Chapter 1: How It All Began
Disclaimer: I do not own anything from Harry Potter or the Avengers...
Nothing to do with the Finding Home series but this plot ambushed me a few days ago and it sort of stuck so I've decided to see where this will go. I seem to have a penchant for Master of Death!Harry though so this will be another of those fics.
Falling Skies will be posted sometime within the next week.
Summary: Life's a lot easier when no one knows you and your only worry is whether or not people in each world speak the same languages you do. Harry can attest to it; he's been jumping for years. He knows how to keep his head down and not get invested. On hindsight, with his track record, Harry supposed it was only a matter of time until he did exactly that.
Chapter 1 – How It All Began
"It's the only way, Harry."
Harry said nothing, keeping his attention on the metallic bracelet cradled in his hands instead. He knew his best friends were exchanging nervous looks across from him, but when he glanced up, they quickly focused their attention on the silver band as well.
No surprise there. Most days, he tried not to look at them either. He couldn't blame them for doing the same, not when their visible age differed so obviously from his.
When the war had ended, Britain had done what they always did best: carry on with life. The dead were buried, the Ministry of Magic was rebuilt, the Death Eaters were tried and convicted. People mourned, but never for long, and life had slowly but surely drifted back to normal.
The Golden Trio finished their last year of schooling in five months with half-hearted restless vigour and was soon unleashed on the world, much to the delight of many people in Britain. Job offers came pouring in, and with no shortage on that end, all three of them could pick what they wanted to do.
Harry had become an Auror, fast-tracked through the program on the recommendation of Kingsley, and had been fully qualified before he had turned nineteen, a record-breaking age in the Wizarding world. He was great at it too, and had become Head Auror by the time he was twenty-four. This had resulted in a stream of requests for the Auror program from all over Europe, and Harry had more than enough work to do to occupy his time.
Ron had gone into Quidditch, playing for the Chudley Cannons for several years as their Keeper. He was good, but it wasn't until the team's coach retired and Ron took his place that he became great. At twenty-three, Ron became a household name for bringing the Cannons to the semi-finals in the first two years and the finals the year after that before finally winning the cup in the fourth. The Cannons hadn't lost ever since.
In between all that, the redhead had also found the time to properly ask Hermione out, finally asking for her hand in marriage after three years of dating, a month of dragging Harry out to look for a ring, and another week to find the Gryffindor courage he had momentarily lost. Hermione had said yes, of course, and with Molly at its helm, the wedding had been just as beautiful as Bill and Fleur's.
Hermione had, surprisingly, entered the Ministry, quickly ascending through the ranks in the Department of Mysteries until she had become an Unspeakable at twenty-seven.
Neither Harry nor Ron had understood why after going through three years of SPEW with her, but when Harry had woken at the age of thirty, looked into a mirror, and wondered why he still looked twenty, maybe twenty-two at most, the pieces had started coming together.
Three years after that realization and two years after Harry had quit the Auror department, much to the shock of practically all of Britain, more and more people were beginning to ask questions.
And now, a week after said questions had began appearing in newspapers, Hermione had flooed to his apartment with Ron at three in the morning, breathless and still wearing her work robes and a terrified expression on her face.
She had come with the news that the Unspeakables had become suspicious of Harry's noticeable lack of growth and she had heard whispers of plans to interrogate him. Admitting to entering the Department of Mysteries on a suspicion about the Hallows and not just out of interest, she had revealed, with a sheepish look at Harry's accusing stare, that after hearing so much about the Master of Death, she had wondered if there were consequences to gathering the three Hallows. After all, Harry still had the cloak, the wand had refused to be left behind, the stone had magically returned to him, and were now fused to his magical core, contributing quite a bit of power to Harry's magic.
Tonight, the Unspeakables in charge of Harry Potter's case had finalized their plans at last, and not sticking around to try and talk them out of it, she had grabbed the device she had been working on for the past five years, left work, grabbed Ron, broken her oaths to the Unspeakables, and come straight to Harry.
"So let me get this straight," Harry finally voiced flatly. "The Unspeakables want to haul me in for something I have no control over and don't really even know what it entails except apparently giving me bloody immortality, and you want me to use this," He held up the bracelet. "To run away."
"You can't stay here, mate," Ron interjected anxiously. "It's the Unspeakables. They can find anybody."
Harry waved the band in the air, not understanding why neither of his friends seemed more concerned. "You want me to run away," He stressed again. "To a different dimension."
"It might not be another dimension," Hermione offered, hurrying on when Harry gave her an unimpressed look. "It's still a prototype. I haven't really tested it thoroughly yet, but its job is to take you elsewhere, other dimensions, times, maybe even worlds."
"Hermione, have you completely lost your mind?" Harry demanded. "Why would you even make something like this? Why would you think I would want to travel to other worlds or into the future or something? I wouldn't even be able to come back!"
"Would you really want to?" Ron asked quietly, looking uncharacteristically serious.
"It's not that we don't want you around, mate," The redhead continued hastily. "You're our best friend and life will be a lot more boring without you around. No more waking up at five in the morning to let you in after you come back from a mission, for one," Ron chuckled at that and even Hermione managed a weak smile. "But you've been drawing away from for a while now, years; you're not happy here. I know you tried with Ginny but that was over before it started, even mum admits it. You've spent a decade almost getting killed several dozen times and the last two years shut up in here. You can't do this forever."
"Apparently I can," Harry shot back bitterly, feeling the faint thrum of two of the Hallows fused with his core.
"There's no cure here, Harry," Hermione took over, looking tired now. "I've looked. I've researched everything I could get my hands on since you became the Master of Death; there's nothing. But maybe, in the future or in another dimension or in a different world, there will be a cure. But there isn't one here and we've run out of time."
Harry's jaw clenched. "I could move to a different country," He tried again. The prospect of teleporting to somewhere or some-when completely new weighed his stomach down with more than a little apprehension. "To America or-"
"They're the Unspeakables, Harry," Hermione interrupted, hesitating briefly before continuing, "I've already broken my oaths; might as well do it properly. The Department of Mysteries have a device to track any magical signature in the world. Even behind a Fidelius Charm, they can still find you. You could move to Antarctica and live underground but they'll be knocking down your front door within a month. There's nowhere you can go on Earth that they won't find you. Not this Earth. And once they get their hands on you, you can kiss your freedom goodbye."
Ron was gaping a little, even as Harry closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against the coffee table in front of him.
This was insane. He hadn't even packed anything. What if he ended up on another planet entirely with three-headed aliens who would definitely not speak English? There was only one teleportation device too. He would be going alone.
"How would I go about jumping from one place to another?" He finally asked, defeated.
Both Hermione and Ron looked relieved as Hermione gestured at the band, "Just put a little of your magic into that and it'll take you away. You won't know where you'll end up, but at least you'll be able to look in each world before taking off again. And don't lose it or you'll get stuck. Anything you want to bring with you just has to be on your person."
Harry nodded, mind still trying to wrap around this idea as Hermione pulled out a duffel bag and pushed it in his direction.
"I've cast all sorts of charms on it to keep it from tearing," Hermione explained in a rush. "It's waterproof and fireproof too, and it's got a permanent invisible extension charm on it. There's already some food in there, and I've packed a toothbrush and some books-"
"What about money? Clothes?" Harry rose to his feet, almost tripping when Ron produced a bundle of clothes and Hermione seized his wallet from the kitchen counter. It had quite a bit of money in it, but nowhere near the amount in his vaults, and certainly not enough for an indefinite trip to the unknown.
"There's no time!" Hermione hissed. "They are literally coming right now! I'm surprised they're not here already but if you stick around any longer, you won't be able to leave at all. Here, don't forget your cloak."
Harry numbly accepted his invisibility cloak from the brunette, shoving it into the duffel bag after the clothes. "What about my disappearance?" He stalled desperation making him sarcastic. "As idiotic as Britain can be, telling them I'm going on vacation or on a honeymoon with my secret wife is hardly going to be believed."
"We'll tell them you've gone missing," Ron shrugged, glancing nervously at the door. "People love that stuff. I can see the headline now: Harry Potter: Victim or Runaway. It'll make people's day."
Hermione slapped him upside the head. "Don't be so tactless, Ron! Look Harry, we're going to miss you, but this is the only way. You'll be alright," She encouraged, tearing up. "Imagine; a new world to explore! And you can look for something to cancel your immortality. Make new friends while you're at it. They might even be able to help you."
"Look us up if you jump to another dimension," Ron added, reaching out to clap him on the shoulder. "Doesn't matter where or what time; we'll always help you."
Harry didn't know what to say as he stared from one face to the other, slowly picking up the bracelet. Sure, he had drifted from these two ever since the physical difference of their age started to show. Even before that, to be honest. The war had made him more reclusive than ever and sometimes, he even had to force himself to go to work instead of shutting himself away from the world. The last two years without needing to go to work anymore hadn't helped matters.
But they were his friends and yeah, he could take care of himself, had been doing exactly that for as long as he could remember, but for the first time since he had turned eleven and entered Hogwarts, he would completely, utterly, alone.
Perhaps they caught sight of some of the fear tightening his chest because Hermione had thrown her arms around him in the next moment, and the grip Ron had on his shoulder tightened almost painfully.
But there was no more time for words when all three of them felt the sudden whoosh of magic and the activation of anti-Apparition wards around Harry's flat.
With a fierce hug in return, Harry pushed Hermione away and nodded at Ron as the redhead let go. The brunette really had started crying now and Harry felt a slight burn in his eyes, something that hadn't happened since Sirius' death.
"Go," He said firmly instead, snapping on the bracelet. "Or they'll shut down the floo and you'll both be caught."
"Be careful, Harry!" Hermione gave him one last hug before backing away.
"Good luck, mate," Ron only hesitated for a brief moment before pulling Harry into a hug as well. Harry returned it just as fiercely for a few seconds. Letting go was almost physically painful.
Neither made any move to the fireplace, and Harry knew that neither would leave until he did. It didn't make him feel any better.
"...Goodbye then," Harry surveyed them one last time, imprinting their faces into his memory. He would never see them again, not here, not in this time.
Sending a small stream of magic into the device, Harry felt an odd tugging in his chest even as the band began to glow. Only a second later, he saw the world dissolve around him, Ron and Hermione's faces blurring with the darkness, and then he was gone.
Harry opened his eyes and his first thought was that everything had been a dream, because hovering over him, brow creased with concern, was Hermione's face.
"Oh good, you're awake," Hermione said, and Harry closed his eyes again, disappointment bitter on his tongue. This Hermione had a French accent.
"You gave me quite a scare," The not-Hermione continued, and when Harry pulled his thoughts together and managed to open his eyes again without doing something stupid like burst into tears, he slowly took in the hospital equipment around him and the long white coat Hermione was wearing.
"I'm at a hospital?" He asked carefully, sitting up.
Hermione nodded, raising the back of the bed to help him. "You collapsed just down the street. It was very lucky I was on my coffee break or you could've frozen in that weather outside."
She gestured at the window and Harry caught a glimpse of white swirling wildly behind the drawn curtains.
Hermione continued to chatter away, informing of his condition (slight frostbite, overexertion) for a while, before cutting in hesitantly, "Where am I?"
Hermione blinked at him, concern chasing across her features. "The Saint-Louis in Paris. You do not know?"
Harry shook his head, managing an apologetic smile. "Just a bit confused for a moment. How long have I been out?"
"Only a few hours," Hermione informed him briskly, eyeing his head as if looking for a bump. "Why were you outside any-"
She paused when a voice outside called, "Claire? Where are you? The patient in room 24 is asking for you."
"Yes, ma'am," Hermione-dubbed-Claire called back. "I'll be right there." She turned back to Harry with an assurance that she would be back soon before hurrying away, leaving Harry alone in the room.
With a sigh, Harry shifted a little and lifted his left hand. The teleportation glinted in the dim light and he made to take it off.
Only to freeze when he realized that the latch had been completely sealed. Breath freezing in his throat, Harry tugged harder, not even wincing when the metal bit into his skin.
What was going on? Did Hermione say that he wouldn't be able to take it off? No, she hadn't, so why-
Before he could think any further, a familiar-foreign feeling tugged against his magical core and his eyes widened in alarm when the band began to glow.
Not for nothing had Harry been the youngest Auror in history and, thinking fast, he flung the blankets back and scrambled out of bed, grateful that Hermione-Claire hadn't changed him out of his clothes and only taken off his jacket, which was drying over a heater at the moment. Rushing across the room, he seized the jacket and his bag left beside it just in time as his magic and the device fused and whisked him away once again, two lingering words standing out in his mind.
After three more jumps, Harry no longer blacked out right after teleporting, and not every place he jumped to gave him only a few hours.
The second world was war-torn and unrecognizable, and Harry had found himself thrown back into battle when the general – pale-faced and distinctly American-but-not – found out he could fight. Magic was normal in this world, and once Harry found out that the General was fighting to defeat a madman much like Voldemort, he had agreed to help.
Unfortunately, the day before the last battle was to take place and three years after he had arrived, Harry had felt the familiar tugging in his chest and knew it was time to go. The last thing he had seen was the General – who had become James somewhere along the way – and the handful of friends he had made within the army standing around him as he began to disappear, begging him not to go, to stay just one more day. Harry didn't need them to tell him that his powerful skill with magic was a large part of what had kept all of them alive.
The betrayal on James' face as he was yanked away was something Harry would never forget.
In the third world, Harry had spent most of his time there holed away in an old apartment in a place that looked a lot like Britain except for the fact that there was no Wizarding world and clocks were all backwards. During the few days he spent there, Harry spent a lot of it hating himself; for getting involved, for giving those people false hope, for betraying them so badly, hell, for ever putting on the teleportation device in the first place. A part of him even hated Hermione and Ron, one for suggesting this whole insanity, the other for not stopping it.
But in the end, he had only himself to blame. His friends hadn't forced him to put the device on. He could've chanced it and stayed on Earth instead, spending his life on the run. He had plenty of practice, after all.
But no matter what he tried – a knife, the wall, a saw, and finally even a Cutting Hex – the device would not break and he had ended up with a bloody wrist instead, a lot less worried about it than he had thought he would be. The gash healed itself though, little by little, until only a thin scar showed for his effort. The wound had been relatively deep but he hadn't died, and Harry instinctively knew suicide wouldn't work. Besides, he wasn't that desperate yet, hadn't sunken that low.
