The first time Tony sees Steve Rogers, his palms are sweaty and his mind is running through equations in order to distract himself from the very real, gut-twisting possibility that he’s about to disappoint his father again. He only has enough brain cells free to think, “damn, that kid’s small” and “probably a Hufflepuff”, before the Sorting Hat falls over the kid’s eyes and bellows, “Gryffindor!” at the top of its metaphorical lungs. The tiny kid hobbles over to the Gryffindor table amidst a notably shocked silence. But when the kid takes a seat, his new housemates roar their approval like the meat-headed Neanderthals they are.
The hat falls onto his own head and Tony winces. He has to remind himself to breathe when his world goes dark behind the worn leather, and he focuses on the fact that the hat smells like sweat and patchouli oil (“A bunch of hippies,” Howard sneers in his mind. “I’d never ship you off to that school if it wasn’t for Slytherin. So don’t mess this up for me, boy.”).
The hat’s voice pushes into his skull like it has every right to be there, and he has to tamp down on his own instinct to push back.
“My aren’t we the genius?” the hat says (thinks?), clearly amused.
Tony scrunches his eyes up and bites the inside of his cheek, panic rising like a metallic tang at the back of his mouth.
“But something tells me Ravenclaw lacks the sort of ambition you seek.”
Relief floods through him and Tony releases a quiet breath.
The hat seems to understand, because it bellows, “Slytherin!” loud enough for everyone to hear.
Tony's legs go limp and he nearly falls off the stool, but by some miracle he manages to stay upright and he stumbles over to the Slytherin table. The Slytherins clap politely, hardly the roar of welcome the Gryffindors belt out, but he finds he likes it. Slytherins have class.
Natasha scares the shit out of him, but she’s smart and observant. He can’t say that for a lot of people in his house, unfortunately. So, in a weird way, they bond – mostly through mutual exasperation. Tiberious Stone is the only other Slytherin worth knowing, but even then, Tony can’t erase the niggling feeling at the back of his lizard brain that the kid wouldn't hesitate to hex him the moment it becomes convenient. And Steven Strange really lives up to his surname, patrolling the halls late at night with a cape of all things, until he turns up in the Great Hall for breakfast looking like he’s spent the entire night walking through hell. Needless to say, Tony sleeps with his wand under his pillow. You know, when he sleeps at all, which is basically never.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that every house has its share of jerks – Justin Hammer of Hufflepuff, anyone? But it’s disconcerting how well Tony gets on with the Ravenclaws. There’s a guilt that eats away at him, right in his chest like a weight pushing at his lungs, when he converses with one of them but he can’t help himself. Bruce is the only other student in his year who even understands half of the stuff flying out of his mouth, even though Bruce’s real expertise is in Potions and not Transfiguration. Pepper isn’t a genius, but she’s quick on her feet, adaptable to any situation in a way that has saved Tony’s impulsive ass more than once. She reminds him of that on a daily basis and he doesn't dare disagree.
Clint Barton from Hufflepuff and Natasha foster a strange bond that Tony will never figure out, but he doesn’t have the balls to ask either of them about the particulars. By their fourth year, he spends half his time wondering if there’s sex involved, but there’s no definitive proof either way. So he contents himself by ribbing Clint about his wand, which is a stubby little thing at 4 inches (this is his actual wand, you know, not his other...well, Tony's never seen that so he wouldn't know). But, even so, Clint threatens to use him for target practice in the dead of night right when he least suspects it.
Clint has a worrying habit of hanging out in high places throughout the castle and dropping down in front of unsuspecting first-years, so Tony shuts up and spends a manic 48 hours transfiguring some protective armor for himself. The armor is beautiful – red and gold with moving parts that glimmer in the torch light - and when Clint inevitably tries to shoot him with one of his hexed arrows, they break apart across its surface. Clint grumbles about the color choice, but Tony insists it’s perfect and flashy with no affiliation to a certain House That Shall Not Be Named. Clint and Natasha both side eye him and then each other, but Tony ignores it.
