MIND GAMES [One Direction fanfiction] - 13 and up

Harry Styles was just a normal teenage boy, a normal teenage boy who had a happy life and was quite content to live it the way nature had intended: completely normally, with no weird happenings or crazy adventures. Yet some things, it would seem, are destined to be, and it would appear that Harry’s fate was to be abducted by insane strangers intent on experimenting on him, and their four other hand-picked victims. Harry sometimes feels so alone, even when his best friends are only a few metres away - and he can’t seem to help but be afraid, because there are so very few things left in his life for him to control…

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27. Chapter twentyseven.

For almost the first time in recorded memory, Louis’ powers actually worked under stress. Perhaps it was the sheer shock of falling so instantly and helplessly in love with a complete stranger, especially as he was gay anyway and had never had the slightest hint of attraction to any woman before in his whole life. Maybe it was some strange chemical imbalance caused by the sudden strong emotions bubbling inside of him; lust being one of them, terror being another, because how the hell could someone be that gorgeous? So when his fingers flexed almost automatically, something shredded through his panic, and an enormous force field blossomed around them.

There were two problems; one of them being that in his panic, he’d thrown the walls of the bubble out so far that the ridiculously beautiful girl, the girl he would go insane without, who was so ridiculously fit that he had to touch her, trace her curves with one finger, kiss her hard, whose lips looked so kissable and soft, who was so beautiful that she was wrong - she was caught inside it too. The other problem was that even as he did it, a pale hand landed on his shoulder, and as he whirled around with a hiss of shock, he saw a familiar smug smirk, felt a horrible, nauseating yank somewhere in his abdomen, and then they were teleporting.

It was just as awful as it had always been; the world blurred around them, and then the excruciating pain came and began dancing through his body, flitting through his veins in a way that he’d hoped to never have to experience again. He thought he might be sick; a giant hand had punched through his abdomen and seized his stomach, tearing it out and wrapping his intestines around each other; plaiting them, and threading them through his eye sockets. And all the while, he was burning; he was taking a shower in molten lava, feeling it pour over him, cascading down his shoulders, flaying his skin off with the sheer heat of it, plucking every hair off his head one by one. Razor blades slicing every millimetre of his skin into ribbons, fraying his skin into slices so thin he could barely feel them, each strand screaming…Now he was hallucinating; fantastic. It was so much worse than last time; he had a feeling that there had been at least some effort to protect them the last time this had happened, and now that protection had been revoked. Felix saw no need to be careful with them now that they didn’t trust him anymore. Strange colours and distorted shapes snatched at his vision, what was left of his stomach started churning, and the only real, substantial thing in the world was Felix’s hand, clamped down hard on his shoulder. He hated that; out of all the people in the world who could be clinging onto him, and it had to be Felix.

Why couldn’t it have been, say, Harry?

But Harry was screaming.

They were all screaming. With what was left of his ears, he could hear their various voices: Harry’s, raspy and grating, low and agonized but he was desperately attempting to hold it back, like the sound was being ripped through his teeth against his will. Zayn’s, even lower, but less controlled; more shaky, like he’d lost the will to fight against it. Niall’s was a whimper, because Niall apparently saw no need to even try to hold back the noise, whereas Zayn’s bravado was for his girlfriend, and Harry? Well, clearly Harry had some motive for trying to stay quiet. Liam was the quietest of all, moaning rather than crying out, trying to keep it together for all of their sakes. Eithne held nothing back, screeching almost hysterically in shock, the way that girls did, crying out for help. His own scream was more of a sob, a helpless noise, and he thought – thought, mind you; it could have been another of his hallucinations – that he heard Felix chuckle. Laughing at their agony, the bastard. Louis wanted to rip away from the black-haired boy’s grip, tear that slender hand off his shoulder.God, he hated him. Harry was screaming, and he was laughing. He’d never hated anyone so much in his entire life.

Pain shot through his knees like he’d fallen onto a pair of knife blades, and his hands slammed into the floor to catch himself before he fell, before he could collapse, fall flat on his face. The hand had left his shoulder, and he breathed shallowly as he fought to keep the contents of his stomach where it belonged. It was a struggle, especially with the sounds of his friends coughing and groaning, struggling not to splatter their own breakfasts onto the cold, stone floor. But after a few more seconds, he carefully sat up, scanning the room with narrowed eyes.

The girl – that gorgeous, incredible girl, god, if he could only touch her, if her lips would only brush his, if their skin could make contact, he had to touch her, he would die if he didn’t touch her – was sitting on a table in the corner, swinging her legs, leaning back against the wall with her chest thrust out. It oughtn’t to have made the slightest impact; he liked a nice bum better than a straining shirt that pulled over a girl’s chest. Short hair was nicer than long. Soft lips were better than sticky ones; sticky with lipgloss that tasted sickly and left a weird taste on his mouth. He knew from experience. He’d kissed girls before and it hadn’t left much of an impression. Certainly not a good one, anyway.

