As far back as Harry could remember, he'd seen the necklaces on any adult he was around. Each one was nearly the same, a silver or gold disk with a letter and a colored gem on it. He didn't think much of it, in the same way that he didn't think much of the fact that every day the sun came up and every night he had to take a bath. It was just part of life. He was four years old, and the only thing the really mattered was whether or not his mummy would let him have a PB and J for lunch for the third day in a row.
As he got a bit older, however, he did start to wonder a bit. His mother would clutch her necklace and smile smally to herself occasionally whilst washing the dishes or doing the laundry. Five or ten minutes later, his dad would come through the door, and she'd greet him with a kiss, making Harry cringe slightly. He wondered, but he said nothing, opting to play video games in his room instead of sitting around for their love fest.
On his sister's sixteenth birthday, he awoke to a scream. Donning his dressing gown as quickly as he possibly could, he ran down the stairs and into the living room, only to find her clutching a package to her chest and smiling excitedly. His mum stood with her arms wrapped around his dad's waist and his arm over her shoulder, smiling back at her. “Bloody hell, Gemma, what are you playing at?” Harry croaked, voice still thick with sleep. Anne looked over at him disapprovingly.
Gemma sat on the sofa, placing her package on the coffee table in front of her and opening it carefully. Inside was a long, black velvet jewelry box and a set of papers in a manilla envelope. The rest was filled with air packs, and Harry wondered if the sender of the gift knew they could've saved a ton on packaging by just putting it all in the envelope. His sister cradled the box delicately in her hands, her smile still taking over her face as she stared at it.
“Open it, darling,” Anne said encouragingly, and Harry looked over at her, confused. What was the big deal with this present and how come everyone seemed to already know what it was?
The box made a loud click as it opened and Gemma's trailed a finger across a small disk, similar to the one's he'd seen on other adults... but Gemma wasn't an adult! Gemma was sixteen! Still a kid, like him! Harry's eyebrows furrowed as his mother stepped forward and helped her take the necklace out of the box. Robin's hand gripped his shoulder tightly, and when Harry looked over up at him, he was smiling. “Won't be long til you get yours, son.”
“Necklace, of course!”
Although that explained absolutely nothing, Harry didn't ask another question, choosing to watch his sister and mum instead.
“He's got blue eyes,” Gemma whispered, fingering the pendant against her breastbone. “I always pictured him with blue eyes.”
Anne had tears in her eyes, holding Gemma's face in her hands as she kissed her forehead.
“I wonder what his name is! Maybe Nicolas or Neil.”
“Can someone please explain to me what's going on?” Harry finally asked, wondering if he was actually just entrapped in his mind, still asleep in his bed upstairs while his mind run rampant. Maybe he shouldn't have that extra danish after dinner.
Robin's hand gripped his shoulder again, shaking it slightly as he laughed, which didn't do well to improve his quickly worsening mood.
“I've gotten my soulmate necklace, H!” his sister replied, looking at him like he should be happy for her. He wanted to be, but he was still confused. She smiled at him, patting the spot on the sofa next to her.
When he sat down, she opened the manilla envelope and handed him the papers inside. The stack was about a half-inch thick, but the writing was spaced out oddly, and some of the pages only had a few paragraphs on them.
The first page in the stack had Gemma's name, their address and the date in the upper right hand corner, along with the red seal of Buckingham Palace on the top center of the cream-colored paper. Harry could tell immediately that the paper was expensive, the kind of paper reserved for birth certificates and diplomas, the types of documents to be framed.
Miss Gemma Anne Styles,
Happy birthday, and congratulations on receiving your soulmate necklace. Understand that this is an important milestone in your young-adult life, and that this isn't something to take lightly. Your soulmate necklace will be with you for the rest of your life, through every trial and tribulation, joy and sorrow. Your necklace is your responsibility. If it is lost or stolen, it will not be replaced.
