Chapter 1: Prologue
The Muggle world had always held a deep fascination for Harry, especially after he began to see more than what was beyond his family's house. Most of his friends hadn't really gotten this need of his, but he didn't expect them to understand. The only one who came close was Hermione, but she was too busy with the numerous projects she started in the Ministry. It was an after-affect of the war, he knew, but he didn't have to like it. They both needed distractions from lives lost, Ron's included, and they both had different ways of coping.
Harry's just happened to be walking along the loneliest street he could find in London.
He had been down this particular street more times than he cared to remember. Each and every time, he saw, at most, three cars pass him. This day was turning out to be the same as any other day, at least at the start. Just as the third car passed him, the tire blew out and he watched, horrified, as it screeched across the road, hit a downed tree branch, and flipped into the air.
Secrecy laws be damned; Harry pulled out his wand and ran to the car. The driver was dead, he knew that before he got a closer look. Blood steadily came from that window and the head tilted unnaturally. He blasted open the backdoor and knelt to look inside.
He had seen death during the war, but that didn't mean he was immune to it. The kid he faced was no older than sixteen, but obviously no longer alive as well. Swearing, Harry moved to the other side of the car and took that door off as well. The man on this side groaned and Harry was grateful that someone was alive.
"Hold on, I'm going to get you out of here." Or he would try. The only reason the man hadn't been on the hood of the car was the seatbelt pressing into his chest and his legs pinned under the passenger seat; it had pushed back during the roll.
"Fuck, don't…" The man coughed, holding a shaking hand out to Harry. "Won't make it."
"Don't talk nonsense." Harry lifted his wand, his confidence wavering.
"No, please." The man groaned again, blood escaping between his lips. "I'm… The company…"
"Don't try to talk, just hold on."
"Please… don't let him…" The man coughed, blood spattering onto the seat in front of him. "Stane can't…"
Harry looked into the dying man's eyes and knew that he wasn't going to make it either. The sudden urge to know the man took over and Harry reached forward with his hand, pressing it against the blood on the man's temple. A whispered spelled later and everything the man knew poured into his mind.
The power behind that much knowledge made Harry hiss, but he held on. His first invention. His first kiss. World War II. Steve Rogers. Captain America. Maria. Tony. Death. Mourning. Pride. Genius. Betrayal. Homesickness. Fear, pain, sorrow. Death. Pleading.
Harry jerked his wand away, staring at the now dead body of Howard Stark, his prodigy son next to him. Tony wasn't supposed to be here, but he had begged, begged his father to be allowed to come. It would prove he was ready to help with the company despite his age. Today was his birthday; Tony was seventeen.
Something was wrong at the company, someone was betraying them. Howard had suspicions, but he didn't know for sure. He was about to tell Tony and get his opinion. Tony, his greatest creation. Tony would take the company to a new level.
His friends had always told Harry that he had a "saving issue." Harry saw no problem in taking full advantage of that issue as he went to the other side of the car and put his wand to Tony Stark's head. They looked similar, he could do this. He'd need some place to bury the body before the authorities arrived.
Tony Stark would live and he would make his father proud.
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
Again, un-beta'd and not looked over for anything. Writing by the seat of mah pants.
The presentation went off without a hitch, not that the famous Tony Stark would know. While the gathered crowd watch an over-used slideshow about how great he was and how he had taken full control of his father's company, Tony Stark was down in the casino with a pair of dice in hand. Women clutch to each of his arms, blowing on the dice to give him luck – not like he needed it. No, if Tony Stark wanted luck, he knew how to brew the damned stuff.
Because Tony Stark was secretly Harry Potter.
"You are unbelievable." Lieutenant Colonel Rhodes approached the popular table, pushing a few girls to the side as he did so. He wasn't a normal military man, not at all. Instead, he had been hand-picked by Harry from a select group of friends he had gotten close to during the war with Voldemort. Blaise Zabini had been a shock, but a welcome one.
"Oh no," he gasped, causing the women to giggle. "Did they rope you into this?"
"Nobody roped me into anything." A small twitch of Blaise's lips told Harry his friend was more amused than angry. That was something, at least.
"I'm so sorry," he said, mocking in his voice.
Blaise sighed. "They did tell me that if I presented you with an award, you'd be deeply honored."
Sometimes Harry wondered just how much this was play and how much was real between them. "Of course I'd be deeply honored. So when do we do it?"
Blaise held up the plain-looking award. "It's right here. Here you go, genius."
"There it is," Harry agreed. "That was easy." He looked over the trophy, making sure that it would have passed Howard Stark's inspection. Tony would be getting this if he weren't here, he could at least make sure it wasn't dented or smudged. "Would you look at that? I don't have any of those floating around…"
The girls laughed. The one that had been attached to Harry now clutched at Blaise's arm. The black wizard looked uncomfortable at the press of her breast and Harry had to hold back a laugh at his look. Harry didn't like their constant hounding either, but Tony had already showed signs of being a bit of a man-whore before he died – Harry had to make sure he acted exactly as Tony would have or the charade was ruined. Much to Harry's ire, they had yet to find the betrayer Howard Stark spoke of and it had been nearly a damned decade.
"Give me a hand, will you?" he asked Blaise, holding up his fist.
"I don't blow on a man's dice," Blaise said, trying to push the hand away.
He was going to pay for this later. "Come on, honey bear. Please?" He waved his fist a bit and Blaise just smacked it, giving Harry the perfect opportunity to let go of the dice in his hand. "Lieutenant Colonel Rhodes rolls!"
Blaise rolled his eyes and pushed Harry away from the table as the dice landed wrong, losing him all his money. Harry told the pouting women that worse things happened and he flashed them another grin before leaving the casino, Blaise beside him.
"This is where I exit," Blaise told him once they reached the entrance. "Tomorrow, don't be late."
"Yeah, you can count on it." They both knew Harry would show late. Tony always came late, so Harry would be late.
"I'm serious, Tony. Last time I waited five hours for your ass." Blaise gave Harry a small twitch of a smile before waving and turning down a private alley where he could Apparate.
They were careful where they used magic now that they were living false lives. It was different at the Stark mansion, but they could still cause a power flux around the cities. Thankfully, since they were only four wizards in a largely Muggle world, technology reacted well enough when they needed it to.
Harry pushed up his dark sunglasses, ready to just pull off his clothes and sleep. Playing Stark always made him tired, even if he had gotten used to it over the years. The fame still bothered him, reporters still annoyed him, but even as a teen Tony knew how to handle it. Blaise even mentioned once or twice that he should have just been a cocky asshole at Hogwarts and people wouldn't have dragged him name in the dirt so much. Harry had to agree.
"Hey, Happy," he said to Neville as he reached the car.
Neville Longbottom, bless him, followed Harry once he found out what was going on. He had more than one reason, and not all of them Harry knew, but he accepted the extra friend all the same. "Mr. Stark."
"Let's go ho—"
"Mr. Stark! Excuse me, Mr. Stark!"
Damned reporters. Harry put on his Reporter Smile and turned to the woman. "Yes?"
"Christine Everhart, Vanity Fair Magazine," she said, flashing a charming smile. The inner-Tony appreciated that smile as well as her looks. "Can I ask you a couple of questions?"
She was cute enough to gain a bit of his attention, so Harry shrugged. "Yeah, okay." Immediately, he had a recorder in his face. At least it wasn't going to record his words wrong.
"You've been called the da Vinci of our time. What do you say to that?"
That sounded rather amazing, actually. "Absolutely ridiculous. I don't paint."
"And what do you say to your other nickname?" Her question caused a bit of panic to rise in Harry's chest. "The Merchant of Death."
She couldn't know. There was no way this reporter could know. "That's not so bad. Let me guess… Berkeley?"
She tensed and Harry smirked as he caught it. "Brown, actually."
"Well, Ms. Brown, it's an imperfect world, but it's the only one we've got." Harry leaned a little against the open door to his car. "I guarantee you, the day weapons are no longer needed to keep the peace, I'll start making bricks and beams for baby hospitals."
Her look was not amused. "Rehearse that much?"
She had no idea. "Every night in front of the mirror before bedtime."
"I can see that," she said with a slight twitch of a smile.
This was the side of Tony Stark that Harry despised. "I'd like to show you first-hand." Flirt, make the girls fall so they won't look too deep.
"All I want is a serious answer."
She was one of the few that didn't continue on with his flirtations right away, and Harry appreciated it. She deserved something, at least. "Okay, here's serious. My old man had a philosophy that Peace meant having a bigger stick than the other guy." It wasn't completely a lie; Sirius once told him that.
"That's great coming from the guy selling the sticks."
The first thing Harry had done after gaining Howard Stark's memories was to research him even more. Hermione had been helpful with that and, after they finished getting all the information on the man, Harry had felt a connection. A need to defend him.
So he did.
"My father helped defeat the Nazis. He worked on the Manhattan Project. A lot of people, including your professors at Brown, call him a hero."
She wasted no time with her return. "And a lot of people would also call that war profiteering."
The bitch. "Tell me, do you plan to report on the millions we've saved," and here he leaned closer, making sure her recorder caught his voice, "by advancing medical technology or kept from starvation with our intelli-crops?" He leaned back, hoping she saw his irritation. "All those breakthroughs were from military funding, honey."
Military funding and hours of research with magic. It had been a grueling three years when they were attempting it.
Her look did turn thoughtful, however, and Harry had to remind him to try and be flirtations as she said, "You ever lose an hour of sleep your whole life with those thoughts?"
He shrugged. "I'd be prepared to lose a few with you."
That was how Harry found himself giving up his bedroom to a reporter. As she slept, she dreamed of all the sex she figured Tony Stark would give her; it had been a trick Harry used often with the woman that only wanted to brag about getting into his pants.
He closed the door softly and turned to give Hermione a smile. "Sorry."
She shrugged and held out a mug of tea. "Why don't you stop being Tony for a few hours and come be Harry."
"Gladly." Harry closed his eyes and breathed in the smell of the tea leaves. "I can't wait until we uncover who this man is."
"The one Howard was so worried about?"
"Yeah." Harry settled on the couch. "I wanted to brush it off, but the worry was all over his mind and I just…"
"I know." Hermione opened her laptop. "Blaise wanted me to tell you that his magic is starting to short out the security on the base. We'll need to fix that when you get back from the trip."
"You're working on the new damper, right?"
Hermione smirked, holding up a set of dog tags. "Almost done. You might pretend to be a genius, but we all know who has the brains here."
"Yeah, yeah." Harry finished his tea and stood, stretching his muscles. "I'm going to head down to the lab and pretty much force all of this mechanical mumbo jumbo into my brain. I have a feeling someone will ask what this weapon does and I want to be prepared."
"Good idea." Hermione waved at him. "I'll make sure the… trash is taken out in the morning."
Harry laughed all the way down to his lab.
When he first decided to simply take over Tony Stark's life, Harry was sure that he was going to mess something up. He went to Hermione first, explained what happened, and immediately had ideas forming with her on how to go about the situation. She insisted on coming with him, hiding most of the time "Tony" recovered from the accident and Howard's death.
Knowing they would need some kind of help in the weapons department, Harry brought in Blaise as a consultant. Consultant turned into best friend and soon they had papers faked and convinced several army leaders that James Rhodes had always been there and always been at the top. Blaise's uncle helped with the process, being a Muggle military man himself; the Slytherin did admit that he always liked his squib of an Uncle even if the family didn't.
Once Harry stepped in to take over the company, Howard's friend (and oh how Harry used that term loosely) Obadiah Stane had insisted he needed a driver. Stane offered one of his, but Harry didn't trust the glint in his eyes and insisted he had his own. An old school buddy that got close. Once the words were out of his mouth, Harry cursed himself and realized that he wasn't sure who to bring in to fill that role. After many suggestions, he threw caution to the wind and contacted Dudley, figuring he would need a bulky-looking man to do the job.
It would at least give Dudley the time of his life before he died. Nobody noticed until during the war when Dudley was hiding, but his life had literally been attached to the wards on the house. Once he packed his things and left, things took a turn for the worst. He died four years into his new job as Harry's driver.
However, he helped train his replacement. Neville had almost been more of a surprise than Blaise. He never explained why he wanted to help and he never complain when it came to learning how to work with Muggle things. He simply sat back, watched Dudley, and slowly took on his mannerisms. When Dudley died, Neville finally completely adopted the persona of "Happy" – receding hairline and all.
Magic had been the hardest thing to handle. For years, they wore dampeners that stopped their magic to the point where Harry swore he was dying. Slowly, Hermione help him figure out ways their magic could not only work with various electronics, but power them as well. Circuits shorted out more often, but it was worth it. Only Blaise insisted he have a fully-functioning dampener; he didn't want to fall out of the sky in whatever aircraft he happened to be flying.
Out of everyone in Howard and Tony's life, the one person they failed to convince was Jarvis. Already an old man, he simply stared at Harry, eyes flickering to his forehead, and sighed. He was gone the next morning with only a notebook filled with instructions in his wake. It had been addressed to "Mister Potter" and gave him any and all codes and passwords within the company. Despite trying to track him down, Harry was never able to find the old butler again.
Instead, he had a few workers at Stark Industries integrate an A.I. into the company's building. He watched how it was done, watched them program a specific personality, and then proceeded to install that into the Stark house. Jarvis' voice was different, but it had been as close as Harry could get it. The all-knowing voice in the house had been more useful than Harry wanted to admit.
"Sir, magic levels are stable as always."
"Thank you," Harry said as he sat down behind the desk. "Call Blaise and tell him we'll have that thing for him tomorrow."
"Of course, sir. Anything else?"
Harry spun around in the chair, a frown on his face. There were a lot of things he wanted, and none of them could be obtained through an A.I. "That'll be all now. I'll be sleeping down here tonight. Wake me in the morning?"
"I'm sure eleven would be a fine time to have Miss Granger bring your breakfast. Your guest should be gone by then."
"Wake her at nine. I'm sure Tony would get a kick out of kicking her out early."
"Of course, sir."
Harry let out a sigh and pulled his photo album closer, wondering if he would ever see any of his still-living friends again. Wondering if he even wanted to see them.
Life, so far, was just so much easier as Tony Stark than it had ever been as Harry Potter.
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
Lalala, still not beta'd. :D
Things that were not Tony and more Harry tended to slide into focus every now and then. According to Tony's memories, he had crashed on his first motorcycle and, since then, hated going too fast. Not many people knew that (Starks weren't allowed to have a weakness; they reminded Harry of the Malfoys in a way), so it was easy to keep driving the fast cars. The fact that he had gotten Neville into it was just a bonus.
He pulled his car to a sharp stop at the airport, grinning as Neville pulled up close behind him. "I thought I lost you back there!" They didn't even have to fake this banter.
"You did, sir." Well, most of it. "I had to cut across Mulholland."
Harry laughed, grabbed one of the bags and handing it off to Neville. They walked toward the waiting plane, an amused Blaise waiting at the door. Amused most likely because the pilot and crew were most likely cursing his inability to show up on time.
"What's wrong with you?" Blaise asked once they were close enough.
"What?" Harry asked, trying to sound innocent.
"I got caught doing a piece for Vanity Fair." There, behind Blaise, one of the crew grinned before disappearing into the front compartment. At least this practiced dialogue hadn't gone to waste.
"For three hours," Blaise continued. "For three hours you got me standing here."
Harry couldn't help himself, really. "Waiting on you now," he said as he passed Blaise to get into the plane. "Let's go, come on. See you, Happy!"
The flight hadn't been quite as fun as they could have made it. The three women attendants slept peacefully by the windows, dreaming whatever it is they dreamed they'd be doing during this flight. Or, well, whatever Blaise happened to put in their head at the time. Harry appreciated that he didn't have to be the one to always do this to them.
The long flight was more helpful than boring. Blaise spread out the papers on the Jericho missile and quizzed Harry on everything, tossing in a few points of interest that weren't officially on the agenda. After all, military men they dealt with always wanted to know when the next idea was going to come around. When the next weapon would be manufactured. Hell, sometimes they even wanted to know the next time he took a piss.
Harry was not a fan of the military.
Once Blaise finished his test, Harry grabbed another folder and leaned back to read more. There were a few things inside Howard's mind that intrigued him. He had gotten pretty good at making things, not that he trusted any of it out in the open yet. To be seen in Stark Industries, it had to be perfect. Nothing was ever perfect.
He sighed, hoping this presentation business would be over with sooner than later. This missile might be from his mind, but the basis dated back to the second war. A small, almost hidden blue print had been stashed away and forgotten about. It almost made Harry want to grab a time turner and take Howard into the future where his ideas would work instead of just be written on paper.
Since he couldn't do that, he just had to do his best to get it done for the man instead.
Harry stood at the edge of a small cliff, facing a group of men he really didn't care about. It was hot, he wanted to go home, and none of them looked remotely impressed with him. Not that they ever did, but it was nice to think about. Holding back a sigh, Harry just began his presentation.
"Is it better to be respected or feared?" he asked, not expecting an answer. The silent men didn't give one. "I say, ask for both. With that in mind, I humbly present the crown jewel of Stark Industries' Freedom Line." Yeah, Blaise would kill him for that later. They had no official line title, but it sounded nice.
"It's the first system to incorporate our proprietary repulsor technology," he continued, making sure he sounded appropriately smug about this. "They tell me the best weapon is the one you never have to fire, but I respectfully disagree. I prefer the weapon you only have to fire once." And damn, that would have been useful for the war. "That's how Dad did it, that's how America does it, and it's worked out pretty well so far."
Some of the younger men murmured to each other and, well, that was a smile Harry detected on one of the older men in the back.
"Find an excuse to let one of these off the chain, and I personally guarantee you the bad guys won't even want to come out of their caves." Harry smiled at them a little. "For your consideration," he said, raising his arms, "the Jericho."
The weapon went off and the following explosion quite literally blew their hats off. Harry might have tossed in a bit of magic with the presentation, but it worked either way.
"To peace," he said softly, reaching for his phone as it buzzed in his pocket. Right on time. "Obie, what are you doing up?"
"I couldn't sleep until I found out how it went." Harry tried not to make a face at the man's state of undress. It was more disturbing than anything. "How'd it go?"
"Looks like it's going to be an early Christmas."
Stane's smile always put him on edge, even if the man proved himself over and over again. "Way to go, Tony. I'll see you tomorrow, yeah?"
One quip, or he wouldn't be Tony. "Why aren't you wearing those pajamas I got you?"
Stane rolled his eyes. "Good night, Tony."
Harry closed his phone and settled into one of the waiting cars. He winked as Blaise as his friend walked up. "I'm sorry, this is the 'fun-vee.' The 'hum-dum-vee' is back there."
Blaise smiled, patting the door. "Nice job. See you back at the base."
Another trip, gone as planned. Harry was almost growing bored of the routine. He sat in silence for the first part of the trip, brooding about various issues in the company. Some dickhead last week had tried to break into the small café in the main building. A giant company and they went for the café of all places. Harry really didn't understand.
A bump in the road brought him out of his thoughts and he looked at the soldiers escorting him back to base. Ah, hell. It wasn't everyday you met Tony Stark. And he would clear his boredom.
"I feel like you're driving me to a court martial." He caught a smile on the face of the young kid next to him, so he went on. "This is crazy. What did I do? I feel like you're going to pull over and snuff me." The kid next to him bit his lip. This was going to be boring if he were the only one talking. "What, you're not allowed to talk?"
"We can talk, sir," the kid said, not looking at him.
"Oh, I see." Harry let out a small sigh. "So it's personal?"
"No," the driver, a woman, said. "You intimidate them."
"Good god, you're a woman. I honestly… I couldn't have called that." Harry was shocked to find that he was being honest. "I mean, I'd apologize, but isn't that what we're going for? I thought of you as a soldier first."
Her smile reached her eyes; an unusual sight on a soldier out here. "I'm an airman."
"You have excellent bone structure. I'm kind of having a hard time not looking at you now. Is that weird?" The kid next to him snorted and Harry grinned a little. "Come on, you can laugh."
The man in the front turned around to look at him. "I have a question, sir." He at least waited for Harry's motion to continue. "Is it true that you went full calendar with last year's Maxim cover models?"
Oh how he hated that rumor. "That is an excellent question. Yes, and no. March couldn't make it, but Christmas was twins."
The kid next to him raised a hand. "What's with the hand? Are we in school?"
"Is it cool if I take a picture with you?" The question was shy and he looked as if Harry would say no.
What kind of patriot would he be if he did? "Yes, it's very cool." He shifted closer to the center of the vehicle as a camera got handed to the front. "I don't want to see this on your MySpace or blog." For once, the request came from Harry, not Tony.
The kid nodded and threw up a peace sign. Harry didn't know what started that particular thing in young kids; he held back a sigh at it.
"Yeah, peace," he said instead. "I love peace. I'd be out of a job with peace."
"Come on," the kid said to the man holding the camera. "Hurry up and click it. Don't change any settings."
Harry let himself grin a bit as the two argued about camera settings. None of them were ready when the vehicle in front of them exploded. The woman driving jerked to a stop and suddenly there was too much movement. Harry had been in war situations before, but never with guns and ammo and unseen enemies.
He had also left his wand at home, too used to not needing it anymore to think of bringing it into a fucking active warzone.
The kid next to him opened the door and Harry felt himself panic. "Wait! Give me a gun!"
"Stay here!" The kid turned after his order and was promptly shot, his blood splattering on the window as his head jerked back.
There was no way Harry was staying in the car now. He pushed open the door and slipped out, staying as low as he could while he got a handle on the situation. The situation was not good and, after what felt like hours (but could only be seconds), Harry knew he had to get out of there. Apparation was tempting, but it would cause more panic than he wanted to create, so he pulled out his phone and tried to get as far away as possible.
He got one text out to Hermione before one of his own damned missiles landed next to him. Harry's eyes widened, a shield went up, but the perfect piece of technology still went off. He realized he was bleeding, despite his magic and his chest protector, right before he passed out.
Chapter 4: Chapter 3 - Interlude
The call came while Hermione was enjoying her morning tea. As soon as she saw it was Blaise, something in her heart seemed to drop. There was a heaviness in her chest that hadn't been there before. Ignoring her suddenly shaking hands, she picked up the phone and balanced it between her ear and shoulder while she stirred the tea.
"Hermione, we have a problem."
She almost dropped the phone. The first rule when they came to help Harry was that they never used real names unless they were face-to-face and alone. "Please tell me Harry's just drunk."
"I got a text from him and I couldn't make out what he said. I'm hoping you're about to tell me that he got drunk and just typed random words." Blaise's silence was all she needed to let her know it was much worse. "Damn. Oh damn. What channel?"
Blaise sighed. "Does it matter? Look, just… I need to find him. One of the soldiers thinks he saw something and I'm going to get it out of the damn kid's head. I know you don't trust me, but I swear on my wand that Harry will come home safe."
They all knew this could happen. 'Tony Stark' made weapons, and people who made weapons had enemies. It had happened before, but the experience was almost laughable and the kidnapper completely untrained. Harry managed to get himself out in less than an hour.
She knew by the tone of his voice that this was different. Much different. "Just bring him home. I'll see what I can do from here." She hung up, not wanting to listen to him anymore.
Hermione brought up the text from before, looking over the jumbled message and cursing herself for not paying more attention.
Blaise knew that if he couldn't find Harry, he might as well not even return to California. The military be damned about it, too. So far, the men he was supposed to listen to just wanted to leave Tony Stark where he was. They claimed he wouldn't be harmed since they were sure the terrorists just wanted his weapons. They claimed he would be fine.
Yes, and they also claimed that the roads had been cleared before Tony was brought through them.
"We'll need you to go back home, son."
Blaise looked up and frowned. "With all due respect, sir, my best friend is captured. I made a promise and I intend to keep it."
"Don't bother, Colonel Rhodes. Get your ass back on that plane and go home. We'll let you know if he's found."
Fuck. That. Blaise did give a salute, but there was no way he would comply with the orders. "I have a few things to pack if I may, sir."
"That's fine. You have until tomorrow to leave."
Blaise nodded and went to his bunk. There were a few guys in there he could talk into staging a search and rescue. Many of them had gotten jobs because of Stark Industries. All of them, however, would agree with Blaise when he told them their orders.
He would make damned sure of it.
Chapter 5: Chapter 4
I get lost too easily when updating at different times, so what the hell. Update this all at once so I can stop freaking out about remembering.
Something was wrong.
Harry was used to waking up with a hangover. You didn't impersonate a man for a decade and not subject yourself to bouts of stupidity sometimes. Hermione always liked to remind him that just because he was pretending to be Tony did not mean that he had to actually become him.
Still, something was wrong.
This didn't feel like a normal hangover. His body ached in odd places and the bed below him was far too uncomfortable to be his expensive imported mattress currently in his Malibu home. He let out a groan as he tried to move. Wires tugged on his skin and he pulled at them without much thought.
Stupid Muggle technology.
He went to pull at a wire on his chest when a voice stopped him. "I wouldn't do that if I were you."
Harry froze, his body tense. He hadn't even sensed someone else. Panic briefly ran across his mind, but Harry quickly pushed it down. He couldn't afford to panic. "What the hell?" He followed the last wire to a normal-looking car battery. The other end of the wire disappeared into his chest. "Oh god… What did you do to me?"
He was going to die. Hermione read something about car batteries once. About how they had acid or something in them and the damned thing was attached to his chest. Harry tried to gather his magic around him, but it wasn't responding. Something kept it back. Now he let his panic take hold.
"What I did?" the voice asked. "What I did is to save your life."
Harry focused on the voice, needing something to anchor him. If he could get to his magic, panic would make things explode. He didn't want things to explode. Where the hell was his magic?
"I removed all the shrapnel I could, but there's a lot left." The man who spoke looked old, but not too old. Remus old. "It's headed into your atrial septum." His what? "I have a souvenir, want to see? Take a look."
