A/N: Hello again my poor, patient readers. I know it's been months; I wish I had a decent explanation for you but really, the only thing I can say is that you told me to take a break if I felt that writing was detrimental to my mental health and, well, I took you at your word. I've had a bad few months, mental health-wise, and though it wasn't because of Notoriety at all I didn't want to risk triggering myself. I was already getting triggered by slight breezes, I really didn't need anything else.
You've all been wonderful and patient and supportive, and I couldn't have asked for a nicer or more understanding group of readers, so I hope this chapter is enough to keep you going. I'm still struggling quite a lot, but hopefully things will start feeling easier soon. Fingers crossed!
Harry woke the next morning to a startled squeak in his ear. His eyes snapped open and he bolted upright, noting the sunlight glowing on the walls, the blankets twisted around his feet, and the startled, embarrassed look on Kurt's face before remembering where he was. Right, Kurt's room, I was - what is he -
"Wha's wrong?" he mumbled, rubbing his eyes with one hand. There was a faint cough in the doorway and Harry felt a blush rising on his cheeks. He followed Kurt's gaze to the doorway, and froze. Burt was standing in Kurt's open doorway, eyebrows raised and a pinched, unhappy look to his mouth. "Oh."
"Nothing happened!" Kurt yelped, scrambling upwards so he was sitting against the headboard, his face bright red. His voice was rising to a very shrill pitch, and he shot Harry a desperate glance. "Dad, really. Harry was upset last night; he didn't want to be alone."
"Really," Burt looked between them, folding his arms over his chest and frowning a little. Harry looked awkwardly between father and son, reaching slowly for his glasses while Burt stared Kurt down. "I thought I made it pretty clear that now that Harry's in his right mind again, I didn't want you two sharing a bed."
"I asked him to," Harry interrupted carefully, pushing his glasses up his nose. "I remembered - I'd forgotten why I was so upset yesterday when we were eating and everything but when I went to bed I remembered and I just - I wanted him close. I'm sorry, I didn't realise there was a rule against it."
Burt's expression had softened as Harry spoke, and he sighed, "All right, I get that you might need a bit of support right now - but you get why I'm not really comfortable with you two sharing a bed all night, right?"
"Yes, of course," Kurt nodded, his cheeks still aflame. Harry hesitated. Well...
"No, not really," the wizard shrugged apologetically at Kurt's Look. "I'm sorry, I'm happy to obey if it's a rule, but I don't really understand..."
"Kid, it might shock you but I do remember being 17," a reluctant grin was stretching across Burt's face as Kurt cringed. "Two teenage boys, who are dating, alone, in a bed, all night... stuff is going to happen."
"No it's not," Harry bit out, shooting Kurt a horrified, apologetic look. "I don't - Christ, I don't even think about that stuff, ever. Nothing is going to happen, not like that. It didn't even occur to me, Merlin's beard."
Burt looked startled by his vehemence, and a slow, concerned look began to darken the man's face. Kurt was looking a little hurt, though, so Harry focused on him, "No, I mean - it's nothing about you personally, love, I'm just a little... you know. Delayed? Socially?"
"Is that all it is?" Burt asked, his tone a mile away from the disapproving one it had been. Harry looked up at him with a furrowed brow, and Burt's expression remained cautious and concerned. "Just that you're, you know... I mean, you're not... nobody has ever...?"
Harry blinked and glanced at Kurt, bewildered. Kurt's eyes had gotten a little wider and his face looked a bit paler, and Harry reached for him, "Er, could you be a little clearer? I'm not sure what you're asking."
"Are you uncomfortable with sex because you're just not ready for it yet," Burt clarified, Harry's cheeks flooding again. "Or is there something - did something happen to...?"
"Oh, god, somebody didn't –" Kurt cut himself off when Burt shook his head, taking a shaky breath and starting again. Harry was already beginning to see where they were going, his stomach dropping when he saw how Kurt's eyes were damp. "Because you can tell us, Harry, I promise we'll – "
Wait, no, that's not -
"Oh, no, you mean have I been r-raped or – no, not that," Harry shook his head, catching Kurt's hands in his to try and calm to clearly panicking boy, and smiling a little wryly at Kurt and Burt's simultaneous sighs. "No, not at all. Nothing like it. I'm so sorry; I didn't mean to scare you. Sexual assault is one thing I managed to avoid over the years, actually. Pretty much the only thing, but, you know, hooray. No, I'm just not comfortable with the idea because I'm, you know, an emotionally-stunted man-child."
"Oh, thank God," Kurt breathed out, laughing a little at Harry's sheepish shrug. "God, I shouldn't laugh, but I hadn't even thought of that, and I was so - "
"Sorry," Harry fidgeted with the edge of the blanket, looking up at Burt guiltily. "So yeah. Didn't mean to break the rules."
Burt shook his head and the tension drained from his shoulders, "It's okay, kid. I get it. You had a bad day."
"Yeah," Harry agreed, his mouth twitching down as he thought back. Remus, hospitals, god, what am I going to do? "Yeah, that's definitely true."
He smiled a bit when he felt Kurt's fingers running through his hair. His boyfriend leaned back towards him and pressed a kiss to Harry's cheek, settling in next to him so Harry could curl up against his side.
"What time is it, dad?" Kurt asked Burt, stifling a yawn as he politely ignored the way Harry was trembling lightly against him.
