Hands. There were hands touching him. A soft voice spoke gently, whispering sweet nothings, as a hand dragged through his hair, down, down, to the nape of his neck. The firm grip tilted his head up as more fingers raked along his jaw. A thumb slithered its way into his mouth forcing his jaw to unhinge.
Moans echoed in his ears. The thumb pressed on his tongue, sliding back, down, down to his throat. He choked as the thumb released him.
The sound of a zipper. The intake of breath. The press of the bars on his cheeks.
Harry jolted awake, heart racing in his ears. His breaths came in short bursts, he pressed his palms to his eyes.
It's not real. It's not real. It's not-
He jerked over his bed, bile passing through his lips before he could hold it back. He shuddered, pressing his fingers to his lips and closing his eyes. Hiding from the world, at least for a while.
He moved to the adjourning bathroom. For once, thanking every god he didn't believe in that Stark was rich enough to afford an ensuite in every room.
Although not rich enough to give me a real fucking room in the first place.
No, he wasn't going to go there. Although upset at first that this new room reminded him of everything he had lost, it's still a whole lot fucking better than anything else he's had in his short life. If there's one thing Harry's learnt over the years it's that you have to count your blessings when they come, no matter how small or infrequent.
He felt like he was in a whirlwind. Constantly trying to find his feet, trying to reach for something to steady him. His whole life had fallen over in the last fucking week. The Dursleys not coming for him was unsurprising but the fact that they couldn't be found afterwards? Strange. Don't get him wrong, good riddance, but still… He hadn't thought they hated him so much that they'd just leave him to fend for himself without so much as a note.
What is he even saying? He practically raised himself anyway. This summer wasn't any fucking different to any other summer he'd had. He'd gone from one uncaring family to the next. Nothing had really changed.
The only one that seemed to give even the slightest shit about his welfare was the fucking giant green thing. Sorry, Hulk. Even then he hadn't really gotten the chance to hang out like he should have. Fucking Banner ruining everything. Almost as soon as Hulk had picked up the big pieces of wall and propped them back up haphazardly, Banner had been back. Hulk had barely had the chance to smile at Harry and pat his head proudly before Banner was back screaming at him. Dangerous? Give him a fucking break. The Hulk was the only one that had helped him so far.
He glanced in the mirror. Pale, sweating, heavy breathing. Yeah, he looked like a fucking grade-A kid any parent would be proud to have. He noticed his face looked a little more defined, he could see strands of hair that he didn't know existed. The stubborn part of his mind claimed that his new eyesight could also be attributed to Hulk. If Hulk hadn't played with Harry, he never would have lost his glasses, and if Hulk hadn't turned back into Banner due to concern over Harry's injury, Banner never would have gotten Harry his new glasses.
He rolled his shoulders stubbornly, shifting on the balls of his feet to free one arm up to lightly prod at his ribs. Yep, still broken. Thankfully nothing too bad though. Nothing he hadn't dealt with before. Nothing he couldn't handle with extreme ease.
He pushed off the sink and strode out of his rooms. He paused to collect the few cleaning supplies he'd been able to find easily and moved off, deeper into the compound.
He had relatively finished with the gym last night, cleaning until the early hours of the morning. Feeling his knees go numb and his hands scrub raw always left him feeling accomplished in ways nothing else quite could. He's sure some psychologist somewhere would claim it was latent feelings of pride that only struck him when Aunt Petunia's lips briefly flickered up after he'd cleaned thoroughly. That this need to clean when he's upset or angry came from a sense of misplaced longing for approval from his family.
Harry's sure it's just an escape from thought for a while. An escape from the world. It's something he can do, and finish, and see the results. Something tangible that he can look at and know that he makes a difference. That he matters.
The gym looked as good as can be expected after having the fucking Hulk slam through the wall. There's only so much dust and debris he can take away by hand before the task becomes too large for a man using muggle methods. Stark would find out. Nothing to be done about it.
He moved through the rooms, cataloguing his findings, memorising hiding places, learning the escape routes. You just never know when things might come in handy.