He had learned one lesson though: getting invested in a world he was always bound to leave, whether in an hour or a decade, was not worth the pain it eventually brought to everyone involved. He still helped with small things here and there – he needed to work after all. Half the time, the currency was different and he would have to start all over again – but that was the extent of his involvement. Alone and dependent on no one but himself was what he did best, and he worked hard to keep it that way, ignoring the people who tried to befriend him in each world.
And so the years passed, world to world, time to time, dimension to dimension.
Sometimes, he'd find himself on Earth again, in Australia or Canada or China. And always, he would make his way back to Britain, sometimes reaching the country before his time ran out, sometimes not, but when he did, the disappointment he would feel when he realized it wasn't his own world was always crushing. The feeling lessened over time but it never went away, and, after several decades, he eventually gave up on the slim chance that he might be able to return.
He also looked into his immortality, trying to find out everything he could about the Hallows and Death, but nothing significant ever came up.
On the twenty-fifth world he jumped to, a place called Asgard, the people there were often called demigods, and having studied Norse myths and their affinity with gods, he thought they might know something of Death, but most Asgardians were tall and broad-shouldered, and Harry had taken one look at a Frost Giant and promptly headed as far away as possible from Jotunheim. He had ended up bumping into a large, muscular man, old but still strong if the way he had beaten back several Frost Giants with ease had been anything to go by. But before Harry had been able to hide, the Asgardian had caught sight of him, and a moment later, he had found himself at the end of several spear points. A wave of his hand could have easily taken care of the problem, but Harry had figured alienating the obviously important man would be a bad idea.
So Harry had allowed them to bring him back to the castle where he found out just who the old man was. Odin hadn't asked him if he was a Frost Giant – it had been pretty obvious anyway – but the king had drilled him on who he was until Harry had snapped and told him he was just a wanderer who meant no harm before flicking out a hand and sending the guard who had been holding a spear to his face across the room.
The rest seemed pretty self-explanatory and Odin had finally waved the guards away before offering Harry a temporary place to stay inside the palace since Asgard's weather was taking a turn for the worse. Harry had ended up agreeing, and for the next three months, while still aloof and wary, he had found himself settling in with Odin's family, getting pulled into long discussions about different plants and animals on Asgard by Frigga when the queen realized just how little Harry knew about their world.
Harry stayed for another twenty-two years after that, helping Odin on the battlefield when the Frost Giants decided to attack in large swarms for eight weeks straight, and even offering his own opinions on politics when the king asked for them. Six years in, he saw the birth of Odin's firstborn, a boy he named Thor, and before Harry could excuse himself from the family celebration, the king had dragged him into the room, dubbed him godfather, and refused to listen to any of his protests.
That very same night, Harry had confronted the king right in the middle of the man's throne room, demanding to know why Odin had allowed him into his home so readily. Odin had stared at him for a few contemplative moments before revealing that he could see the magic Harry possessed, feel the solitude in his aura, and had decided to give him a home when it seemed as if he did not have one.
Harry had old eyes, Odin had told him, eyes that had seen too much for a face as young as his.
Harry hadn't liked the way his heart warmed at Odin's concern; he would have to leave one day and he had yet to tell the king. But being named godfather of all things changed all that and Harry had, reluctantly, revealed the nature of his youth.
Odin hadn't seemed surprised, taking in Harry's words with the same patient calmness he did everything else. When Harry had finished, the king had told him nothing would change. There wasn't anything Odin could think of to negate immortality and Harry had already spent an inordinate amount of time in the royal library, but the wizard was welcome to stay for as long as he wanted.
So Harry stayed. For sixteen more years, Harry watched Thor grow up, later joined by Loki when Odin brought the abandoned baby home. Even as children, Thor had been the louder, more boisterous son, and Harry often found himself in the company of Loki, quieter and more sombre, a book under one arm as he sought out Harry in the library time and time again.
But the idyllic way of life could never last, and when Harry felt the familiar tugging in his chest once more, he had honestly felt like crying. But there had been no time for emotions since he and the children had been caught up in an ambush after Thor had talked his father into letting Harry take them to a cliff overseeing an ocean that was near the Jotunheim border. Harry had handled most of the Frost Giants without problem, but there were still a few more drawing near so he had seized both children and Apparated them as close to their home as possible, shoving them in the right direction even as he had started to disappear.
Loki, always quicker, even at fifteen, had realized something was taking Harry away and had leapt forward, reaching for his hand in an attempt to anchor the wizard even as Thor bellowed for the guards and his father. But Loki's hand simply passed right through Harry's, and Harry could only blurt out a strained apology before the world dissolved around him.
It was lucky he had taken to shrinking his sparse belongings and always carried everything with him because the next world dropped him right in the middle of a violent dispute, and it was only his cloak that hid him before either party had managed to spot him.
By this time, he had been jumping back and forth, left and right, for over four hundred years, and to be taken away once again by a place he had slowly started to think of as home had unleashed his magic until his surroundings had become nothing but dust. He hadn't even been very sorry that the aliens – cannibals upon a closer observation – had been incinerated along with everything else.
And so he found himself alone once again, drifting from one world to another and never able to call a place home, but it was what fate had dealt him, and Harry was very careful not to accept another offer of a place to stay, opting to stick to hotels or flats or even the roadside.
So it went for another century, an aimless lonely existence, until Harry found himself back on Earth, different but familiar as well. Same countries, same people, but no magic, no wizards.
Instead, there were superheroes.
First chapter done! More an introduction than anything else; I really don't know where I'm going with this though.
Chapter 2: Forked Road
Disclaimer: I do not own anything from Harry Potter or the Avengers...
So this plotline seems well-received:)
Thor and Loki might be the same; not going to say here;) Either way, neither of them will be showing up for a while yet (Haha, I'm evil:P) And no, he hasn't met Captain America yet.
The device Hermione gave him is still faulty which is why he can't stay in one place for as long as he wants. And just in case it's not clear, there's no set place where Harry will jump to. He could jump through time, across dimensions, and to other worlds.
I will be starting the whole Harry in the Avengers!verse around the beginning of the Iron Man movie so if you haven't watched those other Marvel movies yet, go watch them or read a summary or something. II'm not planning on a Tony/Pepper pairing here; if anything, it'll be Tony/Harry but if that happens, it'll be way in the future of this fic. I also won't be giving Harry much time in the Thor movie since I don't want the meeting between them happening until the Avengers movie.
Still continuing my other fics. Next chapter of Road to Recovery will be up soon. First chapter of Falling Skies will be posted within the week.
Chapter 2 – Forked Road
When a wanderer picks a direction, has he lost his purpose or found it?
Harry ducked out of the back room and smiled at the red-haired woman standing in front of the counter. "Good morning, Pepper. How are you?"
"Tired," Pepper sighed as Harry started on her coffee. The secretary often preferred to have him choose her order. "Tony left all the paperwork for his latest project to the last minute and didn't tell me until yesterday. I was up all night finishing it for him."
Harry smiled sympathetically at her. He had never met Tony Stark but having been in Los Angeles for three months now, he had heard quite a few things about the man. Billionaire industrialist, genius inventor, consummate playboy, CEO of Stark Industries, and chief weapons manufacturer for the US military. To Harry, not the best combination, but he had lived long enough to reserve judgement, and it wasn't as if he would ever meet the man.
Two weeks after he had landed in Malibu when it had seemed like he wouldn't be going anywhere for a while, Harry had opened a coffee shop, a small café where people could stop by for a hot drink and a snack. Coffee-making had been one of the skills he had picked up over the years, and he was pretty good at it if all the customers he received everyday was anything to go by.
Another two weeks later, Pepper Potts had entered his café, looking more than a little anxious since the usual coffee shop she went to to buy her boss's coffee had closed down. One taste of Harry's brew had gotten her hooked and she had been coming here ever since. It hadn't hurt that Harry could provide fresh conversation, unrelated to Tony Stark or scientific jargon, and over time, Harry's café had somewhat adopted the secretary.
"Here you go," Harry placed a cup of cinnamon brown liquid with a delicate leaf pattern designed from milk and honey laced on the surface in front of Pepper, smiling again when the secretary brightened. "A Café Miel, made from a shot of espresso, steamed milk, cinnamon, and honey. Enjoy."
"Delicious," Pepper said after taking a sip. "I think this may be my favourite."
Harry arched an eyebrow as he started another coffee. "You say that every time I make a new one."
"Well," Pepper smiled. "That's how good your coffees are."
"Careful, Ms. Potts, your boss might be rubbing off on you," Harry teased, chuckling at the face she made.
"That man can be so infuriating sometimes," Pepper frowned, cradling her coffee between her hands. "He's just finished building another weapon for the military and he's been boasting to the skies about it ever since. 'Bad guys won't even chance coming out of their caves after experiencing one of these' and other nonsense. Honestly, one of these days, those bad guys will just kill him and have done with the problem."
Harry hmm'ed thoughtfully as he worked. "I suppose he's never seen what weapons like his can do firsthand then?"
Pepper shook her head. "It isn't as if he goes with the military when they go to war. He just builds them to destroy as much as possible."
Harry nodded. "Well, if he ever does, I very much doubt he would continue promoting mass destruction." Seeing the concern still etched on Pepper's brow, Harry added, "Though I suppose promoting not-being-an-arse would be too much to ask for?"
Pepper laughed, as Harry had hoped she would, and said, "No, that's not going to happen anytime soon. It'll take a miracle for Tony to change that much."
Harry smiled before placing another cup in front of her. "There you go; a Black Eye. Dripped coffee with a double shot of espresso. Just so you won't have to punch Mr. Stark yourself."
Pepper laughed again, paying before taking both coffees with her. Harry waved her out, musing that it was a real shame he couldn't let them know about his magic. It would be a nice prank to have Stark drink the coffee only to find an actual black eye on his face.
"Your coffee, Mr. Stark," Pepper placed the cup in front of her boss, who was currently frowning at his computer screen.
Tony glanced up before seizing the drink. "Thank you, Ms. Potts. You're a lifesaver. I've been up all night."
Pepper raised a skeptical eyebrow. "You've been up all night having fun. If I remember correctly, I was the one stuck with all the paperwork."
Tony gave her a stern look. "Now Pepper, I did some of that paperwork-"
"-which you have to admit is quite a lot-"
"Out of eighty."
Tony blinked before smiling easily. "And the rest is what I have you here for."
Pepper rolled her eyes but smiled sweetly when Tony took a gulp of the coffee and then choked.
"Wow, this is-" Tony coughed. "This is strong."
"Yes, packs a punch, doesn't it?" Pepper picked up the folders Tony had left in his work tray and headed for the door with one last parting shot. "I thought you might need it after your late night."
And with that, she marched out the door, leaving a bemused-looking Tony behind, still staring at his drink.
*Two Weeks Later*
"So what are you doing for your birthday tomorrow?" Harry asked as he wiped down the counter. It was eight in the evening on a Sunday and in one of the rare moments when she wasn't babysitting Stark, Pepper had come down for a late dinner with him.
"Not much," She replied with a sigh after swallowing a mouthful of pasta. She didn't know why Harry wanted to run a coffee shop when it was obvious he could get a job at some five-star restaurant as its head cook. Then again, if Harry had done that, she wouldn't be able to have such good coffee. Better to just keep Harry's talent to herself. "I've been busy scheduling Tony's press conferences and award ceremonies; he's in Las Vegas getting the Apogee Award tonight."
"I heard," Harry said dryly, nodding at the currently blank television in the corner. "It's on almost every channel."
Pepper grinned a little. "Exciting, isn't it?"
Harry snorted, taking a seat beside her and starting on his own dinner. "Boring is closer to the truth. I don't know how he can stand all those rabid fans, much less like it twenty-four seven."
"To be fair, Tony doesn't like that sort of thing all the time," Pepper corrected. "He just enjoys the attention mostof the time."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Enough talk about Mr. Stark. I'm sure I'll eventually know his sock size just by watching TV," He paused to take a sip of water. "Anyway, if you're not doing anything special tomorrow, I've been meaning to redecorate the front of the cafe. I could use the help?" He glanced sidelong at her. "Of course, it is work-"
"No, no, I'd love to," Pepper smiled in delight. She really didn't have anything planned and was mostly going to finish off some extra paperwork due next month. She wasn't even sure how Harry managed to remember something she had mentioned in passing at least two months ago but a day off just to paint and maybe convince Harry to let her make the place less bare was definitely better than paperwork. "You drag in so many customers so I did wonder why the front was so plain. Besides, I'm rather good at decor. It'll be fun."
Harry grinned. "Brilliant. I suppose you'll have to ask for time off though?"
Pepper shook her head. "Tony's flying out to Afghanistan tomorrow. I just have to make sure he gets on his plane on time and then I have the rest of the day off. I'll come by at nine-ish?"
"Sounds good," Harry nodded, but a frown had made its way onto his face. "Did you say Afghanistan?"
"Yeah," Pepper grimaced a little. "He's going for a demonstration with the US military. Honestly, if they weren't going to be there with him, I'd put up more of a fuss. But the military loves him almost as much as the public so they'll make sure he comes back in one piece."
Harry arched an eyebrow but said nothing more as they focused on their meal again. He had read about the latest weapon Stark Industries had created, the Jericho, and had even drawn up the design from the handful of pictures and sparse descriptions the magazines had provided just to pass the time. The skill needed to make the missile was mind-boggling and the destruction power was nothing to laugh about. No wonder the military loved him. America was always first in line when it came to stocking up on fire power.
He didn't really think going to Afghanistan when the place was at war with them was the best idea in the world, especially for a demonstration of a weapon that could potentially wipe out said country, but it wasn't as if he could do anything about it, and surely the military had taken all the risks into account.
Glancing across the table as Pepper spoke up again, this time about the new exotic flowers she had seen in the shop down the street, Harry hoped for her sake that nothing bad would happen.
*Three Days Later*
"Harry, s-something bad happened!"
