Author's note: Hey everyone. I have been working on this story off and on while I've been stuck on 'Please Help Me'. I was punched in the face with inspiration a few nights ago and stayed up until 4am last night working on it. The entire story is finished except for some wrap up at the end. I'm going to post once a week so that I can process feedback and make needed changes. There are some graphic scenes later but they are skip-able if that's not your kind of thing. Happy Reading and let me know what you think.

xoxo Lifeless

Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or any of it's characters.


"Okay class, today I am going to assign your partners for the final term papers. You will be required to meet at least once a week outside of class for the next two months. Once I give you your partner, you will have the rest of the hour to brainstorm and pick a topic. Malfoy and Zabini, Crabbe and Goyle, Granger and Brown, Weasley and Potter…"

Ronald Weasley sighed. "Great, I'm with Potter." He muttered to his girlfriend, Hermione Granger. "I'm going to have to do this whole thing by myself."

"Actually he's really smart." Hermione replied already jotting down ideas for her paper.

"But he doesn't talk." Ron complained.

"Ron, he's just shy. I'm sure if you are nice to him he'll open up." Hermione said. "I've had a few conversations with him. He's just not one to initiate interaction."

The teacher finished pairing up the students and told them to go sit with their partners. Ron got up and walked over to Harry's corner of the room. He sat backwards in the chair of the desk in front of him.

Harry looked up and gave Ron a small smile. "Hey." He said timidly.

"Hey" Ron replied. "So, got any ideas for this paper? I don't want to do anything boring, like the education system or something."

"Umm… I was thinking, maybe, we could research alchemy, if that's okay with you." Harry said looking at Ron nervously.

"Alchemy?" Ron asked.

"Yeah, it's something I've been reading about. It was, technically, a medieval chemistry but a lot of myths popped up giving it seemingly magical properties. Like there was supposedly this stone that could turn any metal into gold and give you eternal life." Harry was getting excited. "We could concentrate on the magical side. It's more fun."

"Sounds good to me." Ron said happily. "Man, what I wouldn't give for a stone that turned metal into gold. I'd never have to worry about money again."

"Yeah" Harry sighed. "That would be great."

Ron took the chance to really look Harry over. He'd never really paid any attention to the boy. Harry was wearing an oversized, worn out hoodie and ripped jeans. It looked like he might not be the poorest kid in school after all. Harry was really skinny, unhealthily so, and rather short too. He had messy black hair and green eyes hidden behind broken, round glasses. He sat hunched in on himself and looked rather uncomfortable being in contact with another human being.

They discussed their paper for the rest of the class and managed to narrow down their topic. The bell rang and they headed into the hall together.

"Well, well, well... it seems she paired up the two poorest students in the school so you won't have to feel bad when you work at home." Draco Malfoy walked up to them as soon as they left the classroom. "I hear Potter's so poor he can't even afford water. He's been caught showering in the locker room before school."

Harry tensed up, blushing. He glared at Malfoy but didn't say anything.

"Shove off Malfoy." Ron said hotly. He pushed past the blonde and Harry followed him. "So when do you want to work on this?" He asked as they walked down the hall.

"I work every day after school but I'm sure Remus wouldn't mind if we worked during my shift. The bookshop doesn't get super busy so if you don't mind the interruptions that would work best for me." Harry said. "And the shop has internet so we can research there."

"Sounds good mate." Ron said. "I'll come by tomorrow." Harry nodded and they separated, heading to their next classes.

-x-

The next day Ron caught up to Harry in the hall after school. "Hey Harry. Are we still working on the research paper this afternoon?"

"Yeah." Harry said. "Wanna just walk with me?"

"Sure." Ron smiled at him and followed him out. They walked in a slightly uncomfortable silence the few blocks to the Book Nook.

"This is it." Harry said shyly, opening the door to let Ron in.

"Hello Harry." Someone called from the back.

"Hi Remus." Harry called back. He hopped over the counter and stashed his backpack behind it. A middle aged man with sandy brown hair walked out of the store room. "Remus, this is Ron Weasley. We are working on a research paper together. Is it alright if we work on it during my shift as long as I make sure to get my work done?" Harry asked.

"Of course Harry." Remus smiled at the 14 year old. "We received a new shipment this morning. You can shelve those while you work on it."

Ron sat down at the computer along the back wall. He looked up books and articles about alchemy while Harry shelved books. They talked about the paper, occasionally straying onto other topics. Ron decided he had misjudged Harry. He was quite excited about the subject of their paper. Ron learned that once he got Harry onto a subject he was passionate about, the boy would talk quite a bit. They found they had quite a bit in common, including a love for soccer and classic rock.

Remus was sitting behind the counter watching the boys interact. He was glad Harry seemed to have a friend. He had grown to care a lot about the quiet boy since stumbled into his shop two years ago begging for a job. Remus had never been able to get any real information about Harry's home life but he knew it wasn't good. He tried to conveniently have food to share when Harry came in for his shift. With that in mind he headed up to his apartment above the shop to get the boys something to eat.

They had been working for about half an hour and Harry was starting to get warm so he pulled off his hoodie. While he was taking it off Ron noticed an array of scars on his hands and forearms. "Whoa mate! What happened?" He asked.

Harry looked at him confused but then caught his gaze. He quickly pulled down the long sleeves of his black t-shirt to hide them. "Nothing. Just old battle scars. Don't worry about it." Harry tried to give him a reassuring smile but it wasn't very convincing.