But he wanted her. Right there and then; on that table; on the floor,; up against the wall; he wasn’t really fussy. And that, that was probably the most disturbing thing he’d ever felt; attraction to a girl when the only interest he’d ever had in girls was hanging out with them, trying to meet hot guys. Oh, and the occasional chick-flick. He did love a good chick flick.

Felix’s sneakers made a soft padding noise on the floor as he walked up and down several times. A quick glance across the room told Louis that Eithne was clinging to Zayn, grabbing his shirt with both hands, as if anchoring him in place. Stopping him from making a run at the girl. So clearly Louis wasn’t the only one struggling to control himself; Zayn was clinging hard to Eithne, but his whole body was straining towards the dark girl. Liam was gravitating towards Niall – unsurprising; they all knew about the vision he’d had where Niall died by the hand of the attractive girl perched on the table, looking coyly at them through her mascara-coated lashes. Harry? He barely seemed to have noticed Louis. In fact, their eyes locked as Louis looked over, and Harry slowly blinked at him in wordless communication.

“This is cosy.” Felix’s voice echoed through the well-lit room. They appeared to be in a large room in some kind of museum; paintings hung on the walls, and there were glass cases pushed up against the walls with vases and strange artefacts inside them. Louis was confused, to say the least. Felix, however, seemed amused by the situation.

Strangely, Louis didn’t really see the funny side.

“Yeah, but not really, though,” he replied icily. “You’ve kidnapped us and brought us to a mysterious museum where a pretty girl is sat on an expensive table showing off her legs and sticking her boobs out to try and distract us in some weird, totally objectifying way; ‘cosy’ isn’t quite the word I would have used.”

“Actually, I think having a pretty girl waiting for you is actually an extremely cosy way to spend an evening. And Deino really doesn’t mind being objectified, do you, babe?” Felix cast a look over at the girl, who, right on cue, fluttered her manicured fingers at them and looked smug. It was… well, it was rather revolting, actually. Louis wasn’t sure whether it was her arrogance or her stunning body that none of them could tear their eyes away from which was giving him such an irrepressible urge to vomit.

It made no sense, but she was so beautiful, so stupidly perfect, that she made him feel physically ill. The contents of his stomach was twisting and churning at a rate far beyond anything he’d ever felt before; to the point of physical nausea. He swallowed.

“Boobs don’t impress me; I’m gay, you see,” Louis said blandly. “So perhaps you should try another tactic. If, of course, you have one.”

Felix’s smile widened, flashing a mouthful of white teeth. “Oh, but I knew that. It’s hardly hard to figure out, with an arse like that.” He gestured at Louis, who glared at him, uncomfortable with the thought that Felix, of all people, had been looking at him in that way. “But the point is, it doesn’t matter to Dee-Dee, whether you’re gay, straight, bi, pan, asexual, or any other variant you care to name. I can see the way you look at her. It’s the same way I look at her – the same way everyone in this room is looking at her. Even Blondie.” He gestured carelessly at Eithne, who still clung to Zayn’s shirt with both hands. “Must be quite a shock, finding herself turning lesbian when her boyfriend is right there. Still, you could always put on a show for the lads, couldn’t you, sweetheart?” His grin was sleazy and disgusting, and Eithne shuddered, feeling horrible merely from the sordid tone of his voice.

“Fuck off.” Her voice was clear, calm, unafraid…and Felix’s smile widened even more. His face would split in two if he smiled any more.

“If you can find me someone called ‘off’, then I will. Until then, I will have to decline. Sorry, and all that. I digress; my point is that no matter what your sexual orientation, you will fall in love with Deino on sight. You just can’t help it. She’s irresistible.”

Leaping off the table, Deino twirled around in a circle like a simpering child, holding out her coat and pirouetting neatly in her high-heeled black stilettos, tilting her head onto one side so that her sleek, carefully teased hair ruffled in the breeze she created as she turned. It was one of the most sickening things Louis had ever seen in his life; a teenage girl probably around Harry’s age, maybe a little younger, twirling around and showing off like a three year old girl. He almost expected her to whip off the black coat to reveal a bright pink tutu underneath and start flitting around and pointing her toes, clad in a pair of ballet shoes, singing cheesy show tunes from a second-rate low-budget musical.

“Charming, isn’t she?”

“Again, not the word I would have used.”

“Oh? Enlighten me, then; what word would you have used? Since you apparently have such an enviably extensive vocabulary at your disposal?” Felix paced up and down the room a couple of times, but his black eyes never left Louis’ face, searing into his irises.

“Sleazy,” Louis told him almost uninterestedly, and he had the satisfaction of watching Deino scowl and Felix’s dark eyes narrow harshly at the criticism.

“It’s all a matter of taste, I suppose. No one else seems to be objecting.”

On the contrary; Harry was most definitely objecting, for a start. His hands had clenched into fists and he would appear to be one of the few people in the room whose gaze wasn’t lingering on the girl’s boobs. In fact, he was scowling straight into her eyes, his expression thunderous, like he wished he could hit her. Liam was frowning too, struggling apparently with some internal conflict; his gaze was gooey and adoring, but his forehead was furrowed deeply as he glared at her as well. By his side, Niall was shaking, and he was looking more terrified than anything else. As for Zayn, he had buried his face in Eithne’s hair so that his expression was indiscernible, and Eithne’s expression spoke for him; she looked completely disgusted.

