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“Harry, get up.”

The sheets fly away from his body, exposing him to an overzealous October draft. Four sets of curtains around his room draw open, their rings screeching on the rod. Sunlight bleaches the space a blinding white.

He groans and turns over, pushing his face between his pillows. “Five more minutes.”

“We’re already running late,” Gemma replies. “Up now or I’ll be back with a cauldron of ice water.”

Harry rolls to his side, shoving his face mask up into his curly hair. “You are the most cruel and the most devious.”

“Yes, well I’m a witch,” Gemma says with a small upturn of her red-lipsticked mouth. She crosses her arms. Her tone is as sharp as the asymmetrical cut of her platinum hair. “It’s time to go. You know they hate waiting.”

Witches are the most impatient bunch.

HIs sister leaves him with that reminder, trusting that her words will be enough to coax him out of bed. She might let him get away with plenty but the rest of their family isn’t so tolerant.

Slowly, he pushes himself upright, knocking his grimoire and his journal onto the floor with a stretch of his arms. He sets one foot on the floor and cringes, glancing down at the fresh dropping of toad poo waiting for him. He glares across the room at Albert and Benny, the fat toads catching sun in the windowsill. They hop up quickly and then hop, hop, hop away.

“Running won’t help,” Harry tells them on their way out the door.

With a wave of his hand, a clean towel descends from one of the cupboards in the hall. He sets it to the task of cleaning the floor. He stands, rolling his shoulders, working the kinks out of his back on his way to the bathroom. The shower turns on as he approaches it. He steps inside and yelps before hopping out quickly. “Too hot,” he grumbles, and quickly the water adjusts.

A snap of his fingers starts an Arctic Monkeys record spinning on the turntable in his room. ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ drifts past the steady beat of water on his scalp. He stays beneath the spray for way longer than he has time for, and steps begrudgingly into the steamy bathroom, naked only for a second before a black towel wraps itself around his waist.

He gets dressed quickly, all-black which is the custom for family meetings. A pair of black skinnies ripped at the knees hug his long legs snugly. The sheer black shirt he pulls on is maybe a little inappropriate, but who cares? He dons his black fur vest over top. An array of rings wait on the boudoir with crystal stones and rocks and gems, some to enhance his power, some to keep him safe from harm, some that he just found pretty. He slides one onto each finger and affixes a crescent-shaped earring carved from the tooth of a Smilodon to his upper ear. He pushes his feet into pink suede boots. Dress code be damned.

With a spritz of cologne, his look is complete.

He waves his hand and the record player falls silent. He lifts Lilith, his favourite black Bombay cat and familiar, into his arms, pressing several kisses to her head, and descends the stairs into The Divine.

Four toads hop past his feet as he reaches the landing. Bastian, one of Gemma’s grey owls, peeks at him before drifting back to sleep. A fire burns in the hearth beneath a bubbling cauldron. When Harry appears, the fire dies completely. The Divine had belonged to a relative of theirs before it became Harry and Gemma’s. Back then, it was simply called a “Herb Shop” because witches were less vocal about their existence in the 50s.

For years, the shop had sat unused and dusty in Soho. When Gemma finished uni, she tried to be a doctor. Swore to be the first witch working at a major practice and she’d come alarmingly close to achieving that dream. If anyone could do it, it’d be her.

“Ready?” Gemma asks him, her own familiar, a smokey grey tabby, trailing behind her.

“Ready,” Harry says, following her out the door.

The thing about being a doctor is how stiff the environment is. Gemma’s magic has always been more practical and streamlined than Harry’s own. She’s learned how to conform to the more traditional forms of practice that their family adheres too. But even the tense working conditions at the Wythenshawe Hospital in Southmoor were too restricting, even for her, particularly for a witch.

In the end, Gemma decided that if she would heal ailments and better people’s lives, she’d do it on her own terms. The summer Harry graduated university, they packed their things together, moved to Soho, and started up their little haunt.

The Divine is both apothecary and fortune shop all at once. Come for a potion and have your future read too. They do it all and they do it well.

Gemma starts the car up, pushing her sunglasses onto her face. Harry does the same.

“Mum is going to kill us,” she says.

Harry sighs. “You say that every time.”

 

 

Family meetings are held over breakfast, lunch or dinner. One long table stretches the expanse of the dining room, which his mum has decorated grandly with pumpkins, some carved with Hallow’s Eve faces, and fairy lights, and black candles. It’s breakfast they’re having this time around, although when Harry and Gemma finally arrive, nearly half the food is gone.

His mum, Anne, sitting at the head of the table, gives them a look, directed at Harry more than Gemma. Harry takes a seat, adjusting his wide-brimmed hat, sliding his shades off.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” he says.

“We’re just glad you could finally make it. Right, dear?” Anne says to their stepfather. There’s a private smile on her pursed lips when she looks again at Harry. Offences are usually Harry’s fault, but his mum has always been especially forgiving with him. Harry sends her a smile back.

“I tried to get him up,” Gemma says, reaching for a muffin and the knife stuck in the jam. “But you know how he sleeps.”

“Like the dead,” Harry says with a shrug. “Although, if that were true, I’d be up bright and early this time of year.”

“Speaking of which,” his mum begins. “Happy October to you all. May we have a festive and joyful Hallowed season.” She lifts her pomegranate mimosa and they all do the same.

“Happy October!” they say and drink.

“Let’s talk updates,” his mum says, setting her glass down. “Sad news first.”

Their uncle, Lawrence, while still cutting into a slab of ham reports, “My dog, Truffle, has fallen gravely ill. I resurrected him once already. You know what they say about doing it twice.”

Around the table, there’s a unanimous grumble of understanding.

Resurrecting anything comes with the risk of summoning something entirely different from who or what you lost. Demons, for example, with a lot of time on their hands and a lot of malice in their heartless, soulless bodies, love sneaking into corpses and fucking shit up. It’s always such a pain in the arse, attending exorcisms. Harry’s only ever been to two and avoids them when possible.

The potential for disaster doubles on the second go.

Ask Aunt Jill, sitting by the window with a pitiful look on her face. She tried to resurrect her neighbour’s cat twice around and brought back the spirit of a chimp that had escaped the circus in the 1920s. Needless to say, when Velma the calico started climbing walls, things were not on.

“This might be it for Truffle,” Lawrence says.

Harry lifts his glass. “To Truffle,” he says, as everyone does the same. “He had a good run.”

They drink.

“We’ll be sure to see him off well,” his mum promises the old man. “Anyone else?”

“Donald Trump is running for president of the United States,” Gemma says.

His mum nods. “Very unfortunate, yes. I believe it was Jude who cursed him with that awful sniff. Clara, an old friend from uni, mentioned turning him a reddish orange for his next public appearance.”

“Please tell her we’re all in favour,” Gemma says.

“Will do,” Anne says, her smile growing. “Happy news anyone?”

Harry lifts his pointer finger into the air and clears his throat. “I perfected my polyjuice potion,” he says. “Gemma tested it out for me just yesterday.”

Gemma nods. “It’s true. It works like a charm.”

Uncle George scoffs. “When would a potion like that be of any use? Surely you aren’t thinking of selling it in your shop?”

Harry licks his lips. “Of course we wouldn’t sell it to humans. The point is that it’s a difficult spell to master and I have.”

“Yes, but it’s practically useless,” Aunt Liz says. “Really, Harry, there’s much better magic you could be spending your time on.”

Harry doesn’t get a chance to respond. He doesn’t know how he could anyhow.

“He’s always been like that, hasn’t he?” his cousin, Maximus, chimes in. “Wasting good magic on silly things.”

“Sod off, Max,” Gemma says tiredly. “Last time I checked you haven’t mastered anything. You’ve been a witch for much longer and you’ve done much less.”

“That’s enough,” Anne says, and they all fall silent, knowing better than to overstep their matriarch. She looks at Harry. “Love, I’m proud of you for being so...adventurous with your magic as always. But I have to agree that perhaps it’s time you focused on a more practical craft.”

Harry just looks at her. She lifts her brows.

“Our magic isn’t limitless,” she says, her tone gentle the way she’s always spoken to him. “It’s rare, but it is possible to overstrain your abilities.”

That used to terrify him as a child, although not enough to ever stop him from “wasting” magic. He would still save and resurrect woodland creatures. Some were badly injured and he’d amalgamate a small army of zombie rabbits and squirrels before Anne found out and sent them back to their graves. He liked charming birds to sing him lullabies. He liked experimenting with explosive spells, had once set the kitchen on fire before Gemma came quickly and fixed it.

Between the ages of six and seven, Harry’s magic was out of control, too powerful to be controlled, and so he never tried. He didn’t care about conserving his energy or being practical. That was Gemma’s area of expertise. Harry’s concern was with the wild and the miraculous sort of the magic. The jaw-dropping kind. The kind his family never cared for or appreciated.

His mum is looking at him like she expects him to agree. He doesn’t, just looks away, and begins to nibble on his muffin.

“Alright,” Anne says with a sigh. She looks around the table. “Happy news?”

 

 

The most ironic thing about Gemma was how frivolous she was when it came to matters of the heart. She spent long hours slaving over her magic all through her childhood, and now in her adulthood, still refuses to make time to be serious about anyone.

She's gorgeous though, his sister. He tells people so proudly even if they can see it for themselves. There was something about how sharp she was, how calculated, and controlled that made people swoon, men and women alike.

And Gemma, as if to compensate for all her hard work, loved indulging them. She never really had to flirt. A woman would strike up a conversation with her at a bar and somehow by the end of it, they'd be headed home together. Gemma would smirk, her lips always coloured a bright red. She'd run her ringed fingers through her glowing silver hair. She'd issue a little twinkle of a laugh and the whole word just fell, right there at her feet.

It's Saturday morning and she's not in the shop or in her room upstairs and Harry simply assumes that she's found someone else’s bed to cosy into. And soon enough she’ll wake and that person will ask if they can see her again and Gemma will say “when I have time” and then never make time.

Poor souls.

Harry stops the knitting needles working on the fabric in front of him and leans in close to inspect their work so far, a pair of glasses balanced on his nose. With a nod, the needles begin moving again.

He brews a cup of tea while setting a broom to sweep up the shop. It's just a few minutes past opening hours and Saturdays are always their busiest. Soon Gemma will wander through the door, silent until she's had a cuppa and a shower. Soon, patrons will appear in search of spells or potions or a fortune.

In fact, there's someone approaching right now.

He looks up just as a figure appears behind the stained glass door, marred by the painted words: “Come Find The Divine,” and twists the knob.

He gets a funny, swarming feeling in his stomach before the person even steps through the door.

And then they do and he knows why.

The man standing there smiles, toothy and bright.

“Louis,” Harry says, or sighs really. "Hi."

“Hey." He's all suited up in his business attire, his hair perfectly quiffed, shoes polished.

Harry's heart starts with the thudding and throbbing. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m looking for Gemma,” Louis says.

Of course he is. Harry tells himself he isn't disappointed. “Here?”

“Yeah. I just came to talk.” He wanders further into the shop, leaving his coat and umbrella on a stand by the door.

Harry's brows crease. “You didn’t try ringing her mobile?”

Louis shrugs, looking around the shop at all the trinkets and coloured jars. “I thought I’d just drop in.”

Here?” Harry asks again. “You never just drop in here.”

Lilith moseys up to Louis’ leg, playing coy as she rubs her body against his ankle. Harry rolls his eyes as Louis stoops and rubs her head. “You have a lot of questions,” Louis says.

“Witches are naturally curious. Like cats,” Harry says. He walks closer, slinking up against the counter top beside Louis. Like a cat. He’d love to wrap himself around Louis’ body too, cuddle up beside him in bed even. “Why are you really here, Lou?”

“I just told you. I came to see Gemma.”

“I call bullshit,” Harry says, crossing his arms, arching both brows.

Louis sighs heavily. “I came for a potion if you must know.”

Harry perks up. “A potion.”

Louis gives him a curt nod.

“What kind?” Harry asks, eagerly. So eager for an opportunity to help, especially this man. Always him. “I could make it for you.”

“I’d rather Gemma did it.”

Harry’s face falls, but he hides it quickly enough. He reaches for Lilith at his feet, who curls easily into his arms, and turns away. ”Well she’s not here. You’ll have to come by later. Or try ringing first.”

“Hey,” Louis says. “You’re not offended, are you?”

“Why would I be offended? You don’t trust my magic. It’s fine.”

“It’s got nothing to do with your magic, Harry,” Louis says. “It’s just the nature of the potion. I’d rather keep it private.”

Harry’s curiosity burns hotter. He’ll never quell it now. He strokes Lilith’s head. “I’m good at keeping secrets.”

Louis shakes his head. “Just forget about it.”

“What if I guessed?” Harry asks.

“Harry,” Louis says firmly. He thinks that tone of voice is supposed to settle Harry down but it only riles him up. “Why are you so persistent?”

“Why are you so secretive?” Harry fires back. “Is it dark magic you want? You want to hurt someone?”

“Of course not,” Louis says. “Why would you even—?”

“Do you have a nasty wart?” Harry questions inspecting his beautiful face. “A pimple? They sell things in pharmacies for that.”

Louis’ lips twitch. “You’re ridiculous.”

“A truth serum?” Harry wonders.

“Wrong again.”

Harry narrows his eyes. “A love potion?”

He’s highly trained in reading the facial and muscle gestures of his patrons when dealing in every manner of fortune-telling. There's dark magic available to accurately read someone’s future, long tiring spells that draw on the life source of their casters. But there’s never any need to use such elaborate measures when reading a palm or a card or a crystal ball. The desperate men and women who come into the shop always give something away. In the slight twitch of their brow. An upturn or downturn of their mouth. A slight, very slight flush at the tops of their ears, like the one Louis is sporting now.

Harry’s breath catches. “A love potion,” he confirms.

“Wrong yet again,” Louis says, turning away quickly.

Harry intercepts him, sliding between him and the door. “I’m not wrong. You want a love potion.”

Louis clenches his jaw. It’s true.

Harry’s heart sinks.

Louis wants a love potion.

“When Gemma gets in, tell her I stopped by,” Louis says, reaching for his coat.

“Louis, wait,” Harry says, grabbing his arm. What are you doing? He licks his lips. “Um.”

Louis lifts his brows.

“Here’s the thing about love potions,” Harry begins, his brain working double time, his mouth racing to catch up. “Or any potion, really. The nature of them is very dependent on the caster. If a dark-natured witch makes a truth serum, for example, that serum reveals dark truths and dark feelings. If a purer witch makes a fatal poison, it might only make someone fall ill, not kill them. And if someone like my sister, whose magic is practical and concise, makes a love potion, it might not be true love that you end up finding. And Gemma's never been in love with anyone.”

"And you have?" Louis' brows arch higher.

Fuck. Harry nearly chokes on air. "That's not the point."

“Well, what is the point?”

“I’ve always been better at love potions,” Harry says. “They're my specialty.”

He’s still holding Louis’ forearm. He loosens his grip but doesn’t let go. He can feel the warmth of him through his blazer and his dress shirt. He’s always been so attuned to Louis’ warmth, could always feel it standing near or far.

“Your specialty, huh?” Louis says, incredulously.

Harry smiles. He’s confident about this one. “Eharmony’s got nothing on me,” he says. A brief burst of laughter slips between Louis’ lips. “Love is meant to be passionate and fiery. And fierce and bold. It makes you feel like you’re drowning and at the same time, like you can finally breathe. If you want to find something like that, the best person to make your potion is me.”

Louis stares at him. His smile is gone, replaced by a small, thoughtful pout. “You seem to know a lot about it,” he says. “Love, I mean.”

Harry’s skin burns at the suggestion. “Yes.” That’s all he can say.

“How long would it take you to whip something up?” Louis asks, aiming for nonchalant.

Harry pauses. What are you doing? he asks himself again.

Is this not the man he’s loved from the very moment he knew what love was? The boy he spent every season of his childhood pining after and hoping to impress? The boy he's always admired?  He wanted to be strong like Louis and tough like Louis, but there came a point where he wanted to kiss Louis and dance with Louis too.

How can he love someone so ardently, so richly and with a fire that never burns out and at the same time, direct that person to find someone else?