Harry's mouth pressed into a thin line as he stared at the television in his café where the reporter was gleefully telling the world of Tony Stark's disappearance. "Yeah, it's all over the news," He told Pepper, putting her on speaker as he reached over and turned the TV volume down. "They're saying it was abduction since they didn't find his bod- him."
Harry winced when a choked sound came from the other end and ran a weary hand through his hair. He sometimes forgot how emotional people could get. The last time he had been in the presence of someone he actually cared about who had cried in front of him had been almost two centuries ago, when Loki had been seven and had been cornered by several other Asgardian children and picked on mercilessly before Harry had shown up and given them a harsh tongue-lashing that sent them running with their tails between their legs. After he had been taken away from Asgard, he had mostly avoided talking to other people altogether, and it had helped that the device had kept him jumping every few months, but he had been here for over three months already and Pepper had somehow become a friend during that time.
"Look, I'm sure he'll be alright," Harry assured quietly, still half-listening to the reporter. If the woman sounded any happier than she already did, he might actually send her something nasty just to shut her up. Stark was just as human as anyone else but gossip was gossip and that went doubly so for celebrities. The media loved anything that could get the public excited. "Mr. Stark is tough, you've told me that. If they captured him, it means they need him alive. Besides, it'll take at least a few months for them to deflate that ego of his, and by that time, I'm sure he'll have been found."
A half-laugh, half-sob tripped over the line before Pepper spoke. "Yes, yes of course. I knew that, I just had to talk to someone. Mr. Stane just received the news from Lieutenant Colonel Rhodes and I panicked. The military's been dispatched for a search-and-rescue but that'll take a while. Can I- can I come down there? Just for a coffee? The place here is completely empty and-"
"Say no more," Harry cut in. "I'll even come pick you up. I don't think you should be driving when you've just received a shock."
He ignored Pepper's protests and told her he would be at Stark Industries' main office in twenty minutes before hanging up. Grabbing his keys, he shot one last scowl at the TV before leaving. He should've known his worst suspicion would come to pass. Murphy's Law hated him after all.
*Three Weeks Later*
"Is there really nothing you can do?"
Harry froze in mid-wipe, having been in the process of washing his car. It was a Sunday again, and for a lack of anything better to do, he had decided to fix up his Nissan. Pepper had been sitting on his doorstep, silently watching him until now. She had taken to coming around more often now that Obadiah Stane had taken over Stark Industries and hadn't left much for Pepper to do. She didn't really to him much either, spending quite a bit of time glancing at him with expressions ranging from thoughtful to almost accusing.
"And what do you expect me to do?" Harry turned to her, honestly curious. He didn't need to ask what she was talking about but it was an odd thing for Pepper to say.
"...I've seen you," She revealed quietly, tilting her head in the direction of his café. "Just once, through the window, when I came early. You had wet cloths flying around the shop doing the cleaning while you were fixing the sink."
Harry blinked but otherwise didn't react. Over the years, many people had found out about his magic. Some had accepted, some hadn't, and none had been able to force Harry into using his abilities for anything he didn't want. But he had long since stopped worrying over something as trivial as people discovering his magic, and as a last resort, he could always use a Memory Charm.
"I doubt being able to clean things with magic is going to help get your boss back," Harry said instead, turning back to his car. Behind him, he heard Pepper get to her feet.
"But you can do other stuff, can't you?" She persisted, circling around so that she was in Harry's line of sight. "If there's one thing I know about you, it's that you know how to do a lot of things. Making coffee, fixing my cell, cooking, carpentry, heck, tuning your car with the kind of skill I've only ever seen Tony show! Can't you use your magic to find him or something?"
"I told myself long ago I wouldn't interfere in things that don't concern me," Harry told her flatly. "I don't want to get involved in something that will most likely come back and bite me in the arse sometime in the future."
Pepper's temper flared, eyes flashing dangerously. "That's just selfish," She stared hard at him. "If you have the ability to help, I don't know how you can just stand back!"
Harry smiled sardonically at her. "Years of practice, Sweetheart," He said, just to piss her off because he hated the way her almost physical disappointment directed at him was making him feel guilty.
Pepper's glare could have frozen fire. "Well you're wrong," She said coldly, turning away. "I don't know what kind of- of backlash you're worried about but this is a human life we're talking about here. If you can do something to help, it's just not right if you don't! Sometimes, you've got to think about more than your own safety!"
Harry started imperceptibly at those words even as Pepper stalked away.
Sometimes, you've got to think about more than your own safety!
...Hadn't he said the same thing once upon a time? Long, long ago, during a desperate war he was sure had become mere text in books in his original world now.
With a forced scoff, he went back to his car. Surely they weren't the same situation, certainly not the same circumstances. He had no reason to help Tony Stark, and even if he did, for Pepper, it would be difficult to pull off a rescue.
He would have to use a Point-Me spell, but that wouldn't work until he got to Afghanistan, and he highly doubted any American tourist plane would be heading within a thousand miles of that country. He could sneak on a military jet, but those things were crowded at best and most aircrafts ordered to Afghanistan were already there, looking for Stark. The only option left would be to fly there himself, and with the rough terrain probably interfering with his Finder Spell, he would have to spend days, maybe weeks searching the mountains for signs of one American most likely locked up underground and under surveillance at all times.
But they probably want his weapons, a voice whispered slyly in his head. Find a camp with Stark's warheads and you'll find him.
Harry shook his head sharply. No, he wasn't going. No more interfering. No more getting invested. He knew, just knew, that he would get attached if he went after Stark. He owed Pepper nothing and he owed her boss even less than nothing. They weren't worth getting hurt over.
But then what was?
Sometimes, you've got to think about more than your own safety!
It was one thing to get hurt physically, quite another to get hurt emotionally.
...this is a human life we're talking about here.
And hadn't Harry always treasured life? Hadn't that been the reason he had joined up with James, fought beside Odin, saved the lives he could when he had been younger and less tired, less jaded?
His hands stilled on the hood of his car and his head dropped forward in defeat.
Damn. It looked like he was going to Afghanistan.
Finished! Bit of a starter to get things going. Lots of drama next chapter though.
Chapter 3: Lost and Found
Disclaimer: I do not own anything from Harry Potter or the Avengers...
Just to clarify some things:
-Because the device draws on his magic to transport him to other places and Harry's already activated it once, it's now locked on to his magical core and basically nothing can get it off. Just roll with it, people.
-Harry is obviously new to LA. He may have lived for a long time but he wouldn't know everything about the place he just jumped to so when Pepper met him, he wouldn't befriend her just to get to Tony. I think Pepper is a good judge of character so she'd notice something like that, which is why they became friends within two and a half months.
-As for the slash thing, geez people, it was a vague suggestion. I like reading slash but I've never actually stuck it in a fanfic. IF I chose to make it slash, it would be those two, but one, that's a long way away even if I did write something like that, and two, I'm keeping it just as a friendship for the moment. This Harry doesn't strike me as someone who would jump into a real relationship with anyone without at least a few years of knowing them, even longer since at the moment, he knows he has to leave sooner or later.
-Yes, Harry can fly without a broom (he doesn't have one anymore either) and how he'll do it will be revealed in this chapter.
-The rest of the Avengers won't be mentioned until the Iron Man (the first one) arc is over, and then they'll be brought in one by one.
-For the time being, no, I won't be having him meet any of his old friends in any capacity.
I think that's everything, so on to the next chapter!
Chapter 3 – Lost and Found
A wanderer is bravest when he finds a destination to wander to.
Apparating from Los Angeles all the way to New York City and then another long jump from there to Paris was possibly one of the most disorienting things Harry had ever done, but he had spent a lot of time in the latter two cities and had been confident he would make it. France was also the closest country to Afghanistan that he could Apparate to but the winded feeling he was left with once he had gotten there did nothing for his foul mood.
After arriving at the conclusion that he had been guilt-tripped by some secretary he had known for less than three months into going on a crazy rescue mission, he had thrown something of a temper tantrum, shattering all the glasses inside his café as he let his magic react to his ire. He was over six hundred years old; he could afford to lose his temper now and then.
But two hours later, he had had everything cleaned up, his car moved back inside the small garage attached to his shop, and been ready to leave with only the clothes on his back. Just because he was going to save the bastard's arse, it didn't mean he was going to reveal all, and he knew it would be just plain stupid if he simply grabbed Stark and Apparated him home. That method caused headaches just by thinking about all the fast-talking he would have to do.
So direct magic had been out, and Harry had no desire to let Stark see his face, which left going to Afghanistan incognito. Harry planned on getting this entire fiasco over with as soon as possible so there was no way he was going to waste five months and the only Polyjuice he had left to infiltrate whatever Afghani camp Stark had been taken to. That left his invisibility cloak and his Animagus form.
Being invisible was great, but that wouldn't really help his case when he would no doubt have to get Stark's attention, and Harry figured that an invisible being tapping someone on the shoulder would be a bit of a giveaway.
Which left his Animagus form, and Harry had never been so grateful that he could fly.
Now standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower in the middle of the night, Harry took a moment to survey the lights of the city and breathe in the fresh air. The sky had always been where he felt most comfortable, and half a dozen centuries wouldn't change that.
And then, with abandon borne from years of repetition and recklessness, Harry flung himself off the top of the tower, letting his Animagus form take over as he plummeted to the ground, clocking two hundred miles per hour before pulling out of the dive.
Had anyone bothered looking up for more than a few minutes, they would have found it quite strange to see a lone peregrine falcon winging its way southeast with unusual focus for a mere animal.
*One and a Half Weeks Later*
The sunlight blinded him momentarily as he stepped outside and the sack over his head was yanked away. Stumbling when one of his captors shoved him forward, Tony couldn't take his eyes off the mountains of weapons he was more than familiar with.
Automatically turning to Yinsen when Abu Bakaar garbled something in a foreign language, Tony had to fight a derisive snort when the doctor translated, "He wants to know what do you think."
He glanced back at the man in front of him and replied quietly, "I think you got a lot of my weapons."
"He says they have everything you need to build the Jericho missile," Yinsen translated again after another long garbled sentence. "He wants you to make the list of materials."
The rapid-fire words came again and Tony thought he spotted a mocking smile lurking just beneath the neutral facade Yinsen was wearing as he said, "He wants you to start working immediately, and when you're done, he will set you free."
Tony turned back to Bakaar, forcing a smile as the man offered a hand. Clasping it, he said grimly, "No he won't."
Beside him, Yinsen really did smile this time as he nodded an affirmative. "No he won't."
Bakaar grinned cheerfully at them even as Tony yanked his hand back. His eyes drifted over their captor's shoulder to the bald man he had managed to glimpse when he was being tortured standing amongst a pile of rocks overlooking the camp. He had a dangerous air about him that could be noticed even from this distance and there was little doubt in Tony's mind that this was the leader.
A sudden movement in the sky above the bald man caught his eye and he followed it even as the terrorists around him started leading him back to the cell. It was a falcon, soaring overhead in an almost lazy swoop. It flew above the camp and Tony flinched when a few shots rang out and a smatter of laughter followed, feeling inexplicably glad when the bird continued on unharmed.
It was the last thing he saw before he was pushed back inside again, the sack placed roughly back over his head as he was led to his cell.
Harry honestly hadn't felt as tired as he did now for a very, very long time. Flying from France to Afghanistan was no small feat, and he had had to stop a few times along the way. It had taken him almost a week to reach this godforsaken country, and then another few days using the Point-Me spell as a rough guide, stealing food and water whenever he could, and scouring the mountains for sign of military warheads. He had caught a few winks now and then, hidden in a sparse tree or perched on top of a craggy hill. Needless to say, he hated every minute of it.
Three days after he had arrived, his keen eyesight had finally caught sight of a busy-looking camp filled with people armed with guns. That was a blaring sign if he had ever seen one and he immediately flew towards it, immensely relieved when he spotted Stark Industries printed on most of the weapons piled inside the camp. But he still hadn't been sure if this was the right group of terrorists or just another gang who had gotten their hands on Stark's merchandise. It had taken another day of waiting in the shadows before he caught a glimpse of the man he had come to rescue.
Tony Stark looked a sight. Hair in disarray and face almost white and slightly bloodied, the man was also carrying what looked like a car battery. It took a moment for Harry to trace the wires to the man's shirt, attached to something under it. What the hell had happened?
Another man wearing glasses followed Stark out, and judging from the calm expression Tony hadn't quite managed yet, this person had been captured first. This must be the engineer he had heard some of the terrorists talking about. It was amazing how many secrets people spilled everyday when they thought no one was listening.
He chanced a flight as near as he could and managed to catch a few snippets of the conversation. The terrorist in front of the two captives spoke in rapid-fire Urdu and Harry was quite glad he had picked up so many languages over the years. He mentally snorted after hearing the man offering to let Stark go after building the Jericho for them. That would never happen.
Seeing the conversation coming to an end, he circled back and risked a flight directly over the camp. He needed to get a good look at the entrance to the cells inside the mountains.
He almost wheeled around in a knee-jerk reaction when he heard several gunshots go off and a few bullets came flying in his direction. Pressing his beak together, he descended towards an outcrop of rocks away from the camp. Humans. They found pleasure in the most idiotic of things.
Harry would wait for night to fall before making a bid for the tunnels inside the mountain. He could still perform magic in his Animagus form, not as powerful as he could as a human but well enough, and a disillusionment charm would slip him past the guards without problem. How to get Stark out was an entirely different matter.
The next day, after Yinsen's surprisingly invigorating pep talk, Tony started ordering the terrorists to bring what he needed. He could feel himself relax just a little as he spouted the familiar scientific jargon and watched his captors scurry around for him.
He broke off mid-word to Yinsen when a flutter of dark grey made him glance up and he blinked when he saw the falcon swooping inside, silent as the shadows it settled in. Tony had no way to be sure but his gut instinct told him this was the same bird he had seen yesterday.
He had always thought falcons were pretty smart but they obviously weren't if they willingly flew inside terrorist camps, perched on rafters inside prison cells, and surveyed the goings-on down below as if they owned the place like this one was doing now.
Noticing the way nobody seemed to be paying attention to him and were all busy setting up his equipment, Tony casually made his way over to the bird, craning his head a little to squint at it.
"Hey!" He hissed as loudly as he dared. The falcon glanced down at him. "Get outta here. Shoo!"