Enclosed you will find a few sets of paperwork. The first bundle will include information about soulmate necklaces and how to discover a few hints about your soulmate. The second bundle are the laws and conditions regarding your necklace. Please read these thoroughly, as every piece of information inside is by order of the Queen. The final bundle of paperwork are those for you to sign. Please read each of these thoroughly as well, as you are signing your name to confirmations and laws.
The letter was signed by the Queen herself, which Harry found extremely odd. Letters from the Palace were usually signed by a Lady in Waiting or someone from Correspondence, but never from the Queen.
He placed the page aside gently, assuming his mother would frame it for Gemma to hang in her bedroom. Everyone was looking at him with a gentle amusement in their eyes, Gemma still playing with her necklace slightly.
“I'm sorry, I still don't quite understand,” Harry said slowly.
Gemma scooted closer, sliding the papers a bit closer to her until they were resting on both of their laps. Heads bend close, Gemma showed him the next page, explaining it to him slowly.
“You see, every person in the world gets a necklace when they turn sixteen from the leader of their country. Ours come from the Queen, America gets theirs from their President, Japan gets theirs from their Emperor, etc. The necklaces help you find your soulmate,” Gemma said.
Harry was following thus far, and it made a bit of sense, the few things he'd witness regarding the necklaces on adults. His mom holding hers before his father got home, strangers in the streets touching each other's necklaces as they cried and embraced. His mom always smiled at those strangers and he supposed he understood why. They'd found their soulmates. “But how does the necklace help? It just looks like a regular necklace to me.”
“Well, it is and it isn't,” Anne spoke up. “Everyone's necklace is different as each give you clues about your soulmate. After you've gone through all your clues, it's kind of just a plain necklace until it starts getting warm.”
“Yeah, H, that's the best part!” Gemma replied excitedly. “When your soulmate is near you, the necklace gets warm. This could be on the day you're Fated to meet, or maybe just a day that your Paths Cross. It's all up to Fate, really, but after your meeting, it's in your hands.”
“Alright,” Harry responded. “And the clues?”
Gemma flipped to the next page, which showed a black and white diagram identical to the necklaces his parents, and now sister, were all wearing. Arrows pointed to various parts of the necklace, describing what Gemma was now starting to explain.
“The chain and disk tell you their gender, so because mine's silver, it means my soulmate is a male. If the chain is gold, it's a female.” Harry looked to everyone's necklaces. Gemma's was silver, his mother's was silver, and Robin's was gold, following what Gemma said. He wondered what color his would be.
“The gemstone is the color of your soulmate's eyes, and the letter is their first initial. My soulmate's name starts with an N, and he has blue eyes.”
“So that's all you've got to go on? What if you find some blue-eyed lad with some other N name that isn't your soulmate?” The whole thing seemed rather silly to Harry. Sure, he was a real hopeless romantic and the idea of soulmates was amazing, but the necklace seemed a bit fickle and dumb to him.
Anne laughed. “That's why it gets warm, darling.”
“It gets warmer as you get closer. When you're touching, it's nearly burning, but not enough to hurt you. Kind of like a really hot shower, but only against one part of your skin... And not as wet.”
Harry still thought they were all a bit bonkers, but said nothing. “Well, I guess that's cool. Happy birthday, Gem.”
His parents were still smiling knowingly at them and he wondered when they'd stop.
He thought about his soulmate more than he'd admit to. Usually, lying in bed late at night, he'd wonder about them. Would they be male or female? He figured he'd be okay with either, really, as long as they were at least funny and kind. He didn't think he'd be able to spend the rest of his life with someone dull.
He imagined a thousand different scenarios with different colored eyes and first names in each of them. Maybe he'd meet them in a coffee shop, all cliché like. Maybe he wouldn't meet them until Uni. Maybe his necklace would be warm as soon as he put it on. He figured not, but he could always hope.
