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"Zayn, Zayn, you see, likes to be wooed," says Louis sagely, because he likes to think that the one time he and Zayn got high and got each other off qualifies him as an expert on the subject. Harry will take what he can get though, because so far his method of staring longingly at Zayn and telepathically shouting at him about how badly he wants to suck his dick and possibly marry him haven't yielded any results. 

Harry nods eagerly. "Good, good, what else?" 

"Well that's it, isn't it?" Louis says, frowning like Harry ought to be considerably more impressed by his not-plan.

"I can do that," Harry says very seriously, "I can woo Zayn. I'll woo the socks off him." 

"Well, hopefully more than just the socks."

 

There's a moment where Harry's alarm is blaring at arse o'clock in the morning on his day off that he considers just chucking his phone out the window, but he has a Plan. 

He spends more time than he'd reckoned trying to tame the mess of curls atop his head. With a glance at the clock, he gives up, pulls his hair into a messy ponytail and pulls on a nearly see through white t-shirt to compensate. Life is all about finding a balance.

Harry lets himself into Zayn's flat with the spare key Zayn had given him last term. Harry had rationalised that he practically lived there anyway and had even made a half-serious argument about contributing to the rent that Zayn had laughed off. Zayn could be a bit weird about issues relating to money, though, so Harry was happy enough to settle for the key.

The next day, Zayn had a key made up. He handed it to Harry with an almost shy smile, saying he’d be glad to no longer see Harry freezing his arse of on his front step. 

It's a privilege, he knows, being granted access to Zayn's private space, and it's one he's very careful not to abuse. This, however, is a special circumstance.

He pokes around in Zayn's fridge, very mindful of keeping quiet, until he finds all the necessary provisions.

Harry knows how to cook—he'll happily fight Niall for the title of Master Chef any day of the week—but there's only so much he can do when he's working with a cursed hob. The bacon should be nearly done by now, but it's hardly cooked at all, and Harry's running out of time. He turns the temperature up and sets to flipping the egg. Only...the egg is stuck to the pan because Harry forgot to grease it. He swears, trying in vain to salvage the egg, but it's a hopeless cause. He scrapes what's left of it into the bin, and turns back to the bacon, which is now burning because apparently the universe hates him.

In his haste to take the pan off the hob, Harry doesn't even notice Zayn until he's standing next to him, dressed and ready to go but still looking half asleep.

"Harry? What the fuck?"

Harry smiles sheepishly, knowing his blush is probably visible from space. "I was, uh, gonna make you breakfast? Only I fucked it up a bit." He eyes the charred bacon. "Or a lot, maybe."

Zayn nods about five times. He looks like he's having trouble processing that at such an early hour. "Right, okay. Why?"

"You have that test today. I wanted you to have a good breakfast beforehand." As if on cue, the toast Harry had on pops up. Completely burnt. "Your hob is shit." Harry says, mostly just for something to say. Zayn hasn't stopped looking at him since he appeared in the kitchen, like Harry's some riddle he's trying to puzzle out.

Zayn nods absently, still looking very confused by the entire situation. "Yeah, it's very touchy."

In the end, Harry pours Zayn a bowl of frosted flakes (because he refuses to be completely useless) while Zayn butters the toast and puts it on a plate.

"Zayn, you don't have to eat that. You're not going to, like, hurt my feelings or anything."

"Nah, I like it a bit crispy." he says, taking a bite and gamely not even making a face at the taste.

Crispy is a very optimistic word for the mess Harry managed to create.

Harry tries to make conversation, asking Zayn about his test, but Zayn communicates more or less in grunts and vague hand gestures in the hours before eleven am. Harry doesn't mind, though. If he's honest, he's content just to be in Zayn's presence.

As Zayn's heading out, he asks Harry if he wants to watch the next episode of Game of Thrones when he gets back.

"You haven't watched it yet?" The last time they watched an episode on Zayn's Netflix was a couple of weeks ago. Their schedules haven't really meshed very well since then.

"Was waiting for you," he says as he's lacing up his boots.

