Steve Rogers was hoping to be the first student to arrive for Defence Against the Dark Arts, but when he comes into the classroom he sees that Phil Coulson has beaten him to the punch. The Ravenclaw boy is already sitting patiently at his desk, one of only eight that are available, arranged in a half-circle in the center of the room. Steve selects one close to the center and nods in greeting as he sits down.
Coulson looks up sharply from his parchment, his eyes going wide and his voice cracking in surprise.
Steve laughs. “Only on the Quidditch pitch. In here it’s just Steve.”
“Oh! I’m sorry, it’s just---” Phil clears his throat, takes a quick breath, and continues in a much calmer tone. “It’s, uh, it’s an honor to be placed in this class with you. I didn’t even know you were going to be here.”
“Me neither,” Steve shrugs. “Not ‘til this morning.”
“Same here,” Phil concurs. “What did they tell you?”
Steve recites the Headmistress’ words by heart. “You have been selected for a new sixth year initiative to promote inter-House unity.”
“Yep,” says a third voice. “That’s what I got, too.”
Both Steve and Phil turn to see a pair of Hufflepuff students joining them. Steve has played against both of them on the Quidditch field and recognizes them immediately--- Natasha Romanoff, the renowned Hufflepuff Seeker, and Clint Barton, one of their Beaters and the source of the last interjection. Natasha nods her agreement, then does a quick count of the desks and observes, “So it’s two representatives from every House, then.”
“Looks like it,” Phil says. “Glad to see that yours is represented so well.”
The Hufflepuffs trade congratulatory glances, then Clint looks over and says, “I’m not surprised to see you here, Rogers.”
“Rogers!” someone shouts from the doorway.
Steve looks around and spots his Quidditch teammate Thor Odinson bearing down on him with a huge grin on his face. A hug is inevitable and Steve stands to accept it, receiving a few hearty claps on the back for good measure.
“Steve Rogers,” the other boy beams. “I am proud to represent Gryffindor alongside you.”
“Likewise, pal,” Steve says warmly.
“So,” Clint rocks his chair back onto its rear legs. “Any guesses for the snakes?”
Steve grimaces. Frankly, he doesn’t care who they send to represent Slytherin, just as long as it isn’t---
“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.”
It’s like ice water down his back. Although he would know that sneering voice anywhere, Steve refuses to believe it’s true until he turns around and actually sees Tony Stark standing there with that familiar expression of disdain on his face. He’s accompanied by his perpetual shadow Bruce Banner, a quiet Ravenclaw boy whose close friendship with the obnoxious Slytherin hotshot continues to be a subject of bafflement to the entire student population of Hogwarts.
“You know, I don’t even know why I’m surprised,” Tony rolls his eyes theatrically towards his companion. “Of course they’d choose Captain Wonderpants here to be Gryffindor’s Great Hope.”
“That’s funny,” Clint retorts. “We were just wondering what kind of scum they were gonna scrape off the bottom of the barrel and send in here wearing a green and silver tie.”
“Oh, wow, you cut me to the quick, Bumblebee,” Tony winks. “Love those House colors, by the way, very intimidating.”
“C’mon, Tony, knock it off,” Bruce chides, cuffing his shoulder. “We’re supposed to be promoting inter-House unity, remember?”
“I’ll tell you who I wouldn’t mind promoting some inter-House unity with,” Tony throws a leer in Natasha’s direction. “How’s it going, Romanoff? Ready for another hot year on the pitch?”
The redhead snorts. “You wish, Stark.”
“The last two Hufflepuff versus Slytherin matches have ended with Miss Romanoff catching the Snitch,” Phil points out.
“Yeah, I like to hang back,” Tony says breezily. “The view’s much nicer.”
Clint bristles in outrage, but Natasha lays a hand on his arm and shakes her head--- not worth it.
“Stark,” Thor interjects, a note of hope in his voice. “Do you know who else was selected from your House?”
“No idea,” the Slytherin boy smirks. “But I think we all know who you’re hoping for, huh?”
Right on cue, the classroom door opens for the last time and admits Loki Odinson, who takes one good look at the assembled crowd and freezes in his tracks.
Thor is already on his feet, his glee almost palpable as he cries, “Brother!”
Then Loki swivels on his heel and walks right back out of the classroom again.
