Status: Brand new! Layout to be completed soon, thank you :)

No Way of Knowing


She hadn’t spoken to him in over five years, hadn’t heard him address her in five years, the molasses of his voice curling down the phone line and wrapping all around her just like it always used to. She was stuck in place, her jaw just slightly ajar and lips parted and brows knitted tightly together as she tried to convince herself she wasn’t trapped in a dream. Yes, the big musician man who’d once been her favorite mild-mannered schoolboy was on the phone to her right now - chatting casually about how she’d suddenly (not so suddenly) decided to start going by her first name.

As his words, “You’re going by Theresa now,” met with her ears, she at first didn’t know what to say. Her eyes first landed on the nameplate above her small desk, cramped away in a cubicle, and she tried to remember who she’d been the last time he’d seen her. Everything was different now, they were both different now. They had only been kids.

“Harry?” she finally asked, her voice struggling to sound calm, “Is that you?” She hoped he couldn’t hear her wavering.

Across Los Angeles, sitting beside a small, dirtied eight year old boy, was Harry, his hair hanging down by his face, head tilted low, and eyes focused once more on the linoleum as he burned over his response. What could he say to this girl? It had been far too long, much too long, he didn’t know her anymore.

She didn’t know him.

“Yeah,” he mumbled, clearing his throat. “Yeah, it’s me.”

“Wow, I uhm… It’s been a long time,” she murmured back, straightening in her chair. She found her stride again and breathed out some air, curtaining her long, thick hair back behind her shoulders.

“It has,” he said, almost allowing a small smile to reach his lips at the sound of her voice. She hadn’t entirely lost her accent in the five years she’d been in America. She was still a Brit at heart and that made him smile.

She couldn’t lie to herself and say that she hadn’t thought about this happening before. Of course, the way she’d imagined it before was a bit more romantic. There were flowers in clasped hands and a curious, charming Harry on her porch, knocking nervously on her door and telling her he’d missed her and wanted to whisk her away to his home in Holmes Chapel and eat his mother’s Christmas puddings together while giggling over silly corny jokes in their living room.

She hadn’t quite pictured him calling her at noon on a Friday sounding like he’d recently taken up chainsmoking. Secretly she hoped he’d just watched Love Actually and was feeling nostalgic; she was scared to hear what was making Harry sound the way he did. If he thought he was fooling her, he was sorely mistaken. She heard the tears in his voice and she knew what was coming couldn’t be good.

“So…” she started, “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

It was the most polite way to say that she was at work and, ‘why the hell are you calling me?’

“Nikki, I-”

“Please, Harry,” she interrupted, “It’s Theresa now. It kind of always has been. I was just being a teenager.”

He stopped himself before he could start, sighing out and sitting back in his chair. He looked down at Anthony and wanted to hug the boy, watching his eyes fluttering closed in exhaustion. The last few hours had been a whirlwind for the boy.

“Alright. I’m sorry,” was his response. “Theresa. I need your help, I uhm… I know you live in LA now, and I also know you’re a social worker, and… I just really need your help.”

She let out a slow, almost pained breath of air. There was so much he wasn’t saying. “Harry, I’m… I’m not a social worker, I just started with the state nine months ago. I still have years of school left, and-”


“It’s not that I can’t help you, I mean, I assist a social worker, what is it you need? How serious is it? What’s going on?”

His head was already hurting and Harry was suddenly struck with the feeling that he’d be answering questions like this quite a lot in the days, weeks, and maybe even months to come.

As she listened to him telling the story, she felt herself becoming overwhelmed. It was heartwrenching, every word of it. Not to mention the name he’d used for her only minutes before. No one had called her Nikki in so long. In her mind, in her heart, she was still Nicole. She would always be Nicole. But Theresa was the professional name, the real first name, the name she was given by her parents. It only made sense.

It also made it easier to forget him. To not be called the name he made feel so special.

But no, no, of course not. Of course she didn’t change her name to help herself forget him. Of course it didn’t have anything to do with Harry. Harry from three streets over, Harry from home room, Harry walking down the hall and breaking into a grin as his eyes landed on her.

Of course it had nothing to do with Harry. No. Of course not.

“Of course,” she quickly agreed, standing to her feet. “Give me an hour to get there. I’m not sure how long I’ll have to wait for Lisa - my boss,” she paused, realizing he’d have no idea who that was, “But we’ll be there as soon as we can.”

She knew Lisa would drop what she had for this case, at least for the moment. She may not take the case on permanently, but it was something Nicole was willing to bet on.

Once they’d hung up, Harry pulled his phone down from his ear and stared at it. Staring at it as long and with as much force as he was was likely unhealthy, but all he could think about was her name and her face and her voice and the fact that he’d be seeing her in just over an hour and what was he going to do, this was just adding to the situation, it wasn’t going to help really, was it? But her voice.

He sighed heavily and set the phone down, turning to face Anthony. The boy’s eyes were shut. Harry pursed his lips and looked up; one of the officers - whose name was Murch, Officer Murch - had his eyes on him as he spoke into his radio.