It's not even a big deal, objectively; they had said they were going to catch up on the series together, being two of the few people left on Earth that haven't watched it yet. But it strikes Harry as a very considerate gesture, when Zayn could have easily finished an entire season in that time. He likes to think Zayn wouldn't put off watching his favourite show for a whole fortnight for just anyone. But he's probably just being overly sentimental, reading too much into something simple. He has a habit of doing that.

Zayn is hovering by the door, looking at Harry expectantly.

"Oh, uh, sorry, what was that?"

"I said thanks for the breakfast, I'm feeling proper energised, gonna ace this test now." He's teasing a bit, but the gratitude is genuine, Harry knows.

He's blushing again, but he laughs because one has to have a sense of humour about these kinds of things. "Oh, don't mention it." Really, don't, because it was more of an embarrassing disaster than anything else.

Zayn's quiet for a moment, gone abruptly serious, before he says, "You're a good friend, Harry.”

He's gone before he can see the frown that’s taken over Harry's face.

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Zayn sells his first art piece on a Tuesday morning, and Harry is the first person he rings. Harry knows this because when they hang up—after Harry's congratulated Zayn approximately fifty times—Zayn sounds a bit frantic, saying he has to call his mum. Harry's not at all pleased that Zayn's first thought was to call him. Not at all…

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After their morning lectures, Harry meets Niall at the florist's. He's idly shopping through the various arrangements and trying not to boggle at the prices when Niall arrives.

"Aww, isn't that sweet," Niall says when he spots him. If it were anyone else, Harry would assume he were being made fun of, but he knows that Niall is genuinely pleased that Harry is finally making some sort of romantic gesture.

They have a bit of a look around as Niall tries to goad Harry into blowing nearly a whole month's rent in a single go. Harry regales Niall with the research he’d done during his lecture earlier, which flowers symbolise love, which symbolise friendship. He doesn’t want to go overboard and send a dozen red roses, but he also doesn’t want to send, like, the patron flower of platonic friendship either. After a bit of good-natured bickering, they eventually agree on a bouquet (even though, technically, he doesn't need Niall's stamp of approval), and Harry brings it up to the front.

As the cashier rings his purchase up, Harry scrawls on the paper what he wants the card to say, and angles it to show Niall. Congrats! You're amazayn!  xx. H

Niall shakes his head. "Terrible," he says, but he's grinning like he can't help it, so Harry hands it over to the florist, satisfied.

He can't stop smiling as they leave the shop, even despite the nervous flutter in his stomach. Mates don't send flowers, right? Zayn will have to interpret this as the confession of undying love that it quite clearly is. Maybe breakfast had been a bit ambiguous; he cooks for Zayn all the time. (It's not that Zayn doesn't know how to cook himself, only that given the choice, he's much more likely to be lazy and order take away. Harry worries about his health, that’s all.)

Back at Niall and Liam's flat, Harry can't sit still, jittery like when he has more than two cups of coffee a day. He just watches Niall and Liam playing Fifa, too wound up to join them. He makes it an impressive fifteen minutes before he's jumping up from the couch, Niall swearing at him for distracting him.

"I'm going to the library." he announces loudly. Neither boys' eyes stray from from the tv. "Guys, did you hear me? I'm going to the library."

"Tell Zayn we said hi," Liam says while he simultaneously scores another goal on Niall.

"Excuse me, Liam, I said—oh, forget it." For one, no one is actually listening to him, also Liam may not be completely off base.

With one final huff of irritation at being ignored, Harry heads out, shutting the door behind him a bit harder than necessary.

Harry's tempted to text Liam telling him where he can shove his knowing attitude, because while he's not actually going to the library, he's also not going to see Zayn. Per se.

But he's a bit preoccupied with ducking behind a tree,a vantage point at which he has a clear view of the back door of Zayn's ground floor flat while staying hidden himself.

Harry realises that hiding in the bushes near Zayn's flat is creepy, but, like, how else is he supposed to see Zayn's initial reaction to the flowers? He could have just delivered them himself, yes, but then he'd run the risk of having to navigate a very awkward situation if Zayn was put off by the gesture. This is much simpler for everyone involved.  

