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down came the lightning on me

Chapter Text

Harry is lost. Not emotionally or in the middle of some great spiritual dilemma, he’s just really fucking confused because he doesn’t remember why he thought this was a good idea. He’s travelling across the world as a crew member on a tour that’ll criss cross the world, and Harry doesn’t even have any experience with tech. On the Road Again tour.

He is more than happy to help, it just wasn’t his main motivation. You could say his main motivation was seeing the world while watching concerts almost nightly from the wings. Free concerts of One Direction which, while he wouldn’t consider himself a superfan, he believed the band to be one of the best X Factor outcomes. The albums were wonderful— even though they veered a little from his usual music—, and being the ex-choir kid that he is, Harry appreciates a good harmony. Especially live.

Especially when Harry gets a break and can watch these incredible kids— his age— sing and move around having the time of their lives and Harry can just picture himself there. Not that he plans on it happening, or pursuing it, but naive year 11 Harry did, and it makes him feel warm and a little more at home to indulge in those old feelings a bit.

Year 11 Harry Styles would’ve killed to be in Louis’ position, or Liam’s, or Niall’s, or Zayn’s.

He’s not 16 anymore. He’s 18, he’s uni bound, and dwelling on it won’t do him any good. The thoughts plague him anyway.

 

“Louis William Tomlinson, I am begging you to please get off the skateboard and get to wardrobe and hair before Lou has a breakdown,” Paul pleaded from around the corner. Which… was odd because Harry was pretty sure no one was in equipment storage— he glanced at his watch— 11 minutes before the band is supposed to walk out. Especially if one of the people is supposed to be the one performing in— 10 minutes now.

The hell? was his exact thought before he continued to round the corner and promptly land on his ass.

He looked up from his new spot on the ground to see Paul shaking his head and Louis Tomlinson running after his still-rolling skateboard which— huh. Is apparently what caused Harry to wipe the fuck out. Heat spread from his face to his scalp to the tips of his ears as he flew back onto his feet.

“Oops,” Louis gave in place of an apology as he walked back towards them, skateboard tucked under his arm.

And yeah. Harry is definitely still red because I have never been this embarrassed in my entire life someone please kill me now. And in all his embarrassment, he responds how anyone would.

“H-Hi,” Jesus Christ.

“I’m not gonna bite your head off, mate.” He comforted (tried to), seeing Harry’s discomfort in the tense line of his shoulders and clenching fists. “You will use your skateboard to take me out, though?”

There was a pause while a grin spread across Louis’ face, “Exactly.”

And bloody hell. He’s cute. “I think you might want to get to the wings before Paul has a stroke, Louis.”

“Yeah, yeah, wouldn’t want to be late or Liam will get snippy before the show again. Your name?”

“Harry. ‘M helping out with crew…things.”

He stood, watching Louis salute goodbye, grin still firmly in place, before shooting off in the direction of the arena.

Paul’s sigh quietly echoed in the quiet of the large room. “Sorry about him, it’s a Louis thing. The running off. Think it’s gonna bruise?” Which was a valid question considering Harry hit the concrete fast and hard. Patting his sides and his bum, he did a quick evaluation of his state.

“Mmm...maybe? Won’t be too bad— I’ve got to run new headsets from Anthony’s crew back to the some backstage staff, something about mics. Bye, Paul!” Harry continued down the hall and through a “STAFF ONLY” door, straight into the hustle and bustle of last minute preparations. Following some lighting crew, he peaked around the edge of a large lightboard to see a frazzled looking Anthony.

“...Hey Anthony, you have those mic’s for those couple of backstage folk?” He felt bad for interrupting because this man did not seem like headpieces were his priority right now. His watch beeped, warning him that he had 3 minutes until Clouds starts.

A hand shoved a handful of wires and headsets at his chest, withdrawing the moment Harry grabbed them. “They work. Match the numbers on the headpieces to whatever the mics say. Oh fuck—” He swore as a piece of the 3rd light came undone, and yeah. That’s a cue to get lost if Harry has ever seen one.

High-tailing it to the west crew, hands clamped around a pile of hopefully functioning headsets, Harry sent a silent prayer for this to be done with before the show starts.

Someone is looking out for me, he thinks as he spots someone he knows. “Lou!”

She turned and smiled at him gently, “Harry you know I hate to do this but I need you to be a stagehand tonight,” she explained, turning him and pushing his shoulders towards the arena wings. “Just… put that mic on in your hand with the headset, we had an accident earlier and a set piece fell on Sarah’s foot, poor thing, but we could truly use the help. Got everything?”

“...I think so?” He murmured weakly, hands fumbling with the mic pack he’s strapping to his belt.

Lou clapped her hands together with a very pleased “Great!”

 

Harry thinks he’s gone through all the stages of grief by the time the band is about to start their fifth song. He’s standing just beyond the curtains cutting off the crowds view backstage, and he has yet to be needed for anything. Mic streams from the band are playing in his ear and they’re not bad but he’s feeling pretty damn useless, standing here like a pillock.

 

“Stage crew? Can someone in the wing bring the extra stick set— should be sitting on the set directors stand— to Julian on stage? The kid broke his set.” No one needs to know just how eager Harry was, he needed to do something. Pressing the button on the side of the set, Harry replied to the voice telling them he’d handle it.

Voices drifted in from stage, the band chatting with the fans while they wait to continue their show. The crowd seemed to be enjoying it, considering they were periodically screaming and quieting to catch what the boys said. It all sounded quite lovely to Harry, having such an excited and supporting crowd of fans.

“Found you!” Harry whispered at the infamous set of sticks before running out to bring them to Julian.

Making Harry feel like the grandest idiot this tour had ever seen.

Because who runs out on stage with the eagerness of a newly adopted puppy?

Extending his arm to give the drum sticks to an amused Julian, he smiled a little and gave a terse “good luck,” before turning and trying to get back to his home base.

I’m getting off of this stage and proceeding to die in a corner, I swear—

“Harry!” A familiar voice called, echoed in his headset.

Does Louis Tomlinson take joy in attacking Harry?

Louis turned back to the crowd, lifting his mic back to his mouth, “That’s Harry! ‘E’s a crew member I tripped with me skateboard earlier.” He explained with a laugh.

Harry’s face is red. He can feel it, on his neck and his cheeks and his ears. The crowd is yelling and it doesn’t sound negative but Harry is thinking I’m wearing a sheer shirt in front of thousands of people because I was stubborn and wouldn’t wear my CREW shirt and Paul might kill me why aren’t my legs moving—

Oh. Louis is walking towards him, up the catwalk. Well, jogging towards him with a face-splitting grin and he feels less frozen now because that grin can give anyone butterflies.

“You saving our show from Julian’s attempt at breaking every drum stick he can get his hands on?” He asked, holding the mic in the hand hanging at his side.

Harry grinned right back, “Someone has to keep your band afloat while you four throw water at each other and fall on stage.”

“That’s cold, Styles,” he laughs, “I’m telling them that you’re raggin’ on me band,” he says, nodding his head back at the crowd.

“I think we missed a few steps between you trying to kill me with a skateboard and trying to kill me with thousands of screaming fans,” he whispered, sounding like they’re discussing a conspiracy. “You got a show to get back to?”

“Only if you promise to hang out with us on the bus later.” Which kind of implies he would wait for Harry's response, but he just ran off back down the catwalk. To the great enjoyment of the crowd, apparently, as their screams rose in volume and octave.

Harry stole a look at all four of the boys, longing. He once thought he could’ve done that. Harmonies and note changes, bouncing around, reading signs, singing.

Get your shit together, he belittles mentally, not believing for one second it’d do any good. He could’ve been a singer.

 

 

Chapter Text

Thankfully, they have two more shows in the AAMI stadium so after-show crew work is barely there, meaning Harry can grab his personal shit from the bus and find a quiet spot to unplug for a bit. And he is absolutely flying down the halls as the promise of Fleetwood Mac and my journal and some peace and quiet for my abused eardrums takes up his entire stream of consciousness. He loves his job, even if this was only his sixth show, but he misses writing. And his free time.

Finally shuffling his way through the plethora of workers Harry made his way onto Bus 2, grabbing his small on-the-go backpack and his (thankfully) charged phone. Exiting the bus and working his way back to the arena, Harry bumped into Lou.

“Oh— Harry! Thank you so much for the last minute fill in. I know hovering there gets boring but, hey, at least you got to do something! You looked proper scared on stage,” she teased, nudging his shoulder with hers.

“Hey,” he drawled, mock offended. “You’re a backstage hermit, you’ve no room to talk.”

Lou laughed, “All the crew work is done in the arena, all parts are open just be done before 9, Paul said it’ll all be locked past then. Don’t go getting trapped on us. Bye, ‘Arry!”

 

Harry loves this stage. Even if it takes hours to put together, he grins when he stands on it. How can he not? His steps echo quietly down the catwalk, in sync with the sound of his keychains rattling. He can see 24,000 empty seats. Thinking about how every single one was filled mere hours ago is mindblowing.

He plops down his journal, it landing on the edge of the catwalk with an echoed thwack, the soft leather making contact with the newly cleaned floor. Harry sat down next to it, sitting on the edge of the end of the strip, lanky legs dangling over. Letting out a deep breath, Harry pressed shuffle on the Rumors album and set his phone back down, grabbing his journal.

Despite it being a couple years old now, the leatherbound book was well taken care of. Filled with lyrics and notes, jokes, and moments he writes out of refusal to forget, Harry figures it’s what's going to keep him sane on this tour.

Except he doesn’t feel very sane right now because he’s staring at this page that’s filled with same song he’s been editing for two years. It’s done, the song is as good as it’s going to get and he has nothing to do with it. He doesn’t have a piano to play the instrumental on, he sure as hell isn’t going to sing it here and have to live with that embarrassment forever.

Deep breaths, he reminds himself. Reading the lyrics over, he smiles a little sadly, letting the feeling that tastes a little like closure sink in. His smile grows, less sad and more prideful.

Harry lays down, staring at the high and expansive ceiling of the AAMI Stadium. 24,000 seats filled hours ago and now it’s just Harry Styles of Holmes Chapel.

“I can still hear you saying, you would never break the chain…” The quiet sound of Fleetwood Mac reverberating from his phone's speaker bounces off the linoleum floor.

“I was promised some quality bus time with you, Harry, and I have to hunt you down through Lou? I’m hurt.” Louis’ voice broke through, amusement impossible to miss.