He was frustrated, feeling like he couldn’t hug the boy or let him lay down. He stood then, making his way across the hall to the nurse’s station and addressing Amanda. “Hey, is there an empty room, by chance? He’s just a kid, and he…” Harry turned, frowning at the awkwardly bent little boy in the chair. He turned back to Amanda. She let out a slow breath, heavy and stressed. The look in her eyes told him that she knew she was supposed to say no. She closed her eyes and pursed her lips and winced, knowing there’d be some sharp discussion for her later.

“Yeah, just… Okay. Hang on for a minute, alright?” Harry nodded.

He’d only waited ten minutes or so before she beckoned him over, looking from side to side and trying to be discreet. Harry turned to the boy and then at the officer. He didn’t care if he saw, he wanted to get Anthony to a comfortable place to sleep. Leaning down, he picked Anthony up into his arms, holding him close to his chest and looking down at his exhausted face. He could barely look away as he followed Amanda to the room she’d checked for them, around a bed with a patient, an older man, sleeping soundly in it, then to the second bed in the room that was hidden behind the curtain.

Harry was silent as he laid the boy down onto the bed. Amanda went to take off his shoes and froze when she saw his socks, dirty and stiff and torn in several places. She sunk her teeth into her lip and shook her head, having to hold back emotion as she brought the bedsheet up over Anthony to his chin and glanced to Harry. His eyes hadn’t left Anthony for a moment.

“What am I gonna do?” he asked quietly, to no one in particular as he stared down at the sleeping face. He couldn’t think of anything but how much this little boy had just gone through. Could he really be what Anthony needed?

Amanda struggled with what to say, then set her hand softly on his arm. “You’ll figure it out…” As her hand rested there, his eyes caught the tattoo once more on her wrist, before she pulled it away and walked out of the room.

He heard the lyrics in his head. Written on these walls are the colours that I can’t change. Letting out a heavy breath of air, Harry sat himself down into the chair beside the bed, and watched Anthony. He tried to remember where he was, what he’d been doing, when he was that age. Playing with friends, eating warm meals at home with his family, running around the garden, groaning about his maths exams and performing little concerts in the mirror in his bedroom. But here Anthony was, without a home and now, without a family, to speak of.

As Harry’s eyes welled up all over again, feet carried themselves through the doorway. “Hey,” James said softly, managing a small, sad smile as he reached Harry. “How you doin’, mate…?”

Harry shrugged his shoulders and cleared his throat, sighing and shifting his gaze back to the little boy. “I’m just… thinkin’.”

James nodded and pulled up another chair, sitting himself beside Harry. “Well… I’m gonna have to go soon, but… I’ve made a few calls, and you’ve got the law on your side it seems.” Harry turned to face his friend, his teeth sinking into his bottom lip at the words. He listened intently as James continued, “Your lawyer is going to submit a request for the 911 tape, and he said that that alone should grant you custody for however long it takes to find him a home.”

“Thank god,” Harry whispered, nodding his head and reaching up to rub his hands over his face.

This was going to be more complicated than it needed to be, he already knew that.

It wasn’t much longer before voices were speaking confidently down the hall, high heels clacking down the tile floor as they were led to Anthony’s shared room. James and Harry immediately stood to their feet as Amanda led the officers into the room, and behind them were a pair of heels in a deep red and a small, dark pair of flats, each belonging to the people Harry would soon owe everything to.

Harry stopped for a moment, and his emerald eyes followed the pair of flats up, up to a nervous, uncertain face that he recognized all too well, eyes that used to keep him locked in place for hours just admiring them and lips that smiled when he called her name. He let out a shaky breath and a nervous nod of his head followed a quiet, whispered, “Hello.”

“You must be Mr. Styles,” the woman in red stilettos spoke in a low voice, stepping forward and reaching out for his hand. The dark hospital room shaded her features, but he could read the confidence in her face. Suddenly he felt just slightly more at ease.

“I am,” he murmured, taking her hand and shaking it politely.

“I’m Lisa Grant,” she introduced, before turning her head, her eyes landing on Anthony. She sighed a heavy breath and pulled her hand back from Harry’s, “And this must be Anthony.”

“Would you mind if we stepped outside for this?” James murmured quietly, not wanting the many voices in the room to disturb the boy. Harry glanced gratefully to James and they all followed him out of the room, Amanda staying back to check on Anthony.

As they all exited the room, Harry was suddenly face to face with her. He tried his best to smile, though it came across more pained than he meant it to. Nicole nodded her head and bit her lip, reaching out and gingerly shaking his hand. “It’s good to see you, Harry,” she said softly. She hadn’t been met with those warm, gentle eyes in five years, and something inside of her laughed at how incredibly soft his hands still were. At least some things never change, she thought to herself, the rest of her still taking in how tall he’d gotten and how broad his shoulders had become. He wasn’t the boy she once knew, that much was without question; but the Harry she’d fallen in love with as a teenager was still in there somewhere.