Harry's growing a little restless, contemplating just heading home and waiting for Zayn to call, when a car with the florist's logo finally pulls up. Harry watches anxiously, wondering now if he chose the right arrangement, if he should have chose flowers at all. Wouldn't it have made more sense to get him brushes or pencils or something?

Harry's so busy second guessing himself that he almost doesn't notice that the delivery man is taking the flowers to the wrong door, depositing them on the door step of Zayn's elderly neighbour instead. There's no way Harry can stop him without popping out like a total creep, either. He's not sure whether to laugh or cry. The delivery man rings the doorbell and waits barely a second before taking off. Harry will be writing a very strongly worded email about the importance of quality of service when he gets home.

The moment the car pulls away, Harry makes a break for it. The door is already opening, though, and he's too late. He skids to a stop in front of Zayn's neighbour, now just hovering awkwardly without any real purpose.

"Well, what is this?" she asks, bending to pick up the flowers before Harry can stop her.

 "Um."

Harry's not stupid. He knows that some people assume that he's not very bright because of the way it sometimes takes him a while to put his thoughts into words, but he really is quite clever, getting high marks in all his courses and everything. It's just the thinking quick under pressure, off the cuff bit that he has trouble with. So before he can think of anything to say to diffuse the situation, things escalate.

"Oh, are these for me?" She doesn't wait for Harry to answer before she goes on. "Oh dear, this is just so sweet, for a busy young man to go out of his way to make a lonely old lady feel special. I—I—"

She looks close to tears, and there's really no way that Harry can take the flowers back now. He stutters out an embarrassed response to her gratitude, rather uncharitably thinking that he hopes she doesn't start inviting him round for tea now. And then abruptly feels terrible for it because she's clearly craving company. He should probably go before he invites her over for tea. Louis would never let him live it down. As it is, he knows won't hear the end of this for a few solid months.

Harry backs away from her door, promising to say hello to that 'sweet young man, Zayn' for her. He's all set to make his escape, go home for a bit to wallow in the cosmic joke that is his life, when the door to Zayn's flat opens because obviously this whole situation isn't humiliating enough already.

"Harry?"

"Zayn!" Harry says loudly. "What are you doing here?" Because sometimes if he acts ridiculous enough, Zayn withdraws a bit, like he doesn't know how to deal with all that energy.

"Were you just giving Mrs. Gordon flowers?" says Zayn, ignoring Harry's outburst.

Harry laughs a bit hysterically, if only to stall for time, but nothing revolutionary comes to him. "Oh, you know," he says, even though Zayn obviously doesn't.

"That's a bit strange, Harry," Zayn says slowly like he's trying to figure Harry out, "but that's very thoughtful of you. Did I mention that she's seemed lonely since her husband died, or?"

"Oh, you must have," Harry says, trying to sound nonchalant. "Anyway, enough about me. Zayn, I can't believe you sold your first piece! Well, I mean I can because you're amazing and talented, but I'm just so proud of you."

And he is; it was a convenient change of subject, but he honestly feels so proud he could burst. He remembers when Zayn had called it 'just a hobby', because he didn't want to let on how much it really meant to him.

"Right? I'm just a little boy from Bradford, and now I'm smashing it."

Harry knows he's mostly joking underneath the genuine excitement, but the way he sees it, Zayn is smashing it. He knew what he wanted and he went after it, which is more than Harry can say for himself at the moment, with his fumbling attempts to get Zayn to see him as more than a friend.

He contemplates going back to the florist and trying again, but it doesn't seem practical. He'll have to check when he gets home, but he's pretty sure his bank account can't take another hit like the one earlier today. Besides, it wouldn't really carry the same meaning now that Zayn is under the impression that he goes around sending out bouquets of flowers willy nilly.

Harry ends up making pasta while Zayn queues up the Netflix. While he's waiting for the pasta to cook, Zayn getting out some plates and glasses, Harry messes around on Twitter.

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Later, when Harry tells Niall what happened, Niall laughs for a solid five minutes. When he stops, it's only to say, "Your life," like he's never found anything quite so amusing.

(He also cuddles Harry and makes him his favourite comfort food, so Harry supposes he's forgiven.)

 

Harry's been laying low for a few days, licking his wounds, as it were—but he hasn't given up. Something brilliant will come to him, he's sure.

