sandy-colored hair happily bouncing along ahead of him.

 

Harry has seen the child on several occasions, but they never officially met until today. He’s always near the teacher when Harry comes to the school, waiting with a couple of other students who get picked up a bit later than Oliver. His curious eyes always acknowledge him when he and Oliver say goodbye each day, often waving Harry goodbye like he’s known him for years.

 

The two of them have been caught up in their own world since they left the school, talking about some new game they played together with some of the boys and even some of the girls at recess. They’ve all been getting along a lot better lately, so it seems; the boys in their class quickly figuring out that if they want to be friends with the cool new kid then they have to play by his rules, which means including his son. Harry couldn’t be more grateful.

 

“We’re almost there!” Daniel informs them, pointing at a building of flats that are only a few blocks away from where he and Oliver live.

 

Harry feels the splatter of tiny raindrops falling against his face right when he says it. The drops only get larger as the seconds pass, so they speed up in order to make it before it starts to pour. Oliver and Daniel both scream and cackle when Harry yells for them to run, his long legs working to catch up with them before they reach the front entrance of the building.

 

Daniel leads the way, laughing along with Oliver at the sounds their shoes are all making as they follow him up the stairs to a door which Harry assumes is his. He knocks a quick beat against the wood, and within a few seconds it’s swinging open to reveal his father standing there in the doorway wearing a smile that immediately puts one on Harry’s face too.

 

“I told you to pick them up not take them swimming,” he says, taking in their appearance. He jumps back a step when Daniel lunges to attack him with a soppy hug, causing the little boy to laugh.

 

“But I missed you,” Daniel giggles as he sits down in the entranceway to start toeing off his shoes and taking off his backpack.

 

“Miss me in ten minutes when you’re dry,” Louis tells his son. Daniel sighs like going to change is a hardship he couldn’t possibly endure, but then he’s getting up to do as his father instructed. “And give your friend Oliver something to wear too so he isn’t cold,” Louis tells him when he notices the water dripping down from his hair.

 

Harry nods and gives an encouraging grin when Oliver glances back at him to make sure it’s okay to tag along when Daniel calls him. His son grins back when he gets the okay and then takes off through the living room to follow his friend.

 

Louis sighs at the trail of water that the boys left in their wake and then turns to Harry and the small puddle he’s currently standing in. His amused eyes zero in on the tight grip Harry has on the sleeves of his jacket and then to the water dripping down the length of his hair.

 

Harry hadn’t planned to be a dripping mess for their first meeting. He wipes his hand against the leg of his trousers in an attempt for it to be somewhat dry for when Louis shakes it, but the man only offers him a kind grin before turning and gesturing for Harry to follow him much like his son did to Oliver just seconds ago.

 

Louis glances over his shoulder at him still standing in his little puddle. “You coming?” he asks, grinning when Harry pushes himself away from the door to follow him.

 

"I’m sorry we’re getting your floors all wet,” Harry offers as they turn into what he guesses is Louis’ room.

 

“It’s just a bit of water. Don’t worry about it,” he says, waving off Harry’s apology as he throws Harry a fluffy towel. “I’m the one who should be saying sorry since you had the job of walking Dan home all by yourself, but I assume everything went well since you’re both alive and the city isn’t burning,” he jokes. “He’s cute, but he can be a handful,” Louis warns like Oliver can’t be just as much to handle when he wants to be.

 

Louis starts digging through his drawers after he does a quick assessment of Harry’s height. He tosses a long-sleeved shirt in his direction followed by a pair of joggers and a balled up pair of thick socks.

 

“Daniel was great,” Harry assures his dad. “He really is an amazing kid.”

 

Louis slides the drawers of the dresser back into place. When he turns around to thank Harry he’s wearing a soft grin full of pride like he already knows just how wonderful his son is.

 

Harry wants to let him know that Daniel has become the absolute best friend that Oliver has ever had, but he doesn’t know how exactly to voice his gratitude. “Thanks for letting Oliver come over today. I’m glad that he and Daniel get along so well. Oliver really needed a friend like him,” he settles on, deciding that it gets the point across without coming on too strong.