His best friend Rhodey is in the You-Know-What-House anyway, so it isn’t such a horrible color-scheme for Tony to choose. If anything, he’s honoring that friendship. After all the shit he’s pulled around him. It’s the least he can do, really. He’s showing his honey-bear that his House affiliation doesn’t matter to him, despite the fact that Rhodey’s housemates are a bunch of self-righteous jocks, hopped up on whatever the wizard equivalent of steroids is. Well, Jan’s okay, but she’s dating Hank, who’s a Hufflepuff. So, obviously, she has some standards. And Carol was a hat-stall for Ravenclaw. So at least she has a brain between her ears.
Steve Rogers, however, is the worst. Ever since first year, Rogers has been the president of self-righteousness. And even at three feet-whatever-inches, the kid goes out and hexes Tony for “bullying” Justin Hammer of all people. Of course, Tony hexes back, because what the hell else is he supposed to do?
It isn't his fault that Rogers is allergic to magic. What self-respecting wizard is allergic to magic anyway? How does he survive at a school that literally teaches witchcraft and wizardry? Rhodey has to interrupt him mid-rant to clarify that Rogers is actually allergic to the pollen released by his tentacula hex, but whatever. It isn't his fault Rogers is laid up in the Hospital Wing for weeks. The rest of the school has been treating the entire incident like some sort of Greek tragedy. Even as a midget, Rogers has a ridiculous amount of admirers beyond his House. And his Gryffindor posse, the Howling Commandoes (seriously?), all rally to his bedside like he's some sort of war-hero and not an enormously stubborn, trigger-happy idiot.
It doesn’t matter that Justin Hammer had been trying to steal Tony’s ideas and cheat with them, apparently. Barely anyone agrees with Tony that his actions had been justified. And yet, they flock to Rogers’s side for hexing Tony without cause or provocation. Tony can admit, even to himself, that he can be a jerk a lot of the time; that he can be sarcastic and annoying as hell when he wants to be; especially when he’d told Rogers to "stay back and let the big-boys handle it”; but Rogers’s hex had clearly been an overreaction.
The tip of the iceberg to the entire situation is when Peggy Carter marches up to him one day after their joint Magical Creatures class and slaps him hard across the face. Tony whinges to Pepper and Rhodey afterwards, but neither of them look surprised or sympathetic, the traitors. Natasha’s only contribution is to declare that her admiration for Peggy Carter has grown exponentially. Clint smirks as he sharpens his arrows. But Bruce grimaces in sympathy, which is why Bruce is his favorite, really.
So it doesn’t help that Rogers corrals him in the halls a few weeks later and apologizes to him on behalf of himself and his friends with all the sincerity of a kicked puppy. His eyes are all huge and blue even in the orange torch light and he's got this pout that is only enhanced by a plump lower lip, which Tony has never really had cause to notice before. Tony doesn't even know how to counter the pathetic picture Rogers makes, so he just pats the boy's pointy shoulder and mutters a half-assed "no problem" under his breath.
But even now, years later, the memory of it makes his heart beat quicken and his mouth go dry; his palms go sweaty like he’s still in line in first year, waiting to be sorted. It’s disconcerting and weird, and he doesn’t like it. So he distracts himself from that feeling – which only grows stronger over time, damnit – by charming his way into the beds of various classmates. Of course, he doesn’t realize that should have been a major clue as to the true source of his feelings until it’s way too late and way too inconvenient.
It happens at the end of fifth year, when the House Cup is at stake, of course, and the deciding factor in the race is whether Slytherin or Gryffindor wins the last Quidditch match. Tony and Steve go head to head as their House’s respective Seekers. Of course, Tony is a better flyer, but Steve is small with quick reflexes in the air and less wind-resistance. It's physics. Everything goes to shit, though, when Tony is hit by something very hard and very heavy to the chest. The next moment he opens his eyes, he’s looking up at Steve Rogers's tear-stained face as the boy cradles him against his smaller body like Tony's some kind of invalid; like Tony's worth crying over.
“Steve,” he coughs out, nonsensically. He can’t really breathe. That could become a problem. Not enough oxygen to the brain, probably. Which isn't ideal, because he likes his brain.
“Don’t speak, Tony,” Steve warns, his voice isn’t as rough as Tony is expecting it to be, given how puffy the kid’s eyes are. His tone is even and deep and reassuring. “Just…we’re gonna get you to the Hospital Wing.”
Tony only gasps for breath that doesn’t seem to go anywhere. At least not into his chest like it should. He moves to look down at it, but Rogers stops him, curving a palm under his chin and holding his face so that Tony can only see the way his ridiculously long eyelashes clump together and his pouting lips tremble.