Harry nodded his head at her words, squeezing her hand for only a moment before pulling his hand from hers.

“And you as well, Theresa.” They both winced internally, the feeling of that name so foreign, but Nicole only nodded an acknowledgement of it and turned to follow her boss down the hall. Harry watched after her; taking in how much she’d changed since he last saw her. She was still just as beautiful as he remembered, her long, chestnut hair flowing down her back in loose waves and her voice still so light and airy and she still wore that fruity perfume that drove him mad. Though now, her presence was commanding, she was confident and an adult now, working on her future and building a career. Harry couldn’t help but feel the dizzying effect of the years that still hung between them.

There was an hour and a half of discussion and explanation between Harry and Lisa, peppered with words from Nicole and questions from James; all of which led to arguing and debating between the officers and Lisa. Harry’s hands, by the end of it, were stuffed anxiously in his pockets as he watched the back and forth. Uncertain of where it all would go.

Finally, a decision was made, and Lisa had won the argument. She pulled three thick packets of paper from her briefcase and set them one by one out on the counter by the nurse’s station. Amanda watched from afar as Harry was given a pen, and he filled in the paperwork with his initials and signature until his hand was sore. As soon as each waiver was filled out, Lisa ripped out the copies for the officers to place in their reports, and Harry followed James into Anthony’s small room.

“Hey…” Harry whispered softly as he came to the side of Anthony’s bed, “Anthony.”

“C’mon, bud, time to wake up,” James supplied, gently tugging the sheet down off of the boy. Anthony stirred slightly, still exhausted beyond his limits, settling back down almost immediately. Harry bit his lip and set his hand warmly on Anthony’s arm.

“Anthony?” he said softly, this time almost in a question. He knelt down beside the bed, and kept his hand on the boy’s arm as his eyes fluttered open. Anthony’s brows furrowed as he was met with the sight of Harry, and for the longest time he was confused, until suddenly it all hit him like a wall and he was closing his eyes tightly against the memories.

Harry bit his lip. “Anthony, we can go now… If you want, you can sleep in the car,” he mumbled, his thumb going back and forth over the little boy’s arm. Anthony peeled his eyes open and refused to speak, sitting himself slowly up and rubbing at his eyes. Harry sighed and slowly brought himself to his feet, glancing over to James.

As they reached Harry’s car outside, Anthony hanging tightly onto James’ hand, Harry found himself nervous and shaky. James helped Anthony into the passenger’s side of the car, then came around to Harry, immediately pulling him into a hug. “Ben and I’ll come ‘round as soon as the taping wraps,” he mumbled, “Will you be alright ‘til then?”

Harry nodded his head and pulled out of the hug. “Yeah. Yeah, we’ll be okay.” He let his head hang as he reached up to run his fingers through his hair, pulling his long bangs out of his eyes and over to one side.

“Alright. If you need anything, you text Ben, he’ll be checkin’ his phone through the whole thing.” With one more small hug, the two parted, and James jogged his way to his car. He’d likely be late to taping his late night show, but for this, he knew it had to wait.

The officers had left and Amanda had said her goodbyes to Harry up in the room, but Lisa and Nicole still remained, walking themselves out to the car once they’d faxed the papers Harry had signed to their main office. Just as Harry was stepping into his car, Nicole called out to him, “Hey!”

He stopped, straightening up and setting an arm on the outside of his car. He waited patiently as she approached him. “Everything okay?” he asked, his voice still hoarse.

“Why don’t you let me come with you? Mr. Corden said he’d be meeting with you tonight, and I figured I could be of help until then. If uhm…” she trailed off, sighing, “If that would be alright.”

Harry didn’t have any desire for her to know just how relieved that idea made him, pursing his lips as he looked down at his keys. “You sure that’s alright with Ms. Grant?” he asked softly, nodding his head in the direction of Nicole’s boss.

“Yeah, she’s the one that suggested it,” she spoke, clearing her throat and fidgeting with her purse.

“Right, uhm,” Harry started, stepping to the side and pushing his own seat forward, “Well, hop in then.” He tried to smile and she appreciated the gesture, letting him help her into the cramped back seat of his car and situating herself before he set his chair back and got into the car.

“Anthony, mind if I join you two?” Nicole asked softly as Harry started the car, hoping for a response from the boy.

Silently, he shook his head in a small “no”, staring at his folded hands in his lap and keeping to himself. Nicole sighed, and her eyes went to the rearview mirror where they were met with Harry’s. And in that moment, that glance was the most natural thing in the world.
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I'm sorry for how long this one took to get out! Finals are absolute madness. But anywho...

Thank you all so much for reading! And a HUGE special thanks to tommo; for your comment! I adore you, Nikko! <3

Comments are very much appreciated; let me know what you think! I'd love to hear your feedback. Thoughts on Harry and Nicole's past? Anthony? Amanda? Lisa? The officers? How's the pace going for you?

Regardless, thank you so much for reading, and I hope you have a lovely one! :)