It was mid-morning by the time his hands felt well used and his back felt sore. Any lingering thoughts and feelings from the night had soaked into the floors and walls, leaving Harry in relative peace.
His thoughts were able to return to the more important matter at hand. Waking up his new friend. Clearly Banner would have no part in it, fucking spoil sport that he is, so Harry had to be inventive. His eyes drifted up to the ceiling, at the mysterious, invisible AI that tracked Harry 24/7. Any magical means were out. Remind him to ask someone about how FRIDAY works. He's sure he can get one of the scientists to rant about the capabilities if he manages to ask the right probing question to peak their inner nerd.
On to more immediate problems, how to wake up the Hulk?
They found Harry riding the Hulk. Not in that way, get your mind out of the gutter. He was on the Hulk’s shoulders, punching the air and ranting about how he’d finally done it. Although the it in question was unknown to the three men that had arrived home late in the afternoon after Tony’s impromptu counselling appointment and subsequent sobbing session that lasted until he passed out and slept 10 hours. Thankfully, his jet had nice seating and SHIELD headquarters had a nice pad for it to sit on.
The session itself had been… well, Tony’s not really sure what it had been. He doesn’t really remember most of it if he’s being really honest with himself. He had sat down and glared at the table until thoughts of Pepper and Peter and his son had finally gotten him to open his mouth…. And then it had just tumbled from his throat like a slinky down a staircase. A very long staircase.
The counsellor had been mildly surprised at his presence. Muttering a quick, it’s about time you sat down with me, Mr Stark, before asking him a simple, so how are you? and that’s really all it took. Suddenly, Tony was spilling everything he could in the short hour that he had.
He’d spoken of his rocky relationship with the love of his life, the splitting of the Avengers, his failings with Peter, his failings with Harry, the piece of shrapnel in his chest that still stressed him with how fucking close he is to literally dying at any minute. Somehow the shrink’s calm stare had even prompted him to blab about his insomnia since the whole Afghanistan ordeal. How he would build and build and build to distract himself from thoughts, memories, feelings, pain.
He’d managed to keep it together. Just said anything that came to mind, he was certain he didn’t make any sense what so ever, but the shrink had simply smiled at him and asked him ridiculous questions like and how did that make you feel? Angry. Angry is a pretty fair fucking bet.
But he’d stuck it out and he’d left in a huff with a promise to come back in a week. Rhodey had taken one look at him and said it was much too late to go anywhere, suggesting finding a room somewhere on the helicarrier. Tony had simply grunted before retreating to his space, crawling into a seat on his jet and bawling his eyes out until he’d literally passed out from exhaustion. Only Rhodey’s gentle hand on his shoulder urging him to consciousness past midday, reminding him they needed to get back had spurred him into action.
It was a reasonably short flight back to the Avenger’s headquarters. Giving Tony ample time to splash water on his face and attempt to refine his appearance. He was sure he still looked like a complete mess but at least now Vision was making eye contact with him instead of letting his eyes shift to Tony's chin and slide off his face every time they’d have a conversation.
As they landed, Rhodey had carefully placed his hand on top of Tony’s fingers uncontrollably tapping his knee. Tony hadn’t even realised he’d started fidgeting.
“He’s okay, Tony,” Rhodey murmured to him quietly, “He’s been with Bruce. You’ve got a plan on how to… get better. Just be honest with him. It’s okay.”
Tony didn’t have the heart to tell his best friend that he’d already probably fucked their relationship up beyond repair but had managed a weak smile thrown in his direction before focusing his gaze back on the floor.
He had a speech planned. Well, not really a speech but he’d planned to say something. An explanation of where he was and why he was gone for so long. An apology for leaving him again. A promise to do better in the future. A suggestion, that his shrink had called homework, fucking homework, to eat one meal a day together and perhaps they could do breakfast tomorrow?
He could already imagine the kid’s stony face gazing at him silently. A shrug of those thin shoulders before turning back to hide in his room. He can already see him glancing back at Rhodey’s sympathetic face and hurried words assuring him that the kid just needed some time.