It’s not even that he doesn’t want to brew a love potion for Louis. It’s that he’s not sure he can. He’s not sure that a drop of malice or spite wouldn’t wheedle its way into the concoction.

He absolutely can’t do this. It's unethical...or something.

“I can’t,” Harry says, definitively. He drops his hand and turns away.

“What do you mean you can’t?” Louis asks, following him.

Harry snaps his fingers and his grimoire opens, pages fluttering. “At least not for another...five or six months. I’m very busy.” He grabs a jar of myrrh and sets it down beside his cauldron.

“Wait a minute, Harry. What was the point of all that if you’re not actually going to be able to make the potion?” Louis asks. “What are you playing at?”

He’s getting angry. Harry can feel his mood shifting even if his words are relatively measured.

“I’m not playing at anything.” Harry waves his hand over the pot, bringing it to a bubble. “It just dawned on me that my schedule is packed. I need to make this potion for Mrs Lowe and there are tons of others. Gemma’s not even here to help. I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

Louis looks at him, expressionlessly. The disappointment is so clear and palpable, Harry has to look away.

“Fine then,” Louis says. “I came for Gemma anyway. Let her know I stopped in.”

It’s meant to sting and it does. Louis always came by for Gemma, never for Harry, although it was Harry who was always most eager to see him. He doesn’t reply, keeping his head slightly bowed. Lilith and Sapphire rub comfortingly against his ankles.

The shop bells chimes and when Harry scans the room again, Louis is nowhere to be seen.

 

 

October 2000

The Styles home was unlike the dwellings of other covens. It was bright with its soft yellow curtains and warm cherry wood floors and smelled constantly of baked sweets. Anne liked the place inviting. She hosted parties often for witches and non-witches alike. Her friends came in all forms and kinds, including vampires and werewolves, solicitors, actors, athletes and other public figures.

At first, the warmth and openness were means to disguise their true natures and keep them safe. But at the turn of the 20th century when the occult grew in popularity and acceptance worldwide, his mum suddenly became more open about who they were, like she'd waited her whole life to be.

2000 was also the year he and Gemma met Louis.

The Tomlinsons, a large family with more children than there were in Harry’s entire coven at the time, moved into the house across the street in March. They came from 'old money' like Harry's family. That's what he'd overheard his aunt say anyhow. As soon as the moving lorries had pulled off, Anne extended an invitation for tea. They arrived the following week, and she introduced the family as a coven straight away.

Jay Tomlinson, Louis’ mum, simply smiled.

“It’s lovely to meet you,” she said. She looked at her husband, Alexander, standing beside her. “I don’t think we know any other witches.”

“I don’t think we do. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” the man had said, shaking Anne’s hand and then Harry’s dad’s hand.

“And you have such lovely children,” Anne said, leaning forward.

Jay smiled. “Thank you. This is Louis,” she said of the boy standing in front of her, her arms around his shoulders. “He’s ten. I believe you said your daughter was too.”

“Yes.” Anne set her hand on Gemma’s blond head. “That’s so nice. I’m sure they’ll make great friends.”

Harry cleared his throat. He hated to be ignored. He looked up at his mum. She smiled and set her other hand on his head, ruffling his curls. “And this is Harry. He’s seven.”

Louis’ blue eyes shifted to him. He had wispy chestnut brown hair with fringe that fell right across his forehead. His small hands were on his mum’s forearms. He wore overalls atop a cream-coloured jumper and a thick red scarf that looked to be hand knit. Harry wanted to reach out and touch him, wanted to make sure he wasn't simply a doll. Humans weren't meant to be that beautiful. Then slowly, like the changing of leaves, Louis smiled and Harry’s young heart beat just a tiny bit faster.

“Let’s go have that tea,” Anne said, beckoning them all inside. “And maybe hot chocolate for the kids.”

She and Jay became good friends after that day. Jay, like Louis, was never perturbed by utensils and appliances levitating around the house, or even the dark figures in Harry’s family who sometimes showed up. Uncle Lawrence tended to be intimidating to anyone he crossed, and yet the first time Louis ever encountered him, he’d taken a calm perusal of the man before getting back to his card game with Gemma.

Louis visited often. He shared classes with Gemma and did homework with her in the afternoons. He stayed for dinner — always. (He loved Anne’s lasagne especially.)

He and Gemma listened to old records or played with the dusty instruments in the basement or played footie in the backyard. They gossiped about boys and girls at school. Louis would sometimes just read quietly while Gemma practised her spells. He was the only person, aside from Harry, that she allowed to distract her.

And the whole while, Harry would linger somewhere nearby, wishing he was as confident and bold as his sister, trying to be that way with his magic if not his personality. All those wild spells he came up with, he did partly for Louis’ attention, and Louis only ever noticed once.

The day before Halloween that year, Harry witnessed a baby deer brought down by a hunter. He’d be in the woods behind his home and sprung up from the tree stump where he sat, racing past the oaks and cedars and their gangly roots, as fast as his short legs could take him. Swiping his hand through the air, he cast a spell of disorder on the hunter, confusing him and sending him in another direction.

He knelt by the baby deer. It bled from a wound in its side and there was no pulsing of its life form to detect. Harry’s eyes and nostrils stung, tears blinding him quickly. He dragged his sleeve over his eyelids and exhaled shakily. “Alright.”

He rubbed his palms together, touched the fawn’s still-warm body, and shut his eyes. Somehow this came easily to him. Calling on Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, and woodland sprites and nymphs, was like speaking a second language for Harry.

“Please,” he said quietly, and he felt the soft, fluttering power rushing through his palms and starting up the pulse of blood in the fawn’s body.

“What are you doing?”

Harry’s eyes flew open but he kept his hands where they were. Turning, he saw Louis standing a few feet away. “Shh,” he said, refocusing. He heard Louis’ feet crunch softly on the forest floor and felt him growing close. He felt him kneel at his side. That, too, was a source of strength.

Beneath Harry’s hands, the fawn shuddered. Startled and disoriented, it stood on wobbly legs. Harry lifted his hands, palms open. “It’s alright,” he said. Carefully he set a hand on the fawn’s chest. “You’re alright.”

“Did you just—?” Louis fell quiet, as the fawn leaned forward and ran her nose against Harry’s cheek.

Harry laughed, patting her gently. “You’re welcome,” he said. “Back to your mum now.” He hoped she was alive anyway. The fawn nosed at him again and then turned and moseyed away.

Sniffling, Harry looked at Louis. “Someone was hunting and shot her.” He lifted a leaf idly, twirling the stem between his fingers.

“And you healed her?” Louis asked. “Or… Was she dead?”

“Dead,” Harry said. “But the forest brought her back.”

You brought her back,” Louis corrected.

Harry shook his head, his cheeks warming because Louis sounded impressed, proud even. “That’s not how it works. Magic is teamwork, between us and the spirits around us. My mum says that our power is really just recycled from the witches before us.”

Louis looked at him, leaving Harry to feel self-conscious and silly. Then there was that smile again, that honey smile, stretching across Louis’ face. “That’s sick,” he said. “Nice work, Curly.”

A rush of butterflies swarmed Harry’s tummy.

“Come on,” Louis said, standing, turning away. “Your mum is making breakfast for dinner. Then we’re gonna watch Hocus Pocus.”

In retrospect, there was no clear, decisive moment when Harry decided the sun rose and the earth turned because of Louis Tomlinson. He would remember being unable to stop looking in his direction. He would recall how his tongue had knotted up and his voice had gone hoarse whenever he tried to speak to him. He started to think he was cursed. Louis and Gemma were such close friends not because they were the same age but because at every moment, in every situation, Harry was reduced to a puddle of blubbering goo in Louis’ presence.

There was something about him or it was the amalgamation of several things at once. He was ground-breaking simply because he existed. He was small at ten-years-old and yet profound. And Harry, from a moment he can’t pinpoint, was in awe of him.

 

 

October 2016

It’s wrong for him to be this off in October. With the thinning of the veil and the increase of their ancestral power, witches are at their prime during this month in particular. But Harry has been trying to summon a lesser demon for the past ten minutes and usually, it only takes him two.

“Olivier,” he tries again, wafting the smoke of a tall black candle about the room. He squeezes his eyes shut. “I come to you, a servant of light, with a request. I come to you humbly. I come to you heart bared. I beseech you. Humbly, I beseech you.”

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Holding his hair away from the flame, he blows the candle out.

Lesser demons grant wishes or complete tasks that are generally too difficult or time-consuming even for a witch to do. For the small price of a phial of the caster’s blood and no other obligations, Harry tends to call on them a lot, in spite of Gemma’s aversions to the practice.

It doesn’t matter. None of this matters. He can’t think. He hasn’t been able to think clearly in days.

Louis asked for his help. Louis never asks for his help and finally, he did. Harry had the chance to be useful to him and he turned him away. For such selfish reasons. Sure, he was worried about contaminating the spell. But does he have no self-control at all? He’s completed similar spells a thousand times before. Couldn’t he have swallowed his pride and done the same for the man he loves?

He drops his forehead into the centre of his grimoire.

“What’s the matter with you?”

He turns his head toward the stairwell. Gemma stands at the landing wearing a white dress and black boots. Her mouth is dressed in red as always.

“Hot date?” Harry asks.

“Yes,” she says. “With a doctor.”

“I thought you hated doctors,” Harry says.

“No, I hated being a doctor,” Gemma clarifies. “A formal one, anyhow. But Charles is brilliant and funny. You’d like him.”

Harry lifts his brows. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, actually,” Gemma says. “I really think you two would get on well.”

“Bring him over for tea then, please,” Harry says. “Would love to have him.”

Gemma smiles. “I’ll tell him so. Now what’s the matter with you?”

Harry sits upright. “Nothing.”

Gemma gives him a look.

“My magic is little spotty today,” Harry says, closing his grimoire. “Think I’m just tired.”

“Your magic has been a little spotty all week,” she says with a pout. “You gave Gene a wellness potion and added wolfsbane.”

Harry covers his mouth with his hand and gasps.

“She’s fine. Obviously not a werewolf,” Gemma says. “She says she felt a little ill but that’s about it. I gave her some potions free to make up for it.”

“God,” Harry exhales. “I’m a mess.”

“Only a tiny one.” Gemma lifts her brows. “Do you want to tell me why?”

“Not really,” Harry says, bottom lip sticking out. “Don’t you have a date to get to?”

“I’ve got time,” she says, coming close, taking a seat on the stool beside him. She casts a glance at his work station and at the name Harry wrote in ash on a slip of parchment. “Olivier? I’m guessing he didn’t show.”

“Not with how weak my magic is, no,” Harry says with a shrug.

“In October? That’s very odd.”

“I know,” Harry says. Gemma waits patiently for an explanation, while Harry picks and bites the quick of his nails. He sighs heavily and abruptly, dropping both hands into his lap. “Did Louis come by? Or did he call you about a potion?”

Gemma’s lips twitch. “No, I haven’t heard from him. Is that why you’re moody then? Louis?”

“No,” Harry says quickly, crossing his arms. “Possibly.”

“What’s he done this time? Who’s he dating?”

“No one,” Harry says. “He just— Last week, he came by looking for a potion.”

Louis did?” Gemma asks incredulously. “What kind of potion?”

Harry can’t look at her as he says it. He’d rather not witness the pity when it comes. “A love potion,” he says quietly.

“Oh, fuck,” she mutters.

“It’s fine,” Harry says with a small shake of his head. He sits up a bit straighter when he realises he’s slouching and forces a smile onto his face. “It isn’t like I’ve tried telling him…how I feel. It’s not like I did and he rejected me. I’ve never given him the chance to.”

But still, it would be nice if Louis simply noticed. That’s what Harry’s been waiting for. One day, Louis would just wake up with an awareness of the way Harry flustered around him, the way he doted and pined after him, the way he had since they were boys.

“Harry,” Gemma says. “How long has it been now? How many years have you spent weeping over him? Fifteen, isn’t it?”

Harry sighs. “Don’t say it like that. I was a kid for plenty of those years!”

“And you loved him,” Gemma says. “And you still do. All those childhood years later.”

Harry puts his face in his hands.

“You have to say something,” she continues. “You have to or else you’re going to end up without him. You’re going to make this love potion for him — or he’ll ask me to do it — and then you lose him.” She ducks her head, trying to catch Harry’s gaze. “It’s at least worth a shot, yeah?”

“I’ll think about it,” Harry says, as Lilith climbs into his lap, pushing her head against his hand. He strokes her soft fur between her ears.

Gemma stands, pressing a kiss to his forehead. “I’ve got to head out. You’ll be alright, though, yeah? Won’t set fire to the shop while I’m gone?”

Harry snorts. “I’ll try not to.”

She smiles and grabs her purse. With a wiggle of her fingers, she’s through the door.

 

 

Harry stumbles down the steps, sleeping mask pushed up into his hair. He hurries to the door, tripping over his slippered feet. Unlatching the lock, then the second lock, and then disarming the spell keeping trespassers away, he finally yanks the door open.

Dressed in his work attire, his suit slightly damp from the rain, Louis lifts his head and the bottle of beer in his hand. “Well, hello,” he drawls, then steps inside, pushing his way past Harry.

“What are you doing here?” Harry asks, breathlessly. How long can you stay? Forever? Please?

He’s so happy to see him. It takes an enormous amount of effort not to reveal as much in his expression, not to throw his arms around Louis’ body and beg him for forgiveness.

“I came,” Louis begins, pointing at him. “For that potion.”

Harry’s stomach nosedives. “I told you I can’t.”

“Yes, you can,” Louis says. “I looked it up. I googled how long it takes to create a love potion. The website said about twenty minutes.”

Harry snorts. “You should never look up spells on Google. I can do it in ten—”

Fuck.

Slowly, Louis grins. “Ten minutes? That’s not long at all.”

“I can’t,” Harry says, shaking his head. He takes several steps away. “It’s late. The shop is closed.”

“Harry,” Louis says, hurrying after him. He takes him by the arm and then wraps his warm hands around both of his wrists. His touch burns in the best way. He peers up into Harry’s eyes. He’s a full head shorter than Harry but he seems so much bigger, so imposing. “I’m begging.”

“Why?” Harry asks quietly, lowering his gaze.

Louis sighs, dropping his hands. He stalks over to one of the stools by the work station and sits down, slapping his beer atop the counter. His shoulders sink as he hunches over. “I have a pretty good life, I think. I’ve got a good job. Lots of money. A nice house.”

A nice big house in Kensington, three cars, and a dog. He’s done extremely well, the benefits of being a well-known human rights solicitor. And yet…

“And yet,” Louis says quietly. “There’s no one to share it all with.”

Harry can’t look him in the eye. He crosses his arms, hugging himself, turning his feet inwards.

“I think to put it simply,” Louis says. “I’m lonely.”

Harry takes a breath, lifting his head. He looks Louis straight in the eyes. “You don’t have to be.” This is it. He moves closer. “Louis—”

“You’ll do it?” Louis asks, his eyes lighting up.

Harry opens his mouth.

“I would literally do anything you asked of me,” Louis says, talking quickly. “Those chocolates you liked so much? The ones from Paris. I’ll bring you back a hundred boxes. I’ll wash your hair. I’ll clean your room. Whatever you want.”

Louis reaches out, setting his hands on Harry’s hips. He rests his head against Harry’s stomach. Harry can hardly breathe. He never wants to breathe again. If Louis were sober, he might not do this. He doesn’t touch Harry this way anymore. Not since Halloween of 2009. Harry was sixteen and they got locked in a cupboard together...

Harry can’t help it. He lifts his hand and runs his fingers through Louis’ hair. Tilting his head downward, he inhales the scent of Louis’ shampoo and his cologne.

“Please, H,” Louis mumbles.

Harry shuts his eyes. After that moment in the cupboard, Louis had grown distant, and maybe that's the real reason Harry hasn’t told him how he feels since. He remembers now that he tried once before.

They hardly talk, him and Louis. They hardly see each other because they’re both busy, Louis more than Harry, and there’s never much to talk about when they do.

But even so, Harry could never lose him. He could never live with himself if he did.

“Please,” Louis says again.

“Okay.” Harry extracts himself from Louis’ grasp. “Okay.”