 

It’s obvious that Louis doesn’t share in his concern for decorum when he frowns and answers with, “Yeah, Dan told me most of the boys at school are fucking dickheads. Sorry that Oliver’s had to deal with them.” Louis chuckles when he notices the way Harry’s eyes go wide. “Fucking dickheads were my words, not Daniel’s,” Louis grins. “Dan just said that some of the boys weren’t very nice. I know that really means that they’re pricks.”

 

“Well, according to Ollie, Daniel hasn’t had any trouble with them at all. Puts them in their place from time to time too,” Harry smirks.

 

“Yeah, he’s definitely something. I never could bite my tongue as a kid either, but I was mostly just loud and annoying. Danny’s so much more mature and a million times smarter than I ever was.”

 

Daniel seems to be an exact copy of the assertive and self-confident man standing in front of him. Harry often thinks about the similarities between himself and Oliver when he was that age. Harry loves that Ollie is just like him, but he sometimes wishes that he had gotten some of the confidence and backbone that Harry ended up developing much later in his childhood.

 

“I think Oliver may have inherited the parts of me that always made me an easy target as a kid.”

 

Harry tries to smile about his little admission since it’s meant to be a joke, however he can’t help but feel like him and his gene pool are the ones to blame for Oliver having such a rough time in school.

 

“Nah, that’s not true,” Louis grins from where he’s backing out of the room to give him some privacy. “He’s sweet and intelligent, and everybody knows that curly hair is the best.”

 

Louis closes the door behind him and Harry knows that his words shouldn’t make him smile the way they do, but people generally don’t comment about how different his curls are, and whenever they do, they rarely mean it as a compliment like he’s pretty sure Louis just did.

 

 

Harry strips out of his clothes and changes into Louis’ dry ones. They’re a bit short for his long legs, but they’re comfortable and warm, so Harry doesn’t complain. When he makes his way to the kitchen he finds Louis busy at the stove.

 

“It’s too bad it rained, but at least now we have an excuse to drink hot chocolate,” Louis tells him.

 

Harry actually doesn’t mind the rain cancelling their football plans. He’d much rather stay in. He always has.

 

“Yeah, it sucks that we won’t get a chance to play,” Harry agrees, not at all upset about missing the chance to miss goals and end up flat on his ass from how pigeon toed he is.

 

“Don’t fret, mate. The sun’s supposed to be out tomorrow!” Louis says as he hands him a steaming mug, sounding even more enthusiastic than he did on the phone. Harry can’t tell whether or not that’s good or bad.

 

The boys come sprinting into the kitchen a few seconds later looking warm and dry with Daniel latching onto his dad’s waist the moment he spots him. Louis places his mug on the counter before bending down to hug him back just as he promised earlier and drops a few kisses on top of his drying hair.

 

“How was school, love?”

 

“Good,” Daniel answers reaching up to carefully take his mug when Louis has deemed it cool enough. Oliver gets one too, both boys walking at a snail’s pace towards the table so as not to drop them. “We’re learning about food chains and all the stuff animals eat. Did you know that snakes swallow stuff without even chewing it? They just swallow the whole thing. Like, a whole frog sometimes with it’s legs and everything!” he exclaims, greedily scooping his hand into the bowl of marshmallows that Louis sat on the table.

 

“That sounds yummy,” Louis deadpans with a grimace. Harry understands exactly where he’s coming from, the hot chocolate in his hands suddenly losing some of it’s appeal when he imagines what Daniel just described. “What about you, Oliver? How was school?” Louis asks with a kind, encouraging smile.

 

Harry’s pleasantly surprised when Oliver doesn’t even hesitate to answer. He doesn’t usually warm up to new people this quickly, which is why Harry was unsure about letting him come here alone. He guesses that his little boy really is growing up, because Oliver hasn’t actually needed him the whole time they’ve been here.

 

“It was good today,” he says brightly, launching into a further description of all of the animals that a snake could potentially swallow whole if given the chance. Harry really wishes they’d have been excited to share what they did in math today instead of science.

 

Louis sticks his tongue out in a silent gag when the boys lose interest talking to the adults in the room and start discuss who’d win in a battle between a snake and a poisonous spider.