Don’t we all.
All carefully laid plans had blown out the window upon seeing the boy playing with the Hulk. Is this really what Bruce thought was appropriate for a kid? Was this the responsible guardian he could entrust to look after his child?
He's not sure what he said. He can't really remember it. All he can remember is red flooding his vision. He thinks he was yelling, he remembers multiple voices. He vaguely remembers being on top of Harry at one point? Maybe he had ripped the boy from the Hulk and they'd landed in a heap on the floor. He remembers Rhodey's hands grabbing under his arms and lifting him up, screaming at him to calm down. He can't remember what was said.
Something he does remember, though, just as expected. The kid had shut down, quietly picked himself up, shrugged those fucking shoulders and taken off, back to his room. He remembers the look on the kid's face. Remembers the carefully controlled blankness that had descended onto the boy. Remembered stony silence.
He looks down, focusing on the drink in his hand now. Whiskey, he had decided on, after he was pushed into his room and told to cool off with a stern look from Vision. Not 24 hours ago he had promised he wouldn't touch another glass of alcohol again. Yeah, right.
Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.
He was a mess. He couldn't be fixed. He couldn't do anything right. He couldn't-
"Tony?" A soft voice and gentle knock shot through his monologue. He grunted in response, hearing the door open and close before the weight of a body dropped down beside him on the bed.
"Tony, I'm sorry. This is all my fault."
Bruce. His best friend. He can't remember but he's sure he said a few choice words about the Hulk, about his friend. His friend, who was already dealing with the pressures from the Hulk, who already fucking hated himself. Tony's sure he hasn't helped anything tonight. Just another screw-up to add to the list. He's going to have to keep track of everything he ruins for his next counselling appointment.
He laughs softly at that, like he's ever going back. Nothing can fix him. Why should he even fucking try? If he just stayed in his room and didn't bother, if he just hid away from the world…
Maybe if he let the piece of shrapnel do its job. Maybe if he stopped trying to change fate. He should have died in that cave. He's living on borrowed time. The universe knows he's not supposed to be here and it's punishing him for it. By letting him slowly fuck-up everything around him until there's nothing left but his own end.
"Tony?" A hand dropped onto his wrist carefully. He glanced up.
"No, Bruce. It's not your fault. It's mine. It's always been mine," he breathes quietly meeting Bruce's eyes head-on, not leaving any room for rebuttal. After a few beats he returned his gaze to the floor, hunching his shoulders further.
"No- If I hadn't been experimenting in the lab and caused a small explosion, the Hulk never would have come out in the first place. Harry never would have been hurt-"
"Harry was hurt?" Tony asked incredulously, turning swiftly to face Bruce. His fingers slipped on the glass, shards flew across the floor, liquid spilled, but Tony only had eyes for his friend.
"They were playing, apparently, and I- I don't really know, you know I never really remember my time as Hulk, but the kid said that they were playing and he- I don't know he must have hit him? But he only came away with a fractured rib, it doesn't really make sense-"
"Only a fractured rib?" Tony shot back, eyes furious at the thought that his friend had reduced his son's injury to oh, it wasn't too bad. The Hulk merely hit him and only managed to fracture his fucking rib.
"I didn't mean it like that Tony, you know what I meant. Usually people come away from the Hulk a lot worse than that, it was a miracle that-"
"A miracle? A miracle? A miracle would have been if he'd never met the Hulk at all. No, that wouldn't have been a miracle, actually, that would have been fucking expected!"
"Well you can't really talk, can you!? A miracle would have been you not disappearing for three days to go on a fucking bender just because you felt like it! A miracle would have been if you'd been able to grow up and be responsible for your own son for more than five minutes!" Bruce roared.
"Sorry to interrupt, ladies," And suddenly Natasha managed to waltz in too. Can't these people leave him alone for more than a fucking second?
"Nat. Not a good time," Bruce growled, and how come Tony only realised now that the edges of his neck were starting to go green.