There’s just enough time for Thor’s delighted smile to crumble into a disappointed frown before the younger Odinson reappears, herded back into the room by none other than Professor Nicholas Fury, the newly appointed teacher of Defence Against the Dark Arts. Steve sits up a little straighter at his desk, his Stark-induced funk eclipsed by the surge of intense respect he feels for all Aurors, particularly one as accomplished as this. Fury has been Kingsley Shacklebolt’s right-hand man during the restructuring of the Ministry, after being one of the few Aurors who fought alongside him at the Battle of Hogwarts. Steve was elated when he heard about his appointment to the school staff, though he never would have dreamed that he might be selected for his class of elite students.
Apparently not everyone is as pleased with this honor. Loki keeps his eyes fixed on the floor as he brushes past his brother’s attempts to greet him and goes straight for one of the chairs on the end of the half-circle, choosing the one that already has Natasha sitting next to it, making it impossible for Thor to join him.
“Ohhh, burn,” Tony laughs, and Steve wonders how he can take such pleasure from Thor’s heartbroken face.
“Here, Thor,” Rogers interjects loudly, indicating the empty desk beside him. “You can sit by me.”
As the students settle themselves into their seats, Fury strides to the head of the classroom and stands there watching them, studying them. After losing an eye in combat he now wears a glass one similar to the one worn by the legendary Alastor Moody, another great Auror with a prominent place on Steve’s list of personal heroes. Like Moody’s eye, it’s said that Fury’s can look through walls and floors and even the back of his own head, though at the moment it seems to be fully occupied with what’s right in front of him. Once the general shuffling has quieted down, Fury speaks.
“Welcome to Defence Against the Dark Arts. You may have noticed that we’re doing things a little differently this year.”
Steve glances around the half-circle and sees various expressions of intrigue, apprehension, and annoyance. The Hufflepuffs look cautiously interested, the Ravenclaws look curious, and the Slytherins look like they would rather be anywhere else. Only his fellow Gryffindor looks lost in his own thoughts, and Steve offers Thor a smile of encouragement. Thor tries to smile back.
“I’ll be teaching standard classes for the majority of your fellow sixth years,” Fury continues. “But the eight of you have been chosen to participate in an experimental program of my own design.”
He begins to lazily pace the open end of the half-circle.
“You see, your Headmistress came to me and expressed her concern. She’s concerned that the first incoming class of students after the Battle of Hogwarts seems to be just as hung up on House rivalries as all the ones that came before. Five years later and we’ve still got snakes and lions fighting like cats and dogs, and if you’ve read your history books, you can see why she might not like that. She wants to know that we can trust you kids to get a handle on this bullshit before we send you out into the real world.”
He stops pacing and fixes them with a sharp look.
“That’s where I come in. The plan is a simple one: assemble a class of students from each House and train them to work as a team.”
On the last word he knits his fingers together in a demonstrative gesture, his good eye flicking to each of them in turn.
“You’re here today because you represent the best your House has to offer. I’m not just talking about your O.W.L.s, though of course, you all received excellent marks. I’m talking about the qualities that got you Sorted in the first place, the ones that define your House and set it apart from the rest. You’re here because I think that each one of you is a prime example of the unique, essential traits that make your House great.”
Steve doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to adequately describe the intense wave of emotion he felt when he heard the Sorting Hat murmur over his head, “hmm, such courage.” Although he had always done his best to stand up for what he believed was right, he had never really thought of himself as brave before. His heart jumped into his throat when the Hat called out, “Gryffindor!” Just like Dad. Just like Harry Potter.
He snaps back to the present when Fury continues, his tone rising in both volume and intensity, the sort of tone designed to let students know that what comes next is of vital importance and they need to shut up and pay attention.
“Of course, you already know that each House is different. But what you have somehow still failed to realize is that these differences are not supposed to divide you. They’re supposed to unite you. They’re not your weakness. They are your greatest strength. And by the end of this year, I’m hoping to finally get that fact through your thick skulls.”
Satisfied with this introduction, Professor Fury crosses his arms and raises his eyebrows in challenge.
Tony Stark’s hand is in the air in a heartbeat, and he’s speaking before the professor even has a chance to grant him permission to do so.
“Yeah, see, here’s the thing: I never actually volunteered for this, uh, this little glee club you’re putting together here. I gave it a shot, I stayed for the pitch, but honestly, you didn’t sell me on it. I think I’m gonna take a pass on this one.”
Fury smiles calmly. “Not an option.”
“Oh, really?” Stark scoffs. “Not an option? Let’s just see what my father has to say about that!”