He turns away, pulling his sleeping mask off. He snaps his fingers at the hearth starting up the fire and reaches for a jar of dried red rose petals. “I need a lock of your hair. About an inch. The scissors are there by the knives.”

Louis takes a shuddering breath and stands quickly, doing as told.

Harry can’t think about what he’s doing. He doesn’t let himself think it through. It’s all muscle memory now. He’s created Amortentia, the love spell, a thousand times before, and his body moves on auto-pilot, grabbing jars of honey, mandrake root, and apple seeds. He holds his hand out for Louis’ hair without glancing at him.

“Thank you for this,” Louis says. “I mean it.”

“Don’t mention it,” Harry says, as Louis places the lock of hair into his palm. Harry tosses it into the concoction. He starts the wooden handle stirring and shuts his eyes, calling on Aphrodite and Eros and all his ancestors to empower the spell.

He opens his eyes, grabs the ladle, and one of the empty Mason jars from the shelf behind him. He spoons a dose of the pink concoction into the jar and drops a bendy straw in for good measure. Sliding it across the counter, he says, “Drink up.”

Louis nods, peeling his eyes away from Harry. He peers into the glass and then lifts it slowly.

There’s still time to knock it out of his hand. Still time to try again...

 

 

October 2009

When Harry suggested that Louis throw a party while his parents were away, he hadn’t expected Louis to invite the whole school. He was hoping it’d just be him and Gemma, and maybe Niall from Harry’s class, and Liam and Zayn from the football team. He expected at most ten people. Not thirty, which wasn’t a huge number, but enough that there was never a chance to talk to Louis. He tried to get his attention and received a sideways hug and a ruffle of his curls before Louis went back to his conversation with some bloke from the local university.

This wasn’t how Harry imagined spending his Halloween.

At least, the drinks weren’t bad. Harry had a shot that Gemma insisted he try called the Red Death. It was sweet and syrupy and made his head feel so much lighter. He wanted to feel light. The alternative was the unyielding weight of unrequited love. The alternative was spending all night staring across the room at this bloke with his hand on Louis’ waist.

So Harry drank, and drank, and drank some more. He ended up on the dance floor, hands in the air swinging around to this wild, hypnotic song. He allowed himself to be dragged into a game of spin-the-bottle/truth or dare. He looked dizzily around the circle of party-goers including Louis himself.

It was Gemma spinning the bottle now, grinning mischievously. The bottle slowed on the person just beside Harry, but before it came to a complete stop, he saw Gemma’s head twitch minutely to the right, prompting the bottle to slide past that person and land on Harry.

Harry narrowed his eyes.

“Harry,” Gemma said, clapping her hands together. She laughed. “Truth or dare?”

He had no idea what she was up to, although just recently she’d confronted him about his feelings for Louis. I see the way you look at him, she’d said, and Harry had been self-conscious about it ever since.

When she'd told him to fess up, he'd refused. He couldn’t imagine her trying to expose him in front of all their friends and acquaintances, but Gemma was also drunk and that did strange things to people.

If he went with truth, she might ask him who he had a crush on. His best bet was to go with:

“Dare,” he said.

And terrifyingly, Gemma’s smile only grew. Without pause, she said, “I dare you and Louis to spend seven minutes in the cupboard.”

Harry’s jaw dropped.

Louis looked at her, face all wrinkled. “Me and Harry?” he asked incredulously.

Harry’s skin began to burn. He would never speak to her again. He would curse her with chronic hiccups or a permanent pimple right in the centre of her forehead. He curled his fists up, unable to look at anyone or anything except for the bottle pointing like an accusing finger in his direction.

“You heard me,” Gemma said, crossing her arms. “Get to it.”

Louis looked at her and Harry both, confusion etched into every corner of his expression. To him this must have been absurd.

Still, a dare was a dare, and Louis never turned one down. He stood with a heavy sigh and a roll of his eyes.

“Come on, kid,” he said to Harry, stalking off to the cupboard.

Niall clapped Harry on his shoulder. “Lay a big one on him.”

Harry felt sick. He stood on wobbly legs and followed Louis slowly like he was walking a plank. He stepped into the cupboard behind him and thankfully no one followed them or tried to listen in. Louis tugged on the string above their heads connected to a lightbulb and sank to the floor with his arms crossed. Harry did the same.

“This is weird,” Louis reported.

Harry pulled his knees up to his chest. “Yeah…”

“Dunno what’s gotten into Gem,” Louis said. “This is like me locking her in here with you.”

Harry cringed, setting his chin atop his knees. “I wouldn’t say that…”

Louis shrugged and sighed, resting his head back against the wall. “Seven minutes should pass quickly enough. A little drunk to be honest with you. Got no concept of time really.”

“Me neither,” Harry mumbled. “Drank that death stuff.”

“Red Death?” Louis asked. He huffed a laugh. “You’re gonna be so sick tomorrow.”

“At least it’s a Sunday,” Harry murmured. He looked at Louis, watching his soft brown hair fall into his eyes as he tilted his head forward. “Have you kissed a boy before?”

“Of course,” Louis said easily. “Haven’t you?”

Harry didn’t answer, choosing to pout instead. He wondered who it had been. Who had been lucky enough to steal Louis’ first kiss? He looked at Louis’ mouth. Who had been there? Why them?

“You’ve never kissed a boy?” Louis asked, eyes widening. “But you only like boys, don’t you?”

“Yeah, but—” Harry pushed his sweaty, limp hair away from his eyes. “I haven’t actually met anyone I want to kiss. ‘S not like there’s a whole army of gay boys at school. And I’m a witch.”

“What’s being a witch got to do with anything?”

“My mum says that probably makes boys feel intimidated,” Harry said shrugging.

“No offence to your lovely mum, but that’s bullshit,” Louis said. “I’m not intimidated by you being a witch.”

“Yeah but you also aren’t interested in me,” Harry said.

“Good point.”

God, Harry wanted to die. If he could just dissolve into the spaces between the floorboards, that’d be great.

“So wait,” Louis said. “You’ve never kissed anyone at all then?”

“Nope.”

Louis shook his head. “I say you just find someone at school, anyone at all, and just go for it. You’re cute, you know? You’ve got the curly hair going for you. Nice eyes. And the dimple, yeah? Just go for it and I bet that person would kiss you back. I’d bet my whole family on it.”

“You shouldn’t do that,” Harry said, his cheeks warming. “And I wouldn’t even know where to start. Like I don’t know how to kiss someone. So you know— I’ve met people that I’ve wanted to kiss, I guess, but I always get nervous ‘cause I don’t know how. Don’t want to be bad at it, you know?”

“You wouldn’t be,” Louis said. “It’s so easy. It comes naturally with the right person. It’s like you’re so into kissing them, you don’t even think about the other shit. And they’re not thinking about it either.”

Harry hated to hear this from him. He hated to think about Louis feeling ‘right’ with someone else. He hated everything about this conversation, talking about kissing as if the only person he’d ever truly wanted to kiss wasn’t sat right across from him.

Sure there had been other boys he thought were cute. He’d been in two instances before where he had an opportunity to kiss them. And sure, he’d worried that he might do something wrong, but what really stopped him every time was Louis. His first kiss had always belonged to him. At least in his head.

“You’re just saying that because you’re probably so good at it,” Harry said, rolling his eyes.

Louis grinned. “I’m pretty good at it.”

Harry hated him and fucking loved him. He wanted to wipe that smirk off Louis’ perfect mouth, preferably with his own. The Red Death was coursing through his bloodstream, a metaphorical fatality prompting a real-life social suicide.

“Prove it to me,” Harry said.

Louis’ smile slipped right off his face like a skier propelled off the side of a mountain. “What?”

An awkward, nervous laugh slipped out of Harry’s mouth. “I’m only joking.”

“What, you don’t believe me?” Louis asked, lifting both brows.

“I mean—” Harry shrugged. “I’ve certainly never seen you kiss someone. And if you’re so good, why are you fucking around with that bloke out there? He’s not that cute.”

Louis narrowed his eyes, but his lips twitched. “He’s kind of cute.”

“He’s alright,” Harry said. “But I would think all those boys you’d kissed before would still be chasing you. Wanting to kiss you again ‘cause you’re that good.”

“I am that good,” Louis said, poking a finger in Harry’s chest. “I choose not to be with those guys. They all turned out to be wankers eventually.”

“Whatever you say, Lou,” Harry said, giggling.

“You know what,” Louis began, lips curving. “You want to test me, Styles? I’ll show you.”

Harry stopped laughing, stopped breathing. “I said I was joking.”

“Yeah, I heard you,” Louis said, getting to his knees, shuffling closer.

“Louis—”

“Think of it as practice,” Louis said. “I’m just doing you a favour, alright?”

Harry looked at his mouth and licked his own. No way was this happening. No fucking way. “Louis, you don’t have to—”

“But you want me to, don’t you?” Louis said, sitting directly in front of Harry. “That’s why you’re so curious, isn’t it? Bet you’ve been thinking about kissing me.”

Harry started to shake his head. “You’re drunk.”

“So are you,” Louis said, looking at his mouth. “Tell me to back off and I will. You’re a witch. You can even cast a spell on me or something.”

“I’d never do that to you,” Harry said, quietly.

Louis leaned in. “Just practice, yeah?”

Harry looked him in the eye. “Yeah.”

“And proof,” Louis murmured, stroking his thumb across Harry’s cheek. “I’m that good.”

Just kiss me, Harry thought.

Louis kissed him. He pressed their mouths together just once, sending Harry’s heart soaring up and down through his body like a balloon with the air let loose. Louis pulled back, his brow furrowed, eyes on Harry’s lips.

“Soft,” he said. “This is so fucking weird.”

Harry felt dizzy, teetering forward, his forehead brushing Louis’. “I’m not impressed.”

Louis huffed a laugh, leaned in, and kissed Harry again. This one was much better. This one was slow and sweet. Louis cupped the back of Harry’s neck the way he must have done with all those boys who’d come before, and directed him where he wanted. Harry shut his eyes and understood what Louis had meant about the right person. He wasn’t thinking about how good he kissed or how good Louis kissed even. It was all simply good.

He tried to settle himself down. He tried to play it cool. But then he was reaching out and twisting his hands up in Louis’ jumper and leaning into him. Louis made a muffled noise of surprise when Harry’s tongue lashed against his lips. But he caught up quickly, opened his mouth, and pushed his tongue against Harry’s.

This was the greatest, brightest moment of Harry’s life. The was the moment he wanted to remember in perfect clarity for the rest of his days.

Harry moved in even closer, trying to climb into Louis’ lap.

“Whoa—” Louis stopped him with his hands on his hips. He looked down between them and Harry’s face and neck flushed. He was hard. He was so hard. He thought to cast some sort of spell on himself to make his fucking boner go away but it was too late now.

“There you have it,” Louis said with a little laugh. “Guess that’s proof enough.”

“Let’s not stop,” Harry said.

Louis’ brows creased. “What?”

“We don’t have to stop,” Harry said, leaning in again. He kissed Louis sloppily and stupidly, trying to get as close as possible. Louis let him. He even let Harry straddle his lap. He even groaned when Harry moved around a bit. It had to have been seven minutes already. Soon the door would open and someone would catch them like this, and Harry almost wanted that — for that bloke touching Louis to fuck off.

“You can touch me,” Harry babbled.

Louis drew back again. “Harry—” He pulled Harry’s hands away from his shirt, wrapping his fingers tight around his wrists. “We need to stop.”

“Why?” Harry questioned. “It’s not just me.” Louis was hard too, his cock nudging the inside of Harry’s thigh. Harry had done that and wanted to do more. “I can get you off if you want me to.”

“What are you even—? You just kissed someone for the first time. What do you know about getting them off?” Louis shook his head. “You should do that with someone you actually like.”

“I don’t care.”

“You should,” Louis said, firmly. He held him back and stood. “We shouldn’t have done this. I’m sorry.”

Harry’s stomach began to churn. He squeezed his eyes shut. “Louis—”

“We went too far,” Louis said. “Let’s just forget it happened, yeah?”

How could he ever? Harry pressed his hand to his stomach. He watched as Louis began to bang on the cupboard door. “It’s been more than seven minutes, you wankers. Open the bloody door,” he shouted.

Seconds later, the door flew open just as Harry curled over and emptied his stomach all over the floor.

 

 

October 2016

Louis doesn’t want him.

He never has, never will. The sooner Harry comes to terms with that, the sooner he can move on (or at least try). Maybe someday soon, after the potion kicks in and Louis finds The One, Harry can even make friends with that person. He and Gemma, and Louis and that lucky man can go for drinks and have dinner, and Harry can pretend he hasn’t spent over a decade so stupidly in love.

There's no trying again for Harry, though. There’s no point.

Harry watches Louis wrap his lips around the straw and doesn’t think about their kiss all those years ago in the cupboard. Louis’ upward shrug of his brows suggests that the potion tastes better than he expected. He smacks his lips together. “It’s like one of those organic pressed juices.”

Harry’s lips twitch. “Drink quickly,” he says. “Have to finish it all within a minute.”

Louis nods and drinks without stopping until the straw draws noisily on air and there’s nothing left. He burps, setting the jar down.

“Now what?”

“I thought you knew how this one worked,” Harry says, smiling. “Now you wait. Go out into the world. It might not work immediately, but the potion will reveal people you could find love with. When you set eyes on them, their aura will be pink, or red when you’re especially compatible, but that's rare”

“Seems simple enough,” Louis says.

“Good.” Harry gives him another smile. “Good luck. Let me know how it goes.”

Louis turns away. “This time next week, might just have me a soulmate,” he says, starting towards the door. “Just you wait.”

“Lou,” Harry says, halting him.

Louis turns back to him.

“You forgot your mobile,” Harry says, lifting it off the countertop. He starts toward Louis and then freezes, seeing the look on Louis’ face, seeing the way he stumbles backwards, shaking his head. “Louis?”

“What the fuck,” Louis breathes. He squeezes his eyes shut, opens them. “What the fuck.”

 

> > L < <

 

The space around Harry is red, a soft, fluttering rosy red, and that doesn’t make sense.

“Louis, what is it?” Harry reaches for him and Louis stumbles backward again, pressing himself against the door. Harry groans. “I knew you shouldn’t have taken it while drunk. Do you need to throw up? Louis, I need you to talk to me. If something’s wrong, I can’t help you if you don’t explain.”

Something is very wrong but Louis can’t explain.

All he knows is that Harry is glowing like the fucking sun if the sun were bright red and one of his oldest childhood friends.  It isn’t possible, and yet it's happening.  Again, Louis squeezes his eyes shut and opens them and that changes nothing.

“I need to leave,” he says abruptly, pulling his gaze away from Harry. He can’t look at him right now. He takes the phone from him and shoves it into his back pocket.

“Louis, please talk to me.”

“I’m fine, Harry,” Louis says. “I’m fine. I felt a little dizzy just now is all but it’s just the alcohol. Need some sleep and I’ll be fine. I’ll see you, yeah?”

Harry just stares at him while Louis turns and grabs the door knob. “Please ring me if you need anything," he says.

Louis glances at him again. Still glowing. Fucking hell…

“Sure. Good night, Harry,” he says and hurries through the door.

 

 

“What are the chances of Harry fucking up a love potion?”

Gemma’s fork slows to a still in her salad. She looks up, peering over the rim of her shades which she refuses to remove even when they’re indoors.

“Just wondering,” Louis says.

“Just wondering,” Gemma repeats. “Odd thing to just wonder about.”

Louis sighs. “Please answer the question.”

“The chances are zero,” Gemma says. “Harry’s done that spell a thousand times. He's very close with Aphrodite. And his magic is just particularly compatible with that kind of thing.”

Louis has a sip of his mojito and then downs the whole thing. Gemma eyes the empty glass as Louis twists around in search of the waiter. The man appears at their table within seconds and Louis orders whiskey.

“Are you alright?” Gemma asks.

Louis nods. “I'm great.”

Gemma’s red mouth purses. She drums her shiny nails on the table. “You're looking to ask Harry for a love potion, aren't you?”

Louis shakes his head. “No—”

“He already told me you asked about it,” Gemma says. “And I know when you're lying, Louis, so spare us both.”

Louis swallows around the knot in his throat. “I might be considering it.”