"Little after eight," Burt shrugged and began edging back to the door. "You can go back to sleep for a while if you want - it's Saturday, you don't have to get up. I just woke you up when I realised Kurt wasn't on the couch."
"I have a lot to do," Harry kissed Kurt on the cheek before kicking down the blankets. "I should probably get up. Are you going to sleep in, love?"
"I think I might," Kurt yawned again, slipping down the bed so he was tucked under the covers again. Burt nodded and shuffled out the door, leaving it open for Harry to slip out behind him.
"I really didn't mean to break any rules," Harry murmured as he shut Kurt's door behind him. Burt shook his head even as Harry rushed on. "And I promise you, I'm never going to do anything that Kurt's not comfortable with. He – he means too much to me."
"You'd better not," Burt grumbled, before clapping Harry on the shoulder. "But kid – don't do anything you're not comfortable with either. All right? Feels weird to be tellin' you this, but I guess you haven't had anyone else ever say it – you matter. Don't let anyone make you feel like you don't."
"Thank you," was all Harry could manage to say, stopping outside the bathroom. Burt nodded and cleared his throat.
"Don't use up all the hot water," Burt added, heading down the stairs. "'sbad enough that Kurt does it."
Harry took stock of his still-healing injuries in the shower. His bruises were still fading, looking faintly yellow around the edges of the green and blue, and the little wounds here and there were basically closed. He let the hot water sooth the aches in his muscles as he rubbed a fruity smelling shampoo into his hair, and he even managed to smile at his sallow reflection when he got out. It was the start of a weekend, and Harry was determined that it would be a real start to his recovery.
Harry tried to make himself useful throughout the weekend. He helped Carole in the kitchen, and with general chores, and Finn with his school work. He helped Kurt stitch up costumes for Regionals that Tina brought over in front of the TV with Burt, taking slow, deep breathes when the nightly news showed images from a foreign war. Hermione assured him that Neville and Luna were dealing with Remus - whatever that meant. They had no new word on the person he might have killed, though, so Harry did his best to put it out of his mind. He couldn't even leave the Hummel house yet, he definitely wasn't up to chasing Remus down. Keeping busy helped keep his anxiety down; he didn't even panic on Sunday when Hermione left. He just held her tightly while she mumbled comfort and worry into his hair, before pushing her out the Hummel's front door into Puck's arms.
(She texted Harry seven times as Puck drove her to the airport. Ron eventually called her to calm her down.)
Harry and Kurt shared a bed both nights, and after Burt stumbled across Harry attempting to sleepwalk out the front door with Kurt patiently holding him back, there were no comments about it. The nightmares didn't fade. It would probably be years before they did. But by the time Kurt and Finn ran out the door for school on Monday Harry felt comfortable enough to wave goodbye from the doorway.
"D'you think you'll be ready to go back in a week or two?" Burt asked him when he'd shut the door. Harry blanched and shook his head.
"No, I don't – sorry, I know it's been ages but –"
"Relax, kiddo, it was just a question. Take all the time you need," Burt sipped the herbal tea Kurt had put in front of him that morning, cringing at the taste. "Christ, tastes like dirt. When Ron gettin' over here? I'll get me some coffee at the shop."
"Any minute now," Harry sank back against the couch. "You can go if you want to, I'll be all right."
"No, I can wait," Burt shook his head, putting the mug of tea down definitively. "Gah, no more of that. Don't tell Kurt I hate this stuff, okay?"
"I won't bring it up, but you know I can't lie to him," Harry smiled a little, but he could feel his forehead wrinkling with confusion. "Burt, really, if you need to get to work you can just go. I'll be fine for ten minutes. I'm feeling a lot better today, I don't feel panicky at all."
Burt hesitated for a moment, but his voice was firm, "Nope, it's fine. I got time."
"I don't want to be keeping you back – " Harry protested again, the way Burt's mouth had tensed setting him on edge. Why won't he leave? Burt sighed and raised an eyebrow in Harry's direction.
"Sorry, kiddo, but I'm not real comfortable leaving you alone right now. Not while you're still a little bit, you know, suicidal."
Harry's stomach dropped, and so did his jaw, "What?"
"Three days ago you said you hated yourself and deserved to die, Harry," Burt pointed out, watching Harry carefully. "I know you were kinda hysterical, I know you prob'ly weren't thinking all that straight but can you see why we're a little bit worried still?"
"Yeah," Harry admitted, looking down at his feet. "But I'm not – I mean, I don't have any plan to – "
"Good, glad to hear it," Burt half-laughed, dragging himself out of his armchair and towards the kitchen. "'m not sayin' we think you are plannin' it, we're all just a little paranoid right now."
Well yeah, I guess they should be, but I'm not going to – am I? No, I promised Kurt I wouldn't, and I don't really – I don't actually want to, do I? I'm going to get better, I want to get better. I have to.
Before Harry could respond (either to reassure or further deny, he hadn't decided yet) there was a knock at the front door. Harry moved to answer it without thinking, staring blankly up at Ron when the door swung open.
"Morning, mate," Ron greeted Harry easily, not reacting to the still somewhat shell-shocked look on Harry's face. Harry looked up at him blankly.