"Actually, it's a perfect time. I've just returned from a scouting mission on orders from Fury. We need the team assembled. Now." Natasha retorted harshly, crossing her arms and shifting her weight onto her right hip.
"We only just got back!" Tony cried.
"And how is that my fault?" Natasha asks, raising her eyebrows incredulously, "How is it SHIELD's fault? How is it the world's fault, that you're too tired to do your job because you've been partying for the last three days?" With that, she whirled on her heel and strode out of the room. "Get packing, we leave in 5."
"I'm not going," Bruce said quietly.
"Well you sure as shit aren't staying here. I'm not letting my kid be exposed to the Hulk again, Bruce," Tony said roughly. Bruce glances at his hands quietly, no retort on his tongue to go up against the truth. "I'm sorry, Bruce, I am. But I can't let him be around Harry. I can't."
"Where am I supposed to go, Tony?" Bruce breathed. "I agree with you but… where am I supposed to go?"
So Tony looked at his friend, really looked. He promised he wouldn't fuck this up worse than he already had, but what could he do? He had to separate the Hulk and Harry. Granted, this was really the only safe place for the Hulk to stay if he was forced out but he couldn't just dump Harry in some hotel somewhere. Unless…
"I think I have an idea. You stay here. I'll handle arrangements for the kid."
A tear slipped down Bruce's face before he could stop it. "Tony- I-"
"I know," Tony sighed, getting to his feet, "I know." He glanced down, finally taking note of the splats of blue paint across his legs and the floor. A light blue tin lay on its side in the corner of the room, a messy trail lying in its wake.
"What-?" Tony breathed.
"Sir, you threw the tin of paint across the room earlier. The paint your ordered for Harry's room arrived while you were gone, I had one of the drones move it to your room." FRIDAY's crisp voice blasted overheard cheerfully.
Fucking great. He's never going to be able to get this out of the carpet.
He dragged a hand over his face slowly, feeling the life drain out of him all at once. Suddenly, the prospect of a fight seemed too far out of reach, even if it was technically his job to save people's lives. Who was going to save him from himself?
A hand grasped his wrist gently.
"It's okay Tony, you weren't in your right mind. This isn't your fault." Bruce's soft voice spoke behind him.
"I'd like to see Harry's face when I tell him it's not my fault that I threw the paint for his room away in a fit of anger. The only thing he's asked for since he got here and I've ruined it," Tony chuckled bitterly.
"We've all said and done things in the last couple of hours that we didn't mean. It's okay." Tony turned to look at Bruce. Recognising that they were no longer speaking strictly of Tony's behaviour towards Harry.
A simple nod was enough for them both to forget whatever vicious lies they had thrown at each other today. Focusing, instead, on the troubles to come.
"You better suit up," Bruce said, clapping Tony on the shoulder and leaving the room smoothly.
Tony stood for a few moments, closing his eyes and trying to calm his breathing. He needs rest.
But heroes aren't lucky enough to have their needs and wants looked after. All that ever matters is other people's needs and wants. Don't get him wrong, he loves helping people and he'd never stand aside when someone was out there needing his help but… When was his hero going to get there and save him too?
"FRIDAY, call Happy," Tony ordered as he ripped off his ruined pants and summoned his suit to him. No need to waste time with a new pair of pants, he'd worn the suit commando before anyway.
The ride to New York City was tense. It was Harry's first time meeting Happy, a man who certainly didn't live up to his name. Harry had spent the whole ride listening to the man mutter about driving ungrateful kids halfway around the country , which Harry thought was a bit unfair considering the drive was an hour or two max.
Harry had given up trying to speak to the man, though, after a simple, "Hi I'm Harry!" Had been received with a shrug and a short Look kid, I'm a very busy man and I really don't have time to do this today but the boss called so I'm here. He had then proceeded to spend the trip on various phone calls blah blah blah.
Harry knew how to be seen but not heard. He'd had plenty of practice at the Dursleys, after all. He also knew how to recognise an adult in a mood. Yeah, he'll stay silent in the back.