The falcon pinned him with one piercing green eye and Tony would swear until the day he died that he had just been sneered at.
And then before Tony could do more than feel mildly put out, the bird turned its back on him and proceeded to ignore him.
"Fine then!" Tony snapped back indignantly. "Don't leave. You'll be regretting this by nightfall once you realize you can't get back out again." He paused and then groaned, "Oh god, now I'm talking to a bird. Losing my mind; just what I need."
With one last glance up at the falcon, Tony made his way back to Yinsen's side. Maybe it would smarten up before the terrorists left and fly away before it was imprisoned.
"How many languages do you speak?" Tony asked, just to pass the time as he took apart one of his missiles.
"A lot," Yinsen replied with a faint smile. "But apparently not enough for this place. They speak Arabic, Urdu, Ashkun, Pashto, Mongolian, Farsi, Russian."
"Who are these people?" Tony asked grimly as he pulled out the inside of the missile.
"They are your loyal customers, sir," Yinsen said with a slightly mocking edge. "They call themselves the Ten Rings."
Tony grunted in acknowledgement. Figures it would be some crazy terrorist gang who managed to get their hands on him and his weapons. Then again, if they weren't a crazy terrorist gang, they wouldn't try to get their hands on him and his weapons in the first place.
He glanced up for what seemed like the hundredth time since their captors had locked them in. The falcon was still snoozing in the rafters, paying neither of them any mind.
"You know the falcon is considered a symbol of victory in some parts of the world?" Yinsen asked lightly, following his gaze. "Of course, it could also mean wisdom or war or freedom depending on what you believe in. Perhaps our guest is a sign of our future success."
Tony shrugged, turning back to the missile. "Maybe, but what kind of bird would be stupid enough to fly into these tunnels and get itself locked in?"
As he moved away to another weapon, he heard Yinsen chuckle quietly behind him.
"Ah, but Stark, a better question would be what kind of bird would be clever enough to fly into these tunnels and find the only two prisoners within this camp?"
Harry had been thinking of a giant explosion. It would certainly take care of most of the terrorists, but it would also run the risk of bringing down the mountain. He could set up shields to keep the tunnels stable, but that would seem a little odd, especially to genii like Stark and Yinsen.
However, once Harry tuned in to the low mutters of the two captives below him and fluttered to different rafters to get a good look at the blueprints, he had to admit that their plan was probably the soundest at the moment.
So he would wait, perhaps offer his guidance towards the nearest group of US military search team once they managed to get out. Hopefully, they would be able to pull the entire plan off smoothly.
"You still haven't told me where you're from?" Tony questioned as he passed the dices to Yinsen. Absently, he shifted a bowl of water over for the falcon that was currently perched on the workbench. It had been living with them for five days now, and after the third day, Yinsen had somehow managed to coax it down for some food and water. Tony had no idea how he had done it. He had tried to talk it down himself but the damn bird just didn't seem to like him. He had even put out food and water for it during the first few days but either it had amazing resilience or was just plain stubborn because neither had been touched come morning. When the bird finally did come down, Tony had offered up one of his blankets for it, making a bed of sorts at the foot of his cot for it. Though the material was rough, it had to be better than sleeping on the rafters all night. But the falcon had haughtily flown over to Yinsen's side instead, settling down on the blanket the doctor set out. Ungrateful bird. More astonishingly, their captors either hadn't noticed or they couldn't be bothered to come and shoot the falcon when they probably caught sight of it in their cameras.
"I'm from a small town called Gulmira," Yinsen told him. "It's actually a nice place."
"Got a family?" Tony didn't particularly care if he did; either way, he would get this man out.
"Yes, and I will see them when I leave here. And you Stark?"
Tony felt an uncomfortably hollow at the question, thinking of the public back home, of the media, of the military, of Obie and Rhodey and Pepper. None of them really stuck.
He felt his mouth quirk up in a brief smile and replied, "No." He hated how pathetically quiet the answer had come out.
"No," Yinsen echoed sympathetically. "So you're a man who has everything, but nothing."
Tony offered another strained smile and almost jumped when delicate claws clutched at his shoulder. He stilled for a moment in complete surprise before reaching tentatively for the falcon. For the first time since the bird had arrived, it allowed Tony to pet him.
"Great," He grumbled half-heartedly, ignoring the amused smile Yinsen was sending him. "Even a bird feels sorry for me."
He would never admit to the delight he felt when the falcon settled in the bedding at the end of his bed that night instead of Yinsen's. And all it had taken was for him to stop faking. The bird really was very odd.
The next few weeks were spent putting the suit together and Harry had been reluctantly impressed with Stark's handiwork. The billionaire might be egotistical, but there was no denying the intellect that backed up said arrogance.
He had been quite interested in the design and had hopped down to study the blueprints four or five times, earning him an odd look from Stark and a contemplative one from Yinsen. He didn't understand all of it, but the majority of the invention had definitely helped pass the time.
The only thing that worried him was that neither man seemed very worried that their captors were going to realize what they were working on eventually. As a falcon, his disillusionment charms only went so far and he had to sleep sometime. As a human, he could keep privacy wards up even in his sleep, but being an Animagus was trickier. Sooner or later, there would be a slip-up.
When the shout came and the cell door clanged open, Tony knew that the terrorists had finally gotten suspicious. He was surprised it had taken this long for them to catch on, but he wasn't complaining. As he placed his hands behind his head and watched Yinsen do the same, he desperately hoped their luck would hold out just for a while longer.
The bald man he had seen before, Raza, as Yinsen had told him, stepped inside, studying the cell with a cold glint in his eyes. When the dark gaze settled on him, Tony stayed very still and hoped no one would hear the pounding of his heart.
"Relax," Raza said, a cold smirk curling his lips. They slowly put their hands down.
But when the Ten Rings leader approached and tugged his ragged shirt aside to touch the arc reactor in his chest, Tony had to stamp down the urge to pull away. Somewhere above him, he heard a faint rustle and doubled his pleas to include the falcon. He had become rather fond of it over the weeks and really didn't want it to get shot.
"The bow and arrow," Raza started conversationally. "Once was the pinnacle of weapons technology." The hand drew away and Tony released an imperceptible sigh of relief.
"It allowed the great Genghis Khan," Raza continued. "To rule from the Pacific to the Ukraine. An empire," He turned back to Tony, eyes glittering malevolently. "Twice the size of Alexander the Great, and four times the size of the Roman Empire."
Tony didn't dare turn to follow Raza's progress as the terrorist circled behind him, but the rustle of paper told him he had picked up the blueprints.
"But today, whoever holds the latest Stark weapons rules these lands," Raza said. Tony glanced at Yinsen, making to speak, but the doctor made a cautious hand gesture to stop him.
"And soon," Raza finished. "It will be my turn."
Tony's jaw clenched as he heard Raza's steps return again but he didn't look away when the terrorist stopped in front of him, meeting his harsh gaze evenly.
The foreign words that were exchanged next between Raza and Yinsen only ratcheted Tony's anxiety higher and he watched the conversation pensively.
He almost leapt forward when one of the guards grabbed Yinsen, forcing him to his knees, and when Raza turned back with the hot tongs and a piece of coal gripped between them, Tony had to ask. "What does he want?"
Nobody answered him and he watched as they forced Yinsen's head down, turning it to the side. It wasn't a very big stretch to realize the impending torture session.
As the tongs lowered, Tony couldn't stay still any longer. "What do you want, the delivery date?" He demanded, stepping forward. "I can't-"
He stopped when the guards roared and pointed all their guns at him, but at least Raza had stopped for the time being.
"I need him," Tony said instead when Raza glanced over at him. "Good assistant."
For a long moment, Tony saw the ringleader consider his words, and he thought he had gotten through, but a minute later, Raza sneered at him. "A few burns won't make him any worse."
And the tongs lowered.
A heartbeat later, it was as if an explosion had taken place. A wild screech of pure rage ripped the air and a ball of brown-grey feathers barrelled over Tony's head straight towards Raza. The tongs fell to the ground as Raza's hands came up, trying to tear the falcon from his face, but the bird hung on, clawing and pecking anywhere it could reach, all the while still shrieking angrily.
As the other terrorists released Yinsen and shouted and waved their guns but not shooting in case it hit their leader, Tony hurried forward to drag the doctor away from the terrorists, watching with a sense of amused bewilderment at the chaos around them. There were still too many men for them to make a break for it, but the falcon had redirected their attention in the meantime.
"That bird is way too smart," Tony muttered to Yinsen as they backed away. "It's like it understood everything that was being said."
"And how do you know it did not?" Yinsen countered, rubbing his neck. "For all we know, it understood every word."
In front of them, the falcon abruptly pulled away, finally detaching itself from Raza's now very bloodied face and taking to the rafters again. The sudden silence that fell once the screeching had died down was deafening. Most of Raza's men were gaping at their leader while Tony and Yinsen stared back at all of them warily.
"Shoot the bird!" Raza snarled, wiping at the blood dripping into his eyes.
Immediately, all the guns pointed upwards and Tony jumped forward before Yinsen could stop him. "No!"
Raza instantly pinned him with a baleful glare. "It is your bird?"
"No, no," Yinsen cut in. "It is wild. It flew in a while ago. Got lost."
"And there are metal beams up there," Tony added quickly. "If you shoot, it could bounce off and hit one of us."
Raza seemed to consider this for a moment, but unlike last time, he didn't push the issue further. With a last glower up at the bird, he spat on the ground and waved at his men to leave.
"You have 'til tomorrow," He snapped as he left. "To assemble my missile."
Both captives released a heavy breath as the cell door slammed shut, Yinsen sinking down on the nearest chair as Tony glanced up.
"Thanks," He offered fervently as the falcon sank deeper into the shadows. He really hoped it hadn't been hurt. "Guess we're lucky you flew in when you did then, huh?"
"Indeed," Yinsen agreed, smiling almost fondly at the bird. "Thank you very much."
Tony was sure the falcon was preening at the praise.
Harry didn't dare fly down again. He knew both men would stop what they were doing if they saw the stiffness in one of his wings and try to patch him up but they needed to get the suit up and working by tomorrow or they were both dead. He was certain his wing wasn't broken; he could still fly after all, and it wasn't anything he couldn't handle.
Tony wasn't sure why Raza wasn't kicking down the door by now even if they were hidden from the cameras' view but he wasn't going to question it as Yinsen helped him suit up.
"Say it again," Yinsen ordered as he worked.
"Forty-one steps straight ahead," Tony said obediently. They had already gone through this several times, but it helped calm their nerves and repetition never hurt anyone. "And then sixteen steps, that's from the door, fork right, thirty-three steps, turn right."
"Good," Yinsen murmured feverishly, working on the leg armour now. "Don't forget-"
He was cut off by a shout at the door and someone yelling at them.
"Say something," Tony pressed. "Say something back."
"They speak- They speak in Hungarian!" Yinsen retorted in a slightly panicked voice. "I don't-!"
"Then speak Hungarian," Tony demanded, trying to calm them both down.
"Okay, I know-" Yinsen cut himself off, swallowing hard, sweat beading his forehead.
"What do you know?" Tony asked steadily.
Yinsen called something back, though it didn't seem to have any effect as the men kept shouting.
They heard one of the terrorists unlock the door and Tony just had time to yell at the falcon above them, "Get away from the door!" before the bomb they had attached to the entrance activated.
The explosion was ear-shattering and resulted in a wave of rubble flying their way. Funny enough, most of it missed, but Tony had no time to wonder about that as he and Yinsen set about finishing up the suit.
"Make sure the checkpoints are clear before you follow me out, okay?" Tony reminded anxiously, frowning when it didn't look like Yinsen was listening to him.
"We need more time," The doctor murmured instead before turning to Tony. "Hey, I'm going to go buy you some time."
"Stick to the plan!" Tony snapped, worry making his voice rise. "Stick to the plan!"
Yinsen didn't listen, hurrying away and scooping up a gun before disappearing out the hole the explosion had made.
"YINSEN!" Tony bellowed after him, not able to move in the suit.
"Dammit!" He swore, glancing back at the computer before looking up again. There was the falcon, perched steadily on one of the remaining rafters. "Listen, if you really are a god in disguise or something, now would be a great time to pull out some godly powers. Yinsen's gonna get himself killed out there."
The falcon tilted its head, and for a moment, Tony thought it hadn't understood, that all the times the bird had acted as if it knew exactly what they were saying had just been flukes, but another second passed and it was suddenly spreading its wings, taking off down the tunnels without another glance back.
"If we get out of this mess alive," Tony mumbled as he followed the bird's progress as long as he could, a sense of wonder welling up inside him. "I'll donate a quarter of my fortune to bird reserves."
Up ahead, Harry could hear Yinsen hollering wordlessly at the top of his lungs, shooting gunfire in the air to scare the terrorists back. Harry had to give it to him; the man was brave. But he was also stupid, and the way the doctor hadn't looked at Stark when he had revealed that he had family flashed through Harry's mind. He had a feeling Yinsen wasn't planning on leaving this place alive.
Well that was just too bad, Harry thought grimly as he picked up speed. He had originally come for Stark and Stark alone, and one and a half months ago, he would have stuck to that plan, but Yinsen had grown on him and the doctor seemed like a good influence on Stark too, which was an excellent thing in his book. Harry would make sure they both got out alive.
Harry caught up with Yinsen in the next fork, taking in the rows of terrorists all lined up with their guns pointed at the doctor. With a whistling cry, Harry rose as high as he could before tucking in his wings and diving for the men, simultaneously throwing a shield over Yinsen before unleashing the strongest blasting curse he could muster, dodging in and out of the falling rock as the terrorists below him screamed in fear.
Circling around again, Harry surveyed his handiwork with grim satisfaction before swooping back to Yinsen, landing on a pile of rubble as the doctor coughed and shoved aside some of the debris around him. A long scrape ran down the side of his face but other than that, he was unharmed.
"You..." Yinsen was staring at Harry with a look of grateful awe. "I believe that is twice you have saved me. You are quite a guardian."
Harry trilled urgently at him. He appreciated the thanks but now wasn't the best time. His shield charm wouldn't last forever.