"I'm not going to kill myself," Harry informed him vaguely, still half-lost in thought. Ron blinked down at him, his cheerful smile not shifting.
"Glad to hear it. Can I come in?"
"Come in, Ron, don't mind him," Burt came up behind Harry and waved Ron in. "I think I just worried him a bit, sorry kiddo."
As Burt shut the front door behind himself, Ron rummaged in his bag for a notebook, "I spoke to Hermione this morning. She managed to get the laptop to Healer Ryan last night - well, morning for her - so you'll be able to start therapy again now."
Harry sighed, relaxing against the couch, "That's fantastic. Merlin, do you remember how much I resented it when I first started last year? Now I'm actually relieved to get it."
"Well, you were kind of ordered to do it and neither of us have ever been great at being told what to do. We're older and wiser, I guess," Ron pointed out, nudging Harry's knee with his own. "Can you go and get your lap top? 'Mione and Healer Ryan said that they'd set up a Sypey call for 9 am Ohio time."
"It's Skype, and just give me a minute," Harry smiled a little at Ron, reluctantly removing himself from his friend's warm side to scurry upstairs. He grabbed his laptop off of Kurt's bedside table with one hand, grinning at the mess in Kurt's closet - Kurt had had a little trouble deciding whether his colour scheme was sky or periwinkle blue this morning, and the neat order of his accessories had suffered as a result. Vowing to himself to tidy it up later, Harry held his laptop and all his laptop accessories in his arms and headed back to the living room.
"How long will all that take to set up? We're meant to call them in half an hour," Ron eyed the laptop with trepidation, the tangle of wires resting on the case slipping against Harry's arms. Harry just smiled.
"Oh, about three minutes," he assured the redhead, carefully placing the laptop of the coffee table and sorting out the power cord from the mouse cord and the external hard-drive Hermione had supplied for him. True to his word, he set it all up quickly and efficiently; Kurt had drilled that much into him over the weekend. Ron looked impressed.
"I just can't get my head around all these muggle things," he shook his head, prodding at the blinking lights of the external hard-drive with one of his enormous fingers. "All the wires and lights and buttons... and muggles seem to just know it all, like it's instinct. It's mad."
"Well, I guess everything can be instinctive if you grow up with it. I mean, muggles would be lost if confronted with knitting needles that knit themselves," Harry tapped in his password - Hedwig11 - with two fingers and carefully clicked on the Skype logo when it popped up. The dark thoughts from earlier were still niggling at the back of his mind, and he spoke softly without taking his eyes of the computer screen. "Ron? Did you and Hermione ever worry about it? About me hurting myself?"
"Yes," was the automatic response, and when Harry flinched Ron elaborated. "Not, like, constantly. Not even really often. But right after all that shit ended last year, when you started talking to the Healer... yeah, we worried. You were really... I don't know. Hurt. But you seemed so much better after you came here, so we didn't really think about it again. Even when all that weird shit with that stalker was going down you seemed okay."
"I was okay," Harry kept his eyes on the computer screen. "And I'll be okay. I'm not - I don't like the idea that people are worrying about me."
"Tough luck, we're gonna worry," Ron patting Harry's head, smiling when Harry shot him a glare. The glare softened into a worried frown at the hesitance behind Ron's expression. "How worried are these Yanks about this, mate?"
"Pretty worried," Harry admitted reluctantly, looking back down at the computer screen without really seeing it. "I, er - had a kind of hysterical fit a few days back. I said some - some stuff."
"Thanks Harry, that cleared up all my questions," Ron rolled his eyes and nudged Harry with his shoulder. "Come on. If you can't tell your best mate what your hysterical fits are about, who can you tell?"
Harry huffed out a little laugh. At least he's trying to be normal. "I said - well, that I wanted to die. I don't, not really, but I was really out of it."
"Might cause a little bit of concern, though," Ron slipped an arm around Harry's shoulders, squeezing the smaller boy to him. "You do realize that if you kill yourself I will murder you, right?"
Harry snorted, leaning into Ron's massive shoulder, "Yeah, right, I'll keep that in mind."
"I'm completely bloody serious, mate, I'll find a way," Ron continued serenely, pinching Harry's arm lightly. "If I somehow, by some miracle, managed to get through that bloody war without losing one of my many brothers, I'm sure as hell not gonna lose one afterwards. All right?"
"Yeah, all right," Harry grinned, feeling warmth blossom in his chest where the nagging guilt had been a moment ago. He leaned against Ron's side with a content sigh, looking back at the computer. A notice had popped up on screen while he and Ron had been talking, so Harry reluctantly leaned away from his friend's side to read it. It said something about allowing someone access or information, and it was only when Harry saw that the name attached was healerb1978 that he clicked OK. A little icon appeared at the side of the window, and moments later a call was coming through.
"Wait, whoa, what's happening?" Ron sounded alarmed, and Harry shrugged.
"What's meant to happen, I think?"
Sure enough, after a moment they could see both Hermione's head and Healer Bryan's head peering at the screen.
"Turn your camera on, Harry," Hermione's voice filtered through the speakers, and Harry squinted at the screen.
"Right, right, just let me..." Harry clicked carefully at what he thought was the right button. A little window with his and Ron's faced in it appeared in the corner, and he smiled. "Er, hello."