Gemma crosses her arms. “Tired of being single already? Thought you wanted some time to yourself after the last one? Jack, right?”

“What I want is to find someone who doesn't make me want time to myself,” Louis says, poking his pasta salad with his fork. “I took a few months to be single and it hasn't helped. I'm not getting any younger. And neither is the person I'm meant to be with. So, yes, some help finding them would be great.”

An image of Harry glowing red flashes into his head. His drink arrives immediately after and he takes a sip right away.

“Well, Harry would be the one to do it. Love potions aren't my thing,” Gemma says. “Although I'm guessing you know that since it’s Harry you asked about.”

“How likely are you to mess up the potion?”

“It's a hard potion to mess up,” Gemma says. “The witch would have to be incompetent, which I and my brother are not.”

Louis massages his forehead. That settles it then. He needs to see Harry.

 

 

Harry wears a long pink robe and his wide-brimmed hat when Louis enters The Divine. The sheer black top he wears underneath is unbuttoned all the way down to the start of his butterfly tattoo, exposing one of his nipples and another set of tattoos on his pecs. His nails are painted black. He might be wearing eyeliner. He looks the way he has for most of their teenage and adult years: flashy, flamboyant and so unlike the person Louis had pictured himself ending up with.

It's not that Harry isn't attractive. It's that Louis hasn’t ever been particularly attracted to him. He knows Harry’s gorgeous. He knows that growing up, plenty of people seemed to admire him (although Harry was always oblivious to them). He's got the sea green eyes, which sometimes seem to sparkle, the killer dimple, and the glowing hair.

But he's always been just Harry, Louis’ odd childhood friend and his best friend’s kid brother…

And he happens to still be glowing red.

The intensity of Harry's aura has dimmed now that the potion has fully settled into Louis’ bloodstream. It's still a rich crimson red, but more of an outline around Harry’s form now than a full-body glow.

Harry sets the pestle he's using to crush herbs against the side of a mortar. “Hi,” he says smiling.

Louis smiles tensely and steps further into the shop.

“How are you feeling?” Harry asks, watching him warily.

“Fine,” Louis says. “Much better.”

Harry looks at the cardboard tray in his hands, which Louis forgot about until now. It holds two cups from Starbucks.

“Right,” Louis says, withdrawing one of the cups. “This is for you. It's a pumpkin spice latte. As thanks.”

Harry's smile grows. “You didn't have to do that.”

“I did. It’s also an apology for leaving without paying,” Louis says.

Harry takes the latte. “Maybe you should hold off on the payment until we know the potion worked correctly.”

Louis’ brows crease. “Is there a chance it didn’t?”

“Not really, no,” Harry says. “I’ve never had complaints, but you didn’t seem well after taking it. I was really worried, by the way. I tried calling. And I texted.”

Louis walks up to the counter, setting the drink tray down, and takes a seat. “Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to worry you,” he says, glancing at him and then away. He unloops his scarf, feeling Harry’s gaze on him, although he refuses eye contact. He takes a sip of his own latte and sets it down, wrapping his hands around the warm cup. “Can I ask you something?”

“Anything,” Harry says.

He sounds so earnest. He’s always been that way, now that Louis thinks about it, always so eager to help. Louis appreciates that. “What are the odds of someone glowing red? You know, now that the potion has kicked in? Is that a common occurrence?”

“No, it’s extremely rare,” Harry says. “It essentially means you and that person are soul mates, if you believe in that sort of thing.” His face changes. “Why…? Have you—? Did you see someone…glowing red?”

“No,” Louis says quickly. “No, I just was wondering. I saw something about it on Google is all.”

“You’re going to see something on Google about your heart exploding and it’s going to scare the piss right out of you and then you’ll say I told you so.”

Louis smiles, watching while Harry lifts the pestle. “Was just going to ask about that.”

Harry huffs a laugh and begins grinding his herbs again while one of the toads starts hopping across the countertop, into the space between Louis’ forearms, and then away. Harry smiles after him.

“Which one is that?” Louis asks.

“Benny,” Harry says. “One of the oldest. Not very social, that one.”

The page of Harry’s grimoire turns and he takes a peek at it before turning to grab another jar.

“What are you making?” Louis asks.

Harry’s gaze drifts over to him and his brows arch. Louis feels his skin began to heat up. He’s being weird. He knows that.

“Um. It’s a sex elixir, actually,” Harry says, smiling.

Louis rests his chin on his palm. “Go on.”

Harry smirks. “You spread it on your sheets before sex and it makes things…more exciting.”

“You’ve tried it before, have you?” Louis asks without thinking because he isn’t thinking at all today.

Harry’s mouth opens but nothing comes out. He’s obviously stunned, as anyone would be when asked blatantly about their sex life. He and Harry don’t talk about things like this. The closest they’ve ever really come was a talk about kissing in Louis’ cupboard several years ago…

“You don’t have to answer that,” Louis says. “I’m just wondering if you can vouch for its effectiveness.”

Harry’s lips twitch. “Right. Well, I made it so of course,” he says. He hesitates, swiping his tongue across his bottom lip. Louis finds the gesture interesting. Harry says, “I’ve also tried it, yeah, and it works. With someone or alone.”

Very interesting.

“You’d be surprised,” Harry adds, “how many people ask for something like this. Sometimes their sex life is fine but they want it for a special occasion. There are people who are single and don’t want anyone at all, just a fun night to themselves.”

Louis word-vomits again: “Do you want someone?”

And again, Harry is speechless.

“Assuming you don’t have someone already,” Louis adds.

“No,” Harry says slowly, looking down at the herbs as he speaks. “There’s no one now, but eventually, I’d like that. Right now, I’m fine just helping people, working in the shop with Gem.”

Louis swallows, but the strange lump in his throat remains. “You’re good at what you do, huh?”

Harry studies him curiously. “I’d say so.”

Louis meets his gaze and it’s quiet for a bizarre second, just the fire crackling behind Harry.

“Louis,” Harry says, quietly. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

No, Louis isn’t alright at all.

“I have to go,” he says, wrapping his scarf around his neck. “Just remembered there’s a lot I have to do before work tomorrow.”

Harry reaches out, setting his hand atop Louis’, and Louis looks at him, looks right into his eyes, and feels as if he’s teetering forward. “I’m here if you need me,” he says, his voice slow and deep and warm.

Louis nods, slipping his hand out from under his touch. “Thanks,” he says. “See you around, H.”

“See you,” he hears Harry say as he makes his way to the door and leaves.

 

 

‘Hey! How are things?’

Louis’ fingers freeze on his keyboard. He looks at the message sent from ‘Curly’ and lifts his mobile off his desk. He sends back a simple, ‘Good!

He sighs and squeezes his eyelids beneath his glasses. ‘You?’ he adds.

Harry sends him a picture of himself, his thumb up, and Benny the toad atop his curly head like some sort of tiara. Louis can’t help it; he smiles wide.

Cute’ he sends back.

‘Benny says thanks.’

Louis hesitates. It’s weird: He’s always considered Harry one of his closest and oldest friends, and yet only now does he realise how stunted their relationship has actually been. They don’t text like this. They hardly talk just the two of them, only ever when Gemma’s around. He’s not even sure why Harry’s messaging him at all. He’s not sure he minds either.

Should I ask what you two are up to?

Harry sends him another picture of two toads in the bathroom sink, all sudsed up. ‘Bath time,’ he says. ‘Benny’s not too happy about it.

Louis smiles. His computer goes into sleep mode but he hardly notices. ‘Do toads actually need baths? Thought they took care of themselves?

My children are special.

You’re a weirdo.

Most witches are.

Louis rolls his eyes, and then scrolls up to the picture of Harry and Benny again. He finds himself staring at the foam in Harry’s curly hair, the dimple, his two front teeth. He jumps when the phone vibrates again with another message.

No weird reactions to the potion, right?

Aside from Harry potentially being his soul mate? ‘None at all.

He’s seen two other men in passing who emanated a pink aura just yesterday, but never red. He was Googling yesterday and found people in online forums who can attest to meeting their spouse after consuming a love potion. In every case, the aura is pink. Always pink.

And somehow, in spite of the rarity of such a thing, you have Harry, shrouded in brilliant rosy red. It doesn’t make sense. If Louis thinks too long about it, his head begins to ache. But he doesn't stop thinking about it. He can’t stop thinking of Harry now that he’s started.

‘Could I stop by this afternoon?’ Louis sends. ‘I’d like to get that cheque to you.’

‘Sure. We’re having mum and dad over for dinner to celebrate their anniversary.’

‘Is Anne cooking?’

‘No, me.’

‘Not sure I’ve had your cooking before. Will I live?’

‘Of course not. My plan is to poison you.’

‘Sounds delicious. I’ll be there.’

‘Wear black xx’

Louis doesn’t ask why. It’s a witch thing, he’s learned. Celebrations require black attire. Formal dinners require black. Anything and everything is an excuse to come decked out in all black.

That afternoon, Louis wears a black turtleneck and black skinny jeans. He cheats with his fluffy red scarf but hopes the black leather jacket makes up for it. He brings a bottle of Merlot and a card for Harry’s parents.

Gemma answers the door, looking surprised to him.

“Guess Harry didn’t tell you I was coming?”

“He told me!” That’s Anne, sitting at the countertop with a glass of wine in her hands. She’s wearing a black dress and shiny black booties, her hair fixed into a topknot. “Come in, love. You’re letting in the draft.”

Louis steps inside and the door shuts behind him all on its own.

“What brings you by?” Gemma asks, pouring him a glass of wine, while Louis approaches Anne and drops a greeting kiss on her cheek.

“I hear someone has an anniversary,” Louis says. He turns to Harry’s dad and gives him a hug, the two of them patting each other on the back.

“You heard right,” Anne says. She eyes the wine in his hands. “Is that for us?”

“Of course,” Louis says, handing the wine and the card off. “Happy Anniversary.”

“You’re a doll,” Anne says, pressing the card to her chest. “Tell Jay I’m keeping you. You’re my son now. Always have been.”

Louis grins. “I think she made peace with that all those years I refused to leave your house.”

For a while, everyone thought Louis and Gemma would end up together. That was how often Louis found reasons to show up at the Styles’ home. Then secondary school started and Louis took that as his queue to confess that he liked boys. He remembers that the irony of the situation had made everyone laugh. Except for Harry. Louis can’t remember where Harry was at all the night he came out to their families.

Harry pushes through the swinging kitchen doors, holding two dishes, one of what looks like lasagna and another of vegetables. His curly hair is sweaty at the temples. His face is flushed. He looks at Louis and smiles, more brightly than Louis expected.

“Hi,” he says. One of the cats darts between his legs, throwing him off balance. He nearly drops the dishes, but slams his back against the wall to stay upright. Louis is at his side before he even makes a conscious decision to move. He reaches for one of the dishes.

“You remind me of a baby deer,” Louis says to him quietly. “Like that one you saved when we were kids. Let me help.”

Harry stares so intensely Louis feels heat rushing to his face. “Didn't think you remembered that.”

“It was fucking incredible, of course I do,” Louis says. He can’t deal with how big Harry’s eyes are, how he doesn’t seem to be blinking. Since Saturday, Louis feels like Harry’s been looking straight through him, and he’s still not sure what he's going to find. He turns away, feeling other eyes on him like Gemma’s and Anne’s, although they pretend to be engaged in their own chatter.

Harry returns to the kitchen after setting the dish down on the table, and Louis just can't stop thinking. He needs answers. Namely who and what Harry means to him? And why? He lingers there with everyone else for a while, sipping his wine, and then he can't any longer.

“I’m just—” He nods toward the kitchen door. “Going to see if he needs help.”

Gemma’s eyes narrow immediately. Louis heads into the kitchen before she can try reading his mind. There’s magic for that. He’s sure it’d be no trouble for her to use it.

He pushes the kitchen door open and finds Harry icing a cake. He looks up when Louis appears, brows creasing.

“Need something?”

Louis shakes his head and rocks backwards on his heels. “Just came to see if you needed a hand.”

Harry’s gaze drifts away slowly. “I think I’ve probably got everything covered.”

“Good,” Louis says but still he doesn’t leave. He steps further into the kitchen while Harry starts icing the cake again. “Do you remember when we were kids your mum baked that cake for your nan’s birthday? And Gemma was asleep, and you and I snuck into the kitchen and ate nearly half of it?”

Harry looks at him again, a smile growing. “And I tried to replace the part we ate with magic.”

“Such an epic fail,” Louis says, laughing. “The part you remade literally tasted like dirt.”

“I was young. I didn’t know what I was doing,” Harry says. “The whole thing was your idea.”

“I’ve got no clue what you’re talking about,” Louis says, crossing his arms.

“I never should have listened to you.”

“But you always did,” Louis says. He lifts his chin, feeling boastful.

Harry shakes his head. “Not anymore.”

“No?” Louis takes that as a challenge. “I bet you could be convinced to eat half the cake with me again, assuming it's better than your last one.”

“It's much better,” Harry says, confidently.

“I'll believe it when I taste it.”

Harry looks at him, lips pressed into a tight line with the smallest hint of a smile hiding in the corners. He lifts the cake knife and cuts right into the cake. Louis grins, hopping up onto the countertop, while Harry slices a tiny piece of the cake.

“How'd you get the frosting black like that?”

“It's blackberry frosting with black cocoa powder and just a hint of magic,” Harry says, setting the slice on a plate. He collects a small forkful and extends the fork to Louis.

And Louis just sets his hand on Harry’s wrist to steady him and wraps his lips around the fork. His skin is warm and Louis can feel his pulse beneath his fingertips. He can smell him even; this close he has a scent of chocolate and something fragrant like roses. Louis pulls back to chew and can't look Harry in the eye.

“You were right,” Louis says. “That's really good.”

Harry has a bite of his own, his mouth on the same fork. Like a schoolboy with a crush, Louis thinks ‘indirect kiss’, which triggers a memory of a not-so-indirect kiss when they were young. Harry's lips had been soft. So ridiculously soft, Louis can still remember them clearly.

“Very good,” Harry says grinning until his left dimple appears, and he looks at Louis and neither of them look away for a second that turns to two to three.

And then the kitchen door opens and Gemma stands there, looking at them both.

“We’re all starved and the food’s getting cold,” she says. “But if you two would like some more time alone, we can start without you.”

She smiles.

Harry turns away. “I think we’re all set.”

Louis hops down and approaches Gemma, who follows him, letting the kitchen door swing closed. She stares at him.

“What are you up to with Harry?” she whispers, conscious of her parents at the dining table steps away.

“I was talking to him,” Louis says, incredulously. “Can't I talk to him?”

“That's just it. You never do,” Gemma says. “You've never been that close with him, especially not after...that thing that happened.”

Louis wishes he hadn't told her about it now, although Harry told her first. “That was your fault.”

“I never said it wasn't. And you're changing the subject,” Gemma says. “Are you getting close to him so he’ll make the potion for you?”

“That's insulting,” Louis says. “I already got the potion.”

“So then what is your deal?” Gemma insists. “He's inviting you to dinner now. You're hanging around him. Is the potion not working or what?”

Louis swallows. “No, it's working…”

Gemma stares at him, her brows creasing into a deep V. “Oh my God,” she breathes. She looks him right in the eyes. “Louis—”

And then the kitchen door opens and they fall silent. Harry stands there with another bottle of wine and an opener, looking at them both. “Ready to eat?” He doesn't wait for their answer, moving to the table where his parents are waiting.

Louis stares after him. He doesn't mean to, his stomach feeling funny, and not because he's hungry.

“Oh my fucking God,” Gemma says and then with a little laugh, she heads to the table.

Reluctantly, Louis follows her.

 

 

“Back again?”

That's how Harry greets him, which only makes Louis self-conscious like maybe he's being annoying and transparent. And it leads him to wonder if Harry is annoyed by him. If Harry could ever come to like him or love him at all.

Years ago, he was eager for something with Louis in the cupboard, at least. But they were young and perpetually horny and there's no telling whether it had anything to do with Louis himself or if any boy would have done. He’s always believed the latter, not the former.

And again, they were young.

So much has changed since then.

“Is Gemma here?” Louis asks because he's apparently a coward and can't just say he came to see Harry. He doesn’t miss the way Harry’s smile lessens.