None of his mates had their necklaces yet, though Zayn would be the first to get his. They'd all talked about their soulmates, their imaginations running wild together. Harry smiled to himself when Liam said he'd always imagined his soulmate being a boy with brown eyes, blushing slightly. Everyone knew Liam harbored the biggest crush on Zayn... everyone but Zayn, that is.
“I dunno, mate. I think mine'll probably be a girl?” Zayn said, although he always made everything sound like a question.
To Liam's credit, his smile only fell a bit as he shrugged. “What about you, Harry?” Liam asked.
“'M not sure, mate,” Harry replied slowly. “I think it'd be fine with either.”
Harry figured maybe this soulmate thing wasn't as amazing as everyone else thought when Zayn came to school the day after his sixteenth birthday with a golden disk lying against his chest, proudly showing off the “P” engraved in the front, and the blue gemstone that accompanied it.
Liam's face fell immediately. He'd been hoping that Zayn would show up with a nice silver necklace, adorned with an L and a brown stone that would burn as soon as he showed up to their circle of friends.
“That's great, Zayn,” he said loyally, anyway. “I, uh, I've gotta use the loo.”
They didn't see Liam for the rest of the day, and when Liam's necklace came in the following August, his mood only worsened. Gold disk, brown stone, and the letter D.
“I've just never fancied girls. I think my necklace might be wrong or something.”
Harry bit his lip. “Yeah, Li, that's probably it.”
When his sixteenth birthday finally hit the following February, Harry's stomach was in knots. Holding that box in his hands on the morning of the first, he guessed he finally understood what Gemma had been feeling when she'd screamed. His parents and sister were looking at him expectantly again, but with the box weighing in his hands, he finally knew exactly what he was hoping for in his soulmate and couldn't bear opening that box and being disappointed like Liam had been.
“'M gonna open it later,” Harry told his family, trudging back to his bedroom with his box and paperwork, ignoring his family's worried looks.
Lying on his back on his bed, he stared at the ceiling, black velvet box balancing on his stomach. He wanted his soulmate to be a boy. He'd thought about it enough, mulled it over in his mind, tried to tell himself he'd be happy either way so's not to get his hopes up.
He wanted himself a nice lad, a funny lad with beautiful eyes and a nice smile and who loved all the stupid romantic movies he did. He wanted a lad he could spoil and cook for and cuddle up to. He realized that was a lot to want at sixteen, a lot of expectations, but he couldn't really picture spending his life with anyone else.
A knock sounded at his door, and he wondered vaguely if his family had a rule. Wait five minutes, and then approach the troubled child. “Come in.”
Anne opened the door slowly, peeking into her son's room. “What is it, darling?” she asked, walking over to his bed and sitting on the edge.
Harry sighed, arms behind his head, refusing to remove his stare from the glow in the dark stars they'd glued on his ceiling when he was six. “I'm worried, I s'pose.”
“Which is normal, love. Gemma was nervous. I remember being a wreck. The unknown's always scary, Harry.”
Under normal circumstances, he'd make a joke about the rhyme, but not today. “I think 'm gay, mum.”
He finally turned his gaze to meet hers. “Okay?”
Anne shrugged. “Okay. Is that what you're worried about? Telling us? Harry, you know we love you either way.”
“No, mum, I know,” he replied, taking the box off his stomach and sitting up against his headboard. “It's just...” He turned the box over a few times in his hands. “What if it's gold.”
“What if it's not?”
“Thanks, mum,” Harry scoffed, rolling his eyes.
Anne reached out and ruffled his curls, something he hated, which she knew. “You won't know 'til you open it.”
She left after that, and he wasn't sure if she did it because she thought he'd rather open his box in private or if she was giving him time to think. Either way, when he went down for dinner that night, the box remained untouched on his nightstand.
It sat there for three whole months.
Sometime during the middle of April, Liam walked up to their lunch table wearing the largest smile Harry'd seen him show off in a long time. Harry and Zayn stared at him as if he'd sprouted an extra head.