“Depends on your definition of ‘objecting’. Perhaps not aloud.”

“Well, if any of you do feel an urge to voice any objections, I probably ought to warn you that Dee-Dee here doesn’t take too kindly to criticism, and I won’t be held responsible for any… mischief that may befall you on her behalf.” He gave Louis a challenging look that bordered on being menacing, eyebrows raised, and beside him, Deino put a hand on her hip, leaned heavily to her left and gave him a very fiercely judgemental stare that was so sassy it was almost painful. It was a mistake; Louis was, to put not too fine a point on it, the queen of sass. Challenging him to a battle of who could be the most patronizing was most definitely a mistake. He could already feel himself readying a good dose of scorn to inflict on her.

Perfectly calmly, simply as clarification, Louis asked him, “Is that a threat?”

“I believe it is. Whether you need to be worried about it or not, I could even begin to hazard a guess. But if she reapplies her lipstick, I’d be very careful about how you handle the situation. She’s an excellent snogger. I can personally vouch for that.” He smirked. Then, once more, his expression hardened as he appraised Louis for a moment. “In answer to your question; yes, that was a threat. And if, by some miracle, Dee-Dee doesn’t knock you from here to the end of next week, I probably ought to warn you that if you don’t shut up pretty quick, then I’ll do it for her.”

There was a nasty silence while they all contemplated the connotations of that. Before anyone could say another word, Harry tore his repulsed gaze away from the dark-haired girl, coldly walked across the room and went to stand beside Louis. He stood a few inches in front of him, leaning forwards, his stance almost protective – and when Louis moved to stand beside him, he reached out with one arm without turning around and swept Louis defensively behind him. There appeared to have been no visible prompting behind the action; no reason why he had decided to do it. He just…did. Not a single hint of emotion flickered across his expression, but when Louis reached out in gratitude and momentarily grasped his wrist, a small smile twitched his mouth upwards and he glanced fondly at Louis, nodding in acknowledgement.

 “Is this what they call an impasse?”

It was a new voice; equally sarcastic and perhaps even more obnoxious than Felix’s – but similar enough in tone. Sure enough, when they all turned to look, Cheren stepped out from behind an enormous display case containing a mannequin draped in loose, old-fashioned clothes, and he gave them all an insultingly blank stare as he headed across the room to join his brother.

The three of them stood there; Felix flanked by Cheren and Deino, with the girl on his left and the boy on his right. With their dark hair, unfriendly expressions and upright, stiff stances, they could have been triplets rather than twins and a completely unrelated girl.

Until, of course, Cheren ruined the image by snagging Deino by the waist and planting a disgustingly wet kiss right on her mouth. They all pulled distasteful expressions; Niall even turned away with a groan of protest, and the moment the two of them had separated, an outraged Felix grabbed the girl by the wrist, tugged her around so that she faced him, and he kissed her too, not to be outdone by his brother. In fact, this kiss lasted twice as long and was almost indecently intimate, not the kind that was really acceptable in public – so much so that Harry started up a noisy coughing fit in an attempt to distract them. It was a valiant effort; it didn’t seem to make much of an impact, but Louis appreciated it, at least.

When the two of them finally drew apart and turned back to face Niall, Liam, Zayn, Eithne, Louis and Harry, the reaction was almost instantaneous. Tugging Eithne by the wrist, Zayn instantly walked over to stand behind them, quickly joined by Liam, who reached out to pat him on the back and ended up turning it into a kind of stroke instead, rubbing Zayn’s spine as if to comfort him – perhaps as a reminder that he could have been a little gentler. He was squeezing Eithne’s small hand so tightly that her fingers had turned white, aside from her very pink fingertips. Swallowing, Zayn loosened his grip a little. Niall was the last to join them, and Zayn reached out with his free arm and tucked the blond boy underneath it, so that he had a blonde head on each side of him, and Liam stepped even closer, his hand still resting on Zayn’s spine.

Harry and Louis stood a little way away from them, taking the lead, almost, and Harry was at the very front, standing defensively in front of the slightly shorter man. Reaching out, Louis touched him very lightly on the arm, and Harry looked anxiously down at him before retreating slightly so that they were level with each other. Nodding, Louis turned back to face their adversaries.

“Well, as I’m sure you understand, we didn’t actually consent to coming here, and we were kind of in the middle of something. Well. Zayn was.” He couldn’t help but smirk slightly before controlling his expression. “I hope you won’t take it too personally if we leave. It looks like you’re busy; we’d hate to intrude, wouldn’t we, Harry?”

“Oh yes,” agreed Harry, “that would be absolutely awful. In fact, I think we probably ought to leave right now. We’re being incredibly rude, taking up so much of your time like this; let’s leave and we’ll say no more about it.”