“To be fair, I promised nothing. You ran off while I had to trudge my embarrassed self off stage,” he laughed, rolling onto his stomach.

Louis waved his hand dismissively, “Don’t be embarrassed, you only ran onto stage in a see through shirt, a fucked up mic set, and froze in the middle.”

Harry groaned, hiding his face in his arms, “Oh, piss off. You lot fall on stage plenty. And there’s footage.

A laugh sounded above Harry’s head, prompting him to look up. Louis was offering a hand to help Harry up. The offer was gladly accepted, Louis hoisting Harry to his feet enthusiastically.

“Grab your phone and your diary, I’m draggin’ you to Bus 1.”

“‘S not a diary,” the taller of the two grumbled, but grabbed his belongings anyway.

“Uh-huh. Your personal book with your writing in and on it is not a diary. How dare I make that assumption.”

Giggling, Harry pushed Louis’ shoulder, “This is an awful attempt at cajoling me into your bus.”

Louis just grinned, leading Harry off the catwalk and through the stadium back exits to the buses. Walking behind Louis, he got a good view of Louis’ side profile. He was shorter than Harry, a bounce in his step from the lasting after-show adrenaline, and looked like a human sun. Bright and happy, near infectious. Although, Harry got that feeling looking at the other boys too. Infectious happiness, secondhand pride, and maybe a little bit of envy.

The steps into the bus are steep, Harry notes as he follows into the vehicle. The bus is definitely fancier than the crew buses, and Harry is only a few steps in. Yelling comes from the back of the bus, startling him. Louis laughed and muttered, “Niall and Liam must be playin’ FIFA.”

“This the kid you harassed with your skateboard?” Zayn asked lightly from the couch, taking his eyes off the book in his hands.

“”Kid’s name is Harry,” he introduced himself with a smile, with a mental I hope to God I don’t sound tacky.

“Don’t let Louis convince you it was an accident, Harry, he almost took me out with a segway once. He has a hit on everyone, I swear to you.”

Harry laughed, “I believe it.”

Louis cut in without stopping his rummaging through kitchen cabinets, “Since when is today rag-on-Louis day? Harry insulted me on my own stage, Zaynie’s attacking my morals on my own bus—”

“I believe it’s our bus and our stage.”

A hand stuck out of the cabinets to wave dismissively in Zayn and Harry’s vague direction, “I hold this group together. What would you do without my harmony support? Fall apart. You lot would fall apart.”

Unabashedly overjoyed, Harry sat on the couch opposite Zayn, bag in his lap. The lights made the room cozy but not overbearing, he noted, taking in the rooms appearance.

“Is someone cooking?” An Irish lilted voice asked as the backrooms door opened.

“Louis is in the kitchen but we both know he’s probably snacking,” Zayn updated, eyes back on his book.

Niall stopped in the doorway to the room. “Are you the lad that Lou-”

“I hit him with a skateboard once let me live it down. And I’m sure Harry doesn’t wanna be known as the skateboard victim. Back me up here Harry,” he begged, walking in the room with a bag of crisps.

“I don’t know… you did try to kill me…”

“Did anyone tell him the segway story?” Liam asked, squeezing past Niall to sit next to Zayn.

“I hate all of you,” Louis declared confidently, seating himself next to Harry.

“It’s unanimous, then. Louis is voted off the bus. Welcome to the band, Harry. Hope you can sing. Goodbye, Tomlinson,” Niall bowed.

“Ah, years of choir have been preparing me for this,” Harry tossed his hair back, dimples shown off with his grin.

“You did choir, mate? Goin’ into the music business?” Niall questioned, curious.

Harry snorted derisively, “God no, I’d flounder. Going into Uni for sociology, business, law. Something like that.”

Louis looked like the cat who got the canary, whole body perking up. “That’s your diary! You fiend! Mushy poetry and— and piano chords! I have you all figured out, choir kid Harry… Harry— what’s your last name?”

Face red, Harry fumbled, “That’s— No. It’s a book. And m’name is Styles.”

“I’m kind of upset that your name is the coolest I’ve ever heard,” the Irish kid laughed

Zayn just raised an eyebrow at newly revealed Harry Styles, “You write?”

“I do not—”

Louis cut him off, holding up Harry’s journal proudly, “Tell me this doesn’t look like a hipster singers wet dream,” he proclaimed to Zayn, pointing at Harry’s cover.

She doesn’t deserve his heart

Let us love” written in angry black ink. Harry remembers vividly writing the words in the midst of a breakdown, being so utterly gutted.

Harry reached out and ripped it away, “It’s just so I can keep track of things.” Knuckles white from his grip on the binding, Harry shoved the journal back in his bag.

“Some… writing things?” Niall wondered, throwing himself on the couch, feet in Liam’s lap.

“Harry's not going to come back to Bus 1 if you slags don’t stop interrogating him,” Zayn advised,

Harry just smiled gently, hoping he hadn’t come off as overreacting.

Liam patted his pockets, “I think I left my phone in the dressing room? — laugh it up, you three— I’m runnin’ to get it before I’m locked out for the night and I’m at the hotel without it. Harry, you want to come with?” He asked, not waiting for a response.

Harry went.

“Is it a thing in your band to ask questions then leave?” He asked as he stepped out of the bus, no trace of malice in his voice.

“Kind of,” Liam confessed.

It was quiet as they walked for a moment. Peaceful. Zayn, Niall, and Louis were absolutely lovely and he was becoming fast friends with them, but the short break from noise and questioning felt balancing.

Liam took a deep breath, “I know they can be… overbearing… but they mean well, and—”

“Liam, you really don’t have to—”

“—that was kind of Louis’ way of looking out for you, the journal shit. If you ever wanna practice,” he said, entering his dressing room, “right down the hall is where they’re keeping the instruments until we’re back on the road.”

Harry looked at Liam with a flat look as he grabbed his phone from the small table at the center of the room. He looked at Liam and his poorly concealed puppy dog eyes, at his backpack hanging from his hands. Thought about how just before Louis found him earlier, he was mourning the distance between himself and his piano. His guitar.

“Could we stop by… now? Just— really quick.”

The other boy grinned, leading Harry out and down the hall. “There’s a piano, we travel with it because they keyboard guy jumps between them for practice, it’s probably a little out of tune— please, sit. Go ahead,” he nodded, motioning to the keys sitting in front of Harry.

Harry grinned and placed his hands in a starting position, “Will you sing?” Liam’s reply was a thoroughly bewildered look.

He just smirked and played the opening notes to No Control, “I’m certain you know the words.” The other boy’s bewildered look turned into a groan quickly.

“Everyone makes this song absolutely filthy. You are filthy, Harry Styles.”

“Siiiing, Liam Payne,” he mocked, looping the beginning notes until he began the vocals. He just laughed as he pressed the record button on his phone, setting it flat on top of the piano.

“Stained. Coffee Cup,” he began.

Yeah. Harry missed this a lot.

 

“Mate, that was amazing—”

“You’re the one who was doing the singing—”

“How did you know the notes?”

“If I listen to it enough I can match the notes to the sound pretty well, although I think I mucked up one of the chords during the chorus,” he explained as they pushed open the exit door, working their way back to Bus 1.

The three boys that remained on the bus looked at Harry and Liam as they walked in, both bright eyed and happy, talking over each other.

“We miss something?” Louis asked.

The response was a resounding and overlapping shout from both boys, a “Harry can free hand songs on the piano!” from Liam and “Liam changed the octave on No Control!” From the mentioned pianist.

“The fuck?” Niall ever so eloquently put.

“I found my phone faster than I thought I would so we introduced ourselves to the room they’re storing some instruments in while we’re here. Harry played No Control.”

“On the condition that he provided vocals and he did! We moved the octave up and slowed it down just a tad—”

“I have the audio!” Liam whipped out his phone, gaining everyone’s attention.

Louis shushed everyone as the first few notes filled the air, accompanied by a soft laugh from then-Harry. When Liam began singing, they all collectively grinned because, yeah, that sounds amazing. The song stopped about two minutes in when Liam and Harry had broken form due to Liam fumbling, the duo breaking out in laughter.

The phone was pocketed again and Harry tossed his bag down before sitting next to it.

“Do you know all of our songs on the piano?” Zayn asked, joking. His book sat on the table next to Louis’ cup of tea, blue bookmark sticking out.

Harry laughed, a weak but certain blush dusting the tips of his ears and his neck. “No, it’s just— well, if I hear it enough, then matching the notes to the piano keys gets easy. I could probably do passable Fleetwood Mac or Shania Twain songs.”

“Mate that’s— holy shit! You’re playing something tomorrow for me. I’m taking all your free time again. Don’t care if I have to almost kill you. Liam I am begging you to send me that audio.” Louis moved to sit next to Liam, having to show him the steps on sending an audio file.

“Lou you’re gonna scare ‘im away. Harry, ignore Louis. He is absolutely neurotic,” Niall reached into his own pocket, pulling out his phone and opening twitter. “‘Arry, what’s your twitter handle?”

He scrunched his eyebrows together, “Um, it’s harry-underscore-styles? I don’t use it often, my phone and I have a love/hate relationship.”

Zayn sighed a laugh, “If Niall follows you, you’ve gotta prepare for a proper shitstorm. Fans’ll follow you.”

Harry just shrugged, confirmation enough for Niall. Zayn thought about following him now, but his phone was charging by the bunks and he couldn’t be bothered to get up for something that could wait.

Taking a glance at his phone, Harry noticed the time. “I’ve got to get to the bus while I have it to myself. The others are in the hotel for the night, which means a decent night’s sleep for me. It was… nice meeting you?” he finished, grin still wide and unmoving.

Louis looked a little forlorn at the departure but they all said goodnight, needing rest for the next day’s work.

It was an amazing day. Harry adored everything about this band of boys.

 

Chapter Text

Muffled guitar began echoing around Harry's bunk, effectively rousing him from his sleep. After several minutes of groaning and turning he was undeniably conscious. He grappled around at his feet until he found his phone under the blanket, turning off his alarm. The Rolling Stones guitar intro abruptly stopped, leaving the bunk quiet.

Why are we required to get up at 7:00? There’s so little to be done, he lamented in his head, trudging his body to the sink so he can brush the morning breath from his mouth. While spitting toothpaste into the sink Harry mentally ran through all his clean clothes. One of his bags was still under the bus in storage, eliminating some options.