"You're moping," Louis says, flopping onto Harry's bed after he'd waltzed in without knocking.

"I'm not moping."

"All you've done all week is bake and listen to Coldplay." Louis counters.

He might be moping a bit.

Louis takes Harry's silence as an admission of defeat and jumps on top of him. "We're going out tonight, Harold! Fab five, no excuses."

"Can't breathe," Harry chokes out.

"Don't worry," Louis says cheerfully, redistributing his weight and making Harry groan, "I'll give you mouth to mouth if you pass out."

Harry knows resistance is futile; once Louis gets an idea in his head there's really no changing his mind. He doesn't really want to resist anyway. They haven't been out all five of them in way too long. Also, he got an 89 on his philosophy essay, and that has to be worth at least two shots. Three, maybe, if he can con Liam into buying him one. Which, actually gives him a brilliant idea.

"I've got an idea." Harry says once he's shoved Louis off him. (He could have done right away, since he actually goes to the gym, but he always likes to give Louis a sporting chance. (Which is to say he'd be unbearable if he knew that Harry was legitimately stronger than him.))

"That's a lad. Now make me food."

 

The boys come over to Harry and Louis's flat later for a few pre-drinks. Harry sits next to Zayn on the couch, because while he hasn't been avoiding him exactly, they just haven't happened to hang out in a couple days. Also, Harry tends to ramble a bit when he's drinking and Zayn is the only one who genuinely listens to him. Niall will start off interested enough and then veer off into polite disinterest and eventually get distracted by the Derby alerts he gets sent to his phone and stop listening altogether. Liam usually interrupts with where he thinks the story is going, like he thinks he's being helpful. And Louis straight up tells him to 'get to the bloody point already'. Zayn understands him.

"You understand me," Harry says, turning his head a bit so he's mostly just whispering it into Zayn's ear. Except minus the whispering part.

Zayn smiles and slings an arm around Harry's shoulder. Harry gratefully snuggles in closer. "Yeah?"

"Mhmm."

"You're a cuddly drunk." Zayn says with a laugh when Harry swings a leg over his lap.

He's not even drunk, really, but it's a convenient excuse. "Sorry," he says, though he's not, terribly. He hides his grin in the crook of Zayn's neck and makes no attempt to disentangle their limbs.

"Nah, I like it—it's sweet."

Harry would be content enough to stay right here for the rest of the evening, have a few more drinks and fall asleep tangled up with Zayn. But Louis is growing restless, like a caged animal that was promised half-price tequila shots. It's alright, though, Harry does have a plan to carry out.

The plan is this: treat it like he and Zayn are on a real date and pay for his drinks. He informed the boys of this earlier so that nobody saw him treating Zayn and got it into their heads that Harry was bankrolling the entire evening. Louis would probably give himself alcohol poisoning if faced with an opportunity like that.

When they get to the club, Harry heads to the bar for the first round, and shrugs Zayn off when he tries to hand him some money. Zayn looks confused but tucks the note back in his wallet, thanking Harry when he returns with his pint. Niall flashes him a not-very-covert thumbs up, and so it begins.

It gets a bit more difficult from there on out, but one should never underestimate Harry Styles on a mission. When Niall goes up for drinks, Harry hands him the money for both his and Zayn's drink, and afterwards Niall pretends likes he doesn't notice the fiver Zayn is trying to slip him, too immersed in the story he's telling. When Zayn wanders off to the bar for his own drink, Harry follow, orders a drink for himself, and pays for his and Zayn's.

And in one especially impressive manoeuvre, Harry manages to slide in between Zayn and the bartender before Zayn can hand his money over. He gets a few strange looks for that one, but he's never really minded acting a fool in the name of something important. Like making Zayn laugh when he's stressed, or pulling him out of a funk when he's taking himself too seriously, or just to see him smile at Harry like he's something important. Uh, anyway. It's a bit of a challenge, but he manages.

Harry is trying to flag down the bartender to no avail when he's startled by a hand on his shoulder, familiar cologne flooding his senses and a familiar voice in his ear.

"I know what you're doing."

