Chapter 1: The Station
The Dursleys hadn't come.
His expectations for them were low but even this seemed a step below their usual behaviour. Sure they treated him badly when he got home but at least he got home. They hadn't even bothered to pick him up this time.
He could feel Moody grumbling beside him as the sun started to set. He had volunteered to stay with Harry to ensure he got home safe. Or, more accurately, he had volunteered to stay with Harry to give the Dursleys a good talking to - to make sure they treat him nicely after everything that happened with Sirius and the ministry. God, what a complete shit show that was. Speaking of, he needed to get back there to finish cleaning up the aftermath. The political storm that was brewing was far worse than anything anyone had seen before and Moody knew he needed to be there to make sure the dust settled in the right cracks. He didn't have time to babysit the boy for much longer.
He checked his watch again. 20:03. That's it.
"Harry," he calls to grab the boy's attention, "I can't wait around all night for your relatives to show up. You know how important it is that you stay with them this summer, given everything that's going on. Is it far to walk from here?"
Harry shook his head knowing full well it takes a good hour or so by car. He has no intention of staying at the Dursleys. Not after everything he'd discovered this year.
"Good, well then. I'll be off. I'll have another order member come by later on to make sure you're not still here. Someone will be by the house tomorrow to make sure you're alright. Just don't do anything stupid boy, that house is the only place on Earth we can ensure your safety."
So the fact that he spends 9 months out of the year away from the house definitely proves it's the safest place on Earth. Although, for the first time ever, he didn't want to stay at Hogwarts over the summer. Getting as far away from Dumbledore as possible seemed like a good idea. He needed a break from everything. After -
Moody popped away without a second thought. Well. Good to know how much his safety means to them. Is it far to walk from here? Are you kidding? Sure the death eaters probably aren't scouring muggle London trying to find him right now but that doesn't mean he should take a 9 hour stroll back to the Dursley's at night. Good to know that the concern stopped at the train station. What could Moody even be doing that was so important anyway? He could have apparated to Surrey in a second!
With a glare at the ground Harry felt his mind switch off. It was all too much. He was tired and hungry and alone. He didn't care that they had left him - good riddance! To the Dursleys and the Order! He doesn't care about them and they certainly don't care about him. After everything that's happened they just leave him here? Well, fuck it. He's not going back. He's going to explore his other option. An option Dumbledore had specifically warned was a plan B only but what did Dumbledore know? Hiding things from him constantly. He doesn't care about Harry, he doesn't care about what's best for Harry, he just wants his little puppets to live and die for him.
A bright light momentarily blinds him.
"Oi! What are you doing hanging around here?"
Harry raises a hand to shield his face in a poor attempt to stop the torch's beam. He sees fragments of navy blue and instantly recognises the police. This could either be the luck he needed or the worst thing to happen all day.
There's no more time to ponder on it as the policeman hoists Harry up by his arm, a tight ring of purple already appearing on his bicep.
"You're coming with me! Can't have lost boys hanging around the place. Too many complaints of little thieves and dirty rats scurrying around. You'd know all about that wouldn't you boy? Sleeping on all your possessions. Although it is a nice trunk you've got - I'm sure I'll get much delight giving it back to the real owner. HJP. Well, Henry whatever is going to be very happy when I track him down."
Harry's eyes grow wide in alarm.
"No! Sir! Please! You misunderstand! I was waiting for my family but they never came-"
"That's Officer Bernard to you boy. I've heard it all before. You'll have plenty of time to construct your story while we sort it all out. Now shut up before I do something we'll both regret. It's too public to make a scene here."
"But you don't understan-"
"I said BE QUIET." He growled, shoving Harry to the floor. He grabs the handle of Harry's trunk and snags Harry's other arm up to drag him to the holding area. He storms across the station, ignoring the pitiful cries of the boy and the second glances of the public. None of them stop him on his way. Just as he knew they wouldn't. Society is all high and mighty until it's right in their face and they avert their gaze to avoid feeling guilty that they agree. Because although he might be rough around the edges, this police officer knows the truth. And any one of these averted gazes will be looking at him dead in the eye tomorrow complaining about a stolen watch or bag or wallet.
He reaches his officer and throws open the door to find his manager, Robb. Robb is an uppity 36 year old that thinks he knows everything. He preaches all the new dignity guidelines and what not. Treating criminals like they're innocent. Bernard had seen the worst of the worst, he had been working this station for 40 years - well before this little snot was out of nappies.
He instantly loosens his hold on the boy, subtly pushing him to the ground. Robb has a real soft spot for kids. Even the roughest delinquents that are going to grow up to murder somebody. Bernard can already taste the blood in his mouth. He steps over the boy, allowing his steel-toed boot to dig in to the boys ribs on his way past. The boy bites back a groan. It fills Bernard with rage that he didn't elicit a stronger response.
"It was an accident!" He growled and glared. They both new full well it was intentional but Robb knew that he needed Bernard at Kings Cross. There was only so much he could do. "Get in boy," He says as he approaches the rusted cage in the far corner. It's too small for a child, let alone a teen, but it's policy to hold all minors in the cage until a suitable decision is made for what to do with them. Bernard likes to drag the process out so he can see them huddle with the shoulders hunched, forced to cower in his presence.
Harry looks at the cage and feels bile start to rise in his mouth. Are they seriously going to lock him in a cage for sitting at the station? For doing nothing? This can't be happening. He wishes he had run when he had the chance.
He turns his head to the other man, this one seems nicer. Younger too.
Robb melts instantly upon seeing those big green eyes turn on him. He sees the pain and the loneliness. He feels the ache in his bones.
"I'm sorry son but it's policy to hold all minors in the cell until you're either released, sent to child protective services or to jail." He had been petitioning for years over the treatment of individuals in holding cells, particularly minors. He knows that many sees it as a necessary evil considering most of the people are re-offending criminals but his heart aches for the innocent few who are scarred for life.
Harry resigns to his fate quickly. The past week has been miserable. The past year has been miserable. His whole life has been miserable. What's one more day of adults not believing him? Maybe if he ended up in jail he'd be so well contained at least Voldemort couldn't get to him.
He struggles to his feet still feeling a burn in his rib where the first officer had kicked him. His arm feels like it's been wrenched out of its socket from being dragged across the station but at least he can walk with his head high.
Until he has to bend it to get in to the cage.
He can feel the first officer grinning smugly beside him, watching Harry struggle into position. Watching him fidget, trying to find a comfortable spot. Bernard knows well that there isn't one. He watches Harry realise that the bars are slightly too close to sit down, forcing him up and hunched over. He smirks. He loves his job.
"Now son, can I have your name to begin with?" Robb calls picking up a pen and paper and meandering his way through the stacks of boxes to get closer to Harry.
"Any last name?"
"None I'm willing to give." That answer gives Robb pause.
"So I'm guessing you're an orphan?"
"My uncle was supposed to pick me up from the station, like he does every year when I get back from boarding school. But he didn't show up. That's why I was waiting on my trunk. I wasn't hanging around to steal anything or anything. Please you've got to belie-"
"I caught him eyeing up a lady. He was staking his target. I arrested him for harassment." Bernard pipes up with a grin.
"THAT'S A LIE! I-"
"Now Harry. There's no need to shout. We can confirm everything on CCTV. That's not a problem. Is there anything else you'd like to tell me before I review the tapes? Any relatives I should call?" Robb asks politely.
"I don't have their phone number…" Harry mutters, eyes locked on the floor. Suddenly regretting his stubbornness in refusing to remember their numbers. Not wanting anything of the Dursleys. Well guess that worked out well for him.
"That's ok. I need to go review the tapes as the manager in charge of this branch. It's all procedure stuff, I always have to do this so don't worry you're not in any trouble yet. My colleague will watch over you while I'm gone so don't worry about anything. We'll sort this out."
Harry locks eyes with Bernard as Robb leaves the room. The temperature drops several degrees as Bernard eyes Harry's stiff figure.
"You know he'll find out you lied? I wasn't doing anything. I don't even think there was anyone near me!" Harry bursts out viciously.
"Oh I know…" Bernard beings slyly, "I just wanted some alone time with you. I always get some one on one time with the criminals but this will give us some extra time."
"What are you going to do? Beat me? Pretty sure your manager won't like that." Harry growls.
His eyes widen as Bernard nears the cage, towering over the steel bars.
"No.. Nothing that will leave a mark… You see, I'm a business man at heart. I can help you get a lesser sentence if you do something for me…" He presses himself against the bars, sliding his hand between the top bars to gently cup Harry's head. He revels in the wide eyes staring back in disbelief. His tongue darts between his lips as his thumb comes around to brush against the boy's lips. Digging his nail into the bottom lip he forces the boy's mouth open and presses the pad of his finger to his tongue.
Harry bites down harshly, furious. He can't believe what's happening right now. Trapped in a cage at the mercy of this vile beast. Fuck, maybe he should've begun the 9 hour trek to Surrey instead.
No time to ponder his poor life choices as the hand yanks his hair back exposing his throat and forcing him to his knees. A second hand wraps around his neck and squeezes.
"That was a silly thing to do boy… Look at you baring your neck to me. You're making me hard."
Harry wheezes for breath, bringing his hands up to claw at the offending appendage. He backs in to the corner of the cage in a desperate attempt at escape. Bernard retrieves his left hand, tightening his right in the boy's hair until he can feel the threads tug loose.
"Look at you choking for breath. I'm just helping you practice for the next part…" He reaches for his zipper, popping the button and dragging the little piece of metal down.
The door flies open and Robb enters the room.
"Bernard.." He sighs resigned. Bernard stands and zips himself back up, knowing full well that although Robb doesn't report his behaviour to head office he's not going to stand back and let him take the boy's throat in front of him. Pity. The boy certainly had a good mouth on him when he was screaming earlier.
"I've looked over the security footage and there was no woman near you at the time of your arrest. However, we can't just let you go. You're a minor and thus, we need to ensure you have somewhere to sleep tonight. Bernard, call Helen."
"Roger that." Bernard bites out reaching for the phone.
"Now Harry.. I'm sorry that this has happened to you but we're going to make sure you get home safely, ok?"
"What is that supposed to mean? That officer just tried to rape me!? You're not going to, I don't know, arrest him?"
"Harry," Robb says sternly, "I was here the entire time and didn't see anything happen. It's a crime to declare a false statement. I wouldn't want to have to arrest you tonight."
"You already have!" He growls angry and bitter. Seems like corruption doesn't just exist in the Wizarding World. Turns out humans are shit no matter where they come from.
"Helen will be here in 10." Bernard states before getting to his feet, "I'm going to start rifling through this box of stolen toys.."
"Bernard. We checked the tapes. The trunk came with him, it's not stolen. It's against policy to go through an innocent man's items without due cause. I think it best if we just leave it alone until Helen gets here."
Bernard turns with a sigh and storms out of the room.
"I'll just head back to patrol then." He grumbles leaving Harry and Robb in silence.
Harry relaxes minutely seeing the beast leave his lair. He shuffles until he's able to pull his knees to his chest, hugging himself and resting his head.
Silence descends in the damp cell.
"I'm sorry." The whispered words make him lift his head. He knows he should be surprised but he's so exhausted he can hardly make sense of the words. "I know what Bernard did was wrong but you have to understand. He's been here forever. He rules this station. I might have the seniority to keep him in line. But if I ever actually piss him off and it's his word against mine… the force can't afford to replace him."
"That's a bullshit excuse and you know it." Harry snarls, turning his head away.
He just wants to leave. He wants to grab his trunk and run. Anywhere that's away from here. Hell, he'd even choose the Dursleys over whatever's happening here.
A knock at the door interrupts his miserable musings. The door opens without permission and a kind face peaks through the crack.
"Robb, I heard you found another stray? Oh! He's already in the room! Um yes. Hi, my name's Helen! I'll be your social worker for the next couple of days as we figure out how to get you home. Bernard didn't mention your name..?" She says cheerfully as she opens strides into the room and opens the cage with a practiced ease that gives away the sheer number of times she's been called here to do this.
"It's Harry, and look - I have family waiting for me. They live at number 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey. I don't have their number but if you can just take me there-"
"Not to worry, my dear, we'll call the house phone. What name should I ask for?" She asks, already whipping out her phone and pressing a button, "Hi Roger, yes it's Helen, I just have a child here saying his family live in 4 Privet Drive, Surrey. Can you find the number and call them? The name is-"
"Dursley, Vernon and Petunia Dursley."
"-Drizzley, yes D R I-"
"No Ma'am it's Dursley. D U R S L E Y." Harry says with a roll of his eyes. Honestly this whole process has been a complete mess and now he's starting to shake from the thin jacket he had wrapped around his shoulders on the heated train that barely stops the wind from hitting his bones.
"-Scratch that it's DURSLEY. Yes, D-"
Harry starts over to his trunk and kneels on the ground. Popping it open to start ruffling through his few possessions. Still not quite believing there's ever a moment in his life where he actually wants to go to the Dursleys'. The horror.
Helen ends the call quite abruptly and turns to find Harry on the floor, elbow deep in shirts and trousers. A frown covers her face at the sight of his torn clothes. Not fully believing this boy has any family left and clearly carrying all his possessions in one bag. Typical orphan behaviour, she thinks as she smooths a kind smile onto her face.
"Now dear, how about you come with me and I'll drive you to Surrey in case your family's there. I've just got a colleague trying to contact them now. If we can't reach them then you'll have to be put in an orphanage for the night, nothing to do about it, but no matter what we'll get this sorted by tomorrow." She places her hand on his shoulder gently and helps him pull on a second jacket. Even though it's coming in to summer now, it's still cold out at 10 at night, no time for any child to be running around without a proper jacket on. She eyes the rips at the bottom, mentally adding to the evidence that the child is lying.
Unfortunately, it's all too common for her to hear the children whine their stories. It was a trap she fell in to many times when she was just starting out. Taking a child back to their 'homes' and dropping them off outside a nice house. Believing them when they said their parents were out for the night but their older sibling might be there to take care of them so she didn't need to wait. Driving off with a smile on her face knowing she helped only to run in to the same child sleeping rough outside a bank not two days later. Never again, she vowed. You never can trust what they say.
She helps guide the boy - Harry, she reminds herself - out of the filthy police holding area. It breaks a piece of her heart every time she sees a child huddle in that prison they keep in there. She's been trying to lobby for years but 'no funding' is the constant evil breathing down her neck and forcing the shackles over her hands. She tries to do what she can to ensure the kids get out as quickly as possible and in to a nice home. Her throat tightens at the thought of the children stuck in the foster care system that can't quite seem to find a good match. There's nothing for it though because what's the alternative to a child with nothing? She won't let them freeze to death on the streets. At least in foster care there's a chance for a better home.
She feels Harry tense under her hand as they approach the exit. Following his gaze she spots a short man huddled over what appears to be a bird cage. The man looks up and stares at Harry for a moment, dragging his eyes up and down the boy's slight frame before scurrying into the shadows. A frown crosses her features. That's another reason she likes to keep children in foster care. At least they're not out there doing things for money to survive. At least they get a bed and some food even if they are bounced between homes more often than laundry in a washing machine. At least they retain some innocence when they turn 18 and can find a place for themselves.
She pushes firmly on his shoulder to get him moving again. She thought she heard him mutter something like "Mundungs" or "mundane" maybe? A vicious looks crosses his face before he catches her staring and forces it blank again. That's another thing she mustn't forget. For as many innocent children as she saves she also saves the bad ones. It can't be helped that there are a few rotten apples that scare their foster parents into submission or break things and cause havoc. She mentally makes a note to place him with a family she knows is not afraid to give a firm hand when needed. Never excessively, but certainly enough to pull them in line.
They finally reach her car and she helps him lift the trunk into the back seat. It's surprisingly heavy and makes her wonder how he was planning on rolling it all around the city.