Sighing, he gave up and just threw on his CREW shirt. He tucked his phone into his pocket and he tied his hair back and pulled on his shoes. Well, one shoe. He had to take another seven minutes to find his other boot, which had fallen into the bunk below his.

So yes. Harry Styles is tired, and completely unwilling to even leave the bus. The only thing fueling him to get out is the obligation of not missing any staff updates at breakfast— and, well, breakfast itself.

Pushing open the door marked “STAFF ROOM 3” (their breakfast room for the folk who didn’t spend the night at the hotel), Harry chose a seat and plopped down, opening his phone. He was greeted with a text from his sister that just read, “Fans have photos of u on stage lmfaaaaoooo good luck xoxo”. And his Twitter was absolutely horrid. Hundreds of followers and hundreds in his mentions with photos of him from yesterday's show. Him walking out, Louis talking to him, and a particularly embarrassing one which must’ve been taken right before he got off the stage. It’s him, in all his sheer-shirt glory, looking at the catwalk longingly. Or the band. He prayed it was impossible to tell through the low quality of the photo.

Groaning for the umpteenth time he shoved his phone in his pocket, suddenly not all that hungry. He looked around for Paul, catching him in the moment he walked in.

“Hey Paul, is there anything you need me to do? All the mics Anthony fixed up are to the right people, I think I’m off tonight unless Lou needs a stagehand again.”

Paul flipped a few pages on his clipboard, “I don’t see anything that we don’t have taken care of. Lou probably isn’t even in yet, take same you-time, Styles.”

Harry grinned, “Thank you! Have a good morning Paul!” He darted his hand back to his chair and took off down the hall.

Left around room six, past dressing rooms, follow the hallway do— his mental mapping was cut off as his body collided with someone else, knocking two boys on their asses.

Looking up, face dazed, he saw Louis groaning and hiding his face in his hands, “You cannot tell them I knocked you over again. You cannot. Oh my god.”

“That’s it, Louis Tomlinson of One Direction is officially trying to take me out. And he’s determined to make it look like an accident,” Harry announced as his shoulders shook with laughter. He stood and dusted his pants off, offering a hand to help Louis up, a perfect reversal of Louis’ first attack on Harry. Louis took the offered hand, shuffling himself off the ground.

“So… working your way towards that piano, it seems,” Louis hedged, trading a smile with the boy.

“Sort of. Just… takin’ a stroll. In that general direction,” he joked, doing an absolutely terrible job of sounding even a little serious.

Louis’ smile turned right devilish for a second before he darted away, running the rest of the way to instrument room. Harry watched him run, shaking his head. He, too, took off, feeling better and more open than he has the past few weeks.

The piano was already uncovered and the bench pulled out with Louis standing behind the bench like a kid presenting their proud art. He sat down on the edge, patting the space next to him for Louis, “Sit.” When the two boys were fully situated, Harry on the right hand and Louis playing left, Harry looked at him.

“You know the chords for Act My Age?”

Louis looked at him flatly, “I can play the right hand part for a couple of Fray songs.”

Laughing, Harry reached across Louis’ chest to play a chord in front of Louis. “You’re about to learn.”

 

“Li, Louis might smack you,” Zayn warned from over Liam’s shoulder, Niall watching from over Liam’s right. Completely unheeding of Zayn’s warning, Liam continued to record the two boys through the small space the door’s window offered.

“He’s just tracking Lou’s instrumental journey. Listen… he’s right shit, now. He can’t even keep time on a song he sings for a living. This is to keep ‘im humble down the road, when he’s writing piano sonatas,” Niall reasoned.

Through the door, the piano duo broke into laughter, Louis giving up and letting his hand fall while Harry continued the chorus, “Oh? Louis Tomlinson? A quitter? Tsk Tsk.”

“Piss off! I sing. Not—” he waved his hand, “peck at keys.”

Harry squawked, downright indignant, “You take that back!” He laid his hands on the instrument, petting it. “She’s a beauty. Worthy of respect.”

“Yeah Lou, respect.” Niall affirmed, walking in with the remaining band behind him. Zayn and Liam waved, sitting next to Niall on the couch facing the piano.

“Liam recorded you two. It’ll probably make it to Twitter, mate, you sounded like absolute rubbish next to Harry. How do you not know the timing of our song?” Zayn asked, amusement and scepticism in his voice.

“It is.” Liam confirmed confidently.

The piano ground out four deep notes suddenly as Louis hit his forehead against them. “Harry is pitting you all against me. I need Paul to fire you.”

With a scoff Niall threw his phone to Liam, shoving Louis over and sitting in his spot. “What song, Styles?” Harry shrugged, not having a specific one in mind.

“We’re gonna freehand then. Indecisive,” he shamed jokingly, setting pace with his left hand. The rhythm was upbeat and a little fast, an easy tune for Harry to jump in on. Zayn and Liam whispered conspiratorially while Louis leaned on the piano.

Harry laughed under his breath before crooning, “Katy Perry’s on replay— she’s on replay. DJ got the floor to shake— the floor to— Christ, Niall,” he swore, shoulders shaking from laughter as both Harry and Niall fumbled on the keys. The laughter didn’t cease, Niall cackled into Harry’s shoulder as he repeated, “Katy Perry’s on—” before cracking up again.

“I’m only helping the boyband image along. I’m not the one who stopped playing.”

Niall was about to defend himself when Paul poked his head into the room, sighing upon seeing the four boys. “You all know you were supposed to be at the stage 5 minutes ago for rehearsal, right?”

They collectively groaned, Liam speaking up, “We just got up! And look! We are rehearsing. Play things, Harry,” he demanded.

He panicked for a second before playing the first few notes of Für Elise while not breaking eye contact with Paul. His eyes said they made me do it. “...This is rehearsal.”

“Really?” Louis delivered flatly. Harry hushed him, pulling the cover over the keys and standing from the piano. Niall yawned and pushed Louis over to Liam and Zayn, who were ready to follow Paul.

“Harry, what’re you doing? C’mon.” Liam urged, letting the others exit while he held the door. He said it like it was the most obvious thing, Harry tagging along. Which was… jarring. He’d barely hung out with them and they were so ridiculously kind.

“Yeah I’m— coming,” he assured, kicking his gangly legs off the bench and following Liam out. A heaving sigh could be heard from all the way in the back of their little train by Harry, meaning Louis had done something. Harry looked over Liam’s shoulder, seeing Paul shake his head as Zayn and Louis ran ahead of them, shoving each other all the while.

It brought a smile to Harry’s face, being surrounded by people his age again. They were baffling, almost. With their happy energy and close friendship. Hanging out with them almost felt like intruding on something precious, like something Harry wasn’t supposed to be a part of.

“You should write with us sometime,” interrupted his silent reverie. His head swivelled to Liam, eyes wide.

“I don’t—”

“‘You don’t write.’ Come on, we know better,” Niall said, joining the conversation. How was he to respond? “You don’t even have to give lyrics, play piano. We think the band is due for a slower song. Feelings, y’know? Making music is easier when we have people we know around,” Niall continued.

The boy on the other side of Harry nodded, “Flows better when we can talk freely.”

They arrived at the stage, Louis and Zayn already standing at stage right and discussing something about song order. Niall, Liam, and Harry hovered right inside the stage curtain, Harry being eyed imploringly.

Taking the silence for the offer it was, he conceded. “What if I have something in the works already? It’s— oh, don’t look so smug, Niall— it’s only a few lines and a chorus but you can totally scrap them and use the instrumental composition—”

Cheers intervened, Niall and Liam high-fiving with smiles that would suggest their favourite footie team just won a match.

Off on stage Louis got tired of waiting around for the three to arrive. “If you three don’t step onto this stage soon I’m getting my skateboard out!” He threatened loudly. They laughed, Harry nodding at Liam and Niall as they walked on and Harry took the steps down to sit in seats. He scanned the seats, deciding after a moment that the end of the catwalk was probably a pretty hot spot among concert goers.

 

Fifteen minutes later, Harry pulled out his phone to respond to the text he received from his sister that morning.

7:04 a.m.

gemma: Fans have photos of u on stage lmfaaaaoooo good luck xoxo

 

8:16 a.m.

me: might be writing songs with them?? i dont know for sure though. dont mention it to mum in case this blows up in my face

gemma: I SAW THE LOUIS VIDEO ON TWITTER. u sounded good, nice job. now to the important part: the fandom is going to get its hands on u. im going 2 send u links to fanfiction that mentions u. going to sell ur secrets to paps.

me: sibling betrayal. have to go, i’ll text you later? xoxo don’t die

Phone secure in his pocket, Harry looked up to see Louis in all his sweatpants-and-beanie clad glory standing at the edge of the stage. He was a little jealous, actually, the clothes looked comfortable for the early morning they were having. “Liam said you’ll write with us?” Louis asked, face bright with excitement.

How can Harry say no to that face? He nodded. “I have a few,” he waved his hand vaguely as he searched for the word, “snippets...of a song. Chorus and a few lines. Like I already told them, though, we can scrap the lyrics and just use the instrumental.” Louis waved his hands at Harry, frantic and sputtering. “No, no, no, shut up! What words? We’re using them.”

Pride bubbled in Harry’s chest, remembering the words scripted in blue pen on a page with a tea stain at the corner. He remembered writing the chorus, sitting in a library he frequented back home. Harry was head over heels for someone then, not that it ended well. That didn’t ruin it for him, he treasured most of what he wrote as memoirs, as explanations for emotions that made his stomach drop or fill with butterflies. And every emotion in between.

“I’ll show you later, promise. You have a band to get to.”

 

Liam tossed water bottles to his bandmates as they walked off stage, chattering about that night’s impending show. After scanning the area, Niall turned to Louis, “Where’s ‘Arry?”

Louis shrugged, “Last I saw he was sitting in the front stage seats.”

Footsteps clicked lightly as the noise approached, almost as if someone was running. Harry flew into the room holding his bag and panting. “Sorry, sorry. ‘M here. Went to grab my stuff.”

“Stuff for writing?” Zayn asked, though he was already walking to the instrument room. Harry adorned a cryptic smile and followed him, letting the others follow. Harry dug in his bag, pulling out his journal and a pen. The pen cap rested between his teeth as he scribbled the date at the bottom left corner of an already written on page.