Harry's stomach bottoms out as he turns around to face Zayn. He laughs nervously, twisting a stray curl around his finger. "Uh, you do?"

He knows the whole point of this has been to get Zayn to realise there could be something more between them, but now that it's happening, he's not sure he's ready.

"Yeah, I mean you're not exactly being subtle." Oh. Well. "It has to stop, Harry."

Now that Harry takes a step back, he realises that Zayn sounds angry. Of course Harry had imagined all the way this could go wrong—late at night when he was trying to think about anything else—but he'd never really stopped to consider the possibility that Zayn would be mad at him for something he honestly can't control. He supposes that Zayn might be upset that Harry is mucking up their friendship, but.

"I, uh, I didn't realise you felt that strongly about it."

That seems to have been the wrong thing to say somehow, Zayn's expression only darkening further. "How could you not, Harry? It's not like I make a secret of how much I don't like being treated like that."

"Wait, what are we talking about?"

"You—" Zayn waves his hand around like that explains anything, "—you going around paying for all my drinks like I can't afford it myself. When I told you last week that money was tight, that wasn't, like, some sort of hint I was dropping. I thought I could trust you with that without you treating me like some charity case."

This is so far from what Harry was expecting from this conversation that he's rendered speechless for a few moments. The silence doesn't seem to be improving Zayn's mood very much. Now really doesn't seem like the time to explain to Zayn the actual reason he's been paying for his drinks all night, but Zayn is actually properly pissed off at him. He can't just let that stand.

"Zayn, I—you can trust me! You can!"

"Harry..." Zayn's sighing like he regrets even bringing it up, and this is the worst possible way this night could have gone, short of, like, Harry confessing his feelings and Zayn laughing at him.

"No, I'm sorry, please. You don't mean that." He feels almost frantic with the need to make Zayn understand, clutching at his arm perhaps a bit too tightly. If Zayn is doubting whether or not he can trust Harry... Well it doesn't really leave Harry with much hope. "Please say you don't mean that."

There's a moment where Zayn's expression doesn't change, Harry's breath caught in his throat, before his posture relaxes. It's a small enough gesture that most people wouldn't even catch it, but Harry knows it means he's more or less forgiven.

"I know you mean well, Harry, but sometimes you do things without really thinking them through. It's alright," he says when Harry's set to interrupt. "I mean, it's not alright, but just—give me a bit of time to be angry with you, yeah?"

"Alright," Harry agrees, albeit reluctantly. He knows better than to push when Zayn asks for a bit of space. He knows that he and Zayn operate differently, that while Harry wants to deal with issues as soon as they come up, hates to let things fester, Zayn prefers to take time to sort through his thoughts first.

Harry must be looking especially tragic, because Zayn sighs and says, "I'll text you tomorrow, okay?"

Harry tries not to visibly brighten at that, because he's respecting Zayn's process and all, even if he has got it all twisted. "Yeah, okay."

"I think I'm gonna head out. Would you let the lads know?"

"Zayn, come on, you don't have to leave. I'll go." He grabs his hat off the bar and stands up, but Zayn shrugs him off, gesturing for him to sit back down.

"Nah, it's all good, I have a lecture in the morning."

After Zayn leaves, Harry heads back to the table that they've claimed as their own for the night. He’ll admit that he's having a bit of a sulk, but to be fair, he did just have his grand romantic gesture misinterpreted as a personal insult. Eventually, Perrie makes her way over to Harry, tipping her fruity drink towards him. He takes a sip and almost considers getting up to get one of his own. The bar is very far away, though, and he doesn't feel like moving.

"Alright, love?"

Harry shrugs and takes another sip of Perrie’s cosmo. He knows he’s being a brat, but this isn’t exactly something he wants to confide to Zayn’s ex-girlfriend, even if she is one of the sweetest people Harry knows. (Harry didn't actually get to know her too well until after she and Zayn broke up. It's possible that he was too consumed by jealousy for the entirety of their two month relationship to even attempt it, but that's neither here nor there. All that matters now is that she is a lovely girl who is very much not dating the guy Harry's fancied for the better part of a year.)

"Did you and Zayn have a row?" she persists gently.