"This is amazing, how does this work?" Ron breathed, leaning close to the screen and peering at the window. His eye got ridiculously large in the little window in the corner of the screen, and Harry pulled him back.
"Right, good to see you both. Ron, go away so Harry and Healer Bryan can talk," Hermione announced, getting to her feet and disappearing from the screen. Ron got up at a more sedate pace.
"Yeah, I'm going. I'll be in the kitchen, mate. Good to see you, Healer."
"You too, Ron," Healer Bryan agreed in his soft, deep voice. As Harry relaxed against the sofa, eyes stuck on the screen, Healer Bryan settled back and smiled widely. "Harry. It's good to see you again. How have you been?"
When Harry walked into the kitchen about an hour and a half later, Ron was digging into one of the tubs of ice-cream from the week before. He looked up over his spoon expectantly, shoving another mouthful in cheerfully.
"'ow'd i' go?" Ron mouthed around his ice-cream. Harry nodded vaguely, sniffling a little and rubbing at his tear-raw cheeks.
"As well as it could have, all things considered," he cleared his throat when he heard how husky his voice was, walking to the sink to grab a spoon. "Budge over, I'm in need of ice-cream too."
"This is the best ice-cream ever," Ron agreed, smacking his lips. "I gotta admit, America does really good junk food. Their chips are crappy, though."
Harry agreed with a hum, dipping his spoon into the tub and getting a large lump. He sucked in into his mouth, sighing happily, before mumbling around his mouthful of ice-cream, "I'm gonna talk to him four days a week."
"Probably smart, to begin with," Ron nodded, eyes still on the ice-cream. Harry sighed a little.
"Yeah. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings, at seven. It's going to be exhausting."
"Ah well, it probably won't have to be that intense for long. Use it as an excuse to get cuddles from your boyfriend."
"That's not a bad idea."
Ron and Harry demolished the ice-cream, Harry happily listening to Ron describe his Auror training, pushing the harrowing talk with Healer Bryan to the back of his mind.
He liked the Healer, but having to explain everything that had happened since he came to the States - from the stalker to Kurt to Remus - and having to relieve all that pain... it was draining. It was always draining. The Healer had praised his progress, smiling encouragingly when Harry described how the terror sat always below his skin, and spoke in low, even tones when Harry became too choked up to speak. Therapy was a familiar process, and in a weird way even as it drained him and hurt him he could already feel a weight lift from his shoulders. Now he really could start to get better.
"I made some telephone calls while you were on Sypey," Ron informed Harry around a mouthful of double choc fudge. "I had t' throw some weight around - and by weight I mean money - but I think things are sorted out. When Burt gets home I'm gonna go and get the paperwork."
"He said he'd be home early, a bit after lunch," Harry recalled, shooting the ice-cream a regretful glance. "We might have to eat something other than ice-cream. You know. For nutrition. Or Burt will tell Kurt and Kurt will kill us both."
"Why would Burt tell him? Would he care?"
"No, but the second Kurt turns the puppy-dog eyes on him he can't not."
The boys made sandwiches and retired to the living room, turning the TV on to a music station and sinking back into the couch with Harry curled up at Ron's side. They ate their sandwiches mostly in silence, outside Ron's occasional question about something muggle, and Harry just let himself recover from his emotionally fraught morning. They stayed there until Burt got home mid-afternoon; Ron was channel-surfing with Harry dozing on his shoulder when Burt came in.
"How you boys doin'?" the man rumbled as he kicked off his shoes in the doorway. Harry peered over the back of the couch and shrugged, forcing a little smile.
"We're all right. I got to speak to my therapist this morning."
"That's good. You work out a schedule?"
"Yeah, four days a week."
"Burt, I wrote some notes on custody stuff, they're on the counter," Ron added, smiling up at the older man. He swung himself up onto his ridiculously long legs and stretched. "Take a look at them when you got time, I'll go get the paperwork now. Harry, if you want to see the stuff it's on the bench in the kitchen."
"I'll leave it to you, I don't want to think about it."
"Fair enough. I'll take a look at them after I have a shower," Burt nodded to Ron and headed up
With Ron gone, Harry couldn't really think of anything to do but work on his homework and try not to panic. He forced his head down and his focus on the stacks of work, pushing back any thoughts of Remus or returning to school or where the hell was he going to live, fuck, what if I have to go into care, how can I deal with that?
It didn't go so well. When Kurt and Finn got home after Glee rehearsals he was curled up on the couch, clutching Kurt's pillow and trying to supress his shivers.
"Oh sweetheart," he heard Kurt sigh, and he glanced over the top of the pillow a little sheepishly, forcing half a smile.
"I'm okay, just - er, give me a minute."
Kurt nodded and shoved his bag into Finn's arms, muttering to his step-brother, "You put that down carefully in my room, so help me god..." before sitting down next to Harry and letting the smaller boy burrow up against his side. Harry smiled a little and shrugged against Kurt, peering up at him through his eyelashes and crooked glasses.
"Ron said he worked out something to do with my custody," Harry leaned into Kurt. "He wrote notes about it but - I'm too scared to look."
"That explains why Mr Schue said he'd see me and Finn later," Kurt muttered, reaching up to run his fingers through Harry's tangled hair. "He must be coming over to discuss it with my dad. Don't worry about it too much, sweetie, we're not gonna kick you onto the streets."