The three bandmates walked in, spotting Harry already prepared and standing opposite the piano, facing him. “You wanted something slower and soft, right?”

“Yeah,” Niall and Louis confirmed in unison, making them chuckle.

“This was written… two? About two years ago, so it’s not my best,” he began the chords for the chorus. “But it’s called Fool’s Gold, so far at least. Here’s the chorus.” The piano picked up in volume as it led up into the chorus, Harry glancing at his journal to remind himself of the words.

“And yeah, I’ve let you use me from the day that we first met,

but I’m not done yet, falling for you

Fool’s gold,” he sung sweetly, smile widening as he picked up the pace a bit for the next part.

“And I know that you turn it on for everyone you met,

but I don’t regret falling for you,

Fools Gold.”

A piano note lingered and fizzled out, leaving the room quiet. Harry looked around anxiously, feeling odd for having doubt in his writing. He usually only sung them for himself, never in front of people. Never in front of people who did this for a living. “...thoughts?” He hedged.

The four boys looked at each other, having a silent conversation. Doubt reared its ugly head in the pit of his stomach as he watched them say nothing to him and everything at each other. A few seconds later (though if asked, Harry would say minutes) Louis spoke up, “That… sounds fucking amazing. Holy shit. Are you sure you’d be okay with us…performing and singin’ it?” Harry shot him a confused look.

Liam picked up for Louis, “he means that it sounds personal. It’s about someone for you and we don’t want to take that away.”

“It’s a banger though,” Niall iterated. Zayn nodded in agreement.

Slowly, Harry tried explaining what he thought about it to them. “It’s… more than fine for you to perform it, actually. Without it being performed, it’ll sit in my book. Which is a waste, if you want to use it and I refuse because I’m clinging to it. It’s— It’s about someone, yeah, but I’m over it and the song has sisters I can still get sentimental and soppy over,” he joked. “I’ve only done the chorus, anyway. Fool’s Gold isn’t just mine.”

Niall grinned grabbing the pen tucked behind Harry's ear and sitting next to him. He reached for the journal, stopping halfway before looking to Harry for permission. After seeing Harry's nod, he looked at the book, reading the other line ideas Harry wrote. “I like the ‘constant star’ part. Poetic as hell.”

Three pairs of eyes exchanged a look as they grinned, walking around to join in on the song huddle. “We should switch that line with— no here.” Zayn’s voice filled, all their voices swirling into an hour and a half in that room. An hour and a half to write a song Harry hasn’t touched since late in Year 6.

He’s proud.

 

Louis looked proud too, Harry noted as they all swept out of the room, chatting in happy tones and loud bursts of laughter. A glance at his phone showed him it was 11 o’clock already. Showtime starts at 7 o’clock, plenty of time.

“I’m going to go check with Lou, see if she still needs stagehands for tonight's show.”

“I’ll go with,” Louis decided, letting the others go back to the bus.

The two walked, content and happy with their work. Harry hummed the tune to Fool’s Gold all the way to the hair and dressing room’s door. Right as he raised his hand to knock, Lou opened the door.

“Oh! Hello, I was just about to find you. Are you off tonight or can you fill in for stagehand again? I know it can be a pain but Sarah is still out—”

Harry glanced at Louis then back to Lou, “I’ll fill in, it’s no problem. We were just about to ask, actually. Do you need help with anything now?”

“Harry, you’re too polite for your own good. No work to be done right now, go have fun! A boy as young as you shouldn’t be working anyway,” she scolded. Harry laughed, dodging her hand as she tried to ruffle his hair.

 

They stood at the lot, pausing. Harry fiddled with the strap of the bag he still held. “So I’ll— see you before the show later?”

Louis’ eyebrows knitted together, “oh do you have like… crew stuff?”

“No I just kinda figured you’d wanna hang out with your— band. Y’know, since I’ve been hanging around all day.”

Louis sighed, “you’re an idiot. Let’s go.” The rest of the short walk to the bus was quiet. Harry wanted to ask why they weren’t sleeping in the hotel. He couldn’t imagine the bunks were more comfortable than the ones on his own bus, and he only stayed behind because he hated moving all his stuff.

Harry slowed as he stepped onto the bus, “Thanks for letting me write with you guys. It’s— kind of a big honour for me? Especially with this band specifically, you all being my age and—. You work hard and you’re all very talented. It’s insane.”

Zayn snorted from his place on the couch. “Stroke his ego some more why don’t you? Seriously though Harry, we worked off your song. Take some credit where it’s due, mate.”

Louis nodded. “It’s gonna be fuckin’ amazing.”

“You could do some freelance writing while you do that whole uni thing. You’ll have credits for this song and that should be a nice start, if you ever wanted to. Wouldn’t it be?” Liam proposed.

Harry’s stomach dropped. Why would he give away his writing to artists he doesn’t know? Fool’s Gold is different, he clicked with these boys. He can’t even fathom handing his journal to a singer and having them break down and deliver his words. Hesitance still curled around him like a vice when the band looked at his journal and read his words, there would certainly be no passing it around a large open-to-celebrity campfire.

Niall (probably noticing the tensing of his shoulders) turned it around, “or you could just. Help us write. We just won’t touch your more personal songs or whatever.”

He appreciated it. He truly did, because he knows damn well that the opportunity to write for and by a famous boy band isn’t an everyday occurance. This is a chance for the journal that’s been burning a hole in his bag to see some light. The writing in some of those pages is good, he knows, he’s not being cocky. Harry makes a split second decision.

“Take the personal ones,” he demands, digging a hand in his bag to grab the book.

They froze in shock. Eyes moved from Harry to Niall for a moment before Niall spoke. “Didn’t think I was that persuasive.”

Liam cuffed him upside the head with a Look, clearly reprimanding. Harry just laughed, tossing the book to Zayn and Louis, both sitting next to each other on the couch. The hesitant looks on their faces remained.

Zayn picked up the journal and carefully flipped open the cover. Harry honestly couldn’t remember the first few entries in it, but he figured it was some blubbers he wrote over Preston. Which… might seem a little off from their point of view, considering that they don’t know him.

Before Harry had a chance to voice any of these thoughts, Zayn looked up from the journal with a teasing smirk, “Got a sweetheart back home, Styles?”

“Not— no. You can skip the beginning entries, the later stuff should be better anyway.”

His efforts were futile, Louis and Niall perked up and made grabby hands at Zayn. “Let me see, Malik. I bet he has a thing for hipster girls. Is there Romeo and Juliet references?” Louis rambled.

A bark of laughter squeezed out of Harry before he even thought about it. They looked at him, everyone but Zayn (who seemed to have pieced it together) looking befuddled and curious. “Juliet’s name was Preston. A tad off on the hipster-girl type, I’m afraid.”

A pause. Silence. And, okay, what the fuck, why did he set himself up? Should’ve kept to himself—

Niall snorted, shoulders shaking, and nearly crying with laughter, “M’gonna piss myself, oh my God, Louis you— you thought you had his type all sorted out. Asked us all this shite about what type of person we think he likes and—” his own laughter cut him short, leaning into Liam’s shoulder and losing his mind.

“Niall’s being a pillock. What he means is that we aren’t homophobic or biphobic or summat. No worries, yeah?” Liam comforted.

“No worries,” Harry confirmed. He sat down and took a breath. That was his first time coming out in… a year maybe? Everyone he knew had known, so he had forgotten the anxiety that comes with outing yourself to people. He wasn’t all that bothered, again, it’s just been a while.

“So you have a thing for hipster… boys?” Louis tried, hoping he could snatch a win from the jaws of Harry’s confession.

Zayn sighed, “Louis.

“I’m just wonderin’ if I was at least halfway right.” “I do not have a thing for hipster boys, thank you.” The boy in question clarified.

Louis murmured a shit. Zayn continued flipping through his journal as Harry scrolled through Twitter, a now endless stream of One Direction related tweets and mentions. “There’s like, eight different variations of this one song and I’m not that far in, how long did you work on that?”

Just a Little Bit of Your Heart. A two year work in progress he finished yesterday. So, looking back, maybe Harry shouldn’t’ve just told them to take whatever. That is the one song he’s not sure how he feels about them singing. Having the closure he slaved over for so long sung by someone else felt wrong. “It’s done now. I just… took a while to finish it.”

“Which page?” Louis asked, leaning over to read the drafts.

“Uh? The second or third most recent page has the final product.”

“You finished it… recently?” Niall questioned sounding sceptical.

“Kind of?” He dodged. Harry was a fairly open person, and he liked to think he had a good head on his shoulders. But he didn’t think explaining the Preston situation to people he met yesterday was… polite. Even if it felt like he knew these boys for forever. It threw him off kilter, suddenly being that close to people. He was usually pretty confident and outgoing but the fear of embarrassing himself had tampered with his antics. And Preston? That would definitely ‘tamper’ with things.

“I have never worked on a song for that long,” Louis said, tone neutral and Harry knew it was a prompt for further discussion.

“It was a really long project…” he trailed, thinking of how to explain without oversharing. “It meant a lot to me when I first wrote it so I kept on editing it until I was just...over it. The thing it’s about.”

He hadn’t expected a chortle from Liam of all people. “That’s… so fucking vague,” Liam laughed again as Niall tried his best not to join in.

“Don’t feel obligated to explain, Haz,” Louis said gently as he glanced up from Harry’s journal. And fuck. ‘Haz’ is new. ‘Haz’ is making Harry’s pulse jump and stomach flip. He absolutely adores these boys. “I mean, the song explains most of it…” Louis admitted.

“It does.”

“I don’t think we should sing it.” Zayn cut in after his several minutes of silence.

Harry’s breathing stops. He can take them nitpicking anything he writes except that. They could laugh at everything he writes and plays and creates but not that song. It’s not a complicated song, he knows it’s not. But it’s emotional and it’s his. “W-What?”

“This is irrevocably yours,” Zayn continued, passing his readings to Niall. “It’d be fucked up, to put it simply. It’s an amazing song, please breathe and stop looking like I killed your puppy. We just can’t take a two year song and try to make it ours.”

Niall nodded, “Maybe you should… record this?” Liam elbowed him sharply in the ribs.

No.

“We do grill you a lot, Christ. Wanna go for a walk?” Louis asked as he stood up and dusted his trousers off. Harry nodded and followed him out. Followed by Niall. And Liam. And a barely hesitant Zayn.