"Not a row," Harry says a bit petulantly, and then because he can never keep his mouth shut after he's had a few, "I'm wooing him."

Now that he says it out loud to someone that isn't Louis, it sounds really stupid. He’s expecting Perrie to laugh, because it is quite ridiculous once he stops to think about it, but she just frowns thoughtfully.

"Oh, babe, no, that won't work. Zayn's proper thick when it comes to this sorta thing, he needs it spelled out. Nearly gave up on him myself before I realised that he was honestly just oblivious to my flirting, bless his heart."

Zayn 'needing it spelled out' sounds an awful lot like Harry's going to have to put himself out there and just tell Zayn how he feels. And for all of his usual easy confidence, he's actually terrified at the prospect of Zayn turning him down. He doesn't know if he could take it.

But on the other hand, he doesn't think he can let it go on like this any longer either, holding his breath for the moment that Zayn really gets serious about someone and Harry's chance is gone for good. Even if Zayn doesn't feel the same, Harry won't have to wonder what might have been if he'd been braver. All he can do is hope that he doesn't lose one of his best friends in the process.

 

True to his word, Zayn texts him the next day, and the next time they hangout, he seems happy enough to put the incident behind them. And Harry lets it go too, even though he had resolved to talk to Zayn as soon as possible. He’s just...waiting for the right moment, that’s all.

It takes Harry four days to work up the nerve to properly talk to Zayn. And even then it's only because Liam threatens to lock him out of his own flat until he does. He's not really sure how Liam plans to follow through on that particular threat, seeing as Harry's got a key and everythingl, but Liam's got Louis on his side, so Harry's inclined to take him at his word. Also, it's probably about time he and Zayn got things sorted anyway.

He knocks on Zayn's door because it seems like the polite thing to do—and also maybe because he's stalling for time a bit. He's stupidly nervous, in a way he rarely gets, heart pounding in his ears. If he's honest, he's never liked anyone else enough to let it get to him this much. He has to force himself to stop rearranging his fringe, because it's his tell and of course it'll be the first thing Zayn notices.

Zayn opens the door with a bit of a curious smile and beckons Harry inside. His sketchbook and pencils are spread across the coffee table in the living room.

"Are you busy? I could come back." Liam will understand not interrupting Zayn's coursework, surely. Never mind the fact that Harry's interrupted Zayn's work at more inopportune times for far less serious matters...

But Zayn shakes his head. "Nah, I could use a break anyway. Should I set up the Xbox?"

"Uh, I was hoping we could talk, actually."

"’Course," Zayn says easily. He pats the spot on the couch beside him because Harry is being strange and still lingering awkwardly by the door.

"Is everything alright?" Zayn asks once Harry's kicked off his boots and sat down. It's not a question Harry can really answer yet, though.

"So, uh, you may have noticed I've been acting a bit weird lately." Zayn just raises an eyebrow, amused. "Okay, weirder," Harry amends. "I should explain. I mean, I want to explain."

Zayn nods encouragingly, though he looks a bit lost. "Okay."

"So, you know how we've known each other for a while now, like a really long time if you count secondary even though we didn't start talking until uni, and like we hangout a lot. And I consider you one of my best mates. I mean, obviously, but." Zayn's nodding along like he's making perfect sense and not just babbling on about nothing. "And, recently—well not that recently, I guess it depends on your definition of recent—"

"Harry," Zayn interrupts gently, because he knows that Harry sometimes needs a bit of urging to get back on track, "where are you going with this, exactly?"

"Right." Harry nods, takes a fortifying breath. "Right. What I'm trying to say, I guess, is that I, uh, I made you breakfast and I tried to send you flowers and I paid for your drinks the other night because those are the things you do when you fancy someone."

Zayn has gone stock still beside Harry, no longer nodding along or playing with one of his pencils between his fingers.

"What are trying to say, Harry?" he asks, his tone giving nothing away, but the rigid set of his shoulders suggests that he already knows exactly what Harry means.

Harry has to look down at his hand to find the courage to repeat himself. "I'm—I fancy you, Zayn. Like, a lot. More than I ever have anyone else, probably." He can't stop himself from adding the last part, even though there's a heavy feeling in the pit of his stomach that's telling him to quit while he's ahead.