Harry took the offered jar, staring at the debris inside. If what this man was saying was true, he had that in his body. In his body. If he didn't die, Hermione was going to kill him. How was the damned car battery working?
"I've seen many wounds like that in my village," the man continued, seemingly oblivious to Harry's panic. "We call them the 'walking dead' because it takes about a week for the barbs to reach the vital organs."
The hell? Harry frowned and pulled a bit at the wire. "What's this?"
"That is an electromagnet," the man replied, sounding proud of himself. "The battery is powering it and keeping the shrapnel from entering your heart."
"And the walking dead thing…?"
"Most likely still true. Car batteries run out of power, too." The man smiled a little. "We met once, you know, at a technical conference in Bern."
Bern. When had he been to Bern? "I don't remember."
"No, you wouldn't."
Ah, so it was one of those times. "If I had been that drunk, I wouldn't have been able to stand, much less give a lecture on integrated circuits."
"Your assistant was of great help during the three-hour lecture."
Harry couldn't help but smile at that. Hermione did hate having to do the research and not be able to talk about it. She would have been thrilled to take over the conference. "All right, then. Where are we?"
He never got an answer. Voices were suddenly outside the door and a panicked look came across the man's face. Harry took a deep breath, trying to prepare himself for whatever would happen.
"Stand up," the man said, motioning to Harry. "Come on, stand up! Just do as I do."
The doors burst open and Harry tensed at both the amount of people and the amount of guns. His eyes widened as he took in exactly whose guns those were. "Those are my guns. How did they get my guns?"
"Do you understand me?" the man hissed. "Do as I do. Put your hands up."
Harry dropped the wire he had still been holding and immediately raised his hands in the common form of 'surrender.' Not a moment later, a man walked in with nothing more than a smirk and the dirty clothes on his back. Harry had dealt with enough egotistical assholes to realize this was the leader. He couldn't understand a word he said.
The man next to him helpfully translated. "He says, 'Welcome, Tony Stark, the most famous mass murderer in the history of America'." Harry really wanted to roll his eyes, but he held back. "He says he is honored and wants you to build the missile you demonstrated. The Jericho missile."
Harry needed a distraction, but his mind was moving too fast for him to keep up. He tried to think of what Tony would do, but came up blank. The kid was seventeen when he died and all Harry had were memories. Memories that weren't even his.
So he decided to try and figure out what Howard would do. The man was stupidly proud and horded anything he could. There was no way he would do anything for these men.
Harry raised his chin. "I refuse."
That had, apparently, been the wrong answer. The men around him almost choked him when the pulled the bag over his head. He tried counting his steps out, but the darkness mixed with needing to carry the damned battery made him stumble and he lost count around twenty-nine.
Sunlight flooded his vision before he was ready for it and he held up a hand, trying to block the light. Once his eyes adjusted and he had a chance to look around, he knew that he was in trouble. Hundreds of Stark Industries logos seemed to glare at him. The bastards had more than just his guns.
He barely heard as the leader spouted off in his language, though the man captured with him did still translate. Apparently, the bastard wanted him to build the Jericho missile. They had all the things gathered, but they just wanted the missile. The man promised that the Ten Rings would let them go once it was finished and Harry forced himself not to sigh.
"No he won't," he said; his translator-friend agreed. They both knew they weren't getting out of here alive. Harry would die when the battery failed, and the man would die when Harry failed.
Surprisingly, their captors simply led them back into the cave and shut the door. They were too stupid not to be watching on cameras, so Harry sat down and refused to move. There was no point in creating the missile; he had no idea how to do something like that. Sure, he tinkered in on some projects and he knew the theory behind others, but he was not a genius.
"I'm sure they're looking for you," the man with him said as he cooked something. "Looking, yes, but they will never find you in these mountains." He poured them each a bowl of what looked like liquid shit. Harry was sure it didn't taste any better. "Do you remember what you just say? That is your legacy, Stark."
"Fuck the legacy," Harry said.
The man ignored him. "That is your life's work in the hands of those murderers. Is that how you want to go out?" the bowl was placed in front of him. "Is this the last act of defiance of the great Tony Stark? Or are you going to do something about it?"
How could he do anything? He was nothing more than a fraud. "Why should I do anything? They're going to kill me, and you, either way. If they don't, I'll probably be dead in a week."
The man just smiled. "Well, then this is a very important week for you, isn't it."
Harry stared at the man's smile and tried to figure out what he meant. Everybody thought he was a genius, but he wasn't. He sighed, figuring that someone might as well know the truth before he died. "There's just one problem with that."
"What is that?"
"I'm not Tony Stark." Harry felt a weight lift off his shoulders. Oh, it felt good to admit that to somebody after all these years. "My name is Harry Potter and I was there the day Tony and Howard died."
The man's eyes widened. "But the missile…"
"I don't know how to build it. I barely understand what goes in it." Harry leaned forward. "I don't want to die, but that's just how life is. Car batteries don't last forever."
The man shifted and pushed his food away. "If you were Tony Stark, you would invent something to keep you alive."
"But I'm not Tony Stark." Harry frowned. "I don't know anything about—"
"You just need an energy source that will last longer than a battery. Surely you learned while posing as a Stark?"
Harry hesitated. "You knew, didn't you."
The man laughed. "The conference in Bern was when you were just taking over Stark Industries. I'm sure it was before you learned to hold your tongue. Come, now, what do you remember?"
Harry looked away, trying to recall anything about an energy source. Tony hadn't thought of anything before he died, so that left Howard. Howard had always said in his notes that his greatest achievement was creating energy, something he hoped to accomplish in the future. A future where Tony was supposed to be. Harry's eyes widened as he remember the first thing he had done as the Stark CEO.
"An Arc Reactor." He stood quickly, grabbing the battery so he could pace the room. "Yes, that could work…" Harry paused, going over the calculations and procedures he had forced himself to memorize. He had tried building the larger one now at the main company building, but Hermione eventually had to help. He was on his own here.
He had to try.
"Tell them I'm ready. I know what I need."
Chapter 6: Chapter 5
The last thing Harry was going to do was help the terrorist group. First on the list of priorities was to create something to keep himself alive. His magic still wasn't responding, so he stopped trying to call it up. Instead, he focused on remembering what he was supposed to be doing. It wouldn't be the first time he attempting making something, but it would be the first time his life depended on it.
He didn't want to know what Blaise, Hermione, and Neville would do to his body if he failed.
He couldn't concentrate on one thing, so he made sure to keep a running conversation going. Since the man he shared the large cell with was a stranger, it hadn't been that hard. He found the man's name (Yinsen) and that he spoke several languages (though not nearly enough to cover the terrorists). He also found out that apparently the Ten Rings had been loyal customers for years. Damn.
If there was one thing Harry remembered plain as day, it was palladium. He broke open one of the missiles he was given and let out a breath as he found it. Yinsen came up behind him.
"What is that?" the old man asked.
"That's palladium. Point fifteen grams of it." Harry grinned, going through the math as fast as he could. "We need at least one point six, so why don't you go break down another eleven?"
Yinsen laughed and went to do just that, not arguing.
Harry helped him pull the last two apart. "How long have you been here?"
"You lose track of the days." Yinsen stretched his fingers, wincing as one cracked. "May I ask you something, Mister Potter?"
"Go ahead. We have time."
"If you are not Tony Stark, how have you been able to pass as him so well?"
He had actually been expecting that. "You know my assistant?"
"Yes, her." Harry didn't feel like admitting she was actually Hermione Granger. "Pepper has been my rock in the Stark business. She's kind of a bookworm and learns anything and everything she can. I tried to make sense of Stark Tech when I started, but things were just so weird then that I let her do all of that."
"She enjoys it?"
"I think so. She hasn't complained yet." Harry smiled, remembering the way Hermione's eyes would light up when she finally understood something. "Since she knows my schedules so well, she lets me know what I need to before I talk about it."
"With a system like that, it seems like you should know it already."
"You'd think so." Harry pushed away the last missile, finally having all the palladium he needed. "I had a friend like her in school and it didn't work well there, either. I'd memorize what I'd need to, and once it was over, I'd forget it. It was the only way I knew how to survive the intake of information."
"That sounds like a horrible way of doing it." Yinsen got up to get some water from the leaking bucket in the room. "Perhaps if you had memorized everything, you would know a better way of getting out of this."
"You don't need to tell me that," Harry said, his voice sharp. "For god's sake, I already feel as if I failed Howard enough."
"I'm sure he would still be proud of you. The company has done well."
"Not well enough." Harry sighed. "When we get out of here, will you help me?"
Yinsen's silence told Harry that the man didn't believe they would make it out.
They worked in relative silence after that. Yinsen did as he was asked, sometimes more, and Harry just hoped that they would make this thing before the end of the week. His chest hadn't started hurting yet, but Yinsen told him it would eventually.
When things were finally in place, Harry took a deep breath and started the reactor. It flickered for a moment before the lights in their cell dimmed. A blue glow finally settled into the reactor.
Harry grinned at Yinsen. "Well, it's sure not a missile."
"What could it generate?" Yinsen wiped down his tools, preparing them to work on Harry's chest.
"If my math is right, and it might not be, then three gigajoules per second." He would find out for sure later, but for now he was satisfied to just be proud of himself.
"That could run your heart for fifty lifetimes."
"Sure, or something big for fifteen minutes. It'll give us time to get the hell out of here."
"What is it?"
Harry motioned him to a table where there were some papers. "Flatten them out and look."
Yinsen did, his eyes widening a bit. "Oh, wow. This is impressive for someone who claims they aren't good at this."
Harry couldn't help but laugh at that. "I found this in Tony Stark's mind. Apparently, he thought it would be cool to have a suit of armor when he was a little kid."
"First we have to fix your heart."
"First we have to fix my heart," Harry agreed.
The process terrified Harry. His magic was still there; he could feel a tingle of it now, but it still wasn't as responsive. The reactor in his chest could fail once his magic came back. He could die or he could be injured to the point where living would be pointless. Still, a reactor would be better than a car battery.
Thankfully, he wasn't completely awake for the process. Yinsen still had some drugs to knock him out, but they used the last of it to do this. When he did wake, and Harry was glad he did, he had a nice (but uncomfortable) addition to his chest. As far as he and Yinsen knew, it worked perfectly.
They decided not to work that day, playing a game Harry had never heard of. He lost more than he cared to admit, but at least he was resting. He needed to get used to the heavy feeling in his chest.
After he lost for the fifteenth time, he glanced up at Yinsen. "You still haven't told me where you're from."
"It's a small town called Gulmira." Yinsen set up the board again, a wistful smile on his face. "It's actually a nice place."
"Got a family?"
"Yes, and I will see them when I leave here." Yinsen finally looked up at Harry. "And you, Potter?"
Harry wanted to say yes, he truly did, but he couldn't say so and be honest at the same time. Yinsen deserved his honesty. "No."
"No?" Yinsen made his first move. "So, you're a man who now has everything… and nothing."
Harry really wanted to tell Yinsen that he didn't understand. He wanted to tell Yinsen that he had all he needed. He wanted to tell the man that he was wrong. Then he remembered his empty bed at home. He remembered the hectic schedule that kept him from really seeing his friends.
The days blurred after that. They worked on the armor bits at a time so the Ten Rings wouldn't catch on. At least, Harry hoped they wouldn't catch on. They had a few more threats, their food ration was lowered, and their water soon had drops of mud in it. Really, Harry was starting to wonder if this was supposed to motivate them.
The Ten Ring eventually got that it wasn't working. The next time they came in, the pushed Yinsen down and threatened to burn out his tongue. Harry was surprised that they made it out of that unhurt, but he didn't like the now deadline of twenty-four hours. The suit wasn't nearly as complete as he wanted it, but it would have to do.
Harry just wanted to go home.
They assembled the suit after their last round of food. The guards wouldn't be coming again for another few hours, giving them just enough time to get out. Harry settled himself in the armor and let Yinsen take over the assembly. And, apparently, the man liked to take after Hermione when nervous.
"Can you move? Say it again."
Still, Harry took comfort in it. "Forty-one steps straight, then sixteen from the door. Fork right, thirty-three steps and then turn right."
Suddenly, people banged on their cell door, screaming out for Yinsen and Stark among other things.
Harry panicked. "Say something. Say something back to him."
"He's speaking Hungarian. I don't…"
Harry wished he had his magic. He could have done something. A translation spell. Anything. "Then speak Hungarian."
"Okay, I know." Yinsen yelled something back at the door. "How'd that work?"
Harry winced as the last piece of armor came on and angry voices were louder behind the door. "It worked all right."
"That's what I do. Let me finish this." Yinsen went to the computer, typing in the sequence Harry had told him. "Okay."
"Tell me," Harry insisted. "Tell me when you see a progress bar. It should be up right now. Talk to me!"
"I have it." Yinsen looked to Harry. "Control-"
"Yes, now. Hit it." Harry glanced to the door. "Come over here and button me up."
"They're coming," Yinsen said, panic creeping into his voice.
"Just get it done." Harry winced as another bolt went into place. "Make sure the checkpoints are clear before you follow me out, okay?"
"We need more time."
"I'm going to buy you some time." Yinsen turned and ran to the door.
"Yinsen!" Harry's eyes widened. "Stick to the plan!"
Harry's mind blanked after that. Once the progress bar completed, he grunted and moved the suit out of the room. Forty-one steps, sixteen steps, about twelve men dead. By the time he made it to the entrance and saw Yinsen, he got angry. The leader of the Ten Rings chose to show up at that point and Harry had no problem burying him under rubble.
He knelt next to Yinsen. "Come on, we got to go." He pushed some rubble aside. "Move for me, come on. We got a plan and we're going to stick to it."
Yinsen let out a laugh, not moving. "This was always the plan, Potter."
"Come on, we're going to go see your family."
"My family is dead."
Harry frowned. "What about helping me be Tony Stark?"
Yinsen shook his head. "It's okay, I want this."
There was a tightness in his chest that wasn't the reactor. "Thank you for saving me."
"Don't waste it," Yinsen said, his voice softer. "Don't waste your, or Tony's, life."
Yinsen died then, and Harry wanted nothing more than to sit there and cry. He couldn't, though, he wasn't done yet.
He still had his weapons to destroy.
Leaving Yinsen where he lay, Harry stood and walked out of the cave to finish what they started.
Chapter 7: Chapter 6 - Interlude
Every day that passed was another failure. Blaise sat in front of a computer at the base, staring at the screen and debating if he really wanted to call Hermione and give her the same damned report he had done last time. Magic hasn't found him. Technology hasn't found him. I haven't found him. She would cry, then, and tell him to just keep looking while she kept the company running. Or, at least, running as much as she could.
He felt as if it were the war all over again. Back when he was helpless to do anything but sit there and fail at everything he attempted. His mother had asked him, as a neutral party in the war, to try and just keep Slytherin house safe from Death Eater cruelty and the Order's manipulations. Every time he looked at Draco, Crabbe, or Goyle, he could feel bile rising in his throat because he couldn't save them.
No Order member would go near a Slytherin, which should have made his job easier, but the Death Eaters gave him enough work not to notice he had been only fighting one side. As more and more students came to school with Marks, he could feel his steady control over his anger slip away. Anger at himself, anger at their parents – anger at the helpless feeling in his chest.
Harry had saved him, all those years ago. In his seventh year (when Harry had been off hunting down Horcruxes - and getting that out of him had been an amusing night full of scotch), Draco had finally broken through his walls and convinced him to torture certain students. Blaise felt his body do things that even today he didn't recall actually doing. The curse had been strong, holding him longer than he cared to admit.
Then Harry returned to Hogwarts. Blaise caught him in the hall, thankfully without any other Slytherins, and Harry seemed to know what happened. They dueled, Harry struck him with something, and Blaise had fallen against the wall. When he woke up, it was in a room he didn't know surrounded by students he used to hurt. The 'Golden Trio' sat around him, but only Harry was smiling. Only Harry seemed to know.
Following him to America to help with this silly farce had been the only way Blaise knew to repay him.
However, they had gotten comfortable playing rolls. Blaise knew that if Harry wanted to stop being Tony Stark, he would struggle with leaving the American military. He felt as if he were making a difference here. Not that he thought this would ever be an issue; Harry seemed to love being Tony despite the time in the spotlight. Part of him wondered if Harry was simply playing out a fantasy of what he had wanted to do with reporters in England.
This was, of course, before Tony Stark was captured. Blaise sighed and turned on the program so he could video call Hermione. It rang once before her face showed on the screen.
"Rhodey? Did you find him?"
"Not yet." Blaise rubbed his face. "I tried our way of doing it again this morning, but I can't find his signature. I called as soon as the power flickered back on."
Hermione frowned, tucking a strand of her dyed-red hair behind her ear. She explained, once upon a time, that the color was so she could always have a part of her dead husband. Blaise didn't realize she and Ron had been married, but he never questioned whether or not it was true. If Hermione wanted to pretend they had been married before he died, he would let her.
"Try harder." Hermione narrowed her eyes. "Harry has a saving-people thing, so he isn't just going to roll over and die."
Using his name meant Jarvis had secured the line. Or she didn't care. "We've checked everywhere we can think of. It isn't that easy."
"You will find him in two weeks or so help me, I will find out your worst fear and unleash it on you." Hermione pointed at him through the screen. "Don't test me, Blaise Zabini. There is a reason Harry wanted you by his side, and I don't think it was entirely for the conversation. You're his military man, his protector, so go out and find him!"
The connection cut and Blaise had to hold himself back from slumping over in his chair. Damn that woman was scary when she was angry and it always managed to turn him on. Blaise groaned and, ignoring the fact that he had an inappropriate bulge in his pants, stood from his chair.
Right, he had two weeks to find Harry before Hermione possibly killed him. This would be (not) fun.
Or it would have been had his latest magical search not shorted out all the systems in the helicopters they were using. Cursing himself, Blaise ordered all the men in his unit to work on the equipment, wanting it back up and running yesterday. He grabbed a few tools of his own to help, but it still took a better part of a week to get all six running.
They spent another five days travelling through the desert, watching both skies and ground for any hint of where Harry could be. They could only fly so close to enemy boarders and Blaise was about to simply order them there and damn the consequences when they all saw it. Black smoke rose over the horizon and Blaise felt himself hope.
They flew so fast toward the smoke that he almost didn't catch the shirtless figure walking in the sand. His heart constricted when he did notice and the fleet of helicopters soon touched down. Blaise wasted no time running toward the figure, now on his knees in the sand.
A strange, blue glow radiated from his chest and Blaise was horrified to see that this was Harry. Not Tony anymore; it had been nearly three months and that would make anybody appearance change, but this was different. The scar on his forehead stood out even under the ratty shirt he used as a head cover. His hair was messy, sticking up at odd angles.
And that damned blue light. What was that light?
Blaise tried to keep himself calm as he got in front of Harry. "How was the fun-vee?" he asked, hoping the humor would do something, anything, to get that dead look off his friend's face. When he saw a small smile, he deflated and felt himself relax for the first time since this started. "Next time, you ride with me."
He leaned their foreheads together, glad that the man against him was alive and breathing. Harry didn't even complain when Blaise picked him up and carried him to the helicopter so they could get back to base.
It was only after he called Hermione to tell her the news that he realized he still hadn't felt anything magical from Harry. Even with his dampener in place, he could always feel him. Once again, he stared at the blue light, wanting answers to questions he knew Harry couldn't give him right now.
Chapter 8: Chapter 7
Harry slept for the better part of two days, completely unaware that he was being looked over by doctors. He woke slowly, not registering his surroundings until Blaise's face took up most of whatever he had been looking at. He groaned a little, not understanding whatever Blaise was saying. His lips were moving, but Harry couldn't consciously make anything out other than the rushing in his ears.
Water was then placed against his lips and he drank greedily, not caring if he'd get sick because of it. Blaise pulled it away after a while and Harry groaned again, attempting to reach for it.
"Stop." Blaise said the word slowly and Harry was so happy that he understood something that he didn't care anymore. "Relax, I got you."
With that, Harry fell back into the somewhat soft bed and closed his eyes. Blaise's voice lulled him back to sleep.
The next time he woke, his hearing seemed back to normal and he could tell exactly where he was. Some kind of medical ward and, thankfully, he was the only patient there. A small turn of his head showed Blaise, half asleep, in a nearby chair. He looked back at the ceiling and closed his eyes to take a deep breath.
He was alive.
And damnit, they were being watched. That meant they were on a base, most likely close to where Blaise managed to pick him up. He looked back at his friend and tried to smile, tried to be the Great Tony Stark, and miserably failed.
"Didn't I say I hated doctors?"
"Don't be like that." Blaise sat on the edge of the bed, resting a hand on Harry's chest. On the reactor in his chest. On his fucking lifeline. "Want to talk about it?"
"No." Harry closed his eyes so he didn't have to look at anything. "No, I really don't. I want to go home."
Blaise tensed and Harry could only guess at what he was thinking. Harry had never, in all his time as Tony Stark, called Malibu "home." Well, there was no way he could go back to the Wizarding World with the glowing nightlight in his chest, so he might as well get used to it.
"Home to California," he said after a moment. "I want to get out of here."
"Once you're cleared, we're—"
"Clear me. Damnit, Blaise, get me out of here."
Blaise slipped his hand off Harry's chest before getting off the bed. "Give me a few hours."
"You have thirty minutes. I'm Tony-fucking-Stark and I get what I want."
The laugh that came from Blaise was well worth the demand Harry made. Thankfully, the military seemed to want to bend to whatever he wanted because, in less than twenty minutes, he was on a large plane and on his way to the states. The only people he allowed to be there were Blaise, the pilots, and a timid-looking doctor that Blaise insisted needed to be there. Harry relented only so they could be on their way.
Still weak, Harry let Blaise lower him into a seat. "I might love flying, but military planes are not my favorite things in the world," he mumbled.
"You get used to them." Blaise waved a hand to the doctor. "This is Miranda. She's a Muggleborn in the states."
Harry arched an eyebrow. "Why is she here?"
"Because I'm not good at playing doctor and I know you hate when Hermione does it. She knows who we are and is willing to be Obliviated after she treats you."
"In a plane? Come on, you know—"
"Not everything needs to be done with magic," Miranda said with a small smile. "I'm both a Healer and a Doctor. Mister Zabini is just concerned with your magic, as was I when I first saw you."
Harry looked between them. "What do you know about my magic?"
Blaise sat beside him. "I tried to find you by your magical signature, but nothing happened. When I picked you up, I felt nothing. You can't tell me you haven't noticed."
"I had other things on my mind at the time." Harry rubbed at the spot under the reactor. "A lot of other things."
"Mister Potter?" Miranda got in front of him before kneeling so she looked up at him a bit. "I'm not that good with technology, so may I ask what that thing in your chest is?"
Harry really wanted to just tell them to ask Yinsen, but that was impossible. He clenched his fists on his knees. "It's my life support."
"How so? Does it have to do with the shrapnel in your heart?"
"You have what in your heart?"
Harry waved Blaise off, feeling a headache coming on. "Pieces, Blaise, just pieces. This thing is a miniature arc reactor and it's keeping the pieces from stabbing me slowly to death."
"I could remove the pieces," Miranda offered. "It's risky, but it can be done. I'd need a few more people for it, though."
Harry felt conflicted, though he really wasn't sure why. The reactor was a reminder, one that he was sure he really didn't need, but he wanted it. If they took the pieces out, they would probably heal the skin. It would be unblemished and it would be as if nothing happened there.
"Let me think about it, okay?" He leaned back, glad when Miranda stood up. "Now… my magic?"
"A lot easier to explain now, actually. I had a theory before, but I'm pretty sure I know what happened." She motioned to the seat next to Harry. "Mind if I sit?"
"I guess not." Still, Harry moved a little closer to Blaise.
"Thank you." Miranda sat down, brushing her hands over her coat. "Magic is amazing and special in ways we don't realize. It can do—"
"Please just get on with it," Blaise said, keeping a steady hand on Harry's back. He appreciated the silent support, as well as the biting remark he was too tired to make.
Miranda frowned at both of them before crossing her arms. "Fine, the short version. Your magic is resilient and wants you alive, obviously. As soon as you were injured, your magic moved to keep you alive by trying to eject the shrapnel in your system. You used so much that it pretty much depleted itself, which is probably a good thing. At least now it can grow around the technology in your chest. It might, and I mean might not reject it and shut it down, causing you to restart this whole process."
Harry stared at her, not really wanting to believe her. "I know I got some things working with magic, but it never fully integrated. Are you saying…?"
"That's exactly what I'm saying. I was trying to explain before that magic pretty much does what it wants. It's selfish, but it ultimately tries to protect its user." Miranda motioned to Harry's chest. "That is keeping you alive and your magic should recognize that."
"How do we know for sure?" Blaise asked, uncertainty tainting his usual confidence.
"We don't." Miranda shrugged. "I'm going on an educated guess. A very educated guess. My brother researches how magic and Muggleborns react when a Muggleborn is born with an illness that requires technology to survive. Children with heart monitors or breathing machines. It's fascinating, actually."
Harry glanced to Blaise and hoped that this would be the case. "That wouldn't be so bad."
"You're seriously thinking about keeping that thing, then?"
Harry shrugged, ideas already flowing through his head. If the reactor molded with his magic, then what could he do? He would need to upgrade the reactor (that would be interesting – he would need Howard's notes) before he tried anything. He would make something for peace, not for war.
He would make Howard proud of him, even if he had to stop acting like "Tony Stark" to do it.
Chapter 9: Chapter 8
In the end, Harry let Miranda patch him up and groom him until he looked like Tony Stark again. He wanted to keep the look as long as possible, mostly because he wasn't sure anymore if people would follow him if he looked different. And if he really wanted to, he could change his look slowly and create one that was a mixture of both Harry and Tony. He could wish, at least.
If he showed that he was nervous at all, both Blaise and Miranda didn't acknowledge it. That was enough for Harry and he smiled at the Healer, inviting her back to his Malibu home to talk further about the new piece of his life settled in his chest. He wanted to know about her little procedure before he accepted it be done, and he had some stipulations of his own.