“Go ahead!” The professor gestures at the door. “Run and tell your dad that Nick Fury’s giving you a hard time. And while you’re at it, tell him that the eye still works great.” He taps his temple and the blue orb winks. He’s grinning now. “As a matter of fact, why don’t you tell Howard that I would love to come over and have a drink sometime, swap some stories about the good old days.”
Stark gapes, momentarily cowed. That was his best trump card, the one he’s been playing since his very first day at this school, and Professor Fury just plucked it out of his hands and tore it to shreds. Steve likes him already.
“Look,” Tony coughs, still trying to worm out of it. “I’m just trying to do us all a favor, here. I’m not exactly what you would call a team player.”
Steve finally interrupts, exasperated. “Tony, you play on the Quidditch team!”
“Yeah, as the Seeker, genius!” Tony makes a duh! face. “You know, the guy that doesn’t give a shit about anybody else?”
“Hey!” Natasha snaps. “Speak for yourself!”
“Whatever.” Tony rolls his eyes. “My point is, having me on this team is gonna do more harm than good.”
“Nice try, Stark,” Fury smirks. “But you don’t really think that this team doesn’t need you. You think that you don’t need this team, and that is exactly why you’re here.” His smile softens, becomes almost sympathetic. “A true Slytherin always thinks he can do it alone.”
Though his good eye remains focused on Stark, Steve notices the blue one flick away and back again. Following that gaze, he sees Loki Odinson frowning down at his desk, his arms crossed defensively over his chest. Great. As if one Slytherin teammate wasn’t bad enough--- and if Tony represents Slytherin ambition and vanity, then Loki embodies the House’s infamous cunning streak. Cleverness can be an admirable trait, but Loki uses his largely for his own amusement, cultivating a reputation as the school’s most talented and feared prankster. Between Stark’s big mouth and Loki’s penchant for mischief, Steve wonders which of them will end up causing more trouble in this classroom. Of course, when it comes to horrific nuisances, his money’s on Tony Stark every time.
“Well!” Fury says briskly. “Now that we’ve established that attendance is mandatory, do we have any other questions? No? Good. Then let’s get to work. Wands out and on your feet.”
There’s rustling and rummaging and then everyone’s getting up from their seats, wands in hand. The moment they’re all clear of their desks, Fury draws his own wand and gives it a sharp flick, sending all the furniture in the room skidding towards the walls and leaving them with a nice open floorspace. Steve gets a shiver of excitement. A practical lesson.
“First things first,” Fury announces. “You’re sixth years now. You don’t need to be calling out your spells anymore. Not only is that slowing you down, but you’re also giving your enemy an exclusive sneak preview of your next attack before you even get to use it. Today we’re gonna change that. I’m gonna need everybody to partner up.”
Clint and Natasha look at each other and nod, Tony grabs possessively onto Bruce’s arm and says “dibs,” and then Fury laughs and says, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Who says you get to choose?”
There’s a strained pause as everyone realizes what Fury is about to do right before he does it. And Steve’s brain starts screaming: anyone but Stark, anyone but Stark, anyone but Stark.
“Romanoff, you’re with Banner. Barton, Coulson. Odinsons together. Rogers, you’re with Stark.”
Pandemonium. At least Steve’s not the only one to disapprove of this arrangement. Almost the entire class erupts in protest, fingers pointing, voices shouting, and then there’s Thor in the middle of it looking like a little kid who’s been given the keys to a candy store and told that the whole thing is his to keep.
“Hey!” Fury barks, silencing them all. “That is enough! We’re doing Gryffindors with Slytherins and Ravenclaws with Hufflepuffs--- for now. Nobody said anything about this being permanent, so you can all just take a few deep breaths and calm the hell down. We’re learning nonverbal spells, people. You’re gonna have to focus.”
Another unhappy pause. Then, without a word, Phil trots obediently over to Clint’s side, and just like that everyone is shuffling towards their partner. Natasha and Bruce approach gingerly, as though each fears the other might bite. Although he clearly wants to run and grab and hug and shout, Thor approaches his brother with equal caution, his smile tentative. Loki continues to stare at the floor, his grip on his wand turning his knuckles bone-white. He jerks his shoulder away from Thor’s friendly touch.