Before Ron could say anything else about it, Remus came out carrying a try of tea and sandwiches. "I thought you boys could use a snack break." He said setting the tray down.

Harry gave him a sincere smile and said "Thanks Remus." He grabbed a sandwich. In the beginning Harry had tried to refuse Remus's food but he eventually gave in. He now just took it with great appreciation.

The boys ate and talked. Ron told Harry about his family but when he asked about Harry's the boy quickly changed the subject. This made Ron even more curious about this boy.

They continued to find sources until the end of Harry's shift. They left the shop. Harry said goodbye and took off down the road.

-x-

Over the next few weeks Ron and Harry created a tentative friendship. Harry occasionally ate lunch with Ron and Hermione and the two now frequented the Book Nook. Ron had noticed numerous odd things about Harry. He always wore the same clothing. Not the exact same pieces but all of his clothes were the same, black long-sleeved t-shirts and tattered jeans. Ron had once gotten a look inside his locker and there seemed to be a couple of back up outfits in it. He also would come into school at least once a week completely exhausted.

The third time Ron came to work on their paper Harry was sitting at the computer when he asked Ron to go grab his backpack. As Ron was bringing it over the strap broke and all of the contents spilled onto the floor. Ron was surprised to find, in addition to Harry's school books, there were a few sets of clothes, a bottle of body wash, a comb, a toothbrush and tooth paste, and a few other random items.

Harry jumped up and scrambled to get everything back in his bag. He grabbed the notebook he had needed and shoved the backpack under the desk.

"Harry?" Ron asked.

"So," Harry interrupted. "We need to find more about Nicolas Flamel." Harry forced the conversation back to their paper. By the end of Harry's shift Harry had not let the topic stray from alchemy. They left the shop. Harry said goodbye and walked away.

Ron watched Harry leave and his curiosity got the better of him. He followed Harry down an alley a few blocks from the book shop to an abandoned building. The dark haired boy hopped up on a trash can and pulled himself onto the building's fire escape with practiced ease. Ron watched as he climbed to the third floor and entered the building through a broken window.

Ron stood there for a second, confused. He took a deep breath and quietly mimicked the smaller boy's actions. He found himself peering through the dirty window. What he saw confused him even more. Harry was sitting on an old sleeping bag in the far corner of the room, working on homework by candlelight. His trusty backpack was sitting next to him. There were a few pieces of clothing in a pile next to it.

Did Harry live here? Harry was homeless? Suddenly everything clicked into place; Malfoy's comment about him showering at school, his refusal to talk about his home life, the scars on his arms…

Ron climbed down in a daze. What was he supposed to do? His new friend was living alone on the streets. How long had this been going on? Why hadn't anyone done anything? How was Harry going to school?

Ron walked home trying to figure out what he should do. He decided he would tell Harry he knew at school tomorrow. He would figure out what to do from there.

-x-

Harry was sitting in the room he had called home for the last few months working on his math homework when he heard a noise out on the fire escape. He jumped up and pulled his switchblade out of his pocket in one fluid motion. He crept toward the window and peered out. His heart dropped as he saw a familiar head of red hair climbing down the fire escape.

He watched Ron walk out of the alley. Harry cursed and kicked the wall. He couldn't believe he had gotten so sloppy. Ron had been able to follow him home. He was going to have to be more careful if he wanted to stay here much longer. If Ron could find him so could Tom.

Harry sighed and dropped back onto his sleeping bag. What was he going to do? Would Ron tell? He'd have to confront him about it tomorrow. He had to convince him to keep quiet. If this got out they would put him in the system. Or worse, send him back to his relatives.

Harry went back to his homework but found it impossible to concentrate. He finally gave up and crawled into his sleeping bag. The small boy curled up into a ball and tried not to think about the coming day. He slowly fell into an uneasy, nightmare-filled sleep.

Harry woke to the sun streaming in through the dirty window. He drug himself out of the sleeping bag. He checked his bag to make sure he had fresh black t-shirt, which he had gotten in a five-pack at the general store, and some relatively clean jeans. He would need to do laundry soon. He packed up his homework and pulled on his shoes before crawling out the window and down the fire escape.

Harry walked to school, taking random alleys and side streets. He entered through the gym doors. The janitor unlocked them for him after Harry had convinced him the he ran in the mornings and it was more productive to just run to the school and shower in the locker room. Harry showered quickly and changed. He pulled his hoodie back on and headed outside.

He sat down under the tree in the front lawn and worked on finishing the homework he had abandoned the night before. Teachers began showing up half an hour after he settled down and the students half an hour after that.

Harry continued to work until a shadow fell across his book. He looked up to see Ron standing in front of him, nervously. Harry closed his book and gestured to the ground next to him. Ron sat down and just stared at him.

The smaller boy sighed. "I know you know Ron." Ron's eyes widened in shock. "I saw you climb down last night. What were you doing? Why did you follow me?"

"Harry," Ron said sadly.

"Please Ron, you can't tell anyone." Harry begged.

"But Harry you can't keep living like that." Ron said.

Harry laughed. "Ron, I can take care of myself." Before Harry could plead his case the bell rang.

"I'm not done talking about this." Ron said as they stood up. "Will you please come over to my house for dinner tonight?" Harry opened his mouth to protest. "Please just give me some peace of mind. Come over after your shift, let me know you are getting something to eat and we'll talk about whether I tell someone or not."

"Okay" Harry breathed. "I guess I don't have much choice. Just please don't tell anyone."

"Alright. I'll see you in English." Ron said heading off to his first class.


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