read part 1 here
harry’s dad is home. and he’s more furious than harry’s ever seen; more violent; more terrible.
first he forces the alcohol down harry’s throat, knows he hates the taste, knows how sick it makes him. he shouts at him to gulp down one shot of whiskey, shoots a hand out to slap him when he hesitates. and harry…harry’s panting, so scared. he thinks he’s going to be sick by the third shot of his dad’s whiskey. he only did this once before, when he was five but the memories break past the mental block and smother him like hot tar: choking on his own vomit, the burning all down his sensitive throat and making his tummy hurt so badly. and he’s pretty sure that his daddy did things to him while they were both intoxicated, really bad things that harry can’t remember very well.
but now the man leering above him is shoving the shot glass against his lips and forcing the liquid in his mouth and then oh he’s reaching down to palm harry’s small dick through his trousers and harry—harry leans over and vomits all over the floor.
another shot, and his clothes are being pulled off. more whiskey and it comes right back up and he feels so warm, too warm, and he can’t stop trembling and his mind’s fuzzy but not so fuzzy that he can’t feel his father splitting his legs apart roughly and then he’s shoving inside him and it hurts it hurts so much and all he can feel is the pain and the names his dad curses into his small body and his dad’s never gone this far before and it hurts so much.
cunt. a rough punch to the cheek. only bright spots and what tastes like iron paint on his tongue.
whore. a scratch of fingernails down his ribcage.
dirty. he thinks he’s sobbing now, but he can’t be sure, it’s all meshed together and he’s barely conscious anymore.
worthless: and then he feels it, the hot spunk filling him up and leaking down his bruised thighs.
nobody could love you. he passes out eventually on the rough carpet, tossed aside like somebody’s burnt out cigarette butt.
the following afternoon finds Louis traipsing through the oleander bushes outside his apartment complex, chasing a little garder snake. he wonders idly if harry likes snakes and decides he probably doesn’t.
it’s summer holidays and louis’ got nothing to preoccupy his time with beyond playing at the playground centered in his complex, or pushing his little sisters on the swings. He doesn’t fancy either very much at the moment.
the day’s bleached with sunshine, and even though the wind chill factor is up he’s getting a tad warm in the red hoodie his mum asked him to wear (well, more like chased him out the door and forced it over his head with a “young man, if you wish to go outside you will wear a jacket!” and louis scowled before writhing away from her hands and patting his messed up fringe down. mothers.)
as he collapses on the grass after tiring of chasing the snake, he pulls a candied orange slice out of his pocket and takes a little nibble. The candy reminds him of yesterday and he wonders what harry’s doing. why hasn’t the boy come to play with him yet? he promised didn’t he? oh maybe he wants louis to go find him first he realizes, hopping up suddenly and scampering up the metal stairs and down the hall to the door harry walked out of yesterday.
not hesitant at all, he raises his little fist to pound on the door, excited by the prospect of seeing the curly-haired lad again.
he hears slow footsteps approaching from the stair well behind him and turns his head to see who it might be. it’s an elderly man, judging from his balding head and wrinkled face and crooked back. as he passes louis just stares, distracted and a bit curious because he looks almost identical to his grandfather. he’s thinking maybe all old people look alike when the man disappears through his front door and louis remembers why he’s standing here, and realizes that no one has come to the door yet.
"hello!" he shouts, high voice echoing off the cement floor and ceiling. He pounds on the door again and pouts, his heart sinking. harry must not be home…but, he could still try the handle, see if it’s locked. louis has walked into lots of people’s houses before. he doesn’t see why he shouldn’t be allowed to, after all if someone leaves their front door unlocked they must not mind very much if someone comes in.
so he tries the handle, a bit doubtful that it’s unlocked, but it gives and the door swings open with a slight creak. louis peeks his head in through the opening but doesn’t see anyone from this angle: only a few hooks along the entry wall with two large coats hanging up, and an open doorway that appears to lead to a kitchen.
louis pads towards it softly, a little nervous now that he might have gotten the wrong house. everything is dim, the shades drawn on the kitchen windows, the shadows hovering in the corners behind an antique kitchen table, a ratty sofa hiding in the the adjoining living room and oh—what is that? it sounds like soft breaths, but louis can’t see anything because it must be behind the sofa.
he treads cautiously over the ugly kitchen linoleum, holding his breath against the grimy scent of the apartment, and peers over the back of the couch.
he doesn’t know what he expected, maybe the boogie man just waiting to jump out. maybe the blue scaled monster from his nightmares.
but oh, he most certainly didn’t expect this.
he must have fallen off a steep cliff; that’s what this feels like, the way his breath is suctioned out of his lungs and his stomach drops and the bloodflow from his heart seems to stop, maybe confused about the horror in front of him—his brain seems in denial, or maybe it’s been completely squeezed out of his skull from the pressure of his fall.
but no, after the initial horror he realizes, with another swoop of dizziness, that the bloody and bruised boy lying on the the floor is harry. there’s vomit under him and he doesn’t even seem to know louis’ there; just stares up at the ceiling with hollow eyes.