“What, so soon?” asked Cheren, flicking his jet black fringe out of his even blacker eyes. “But we haven’t even got to the good part yet. We were looking forward to having some fun with you, weren’t we, guys? Deino was especially keen to get to know your little Irish lad over there, weren’t you, hon?”

“You lay one finger on him and you’ll regret it.” None of them had ever heard Liam talk like that before; his voice was like an icy razorblade slicing across skin, and every single one of them flinched at the pure venom in it. It was terrifying to hear Liam sound so harsh, so vicious, so… uncontrollable. He’d channelled his terror into anger, and that anger was being directed straight at the girl he had watched kill Niall with nothing more than a careless slip of her hand.

“That’s not very nice. I thought you were supposed to be the cuddly one?” Cheren mocked.

“Tell you what; come a bit closer and I’ll demonstrate. Only cuddling can have a very loose definition, so I hope you won’t mind if I smother you,” Liam snapped.

Wide-eyed, Zayn grabbed his arm to hold him back. “No, Liam,” he hissed urgently. “Stop it.”

“You didn’t see,” Liam cried, wrenching his arm away, eyes brimming with tears. “You didn’t see her taunt him, and then slash his neck open and leave him bleeding on the floor. You didn’t see,” he cried wretchedly, and buried his face in his hands.

“What’s that they’re saying?”

“I get the impression that Dee-Dee here killed someone, Cher.”

“Our Dee-Dee? Never! She couldn’t hurt a fly, could you, Dee-Dee?”

“Never in a million years,” replied Deino, batting her eyelashes innocently.

“Shut up,” growled Harry.

They all squealed in mock horror, hands flying to their mouths – and then they started speaking, twittering irritatingly like three annoying little birds, chirping annoyingly just to set their teeth on edge, and oh, it was working so maddeningly well.

“Did you hear that?”

“I did!”

“He told us to shut up!”

“He did!”

“Are we going to stand for that?”

“I don’t think we should.”

“Manners are important, after all.”

“Mm. Very. think we should teach him some, don’t you?” Deino asked petulantly.

“Most definitely. Would you do the honours?”

She didn’t even answer – just walked forwards, stilettos clicking on the floor like an eagle’s talons with every step, and Liam cringed, sweeping Niall backwards with one quick slide of his arm, and Zayn and Eithne followed. They all retreated backwards, away from the girl. Harry’s eyes flickered momentarily after them, but after checking to make sure that Louis hadn’t shifted, his jaw flexed, tightening with determination, and he stayed where he was, locked by Louis’ side.

She reached Harry first, touching him with one fingertip, a long nail running across his cheek and leaving a deep red scratch that he barely felt, but which looked horribly deep to any bystander. He shuddered at the feel of her painfully cold skin, but she mistook it for either fear or lust, and flashed him a sickly grin. Beside him, Louis was shaking, both with longing and anxiety, and Harry glanced at him, raising his eyebrows to show that he was okay; he wasn’t in pain, she hadn’t really hurt him…although, when he looked at her, it seemed like she was rather keen to change that.

“He’s pretty,” she breathed, “which is good news for me. Not such good news for him. I like to play with pretty things – plain things are so boring. No fun. They take and take and take, and give nothing, and then they cry when I take their lives in return.” She pouted. “I don’t think this one would cry, no matter how hard I tried to make him. There’s too much pride locked away in there… too much bravery. I can see it in his eyes.” She lightly tapped the side of his head.

Hatred burned in his expression and he stood still, unmoving and refusing to react to her taunting. Dissatisfied, she leaned a little closer so that her breath tickled his cheek.

“I wonder whether you’d scream, or sob?” she mused. “I like to see that. I can never decide which I prefer. You see, when they scream, I know that they’re desperate – they can’t take it anymore, so they scream out loud and beg for mercy like sheer volume is going to make a difference. I like to know I’ve broken them and they don’t even have enough pride left to say silent as they plead with me. But on the other hand…when they lie whimpering on the floor, I almost think that might be even better. Because that means that they’ve given up, that I’ve broken them into such tiny pieces that they don’t even have the strength yet to scream, to put up a fight…there’s nothing left in them. All they can do is endure…” She said it delicately, drawing out the word, and Harry’s face twisted in disgust.

For a while they were silent, and the only sign that Harry had even heard her was the way his nose was wrinkled in distaste of her words. Clearly, she was unused to not getting any kind of reaction, and a slight frown creased her forehead as she moved a little closer, breathing so heavily that she ruffled his curls, attempting to put him off guard; in all honesty, he found it rather off-putting. Like she was breathing down his neck. He wriggled, disliking the way she was so close, and for the first time she seemed more pleased by his reaction. Her body was so closely pressed against his that he was surprised they hadn’t fused together.

Her lips parted and pressed lightly against his cheekbone, leaving a flushed pink mouth-shaped imprint on his skin. She murmured against his face, so that he could feel the slick stickiness of the lipstick, “Which would you do? Would you cry…or would you scream?”