Not having a wheelchair waiting for him if he were ever injured again would be the first thing on that list, too. He gave Blaise a dirty look before ordering the contraption away. He wanted to face Hermione and Neville standing, especially since reporters had gathered outside of the base and could see him.
It was obvious Hermione had been crying, but he decided not to acknowledge that. She had always hated when he pointed out tear tracks on her cheeks, even if the past three months was enough reason for her to have them. Instead, he flashed her a smile, told her the vacation was over, and settled inside of the car. Blaise sat up front with Neville and Harry couldn't bring himself to object.
The three people sitting in the car with him were the three he trusted above all else.
"Where to?" Neville asked, starting the car.
"Take us to the hospital," Hermione said.
"No." Harry shook his head and held up a hand to stall any further protests from her. "I've been in captivity for three months and there are two things I want to do."
"Oh god, Harry. Really?"
"I want an Italian sausage-"
"Are you kidding me?"
"-and I want you to call a press conference." That even got Blaise to turn around to look at him. "Right now, please."
"Call for a press conference? What for?" Still, Hermione pulled out her phone.
"Nev, drive. Sausage first." Harry leaned back in his seat and started out the window, refusing to say another word.
Hermione got the press conference settled before sighing and letting Harry know about the various people that had been in contact since word of his rescue came out. She ranted about the rude FBI agent and the cold CIA woman who tried to fight her way into the mansion. Harry tuned her out as she started on a tangent about a ratty-looking DOD agent, but at least the story had Blaise laughing.
Part of him felt as though it was wrong to laugh anymore.
They pulled up to the building just as Harry stuffed the last bit of sausage into his mouth. He got out of the car and waved at the reporters outside, making sure that the crumpled wrapped could be seen in his hand before he tossed it back into the car. There, excuse for not talking taken care of.
Obi wrapped an arm around his shoulders and Harry stiffened, not liking the tightness that came from the hold. Obi only did this when he was trying to play it up for the press, so Harry gently got out of the hold and went inside. Once he was at the podium, he stared down at the clear glass and simply wondered if Howard would approve of what he would do today. Would his own father approve of his life? Would his mother?
He held up a hand to get the reporters to stop firing questions at him. "I never really got to know my father," he said honestly. "Sure, there are news clippings and people to tell me what he was like, but he and I were never close enough. If he were here today, there are questions that I would ask him. Questions like how he felt about what this company did when it came to military weaponry. Whether or not he was conflicted about what he was doing or if he had doubts."
Harry paused again, running his finger over the newly-shaved beard. "I saw… I saw young Americans killed by the weapons Stark Industries created to defend and protect them. I realized that I had become part of a system that is comfortable with zero accountability."
The reporters started up again and, since Harry knew they weren't going to stop, he motioned to one.
The man introduced himself as Ben from Time Magazine. He simply asked, "What happened over there?"
"I had my eyes opened," Harry told him honestly. "I came to realize that I have more to offer this world than what I do now." He glanced toward Hermione, knowing that she was going to give him hell for this. If she was even paying attention to him and not the suit next to her. "That is why, effective immediately, I am shutting down the weapons manufacturing division of Stark Industries until further notice." Obi pushed him toward the exit and Harry fought to keep his voice above the reporters. "Until I decide what direction this company will go. One that I'm comfortable with and is consistent with the highest good for this country as well."
There, he said it. It was done. He walked out of the room, barely listening as Obi took the podium and started cleaning up his mess.
It wasn't really a mess, but everyone would see it as a mess.
Once he was back in the car, Hermione sitting next to him, he let out a sigh and loosened his tie. "Let's go home, Nev."
"And while we're going, you can explain just what the hell you're doing." Hermione frowned at Harry. "This is ridiculous! You came here, took over someone else's life, and now you're going to destroy his company? Are you insane?"
"No, not insane." Harry rubbed at his eyes. "Just tired."
"Harry, this is Howard's company, not yours."
He smiled at her. "Ten years and you still regret coming to help me?"
Hermione huffed, crossing her arms. "Not a chance. You need all the help you can get. Jarvis, pull up the stock reports."
The window next to Harry's head flickered as a hologram came up. He looked away from it. "What are you doing?"
"Trying to figure out what the over-under on the stock drop will be tomorrow."
Harry made a face and waved at the window. The screen went away. "Does it matter? We can fix this."
"Sir, Mister Stane is on the line."
Harry knew this was coming and he was glad he didn't have to face the man in person. "Go ahead, Jarvis."
Obi's voice echoed in the car. "Tony! Tony, Tony, Tony… What are you doing?"
Harry closed his eyes, glad that Obi was on his cell in public so they wouldn't need to video chat for this. "I'm remaking the future, Obi. Didn't we talk about this once-upon-a-time?"
The man sighed. "Tony, we're a weapons manufacturer."
"We used to be." Harry opened his eyes to look at Hermione. "I don't want a body count to be our only legacy." Her eyes widened and Harry hoped she understood now.
"That's what we do," Obi insisted."We're iron mongers. We make weapons-"
"And it's my name on the side of the building."
"—And what we do keeps the world from falling into chaos."
Harry frowned at that. "Not based on what I saw. What I experienced. We're not doing a good enough job. We can do better and we're going to do something else." Before he had to listen to another word, Harry told Jarvis to hang up.
"What are you going to do, Harry?" Hermione leaned closer to him. "No offense, but you aren't Howard. You aren't even Tony. How are you going to pull this off?"
"I'm not as dumb as I seem." Harry unbuttoned his jacket. "Did Blaise tell you how I survived?"
"I never asked."
Well, at least he got the chance to shock all of his friends. "This is how I survived."
Hermione gasped as the reactor was revealed, her eyes unable to look away from the glowing light. From the front of the car, Neville whistled, turning to get a better look only when they reached a stop light.
"Where'd you get that?" he asked.
"I built it," Harry told them, more than a little smug. "Remember when I was all over Howard's reactor project? Thankfully I remembered just enough to keep me alive."
"But your magic…"
Harry closed his shirt and gave Hermione a small frown. "Depleted because I have little shrapnel pieces trying to stab my in the heart. I lose this reactor, I die. My magic is slowly coming back, but I need to let it build again. At least, that's what Miranda said."
"The healer Blaise knows?"
"That's the one." Harry shrugged. "I figured you could sit down and talk with her for a bit. She had a procedure to get the shrapnel out, but…"
"Please tell me you don't want to leave it in there." Hermione's hands tightened on her skirt. "Damn you, Harry. Will you—"
"God, let me answer. No I don't want to keep something that's trying to kill me."
Harry smiled and tapped at the reactor. "I'm kind of liking this."
Hermione scoffed and looked away from him. "You're ridiculous and I'm not speaking to you until we get home."
"Sure, Hermione." Harry leaned over and pressed a kiss to her cheek. "I missed you, too."
Since this is unplanned writing, sometimes my ideas get jumbled and I forget to explain things and whatnot. Someone pointed out that it was pointless to keep the shrapnel in Harry's system – and I completely agree. I know my wording was off (sorry), but Harry wanted to keep the reactor as a reminder, not the crap inside him. He never said to keep both or even one (he did ask to think about it). As far as keeping the reactor if the shrapnel isn't there? Well, my version of Harry (and the way I always saw him) wants reminders about his big failures so he won't do it again. Tony Stark may have gotten it because he was a weapons dealer, but Harry Potter got it because he wasn't being true to himself despite the "pretending to be Tony" situation. Just hang tight.
Chapter 10: Chapter 9
As soon as they had gotten home, Harry immediately went down into the lab that had originally been intended for Tony Stark. The teenager had left a few things lying around before he took off to England with Howard – before he died. Harry hadn't been able to look at most of it and shoved all of it into a closet with the intent to look at it later.
He now stared at the door to that closet, absent-mindedly rubbing circles around the reactor under his shirt. "Jarvis?" he asked into the room.
"May I again say welcome home, sir."
"Yeah, thanks." Harry let out a sigh. "Open the door. I'm ready." His answer was a soft click of the door. "Thanks."
He had the lab settled back into some kind of disorganized order, Jarvis running diagnostics on the old tech, when Hermione came into the room. She clutched a tablet to her chest, waiting at least until Harry looked up from the book he was reading on mechanics.
"Miranda and Blaise are in the living room. I spoke with her."
Harry slipped a sheet of paper into the book so he wouldn't lose his place. "And?"
"Harry, you can't keep it. That thing in your chest is unnatural." She set the tablet down next to him. "Jarvis, run the conversation for him."
"Don't run it, Jarvis." Harry pushed it back toward her. "Just tell me what she said."
She pursed her lips a moment, but did as asked. "If you get rid of the shrapnel, you need to get rid of the reactor. There would be no point in keeping it, especially since we don't know what it'll do alone with nothing to do. Not to mention the fact that you had a hole in your chest." Hermione leaned against the desk. "She'll be ready to do the procedure in a few days. She needs time to get her team together."
Harry nodded, looking back to the book. "Yeah, okay." He rubbed at his chest again. "You're right." She was, he knew that, but decisions had suddenly become hard. What would Tony have done? What would Howard do? Hell, what would Howard say if he knew about this? No, it was better to just get rid of it. Pretend none of this happened.
Hermione frowned, resting a hand on her shoulder. "I know what you went through was hard, but you seem all over the place. This is a dumb question—"
"Then don't ask it."
"—but are you okay?"
Harry sighed and pushed back from the desk. "No, Hermione, I'm not okay. I was captured and tortured and damn if it wasn't worse than Voldemort sometimes. They wanted me to build them a missile and I had no idea how." In the end, that was the only thing that mattered. What if he couldn't escape? Could he last a lifetime of torture? Well, perhaps not a lifetime, but how long were they willing to go before noticing that he didn't know what he was doing? "Why is it that I can pretend to be a Stark for so long and not know how to do anything?"
"You made the reactor…"
"Because it was the only project I actually worked on. I'm lucky because I'd otherwise be dead. I doubt they'd ship my body back." Harry dragged a hand roughly through his hair. "I need to learn and I'm going to start now."
"I should have started years ago. I've been fooling myself into thinking Howard would actually be proud of what I did with his company. Hell, I don't even know where to start looking for who might be screwing us over. I'm completely useless."
Hermione squeezed his shoulder. "You're not useless and he would be proud. You're doing the best you can."
"My best isn't good enough." Harry shook her hand off. "Jarvis, pull up all of Tony's school work. Anything he's ever done, I want to know about it. Pull up all of Howard's, too." He barely heard the confirmation from the AI before looking to Hermione. "Obi is going to hate this, but I think I'm going to put you in charge of SI right now."
"I'm serious. You do all the heavy stuff in the business and I've become a figurehead." Harry rubbed at his eyes, not wanting to tell her the real reason. What if he didn't survive the operation? What if something happened? He couldn't trust Obi to eventually weed out the betrayer in the company. "We'll insist you're better because you live with me and can consult me if needed. Otherwise, I'm going to sit in here and learn what I should have years ago."
"We'll discuss it later." Hermione was quiet for a long time before motioning to his chest and asking, "And the reactor?"
Harry sighed, turning back to his book. "Do what you think is right. I need to concentrate on this."
"You can't become a genius overnight, Harry." Hermione turned to the door. "But, since you're determined to do this to yourself, let me give you some motivation. I know how you respond to stuff like this, so… Jarvis? You know the channel."
Hermione let the door slide shut behind her as a the television in the corner came to life. A loud, really obnoxious man pointed and yelled at the camera.
"…got one recommendation! Ready? Sell, sell, sell!" Harry snorted, though he did smile a bit. "Abandon ship! Does the Hindenburg ring any bells?" Not completely, but Harry had always been crap at history. "Let me show you the new business plan!" He broke a mug of coffee with a bat. "That's a weapons company that doesn't make-!"
"Mute," Harry murmured, glad when the sound turned off. If he looked up, he could still see the raging man, but the silence was better. Silence let him think, and the gentle hum of the machine in his chest was giving him ideas.
No, not ideas. Ideas would make Hermione get an ulcer. This was more of a back-up plan. After all, he made the first reactor from memory and he knew how bad that could be.
"Pull up all plans on the arc reactor," he told Jarvis, shutting his book. "And any notes Howard or Tony may have taken on it."
Several screens came to life, the files piling on top of another. He scanned the diagrams, understanding only the parts he remembered. There were small notes here and there he had forgotten, but the twinge of recognition was on everything.
He hesitated at the names at the bottom of the original diagram. "Where is… Anton Vanko right now?"
"Deported due to differences of opinion between himself and Mister Stark."
Harry wrinkled his nose. "So questioning him is out of the question. Okay." He pushed back from the desk and wandered around the room. "Trial and error, then."
"Sir, if you're having the reactor removed, why build another?"
"Because if you don't have a plan B, you might not making it to another plan A." Harry smiled softly. "Let's get to work. I want this done before they come rip me open again."
"Of course, sir. Gathering a list of needed materials now."
Harry rested his hands on the desk, watching as the list created itself. This would be difficult. It would be hard. It would push him past what he thought he was capable of.
"Bring it on…"
Chapter 11: Chapter 10 - Interlude
I am intrigued by Obadiah's character (especially after watching Armored Adventures). I find it fascinating that a man could imbed himself so far into Tony and Howard's life, to be so trusted by both, and then to come out like a bastard.
Tony Stark was not supposed to survive.
The first hit on the young prodigy went out when the boy was barely taller than his knee. It was right after the kid build a damn miniature something-or-other that Howard praised him endlessly for. Obadiah Stane poisoned Tony Stark's hot chocolate that night, wanting to get rid of the little monster that would be nothing but a distraction from business.
Tony Stark took one sip, told his mother that it tasted funny, and went to bed with no more than a mild stomachache the next morning.
The years passed and, once Tony began to progress further in school, Howard wrapped his mind back around the business part of his life. Obadiah did everything he could to keep the genius under his thumb, using alcohol more than anything else. Howard always had a weakness for a good brandy. Sure, Obadiah would pay off random hitmen to try and kill Tony through the years, but all of them failed. All of them came back with a shrug and a "he doesn't come out of his lab often enough."
When he tried to stage an accident in the lab, he killed three people. Not one of them was Tony Stark. The annoyance had chosen that night to go out to a party with a few of the girls he "tutored."
It was then that Obadiah knew Tony Stark would be harder to kill than he imagined. It did nothing to ease his mind when Howard started to come forward with new designs, new products, with his son's name on the patent.
So if he couldn't kill Tony Stark, maybe he could kill Howard. And damn it had been his luck when both son and father decided to take a tour of England two weeks after the lab incident. Cars were easy to rig. Brake lines were easy to cut. Tires were easy to put holes in. He let the man doing the deed pick how father and son would die.
Howard Stark returned in a casket.
Tony Stark returned in well-tailored French suit.
But there was something different about him, something Obadiah couldn't put his finger on. Tony carried himself differently, acted differently to the press. He shied away instead of putting on the smile Howard taught him. He kept close to some red-headed girl that he claimed helped him in England. She had a spice as a name and a smile that meant she would protect him.
It didn't matter. Tony's attitude gave him a better idea.
He approached Tony as soon as the teenager got off the plane. He distracted Tony from having to look at the casket rolling by. He wrapped an arm around Tony's shoulders and promised that he would take care of things until Tony was ready, and old enough, to sit behind the CEO desk. Then he told Tony to go home and play with his toys, since that always made him feel better.
Three years passed before Tony brought forward a new invention. It was nowhere near the work Obadiah expected of him, but he praised it anyway. It would sell well, that was promised simply by the Stark name, and thus it would make him millions. On top of that, Tony looked to him for approval and guidance. As soon as the young billionaire sat behind the oak CEO desk, he looked straight to Obadiah and asked how he looked.
Obadiah knew he had won then. Tony Stark was his to control. Gleeful, he started pushing more and more weapons into production. Lost ideas Howard refused to acknowledge past their initial blueprint were sold to the military. And Tony, dear Tony, let it all happen.
The red-headed spice girl (who he found out was named Pepper Potts) asked once if it was smart to make all of his father's discarded ideas. Tony simply told her that all he wanted was to see his father's dreams come true.
Oh, he so had him.
But even people like Tony Stark had their limitations.
Obadiah wanted to sit behind that desk again, even if it now happened to be glass instead of wood. He wanted to turn SI into a weapons-making machine. He wanted more power, more destruction. He wouldn't say no to the money that would be rolling in, either.
Tony Stark had to go. There was no way, not even in his warped state, that he would allow the company to go that far. He cared about his public image, after all.
It was so easy to stage Afghanistan. It was easy to tell Miss Potts that the generals wanted Tony to be there instead of him. It was so damned easy to contact the Ten Rings and offer weapons in exchange for the death of Tony Stark.
So why was the bastard still alive!
He listened to the excuses over the video chat. He watched as the men tried to explain what it was that saved Tony Stark's life. They tried to make excuses for letting him live.
In the end, Obadiah was angry, and he was intrigued. They mentioned a "glowing, blue light" in his chest. The ones who knew English, and listened in on conversations while Tony worked, said he called it a reactor.
There was only one reactor that Obadiah knew of that gave off a blue light.
And if Tony Stark managed to build one in a damned cave, then maybe Tony Stark was still useful. If only to give him that reactor.
Yes, Tony would live a while longer. And once Obadiah got another idea on how to terminate him, that reactor would be his.
If the thing even existed.
Chapter 12: Chapter 11
Being held down on a table was not an experience Harry really wanted to repeat, but Miranda wouldn't do the procedure any other way. Still, the way the table felt cold and impersonal under him had him wondering if this was such a good idea. Why wouldn't they do this in a comfortable bed? He scowled at the ceiling, wanting the world to go back to making sense. Or at least, the sense he was used to now.
At least he had finally gotten Hermione to sign the damned papers, indicating that she was now CEO of the company. She would hand him back the reigns after he was recovered, but Harry really had no intent on doing that. Now with the company officially away from weapons, they could focus their research teams on ways to help people. After she got used to it, Harry knew Hermione would be thrilled at her position.
They just needed to get through this procedure. He clenched his fists as people Miranda trusted moved around the room. He didn't trust them, but she did. And Blaise trusted her. He trusted Blaise. Really, his friend was probably just trying to give him a heart attack (figuratively hopefully – he wasn't sure if the reactor would really handle that well).
The room had a blue tint to it, most of it coming from the upgraded reactor he and Jarvis slaved over. Harry felt proud of himself, especially once the tests were all completed the Jarvis indicated that the reactor was functional and could take care of his heart at ten times the capacity of the one he currently had.
He made Miranda swear a Wizard's Oath that she would put that in his chest as soon as the procedure started to go bad. Miranda was confident that it wouldn't, but Harry was skeptical. Since when had life been fair when it came to him coming out of things without a scrape? He was lucky the only thing Voldemort gave him was a scar on his forehead.
"Mister Stark? We're ready to start now."
Harry squeezed his eyes shut, not wanting to watch as they prepared him to go under. He hoped for the best, prepared for the worst, and just wished things would come out okay. He didn't care what the end result was as long as he was still alive at the end of it.
The feel of a needle against his arm brought back memories of just a few days ago (God, had it only been that long?). Before the panic could set in, his mind drifted off and he thanked whoever would listen that a Stupefy still worked on him.
The thing he hated most about a forced sleep was the nightmares. There were the usual ones about Voldemort and the war. People dying that he couldn't save. Ron reaching out for him as his last breath moved past his lips. The sight of so many bodies piled in the Great Hall.
Now those bodies were in a cave, Yinsen resting bloody and torn next to Fred Weasley. His body was the only dead body that spoke, and all it did was repeat the man's last line.
Don't waste your life.
Harry cried out to him, extending his hands and trying to read the body as it began to decay. Suddenly, they weren't at Hogwarts anymore. They were in the middle of the desert, Blaise's form slowly running toward them. Yinsen coughed up blood, staining Harry's hands.
He was alone in his cupboard, Yinsen's blood dripping from his fingers. Outside, it wasn't Vernon yelling at him, but everyone else he was responsible for. Ron and Fred and Remus and Tonks and Snape and oh god Dumbledore. He sobbed in that cupboard, gripping his hair tightly in his bleeding hands. Their deaths were worthless, he was worthless. He had been doing nothing but hiding in his cupboard as they suffered.
He could still hear the screams.
Then he was suddenly awake, his heart pounding in his chest. Miranda and Hermione stood over him, a mix of worry and relief on their faces. He couldn't hear anything past the rushing in his ears, but Miranda was telling him something. Neither touched him. Why weren't they touching him? He squeezed his eyes shut and let out a groan, shifting on the bed.
A hand touched his wrist and Harry felt something surge within him. It grounded him, the simple placement of soft hands on his bony wrist. He opened his eyes again to just see Hermione alone, her face set in a frown. The hand not touching his wrist held up a cup of water, a bendy straw sticking out to make it easier for him to drink without spilling.
He drank greedily, at least until she took it away.
Harry shook his head, trying to tilt his head so he could get the best look at his chest. "What…?"
Hermione looked away, her hand sliding down to lace her fingers with Harry's. "It was too close. As soon as they took the reactor out, things got bad."
"You still have it. And you still have the shrapnel." Hermione squeezed his hand. "The man who saved you over there, whoever he was, knew what he was doing. Miranda thought she could finish his job, but…"
"It's okay." It really wasn't. "Really, it's okay." Harry brought their linked fingers up so he could kiss the back of her hand. "We tried."
She nodded and leaned over to grab something on the side table. "What should I do with this?"
Harry saw the old reactor, looking just as it did when he first put it in his body. "Destroy it," he said finally, turning his head away. "Incinerate it."
Hermione leaned over him, forcing herself into his sight. "You don't want to keep it?"
"No." He had wanted a reminder of his stupidity, and now he got one. One he didn't want now that he knew the implications of having a giant light in his chest.
"Okay." Hermione let go of his hand and got off the bed. "When you're up for it, Obi wants to talk to you. I'm sure it's about the press conference and your wonderful call after that."
Harry snorted, forcing himself to sit up. That was the one good thing about wizarding healing – he always got over it faster. He still didn't feel completely up to speed, but he could move without being in too much pain. "Why don't you just send him in? Maybe he'll be gentler."
"I doubt it. You've just almost ruined the company he's put everything into."
"Don't remind me." Harry rubbed at his chest, right under the reactor. "Hand me my shirt and pants, then might as well send him in. I want to get this over with."
"You're the boss." Hermione placed a kiss to Harry's cheek. "I'm glad you're alive. We'll get through this."
Harry grinned. "Don't we always?
"Eventually." Hermione let go of his hand. "I'll let Obi know you're okay to see him. He's at the office, so you have some time to rest before he gets here." She smiled softly at him and left the room, shutting the door quietly behind him.
The first thing Harry did was stand in front of the closest mirrored surface and stare. The light was brighter than the old one, showing through his shirt even after he buttoned it up. Scowling, he pulled on his pants and then pulled the silly hospital gown back over his head. It dulled the light some, but he could still see it, glaring through.
It would have to do until he got to his room and put on darker clothes. "Jarvis?"
"It's a pleasure to see you awake, sir."
"Make sure the halls are clear? I don't…"
"I understand, sir." Jarvis was quiet for a moment. "I suggest taking the longer route to your room. Miss Potts is in the kitchen on the phone."
"You're the best." Harry tightened a hand on the gown, directly over the light on his chest. "And the doctor?"
"Left before Miss Potts called Mister Stane. They will return in the morning if you need them."
He probably would need them, but he didn't want them. He turned away from his reflection, unable and unwilling to look at himself. "I'll keep that in mind. Just tell Pepper I'll be in my room until Obi gets here."
Why he had ever wanted to keep the reactor, he didn't know. Rush of emotions, maybe? Plain stupidity? Did it really matter? He sighed and left the make-shift hospital room, taking the long way through the house. He vaguely heard Hermione in the kitchen and she, in true Hermione fashion, subtly threatened Obi not to push things too hard. He was glad she was his friend, not his enemy.
Once he got into the bedroom, he shut the door and went straight to the oversized closet. Suits lined one wall, some of them still with the protective bag on them. Those had been hung up with promises to the designers to wear them in a large, public setting. He would later donate the suit to some charity auction and it still surprised him that it pulled in so much money.
He pulled off the gown and his shirt, letting himself be amused only for a small moment that the reactor was a pretty good light to see by. Before he could really focus on that amusement, he asked for the lights and went to his personal side of the closet. The side that didn't include the public Tony Stark persona supplies. This included random t-shirts and jeans, sometimes sweats if he really wanted to be comfortable. He pulled down the darkest shirt he could, pulling it over his head.
The damned glow still came out, but it was dull against the shirt graphics (some Muggle band Blaise liked). If he just pulled attention away from his chest, maybe nobody would notice. Obi should be pissed enough to make distracting him easy. Perhaps if he had a tablet in his hand as well? Further drag him away from the man?
He was no looking forward to the betrayal in the man's eyes when he broached the subject of Hermione being a temporary CEO. That was Obi's job, but right now Harry didn't trust him to keep the business out of weapons. He didn't want to know what the stock would do if the company kept changing its stance on the subject.
"Sir," Jarvis said as Harry tugged on a comfortable pair of sweats. "Mister Stane is on his way. Estimated time of arrival is fifteen minutes."
"Thanks." Harry pulled a hand through his hair, making a face at the oily feel to it. After Stane left, he was so taking a shower. "I'll be downstairs in ten."
He went back to a mirror and stared at his reflection, trying to decide if he even liked it. The answer was probably 'no,' but life had to go on. He was already halfway in his self-dug hole, he might as well jump all the way in.
"Jarvis, prepare the blueprint of the suit for when I get back. I want to take a look at it again."
Jarvis' answer was lost in Harry's thoughts. So far, the only two pieces of Stark Technology that he had built with any sort of positive results was the reactor and a basic suit. If he started with things he was already familiar with, maybe the rest of Tony and Howard's ramblings would make sense.