"ha-harry?" louis tries, more than a little freaked out. when harry doesn’t reply though, he decides to be bold and walks around the couch, kneeling down next to the boy’s knarled curls. his own disgust seems to be disipating in favor of a strong surge of protectiveness for the little boy. who would have done this? why weren’t his parents here making sure he was alright? louis swore right then that he was "going to get" whoever hurt harry.
"what happened, haz?" he asks softly. harry looks so fragile, a pressed flower whose petals have already been torn. like even words spoken too loudly could completely shred him apart.
maybe it’s the nickname that makes harry look sidelong over at louis, even though he’s still silent. louis wrinkles his nose as the vomit smell intensifies the closer he gets.
"did you get sick? c’mon haz, maybe i should get my mum. she’ll know what to do."
harry shakes his head, curls bobbing a little bit, and suddenly his eyes pool, silent tears dripping down his cheeks. louis reaches out with a gentle hand to wipe them away but stops when harry flinches. there’s a dark blue bruise on his cheekbone and louis feels immediately guilty for hurting him further.
"at least let me take you to my house? you can’t just lay here in all this barf; that’s gross."
harry’s silent, just looking down at his bare feet with a dull expression. so of course louis decides that’s a yes and slides both hands, one under his neck and the other under his thighs, to curl him close to his own chest. harry’s very light but it’s still a struggle for louis’ underdeveloped muscles. harry doesn’t look like he can walk though, with the blood soaking through his trousers and the vomit on the floor and, wait—
"harry, why, i mean—have you been drinking? you smell like my dad’s beer bottles." louis wrinkles his nose again and tries not to cringe under the disgusting smell.
harry just shudders with a silent sob and buries his head into louis’ shirt. louis is safe, louis will take care of him he reminds himself. he doesn’t want to, can’t talk about what happened. he’s too ashamed.
"shh," louis says, trying to comfort the boy but unsure of what to do. this is all so overwhelming. "it’s okay, i’ll just take you to my house. don’t worry curly, no one’s going to hurt you ever again. i have a switchblade hidden under my bed—don’t tell my mum or she’ll kill me—and if anyone tries to harm you i’ll stab’m right in the heart okay? i’m awful strong, and i’ve taught myself some moves so don’t worry." louis’ babbling now, trying to think of ways to cheer harry up as they step out of harry’s apartment and walk the few steps to louis’. "my mum also got me some dinasour band-aids that’re really cool, and they always help me feel better."
harry almost smiles. louis has such a nice voice and he’s never been able to just rest his head against someone’s warm chest, feeling the thump of their heart and the vibrations of their words. right now he just wants, needs to cling to the older boy and never let go.
"mum!" louis’ calling now as he struggles to carry harry into his bathroom, starting to huff now with the effort. harry peeks his head out from louis’ chest as the older boy sets him (a little too heavily) on the cool bathroom tiles and props him against the wall.
"ahh," harry whimpers helplessly as the pain in his bum suddenly ripples through his entire body. he sucks in a breath through his teeth.
"i’m sorry harry, are you ok? i didn’t mean to hurt you, i swear, you were just getting really heavy." louis studies harry anxiously before dashing out of the room with the words "i’m gonna get my mum, be right back!"
harry leans heavily against the wall, sweat beading on his forehead as he decides to look around the bathroom. he can’t see the top of the counter from the floor, but he can see a large porcelain bathtub behind a rubber-ducky printed shower curtain. a fuzzy glass window peeps out of the top of the shower wall, allowing some sunlight in just like air holes carved in a box. the toilet seat has a sort of blue carpet looking thing pulled over it and harry thinks it’s odd to put carpet on top of a toilet. the coolest thing yet though is the net basket sitting in a puddle near the tub, stuffed with little toys: pooh bear figures, rubber fish, small water guns, more duckies. harry feels excited just looking at it and he scoots gingerly closer to get a better look.
"gaah!" louis suddenly moans from the other room. "my mum left a note on the counter saying she went to tesco’s and won’t be back until later." his voice is closer now and then he’s walking back into the bathroom with an annoyed, almost panicked expression that quickly switches to curiosity when he notices harry reaching out for the toys.
harry looks up when he hears louis approach, snatching his hand back like he’s been got stealing. he stares guiltily down at his feet. “i wasn’t gonna take anything, i swear. i was just curious why there’s so many toys in the bathroom,” he mumbles, picking at his tattered trousers.
louis just sweeps his hand grandly through the air again (he looks so funny doing that, and harry would giggle if he weren’t so sad) and says “i don’t mind, you can play with them. actually you need to take a bath. my mum said that if you’re hurt you have to wash yourself off, and you’ve also got throw-up and stuff on you so….”
harry panicks suddenly. “can i keep my clothes on please?” he looks at louis, oddly terrified and eyes watery again.