Defying her expectations, it was Louis and not Harry who snapped at that moment; lunging for the girl’s hand where it fluttered lightly against Harry’s hip, Louis snatched her hand away from the other boy, tugging her backwards to prevent her from touching him. “Get your hands off him!” he growled, shoving her away from them both so that she staggered – the moment he touched her, his cheeks flared bright pink, as if her skin was some kind of invisible link to his blood supply. In reality, it was probably related to her power in some way, but Harry hated seeing Louis become so flustered just from a simple touch…couldn’t help butwish that he could have that kind of instantaneous reaction in Louis

“Feisty!” she cried delightedly, “someone’s possessive! I wonder what you’d do, hmm? Would you cry? I can’t see you being the screaming type, to be honest, but I wouldn’t know, would I? At least…” the words slipped silkily from her lips, caressed by her pointed tongue. “Not yet.”

It was Harry’s turn to see red right then; he grabbed Louis by the arm and wrenched him away from her, wondering if it was as blindingly obvious as it felt that he couldn’t bear to have Louis near her. In fact, he was almost tempted to slap the girl across the face, especially given the way Louis was struggling so blatantly to cope with the attraction that everyone but Harry appeared to be feeling towards her. Feeling an intense urge to drag Louis to the opposite side of the room from her, Harry stood shaking with anger and fighting to stay calm on the outside.

“What’s going on here, then?” cooed Deino, raising her eyebrows in interest. “Have you two got something going on between you, is that it? Because you’re very protective of each other…”

“No!” Harry flushed bright red with humiliation and glowered straight at her. “I think you’re struggling to realize that maybe, just maybe, real mates protect each other from witches like you. Stop you from poisoning us, because we care about each other. Bros before hoes, did you never hear that saying? I’m just looking out for him – like he’s looking out for me.”

“Well maybe,” she began, “he doesn’t want you to look out for him. Judging by the look on his face, I’d certainly assume that to be the case, wouldn’t you?”

“No,” Harry answered politely. “Actually, I wouldn’t. Especially as I happen to know that you’re twisting his mind to persuade him to fancy you. Like he said, he’s gay, which is how I know full well that none of this is his decision. So I’m going to assume that I know better than you do about what my best friend wants, and I’m going to tell you again to get the hell away from him.”

Deino was caught halfway through a laugh of derision when Harry’s command became tangible; the horrible, harsh, hacking sound of it caught in her throat and her eyes widened in surprise as she blinked at him, struggling to understand. Her hand reached out towards the shuddering Louis, to pluck at his sleeve, but veered off course halfway through, jerking away from Louis and dropping back to her side again. Shocked, she stared down at it, then reached out again to flick his fringe off his forehead.

I said get away from him! Harry snarled. All of those ancient, primitive instincts to protect things had been unlocked, and he was in serious danger of losing his temper at the mere thought of her scrabbling hands touching Louis’ skin. In fact, he was almost ready to fly at the girl and throw her to the ground and make her regret so much as looking at Lou – and this desire seemed to shine through in his command, because it was so much sharper than usual, and when she obeyed, which of course she had to, she obeyed far much more clumsily…and far faster than anyone ever had done before. Harry’s anger made him formidable.

With a sharp cry of shock, Deino staggered back, looking horrified by the complete lack of control she had over her own limbs. In response, Harry jerked Louis backwards so that he was even further away from the girl, and had the satisfaction of watching the girl stumble clumsily, wobbling in her stiletto heels. She flailed at the air, struggling to correct herself, catching herself before she fell, and her eyes darkened and burned fiercely when she realized that Harry was responsible, that he had almost knocked her off her feet with simply the power of his mind. What seemed to infuriate her the most, however, was that her own powers had very little effect on him whatsoever, if any effect at all. He simply disregarded the attraction that everyone else had towards her, brushing it aside like it was nothing more than a flimsy, barely perceptible cobweb in the very corner of his concentration…like it wasn’t even worthy of his attention. Stunned, she stared at him in utter shock, blinking like a startled rabbit.

“Dee?” concerned, amazingly, Cheren took a step forwards, arm outstretched.

Stay back! Get back, and keep walking, Harry ordered.

Almost as shocked as Deino, Cheren started walking slowly backwards, retreating with a little more dignity than she because of his more sensible footwear, looking completely taken aback with how easily Harry shunted him into place, like he was a toddler with a train set and Harry was patiently trundling each train back into the engine shed. Backing into the corner, Cheren didn’t stop until his shoulder-blade had rammed into the wall and he cried out in pain, physically unable to go any further. Relenting, Harry lessened the pressure slightly and then turned his attention to Felix.

Walk over here, he ordered, but don’t stare at me like that because your face annoys me. And that expression makes you look like a goldfish.

Outraged but helpless, Felix stiffly walked across the room, much to Deino and Cheren’s dismay, and he stood obediently beside Harry with his face turned towards the wall. Nodding grimly, Harry reached for Louis’ wrist and placed Louis’ hand on Felix’s arm. Gesturing towards the others, he patiently waited for Eithne, Liam, Niall and Zayn to shuffle across the room and lay their hands on Felix’s arms and shoulders. Once they’d all got a reasonable grip on him, Harry walked across the room to face Deino.