Finally, Liam said “I met her, mates.”
Harry's eyes grew wide as Zayn asked, “Met who?”
“Danielle.” Liam's smile still hadn't faltered, spinning the apple off Harry's tray in his hands.
Zayn continued to stare.
“His soulmate, Zayn,” Harry said. “Liam's met his soulmate! That's awesome, Li! What's she like? Where'd you meet her?”
“A coffee shop. She works as a barista in the Starbucks on Third.”
“What were you doing at the Starbucks on Third? That's so far out of the way!”
Liam waved his hand through the air like it was irrelevant. “The one on Brooks is remodeling. What does it matter? She's amazing, H. So beautiful. She's got curls, curlier than yours, Haz! The prettiest skin and the most amazing laugh. She smiles so big and she's so lovely.”
Harry grinned, both happy for his friend and trying to make up for Zayn's non-reaction. “So it wasn't wrong after all?”
“No, Haz,” Liam replied. “Not wrong at all.”
It wasn't until later that Liam pulled him aside and quietly asked where his necklace was. The first few weeks he was able to get away with the “I was scared to lose it so I left it at home” excuse, but it seemed like Liam had looked past that now.
That night, he sat cross legged on his bed for over an hour, box balancing on his knee, staring at it and biting a hangnail. A knock sounded at his door, and he called a muffled “come in” without thinking.
“Mum told me to tell you that dinner's ready.”
“Okay,” he replied, looking up at her for a moment. “I'll be down in a few.”
Regardless of Harry's dismissal, his sister stepped into his room and closed the door behind her, leaning against it. “You thinking about opening it?"
Harry shrugged. “I might. Liam found his yesterday.”
Slowly, Gemma walked over to the bed, sitting down across from him and making the box jostle on his knee as she got herself comfortable. “I think you should, H. You said Liam was worried about his soulmate, and he was perfectly happy when he found her, wasn't he?”
Harry nodded, looking down at his fingers. “Will you do it for me?”
“I don't think I should, no,” Gemma replied. “It's a great feeling, seeing that necklace, Harry. I don't want to take that from you. I think you should open it. Who knows how many times you may have bumped into them if you'd put it on sooner.”
That was true, Harry thought. He picked up the black velvet box once more, holding the bottom half in one hand, and pulling the top half open with his other. His breath caught and Gemma smiled.
Inside was a silver necklace. The most beautiful silver he'd ever seen, he figured, even though it was the same silver his mother and sister's were made out of. A perfect, loopy “L” adorned the front of the disk, with a tiny blue stone to it's right. He touched the stone with one finger and grinned, dimples on full display.
“Come 'ere,” Gemma said, taking the box from his hand and placing it in her lap as she withdrew the necklace. She clasped it around his neck and then wrapped her arms around him tightly. “I told you, H. The Universe is no joke.”
Harry laughed, and took his sister's hand as he walked down for dinner. The smiles on his parents' faces told him they saw the necklace around his neck, but they didn't say a thing.
Harry's necklace hadn't warmed his skin since he put it on, and he'd yet to take it off. His friends were starting to pair off, although Zayn had yet to find his soulmate. Liam and Danielle were nearly inseparable, except for when she worked or danced and he went to school. Harry was getting anxious. Even Zayn had said he felt a bit of a twinge when he went to look at colleges.
In an effort to try to get Harry's mind off of it, his parents bought Gemma and him tickets to see one of their favorite bands in concert next February. It helped a bit, Harry thinking more about the one and a million chance that he might run into Danny O'Donoghue in the bathroom or in the parking lot after the show, and wondering if Danny would be annoyed if he asked for an autograph.
February came slowly, but eventually, he was seventeen and standing in the crowd at the O2 Apollo Manchester, waiting for The Script to take the stage. People were still filtering in from all through the arena and the lights were starting to dim when he felt it. Just a twinge at first, and he wondered if he'd just imagined it. After a few seconds, he realized he hadn't and gasped, hand flying to his necklace. Gemma looked over at him skeptically.