"Did someone put you up to this?"

Harry doesn't understand why that's the first conclusion that Zayn would jump to, but he's a bit offended, to be honest.

"What? No, of course not. It's how I feel."

Zayn's eyes are wide, and apart from the surprise, Harry can't parse anything from his reaction. The silence is starting to eat away at him.

"Please say something..."

"I've fancied you since sixth form."

Now it's Harry's turn to be shocked speechless, and Zayn winces like he hadn't meant to let that slip.

"You didn't even like me in college." Harry says. He's very sure about this; if Harry had thought there was even a chance that Zayn wanted to hangout with him back then, he wouldn't have stopped pestering him until they became best friends.

Zayn has the grace to look sheepish. "Well that's what I wanted you to think, isn't it? Thought you were well out of my league."

Harry tries very hard not to laugh, because Zayn is looking uncomfortable and vaguely embarrassed, but, like, "Me out of your league?"

"Yeah," Zayn says, a bit defensive. "You were just so...bright and charismatic, and you never gave a shit what anyone thought of you because you knew who you were. It was just like—everything I wished I could be in secondary but never was."

"So that's why you've never said anything, because you think I'm out your league? Zayn, that's ridiculous! I'm sorry," he adds because it sounds like he's making fun of Zayn, "but it is."

"Well, I mean at first, yeah, but then uni came around, and by the time I realised that my crush was probably a bit more than a crush, we were like properly mates. I didn't want to mess that up, you know. You guys are the best friends I've ever had."

Harry groans and drops his head in his hands; he's always been fond of a good bit of dramatics.

"What?" says Zayn, sounding a bit frantic, like maybe he's worried he's said too much. If Harry has it his way, Zayn will never again worry about silly things like how Harry might not be completely gone for him.

Harry sits back up quickly and throws his hands up.  "Zayn, we've wasted so much time. Just think, we could have been snogging and holding hands and doing disgustingly cute couple things for ages now."

Zayn just smiles at Harry indulgently, looking a bit relieved. "We could have done," he agrees.

"Speaking of snogging..." Harry says, because he's smooth like that. It seems a good a segue as any.

Zayn's breath hitches and he pauses—not like he's second guessing himself, but like he can hardly believe he's allowed.

"Please," is all Harry can think to say, cheekiness forgotten. He's wanted this for so long. It's almost dizzying to think that Zayn's apparently wanted it even longer.  

Harry is the one to close the distance between them, when he decides that Zayn is taking too long, eyes flicking towards Harry's mouth but not making a move.

Almost immediately, one of Zayn's hands cards through his curls, pushing his head scarf off and pulling just the slightest bit. It's all Harry can do not to moan at the feeling. There's nothing he loves more than having his hair played with during a snog.

Harry pushes in closer, urgent in his need to be surrounded by Zayn everywhere. Zayn licks into his mouth and Harry thinks that he could kiss him forever. Now that he's allowed, maybe he will.

Harry's hard, but not in an urgent kind of way. When they eventually relocate to Zayn's room, he's happy enough to fall asleep sharing increasingly lazy kisses, because it's more than he ever thought he could have.

Waking up next to Zayn is when it really starts to feel real. It's not like they haven't shared a bed before, but it's so much different when he has the freedom to get as close as he wants without worrying if Zayn will see through it, to kiss him after the sleep clears from his eyes.

"I never thought I'd be able to have this." Zayn says after Harry's thoroughly woken him up. With his mouth.

"I know," Harry says instead of I love you. "But you can, Zayn, you can have everything."

"Think we can rent a time machine and go back and tell that to my teenaged self? Would save him a lot of pining and angsty wanking."

"Angsty—oh my God—" Harry can barely breathe for laughing so hard. Zayn is blushing a bit, but mostly just smiling that secretly pleased smile for when he makes Harry laugh.

"Hey, don't invalidate his process."

Harry, who's mostly got himself under control now, raises his hands in surrender. "I wouldn't dream of it." he says, and then because he can, rolls on top of Zayn and kisses the laughter back into his mouth.

Yeah, he could probably get used to this.