• 21.7 ~ Long hair don't care
Harry knows something’s wrong before he opens his eyes. The warmth of the night before is gone and the only trace of it is the pleasant ache he feels in his body. He blinks his eyes open against the sunlight and sees an empty space beside him. Trying not to panic, he rolls over but Louis isn’t there either.
He sits up and twists every way around, looking for any sign of him. He’s gone.
“Louis?” he calls. Silence.
“He left, pumpkin.” Harry screeches in surprise and turns to find Mother leaning against a nearby tree. She wears an expression of poorly disguised smugness as she saunters over to Harry and sighs dramatically. “Left you high and dry, dearest. Couldn’t get away fast enough, really, just grabbed the boat and left you sleeping here.” Harry’s heart throbs painfully in his chest. Louis wouldn’t, his heart screams. He wouldn’t leave.
“No,” Harry whispers. He clears his throat and tucks his knees under his chin, staring down at his toes. “He wouldn’t leave me.”
“Oh, but he did, pookie,” she simpers. “I won’t say I told you so, but. Well. I told you so. Why didn’t you just listen to me, Harry.”
“I’ve listened to you my entire life,” Harry argues hotly. He stands and crosses his arms in defiance, glaring down his nose at Mother. “And that served me so well. I was terrified of the outside world because of you, yet two nights outside of it and I never want to go back home. You lied to me.” Mother gasps and clutches her hand to her chest.
“I never. You’re being insolent, Harry. You’ve already changed. This is what I was trying to save you from.”
“Happiness?” Harry asks. “You were trying to save me from happiness?”
“Don’t be so dramatic,” she scoffs, fluffing her wiry hair in a careless gesture. “You know that’s not it. Now, if you’d stop being a child, I’d like to start the journey home please.” She turns to leave, dusting her hands against the skirt of her dress and picking up her cloak from a nearby branch.
“No.” Harry’s voice is quiet but firm. Mother turns slowly and gives him a deadly smile, her white teeth glinting icily in the sunlight.
“What do you mean, ‘no’?” Harry turns away from her and starts gathering the blanket and spare clothing littered around their campsite.
“I’m not coming with you. I’m going to find Louis.”
“Louis,” she groans. “Louis, Louis, Louis. I watched that criminal leave, you know. Looked like he didn’t have a care in the world while he tip-toed around you, trying not to wake you up. Guess he wanted to make a clean run for it, spare the waterworks.” She sighs and arches her brow at Harry, giving him a judgmental once-over. “He got what he wanted from you, obviously. Really, what were you thinking giving it up to `The Tommo?´” She scoffs derisively at the nickname and gives him a cruel smile. A very small, very insecure part of Harry tries to shrivel up instantly, a few days ago he probably would have believed Mother and gone home with her immediately, humiliated at being fooled so horribly, but Louis’ words from earlier ring around in his head. Manipulative. He gives Mother a scrutinizing glance. It’s there, the look in her eyes. The look that’s been there as long as he can remember, a distant expression, cold and calculating. Try as he might, he can’t find an ounce of love hidden in her face. He thinks back on his entire childhood then. The long periods of solitude where all he had for a friend was a chameleon who can’t talk, not that Niall isn’t great, because he is, but if Mother loved him she would have been there. The only times she stayed were when she wanted Harry to sing. She called him her `Secret Anti-Aging Treatment´ as a joke, but he doesn’t think it was anymore.
The realization that he’s been used by the one woman he was supposed to trust implicitly hits him like a ton of bricks. He tries not to show it, reluctant to show any hint of weakness to her anymore. He busies himself by rearranging the items in Louis’ satchel. His hands hit a heavy piece of metal at the bottom, he grins as he pushes the blanket to the side and sees the crown. If Louis really were to leave as cold-heartedly as Mother claimed, he certainly wouldn’t have left that behind. His resolve strengthens; he straightens his back and clears his throat as he closes the satchel and spins around to face Mother.
“You’re wrong,” he says quietly yet firmly. Mother’s eyebrow arches in surprise as she scoffs and tilts her head dangerously.
“I’m what, pumpkin?”