He placed his fingers on his temples and closed his eyes, as physical contact made the process easier, and barely restraining a weary sigh, he plucked at the threads of her consciousness, locating a specific memory; the memory of where their safe house was. Patiently, he began painstakingly unravelling them, removing the parts he didn’t want her to remember and not even bothering with his usual thoroughness; he just left huge, ragged gaps in her memory. It would annoy her, and perhaps a little pettily, the thought of her storming around clutching her head and trying valiantly to summon memories to fill the gaps gave him a kind of vindictive pleasure which curled in the pit of his stomach like a sleeping animal and lay there, the comfortable weight settling him and making him feel warm inside. It was one of the unhealthiest pleasures he’d ever had, enjoying someone else’s discomfort, but how could he help it?

When he was done, he let her crumple to the floor and caught her just before she crashed to the ground, clumsily lowering to the floor by one slender wrist. Then he stepped over her and wandered across the room to where Cheren stood quivering in the corner, breathing harshly in and out.

Rather than bothering with the pleasantries, even attempting to be slightly gentle the way he had with Deino, Harry seized him by the arm and yanked him forwards, and as he did so, he gave a vicious tug at Cheren’s memories, not even bothering that he might have been damaging the rest. He was just so tired, and he really didn’t give a damn! Harshly snapping at any mention of their home, he severed each and every cord, every memory line, with a kind of bitter resignation that showed he just didn’t care anymore. Louis, Zayn, Niall, Liam and Eithne watched in silence from the other side of the room; Felix’s face was still facing the opposite direction to Harry’s so he couldn’t tell whether the obnoxious boy was watching his brother’s memories being ripped out of his head or not. Trembling fearfully, in case Harry might decide to wipe his memory totally on a whim, Cheren stayed on his feet until Harry released him with a sniff of disgust; after that he dropped uselessly to the ground, wrapped his arms around his knees and sat in stiff silence, running his hands through his hair and concentrating fiercely, as if he was checking that all of his more vital memories were where they should be. Nastily, Harry felt a moment’s satisfaction in knowing that in his clumsiness he might well have, if not damaged them slightly, definitely shifted around some of Cheren’s memories inside his head so that they would be harder to find – but seeing the boy’s panic, he felt cruel. It was a vicious thought and he took it back.

“Are you lot ready?” he asked curtly, turning back to his friends and Felix.

He was met with a series of swift nods, but it was Louis’ confirmation that he waited for; Louis’ deep blue eyes that his locked onto as he quickly crossed the room, scanning them all up and down to make sure that nobody was hurt. According to his inventory, everyone appeared to be fine, but it was Louis he examined the most thoroughly, Louis he was the most worried about. Then again, with him, it usually was Louis who he worried about. It felt like it was hardwired into his DNA to worry about Louis – second nature now, after all the time he’d spent doing it. Almost as if he was expecting to see Harry’s anxious eyes on him, Louis was staring straight into his face, and he gave Harry a jerky nod not dissimilar to the rest of them. Still, that was the only nod that really counted for Harry, the only nod that made his heart leap out of place in his chest and begin thudding discordantly in a place in his chest that he was sure it was not supposed to be…the only nod which had him placing his own hand on Felix’s shoulder and preparing to warp his mind. Eyes squeezed tightly shut, Felix was sweating in panic, trembling at his touch.

I’m not going to hurt you, for God’s sake! Harry snapped. When he saw the younger boy flinch at the harshness of his tone, like he didn’t believe that one bit and was just waiting to get hit, he felt, oddly, a pang of sympathy. Look, you don’t have to be scared of me, all right? I’m not going to hurt you. As soon as I’ve gotten you to take us home and wiped your mind, I’ll send you right back where you came from.

Felix avoided his gaze, and at first Harry thought he didn’t believe him and was about to reassure him again, until he remembered that he’d kind of ordered Felix not to look at him. Shaking his head, he got a better grip on the younger boy’s bony shoulder, and allowed himself another glance around the room to make sure than nobody was going to intervene.

Cheren was lying glassy-eyed in the corner, gripping two handfuls of his hair, fingers sifting shakily through the thick, silky blackness; he was fiercely shaking his head as if he was trying to make sense of the new gaps in his memory. Deino sat stupidly where Harry had left her, blinking over and over again, and looking at the floor. He was confident that if they ever recovered quickly enough to remember that they were supposed to be stopping him, they’d never pick themselves up off the floor in time. Regretfully, he nibbled his lip. Perhaps he’d been a little rough.

Right, he toldFelix sternly, you’re going to take us right back to where you came from, understand? His gaze flashed over to Louis, who was anxiously watching him. “Louis?” He made an explosive gesture with free hand.