He can hear footsteps pounding the pitch all around them as shadows fall from the sky, but his vision tunnels and goes black before he can do or say anything else.
When he wakes up again, he really is an invalid. He’s alone in a bed in the Hospital Wing and something is holding him down. He can breathe at least, which helps him not to panic, but the rest of the room is dark and it’s a little hard to feel his limbs. He closes his eyes because he can’t really hold them open, and the next time he does open them, the room is bright with shafts of sunlight and he isn’t alone anymore.
“You gave us quite the scare,” Natasha says, cocking a brow like this observation means nothing to her, but he can see the way her eyes track him, more focused than usual.
Pepper’s face is wet and Tony would wince if he had the energy for it.
Luckily, Rhodey looks composed, although there’s a note of disapproval in the line of his frown. Nothing Tony hasn't seen before.
“Still breathing.” Tony coughs, and that just turns into a thing that won’t end until Bruce hands him a goblet to sip. Tony lets the water soothe the ache in his throat, before he asks, “what happened?”
“Bludger to the chest,” Clint replies, and he doesn’t even smirk about it, which is unsettling.
“Huh,” Tony utters. “Anything broken?”
“Your chest collapsed in on itself,” Natasha explains matter-of-factly. “You’re all better now, though.”
“Luckily, Rogers caught you before you hit the ground,” Bruce offers. “It could’ve been worse.”
“Okay,” Tony mutters. That’s a bit…yeah. “Great. Good.”
“Rogers was here earlier,” Clint throws in, overly-casual, but he’s giving Tony a look as he says it. “He said he wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“Okay…” Tony says and he pushes himself up so he’s sitting against the pillows. He feels woozy and sweaty, and he can’t help asking, “He didn’t cry again, did he? Because…because that’s not a reputation I need right now. The guy who makes the Captain of the Howling Commandoes cry. There would be a lot of hexes focused in my general direction and I’d have to wear the armor all the time. That’d be inconvenient…and sweaty. I should think about installing some sort of interior air conditioning in that thing. Make a note of that, Pep. Internal AC. Mandatory upgrade.”
Pepper shakes her head, but at least she’s smiling now. Point for Tony.
Luckily, that’s the end of any comments about Rogers and Tony is released from the Hospital Wing later that day; well, technically, he sneaks out earlier than he’s allowed, but no one drags him back from his dorm room that night, and Headmaster Fury doesn’t even give him the stink-eye the following morning, which is more unsettling than the alternative, really. So…point for Fury.
Anyway, it’s that night in the privacy of his four-poster that he tries to sleep and realizes he may have a problem. He can’t stop thinking about Rogers and his stupid, pouty lips. Or his dumb, earnest face. Or his calm, deep voice in the middle of a crisis.
This problem only gets worse as time wears on, but Tony is a master at burying his issues beneath layers of narcissism and sarcasm and one-night stands. Rogers is always so damn nice to him, though, even when Tony tosses barbs his way during joint lessons or in the halls. The shorter boy only looks at him, like he can see right through his armor of bullshit and appreciates every last part of him. Tony is left swallowing around a lump in his throat, because Rogers’s smile is bright and warm like the sun rising over the Mediterranean at daybreak.
Then Rogers comes back Sixth Year, looking like the bulked-up love-child of Apollo and Aphrodite, and Tony has to hole himself away in the abandoned room he’s been using as his workshop just to give himself some time to hyperventilate in peace. He can’t even handle it. Rogers has always been beautiful, but now everyone can see it. Now when Rogers walks into the Great Hall, heads turn and students whimper – whimper.
Tony spends a lot of time alternating between not looking at him and getting way too familiar with his own right hand. It’s torture. And he has an uncomfortable feeling his so-called friends know all about it, because each and every one of them gets this constipated look on their face when they regard him these days. Clint outright laughs at Tony when he stares at Rogers’s ass for a bit too long during breakfast and accidentally pours scalding hot coffee onto his own lap. Natasha raises a brow at him and frowns as if she thinks he’s the stupidest wizard on earth, which is…what the hell? He knows Rogers is out of his league, and he’s a lost cause at this point, but is it really necessary to rub it in? The problem is that Pepper and Rhodey have adopted the same look and the treatment is seriously unfair.