They silently move into the front seats of the car and pull out from the station. After a few moments she switches on the radio to drown out the unbearable silence. She much prefers the chatty kids that at least give her hints into their lives.
"So, want to tell me what you were doing at Kings Cross?" She asks brightly, flashing a smile in his direction.
Harry searches her eyes for a beat before she has to turn back to the road, pulling on her indicator to get in to the left lane.
"I go to a boarding school in Scotland. The train brought us back here this morning. I've been waiting for my aunt and uncle to pick me up ever since."
Boarding school in Scotland? So not poor, obviously. But what about his torn clothes… he could be lying?
"Do you like the school? Make many friends?"
"A few." He states sharply. So not a conversationalist then. She tries again.
"Well that must be nice! I always wanted to go to boarding school but my parents could never afford it. It must be fun to spend all day with your friends. It's like having a hundred sleep overs in a row!"
"Yeah. It's good." He mutters.
The sharp ringing of her phone interrupts any further attempts at conversation. She hesitates briefly knowing Harry will be able to hear everything but then chooses to answer her phone, it's definitely Roger calling to confirm whether they found his family so he has every right to hear it anyway.
"Hi Roger! I'm just in the car with Harry on our way to Surrey. I'm assuming you have good news?" She's actually assuming he has bad news but she appears optimistic for the child. No point telling him to his face that she knows he's lying through his teeth.
"Unfortunately not, we were able to get the home phone number for 4 Privet Drive but the someone by the name of Sarah Kell answered the phone. Said she'd never heard of the Dursleys' before."
"WHAT!" Harry screamed from the passenger seat, a look of panic painting his face, "No, no, no. They definitely live there.. Can't you find where they went? Maybe they sold their house!"
"Son… the new owners would have signed a deal with the Dursleys if that were the case. Mrs. Kell confirmed they had only been living there for a few months but they didn't buy it from the Dursleys."
"Well call who they bought it from! The previous owners must have bought it from the Dursleys! I was just there last summer! I can prove it! Ask if there were padlocks on the upstairs bedroom! Or.. Or drawings in the cupboard under the stairs! Oh! The floorboards in the second bedroom are loose! There should be some canned food in there! Please!"
At this point, Helen reaches over and puts a comforting hand on his shoulder to stop the chaotic sounds tumbling out of him. Senseless rambling will get them nowhere.
"Roger, we understand. Thank you for trying. Even if the Dursleys had been there before, they certainly aren't there now. I'll take Harry with me to Genevieve for the night."
"NO. They're there. You have to help me. You have to believe me!" Harry cries putting his head in his hands. If the Dursleys have left that means the blood wards have fallen which means Voldemort can find him anywhere which means-
"No problem Helen, I'll ring Gen to let her know you're coming."
A sharp click ends the conversation and the car descends into silence once more.
"I'm sorry we couldn't find your family," Helen says, trying to put as much sympathy in her voice as possible. Even though she knew this was coming it still hurts to see the boy so lost. It's almost like he really believed the Dursleys would be there. But she's seen the act before and she knows her part to play. If she calls him out on his lie now he won't speak to her again, knowing she won't believe him. She has to keep the act up to stay his confidant.
"Is.. Is there anyone else we could try? Who would take you in for the night?" The question is just a formality. Any name he gave now wouldn't be worth her time trying to find.
"Ah Mrs Figg lived a couple of doors down, she would babysit me some times as a kid. She would take me in for the night for certain." He says thinking quickly. He just needs to get in to the area and then find the Order member on duty outside the house. They'll be able to take him back to the Weasleys now that the blood wards aren't an option. He just hopes Mundungus isn't on duty. The little shit would demand some kind of payment for his services and Harry spent the last galleon he had on sweets from the trolley.
"Ok honey, well we'll look into this Mrs Fig tomorrow. It's much too late to do anything more tonight."
"No, please! I need to get there today."
"Young man. You are in need of a shower and a bed. You are not in need of gallivanting across England looking for every name you can think of." She huffs pulling up to an old building. The paint is peeling off the front and the sign says Opanage rather than Orphanage but Gen's the nicest out there and the only one she trusts to give the kids a firm hand when needed.
She helps Harry with his trunk, knowing full well it'll be confiscated on sight. The children often steal from each other so possessions are kept for safe keeping in a separate room away from everything. This is particularly necessary as they often find stolen jewellery in the bags the children bring with them, such treasure that would be broken or lost if left in the hands of the children. Helen remembers being disgusted with the process at the beginning but begrudgingly accepted that selling of the children's goods was the best way to put food on the table and keep Gen happy.
She ushers him inside and leaves his trunk just inside the door.
"Don't worry you can pick it up later. Let's go find Genevieve. Remember to always refer to her as Madam. She won't tolerate any disrespect in her house." She says sternly, pushing him into a separate room.
The brick walls enclose the hallways with as cold, detached coating. Mysterious stains mar the floors and ceilings and a soft odour permeates the walls.
Harry feels instantly alone.
He glances back at his trunk lying at the front door and startles when he sees a tall, lanky man drag it away. He doesn't believe Helen for one second that he'll be seeing it any time soon.
He has to get out of here.
He tracks the man's retreating form and begins mapping out the layout of the house. He starts to plot his next move. There is one thing he hasn't tried yet. He didn't want to acknowledge the information but perhaps if he can use it to get out of here then at least he has room to move around…
They stop before a short frail woman. Her skin sags around her arms and face in a way that shows many happy moments in the sun. She gives Harry a warm smile and wraps her arms around her. Harry can't help but think if he breathed out too harshly he'd accidentally knock her over. He forces himself to return the hug, snaking his arms around her slim figure in a way he hopes will get him on her good side.
"Oh honey you look in need of a good feed! Let me get you a bowl from dinner while we wait for Gen to come downstairs - she's just puttin' some of the lil uns to bed now. She'll be down in a tick. What's your name son?"
"Harry, ma'am. Thank you for looking after me for tonight but I do have family waiting for me out there-"
"Yes, honey no need to get in to that tonight. It's much too late! Just sit down and have a cuppa." she presses her hand on his shoulder, guiding him to sit at the table. Helen slides in to the seat beside him, a cup of tea miraculously in her hand already. She smiles warmly at the old woman.
"Thank you, Eve, Harry's just in a bit of a pickle so he'll stay here while we try to find someone he might know that is willing to take him."
I do have someone that's willing to take me. Harry thinks of the Weasleys. Of Molly practically shoving food into his mouth telling him to fatten up. Of Arthur's booming laugh and merry wonderment at the tv remote Harry stole from the Dursleys last time he went to the Burrow. Of Fred and George starting food fights at the table and looking suitably chagrined when Molly yelled but continued their antics at the next meal anyway. Of Ginny's sly glances at him from the table, asking if he'd like more of this or that and sternly keeping her brothers in line. Of Ron, his best mate, patting him on the back and letting him know he's always welcome.
But, enough of that. He needs to get out of here first. He needs to get away from Helen in a way that will ensure she doesn't hang around long enough that he can call the Knight Bus or contact a member of the Order to come pick him up. He's going to have to use his plan B. Or, more accurately, his plan Z that he had never planned on going anywhere near because the whole concept is just too difficult to wrap his head around-
A bowl of sludge is placed before him. It's cold and brown with a mysterious lump in the corner. It looks like the consistency of porridge and his stomach immediately turns at the sight. A brief thought of more willing to starve than eat this flashes through his mind before he's instantly hit with a wave of shame over the memories of actually starving in his cupboard or the second bedroom and his wishes for anything, anything, to get it to stop.
He lifts his spoon and digs in quickly. It slides down his throat like glue but it's better than the sharp stabbing ache that he'll get in his stomach otherwise.
He's halfway through his meal when the door creaks open and a slim figure steps through. Madam Genevieve has beautiful, long blonde hair flowing to her waste and bright blue eyes. Her dress hugs her figure in a way that leaves nothing to the imagination and Harry gawks for a second before giving himself a mental slap. She glides into the room smoothly and props herself on the chair opposite Harry.
Immediately reaching for his left hand laying on the table uselessly, she holds on to him and gives him a warm smile.
"Harry. I've heard you're going to be spending some time with us. It is such a pleasure to have you with us and we're so glad you could be with us rather than out there in the cold catching god knows what illness! Thank you lord for bringing us this strapping young man and keeping him healthy and safe so that he could be here with us today." She ends with a playful wink that leaves Harry unsure if he should be feeling flattered or weary.
"Thank you for the hospitality ma'am. This will only be for tonight, I do have people that I can go to-"
"Yes, yes, of course, of course. We know that we're only a pit stop for young men such as yourself who have more important things to do than stay with us poor women haha." Her laugh tinkles in the damp room. Her entire character so at odds with the entire house.
"Ma'am I promise… I… I-"
"It's alright, find the right words hun." She says sweetly. Pressing her thumbs into the back of his hand, unknowingly digging in to the scar left by his detentions this year. He wonders if she can even see it or if the glamour spell he had been using was still holding strong.
"I.." This was the moment he was going to let it all out. He was going to tell the truth. Everything.
"I have a dad who I've never met before. He left me with my mum and I was left with her sister when she died. I don't know how to get in contact with him but I know he's my dad because my aunt told me. I didn't believe her at first but I did a paternity test this year and found it to be true…"
Not quite the truth but not quite a lie either. It was a potion's lesson he'd never forget when Snape had them prepare arbor familiae, a potion that shows an individual's family tree. It was a complicated potion that Snape thought would help teach them to feel the rhythm of the brewing process as it required exact stirs to get right. Instead when Harry had added a hair from his head to test the potion, it had taught him that his father was not in fact James Potter. Much to the surprise of everyone in the classroom.
The subsequent bark of Go to the headmaster Mr Potter had left him scrambling to run away from it all. The tense discussions about why Harry still had to go back to the Dursleys rather than hunting down his real father and having a home had erupted into a dramatic storming out of the office by Harry. He hadn't really had the time to process the whole ordeal however as at that moment he had collapsed to the ground from searing pain in his scar. All of his exams had then been upon him, and then he had gone to the ministry to rescue Sirius and then he had failed and then - and then -
"Well, what's his name? Maybe we could look him up and try to get in contact with him tomorrow?" Helen says kindly, a soft smile stretching across her lips.
"His name is Tony Stark."
Sharp barks of laughter echoed in his ears.
Chapter 2: The Test
Tony gets some news and Harry arrives in New York.
Short chapter but I really felt like it needed to end where it did :)
Tony exits the board room with a sigh. He pinches the bridge of his nose as he takes a sharp right and shuffles down the hall, trying to stop the impending headache he can feel.
He knows the accords are important but come on. The Avengers are the only people that can protect the world against shit like aliens. Fucking Aliens. I'm sorry if we knock over a couple of buildings! Yes, 100 civilians dead is not good but that's nothing compared to the literal 7 billion humans on Earth that would've died if the Avengers hadn't intervened. He's knows they're not perfect but fuck, who is? And what's the alternative? Let the aliens take over and massacre the entire human race? Good plan.
He rolls his eyes as he rounds a corner, abruptly coming to a halt in front of the love of his life. Pepper is suited up in a blue button down that matches her eyes, her hair rests gently on below her shoulders and the STARK tablet in her hand makes his stomach jump with love. She's supported him with everything she had when no one else was there. She keeps him grounded and loved and he thanks every god out there every day that she's stayed with him.
"Tony, just who I wanted to see. Bad meeting?"
"The worst. What've you got for me?" He dodges the piercing look in her eyes. He doesn't have time to explain to her that it's fine the rest of the team isn't trying to settle the accords in the same way he is, they're busy and he's a good business man. He's not running himself into the ground again.
"It's not good news Tony. Another claim of a child-"
"Nope Pep. Nope. I'm sorry. I love you, but I just cannot deal with that right now. You know what we always do. It's never mine, you know how careful I am, nope. I'm not looking at it." He brushes past her abruptly.
"Tony.." Her soft voice makes him pause, "You might want to have a look at this one.."
That's odd. That's very odd. Usually Pepper's the first person to dismiss the claims. Usually she's the first person calling the lawyers and setting up a counter-sue for defamation of character. Usually-
But not this time. This time she's asking him to look at the photo.
He snatches the tablet out of her hands and gazes at the child - no, man almost. He's definitely a teenager. Almost grown up. That would put him back in the years when Tony wasn't quite as careful as he is now.
The hair gets to him first, it's the same messy abandon that his hair has. The strong jaw is another feature that stands out to him. The nose looks a little off and the glasses definitely have to go but…
It's the eyes that get him.
He knows those eyes.
His stomach sinks at the thought of those eyes staring into his soul from a pretty face with flowing red hair. He doesn't remember much of the night but he'll never forget the captivating stare that had him out of his chair and across the club in a heartbeat back when he was in London for a thing. Not even the black widow herself could pick up a man that quickly.
He stares for a beat longer before dragging his eyes up to Pepper's.
"Have we done a test?"
"It's a bit hard… He's in England." He supposes he should be surprised, but he's not. That's where he met the boy's mother. God, he can't even remember her name. That was back when he would take so many pills he'd pass out and wake up in two weeks. That was back when they would make bets to see how far gone he could go and what he'd do.
"Send a plane over there. I don't have time to go pick him up myself, especially since there's no solid evidence yet and I'm not sending my DNA anywhere outside of our labs. Just set him up somewhere here until the results come back…" He drifts off, his mind whirring a mile a minute.
"Pepper… I can't look after a child. I don't have time right now- I-"
"Tony. He looks like he's a teenager anyway. You remember what you were like back then? Just let him do his own thing and come to you when he needs you. Teenagers like there space. Just give him a bed and some food and he'll love you. It sounds like he just needs a place to go." She says kindly, gripping his forearm in comfort to help ground him before his thoughts went haywire.
Harry arrived in New York two days later. Well not New York but some kind of base north of it. It's a massive facility with multiple private jets hanging around, just like the one Tony had sent for him.
Tony. His dad. His dad was rich. Not even that, his dad was a superhero. Or at least that's what he heard that woman, Helen, mutter when they were driving to the nearest private airport. Can't make this shit up people. Harry had been expecting to go to some family home or apartment somewhere in England. Meet his dad. Then run at the first opportunity he got. He was going to go back to Surrey and see if the Order was still patrolling outside his house (knowing them they wouldn't realise that not only is he not there anymore but the Dursleys don't even live there now).
But no. He'd gotten his trunk back with a comment on how Stark tech was so cool cause they couldn't get it open. Whatever Stark tech is. Then he had been pushed on to a private jet and flown halfway across the world. Here. At some kind of military base.
Having his feet back firmly on the ground was a relief. Although flying was great, it's just not the same without the wind through his hair and especially when he's not the one in control of the aircraft. If that pilot had jerked the plane one more time Harry was going to knock him out with a swift blow to the head and fly the fucking thing himself. Honestly.
He's greeted by a man and a woman.
This must be his dad.
His heart pounds and his stomach rolls.
This is it.
This is when he meets his dad. This is when he has the chance at a family.
Well, he can't quite tell them about magic yet and after all that stuff that the Dursleys did because he was a freak it's probably best if he doesn't tell them yet and also because of the statute of secrecy and all that and also because there's a fucking war going on so he probably shouldn't-
"Hi, you must be Harry, I'm Pepper Potts and this is Dr Bruce Banner. He'll be administering the paternity test. We have a nice room set up for you while we wait for the results. As I'm sure you can understand, this is an extremely confidential area and we can't have kids running around the place so I'll have to ask you to stay in the designated zones for you. Right this way." And with that, she gestures him to follow as she turns her back stiffly and walks away.
Harry glances at the man. Dr Bruce Banner. Right. Who was he kidding? Of course Tony doesn't want anything to do with him. He is surprised about the paternity test though. He'd already told them Tony was his dad. Although, perhaps they wanted their own proof. He can understand that, he supposes.