“Wrong,” Harry replies, gulping and taking a steadying breath. “You’re wrong about Louis and you were wrong about the tower and you’re wrong about everything. I’m not going back with you.” Harry had forgotten about the existence of his frying pan until just then, when Mother grabs it from the ground and waves it towards his temple. Everything goes black.
Waking up tied to a boat ranks among one of the oddest morning-afters Louis has ever experienced. He blinks his eyes against the sunlight and shakes his head to clear the fog that seems to be clouding it. Only then does he realize that his entire torso has been thoroughly roped to the seat of the boat. He gasps and tries to twist his head from side to side in search of Harry.
“Hey Curly?” he calls. “You in the water by any chance?”
“Tommo.” Louis whips around and looks toward the shore where he sees the entirety of the palace’s guards lined up in welcome. A very unfriendly welcome. Several of the guards march their way toward the boat with shackles in hand. “You are hereby placed under arrest for numerous counts of thievery against the Kingdom: including, but not limited to, the Royal Crown.” There’s a moment where Louis’ stomach positively sinks with the knowledge that he’s finally been caught after all these years. That feeling is quickly replaced, however, by pure blind panic about Harry’s whereabouts. Harry’s one of the strongest boys he’s ever met, but he certainly can’t be left all alone without any warning. Christ, what if he thinks Louis left willingly? He’ll never forgive himself.
“Where’s Harry?” he asks. The head guard gives him an unimpressed look as the ropes are untied and he’s led off the boat.
“That one of your thugs?” he asks. “You came here alone, Tommo. Showed up on shore like a wrapped-up present.” Louis frowns and stumbles in his steps as the guards drag him along toward the village. Nothing makes sense. Try as he might, none of the guards seem inclined to try and answer his questions on their march towards the castle. Louis suspects that they truly don’t know anything until one of them slips.
“Pigeon flew to us this morning and told us you’d be waiting at the shore,” the gruff-voiced man admits. “No signature or anything. Just called you a thug and said you needed to be dealt with.” Very reassuring, Louis thinks. Townspeople watch curiously from the streets as Louis is paraded down the path in shackles. When they pass the orphanage, a few of the children he recognizes from yesterday hurry out the door.
“Louis!” one of the girl yells. He remembers her as the shy young girl who braided Harry’s hair with flowers.
“Hello darling,” he says with a grimace. Seeing him in shackles is not exactly an image he wants them to remember him by.
“What happened? Where’s Harry?” she asks, running alongside the guards who seem wholly uninterested in the little child’s actions.
“Not sure,” Louis answers. “Kind of lost him, I think.” The little girl looks just as shattered as Louis feels. Just as shattered as Harry probably feels right about now as well, he thinks. An idea hits him.
“Darling, if you see Harry can you tell him something for me?” the girl nods quickly, so he continues, “Tell him I didn’t leave him and that I’ve been arrested, and. Well, tell him I love him a bit, yeah?” The girl coos and nods, shaking her little braids.
“Run along home now, sweetheart. Thank you so much.”
“Good luck, Louis!” she calls, turning in her tracks and racing back to the orphanage. Louis sighs and looks forward as he blinks away the tears that rim his eyes.
Harry wakes up tied onto the back of a horse. He’s confused for a moment because the horse’s coat is nowhere near as beautiful and silky as Zayn’s. It only takes a second for him to realize that’s because he’s not on Zayn’s back. He twists and lets out a soft cry as a flash of pain shoots through his temple. He weakly reminds himself to apologize to Louis for hitting him the next time he sees him. If he sees him again, he bitterly reminds himself.
He frowns and shakes his head, now is no time for pessimism. He ignores the pain in his head and wiggles himself from side to side, finding that his restraints are weaker than he would’ve thought. Mother’s sitting inches away from him, seemingly oblivious to what’s going on behind her as the horse gallops loudly through the forest. Ever so slowly, Harry contorts his left hand and slowly starts to slip it free from the binding.
“I wouldn’t do that,” Mothers voice floats above the sound of hooves. Not oblivious, then. Helpless, Harry searches all around him for anything that could possibly help him get away. Unsurprisingly, there’s nothing besides copious amounts of trees. He stares forlornly at the trodden path behind him, wishing Louis would come and save him.