"why would you want to keep your clothes on? those are ruined," louis argues, pointing down at harry’s blood-spattered clothes. "plus, no one wears clothes in the bath; that’s weird."
"i don’t want you to see me," harry croaks, the words cracking out of his mouth like proverbial grains of sand. "then you’ll know and i—i—i’m not supposed to say, he told me not to tell!" harry wails out the last bit, starting to tremble again. he’s so scared and he doesn’t know what to do.
"aww harry," louis coos, kneeling down to pull harry into a hug. harry rests his head into the crook of his neck and gasps, feeling the panic set in again. "you can tell me, c’mon i promise not to say anything to anyone."
louis’ kind of terrible at keeping secrets, but this is harry and he already really likes harry and this whole situation is scary for him too. so he needs to know what happened, to help harry, and he doesn’t mind if it causes difficulties for himself. all he can think is harry has to be okay, must make him okay, must protect him, must help him get better.
so as they sit there on the floor—harry practically in louis’ lap and the older boy rubbing soft circles on his back, trying to calm his breathing—harry feels safer than he has in so long but. but he can’t tell him, even though he wants to.
"you won’t leave me?" he whimpers. "you won’t think i’m dirty and bad and not want to be my friend anymore?"
and it is odd, louis thinks, because he’s never known himself to be this compassionate before with someone he’s only known a couple days but with harry it’s like—he just knew right from the start that there was something really special and beautiful about him. and if this were anyone else right now, he might get them some ice but he wouldn’t feel so perfectly comfortable taking a bath with them. no, louis thinks maybe he shouldn’t like harry so much already. that’s probably not normal, but he doesn’t care.
"no, of course i won’t leave you haz. but…can i just ask you a question?"
harry sniffles a little and then nods, sighing shakily onto louis’ neck and warming it a little.
"where were your parents today when all this happened? at work or something?"
it’s silent for a bit, the only sound a distant hum of cars on the street, a puppy yapping and some children playing outside.
"it was last night," harry corrects before he can stop himself. "it happened last night."
"and your parents didn’t do anything about it when they found out?"
but then harry’s crying again, his tears washing salty and constant over the shore of louis’ shoulder.
"can-c-can i just take a bath? and will you stay with me?" he blubbers into louis’ sweater, and louis has to really focus to catch what he says.
"yeah, ‘course. i’m sorry, i didn’t mean to make you sad again."
"it’s okay," harry whimpers, and then louis is pulling away and starting to stand up and harry panics, clinging on to louis’ shirt.
"haz, haz it’s okay!" louis says, gently prying harry’s hands off him. "i’m just turning on the bath."
harry nods but still scootches over close to the bathtub. close to louis.
hot water gushes out of the faucet like a small waterfall, except for the steam gathering in the air around it and the myriad bubbles overtaking the bath.
"what is that?" harry asks, gesturing to the clear liquid louis’ pouring in the water.
"oh, it’s bubble bath. haven’t you ever seen it before?"
harry shakes his head, curious now. “it smells like bubblegum.”
louis holds the bottle under his nose and sniffs loudly. “well, it’s called ‘cow pie scent,’ made with real poop.”
harry’s red eyes widen all the way, surprised—until louis throws his head back and giggles, putting a hand on harry’s shoulder. “i was just kidding mate! you can get in the tub now.”
harry smiles wetly, still unable to stop his tears, before settling down in the water (fully clothed.) louis sets the bubble bath on the toilet lid and climbs in after harry.
"you’re wearing your clothes too?" harry stares at louis, confused, and louis thinks he looks like a puppy given a toy he was just told not to play with.
"i decided we can both be freaks together." louis grins, running two handfuls of gleaming bubbles fondly through harry’s curls. he thinks harry needs to play a little, cheer up so he won’t feel so upset.
harry does try to smile a little at the sensation, wriggling his head a little but then he’s crying again, whimpers seeping out of his mouth.
"aw haz, c’mere." louis feels so sorry for the trembling boy, still obviously traumatized by the incident. harry leans into louis’ arms and hooks his chin over his shoulder again, throwing his skinny arms around his neck and wrapping his legs around louis’ waist like a koala bear.
for a long time they just stay like that, louis only pulling one of his arms away for a second to turn off the faucet. initially harry sobs harder, seemingly inconsolable as louis tries frantically to make a joke or give him a bubble beard, anything to make him stop crying. soon he realizes that harry just needs to be held so he quiets, rocking them softly while the warm bathwater ripples around them. it’s silent aside from the gentle “pop” of bubbles.
eventually harry takes in a deep shuddery breath and leans back a little, wiping at his runny nose.
louis smooths a hand through his hair and keeps the other firm on his lower back. “do you know what my mummy’s always done for me when i get hurt?”
harry shakes his head, looking down at louis’ sopping shirt and starting to fiddle with one of the buttons.