His shoulders droop slightly as his gaze averts to his trunk. He picks up the handle to drag it by its wheels and starts off after the woman - Pepper, his brain supplies- with Dr Banner pulling up the rear. He can't help but feel like a criminal being escorted to his jail cell.
They walk in silence as Pepper takes them around to a side entrance and begins to snake them in and out of various tunnel-like structures. Harry has to squint under the poor lighting and pick his feet up extra carefully as he sinks slightly into the damp mud underfoot. He tries to shut out his claustrophobia but can't help the way his right hand tightens on his trunk and the left grips his jeans.
Finally the tunnel opens out into a lab. It looks well, used and professional. Dr Banner immediately starts to fiddle with some vials and needles whilst gesturing to the rollaway bed in the corner.
"Please take a seat."
One glance at Pepper tells Harry he's not getting out of this so he swiftly makes his way to the bed and jumps onto it. It creaks under his weight and he shifts his balance to make sure it won't collapse at the far end. It wobbles precariously.
"Alright kid, what's your name?"
"You know my name?" Harry asks confused. They had called him Harry earlier.
"I meant your full name. Harry…"
"James Potter" He mumbled looking down at his hands in his lap. James Potter. Two names given to him that now have no meaning at all. God, is he gonna have to change his name? Harry Stark doesn't have a very nice ring to it..
"Ok, and how old are you?"
"15." He says, watching how Dr Banner pauses and flicks his gaze up and down his body. Harry tenses and sits up straighter in an attempt to appear… older? More confident? Mature? He doesn't think he achieves any.
"Right… ok. Have you ever had a blood test before?"
"Okay," Dr Banner says smoothly his head nodding with a smile that Harry thinks is supposed to make him feel calmer, "it's easy, just feels like a little prick. I'll take enough blood to fulfill the test and nothing more-"
"I thought you could do it from a cheek swab." Harry interrupts quickly. He knows the power of blood. Still has the scar on his left arm to prove it. He's not going to let just anyone have a drop.
"I…" Dr Banner begins and look over his shoulder at Pepper. She nods once indicating Banner may continue, "Yes, that's possible. We can do a cheek swab if you'd be more comfortable."
"I would be."
"Okay." Banner leaves momentarily and comes back with an innocent looking cotton swab. "Just open your mouth for me, please."
Harry opens his mouth slowly, watching for any sudden movement on Banner's part. To his surprise, Banner merely runs the cotton swab along both cheeks and puts it in a sterilised tube ready for testing.
"And done!" Banner says cheerfully, trying to lighten the mood. He does see some of his friend in this child but not enough that he's certain it's his child. Banner knows that Tony thinks the child is his but has been convinced by lawyers that they can't meet or interact before they're certain. They couldn't put it past someone to disguise their child in such a way that it looks like Stark purely to get close to him. Particularly with all the Loki stuff with shapeshifting and what not. They can't be too careful anymore in protecting themselves from evil plots.
The timing is simply too suspicious.
Even the route to the lab that they took was a precaution the Bruce felt bad being involved with. Watching the small frame shiver in the damp side tunnel hadn't been fun. Bruce also knows that the lab is locked from the rest of the compound for the moment. Just in case Harry turns in to some kind of alien and starts attacking them, he won't get to the others. Especially considering if that happens the Hulk will come out and beat him into submission before anything can happen.
He feels a rush of anger flare in his stomach that he fights to push down instantly. But just the thought that of course they're relying on the fucking hulk to do their dirty work for them. Doesn't matter what he says about it. That he doesn't want to turn into the hulk anymore.
He clenches his jaw slightly when he looks at the small frame huddled on the bed. For now, he's just a human child looking lost and alone. This process would definitely not be helping him.
Dr Banner turns his back on Harry and starts organising the vials, labelling them carefully and preparing the test. He then gestures for Harry and Pepper to follow him to Harry's room. It's a small hole in the wall near the side entrance they came through. It was a supply closet, a large one but still, that Tony and Bruce had spent the morning clearing out. There's now a nice bed, set of drawers and desk. It's lit by an impressive stark tech light that hides a security camera to monitor him while they wait for the results.
Harry doesn't look very impressed. His eyes sweep the four walls made of a sturdy brick enclosed in a nice fresh coat of thick metallic silver paint.
"Thank you for my room." He says in a small voice.
"You're welcome kid. It's all temporary, you understand. Just until we can confirm who you are and get you set up elsewhere. It'll only be a couple of days. Meals will be brought to your room by me and I'm happy to hang around if you want to chat or anything if you get bored."
"Thanks Dr Banner." With that, Dr Banner closes the door with a loud thud. Harry can hear the sound of a thousand locks clicking in place automatically.
The words "Supply Closet 006" painted in green on the back of the door punch him in the gut as he stares at the one place they forgot to paint.
He's sleeping in a closet. Again.
Harry glared at his room with disdain.
At least his room at the Dursleys had a window. Harry's not sure he's breathed fresh air in three days. Although this is a marked improvement to being stuck in the orphanage. At least here there's no older kids pushing him around for fun or creepy Madam Genevieve raking her eyes up and down his body like a piece of meat. He had seen how she followed some of the boys into their bedrooms at night. She had seen the blood on her nails when she slapped a child for eating seconds. He was under no illusion as to her true character.
Why is it always him? Over the last week he had been paraded around the world and locked into a new shoebox room with nothing to do but devour his books in the hope of finding some way to get back to the Order.
He's also fairly sure they're watching him.
When Banner brings his food in, usually some kind of Chinese take-out or a slice of pizza, he'll sit and chat and eat his own dinner with Harry in a poor attempt at bonding. Or to get Harry to spill some information.
He can always feel Banner probing at his knowledge. Asking strange questions after a while.. Almost like he's trying to get Harry to trip up? Asking "So where are you from?" three times in the same conversation definitely started ringing alarm bells in Harry's mind. But he'd heard that these were the good guys. Super heroes that saved the world a few years back. Yeah, right.
He doesn't know what to do though. What other option does he have? He's not going back to the foster care system and rolling the dice on whether he keeps his virginity 'til he can go back to Hogwarts. He's not going back to the Dursleys because, well, he doesn't know where they are. He can't get a message to the Order, and honestly if they were trying to find him at this point he's not sure they'd even be able to (that is; if they even realise he's missing. Fucking incompetent idiots). Which brings him to the point about the Death Eaters. No way would they try to look for him in the muggle world. Let alone the united states. If there's one place no one's gonna find him, it's here.
If he's able to stay sane long enough to live here.
He paces his room for the thousandth time that day. It's about as wide as his bed and he's got a nice stretch of half a metre walkway before you run in to the nice desk and set of drawers they gave him. Really out did themselves, didn't they? Definitely feeling the love.
He wishes Hedwig was with him. He had released her from her cage before getting on the Hogwarts express, knowing she dislikes the stuffy train ride. It also doesn't hurt that he can sneak her back in to the Dursleys' without them knowing. Or, he could have, if they hadn't, you know, moved and left him for dead at the station. God, it's all so complicated. How is Hedwig supposed to find him now? On the other side of the world? He wouldn't want her to fly that far anyway. Hopefully, when she couldn’t find him, she went to the Weasleys to hide instead.
The Weasleys. The Order. It really is quite strange that he's disappeared for all intents and purposes and no one seems to have lifted an eyebrow. He knew he wasn't the priority for the Order but, fuck, he thought he meant something.
Who was he kidding? They'd done nothing but pat his back while he broke at the sight of the body of the only person who had ever truly loved him. Sirius was the only one that actually cared about him at all. Asking him if he's okay during the tournament from hell last year. Checking up on him after seeing Arthur get literally mauled by a serpent. Offering to remove him from the summer hell hole and give him a fucking home.
Harry's eyes darken as he turns and shoves his heel into the solid concrete behind him. The wall doesn't even dent. Somehow this failure to move stone is the cherry on top of life's biggest shitshow of a sundae from the last week.
Fuck, his own father doesn't want him. Leaving him locked up in this cell. How long does a paternity test take anyway? If he has to see that doctor cower into the room and try to ply him with leftovers one more time he's going to scream. Why did he bother coming here? Why does he even bother with anything? God he should really just fucking stay in bed all day. He doesn't have the energy to deal with this shit.
The creak of the door breaks his rampant tirade. He glares at the welcoming eyes that peak around the door, the start of a "Will you just fuck off?" at the tip of his tongue when he chokes on his own breath.
The eyes behind the glasses are different.
A slim face seeps into the room, a toned body drifting close behind. A man he's never met stands before him.
"Who're you?" The rough words tear from his throat more harshly than he meant them. Immediately feeling a compulsion to apologise he bites his tongue. Nobody in this compound deserves a fucking sorry from him for anything. They're the ones who should-
"You don't know who I am?" The man seems confused.
"Should I?" Harry bites back sharply.
"Fuck, this is all going wrong. Let's just start again, shall we? I'm Tony." The man says cheerfully, holding his hand out. He falters seeing the cold look in the teenager's eyes and slowly retracts his hand. "You know, you're ah… you're father..?"
"So it's confirmed then?" Harry sneers before pulling himself back sharply. This isn't who he is. This isn't who he wants to be. He wants a father. He wants a family. He wants to be loved. Everything started badly. Really badly. He's been shuffled from person to person, cage to cage, and here he is now. With a man standing before him willing to take him in. Willing to try. He's got to give him something more than his best impression of Snape.
Looking down with a sigh he clears his expression before lifting his eyes to meet his father's again.
"I'm sorry. That was uncalled for. It's nice to meet you. I-I'm Harry."
Tony's eyes rake up and down the teen's body. His son's body. It doesn't seem real. He hasn't been able to wrap his head around it yet.
He smiles gently, "it's alright kid, I know it was really harsh leaving you here. Trust me, it's the last thing I wanted but you gotta understand my employer… They wanted to make sure the team was safe. That I wasn't bringing in a fake pretending to be my son."
Harry tries to keep the questioning look off his face. The team? What team? Although, he guesses he should have realised his dad didn't exactly work a desk job since he was flown on a private jet into what could only be some kind of military base.
"I get it… you had to be careful." He mutters. He doesn't get it. He's a fucking teenager. Sure, he's actually a wizard that could do a whole lot of damage but these people don't know that. To them, he's a kid. Why couldn't they treat him as such?
Shaking his head minutely he pulls himself together. "Look I just want to move on. I just need to stay here until I go back to school in September. It's only a few months. I promise I'll stay out of your hair." He says. He'll stay out of his father's way, he'll be quiet, he'll cook and clean, anything if it means he can stay here.
"Sure kid. Don't worry about it. You can stay for as long as you like. No pressure." Tony glances down, slightly disappointed. He's had his son for thirty seconds and they boy is already sick of him. Three months and he's gone? Back to some boarding school across the world. Doesn't even consider staying here with his father.
Pepper was right. He's just got to let Harry have his space. Do what he wants to do. Live his life. That's what he was like at that age. Reckless abandon. Hell, he was already at college - getting stoned at every frat party he could go to.
"First things first. Let's get your stuff out of here and in to your new bedroom." Tony says with a skip in his step, trying to remain positive. His shoulders slump as his hands jump, trying to keep some energy in the room.
"That'd be great." Harry says picking up the handle on his trunk. He tries to left his lips to smile at his father but he thinks he manages something more like a smirk when Tony only turns away and sweeps out the door. Harry feels his shoulders slump as he ducks out of the room, taking one last glance at his cell before taking his first steps to freedom.
Or at least something more like freedom.
Walking back through the dimly lit tunnels it hits Harry that he's going to see the sun for the first time in three days. He's going to step outside and just breathe. He honestly didn't think he'd experience this anticipation outside of the Dursleys' home. He's used to long hours cramped indoors but he's not used to it outside of his cupboard or second bedroom. At least his Aunt let him out to do chores or weed the garden.
His eyes fall to his shoes, the damp floor creating a thin layer across the soles. He's trying so hard not to get upset but it's hard to stop the creeping thoughts that his dad made him feel like this. They'd locked him in a supply closet and tossed away the key. All because he 'might have been dangerous'. Are they kidding? His dad's a fucking superhero. Surely they could've subdued him.
As the sun washes over his face, he has to flinch back from the harshness, his glare hardens. His father did this to him. Maybe he should've given the Dursleys a bit of slack.
Clearly it wasn't their fault they treated him badly.
Clearly it was a problem with him.
He forces his eyes more firmly open despite the pain prickling through his sockets. He can feel a thin layer of water build up around the edges. He will not give them the satisfaction of seeing him cry.
He lets his eyes sweep across the compound. Now that he's not being marched to his death he can take his time to orient himself.
The first thing he notices is the beautiful round patch of grass in front of him. He can only imagine how much Padfoot would have loved to dance and prance through the long threads. Rows of large buildings line the grass with troops of men in groups of 6 doing monotonous laps around the compound.
He turns and spots the massive "A" on the side of the nearest building.
"What does the "A" stand for?" He blurts out before he can stop himself.
Tony falters for a second before glancing over his shoulder to see his son standing ten feet behind him. It takes him a second to realise that his son probably hadn't had the chance to look around before they did the paternity test. It takes him another second to register the question.
"The Avengers, of course."
"Of course," the soft sigh from behind him makes him frown for a second. But his son turns and starts walking swiftly towards him. He passes him before he can say a word. Tony hurries to take the lead again, softly explaining the things around him.
"As you can see, we've got a landing pad just here on the left. That's where you would have landed a few days ago. And in front of us is where we all live and hang out. The Avengers.."
Harry appreciates what Tony's trying to do but can't help but drown the explanation out. The Avengers. Of course! Why didn't he think of that? Maybe because, and he knows this is a really novel idea guys but stick with him, he'd never heard of the avengers before. Shock horror, he knows. How is that possible you may ask? Well, you see here kids, you see, is that, you see, he doesn't live in the US. How full of himself is his dad to just expect that everyone knows who you are?
Well, his brain reasons, the US Wizengamot probably knew who he was. Probably thought he was just as crazy and insane as the British do. Is there even an American Wizengamot? Why had he never been told about this? Why aren't they getting any help from wizards outside of Britain? It's not like Voldemort's just going to stop after killing all the British muggles. He's going to have to keep going for the whole world. Why is Britain all by itself in this conflict? Why is he all by himself in this conflict?
So wrapped up in his thoughts, he doesn't even realise they've entered the building and there's a hand stuck in front of his face. He follows the arm up to a kind face with a gentle smile. It takes him another second to realise he's missed the man's name.
"Ah, Harry. Nice to meet you." He mutters, taking the hand quickly and giving it a firm shake before dropping it like a hot stone.
"And this is Vision. He was my AI, JARVIS, but now he's a fully-functioning, sentient being." Tony says, gesturing wildly to the red man.
Harry barely blinks before taking the offered hand. Hey, he's seen trolls, centaurs and merpeople before. A red man is nothing.
"And that person over there hiding in the shadows with wary suspicion is Natasha. Don't do anything around her. I'm serious. She's the only one that acts first and asks questions later."
"Hello." Harry calls across the large room. A sharp nod of the head is the only answer he receives before she swiftly darts out of the room. If Harry didn't know any better he would've sworn she placed a dampening spell on her shoes but he guesses she's really just that well trained. Definitely someone to keep an eye on.
"And you've already met Bruce. You'll meet Peter later. He's just about to go on his summer break. He's about your age so you'll hit it off straight away! Who am I missing? Oh yeah! There's King T'Challa but he's busy with stuff at the moment. Hopefully you'll meet him later but the information we've been receiving has been pretty spotty at best, down right chaotic at worst. It seems-"
"Tony. I really don't think that's information that should be spoken about." Bruce says quickly with a sharp glance in Harry's direction.