"I know, it's just - " Harry cut himself with a frustrated sigh, scratching at the back of his hand as he glared at the ceiling. "The Dursleys used to - they used to try and scare me with stories about orphanages and foster homes, about how bad they were and stuff. I know they were just trying to make themselves look generous by comparison but... there's only so often you can hear that kind of thing and not begin to believe it on some level."
"I'm sure you won't have to go into any kind of care," Kurt reassured him, squeezing Harry a little closer to his side. "But even if you did... those things aren't as bad as they are in the movies. I'm sure it would be okay. And you could still stay here whenever you wanted."
"I know, I know, it isn't rational," Harry dropped his head onto his arms, curling his legs up under him a little tighter. "'m sorry, I'm just a little off-balance."
"Don't worry about it," Harry could feel Kurt shrug against him. "Let's not worry about it now, yes? How's your homework going?"
They chatted about it until the coil of tension had begun to ease in Harry's chest and he could relax himself. Kurt kept up the chatter while he helped Harry put his stuff together to take up stairs, describing the glee rehearsal ("Rachel's new song is actually kind of good, colour me surprised.") and the various dramas and tribulations of Glee club ("Oh god, I don't even know what they're arguing about but Tina dumped blue ink all over Mercedes' new shoes."). When they got to Kurt's room Harry was laughing, much to the visible relief of Finn, who was waiting for them just inside.
"Dude, you feelin' better? All right!" Finn held out his fist for a bump, which Harry provided with a shrug.
"Yeah, for now. You need something?" Harry dropped his stuff on Kurt's desk, smiling when Kurt immediately straightened it. Finn scratched the back of his head.
"Well, I was kinda hoping to get some help with homework stuff again...?"
Kurt and Harry shared a glance and shrugged. Kurt turned back to Finn, "Get your books, what do you need to work on?"
"Chem and Spanish. I think the only reason I didn't fail my last test was because Mr Schue likes me," Finn said glumly, heading for his room. Harry stifled a snicker when Kurt nodded his agreement, grabbing his Spanish book from the pile on the desk.
"He's not wrong," Kurt whispered when Finn was out of earshot. "One time, he tried to copy off of Santana, but she saw what he was doing and wrote all these Spanish swear words first, then erased them and wrote the right answers when he was done. It was brutal."
Finn wasn't kidding when he said he needed help. By the time Kurt had talked him through balancing a single chemical equation Harry had nearly completed all the chemistry work he'd had left from the week he'd had off. Kurt looked ready to tear his hair out, and he hadn't had a chance to start his own homework yet, so Harry spoke up, "Hey Kurt, why don't I help Finn for a while? You can do your own thing for a while."
"Thanks, Harry, that'd be great," Kurt gave Finn a pat on the shoulder and stood up. "Don't worry, brother mine, you'll get it. Maybe Harry will be able to explain it better."
"Yeah, thanks man," Finn muttered, not looking up from his work as Harry slid down next to him. "'m sorry about this, I just don't get it."
"It's fine, mate," Harry nudged Finn with his elbow, smiling when the taller boy finally looked at him. "We all need help sometimes."
Harry paused for a moment, thinking of all the Hudmel family had done for him, "Hell, some of us need more than others. But Kurt and I don't mind. What are you having problems with?"
Plenty was the short answer, and the three boys were still working on Finn's equations when Mr Schuester arrived nearly two hours later. Finn bounded off down the stairs to greet him, clearly grateful to get away from the periodic table, and Kurt and Harry slowly followed.
"So are you beginning to understand why we don't mind helping you?" Kurt mumbled before they left the room, shooting Harry a little grin. "Because we all – "
"…Need help and support sometimes, yadda yadda, yes, I'm getting there," Harry paused to kiss Kurt's smiling mouth briefly. "I get it, just give me some time to believe it."
"If that's what it takes, I'll give you all the time in the world," Kurt promised, taking Harry's hand as they walked down the hall.
Mr Schuester and Burt were talking quietly over a stack of papers in the entrance when Harry and Kurt reached the landing. They quietened as the two boys started to walk down, and Harry squeezed Kurt's hand a little tighter.
"Hey Harry, how're you feeling?" Mr Schuester smiled up at them, and Harry tried to smile back.
"I'm doing pretty well overall, I think," Harry glanced at Kurt and took a deep breath. "I'm guessing Ron's work has paid off? With the c-custody stuff, I mean?"
"Yeah, we think we've got a solution," Mr Schuester nodded, exchanging a look with Burt. "We want to discuss it with you, of course, if you're up to it?"
"Yeah, I think I – yeah," Harry looked down at his feet and breathed in slow and deep, tamping down the burst of panic and hurt that struck him. It was really happening; soon enough, Remus would no longer be his guardian and he'd have been passed off to someone else once more.
"How 'bout we go up to Kurt's room, you seem to like it there," Burt suggested gently, tugging on the cap of his hat and nodding towards the kitchen. "Kurt, I think Carole could use some help with dinner, why don't you join her and Finn?"
Harry felt Kurt stiffen beside him and could almost hear the protest about to burst from his boyfriend's lips. The wizard forced his eyes off of his feet to look up at his boyfriend reassuringly, "I'll be fine, love. I'll call if I need you."
"You'd better," Kurt grumbled, pulling Harry into a firm hug before dragging himself away, shooting his father a warning look before disappearing into the kitchen.