Rogers is especially unfair. Without fail, he always stops Tony in the hall to say hi, a disconcertingly shy smile tugging at his lips, and Tony doesn’t even know what to do with that. Is the guy even real? He thinks he should pinch himself to make sure, but then Rogers always does something like pat him on the shoulder or clasp his left pectoral in a weird half-hug before he’s walking away like he didn’t just leave Tony’s face burning and his brain melting onto the floor like a pile of useless goo.
He pops up at his workshop unannounced sometimes, too, his bulk filling the doorway until Tony whirls around and notices he’s there. He’s glad he doesn’t have a weak heart, because the guy scares the shit out of him, lurking like that in all of his glorious perfection. Rogers stammers an apology every time, but that doesn’t stop him from ninja-ing his way into Tony’s workshop the next time, and it’s honestly baffling. Tony doesn’t know whether he likes it or hates it, but he never can drudge up the will to tell the guy to go away.
“Can I…hang out here?” Rogers asks eventually.
“Uh…sure?” Tony replies uncertainly. As far as he's aware, Rogers has already been doing exactly that for weeks without a formal request. But Rogers just beams at him and takes a seat at one of the abandoned desks.
He stares at Rogers as the guy opens a notebook with blank parchment and gets to work, but Rogers seems to notice after a while and glances up at him through the veil of his ridiculously long lashes to say, “The light is really good in here.”
“Okay…” Tony utters stupidly, and then they both go silent.
Tony eventually gets lost in his Transfiguration, manipulating metal and other material into his own inventions – mostly armor, but household items as well, like a talking toaster (he’s sure there’s a use for that in some magical household, even though Bruce vehemently denies it) – and Rogers doodles in his notebook, biting his plump lower lip in the most distracting way possible. This goes on for hours. And when it’s over, Tony has to escape without much preamble into one of the washrooms in order to take care of himself before he bursts.
He doesn’t even know if they’re friends, but Rogers always seeks him out after a few days and the routine starts over again. It’s definitely torture, but he can’t bring himself to make it stop.
“I hear you’ve been asked to the Yule Ball,” Tony blurts out one time when he's grown too exhausted to filter himself.
Rogers looks up from his drawing and his face flushes. “Uh…yeah.”
Tony nods, but his tongue feels heavy in his mouth, a weight settling in his gut. “Did you take anyone up on it?”
“No,” Rogers replies and his face is still flushed. He rubs a hand along the back of his neck, and looks at Tony with an expression he can’t decipher.
Tony swallows and looks away, manipulating the projection of a gauntlet he’d charmed. “Who are you waiting for?”
“The right partner,” Rogers replies, and Tony can feel his eyes on him so he glances back. Rogers is staring at him, his expression so damn earnest it physically hurts.
Tony’s heart aches and he rips his eyes away. “I hope you find her.”
“Why don’t you ask Rogers out to the Yule Ball?” Pepper asks him one day in the library, because she has clearly gone completely mad.
Tony narrows his eyes at her and frowns, wounded. “That’s cruel, Pep.”
“How so?” She frowns, and she looks genuinely baffled by his accusation, which is…wow, maybe she doesn’t know how crazy she sounds.
“Because I like to avoid rejection wherever and whenever possible,” he replies evenly.
Pepper has the gall to laugh and Tony shrinks into his seat. Ouch.
“Oh, Tony…” She looks at him like she thinks he’s the mad one; like she feels sorry for him, and he tenses up.
“I don’t need your pity, Pepper,” he tells her and he starts packing up his books.
She places a hand on his forearm and stops him. “It isn’t pity. At least, not in the way you think.”
“Okay…” he murmurs.
But he doesn’t really get it and she doesn’t elaborate any more than to say, “Just think about it, Tony.”
Which is…yeah, that’s not even an option for him, because…because if he thinks about it then it gives him hope and when he has hope, his mind calculates all the ways in which he can go about solving it like any other puzzle, and that’s bad, that’s suicide because risking whatever tentative thing he has with Rogers right now is already more than he knows he can handle. Rogers is lodged in his chest, right between his lungs like that bludger had been, and he doesn’t even know what would happen to him if he has to remove it. So he doesn’t do anything about it. He just takes what he can get, what Rogers offers him on the days that he seeks him out after classes. And he thinks that’s fine, that’s manageable, because he’s never going to get anything more and he can totally handle it...