“She's in a session.”

Louis comes and sits at the counter, pulling off his scarf and coat. “I'll just wait.” Although that's stupid because he's got nothing to talk to Gemma about.

Harry sneaks a glance at him, or tries to. But then their eyes meet and he looks away. “You know, I've never seen you in this shop more than once a month, if at all.”

“It's October,” Louis says stupidly. “I'm feeling the witchy vibe this time of year.”

“Oh, so you're using us?” Harry says.

“Well, yeah,” Louis says. “Remember that time you restored my term paper? I spilled tea all over it and you fixed it up, good as new.”

Harry smiles. “Think I might have done that twice or was it three times? Maybe four?”

“That's quite enough,” Louis tells him.

“Don't be embarrassed,” Harry says. “I was happy to clean up your numerous messes.”

“You talk big for someone who set the kitchen on fire— When was that, again? Year six for you, I think?”

“You swore never to bring that up again.”

“Did I?” Louis rubs his scruffy chin. “Hm, don't recall.”

Harry shakes his head, but he's grinning. “Don't you have work today?”

“I’m working from home,” Louis says. “And then I decided to just—” See what you were up to. “See what Gem was up to.”

“I see.” Harry nods.

Louis takes a breath. “And you too, of course.”

Harry looks at him. “Right…”

“So,” Louis begins. “What are you up to?”

Harry licks his lips. “Um.” He looks down. “This is a prenatal herbal treatment. Not too much magic involved. Just something to make mummies more comfortable during pregnancy.”

“That's a nice one,” Louis says.

“It is. I love making things that have to do with babies and children. I've made potions to help children get to sleep and quell nightmares.” Harry's face is all lit up like a star. With the soft red surrounding his form, he looks like one. Like a supernova, really.

“How about for sicknesses?” Louis asks.

“Definitely,” Harry says. “Fruit Sip is a potion Gemma and I made together. It heals any ailment a child might have whether just a tummy ache or a fever.”

“Best witches in town.”

He's not imagining Harry’s skin steadily growing pink. “It was Gemma’s idea. Her magic is better than mine with the medicinal stuff. She's more practical. More scientific. More brilliant in general.”

“That's not how she sees it,” Louis says frowning. “She thinks you're brilliant. And you know— So do I. I mean, you come up with the coolest shit every time. When we were kids, I was always— just amazed. And impressed. And a little jealous. Remember that time you made all the roses bloom in my nan’s garden? And that time you froze the lake near Niall’s place and all of us went skating. And when you made that dickhead Joe send your sister chocolates once a day for a whole month? I think… Gemma's magic seems more useful — and it is — but yours is too. Your magic makes people happy. You make people happy.”

Louis exhales when he's done talking, nearly out of breath and out of nerve. He doesn't know where that all came from, only that he knows (and has always known) how incredible Harry is, and he would hate for Harry to ever think otherwise.

Harry runs his hand through his hair and clears his throat and looks at Louis. “Well, when you put it like that…” He smiles. “Thank you.”

Louis looks at him, his nose scrunched up, and smiles back. He can’t handle the warmth Harry radiates his way. He feels his own skin burning, knows his ears by now are pink. “So anyway, is there something I can help with?”

“You want to help?”

“That's what I said, isn't it?” Louis stands and walks around the counter, poking him in the side as he passes him, and Harry yelps and shrinks away from him. Laughter slips from his lips, his cheeks lightly flushed. Louis knocks their hips together because he apparently has no self-control. And he's flirting. He's flirting with Harry.

“Give me something to do, kid.”

Harry rolls his eyes. “Get the mortar and pestle. You can help grind some of the ingredients down for the next potion.”

Louis pushes his jumper sleeves up to his elbows. “Sounds easy enough.”

"You know," Harry begins while Louis gets to work. "You're kind of the same. You might not use magic but you make people happy too. You're a human rights solicitor. You fight for other people to be happy and live the way they choose, yeah?"

Louis smiles. "Yeah, I guess you're right." His eyes linger on him until Harry looks away.

Gemma comes out of her session five minutes later, walking her customer to the door. She sees them and her lips twitch and Louis refuses to look her in the eye.

“Good to see you again, Lou,” she says. Louis hums his agreement but keeps his head down.

“I'm going out for a bit,” she says. “Do you boys need anything?”

Harry's brows wrinkle. “I think Louis did, yeah?”

“What?” Louis says confusedly.

“You said you came by to see Gemma,” Harry says slowly.

Gemma crosses her arms, smile growing wide, until she looks like a cat. “You did, did you?”

“Oh—” Louis stammers. “Yeah, you know I forgot whatever it was. Must not have been important.”

Harry just stares at him, still confused.

“No, I guess not,” Gemma says. She laughs to herself. “You two have fun.”

Louis feels Harry’s gaze on him for a moment after Gemma leaves. When he can't take it any longer, he looks at him and says, “I'm doing this right, yeah?”

Harry's ears are pink. He glances at Louis’ work and nods. “Yeah.” He stutters a bit. “You're doing well.”

 

 

Louis drops by again and again over the next two weeks, always after work or on days he's working from home. It gets to the point where Harry starts to expect him, which Louis can’t say he doesn’t like.

“Worried you weren't coming,” he comments that Wednesday, his smile growing as Louis steps into the shop.

“Had to pick up these,” Louis says, setting a Starbucks tray down. He pulls off his fluffy scarf and runs a hand through his hair. With a breathy, exasperated laugh, Harry adjusts a lock of hair that must be sticking up, sweeping it towards the side. His fingers brush Louis’ forehead. They're warm, slightly calloused from working so often with his hands. Louis wouldn't really mind Harry running them through his hair for a while longer.

Harry drops his hand, taking one of the lattes.

“It’s chai this time,” Louis notes.

“It's delicious. Thank you,” Harry says. “I'm going to show up at your fancy law office one day with lattes and scones.”

That'd be a sight — Harry amongst all Louis’ stiff, pretentious colleagues. They wouldn't know what to make of him. Sometimes Louis doesn’t know what to make of him either.

“What's that face?” Harry asks.

Louis doesn't even realize he's staring. He blinks. “Nothing. That'd be great. For you to stop by, I mean. I'd love that.”

Harry's brows crease. “Really? I was just joking.”

“Why do you sound so surprised?”

Harry clearly is surprised. “You once said that I wouldn't fit in with your work friends. A few years ago, you had this fancy dinner with your colleagues and you took Gemma, but not me.”

“I don't remember that,” Louis says.

“I remember it clearly.”

Louis remembers it vaguely if he's being honest. It had been a charity dinner a few years ago. He had the option of taking a guest. Harry offered first, but Louis asked Gemma. He couldn't see Harry fitting in with those people. He could see him blowing something up or making a comment about witches’ rights. As he thinks about it now, those thoughts no longer make sense.

“I'm sorry,” he says. “If I made you feel—”

Harry starts to shake his head. “Louis, it’s fine—”

“No, it isn’t,” Louis says. “I meant what I said. I'd be really happy if you came by. I mean, I still don't think you'd fit in with those people, but I don’t care. Most of them aren't my friends and their opinion on you doesn't matter. And anyway, I wouldn't want you to fit in. You wouldn't be you if you did.”

Harry stares at him. “Don't let me stop you.”

Louis scoffs. “I think I'm finished.”

“Really? Because I think I could get used to you talking so highly of me,” Harry says, folding his arms across his chest.

Louis rolls his eyes.

“I'll stop by sometime,” Harry says, his voice softening. He's sporting a blush, which Louis has grown increasingly aware of lately. Their eyes meet and they smile and then Harry pushes his hair away from his eyes and turns toward the wall of coloured jars. “I'm working on a laughing spell today. Want to help?”

“What's a laughing spell?”

Harry stands on his toes to grab the jar on the uppermost shelf. His floral patterned blouse rides up, exposing his pillowy hips. The ache Louis feels is immediate. He swears he never was personally attracted to Harry and yet when he looks at him lately, his attraction feels like it's been growing and stewing for years.

He remembers him when he was young and knows how his body has changed, how he's thickened in some places and thinned in others. And he's not sure how he spent any length of time being unaffected by those changes. They hit him mercilessly now.

Last night, he dreamt about sucking bruises into those hips. He dreamt of Harry's incessant blushing and all the ways he could make the rosy rush of blood span the length of his whole body, down his neck and chest. He thinks if he got him into his bed he could figure it out. 

Harry, spread across his king-sized bed -- definitely the stuff of dreams.

“A laughing spell,” Harry says with a big sigh when his feet flatten on the ground, “is like laughing gas. It doesn't always make you laugh, but it makes you giddy. It's like a drug.”

Louis licks his lips. “Cool,” he says. He clears his throat, thinking of something better to say. “Could open up our own drug trafficking ring, make a nice profit.”

“Think I've got that covered,” Harry says, smiling. “Tell your work friends to come by the shop. Might be able to help them loosen up.”

Louis grins. “I'll let them know.”

“Come around here,” Harry says, waving him over. Louis gets up and joins him on the opposite side of the counter. Harry passes him ingredients to grind, while he starts the cauldron boiling. Sometimes their arms brush as they move around, and Louis gets a true rush of grade-school goosebumps. Sometimes he can smell the scent of jasmine and rose, and fresh herbs on Harry’s skin.

Sometimes Harry glances at him, their eyes meet and they smile.

“So,” Harry says, while swiping sunflower petals into the cauldron. “How’s the love potion working for you?”

Louis’ hands still. “Good,” he says. He finishes grinding the cocoa beans and passes them over to Harry.

“Just good?” Harry asks. He tosses the cocoa beans into the concoction. “Louis, if the potion isn’t working, it’s fine to tell me.”

“No, it works,” Louis says. “I just—It’s hard finding the time to pursue someone.”

Harry’s brows form a deep furrow, and Louis knows right away that he’s fucked up. He has trouble finding the time because he spends all his time here — pursuing Harry. That’s what he’s doing, isn’t it?

Harry looks away. “I hope you don’t feel obligated to, like, hang around,” he says. “You paid for the potion already, so—“

“You think I’m hanging out with you as payment?” Louis asks.

“No—I don’t know,” Harry babbles. “This all started after you took the potion, didn’t it?”

This? As in, us being friends?” Louis asks. “I thought we were doing that already.”

Harry looks at him, his jaw set. “I’m not making this up, Louis. Whenever you came by, you came to see Gemma. You never brought me lattes or offered to help me or just stayed to talk. And it makes me happy, it does, but it’s come out of nowhere. Ever since the potion, you’ve been different—”

“You’re right,” Louis says quickly. Harry is dangerously close to figuring this all out and Louis can’t have that. “Taking the potion…has made me more aware of what a good friend you’ve been, and how important you are to me. You came through for me when I needed you. And I want to make up for all those times I didn’t pay as much attention to you as I should’ve. I want us to start fresh, you know? That’s all.”

“Oh,” Harry says. He exhales, allowing his tense shoulders to fall. “Alright…”

“Alright,” Louis says.

“You’ll tell me though, yeah? If you find someone?” Harry asks.

Louis nods, but he can’t look at him. “Definitely.”

Harry sighs and turns away. The smile he’d had all morning has dissipated, which isn’t at all what Louis wanted. He loves to see Harry happy. He wants to make him happy. He thinks…he wants him in general.

Harry adds the gelatinous mixture in the cauldron to a bowl of buttercream frosting, and whips it all together with a spatula. “You can take the potion just as it is, but I like doing it this way,” he says. “I turn it into frosting, put it on a cupcake or a cookie, and then you’ve got something sweet that makes you giggle too.”

Louis smiles, watching him mix the batter altogether. Harry tries to blow his curly hair out of his face, but it doesn’t work. Louis laughs and reaches out without thinking about it to tuck the curl behind Harry’s ear.

“Thank you,” Harry says with a smile sent Louis’ way.

“You’re welcome,” Louis replies quietly, trying not to break this peaceful bubble that’s formed around the two of them. He thinks it would be hard to break it though. It forms naturally. It forms without them having to try hard at all. Being around Harry often, Louis discovers, is as simple as breathing.

Harry slides the bowl closer to Louis, lifting his brows. A smirk plays on his lips. “Up for it?”

Without hesitation, Louis dunks his finger into the frosting and licks his finger clean. “Tastes like chocolate.”

Harry's smile grows slowly, eyes steady on him, waiting but not for long. Louis feels a bubbling in his stomach like he's being tickled on the inside. He sets a hand on his abdomen, brows wrinkling.

“Weird,” he says.

And then he giggles.

He presses his hand to his mouth, but the laughter sputters through his lips and between his fingers.

Harry laughs, licking a bit of frosting off the spatula. “Forgot to mention that it's fast-acting.”

Louis snorts, his whole face breaking out in a grin like that was the greatest thing Harry has ever said. “Oh my God,” he breathes, dissolving into laughter. “What did you do to me?”

Before long, they’re curled over the counter in a fit of giggles. Harry frosts two cupcakes, and they have one each. Things turn hysterical. They start up some music. The toads seem to feed off all the wild, happy energy in the room and join in on the partry, bouncing from surface to surface. Louis puts on one of Harry’s spare witch hats, and a rainbow feathered boa from the coat rack. He ends up atop the counter, using the spatula as a mic, thrusting his hips side to side. Harry dances with Lilith the cat, and pretends to be Louis’ crazed fan, pretends to faint when Louis slaps his own ass.

At every second, there’s laughter.

Never has one room been filled with this much laughter.

Louis thinks Gemma comes in at one point, pauses to look at them, and leaves without comment, but he isn’t sure. He feels too much and it all centres on Harry. Harry, who for so long existed outside of his radar, is now right at the very heart of it.

And this moment with Beyoncé crooning in the background, the toads hopping all around, Harry's face lit up like a star, and this giddiness in Louis’ chest that has nothing to do with magic — this is the moment he falls in love.

 

> > H < <

 

Alton is some bloke he meets through a mutual friend and Harry decides on impulse that he should invite him to his mum’s Halloween party that year.

Although it's not so much impulse, as it is self-preservation.

He didn't think it was possible to love or desire Louis any more than he already did. He thought he'd capped on affection for him years ago. The last two weeks have proven him naive.

It turns out Louis has this whole other side to him that Harry is just meeting and falling in love with. This inner kid and romantic that Harry wants to spend all of this time getting to know.

But what sense would that make when there’s some man out there Louis will eventually meet and love.

So, there’s Alton Santini, who’s cute, funny and not perpetually out of Harry’s reach. He asks him if he’d like to come to the party, and Alton says yes.

Harry wakes to a ‘Happy Halloween’ text from Louis, followed by a jumble of emojis, including a few pumpkins, a ghost, a skull, and several hearts. Harry fixates on the hearts most.

Happy Halloween,’ Harry sends back. ‘Coming to the party?

As always x

Harry smiles, turning over and cosying further into his bed. ‘Who should I expect this year?

Thought I’d dress as a cat and be your familiar :)

The butterflies swarm Harry’s stomach immediately. He feels himself blushing and buries his face in his pillow for a moment. Barring the torturous image of Louis as a cat, even the suggestion to coordinate costumes makes Harry feel warm and weak.

He’s going crazy. Sometimes he thinks Louis is flirting with him, which means he must be going crazy.

‘I vote for the cat costume’ he sends.

‘Cat costume it is!’

Harry doesn’t know whether or not he’s joking, but he doesn’t have any time to find out. Gemma pushes his door open without knocking, flicking her wrist and his duvet shoots off his body.

“Not this again,” Harry groans.

“You know mum hates when we’re late to the festival,” Gemma says.

“Mum also hates the festival,” Harry says, and then in his best impersonation of his mother, “Such a shame they get to call themselves witches. So pretentious, so entitled, all of them.”

“I know, I know, but she’ll still hate for us to be late,” Gemma says. “Now get up or—“

“You’ll be back with a cauldron of ice water,” Harry finishes for her. “That’s an extreme waste of natural resources by the way.”

Gemma shakes her head. “You have five minutes.”

 

 

The Festival of Witches is an annual celebration on Halloween, reserved for witches to honour the dead and the power that’s been left behind for use. It’s a way of saying ‘thank you’ and of welcoming another hallowed year.