Yinsen seemed to understand because he started clambering towards the exit, stumbling over the wreckage towards the daylight.
"Where is Tony?" Yinsen asked as he half-walked, half-slid down the small hill onto flat ground outside. All the terrorists had been called into the tunnels and the camp was completely empty for once.
Harry raised one wing to gesture back down the way they had come from before he caught himself but Yinsen didn't seem to notice anything peculiar. Harry shook his head. Ever since he had met him, the doctor had had the remarkable ability to simply take things in stride. A bird that understood and responded to human language wasn't anything to gawk about apparently.
Blaring gunfire started up again and Harry flew towards an outcrop quite a ways away from the camp, circling back to get Yinsen moving. The doctor nodded and stumbled after him, but gestured back to the tunnels. "I will be fine, I promise. Go back and help Stark."
Harry eyed him carefully, casting one more shield charm over Yinsen before winging back towards the mountains. Damn, humans were such a pain to look after.
By the time Tony had fought his way through the tunnels, flooring terrorists left and right, his suit was pretty scratched up, but he was relieved to see the entrance and no dead Yinsen on the ground.
A piercing cry caught his attention though and he automatically turned to find the falcon, jerking back as a gunshot flare blasted past him, missing him by inches. Turning back and catching sight of Raza, he swung his own makeshift gun around and fired without mercy. He was greatly pleased when he felt no remorse as the ceiling above Raza collapsed, burying the terrorist under it.
Another familiar trill sounded and Tony looked towards the entrance to find the falcon waiting for him.
"You are one hell of a bird," Tony murmured as he stomped towards it, following it out into the sunlight.
"Stark! Stark! You are surrounded! You must get out!"
Tony paused at Yinsen's voice, setting the last of his weapons on fire. Before he could make a step in the doctor's direction though, heavy gunfire caught him from behind and knocked him to his knees. The shots didn't let up even as he fired another blast of flames around him. He heard an explosion and knew it was time to go. His weapons would destroy themselves now that they were already burning.
Shooting in the air, he grinned triumphantly as he soared into the sky, only to falter when his thrusters spluttered and promptly died several hundred feet above the ground.
"Stark! Stark, are you alright?"
Groaning, Tony pitched in to help the hands already tearing the broken armour away from his body. "Ow, I feel like I've broken every bone in my body."
"Be grateful to the falcon," Yinsen replied, helping him crawl out of the wreckage. "It slowed you down or you would be feeling very dead."
"Slow me down? What?" Tony squinted at the barren landscape around him, wondering if he had hit his head.
Yinsen just shook his head. "Come, Stark. We cannot stay here. Any escaped terrorists will be after us immediately."
"Right," Tony straightened as best he could, wincing at the aches plaguing his body. "Do you know which way to go?"
Yinsen surveyed the area with sombre eyes. "I do not even know which way Gulmira lies. I was blindfolded when they brought me here."
"Huh," Tony tried to look on the bright side. "Well, like you said, a lot of people will be looking for me, so as soon as they do, they'll take you straight back home to your family."
Yinsen smiled a little wistfully. "I have no family in Gulmira, Stark."
Tony blinked, not really understanding for a moment. "No fam-" He stopped before continuing on accusingly. "You weren't even planning on getting out alive."
Yinsen inclined his head. "No, I was not. But the falcon had other plans."
"Well thank god I sent it after you," Tony said crossly, scrubbing a hand through his hair. "It doesn't matter. You can come back to the States with me if you want. I don't want those Ten Rings guys coming after you again anyway."
Yinsen arched an eyebrow. "I am not a US citizen, Stark, nor do I have enough money to start over-"
Tony waved a hand dismissively. "No worries. You forgot who you're talking to. The only thing you need to worry about is whether or not you want to come. And coming would be the best option. I've got huge labs all set up and ready for you to play with."
Yinsen stared at him for a long moment before finally nodding slowly. "If we get out of here alive, I would like that."
"Great!" Tony looked around. "So which way should we go?"
"Follow the falcon?" Yinsen suggested, pointing at the sky.
And there, circling overhead, was the dark grey falcon, waiting patiently for them to get moving.
"Well," Tony shrugged as they started to walk. "Can't say that option doesn't make sense."
Harry had to push himself to remain in the air, trying to ignore the blazing sun beating down on them, the ache in his muscles and stomach, and the pain that flared in his right wing with each downward sweep he took. There wasn't much wind either, which made everything ten times worse since he couldn't glide for as long as he usually could.
Down below, he saw Stark and Yinsen collapse in the shadows of a sand dune and knew the humans wouldn't last if even he felt like resting. With a mental curse, he wheeled around and headed back the way they had come. Without the two men following him, Harry could fly a lot faster, even as tired as he was, and it only took twenty minutes to reach the razed camp again. Darting into the wreckage, he foraged two water skins, scolding himself for not thinking of them earlier.
Another twenty-five minutes brought him back to Stark and Yinsen, who were both on their feet now and scanning the skies. They looked oddly relieved to see Harry, and even Yinsen's jaw dropped when Harry swooped down and dropped the two water skins at their feet.
"No one is going to believe a bird saved our skins half a dozen times in Afghanistan," Harry heard Stark mutter as the billionaire gulped down some much-needed water.
Yinsen frowned sternly at him. "I know what some Americans are like. If you tell them of this bird, they will either think you a lunatic or, worse, try to hunt down this falcon and dissect it."
Stark scowled. "I know that. I didn't mean I was really going to tell anyone anything." He turned back to Harry and extended the water skin. "Here, not sure how you're going to drink it but maybe you could poke a hole in the side or something."
Harry studied him for a moment, considering the Point-Me spell he had cast. His magic had given him a rough estimate of at least another three hours before they would reach a rescue team and he could ignore his thirst for a while longer. Stark would need it more.
With a sharp trill, he swept his right wing forward to push the water back to Tony before taking off again. It was time to go. They could save the water for later.
When Tony heard the familiar drone of choppers, he almost tripped over his feet as he twisted around, eyes feasting on the familiar sight of the US insignia on the side of two helicopters.
"Hey!" He waved a hand in the air, grinning widely as he realized their ordeal was over at last. Beside him, Yinsen was laughing, legs giving out as he sank to the sandy ground. He tripped and fell to his knees beside the doctor, shoulders sagging with exhaustion as one of the choppers landed several feet away and four soldiers came rushing towards him.
His heart swelled when he recognized Rhodey in the lead, looking worried and relieved all at the same time.
The worry seemed to win out because Rhodey's next words came out sarcastic, as it usually did when Tony had done something recklessly stupid. "How was the fun-vee?"
The sound that escaped Tony's throat was hysteria mixed into overwhelming relief and it came out as in a broken mockery of a laugh. Rhodey seemed to understand anyway because he crouched down, one hand clapping Tony's shoulder as he said with all the sombreness in the world, "Next time you ride with me, okay?"
Tony would later deny all claims that he had all but melted into the tight hug his friend pulled him into.
It wasn't until he and Yinsen was secured onto the chopper that Tony remembered the falcon, but he hastily scrambled to the doorway, peering anxiously up at the sky.
Rhodey was a little displeased. "Tony, I swear, I don't care what you wanna do but if you pull more of your crazy shit now of all times, I will personally dropkick your ass into the Grand Canyon and leave you there."
Okay, make that a lot displeased.
"Relax, Rhodey," Tony murmured distractedly as he pulled his head back in, disappointed that the skies were clear. "Just getting one more whiff of Afghanistan air."
Rhodey snorted and pulled the door close. "Yeah, well, it'll be your last whiff of Afghanistan air. You're never coming back here again."
As Rhodey turned to talk to the pilot, Yinsen leaned over to whisper, "The falcon flew away when your helicopters appeared. I suppose its job is finished."
Tony frowned. "Well, it is pretty smart. It'll find its way home."
Yinsen nodded, and then there was no more time for small talk as the military doctor Rhodey had brought along began to check them over.
But as they took off into the air, Tony glanced back at the country's sandy landscape and offered up two words in his head. Even though no one could hear it, he didn't think he had ever meant anything even half as much.
It was another two days before Harry finally stumbled through his front door, collapsing right in the middle of his empty coffee shop as he kicked the door shut behind him. Apparating hadn't even been an option after he had left Stark and Yinsen; he had just been too tired. So he had changed back to his human form before resting for a couple hours at the base of a sand dune, too hot to actually sleep but too tired to keep up a cooling charm, before finally Apparating back to Paris just as the sun began to set.
Paris was a complete nightmare since he had been thirsty, hungry, in pain, magically drained, and more or less poor since he hadn't brought much money with him, and he had only given the receptionist of a cheap-looking hotel a withering I'm-not-in-the-mood-to-take-any-shit look before the woman had handed over a key and Harry had passed out on the uncomfortable bed for the next ten hours.
When he had woken up, he had ordered crappy hotel food for a late breakfast, still too tired to actually go out to eat, before sleeping for another five hours into the afternoon. When he woke up again, he had paid for the uncomfortable bed and the crappy food before vacating the generally lousy living premise.
Apparating to New York hadn't been too hard but it had still taken a few hours of rest before he could cast a healing charm on his right arm. The pain had lessened, leaving a faint ache in his elbow joint, but it was definitely a lot better, and after spending the last of his money on a burger, he finally Apparated one last time into the alleyway beside his home, staggering wearily out of it and through his front door, beyond caring whether or not anyone saw him.
One thing was for certain after two months in Middle-of-Nowhere, Afghanistan: no one, not even Pepper, could trick him into doing something so ridiculously, exhaustingly, insanely stupid ever again.
Finished! Second chapter done. Wow, that was long. I was planning to cut this in half, but I couldn't find a nice place to stop so I just continued until the whole debacle was over.
Peregrine Falcon: Falco Peregrinus, which means wander or stranger. Also known as the Wandering Falcon. Has a keen intellect; symbolizes superiority, spirit, light, freedom, aspiration, success, victory, and rising above a situation. In Egypt, it is known as the king of all birds. In Western tradition, it represents the hunter and is associated with the Norse god Loki. In European culture, it is considered a warlike symbol. At its core, it represents visionary power, wisdom, and guardianship. Also known as 'a light that shines in the darkness'.
I thought that rather fitting for Harry in this fic so I stuck him with this form.
Chapter 4: As First Dates Go, It Could've Been Worse
Disclaimer: I do not own anything from Harry Potter...
Okay, so, there have been... questions. I'll try to answer them here.
-First of all, the pairing issue. No pairing in the foreseeable future. For those of you going on about no slash, I think I already mentioned last chapter that I've pretty much put that on the backburner.
-Secondly, I also mentioned this last chapter. Nothing can get that device off his wrist. It's locked on to his magical core now after his first activation.
-Thirdly, Harry isn't the type to just go in to a situation killing and Obliviating everyone in sight. For him, that's a last resort. And if Apparated, Portkeyed, etc. Tony and Yinsen out, Harry would have to Obliviate them, then he'd have to Obliviate SHIELD who would get wind of two prisoners disappearing from a locked cell in the middle of a terrorist camp and so on. And with a strong enough mind, a Memory Charm can be broken, and knowing Tony and Fury, they'd be able to break it, so Obliviate is a really bad idea.
-Fourthly, Harry's lived for so long that he's something of a jack-of-all-trades now so if he gets into a fight or any situation really, he'll tend to use whatever's on hand, meaning he won't just use magic. Just a thought for future reference.
-Lastly, just in case it's been unclear, Harry can't control where the device takes him, nor can he control the when.
Right, my rant's over, so on to the next chapter.
Chapter 4 – As First Dates Go, It Could've Been Worse
*One Day After Tony's Return*
"In here," Tony called from his office and he glanced up with a smile as Pepper walked in. "What's up?"
Pepper looked oddly anxious. "Tony, when you were in- err-"
"Afghanistan?" Tony supplied helpfully.
"Well, yes," Pepper looked apologetic now. Tony wished she didn't. "Besides Dr. Yinsen, was there anyone else there?"
Tony arched an eyebrow at her. "Uh, no. It was just the two of us in their charming company."
Pepper didn't smile, her frown deepening a little instead. Tony stopped working completely to study her more closely. "Something wrong?"
She quickly shook her head. "No, no, just, did anything... strange happen over there?"
Tony looked thoughtfully at her before glancing at the door to make sure it was closed. "Actually, yeah. Keep it a secret?"
Pepper nodded immediately and Tony launched into a recount of the falcon. "...Saved us half a dozen times," He concluded. "Wish I knew who trained it, or maybe it was some sort of alien from space. What do you think?"
Pepper completely ignored his question, asking one of her own instead. "But where did it go? After it led you to the rescue team, it just flew away?"
Tony shrugged and nodded. "Guess it didn't like helicopters much, but then again, it didn't seem all that affected by the guns." He paused and narrowed his eyes in suspicion. "Pepper, do you know anything about this?"
His secretary hastily shook her head. "Of course not, Tony. Now, I think I'll leave you to your work, or whatever it is you're doing since you're not working anymore. I'll be outside if you need me."
Tony flashed her a smile and nodded, watching her leave before returning to his computer and continuing his steady destruction of all the weapons blueprints saved on his hard drive.
It seemed he would have something besides the suit to work on after this. Pepper had never been very good at lying after all, especially to him.
*One Day After Harry's Return*
"I never got to say goodbye to my father. There's questions I would've asked him. I would've asked him how he felt about what his company did, if he was conflicted, if he ever had doubts. Or maybe he was every inch of man we remember from the newsreels. I saw youngAmericans killed by the very weapons I created to defend them and protect them. And I saw that I had become part of a system that is comfortable with zero-accountability."
"Mr. Stark, what happened over there?"
"Uh, I- I had my eyes opened. I came to realize that I have more to offer this world than just making things that blow up. And that is why, effective immediately, I am shutting down the weapons manufacturing division of Stark Internationals-"
The reporters converged onto their feet as Obadiah Stane leapt up and started pushing Stark away from the podium, but he didn't quite manage it until the billionaire had said his piece.
"-until such a time as I can decide what the future of the company will be, what direction it should take, one that I'm comfortable with and is consistent with the highest good for this country, as well."
Switching the TV off as the replay was cut off at that point, Harry returned to his lunch. The media kept replaying that particular press conference and he had watched it a total of three times now. He still wasn't sure if he was more impressed or surprised. He knew three months of captivity had changed Stark, but to this extent was still startling to see.