"she always ‘kisses it better.’" harry glances up, a little furrow in his brow and louis smiles to reassure him. "i remember when i was little and i broke my arm. i screamed and cried but my mummy just bent down and kissed it and soon it didn’t hurt anymore. i could—i could do that for you if you like?" louis’ a little uncertain, but he’s desperate to make harry feel better.
"okay, you can try that." harry nods and glances at louis’ eyes, suddenly breaking out into a little smile when he sees the little clusters of bubbles that’ve sneaked into louis’ eyebrows and fringe. "you’ve got bubbles in you hair." he starts to giggle before slapping a hand over his own mouth.
"you can laugh harry, it’s okay." he slides one hand from behind harry’s neck to cup his jaw instead, bending down to peck the bruise under harry’s eye. it’s ticklish and harry squirms a little, but louis keeps going.
the further he kisses, the more injuries he finds. that doesn’t count what’s under his clothes even, and louis feels sick knowing someone did this to harry purposefully. sweet, sweet harry with his fragile bird-like body and baby-soft curls and big green eyes and quiet, polite ambience.
louis holds harry a little more snugly against him, protective. he kisses every scratch on his pale arms, the bruises on his wrist bones, the center of his clothed chest, and drops three right over his heart. it’s innocent, sweet, comforting. when he glances up afterwards harry’s absolutely glowing under the attention: eyes closed, lips crooked up and all red and shiny after he licks over them. louis thinks harry is so beautiful.
and so he ducks down to swiftly peck him right on the mouth, an innocent display of affection. harry’s eyes fly open like startled butterfly wings but he doesn’t look scared…no, he looks almost happy.
"thanks lou," he murmers, returning his face back to louis neck and leaving a shy kiss there.
"feeling better?" louis asks, scratching gently at harry’s back.
"mmmhmm," harry hums, completely relaxed and pliant in louis’ arms. louis chuckles.
"here, i’m gonna go to my room and get some clothes for you to wear ok? you can wash yourself while i’m gone, i won’t come in till you’re dressed."
"how long will you be gone? and how will you give me the clothes without seeing me?"
"hey, hey i’ll only be gone for thirty seconds; you can even count if you want. as for the clothes, i’ll just slip them through the door with my eyes closed."
harry nods and reluctantly lets louis stand up and crawl out of the tub. his feet slip slightly as he climbs out, creating a muffled rubbing sound from the slick tub.
louis’ back in exactly one minute (he could hear harry counting), having decided to yank on some dry clothes while he scrounged through his disheveled bedroom for a thick white jumper and some brown plaid pants harry can wear.
"here you go," he says, eyes squeezed shut as he slips the clothes through the cracked open door. "when you finish getting washed and dressed I’ll be in the kitchen okay?"
harry dries off his bruised body gently with the bath mat (he doesn’t see a towel), and slips into the clothes. he notices that louis gave him a pair of underwear and tugs them on quickly, feeling almost guilty. daddy doesn’t like underwear—but maybe he won’t have to see him anymore. maybe he can just stay with louis. he already misses the boy’s warmth and closeness and hurriedly throws on the rest of the clothes, skittering out into the hall and tripping a little in his haste.
"louis," he calls, stumbling into the kitchen. "i’m dressed."
louis looks up from where he’s kneeling on the kitchen counter facing an open cabinet, looking everything like a little peter pan and harry dimples at the thought, toddling over cautiously (it still hurts to walk) to see what louis’ doing up there.
"did you dry your hair?" louis asks. "it’s dripping, here let me get you a towel."
he hops down from the counter, snagging a kitchen towel and wrapping it around harry’s head like a turban, wringing out the water.
"all done," he grins, scrubbing briskly at harry’s head before he throws off the towel and curls both arms around harry’s waist, leading them both back over to the chair he was standing on before harry entered the kitchen.
harry peers at the open cabinet curiously, but he doesn’t ask and louis looks at him fondly. he’s beautiful, louis thinks, with his wet hair curling in ringlets over his ears and across his forehead, eyelashes long and delicate like a girl’s, skin soft and still a bit damp from the steamy bath.
harry glances slightly down at the older boy, noticing his staring and louis blushes, quickly turning away. “i was making some tea but i couldn’t find the honey,” he blurts out, dropping his arms and hopping back up into the chair. harry feels colder without louis’ arms around him, but soon louis finds brown sugar and they forget all about tea in favor of sticking their fingers in the bag and licking off the sweet granules. louis thinks harry looks so pretty when he smiles.