Steve meets Tony’s eyes across the room. He’s not surprised to find a sneer waiting for him, nor is he surprised when he quickly realizes that Stark has no intention of moving and instead expects Steve to come to him. Steve’s pride makes him balk, but his sense of duty is stronger and he has no intention of disobeying an order from a professor on the first day of class. Gritting his teeth, he marches over and falls into place next to Tony, who ignores him like he would a house-elf.
Once they’re all paired off, Fury begins the lesson.
“All right,” he declares. “This is about as simple as simple gets. You already know these spells, it’s just a question of taking it to the next level. The key to casting nonverbally is intent. You can’t just pick a spell and snap your wand and hope it works. You need to choose your spell and concentrate on it. It has to be as real and solid and clear in your head as it would be if you called it out.”
With a toss of his head, he indicates the empty space around them.
“Now I’m not gonna have you sit around here trying to cast Wingardium Leviosa at teacups. I figured the best way to make you really work for it was to pit you against an opponent. Everybody split up and face each other. You’re dueling.”
Everyone does a double-take as the person that they had assumed to be their partner suddenly becomes their rival. Steve watches Tony’s face change from annoyed to overjoyed in the space of a heartbeat, his mouth curling in an anticipatory grin as the class divides and reorganizes itself in preparation for confrontation.
“This is not going to be a free-for-all,” Fury calls over the jostling. “I want to see each of you fight, so we’re going to watch one pair at a time. Rules are simple. Disarm your opponent. Nonverbal spells only.” He points into the gathered students. “Coulson, you were the first to get on board, so you’re up. Barton, give him about twenty paces.”
If Coulson is at all flustered at being singled out, he hides it well. He strides as calmly to his place as if he’d fought a hundred duels before--- and Steve realizes with a guilty start that he doesn’t even know if that might be true or not. Phil is one of those kids who always watches from a distance, the quiet, amiable type that everyone knows but never really gets to know. He could have a wild secret life full of duels and adventures and Steve would never even have a clue. Ravenclaws. They’re just so mysterious sometimes.
“Gentlemen,” Fury says. “You may bow and then begin. Remember: nonverbal spells.”
Clint bows at the waist, then raises his wand and says, “Be gentle with me, it’s my first time.”
Phil nods and smiles that enigmatic Coulson smile. “That makes two of us.”
They fall into dueling stances. There’s a moment of intense concentration from both of them, and then each lashes out with his wand.
Laughter ripples through the spectators. No one’s laughing harder than Clint himself, who throws up his hands and cries, “Oh my god, this has never happened to me before, I swear!” He winks at Natasha, who rolls her eyes and shakes her head, smiling in spite of herself.
“All right, all right,” Fury scolds, though it’s clear he’s amused. “Settle down. As you can all see, it’s easier said than done. Try again. Remember: clarity, intent.”
But the boys make two more attempts to disarm each other with the same nonexistent results. Steve is starting to feel a bit nervous. He’d always sort of assumed that nonverbal spells would be an easy transition, that it would come naturally to everyone without even really needing to be taught. Now he wishes he’d gotten a head start practicing over the summer. The last thing he wants to do is make a fool of himself facing Tony Stark in front of an audience.
As the duelists prepare for a fourth effort, Natasha suddenly calls from the sidelines, “You can do it, Clint!”
The change in Barton is striking and immediate, as he squares his shoulders and straightens his spine, emboldened, strengthened. He lowers his head, his gaze turning steely. Steve knows that look. He’s seen it on the Quidditch pitch, usually right before Barton sends a Bludger hurtling directly towards his face.
Not wanting Coulson to feel ignored or left out, Steve counters enthusiastically, “Come on, Phil, you’ve got this!”
And Phil turns toward him, bewildered, his wide eyes going even wider when Steve gives him an encouraging thumbs-up. The timid thumbs-up that Coulson offers in return speaks volumes about how astounded he is to be cheered on by the boy that he continuously and worshipfully refers to as Captain Rogers. When he turns back to face his adversary, he looks ready for anything.
Hesitation. Concentration. Then the combatants strike again, and this time twin bursts of light come jetting forth, crossing in mid-air with a zing! and striking their targets in a double-disarming that sends both wands whizzing out of their owners’ grasps. There’s a collective gasp from the rest of the class, matched only by the looks of amazement on the faces of the duelists themselves. Fury applauds magnanimously.
“Nice work,” he praises. “Nothing like a little encouragement from your teammates to bring out the best in you.” He gestures for them to withdraw. “Okay, Romanoff and Banner, front and center.”