A tentative knock at his window made him pause, his fork halfway to his mouth when he caught sight of a familiar redhead standing outside, looking anxious and relieved and nervous all at the same time. For a split second, Harry considered ignoring her; he knew she would go away if he told her to, but the thought passed and he gestured for her to come in.
"You're back," Pepper blurted out as soon as the door swung shut behind her.
Harry glanced at her, their last conversation still fresh in his mind as he nodded, but he had never been one to hold a grudge and he was definitely too old to hold one now so he pulled up a chair across from him with one foot and tilted his head at it. "Don't stand by the door. It makes me look bad not to be standing as well and I'm too tired to get up at the moment."
Pepper bit her lip but complied after a second's hesitation, sitting down gingerly in the chair. The silence descended into awkward for several seconds before Harry sighed and broke it.
"How have you been?" He asked, offering his usual smile.
Pepper started a little but her shoulders relaxed an inch and she smiled back faintly. "Much better, now that Tony's back." She paused, before voicing hesitantly, "You've been gone for two months. I thought something had happened."
Harry shrugged a little. "Hmm, yes, well, I've been busy. Elsewhere."
Pepper nodded silently as Harry shoved aside his scone, not particularly hungry anymore. "Something wrong, Pepper?" He prompted.
Pepper sighed. "Tony mentioned something about a falcon during his time in Afghanistan," She finally revealed. "It saved him and Dr. Yinsen quite a few times. I just- just wanted to know if..." She trailed off, glancing uncertainly at Harry. "Did you send the falcon?"
Harry arched an eyebrow before letting a wry smile curl his lips. "You could say that, I suppose. Did that satisfy your problem with my selfish inaction?"
Pepper flushed red and Harry took pity on her. Saying anything more along those lines would just be petty. "Don't worry about it, Pepper. There are... circumstances that make me reluctant to get invested in anything but you were right. Sometimes I forget how someone I don't care about is actually quite important to someone else."
"I still shouldn't have said all those things, and I'm sorry," Pepper insisted, launching into an earnest explanation now that some sort of wall seemed to have disappeared between them. "I came to apologize the next day but the shop was closed and you were gone. When I didn't see you for the next week, I guessed that you had gone after Tony or something. I was so scared you wouldn't come back either and two months passed and then the military returned with Tony but you weren't with him and your shop was still closed-"
"Breathe, Pepper," Harry cut in, amusement mingling with exasperation as Pepper fell silent, looking sheepish. "It's fine; I understand why you said those things. Mr. Stark is an arse but he's tolerable, and you care about him. I know what that's like."
Pepper smiled weakly at him. "Thank you though. For bringing him back. I won't ask how you did it, but it must have been tough if you had to stop working for two months. So thank you."
The atmosphere in the cafe was a lot less tense now and Harry even whipped up a strawberry frappuccino for her.
"How is Mr. Stark then?" Harry said as he placed a few dirty dishes in the sink. "And Dr. Yinsen as well?"
"Recovering," Pepper said. "Dr. Yinsen's fitting in nicely in the lab Tony gave him and he's managed to stay away from the press as well."
"And Tony's recent... change of heart?" Harry nodded at the TV.
Pepper shook her head, looking bemused. "I have no idea what happened over there but it's definitely changed him. He's been spending the past few days destroying all the blueprints he was going to start on within the next few years. He and Obadiah's been getting into a lot of arguments."
"Mr. Stane?" Harry asked, recalling the press conference and the flash of dark anger he had seen in the man's eyes before he had cover it up. He knew greed and thirst for power when he saw it, and hearing Stark essentially flushing millions of dollars down the drain right after his return definitely wouldn't sit well with Stane. "Ah yes, the business partner. I'm guessing he hasn't been jumping up and down about the announcement?"
"If by 'jumping up and down' you mean with anger, he's doing exactly that," Pepper said with a grimace. "He's definitely not happy about it. And they are business partners, but Obadiah is the second-in-command, so if Tony puts his foot down, what he says goes. All Obadiah can do is try to change his mind."
Harry was suddenly quite happy with Stark's stubborn nature. The billionaire was nothing if not persistent. Once he had decided on a course of action, there really wasn't much that could stop him.
Two quiet beeps made them both look to the side and Pepper quickly withdrew her cell, blinking at the caller and mouthing 'Tony' to Harry before picking it up. "What is it, Tony?"
"Pepper, where are you?"
"Out," Pepper replied promptly, glancing at Harry who was trying to ignore the conversation altogether, but the cafe was closed at the moment and he could hear Stark's voice quite clearly from the phone.
"Well, un-out yourself and get back here. How big are your hands?"
Pepper frowned in confusion. "What?"
"How big are your hands?"
"I don't understand why-"
"Yinsen's gone back to Gulmira with Rhodey to pick up some of his things so I need someone else. Get back here fast. I need you."
The line disconnected, leaving a bewildered Pepper in its wake.
"You should probably hurry," Harry advised, having guessed what the entire conversation was about after having studied the notes Yinsen had made on the arc reactor back when they were all still in Afghanistan. "He's having trouble with his arc reactor."
"What?" Pepper leapt up, grabbing her purse. "Why didn't he just say? That thing keeps him alive, right?"
"Yeah, pretty much," Harry confirmed casually, reaching for the soap.
"Oh no, I walked down here!" Pepper rushed towards the door. "Do taxis pass by here very often?"
"No," Harry glanced at the window. "I don't like the traffic noise so I chose a quieter street to set up shop." He studied the slightly panicked, very concerned expression on Pepper's face before sighing and reaching for a towel. "Look, I'll drive you there. Just make sure bodyguards don't come out shooting or something when I drive up."
Pepper shot him a grateful smile and followed him to his garage. As Harry started his Nissan, he figured that there wouldn't be much harm in giving the secretary a lift.
Later, he would regret jinxing himself.
"Wait, you forgot your-" Harry sighed when the passenger door slammed shut and Pepper raced away, quickly disappearing inside Stark's house. "-bag."
He glanced down at the purse left in his car before grabbing it and vacating his car as well. Pepper had told the A.I. running the property, Jarvis, that Harry was allowed here but that didn't mean he felt comfortable wandering around a stranger's house. Well, not a stranger, per say, but still.
He reached the front door and blinked when it slid open soundlessly for him. "Err, thank you," He said as he stepped inside.
There was a second's pause before a male voice with a British accent replied, "You're welcome, sir. Ms. Potts is currently in Mr. Stark's lab downstairs. The sitting room is straight ahead on your left. Would you like some refreshments while you wait?"
Harry's eyebrows had risen almost to his hairline. "Wow, you're one hell of an A.I.. Uh, no thanks to the refreshments. Pepper left her bag in my car," He placed it down on the nearest couch. "I'll just leave it here and be on my way."
He headed back for the door but whirled around in sudden wariness when the entrance abruptly slid shut. "Jarvis, what's going on?"
"My apologies, sir, but Ms. Potts seems to be in need of assistance."
Harry frowned, starting to get irritated. "Well call a scientist or something. I'm certainly not qualified for whatever it is she's doing for Mr. Stark."
"She simply needs an extra pair of hands."
"Call someone who works here. Doesn't Mr. Stark have employees."
"Not anymore. He fired them all."
Harry paused in his half-hearted attempt at forcing the door open before turning around with a muted look of annoyance on his face. Was the entire world conspiring against him? He didn't want to be here! All he had come to do was drop Pepper off and leave her bag but even something as simple as that had ended with him being locked inside Stark's home! And he couldn't even Apparate out or Jarvis would be sure to tell his boss.
"Fine!" Harry snapped, moving away from the door. "How do I get down there?"
Jarvis quickly directed him to the far end of the sitting room and down a flight of stairs. The coded lock of the lab's door was overridden and Harry stepped inside just in time to hear Pepper's slightly hysterical voice, and Stark's calm one that had an underlying edge of tension in it
"-no, I don't have it! It slipped and-"
"-told you not to let it touch the sides, not drop it altogether! You need to get it before it gets stuck to the socket wall-"
"-I can barely see it now! My hand's not going to be able to fit all the way in-"
"-you've got small hands; you can do this. Just reach inside and twist your fingers a little until you can touch-"
"This is a mildly disturbing conversation," Harry muttered dryly from the doorway, loud enough to attract the attention of both of the lab's other occupants.
Stark asked, "Who are you?" at the same time that Pepper exclaimed, "Harry!"
Stark stared from Pepper to Harry, momentarily forgetting the dilemma he was in. "Harry? Harry who?"
Pepper hastily introduced him, the panic fading just a little when it didn't seem as if Stark was going to die anytime soon. "This is Harry Potter, a friend of mine. He makes the coffee I buy every morning. He gave me a lift back today after you called."
"Oh," Stark glanced back at him, still looking a little suspicious. "Okay, but that doesn't explain why you're in my house or, more importantly, why you're in my lab."
"Pepper left her purse in my car, and I wouldn't be in either if your A.I. didn't force me down here," Harry said coolly. He liked Stark better in his falcon form. At least then he wouldn't have to have an actual conversation with the man. "It said she needed an extra pair of hands."
Stark glared at the room in general but relented after a moment to look back at Harry. "Nothing you can do. More hands will just make this worse." He turned back to Pepper. "C'mon, Pepper. Just reach in-"
"You're not listening to me, Tony!" Pepper snapped back, ire and worry raising her voice again. "The wire's too deep; I can'treach it!"
Stark's head fell back with a heavy sigh as he shifted a little on the chair. "Well, this is great. Wonderful."
"What'll happen if we leave it in there?" Pepper asked anxiously.
"Oh, nothing much," Stark shrugged as best he could. "I'll be fine. For a few hours, maybe a few days. And then it'll short-circuit the entire thing and make my heart stop."
"That's not nothing much!" The panic was returning. "Look, I really think we should get you to a doctor-"
"Just use a pair of forceps," Harry interrupted wearily. They both looked at him. "Like surgery. Use it to grab the wire."
"...I can't," Pepper stated regretfully, peering inside the socket as Stark glanced at her hopefully. "It's not just too deep. The pus-"
"It's not pus, it's-"
"Tony, I don't care! Whatever it is, the wire's practically buried in it. And I think the bottom of the socket wall snagged part of the wire as well."
Stark groaned, his head thumping back again.
"May I see?" Harry asked, meeting Stark's gaze evenly when the billionaire looked at him again. A long assessing moment passed before a single nod was granted and Harry finally detached himself from the doorframe to get a closer look.
Leaning forward, Harry had to admit that Pepper was right. The copper wire was entangled at the very bottom and there was no way a simple hand would be able to remove it.
"I suggest the hospital," Harry said, Pepper nodding in complete agreement with him. "A surgeon could probably-"
Harry glanced up at the billionaire, studying the finality in his expression before straightening up and rolling up his sleeves. The teleportation device he wore, along with the scar he had been left with after trying to hex the damn thing off, had long since been spelled with every disillusionment charm he had been able to think of so it stayed hidden from prying eyes. "Then get me some forceps, a few suction tubes, and a skin hook, and I'll do it."
Both Pepper and Stark turned to gape at him.
"What? No!" Stark spoke first, staring dubiously at him. "I'm not letting some barely-out-of-diapers barista poke around inside me!"
Harry's jaw clenched, ignoring the irritation that had been a constant companion during the two months in Afghanistan, although, to be fair, not as bad. But he hadn't saved the jerk from terrorists just to let him die after the entire ordeal was over. "Fine, then go to the hospital." At Stark's rebellious expression, Harry continued tersely, "You've only got three options at the moment: go to the hospital and let a surgeon fix you up, let me fix you up, or die. Now, I prefer the first option, but you seem to prefer the last, and let me tell you, 'Tony Stark Dies From His Own Obstinacy' is a really pathetic way to go. So which one will it be?"
Harry had crossed his arms and was now glowering darkly at the bemused-looking inventor as he waited for an answer.
"Do you know what you're doing?" Stark finally asked, looking somewhat apprehensive. "I mean, you're not a doctor, are you?"
"No," Harry replied shortly, mind flashing briefly back to the hospital campus two hundred years ago in his timeline but one hundred years in Earth's future when he had worked for eight years under a renowned doctor. "But I know what I'm doing. I wouldn't have offered otherwise. While you do get on my nerves, I have no wish to kill you. Murder might put a bit of a damper on my business."
Stark snorted, some of the tension lifting from his shoulders as he leaned back again. "Glad to hear it. Alright, Pepper, go get my new doctor what he needs. There's medical equipment in the side room."
Ten minutes later, Pepper had assembled all the utensils Harry had asked for and was now hovering anxiously on Stark's other side.
"I'm just going to draw the wire out," Harry said as he manoeuvred the skin hook and forceps inside the socket. "Don't worry, I have very steady hands. It'll only hurt if you annoy me."
Stark managed a grin. "That's reassuring. Glad I've been doing nothing but dazzling you with my presence ever since you stepped into the room then."
Harry didn't take his eyes off what he was doing but retorted sardonically, "Yes, so dazzled I might get selective blindness any moment now."
Stark made a face at him as he tried to catch a glimpse of what Harry was doing. "So, what? You're not impressed at all? Not even a little? There are people out there who would give an arm and a leg for a chance to put one toe in my lab."
"I'll give an arm if you shut up," Harry replied conversationally, frowning a little as he started disentangling the wire. He didn't want to use magic just in case it reacted badly to arc reactor technology. He was pretty adept at combining magic and technology now, but he'd never combined it with this kind before and he'd rather not experiment with it when Stark's life was on the line. "And I'll give a leg if you retire from being the poster boy of egotistical arse-dom."
A muffled laugh came from Pepper as Stark took on a thoughtful expression, a slight smile playing on his lips. "You drive a hard bargain. I'm gonna have to think on it, though you'll definitely need to offer at least two arms for a chance at either."
Harry scoffed but didn't reply as he managed to get a good grip on the wire with the forceps. He exchanged the skin hook for the suction tube and began clearing out the inorganic plasmic discharge. "By the way, if you ever take out your new arc reactor, get someone to clean out the plasmic discharge, okay? If you leave all of it in there, it'll just clog up the socket and eventually corrode the base plate. ...What?"
