Warning: This fic contains major character death (not Harry or Louis), angst, slight mentions of self-hatred, minor character death, animal death, and graphic descriptions of violence.

"I lost myself in the ocean, to the toiling waters of my own thoughts."

prologue

PAST

For the first eight years of his life, words were crammed into Harry's mouth. He was given lists, dictionaries, tutors, and multiple audiotapes of someone just sounding out words. At first, he didn't understand the reason why words were so important, but he never questioned it. He just soaked in the words like a sponge, letting every word that he received be hesitantly repeated from his own mouth. Every word, every meaning, was pressed upon him, forced into the forefronts of his mind. He knew how to describe how he felt in so many ways, but he never questioned this phenomena, this is just how he was expected to act.

He didn't see the genius in this until his eighth birthday, when he was wheeled into a large white room filled with the sound of monotonous beeps. His arms were strapped to the cool bars that encased the side of the stiff bedding. He remembers how his small heartbeat was thundering in his ears as he stared into the bright overhead light.

"What's happening?" he had asked no one in particular.

The woman that instructed him to refer to her as Superior just spared him a wane smile before stabbing an injector into his forearm. He remembers how his body thrummed with pain that day; how he stared at the woman with a tight smile and tired eyes and thought sardonically that he never really liked her.

"Hello, Harry," a disembodied voice reverberated in the room suddenly, quickly frightening him.

"Hi," he responded shakily.

The light was causing spots to form in his eyes. A cold sweat was forming on his forehead. The foreign voice chuckled, somewhat manically, and confusion roared through Harry's veins. He had no idea what was happening around him, or why his Mum had even sent him to this inordinately sized building in the first place. A woman in white pressed a ventilation mask over his nose and mouth, and a languid presence began to pass through his veins, filling him with a foreign brand of exhaustion.

"Why don't you count for me, love? Just say some numbers," the voice instructed.

Harry's eyes started to close drowsily, "Why?" he asked, words slurring.

"Do it while you have the chance."

Harry was scared, and his head was pounding, which was a new experience. He cleared his throat before shakily counting. "One, two, three, four -"

"There!" the voice interrupted him with a shout, "That's the magic number. Do it one more time, Harry."

Harry counted to four again, clenching his hands from where they were strapped down against the bed. He had no idea what was happening to him at the time, but he just listened to the voice and their vague instructions. His vision turned black, and truly, he was not as fearful of what was to come as he should have been.

;;

His family rarely talked, and he couldn't understand why. He just figured that they disliked him; but when he finally turned eight, he understood. It wasn't because they didn't want to talk to him, it's because they simply couldn't.

He had sat in the plush seat of the Superior's hovercraft, turning his wrist over and examining the plastic that had been embedded into his skin. He had seen the familiar silver bracelet before, on the wrists of the older kids and on most of his relatives. He thought it was this cool object that one could only get when they have matured fully enough. He remembers how excited he was to go home and show his sister, Gemma, the plastic. He had ran his small thumb over the screen of the bracelet, tracing the digital '04' there, mouth stretching into a small smile. He had no idea what the number he meant, or what this small, seemingly insignificant number, would cause.

Once the Superior had parked in front of his house, which was just a slight thing with white shutters and oversized windows, he had ran into the house. His small feet led him to the kitchen, where he stopped to show his wrist cheerily to his mother who was standing over the hob. "Mum! I have one -"

His mum turned around, and her smile vanished from her mouth quickly as she sat down her bowl and gazed at him woefully. Harry's mouth kept moving, but nothing came out. He felt like he was being insistently stabbed with a needle in the back of his neck, and his throat kept releasing a desperate, wheezing sound.

His Mum's eyes were swimming with tears as she hugged him. It was foreign, this sudden contact between them. They were never close, seeing as she hardly spoke to him and the only physical contact that he received steadily was from Gemma when she would slide her hand through his curly hair. She was warm, with an earthy scent that invaded his senses when he pressed his nose against her bare collarbone. It helped take away the pain that was niggling at him each time he opened his mouth to silently ask, "What's wrong with me?"

"You've used your words," his sister's voice came from the doorway; she had walked over to them and pressed her hand against his small back, rubbing in small, gentle circles.

"My words?" Harry wanted to ask, but a soft wheeze came out in its place.

His mum detached herself from him and rummaged through the left cupboard that he wasn't allowed to go into. She pulled out an old scribe and grabbed a stylus before beginning to write furiously onto the device that Harry learned how to write his first words on during his schooling.

She passed the scribe to Harry quickly; trying to give him enough time to read it before the scribe automatically erased everything. He smiled in thanks before skimming his eyes over it.

'H, look at your wrist. That's the reason why we sent you to HQ today. Once you've turned eight, you are only permitted to say four words per day. The counter keeps track of how many words you say, and once it reaches zero, you are unable to say any more words, or else you'll endure physical pain for just trying –'

The words disappeared before Harry could finish it all, but he got the gist of it. The metallic band that is around all of his family members wrists wasn't a privilege for adults and big kids like how he always thought it to be. The big red numbers were taunting him because they knew how long it was until he faced true pain of not being able to voice what he wanted for the remainder of the day.

Harry picked up the stylus and wrote two simple words: I'm scared.

;;

The day that everything changed was the day that Gemma was taken away from their home.

He was only fourteen, his hair had just grown past his ears in wild curls and the routine of having to weigh each word's importance carefully before uttering out a single syllable was trivial by then. Everything was so simple that day. It began with his mum nodding at him in greeting as he sat at the kitchen table in the morning. Gemma had pulled at one of his curls whispering, "Byechick," quickly in his ear, saying the words in a rush to where the counter only took down one word even though she really said two. His dad had given him two apples for his school lunch before leaving for work. It was normal, mundane even, and he was never prepared for what would happen once Gemma had disappeared back up the stairs for her scribe.

Then, without warning, five men in starched white uniforms came bursting through the door. They didn't have any bracelets on their wrists, but they did have white helmets sat over their faces. Harry had sat up, running into the entry hall curiously as one of the men turned towards his Mum, who was frozen in place.

"Where's the girl?" one of them demanded. Mum pointed up the stairs silently.

"Imbeciles," another man spat. They had all rushed up the stairs.

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