Louis turned to them, face flat. “Really?” The three at least had the decency to look sheepish, smiling at Harry innocently.

“It’s fine, let’s just walk a bit. D’you think we could find a way on top of the roof before the show?”

Louis showed off his bright grin as he looked at Harry, glowing. “I knew there was a reason I liked you.”

 

 

Chapter Text

“You know, there are like, locks to get up here for a reason,” Liam harrumphed, following the other boys up the industrial stairs nonetheless.

“Quiet Li, you’re already an accessory. We just want some fresh air.”

“Niall you literally refuse to go outside when we try to go sightseeing.” Zayn reminded, shoving his shoulder into Niall’s.

“That's on the paps! Not me. Fuckin’ vultures,” he said, flicking Zayn’s forehead in retaliation. The two silently started shouldering each other back and forth.

Liam huffed a laugh as Louis murmured something that sounded suspiciously like fuckin’ children, I swear. Harry started pondering what Niall had said, falling slightly out of step. Never even thought about paps, Harry trailed in his head. “Is that… a big problem for you guys? Paparazzi?”

All four of the Band Boys groaned at the same time. Zayn pushed the roof door open and held it for the rest of them. Louis laughed as he used his left hand to search his pockets for a lighter, the right being occupied with a cigarette perched precariously between his pointer and index finger. “When Niall says vultures he means vultures. Management makes it even worse— Oi! The hell was that for?”

Liam drew his hand back from Louis’ head, “Don’t say shit about management to people. Discretion.”

Gravel crunched underfoot as they shuffled onto the stadium building’s topmost roof. Louis and Zayn leaned against the red brick wall formed by the entranceway, and Harry floundered over where to stand for a split second before deciding that standing next to Niall (who was next to Liam) was the best choice, forming a loose semicircle around the other two.

Zayn smiled with a cigarette (from Louis?) poking out of the corner of his mouth, “It’s all on the internet. Twitter hates Management as much as we do.” He turned his head at the end to catch the flame from the lighter Louis was offering, his cig already lit.

And— okay. Here’s the thing. Harry has an appreciation for pretty things. Sue him, it’s a pretty picture. An attractive boy leaning into a lighter, eyelashes sweeping and angles sharp. Lighter being held by an equally beautiful boy with a sassy air and an attitude that can shake boats? He’s really done for. About ten comments come to the back of his mind, all about how cigarettes are the grossest thing you can waste money on but who is he to critique their lives? Celebrities can afford to waste all sorts of money. And that's what they are. Celebrities. Really pretty ones at that.

“Harry, how has Twitter been?” Niall queried with a leering smile.

“Honestly? Both funny and… odd? People ask me questions about you guys as if I’m your best bud. Not even questions like which one of you are single, it’s like—” he waved his hand, trying to recall an example. Harry whipped out his phone and opened the first Twitter notification, reading. “‘What does Niall smell like?’ and one in all caps that reads ‘please tell me if Zayn is angry in the mornings’.”

“Zayn is the worst morning person. Are you answering these? Tell them he sucks. Quote me,” Louis broke in during one of the moments his cigarette was down, smoke billowing lightly from his nose as he spoke.

“Did… you tell them what I smell like?” Niall asked, sounding more curious than anything.

“I didn’t but if you’d like I can publicly tell them you smell fucking rank. That’s why you tour with a dramatically long catwalk stage, those who shower need to keep some distance between them and you.” Harry taunted, wiggling his fingers menacingly at Niall.

“Rude. Rude. Unbelievable. Louis, try to kill him again. Do better.”

Liam laughed. He sat on the ground next to Louis, one leg kicked out and one up, arm resting on the knee. “I think if Harry gets hurt again Lou’ll notice and personally come knocking on everyone's door with a bat and an iron will. She can be terrifying.”

“Has anyone maybe considered that maybe he’s the one bumping into me?

“No,” Liam, Zayn, and Niall all chorused together.

Harry smiled gently at the banter, amused and soft hearted. Ponders if maybe he’s been using the word ‘enamored’ too much in his head, but he truly was enamored with these boys. Their banter and their accent differences, Niall’s hoodies, the way Louis says fuck and it sounds more like fook, Zayn’s (frankly) edgy leather jacket and Liam’s mother-henning.

He wonders if that comes with the bond a band forms.

Wonders what it’s like, doing what you love and living off of it and feeling your heart soar with it.

The thoughts are melancholy but Harry couldn’t be brought to feel anything sadder than a pang of envy and longing, deep in the back of his mind. The same part of his mind that takes note of when Louis grins or really fucking nails a note.

The sound of a picture being taken pulled Harry from his silent revery to see Liam holding up his phone and taking a selfie. In the frame stands all of them behind Liam’s face, cigarettes clearly visible and Liam making a dramatically disappointed face. In the photo, Niall and Harry seem mid conversation with the smoking boys.

“It’s going on Twitter,” Liam declared upon reviewing the photo

“PR’s gonna take it down before tomorrow morning,” Zayn tactfully reminded.

Niall shrugged, “Screenshots exist of every Tweet they’ve taken down. Dedicated fanbase. They won’t let me live that cheese Tweet down—”

Harry startled, “I’m sorry, the what Tweet?”

Liam hmphed and wrote out a Tweet before hitting the post button. A moment later Harry’s phone shook with a notification telling him he’d been tagged in a photo. He snorted and opened Liam’s Twitter, viewing the Tweet.

Liam Payne @LiamPayne

Roof locks mean nothing to these hooligans [image attached]

Niall must have read it about the same time Harry did because they both laughed at the same time. Then Niall snorted again, scrolling through the replies, “Ashley on Twitter says ‘she would let the boy in the CREW shirt ruin her life’. Oh, my God. Harry, your impact.”

Louis positively grinned, and walked over to stare over Niall’s shoulder as he searched for Harry replies. The boy in question felt his ears go red.

“My new favourite fan trend is calling you ‘CREW shirt boy’ or ‘curly’.” Louis declared, still scanning over Niall.

“Styles, I’m frankly amazed you still hang out with us. These two never stop taking the piss, feel free to smack them upside the head. Li does it enough anyway,” Zayn advised from his same wall spot.

“No, no, I’m— more surprised you’re all fine with my hovering. You have a band dynamic and, y’know, I don’t want to throw a wrench in how you hang out. You’re friends and all.”

“Knock that off before I make Li smack you too. You’re a good kid and you’re cute, feel free to bother us whenever. Seriously, you act as if having you with us is some great begrudging act of kindness. Give yourself some credit,” Zayn placated, his tone firm but not aggressive.

“He doesn’t actually mean bother whenever. Like I said. Mornings? And Malik? Stay as far away as you can… far.” Louis warned, taking Zayn’s cigarettes butt and making sure they were both completely out before he shoved them in his jean’s pocket. The small act of litter-avoidance did console Harry’s inner cigarette hatred a bit.

Niall herded them all through the door and down the stairs, insisting it was too breezy up so high and not everyone carries a jacket all the time, Zayn, shut up. Harry’s mind ran a mile a minute, processing what— everyone said. Zayn had insisted that Harry wasn’t a bother, and they actively included him in conversation. Not forcefully, their banter felt organic and real.

And. Harry was flat out enamored. They’re his age and so fucking talented. They glow on stage. They glow when they sing, or talk to screaming crowds. Things that made highschool Harry’s heart bleed and current Harry’s heart ache with resigned, quiet envy.

When they arrived in the storage space at the bottom of the stairs they allegedly snuck up, Louis turned to him. “If I promise not to try to kill you, will you come hang out in the bus? It’s barely 1 which means the show is, like, 17 hours from now-”

“We have to be backstage in 5 and a half hours, Lou,” Liam cut in.

“-Yes. Then. You can just go there with us in forever and a half hours. Hang out till then.”

Harry shrugged before he could overthink it, “Sure? I don’t have any job things. Lead the way.”

Niall clapped him on the shoulder as he ran past, racing with Zayn. “Dibs on corner of the couch!” He yelled out behind him. “Don’t give me that look, Malik, I swear.”

 

Harry stepped up into the bus last, doing his best to seem non-invasive. Niall had indeed tucked himself into the corner of the couch, and had started making grabby hands at Liam. “Liam— don’t play FIFA, come here and comfort me.”

“Comfort you from what? You can say cuddles, Niall.”

“Ludicrous. What a ridiculous accusation. Come comfort me from…” he thought for a moment before he snapped and pointed at Harry, “The mean Twitter man telling people I don’t shower.”

The other boys laughed and Harry grinned, “Oh? I’m the mean Twitter man? But Liam can rat all of us out for being on the roof? Seems… biased. This is a band alliance.”

“Hey choir boy, you’re just as musical as us,” Louis warned.

He snorted, a self deprecating little sound. “School choir definitely put me in the same league. For sure. I’m selling millions of albums, as a matter of fact. #1 debuts.”

Zayn wasn’t having it, though still looked amused. “We’re lucky. Tried out for a show and technically lost. We were all cut and then grouped together. You’re just as talented. I’m begging you to stop selling yourself short.”

The three other boys nodded, Liam from his spot wrapped around Niall, who was leaned against his chest. His ears and face felt warm. He was floundering for a response.

“Don’t do X-Factor though. Dance bootcamp is balls. Take literally any other route,” Louis advised as he shuffled around cabinets.

“Louis!” Liam scolded.

“You can’t dance either, I don’t want to hear it.

“You lot seem like you made it pretty far with X-Factor though…?” Harry ventured.

“And we’re thankful, Louis,” Liam began, “But we’re not our management's biggest fan. It’s a whole thing, don’t worry about it,” he dismissed.

Harry yet again found the only suitable response to be a short shrug. He sat himself on the edge of the couch Niall and Liam were on, reticent. Niall was leaning back on Liam’s chest with his legs sticking out across the couch. The position looked… extremely cozy. Another reminder that while they weren’t mean to Harry, he didn’t necessarily belong. He wasn’t a part of the band and he was being humored—

“Hey, Curly. C’mere,” Niall waved at him in a ‘come here’ motion. At Harry’s imploring and confused face, Niall waved more insistently. “If you don’t cuddle that’s fine but you look like a tall lost deer and I cannot cope.” Louis and Zayn billowed sharp laughs and Liam just huffed at Niall, trying to hide amusement. Harry acted as though it was a great inconvenience by muttering playfully. He leaned against Niall in a mockery of how he was against Liam, and settled with another fake huff.