That’s the fancy definition anyhow. In truth, it’s just an excuse for witches to get really drunk, party really hard, and show off how strong their particular coven has gotten over the past year. There’s a bake-off, some first class pumpkin carving, karaoke, Quidditch, and a corn maze.

Harry enjoyed it all more when he was a kid, because Louis would come along and the three of them would get up to all sorts of trouble. As he grows older, he’s more aware of the politics that aggravate his mum so much. Witches are competitive by nature, it seems. Every event during the festival is an opportunity to show up and to compare broomsticks.

As he grows older, he’s asked too often if he’s dating anyone and if he plans on settling down. He feels like he only left university a few months ago. Settling down isn’t exactly a priority. (Although, if Louis woke up one morning with an intense desire to marry him, Harry wouldn’t say no.)

He and Gemma throw back shots of tequila before exiting the car. He adjusts his pointy-topped hat and lifts his robe as he steps out, already dreading the next few hours.

And then he sees Louis, sitting on the front step of the Middlebrook House, where the festival is held every year.

“It’s about time,” Louis says. “You two are always late.”

Gemma’s lips quirk. “Look who randomly decided to show up to a festival. Hasn’t been to one in at least ten years, right, H?”

“It’s definitely been a while,” Harry says. “Not that we aren’t happy to see you.”

“Good,” Louis says, standing. His eyes are on Harry. “I’m happy to see you too.”

Beside him, Gemma snorts, and steps past them, through the front doors.

“You could have told me you were coming while we were texting earlier,” Harry says.

Louis smiles and flicks the brim of Harry’s hat. “Where’s the fun in that?” He turns away. “Come on, love. You’re already late.”

Harry takes a deep, steadying breath and follows him into the house.

 

 

His first mission is to get himself a drink, although who knows why he thinks that's a good idea. History has told him all he needs to know about being drunk around Louis.

He and Louis have a pint of apple ale while carving a pumpkin together. Louis makes him swear not to use magic. Harry insists that scooping out the inside gunk would go a lot faster if Louis let him zap it away.

The pumpkin comes out alright in the end, with a lopsided smile, one tooth, big round eyes and eyebrows. They name him Larry because Harry thinks he looks like Louis and Louis thinks the opposite and then Louis has the bright idea to name him after them both.

After Larry is put on display with the rest of the Jack-o’lanterns, they move on to helping the younger witches with arts and craft. Watching Louis painting with a five-year-old little girl is hard enough without him shooting little smiles Harry’s way every second.

He can’t remember them doing any of these things together the last time Louis showed up at a festival. He can’t remember Louis making an effort to hang out with him. It had always been the other way around. Harry would want to paint while Louis and Gemma wanted to carve pumpkins, and so Harry ended up carving pumpkins.

He doesn’t know where Gemma is now. Louis doesn’t seem to either.

“Are you and Gemma alright?” he asks Louis while they set tables for the bake-off.

Louis looks at him confusedly.

“Like,” Harry goes on. “You aren’t fighting, are you?”

“No, not at all,” Louis says. “Why would you think so?”

“Usually she hangs out with us,” Harry says. “It’s kind of just been me and you lately, and I know we’re starting fresh and all that, but it’s strange, isn’t it?”

“Oh.” Louis looks down as he speaks. “Well, you know, she's seeing that bloke that just showed up, yeah? Things are getting pretty serious between them, I hear." He scratches a spot on his scruffy chin. "And you know, I sort of talked to her and explained the situation, you know? That I was trying to, like… bond with you or whatever.”

“Bond,” Harry repeats, smiling.

“Shut up,” Louis says. “She’s just giving us time to ourselves.”

Harry nods. “I guess I just don’t understand why that would be necessary…“

Louis takes a breath and looks him in the eye, and Harry isn’t prepared for the intensity of it. “Harry,” he says. “There’s something—”

Anne approaches the table and Louis falls silent. They greet each other with a big hug and kiss on the cheek.

“H,” his mum says. “Come help me with the pie, will you? I want to get the table all set up.”

“Sure,” Harry says. He looks at Louis. “I’ll just be a second.”

Louis smiles, although it doesn’t reach his eyes. Harry looks away reluctantly and follows his mum over to their own display table. Mrs Krauss is standing nearby, decorating the plate around her apple pie with sprigs of pine. They say a cordial hello before Harry and his mum begin unpacking their pie boxes.

“Is something going on with you and Louis?” his mum asks quietly.

Harry sets the first pie down neatly. “No. I just...made a love potion for him. And he doesn’t see it this way but I think maybe he’s trying to make up for it. He says he wants us to be closer.”

Anne looks at him. “Why would you make a love potion for him?”

“Why not?”

“Harry,” she says flatly. “You’ve liked him since you met him. I know that.”

Clearly the whole world knows except Louis. “He asked,” Harry says. “I couldn’t just say no, not without a reason.”

His mum shakes her head. “This is one of my biggest fears with you. Your magic is too—”

He sighs, ready for another jab, another blow when he already feels so tired.

“Selfless,” his mum says. Not the word he was expecting. “I know I’ve always tried to dissuade you from practising the way you do. But it isn’t because it’s not practical. It’s different from the rest of the family’s, but mainly because you give so much of yourself to do it all for the benefit of other people.”

“Is that a bad thing?” Harry wonders.

“It can be,” his mum says. “Especially when you yourself aren’t happy.”

Harry folds his arms over his chest and glances across the yard. He spots Louis tying a child’s shoelaces. When he looks at his mum again, she's looking at him already.

“Oh, babe,” she says, sadly. “I love that you are so committed to helping other people. I admire you for that, and I couldn’t be more proud.”

Harry’s lips twitch.

“I just don’t want you to find yourself one day, an old, miserable witch. You deserve much better than that. Making people happy makes you happy, I get that. But think of yourself too.”

“I’ll try,” Harry says, quietly.

“And tell him how you feel,” Anne says. “Potion or no potion, he deserves to know.”

Harry nods curtly. “Okay.”

“Okay,” his mum says. “Now, let’s get this table all dressed up.”

 

 

They win the apple pie contest the fifth year in a row. Mrs Krauss and the other witches clearly aren’t pleased. He even gets a scowl himself from Jill Weaver.

It’s hard to be bothered by anything with Louis at his side. They have sausage sandwiches and chips and ice cream afterwards. After another beer, they partner up for the afternoon corn maze. At 6 PM, the sun has completely set, meaning that the only way to see is by each witch crafting a glowing orb to light their path.

Harry says the spell, circling his hands in the space in front of his chest. The light forms between his palms and he gives it a light push. It floats away from them and then hovers nearby.

Louis grins. “Always my favourite part.”

“Mine too,” Harry says, and they share a smile.

The more Harry thinks about it, the more he’s convinced that his mum is absolutely right. It’s wrong of him to pretend he’s committed to being friends with Louis when he really wants more. It’s wrong to encourage Louis to find someone else when he secretly dreads that happening.

They start through the corn maze. It’s quite small in reality but has an enchantment cast on it that makes it seem much larger. There are also the many traps and tricks laid along the way to get them lost. Things go well for the first five minutes or so, and then they hear what they think sounds like a growl.

They look at each other, and then laugh.

“There’s no way,” Louis says. “They wouldn’t put an actual animal in here.”

“There are kids in here,” Harry says. “No way.”

Seemingly reassured, they begin walking again, but it’s clear they’re both a little shaken. Louis keeps looking behind them. Harry keeps his head tilted just so, trying to listen close for strange sounds.

The next time they hear the growl, it’s much closer, right beside them. Louis doesn’t wait even a second. He takes Harry’s hand and springs forward. They don’t stop until they’re officially lost and out of breath.

“Are all witches out of their bloody minds?” Louis asks.

“Hey,” Harry says. “My family is pretty sane.”

“Did you piss someone off recently?”

Harry struggles to find the breath to speak. “It was probably the Weavers playing a trick on us. They’re really bitter about the apple pie.” He glances around. “Should we just huddle here and wait it out?”

Louis huffs a laugh. “No,” he says. “We’re not so easy to defeat.” He tugs on his hand, which he happens to still be holding. “Come on.”

And he doesn’t let his hand go, and Harry definitely doesn’t want him to. They start walking again, taking each step slowly.

“You’ll protect me, yeah?” Louis says.

Harry knows he’s only joking. But he says, “always” anyhow with a little squeeze to Louis’ hand. Louis smiles and squeezes back.

The third time they hear the growl, it’s accompanied by a violent rustling in the corn stalks beside them, and this time, Harry breaks into the sprint, dragging Louis along with them, hissing “shit, shit, shit” as he throws glances back behind them.

He’s not looking where he’s going and the orb is of little help, and so it’s no surprise when he trips and goes careening forward, him and Louis both.

They land side-by-side, their legs tangled up, Harry’s hair in Louis’ mouth, which he spits free. His witch hat lies a foot away. The orb hovers somewhere nearby. Harry doesn’t move for a moment, trying to orient himself.

Louis’ face suddenly looms over top of him. He peers down at him, slapping a hand lightly against his cheek. “Are you with me?”

Harry’s face wrinkles. “I’m okay.”

“How many fingers am I holding up?” Louis asks with his thumb lifted.

Harry huffs a laugh. “Is that five? No, maybe six.”

“He’s a goner, folks,” Louis says, smiling.

“Tell my family I loved them.”

“No final words for your longtime friend, Louis Tomlinson?”

Harry hesitates. “Tell him…I was the one who spilled yoghurt on his Adidas when we were kids, not Fizzy.”

Louis’ mouth drops open. “He says you’re a snake.”

Harry laughs, which makes his head hurt a bit. Louis is still just looming over him, one hand pressed against the ground on the other side of Harry’s body. And suddenly the intimacy of this position dawns on Harry and he can’t look Louis in the eye.

“I really think I’m alright,” he says.

Louis brushes Harry’s hair away from his forehead. “You sure?” he asks, voice laden with concern, fingers gentle as they stroke his forehead.

Harry has never been more confused, and more pleased. This is where he always wants to be, this close. Beneath Louis or on top of Louis. It doesn’t matter so long as they’re this close.

He looks at Louis’ mouth, nods. “I’m sure.”

He thinks Louis looks at his mouth too. He thinks his gaze lands there steadily for a moment and his brow wrinkles like he’s contemplating kissing him. He thinks he’s going to do it, even.

But then there’s an explosion of laughter, followed by a rush of children. They breeze past them, the wind they stir up tossing Louis’ fringe. Louis stands, reaching a hand down to help Harry up.

“Think we should follow them, don’t you?” he asks.

Harry nods. “Think so.”

 

 

Louis is dressed as a cat, and Harry wants to die.

Someone — probably Louis’ makeup artist sister, Lottie — has drawn artful whiskers on either side of his nose. He has white cat ears sticking out from his feathery hair and a white cat tail attached to his black jeans. All paired with an unbelievably soft-looking red knit sweater.

Harry bites punishingly into his bottom lip. He says a silent prayer to all the old gods and new, and his ancestors and whoever will listen, really. He asks simply for the strength to make it through this night with his heart and mind intact, whatever and however that means.

Louis comes with his mum, their arms linked as they step through the door. He takes her coat and hangs it up, while Jay hurries to hug Anne. The two women dissolve into conversation and start towards the kitchen. Meanwhile, Louis begins to scan the room. It doesn’t take long before his gaze lands on Harry, before his face lights up.

He doesn’t approach him right away because Gemma has appeared with someone to introduce him to. Harry heads to the kitchen to greet Jay. She gives him a big kiss on his cheek.

“Set this apple pie out for me, love,” she says, handing him a wrapped box she brought along.

“Sure,” Harry says. “Smells great.”

He takes the pie out to the living room, shuffling his way past the guests crowding every area. He meets gazes with Louis again and this time Louis excuses himself from Gemma’s group of friends and makes his way on over.

“You’re a cat,” Harry says immediately when Louis is in front of him.

Louis smiles. “I told you I would be.”

“I thought you were joking.”

“More importantly,” Louis says. “I’m your familiar.”

Harry’s knees nearly buckle. “A very beautiful familiar.”

“For a very beautiful witch,” Louis replies.

Harry’s smile is enormous, he knows. He must look goofy with the dimples and the reddened cheeks. He doesn’t think Louis has ever called him ‘beautiful’ and the effect of it is as prominent as Harry would think it’d be.

He and Louis are just looking at each other, smiling, and Harry has so much he wants to say, so much he can never say.

“Do you think we could talk?” Louis asks. “There’s some—”

Harry feels someone touch his elbow, but he doesn’t even look at them, too focused on Louis. ‘There’s some—?’ Something he needs to say? Someone he wants Harry to meet? But he didn’t come here with anyone. Or did he?

Louis’ eyes shift to whoever has interrupted them. Harry peels his gaze away from him and sees Alton, standing at his side. He blinks, taking a breath.

“Hi,” he says, as the man leans in to drop a greeting kiss on his cheek. “Glad you could make it.” To Louis, he says, “Louis, this is Alton. Alton, this is my friend, Louis.”

Louis takes an awkward second to shake the man’s hand. When he smiles, it's tense. When he fits his hand into Alton’s, he's quick to slip it away as soon as he can, and then stuff both hands into his pockets.

“Kind of weird I’ve never seen you around before,” Louis says.

Harry hears the bite in his voice. He doesn’t understand it yet but he knows it’s there.

“Harry and I just met about a week ago,” Alton says, looking at Harry. His eyes are kind and steady, harbouring obvious interest and affection. He’d been dropping hints via Facebook for over a year. But Harry looks again at Louis. He can’t keep his eyes off him. He knows that tone of voice. He knows what Louis’ jealousy looks and sounds like.

But why would Louis be jealous?

“Cute,” Louis says, folding his arms. “So, is this a date or what?”

Harry just cannot stop looking at him. Louis is behaving like a child and that should upset him. But it doesn’t. Jealousy should be ugly, but it isn’t right now. Harry’s heart is near to thumping right out of his chest and into Louis’ palms.

Alton laughs, so unaware and unbothered. He even sets his hand on Harry’s lower back. “I think so.”

Louis’ jaw visibly clenches tight, and he looks at Harry. “Have fun.” And then he leaves them to it.

“He seems nice,” Alton says, his thumb stroking Harry’s lower back.

Harry watches Louis pass through the throng of guests and up the stairs and then he’s no longer in sight at all. The minute he’s gone Harry feels cold, like the wildfire stirring in his chest has been snuffed out, and he can’t have that.

In almost every aspect of his life, he’s responded to adversity by doing better and greater and more than before. Only with Louis has he allowed the opposite to be true. But he’s done now. He wants the fire he feels for him to burn as brightly as it desires, just this once.

He turns to Alton. “I’ll be back.”

“I’ll be here,” Alton says, smiling. He’s really too sweet. Harry will have to set him up with one of his friends to make up for this. He leaves him and heads up the stairs. He knows where he’s going already, up another flight of stairs to the room in the attic.

There’s a balcony connected to that room with a telescope. They spent nights out here, he, Louis, and Gemma, sleeping beneath the stars.

Louis is struggling to light a cigarette on the balcony. Harry hears the constant snapping of his lighter as he approaches the open glass doors, their sheer curtains billowing in an October wind.

“Fuck,” Louis breathes, pulling the cigarette from his lips, tilting his head back. He stares up at the sky for several seconds and Harry simply watches him.

Then Louis turns and comes to a halt, seeing Harry there.

“A little creepy, Styles,” he says, stepping inside. He pulls the door shut behind him. “Did you need something?”

“You said you wanted to talk.”

Louis shakes his head. “Change my mind. You shouldn’t have left your date.”

“Well, I already did,” Harry says.

Louis huffs a laugh. “Poor Alfred.”

“Alton,” Harry corrects.

“Whatever,” Louis says.

Harry begins to smile. “You’re jealous.”

Louis looks at him. There’s a half-second of hesitation before he scoffs. “Of what? That you’re finally dating? I’m happy for you, believe me.”

Harry lifts his chin. “You’re jealous so you’re lashing out. You think that’ll make me go back downstairs and forget what a child you were just being because I brought a date. I’m not making it that easy for you.”

Louis crosses his arms over his chest. “Why would I be jealous, Harry?”

“I don’t know,” Harry says. “I don’t understand at all, but you are, aren’t you?”