They eventually pulled up to a nice enough looking apartment. It's incredible normalness was the only thing putting Harry slightly on edge. Normal had never really worked out for him in anyway.
"Alright kid, this is your stop. Tony hasn't told me when he'll be back but these missions with Fury tend to linger so you'll stay here 'til I pick you up. Understood?" Happy said sharply from the front, turning his torso to glance back at the child.
Harry nodded diligently.
"Alright, I'm incredibly busy for the next two days while we're moving everything from Avengers Tower so I need you to not get in any trouble. Just keep your head down and stick with this kid. Give me your phone number so I can get a hold of you in case of an emergency."
"I don't have a phone," Harry spoke softly.
"You don't-" Happy began, startled, "Well, I suppose that's for the best anyway. Kids these days are too stuck to the bloody things."
Harry nodded diligently, glancing out the window at the apartment building.
"You waiting for an invitation?" Happy barked.
"Which room is it?" Happy looked startled for a moment before remembering his lack-lustre instructions.
"Oh, ah, fourth floor on the left, can't remember the number. Just ask for Peter Parker. Goodbye."
With that, Harry made a hasty exit onto the street, tugging his duffel bag behind him.
Just ask for Peter Parker, real helpful, Happy.
Who the hell is Peter Parker?
It was the fifth apartment he tried. He’s still not quite sure how he’d managed to fuck up the instructions so badly, and why on Earth do Americans start counting level 1 on the ground floor?
Deep breaths, Harry, deep breaths.
The woman who opened the door was frazzled but still managed to give Harry a brilliant smile and say she’s sorry but she’s not interested in whatever Harry’s selling.
Harry didn’t really know how to respond before the woman had closed the door in his face. He knocked again.
“Hi, sorry, I’m not selling anything. Is this Peter Parker’s apartment?” He blurted before she had a chance to say anything.
Her face broke out into a cheeky grin, “Well I sure hope not considering I’m paying the rent!” She winked playfully, opening the door wide, “You must be Peter’s friend from the Stark internship!”
And didn’t that make Harry pause? Peter’s friend from the Stark internship.
“Peter told me a couple of hours ago that something had happened and you needed a place to crash. I hope everything’s alright.” She smiled at him softly, her eyes inviting him to spill all his secrets in the way Molly Weasley had been able to. Harry’s heart skipped a beat at the thought of his friends. He needed to get out of here.
“Ah yes, apologies, my guardian was called away on urgent business. Thank you very much for agreeing to take me in for the night.” Harry heard the lie tumble from his lips before he could stop it. Well, not fully a lie but certainly not the whole truth. Guilt raced across his abdomen before he stamped it down angrily. Not the time.
“My dear, any friend of Peter’s is more than welcome here. Peter!” She called down the hall, “Your friend is here!”
A soft bang and the sound of objects tumbling to the ground announced Peter’s grand entrance. He stumbled multiples times, catching himself on various walls and chairs, as if he’s still trying to get used to the speed of his body. Harry can’t help but think of a flobberworm.
“Harry!” Peter exclaimed, rushing towards him and grabbing Harry’s right hand. Peter pressed their palms together and wrapped his left arm round Harry in a half-hug. “Please go with it.” He breathed.
“So good to see you!” Peter’s voice rose as he ended the greeting just as Harry’s left arm had risen to reciprocate. Luckily, Peter’s boisterous enthusiasm hid any fumble. “I thought we wouldn’t get to hang out anymore after Mr Stark revoked my internship.” He trailed off sadly as the woman pressed a firm hand to Peter’s shoulder.
A few beats passed before Harry shook himself, recognising that, as one of Peter’s close friends, he should comfort the boy.
“It isn’t the same without you, man. Rotten thing Mr Stark did.”
“Ah it was my own fault,” Peter responded dejectedly. He wrapped his hand around the back of his neck and sighed, slumping his shoulders. “Anyway! Let me show you where you’ll be sleeping,” Peter jumped excitedly, stealing Harry’s bag from his hand and racing back in the direction he came.