Great. More adults trying to hide something from him. It seems like he really did end up staying with the Order this summer. A different kind of Order, for sure, but an Order none the less.
A tense silence descends as everyone shifts uncomfortably with the realisation that this was no longer a free area to discuss thoughts and ideas. It was now a censored zone for babysitting a teenager that had no business being there. It was now a cushioned cell for Harry to lounge around in whilst the adults do the real work. Harry feels a rising tidal wave erupt from his stomach and settle around the palms of his hands. He smells the burning before he feels it and quickly shoves his hands in his pockets, hoping that no-one else smelt the burning flesh.
"Let me take you to your room!" Tony declares before swiftly resting a hand on Harry's shoulder and guiding him to a separate hall. His attempt at a smooth, calm transition out of the awkward silence does nothing but draw everyone's attention towards the train wreck that lies in front of them.
It's gonna be an interesting three months, Tony considers with a sigh.
"Here we are!" He says grandly, throwing the metal door open with enough gusto that the drama queen Thor himself would be jealous. "I took the liberty of putting some necessities inside. Your bathroom is in the adjoining room to the left."
Harry takes one look at his room and feels bile rising up in his throat. Tony had unknowingly replicated Sirius' room in Grimmauld place almost perfectly. From the striped colours down to the slightly crude photos on the wall.
"I ah decided to put those up. Figured you were a teenage boy. Just wanted to make the room feel lived in. Take it down if you want.." Tony trails off upon seeing Harry stand before the wall of posters unseeingly.
"Can we re-paint it?" Harry blurts out before he can stop himself. Tearing his gaze away from a pretty blonde that reminds him of the blonde he had seen in Sirius' room last year. His eyes sting with tears as he turns towards the crude red and gold stripes on the far wall.
"What? Oh, oh sure. Whatever you'd like."
"Blue. A light blue." Something like Ravenclaw. A nice neutral tone. Anything to get his mind away from-
"Alright then. We'll do it first thing in the morning. I'll let you know when dinner's ready," and with that, Tony strides out of the room, slamming the door behind him.
He had expected the kid to love the room. He had put in so much work. Well, if he really thinks about it, it was more Pepper who ordered all the things and put them in the right places, etc. But he was the one that mentioned the colours. The kid had been wearing a striped sweater of the same colours in the photo the social worker gave to him. It's only logical to paint a room your favourite colour! Blue. Fucking blue. Well, if that's what the kid wanted, fine. Whatever. See if he cares. See if he's going to do a single thing for that ungrateful brat again. Not even a thank you.
Thank you, Tony, for getting me out of the foster care system. Thank you, Tony, for taking me in. Thank you, Tony, for taking my claim seriously and flying me across the world so that we could maybe be something like a family.
Don't worry kid! It's not like he had to put everything on hold so that he could do this quickly. It's not like he has other shit to deal with that takes up all of his time. It's not like he has other responsibilities. It's not like a private jet isn't fucking expensive. It's not like if he was anyone else it would've taken you months to get out of that orphanage with all the red tape in the foster system.
He rounds the corner with a huff and stops short at the team all lined up in front of him.
"So we can't be talking about our jobs in front of him. It's all classified. You know this Tony." Rhodey speaks softly at first, his voice turning slightly harsh at the end. As if they had all discussed and agreed upon this.
He had made a mistake, okay!? He knew that. He knew he wasn't supposed to go spouting off all the footage they had found in South Korea of King T'Challa getting his ass handed to him by some Korean gangsters. He knew that.
"Yes, don't worry. It won't happen again. Nothing said in front of the brat."
"Tony," Rhodey says harshly, "He's only been in the building five minutes. You can't go speaking like that."
"Sorry, sorry. I know. I know! Nothing said in front of the boy."
Rhodey huffs and looks behind him. Almost begging Vision or Bruce for some back up.
"Well, if that's all decided I'm going to my lab. Order some Thai food and let the boy know when it's arrived." Tony says, not giving them a chance to finish the conversation and storming past them.
Not even a fucking thank you.
Harry gazed at his new room in a stupor. Everywhere he looked it reminded him of his godfather. If he didn't know any better he would've assumed that Tony and Sirius were best friends and this room had been set up for him years ago. It's like his godfather had breathed life into the room, his aura lingering on every wallpaper, every piece of furniture, and every fucking poster.
Just that thought has Harry whirling around and tearing the posters off the wall one by one, shredding them with his nails as he clawed at their very existence. He needed to purge this room of memories.
The next thing to go are the long velvet curtains lining the window. They even fall in the same haphazard style as Sirius' did. Harry yanks them down so hard the railing falls with it. He bunches them up and opens the closet to find somewhere to stow them away, never to be seen again if he can help it. They rip and tear as he crosses the floor and shoves them in the space he found. He'll clean the rest up later.
He turns his eyes to the grand chandelier in the middle of the room. Although it's not the same candle like structure that graced Grimmauld place it's still similar enough that it makes his eyes water slightly. He briefly considers whether he's actually allowed to rip an expensive chandelier out of the ceiling when a sharp clang interrupts his musings. A single nail rests between his feet, his only warning before the whole chandelier plummets to the ground. Leaping out of the way he rolls, placing his hands on the rough floor to break his fall. The glass shatters in a million pieces leaving Harry gaping at a hole in the ceiling.
Well, he guesses that takes care of that problem.
A sharp twinge brings his attention to his hands. They look puffy and inflamed, red raw as if he had scrubbed them under boiling water. He couldn't believe he had lost control like that out there. To do accidental magic. At his age? Sure, it was infuriating to be smacked in the face with the clear knowledge that no matter how hard he tries, people are never going to trust him enough to just tell him what's going on. No matter how much responsibility they throw at him they'll still keep him in the dark to protect his innocence or something. No matter how many times he watches somebody fucking die right in front of him they're still going to pat him on the head and tell him he's too young to understand.
What does he have to do to get a little bit of sympathy? Clearly sleeping in a closet for most of his life isn't suffering enough.
He shuffles over to his trunk and gingerly opens the lid. Shifting through his mounds of clothes he finally finds the small vial he was looking for. A simple serum that was given to him by Madam Pomphrey to heal the writing on his left hand. Unfortunately, it hadn't done anything. "Too late," Madam Pomphrey had muttered, shaking her head, "give it a go and see if it helps, but, my boy, I fear it is much too late to fix."
Thanking his past self that he had put the useless potion in his trunk rather than smashing it into the closest wall as he had wanted to do, he carefully smears a small amount in the palm of his left hand. Placing the small vial on the floor he forces himself to rub his hands together, trying not to wince in pain despite no one there to hear him. He feels the burns healing right away. He loves magic.
"Do you require help, young sir?" A bright voice chimes in calmly.
"WHO SAID THAT?" Harry roars, leaping to his feet and whipping around to catch the intruder before they got away. "SHOW YOURSELF!" He bellows.
"Now, now there's no need for that. I'm Friday, Tony's AI."
"Tony's what?" He mutters harshly, swinging his head around wildly. He can feel his heart beating in his ears, his blood pumping through his arms and legs ready to strike when needed.
"Please calm down sir, you're blood pressure is very high. I'm Tony's artificial intelligence bot, I basically help run the household."
"WHERE ARE YOU?" He shouts at the same time someone crashes in through the door.
"Harry are you alright??" Someone yells from behind him.
He turns and growls, "Someone's in my room."
The man's eyes sweep the room quickly, taking in the strips of posters still haphazardly sticking on the wall, the little bits of ripped curtain on the floor by the closed window and the large chandelier smashed in the middle of the room. Everything screams break in other than the non-existence of a masked assailant anywhere in the room.
The man slowly steps in to the complete train wreck and says slowly, "Friday, has anyone been in this room with Harry?"
"No, colonel Rhodey." Friday says smoothly causing Harry to jerk his head up.
"There it is! Can you hear her? She's in the room, I know it," Harry barks sharply at the man, Rhodey, his mind whispers. The name he hadn't learnt earlier when he missed Tony's introduction.
"Ah," the man says quickly, stepping towards Harry and placing a gentle hand on his shoulder, "I see what the problem is. Harry meet Friday, Tony's AI. She's not real, she's a piece of very advanced technology."
"Not real. I'll have you know young man, that I am just as real as anyone else. And, unlike some people in the room, I have actual thoughts and feelings. And-"
"YES, Friday. Sorry. Wrong choice of words. Of course you're real. I'm just trying to explain that you're not.. You know… physical..?"
Rhodey looks at Harry sheepishly only to meet two wide confused eyes. Had they always been so green? I mean some people have green eyes but Harry's eyes are green.
"What…?" The soft voice breaks his chain of thought.
"Sorry, you'll- you'll get used to Friday. Basically you can talk to her, ask her questions etc. She can see what you're doing too so if you're in trouble she'll let us know and we can come help." Rhodey says kindly.
Right. So she's here to spy on Harry, great. He's not even trusted to be in his own room by himself. Gosh, at least the Dursleys left him in peace.
Well. Not really.
"So…" Rhodey begins, sweeping the room with his eyes before resting them on Harry again, "Want to tell me what's happened here?"
"No." Harry states bluntly. When Rhodey continues to simply stare he averts his gaze and attempts to see the room from an outsiders perspective.
Yep, it looks like it's been mauled by a tiger.
"The posters looked at me funny," he says, keeping his face carefully blank.
"Right. And I supposed you used the curtains and chandelier to fight them?" Rhodey says back seriously.
They stare for a moment before Rhodey cracks a swift grin. Harry's lips twitch slightly and he looks down feeling suddenly shy and embarrassed. He can't believe that he's already destroyed his room. He's been here for less than an hour.
"Look, kid… I know this must be hard for you. I can't imagine what it would be like to move your life across the world for a father you only just discovered. It's okay to feel angry now and then, but … destroying your room isn't a very productive use of that energy." Rhodey reasons sensibly.
What little joy Harry had briefly felt with this man evaporated in seconds. Right, he's simply some dumb kid so angry that he wrecks his room. Well, he did technically wreck his room but that wasn't over something as petty as moving countries or finally finding a family to live with. That was because it was a carbon copy reminder that his Sirius was- was-
And anyway the chandelier wasn't even his fault. The fucking thing fell on its own. Dangerous to be keeping around a child. Did his father want him dead that badly?
"The chandelier fell on its own," He mutters finally. As if that doesn't scream that he's guilty of all other charges.
"Well, I'm sure Friday can order you a new one."
"NO. I mean, ahem, no. Ah, that won't be- that won't be necessary. Thanks. I'll just ah, yeah, a lamp or something or just like a candle or.."
Rhodey cuts him off with a sharp stare.
"We'll order you another light. You can choose it this time."
Harry ducks his head to hide the sudden hot feeling in his cheeks. "Thanks," he mutters suddenly exhausted.
"Sirs, Vision has asked me to tell you that the Thai food has arrived." Friday's crisp voice cutting through the tension in the air cleanly.
"Thanks Friday," Rhodey says quickly, getting to his feet. He holds a hand out to Harry with a quirky grin, "Hungry?"
Dinner is a tense affair.
Mainly because Tony never rocks up.
"He does this often, just getting lost in his lab, don't mind it." Were the soft words that Banner had intoned to him as he had tentatively taken one of the two empty spots at the table. Harry was almost inclined to believe him, if not for the subtle worried glances shared by the team when they thought Harry wasn't looking.
His father isn't at dinner because he's here. Great.
Looking at the wide array of food in front of him he feels slightly out of his depth. He'd never eaten Thai before. Hogwarts served strictly British or Scottish wizarding food, and the Dursleys certainly weren't the most adventurous eaters. That is, if they let him eat at all.
He picked up the box closest to him only for it to be snatched out of his hands just as quickly.
"Sorry," Natasha says in a tone Harry clearly recognises as not being sorry at all, "That one's mine." With that, Natasha pushes out her chair, props her feet up on the table and leans back. Her posture screams alpha and Harry feels torn between rising to the challenge with the Gryffindor in him or biting his tongue with the Slytherin in him.
The thought is taken out of his mind when Rhodey plops down beside him and hands him a container. It looks to be filled with some kind of brown noodles. Taking a hesitant bite he's pleasantly surprised by the taste. He could get used to this.
"So, Harry. Tell us about yourself," the question came from Vision, the only member actually using the chopsticks given to them.
"Ah, I'm Harry."
The sound of his feet scuffing the floor reverberates in his ears. They all stare at him expectantly.
"Well, yes we knew that. I meant about you. Where do you go to school. What's your favourite subject. That kind of stuff," Vision says kindly, not so subtly shoving the conversation in the right direction.
"Ah right. Yes. I-" Harry pauses for a split second as his mind races. He can't tell them about Hogwarts but he needs to let them know that he can be sent back there in September because he'll have food and a bed and friend. God, he misses Ron and Hermione. Are they okay? Do they know he's in the US? Do the Order know anything?
"I go to a boarding school, actually, in Scotland. My parents paid for me before they died so it's all paid for, which is, you know, good. Ah, it's really great. I have a lot of amazing friends there. Ah favourite subject would be-" oh god, think Harry. Think.
"-Physical education?" He hopes that didn't sound like a question. He remembers doing PE in primary school but has no idea if a muggle school continues it in high school. He's mainly counting on the fact that these Americans wouldn't know any different anyway.
"Wow, a boarding school. That must be very fun - it's good to see your friends so often, isn't it?" Vision says softly a small smile gracing his lips.
"Yeah, it's great, they're great, the school's just… ah… great."
He feels Banner shift beside him and glances over to see a hint of a smile before it's buried in a sea of noodles. Right. They think he's an idiot. Time to change the topic.
"So what do you guys do?" He says casually.
Everyone at the table looks up in unison. If Harry didn't know any better he would have given them a standing ovation for that synchronicity. Perfect execution. 10/10.
"I mean, obviously you're superheroes, obviously, I just meant like, I don't know, are you out all the time? Like stopping bad guys or something like, I don't know, what do you do here? I don't-"
"It's quite alright Harry," Rhodey interrupts before Harry can bury himself any further. Feeling the tips of his ears burning he pleads Rhodey with his eyes to continue quickly and forget about everything Harry had said tonight, "We're mainly dealing with extra-ordinary cases. So, aliens and super human individuals and the like. Around here we spend most of our time keeping track of what's going on in the world, perfecting our various suits and training."
"And dealing with the fucking accords," Natasha mutters from across the table.
Harry almost feels like an idiot for asking.
"The Sokovia Accords," Rhodey explains, "It's basically a legal document we've been working on that aims to document all super beings. So the government can keep track of who's who and who's doing what. Tony's been working on it a lot as he's got all the lawyers to back us and reach a fair compromise."
A sharp burst of panic floods through Harry. All super beings. That includes wizards. Obviously the government doesn't know about wizards, but this is clearly just another incentive to keep the world hidden. Being forced on to some kind of government watch list, to be blacklisted for life.
If only Voldemort would stop doing stupid flashy things like raiding muggle villages. Despite his hatred of muggleborns and wanting the wizarding world separate from the muggle world, his actions are the most likely to get them discovered.
Suddenly feeling sick to his stomach he pushes his food away, mumbling something about jetlag and feeling tired, and hurries back into his room.
He slams the door behind him a little too loudly, steps over the broken glass and slumps onto his bed. He had intended to have a shower to wipe off the stale air from that fucking supply closet but he's just too exhausted now.
Resting his head on the pillow he barely has time for a final thought before his eyes slip shut and he drifts off to sleep.
To Do: Figure out how to disable Friday's spying.
Thank you to everyone's kind words. I have a really clear idea of where the story is going - I've mapped out what I want from start to finish I just need to write it now! I will definitely finish this fic don't worry :)
Chapter 4: Tony's Son
Harry learns about Tony's real son.
Tony feels bad.