"Well, let's get this over with," Harry murmured, turning to make his way back upstairs. Dread was building in his stomach; he had utterly no idea what would come of this discussion. Foster care, being lobbed off or forced on the Hummels or another unwitting family… it all sounded like a nightmare.
The three men made their way to Kurt's room, Mr Schue sitting at Kurt's vanity and Burt resting against the desk. Harry sat on the bed with an awkward smile, picking at his fingernails when Burt and Mr Schuester exchanged a look.
"So your friend Ron worked some magic, everything is sorted," Burt began after reaching some kind of silent consensus with Mr Schuester. Harry bit down a laugh at Burt's unintentional pun as the man went on. "Your guardianship is only a signature away. We just wanted to give you some choice on how that goes."
Harry blinked, "Er, really?"
"Well, it is your life," Mr Schuester pointed out with a little grin. Harry shrugged.
"I've never gotten any say in this stuff before."
"You do this time. The way we figure, you got three options here," Burt interrupted, leaning forward. "The first option is that you go into foster care, which obviously none of us want and'll only happen as the very last resort if we can't work anything out."
"Yeah," Harry agreed, his voice a little hoarse. He could see in the mirror behind Mr Schuester's head that he'd gone pale at just the mention of foster care; the Dursleys had tormented him for years with stories of what would happen to him there if they finally got sick of him. Mr Schuester reached over from Kurt's vanity stool to rest a hand on Harry's arm.
"You're not going to end up in care if you don't want to, Harry," he told the boy firmly, squeezing his arm. "You have other options, and it's entirely up to you."
"The second option is that you stay here," Burt continued, holding up his hands like he was warding off protestations. "And I'm telling you now, we want you here. Me and Carole and Finn, we talked about it, and we're happy to have you if here's where you want to be. But we don't have a spare room, kiddo. You'd have to share with Finn, and I know you lived in a dorm for years but he didn't. So you living here - while we wouldn't mind at all - might not be such a great idea."
Harry nodded slowly, a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He dug his nails into his palm to try and stop the tears welling up in his eyes; even though he knew Burt had a point, that the Hummel household just didn't have room for another teenager, it still felt somehow like he was being rejected.
"Hey now, don't look like that," Burt reached forward to clap Harry on the shoulder, his eyes compassionate under the brim of his hat. "You always got a place here when you need it, Harry, always. If you don't think you'll be happy anywhere else we'll make it work. But you got another option that I think might be better for you."
"Where?" Harry asked, hating how his voice trembled. Mr Schuester and Burt exchanged an unreadable look, and the teacher eventually turned to look Harry in the eye.
"Harry, if you were okay with the idea I would be happy to take you in," Mr Schuester began gently, smiling a little at the way Harry's face went slack with shock. "I have a spare room that's just storing junk right now, and my apartment is easily big enough for two people. Usually there'd be some problems with a teacher taking in a student but with the legal wrangling your friend Ron has done it won't be an issue. And I'd be happy to have you, Harry. More than happy."
"Really?" Harry finally managed to choke out, cutting off his teacher's nervous rambling. Mr Schuester nodded emphatically, a smile beginning to stretch across his face. Harry shook his head a little, just to try and clear it. "You'd really...? But you don't have to do that."
"No, I don't," Mr Schuester laughed a little, rocking forward to grasp Harry's arm again. "But I want to."
There was a pause as Harry looked blankly at his teacher, then at Burt, and back again. His head was swimming with possibilities - it was his choice.
I can't remember ever having a choice in where I live before. Ever. I can choose what feels best for me.
"I'm going to leave you two to talk for a bit," Burt stood, ruffling Harry's already mussed hair lightly. At Harry's confused look he shrugged. "I ain't suggesting you have to go with Schuester, Harry, I just think you should hear him out before you decide. The choice is entirely yours, we'll help you either way. Remember, kiddo, if it's what you want we're happy to have you here. Just think about it."
With another nod at Mr Schuester, Burt left the room, shutting the door behind him with a gentle click. Harry looked back at his teacher, waiting for him to start talking.
"There's another reason I think it would be a good idea for you to live with me, Harry," the man admitted after a moment's hesitation. At Harry's curious look he sighed a little. "Harry, if you live here Burt will treat you the same way he treats Kurt and Finn. That would only be fair."
"Right," Harry agreed, smiling a little at the idea of eating dinner with the family, helping with dishes and watching TV in the late evenings. Mr Schuester went on cautiously.
"I know that might sound nice to begin with, but... you're not Finn and Kurt."
At Harry's confused and slightly hurt look the teacher rushed to explain himself, "I just mean that with everything you've been through, with all the trauma and the times your guardians have burned you... you're not really a kid. Not like Finn and Kurt. And I don't think you'll take well to being treated like one."
Harry paused for a moment, think back to all the times Finn had complained of being grounded for some error in judgement, having his phone or his XBox taken away, and tried to imagine how he would take it if Burt tried to ground him, "...you may have a point."
"Uh huh," Mr Schuester nodded sympathetically. "You told me once that you'd been looking after yourself since you were two, and while you don't have to do that anymore I get that that mindset - that independence - that's not going away. And I think Burt gets it too, but he's got two not-as-mature teenage boys to think of. I mean, don't get me wrong, as your guardian I'd set you boundaries I'd expect you to follow but I'm not a father - I don't have to think about consistency. And I don't think you'd break any reasonable rule without good reason."