Chapter 13: Chapter 12
The more I write, the more I know where this is going. I'm blending Iron Man and Iron Man 2 together in certain ways, taking some parts out, and then diving head-first into Avengers (which will start a new fic and also blend in some IM2). There will be hints to Bruce and Steve and Natasha and Clint (more than hints on him) and… just everyone. And Coulson! Can't forget everyone's favorite SHIELD agent. Coulson has already been in here (props to those who noticed), but other than him and Fury, the others will be introduced differently than their movie counter parts.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Harry punched out, his fist hitting hard and fast. He grunted a bit at the pain lacing through his knuckles, but that didn't stop him. Thankfully, the person he was swinging at knew better than to stop just because something might hurt. They had both been through this more times than either could count. Something happened to annoy or bother Harry, they would settle themselves in the gym and not come out until Hermione said something.
Dudley had always been different about the "not saying anything" aspect, so Harry was very glad Neville was. Well, he was quiet for the most part.
"You're going to break your hand," Neville said as they danced around the boxing ring.
Harry just grinned, throwing another punch. That one stung more than usual and he hissed, shaking his hand out as he stepped back. Neville pulled off the gloves, a sign that he was going to make them take a break whether Harry liked it or not, and then slid his hand over Harry's shoulders.
"Water, then we'll look at your hand," he said, his voice gentle.
"Yes, mother," Harry said, a grin on his face. If Hermione were here, she'd complain about injuries and taking better care of himself and, well, Harry didn't care. "Thanks."
"No problem. If you're going to kick someone's ass, I'd rather you did it in here where it's controlled." Neville opened two bottles of water, handing one over to Harry. "I don't think the press would appreciate you beating a stockholder up."
"Yeah, I know." Harry took a long drink, gulping down half the bottle. He let out a sigh before placing it down. "I needed this, though."
"I'm sure. We haven't done this since…"
"I'm not fragile about what happened," Harry insisted. He lowered himself onto an over-turned bucket. "I can talk about it."
"No you can't. Not really." Neville leaned over and tapped the reactor through the shirt. "You can talk about this because you're proud, but you can't talk about how you got it because you're embarrassed. As Tony Stark, yeah… there's a chance that you could have gotten kidnapped. But as Harry Potter?"
"I haven't really been Harry Potter in a long time, Nev."
"Maybe that was the problem." Neville leaned further so he could press their foreheads together. Harry let himself enjoy the warmth of the man, and the protective love that went with it. "You're going to argue with me on this, but maybe you should be Ha—"
"You know why I can't do that." Harry pulled his head back, frowning. "Maybe once I find—"
"It doesn't take a blind man to see who wants to screw over the company the most. Seriously, Harry?"
Harry stood, putting distance between them. "Obadiah Stane is ruthless and cold, I'll give you that, but the man has yet to give me a real reason to not trust him. He kept the company going how Howard wanted it to before I took over. He hasn't fought me on any policies or technology. He helped me with ideas and plans while I played being drunk to hide the fact that I had no idea what I was doing. And you know what? He never once tried to do anything overly harmful to any of us."
"I'll give you all that, but—"
"But what, Nev? He hasn't done anything."
Neville sighed, his shoulders slumping. "He just reminds me a bit of Snape. Before we found out what side he was on, I mean."
"You mean he reminds you of Snape when he was doing all he could to secretly save us?" Harry groaned. "You realize how that sounds?"
"I do and I still think you should get a read on him."
"I'm not going to get a read on him like I did Howard and Tony. He hasn't given me a reason to and I won't charge in on his privacy."
Neville held up his hands, showing defeat. "Okay, Harry, okay. This is your call and I'll trust you. Obi isn't the one we're looking for." He hesitated. "What did he want to talk about when he was here?"
"The usual," Harry said, his body relaxing now that the previous conversation was gone. He didn't really like Obi, he didn't fully trust the man, but he hadn't been given a real reason to not trust the businessman. "Stock numbers, shareholders, weapons… He might have told me I was being an idiot. He asked how I escaped and I told him—"
"About the reactor?"Neville's eyes widened slightly.
Harry gave his friend a look before continuing. "I did. I didn't tell him much of anything else, though. Other than the reactor, he knows what the public knows."
Neville laughed a little. "You found something to explode and simply walked out?"
Harry grinned, putting his hands on his hips before puffing his chest out. "True Stark style."
They were still laughing when the door opened and Blaise walked in, looking between them with surprise on his face. "Huh, I'm surprised."
"Come on, you slimy Slytherin," Neville said, his voice teasing. "Why are you surprised?"
Blaise motioned toward Harry, who rubbed his chest as the reactor ached a bit. He would have to remember that laughing too hard hurt. "I swear, I didn't expect to see you walking around so soon."
Harry smirked and motioned to his sweat-soaked tee. "I'm doing a bit better than walking."
"I can see that. Hermione wanted me to remind you that you're an idiot." Blaise kicked a bucket toward Harry. "Sit before I call her down here."
"So mean." Harry did sit, letting his elbows rest on his knees. "Come to say hello?"
"In a manner of speaking." Blaise wrinkled his nose and leaned against the wall. "My boss sent me here. He wants to know what you plan on doing about your contract with the military."
"They'll be kept until they run out—"
"Which is conveniently in three months."
"—and then you'll just have to find someone else. Unless I can think of safer weapons." Harry rubbed the back of his neck. "I just don't… I don't want what happened out there to happen again."
"It's war," Blaise said softly. "Death and killing is going to happen."
"Then I don't want to be part of it anymore."
"No, Blaise." Harry stared at his fingers, picking at the skin around his nails. It was a horrible habit and he needed to break it, but not today. "I sat back and let it happen before because part of me didn't want to acknowledge what I took over. Now it's pretty much in my face and I don't like it. Howard will just have to deal with what I decide from his grave."
"This would be so much easier if the man was a ghost," Neville muttered.
"Except his ghost would be in England. Not much help to us here."
"What do you plan on doing anyway?"
Harry shrugged. "Both Tony and Howard had blueprints of devices they never made. I'm going to look through them and figure out what we should do next."
Blaise sighed and pushed away from the wall. "No, what you need now is time to get your mind right."
"What?" Neville frowned at him. "Blaise, don't."
"I'm serious," Blaise continued, ignoring Neville. "You've been through hell and you need to focus and get back to living. Making better toasters or better cell phones isn't going to do that for you."
"It might help," Harry muttered.
"I doubt it." Blaise rested a hand on Harry's shoulder. "I'll always stand by you, Harry, but you need to figure out where you stand. I can't fight the military if I don't know what I'm fighting for."
"Yeah, I get it."
Blaise nodded and looked to Neville. "Don't let him do something stupid."
Harry winced as the door slammed shut. "Damn he can get scary."
"Ignore him, I think you're doing fine." Neville motioned toward Harry. "Want to do another round?"
The reactor was aching more than usual, he knew Hermione was going to come down to yell at him soon, but Harry didn't care. He got off the bucket and tilted his neck to get the kinks out. Neville put the gloves on before motioning to the pair Harry had left untouched before. Not wanting to accidentally break a hand, Harry made a face and put them on. Neville's happy smile might have just been worth it.
They stayed in the gym for what felt like hours, but the hand on the clock moved slower than Harry expected. His stomach rumbled just as the two hour mark hit, so he and Neville took a break to get some food. Harry could feel the sweat dripping down his back and he longed for the shower that waited for him after he ate.
Neville rattled off pointers as they climbed the stairs into the main house. Harry was too busy trying to figure out what he wanted to eat that he didn't notice when Neville seemed to trail off. He looked up only when his friend tugged lightly on his arm.
"Hm? What'd you say?" he asked, hoping he hadn't spaced on anything important.
Neville simply nodded ahead of them and Harry turned to see what had gotten him so quiet. It was all normal, except for the older gentleman sitting next to Hermione at their counter bar. Harry rubbed his eyes, then blinked to see if he hadn't been seeing things wrong.
He wasn't. Sitting at the edge of his bar in what looked like the same clothes he left with, sat the human version of Jarvis.
Hermione looked up from their conversation and smiled. "Hey, Harry. Guess who came back."
Jarvis stood and approached Harry, his eyes flickering over the glow beneath Harry's shirt. Harry forced himself not to take a step back and cringe away from the old man. This was someone who knew both Howard and Tony. This was a man that could simply tell him he was messing everything up.
Instead, Jarvis sighed and reached out a hand to rest over the reactor before saying, "You're going to need my help, sir."
I've been waiting to bring back human!Jarvis so bad. In my opinion, both Howard and Tony were smart as hell and there's no way that they would surround themselves with idiots (during their arrogant phases). So yes, Jarvis is going to seem a little "too smart" for "just a butler." His story will come out eventually. If you're going comics-verse, he's kind of a mix of all of them (I'm looking at you especially, Noir and Ultimate).
Chapter 14: Chapter 13
This is where the story, to me, really took on a life of its own. I think it's when I started feeling comfortable with writing again, even if this is still horrible. :P Haters gonna hate.
"You did a remarkable job on the reactor, sir," Jarvis told him a few days after he came back. "Howard, and Tony would have been proud that someone understood the engineering behind it."
"I was going to die if I didn't, so I didn't really think about it." Harry shrugged, scrolling through the digitized database of forgotten designs. "I appreciate it, though. Thank you."
The second day Jarvis was at the house, he had done almost a complete overhaul of the kitchen area. The pantry was suddenly stocked, the fridge full, and a roast duck in the over for dinner. Harry's mouth had watered and he swore that he would do whatever it took to keep Jarvis. The old man smiled and pointed at the reactor before telling Harry he had already done enough.
Harry had been touched and had no idea how to make it up to Jarvis.
The third day Jarvis was at the house, he seemed to settle back into a routine of sorts. He would be up before anyone else, make breakfast, and then go about keeping the house (both inside and out) clean. The AI version of the man (and god, that was going to get confusing) kept Harry up to date with what he was doing while Harry kept to the lab. He went between designs and watching Jarvis on a feed before heading off to get some sleep.
On the fourth day, Jarvis came with him to the lab and they got down to business. Jarvis had looked over the reactor in Harry's chest as well as the old one (Hermione had given it to him despite Harry wanting her to destroy it, the traitor). Harry let him do as he liked and found no reason to
"Were there any other projects you took on yourself?"
Harry shook his head. "No, not really. There were three robot-looking things down here, but I put them in storage after realizing I had no idea what to do to get them working. I think I might take them back out… Just to see if I can do it now."
"Have you gained knowledge in ten years, sir?"
"Not really." Harry grinned and motioned toward the bookcase. "That's all of Howard and Tony's work, though. I'm reading through it to see if I can self-learn. See if I can build something on my own that's bigger than my fist."
Jarvis tapped the reactor. "My counterpart told me you did well with following blueprints."
"Speaking of that… I should rename him. It'll get confusing."
"He responds well enough to 'Jarvis.' Call me Edwin."
Harry arched an eyebrow. "Edwin?"
"My name, sir." Jarvis –Edwin- smiled. "Calling me Jarvis reminds me too much of Howard."
"Yeah, I get that." Harry leaned back on the stool, stretching his arms above his head. "Thank you, by the way. Ah, thanks for coming back."
"My duty to the Stark family is strong." Edwin smiled and settled the old reactor back onto a shelf. "Perhaps I can help you with the bots. What did you plan on doing with them?"
"Besides seeing if I could do it?" Harry shrugged. "I don't know."
"Let me ask you this, then." Jarvis stood on the opposite side of the work desk and leaned in. "What do you plan on doing if you can do it?"
Harry glanced toward the door to make sure Hermione wasn't about to come in before looking back to Edwin. "This stays between us?"
"If I don't find it reckless and particularly stupid… yes."
Harry laughed. "Well, damn. Go tell the world, then." He lifted his chin a bit. "Jarvis, open file sixteen. You know the one."
The flat surface of the desk flashed up with a list of schematics and designs. Edwin tilted his head to get a better look.
"I remember when Tony came up with this," he murmured, scrolling through a few notes. "It was right before Howard died. He never did get his opinion on it."
"I always thought it looked cool. Behind the reactor, it was the one I looked at the most. Something I could have used where I came from." Harry rubbed at the reactor in his chest. "It's how I got out."
"You built this?"
"A very bad version of it. It barely got me out of there alive." Harry pushed at the screen so the designs shows up around the room. It was easier to work with like this. "I got a lot of it wrong and I had help, but it did do the job."
Edwin looked over the images. "What do you plan on doing with it?"
Harry stared at his hands, not really sure himself. "Protect myself, I guess? I hadn't put much thought into it."
"Hm." Edwin wandered around the room. "This is quite reckless."
"Though not that stupid. Protecting yourself would be high on your list." He hesitated. "Tony would have done the same thing." He moved a hand out, making the image of the suit bigger. "Jarvis?
The AI hesitated before answering. "Sir?"
"Let's open a new project file." Edwin turned to Harry. He wasn't smiling, but there was an amused glint in his eyes. "Store it on the private server. We don't want people to see just how bad Mister Stark has become at this, do we?"
"Of course not, sir. Storing on the private server now. What shall it be indexed under?"
"Mark Two," Harry said, standing from the stool. "Thank you, Edwin."
"In the wrong hands, this could be destructive. I'm trusting that in yours, it won't." Edwin pulled the image of the suit apart. "Now, let's take a look at what you managed to create."
Harry grinned and moved himself to stand directly next to Edwin. They took apart the suit piece by piece, Edwin –and Jarvis- being patient to explain the hows and whys on when things didn't work. Harry kept up with most of the mechanical talk (you didn't live as Tony Stark for ten years and not know some things), only needing clarification on a few things along the way.
The third day into tackling a new suit, Edwin brought three machines out from the storage garage Harry had stuffed them in. They looked like junk and he felt horrible, but Edwin insisted that they could be saved. He fondly stroked over the arms of them, telling Harry about when Tony designed and built each one. The first, simply named "You," was built by both Howard and Tony, so it was more stable and had stronger programming. "Butterfingers" was Tony's first single attempt and, sadly, "Dummy" hadn't been completed by the time Tony went overseas. Edwin insisted they work on it together, so Harry could get the feel of programming a bit better.
Harry wondered at the names and while Edwin offered up all sorts of information on how the robots worked, he never went into details further than mechanical. Harry figured it was hard to be doing this, but he still wanted to know. He was still curious. During a break from both boots and non-working robots, Harry decided to just jump for it.
"What's with the names?"
Edwin took a long, slow drink of the tea Hermione brought to them. Harry itched to ask again as the man set the cup down, but he thankfully didn't have to wait long. Edwin leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, and spoke to the floor.
"They hadn't intended on naming them, but the first was a bit tricky in how it took verbal commands. Tony kept saying 'You, go do this' or 'You, go do that.' Eventually, the robot seemed to respond to it."
"Like the AI system in the house?" Harry leaned back a bit at Edwin's look. "I found his notes on a sophisticated and learning AI system, which is how Jarvis really came about. I asked a group of engineers at the company to install a simple one in my office and watched them do it on the security feeds. Then I came here and tinkered until I got it right."
"You asked someone else to do what now?"
Harry shifted uncomfortably. "I feigned a busy schedule? Nobody brought it up and Jarvis has been in there since I got him working here. If they noticed, I'm sure they assumed I redid the system because I wasn't happy with what they did."
"That was still dangerous." Edwin stood to take their dirty cups and plates to the nearby sink. Harry was glad Tony installed one down here. "I shouldn't have left."
"I've been doing okay…"
"Okay isn't good enough." Edwin returned and settled back on the seat across from Harry. "Even as a teenager, Tony was always arrogant and harsh. He didn't let anyone push him over. You've done okay with that, but it won't be enough. Now that you've pulled out of making weapons, they're going to attack you more."
That wasn't something Harry really wanted to think about, even if Edwin had a point. He sighed. "What about Butterfingers and Dummy?"
Edwin watched him for a moment before continuing as if nothing happened. "When Tony made Butterfingers, he tried to do better than what he did with You and his father. He created a specialized hand, but it didn't grip as well and he kept dropping what he held. Dummy, well, Tony had been going through a rough time." He grew quiet and, for some reason, Harry felt guilty. "He kept calling it a Dummy for not being put together fast enough or with minimal effort."
"He gives them odd names," Harry decided.
"You tend to do that when machines are the only people that seem to understand you. Don't get me wrong, Tony was a wonderful person once you got to know him. However, he was difficult to get to that point. He picked fights instead of compromising."
Harry winced. "Something I didn't keep up with."
"You had Howard's death as an excuse, but yes. You didn't keep up with it. You need to be arrogant about this, not passive."
"I'll keep that in mind." Harry glanced at the clock. "Think we have time to check the stabilizers on the boots before Hermione chases us out to eat?"
"You're Tony Stark. The world makes time for you."
Harry laughed and the two got up so they could wrestle the boots on Harry's feet. The end result had him slamming into a wall of the lab, but it had been worth it to know that he could do this. He could build it and it would work so much better than the pile of junk he made in Afghanistan.
Chapter 15: Chapter 14
Harry had gotten used to not having the gentle hum of his magic so much that, when it did return, it shocked him and terrified Edwin. They had been testing out a gauntlet for the suit, one that would fit better around Harry's arm and allow for easier movement. He had been holding the arm out and flexing his fingers while Jarvis tinkered with a few of the gears inside. Harry watched him, asking questions when he needed to. Things had been going fine until Edwin lost his grip on the screwdriver, sending the head digging a little into Harry's arm.
It hadn't hurt that much, but it surprised him. And it surprised the magic that had been developing inside of him. There was a small burst from the reactor that pulsed across the room. Half of the equipment shorted out and Edwin, unprepared for such a reaction, stumbled back to trip over a chair they had pulled out.
Hermione had been ecstatic as she cared for the scraped elbow. She insisted they call Miranda and tell her that Harry's magic had indeed returned and seemed to be working well with the reactor. Harry managed to calm her down from her excitement enough to tell her that it was an uncontrolled burst and he hadn't been able to get any spells to work since - trying to lift Edwin to float him upstairs had failed.
Still, he knew his friend. Hermione most likely called Miranda the moment Harry returned to the lab to continue working on his own while Edwin did random household duties. He honestly didn't care that much; it kept her out of his hair for a few precious hours. Long enough for him to get Dummy functioning, at least. The robot still sputtered in a few places, but he was moving and responding to commands. Harry grinned, wondering again why he waited so damn long to do this.
Edwin came down with him after dinner to look over Dummy. He then showed Harry what was wrong and walked him through tweaking the wheels so Dummy traveled flawlessly across the floor. The old man had then clapped Harry on the shoulder, squeezing softly. That was all the praise Harry needed.
Obi and Hermione went to New York a few days after that for a board meeting. That was fine with Harry since Hermione was still acting CEO – he wanted to work on the suit anyway. The boots and gauntlets were put together in enough time to try some form of flight, though Edwin wanted to put it off a bit longer, after the two of them returned.
At Edwin's refusal, Harry simply grinned and told him that he had always gotten along fine on reckless things. He then put Dummy on fire safety, You on cameras, Jarvis on emergency call duty, and Butterfingers was banned to the corner for knocking into a table.
"Activate hand controls," Harry said into the room. He felt the slight pressure change in his arms. "What do you think, Edwin? Start off at half power?"
"Not even Tony would attempt that. Try five percent."
Harry shrugged and widened his stance. "Five percent then, Jarvis." He took a deep breath and bent his knees. "Lift test in three, two, one." He jerked up so fast he felt his stomach lurch. He hit another wall (thankfully padded this time) and groaned as he felt to the floor. Yeah, they had forgotten to pad that. "Damn it."
"Might I suggest one percent next time." Edwin picked him off the floor. "And you wanted to try half."
"I didn't realize how much push it would have." Harry rolled his shoulders, making a face as he tried to get the kinks out. "Damn, that hurt."
"I'm sure we'll get it." Edwin pressed an ice pack to Harry's shoulder. "Perhaps you should wear full protective gear."
"Na, I heal fast. Comes with being a wizard."
Edwin snorted. "Of course, sir. I'll keep that in mind when you're bleeding from your ears."
Harry laughed, pulling away while keeping a hold on the ice pack. "Thanks, then. I'll let Hermione know it's your fault if I die."
"I'm sure she won't believe you." Edwin sat down and opened their work screen. "Perhaps, though, the thrusters would respond better within the suit."
"That's what I'm thinking. And if not, then I get used to running on low thrust and the suit can save some power." Harry reached out to flick past a few documents. "With my luck, it'll run out in an hour."
"Not with the reactor in your chest."
Harry shook his head. "We don't know how long it can really last and I'd rather not test it."
"You have… powers. Why can't you fix yourself with those?"
The question was a long time coming, Harry knew, but he still wasn't prepared for it. Not completely. "I stopped listening to the explanation after they said it failed. Maybe in the future or maybe with someone else, but not now. Don't worry about it, I'll be fine."
"Hm." Edwin left the room without another word, leaving Harry to adjust the gauntlets and boots on his own. Harry appreciated the trust.
He quickly lost track of time, letting his mind dive right into the mechanical processes. He was still learning, but he was doing much better than when he started. Now it only took him an hour to rewire something rather than six, and a day to fully create a gauntlet instead of just the fingers. He hummed as he worked, not noticing when Jarvis turned the music on. Edwin had told him Tony liked his music loud and obnoxious, but Harry insisted that if there was music, it be at a decent level. He'd turn it up for public stupidity.
Thankfully, Jarvis brought up a message that Hermione was on her way before she opened the door. He knew she wouldn't try to scare him, but he had a tendency to get lost in things now.
"We're back, Harry," she said as she stepped into the lab. "Edwin is entertaining Obi."
"He came here?" Harry pulled the gauntlet on and flexed his fingers. "I didn't expect that."
Hermione frowned. "I thought you said Stark was done making weapons."
"And I'm not lying." Harry grinned. "It's a flight stabilizer."
"Harry, about New York…"
"Relax." Harry took it off and settled it on the desk. "I'll talk to Obi. You go relax." He pressed a kiss to her cheek before running up the stairs.
He really didn't want to talk to Obadiah at the moment, but he knew he owed the man a lot. Not everyone would sit by their dead friend's son and let him bring the company close to bankruptcy. They could survive for now, but it would be hard.
"How'd it go?" he asked once he got upstairs. Obadiah was at the piano and Harry grinned. The man only played when he was stressed. "That good?"
"It would have gone better if you were there instead of Pepper. They don't trust her as much."
Harry took a seat and flipped open the pizza box Obadiah brought back. Pizza wasn't his favorite thing, but he was starving. "So it was one of those meetings."
Obadiah stopped playing. "The board is claiming you have post-traumatic stress."
"Because of the weapons thing? Come on, that isn't stress." Harry pulled the cheese apart before stuffing it in his mouth. New York pizza did have good cheese. "What was their decision?"
"They filed an injunction while we were in the air." Obadiah got up and approached Harry. "They're locking you out."
That couldn't be a good thing. Harry scoffed, trying to shake it off. "Because the stocks? Because I'm being responsible?"
"They have just as much rights as we do." Obadiah placed a strong hand on Harry's shoulder. Uncomfortable didn't begin to explain how he suddenly felt. "I'm trying to turn this around, but I need something to throw them." His hand reached toward Harry's chest. "This—"
"No." Harry backed off, trying to get rid of the prickly feeling on the back of his neck. "This stays with me."
Obadiah didn't even seem to hesitate. He took the pizza box from Harry. "Then this stays with me."
"Whatever. Jarvis, heat me up something." Harry went back to the stairs.
"You mind if I come down there and see what you're doing?"
The question grated on Harry's nerves. "Good night, Obi," was his only answer.
Chapter 16: Chapter 15
The suit was progressing more than Harry expected. Both boots were completed and the gauntlets were almost as good. Well, Edwin thought they were finished, but Harry hadn't tested them yet. That's what today was for. He cleared out part of the lab and had the now-working robots surrounding him. Edwin had simply handed Dummy a fire extinguisher before walking out and mumbling something about making dinner. Harry forced himself not to tease the man.
He took a deep breath and shook out his arms. "Another day, another test. As suggested, we're going to start with one percent." Harry looked to Dummy and smiled. "Ready?" The extinguisher sprayed once and Harry laughed. "Okay, three, two… one!"
He barely got off the ground, but it was far enough. And it was controlled. Harry cut the thrusters and tried not to be gleeful about this. It was one test, at the lowest power possible.
"That was fun. Right, okay. Let's bring it up to five percent." Harry was shaking he was so excited. He forced himself to calm down and relax before he again counted down.
His feet must have been wrong, because this time he went up at an angle. He swore loudly and flung his arms out, trying to find some stability while turning in the air. He debated cutting the thrusters and just falling to the floor when something pulsed in his chest and he was suddenly stable. Harry looked down at his reactor, watching as the light pulsed around him.
"Well I'll be damned…"
He should call Miranda. He should tell her that his magic was fusing with the reactor. He should do more than hang in the air and laugh, but that was really all he could think of doing. So he let himself hang, and he laughed until his sides hurt, before letting his feet settle back on the ground.
"Fuck, I missed flying," he said, staring at the gauntlets. "Thank you, Tony Stark…"
Miranda could wait. Hermione could wait. Obi and whatever he might need in the next half hour could wait. Harry went straight for the Mark II armor, already built by Edwin. Harry had wanted to help, but he was too caught up in the electric part of the suit. Perhaps the next one he would build himself. Maybe. Maybe the Mark IV.
It didn't even cross his mind that Hermione wouldn't let him do it.
Getting on the armor had been easier than in Afghanistan. Harry held out his arms and let Dummy and You shove it onto his body, wincing only when they missed their mark. He had a small moment of panic when the helmet came down, but then Jarvis did his job and opened up the display. It was as if the helmet wasn't even on.
His reactor pulsed still, though Harry swore that the light was even brighter now.