Louis doesn’t answer him. He shakes his head and his fingers press harshly into his biceps.

“Why can’t you just be honest with me?” Harry asks. “Why can’t you just take me seriously? After pushing me aside for years and ignoring me, you have the nerve now to be jealous about me paying attention to someone else and you can’t even just say—”

“What are you talking about, mate?” Louis cuts him off. “I’ve spent every minute I can get with you for the past two weeks. I've hardly paid any attention to anything else.”

“But you can’t even tell me why,” Harry says. “You can’t even say that you’re jealous!”

“Of course I'm bloody jealous,” Louis says, voice high-pitched and brittle.

“But why?” Harry fires back. He has a hand resting idly on his chest, over his heart, maybe because he’s truly afraid it’ll burst free. He’s never been this frustrated or this angry with Louis, but he’s also never been this close to him or honest with him either.

“Jesus,” Louis hisses. “You're so oblivious.”

Harry’s eyes widen. “Me?” he practically screeches. “I'm the oblivious one? What a fucking revelation. What an absurd, fucking revelation, considering I've loved you since you were ten.”

And then there’s silence.

Louis shrinks back, breathing heavily. His cheeks are rosy like the tops of his ears, and Harry imagines he looks the same, possibly worse. It hits him what he’s just said but he doesn’t feel sorry or scared now that he has. There’s only relief.

“Ten?” Louis finally says.

Ten,” Harry says firmly.

“Harry!” Someone calls from the bottom of the attic stairs. It sounds like his mum.

Quickly, Louis takes his hand and pulls him into the cupboard, stuffed with old duvets and pillows and childhood junk. The space is too tight for them both. It leaves them pressed together, legs wedged between each other's.

Harry can hardly speak, his heart racing. Louis is peeking through the shuttered cupboard door, thin lines of light from the moon across his face. Then he turns away, meeting Harry's gaze.

Harry says, “Think we’re safe?”

“We’re safe,” Louis says.

“Okay.” Harry’s bravado is quickly melting away. He doesn’t know what else there is to say. He licks his lips, sliding a lock of hair away from his mouth. “Louis—”

“Why didn't you tell me?” Louis asks.

“You never seemed interested." Harry shrugs. "We've been here before, haven't we? Halloween night in a cupboard?”

“I haven’t forgotten,” Louis says.

“I would’ve let you do anything to me,” Harry whispers. “And you didn't want that.”

Slowly, Louis slides his hands inside Harry’s blazer and over his hips. His palms nearly burn. “I thought any boy would've done.”

“That's a little insulting,” Harry says.

“You know what I mean. I didn't think it was me specifically that you wanted.”

“It's only ever been you.”

Louis pushes his blazer open, running his palms up Harry's sides, thumbs caressing the slope of each of his abs. “So fucking beautiful,” he murmurs. Harry shuts his eyes, letting the words ease over him like Louis’ touch. He leans in, resting their foreheads together, cupping the back of Louis’ neck. Louis says, “I'm sorry it took me so long to figure this out. But I'm here now. I'm yours if you want--”

Harry kisses him. Their mouths are close enough that all he has to do is tilt his chin forwards. He lifts his other hand to Louis’ jaw, keeping him right where he wants him. Louis’ arms slide around him and there's no space left at all between them. No secrets left between them. No mysteries.

Or well, there's still one…

Harry draws back. “I don't understand,” he says, panting. “What about the potion?”

“You're red, babe,” Louis says, leaning in again.

“I’m—” They kiss once. Harry touches his face. “I'm red?”

Louis shakes his head, huffing a laugh. “No. When I took the potion, you were red,” he says. “You were glowing like a supernova. I wouldn't have asked you to make the potion in the first place if I knew. But I'm fucking happy I did.” He starts to lean in.

Harry smiles. “It was fate.”

“Mhm…” Louis’ gaze is on his mouth.

“I wonder if I can make a spell like that,” Harry says. “Something that shows a person who they're fated to be with.”

“Sounds great,” Louis says.

“I guess it wouldn't be a love spell but a fate spell,” Harry says, the wheels and cogs in his head turning. “But I wonder if that’s something you can recreate at all or if it just sort of happens—”

“Harry,” Louis says. “Please shut up and let me kiss you.”

Harry laughs. “Sorry.” And then he leans in and lets Louis kiss him.

 

 

He wakes up in Louis’ childhood bed where he’d often dreamt of ending up as a kid. They’re covered in warm thick blankets to keep away the draft. Their toes are touching. Louis’ arm is around his waist.

He remembers making out in the cupboard last night until his lips were puffy and sore from Louis biting and sucking on them. Louis left marks on his collarbones and just beneath his ear, and there was a moment when they were rutting against each other and Louis’ fingers touched his waistband that Harry thought he would get off with Louis for the first time right then and there.

But someone called for him again, sounding more urgent than the last time, and they’d pulled apart, panting and red-cheeked with their fingers still tangled up in each other’s clothing. And Louis had looked at him with a million promises in his eyes for later.

Except that later, they were both drunk off their arses and teetered across the street with their fingers linked. They headed into Louis’ childhood home, up the stairs and into his bedroom in the attic where they’d promptly fallen asleep.

Now, in the morning, it’s all settling on him like soft streams of sunlight through the light blue curtains. There are autumn leaves settled on the window sill, tossed there by the wind from the tall oak tree in front of the house. The furnace is clanking and rattling softly. The only other sound is Louis’ quiet breathing.

Harry smiles broadly for a moment. He links his fingers with Louis’ and shuffles backwards into Louis’ chest, trying to mold himself into his body.

And then he freezes and realizes that he’s also managed to mold his arse into Louis’ morning wood.

They’re both wearing pants, at least, but the fabric is thin and leaves little to the imagination. Harry feels a bolt of heat shoot down his body but he ignores it, doesn’t wiggle further into Louis’ body like he wants to. He stays completely still.

Instead it’s Louis who wiggles a bit in his sleep as he buries his face in Harry’s curls and rubs his cock a few times against Harry’s bum. Harry groans softly, biting at the corner of his pillow and squeezing his eyes shut. He shouldn’t be this affected by something so juvenile, and yet here he is.

“Fuck,” he breathes softly.

All of a sudden, things are eerily silent. Louis’ arm around his waist tenses. Harry’s eyes pop open and he dares to turn his head, meeting Louis’ eyes immediately.

“I’m sorry,” Louis says, beginning to put distance between them.

Harry’s hand shoots out beneath the covers and settles on his thigh. “Don’t,” he says. “It’s okay.”

Slowly, Louis sets his head down on his pillow again, re-situates his body so that they’re closer than before. “Interesting,” he says, smiling.

Harry turns his head away, his cheeks warming. “Kind of had fantasies about this when I was a kid.”

Louis’ thumb brushes his waistband like it did last night. “Tell me about them.”

Harry licks his lips. “I used to dream about you sneaking me into your room late at night, about me climbing the oak tree or flying up here on my broomstick, and you’d open your window and kiss me there, and then you’d invite me in.” He feels Louis’ mouth on the back of his neck and shuts his eyes again.

“What would we do?” Louis asks, kissing the curve between his neck and shoulder.

“Everything,” Harry says. “We’d get into your bed and we did it all, whatever you wanted. I had a filthy imagination.”

“Be specific,” Louis tells him, biting softly on his skin.

Harry wiggles further into Louis, although there’s nowhere to go now and he’s simply grinding his arse into Louis’ crotch. “You’d— Sometimes, we’d just undress. I thought a lot about being naked with you. Thought about how your skin would feel.” Louis hums as he listens, sucking a bruise into Harry’s neck. “Sometimes you’d touch me, or you’d let me touch you. You’d let me put my mouth on you, all over you, and on your cock.”

Louis tugs at Harry’s waistband and allows it to snap back against his skin. “You wanted that?”

“I wanted everything. I imagined you doing the same to me. I imagined you fucking me.”

“Jesus,” Louis whispers, tugging on the waistband again, sucking hard on Harry’s neck.

“Take them off,” Harry tells him.

Louis moves quickly, dragging Harry’s pants over his bum, down his thighs. Harry helps push them down and kicks them off somewhere beneath the covers. It’s a relief now that his cock is free. He doesn’t even realize how hard he is until the pants are gone and he’s leaking on the duvet.

Louis shoves his own pants off within seconds, and then he moves overtop Harry’s body, between his legs. “Did you imagine us like this?” he asks.

“All the time,” Harry barely has a chance to say before Louis kisses him. They haven’t washed their faces or brushed their teeth or shaken the sleep from their bodies completely, but it’s all still perfect, charged with a raw newfound passion. It’s still everything Harry has dreamt about since forever.

They kiss and bite at each other’s lips. Their mouths move lazily, everything slow and volitional like waking up. Fingers rake through hair and across skin. Harry could do this all day. But the thing is that he’s so hard it hurts, keeps rutting up against Louis to find relief and he gets it, if only for a few seconds. It's not enough.

“Whatever I wanted, yeah?” Louis says, mouthing at Harry’s neck and chest. “That’s what you said.”

“Whatever—” Harry’s voice trails off as Louis sucks one of his nipples into his mouth and runs his teeth over it. He licks and teases one before switching to the other. He sucks small bruises into Harry’s skin and grinds down between his legs, rubbing their cocks together, smearing precome between them. It's sticky and messy, uncoordinated in a boyish way, like they’re in secondary school and don’t know what they’re doing except that they have to be quick before someone catches them.

That thought has Harry wanting to come before anything’s really happened. It’s the pent-up frustration of wanting someone forever and finally having him that threatens to shove him over the edge. Louis suddenly shuffles down his body, pushing the covers off of them entirely, and then his hands are on Harry’s hips while he sucks another bruise into the pudgy skin there. Harry shuts his eyes for a moment, his head growing fuzzy. He can’t handle the sight of Louis’ mouth so close to his cock. Funny how he imagined this very moment happening, but could never have pictured it like this.

“Are we moving too fast?” Louis asks, struggling to catch his breath. He looks up at him, eyes a bit hazy and heavy-lidded. His cheeks are blotchy.

Harry struggles to speak. “I don’t think so,” he decides after a second of thought. “But… I’ve been waiting for over a decade, so I’m a little biased.”

“Right, there’s that,” Louis says, laughing. He looks at Harry’s cock. “You do seem a bit eager.”

Harry covers his face with his hands. “Haven’t you teased me enough?” he mumbles.

“No such thing,” Louis says, running his mouth up and down Harry’s inner thigh. He moves to the other thigh, mouth passing dangerously close to Harry’s cock, so close he feels his breath there. Harry bites hard on his bottom lip.

“Normally people build up to this, don’t they? I don’t usually put out this early.” Louis rubs his cheek against Harry’s cock, lets it brush the corner of his mouth. “Like to be wined-and-dined first.”

“I can do that. I’ll do that, I promise,” Harry says, voice trembling. His cock leaks on his tummy as if it’s crying for attention. Louis sucks the bead of moisture from his skin. “Louis…”

“Hm?” Louis hums, smirking. He looks so young when he looks up at Harry with that smug twist to his lips. He looks the way childhood love feels, crisp and colourful like autumn air, glowing with sweat like dewy springtime leaves, rosy-cheeked liked summer blooms, and undiscovered like freshly fallen snow in winter. Every season of Harry’s youth seems to have coalesced in this one moment, as Louis grins and slowly, lowers his mouth to Harry’s cock.

Harry fists his hand into Louis’ hair, getting a soft groan out of him as Louis sinks his mouth down on him and pulls up with hollowed cheeks. He does it twice more, his fingers pressing punishingly into Harry’s thighs, and it hurts but it feels good too.

Louis pulls off for a breath, wrapping his hand around Harry’s cock. “Hate that I missed out on seeing you like this.” He sucks him down again, eyes holding contact with Harry’s. Harry feels the same, that he’s been missing out on the most phenomenal experience for years. Although when he was sixteen, seeing Louis like this might have killed him on the spot.

Louis sucks him like he’s starved. He holds Harry’s hips down against the bed and nurses his cock, licks at the head. He hums like he’s content at times, so pleased to have his mouth full, and the vibrations make the heat in Harry’s stomach boil.

His back arches off the bed. He tugs hard on Louis’ hair. “Louis, I’m—”

Louis rests his tongue beneath the tip and begins to stroke fast. His free hand rubs up and down Harry’s side. Harry doesn’t close his eyes, although all the blinding pressure that rushes through his body makes him want to. He keeps his eyes open and on Louis as he comes on Louis’ tongue, hips stuttering with each spasm of his orgasm.

Louis crawls back up, bringing their mouths together. He licks into his mouth and whispers, “See how good you taste.”

But it’s a mixture of them. That’s what he tastes. The two of them together make the finest concoction.

He reaches between them. “Let me—”

“Won’t take long,” Louis says, sinking onto the mattress beside him.

Harry wraps his hand around Louis’ cock, pausing for a moment to just enjoy the weight and shape of him in his palm. “Kind of beautiful,” he says, thumbing the head.

“Well, thanks,” Louis says, laughter turning to a soft moan as Harry begins to stroke him with a tight fist. He looks at Harry like he’s seeing him for the first time, eyes roaming across his face. He lifts a hand to the back of his neck, brushing his thumb across his dimple, then pulls him in for another kiss. Their mouths remain close as Louis pants into the space between them, his brows wrinkled.

“So close,” he says. “Fuck—”

He comes and immediately, leans in for another kiss. Harry hopes he never gets used to the kisses, no matter how frequently they come.

“I love you,” he tells Louis, pressing his face into the space between Louis’ neck and the pillow. They stay like that, trying to catch their breath and slow their heart rates while the sweat on their skin dries and fallen leaves pass repeatedly across the window, tapping arrhythmically against the glass.

He feels Louis fingers working the tangles from his hair and he runs his fingertips through Louis’ chest hair and across his numerous tattoos. The silence is comfortable. The little bubble they’ve created around themselves feels like home.

“I love you.”

Harry’s fingers still. He lifts his head, his eyes widened slightly. He takes a minute to shape his response and settles on, “You do?”

“Yeah,” Louis says. "I really do."

“Like in love, you mean?”

Louis takes a breath. “I've always loved you. As a friend and a part of my family. Figuring out my feelings for you has just changed the way the love looks, I guess. It’s more intense now. It's relentless…consuming.” He buries his nose in Harry’s hair. “Hurts to think about you sometimes, and it feels good, and I can’t stop. So, yes, in love.”

“I wonder if it’s possible to die of happiness,” Harry says.

“If it is, I trust you’ll resurrect me or something, yeah?”

Harry grins. “Of course. Perks of dating a witch.”

“I’m sure there’s tons,” Louis says, leaning in for another kiss. “I need a shower.” He untangles himself from Harry’s arms and sets his feet on the hardwood floors. He walks naked into the bathroom while Harry contemplates asking to join him. He doesn’t want to be too clingy, too soon. They might be in love but it’s all still so new.

Minutes later, Louis pokes his head back into the room, a toothbrush in hand. “All these perks of dating a witch but I still have to shower alone?”

Harry stands quickly. “Sorry,” he says, stumbling as his feet get caught in the duvet spilling on the floor. Louis huffs a laugh, stepping aside to allow him into the steamy bathroom.

 

 

The only one in the Tomlinson house with them should be Jane, the housekeeper. That’s what they hope anyhow. They creep down the stairs, their hair still damp from the shower, their heads turning this way and that in search of others. It’s not that they don’t want anyone to know about them. It’s that they don’t want anyone to know right now. Families have a way of blowing things out of proportion, and they’re not ready for that just yet.

If Jay finds out about them, she’ll tell Anne, and witches especially are nosy, conniving bunch, even Harry’s darling mum.

The coast seems clear. They can’t hear anything that hints at another soul in the house, not even Jane. They head to the kitchen, their minds set on breakfast and cups of tea before their trip back to London.

Harry collides suddenly with Louis’ back.

“What is it?” he asks confusedly, sidestepping him. Then he too comes to a standstill.

His mum and Louis’ mum are standing in the kitchen wearing identical looks of surprise, their brows arched high.

“Well, hello,” Jay says to Louis. “I’m surprised you haven’t made your way back to London yet.”

“And you,” Harry’s mum says to him.

Harry glances at Louis.

“Decided to stick around a bit longer, take my time, you know?” Louis says.