Well, physically he's not great because he just stayed up all night tinkering with his iron man suit but that's not what he's talking about. He feels bad about his actions yesterday. Harry's just a kid. Well, not just a kid. He's his son. He shouldn't be thinking of him like a brat. That's something his father would have done to him and we all know how Tony turned out. Just look at this mess.
He shouldn't have turned away like that. Fucking hell his kid just wanted to repaint his room. Was that so hard for him to do? Geez, Tony really needs to grow up and start acting like the father he is.
He's a father.
It still doesn't sound right.
How could this have happened? He was so careful. He can't look after a kid! Let alone a teenager. What is he going to do? Everywhere he turns he's messing it up again.
He can't help but think back to how pitiful the kid looked in the temporary room. So cramped with barely enough space to put his trunk. But, it had to be done. He couldn't risk it. Especially with everything going on, if he would have to -god forbid- call Cap to come help because Harry was secretly some shape-shifting alien bringing all his alien friends to Earth and they needed the whole team back together again to stop them. They'd also need Thor but he's who knows where up in space supposedly finally locking Loki up.
If he never sees any kind of magic again it'll be too soon.
He'll have to deal with Scarlet witch, though. She seems to be deeply entrenched in Cap's team and, although he never wants to see nor hear of them again, he fears that at some point he'll need to just man up and get the job done. That is, if there's ever a big enough threat they'll have to fight side by side again. Here's hoping not.
He pushes away from his desk roughly and feels a satisfying crack in his spine as he stands.
Coffee. He needs it desperately, and it's now technically morning so he's good to go.
Making his way into the kitchen he's shocked by the large stack of pancakes waiting on the table with every team member already digging in.
"Hey Stark! You never said your kid could cook!" Rhodey hollers from the table.
"It really is very good, you should try some Stark," Vision says smoothly.
Tony hesitates for but a second before taking the last seat at the table next to his son. He glances over to see his son's eyes withdrawn and averted to the table. He reaches over quickly and places his hand over Harry's on the table.
A sharp electric shock rakes up his arm and he flinches so hard he knocks over his juice. He knows his son felt it too because Harry drags his arm across the table and accidentally upends his plate of pancakes on his lap.
Well that went well.
"Sorry," Tony laughs sheepishly, "Must have built up some static electricity when I was walking over here." Although, surely it couldn't have been that much.
"No, I'm sorry. I didn't mean- I don't know what happened- I-" Harry stammers feeling heat rise to his cheeks. He just can't seem to get it right these days. Constantly fumbling around and wrecking things. God, he's such a failure. What is he even doing here? Who would want him?
Raking his hands through his hair he pulls sharply, trying to expel the negative thoughts out of his mind before they take over.
"I made pancakes," He says, reaching for the plate so suddenly that he knocks in to Banner's out stretched hand. Trying to ignore the blunder he grabs the plate and brings it back so fast the stack falls over onto the table. "Please… try… one…" He finishes lamely, now certain his face was a tomato.
Tony tries to stop himself from laughing, he really does. His son is just so adorable. He's also clearly trying so hard. Tony can do better. He needs to do better.
"Thank you for cooking breakfast, Harry, do you cook much at home?" He says cheerfully, trying to scoop up the pancakes in one smooth gesture but only managing to successfully break two and leave three more on the table. Giving up he just places what he needs on his plate. The table's clean anyway.
"Ah I cooked for my aunt and uncle," Harry says softly.
This makes Tony pause. Aunt and uncle? He hadn't heard anything about an aunt and uncle. He had assumed Harry had been staying with his mother for most of his life and that something had happened to her recently, He hadn't wanted to push too soon but he guesses he has to.
"Your- Did- Did you not grow up with your mother?" He asks at last, grabbing the maple syrup quickly and dumping a large amount on his pancakes in a poor attempt to make the question casual.
"My parents died when I was a baby," Harry says, "Or my mum did." He adds quickly, suddenly realising that his parents couldn't have died when his father was sitting right here.
"And you lived with your aunt and uncle? Why didn't anyone tell me?" Tony mutters before he can stop himself.
"How was I supposed to know you were my real dad? My last name's Potter for God's sake!" Harry snapped unable to help himself. Tony can be thick sometimes. His mother was Lily Evans.
"Your mother's name wasn't Potter?" Tony blurts out before he can think twice. Oh no. He's just admitted to his son that he doesn't even know the boy's mother's name.
Tony watches with dread as Harry's eyebrows furrow slightly in confusion before realisation sets in.
"Oh. Right. You don't even know her. Hah. Typical. Just a quick fuck, of course. Her name was Lily Evans you fucking twat." Harry breathes before getting to his feet and storming out of the room. He's sure that one day he'll be able to make it through a full meal with the superheroes. Surely.
Tony watches his son's back and tries to swallow the rage rushing through him. The thoughts rush through him before he can hold them back. His son cannot use that kind of language with him. Particularly towards him. That was uncalled for. No son of his is going to be walking around the world speaking like that to people. He's Tony Stark's son. Imagine the bad press to the Iron Man name if it gets out that that train wreck is his son.
Tony tries to calm down. The boy had a point. He couldn't remember the mother's name. She was just a- a quick fuck to him, he guesses. God that feels disgusting just thinking it, leaving a sour taste in his mouth. He doesn't think about women as something to use when he feels like it. He likes to have a fun night with the women he hooks up with. Even though he can't remember the woman, he's sure they had an amazing mutually pleasurable night.
Hah, he's sure that that'll make Harry feel a lot better if he tells him that. Right.
Collapsing his head in his hands he breathes deeply. He just can't seem to get it right lately. Everything just seems to be constantly going out of control. He needs to reign himself in.
"Friday?" He says softly.
"Can you please order some light blue paint. Something happy, like the sky."
He breathes in deeply one last time, closing his eyes then re-opening them. He lifts his head to see the rest of his team awkwardly eating their pancakes and looking at anything but him.
"The colour of the table is really nice isn't it Bruce?" He pokes gently, laughing at the intense stare off Bruce is having with the plain white table to the left of his plate.
"Just grand, Tony," Bruce quips back before raising his head. His gaze softens slightly, "You need to talk to him."
"What am I supposed to say? 'You're right. You grew up thinking you were an orphan because I've fucked so many people I literally can't even remember your mum.'"
"Something like that but maybe tone it down," Bruce laughs quietly, "look Tony, he didn't grow up without a family. He didn't grow up unloved. Sure, he may not have had his parents but he was living with his aunt and uncle. His relatives. His family. It's not like he grew up in the system, passed from foster home to foster home until they just left him somewhere. He had a good childhood. There's nothing you can do about it now. Just try to move on from it."
Bruce is right, as always. He would be a good father. If he ever gets over the fear that everyone hates the hulk.
Tony stands quickly before he can talk himself out of it and goes over to his son's room. Knocking on the door softly he waits with bated breath for the door to open.
"Harry.. It's- It's Tony. Please open up. I- I feel like we need to talk about this," Tony says hesitantly only to be met with silence.
"I'm sorry," He says after a few moments, trying again and knocking on the door slightly louder.
The continued silence starts to concern him so he tries the door knob. Finding it unlocked he pushes his way inside only to stop short.
The room is a mess.
Posters haphazardly torn down, the curtains look like they've been mauled by a large cat but worst of all… his grandmother's chandelier lies shattered in the middle of the room.
He had put it in Harry's room because his grandmother had always told him it's filled with love, and belongs with the children of the Stark family. The first thing he had done upon arriving home after finding out about Harry's existence was dig it up out of the room filled with Stark family treasures and have it installed in here. He had selfishly thought of bonding with his son, both of them gazing up at it while he explained that it would bring him happiness and joy just as it had brought Tony when he was a child.
But now it lies here. Broken. Ruined. Destroyed. Shattered into a million tiny little pieces. The last thing he had of his grandmother. Gone.
Rage settles in his stomach. So this is how it's going to be? The boy is just going to destroy all the hard work Tony put in to his room, his things. Trying to make him comfortable. He's just going to walk all over that kindness.
He could have left him there, you know? Didn't have to fly him over here to do a paternity test. Could have just said "Nope, sorry, definitely not my child" and it wouldn't have been his problem. He doesn't even think he would've lost any sleep over it. What with the hundreds of child claims he gets per year. Sure, his lawyers and Pepper usually vet them so he doesn't actually know the full number, but this would just be another name on a very long list.
He didn't have to fly him here. He didn't have to take him in, give him food, a bed. He didn't have to try and make the room nice and comfortable. He didn't have to do any of that!
Man, and here he was feeling so guilty this morning. Meanwhile the boy was happily trashing his room to pieces!
The door to the adjoining bathroom creaks open and Harry steps through looking freshly showered with a new set of clothes on. They hang from his thin frame but Tony hardly notices over the red in his vision.
"You could have just said you didn't like the room. You didn't have to go around fucking destroying everything!" He roars.
Harry's eyes drift to the broken chandelier. His eyes snap back to meet Tony's in a wide panic "No- I didn't-"
"That's enough. It's all enough. You clearly need a little bit of discipline. I don't know what your aunt and uncle let slide in their house but you don't come in and just wreck everything. You don't touch other people's things. You don't speak to me like you did at the table. You need to learn some god damn respect."
Harry flinches back before he can help it, wrapping his arms around his waist and squeezing tightly.
Tony's eyes soften marginally at the sight.
What is he doing? He's an adult. He should be more mature than this. A wave of shame washes over him from his previous thoughts. He would never have just left a kid -his kid- in some orphanage somewhere. If he even was his kid, a dark place in his mind whispers. Loki flashes in his mind before he can stop it. When did everything become so complicated?
"God, kid do you think I want to do this. You're not giving me an easy choice here, boy. I mean, I've still got Fury breathing down my neck about how you shouldn't even be here in the first place. Like what fucking kid says I'm their dad at 15. I should've been raising you. You turn up out of the blue, right in the middle of everything going on. Why should we be trusting your word for it. How do we know you didn't magically change your fucking DNA to include mine or tricked the paternity test- I-" Tony rakes his hands over his face, suddenly feeling 20 years older.
"I think you're mine, you look like mine, but fuck, this wouldn't be the most far-fetched thing to have happened in the last few years. I- You're mother could have at least fucking told me," Tony finishes with a sigh.
He glances over at the boy to see him staring at the floor, face pale.
"-Or left a note." Tony finishes lamely, suddenly remembering that the kid's mother was dead. Lily, he reminds himself, that Lily was dead.
God, he's a mess. How is he supposed to look after a kid? He's barely looking after himself at the moment. He can't be responsible for another human being.
His eyes drift back to the chandelier. Gone forever. One of his last childhood memories that was actually happy. His jaw clenches. He certainly doesn't have the patience to deal with an aggressive, moody teenager.
Harry opens his mouth then closes it. What do you say to a man that clearly doesn't trust you? He understands that in the wizarding world, turning in to someone else isn't that hard. Hell, he had a defence teacher for a year that slipped under everyone's notice. But how do you convince someone you've never met before that you're you? He can't have any kind of secret password or security question like he does with the Order. His dad doesn't fucking know him.
His dad also apparently doesn't even know his mum.
He gazes out the window trying to think of something to say. He'll cook. He'll clean. Anything, if it means he can stay.
He didn't break the chandelier. The other stuff - fair enough it was him - but the chandelier wasn't his fault. Although, he's quite glad it's gone. He just-
"How did you even know I was your father?" Tony asks suddenly, his gaze shifting to Harry sharply.
"A paternity test. I did it while I was at school one day, just for fun. My friends and I all took turns. Didn't realise mine would show the wrong name," Harry finishes darkly glaring out the window one last time. None of this would have happened if Snape hadn't done that stupid potions class in the first place.
"A paternity test requires my DNA too." Tony says at last, lifting his chin to eye the boy more carefully. He's very particular about his DNA. As a scientist, he knows all too well how telling a single drop of blood can be. That's part of the reason he thought it better to bring the boy here than send a test tube to England. He doesn't trust people with it. Better to have Fury breathing down his neck, imposing all sorts of crazy restrictions and having Harry a little uncomfortable for a day than risk it getting in the wrong hands.
"You're famous, right? I can find that stuff on the, uh, internet," Harry says wide-eyed. Tony stares at him thoughtfully. That's just not possible. His lawyers would have tracked down anyone attempting to sell his genes on the internet-
"TONY!" A sharp cry sounds from the other room. Harry and Tony snap their heads up and start racing for the door. They make it to the living room in seconds only for Tony to stop short abruptly.
Spider-man is crawling up the side of the Washington monument.
Tony has to close his eyes, count to three, hope it's all a bad dream, and open them again.
Nope. This is not happening. His kid, his spider-man, is crawling up the side of the fucking Washington monument.
"Is this live?" Tony demands, reaching for the remote and turning it up.
"No. They're saying it was a couple days ago," Vision says softly.
"A COUPLE DAYS AGO?" Tony roars. How could he have missed this? What-
"Breaking News. The crime-fighting superhero Spider-Man has been spotted aboard the Staten Island Ferry. Live footage shows him sneaking aboard the vessel and climbing around the outside. We're trying to determine now whether there are any fugitives on board that Spider-Man might be looking for. This comes only days after Spider-Man saved a group of school students from an explosion in an elevator inside the Washington monument. Investigators are still trying to locate the source of the blast-"
Tony pinches the bridge of his nose, feeling a headache coming on. Can't he catch a break? Just one would be nice. Just one day where he's not dealing with the accords or Cap's team or SHEILD or his PTSD or the boy standing beside him. Now he has to worry about Peter too. This is not what he had meant when he gave the kid his suit. He had meant friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.
What is wrong with teenagers now-a-days?
"Why wasn't I told about this?" Tony barks.
He meets Bruce's eyes that shift meaningfully to Harry. Right. The boy.
He doesn't have time for this.
"Stark," Natasha says quietly, "I thought you were keeping a leash on this kid?"
"Natasha's right, Tony, how could you give him this suit? He's putting himself and others in danger. He can't have it if he's so irresponsible with it…" Vision adds softly. His gaze pierces Tony, stripping him to the bone and laying him bare and vulnerable for all to critique.
He thought he was doing the right thing. He thought he was helping the kid. He's a good kid! It's not like he was supposed to start wreaking havoc everywhere! Tony doesn't have the time to clean up after him all the time.
"This just in, Spider-Man appears to be initiating a fight with a group of men on board the vessel. There appears to be some high-tech weaponry involved-"
"Tony…" Bruce says lowly but the warning falls on deaf ears. Tony's already jumping into action.
"Friday, send the suits to help Peter. I just need to get to the roof and I'll follow them there."
Tony rounds on Harry, barking out a sharp, "Stay here and try not to break anything else," before taking the stairs two at a time to get to the roof.
The last thing he hears is a quiet "children shouldn't be fighting" from Harry and a soft hum of agreement from Vision. Fine. His own son thinks he's irresponsible? Whatever. Vision can be his father for all he cares. He's sure they'll have a brilliant time together. Better than being stuck with him, the idiot that puts people in danger and ruins everything he touches.
His suit flies on to him, so he's ready to take flight as soon as he reaches open air, and he's gone in seconds.
Tony came back with Spider-man's suit, dumping it in Vision's lap and retreating to his lab without a word.
"What's his problem?" Harry mutters darkly.
Vision sighs and glances over at Tony's retreating back.
"I've known Tony a long time, Harry. He's a very complicated man. I was his old AI, like Friday, my name was JARVIS. Tony… He tried to make a- like a shield of armour around the world. I was the sentient robot externality that was created instead." He shifts back to gaze at Harry.
"He does love you. Or, I don't know, I mean… How can you really love someone you've only just met? He wants to love you, he's trying. He just doesn't know how to be a father, he doesn't know how to be an adult, he doesn't really know how to be a fully functioning human. But.. He's trying. He really is."
"I don't really know how to be a son either," Harry says softly. Doesn't really know how to be a kid too, if he really thinks about it. Never really had a childhood. Doesn't really know how to function correctly too.
