Twenty Two [The Past]

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Day 0

"Sorry about not makin' the team, mate. Dunno what happened there, you deserved it. You've got the best butterfly stroke I've seen... life's not fair, y'know?"

Harry can tell that his well-intentioned, heartfelt sentiment is a mistake the moment he looks into his friend's black-and-white eyes and ingests the confusion and heartbreak in them, his own gaze reflecting the horror and negligence of the supposed empathetic statement. His friend slips his bag off of his shoulder and stares at Harry as other students rush by at the sound of the morning bell for first period, both of their shoulders getting bumped in the rush to class. Harry gulps and feels as if he's swallowing rocks in the same way chickens do to digest their food, except for him the rocks aren't helpful at all, they weigh heavily in his stomach with an intense feeling of dread and self-destruction.

Harry keeps his sight heavily set on his friend's as they both stand in silence until the halls are cleared and silent, the confused boy shaking his head before leaning back against the lockers behind him for support, "tryouts last night were postponed until tonight. Coach had a family emergency. You really think I'm not gonna make it?"

The colored dream that he had the evening prior was one in which his friend came home crying, walking through the front door of his house and tossing his bag down in the foyer before bursting into tears of rejection. Making the switch from middle school to high school sports is known to be difficult and cutthroat and although he is a strong and gifted athlete, he got tired on his butterfly stroke during tryouts and didn't tap the wall in enough time to make the cut. He held his sadness in on the entire walk home and only let it burst forth when he was in the comfort of his house, his mum abandoning her work in the office to greet him with woeful sympathy the instant she heard his discouraged cry.

Harry forces a virtuous laugh and grips the back of his neck nervously, pinching the skin and wiping his sweaty palm against the top of his spine, "sorry. That was dumb. I - I dunno why I thought that. You just looked upset so I... guess I assumed?" He brings his gaze back to his friend's but he can see that he seems suspicious at Harry's arbitrary but detailed hunch, "I was just tryin' to be nice. Sorry. You'll make it. You're an incredible swimmer." He internally cringes as the lie of him making the team tumbles from his lips, both because he hates how he is forced into a lifestyle of dishonesty and also because it's obvious to his friend that he's backpedaling and there isn't much Harry can do about it without outing himself.

His friend clenches his jaw and keeps his harsh glare set on Harry as he takes several steps backwards, finally angling his head in an perturbed nod before spinning on the ball of his foot to stomp away. His fist reaches out to slam against a metal locker on his escape, the door popping open from his aggressive outburst and the jarring sound echoing down the empty hall before he disappears around the corner. Harry is left alone in the hallway swallowing the bile in the back of his throat, allowing his head to fall forward and his fluffy curls to shroud his face as he replays the stupid and unnecessary conversation over in his head while attempting to shake the feeling of panic from his chest.

When Harry arrives home later that evening he ignores his mum's joyous greeting and subsequent prying about his sour expression and bloodshot eyes. He doesn't dare say that he spent all of first period in the farthest bathroom stall crying silently in sheer fright of having accidentally revealed himself and then spent the entire afternoon waiting for the first audible signal of a Tocsin siren. He doesn't want to worry her and his dad or continue to make his problem theirs; he bats her away when she tries to push his hair from his forehead and kiss his skin. He dips away from her hands but lets a whimper escape, rolling his eyes at his weakness before finally dragging his vision to meet his mum's.

"Petal, do we have something to be worried about as a family?" Harry shakes his head and hangs his coat in the closet, his mum chasing after him down the hallway as she wipes her hands on the seat of her pants and grabs his bicep to spin him back towards her, "darling? This isn't like you. Please talk to me. What's gone wrong? You know it never works to shut people out, you've got to let the light in so the shadows don't take over. Now speak. I won't allow this brooding."

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