"I was a bit of a troublemaker at my old school," Harry admitted with a little grin, thinking of Ron and Hermione and him all huddled under his invisibility cloak, holding their breath while Filch or Peeves or Mrs Norris wandered by. "But you're right, it was never for the sake of it. I'll - I'll try to do the right thing."
"So, does that mean...?" the teacher trailed off, his smile widening hopefully. Harry hesitated for a moment, then nodded.
"If you're really sure you're okay with it, I'd like to live with you," Harry agreed quietly, smiling a little when Mr Schuester's face lit up. "You're right, it's probably better that I don't stay here, being treated like a kid drives me nuts. And I wouldn't want to impose on Finn."
"Harry, the most important thing here is that you're doing what you want to do, don't worry about anyone else-" Mr Schuester hurried out, his brow creasing and the corners of his mouth turning down, but Harry shook his head.
"This is what I want. I would - it's a better idea. I want to. I can't thank you enough, Mr Schue," Harry felt a lump form in his throat and he rubbed his eyes sheepishly. "I can't begin to tell you how much this means to me."
"You don't have to thank me for this," Mr Schuester got off of the stool and scooted next to Harry on Kurt's bed. He slipped an arm around the teenager's shoulder and tugged the boy to his side, squeezing him gently. "You really don't. I want you there, buddy. Since my divorce it's been really quiet at home; it'll be nice having someone around again. We'll work out the details later, okay? We should let Burt and Kurt know what you've decided."
"Okay," Harry agreed, getting to his feet with a weak laugh. "But, uh - there will be details. I mean, I have a whole house I don't know what to do with. And I can pay rent and board or -"
"No you cannot, you will be my ward, not my tenant," Mr Schuester interrupted, squeezing Harry's shoulder with one strong hand. "Do you own the house or does Remus, do you know?"
"I do," Harry confirmed as they started down the stairs, forcing himself not to cringe at his former-guardian's name. "It's all in my name, since it's my money. I guess I should sell it, it was always a bit big for two people. It'll need to be cleaned up, R-Remus really did a number of it the night he - the night he..."
The warm hand on his shoulder squeezed down again as Harry trailed off, tears pressing at the back of his eyes. They'd reached the bottom of the stairs, the sounds of the combined Hummel-Hudson family drifting towards them from the kitchen. Mr Schuester let Harry take a few deep breaths, calm himself down, before he spoke.
"All the details can come later, after dinner. How about we just let everyone know what's happening and leave the rest 'til morning, okay?"
"Yeah, that's - yeah," Harry impatiently wiped his eye on his sleeve, pushing his glasses up his forehead carelessly as he did it. "Sorry, I'm just - thinking about him is still - "
"The wound is still fresh," Mr Schuester nodded, squeezing Harry's shoulder again before beginning to steer them towards the kitchen. "You don't have to talk about it yet. Just whenever you're ready."
The kitchen was bright and loud, with Kurt and Finn arguing over whether to have butter or salt-less butter-like spread, Burt called basketball scores from the little TV over the fridge to Carole, and Carole herself trying to squeeze in between the arguing teenagers to get something out of the fridge. Something was cooking away on the stove, and a line of potatoes in foil were visible in the oven. It was such a domestic, family scene that for a moment Harry felt jealous - then hopelessly out of place.
I wouldn't know what to do if I were living here. It's all so loud and overwhelming... living with Mr Schuester is a much better plan.
When the family noticed Harry and Mr Schuester standing in the doorway the noise tapered off. Burt looked at where the teacher's hand still rested on Harry's shoulder and smiled a little. Harry nodded to him, and Burt nodded back and stood up, walking over to pull Harry into a rough hug.
"You always got a place here if you need it," he mumbled into the boy's hair. Harry nodded against his chest, leaning against the man gratefully.
"Wait, so you are gonna live with Mr Schue?" Finn asked, sounding a little put out. Burt pulled away so Harry could nod and smile up at the teacher, and the tall teenager pouted. "Aw, man. I was kinda looking forward to having you around."
"Finn," Carole muttered warningly, and Finn hurried to reassure Harry.
"I mean, that's cool if you want to live with Mr Schue, he's really great and I'm sure it'll be good and stuff, I just like hanging out with you," Finn rambled, looking wide-eyed and frantic. Harry couldn't help the little laugh that bubbled up, and he shook his head.
"We can still spend time together, Finn. I'll be visiting Kurt a lot, anyway," Harry looked to his boyfriend, his smile fading a little at the disappointment Kurt was failing to hide. Harry hesitated, looking up at his boyfriend with hopeful eyes. Kurt sighed a little.
"Does this mean I get to decorate another room?" he asked Mr Schuester, his lips quirking into a reluctant smile. Harry looked over his shoulder at the teacher in time to see the man laugh and nod.
"Well I planned to give Harry a small redecorating budget, so I don't see why you can't help him if he wants you to," Mr Schuester shot Harry an amused look, and Harry frowned.
"You don't have to pay for it, Mr Schuester, it's not like I don't have the money," he protested, but the teacher shook his head.