The woman’s eyes followed the boy before they shifted back to Harry, “Hopefully he’s just as energetic at work as he is here or you’re in for a nasty surprise…” She trailed off giggling softly.
“Ah, it’s just Peter being Peter!” Harry responded smiling slightly and following the teen down the short hallway.
“That’s for sure,” The woman’s soft voice trailed behind him.
Harry found Peter in the second bedroom, sitting backwards on a chair facing the door and beaming up at him.
“Close the door behind you,” Peter spoke smoothly, Harry’s certain he’s going to get whiplash from the amount of personalities this guy flicks between. He stepped past the threshold hesitantly, closing the door behind him with a soft click. He eyed the boy in the chair warily.
“What was that all about?” He asked eventually as it seemed like the other boy wasn’t going to start.
“Happy called earlier today, said that Mr Stark needed somewhere for his other intern to sleep for the night.”
“Said I’d be able to get back in Mr Stark’s good books.”
Had Stark told Happy that he was an intern or had Happy known the truth but told Peter a lie?
“I thought it’d be easiest to pretend we were good friends, makes it a bit easier to explain to Aunt May.”
Why would Stark lie that he was an intern? Why not tell the truth?
“So you need to at least pretend like you know things about me-“
He clearly trusted this kid, this household, at least somewhat otherwise he’d be spending the next few nights in a hotel somewhere or glued to Happy’s side.
“I’m very nerdy, really into science and all that jazz. Although, I suppose you are too.”
Was he ashamed of Harry? Was Stark, his own father, so fucking embarrassed he refused to even acknowledge he had a son?
“And anyway- are you listening?” Peter stopped abruptly. The silence took a few moments to register through the noise of Harry’s thoughts.
“Hmm?” He hummed glancing up.
“I was saying we have to pretend like we’re good friends from the internship, as if it’s a normal internship. You know?”
“Of course,” Harry replies smoothly.
Peter grins, “Love the accent by the way, haven’t heard of any superheroes from England though. Who are you?”
“I mean, I’m spiderman obviously. We both know that the ‘Stark Internship’ isn’t really an internship. Which superhero are you?” Peter asks leaning in, resting his elbows on his thighs.
“I- ah...” Harry trailed off, “I’m not…”
Peter’s eyes widen dramatically.
“You-you’re an actual intern, aren’t you? Shit. I’ve just let out a big secret. Oh my god, Mr Stark is gonna kill me! You have to promise not to tell him!” Peter exclaimed, leaping from the chair and clutching Harry’s shoulders, “Forget I just told you about my secret identity! Forget everything!”
“Okay, okay. Alright!” Harry cried, yanking away from the other boy. Annoyed to see that although Peter is short by normal standards, he still manages to have an inch or two over Harry. Fucking Dursleys.
“I’m not gonna tell anyone,” he breathes quietly, shoving past the boy to sit beside his bag he found thrown carelessly on the bottom bunk of Peter’s bunk bed.
Peter was silent for a few moments before bounding back towards him, “So you’re an actual intern then!? What do you do?”
Harry glanced back at big doe eyes and a wide smile. He grit his teeth. “Oh you know, get coffee, photocopy things, filing. The usual.”
“Wow~” Peter breathed, flopping on the bed beside him, “How does Mr Stark get his coffee?”
“Wow.” Air escaped Peter for several moments as he reigned in the stars in his eyes. He turned back to the enigma on the bed, propping himself up on a single elbow, “What’s it like working so closely with him all the time? It must be amazing!”
“Something like that,” Harry muttered unzipping the duffel bag he’d been given from the trip. It had all been very rushed. He’d barely made it back to his room before Stark had thrown his door open, muttered an apology, thrown a pre-packed bag at him and said he’s to wait for Happy to pick him up in 10.
Yep, folks, he’s definitely in the running for dad of the year at this point.