It seems he really does have something in common with Tony.
Vision hums thoughtfully, "Yes, I suppose you've only been a nephew."
Harry doesn't correct him. He's never really been a nephew either.
"Harry," Vision says softly. "Don't give up on him."
Harry glances at his hands trying to decide what to do. He feels like he's been running for the last year. Feels like he's been making sacrifices, giving people the benefit of the doubt, trusting adults time and time again only to be let down time and time again.
He's exhausted. He just wants to sleep for the next three months and wake up in time to go back to Hogwarts.
Tears well in his eyes before he can stop them.
Strong arms wrap around his shoulders.
Before he knows it, he starts to shake, tears coming quicker.
Chapter 5: The Hulk
Harry and Tony run from their emotions.
Rhodey lifts the fork to his lips, barely tasting the leftover Chinese food. He glances across the table at the others. Natasha is as unconcerned as ever. Bruce is looking suitably worried. Vision keeps glancing over his shoulder at Harry's room as Rhodey does the same with Tony's.
It's been three days.
"We have to do something," Rhodey says at last.
"Like what?" Natasha mutters, shoving her shoes onto the nearest vacant chair.
"Well, we can't just let them hide in their rooms for the rest of their lives!" Rhodey bites back.
"Like father, like son," Natasha says, "They're both acting like children. They deserve each other."
"Harry's supposed to act like a child, he's only 15. Cut the kid some slack," Vision says softly. He can still feel the child sobbing in his arms the other night. Vision's non-existent heart had broken at the same moment Harry's had.
"Tony's got shit that he's dealing with too," Rhodey says, defending his friend.
They ate in silence for a few more moments before Rhodey stood abruptly with a sigh, shoving his chair back so hard it clattered to the floor.
"I'm going for it. Wish me luck."
Soft mutterings of "good luck" speckle the kitchen as Rhodey makes his way through the large, open living room, down a short corridor and lands at Tony's lab. Knocking softly once, he waits for the expected silence for a beat, before forcing his way in quickly.
"Tony, that's enough. This is an interven-" Rhodey calls out loudly as his eyes sweep the room, "-tion" he finishes lamely.
His eyes skim the pristine laboratory. At this point in one of Tony's episodes, there'd usually be half eaten pizza boxes sprawled across the floor, every counter would be stained with half full coffee cups spilt and dripping down the edges, and a musky scent of sweat and anger would be piercing through the air. But Rhodey sees none of that.
Clean benches, clean equipment, organised wires and pieces of metal, the whole thing is cleaner than it usually is. Hell, Rhodey can even see the floor, and walk in a straight line.
"Tony?" Rhodey calls uncertainly. He had expected to see the scientist hunched over one of his work benches, tinkering with some gadget or a part of his suit, eyes drawn in with thick black circles. You know, the usual.
"Tony!" Rhodey calls, a little bit more desperately as he starts darting through the lab and connecting rooms.
Where is he?
"Friday… Is Tony in the building?" Rhodey finally asks, pausing at a dead end in the long row of labs and science areas Rhodey never frequents. He really needs a map of this place.
"Sir, Tony is not in the building." Friday says cheerfully.
Rhodey stops short. Never, in all his years as Tony's friend, has Tony disappeared without telling someone. Sure, he'll disappear quite regularly for a multitude of reasons. But always, always, he's told Rhodey about it. Rhodey will usually get a quick "leavin 2 Malibu. C U" from JARVIS, or he guesses Friday now, or even a quick phone call if he's lucky. But he's never just disappeared without a trace. Well, not since he was kidnapped by the Ten Rings and tortured so badly he now has to live off a piece of fucking metal in his chest.
Rhodey closes his eyes, hoping with everything he has that Tony hasn't been kidnapped by some enemy of the Avengers or something. He had told Tony, he had fucking told him, that outing himself as Iron Man was dangerous. Getting mixed up in all this superhero business was dangerous. And sure, Rhodey's tangled in this whole mess now too, but that's only because he wanted to be there to back up his friend. He didn't want this.
How did they even get in here? This is the most secure building on the planet. It's run by fucking STARK tech. No one can get in without permission. No one even knows where it is! The whole thing just doesn't make-
Oh my god, they let Harry in the building. There were concerns that he was all part of some plot to infiltrate the Avengers. Sure, Rhodey had never actually believed them, especially when he saw the fucking kid. A stiff breeze would blow him over. He's not dangerous to anyone.
Or, that's what they want you to think. Always the ones you least expect. They always send the ones that fly under the radar.
They hadn't seen Harry in three days either.
Rhodey smells a rat.
His face clouds over in rage and fear and panic. He couldn't let his friend end up in a situation like fucking Afghanistan again. He just couldn't let that happen.
Guilt slams into Rhodey a second later. They had all assumed Tony was just going through one of his usual episodes. They had assumed he had just locked himself in his lab, like usual, and would reappear in a few days with stains on his shirt and in desperate need of a shave. They hadn't even checked on him. And he'd been the one to push for Harry to come to the US. He had been the one to argue against keeping him in that supply closet. He had been the one that had convinced Tony to give Harry a fucking chance.
Now look what's happened.
Without another thought he turns abruptly storming out of the room.
"NOT NOW FRIDAY!" He roared, cutting her off sharply.
"Sir, please, Tony-"
"Stop talking Friday." That was the command that Friday had been given. A little fail safe in case the team needed or wanted her to be quiet. This is the first time Rhodey had ever used it.
He needed to think.
He needed to find the boy.
Racing back into the living room his eyes widen when he notices the table empty. Whirling around he searches desperately for any member of the team. His heart beats faster, his whole body entering full panic mode.
He had to find the boy before he stole anyone else.
Racing through the halls the first sign of life was when he ran in to Bruce.
"What-" The scientist began before being cut off sharply by Rhodey.
"Where are the others?" He demands, a crazy look in his eyes that Bruce isn't sure he likes.
"What? Rhodey, are you ok?"
"He's gone. GONE!" Rhodey cries, his voice cracking slightly. His best friend had been kidnapped. Again. Worst of all, he was right there and Rhodey had done nothing to save him. Didn't even know he had been fucking taken. Some best friend he was. Protectors of Earth? What a joke. The avengers are a joke. What are they even doing here? If Tony dies, he's not sure he's going to be able to handle it. If Tony dies because Rhodey wasn't good enough to save him. He-
"In. Out. In. Out. That's it. Rhodey, you're having a panic attack. You need to calm down."
"Is he alright?" A soft voice calls from behind. Vision enters Rhodey's line of sight, placing a calming hand on his shoulder.
"I'm not sure. He's having a panic attack. Friday, what happened when Rhodey went to check on Tony?" Bruce says quietly, keeping his hands on Rhodeys temples, trying to keep the man grounded.
"He fucking took him. The boy fucking took him. We shouldn't have let him come here. SHIELD was right. There's no one else it could have been. He did it. Where is he?" Rhodey barks sharply, collapsing to the ground with the effort of forcing the words out. Trying to catch his breath he lays down, soaking up the cool floor and trying to clear his head.
"Sir, Tony is in Malibu."
Tony's in Malibu? His vacation home?
Fucking hell, Rhodey had thought- had thought-
Guilt slammed into him. Harry. Oh shit, he had just assumed- With everything, and all the talk and measures and meetings they had been in. All the risk mitigation meetings Rhodey had sat in with Fury. He had just assumed- Fuck.
Looking up he spots a pair of wide green eyes disappearing behind a door.
Rhodey's not a betting man, but he would bet his entire life savings that the boy had heard what he said.
Shame wracks his body. He closes his eyes and tries to breathe deeply.
Tony's safe. Harry's safe. Everyone's safe. It's not happening again. It's not. Everyone's fine. He's fine. Breathe.
"Why is Tony in Malibu? Why didn't you tell us?" Bruce says with a little more bite in his voice than usual. He's probably just on edge from seeing Rhodey freak out over Tony going on holiday. God, he's a mess. What kind of person just immediately assumes their friend has been kidnapped? Sure, with the kind of work they do it's not too far-fetched but damn he thought he was handling the situation better than this.
"Sir went for a drink a few nights ago and ended up in Malibu. I have been monitoring him, he's safe. He didn't want anyone to follow him, and he wanted people here to look after the kid."
"I'm going after him," Rhodey says sharply, getting to his feet. Tony went for one drink and ended up gone for three days? That's a red flag for sure.
"You can't go alone, Rhodey, you just had a panic attack! You're in no condition to leave this house!" Bruce barks, "As a doctor, I-"
"I'm going, Bruce. I have to see him. I have to- To make sure that he's-"
"I'll go with him, Bruce," Vision says softly, placing a stabilising hand on Rhodey's shoulder, grounding him. "You stay here and look after Harry."
"Where's Natasha?" Rhodey asks suddenly realising the last team member was absent.
"She got called in. Fury said it was important. Who knows," Bruce says with a shrug, "I'll make sure the kid's fed and leaves his room for once. You go bring Tony back and tell him he can't just piss off any time he wants. He's got a son now. Responsibilities. All that stuff. He needs to think before he indulges in his irrational impulses."
With that, Bruce leaves with a huff. Tony's a good friend of his. Hell, maybe even his best friend at this point in his life. But he can't keep doing this. He's a father now. At some point, he's going to need to grow up, and Bruce is sick of playing babysitter. Bruce is too dangerous to be left alone with the kid. He can't control him.
Rhodey and Vision watch Bruce's retreating back for a moment before meeting each other's eyes, a silent message passing between them.
Are they really going to leave the hulk alone with the boy? Well, chances are nothing's going to happen that will make Bruce turn in to the Hulk in the first place and besides…
What other choice do they have?
Harry was cleaning.
He knows he shouldn't be. Not after the way these people have been treating him. But at this point it's almost like a habit, or some kind of stress reliever. It's almost like meditation to him now. He gets angry and frustrated and infuriated, so he cleans and cleans and cleans.
He's gone through all of Tony's labs as a sorry for his room, not even knowing that the man wasn't here to see it. God, what father just leaves their son? Sure, he's in a house with 'Earth's Mightiest Heroes' and all that jazz but they're not his family. Tony's responsible for him now. Surely he's supposed to care about his welfare, at least a little bit?
Although, a traitorous part of his mind whispers, look at how he's treated you so far.
And then here was Rhodey. 30 seconds after finding out Tony had disappeared he was there yelling about Harry being evil and taking him and blah blah blah. Had they even seen Harry? How did they expect him to even carry Tony let alone fight and subdue him? It's not logical.
Well, if he really thinks about it, Harry admits that he could quite easily subdue and carry Tony off; but that's using magic. To them, Harry's a muggle. A child.
This is how they treat a child.
He's over it.
He scrubs the floor of the gym roughly. When he had first entered, the smell alone had almost stripped his skin off his bones. Clearly, no-one had bothered to ever step inside other than to bash each other's heads in. If Tony was so rich that he could afford all this you'd assume he'd be able to afford a cleaner.
Although, Harry reasons, he's probably worried about security and all that jazz. Can't let a single soul in this building without giving them a thorough background check and having a good reason. Wait, had they done a background check on him? Not that there's anything in his past to be worried about but still, what an invasion of his privacy! These people think they can just do anything. Say anything. Treat people however they want and they'll get away with it. Simply because they're rich and famous and important for some reason.
God, he's starting to see why Snape hated him so much. Well, that and because his father had bullied him mercilessly when they were in school.
Or, well, not his father. His step father? What even was James to him now? Well, James has been more of a father to Harry than Tony has. Tony isn't his father. Tony isn't anything. Tony is simply a man allowing him to live in his house until he can go back to boarding school.
God, it's all too confusing.
Harry goes to dunk his mop back in the bucket when a loud cacophony of broken glass and crashing furniture makes him flinch. He drops the mop in his haste to whirl around and spot the cause of such a sound.
He reaches for his wand only to grab at air. Damn, he had left it in his trunk in his room. He couldn't leave it out with all the spyware and fucking cameras Tony has set up. Another reason to hate the man. Can't his father trust him with anything? A little privacy is all he's fucking asking for. It's not that hard to simply do nothing rather than waste all this time setting up security cameras and creating a fucking AI to-
A thundering roar pounds in his ears, cutting off his train of thought sharply.
What. Was. That.
His heart beating in his ears he stumbles in his attempt to get away from the sound. He crashes into the gym wall and paws at the smooth wood trying to find any area to hide, any scrap of equipment to disguise him, any secret door to slip in to, literally anything.
Thumping footsteps sound through the hallway beside him, loud crashes following in their wake.
They've found him. It has to be them. They've knocked out Dr Banner and are coming for him. It has to be. He had heard that Voldemort was recruiting the giants, well, clearly they've chosen a side! Pretty impressive they were able to get in to the compound though. Pretty impressive they were able to find him at all actually. Actually, really weird that there aren't a dozen death eaters descending on his location simultaneously. That's usually their style-
The wall beside his head rips open with loud screeches and ear shattering snaps.
He hears his breath coming in and out. Too loudly. He lowers his breath, allowing a slim string of air to escape in an attempt at total disguise.
He needs to call his magic. It's his only option. He needs to get to his wand. He needs to-
A large hand grips the wall above his head.
Accio wand. Accio wand. Accio wand. He chants over and over, desperate for anything. Anything. He feels something stirring deep within him, a slight pull, a sharp sting, come on, come on.
The wall is ripped out from behind him. Harry finds himself flat on his back looking up at the creature.
"HULK SMASH!" It roars in his face, spit flying and sticking to his glasses.
Harry looks at the giant. No, not a giant. Or at least, not one he's ever seen or heard about before. Harry can't help it.
He starts to laugh.
Pure delight takes over his features as relief floods through him. It's not him. It's not Voldemort. It's not the death eaters. He's safe. He's safe.
He puts his hands over his face but his wide smile still peaks out from behind them.
"Hulk smash?" The large figure above him says, confused. This isn't how the human is supposed to react. Humans are scared of Hulk.
"Hulk smash? Are you Hulk? Are you planning on smashing me? I'm Harry, by the way," Harry says brightly, sitting up and taking a good look at the creature.
He's large, that's the first thing Harry notices, and green. He looks kind of familiar but Harry can't seem to place him.
"Wow, look at you," Harry says breathlessly. Hagrid would love this. "What are you? Sorry, that was incredibly rude. You're not really a giant are you? Too small for a giant. Also too green. Too smart for a troll, and not quite the right colour. I mean, look at that neon green. It's magnificent!"
Hulk looks down at the tiny human. The tiny human is complimenting him. This is correct.
Hulk looks up and flexes his muscles, posing slightly in Harry's awe.
"Hulk strong," He says gruffly, slamming his hand into the wall beside him, "Hulk smash." The creature grins at Harry, wide and toothy. Harry can't help but grin back.
"Very strong indeed," Harry says looking at him curiously. "Hey Hulk, do you want to go smash things with me?"
Chuckling, Harry gets to his feet. He's been meaning to let loose ever since he stepped foot in this household. Tension had been building in him for a while. Destroying the headmaster's office had only let off so much steam. He needed this. The team had fucked off to look after Tony. Whatever. He'd look after himself.
Grinning Harry held out his hand, "Let's smash."
Harry takes Hulk outside. He had looked at the surrounding forest from the windows of the compound for the last week trying to think of a way out that wouldn't result in Friday immediately telling on him. He didn't need a fucking babysitter. He just needed some time away, let loose, feel better, the works.
This was the perfect opportunity. All the avengers out dragging Tony back to his rich, opulent lifestyle. Cry him a fucking river. Tony runs as soon as things get hard. What a joke. This is supposed to be the man in charge of him? Give him a break.