“Same,” Harry adds.

“Right,” Jay says. She and Anne exchange looks.

“Thought you left for your book club?” Louis says.

“Oh, I did,” Jay says. “But then poor Jane rang me up saying she thought the house was possessed. Said the pots on the stove were suddenly filled with boiling water. The lights were flickering. Things were turning on and off by themselves. She heard weird noises. Groaning, she said.” There’s a twitch of Jay’s mouth. “So I had Anne come take a look. But I think we’ve figured it all out now, haven’t we?”

Anne smiles. “I think we have. Just a bit of wild magic,” she says, looking at Harry. “And an overexcited witch.”

Harry covers his face with his hand. He can't even look her in the eye.

“Are you two finished?” Louis asks, crossing his arms over his chest.

Jay presses a polished hand to her chest. “Oh, look, he’s getting defensive,” she says. “Or protective. How cute.”

Louis sighs. “Honestly…”

“We’re leaving,” Jay says, waving her hand to silence him. “Now that we know everything’s just fine.” She throws in a wink, grabbing her purse from the countertop.

“Not too much fun, boys,” Anne says, grinning. “Try not to burn the house down.”

Laughing, they leave through the kitchen door. Harry waits until it shuts behind them to allow his shoulders to slump.

“I'm actually mortified,” he says.

Louis turns to him. “Should have checked the drive for their cars,” he says, sliding his arms around Harry’s middle. The embarrassment fades as soon as he does. Harry wraps his arms around Louis’s shoulders and hugs him tightly.

“Sorry about the ‘wild’ magic,” Harry says. “That's never happened before.”

Louis grins. “Never had a blowjob like that before either,” he says, speaking into his ear.

Harry buries his face in Louis’ neck. “Think it might just be you in general.”

Louis seems pleased with that answer, tilting his chin up for a kiss.

The kitchen door opens again, and they fly apart, although not before their mums catch them.

Anne laughs. “Just forgot my wallet,” she says, grabbing it off the counter. She pauses to look at them. “This is just perfect.”

“Adorable,” Jay agrees.

They leave again, fist-bumping each other as they slip through the door.

 

 

It takes only six months for Louis to propose and six seconds for Harry to say ‘yes’.

Dating is fun, and there’s no hurry to legally commit long-term. But they’re already there in a sense. Within months of dating, it’s apparent that they’re a forever kind of thing. In fact, that’s what Louis says to him one night, the first night that Harry begins to seriously consider marriage and the logistics of building a family.

“We’re a forever kind of thing, you know?” Louis had murmured.

And Harry hadn’t even batted an eyelash at that. He hadn’t found that odd to say after dating someone for only three months at the time. Because it wasn’t just someone. It was Louis, and that changed everything.

So he’d simply said, “I know.” And months later, found himself here, engaged and moving into Louis’ massive flat in Kensington.

“Should we tell the neighbors I’m a witch or no?” he asks, unpacking another stack of books from the large box in front of him.

Louis organizes a few of the books he’s already unpacked on the shelf in his office. “I say we tell them. Otherwise, they might see lights flickering in here and think the house is possessed.”

Harry gives him a look. “You had to make it dirty.”

“I like it dirty,” Louis says, tossing him a wink. “I say we make some lights flicker tonight.”

“The goal is for me to control my magic during sex so that doesn’t happen,” Harry says.

“I don’t know,” Louis says, shrugging. “I kind of like that your magic gets all wonky because of me. Huge boost to the ego.”

Harry smirks. “You’re terrible.”

“You’re marrying me,” Louis says, grinning. He kneels behind Harry, wrapping his arms around his shoulders. He leans in to press a kiss to his cheek. “Think we’ve done enough unpacking, don’t you?”

Harry glances at the stacks of boxes throughout the living room. “Interesting,” he says. “Not sure I agree.”

Louis laughs, kissing the spot beneath Harry’s ear where he likes it best. He sucks, causing Harry’s eyelids to flutter and his head to tilt, exposing more of his neck. Louis murmurs, “I think we should christen the bedroom.” His hand slides down Harry’s chest and over his crotch. “Don’t you?”

Harry drops the stack of books in his hands back into the box. “Sounds good.”

Louis stands. “Smart kid.”

Truthfully, Harry has been planning this night for a long time. Ever since Louis asked him to move in days after their engagement. He needed a special occasion to roll out one particular surprise, and he thinks this is the perfect one.

“I actually have a gift for you,” he says, as Louis leads him to the bedroom. Lilith follows them there, which only makes Harry feel bad for closing the door on her face once they’re inside.

“What kind of gift?” Louis asks, lifting his brows.

Harry smirks. “I think I should just show you.”

Louis watches him walk over to his duffle in the corner of the room, digging around until he finds the velvet satchel that he’d package at The Divine. He walks over to the bed, pulling the drawstring closure open and then upends the contents on the duvet. He runs his hand through the rose-colored dust on the bed, spreading it around, and it dissolves seemingly into thin air, leaving just the small flower petals behind.

When he looks up, Louis is grinning. “Is that…?”

Harry bites his lip, nodding. “Not that we need any help, but this should be fun.”

“Guess we’ll see,” Louis says, patting the mattress. Harry climbs on top, meeting Louis in the center of their king-sized bed. They reach for each other, lips sealing right away.

Every potion or spell that Harry creates is fast-acting, which is a testament to how powerful of a witch he is. The minute they touch, it feels like the magic has already taken effect on them. Harry gets a dizzy rush, forcing him to cling to Louis a bit tighter, desperate to stay upright. But Louis is unsteady too and they fall into the mattress, collapsing together.

Harry pulls at Louis’ white t-shirt, hears the sound of fabric ripping, and keeps pulling anyway. He gets the shirt off, not entirely sure that it’s in one piece. He doesn’t care. He kisses and then bites Louis’ shoulder and his bicep, dragging his nails up his back.

“Holy fuck,” Louis breathes. “Haven’t gotten this hard this quick since secondary school.”

“Hey,” Harry says. “Talking about other boys you were with when you’re in bed with me?”

“You’re the only one who matters now,” Louis tells him, laughing and then kissing him like he thinks that’ll make up for it all. (It does.)

Louis yanks on Harry’s sweatpants, pulling until they’re down his legs and he’s tossing them to the floor. He seals their lips together, sucking Harry’s tongue, meeting every bite with one of his own. Every article of clothing is stripped away until they’re both tangled naked and sweaty and rutting like they’re angry men engaged in a wrestle.

“Want my mouth?” Louis asks.

Harry might usually answer with something silly like that he “already has it” or some variation of that, but he's too needy now for quips. He says ‘yes’ and spreads his legs as Louis moves down his body and immediately begins to mouth at his cock.

It feels good. Amazing, actually. But it isn’t right that Louis’ so far away. This isn’t what he wants at all.

“Louis,” he mumbles. “Come sit on my face.”

Louis arches both brows. “Prettiest words you’ve ever spoken. How’s that for a spell?”

“Shut up and come here, please,” Harry says.

Louis gets into position, complaining that Harry’s not allowed to be bossy. Harry ignores him as Louis’ cock and balls and the tight puckered skin of his hole hover above him. Harry leans up and licks a stripe down Louis' length, as hungrily as he can from this angle.

“The lube,” Louis says. “Where’s—?”

Harry shoves his hand beneath a pillow and finds the bottle where he stored it earlier. Louis practically snatches it from him, flicking the cap open, covering his fingers. He shoves his mouth down on Harry’s cock again and presses two fingers against his hole, slowly working them inside.

Harry focuses more on sucking Louis off then on the pressure around his cock or inside. If he thinks too much about what Louis’ doing, he’ll forget what he’s meant to be doing. But that logic is flawed. There’s very little that can actually distract him from the heat of Louis’ mouth or the relentless prodding of his fingers.

Louis has him stretched on three fingers already and fucks him just with those, pacing slowing and quickening at random, and Harry can feel himself nearing an orgasm. “Louis—”

“No,” Louis says, knowing already what he wants to say. “Not yet,”

Harry groans.

“Not even close yet,” Louis says. “What are you doing back there?”

That definitely sounds like a challenge.

Unprompted and unscripted, Harry tugs Louis down by the hips and planting his hole right atop his mouth. He licks right over his rim and then sucks hard enough to leave a bruise around the tight skin, hard enough to make his hole puffy like he’d fucked him. Louis’ open palm beats the mattress. His fingers curl up in the duvet.

“Fucking hell,” he whines.

“You have the loveliest arse, Louis,” Harry says, breathing cool air over his damp skin. “Like it’s fucking enchanted.”

“Were you the one who enchanted me?” Louis mumbles.

Harry shakes his head. “I would never. Love you just the way you are.”

He doesn’t hear Louis' response to that. He buries his face between Louis’ cheeks again. He lets saliva gather on his tongue and wets Louis up thoroughly. Reaching for the lube, he coats his fingers and then pushes his thumb into arsehole. He stretches him open a bit and pushes his tongue into the space he’s created. He adds another finger as soon as he can, and fucks Louis open just like that. All before he pushes his tongue right back home.

“Your mouth is so fucking filthy,” Louis says.

Harry licks his lips, loving the taste of Louis there. “Because of you.” His head falls back against the mattress when Louis begins to suck him again, gagging himself on Harry’s cock. He hears Louis choke and his eyes roll to the back of his head, eyelids shutting tight.

“Make me come,” Louis tells him. “You don’t get to come— Not until you make me come.”

Harry struggles to catch his breath, but when he does, he’s craning his neck upward and licking into Louis’ again. He seals his lips around Louis’ hole and sucks and fucks with filthy lips and his tongue. Louis turns pliant atop his mouth, beginning to sag atop Harry’s body, pressing his arse down on Harry’s mouth until he can hardly breathe. But Harry still doesn’t quit. Witches don’t quit, and he wants nothing more than to see Louis come.

Then Louis’ fingers are in his hair, tugging his head back and his mouth away. For a second, Harry is disoriented, starting to descend into a fuzzy place in his head. He watches Louis turn and straddle his chest again but this time he’s facing Harry.

“Want it in your mouth?” Louis asks.

This, Harry understands clearly. “Please?” he pants, stretching his mouth open, letting his tongue hang just past his bottom lip. Louis crawls forward, resting the tip of his cock on Harry’s tongue and strokes himself, just twice before he comes. His body shudders and all his muscles tighten up and he looks glorious.

Harry swallows every last drop down and then runs his tongue up Louis’ length, licking him clean. He lets his head fall back into the pillow when he’s finished, panting for air.

“Need to fuck you now,” Louis says, despite being breathless and loose-limbed.

Harry looks at his cock, still a little hard. “How?”

“It’s the fucking spell,” Louis says, stroking himself. He winces a bit because he must be sensitive. “I want to tie you up.”

Harry can’t answer for a moment, his head so fuzzy. He squeezes his eyes shut and squeezes his hands into fists, hoping the bite of his fingernails against his palm might bring him back. “Okay.”

“Is that alright?” Louis asks. “Say yes or no.”

“Yes,” Harry says, looking Louis directly in the eye.

Louis presses one tender kiss to his mouth and leaves the bed, crossing the room to the cupboard. Harry waits, shuffling around a bit, trying to ignore his cock like a persistent itch. The cupboard light clicks off, and Louis returns to the bed, hold two of his ties, one black, one navy, both with custom made tie pins still attached to the ends.

“Tell me if it’s too tight,” Louis says.

Harry nods while Louis lifts own of his wrists, looping the tie around it comfortably and then securing that wrist to the headboard.

“Good?” Louis asks.

“Good,” Harry says. “Please hurry, Lou.”

“You know you shouldn’t rush me, H. Might be convinced to move slower,” Louis says, reaching for Harry’s other wrist. “Might sit here all night and tease you. Not let you come until morning.”

Harry might be game for that if not for the spell still at work. There’s no way he’d last that long without losing a bit of his mind. So he shuts his mouth and commits to being patient.

Louis secures his other wrist.

“Should be lucky I can’t hold out either,” he says, shuffling down between Harry’s legs, pushing them apart with his own.”Should be lucky I’ve been dreaming about this. About fucking you senseless in this bed for weeks. When you were finally here— living here with me.”

He grabs the lube and slicks himself up.

“I’m so in love with you the stupidest things make me happy,” Louis says. “Like adding your spellbooks to the bookshelf. Or clearing out a room for you to make your potions.”

Louis rubs his cockhead over Harry’s hole and then unceremoniously, pushes inside, swiftly, all in one go. Harry’s back rises off the mattress, and his first instinct is to reach for Louis, to hold onto him, but he can’t. His hands tug at the headboard uselessly.

Louis presses his legs open and just uses him, fucks him almost mercilessly knowing Harry can’t move, and Harry doesn’t want to move. Harry is content at the feet of Louis’ mercy and would stay here forever.

Those thoughts of submission make the headiness return. Louis’ hand around the base of his cock squeezing and suppressing his orgasm sends Harry deep into the spacey throes of their fucking. Louis finds his prostate and Harry can hardly groan. His mouth falls open and his head presses into the pillow and instead, it’s this breathy sigh that slips from his lips. Even when Louis lands a sharp smack to his bum and another to his thigh and twists his nipple. The pain is delicious, but Harry is so out of it by then, he can hardly respond.

When he looks at his cock, it’s a dark red, so heavy and full, it lies on his tummy, and he thinks that if Louis said ‘come’ he would without needing a touch. There’s even a second of terror when he thinks he’s going to come whether Louis tells him to or not. If Louis keeps rocking into his prostate. If Louis keeps spanking him at random.

Any second now...

Louis pulls out. He squeezes his own cock at the base and reaches for the lube.

“Can’t hold out anymore,” he says. “Want you to come inside me.”

Harry looks at him, his own cock twitching from the suggestion alone.

“Babe, I need you to answer me,” Louis says. “I’m going to sit on your cock, alright?”

Harry nods once. “Yeah.”

Louis pours the lube directly onto Harry’s cock, the chill of it making him hiss. Louis climbs into his lap, smearing the lube down his length and over the head. His touch is almost too much, but he doesn’t do it for long, scrambling into place. He's clearly desperate too, though he’s trying not to let it show. His thighs shake as they bracket Harry’s body.

“Not until I say,” Louis looks Harry in the eye and says, while he holds his cock steady and sinks down on him, his hole tight and unrelenting.

Harry squeezes his eyes shut and breathes, “God.” Like he’s praying to any deity that's listening and will lend him strength.

“You feel so fucking good,” Louis says, rolling his hips forward. “All of you.”

“You too,” Harry manages to say. He wishes he could touch him, but he’s close to having that, close to the best orgasm of his life and then to being wrapped up in Louis’ arms.

“Go ahead and come now for me,” Louis says, and Harry shuts his eyes, softly like he’s fallen asleep, and comes, his hips stuttering upward, fucking up into Louis with short thrusts. That’s what seems to do it for Louis too. He spills a second later across Harry’s stomach before slumping forward atop his body, struggling to breathe.

He only stays there for a moment and then unties Harry’s wrists and pulls Harry into his chest. “I love you so much,” he says quietly.

Harry tucks his face into Louis’ neck. “I love you too. So very much.” He needs another minute or so before the fuzziness in his head subsides while Louis massages his wrists.

“Think the sex spell works fine,” Louis declares.

Harry smiles. “I'm inclined to agree.”

They snuggle closer, arms tight around each other. Drowsiness falls on them quickly.

“I can’t wait to marry you,” Harry says softly.

“You and me both,” Louis replies. “Know any spells to speed up time?”

“I’ll get to work on that,” Harry jokes, but he obviously won’t. He doesn’t think Louis would actually want him to. There are moments in their future together that Harry can’t wait to reach, but the truth is that every moment from here on out is worth living fully.

Tomorrow morning at The Divine, he, Louis and Gemma will start planning the wedding. (Who knew that after all those years of feeling left out and pining after Louis’ attention that he would end up here?) Their mums will, of course, help too.

Next October, they’ll have the wedding to end all, equal parts witchy and elegant, packed with family and friends. And at some point down the line, they’ll have children too, and perhaps more pets, and Louis will win bigger cases than ever, and Harry will concoct wilder potions.

It will all be worth living through together because he’ll do it with Louis. And that’s better even than all the magic in the world.