Harry had glanced up to make sure Stark had understood, only to find an astonished gaze staring back at him.
"You know about arc reactor technology?" The billionaire finally asked.
Harry returned to his work. "A little," He answered vaguely. It was true, after all. He knew what Yinsen had written down about it and he had read some of the articles Stark had written for a few publishers, as well as a little from a future time in a different world, but that was it. He was sure Stark knew how everything worked a lot more thoroughly than he did. "I read some of your work with the arc reactor so far."
"It was a science project," Stark countered, giving him an odd look. "I didn't take it seriously back then."
"From what I've seen, Mr. Stark, you didn't take much of anything seriously back then, and you only take what you said at your latest press conference seriously now," Harry shot back, straightening in satisfaction after clearing the last of the fluid.
"Hey, I did take things seriously!" Stark protested indignantly. "Trust me, I was very serious when I went to get my Apogee Award. The women were very impressed with my gambling skills. A few of them even offered-"
"Spare me your sex life, Mr. Stark," Harry cut him off before he could say anything else. "Okay, I've got the wire. Pepper, when I remove the magnet attached to it, he'll start going into cardiac arrest-"
"Relax; a few seconds isn't going to kill him. Pass me the new reactor once I get the wire out so I can switch it. Mr. Stark, you'll feel a bit of a shock for a few seconds when I attach it to the base plate."
"I know how this works. The question is: how do you know?" Stark asked distractedly, looking slightly pensive again as Harry began withdrawing the wire. "Just don't let it touch the sides when you're coming out."
Harry grunted to show he had heard, but he had removed the wire and magnet completely mere seconds later without harm. He quickly placed it on a metal tray and received the arc reactor Pepper had already extended. With careful hands, he manoeuvred it into place, lips pressing together when Stark released a loud yelp as he attached the end to the base before setting the reactor into the socket and locking it firmly in place.
"There, done," Harry pronounced, glancing distastefully down at his hands before looking around for a sink. "You'll live, Mr. Stark."
"He's okay then?" Pepper jumped in, looking greatly relieved.
"I feel great," Stark declared, sitting up a little.
Pepper just scowled down at him. "Don't ever, ever, ever, ever ask me to do anything like that ever again," She stressed. "Make sure Dr. Yinsen's around or call Harry to do it."
"Hell no," Harry said from the far end of the lab where a small sink had been built in. "Next time this happens, I'm having nothing to do with it. I'm not qualified."
"Not qualified?" Stark repeated, looking incredulously at the barista now drying his hands. "And everything you just did somehow means you're unqualified?"
"Trust me, Mr. Stark," Harry said with a mocking edge to his tone as he automatically started disinfecting the used equipment. "I'm not really qualified in anything. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to work. I should've opened half an hour ago."
Without fanfare, he headed for the door, glancing back at Stark when the door didn't open. He didn't like the curious glint in the billionaire's eyes as the man detached himself from the heart monitor and slid off the chair.
"Do you have to go right away?" Stark started casually, making his way over to Harry. "I could show you around my lab. Least I could do after this." He gestured at his arc reactor.
"No thanks," Harry stayed polite with difficulty. "I'd like to leave now."
Stark studied him for a moment, and perhaps he sensed that pushing Harry right now would be a pretty bad idea because he nodded without further protest and reached over to tap in a sequence of numbers to open the door.
"You can come back anytime, though," He persisted as he and Pepper saw Harry to his car. "Jarvis will recognize you. He'll let you in."
"I don't make it a habit to visit strangers," Harry returned curtly as he started his car. He'd had enough of Tony Stark for one day. The man wasn't stupid and if Harry stuck around any longer than necessary, he'd be found out eventually. He had no desire to let Stark connect the dots.
Looking back at Pepper, he nodded a goodbye. "See you tomorrow. I'll brew something new for you."
Pepper brightened and nodded, waving as Harry peeled away, shooting down the driveway and as far away from Stark's estate as he could get.
"Who is he?" Tony rounded on Pepper as soon as the Nissan was out of sight. "There's no way he's just an average barista, not with what he did today."
"Ever think maybe he just reads a lot?" Pepper offered as they re-entered the house.
"And then practically performs open heart surgery at the drop of a hat?" Tony retorted. "His hands were steady and he knew exactly what he was doing. If he was thirty years older and you didn't tell me he makes coffee for a living, I would've pegged him as a veteran surgeon. He washed out my equipment like he's been doing it for years and he talks like a scientist. Hell, he talks like me, and not many people can do that."
Pepper shook her head as they reached his lab again. "I don't know, Tony, but he does work as a barista. I met him a few months ago when I started buying coffee at his place. You seem to like him though. You don't even let Colonel Rhodes take that close a look at your arc reactor."
"Rhodey knows how to shoot things, not fix things, especially not things like arc reactors," Tony countered, before frowning, his gaze falling absently on the neatly organized tools on his work table. "And there's something about him..."
Pepper tilted her head. "What about him?"
Tony remained silent for a few seconds longer before looking up and shrugging. "I don't know. I just feel like I've met him before, but I know I haven't. I would've remembered him."
He paused when Pepper averted her eyes, bustling over to his old reactor. It was obvious she knew something.
"What do you want me to do with this?" She asked before he could say anything else, holding up the device.
"That?" Tony looked at it for a long moment. "Destroy it. Incinerate it."
"You don't want to keep it?"
Tony had to smile at that. "Pepper, I've been called many things; nostalgic is not one of them."
Pepper gave him a long look before relenting. "Will that be all, Mr. Stark?"
"That will be all, Ms. Potts," Tony nodded, watch as she turned and vacated the lab.
His thoughts turned back to the intriguing barista who couldn't seem to get away from him fast enough. Most people were the opposite but Tony had caught a hint of almost resentment whenever that green gaze met his and he didn't know why.
And had it been anyone else, not counting Rhodey or Pepper, he would've ordered them right back out of the lab. Speaking of which...
"Jarvis," He said out loud. "Why did you let him down here? You know I don't like people in my lab."
"Ms. Potts seemed in need of assistance," The A.I. answered smoothly. "And Mr. Potter had been allowed entry on the property by Ms. Potts."
"That's it?" Tony demanded. "You let a complete stranger into my lab based on that?"
Jarvis was silent for a moment. "...There is also the curious fact that he was recognized."
Tony stilled. "What do you mean?"
"You copied what little data you had stored inside your old reactor before you asked Ms. Potts to help you remove it. As you know, that reactor could function as something of a memory storage and when you copied it to your computer's hard drive, it was all broken down into data."
"That data barely exists," Tony frowned. "It's so broken up that we've only been able to merge it with the database."
"Indeed. But when I ran a scan on Mr. Potter and tried to match him to any records on the New York mainframe, including yours, all I came up with was one match that connects him to what little is left of the data from your old reactor."
Tony sat down, thinking hard. "Nothing else? What about a birth certificate? School records? A parking ticket?"
"I found the first two, but they were not real. He is a good hacker; it took me quite a few minutes to realize they were fakes."
"Then he's essentially a ghost," Tony concluded. He wasn't surprised that Jarvis had managed to figure all that out. He had programmed the A.I. to do a thorough search on anyone who entered his house, just in case, and there weren't many people who could fool him when it came to computers and such.
"Alright, I'll keep looking," Tony muttered. "Maybe he was another captive back in Afghanistan and my reactor picked up his voice pattern or something. He's definitely not a terrorist. At least he managed to escape."
With that thought in mind, Tony headed further into his lab where he had started work on a new armoured suit.
There was something about the barista that struck Tony as familiar, but he couldn't quite place what it was. Surely he would've remembered even hearing about another prisoner? Well, either way, a trip down to the coffee shop with Pepper tomorrow didn't seem like a bad idea. He could do with some fresh air after all.
Finished! Chapter three done. A meet and greet sort of chapter. Was Tony okay? He's harder to write in this fic than my other one.
Chapter 5: Trust is a Hard Thing to Gain, Especially When Deceit Comes to Play
Disclaimer: I do not own anything from Harry Potter or the Avengers...
-About the reactor memory thing: yeah, probably doesn't make much sense in the real world but we'll assume the spare parts from the missiles he used to make the reactor had scanning devices/recognition features to lock on to targets and that was a part of the reactor until Tony took it out and saved it with the rest of his data once he got back home. Just nod, smile, and roll with it, people.
-And all my other uncompleted stories are still being worked on; some of them are just taking longer than others since I have a bit of a writer's block for those plotlines, but I'm not giving up on any of them:)
Chapter 5 – Trust is a Hard Thing to Gain, Especially When Deceit Comes to Play
When Tony strode into the coffee shop – dubbed Bifrost, he noted, which was a rather odd name; people wouldn't even know the place sold coffee if it wasn't for the lettering on the window that said as much – the first thing he looked for wasn't the barista, or at least not all of him. Instead, he let Pepper move forward to greet Harry while he stepped to the side so that he could get a look at the man's face. His eyes, to be exact.
He had been thinking all night; what had it been about his impromptu doctor that had seemed so familiar to him? When, at three in the morning, he had finally matched Harry's green gaze to the only other pair of eyes he knew to be that exact same shade, he hadn't known whether he should slap himself or investigate further. He had, of course, picked the latter.
Now, as haunting jade fully turned on him, Tony knew they were a carbon copy of the falcon's eyes. Even exasperated annoyance the bird always seemed to adopt when dealing with him back in Afghanistan was written on Harry's face at this very moment. But what exactly did that mean?
"Mr. Stark, what a surprise," Harry greeted flatly.
Tony wasn't deterred by the lack of enthusiasm, striding forward to take a seat on one of the stools at the counter instead. "Morning! I just thought I'd come with Pepper to see what kind of place sells my favourite coffee."
The barista gave him a look that clearly called him out on his bullshit but Tony was glad to see that Harry didn't seem quite as uncomfortable here as he had been yesterday in his house.
"So Harry – I can call you Harry, right? – how long have you been in this business?" Tony ignored the disapproving look Pepper shot him. In his opinion, if he wanted answers, beating around the bush wasn't going to help and Harry didn't seem like the type to appreciate mind games anyway.
"A few months," Harry answered as he worked. His gaze was wary as he glanced at Tony but at least there wasn't anything hostile to it. "I opened almost half a year ago so this place is still relatively new."
"Went to school?" Tony questioned as the scent of freshly-brewed coffee filled the air.
"Some," Harry showed no sign of outward discomfort; indeed, despite the disinterested tone the barista had taken on, his words were still smooth and polite, and Tony found himself impressed. Not many people, especially at such a young age, could keep cool under what was pretty much an interrogation hidden in casual conversation. "Boarding school, not in the States. Graduated when I was eighteen and unleashed on the world."
A slightly mocking smile curled at Harry's lips as if he was enjoying a private joke, but before Tony could look deeper into it, the barista had turned back with a cup of coffee in each hand.
"A Zebra Mocha for you, Pepper," Harry set down a twin-coloured drink in front of the secretary, a dark brown and white striped pattern in the shape of a butterfly floating on the surface. "Made from a mix of regular mocha and white chocolate mocha."
"Looks delicious," Pepper smiled, slipping her hands around the cup. "I almost don't want to drink it."
Harry grinned, but the expression slipped back to a civil smile as he turned to Tony. "And a Vienna Coffee for you, Mr. Stark. Two shots of espresso infused with whipped cream instead of milk and sugar, and topped with chocolate shavings. Enjoy."
Tony studied the drink curiously, taking a careful sip and then instantly taking another. "This is great!" He commented, glancing up at Harry who seemed to be waiting for his verdict. A pleased expression surfaced briefly across the barista's face at the genuine compliment before he inclined his head and moved away to serve another customer who had just come in.
Out of earshot, Tony turned to his secretary and demanded, "With coffee this good, why have you been getting me only black coffee for me all this time?"
Pepper shot him a patient you're-a-moron look. "Because you told me to get you black coffee and when I tried to suggest other ones, you refused. There was that one time I bought a Black Eye for you, but that was just because Harry made it for me to give to you after you got me to do all your paperwork at the last minute."
Tony remembered that day all too clearly. That coffee had been strong. With a shrug, he took another gulp before telling her, "Well, from now on, order me something new every day."
Pepper sighed in a resigned way but nodded dutifully. "Fine, Tony. But right now, stop interrogating him, won't you? We're just here for breakfast."
As if on cue, Harry was back, placing two blueberry scones in front of them, fresh out of the oven. He didn't pause to talk this time, sweeping away to another table as the place began to fill.
"It's pretty popular here," Tony observed, ignoring Pepper's request as he looked around. Seated on the far left of the counter, not many people glanced their way, for which Tony was rather grateful for since he didn't really want to be mobbed so early in the morning.
"It is," Pepper agreed, biting into her scone. "Harry doesn't keep this place small for lack of money. He just prefers it this way. On Sunday mornings, there's actually a huge lineup outside."
"Huh," Tony followed the barista's movements, noting the ease with which he moved and the familiarity in each action as he led people to their seats, took orders, served food, and made repetitive trips to the kitchen, all without breaking a sweat. For someone who couldn't be older than twenty-two at most and had only been doing this for less than six months, he had adjusted very well. Maybe the boarding school he had gone to had been a culinary one.
"And here I thought you had finally shut down," A sneering voice called from their right, and Tony and Pepper turned to find a tall, broad-shouldered brown-haired man standing by the counter, a displeased look on his face as Harry paused behind the counter, two cups of coffee in one hand and two plates of fresh croissants in the other.
"If you are here to eat, sir," Harry said, completely ignoring the man's first statement. "Then please wait by the door. If not, please leave."
The majority of people in the café had stopped talking in order to watch, and beside him, Pepper had stiffened in anger.
"That's Tom Russell," She hissed under her breath. "Owner of a restaurant down the street. A lot of people used to go there since it was one of the few better places around this area, but ever since Harry opened, more people have been coming here even though it's so much smaller than Russell's, and he's been hassling Harry ever since."
Tony frowned, already disliking the man. "What did he mean by Harry finally shutting down?" He muttered back.
Pepper shifted, somewhat nervously, he noticed, but replied, "Harry closed the café for a little bit while you were gone."