Hulk bounds past him, roaring at every bird and patch of silence hidden in the trees. Harry had tried to walk at a cool, leisurely pace - calling his inner Malfoy - but his Gryffindor side had taken over too quickly. Within two beats he was racing in the trees, ducking under low branches and laughing loudly.
He felt free for the first time in a long time.
"HULK SMASH!" He hears from beside him. He turns to see the large green creature ripping a tree in half and swinging it into another. Harry grins.
"FUCK YEAH HULK! Harry smash too!" He cries letting his magic loose. Out here, so far from surveillance and society, he feels like he can get away with it. He's not using his wand so it couldn't be traced. Just pure, wild, accidental magic.
It comes to him quickly in his rage, much easier to call on when he's angry rather than frightened, thanks a lot, magic.
He cuts down branch after branch, stripping the tree to its core. He grabs one of the smaller fallen branches and hurled it at Hulk. It bounced off his back harmlessly but sure got his attention.
They danced. Hulk fought with two trees, swinging them at Harry like they were in a sword fight. Harry danced between them, shifting his body, honing his reflexes, dodging, playing, living.
He jumps and ducks and rolls. He laughs, his head held back, his eyes closed. Letting instinct over take his movements. Drowning all logic and common sense and just letting him feel.
Letting him feel the anger, the sadness, the betrayal.
His entire life had just turned upside down. He had thought he was Harry James Potter. Son of loving, married parents. Was he still even entitled to the Potter family wealth now? Was he actually completely broke? Was the invisibility cloak his? Was anything his?
He had thought his father was a good man. A hero. Turns out he was wrong on both counts. One a bully, the other a fucking asshole. His real father doesn't even remember his mother. Not even a name. How fucked up is that?
Harry's glasses snag on a stray leaf, flinging to the ground and leaving him blinded. He barely notices.
He had thought reuniting with his real father would be difficult but didn't think it would be this difficult. Hell, he had wanted to see his father for a few days and then hide with the Weasleys for the rest of the summer. He has to get a message to the Order. He's sure they've noticed his disappearance by now. They would have had to have. But they would have no idea where he was and how to contact him. No owl could fly across the world to get to him. Any 'point me' spell would be out of range or simply point towards the ocean forever.
Maybe this is a good thing for him though? Hell, last year he was two suburbs away and they didn't talk to him at all. Not a scrap of news from anyone. The Order. His friends. His new godfather.
Thinking of Sirius makes his heart skip a beat. He misses him. Sure, he wasn't perfect but he tried didn't he? Promised him a home.
He feels tears well up in his eyes just as Hulk takes another swing. So caught up in his thoughts he doesn't get out of the way in time and feels the solid wood connect with his side, flinging him roughly and depositing him in the dirt fifty metres away.
Hulk pauses confused. They were having fun. Now, the tiny human is laying on the ground. What happened?
He stomps over roughly throwing the trees to the side. The human is lying face down. Hulk frowns, reaching a large hand out and gently, well as gently as Hulk possibly can, rolled him over. Hulk liked this human.
The human doesn't move.
The human jerks awake.
"Wha-Ahh" Harry cries shifting slightly. Yep, he's broken a rib. Argh. He presses his hand to his right side gently to hold it in place. He's dealt with broken ribs before - more times than he can probably count - so he knows there's not much to do other than take it easy and let the rib heal itself.
He glances up at the large creature beside him. He doesn't know why he feels so comfortable with Hulk. The almost child-like innocence, the straight-forward speech patterns, just the fact that Harry can look at him and know exactly what he's thinking, it's… refreshing.
He likes having someone to let off steam with. He likes someone he can just sit and chat with, that has no ulterior motive. Someone that he doesn't have to think with. Someone he can just sit and be with.
Someone that doesn't judge him or his actions.
He hasn't felt this at peace in years now that he really thinks about it.
"Harry sad?" Hulk says softly, placing his hand on Harry's face and roughly stroking downwards. Harry assumes he's trying to wipe away his tears and, even though Hulk fails miserably and only adds to his injuries, Harry can't help but warm at the gesture.
"Don't worry, it's nothing you did." And it honestly wasn't. Harry doesn't cry at a broken rib anymore. He's just feeling so overwhelmed and didn't properly get to grieve Sirius and didn't get the chance to acknowledge everything that's happened with his family and moving to the US and-
"Harry sad." Hulk says, frowning.
Harry chuckles, "Maybe a little bit, buddy. But we all get sad. It's normal. I'm ok."
"Hulk don't like Harry sad," Hulk says gruffly, sitting with a loud thump. Harry's sure there's a small crater under him where there wasn't one before.
"Yeah well, I don't like being sad either. I was happy before though, really happy."
"Harry hurt?" Hulk says quietly. Glancing at the tiny human. So small. So fragile.
"Only a little bit, buddy. We'll have to stop playing. Will you help me back to the compound?"
"Hulk help." Hulk nods decidedly. He reaches out a large arm, scooping Harry up in one smooth motion as he gets to his feet nimbly. For such a large body, he can really move.
Hulk tucks harry to his chest, manoeuvring him in a position that makes the human's face squint least. Nodding, he takes one giant leap causing the human to wine quietly before smothering the sound and schooling his features.
Hulk frowns. Harry hurt.
Hulk slows his pace to a walk. Practically crawling back to the compound he's moving so slowly. He picks his way through the forest carefully, avoiding trip hazards and uneven terrain.
Harry doesn't wince again.
They reach the compound in record time. Hulk depositing him on the couch smoothly.
"Bruce doctor," Hulk says finally, "Bruce help." His shoulders sag slightly. Hulk useless. Bruce help instead.
Harry glances up at the gentle giant beside him, placing a soothing hand on the massive bicep to gain his attention.
"Thank you, Hulk. You helped me get home. I'm fine. Dr Banner will be back later - he's off helping to find Tony - I'll be fine," he fixes a winning smile on the creature before laying down to rest his head.
"Bruce help." Hulk whispers, putting his hand on Harry's chest to feel the kind boy that played with him one last time before allowing the transformation to take over his body. He hunches in on himself, groaning in pain, his body getting smaller and smaller, less and less green, more and more human.
Harry's eyes widen. Collapsed over him, buck-naked, is Dr Banner. Dr Banner is Hulk. Hulk is- He- What?
Bruce groans loudly opening his eyes and casting them around the room. He remembers he was in his lab… and then he had dropped a chemical causing a small explosion… everything had started to fall off the shelves and shatter, pieces of furniture had scattered around the room and-
Shit, he had turned into the Hulk.
His eyes whirl around the room from his position on the floor before landing on Harry, lying on the couch beside him, looking shocked. Shit, he had turned into the Hulk with a fucking child in the room. His eyes roam the boy's body searching for injuries and finding them pretty quickly. Harry's right hand presses against his ribs, his eyes screaming in pain.
A tear slips down Bruce's cheek before he can stop it. Shit, he hurt the kid. He's dangerous. He shouldn't be here. He shouldn't be here with the Avengers, with this child in the house. He can't- He shouldn't- He-
"So you're Hulk?" Harry asks tenatively. This man, who had wanted nothing to do with him from the beginning, had turned into the only being that had made him feel comfortable and welcome and whole in a long time.
"He hurt you," Bruce whispers, tears flowing, "I hurt you. I- I-"
"What? No, Hulk didn't hurt me," Harry says quickly, sitting up with a strength the Bruce did not expect when he's clutching what's clearly a broken rib.
Bruce's eyes stare at Harry disbelieving, before pointedly glancing to where Harry's hand still curls around his waist.
"Well- Maybe he did, technically, break a rib or two. But no, Hulk he, he was great- I- We had fun. We- I-" Harry stumbles over his words.
"Harry…" Bruce says tentatively, "The Hulk is dangerous. He hurt you."
"No- He carried me back, he was so gentle. Hulk isn't dangerous. We just got a bit rough while we were playing and I got distracted. It was completely my fault. Please," Harry begs. What he's begging for, he's not quite sure. Please don't punish Hulk? Please don't take him away? Please don't lock Hulk in a dark room and throw away the key, never to be seen again? Please don't take Harry's only friend in this whole fucking country away from him.
"Harry," Bruce starts again, "Why don't you just tell me what happened? While I check on your rib?"
"Ahh don't worry about the rib. They heal by themselves, I'll just take it easy for a few days. Promise. All good. Thanks, though, for the uh offer and everything. But yeah uh Hulk was great we-"
Harry stops his rambling at once, locking on to Bruce's eyes, kinder than he's ever seen them before.
"I'm a doctor. I'm taking a look at your rib. I know that they mainly heal on their own, but depending on the break it might have punctured an organ or ripped through the skin or any number of things. Hopefully it's just a fracture, but I need to check to be sure."
"It's just a fracture," Harry rushes to reassure him, "I'd be in way worse pain if it was anything bad. Don't worry. This is only a small break, nothing major it's fine."
Bruce looks away for a moment, his gaze drifting across the room looking for something to back him up, anything. Finding nothing he reverts his gaze back to the boy, mulling over his words.
"What don't you want me to see, Harry?"
The question startles him. "No-Nothing. There's nothing, I don't- There's nothing." Harry says firmly.
"Look, kid, you're not going to get in trouble. Ok? There's nothing under there I haven't seen a million other times on all the other patients I've had over the years. If it's a tattoo or something I promise I won't tell your dad, but I'm a doctor and as a doctor, I'm not letting you leave this couch without a quick check up."
"That's fine!" Harry says cheerfully, "We can hang right here. Actually, could you bring Hulk back? Super cool how you're able to turn into him by the way, I'd love to know how that's possible. What is Hulk anyway? Is he-"
"Are you always this chatty when trying to deflect the conversation?" Bruce interrupts sharply. The kid had barely said two words to him in the week he's been living with them and now here he is, spouting his thoughts left, right and centre.
"Whaaat? No. I'm not trying to deflect anything, I'm just curious, you see-"
"Okay," Bruce says.
"Okay?" Harry cocks his head, confused.
"Look kid, if it means that much to you, I won't force you to lift your shirt. I think I've burned enough bridges with you already, I don't want to abuse your trust any further."
Harry looks anywhere but at Bruce's piercing eyes. Trust? What fucking trust?
"You have to let me check that you're okay though, I'm a doctor first and foremost," Bruce says, placing his hands gently on Harry's ribs outside his shirt. It's nowhere near as good or thorough a check-up as Bruce would have liked, but it does the job. He concludes that Harry was right, it was just a fracture. How he survived with the Hulk, leaving with one fracture, is beyond him.
Bruce eyes the kid more seriously. This was a boy who had liked being with the Hulk, we had fun , he had said. He'd even used words like gentle. Who was this kid? Either he has a completely different definition of fun and gentle or he did something to make the Hulk like him.
Although the different definition thing might be true. The kid had barely flinched at a fractured rib.
Warning bells start to alarm in Bruce's head but he makes sure to keep his face calm. A fifteen year old shouldn't know the feeling of a broken rib. A fifteen year old shouldn't describe a day with a giant monster as fun. A fifteen year old shouldn't be sitting in front of him, not flinching or turning away from Bruce's touch.
Hell, no one should be so calm after having a run in with the Hulk. Hell, the kid looks more uncomfortable around Bruce than he does the Hulk.
Well, I wonder why! A soft part of his mind hisses sarcastically. He had messed up. He had messed up bad.
"Dr Banner?" The hesitant voice breaks Bruce out of his tumbling thoughts, "I- ah I see that you wear glasses and I was wondering if I could borrow a pair? Mine were broken while Hulk and I were playing."
Bruce's head snaps up suddenly aware that yes, Harry is no longer wearing glasses, and yes, Harry is squinting at Bruce, almost painfully. God, Bruce calls himself a doctor and completely missed this. His head is too rattled these days. He needs to get out of this whole superhero business before it kills him. Go back to a life in self-exile, go back to the days where no one knew his name or who he was. The-
"I'll pay! If that's the issue," Harry rushes after Bruce stays silent for a few moments, "Or- You know what, nevermind, I'll just go and ah look for them or something. My vision isn't even really that bad, I didn't even have glasses until I was 9. It's not a hassle, it's fine-"
"Harry," Bruce interrupts, "I'm sorry- I- Of course I'll get you some glasses but mine are probably the wrong prescription, I don't need to wear my glasses all the time whereas it appears that you do."
"What's a prescription? I thought all glasses were the same?" Harry asks, confused. The question tumbles out of his mouth before he can stop it.
"You've never had a prescription? How did you get the glasses you have currently?" Bruce counters, a worried frown on his face.
"Oh ah I must have just been ah really young! Yeah! Much younger. I just ah don't remember!" Harry stammers nervously. No way is he going to tell Dr Banner that he'd fished them out of a bin one day after his teacher had recommended getting his eyes checked. He still remembers the slap Aunt Petunia had given him for stealing, and the hunger pains that had left him sobbing in his closet for 4 days, but at least they'd let him keep them.
Dr Banner looks unconvinced, frowning at Harry.
Harry laughs nervously.
"Of course," Bruce says cheerfully. The boy was lying through his fucking teeth, Bruce can feel it, no child has the same prescription for so long that they don't remember getting an eye exam. People get regular check-ups to ensure their eyes haven't worsened.
Not wanting to push his luck, Bruce simply rises to his feet and holds his hand out for Harry to take, "I'm not an optometrist but I know enough and Tony has enough fancy gadgets around here that I'm sure we can make you a new pair of glasses in no time."
Harry glances down blushing, "Ah maybe you should put some pants on first."
Bruce looks down. Right, yep, he just transformed from being the Hulk. Right. He's naked. Completely. In front of his friend's teenage son. And he's just stood up. And the child is sitting. And- Yep- Fuck-
"Shit- Yep- I'll just- You wait… here." He says stealing a pillow from a nearby chair and hightailing it out of the room.
Harry's breathless laughs follow him in his wake.
Well, if it's only cost him his dignity to repair a little bit of their relationship and get the kid smiling again, no matter how briefly, then it's well worth the cost.
Chapter 6: Tony Stark
Rhodey finally gets through to his friend, in more ways than one.
Tony Stark Back to his Playboy Days!
Look out ladies! Tony Stark is back and better than ever. Have you had a secret fantasy to bump in to the man himself at a club and have a go on that pogo stick? Have you been crying yourself to sleep because you thought you missed your chance? Have you been secretly throwing darts at ex-girlfriend, Pepper Pott's face's cut out?
Well, not to worry! Because Tony Stark was spotted at a club three nights ago on the outskirts of New York and let me tell you, he is going bigger, better, harder than ever! Now's your chance to not only shoot your shot with a billionaire but also a superhero that's saved the world more times than not!
The man himself was spotted on a serious bender, getting absolutely hammered in the first hour of gracing the club with his presence. Although he didn't leave with a girl, he was spotted snuggling with a couple of would-be models in the back.
He was seen leaving the club, pretty early for him, at a conservative 1am; but we can't blame him for being out of practice. Maybe you can be the lucky girl to get him back to his 5am average! Happy Hogan, Stark's chauffeur and ex-bodyguard picked up the superhero and was spotted taking him back to Avenger's Tower. A jet was caught leaving the tower moments later.
Avenger's Tower has been sold, with reports showing the final items moving out of the tower later this week. So we wouldn't recommend camping outside Avenger's Tower or the surrounding bars and clubs to get a glimpse of the man himself. Stark is keeping the location of his new dwelling extremely secret but you'll hear it from us first when the info is leaked!
Rhodey and Vision arrived in Malibu six hours after Rhodey's meltdown. It was an easy ride on Tony's private jet, allowing ample time for Rhodey to comb the web for scraps of news for what happened and why.
It wasn't looking good.
At least Happy managed to help him - but why wouldn't he come back to the compound? Or stay at Avengers Tower? Why would he have flown all the way to fucking Malibu - across the country?