"Engage Heads Up Display," he said, confident that Jarvis would do it. "Fantastic, okay. Ah, just make sure what I see in here if everything I've got at home."
"Will do, sir." There was a pause while Jarvis did as was told. "I have been uploaded, sir. We're online and ready."
Jarvis continued to rattle off diagnostics about the suit and Harry felt his chest constrict. He had done this. He had built this. Something he finally created with his own hands. And he could fly.
"Do a weather check," he said, interrupting Jarvis. "And listen to ground control. I don't want to run into a plane."
"Come on, Jarvis, I'm a Gryffindor! We always run head-first into things."
And really, the whole flight would have been perfect had he not decided to be stupid. He soared over Malibu unseen by authorities (and Hermione). The HUD flashed off information before Harry could really process it. He stayed relatively close to the ground until Jarvis cleared the rest of the tests, and then he climbed. Harry just wanted to see how far he could go, if he could even go into space.
He didn't even know anything was wrong until red flashed across his screen and Jarvis broke into his thoughts, warning him of an ice buildup. The suit began to fall back and Harry swore, trying to control himself. Warmth spread out from his limbs and he barely acknowledged that his magic was thawing the suit; he was too focused on trying to bring the thrusters back online before he smashed into the pavement below.
He laughed, the sound vibrating in his chest as the thrusters came back just before he hit the ground. It was nice he could pull off his most favorite Quidditch move while not on a broom. Hell, he was flying without a broom!
"This is the best day ever. I need to make this better…"
There was a sigh through his speakers that Harry knew wasn't from Jarvis. Edwin, however… "Your transducers slow down the further you go from the ground. Did you factor in gravity?"
"Yeah, I felt that." Harry turned the suit back toward the house. "There's something going on with the pressure inside, too. And the ice thing."
"Perhaps we should improve the exosystems if you intend to visit other planets." Harry wasn't sure if Jarvis or Edwin said that, but he grinned either way.
"Yeah, yeah. Maybe the third or fourth suit." Harry hovered over his roof and took another look around before figuring he should go inside and insist that he wasn't hurt in any way. "Cut power."
That was not the best idea. The suit slammed through the house (he broke his damn piano!) until it landed over Edwin's favorite desk he had brought into the workshop. Who knew what else he had hit on the way down.
To top it off, Dummy sprayed him with the damn extinguisher.
"You need to work on your landing," Edwin said, amusement in his voice despite the broken wood beneath Harry. "If we were speaking Olympic terms, I would give it a two point seven."
Harry pushed away Dummy. "That's it?"
Edwin motioned toward Harry. "You broke my mahogany desk. My life will never be the same."
Harry snorted and pushed to his feet so he could hit the release on the suit. "I'll buy you two, okay?" he asked, handing Edwin the helmet. "God, it's a little stifling in there."
"You seemed to be enjoying yourself, sir." Edwin stepped forward to help with the removal. "This was not a bad first attempt."
"A Stark never has just one of anything. They have two if it's rare, and at least fifteen if it isn't." Edwin gave Harry a smile. "I would say that yes, this is a first attempt. I won't be helping with the next one."
"Seriously?" Harry shook out his arm once the gauntlets came off. "That's cruel."
"You have Jarvis for a reason. Use him." Edwin placed the gauntlets in a cabinet they had set aside for the suit. "A word to the wise, sir?" Edwin locked the cabinet. "I suggest gold titanium alloy from the seraphim tactical satellite. That should ensure a fuselage—"
"—Integrity while still maintaining the power-to-weight ratio." Harry grinned. "I do remember some things I read, Edwin."
Edwin nodded and Harry could see the smile threatening on the man's face. "I would go upstairs now, sir, and work on the suit later. Your friends have been worried about you."
"Are all of them here?" Harry went for the stairs.
"Yes, sir. It seems to be pasta night."
"Thanks!" Harry waved at him before running up the stairs. He was sweaty, his muscles ached, but he couldn't keep the smile off his face.
Even when Hermione stood there and demanded to know why there was a crash through the house. Or why Blaise demanded to know why his favorite piano was in splinters. Harry ignored both of them and simply sat down next to a quiet Neville. At least one friend didn't demand everything at once. He grabbed a fork and simply stabbed some food off Neville's plate. Hermione still held his captive in her hands.
Neville snorted. "You're going to give them an ulcer."
"Shared ulcers are nice." Harry slurped up a piece of spaghetti. "Did you see? Some bastard put a hole in my house."
Neville laughed while Hermione scowled and finally dropped his plate down in front of him.
"I missed you when you weren't Tony Stark inside the house," she grumbled.
"Hey, I just had a really good day. The ego will go away in a while."
"I hope so." Hermione sat down and stabbed at a meatball. "I hate the board, by the way."
"What happened this time?" Harry motioned for Blaise to sit, frowning when his friend didn't do so. "I mean, besides complaining about how I got out of weapons. Blaise, seriously, sit."
"You owe me an explanation."
"Later, I promise." Harry smiled at him before turning back to Hermione. "The board?"
"Have agreed that since I am technically just your secretary, that the injunction extends to me as well." Her shoulders slumped and Harry felt guilty for not noticing something was wrong sooner. "They locked me out this morning."
"Which means Obi's running things for now?" Harry shrugged. "It could be worse, I guess."
"Yeah, he could be on your ass about weapons production," Blaise muttered. "You know, like my boss is."
Harry pointed his meatball-topped fork at Blaise. "Hey, Obi is not my boss."
"Well, you need to do something before the board chucks you out completely. Didn't that one computer guy get fired from his own company?"
"I am not an apple." Harry stuffed the meatball in his mouth.
"I'm just saying it could happen." Blaise pushed his plate away. "I have to go."
"You didn't even eat," Hermione said, her voice like a whining mother. Harry was glad that voice wasn't projected to him. "At least take it with you."
"Fine, I will." Blaise picked up his plate and brought it into the kitchen. Harry figured Edwin would set him up with a container for it, but Blaise would just drop it in the fridge on his way out. It usually went like that.
"We'll get through this," he promised Hermione. "I just need to find my feet again. Figure out where Tony and Harry meet."
Hermione sighed. "Fine, Harry. I just hope whatever you and Edwin work on in that shop is worth it."
Harry thought back to the suit, all the changes he was already thinking about, and grinned. "Yeah, it's worth it."
Chapter 17: Chapter 16 - Interlude
So my original idea was to bring in Bruce first (love him to pieces, really), but none of that seemed to really flow. So instead, I offer my second choice. It seemed fitting since Coulson was already there!
Clint "Hawkeye" Barton was bored as hell and, usually, that wasn't a good thing. A bored Clint was a destructive Clint. A bored Clint made his handler fill out more paperwork than necessary. A bored Clint had other agents running from him, fearing for their lives.
A bored Clint while on a mission just meant that every one of his weapons were sharp, clean, and ready to be used at any notice.
That also meant that whenever his handler did return to the hotel room, he was on his feet and ready to go. Agent Phil Coulson just smiled at him every time it happened. A smile meant Clint had nothing important to do. A smile meant he would be bored longer.
Clint huffed and let himself fall back on the bed. "Are we done trailing Stark yet?"
"He hasn't left his house since the incident and we can't get inside." Coulson poured himself a cold cup of coffee. Clint was sure that pot was the same from that morning. "There's a benefit coming up in three weeks and I'm hoping to catch his assistant there."
"That redhead?" Clint grinned a little, thinking of Natasha. Her hair was darker, but they held themselves in the same way. Stark was lucky to have such a girl by his side. "What's the plan, boss?"
"We have other work until the benefit."
Coulson put the cup down and tugged at his tie, loosening it a bit. Clint felt a little pride that he and Natasha were the only two Coulson did that for. "You're to follow Stark. We both know you can do it better than I can, and he doesn't know you yet. Get close, see what you can find out. Fury thinks he's working on something."
"You sure he isn't suffering from some kind of post-kidnapping thing?" Clint got up to pack anyway.
"He could be, but Fury doesn't think so. Stark is too curious to not explore what happened to him."
Clint hesitated. He had only heard snippets of what went on and even those were just rumors about the three-month captivity. "That is?"
"Stark built something to help him escape. Fury is sure he's trying to perfect it." Coulson handed Clint his bow. He was the only one allowed to do such a thing. "If you don't get what he wants, Fury will send in Romanoff."
"Come on, we both know Nat and I will get different things." Clint packed his bow before slinging his bag over his shoulder. "Might as well send her in, too."
"When we have an opening, we might." Coulson gave him another smile. "Don't screw this up, Barton."
"As if I'd waste an opportunity to one-up Nat."
Coulson shrugged. "As far as I recall, she's ahead by three missions."
Clint went for the door, wrinkling his nose. "Traitor."
"Agent." Coulson picked up his cup. "Keep me informed."
Clint gave a mock salute and left to start the most irritating three weeks of his life.
Really, if he had realized sooner that Stark wouldn't even walked past his damn windows, Clint wouldn't have accepted despite the challenge it presented. And though he saw several people walk in and out of the cliff-side home, he couldn't see in and that bothered him. The one time he tried to get inside, some voice in the walls made a noise and a large, black man (Clint recognized him later as Stark's military friend Rhodes) came out and walked along the perimeter.
There was no way he was losing this one to Natasha, though, and Clint desperately looked for a way to get in. His eyes settled on Stark's driver as he washed one of the cars outside. What was his name? Some kind of emotion with the last name of a wrestler. Sad, no, Happy Hogan. That was it.
A week into his mission, Clint stood by the side of the road and waited for Hogan to return from whatever errand he was running. When he saw the car, he simply stepped out and let his side get clipped.
The pain (Jesus, he cracked a damn rib) was worth it for the man to freak out and push him into the backseat of the car. Not five minutes later, he was being gently carried into Stark's house and brought to a room. It had been a while since he took a hit like that, though, and he soon passed out, Hogan's worrying face the last thing he saw.
He didn't know if Coulson would kill him or give him a raise.
Chapter 18: Chapter 17
Finally all caught up! Yay!
On FF.net, I said at the beginning of this chapter that "I do shit OT7." That would be painful, just saying. I SHIP OT7, thank you. :P Shitting out Thor would burn, I'd think. All that lightning...
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Harry looked up from his boot when Hermione walked in and immediately knew something had happened. He spit the screwdriver out of his mouth and stood. "What happened?"
"Neville kind of hit somebody with the car."
Out of all the things that could go wrong, that was not one of them. "I'm sorry, what?"
"Neville was coming back from getting some groceries and some guy just stepped out. Edwin is in the guest room with him now."
Harry swore and pushed away from the desk. "Is Miranda on her way?"
"I called her first. She had to finish up something and then she's Flooing over." Hermione held the door for him. "The guy passed out pretty much as soon as he got here."
"Then he hopefully didn't notice anything too out of place." Harry pulled his wand out and waved it over his body, shivering as the grease and grime of the day disappeared. He was still getting used to the new feel of his magic and he really hated that particular spell, but there was no time for a shower. "Neville okay?"
"He's freaking out and going back to see if the guy dropped anything after the accident." Hermione opened the guest room door.
"Go bring him back. He doesn't need to crash the car with his guilt."
Hermione nodded and popped out of the room.
Harry put a hand on Edwin's shoulder once he arrived and looked at the man on the bed. Brown hair, black skin tight outfit, and blood up one side of his body. Damn, he would need to change the sheets. "He'll survive until Miranda gets here?"
"Yes, sir. Jarvis is monitoring his vitals and while he'll be in pain, he should be fine."
Harry nodded. "Good. He doesn't leave this room, understand? I don't trust him."
"You just met him, technically."
Harry shrugged. "I was told my instincts were good and they tell me not to trust him. Why was he walking up here?"
Edwin shrugged. "Shall I tie him to the bed, then?"
"No. We can knock him out if we need to." Harry looked him over one last time before going to the door. "Let me know when he wakes up. I want to talk to him."
"I figured you would. What if he wakes and is hostile?"
"If one of us magical folk isn't around, then use whatever force you can to take him down. Or hide, if that's the safer option." Harry paused at the door to smile at Edwin. "I don't want to lose you."
Edwin's "yes, sir" followed Harry out of the room. He didn't return to the lab, going to the gym room instead. Neville would be in there once Hermione brought him home; his friend had unknowingly gathered a lot of Dudley's nervous habits while learning how to become him. Though he never quite forgave Dudley for tormenting him when they were children (and Dudley really never offer an apology, knowing it was useless), Harry understood now that using his fists had been Dudley's only way of dealing with his own insecurities.
As Harry watched Neville stalk into the room and head straight for the sandbags, he knew that Dudley's way of coping had been good for the once-timid wizard. Neville didn't even take off his suit before he grunted and hit the bag as hard as he could.
"You're going to break your knuckles," Harry told him.
Neville jerked around, his eyes wide. "Ha—"
"Guest in the house," Harry reminded him. "Unconscious guest, but we shouldn't take chances."
Neville nodded and went to sit on the edge of the boxing ring next to Harry. "Sorry, Mister Stark. The car will need some repairs…"
"The car will be fine. I'll have Edwin help me pull out the dents later." Harry nudged Neville's side. "Are you okay?"
"I just hit someone with a car, Ha—Tony. What do you think?"
Harry smiled a little. "I'd say, since he's way out here, that it's worth at least two-thousand points."
Neville snorted. "That isn't funny."
"I know, sorry." Harry leaned back so he could stare at the ceiling. "Miranda's on her way, or already here, and she'll take a look at him. If he's here to cause trouble, we'll take care of him."
"You mean Hermione will take care of him."
"She was always good at rearranging memories…"
"Speak of that." Neville looked over his shoulder. "You haven't had a girl here since you came back."
"Not really in the mood to play that game right now, Happy. Besides, I'm not sure how they'd react to, well, this." He motioned over his chest. "How can I fake a memory when I don't know that part?"
"So keep your shirt on. A dark shirt. Or one that matches the color."
Harry shook his head and rested a hand over the glowing light. "I don't really want to. Besides, I don't think Howard would be too happy that his son was a playboy all his life."
"You don't know what Howard would think." Neville lay back with Harry. "I know that's your drive for all of this, but face it… We don't know because he's not here."
"One that could be wrong." Neville frowned, turning to look at him. "You only know what you pulled from him and Tony that night. The world changed since then. The company changed since then. How can we possibly know what they might think of this?"
"How did we get on the subject of me? This is supposed to be about you," Harry mumbled.
"Because you know that I relax when I'm not thinking about my problems." Neville sat up and pulled off his suit jacket. "Come on, let's go a few rounds."
Harry groaned, but let himself be dragged up. "I'm tired…"
"Don't spend so much time in the lab, then." Neville patted Harry's back before grabbing two pairs of gloves. He tossed one to Harry. "Come on, let's have a go at it. See how much of a slacker you've become."
"Yeah, yeah. I'm only physically slacking."
Neville laughed and threw the first punch. Harry didn't know how long they were at it, tossing fake punches and laughing at each one. It didn't matter if they hit or not – it helped both of them clear the tension from their shoulders. More importantly, Harry knew it helped Neville think through his guilt. The man upstairs would be fine. Miranda would heal the worst of it and let the rest look like normal injuries. A 'miracle accident' or some other bullshit line.
Harry hoped she left him with his ribs at least cracked as a warning to not walk up here. How dumb could someone be to try to get that close to Tony Stark's house?
"Okay boys," Hermione said as she came into the room. Harry glanced at the clock and groaned when he saw that about four hours had passed. He was exhausted. "Happy, the man is fine. Miranda fixed him up mostly, but he still has a lot of bruises on him. A few days and he'll be back to normal."
Harry ignored as Neville instantly relaxed. He went to the edge of the ring and leaned on the ropes. "He's awake?"
"Yes, he is, and he's asking for you. Not you specifically, but the owner of the house so he can apologize for bleeding on the sheets." Hermione handed Harry a bottle of water. "I suggest changing at least your shirt before you go in there."
"Yes, mum." Harry took the bottle before slipping out of the ring. "Does he know where he is?"
"Inside Tony Stark's house? He has come to realize that." Hermione pointed up, their general sign for Jarvis. "Edwin is making him something to eat now and before you ask, Jarvis locked him in the room."
"Still don't trust him. Thanks, Pepper." Harry waved to Neville and left the gym, heading up to his room to change his shirt. He didn't bother with a cleaning charm this time, figuring the guy could smell him all he wanted. He shouldn't have gotten hit by a car.
"Sir, your guest is trying to get out of the bed against Doctor Miranda's word."
"How is that my problem, Jarvis?" Harry pulled on a new shirt. "Don't answer that. Injuries, right. What does he have left?"
"A cracked rib and quite a bit of bruising. Doctor Miranda informed him that he had been lucky."
"Good, okay. Tell him to sit down and I'll be there in a bit." Harry downed half the bottle of water.
"Yes, sir. Shall I threaten him while I'm at it?"
"Save that for me, buddy." Harry grinned as he half-jogged down the stairs despite just having gone at it with Neville for hours. He would never understand how a workout could give you more energy.
He put his nearly empty bottle on a table and waited for the doors to the guest room to unlock. When they did, he did his best to walk in as if he owned the place (which he did) while giving the man a smirk. He never did like people intruding on his life.
The man's eyes widened, but Harry had long gotten used to the recognition in them. First as Harry, and even more so as Tony. "You're—"
"Yeah, we both know who I am. Sit?"
The man winced as he settled back on the bed. It had looked almost faked and Harry immediately tensed. Who needed to fake a wince when they had a cracked rib? Who the hell was this guy?
"Mind telling me what you were doing walking along a private driveway?"
"That was your driveway?"
He sounded genuinely confused. Harry wasn't buying it. "Did you not see the gates with my name on them? Where did you come from?"
"The city. I was bird watching and I guess I didn't pay attention to any fences I climbed." The man shrugged and that time, the wince actually looked real. "Damn, last time I do that."
"Especially on my property." Harry pulled a chair over and sat on it backwards so he could fold his arms over the back. "Bird watching, really? Where are your binoculars?
"I have really good vision. I mean, really good." The man pointed to his eyes, then pointed out the window. "I'm like a damned hawk."
Harry couldn't help it. He laughed, dropping his head onto his arms. Except for the lack of pranks, this mystery man reminded him a lot of Fred and George. "You chase mice, too?"
"Only the disease-free ones."
He still didn't trust this man a damned bit, but Harry did like him. Just a little. "What's your name, Hawk-man."
The man grinned. "Clint. My name is Clint Barton."
Harry didn't even need to ask in order to know that Jarvis was already running scans on that name. "That your real name?"
"Hell if I know, but it's the name I like to go by. It's what happens to guys with no families."
And, in that moment, Harry knew that he didn't care what Jarvis found on Clint Barton. He smiled and leaned his chair a bit. "So, Mister Barton, ever play Duck Hunt on a big screen?"
Hermione was going to hate this. Hell, Edwin might just burn his lab for it. Harry got off his chair and extended his hand to Clint anyway. Neville ran the guy over, the least he could do is play a game of Duck Hunt with him.
If the answering grin was anything to go by, Clint expected to beat him. There was no way Harry would stand for that.
I figure you either love this or you hate it. I, personally, love it. So there. Haters gonna hate and all that jazz. Anyway, want to know why I really and honestly chose Clint (and why I don't care if you think this is stupid)? Here's a bit of head canon I found on Tumblr that I agree with completely:
"The Black Widow is very cold, and rarely ever smiles. People know to avoid her, because everyone knows that she will kill you. Hawkeye is deadly from a distance, and everyone knows it, but down at street level he's everyone's buddy. Everybody lets Hawkeye sidle in close. And really, Natasha sometimes admits to herself, this is why Clint is the deadlier of the two of them."
This is also why Clint doesn't lie about his name. He knows Tony is smart and he knows that Tony will probably figure it out if he's lying (I'm positive Tony didn't notice Natasha in Iron Man 2 because 1-boobs and 2-he was dying). So he tells his name truthfully because hey, if things go sour, he knows how to disappear and give a painful warning shot at the same time.
Also, this won't be a sudden!friendship. Harry still doesn't trust him.
Chapter 19: Chapter 18
In the end, Clint kicked his ass in all fifteen rounds of Duck Hunt. Harry came close once, but soon caught on that the man was letting him. One rant later about wounded egos and Clint popped off three solid rounds and declared himself the winner of old-school Nintendo. He was standing with his hands on his hips, one foot propped on top of the old gaming system, and ordered Harry to bow to him.
Really, if Harry hadn't been in the room the entire time, he would share Blaise's surprised (and slightly horrified) look. As it was, he was leaned against a chair, laughing so hard he could barely point the toy gun at Clint's chest, and generally couldn't care what his friend thought.
"I got in for one morning of training and come back to find this?" Blaise asked as he took the gun out of Harry's hand. "What the hell happened, Tony? Who is this?"
"That's his royal highness of Nintendonia," Harry said around his laughter. "He's trying to make me into one of his royal subjects."
"Very funny." Blaise shot Harry a look before holding up a file. The titled splashed across the front (Stark-Rhodes Military Contact) told Harry that this was the file Jarvis would have created for him. Sure, Tony and Rhodey had a contact, but they weren't stupid enough to carry the damn thing around.
"I need you to sign a few updates," Blaise said before turning to Clint. "I heard we had an injured in here. You look fine to me."
"I'm King," Clint insisted. "Of course I'm—"
"Then you can help Edwin with the dish washing."
"—In so much pain it hurts." Clint clutched at his side. "Ow, okay, going back to bed." He stumbled out of the room.
Harry rolled his eyes, grabbing at the file. "Dish washing, Rhodey? Is that the best you could come up with?"
Blaise ignored that. "I know Happy's feeling guilty about hitting the guy, but why is he still here? A hospital would be so much better."
"Because I want to know why he was up here. 'Bird watching' doesn't sit well with me." Harry hummed as he opened the file. Thankfully, Blaise steered him around the doorframe and into the dining area. Neville and Hermione were already seated and waiting. "Jarvis, is this room secure?"
The doors around the open areas slid closed and Harry smiled at the snick of the locks. "Room secured, sir."
"Great." Harry set the folder down and did what he always loved about this place. He pressed down on the top paper for a few moments before flicking it across the table. The paper slid, but Jarvis got the sign and the file was suddenly digital across the table. He didn't look up from the mug shot of Clint staring at him. "Talk to me, Her—"
"Sir, Mister Barton is attempting to listen in on your conversation."
Right, he definitely shouldn't have any reason to trust the guy. "Guest access lockdown, Jarvis. Pepper? Would you do the honors?"
"And deprive you of them? Certainly." Hermione smiled and pulled out her wand, casting a few silent security charms. The images on the table flickered briefly, but they held. As annoying as that was, Harry was always glad to know that he could stop technological things by simply being who he was. It would be handy if he ever decided he didn't need security cameras to see him.
"Right, so Clint Barton. The basics?"
Hermione shrugged and enlarged a few pictures of a circus. "Not much is known about him, really. Orphaned really young with his brother. They joined something called the Carson Carnival of Travelling Wonders."
"Well, that was his first one." Neville pointed to a different page. "Later he was seen at Tiboldt's Circus and then at Coney Island Circus. After that, he dropped off the radar. He was known as 'Hawkeye, the World's Greatest Marksman' while there."
Harry's lips quirked a bit. "He did say his eyes were like a hawk. Okay, so that's what's out there publicly, right?"
"Yes," Neville agreed. "We weren't sure if Jarvis should attempt hacking authorities or not."
Harry shook his head and flipped through the pictures. "I'm not sure of his skills in that yet. I don't want to get caught trying something he isn't ready for." He looked to Blaise. "I know you've been here for a while. What did you let him hack?"
"Nothing government-related. Police records and travelling records? Sure." Blaise pushed through a few of the real papers. "He goes out of the country a lot, it seems. Jarvis caught his face on a few cameras in foreign cities. Nothing more than him walking around, though."
"Maybe he really does just bird watch," Harry mused. "Any reason why he'd be here?"
Hermione hesitated and Harry loved that she knew his real question. "There are no ties to the company. I don't trust him either, especially since he tried to eavesdrop, but he might be telling the truth."
"I'd be trying to eavesdrop if I knew people were talking about me," Neville muttered.
"I suppose…" Hermione stared down at the table. Harry didn't bother trying to see what picture she was looking at. "So what do we do?"
"Blaise?" Harry looked to his friend, arching an eyebrow. "You're pretty much my security here. What do you say?"
Blaise huffed and closed the physical file. "Cut him loose. Deposit him outside the gate and call it a day."
Blaise shot Harry a look, but he did continue. "But if he climbs right back over, we have a bigger issue. If he's working for someone to get close, then he's going to try whatever he can until we actually show that we're suspicious."
"What do you suggest?" Neville asked.
"Keep him close." Blaise shrugged. "There's a muggle saying or something about keeping friends close, but enemies closer. I say we let him stay, but tell him he has restricted access to the house. We'll play it off as a paranoid Tony Stark, still upset about what happened overseas."
Harry sat down, uncomfortable. He was okay with Afghanistan for the moment as long as nobody brought the damn place up. Thanks, Blaise.
"One of us, I'll nominate myself," he continued, ignoring Harry's discomfort, "will indicate that they don't trust him a bit. That way, if he is an enemy, he can work on getting you three to trust him. Pull in the majority, you'll get them all."
"So we're just supposed to trust him?" Hermione scoffed and crossed her arms. "No."
"Then fake it. Let him get close, but keep yourself at a distance." Blaise pushed his chair back from the table. "We'll get rid of him as soon as we can, but I say let's test him and see how long he stays. If he's some spy, let's see how good he is."
Neville grunted, pushing the digital images away from himself. "And if he's a normal guy, we'll all feel like complete idiots for this."
"I'd rather be an idiot than be dead," Harry told him. "All right, Clint stays. Don't mention he's allowed to stay, though. Let's see how far he pushes his welcome."