Harry doesn’t have any romantic interest in Niall, truly, but he was cuddly when he still had best friends and having that back feels like drinking hot cocoa. Even if it’s just for a moment. Niall’s legs wrapped around Harry like a seat belt. His arms were blanketed over Harry’s shoulders so he could rest his phone on Harry and scroll through Twitter.

“Are Zayn and I chopped liver now?”

“We don’t embrace boys who smell like burning chemical sticks,” Liam replied. Harry thought it was the only time he had heard Liam sound just a teensy bit upset. Legitimately upset, not playful scolding.

“Oh but you’re fine with our smell when we smoke weed. Backwards thinking,” Zayn shot back.

“Weed doesn’t cause cancer and fuck with vocal chords permanently.

Niall sighed and Harry felt the breath on the top of his head, “Will you three shut it? ‘Ya sound like broken records. Li, they’re not gonna stop smoking. Louis, Zayner, would you please, ever so kindly, not smoke around Mother Liam?”

Quiet laughter sputtered from Harry. “You four argue like a family. How domestic.”

“Yeah, yeah, Haz. You’re the one who stole my spot on Niall. Welcome to the family. I might argue with you next,” Louis teased.

And there goes Harry’s brain, blinking like fucked up Christmas lights. Welcome to the family in such an offhand manner. As if the words didn’t send lightning down his spine. He loves how he feels like he belongs with this boys but he knows it won’t last. Wants it to, of course. Wants to scold Louis for smoking and huff at Liam for smacking him upside the head. Wants to sing and write and ‘dance’ with them.

As if sensing Harry’s sudden spike in anxiety, Niall forcefully pulls Harry’s head against him and smooths his fingers in Harry’s curls. “Stop overthinking. I swear, you’re the brightest kid I know but you’re never cutting loose,” he fretted.

Harry played it off as a joke, “Har-Har, yes, Mother, thank you for the pep talk.”

“We should have Zayn give you a Walk and Talk. All that worry is bad for the soul. Zayn will ‘walk with you’ and unlock your panic inducing ordeal Dr. Phil style. But prettier. And more smoking. I think he’s done it to all of us at least once. Louis, like, 14 times.” Liam said.

“Try 3 times, ass.” Louis piped.

“I’m not makin’ Harry uncomfortable so you can cuddle easier, Niall. I know your plots,” Zayn said.

Harry was very, very close to groaning and flopping over to take a very long nap. “Why am I being grilled? I am a humble stagehand peasant, undeserving of this.”

“See! See! Deflecting! Liam says using humour like that is deflecting! Tell him, Li.”

“Can Zayn and I go for a walk?” Harry cut off, looking for an out. Literally any out possible. Please, God, deliver.

The Band Boys exchanged glances. A silent conversation. A pause and then Zayn nodded, passing Harry his messenger bag and shuffling him out the bus door. “You don’t actually have to spill all. Niall’s being pushy, I shoulda stopped him sooner. He cares too much to filter what he says,” he says, not without fondness. It’s just past 2:30 but there is less hustle and bustle than there always is the first day in one location. Second day’s are relatively peaceful.

Harry nods, walking with Zayn a bit. Basked in the silence. He took a mental moment to thank God for Zayn and his casual exit. His feet followed Zayn’s on autopilot, causing him to not even notice they were in the stage area until Zayn stumbled on a power cord. Harry may have heard a muttered shit as it happened. May have.

Zayn stood center on the backend of the stage, where the platform is flat and wide before extending into the catwalk. Harry sat at the edge, legs dangling and messenger bag set aside. “What’s’it like?” Harry asks.

“Performing?” Zayn clarifies, earning a nod from Harry. He walks over to sit next to Harry as he replies, “hmm. Fun. Sweaty. Always nerve wracking but everything is, now. It’s validating, honestly.”

Again, Harry just nodded, silent. For a moment. And then another, before spilling. “My year 11 self would be pissing his pants right now. Being here on a stadium stage.”

“Not your current self?”

“I have a job.”

“I don’t see how those dots connect, Styles.” Zayn tests. Edging carefully.

“In year 11 I was… considering career paths. I had my writing, and the instruments I learned, I thought I had the attitude. For— this. And I suppose reality just didn’t allow for it. Boyfriend broke up with me, friends got busy with Uni prep, and I moved on.” Harry told, making it sound simple and dismissive.

“Just like that? Cut and dry?”

“Just like that,” Harry confirmed, confidently.

And Zayn scoffed. “That’s bullshit— I mean, mate, come on. What’s the core of this? What’s the big fuckin’ problem poking you in the ass?”

Harry huffed a weak laugh, covered his eyes with the heels of his palms. Felt his throat lock up and eyes well. Felt his stomach buzz and his ribcage rattle. “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing here.” He rubbed his hands over his eyes and vented further, “Here. Hanging out with you guys on a fucking tour. As if I have any right? Or know what I’m doing? I’ll go to Uni for sociology or business, I’ll graduate, I might just hate my job. I’ll write and play music in my freetime and that’ll be it.”

Zayn let that simmer as he processed Harry’s confession. “I think—… I think you’re staring down one track for one type of future but there’s so many for someone as bright as you. And you’re young, there’s literally no hurry. Universities will be around in a couple years.”

“You’re… absolutely right. I’ll just— push uni back. Couple of gap years, that’s fine. I can talk myself into that.”

“Good! Now all you have to do is stop overthinking our friendship. Let friends be friends man, everytime you’re around us you act like we’re gonna laugh and toss you off the top of the bus if you mess up. Sound doable?”

Harry pondered for a moment then nodded. He could do that. Breathe a little deeper, think a little less? “Yeah, okay. Sounds like a deal, Dr. Phil.” Zayn grinned and stood, motioning for Harry to follow, “We can head back to the bus or stop and get some food without the rat children. Choose wisely.”

He giggled, “Hmm… I don’t know… seems awfully rude.”

“Good choice, Curly. Food it is.”

Chapter Text

The smell of hairspray and deodorant hung heavy in the small rooms air. It wasn’t overpowering but Harry was eager to get out of the dressing room. The Band plus Lou in one room? It was crowded.

“Nialler? Be a dear and pass me my water bottle?” Louis hummed from his spot in Lou’s chair, hair being prodded and sprayed at.

“No.”

“Prick.”

Harry snorted and picked up the water bottle from the low table, in front of the spot Zayn was sitting on the small couch. He deposited it on Louis’ lap, “Hydrate. All the water bottles on stage somehow end up all over you four instead of being drinken.”

“That’s Liam and Niall! Zayn and me mind our own business.”

“Zayn and I,” Zayn corrected.

Lou laughed and turned Louis’ head with her hands, pivoting his affronted face away from Zayn. “You’re on in 30 minutes, if I don't finish you’ll go on looking like a Q-tip.”

“Thank you, really, Lou, for keeping him humble,” Liam said.

“Why does everyone act like I have a Mick Jagger complex? I am a joy!” Louis cried, appalled.

“Aw don’t worry, Tomlinson, I’m your number one fan. Always here for you, xoxo kissy face,” Harry taunted. Niall let out a full body laugh and leaned forward from his spot on the couch to grab Harry’s knee.

“Harry is never allowed to leave. I’m asking Paul if we can keep him.

“He’s not a dog,” Liam said.

“I’m with Niall on this one. Harry, are you up to date on your shots? Rabies? Are you housebroken? It’s crucial that we know,” Zayn implored, tone all teasing.

“I’m suing for psychological damages and defamation, you’ll hear from my lawyer when you are served papers.”

Hairspray cans clinked as Lou tossed one back into the disarray on her beauty desk. She critiqued Louis’ hair one last time as she shooed them all out, “Out! Out! Paul will kill me and you bicker like children. Break a leg!”

“Thank you, Lou!” Louis called genuinely over his shoulder as the five of them hurried on to the backstage area. They conversed lightly back and forth as they walked the length of the halls, Harry tripping slightly when he attempted to put his in-ear piece in while speed walking. Much to the amusement of his company, mind you.

 

“On in one minute!” The stage manager yelled from somewhere off Stage Left.

The Band Boys just grinned at each other, a unique smile shared between them as performers. They had the pre-show glow about them. Bouncy and energetic. Harry noticed Louis left index finger tapping rapidly on the side of his leg, an excited little quirk.

Harry felt like it was a private moment, slowly moving to turn away and carve out his own little spot in the wings to await a chore during the show. He mosied on his way, positioning himself so he could watch them walk on stage. From across the broad stage he could barely make out Louis making silly faces at him. Harry laughed quietly and made a fish face at Louis, poking his hands from his head like deer antlers and wiggled his fingers.

Just as the stage lights flashed on and the opening music began, the four walked on stage to the sound of thousands of overlapping screams. One Direction stood in a spaced out row, mic stands in front of them and mile-wide grins adorning their faces. Their shoulders set in a confident manner, ready to perform and wow.

By the end of their first song, they were all spread out across the catwalk. Louis was laughing and reading his favourite signs out loud, much to the delight of the fans. “Oh my God. Niall— look,” he called, laughing. “Hey love, can I borrow that one for a mo’? Promise you’ll get it back!” He pleaded at a girl in the front row. She looked about ready to faint. Or scream. Or cry? Harry wasn’t sure and he was more focused on trying to read the sign.

` Louis smirked devilishly as he hauled the sign up from the hands of the approving girl. He had to crouch on stage and stretch his arms to reach the corner of the poster board, but he did indeed manage to grasp it. Niall, Liam, and Zayn all walked towards Louis.

“Wait, I’m taking a photo. Hold it up,” Zayn instructed.

Zayn took the photo and Louis turned towards the stage wings, hoping Harry was still standing there. Nobody can tell Harry hovering doesn’t have it’s perks, because if he wasn’t right there behind the curtain he wouldn’t have been able to see the large poster board that reads ‘WHERE IS THE CREW BOY?’, with the ‘crew’ written just like it was on his staff shirt.

“His name is Harry, I said that at the show last night! He’s very talented—” Louis began, only to be cut off my Liam.

“Louis has tried to kill him a good couple’a times.”

“You two are going to squabble about him as if he can’t hear you… charming,” Zayn said into his mic.

That seemed to remind Niall of something, seeing as he lit up with realization and turned towards the side stage curtains with a downright impish smirk. Before Harry could properly consider if he’d get fired for hitting a band member in self defence because he was being charged at, Niall ran full speed down the catwalk, waving at Harry nearly viciously.