But then he looks up from his food one evening in the Great Hall and spots Peggy Carter leaning down to kiss Rogers on the cheek like it’s the most natural thing in the world, and his world crumbles around him.
That might be overstating it, but his mood isn’t great regardless. So when Rogers finds him in his workshop that night, Tony doesn’t even turn around. He focuses on the improvements he’s making to his armor, and when Steve comes in and sits down, Tony finally says, “I’d like to be alone, actually.”
“Oh…” he doesn’t look at Steve, but he can tell the guy is a bit surprised.
“Yeah…uh…I need to focus and…” he trails off with a wave of his hand, like that explains everything.
But he can hear the scrape of Steve getting out of his chair. “No…yeah…I understand.”
“Right. Thanks,” Tony adds, still staring at the parts in front of him, and pretending to work. He’s good at that. “This project could take a while. Months. So…”
“Right.” Steve’s voice sounds weak, which is disconcerting, but he’s further away now. “No problem.”
Tony doesn’t breathe out until he leaves, and then he makes sure to keep his hands moving, his mind jumping through calculations that don’t involve the hitch in Steve’s voice when he’d said goodbye.
Natasha finds him skipping rocks across the lake a week later and kicks him in the shin.
“Ow…what the hell, Romanoff?” he yelps, hopping on his good leg.
“You’re an idiot.”
“Actually, technically, I’m a genius,” Tony disagrees.
Natasha doesn’t say anything, but she looks unimpressed.
“Rogers is moping.” She says this like the idea of it offends her, her nose scrunching in disgust.
“Why?” Tony asks before he can stop himself. He’s equal parts concerned and hopeful even though he knows he has no right to be. “Has his girlfriend dumped him?”
She gives him a look like he’s grown another head. It’s intended to make him feel small and stupid and he’s ashamed to realize it works. “You really are an idiot.”
“Tell me how you really feel,” Tony deadpans. “No, really. Don’t hold back. It’s unbecoming.”
“Okay.” She nods, like she's taking his request seriously. “You would never make a good spy. You have terrible observational skills.”
“And you’re emotionally stunted.”
“You told me to be honest,” she points out.
“Sarcasm is a thing, you know,” he retorts. “Is that all? I need some time to re-inflate my ego.”
“That shouldn’t take long,” she observes, and then she flounces away.
“What the fuck?” he questions. But no one is there to answer, obviously.
That night he decides to get shit-faced, because why the hell not. It’s not like he usually needs a reason, but on this occasion, it seems more than reasonable. And the more firewhiskey he drinks, the more reasonable it seems to get into his armor and take it for a spin. This is all fine and dandy, of course, until he crashes through a window in Gryffindor tower. There might be an explosion of some sort, he can’t be sure, but when he comes to, a bunch of Gryffindor girls are screaming in his general vicinity.
“Owww…” he groans and tries to get up, but his armor is locked for some reason and his limbs are too heavy to move.
There’s way too much yelling, really, and someone is pounding on the door until it bursts open. Tony takes one look at the figure in the doorway, his head pounding, and something ugly yawns open in his chest as he croaks, “You stole him…you...gimme...”
He may or may not make grabby hands. Then he passes out.
When he comes to, he thinks he must be dreaming because Steve’s upside down face is hovering over him and there are fingers running through the hair framing his forehead.
“Mmmm…” Tony moans and he turns his head to bury his cheek into the small space between Steve’s thighs.
The fingers stop moving for a moment, but then Tony whines and they move again in wider circles, rubbing his scalp like a massage.
Tony basks in it and smiles. “Steve.”
“Tony,” Steve replies. He sounds amused and more than a little breathless, which is weird.
Tony cracks an eye open and peers up at him. Steve's eyebrows are worried, but his lips are smiling softly and his fingers are tracing Tony’s cheek bone like it's something precious and…and that’s when the reality of the situation crashes down on him like a ton of bricks, because it feels real and none of that makes any sense. Tony stiffens then scrambles to sit up, but Steve holds him down with a hand on his shoulder and Tony goes still, his heart beating a mile a minute. “Um…”
“Are you okay?” Steve asks, earnest and calmer than Tony thinks he should be.