Shuffling through the bag he found a bunch of clothes he’d never seen before. They all looked fairly new, with a simple pattern and big logo across the front.
“Wow he’s given you Stark Industries t-shirts!!” Peter jumped up, snatching the garment from Harry’s hands and holding it up in front of him, “I’ve never seen this design before, it must be the latest collection!”
Wow, lucky him. Harry holds a shirt up himself, noting the much too large size and ghastly design. Truthfully, he wouldn’t be caught dead in it, where’s Dudley’s cast-offs when you need them?
“You’re so lucky!” Peter beams at him, hugging the shirt to his chest and glancing at Harry.
“You can keep them if it makes you that excited,” Harry mumbled shoving the offending garment back in the bag and tossing it at Peter’s feet. The next moment he’s being suffocated as a solid body slams into him from the side and smothers him on the bed. Harry’s quiet hiss of pain as his ribs protest goes unnoticed by the frazzled teen who’s already leapt up and is currently spinning around the room as if the Stark shirt was his partner in some kind of impromptu waltz.
Honestly, what has Harry gotten himself into now? This kid is off his rocker.
Said teen abruptly stopped and whipped his head around to stare at Harry.
“Wait! Now you’ll have no clothes for the tomorrow,” Peter mumbled moving around the room.
“It’s fine, I’ll just wear what I have on.”
The look Peter threw Harry was a no you will not followed by a that’s kinda disgusting as he opened his closet and started rifling through his clothes. Harry didn’t feel the need to point out that for years he’d worn the same rags day after day without anyone having a problem with it.
“Alright, you’re a little bit smaller than me so I can give you some of my old clothes that don’t really fit anymore,” Peter spoke, chucking various things at Harry’s head and successfully dislodging his glasses. Harry held up one of the shirts, it definitely looked like it would fit him better.
“What’s the design on the front?” Harry blurted.
“The- The death star...” Peter trailed off giving Harry his full attention. “You- Surely you’ve seen Star Wars?”
“Ah can’t say that I have,” Harry laughed quietly, folding the shirt haphazardly and creating a pile to his left.
“You- Have you been living under a rock?” Peter demanded. Harry faltered, in so many ways he guesses he had been. Not specifically a rock, more a staircase, but he’s sure it’s the principle that applies here. “I- We need to do something about this. Now.”
With that, Peter turns on his heel and marches back into the living where he loudly declared, “Aunt May. A grave injustice has occurred. My good friend Harry has never seen Star Wars. Where do we keep the box set? Do we have enough popcorn? It’s going to be a loooong night.”
Harry’s mind whirls for a moment. The kind woman that had looked at Peter with such fondness in her eyes was his aunt?
“What a travesty!” Her high voiced laughed back, “We must repair this at once!”
And that’s how Harry found himself, pressed between the kind woman and the rambunctious teen, a plastic container full of some noodles they’d found in the fridge clutched in his hands and a bowl of popcorn in his lap, watching Episode VI because no, you see they made the fourth one first so you have to watch that first. The prequels were terrible, so we’ll watch them after-
He took another mouthful of his mystery meal and glanced at Peter, the boy had leaned in to whisper in his ear loudly, his body pressed up against Harry’s left arm. Harry couldn’t have told you what the boy said if you pointed a gun at his head or offered him a million dollars, instead watching Peter’s eyes light up and a smile stretch across his face. How could anyone have so much energy? He wondered, incredulously.
He felt Peter wriggle against his him for the sixth, no maybe it’s the seventh, time; confirming Harry’s suspicions that the boy is a flobberworm in a human skin. God, the teen will not sit still.
Peter leaned in again to explain some other “Easter Bunny”, whatever that means. Harry was too busy focusing on Peter’s breath on his neck, his hand landing on his thigh as he missed the popcorn bowl, the bright blush that lit up both of their cheeks as they smiled apologetically.
The woman’s quiet giggling beside him certainly wasn’t helping, nor the way she simply smiled when Harry had whipped around to glare automatically.