“No— no, no, no, Niall.”

Queue a pout. “Why not? You have an actual shirt on this time!”

“I hate this band,” Harry murmured as he grabbed four bottled waters from the stage crew table. Niall did a happy dance and grabbed Harry’s arm, yanking him onto stage in a show not unlike a proud mother. Cheers erupted as Louis punched the air in success. He passed the poster back down to the fan, satisfied. Harry tossed him a water bottle once he was far enough down the stage, talking loudly to be heard over the screams, “miss me already? You haven’t even flooded the stage yet.”

“Miss you? You wish, Crew Boy. I needed water, manservant.”

Harry snorted. He cuffed both Zayn and Liam on their arms as he turned to leave with an accidentally-blatant middle finger aimed at Niall and Louis, “goodbye, you godless fools. I have a show to save behind-the-scenes.”

“Wait!” Liam called, and Harry obligingly turned to see Liam holding out a mic to him. Anxiety started bubbling in Harry’s chest upon seeing it. “Wanna say a little something?” Liam asked.

Fuck no, Harry’s brain chimed in (unhelpfully). Thousands of people had phones and cameras out, thousands of people were here for One Direction, thousands of people were not going to listen to Harry make some witty remark into a microphone. He responds after the long pause, a mere shake of his head with a self-deprecating little smile. Harry turned and made his way off.

 

The rest of their show went off without a hitch, Harry noted. He felt proud of his friends— as we was slowly learning to call them— and they looked proud of themselves too, their post show glow making them look like excited (and sweaty) children. Paul, Lou, and a few other staff members Harry wasn’t familiar with congratulated them on another wonderful show. The crowd murmuring could still be heard, even backstage, as the thousands of people shuffled out and to their cars.

Harry tried to duck subtly behind a moving cart that was being pushed by a suddenly very confused trainee. He wanted to avoid any awkward interactions following his brief on-stage appearance, so… cart.

“Curly!” Called a very distinct Yorkshire accent.

Shit. Harry straightened his slumped shoulders since he could no longer try and duck into the hustle and bustle of the beginning set takedown. He softly smiled at the four boys, walking over. “You had a wonderful show tonight.”

“Aw shucks, you’ll make me blush, H,” Niall said with a dramatic faux swoon onto Liam’s shoulder. Liam dropped his shoulder, displacing the shorter one.

“We’re gonna hang out at the hotel tonight so we can sleep in actual beds before hitting the road again. Wanna come hang out? We might swim,” Liam inquiried.

“I’m helping with takedown, actually. Have to pull my weight,” Harry joked. It wasn’t a falsity, but he was glad he had a swift cover. Awkward interactions? Not today, Satan!

“Wow. Rejection,” Louis mourned, throwing himself onto Niall. Niall grasped Louis like they were both mourning some sudden horrible event. “Louis, what do we do now? Our token Curly is abandoning us—”

Zayn laughed and pushed Louis nearly to the ground. “Don’t worry about it, Haz. See you soon?”

“Definitely. See you later!” He called, running off.

 

“Harry, Anthony wants you helping party three load the light rigs onto the truck in the garage. It’s the fourth truck, you’ll see them and know,” Lou called as Harry passed her dressing room. Harry quickly backtracked and confirmed he would head there right away. He restarted his hurried pace, rushing to assist.

“Styles! Our favourite superstar!” Anthony crowed upon seeing Harry push a cart of trunks into the massive garage. Harry shook his head.

“If I’m a superstar then I guess I don’t have to help you with loading these?” He quirked his eyebrow at Anthony over the top of the trunk in his arms.

“Ass,” Anthony grunted as he lifted a heavy one. “We disconnected our mic feeds from the stadiums own speakers, so mic audio only feeds into our own stage speakers. No big upper light rigs either. Just in case you wanted to run a little… mic test, or something later. Whole set won’t be done until Friday, we’re here a couple a’days so the band can rest and we can pack up this massive fucking stage.”

“Mic test? We might just see, Ant. How long do they want us to tidy up if we have the extra days?”

“Uhh…” Anthony thought for a moment, setting one of the smaller boxes down. “I’m claiming a supervisor role here and saying once you and I finish this truck up, you can go. If anyone asks though, I’m blaming you.”

Harry rolled his eyes, “Sounds good to me, Ant.”

“Stop calling me that.”

“No?”

 

The straggling crew members were finally making their way out of the area. Harry subtly made his way to the front, following Anthony’s approval with their work for the day. His brain was blasting indecisive thoughts at him. He wasn’t sure if this was his brightest idea but— listen, he didn’t have his bag on him and piano practice in a small room can only do so much to satisfy.

He grabbed a mic, grabbed the connecting wire.

Hooked it up the quieter stage speakers.

Clipped the microphone to the stand. Adjusted it.

Stayed silent. For a moment.

“God, you’re ridiculous,” he said quietly to himself as he walked the stand towards the end of the catwalking.

Harry chuckled at himself, a nervous little sound. The last sound he made as he let the silence sink in in waves. Nothing for the mic to pick up and no one around. Utter peace, utter quiet. He smiled. He began with raw vocals. He began, and would end, with no guitar and no piano.

“I took my love, and I took it down

Climbed a mountain, and I turned around,” he began softly. The mic fed his voice— his voice! — to the speakers smoothly, his voice staying an ‘indoor voice’ until the chorus, the spot where he would always pick up tone on when he accompanied with the guitar.

He rose his voice, remembered what his teacher taught him about keeping your diaphragm relaxed, Harry, more emotion and more sound doesn’t mean less airflow and carried through onto the chorus,

“Well I’ve been ‘fraid of changin’

‘Cause I built my life around you

But time makes you bolder, even children get older,”

A pause. Harry allows himself the luxury of scanning the seats, coping with the shear number of people this stadium could fit. Did fit. Merely hours ago.

“And I’m getting older, too…”

Harry took his volume down again, voice sounding more resigned. His song was coming to an end,

“I… took my love, I took it down

Climbed a mountain and I turned around

And if you see my reflection in the snow covered hills…” Harry stepped back and laughed softly. Barely readable to the mic.

“Well the landslide’ll bring it down…”

 

Harry was still smiling as he wrapped up the mic cord. He left it on the table near one of the too-many staff doors before walking back onto the plain stage to retrieve the stand itself. His heart rate was still up there, even a minute after his solo (truly, solo). Which is embarrassing. He couldn’t truly be brought to care though, humming as he stepped onto the stage.

And then he froze. Because of-fucking-course.

Hello, Harry, meet One Direction.

Standing right there at the end of the catwalk, front row.

With a mix of shocked and manic grins. Absolute impish little demons. Harry was going to throw this mic stand at them.

“Choir, huh? That’s some fuckin’ choir,” Louis said, phone in hand.

“No autographs, sorry,” Harry joked tightly, quickly grabbing the stand and walking back. Go, go, go, he rushed himself.

“Hey, wait a damn minute!” Niall called. He began throwing his limbs over the stand obstructing his passage onto stage, meant to keep audience members a respectable distance from the stage itself. The others made it over with more grace. Harry could hear them approaching, just walking past the stage apron.

“I don’t see why you’re avoiding us right now! That was fuckin’ good!” Louis bemoaned.

“I’m not avoiding! I’m— packing up,” he said, not even sounding a little convincing to his own ears. He, apparently, didn’t come off as a good liar to them either. When he turned around he could see the four of them standing just in the entrance of the stage curtain, flat facial expressions that said ‘really? Really? That’s the best you could do?’

Liam stepped forward. “Look, I get it, personal moment and stuff. Okay. Okay? And…? It was good! We’re not laughing or— I don’t know. Why do you look like we have a gun to your head?”

“I don’t! I’m… flustered and the stadium was supposed to be empty,”

“Right. But it wasn’t,” Zayn stated. Very helpful, Zayn. Thank you.

Harry sighed and leaned against the table with the mic wire on it. He pressed the palms of his hands to his eyes, “It wasn’t,” he agreed.

“…It’s on Twitter? A little?” Louis said nervously. He appeared, for all intents and purposes, like a puppy who looked guilty for chewing on furniture.

Harry whipped his head to stare at him in abject horror. “My singing is on fucking what?”

Chapter Text

“I mean— I could take it down but with my follower count— it’d be pointless!-”

“Louis!” Harry interrupted.

“They’re like, cheetahs with Twitter— Niall’s cheese tweet! Forever screenshotted-”

“Louis.”

“So what I mean is that the video is absolutely saved to someone’s phone,” Louis finished. He looked unbelievably guilty. Good, if he hadn’t Harry might have just strangled him.

“God just. Give me a damn moment,” Harry breathed. He leaned most of his weight onto the table, hands on his face and shoulders slumped. Zayn and Liam were giving Louis looks but they respected Harry’s wish for a moment of quiet. Niall was scrolling on his phone. Harry assumed it was Louis’ Twitter. Harry didn’t care.

Harry took another deep breath. Let his whole torso expand with the force of it, let his whole torso deflate. “Okay.”

Niall and Louis startled and questioned in tandem, “‘Okay?’

“It’s done. I can’t fix it and if I deck Louis I suspect I’ll lose my job.”

Louis did look a little hurt. A little hurt and a lot guilty, but also… determined? “That’s fair, be mad. I can apologize all you guys want but I got your voice out there because you wouldn’t! You doubt yourself and we were stuck here watching you do nothing with your talent!”

Harry’s eyes widened a fraction. Liam just sighed. Heart beat just starting to slow down, Harry met Louis’ eyes. “Okay. I— I’m not completely okay with this yet but you… had good intentions. Just don’t post stuff like that without my go ahead? Please?”

Louis smiled, the picture of contrite and gentle, thankful for the partial forgiveness. Harry truly was not that upset. Startled and a little (a lot) embarrassed. Maybe even a little grateful. But he didn’t believe for a second he could stay angry at Louis, with those big blue eyes and wispy eyelashes and his fucking accent. He had a big heart. And an affinity for good intentions.

Niall spoke, eyes still tracking his scrolling, “Not to, like, startle? You but all these reactions seem to be our fanbase losing their shit— In a good way!”

Harry did let himself smile at that. A shy pull of his lips and a dust of red on his cheeks. Louis took notice, “Oh, my God. Are you… blushing. Zayn, I can’t. I cannot. Why are you so damn humble? How?”