“It's warm,” he whispered, and she almost couldn't make out his words over the shouts of the audience. Without any sort of warning, he turned and started to make his way through the crowd when his sister grasped his wrist.
“Wait, Harry!” He didn't listen, still struggling to get out of her hold. “You didn't read your paperwork. You don't know how it works. Calm down for a second and stay still.”
Harry relented, turning towards Gemma in exasperation, his eyes pleading with her. “Wait, H,” she said again. “Close your eyes. Feel your necklace against your skin. It's warm, but is it leading you?”
Harry scoffed. “What is that even supposed to mean?”
“You'd understand if it were leading you to him. This isn't the day you're Fated to meet. This is just a Crossing of Paths.”
Harry practically heard the whine escape his throat and any other time he would've been mortified, but Gemma's kind eyes bore into his with sympathy. “I know it's hard, but it's not time.”
The curly-haired lad stepped back to his sister's other side, standing back in front of his seat as he waited for the first melodies to come from the stage. Gemma threw an arm around his shoulder and pulled him into her side tightly.
“He was there tonight!” he announced to his family when they arrived home. Despite the insistence from their children that they needn't be worried, Anne and Robin had stayed up to await their return. “At the concert, he was there! My necklace was warm.”
“Well, Harry, where is he? What's he like?” Robin asked, excitedly bombarding him with questions.
“It was just a Crossing of Paths,” Gemma explained, pulling Harry towards their bedrooms. “If Mum and Dad knew you never read your paperwork, you'd be dead. Get in there and read it all!”
Harry rubs at his necklace even more frequently now, can't seem to stop doing so. He'd been so close to his boy. So close to knowing what he looked like and sounded like. He wondered if his soulmate's necklace had warmed as well, if he also had someone to tell him he shouldn't pursue Harry. Did the lad roam the arena the whole night, looking for him? He hoped he'd feel the warmth again sometime soon, but feared he'd have to travel all the way back into Manchester to do so.
He was given his opportunity a few months later when Gemma won tickets to see Busted. He stressed over his clothes like he had never done before, begged his mother to trim his curls. His sister looked on like she was stuck between laughing and thinking the situation was adorable.
The day of the concert, he woke up to a revolting curl in his stomach. Barely making it to the loo in time, he lurched over the edge of the toilet, getting sick with a groan. Despite having barely been able to touch his dinner due to nerves, his body kept curling in, trying to rid itself of his stomach acid. His gags turned into dry heaves, and he rested his head against the shower door, the cold glass cutting through his clammy cheeks.
“Oh, love,” his mother sighed, finding him ten minutes later. She pressed a hand against his head and tutted. “Back to bed with you,” she cooed, helping him up. “Brush your teeth first, of course.” She flushed the toilet behind him watching as he haphazardly cleaned his teeth, and then led him back to bed.
“The concert,” Harry groaned as she covered him up.
“No concert for you, lovie. I'm sorry.”
“Mum!” Normally Harry wouldn't be caught dead whining or arguing with his mother, but he'd been looking forward to feeling his necklace's warmth again. There was a chance his soulmate could be there tonight, and he didn't want to miss it.
“No, Harry. I mean it. I know how much you've been looking forward to this, and I'm sorry, but you'll have to go to a different concert,” Anne scolded.
“Will bring you back a t-shirt.”
Still angry, but unable to conjure up the strength it would require to keep arguing, Harry gave in, turning onto his side and staring at the wall until his mother left. A lump formed in his throat but he tried to ignore it. It would be stupid to cry over this. He'd meet his soulmate eventually and crying over the fact that he couldn't go to one stupid concert wouldn't bring him any closer.