Upon arrival, Rhodey punched the code to the house in the way too complex garage door from the landing pad, noting that there's was the only jet. So Happy had already gone. As if staying by Tony's side and making sure he's ok wasn't the number one priority right now. Rolling his eyes, Rhodey steps into the house. It's completely dark. Warning bells begin to chime.
"Is he not here?" Vision whispers beside him, as if a normal tone would break the tension spelled over them, "The plane's gone, maybe-"
Maybe Happy and Tony had taken their jet and were already on their way back to New York. Maybe Rhodey and Vision had come all this way for nothing. Maybe -
"Friday would have said something, she knew we were coming, she would have warned us on the jet if Tony was leaving." Rhodey mutters back. He refused to meet Vision's eyes. Vision had carefully prodded him for the first hour on the flight before realising that his attempts were falling on deaf ears. Yes, Rhodey had a panic attack for no real reason. Yes, Rhodey's not fine right now. Yes, Rhodey doesn’t want to fucking talk about it, least of all to a fucking robot who (although is the most sophisticated and "feeling" robot Rhodey's ever interacted with) can't possibly understand and recognise all the nuisances of a human's mental health.
Vision had stopped trying after Rhodey had snapped at him. Just another thing to feel guilty about. Today has not been a good day.
He moves further into the room. Tony has to be here, he just has to.
They found him in the basement. Of course they did. The man couldn't find peace outside of one of his labs. Even after getting so hammered he had to be practically carried to Happy's car Tony wouldn't dare sleep in an actual bed. God forbid.
He was slumped on the old couch in the far corner of the room. Huddled into a foetal position, obviously feeling cold from a lack of blanket and sick from lack of self-control.
Rhodey steps up to his still body and places a gentle hand on Tony's shoulder.
"Vision, do you mind leaving us for a bit? Maybe go make some hang over food?" Rhodey says softly, glancing at Vision for the first time in 5 hours.
Vision nods silently, understanding the need for peace and quiet.
Rhodey waits for the soft click of the door closing before attempting to rouse Tony from his sleep, nudging his shoulder gently.
"Tony?" He breathes.
Tony grunts and rolls over. He would have hit the floor if Rhodey hadn't accidentally caught him in his lap. The sudden fall snaps Tony awake.
"Mmh, Rhodey?" He grunts blearily, trying to get his eyes to open fully.
"I'm here Tony. I'm here. Let's get you some water," Rhodey mutters, spying a bottle on a side table a foot away. He unscrews the cap and takes a hesitant sniff.
Not water. Great.
He replaces the lid and tosses the bottle far away. It seems like Tony's night didn't end when Happy picked him up. Rhodey eyes Tony carefully, if he's just spent the last 72 hours drinking spirits like a fish then Rhodey's got a whole other issue to deal with. His friend slumps against the couch, moving out of Rhodey's hold, and Rhodey can't help but be brought back ten, twenty, thirty years. All the times Tony's done this before. All the times his younger metabolism had saved him. All the times his extremely high tolerance had piggy-backed him. Not this time. Not this Tony that spent the last few years cleaning himself up, getting a nice girlfriend (almost wife), saving the world…
This Tony was not the same Tony he had dealt with before. This Tony isn't equipped to go off the deep end like this. This Tony couldn't afford to fall back into these habits.
"Tony…" He begins hesitantly. Why did you do this? Why are you so keen on destroying yourself?
What. Are. You. Doing.
"Are you okay?" He says finally.
"'M fine," Tony slurs.
"That's the word I would have used too," Rhodey says dryly, glancing pointedly to Tony's ripped and sweaty shirt, his missing shoes and one sock, and a pile of vomit on the other side of the room. Definitely the look of a man who has it all under control.
"Tony... Talk to me, man," Rhodey whispers as he removes his jacket and flings it over his friend's broad shoulders. It doesn't really fit, nor give much warmth at all, but the gesture is there nonetheless.
Tony tears up.
"I- It was only supposed to be one drink…"
"I know, Tony. I know," Rhodey mutters.
"I didn't- I wasn't supposed to lose control like that- And it was just one bottle after the next and I couldn't stop and this girl smiled at me and she looked so much like Pepper but she wasn't Pepper and Pepper hasn't talked to me because she doesn't want me to be Iron Man anymore so she's avoiding all my calls except for strictly business stuff and this girl said it was cool that I was Iron Man and it was like Pepper was saying it to me and I wanted to kiss her so badly for saying that because hearing Pepper say that is all I've ever wanted and then Happy came and dragged me away and then we were at Avenger's Tower but I didn't want to be Iron Man so he took me to my home, my real home but Happy's busy with stuff so I told him to go and that I'd be fine and come home but then I found another bottle and- and-" Tony's shoulders shook, his whole body heaved with stress and anxiety and just overwhelming self-loathing.
"I thought you and Pepper were getting better?" Rhodey asks hesitantly. Rhodey knew that during the whole Ultron saga Pepper had been avoiding Tony like the plague, saying that being Iron Man was too dangerous and he needed to stop. She had been devastated when Tony decided to pursue it and had broken up with him. But Rhodey had thought that they were talking now. Hell, wasn't she the one that brought Tony his son in the first place?
"She doesn't really want to be with me. I ruin everything I touch. She might be here now but she deserves better than me. Better than some fucking loser that can't do fucking anything right. My son hates me and he's only known me for 5 days. Peter's so hell bent on turning into me that he's destroying his life and causing chaos. The accords are going fucking nowhere. I've even managed to break up the Avengers!"
"Okay…" Rhodey begins hesitantly, "Firstly, you didn't break up the Avengers. It was a mutual split over various differences in opinion. Secondly, the accords are extremely complex and difficult to negotiate and you've done a tremendous job representing all superbeings in the proceedings - something that you'll notice no one else has volunteered for. Peter's a teenager, and teenagers need to learn to make mistakes. He's trying his best but it will take a little while. Regardless, his actions are not your fault - you Harry doesn't even really know you yet, you haven't had long to build a relationship with him but he'll love you in time. Finally, Pepper loves you. It sounds like she's mad at you because she thinks you're unnecessarily risking yourself to be Iron Man and that you're not really coping with it…" He trails off.
"We had a massive fight after the whole Peter destroyed a fucking ship thing. She said I wasn't being responsible with him. Which seems to be a popular opinion nowadays," Tony says bitterly, remembering how Vision and his own son had both remarked that Tony shouldn't have given Peter the suit, "She said she needed some time and that she was very disappointed in me. Wonder what she has to say now."
Tony averted his gaze, casting a tired look around the room. It was littered with half eaten food and empty bottles of vodka. He sighed, allowing his eyes to slip to the floor. How had he managed to screw everything up so badly?
"Tony… Pepper will come around, she's just worried about you," Rhodey places his hands on Tony's shoulders to make their gazes meet again, "I-I'm worried about you too."
Tony's eyes widen.
"I think you need to see someone, Tony," Rhodey says carefully.
"I don't need to go to some fucking shrink, Rhodey. I'm not crazy," Tony laughs harshly.
"They're called counsellors, or psychologists, or even psychiatrists. They're not for crazy people, they're for everyone. Everyone needs a little help every now and then," Rhodey explains gently.
"No, Rhodey. I- I can't… I-"
"I had a panic attack when I realised you were missing," Rhodey says abruptly, yanking Tony out of his thoughts.
"I had a panic attack." He says, staring at Tony intently, keeping his face open and vulnerable, showing Tony that it's okay, "I've always had minor anxiety but after you became a superhero- after I became a superhero- after the Ten Rings captured you and tortured you in Afghanistan…" He trails off, his mind whirling.
"It was after I had a panic attack on the bus listening to a baby scream that I realised I had to get help. I'm seeing this great psychologist that works with SHIELD. It's all anonymous but I'm able to speak freely about any classified information. It's- It's really helped me Tony. I feel like a different man. I haven't had an episode for a few months now," He sends Tony a shy grin.
"But after looking for you at the compound this morning… after finding you missing without telling me that you were even going somewhere! I assumed the worst. And I was right back there all those years ago. I said and thought some pretty awful things but it wasn't me talking, it was my anxiety. And I usually have it under control but you disappearing is a big trigger for me and I- I just couldn't do it."
Rhodey trails off, his eyes drifting down Tony thoughtfully as if to confirm that yes, he's safe and well. Tony feels a rush of shame wash over him. He had done that. He had caused his best friend to have a fucking panic attack.
He really doesn't deserve people.
"It was only supposed to be one drink…" He whispers softly. Not even trying to justify his actions, just devastated that it's come to this.
"There's nothing wrong with having a drink Tony," Rhodey says carefully, "But there is something wrong with going on a three day bender without telling anyone."
Rhodey gets to his feet and starts cleaning up the lab, picking up stray bottles and shoving them in the nearest bin with a sharp clang.
Tony watches him for a few moments before staggering to his feet to join him. He closed a nearby pizza box with a soft thump and eyes a bottle of vodka with a centimetre of fluid inside. He doesn't notice Rhodey's proud smile when he simply uncaps it and pours it into the sink.
They work in silence for a few moments.
"It's okay, you know?" Rhodey says at last, bending to pick up stray bits of metal from the floor where Tony had dramatically scraped them off the bench the previous evening to clear a space to drape over it.
Tony looks up with a questioning hum.
"To not be okay," Rhodey continues without meeting Tony's eyes. "It's normal, actually. To not have it all figured out. To struggle with something. To be sad or angry or stressed. It's okay to not be okay."
He looks up eventually, meeting Tony's eyes dead on.
"And it's okay to ask for help when you need it."
With that, he left the lab to find Vision.
You can draw a horse to water but you can't make it drink. Rhodey's job was to give Tony the options, to recommend a counsellor, to advise in a direction forward, but, at the end of the day, Tony had to make the decision himself.
Rhodey just hoped he made the right one.
Dinner was a tense affair. It consisted of Tony trying to pretend he wasn't completely breaking, Vision pretending he couldn't see anything had changed and trying to serve the hangover food that Tony barely touched, and Rhodey trying to keep a casual conversation flowing. All three failed miserably.
"Lovely weather we're having-" Rhodey says cheerfully after already burning through all other topics of conversation.
"How's Harry?" Tony cuts him off abruptly, picking his fork up swiftly and shoving food in his mouth to stop the trembling. He had been dreading this question but he needed to know, needed an answer before he lost his courage and said something stupid like "Never mind actually, yeah the weather's fucking great."
"Ah we haven't actually-" Vision begins.
"He's great!" Rhodey interrupts suddenly, "Been keeping to himself mostly, chillin' in his room- you know how teenage boys are- doing just fine!"
Tony's eyes narrow. Rhodey sweats.
"Vision?" Tony demands quietly, eyes never leaving his friend's face.
"We haven't actually seen him since you left, we think he's been hiding in his room. I was looking for him when we discovered you were missing and, well, we figured Bruce was enough man power to keep him safe…"
Tony collapses into his hands. He just can't seem to get it right.
"I'm dooming both boys to my fucked up lifestyle," He breathes to himself. A tear escapes his eyes as his heart suddenly aches. He needs to be a role model, a father figure, to get these boys back on the right path. Hell, he's actually a father to one of them. The thought of having a real life breathing son falling into his own isolationist habits leaves him numb.
"What was the name?" He mumbles.
"What?" Rhodey asks softly. Watching as Tony peels his hands away from his face to look at him. Dark circles mar his face, a hundred wrinkles appearing in seconds, a slump that never seems to make it on the billionaire's body. Rhodey watched his best friend age 300 years in 30 seconds.
"The name of the guy? The shrink? What was the name?" He asks eventually, spitting the words out like vinegar.
"I'll introduce you," Rhodey says finally with a small smile, "Did- I'm sure Bruce can handle Harry for a few extra hours, if you wanted to I- I think it would be good to speak to him immediately. Before you lose your courage."
Tony looks at him for a moment. He can't go back to his son as the total train wreck seated at the table only to fuck everything up worse. He needed to get better. He needed help. Rhodey had been subtly hinting for years that he needed to get his act together and talk to someone. The time had finally come for him to man up and actually do it.
"Sounds good," he muttered into his hand.
"First thing tomorrow morning," Rhodey prods, "Promise?"
His eyes drift to the far wall. Flashes of Pepper and Peter and Happy and Harry.
"Tomorrow." He agrees.
"Pleeeeeease," Harry whined a bright smile on his face.
"Come on! You have to! He's the only one strong enough!"
"Well, what are you going to tell Tony when he comes home to see half the wall of his gym completely destroyed? He'll find out then!"
"Just FIVE minutes!"
Bruce turns to Tony's son, finally seeing the resemblance. Both are stubborn little shits that get their way through equal parts brain and whining-
-Or maybe just whining.
"Harry, NO. He's dangerous. I can't- I-" Bruce chokes on his words. Harry sobers immediately.
"Look Dr Banner, he may be dangerous to others… but not to me. He saved me. He let you come back so you could help heal me. He'll be anxious to see that I've recovered!"
"You haven't recovered. It's been two hours. Nothing's happened. You're still holding your side and wobbling around like you've been drinking all day!"
"Surely there's a way to get him out on his own. How did he come out this morning? All I heard was breaking glass and yelling…" Harry ponders suddenly. Most dual-body creatures have a trigger for their subsequent sides to come out. Any werewolf comes out at the full moon, clearly Hulk doesn't have as rigid a schedule. It must have something to do with Dr Banner himself…
"I had an accident in the lab which caused him to come out, something that I'm sure we're all mature enough to know should not be replicated," Bruce said sternly. God, when did he become his father?
"Fine, help me move this beam," Harry says at last, shoulders hunched in defeat. Bruce felt a pang go through his chest, he knew it was for the best but seeing Harry's obvious sadness over not getting to meet the Hulk again… Bruce felt bad. Here was the only being on Earth who wanted to be with Hulk, and that Hulk probably wanted to be with too but Bruce just couldn't do it. It was too dangerous. This was a kid! He couldn't, in good conscience-
"Oh wait, we can't because it's too big and heavy, therefore we need… HULK!" Harry turns suddenly slamming a shard of wood into Bruce's side. They both clutch their ribs tightly, Harry instantly regretting his sudden movement.
It seems to have done the trick though, as Dr Banner collapses to the ground and flinches several times as he grows greener and larger and angrier…
"Hello again," Harry breathes, looking up at the giant in awe.
"Harry." Hulk barks gruffly, "Harry hurt?"
"Only a little, Dr Banner patched me up. And I can see again! Better than before! Did you know that there's different levels of glasses? I had no idea!" Harry chatters cheerfully, instantly at ease with his giant friend.
Dr Banner had moved up Harry's list of favourites but still well below any meaningful conversations. Although, it was really good of him to not push Harry when he didn't want to lift his shirt. He was actually really nice when he thought Harry was hurt. Pity he wasn't that nice all the time.
"Harry happy." Hulk grumbles amused.
"Happy to see you again," He says brightly, "We had fun before, right?"
"Exactly!" Harry slumps over Hulk's giant leg, leaning back and resting. At ease for the first time in months.
Maybe this gentle giant reminds him of Hagrid, his first ever friend. Maybe Bruce reminds him of Remus. Maybe that's why he's let his guard down so quickly. Maybe that's why he can't help but wish to gush all his problems and listen to Hulk save him from his own messes. From his inevitable death. Neither can live while the other survives , a pretty fucking clear message isn't it?
"Harry sad?" Hulk says softly, using his thumb to lift Harry's head and roughly swipe at a stray tear.
"Nothing I can't handle," He says equally softly. "Hey, so I need your help! See all these planks of wood you ripped out earlier, we really need to put them back on the wall before Tony gets back. Dr Banner found some super adhesive glue in Tony's lab, we just needed someone strong enough to hold it in place while I fill in the cracks. Think you’re the man for the job?"
And that's all it took.
Chapter 7: Peter Parker
Tony's homecoming doesn't go as planned, and his two sons finally meet.
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.”