“I’m not talking to you still,” Harry mumbled, half playful.

“That’s fair,” Liam nodded. He didn’t see but Harry did hear a thwack noise suspiciously similar to Louis smacking Liam’s shoulder.

“Do you want to go back out there? With us? Maybe minus Louis, he can get a timeout,” Zayn nudged the mic stand. A murmured damn it, Zayn came from Louis direction but no one paid it any mind.

Harry weighed the option. The stage is so beautiful and the empty arena echoes vocals like a cathedral. The acoustics throw his voice like a church choir. “No mics.”

“No mics!” Niall cheered. He jumped up and down as he pushed Louis and Liam back out from behind the curtain. Zayn and Harry shared an amused and fond smile privately before following them out.

Without the instruments or huge light rigs the stage looked even more daunting. It was huge and the dark colour made it seem endless. To Harry, at least. He assumed that they were used to it, seeing as they are the ones who perform on it frequently. That fact was huge and daunting in its own right.

Harry stood on Louis’ first cue marker, a subtle blue “X” in tape. Each member only had a few markers for a few specific songs. Though, if the stage planners and choreographer decided to keep the markers to a minimum, or if the boys just hadn’t abided by the first set and forced a lower amount, Harry isn’t sure.

“You always look so amazed,” the blond observed. “Kinda makes me feel like I don’t appreciate the career enough,” Niall said from halfway down the catwalk.

“Because you don’t?” Liam said, sounding like it’s the most obvious thing ever.

“You got me there!” He yelled from his newer position at the end of the catwalk.

Harry grinned. He was excited! “What song?” He called.

“You and I!” Zayn voted.

“You’re only sayin’ that because of your note!” Louis accused.

“Suddenly I don’t know what we were talking about.”

Harry snorted. He sat himself down on the mark, and watched his friends wander around the stage. “I think I would fall on this stage constantly. Between the step down onto the catwalk and your weird bench right after. I’d trip like—”

“A baby deer!” Niall interrupted. “What’d I tell you Louis? A baby deer.”

“If we do You and I what part would Harry take? He should choose the song,” Liam, ever the voice of reason (most of the time) said. Harry didn’t know what music they knew. How was he supposed to choose?

“...What about Fool’s Gold?” He ventured carefully.

The four boys cheered, apparently more than pleased with the song choice. Fool’s Gold wasn’t quite done yet, some of the parts had two lines and they hadn’t gone through to cull the worse ones, but they would make do. Niall ran down the walk to sit next to Harry, ready to begin. Liam nodded at Niall and he took it as his cue.

“I’m like a crow on a wire

You’re the shining distraction that makes me fly

Home,” he crooned, finishing the lines until right before the pre-chorus.

Harry grinned at him and picked the song up from where Niall ended,

“And I know in my heart… you’re not a constant star.” Harry’s voice was smooth from his warmup and melted in with Louis’ own voice like butter when Louis joined in halfway into the chorus.

Liam and Zayn picked up after them, leaving Harry and Louis to grin at eachother like fools. Harry was basking in how well his voice meshed with the others’. Years of teaching himself and choir and karaoke with his sister led him to this. Led him to singing in an arena with the world’s current top boy band. And enjoying it. Singing and looking at pretty blue eyes.

All five of them finish the last part together. They keep their chests open and project their voices. They adjust their harmony to fit Harry’s own pitch in. Harry might cry.

They sound so fucking good.

“Oh… my God!” He breathes.

Louis nods in agreement. Wild grins are exchanged rapidly, everyone looking back and forth from each other. Harry’s breathing is heavy, Niall is hanging off of Zayn as they both laugh, and Liam and Louis are still smiling at eachother. It's… surreal, to say the least. Life is beautiful, Harry thinks. Thinks and believes it with his whole soul, and since when has that last happened?

“We need to record that with you,” Liam states.

“Our harmonies!” Niall emphasised. He did a grand gesture with his hands. An almost ‘can you believe?’ motion. Louis nodded along.

“Harry! Harry!” Louis crowed, tugging on his arm. “We should put it on the album. We’re writing it now and it can be a single— oh shit, Liam, it can be a single, right?”

Liam bit his lip in thought for a moment before answering, “I think it can. The whole album isn’t done so we have a bit before we have to decide which ones are dropped as singles.”

Louis turned his wide puppy dog eyes back on Harry. He tugged on the other boys arm, “Please, Haz? It’s such a pretty song. You can play the piano.”

Harry laughed. “Feel completely free to record it. I like the direction it went in, no pun intended.”

Zayn flicked his forehead, “Don’t give us non-answers. You’re going to be on the track one way or another, I’ve made the executive decision. You’re part of the harmony now, slag.”

He snorted, “Yeah, ‘cause you were doing awful before I showed up. Record breaking album sales, tsk tsk.”

Nearly falling from some mysterious force, Harry looked over his shoulder to see Louis pushing him to the stage exit. Harry is not the type to be herded, thank you very much. Maybe just this one time. To not upset Louis. For the sake of politeness. The five boys followed the stage exist down the halls to the performing guests lot, where the now empty buses sat parked and, admittedly, creepy. To the right Harry saw a black SUV with the lights on. He could see the silhouette of who he assumed to be Paul in the drivers seat.

“Are you giving me a lift to the hotel?”

Liam looked at him flatly. “No, walk there,” he said as he held open the door for his four friends. Harry returned the look, though it was more amused than he had hoped, and climbed into the car behind Niall. He sat in the seat behind Paul, letting the other four situate into the back three seats and the seat behind the passenger on their own. “Thanks for letting me tag along, Paul.”

“It’s your funeral. Have fun on stage?”

 

 

Harry was no longer confused. This absolutely was his funeral. Outside the car, in front of the hotel entrance, stood hundreds (read: thousands?) of screaming people. They were split on either side of the hotel doors by metal stands. Terrifying. Harry whipped around to look at the other occupants, but they didn’t seem scared. Or even fazed. Niall grinned at him and flung the door open, allowing the screams to spike up another octave and decibel.

One by one, with only some stumbling, One Direction made their way out of the car. Harry did not.

“Harry?” Niall prompted, standing outside the door.

“I think I’ll park with Paul.”

Louis barked a laugh and reached into the car, somehow stretching his shorter body to grasp Harry’s wrist. “Nice try. Come say hello!”

To the sound of a screaming crowd, Harry was pulled from the car. Louis hadn’t let go of his wrist. Everything is so so loud. There were so many people reaching out for the band and Harry didn’t know what to do with his hands.

He followed the pulling on his arm as the band made their brief rounds to take photos and sign various things (sometimes body parts?!) with the fans. Harry was standing to the side while they took a group photo with two crying girls when he heard someone behind him call.

“Harry! Harry!”

Upon turning he saw a girl, maybe 18, she definitely looked his age, beckoning from behind the barrier. He stepped closer to hear her and raised his eyebrows.

“My names Anna. Sorry, this may sound weird but can you sign this? I swear one day you’re gonna be so fucking big.” She held a printed photo (on actual photo paper, nice) of Harry. On the page laid one of the Twitter photos that had risen to popularity among One Direction fan accounts. It was the photo that Harry had privately pouted over after his first encounter with his friends on stage, the one that captured him staring wantingly at the boys on their catwalk.

He stared at her. “You want me to sign that?”

The girl, Anna, snorted. “Yeah. Please?” She held a sharpie out. Harry could still hear the boys taking group photos just a few feet up and figured he had time for conversation. He took the sharpie.

She continued talking as he signed it and wrote a note off to the side. “There’s a lot of talk about your Landslide cover. Did you know Louis was in the stadium?”

“No, actually. I was pissed at him for a moment there when I found out he posted it. It’s a bit odd, the sudden increase in my Twitter notifications and having people recognize me,” he fumbled. “He’s a hard person to stay mad at.”

“I can only imagine,” Anna said. She took the photo back, smiling at the shaky signature and the unexpected note it followed. “You’re a sweet boy, Styles.”

He felt his face stretch into a smile, shy and completely involuntary. It was nice to have such a polite encounter after hearing the boys tell a few fan horror stories. Stolen shoes? Rude comments? Mobs? No thanks! Harry enjoyed his boots and his self esteem.

A warm hand grabbed his elbow and Harry turned, ready to politely decline any band related questions. “Harry! We’re going up, if you stay down you’ll never escape,” Louis called over the noise, and immediately began yanking on Harry’s elbow.

“Oh-! Bye, Anna!” He called over his shoulder, hoping she heard.

The gang gathered in the back of the lobby while someone (a manager? security? above Harry’s pay grade) sorted out what floor would be dedicated to the band and the staff that required it.

“So. She was pretty cute, huh?” Louis asked with a nudge to Harry’s side. He saw the other three boys look up from their conversation to tune in.

“She was just asking me to sign something. Was weird to me but she was nice about it, she had a nice energy.” Harry said.

“‘Nice energy’,” Niall snorted.

“You give her your number?” Louis asked, all cautious and careful. Zayn just shook his head.

“No? Why?”

“Just wondering. Gotta keep updated with all the gossip!” Louis said.

 

They were escorted to their rooms (their rooms! per Liam’s polite insistence to a very tired manager, their rooms!) and immediately dragged all the blankets and pillows to the floor. Zayn insisted it was tradition, followed by vehement agreements from the other three. “What’s the point in staying in a hotel if you don’t completely reinvent the room?” Niall had asked. Bed sheets were laid out over blankets, pillows stacked, and pajamas were adorned.

No one could say who started it, but they began pitching ideas. It was a good half hour of back and forth nonsense.

“What if Harry actually agreed to singing Fool’s Gold with us, that’d be neat. Pretty cool. Just dandy, even.” Niall said.

“Keep that up and he won’t sing anything, dumbass,” Louis had scolded, peeking up from where his head was resting on Liam’s shoulder. Harry snorted, jostling Zayn’s head. Harry had learned quickly that:

Zayn slept like a boulder

Zayn fell asleep fast

Zayn fell asleep fast with his head on Harry’s lap

effectively trapping Harry

Harry does not have the heart nor inclination to move him

“I just don’t think it's appropriate for me to join in on that! On top of the fact that your management would never allow it!”

“Don’t say the M-Word in the fort,” Zayn muttered, though Harry didn’t think he ever fully woke to say it.

Harry smiled and gently patted Zayn’s head, a quiet acknowledgement.

They’ll figure it out. The one thing Harry is sure of.