However when Gemma came back practically glowing, Harry felt like crying would be perfectly excusable tonight. “His name's Niall!” she screamed as she burst through the door. Harry had finally convinced his mother he was fine enough to at least be allowed to lie on the couch and watch the telly. Harry glared at her as their parents rushed into the room. “I met him! His name's Niall, and he's got the most beautiful blue eyes, Mummy, you'd love him.”
Harry rolled his eyes as they sat together on the loveseat, gossiping about the boy. “He was at the concert with his mate, Luke or Lewis or something..." She seemed to think about it for a moment longer, before waving it off as inconsequential. "Anyway, Niall, he said he felt his necklace burning, turned around and saw me and he just knew I was it.”
Harry was usually proud at his sister's ability to not go absolutely batty over boys. She was never one to chase after them or gossip, usually sticking to a few close friends, nights on the town and studying. She was a perfect student and never gave a second glance to a gossiper or a boy with a snake's tongue. Tonight, she seemed like a different person to him.
With a frustrated sigh, Harry got up couch, dragging his comforter and pillow back upstairs. He collapsed on his bed and screamed into his pillow, but didn't feel a damn bit better. He was beginning to think he'd never meet his soulmate. He and Zayn seemed to be the only lads without one anymore.
It got worse when Zayn met Perrie. She was a nice enough girl, beautiful, blonde and kinder than most teenage girls Harry spent time around, even if her hair was constantly changing colors. He figured she was a great match with Zayn's artistic personality and stupid blonde streak. He couldn't help it, though. He was the last one, the odd man out. Gemma no longer had much time for family, already planning a wedding with her lad. Liam fawned over Danielle like she was God's gift to the world. Zayn and Perrie had a quieter relationship, sure, but it was almost worse. Their whispers more intimate and kisses shier. Harry felt like a voyeur anytime he went out with them. Simply put, it was getting old, and he was starting to give up.
Harry was eighteen and singing at a karaoke bar with a group of friends the next time his necklace burned his chest. In the middle of his rendition of “Isn't She Lovely” it started, a dull warmth at first, just like he'd experienced at the concert. It grew though, grew to a warmth equivalent to a hot summer's day, but as if the sun were only shinning down on this one spot on his chest. He looked around maniacally as he finished his song, searching the packed bar for anyone acting like him, anyone clutching their necklaces. The audience clapped as he finished and he stumbled towards the bathroom. He wasn't sure why, really. He seemed to just be acting off instinct. Ignoring the calls from his friends, he pushed the doors opened and was met with... an empty room. An empty room. He checked all the stalls, and then double checked them. Sighing, he placed his hands against the sink, closing his eyes and letting his head fall. After a few moments, he reached behind him and took his necklace off, clenching it in his fist. He almost wanted to chuck it against the wall. It seemed so stupid that he was expected to just sit around and wait for a stupid piece of metal to scorch his skin. Scorch seemed to be the right word now, as it was turning from a hot summer's day, to the equivalent of standing too close to a campfire.
“Hi,” a small, whispered voice spoke.
Harry jumped, dropping his necklace in the sink. “Oops,” he mumbled, reaching for it quickly. He was lucky the drain hadn't been big enough to swallow it whole. When he looked up to the source of the voice, he was met with the most beautiful pair of blue eyes he'd ever seen. Prettier than Gemma's boy's, he thought smugly, because wasn't that who this was? Wasn't this his boy?
His boy with brown shaggy hair and bright blue eyes, and black glasses perched on his nose. A beanie on his head and the strings of his hoodie tied in a bow, a pair of white keds with smilie faces drawn on the toes and skinnies with the cuffs rolled up a few times to show his bare ankles. “God, you're beautiful,” Harry whispered.
“Not too shabby yourself, Curly,” the boy spoke again, his voice louder this time. “I'm Louis,” he said, sticking out his tiny hand.
“Harry.” His hand engulfed Louis' almost entirely, and Harry smiled at the look of their skin together, the feel of their skin together.
“I was beginning to think I'd never meet you, Harry.”
“I was beginning to think the same.”