"For?" He glanced at her. Something very important was trying to connect in his mind.
Pepper shrugged almost guiltily. "Maintenance, I guess."
Tony arched an eyebrow but couldn't press any further when Russell spoke again.
"Why would I wanna eat here?" He scoffed, carelessly knocking over a tray of napkins on the counter. "You only serve pig's food in this place. Get some proper training before you open a business; mommy's cooking ain't gonna cut it here, boy."
Tony's mouth thinned, a startling rush of anger pooling in his gut, and he made to stand up to confront the asshole but Pepper's hand on his shoulder restrained him.
"Pepper," He said tersely, eyes hard as he stared at Russell. "One look at me and he'll wet himself. I could have his place shut down with a snap of my fingers."
The exasperation was clear as day in his secretary's voice as she spoke. "Tony, Russell's come here before. Do you really think Harry can't handle him?"
This made him pause and glance at the barista. Harry had set down the food and drinks and was now staring back at Russell with a neutral expression, but he might as well have been showing open scorn what with the deep disdain Tony could sense coming from him.
"You may, of course, have your own opinion," Harry continued politely. "But you are also disturbing my customers. As I have told you before, if you have any grievances with me, I would be willing to listen to them after hours. For now, I will have to ask you to leave."
"The British are really polite, aren't they?" Tony muttered to Pepper as he enjoyed the show. Russell's jaw clenched and an agitated red spread across his face.
Pepper smiled in a satisfied sort of way. "Harry knows it pisses Russell off more than if he started yelling. He's not exactly the yelling type anyway."
"This is my street, Potter!" Russell growled, voice rising as his anger finally got the better of him. "How many times do I have to tell you to scram?"
"Always at least once more, it seems," Harry retorted blandly. "I have just as much a right to open my business here as anyone else."
One fist slammed onto the counter as Russell leaned forward, glaring furiously at the calm barista standing in front of him. "You're stealing my customers, you thieving bastard!"
Something cold entered Harry's expression, a clinically dangerous sort of expression lurking just out of sight for anyone unperceptive enough, but one that caught Tony's attention immediately.
"If that is true, it is only an insult to yourself, Mr. Russell," Harry said quietly, gaze unflinching. "Perhaps if you worked on making better food, you would receive more customers."
For a moment, Tony thought Russell was going to attack Harry and he took a step forward, his shoulders tensing. But the man's hand only shot out and grabbed one of the cups of coffee. Tony caught the stifled movement of Harry's right hand and guessed the barista had suppressed his reflex. The coffee had probably cooled down a little anyway, and the cream in it was already melting.
"Nothing special," Russell sneered after taking a gulp and wiping his mouth on the back of his hand. He half-turned so that he was facing Tony's direction, and the billionaire caught a whiff of alcohol. Ah, so that's why the moron was making a fool of himself.
Unfortunately, even inebriated, most people in New York could recognize Tony Stark when they saw him, and when Russell's eyes landed on Tony, his face took on an ugly look.
"So the famous Tony Stark eats here too," He said loudly. Any conversation still going on in the café had long since died. "Well I guess that makes sense; this place is only fit for crazies and idiots."
Tony raised his eyebrows for a moment. "Don't know why you hate it so much then," He retorted easily. "Seeing as you're both."
The dull red darkened on Russell's face and the bigger man took a threatening step forward. Tony had to hold back a snort. This guy was less than nothing compared to the terrorists in Afghanistan.
"Shut your mouth!" Russell snarled. "I've watched the news. Billionaire Stark running a weapons company that doesn't make weapons! You're the crazy one, man. Flushing all that money down the drain just cuz Afghanistan made you a pussy."
"At least I have Afghanistan to blame," Tony didn't miss a beat, ignoring the thrum of instinctual fear that always returned, however briefly, when he was made to think about that place. "What's your excuse? Then again, your face alone isn't doing you any favours, but coming in here whining about your business; I gotta tell you, you should consider investing in a new brain. The one you have right now obviously isn't working."
Tony saw the hand still clenched around the coffee mug swing forward and he prepared to duck, but before Russell's arm could get more than halfway, slender fingers shot forward and snagged the thick wrist in an iron grip, stopping the movement so suddenly that some of the coffee slopped over the edge and dripped onto the floor.
"That's enough," Harry's voice could have frozen fire but it was his eyes that seemed to make Russell motionless. They burned with dark ferocity, a warning of the temper lurking just underneath the stony expression. "You will remove yourself from my premises. If you return and harass or attack any of my customers again, I will personally make you regret it. Do you understand?"
As far as threats went, Harry could have said a lot worse, but the uncompromising ruthlessness that flitted across the barista's face was so harsh that even Russell couldn't miss it. The restaurant owner dropped the coffee, shattering it on the ground before jerking his hand out of Harry's grasp. Tony had a feeling that if Harry hadn't wanted to, there was no way Russell could have pulled away.
Kicking over a stool, Russell stalked to the door, throwing back bitterly, "This place is nothing! It'll go under once people realize how disgusting that crap you call food is! And then I'll ruin you for ever daring to run me out of business!"
The silence was almost deafening as the door slammed shut behind the drunk and all the customers turned back to stare at Harry.
With a sigh, the barista offered an apologetic smile. "I apologize for the disturbance. Please pay no mind and return to your breakfast."
Some of the customers, obviously regulars, didn't seem too concerned with the spectacle and simply restarted their conversations, and slowly, the others followed their lead, their attention moving away from Harry as he came around the counter with a broom and dustpan. They also seemed rather disinterested in Tony, who was surprised, but pleasantly so, at the lack of people trying to question him about his latest press conference.
"Let me do that," Tony quickly stooped down beside the barista as he made to clean up the broken glass. "This was my fault. I can clean it up."
Tony almost winced at the cool gaze Harry levelled at him, but he did do a double-take when the barista apologized.
"What?" He blinked, bemused. "What for?"
"Russell had no right saying any of that stuff to you and he even tried to hit you," Harry replied, the stiff polite tone dropping now that he was only in Tony's presence. "You are in my café. I should've chased him out earlier. For not doing that, I am sorry."
Tony stared for a moment, long enough for Harry to sweep up the mess. That apology made no sense; yeah, Afghanistan still messed with his head since he had refused doctors and psychologists alike since his return, not to mention he had yet to get a decent night's sleep, and Harry was the type to be observant enough to notice it, but it was hardly the barista's fault some drunken asshole decided to take a swing at him. If anything, it had been Tony's fault for goading Russell.
But a part of him was unexpectedly pleased. He was used to people either liking him or disliking him before he had even met them, and for the most part, he was fine with it; he was used to it. But yesterday in the lab, while Harry's words had been sharp and sarcastic and he had left as soon as possible, he had also been very careful with Tony's arc reactor, never causing him deliberate harm (and he knew reporters who would probably push him off a building if it meant a story, painting him in the best or worst light possible), and Tony had quite enjoyed their banter. The hint of concern he had picked up in that apology was something he had never heard from anyone before, mostly because there weren't very many who would apologize to him of all people, much less actually mean it.
But that didn't mean he wasn't going to milk it for all its worth.
"It's fine," He said instead, sliding back onto the stool as Harry finished mopping up the spilt liquid. "You can make it up to me by coming over sometime. I could use some help with the preliminary stages of the arc technology I've been researching."
Harry glanced back at him as he turned to move back into the kitchen, a sardonic smile making its way onto his face. "I think not, Mr. Stark. I'm not that sorry."
And with that said, the barista disappeared from sight, leaving an inwardly amused Tony scowling after him.
"Really, Tony?" Pepper looked torn between smiling and sighing. She chose the former but shook her head. "You realize you just met him yesterday."
'No I didn't,' His mind automatically supplied, but Tony only grunted noncommittally out loud. "Yeah, but I wanna know how much he knows about arc tech. Not many people know what it is."
They watched as Harry returned with fresh croissants and coffee, serving them with speedy efficiency before he was off again, darting around the café without pause but still somehow making it look completely effortless and unhurried.
Three hours later, the crowd finally began to thin, and besides a few old couples, a man in the corner reading a newspaper, and Tony and Pepper, the coffee shop was empty.
"Still here," Harry observed, slipping into the vacant seat next to Tony. "Don't you have work?"
"After what Tony did?" Pepper shook her head with a wry smile. "Not really."
Harry switched his attention to the billionaire who stared evenly back.
"You'll stick to it then?" Harry questioned. "The whole no weapons manufacturing thing?"
"I always kept my word," Tony confirmed, surprised that they seemed to be having a real conversation for once. Suddenly curious to see what Harry thought, he posed a question of his own. "I wanna do something that could help people but still stay inside the Stark Industries field. Any ideas?"
"Me?" Green eyes narrowed suspiciously. "This another attempt to drag me back to your house?"
"'Course not," Tony said bracingly. "Really, I'd like to know a normal person's honest opinion. Where should I take my company?"
Harry said nothing for a long minute, turning to face the front after he seemed satisfied that Tony meant what he said.
"Do something with that," He finally said, turning back as his eyes dropped to the arc reactor in Tony's chest. "You already seem to be interested in it. Make something no one else has before. The arc reactor produces energy, yeah? Maybe you can try powering something bigger."
"Like... transfer the energy?" Tony said slowly, barely noticing his secretary's amusement as he turned Harry's words over in his mind. "Something like clean energy?"
Harry shrugged but a faint smile quirked his lips. "If you want. But I think you're still puzzling out your arc reactor so that won't be for a while. You're rich; why don't you just take a vacation? Figure out what you want to do. You're an inventor, aren't you? So said so yourself, shutting down Stark Industries 'until such a time as I can decide what the future of the company will be, what direction it should take, one that I'm comfortable with and is consistent with the highest good for this country'."
Tony couldn't help flashing a cocky smirk. "Ah, you memorized my speech? I was that good?"
Harry rolled his eyes, getting to his feet as one of the customers started pulling on their jacket, wallet in hand. "Hardly. It's just hard not to when it's practically broadcasted every other hour since you gave it."
"Oh, come on," Tony called after him. "You have to give me some credit. I bet nobody else in the world shocked the public as much as I did. Admit it, you were impressed."
Harry only tossed Tony a skeptical look over his shoulder. "Careful, Mr. Stark. Any bigger and your head won't fit through the door."
Tony grinned as Harry moved out of earshot and turned back to Pepper who had watched the entire exchange with exasperated fondness.
"He was totally impressed," Tony told her.
Pepper couldn't help laughing. "I don't think he said that, Tony."
"He didn't say he wasn't," Tony countered. "Which means he was."
"And that's logical?" Pepper queried, standing up as they finally got ready to leave.
"That's my logic," Tony informed her, pulling out his wallet. "And my logic is always right."
"Of course it is," Pepper agreed indulgently before frowning. "Wait, I can pay-"
Tony waved her off, placing the money on the counter. "Don't be silly, Pepper. What kind of person would I be if I didn't pay for your breakfast as well? Now, wait a second-"
He casually reached behind the counter and slipped the tiny recording device under it and out of sight.
Pepper leaned forward. "What are you doing?"
"Just- need a napkin," Tony withdrew with the serviette, patting his mouth for show before dropping it back on the counter. "Let's go. Lots to do."
Pepper raised her eyebrows at this but followed him to the door. They both called out goodbyes to Harry, who inclined his head in reply, and then they were off, back to Tony's house for another day of experimenting and building for Tony and fielding questions left and right for Pepper.
"Are you sure this wise, sir?"
"What's unwise about it?" Tony asked flippantly, adjusting his computer screens before turning back to the arm guard he was currently working on. "It has sound and video feeds. I'll be able to find out what I wanna know if Harry starts inviting government spies for coffee or something."
"And if he finds out?"
Tony waved a hand before picking up a screwdriver. "He won't. The thing is tiny. Besides, I'm just curious."
"Curiosity does not justify-"
"Spare me the morality speech, J," Tony interrupted, attention already focused on his suit. "I'll remove it soon enough. Harry won't ever know."
"We had a deal. You were supposed to kill him."
"You paid us mere trinkets to kill a prince. We were simply taking the rest of what you owed us."
"Yeah? And how'd that turn out for you?"
"...His escape bore unexpected fruit. Stark did not take his designs with him when he left. What we have here we can build ourselves."
"Then I'd like to make another deal. If you can give me the designs, I'll give you something you want."
"That will come with a steep price. If I give you the designs, perhaps a gift of these iron soldiers will be repayment enough."
"You want a bunch of those suits?"
"A man with a dozen of these can rule all of Asia."
"...Fine. When you're done, contact me and I'll fly out to get them. Once I build them, I'll deliver a dozen to you."
"Agreed, Mr. Stane. We will hold up our side of this bargain. I trust you will hold up yours."
Obadiah hung up the static-filled connection, leaning back in his chair as he surveyed the view outside. He scoffed at the mere idea of giving even one suit to that incompetent fool, but if it convinced the terrorist to do his work for him, all the better.
His eyes narrowed at the empty parking space Tony usually had his car in. The pathetic idiot was ruining everything he had built from the ground, all because of a little jaunt in Afghanistan. He would make him pay for the huge losses and humiliation.
But for now, he would do as Tony wanted. He'd stop all weapons manufacturing and he would make sure not a single piece of it was sold. It would lull Tony into a false sense of security. And then once Obadiah had those suits up and running, his reign would finally begin.
Harry had to smile, however reluctantly, at Stark's persistent nature. He supposed the billionaire wasn't so bad and Harry had honestly enjoyed his company, brief though it may be.
He wondered if Stark was still working on the suit, and had to squash the mildly wistful feeling that surfaced with that thought. He had been a part of every stage in the construction of the original suit; twice he had shifted the blueprints around for them once they had gone to sleep to make something more obvious after a particularly trying day when they couldn't seem to work out the next step. A part of him wanted to see what else Stark had come up with now that he had everything at his disposal.
But it was better to stay away in the end. If Stark only came in for coffee and a snack every once in a while, Harry couldn't see the harm in that, so at least he'd have a particularly interesting conversation now and then.
With a languid stretch, Harry flipped the sign to 'Closed' and headed upstairs for a shower. He never noticed the dull glint of metallic black hidden from sight under his counter.
Finished! Chapter 5 done! A bit info-y and plot-buildy this time.