 

“Their interests are gross and morbid as fuck, but the upside is that they love school and will probably end up being richer than we’ll ever be,” he says under his breath.

 

Harry chuckles into his mug, feeling the heat from it warming him from the inside out. He watches Louis for a moment as he starts cleaning up the mess he made in the kitchen.

 

Harry doesn’t know very much about him except the small pieces of information he’s been able to gain in the short amount of time they’ve been around each other. He’s around Harry’s age; possibly a few years older. He isn’t the tidiest person in the world, but he tries most likely for Daniel’s sake. He’s great with his son and from what Harry can tell, a single father like himself since he has never heard anyone mention Daniel’s mother. Harry had figured that Louis was a single parent, but confirmed it for himself when he was in Louis’ bedroom earlier and noticed only one bedside table. Both pillows were on one side of the bed as well, much like Harry’s pillows are at home.

 

“How do you like living here now that it’s been a few weeks?” Harry asks him.

 

Louis finishes up wiping the counter top before facing him with his hip leaned against the cabinets to give Harry his full attention.

 

“It’s good. I really like it. The place we were at before was small and only getting smaller every year with Daniel growing up, so it’s a nice change. I was kind of worried about him having to switch schools and make new friends, but he loved Oliver on day one, so he’s been really happy here too.”

 

That makes Harry feel so relieved to hear. Oliver was set to switch schools on the very day Louis is talking about which would’ve left Daniel to befriend the boys in their class who are so mean. He’s glad that everything ended up working out for the best.

 

He and Louis chat about general things like their jobs and where they grew up as they finish their hot chocolate. Harry doesn’t realize how invested he is in their conversation until his concentration is broken by a random marshmallow that comes flying in their direction to bop Louis on the side on the head.

 

The table across from them erupts in a fit of hushed giggles when Louis jumps out of surprise. Louis bites down on a grin but doesn’t say anything. Harry moves to turn and look at their sons, but Louis gives the slightest shake of his head to tell him to stay put as he keeps talking and starts digging through the cabinets.

 

He knows Daniel must’ve been the one to throw it. Oliver would never be able to aim that well so it had to be his friend. The same friend that Harry can hear whispering ‘Watch this,’ just before two more marshmallows go soaring through the air to hit Louis in the arm.

 

Louis smiles when his hands land on what he’s been searching for overhead.

 

“I know it’s raining outside, but I didn’t realize that it was raining marshmallows. Did you, Harry?” Louis shoves his hand inside to pull out a fistful of his own as the boys fall silent. Harry knows what Louis’ about to do, he can see it written all over his face with the mischievous grin he’s wearing, and Harry still can’t believe it when Louis turns and launches a dozen marshmallows across the room in retaliation.

 

The boys let out shrieks of laughter as they get bombarded with the soft sweets and all Daniel keeps telling Oliver over and over is that he told him so.

 

 

It’s later after the rain has stopped and they’re both full from the pizza that Louis ordered when they start walking home.

 

“Their house is so much fun!” Oliver says as he hops along with his dad.

 

Harry laughs at how hyped up he is from the sugar, but also just getting to hang out with his friend for a few hours. Oliver hasn’t stopped smiling since he picked him up from school today, and oddly enough, Harry notices that there has also been a smile on his face for most of the night as well.

 

“Their house is very fun,” Harry agrees.

 

“Can we go there every day after school?” Oliver asks, his eyes hopeful.

 

Harry chuckles at his son where he’s bouncing on his toes at the thought of it.

 

“I don’t think Daniel’s father would want us there every day, but I’m sure he won’t mind you visiting again sometime.”

 

“Yes!” he cheers at his side making Harry laugh at him again. “And can Daniel come over to our house one day? Can he come over tomorrow?”

 

“That would be fine with me, but we’re already seeing them both tomorrow when we meet them for football, remember?”

 

“Oh yeah,” Oliver’s face lights up from being reminded. “Yes!” he cheers for a second time. Harry shakes his head like he’s ridiculous, but he doesn’t tell his son that having another play date kind of makes him feel like cheering too.