Tony nods and his face heats because he’s still resting his head on Steve’s lap and Steve’s fingers are still rubbing his scalp and grazing his jaw. He performs a quick scan of the area and realizes he and Steve are alone in what must be the Gryffindor common room. The pieces of his armor are piled up haphazardly against the wall like they belong there, and he and Steve are on a couch in front of a crackling fireplace. It’s almost straight out of one of the wet dreams he’s had more than once. So no one can blame him for pinching himself. "Ow..."
“You crashed through a window in the second-year girl’s dormitory,” Steve informs him, and his lips are quirked like he finds this fact amusing.
“Yep,” Tony replies stupidly, his mouth dry as the memories flood his brain. “Too much Firewhiskey.”
“Ah,” Steve murmurs indulgently. “That explains it.”
“You’re sober, though,” Tony tells him. Just to make sure.
Steve smiles. “Yeah.”
“Oh…” Tony utters. “Uh…so…”
“You accused Peggy of stealing me,” Steve explains.
“Oh…um…” Tony’s initial inclination is to deny it - to be fair, that particular memory is a bit fuzzy right now - but Steve is caressing his face with an expression so hopeful it’s impossible to misinterpret. So...there's that. Wow. He restrains himself from pinching his own arm again. “Yeah.”
“You never lost me, Tony.”
“Okay.” Tony nods and swallows, because he doesn’t know what else to do. His face is heating up again and his heart is beating its way up into his throat, and he genuinely doesn’t know how to proceed at this point, because -
So it’s a genuine relief when Steve leans down and kisses him Spider-man style (what? He watches Muggle movies). It’s an awkward angle and their lips catch in weird ways, but it’s the intent that makes it perfect and Tony can’t help sighing into it and clutching the back of Steve’s head to keep him there a little longer. Steve hums against his mouth and nips his lower lip once before he leans back and regards Tony with that same look of overwhelming adoration Tony has been completely blind to up until this moment. Merlin…he really has been an idiot. Point to Natasha…and Pepper, and probably everyone else. God.
“Will you go to the Yule Ball with me, Tony?” He’s actually blushing again, which is so adorable it’s unfair. It’s like he actually thinks Tony will say no, which is mind-blowing and flattering in a way that Tony just isn’t prepared for.
“Hell yes,” Tony agrees and he sits up and twists around so that he’s straddling Steve’s magnificent thighs.
Steve beams up at him like the sun piercing through the clouds, his big hands resting lightly at Tony’s waist, and Tony kisses him until he’s smiling so wide it’s ridiculous and unwieldy. But Steve doesn’t seem to mind. He just tilts his head and kisses Tony long and slow until their smiles fall away and they’re both breathless and aching and perfect.
At the Yule Ball, all of Tony’s friends punch him in the arm when they congratulate him for “finally growing some damn balls, Stark,” as Clint summarizes so helpfully.
Peggy greets him with a raised brow, obviously amused, which is probably better than protective and homicidal. So he’ll go with it.
At least she isn't glowering at him and mashing one fist against the palm of her hand the way Barnes is.
But the best is when he pulls Steve out onto the dance floor and shows him how to do it, even if Steve spends most of that time accidentally trampling his toes, because then Steve makes it up to him by dragging him out into the garden where the dancing is decidedly less vertical.
Needless to say, Steve is a lot better at that, and Tony is not going to be thinking about the ache in his toes the next day.
"...And that's how dear Steven lost his virginity."
"For the love of Merlin, Tony. Shut up," Rhodey tells him, holding his head in his hands. "I will seriously hex your mouth closed right now. You know I have to live with the guy, don't you? I'm never going to be able to look him in the eye again. Oh my god."
"Shame," Tony muses. "He has really pretty eyes. Especially when I've got him writh- "
So Tony tells Bruce all about it instead. Bruce is clearly uncomfortable, but at least he doesn't threaten to hex him or kick him out of his lab.
"That's...nice, Tony." Bruce smiles weakly and Tony beams at him.
"That's why you're my favorite, Brucie."
Well...after Steve, of course.
Steve blushes all the way to his ears when Tony tells him all about it, but effectively shuts Tony up by engaging his mouth in other activities.
Steve really is his favorite