"Fine." Hermione stood. "No magic from here on out, then. I'd rather not have the American Ministry down my back."
"I'm surprised they haven't gotten on us about doing it in front of Edwin," Neville said. "Though, really, I don't want to know. I really don't want to know because that man is weird."
Harry smiled. "I know. Hey, Hermione? Why don't you and Blaise run down and see Obi. Give him those blueprints we've been sitting on for years."
"Does it matter? Whatever ones that aren't weapons. That'll get him off our backs, right?"
"For now." Hermione nodded to Blaise. "I know just the ones. Let's grab them and go."
Blaise squeezed Harry's shoulder (and really, Harry didn't expect any other kind of thanks than that) and then left with Hermione, the privacy charms falling as they went. Harry looked to Neville as soon as the door locked closed and grinned.
"Fifty bucks says Rhodey tries to ask her out and fails."
Neville snorted and stood from his seat. He waved his hand and the data on the table flickered off. "I'm not going to take a bet I know I'll lose to. Three months to actually get together, now…"
"Five months and a horrible first date."
Neville laughed and reached over to clasp Harry's hand. "You're on."
Neville hesitated. "Oh no, please not that tone. That's the 'I want something and you won't like it' tone."
Harry stuck out his tongue. "I was just going to ask if you wouldn't mind distracting our guest. I want to work on a few things in the lab."
"I'm not playing Duck Hunt."
"Didn't ask you to." Harry stood. "Take him range shopping or whatever. Buy him a bow and call it an apology gift."
"Won't that tell him that we know who he is?"
"That's what I'm hoping for." Harry shoved his hands in his pockets. "I'm hoping that if he is working for the spy in the company, he'll be a guilty one. Rhodey might want to beat him at his own game, but I have a different way to play."
Neville laughed softly. "Can do, boss. I don't know if it has to do with being a Gryff or not, but I like the 'we're so threatening you' approach better."
"Exactly. Let Rhodey and Pepper do it their way, we'll do it ours."
"Am I allowed to choose sides, then?" Edwin asked from the doorway. "If so, I think I will choose my own side."
"Didn't ask any more of you than that." Harry grinned and backed out of the room. "See you guys later."
As soon as Harry got into the lab, he had Jarvis block all the doors that led down here (unless of an emergency, of course). Once that was done, he cleared off a screen and ordered the security video feed to play on that. Jarvis didn't even need to be told who Harry was watching and he liked that. As a system, Jarvis was starting to run better and Harry knew Edwin had been in the wires. He wouldn't complain.
Neville and Clint were sitting side-by-side on the bed, talking together. Harry didn't turn on the sound just yet, content to watch. Clint was animated in the way he talked, his hands and arms flying in every direction. When Clint got up to walk around the room, doing various poses for a now-laughing Neville, Harry let out a sigh. Just who was this man? He didn't seem dangerous, but could that be a façade?
He groaned and turned back to his suit's boot. He had to stop thinking about this before he went crazy. If Clint turned out to screw him over, he would deal with it then. For the moment, he would trust that this was really just a simple mistake that would go away after a while.
Two weeks later, when Clint was still in the house, Harry was sure this was no mistake.
Chapter 20: Chapter 19
Yeees, I realized after I wrote it that saying Clint was in the house for two weeks and having no other explanation was asking a bit much. As soon as I posted it, I went to bed and muttered about how I should have done this or that or whatever. So I'll write a one-shot later detailing all that happened because while I know old!Tony wouldn't stand for that kind of stuff, Harry is not really Tony. Harry is still a little too trusting. And now a reminder that I'm still, despite my small plot plans, writing off the seat of my pants. I know major events, I don't know the in-between.
I have also gone back to school for the first time in three years (getting my second degree), so I don't have as much time to write. Sorry!
In the two weeks Clint was in the house (had it really been two weeks?), Harry managed to find enough time alone to put together any intricate details of the suit that Jarvis and the bots couldn't. He sat in front of his computers, chair rocking back and forth, as Jarvis scrolled down plans for the Mark III. That 'three' always sent a thrill down Harry's spine. Just last year, he never thought he could do something like this. Last year, he was going through the motions and ignoring most of what he was supposed to be doing. Last year was over.
Harry reached a hand out to spin the new suit design, one close to the Mark II, and sighed. "Still don't know how I did this, Jarvis."
"Hard work and swearing, sir."
He laughed. "Yeah, I guess so. The new model looks good. Let's go ahead and get this started."
"Of course, sir." A few more numbers flew across the screen, but Harry was already standing up. "Shall we leave the color as-is or do you wish to paint this one?"
That had Harry pausing. He glanced around the lab, trying to figure out what color Tony Stark would want his flying suit to be. Then he figured it didn't matter because he was Tony, so Tony liked whatever color he picked out.
"Toss in some Gryffindor red, Jarvis." Harry grinned and picked up his half-empty water bottle. "Yeah, nice, bright Gryffindor red. It'll go well with the gold, don't you think?"
"Of course, sir. That should help you de discreet."
Harry winked at the ceiling. "They can't see my face. I call that discreet. Go ahead and fabricate it, Jarvis. I'm going up to eat."
"Commencing automated assembly. Estimated completion time is five hours."
"I'll see you tomorrow, then." Harry waved to the three bots in the room before jogging upstairs…
…And right into an argument over the newest Halo game. Clint and Blaise were pressed against each other, both trying to push the other out of the way. Not that they had to since the television was pretty damn big, but they were trying to either way. Neville looked bored from his spot on the couch as he flipped a page in whatever book he was reading.
Not wanting to listen to this, Harry sighed and gently asked Jarvis to turn the game system off and turn it to a station that would shut them up. Instantly, the game went off and the television began to play the news. Both Clint and Blaise stared at the change, controllers silent in their hands. Then, almost as one, they turned around and glared at him.
"The hell are you doing, Tony?"
"I was about to kick his ass!"
"You were not!"
"I was so!"
Harry rolled his eyes. "God, both of you shut up. Can't a man walk through his house in peace?"
"No," Clint said, tossing the controller onto the couch. "Why should he?"
"Ah, because he's letting you stay rent free?" Harry frowned. "Why are you still here, birdbrain? I know Happy's cooking isn't that good."
"That's why Edwin cooks," Neville said, not looking up from his book. "I told you two days ago, Tony. Clint is helping with building repairs. Remember the bastard that put a hole in your roof?"
Harry was glad the first thing they did was fix the hole right above his lab. That way, Clint couldn't get in. "Oh yeah, right. How's that going?"
"As slow as I want it to." Clint flopped down next to Neville. "That okay?"
"No, that's not okay." Harry's eyes flickered to the television when he heard 'Tony Stark.'
The reporter was outside what looked like a very boring event, but he frowned when he heard it was for the Firefighter's Family Fund. He went to that every year and he actually enjoyed it. Unlike businessmen, firefighters had a sense of humor.
"Huh… Did I get an invite for that?"
Neville hesitated, then shook his head. "No, but I think Pepper did? She was dressed up fancy earlier, but she left before I could give her a ride."
The reporter continued to talk, mentioning that Tony Stark hadn't been seen in public since the press conference (oops?) and that he was suffering from posttraumatic stress (among other things, Harry admitted). To top it all off, she then stated that he had been bedridden for weeks.
Like hell that was going to fly.
"My suit in from the drycleaners?"
Neville tossed his book aside. "Armani insisted you wear that black on for this event. They tailored it before, well, you know. It's in the closet."
Harry saluted him. "Thanks, Happy. Be ready in ten, okay?"
Harry was not happy that Clint followed him to the bedroom. "You're going to crash a party?" he asked, strolling (uninvited) straight into the closet behind Harry.
"It's my party, so why shouldn't I crash it?" Harry strolled through the closet before finding the right suit, labeled and hanging on its own. Hermione probably separated it just in case.
"Got a suit I can borrow?"
The question had Harry pausing, turning to take in Clint's easy grin. "Why?"
Clint shoved his hands in his pockets, his smile growing wider. "I was told once that I'm really good at crashing parties. Want a body guard?"
Harry had Blaise for that, but maybe if he brought Clint along, he could see who he talked to. If Clint was working for someone at the company, this might be a way to find out. He reached up to grab a random suit and tossed it at the other man.
"Suit up, birdman. We're going partying."
Clint saluted, using the hand holding onto the suit, and left the closet. Harry rolled his eyes and quickly got dressed, wrinkling his nose at the itchiness of the suit. After months of not wearing one, it felt constricting. For a brief moment, he missed the feel of his school robes.
The ride to the party was full of Clint's stories on party crashing. Something about Budapest and flying squirrels – Harry really wasn't paying any attention. Still, the constant mess of chatter was more welcome than the silence that usually accompanied him on these things. Dudley never liked to talk while driving, and it just became a habit to do that with Neville as well.
The first person he saw as he stepped out amid the flashing bulbs was Obadiah talking to some reporter. This wasn't different from any other time, so Harry put on a smile, waved to the surprised photographers, and walked up the stairs. He barely noticed Clint trailing behind him.
"What's the world coming to when a guy's got to crash his own party?" he asked, deliberately stepping in the middle of whatever interview was going on.
Obadiah looked generally surprised. "Tony!"
"Yep, that's me. See you inside." Harry gave him a mock salute before going through the doors.
Clint stepped closer so they were walking side-by-side. "Who was that?"
Harry held back the urge to roll his eyes. "You don't know who that is?"
Clint hesitated and Harry could almost feel the war inside of him. Finally, Clint gave a sheepish smile. "Just thought I was wrong. The pictures make Stane look… skinnier."
Harry couldn't help but laugh at that. "They retouch it digitally."
"He's more vain than you are."
Harry pointed at Clint, trying to look threatening as they leaned against the bar. "Hey, now. I can out-vain anyone. Always bet on a Stark."
"Yeah, yeah. That's what you wish." Clint waved the bar man over and ordered a shot of something Harry had never heard of.
He decided to stick to the basics and ordered a scotch. He put the glass to his mouth when he saw it, and how he saw it he didn't know. Clint tensed and looked off past Harry's shoulder, clearing seeing someone he knew. It wasn't a defensive stance, so Harry figured that he was finally going to meet the person Clint worked for.
Harry did not expect to turn and stare at a short man in a suit with a receding hair line. It actually formed the same shape Malfoy's was starting to (he knew this, Blaise always brought proof). Harry arched an eyebrow and tried, really hard, not to imagine this man as a ferret.
"Mister Stark? Agent Coulson." Coulson held out a hand and Harry shifted his scotch glass so he could shake it. "I'm from the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division."
That was a mouthful, almost worse than Hogwart's school motto. "You really need a new name for that."
"I hear that a lot."
Clint snorted behind him and Harry smirked. At least Clint knew his company's name was stupid. That's all Harry really needed. "I'm sure you do, Agent."
"Listen," Coulson continued, ignoring both Clint's snort and Harry's faux inattentiveness. "I know this must be a trying time for you, but we need to debrief you. I spoke with your assistant, but there is still a lot of unanswered questions."
Harry did not want to do this. "Why don't you have your boy simply ask me?"
Serves them right; Harry felt his pride inflate just a bit when Clint stiffened behind him. Coulson's face didn't change. His eyes flickered to Clint before smiling at Harry and simply saying, "He was not authorized to intrude into your home, Mister Stark."
Harry turned to look at Clint (the bastard was trying to look innocent, too). "You're still fixing the holes in my floors. Squatter."
"Mister Stark, if I may?"
"You may not, but I have a feeling you're going to." Harry motioned for Coulson to continue.
"We believe that your life may be in danger. We did not want to suggest a guard, but I assure you that Agent Barton is very good at what he does. Perhaps he can watch over you until this matter is settled."
"You mean the debrief?"
"That's exactly what I mean."
It was like talking with Jarvis, except human. Did Coulson ever change how he looked or was he always this happily calm? "Yeah, no. Not really comfortable with your organization since you have people that will step out in front of cars just to get free room and board."
"That was not free," Clint muttered. "I had to suffer Duck Hunt and Happy's cooking once."
"Agent Barton will be debriefed on his behavior after his current mission finishes." Coulson smiled and, suddenly, Harry was so glad he wasn't Clint. That smile promised pain of some kind. "When you feel more comfortable, perhaps then we can debrief you."
"Yeah, sure, whatever." Harry downed the scotch, forcing himself not to make a face at the burn. "Why not just set a date, Jesus. Two weeks from Thursday sound good? Seven o'clock, right after dinner, at my office?"
"It's a date, then." Harry put his glass roughly down on the counter before looking to Clint. "You can come back in the morning—no, the afternoon and explain just what the hell you were thinking."
Harry should have told them both to take a hike. He should have told them that he wanted nothing to do with liars. He should have done a lot of things. But the way Clint looked, the genuine guilt across his face, had Harry remembering when he was young, when he was foolish, and he couldn't hate Clint for what happened.
After all, Clint just tricked his way into Harry's home. Harry had done a lot worse both before and after he became Tony Stark. He left both Agents standing at the bar, intent on finding Hermione so they could get the hell out of there.
The last thing he expected to come across was a reporter, one 'Tony Stark' had slept with, showing him pictures of his damned weapons in a town called Gulmira. Yinsen's face came to his mind and Harry could do nothing to stop the memories. Ever picture in his hand burned. Had he actually managed to rescue the man, he would just be returning to this. More oppression. It wasn't right.
The damned spy in the company needed to be taken care of… After these weapons were destroyed.
He walked away from her, wondering if the suit could last long enough to get to Gulmira, take care of business, and fly back in one piece.
There was only one way to test it.
Chapter 21: Chapter 20
Harry took a cab home, texting Neville as he did so. Once he got a confirmation that Neville would make sure Hermione got home, he called Obadiah. He knew the man was still at the party, but business possibilities always had him answering. Sure enough, it only took three rings.
"Do you know what's going on in Gulmira?" Harry asked, not bothering to ease into the question. There was silence on the other end of the phone and Harry scowled. "Gulmira, Obi. Terrorists in Gulmira have my weapons."
"Tony, you can't afford to be this naïve."
Harry found himself agreeing with that and he cursed himself a thousand times over for being a complete idiot about this entire situation. "I was naïve before. I thought there was a damned line we didn't cross in this business."
"No, Stane, just no." Harry rubbed his face. "I need you to fucking answer me honestly. Are we double-dealing under the table?"
There was silence, and that was really all Harry needed to let that small slim shard of trust he had shatter. How could he be so stupid? He came here to look for a damned spy, but he spent more time getting away from the war and the death of his best friend that he didn't realize the truth right in front of his face. Blaise was never going to let him live this down. If he didn't kill Harry first, right after Hermione pulled the reactor from his chest so Harry's own stupidity would kill as well.
"Who do you think locked you out?" Stane (and he would never be 'Obi' again – Harry felt part of him crumble at the thought of best-fucking-friends selling each other out) asked him. "I was the one who filed the injunction against you and your temporary CEO. It was the only way I could protect you."
Harry hung up and flung the phone across the cab, ignoring when the guy driving gave him a startled look. The instant the man truly recognized him had Harry groaning and he told the man to pull over a good two miles from his house.
"You want a better job?" Harry asked as he got out, letting his mind shut down. He'd push Tony to the forefront right now, just until he could get home and properly kick his own ass. "Here, take this." Harry handed the guy a few hundred dollars and a card. "Call them and tell them Tony Stark likes tacos. Seriously, code word. They'll hook you up."
He didn't even care that the one-of-a-kind suit and the just-as-rare shoes were ruined in the slightly muddy walk home. He spent much of the time staring at his phone (retrieved before he left the cab), searching through any documents he could find pertaining to what the hell was going on in Gulmira.
None of it was good.
When he got back to the house, Clint was already there, sitting on the steps with his arms resting comfortably on top of his knees. Harry looked him over before sighing and shoving his phone into his pocket. He wasn't in the mood to do this, but he had a feeling Clint wouldn't budge unless they talked, so he waited. It didn't take long.
"I work for a defense organization," Clint said as he stood up. "You're not in trouble, you're not on a watch list… We're just concerned."
"Afghanistan." Harry narrowed his eyes. "You want to know how I escaped."
"Yeah, we do, but that's what your meeting with—"
"I'm not telling you guys that information." Harry pushed past Clint and went into the house. He didn't bother shutting the door, knowing the man would follow him no matter what. "I escaped, I came home, end of story."
"There's always more to the story."
"Agent," Harry repeated, turning to glare at him as he did. "What I do is my own business and I have enough to do without you snooping around. I would appreciate it if you get the hell out of my house."
"I can protect you."
That had Harry laughing so hard he needed to hold onto a nearby wall to keep himself standing. What protection could a normal person offer a wizard? It was utterly ridiculous to hear and Harry didn't even care that Clint wouldn't know about his magical abilities.
"I don't see what's so funny. We have reason to believe that someone within your com—"
"Old news," Harry said, controlling his laughter. "That is seriously old news. I know someone's trying to screw me over."
"Because of the reporter?"
"No, because my father spit it out in blood the day he died." Harry turned and walked toward the lab, needing something to distract him.
"If you walk down those stairs before we finish this, I will hack through your systems."
Harry turned fast, pointing a finger toward Clint. "Fuck you, Agent. What do you care? This is just a job."
"Is it really that hard to believe that I care?" Clint stepped closer, his fists clenching. "God damn it, Stark! I let your driver hit me with a damned car, yeah, but then I saw how your employees treat you. Happy, Pepper, Rhodes… hell, they're your family, Stark."
Harry crossed his arms. "What's your point, big bird?"
"My point, dumb ass, is that anyone would kill to have what you got and I'm not talking about the money." Clint dragged a hand through his hair. "Not only do they work for you, but they work with you. You take their ideas, and they take yours and it's a well-matched team that my employers take years to build and that's what they do."
That hadn't been the response Harry was expecting and he kept still, eyes widening a little.
"And to top all that shit off, you guys pretty much live together. Who wouldn't want to be around that?"
Harry rolled his eyes, glad that he found some weakness in that argument. "So this is selfish? You want to hang around us and pretend to protect me because you're jealous of how we are?"
Was that a… Yes, that was a blush tinting (just barely) across the other man's cheek. "To be honest, after a few days, I forgot about most of the mission. It was nice to be around."
"We constantly told you we didn't trust you."
"And you had no reason to." Clint shrugged and Tony was glad it wasn't an apology. "It was nice while it lasted."
"Oh no." Harry held up a hand and backed away. "Oh, hell no."
"Don't you innocently 'what' me! This is the same shit they do when they want something." Harry rubbed at his eyes. Just the other day, Hermione had pulled the same kicked-puppy look until Harry handed over a few notes on the suit for her to indulge in.
"I don't really get—"
"Just stop." Harry shook his head. "Fine, stay. Whatever. Same rules apply, though, and I won't hesitated to kick your ass out if you try to spy on us."
Clint straightened and held up his hand, two fingers pressed together. "Scouts honor!"
"Just shut up." He backed toward the stairs again. "And if Stane steps on foot on this property and doesn't have a bullet in him when he leaves…"
"Threat noted, sir."
"I'm not paying you for it, either."
Clint smirked. "Well damn, there goes all my plans."
"Yeah, yeah…" Harry waved at him before disappearing into the lab. He didn't want Clint here any longer than he had to, but he figured he would have a reason to kick him out soon. Didn't all spies eventually snoop in on whomever they were staying with? Yes, it was bound to mess up soon.
Harry sat in the lone chair and rested his head on the desk. Issues with Clint could wait. Right now, he needed to go destroy his weapons and protect the place Yinsen loved so much.
I wanted this to be longer to include Gulmira, but that will show up next chapter. This hasn't been my best/favorite chapter so far. Oh, well.
Chapter 22: Chapter 21
"I never did trust that man," Edwin said that night as he and Harry watch the suit. It was almost done, with Jarvis running through a few more tests. "He always seemed to treat me like a slave."
Harry waited for the screen to beep before he pushed a button to open the suit helmet. It looked tight in there, tighter than the first two he made, but he trusted it to feel difference once it was on. "Why didn't you say anything?"
"Would you have learned anything if I returned and told you not to trust the man who had been there for you the past ten years?"
He had a point, not like Harry had to like it. "It still hurts…"
"Stane or me?"
"Both." Harry shrugged and pulled off his shirt. "I don't take to betrayal that well."
"I didn't mean for you to think of it that way." Edwin handed Harry a skin-tight suit. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
"Yes." Harry pulled on the wetsuit. "And don't worry too much about it. You came back when I needed you and didn't tell anyone I wasn't Tony Stark."
Edwin simply smiled and turned to go back to the computer. "I think you should sleep first."
"We added an auto-pilot thing, right?"
"You can't always trust that." Edwin waited for Harry to settle on the platform before hitting a button. "However, I could control—"
"No." Harry closed his eyes as the top part of the suit settled on him. "We're not going to have a remote control be active right now. I need to do this myself."
Edwin sighed and, when Harry opened his eyes and the HUD flashed to life, he saw the worry in the older man's shoulders.
"If I wait any longer, more people will die," Harry told him softly. "Trust in me, Edwin. Please."
"I shouldn't, but I will." Edwin opened the door at the end of a tunnel. Sometimes Harry forgot that this was meant to be more of a second garage than a lab. "I will be watching and, if you start to lose control, I will take over and bring you home."
"I won't lose control." Harry shifted in the suit, smiling as it moved with him. This was already better than the second one. "Thank you, Edwin."
"Just come home alive."
Harry laughed, adjusted his stance, and took off.
Really, it was laughable how easy it was to land in Gulmira and use the suit to kill the bastards taking over the town. He hadn't killed anyone by his own hand since the war and he thought would feel at least something for it, but there was nothing. There was only relief as a little boy ran over to hug his father tightly.
Then there was anger when the suit beeped and Jarvis informed him of a man trying to get a call out. He marched over to where the man was hidden and punched through the concrete. He grabbed the man's clothes and broke the rest of the wall as he dragged him out and toward the now-angry mob of survivors. Why should he have all the fun?
Harry dropped the man in the middle of the group. "He's all yours," he said before taking off into the sky.
Harry wasn't stupid enough to think that the whole scene in Gulmira would let him escape undetected and he was glad his magic came back enough for him to Disillusion himself. The reactor warmed in his chest as he murmured out the charm and, soon enough, he felt a slight tingle surrounding him. Not too much later, two jets streaked right past him, going out a distance before circling back. Harry laughed, telling Jarvis to remind him to call Blaise later.
He was exhausted when he returned to the house and all he wanted to do was get the damn suit off and take the longest shower he could get away with. He eased into the lab and waved at Edwin before landing on the platform they had set up so the suit could come off easier.
"Ow, fuck!" Harry winced as the suit pressed against his side. "Jarvis, take note. Battle makes it harder to—hey!"
Edwin laughed as he stepped closer to the platform. "This is your own fault. I did tell you going out wasn't the smartest idea."
"Ed, buddy, I'm running off of little sleep and frustration. Don't push my buttons."
Edwin held up his hands in surrender. "All right, I won't push any buttons."
"But I will."
Harry whipped his head around, eyes widening when he saw Hermione standing there. She had that 'you are so in trouble' look and Harry was secretly glad. He hadn't gotten one of those in a while. "I can explain."
"Harry… Harry, are those bullet holes?" Hermione gave the machines a wide berth as she approached him. "What happened?"
"I had things to take care of." Harry finally got himself free and stumbled off the platform. He nodded his thanks to Edwin when the man caught him. "Testing out the suit."
"I don't think you should have built that. You're not exactly—"
"But I'm learning." Harry sighed. "I'm learning, okay? Mechanical engineering is actually really interesting once you start to understand it."
"Hermione, please." Harry cupped her cheeks in his palms. "Trust me. I can do this."
"I remember you saying that a few times when we were younger." Still, her shoulders slumped and Harry knew he won. "All right, but if I'm trusting you, then I don't have time to control Clint. He's upstairs trying to convince the others about some kind of stupid idea."
"Yeah, no. I'm not dealing with that right now." Harry motioned over his body. "I need a shower and then sleep. Maybe food between that."
"Clint now or I tell him what you just did."
Harry narrowed his eyes. "You play dirty," he muttered as he made his way up the stairs. "Edwin, take care of that for me?"
"You know he'll hand it off to Jarvis."
"That's fine, it just needs to be cleaned." Harry shrugged and stepped into the living room to see Clint positioning Neville's arms. Harry really didn't want to know.
"And then you line up your target, pull this arm back, and—"
"Are you teaching my driver how to be dangerous while not behind the wheel?" Harry passed by the two of them and grabbed Neville's wrist so he could pull him to the couch. "Stop making my staff scary."
Clint held up his hands. "I just figured that if I'd be staying here, I'd make myself useful."
"Are you ever going to finish patching the holes in my house?"
"Do I have to?"
Neville snorted and Harry shot him a look for it. "Yes, you have to."
"I will if you tell me where you just were."
Harry tensed. "I don't believe that's any of your business, Agent."
"Agent?" Neville asked. "So it's true?"
Clint's eyes widened. "You didn't believe my secret agent story?"
"Was I supposed to?"
Harry smirked and clapped Neville on the back. "That's our Happy for you. To answer your question for our birdman…. Yes and no. He's an Agent, but not a secret one."
"Well, we know who you are, so secret doesn't work." Harry held up a hand and wagged a finger at him. "Not anymore, at least."
Clint perched himself on the back of a couch, just like a damned bird, and pouted at them. "Secret to everybody else."
"Not anybody in this house." Harry shrugged. "Sorry, but my friends know all my secrets."
Clint nodded. "I suppose that means I just have to work harder at being your friend."
That startled Harry and he was proud that the only way he showed it was an arched eyebrow. "Oh really?"
"Yeah… You've got a secret and I want to know, but I'll be patient. I can be very patient when I need to be."
Harry snorted and leaned back on the couch. "Yeah, sure. Super-secret agent wants to be my friend. Fuck you and your boss. Jarvis, turn on the longest movie in my collection. I want a distraction."
