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I ran through the atrium, stars through the glass ceiling lighting my path. The building that housed both the Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet was silent and still. One would think the place was deserted but I knew better.

The ballet company's offices were in the basement and stood in stark contrast to the red velvet, gold, and mahogany fixtures of the auditorium above. Downstairs, rows of identical rooms were encased in concrete like catacombs. The linoleum floors were freshly waxed and I could see my distorted reflection in them as I ran.

The offices were dark and empty, all but one. Down at the end of the corridor I could hear the faint typing of the company's assistant director, Liam Payne. He sat hovered over his computer in a corduroy jacket with suede patches on the elbows, his dark eyes pensive.

"Hello, Louis," he said, without looking up.

"What's the meaning of this?" I asked, waving a letter under his nose. It wasn't addressed to me. It was from Liam's boss, the company director Kenneth O'Hare, to Zayn Malik, my best friend.

I was a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet while Zayn was still a soloist. When another principal dancer announced that he was retiring at the end of the season we were sure Zayn would take his place, but that afternoon he received a letter from the director saying that the position had been filled by an outside hire.

"Who could be more deserving of this position than Zayn!" I slammed the paper down on Liam's cluttered desk and fell into the chair across from him. Zayn was too modest to come down here and stick up for himself so I had to do it on his behalf. The company was performing Swan Lake in the fall. I had been tapped to play Prince Siegfried and Zayn was a natural choice for Von Rothbart. There was no one else.

Liam massaged his temples. "Zayn was a strong contender, but when Kenneth and I were in Moscow last month we had the opportunity to poach a dancer and we couldn't pass it up."

"I thought this company was committed to nurturing its talent and promoting from within. Since when do we steal Russian prima donnas from the Bolshoi?" I snapped.

"We didn't steal him, technically. His contract was up. And he's not Russian... He's English."

There was only one English dancer currently employed by the Bolshoi.

"Oh no."

"Louis, he gave the performance of a lifetime."

"I don't care if he gave you a fucking Fabergé egg! Harry Styles is impossible to work with! We'll kill each other!"

Surely Liam had heard the rumors: choreographers quitting, ballerinas in tears, male dancers forced out and administrators fired. Harry's reputation preceded him.

Liam sighed. He got up from his chair and walked around his desk to kneel beside me. He had a pronounced limp. Liam had been a dancer himself once. During his first year with the company he broke his ankle doing a triple tour en l'air and just like that his promising dance career was over. I was in the back of the auditorium when it happened and heard the snap, like the echo of a tree branch breaking. Seeing Liam every day was a constant reminder of how fragile our bodies and our careers were.

"I suppose he's gunning to play Siegfried." I said.

"No, actually, he wants to play Von Rothbart."

"The villain. Why am I not surprised?"

"We saw his Von Rothbart in Moscow. It was genius."

I leaned back in my seat and feigned confidence. "He isn't better than me."

"You two are very different dancers," Liam assured me. "And perfectly matched. Your Siegfried next to his Von Rothbart will be transcendent."

I wasn't worried about our dancing. On stage we didn't have to speak. It was backstage, the rehearsals, the dinners, and the parties that I was worried about.

"I remember him being quite sweet when we were in school," Liam mused. "You were his best friend at the academy, Louis. You must like him at least a little?"

I stuck my hands in my sweatshirt sullenly. "I never knew the real him. You have no idea what he's capable of. He's cutthroat."

"All dancers are." Liam smiled and nudged my elbow.

Not Harry, or at least not the Harry I thought I knew. It was hard for me to reconcile the angelic curly-haired boy I met in fifth year to the cipher he became in our sixth year at the academy. I should have gotten over what he did to me but I couldn't. To my young heart the betrayal was Shakespearean, magnified by our closeness. Liam was wrong. Having been Harry's best friend in the past didn't make it easier to get along with him, it made it harder. Impossible.

"Please tell me the decision isn't final," I begged. "Do I have time to talk to Kenneth?"

Liam's tone of comradery shifted to one of authority. "It's done. Harry's already in London and he'll be at the patron's dinner tomorrow night."


"Play nice, Tomlinson."

A/N: Thank you for reading the first chapter of my Larry ballet AU!

The next chapter will be a "past" chapter told from Harry's POV about his first day at ballet school and the first time he meets Louis.

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