Concentrating, Louis held his hands out in front of him and frowned at the air between his fingertips. Grasping at the thin air, he almost seemed to pull outwards as if the air was an elastic band that he was stretching – and then the air was rippling and twisting, contorting between his fingers, and Harry watched as a shimmering bubble blossomed around them, catching them all inside of it with ease. Prodding Felix’s mind, he searched for the nerve impulses that controlled Felix’s powers, and gave them a nudge. He watched Felix jerk in shock, saw his eyes widen – and then he tore them apart, and the whole world spun like a roundabout as they vanished into thin air for the second time that day.

~*~

One of the first things that Harry discovered from controlling Felix was that the reason he was unaffected by the pain, nausea and crippling dizziness experienced by the others was purely because he selfishly made no attempt to shield them from it, focusing all his efforts on taking care of himself. Harry was determined to change that; he coerced Felix into extending his own calm serenity to the rest of them, so that for the first time, none of them actually experienced what it was like to be reduced to atoms, blasted through the air and then reassembled on the other end. They quite literally blinked, and then there they stood, back in the kitchen, exactly where they’d been snatched from in the first place. Almost as if the abduction had never occurred.

Groaning, Liam slid to the floor, clutching his head. “God.” He shook his head fiercely. “Ugh, that kills. Oh, God, that’s horrible, I think I’m gonna –”

Dropping to his knees beside him, Zayn grabbed him by the arm as if to steady him, forgetting Eithne for a moment in his urgency to reassure his friend, who had turned the dirty greyish colour of an old white shirt that had been through the wash a few too many times. “Liam? Are you okay, Li? Liam!” He shook Liam by the shoulder, careful not to jostle him.

“Harry just completely rearranged all of our respective futures,” panted Liam, “ I didn’t even see it coming. He made the decisions too fast. I had no idea what he was going to do; he kicked all of our futures around and bent them to suit him – that’s a killer. Ow. I’m going to be feeling the aftershocks of this one for a while…didn’t even know it was coming. Not a flash.” Rubbing his eyes, he leaned weakly against the kitchen counter. “I think I’m going to sit here…for a while.”

Zayn blinked. “Huh?”

Kneeling interestedly beside Liam, Eithne examined him with her head tilted  to one side. “Mm. Looks to me like he gets some kind of backlash if the future changes significantly from the paths he’s foreseen…now that is very interesting.”

“What are you going to do to me?”

They all turned to stare at Felix, who had managed to grind the words out through gritted teeth. He looked terrified, as if he was certain that they had some kind of dreadful punishment in store for him. He needn’t have worried; nobody was going to lay a finger on him. Not that Harry wasn’t tempted, because really, he was – but honestly, he was completely exhausted.

For the first time, he’d discovered something: he could feel something tugging at his mind, and when he listened carefully, he discovered that it was a link. Previously, he hadn’t noticed it, but now that he was paying attention, he discovered that every mind he touched, whilst fused with his, created a bond with him. A bond that weakened with every passing day and yet was strengthened each time he issued a command. Harry could only feel these bonds now because they were throbbing with exhausted energy; he’d extended a few too many. Everyone in the room had been touched by his mind, and many people in rooms that were hundreds of miles away, and he could feel them all yanking him in different directions. Actually, he was quite confident that the headache brewing around his temples would soon be one to rival Liam’s. He could feel his own pallor becoming similarly ashy.

The strongest pull he felt was towards Louis, whose mind he had tampered with almost too many times to count. His whole body shifted towards the older boy as he met Felix’s gaze and coldly told him, “I’m going to erase your memory of this place, how to find us, and maybe, if you’re lucky, I’ll let you keep the rest.”

Felix paled, but Harry left him no time to panic. Throwing out several coils around the boy’s mind, he squeezed like a boa constrictor, tightening his hold, feeling Felix scrabbling and wriggling as he fought to break free of the intrusive grip that Harry made no effort to disguise as he slowly, slowly strangled every last little bit of resistance out of Felix’s mind. The whole process took mere minutes – usually he could have done it in seconds, but he was completely burnt out. His limbs were shaking, and he just wanted to lie down and fall asleep, and possibly not wake up again, ever. Making a grab for one of the kitchen units in order to support himself, Harry snagged the corner of Felix’s memory where it fluttered inside his head, and he tugged.

It unravelled like wool, like stitches being pulled undone. Despite his threat, he was careful not to remove any memories that exceeded the last forty-five minutes – it had been forty-five minutes since they had been snatched! How time flew. Again, he didn’t see much need to bother with any particular kindness; he left seamless, gaping holes in Felix’s memory rather than taking the necessary time and effort required to mend them and leave him without any realization that his memory had been modified at all. Truthfully, he just wanted to get it over with. Perhaps that was why he was rushing so clumsily over the whole process.

By the time he was done, he was sweating and panting, feeling ridiculous but unable to help himself. He made his way over to the table and pulled himself up a chair, which he thankfully collapsed into before turning his attentions back to Felix, who stood with a glazed expression exactly where Harry had left him.

Go, he thought wearily. Just…go back to your brother and that…girl. When you get there, you will have no recollection of coming here, and every time you think of it, or of us, you will have such a splitting headache that you can’t possibly keep thinking of us anymore. Now please…just go away.