Clint left half an hour in, right before Harry finally let himself drift off to sleep, his head comfortable on Neville's shoulder.
The next chapter (an interlude) is pretty much taken right out of the movie, so sorry about that. Hurray for Obi's overseas shenanigans!
Chapter 23: Chapter 22 - Interlude
Sorry this is so short, guys! This week has been hell on my life.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It had been ridiculously easy for Obadiah to convince the board to let him take an overseas business trip. Especially when he said he was just going to check out a few places where their CEO had been held captive and he was just picking up some left-behind tech. It was technically true, but he didn't really need to tell the board that it wasn't missiles.
He got out of the car and made a face as he stepped onto sand. The desert was the worst place to do anything and he was going to hate the sand in his shoes later.
"Welcome," Raza said, motioning around the camp. Well, what was left of the camp. Obadiah arched an eyebrow at the mess of the man's face. Raza shrugged and said, "My last gift from Tony Stark."
"If you had killed him when you were supposed to, you'd still have that pretty face." Obadiah patted the burn, smirking when the man winced.
Raza narrowed his eyes. "You paid us trinkets—"
"Yes, that isn't of any matter now. Show me the weapon."
That, at least, made the man's eyes light up. Like a damned puppy trying to please its owner. "Come. Leave your guards outside." Raza turned and stalked into the cave.
At least there was no sand inside here. Obadiah followed, his hands in his pockets. He had all the time in the world, since both Tony and his bitch of a secretary were locked out. He could do as he pleased. He was King, damn it all. So he ignored when Raza shot him impatient looks. He continued to walk as slow as he pleased, even humming as he did so.
Raza said something as they stepped up to the metal contraption, but Obadiah paid no attention to it. He ran his fingers over the helmet. "So this is how he did it…"
And then Raza said something that not even Obadiah knew, and that really angered him. "This is only a first effort. Stark as perfected his design in every way. He has made a masterpiece of death and displayed it to us in Gulmira." He rambled on a bit more on things Obadiah didn't care for – ruling Asia and a throne. "We have a common enemy." There was business again. "If we are still in business, I will give you these designs as a gift. In turn, I hope you will repay me with a gift of iron soldiers."
Obadiah had enough. The Ten Rings couldn't even kill Tony Stark and they expected gifts in return for scraps of metal in the shape of a suit? No, that wouldn't work. He stepped around Raza and pushed him into a chair. Before the man could say anything, he held up a device to his ear and activated it. Raza stilled immediately and Obadiah smirked. Ah, technology. He loved it.
"Technology always has been your Achilles' heel in this part of the world." He patted Raza's burn again, harsher than last time. He then pulled out his ear plugs and activated a signal to let the men outside know that it was time to come in. "Don't worry, it'll only last for fifteen minutes."
Obadiah glanced up as a group of men came into the room, guns held up. Oh yes, this he would enjoy. He would do something Tony failed to do. It was always good to do something the prodigy could not.
"Your paralysis is the least of your problems." He turned toward the only man without a gun. "Crate up the metal armor and any other weapons you can find. Let's finish up here."
The man nodded and motioned for two armed men to help him push the table, screeching, away from Raza and the others. Obadiah followed behind, smirking as they turned a corner and gunfire broke out in the room they had just left.
"Set up a sector underneath the arc reactor and mask the data," he said to another armed man who followed behind him as he dialed a few numbers in his phone. "I want our top engineers besides Stark. Give me a prototype yesterday."
It would be a long flight back home, but he would finally have a weapon to get rid of the ridiculous Tony Stark within a month. His promise to keep Tony safe until he could run the company was over and the man had already outlived his usefulness. Stark Industries needed a man who could make business decisions, not play at home in his lab.
As soon as Tony was gone, he would have control over his secretary. Potts was really too smart for her own good and got him out of trouble more times than any of them could count. He would also gain control over that military friend easily by giving him weapons. He knew the military didn't like Justin Hammer (that man was an idiot) and would easily come crawling back to SI. He would bring the company back to where it should be.
If he started World War III while he was at it, then so be it. That just meant more money for him, in the end. He could sell to both sides of the war and fire a few people he hated while blaming them for the under-handed dealings.
Yes, life would be perfect. As soon as Tony-fucking-Stark was dead.
I wanted to make this longer, but RL and stuff and just. Yeah, I haven't been in a writing kind of mood. But, for some reason, twisted!Obi always cheers me up.
Also: yay! Caught up here now.
Chapter 24: Chapter 23
BFF!Tony and Clint is my second favorite thing behind Science Bros, so I wanted to explore more of these two.
Also, I had plans for something like this to happen since he got hit with Neville's car.
Really, this wasn't Harry's fault. This was Clint's fault. He had nothing to do with the knocked-out stupid secret agent on his living room floor. Even if it wasn't his fault, Harry still had to deal with this and he groaned, rubbing his eyes.
Edwin, bless his old soul, simply called for Neville to come help drag Clint onto the couch before cleaning up the damage Harry's burst of magic had caused. It looked like a bomb had exploded in the room and panic was quickly settling into Harry's system. How could he explain this?
"Harry?" Hermione put a hand on his shoulder and Harry jumped, whirling to face her. "Hey, relax, it's me. What happened?"
Harry motioned to the damaged ceiling tile. "The fucker came from the vents!"
Across the room, Neville leaned over and rest his hands on his knees to laugh. Harry shot him a look, but it didn't seem to stop his friend from laughing until he couldn't breathe. When he looked back to Hermione, he was horrified to see a smile threatening her face.
"Are you kidding me? This isn't funny!"
"Sorry," Hermione said, not sounding sorry at all. "We forgot that you were hiding in your lab the last time Clint decided to take a tour of the vent system. He actually cleaned all the dust out."
Harry snorted. "My vents do not have dust in them."
"Not anymore," Edwin put in.
"Not. Funny." Harry pointed a finger at the old man. "You're supposed to be on my side."
"How could I forget?" Edwin smiled and went for the door. "I'll find something for his head."
"Oh, Harry, did you knock him out?" Hermione went to Clint and pulled out her wand, running a check on him.
"We have Jarvis for that, 'Mione. Quit." He sighed when she ignored him and continued her waving. "Fine, okay. He scared me and I guess I reacted without thinking. Burst of magic and everything."
"That would explain why the lights flickered." Neville wiped at his eyes, finally over himself. "I'm sure he'll be fine."
"It's just a bump on the head," Hermione confirmed, putting her wand away. "He'll have a headache when he wakes up. We can erase his memories if he remembers what happened."
"And tell him what? He fell out of the ceiling?"
"It has promise." Hermione shrugged. "I'm sure you'll figure it out. Nev's taking me into the office for a bit."
"I thought they locked us out…"
"They did, but there are old contracts and things that still need your, or my, signature on them." Hermione waved her fingers at him. "Enjoy babysitting."
Was there some kind of etiquette when it came to dealing with crazy people falling from ceilings? Harry had no idea, but he would feel guilty if he left now. He sighed and settled himself next to Clint on the couch, taking the asprin and water from Edwin when he stopped by to drop it off. At least the television, while cracked, still worked.
He was about fifteen minutes into whatever campy movie was playing on SyFy (lamest name change, really) when Clint groaned next to him. Harry was tempted to knock him out again, but vetoed against that. He doubted Hermione would appreciate it, especially if it caused Clint brain damage, though Harry doubted it would change the man much.
"How big was that truck that hit me?" Clint groaned out, rolling to his side on the couch. "Fuck…"
Harry wordlessly handed Clint the water and pills, smiling to himself when Clint mumbled out a thanks before taking both. They sat in silence as Clint slowly drank the glass of water and Harry had to wonder how many times the man had been handed something without an explanation of what it was. Sure, it wasn't hard to mistake pain meds, but Harry could have handed him some hard drugs if he wanted to. Would Clint have noticed? Hell, that was thinking too much.
"I got the license plate if you want it," he finally said as a commercial came on.
Clint laughed, rubbing at his forehead. "Na, I think I know the driver personally."
Harry tensed, wondering if his magic could handle a memory charm just yet. Hermione was better at them, but he could push one out if he needed to. His wand was in his sleeve, if he could just—
"Just don't tell my boss you can knock a man down like that," Clint continued, staring at the television. "He'd have you recruited and suited up faster than you could tell the fucker no."
"Been in that situation, then?"
"You can say that." Clint leaned forward to put the empty glass down. "And don't worry, I'm not going to tell him shit. He wants to know what you're making, not what you're physically capable of."
Harry put on the Famous Tony Stark Smile. "Breaking the rules for me, birdseed?"
"It wouldn't be the first time I broke orders to do what's right and you are not my worst broken rule." Clint shrugged. "Besides Coulson and one other, you're the only other one who can probably put up with my shit."
Harry pointed a finger at him. "Still don't know me that well, Agent." He hesitated. "You're pretty damn lucid for just getting up. Is that a blush? Awe, you're blushing."
"Training. I might have been listening to your conversation and just resting until my headache calmed a bit."
Harry tensed immediately. "My conversation with Pepper?" Clint nodded and Harry swore, moving to get up from the couch.
Clint pulled him down and, before Harry knew it, he was on the floor with Clint sitting on his chest, arms pinned above his head. "Stop."
Maintain control, that's all he had to do. Harry wiggled a bit. "Kinky, but not my style."
"Shut up, Stark." Clint rolled his eyes. "Unless you try to take over the damned world or some shit like that, I'm not going to sell you out. We all have our secrets."
"Some bigger than others," Harry agreed.
"I just have one question and then I'll let you up to do whatever. Just… trust me and don't fuck up my head, okay?"
"Is that the question?"
Clint snorted. "Ha, ha, very funny. She called you Harry, not Tony. Are you Tony Stark?"
Harry hesitated, searching Clint's face for something he could use. The bastard never let him hold any form of eye contact. "That's what it says on my driver's license," he said after a while.
Clint stared at him for a moment longer before getting off Harry and settling back on the couch. "Okay, Tony. Seriously, can we change the channel? Mythbusters should be on right now."
Harry leaned up on his elbows, frowning. "Seriously?"
But Clint had already grabbed the remote. "How do you work this thing? Jarvis? Can you work it? Fuck, Stark, come push the buttons."
The last time Harry had trusted someone, they ended up locking him out of a company he promised to protect. Harry didn't trust Clint, and he'd be warning the others about what happened, but he wasn't sure what he could do for the moment. He got up and sat next to Clint on the couch.
"Tony," Clint whined. "Tony, change it please?"
Harry handed him a simplified remote (he liked that one better anyway). "Clint?"
"Hm?" Clint stuck his tongue out as he flipped channels.
"What was your worst broken rule?"
Clint paused and the television went on about how much better cable was than satellite. "I recruited someone I was supposed to kill. There are some who still don't trust the situation."
"You know, I really don't want to know." Harry leaned back. "Forget I asked."
"Okay, boss." Clint continued to click through the channels and they fell into a comfortable silence. "So if my actual boss finds out I'm lying to him, can I bunk here longer? He's trigger happy."
Harry forced out a laugh. "Sure, why not. We'll just do a giant sleep-over with bunny slippers and cotton candy."
"Hell no." Harry tossed a ridiculous throw pillow at him, glad Hermione wasn't around to see him throwing around her favorite one. "I don't do bunny slippers."
"Cotton candy, then?"
Harry stared at him for a moment before rolling his eyes. "For trying to be a friend, you suck at it."
Clint smirked. "I've been told that before." He hesitated. "Can I go back to being serious for a moment?"
"Sure, why not. Pepper's going to kill me anyway."
"She won't." Clint ran a hand through his hair. "So this engineering business… How good are you?"
Harry was glad Jarvis constantly checked his house for bugs or else he'd have a hard time dodging this right now. As it was, he was debating ways of calling Hermione back so she could erase his memory sooner than later. "Decent enough."
"What are you getting at, Agent?"
"Well, he mostly sticks to other forms of science, but I might know someone who can help. I doubt he'd spread your secret."
"Agent Barton?" Harry waited until Clint was looking at him. "Fuck no. Stop trying to put spies in my house."
Clint threw up his arms. "He isn't a spy! He's actually on the run."
"Yes, because that's so much better."
"And he's a Tony Stark fanboy."
"Then that's an even bigger no!"
"Fine, Christ." Clint crossed his arms, pouting. "Forget I mentioned anything. Just trying to help. I'm trying to get you to trust me, that's all."
Harry stared at him a moment before sighing. Really, it was the fastest way to see if Clint was trustworthy, but he hadn't done this since Tony and Howard's death. But if he knew everything, he could make a better decision and really, he should have done this on the entire damned staff of the company when he first got there. Hindsight was a bitch.
"You're really that worried about it?" Harry asked, lips quirking when Clint grumbled an affirmative. "Fine, but you have to do exactly as I tell you. Understand?"
"Yeah, sure, whatever."
"But answer me something first." Harry turned to face him completely. "Why would you keep something from your boss?"
Clint shrugged, muting the television before putting the remote down. "My handler said I had good instincts when it comes to people. The director doesn't always agree, but he doesn't say much because I'm damned good at what I do. Something's telling me that you aren't a threat."
Harry nodded and turned Clint's face toward his own. "Look right at me and don't blink. I need eye contact for this."
Clint tensed under his fingers, but he stayed where he was. Harry took a deep breath, pulled the magic straight from his chest (and that was a strange feeling), and pushed forward.
Chapter 25: 24
A guest on ff.net asked, "What's up with everyone and their granny finding out Harry isn't Tony" (or something like that – I am too lazy to get it word-for-word). My reaction? I burst out laughing because, really, this is person number five that knows that's still alive. Also, Clint works for SHIELD – I doubt Harry could keep anyone in that place from finding out. As to the rest of your comment about friends not making sense, I should point you to a different author's note, but that would be redundant. (How does Neville's not make sense? Really?)
Also, this chapter is crap. Crap, crap, crap. I've been working too much and attempting to do homework between it all and it's just all messed up. But I wanted to get something out and written because I haven't written for myself in days. School, yes. Friends, yes. RPS, yes. Myself? No. So here we go.
Harry did his best to just find what he needed, but a few things leaked through that Clint was obviously thinking about. Tacos, mostly, but things like a woman named Natasha and a man named Nick came through. Still, Harry found what he wanted and he quickly pulled away from Clint so he could grab his phone and send out a message to Hermione.
He tried to feel bad for the headache that returned to Clint's head, but Harry couldn't really focus on that right now.
Hermione had prided herself on knowing everything about justice systems. She already had a head start being openly raised as a Muggle, but things had changed since they began school. Still, it only took her about a month to be familiar with every branch and department. Her return text indicated that she had never heard of the Strategic Homeland whatever until Agent Coulson approached her after Afghanistan and, even then, information on the department was so scarce she figured it was new. But according to Clint's memories, it was started by several people over decades ago. Decades.
"Jarvis, when is Stane scheduled to get back from his trip?"
Harry nodded and stood. "Let Hermione know I've got something heading her way and to call me when she gets it."
Clint sat up a little straighter. "Where are you going?"
"Don't worry about it, I just need to run an errand."
Really, there was going to be a day where he didn't mess everything up. "A friend of mine. Go get some rest."
"I want to help." Clint stood and shook his head once. When he looked at Harry again, it was without the pain of a headache. "It's what I'm here for."
Harry sighed. "You want to help? Go to my office and protect Pepper and Happy. I don't trust anyone there anymore."
"If I'm there, who's going to protect you?"
Harry scoffed and made his way upstairs, only slightly annoyed when Clint followed him. "I can take care of myself."
"Sure, maybe I'll believe that." Clint rested a hand on Harry's arm, making his pause. "Let me borrow a phone and I'll get her protection."
Harry rolled his eyes, but tossed Clint his phone. "I'm getting you a phone so you never have to borrow mine again. It's my phone."
"Tony, please." Clint tightened his grip on Harry's arm. "I need to know what's going on so I can pass over the right information."
"Who are you sending?"
Clint grinned and dialed. "The best guy I know." He paused and then waved Harry on ahead. "Sir, Mister Stark has a request of you."
Harry sighed and went back to climbing stairs. He unlocked a hidden door with the press of his hand, debating for a moment whether or not to let Clint through. He figure it couldn't hurt anymore, so he left the door open as the agent spoke to whomever was on the other end of the phone. Small details, just what he knew, but even Harry could tell the voice on the other end was reluctant.
"Tell him he'll get his interview all nice and pretty if he does what I ask," Harry told Clint as he opened a door at the top of the smaller set of stairs.
He ignored as Clint relayed the message and went straight to a stack of parchment and quills they had specifically for this kind of mail delivery. As soon as Harry picked up the quill, it didn't take long for a barn owl to slip into the window, hooting at him.
Clint jerked back, the phone almost dropping from his hand. "The hell is that?"
Harry eyed the phone before arching an eyebrow at Clint.
"It's off." Clint held up the phone and rehit the 'end' button to prove it. "He's on his way now."
"Good. I need you to text Rhodey while I write this. Tell him to come back because we have an emergency."
"Will that seriously make him miss military things?"
Harry shrugged. "Just say 'need you home. The snakes are slithering.' He'll get what it means."
"You're the boss…"
Harry patted his pockets down and swore when he didn't find what he was looking for. He then held out his hand and accio-ed the lock chip he has in his lab. Thankfully, Clint said nothing as the device flew into his hand; he really didn't want to explain magic to him at the moment, though he was sure that conversation would come later.
He picked up the letter and read over it, hoping that Hermione would understand what he was asking her to do. It would be simple enough: go to his office, hack into the mainframe, and find the shipping manifests. The chip would get her in and copy the files she found and he was even nice enough to include other places where Stane could have hidden the files.
Though, really, Hermione could probably figure all of it out on her own. Initially, she was the one that taught him how to do simple things like check his email. Hacking into a computer would be no problem.
He was tying the note to the owl's leg just as Clint said, "He'll be here later tonight and says that you're lucky his unit was already on their way back."
"Asshole, I know he can get here faster." He would need to adjust memories, but Blaise could do it. Harry sighed. "Whatever."
"Now we wait for Pepper. That owl I sent off is sending her something that will break into my work computer and find out information."
"You could have asked me…"
Harry shook his head. "You being in my office would look odd. At least she can make excuses."
"I could claim to be a body guard."
"Who is… not guarding my body?" Harry smiled a little. "Thanks, but no."
"Tony? Can I ask what you plan to do with the information she brings back?"
He would take out his weapons no matter where they ended up, that's what he would do with the information. After they were taken care of, he would bring down Stane, but he needed the weapons gone first.
"Nothing you need to concern yourself with," he said instead, leading the way out of the makeshift owlry. "Go… check the perimeter or something. I've got Edwin in the—"
"Sir," Jarvis said, cutting in. "Mister Edwin would like to inform you that he has gone to wait for Mister Rhodes as per previous plans."
"Well isn't that convenient." He had forgotten that Edwin wanted to talk to Blaise about something in the suit and thus had agreed to pick him up from the airport. "Son of a bitch."
"This is like a bad horror script," Clint murmured, but quickly threw up his hands in a stance of surrender when Harry shot him a look. "Sorry, sorry! Just saying…"
"Shut up, Clint. Go check outside and watch around the area until Rhodey gets here."
"Sure thing, boss." He waved Harry's phone at him. "Keeping this just in case. I know you have a land line and—"
"No, mine." Harry snatched the phone back. "Do you have a radio of some kind?" Clint hesitated, then nodded. "Good, turn it on. I'll tap Jarvis into the system."
"I can." Harry turned toward his lab. "Out, Clint. Only talk to me if there's something important."
He didn't hear Clint's reply, and he really didn't care to. Once he was in his lab, Harry turned on several screens and asked Jarvis to wait for the lock to catch whatever Hermione found. He had no idea how long it would take, but he hoped that it would be soon.
Paranoia would always get the best of him. "Jarvis?"
"Total lock down. I don't want you talking unless it's to tell me that Hermione or Clint or Blaise or Neville is trying to contact the house directly. If anyone is stupid enough to listen in to what goes on upstairs-" he would need to add the same protections that he had downstairs to the rest of the house "-then I don't want them hearing anything."
Right, now something to do. Harry paced the lab for a few minutes, Clint calling in once to affirm that he had a good vantage point outside. He attempted to work on the suit, but couldn't get his mind to concentrate on something so complicated. Really, he didn't want to be here. He wanted to be with Hermione, making sure that she was okay. Why was he still here?
Harry left the lab at a run, debating on informing Clint where he was going, or simply leaving him behind. Leaving him behind sounded like a good idea and he could, maybe, Apparate to his office. Could he still do that with the reactor? Well, there was always floo since he was connected. The thought barely crossed his mind when his phone went off, Hermione's face filling the screen.
He settled back on the couch so he could see what she found out. It was a video with the words "PUT UP YOUR SHIELDS NOW" under it, which was strange simply because he was sure that there was nothing that important about shipping manifests. Curious, Harry pressed play, though he soon regretted it for two reasons. One, he recognized that room and those people as the ones in Afghanistan. Two, he could now actually understand what they were saying thanks to a translator reading.
"You did not tell us that the target you paid us to kill was the great Tony Stark. As you can see, Obadiah Stane, your deception and lies will cost—"
And then came the third reason he regretted pressing play. His guard had dropped down, allowing someone (and god, he knew who) get close enough to put a device to his ear and paralyze him. Where the hell was Clint?
Stane walked around the couch and Harry had to hold back a growl. Which wasn't actually that hard to do since his mouth didn't seem to want to work. His magic was sluggish as the reactor in his chest whirled slower. Something told Harry that he was going to die, but like hell he would just lay over and do it. He pushed as hard as he could, hoping to get free.
"You remember this one, right?" Stand asked, and Harry hoped that he would just continue talking. The longer Stane talked, the more likely he was to not notice when Harry moved. "It's a shame the government didn't approve it since there are so many applications for short-term paralysis."
The video continued playing and Stane looked down at the screen with a smirk.
"When I ordered the hit on you, I worried that I was killing the once golden goose. You were washed out, but still productive enough." He leaned in close, too close, and Harry wanted to cry. He wanted to move. "It was just fate, I guess. You had one last gift to give and it was your greatest gift of all."
He had a device. There was a device poised over Harry's chest. Over the reactor. Oh shit where was Clint! That fucker was supposed to be watching him!
"Do you really think that just because you have an idea, that it belongs to you?" The device pressed against Harry's chest and a small whimper escaped his throat. Oh God, no. "Your father helped give us the atomic bomb. I can't imagine a world where he was just as selfish as you."
The device twisted and ripped and all Harry wanted to do was scream. This was worse than any curse he had ever gotten. This was worse than Afghanistan when Yinsen helped him put it in his chest. This was worse than walking up to Voldemort and letting the bastard kill him.
"What a masterpiece. Look at that, your legacy, fronting a new generation of weapons. This will put the balance of power in our hands, the right hands." Stane pushed away with a sigh. "I wish you could have seen my prototype. It's not as conservative as yours was."
The suit. He must be talking about the suit. Oh god, Harry had given him the suit somehow.
"Too bad you had to involve Pepper and that annoying driver of yours. I would have preferred that she, at least, lived to become my secretary." He sighed, tucking the reactor in his pocket. "Good legs like that shouldn't go to waste. Shame. Ah, well, I suppose I can get a new one. I did interview a Russian woman who could easily take her place."
Harry could do nothing but watch as Stane walked away, his magic receding deep into himself. What was it Miranda had said? His magic could keep the shards out, but for how long? How long? No, he needed to move.
Harry stared blankly at the wall, unable to lift a finger.
Damn it, he needed to move.
Chapter 26: Chapter 25 - Interlude
So the way I wanted to structure this (if you didn't notice) is to write one, continuous scene at a time. Chapter breaks are where I would (normally, but not always) put scene breaks and whatnot. And that gets so difficult at this point in the fic because there's so much going on. I watched Iron Man not three hours ago (new appreciation for evil!Obi, seriously – anybody watch the deleted scene where he gave Tony a watch and the note said "glad it wasn't your time"? Jesus) and I was debating on how to do this because there are SO MANY IDEAS about how to go about introducing so much. Bruce still wants to show up, but the timing is wrong (and the temptation was there to have him be brought in to work with Obi, but at this point in my mind's timeline, he's already on the run anyway). Natasha was hinted at earlier. Blaise has been hounding me to show up again (you'll get your chance, buddy).
All the while, they have ALL been poking me to write side stories and back stories galore. Will they get written? Who knows.
One hour ago…
Obadiah saw Tony's car as soon as his driver pulled into the building parking lot. The driver (and he could never remember the man's name) watched him, but he ignored it. Why should he care what a driver thought? At least this way, it would be easier to get to Tony when he obtained the power source. The damned reactor would need to be pulled straight from his chest if his team couldn't create it themselves.
He had no hope for the team.
Seeing Pepper in his office (not Tony's office anymore) gave him pause. He expected Tony to get in and try something, but Pepper? Oh, Pepper. He really didn't want to kill—
No, he would see what she was up to. She was probably just finalizing a few deals they had to go through. He sighed as he stepped into the room. "Miss Potts."
Her head jerked up and he held back a smirk. It was always nice to be able to sneak up on people. "Mister Stane."
He tucked his hands in his pockets and walked slowly across the room. "What are we going to do about this?"
"I'm sorry, sir. Mister Stark just asked me to check a few things on his calendar. Jarvis was unable to upload from the house, so…"
A lie, and a horrible one. "Shh, Pepper. I know what you're going through." He paused by the mini bar in the room to pour himself a drink. "Tony… well, he isn't easy to deal with one his best days. Your patience with him is astounding."
"Thank you, Mister Stane."
Obadiah took a drink, watching as Pepper shifted uncomfortably in the seat. "Nonetheless, I was so happy when he came home."
"As was I. We all were," Pepper said and Obadiah could see how the smile was forced. "It was like we got him back from the dead."
"I agree, but…" Obadiah leaned against the desk, staring into the amber liquid. Tony always knew what kind of liquor to buy. "Tony never really did come home, did he? He left a part of himself in that cave."