"If you're my ward you don't have to pay for things like that," he told Harry firmly, raising a hand to ward of his attempts to protest. "Look, how about I give you a budget, and if you want to go over you pay the difference. Sound fair?"
"If you're sure," Harry agreed reluctantly, still frowning a little. Kurt sighed again and came forward to draw Harry into a hug. Mr Schuester followed Burt to the kitchen table and Finn wandered over to look over his mother's shoulders into the pot. Kurt pressed a peck to the top of Harry's head before pulling away, looking into Harry's eyes.
"Are you sure this is what you want?" he asked softly, running his hands up and down Harry's arms. Harry nodded.
"I think it will be good for me," he admitted, smiling up at his boyfriend. "And I actually got a say in it, which is very exciting for me."
Kurt giggled and leaned down to kiss him, pulling back after a moment to grin, "I'm already thinking about colour schemes. God, I love decorating."
"Well at least one of us does," Harry huffed out a laugh, and started to tug Kurt towards the table. "Come on; let's have dinner before we start thinking about it. I'm going to need sustenance, I think."
Carole served the meal a few minutes later, Kurt and Finn tasked with bringing plates and platters to the table. The meal was simple but filling, the conversation was light and funny, and for the first time in a while Harry found himself relaxing around more people than Kurt, Hermione and Ron. He laughed at Finn's stories about the football team, nodded along with Burt's raving about some kind of fancy car he'd worked on this week, and smiled as Mr Schuester described an altercation he'd had with Coach Sylvester. He was engaged in a quiet conversation with Carole on the best way to make pancakes when he realised that Kurt and Finn had begun to argue. He was planning on ignoring it, Finn and Kurt bickering was fairly normal, but he froze when he heard his name.
Merlin, they're arguing about me again? I thought Finn was okay with me now, is he still worried that I'll hurt Kurt? What else could they be arguing about -
"I'm just saying, bro, maybe Harry doesn't want you to decorate his room," Finn was saying, rolling his eyes at Kurt's narrow-eyed glare. Harry relaxed when he realised the argument wasn't serious, but he couldn't help but frown as Finn went on. "Dude, seriously, you made his old room look girlier than Rachel's, you should let him do what he wants."
"Finn," Burt warned his stepson, shooting the magical teen a worried look, but Harry was stifling a chuckle in his hand and shaking his head. Kurt huffed, drawing himself up as tall as he could as he glared at his brother.
"I'll have you know, Finnegan, that Harry did decorate his own room. I just helped."
"Oh come on, man," Finn laughed a little, shooting Harry a knowing look over Kurt's head, apparently not noticing Harry's rising blush and awkward glance to his boyfriend. "It was, like, purple and sparkly and stuff. Like you didn't pick that out."
"I like purple," Harry protested softly, his cheeks flushing red. "Kurt's telling the truth, I picked out the paint and the furniture, he just helped me with the details and finding things that matched and stuff."
Finn's knowing expression slipped into dumbfounded as Kurt smirked triumphantly. The tall boy spluttered, "Wait, no, but it - it looked like a girl's room!"
"Finn!" both Carole and Burt cried out at this point, looking equally exasperated. Kurt shot Finn another glare as he tried to defend himself.
"But it was all purple and sparkly and the furniture looked like it belonged in Quinn's room and the bedspread was floral!"
"It was paisley," Kurt snipped, tossing his head and turning back to his dinner, catching Harry's hand in one of his and resting them on the table. "Just because your idea of decorating is cowboy patterned wallpaper and clashing shades of plaid doesn't mean nobody else has an eye for style."
"Purple is my favourite colour," Harry added, still a little embarrassed by the turn the conversation had taken. "It was my mum's and I've always found it, I don't know, soothing, I guess. R-Remus says - said - that mum always wore it and it's comforting, you know? Even if I don't really remember her."
"Oh," Finn looked down at his dinner, and Harry hurried to fill the awkward silence.
"And the furniture is all fancy because my old school was full of antiques and stuff," he smiled a little, thinking of his first reaction to the fancy four-poster bed he'd found in the dorm room in his first year at Hogwarts. It seemed like the ultimate luxury, a big comfortable bed with warm blankets and a comforting canopy of heavy red velvet, and that feeling of safety never really went away. The almost lacy intricacy of antique or medieval style furniture always made him feel safe.
As he thought about it, though, he realised that really wasn't what he wanted now. Harry began to picture a new room at Mr Schuester's apartment; it was sure to be smaller, have less room for ornament. And Harry really didn't want anything that looked like his room at the house he'd shared with Remus. How could he sleep in anything like the room that he'd been so painfully betrayed in? Now when he thought about safety he thought about Kurt's room, with its sleek lines and modern twist.
"You okay, sweetie?" Kurt elbowed him gently, just a nudge, and Harry looked up at him blankly. "You went all quiet there. Don't listen to Finn, he just doesn't understand style."
"Neither do I, let's be honest," Harry grinned, shrugging a little sheepishly when everyone at the table relaxed. "Sorry, just got lost in thought. About decorating, actually. I think if I'm decorating a new room I want it to be a bit different."
"Oh, of course, it's a chance for a whole new look!" and Kurt was off, making suggestions and having bolts of inspiration. Harry just sat back and ate quietly, smiling at the way Kurt's eyes sparkled with excitement.
Now I just have to get well enough to leave the house so I can get to Mr Schuester's.