Of course, Felix numbly obeyed. Harry managed to keep his eyes open for long enough to see the Adam’s apple in the boy’s pale, skinny throat bob up and down before he vanished – and then Harry slumped exhaustedly to the table with a crash as his forehead hit it. The others cried out, but he barely felt the impact; soundlessly, he slid down the table, lying his head down flat so that his cheek was pressed against the cool, battered wood.

“Harry!”

Feet clattered on the kitchen floor as Zayn, Niall and Eithne rushed across the room with cries of shock. Louis, who was already stood behind him, started rubbing his back concernedly, leaning down to whisper into his ear, feeling curls tickling his lips. Harry ached to listen, but the other voices drowned Louis out, so he just lay still. On the floor, Liam was peering anxiously up at him, but any attempts to move sent the room spinning, so he wisely stayed put.

“Jesus! Is he all right?”

“Harry? Harry, can you hear me? I think he’s unconscious –”

“How hard did he hit his head? Did you hear the whack?”

“Might have knocked some sense in,” Harry croaked, eyes still closed and head still flat against the table, but he couldn’t manage to muster any kind of volume and his voice cracked so that all that came out was a faint, incoherent mumble that was lost in the buzz of frenzied conversation floating around above his head.

“What happened? He was fine a second ago!”

“Maybe it was all too much. He’s messed around with an awful lot of people’s heads lately, and he had to control Felix’s powers as well; that’s got to take a hell of a lot out of you, –”

“Shit, is he breathing? Oh, it’s okay, he’s alive. I can feel his pulse.” Niall’s voice was almost uncomfortably close to his face as he leaned in close to feel Harry’s laboured breaths on his cheek, fingers wrapped around Harry’s skinny wrist. “He doesn’t look good, though. Whoa!” Snatching his hand away, he exclaimed, “he’s burning up!”

Niall’s fingers felt icy against his skin, and he was dimly aware that for some reason that wasn’t a good sign, but he couldn’t for the life of him remember why –

“Good god, how hot is he? Your body temperature is at least four degrees higher than anybody else’s; if he feels hot to you, he must be practically on fire!” Hands fought to touch Harry’s face and his burning hands, and cries of dismay echoed through the room as they each felt the blazing heat pouring off his skin.

He could feel each and every mind tugging irritatingly at his, refusing to let him rest even now. It hurt so badly; he could feel the string connecting him to each and every one of them, and somehow knew that each mind he had touched would go back to how it had been the moment he severed the contact. It was like he had a handful of balloons and he had to choose which ones to let go, which strings to cut…and he was going to have to cut an awful lot of strings before he could cope with it again. Before it all faded into the background instead of dozens of voices chattering away inside his head, plaguing him relentlessly.

Feverishly, Harry shivered and then began scanning through each mind.

Snip. The woman, Rachel, who had been on the reception desk at the Aristo Nobelle, who he had made fall in love with him and turned into a borderline crazed stalker at the same time, simply by overkill whilst toying with her emotions. He dimly felt a pang of outrage emanating from her as all of a sudden, she sat bolt upright, shaken out of yet another wistful dream involving Harry’s eyes, and realized that the man she’d been lusting helplessly over for weeks and almost lost her job over had in fact been a skinny, dirty teenager with curly hair and big eyes, not her taste at all. He felt her confusion echoing through him as he released her, and then she was lost, and her mind was closed to him.

Sweet, sweet relief. The pain in his head dipped considerably with just the one released mind.

Snip, snip. The man whose clothes they’d stolen, who suddenly found himself wondering why the hell he’d happily let some kid walk into his room and take most of his clothes, something he’d never questioned before. And the woman Harry had forced to kiss him, too; he felt her shriek in disgust at the memory that she had never had cause to regret before.

Snip, snip, snip, snip, snip, snip. A crowd of strangers he’d barely remembered, one of whom suddenly recalled that he’d seen Harry Styles, a missing boy who’d been on the news, walking down the street with four other boys about a week ago. A large majority of the staff working for both an airline company and a ferry company in Dublin, who suddenly discovered that they remembered stalling a large number of ferries for several hours and lending a plane to a curly haired boy and his friends.

He carefully skipped over Deino, Felix and Cheren. He needed their minds intact and still under his control; he couldn’t release them.

Snip.  Eithne, who he had never really established a fully fledged link with in the first place.

Snip, snip, snip, Liam, Zayn, Niall, Louis –

Louis.

Harry wasn’t sure which of them gasped louder as he acknowledged his mistake; he rocketed off the table, whirling around with his hands thrown out as if to make a grab for the older boy who had cringed away from him and was now standing a few feet away with his head in his hands, staring in shock at the floor. His eyes were wide, and even as Harry fearfully extended a hand to him, hoping and praying that Louis wouldn’t be as furious as he was expecting him to be.

It was a hope that came in vain.

Staring at him in complete shock, Louis demanded, “Harry, what the fuck have you been doing?”

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