“Will you please sit still?” He hissed awkwardly, lifting the bowl to throw his left leg over his right and decrease the amount of his body touching Peter.
“Sorry! I’m just excited! It’s Star Wars,” Peter shone as he held Harry’s gaze, unbothered by Harry’s prickly behaviour, “I get to watch you watch Star Wars for the first time! I’d give anything to be able to experience it for the first time again.”
Harry’s certain he can help with that little life goal. A simple obliviate and he’d have the kid eating out of the palm of his hands.
“Be careful what you wish for,” Harry muttered turning back to the film in time to watch one character slice another character’s arm off. Maybe a few years ago he would have been able to appreciate the films, laugh at the quips, gawk at the fight scenes, cheer at the victories. But now every time he sees the neon lights of the sticks they carry he can’t help but see the cruciatus curse flinging at him. Every time a character falls to their knees he can’t help but see Sirius’ body floating into the veil. Every time he hears a character cry out in pain he can’t help but hear the cries of his friends. The sounds of battle. The pain. The-
“I’ll be right back,” He declared suddenly, lurching to his feet. Popcorn sprayed everywhere as he’d forgotten to lift the bowl in his haste. He blanched. “Oh my, I’m so sorry. I- I’ll clean it up. I’m so sorry.”
“No, no dear! No problem. Let’s find the dustpan, it must be somewhere around here. You go do whatever you needed to do, I’ll clean this up.” The woman’s bright voice showered him as she rose elegantly to hunt through the kitchen for cleaning supplies.
Harry was already using his hands to scoop the disaster back into the bowl, Peter joining him on the floor.
“Are you alright?” Peter asked quietly.
“Just fine, thanks.” Harry muttered, rushing to put the popcorn back in. Quickly Harry, quickly! She’s almost back, he must clean this up, hurry!
“Are you sure? You’re breathing kinda fast.”
“I’m fine,” He snarled, clenching his fists and destroying the food around him. He grit his teeth, forcing his body to co-operate, to calm down. His head was pounding, his body thrumming with energy.
“Here, stop, I’ll do this. You sit down or something. It’s okay- It’s- Stop,” Peter demanded suddenly, gluing his hands to Harry’s wrists and forcing them off the carpet. He held Harry against him and forced their eyes to meet, “It’s okay, it’s only popcorn. We can clean it up. Didn’t you need to go somewhere? Maybe go splash some water on your face in the bathroom, it’s just through that door.”
He indicated his hand as he pulled Harry to his feet and gently nudged him in the right direction.
Harry couldn’t really think as he stumbled away, barely managing to close the door before his breathing quickened. He leaned his head against the mirror, his hands resting on the back of his neck. He closed his eyes and tried to breathe. His chest was moving too fast, his body refusing to co-operate.
He felt his knees give out, he slumped to the floor pressing his head against the cool tiles. The sounds of war seeped under the door frame as the movie still blared in the background. He cupped his palms over his ears, trying to block it all out. His scar started to hurt, it started to throb. He clawed at his forehead, breaking skin and leaving four even scratches across his scar. He needed it off.
But it didn’t work. Just as it never works. He tried to hastily throw up some mental shields. Begging his mind to remember any of the ridiculous lessons he’d taken with Snape. Anything that could help him now.
He’s flung into a dark room. A loud cackle of laughter echoes around him. He’s in a cell, he thinks. He sees a figure. Hunched, wild greying hair standing on end, whimpers escape his lips, blood creeping from his body.
“I don’t know,” The man mumbled before throwing his head back and screaming as the cruciatus was directed to him again. Harry slipped his eyes closed and wished he wasn’t here. He slid to the floor, curled his arms around his knees, buried his head in his arms as sounds echoed around him.
Suddenly he was there, mumbling, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. He felt the curse. Not the first time he’s felt it but he’s certain he knows who this is. Only one person’s cruciatus manages to have that much bite and sting.
And suddenly Voldemort was there, snarling in front of him, grabbing his clothes – the man’s clothes? – and hissing.
”I know you’re lying, Ollivander.”