Pepper nodded slowly. "We're just trying to get him back. I think he'll be all right."
Obadiah smiled, putting the glass down. "You are a very rare woman. Tony doesn't know how lucky he is, but I do."
"Thank you." Pepper jerked back suddenly and stood. "I'd better get back there. I found what we needed." She grabbed the paper on his desk and all but ran to the door.
She was hiding something. Obadiah could feel it. "Is that today's paper?" He stood and went to her. "The puzzle is—"
"Of course, yes." She handed it over and fled the room.
It wasn't until Obadiah flicked the mouse and the screen came back to life that he realized just what Pepper had taken. He swore, running a hand over his balding head. His plans had to happen now, not soon. He pushed out of the room to see if he could catch Pepper before she left, only to see her walking away with some reporter.
"I'm going to give you the meeting of your life," she said as they walked away. "Your office."
Well, shit. Obadiah pushed away from the railing and went straight to sector sixteen, where his own suit had been being built. It was good that the team he hired already knew he wanted this built yesterday and the design was already coming along fine. Tony might have been able to build this in a few months alone, but Obadiah had at least a dozen men working for ridiculous amounts of money – all of which were more than willing to bend backwards to get it done.
The same couldn't be said for the ones working on the reactor. He sighed as he came into the reactor room and a few men dispersed from the lead. William Nixson was the smartest man he knew besides Tony, but he was also the stupidest. At least Tony would produce results when asked.
Tony wouldn't have told him there had been a hiccup to power the suit. Tony wouldn't have told him the technology didn't exist when it was right there.
"Here is the technology," Obadiah told him, pulling Nixson against him. "I asked you to simply make it smaller."
"That's what we're trying to do."
"Not hard enough." Oh, how he loved when men shook with fear under him.
Impossible. Obadiah pushed away, irritated. How could they… really? "Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave!" he yelled, glad when the man flinched. "With a box of scraps!"
"Well I'm sorry, but I'm not Tony Stark."
Fuck William and fuck this. "You're all fired. Everyone in this room is fired. Pack your shit."
It looked as if he would have to tear the reactor out of Tony. Somehow, that didn't sound like such a bad idea.
If Tony wasn't at the office, there would only be one other place in California where he would go. "I want to know who's in the house," he told his driver. "What kind of toys did Stark gives us for this?"
The driver, and damn he didn't care what his name was, nodded. "This is one of Stark's company cars, sir."
Which didn't give him much, but it was enough. He pulled a thermal image up, deciding that would be easiest to at least get a body count. If there was more than one, he would deal with it when they got to it. He sent off a few messages to make sure the right people were behind them just in case Tony had one of his silly friends on the property. Three should do it, especially since Pepper was likely in an interview and had no way to get a message to Tony yet.
As they got closer to the property, there were only two people there that showed on screen. Obadiah rolled his eyes and sent the three men off to deal with the lone person in the trees. If Tony had to resort to silly guards, then he was getting weak. If it was just a reporter, than Tony was weaker than he thought. Either way, the man would be out of the equation soon enough.
In the end, it was ridiculously easy to pull the reactor out of Tony's chest. The ransom video played on the table as Obadiah talked, explaining somewhat of why he was doing this. Not that he cared if Tony understood. Tony lived his purpose, and now he was to die. The Ten Rings couldn't pull it off, but they had been blinded by weaponry. Obadiah had no blind spots.
He had no weakness when it came to Tony Stark. The man would die just as Howard did all those years ago. Obadiah once questioned why Tony had lived, but now he knew. Tony wanted to give him this. With a threat to Pepper (he really was upset she had to go – she would have been good for the company), he tucked the reactor into his pocket and left the house. Left Tony there to die.
Obadiah made it halfway to his car when he had to stop short, face-to-face with a sharp arrow. Who the hell used arrows? "Come, now, do you really think that would do much this close? Run away, archer."
"Your men," he motioned his head, barely, off to the side where three men lay piled dead. Obadiah had to hand it to him – those were the best trained men he knew who weren't in the military. For this man to not only kill them, but drag them this close? He was good.
He clapped slowly. "Congratulations. Perhaps later we'll throw a party."
"What were you doing here?"
This was going to get old, and fast. "I am currently running Mister Stark's business and I needed—"
"Bullshit, Stane. What were you doing here?"
Obadiah narrowed his eyes. "Who are you?"
"Don't make me repeat my words."
Ah, so Tony tried to hire a real bodyguard this time, not just a driver. "Mister Stark had something that belonged to me. I was just getting it back."
"I don't think so."
"Do you see him chasing me out here? He knows I came for it. He was content to sit on the couch and let me do it." Even if he wasn't, he would be dead soon enough. Obadiah had gotten his information on Tony's injury from the Ten Rings, he knew what the reactor did. "Step aside and go about your useless day."
The man's arrow pressed against his forehead. Obadiah froze and stared down the shaft.
"Son, you don't want to—"
"Oh, I think I do." The man smirked. "You have until the count of three to tell me—"
"I might have to the count of three," Obadiah said, cutting him off, "but I doubt your dear boss has that long." Not even a flinch? Oh, he needed this one. Maybe he could convince him to work for him. "He gave me the reactor right out of his chest. Beautiful thing, too."
There, that was a flinch. Obadiah tried to hide his glee, but he doubted it worked.
He pulled the reactor out and held it up. "See? I begged him not to do it, told him that he had much to live for, but he didn't listen. Too upset about letting his father down. He wanted me to look at this and put it to good use."
"You fucking bastard." The arrow pressed further against his head. "You bastard!"
"Step aside, boy, and stop playing with the big kids." Obadiah took a step back and, when the arrow didn't follow him, he smirked and walked around him. "When his heart gives out, come find me. I'll make sure you still have a job."
The arrow to the back of his knee was not how Obadiah saw that conversation ending. He screamed and fell to the ground, clutching at his leg.
"You stay there," the man said, another arrow already notched. "I'll deal with you when I get back."
Obadiah watched him take off and he swore again before taking out his phone. His men may have been killed, but that stupid driver of his was around. He made the call and waited, clutching painfully to his knee.
Forget keeping him. The archer was going to die slowly and painfully for this.
Chapter 27: Chapter 26
I was originally going to post this as two chapters, but meh. I'm horrible at battle scenes, so I figured I'd just give you guys it all at once. Less torture that way! Plus it ended up being shorter than I anticipated because I suck so hard at writing high-action sequences. I'm working on it.
Harry managed to push himself to the ground and crawl forward two inches when Clint burst into the room. "Tony! Tony, oh god."
Harry groaned as he was rolled to his back. He tried not to focus on Clint's face as the man took in the gaping hole in his chest.
"Shit, shit, shit. Tony, stay with me." Clint maneuvered them so he could look down at Harry. "Stay with me. You have another one, right? Where is it?"
Jarvis. Harry needed Jarvis, but the AI had ordered to stay silent except for strict circumstances. He would need to change that. "L-lab," he croaked out, pointing to the stairs.
In the end, Harry wouldn't remember how Clint managed to drag him across the floor and into the elevator. He wouldn't remember grunting as he fell to the floor in the lab. He just remembered Clint pushing the first reactor into his chest roughly and then begging him to 'wake the fuck up.'
It took a moment for the reactor to recognize him again and the moment it whirled to life, Harry was on his side, feeling as if he were coughing up a lung. He never ever wanted to do that again.
"You gotta make more of these," Clint said, rubbing Harry's back. "As soon as we go take care of Stane, you're making dozens, okay? I want an army."
Harry choked a laugh out, knowing Clint was right. "Yeah…"
"I'm not kidding. If I knew you only had one, I would have—"
"Shut up, Clint."
The door to the stairs burst open and Clint had his arrow notched before Harry could even process something was happening.
"Harry!" Blaise all but tripped down the stairs, pausing when he saw Clint. "Please tell me he's okay."
"Stark is fine," Clint said, the arrow lowered. "The first reactor is installed and he's getting his bearings."
Blaise nodded and went over, resting a hand on Harry's back. "You okay?"
"Yeah, fine." Harry coughed and let Blaise help him stand. His chest hurt and there was a pull in him that he hadn't felt before. There was no time to really think about it, though. "Where's Pepper? How did you get here?"
"She called me while I was on my way and told us that bastard put a hit out on you. Edwin's upstairs keeping the car running."
"Where is she?"
Blaise glanced between Harry and Clint before sighing. "She's with your boss and four other agents," he told Clint. "They're going to arrest Stane."
Clint narrowed his eyes and Harry sighed. "Shit, that isn't going to be enough."
Harry pushed off Blaise and stumbled toward his suit. "Clint, go with him." He pressed his hand down on the desk and part of the lab wall opened, revealing two suits. "Keep him alive."
"Jarvis? Back online, we have things to take care of." Harry pressed another button and went to the platform that would help him into the suit.
"That is the coolest thing I've ever seen," Clint said softly. "And I've seen a lot."
Harry forced a laugh, wincing as the armor settled around him. "Not bad, huh?"
Blaise stepped forward so he was in Harry's line of sight. "Need me to do anything else?"
Harry couldn't look at him anymore. He shut the faceplate and let himself hide behind it as the HUD started up. "Keep the skies clear."
He didn't wait for another response before flying out of the house and toward the company building.
"Jarvis, I want to know what's going on."
"Yes, sir. Gaining access to security mainframe now."
The sound came in before the video did, but that was fine. At least he could hear that nothing that bad was going on at the moment. Agent Coulson breaking in, Pepper finding some kind of suit. It wasn't as big as they were expecting and Harry had to be thankful for small miracles.
"Power is at forty-eight percent and falling, sir."
"I'm surprised it isn't lower," Harry told him honestly. "Keep me posted… And make sure Miranda knows about this just in case I need her."
"Noted, sir. Shall I call Miss Potts?"
Harry winced as the footage finally came through, just in time for him to see Hermione running from something. "Wait until she isn't running."
Sure enough, when Hermione made it outside and away from a suit much bigger than the first one he saw, her phone rang. "Harry? Oh god, Harry are you okay?"
"I'm fine. How—"
"Stane built a suit! He's gone completely—"
"I know, I'm almost there!"
And then there was Stane over the suit's speakers. "Your services are no longer required."
"Come on, faster, faster!" There, they were just around the corner and damn that suit was big! "Stane!"
Thankfully, Stane looked away from Hermione and she was able to back up. Harry didn't take any chances and simply ran their suits together, wincing at the impact. It was only when he stood that he realized he had pushed them right in the middle of a highway. Why didn't people stop their cars? What the hell? Why would they still be moving as a giant freaking robot stood in their way?
"I love the suit!" Stand said, knocking a few cars out of the way.
Harry adjusted his stance, getting ready to do something to stop this. What? He didn't know. The thugs in Gulmira hadn't exactly fought back. "Jarvis? Get me Edwin."
"Already here. Your friend and I see you ahead of us."
"Get off the damn highway!" Harry dodged as Stane threw a streetlamp at him. He froze as a car was then picked up, a screaming family inside. Shit. "Put them down, Stane!"
The suit Stane was in wobbled forward. "Collateral damage, Tony."
No, no, no. Harry barely paid attention to the figures running across the HUD. "Edwin, what do you think about blasting him from the chest?"
"The reactor… Make it a good shot."
Harry took a deep breath. "Divert power to chest RT… Fire. Fire!"
Almost too late, a beam shot out from the suit's chest and knocked Stane back. Harry got his hands in up time to catch the car and he wished he had a better hold on his magic through this. He would need to work on that.
"On it, hold on!"
The car lightened and Harry breathed a sigh of relief, setting it down on the road, only to have the stupid woman step on the gas and run him over. Jarvis reminding him of his power (nineteen percent) wasn't really needed as he rolled across the road. He needed padding.
"Go get Her- Pepper," Harry told Blaise and Edwin. "Go make sure she's safe."
"Tony, let me help."
Harry smiled a little and pushed himself to stand. "Protect them, Clint. I'm fine."
No sooner did he say that when Stane grabbed his leg and yanked him into the air. Harry swore, trying to find a balance somewhere that would get him back on his feet.
"For thirty years, I've been holding you and your father up!" Stane tossed Harry into a bus. Harry groaned as his head rattled in the suit. "I built this company from nothing and you're not going to stand in my way!"
The warning lights in the suit went off just as Stane fired a short-range missile at him. Harry cursed and tried not to flail his arms in the air. Somehow, thankfully, he righted himself and the boot repulsors turned on so he floated in midair.
"You've upgraded," Stane said and Harry could feel the smirk through the suit. "So have I!"
Great, so Stane could fly. Harry stared at the big lug of metal as it slowly rose in the air, ignoring when Jarvis informed him of that fact. Harry turned and told Jarvis to shut up and take him higher. Maximum altitude would cause Stane's suit to hopefully ice over, unless the man was smarter than he seemed. It took Harry at least one flight to realize that problem, but would Stane know it before hand?
"Thirteen percent power," Jarvis told him.
"Shut up, just leave it where I can see it! Higher!"
Harry didn't dare look below him and he knew Stane was catching up. He had the better reactor. He had more powerful thrusters (and Harry could tell they didn't heat up on his feet because there was too much room between the thrusters and the place where Stane was sitting). Except for the limited mobility, Stane's suit was a good first try.
Harry faltered as Stane grabbed onto his leg again. However, when he was pulled to face Stane's suit, he could already see the ice buildup.
"You had a great idea, Tony, but my suit is more advanced in every way."
Harry found himself grinning. "How'd you solve the icing problem?" The light in Stane's suit died and Harry tried his best to hold back a laugh. For once, his idea worked. "Might want to look into that."
He watched as Stane's suit fell back to the earth.
"Two percent," Jarvis told him before Harry was also falling.
"We are now running on emergency backup power."
Harry didn't remember installing something like that and he mentally sent out a thanks to Edwin. That man was a lifesaver. If he survived. He wore as he turned upside down, his stomach rolling almost worse than the suit. He closed his eyes and focused on righting himself, hoping the suit had at least enough power that he wouldn't land himself face-down in the concrete.
The suit jerked to a stop. Harry opened his eyes and let out a breath; Hermione stood just off to the side of the main building, her wand out and pointed directly at him. "Thanks."
She nodded and lowered him down to the roof. "Are you okay?"
"Almost out of power," Harry admitted and reached up to undo his helmet. "Give me a second, I'll be right there."
The moment his helmet hit the roof, the building rumbled and Harry jerked around to see Stane rising from the wreckage he fell into. Well shit. He stepped back, wincing as glass cracked under his feet. Being on the roof was fine. Being on top of the damn arc reactor without his helmet was not fine.
Stane stopped just outside of the glass and raised one of the bigger suit's arms, aiming it directly at Harry. "I never had a taste for this sort of thing before, but I have to admit that I'm deeply enjoying the suit!" A cache opened in the arm and Harry swore, trying to think. "You finally outdid yourself! Your father would be proud."
Harry highly doubted that Howard or James would be proud at how incredibly stupid he had become. "Give it up, Stane! We don't have to do this!"
"Oh, I think we do."
Stane fired the machine gun within the suit arm just as Harry raised his right arm, the suit expanding to protect his face (and when had he put that in there?). The bullets mixed with his suit's weight shattered the glass and he reached out just in time to catch himself on the metal beams that used to hold everything up.
Stane lifted his suit's chest and smirked at Harry. "I must thank you. In your quest to rid the world of your weapons, you decided to give her your best one. It's only fair that I kill you with it."
Harry scowled and tried to adjust his grip on the metal. This was not how he wanted to die. "I think you'll find that harder to do than you believe."
"Tony, Tony, Tony..."
Harry glanced down at the reactor, then to the main entrance to the facility; he could barely see as Edwin's car pulled up and Blaise got out. He couldn't let them die, but he couldn't let go and allow Stane to run this company. He glanced one more time at the reactor and knew what he had to do. Overloading it would be easy with his magic – the reactor in his chest accepted it, but the main reactor here didn't. He could do this.
"Yeah, about that." Harry looked back at Stane and smirked at him. "Tony Stark died ten years ago."
The surprise on Stane's face was worth it. "What?"
"I'm Harry Potter, you egotistical asshole." Harry pointed his gauntlet down at the reactor, willing everything in himself to flow toward it. His hand slipped a bit on the metal, but he ignored it. "Howard Stark sent me to kill you."
Stane's eyes widened further and Harry shut his eyes, releasing his hold on the magic gathered. The suit responded as well, the repulsors adding to the power behind it.
The last thing he knew, the resulting explosion pushed him into the air, and then Stane was screaming.
Chapter 28: Epilogue
This was supposed to be Chapter 27 and the Epilogue together, but then I figured that it worked just as well as just one thing. So here it is guys! The epilogue! Sorry about the number of chapters up there -- I put the wrong number on accident. :(
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Harry winced as Hermione poked at another cut on his forehead, wishing that they could just use magic and get this over with, but understanding the complications of not having a marred face after what happened. Maybe. Really, it depending on the story he was supposed to spit out about what happened to him while this 'body guard' protected the company. In the other room (and the television they had him watch), Blaise spoke to the press in his nice, crisp military uniform.
"You've all received the official statement of what occurred at Stark Industries last night. There have been unconfirmed reports that a robotic prototype malfunctioned and caused damage to the arc reactor. Fortunately, a member of Tony Stark's personal security staff..."
This was ridiculous, but he couldn't argue with Clint or his boss. He supposed they did know what they were talking about. He rustled the newspaper he was holding and grinned at the headline there.
"Don't even think it," Hermione murmured, stepping back.
"Why not? 'Iron Man' is kind of catchy, though not technically accurate. The suit is a gold-titanium alloy." Harry laughed softly, putting the paper down. "Got a nice ring to it."
"That's a lame joke," Clint said as he walked into the room. "The metal will only 'ring' if you aren't inside it."
"Or unless your head is since you're empty-headed." Harry shrugged. "What are you doing here anyway?"
"I am officially the go-between when it comes to you until my boss can figure out how to deal with this."
Clint shrugged, but he didn't deny the accusation. Not that he had time to since Agent Coulson stepped in then and handed Harry a few cards.
"This is your alibi. You were on your private yacht." Harry had no idea when he got one of those, but he decided to go with it. Coulson continued, "We have port papers that put you in Avalon all night and sworn statements from fifty of your guests."
That was a lame cover. "Okay…"
"Just read it word for word." Coulson stepped back, resting his hands behind his back.
Harry read over the 'official story' and frowned. "There's nothing about Stane."
"It's being handled," Clint told him, looking to Coulson before he continued. "He went on vacation this morning and, well, you know how small aircraft not made by Stark can be."
He really didn't actually, but okay. "And the whole cover story that it's a bodyguard?"
"This isn't my first rodeo, Mister Stark," Coulson told him. "Stick to the statement and soon this will be over. You have ninety seconds."
Harry wrinkled his nose as Hermione went to talk to the Agent and he was left with Clint. "I hate press conferences."
"Same here, but oh hey! I don't have to hold one."
"I'm going to make you one day." Harry rubbed the back of his neck. "Damn, I just want to sleep."
"When this is over with, you can sleep for a week and I won't let anyone bug you."
Harry smiled a little. "Thanks, I'll hold you to that."
Clint laughed a little as Hermione came back. "Come on, Tony. Time to go."
Harry glanced back at the paper, then grinned. "It's actually not that bad. The story, I mean. Eevn I don't think I'm Iron Man."
"You're not Iron Man," Hermione insisted.
"What? I am so."
"No, Tony, you're not."
"Fine, fine." Harry stood in front of Hermione and let her adjust his suit. "You know, if I were Iron Man, I'd have this girlfriend who knew my true identity." She arched an eyebrow at him and Harry winked. "She'd be a wreck when I went to save the world, but she'd also be proud of the man I'd become. A conflicted girl who would be crazy about me."
"Well, then it's a good thing you don't have a girlfriend." Hermione shook her head and patted his chest pocket. "Considering how much you make your friends absolutely crazy, I don't think anyone else could handle it."
"Ouch, that hurt."
"It was supposed to." Hermione grinned and pushed him toward the conference just as Blaise finished talking.
"…And now, Mr. Stark has prepared a statement. He will not be taking any questions. Thank you."
Harry nodded his thanks to Blaise and stepped up to the podium. The last time he did one of these, he caused chaos with one simple statement. Hopefully this time, he wouldn't. He glanced over the crowd, noting that Clint stood close to Edwin and Hermione near the back. Coulson was nowhere to be seen and Neville was just outside the windows by the car, ready to go at a moment's notice. Harry knew he was listening in and he took a deep breath, knowing that they all had his back.
They, at least, wouldn't rip the reactor out of his chest. He held himself back from pressing against it to make sure it was still there. Instead, he cleared his throat and started his speech.
"It's been a while since I was in front of you. I figure I'll stick to the cards this time." He waved the cards, smiling at the small bit of laughter. "There's been speculation that I was involved in the events that occurred on the freeway and the rooftop—"
"I'm sorry, Mr. Stark, but do you honestly expect us to believe that that was a bodyguard in a suit that conveniently appeared, despite the fact that you—"
"I know that it's confusing." Harry narrowed his eyes at the woman. Christine whatever. "It is one thing to question the official story, and another thing entirely to make wild accusations, or insinuate that I'm a superhero."
She smirked and Harry hated her more. "I never said you were a superhero."
Right, maybe he shouldn't have said that. "You didn't? Well, good, because that would be outlandish and fantastic." He couldn't lie about that. It would be fantastic, if only because then he'd at least be famous on his own terms. None of the 'boy-who-lived' business that he really didn't deserve. "I'm just not the hero type, clearly…"
Blaise leaned over. "Just stick to the cards, Harry. You're making a fool out of yourself."
"Yeah, okay. Yeah." Harry could always count on Blaise to keep him grounded when it came to his rambling. "The truth is…" Harry trailed off, looking around the room of reporters.
He met Edwin's eyes and the man nodded before mouthing the word 'arrogance' at him. A long-ago conversation came to his mind and he knew, without a doubt what he had to do. This was his life, not Tony's, and anything he did now, he did for himself. Tony Stark was just a name, just like Harry Potter. Both of them deserved a better life than what was trying to be handed to them.
Harry straightened his shoulders, prepared himself to be lectured later, and ignored the cover story. "I am Iron Man."
The crowd erupted into chaos, but Harry's eyes never left Edwin's proud smile. This wouldn't be easy, but he could do this.
The house was dark when he and Edwin walked in, both tired from the barrage of questions from media as well as idle threats from Hermione. Agent Coulson hadn't been kind either, but Harry felt as though they got off easy with the man.
He stopped when he felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise. Edwin paused next to him, holding out his arm for the jacket of Harry's suit, probably thinking that was the reason for the stop. Harry got a small (very small) satisfaction from seeing the old man jump when a voice spoke out of the darkness of the house.
"'I am Iron Man'," the deep voice said.
Harry whirled around, fist clenching and wishing he had his wand or his suit or something other than his damned jacket. That's it, he was making a mobile version as soon as possible. "Who the hell are you?"
The man smiled, walking confidentially toward them with his hands behind his back. He ignored Harry's questions. "You think you're the only superhero in the world, Mister Stark?"
Edwin put a calm hand on his elbow and Harry felt himself relax. Calm and arrogant. He could do this. "Yeah, wouldn't call myself a hero."
"You've just become part of something bigger."
"Have I? Let me ask again… Who the hell are you?"
The man stopped with just enough distance between them to still keep things civil. Harry recognized a calming tactic when he saw it. "Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD."
Harry laughed, handing Edwin his jacket. "So Agent called his boss man on me. Yeah, sorry about that out—"
"I'm here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative, Mister Potter."
Harry's mouth snapped closed and he stared at the smiling man, unease coursing through his system. "Who—"
"Did you really think only the nation leaders knew of magic's existence? No. I know all about you." Fury motioned to the nearest couch. "Let's have a seat, son. You'll want to hear what I have to say."
And Harry really had no other choice but to sit and to listen to the intimidating man that broke into his house and knew everything about his past.
Damn, this year couldn't get any worse.
And that's the end folks! Before people get up in arms about Fury knowing, just hold your horses. Fury knows, but he isn't going to tell anyone else. The only two people in SHIELD that officially know are Clint and Fury. As far as Harry's concerned, he wants to keep it that way. However, when the Avengers are all added in, well, it's not like he can lie to his teammates. That and Loki will know as soon as he takes control over Clint (that is so happening – a pissed off and vengeful Harry is secretly my favorite Harry) and he won't bother trying to hide it to make Harry feel safer. So it'll all come out in the open in the next installment, which will be a mix of Iron Man 2 (without the whole Whiplash drama – I adore Ivan as a man, but Harry won't stand for Hammer's crap) and Avengers.
What is there to possibly look forward to after this? Well, here's my list of "things that I might write" before/during the Avengers sequel:
-Clint and Coulson in New Mexico during the Thor fiasco.
-A short fic about the original two weeks Clint was at the mansion and attempting to gain Harry's trust.
-Wizarding world's reaction to Harry, Hermione, Blaise, and Neville disappearing.
-How Hermione and Blaise get together.
-Edwin and his ten-year disappearance.
-Some Fury/wizard interactions
-The move to New York (I really hated how this wasn't really covered/hinted at in the movies).
-Harry/Tony's purchase of that one bar Ross was in at the end of The Incredible Hulk.
-Clint and Natasha and one of their conversations about "Clint's new friends."
Also, I know I mentioned before that the Avengers were going to be introduced differently in this and I totally lied. Only Clint was (with hints of Natasha). Original plans were bigger and had things working differently, but this is how they wanted it, those silly characters.
I'd like to thank everyone who commented, good or bad! Thank you for letting me lob off this insanity onto you and for listening to my insane author's notes. I'll go back and edit this through to make it not-so-crappy after I finish with the next part (if Iron Man 3 hasn't come out by then). I started a series for this if you want to subscribe to that!