Clint dashes forward to shake Phil’s hand before retreating to his side of the room, giving Natasha a high-five as he passes her on her way to the center. Banner, however, lingers near the wall, one hand rubbing nervously at the back of his neck.
“Look, Professor, I don’t want to cause any trouble,” he mumbles. “But, uh, I’m not really a fan of... combat... situations. I wasn’t even planning on taking Defence Against the Dark Arts this year.”
“That’s funny, I could have sworn I already had this conversation!” Fury marvels, then hardens his tone. “Or do you need me to repeat what I said to your friend Mr. Stark on the subject?”
“No, sir, I understand,” Bruce speaks softly, carefully. “And I’m honored to be a part of this class, I really am. In fact I hope to learn a great deal from you. It’s just--- I would prefer not to--- to fight.”
Fury tilts his head, his gaze inscrutable. “What’s the problem, son?”
Bruce keeps his eyes downcast. “I don’t want to hurt anybody.”
“I’m not made of glass, Banner!” Natasha protests, offended.
“No, I--- I didn’t mean anything like that,” Bruce amends hastily, adding with an awkward chuckle, “It’s, uh--- it’s not you, it’s me.”
“In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m not a big fan of excuses.” Fury jerks his chin towards the center of the room. “You’re up, Banner.”
With a disappointed grimace, Bruce finally detaches himself from the wall and takes his place across from Natasha, whose wand is already at the ready. At Fury’s signal, they bow and assume their stances. As with Barton’s, Steve would recognize Romanoff’s game face anywhere--- though he sees far it less often, as she’s usually moving too fast on the pitch for him to register anything beyond the bright red blur of her hair.
The duelists move simultaneously. Natasha’s wand darts out like a striking cobra, but Bruce only gestures loosely in her direction, cringing as he does so. Neither is successful.
“Romanoff, good effort!” Fury calls. “Banner, don’t think you can fool me, I know you weren’t trying! Go again!”
“Uh oh,” Clint snickers quietly beside Steve. “Now she’s pissed.”
Natasha’s eyes have narrowed in outrage. No matter how many times Banner may insist otherwise, it’s hard to see this as anything other than a guy who’s afraid of hitting a helpless girl. Steve wishes Bruce could have had a chance to play against her, even just once. He would have learned like the rest of them that Natasha Romanoff is anything but helpless.
If intent is what counts here, Banner doesn’t stand a chance. Now Natasha casts with the full ferocity of someone with something to prove, and on the second bid she blasts the wand out of her rival’s hand before he can even offer another token display of resistance. It goes skittering away across the stone floor as Clint unintentionally shouts, “Nice!” Bruce only gives a mild shrug in response.
“Whoops,” he says, looking almost relieved. “You got me.”
As she returns to their side of the classroom, Natasha mutters to Clint, “I keep telling you, there’s something weird about that Banner kid.” Clint mutters back, “You mean besides his taste in friends?”
Steve watches as the Ravenclaw boy retrieves his wand and hurriedly retreats to Tony Stark, who draws him in with an arm around his shoulders and whispers something in his ear that makes Bruce nod in answer. Like Phil, Banner is largely a mystery to Steve, notable only because of his involvement in the school’s most unlikely inter-House friendship. Although he disapproves of arguing with a teacher, he has to admit that he admired Banner’s initial refusal to participate in combat. Romanoff may have taken it personally, but Steve could tell that Bruce wasn’t really opposed to fighting her. He was opposed to fighting, and that’s something that says a lot about a person. Steve finds that he’s looking forward to getting to know him better.
“Okay,” Fury says. “Odinsons, show me what you’ve got.”
On instinct, Steve turns towards his teammate to offer encouragement--- but Thor is already brushing past him, his attention riveted on his brother. Loki steps forward to meet him, his green eyes sharp and calculating. There’s a story here, a long and painful one, and every sixth year in the school was witness to the disastrous Sorting that started it all.
As far as ancient pureblood families go, you don’t get any more ancient or more pure than the Aesir, a Wizarding dynasty that sets such a powerful emphasis on legacy that each generation has taken its surname from the generation before. When Odin Borrson had two boys within a year of each other, it was naturally assumed that the pair of Odinsons would carry on their noble family’s unbroken tradition of being placed into Gryffindor. No Aesir had ever been Sorted into another House in living memory--- until Loki Odinson was placed into Slytherin instead.
Sometimes Steve thinks that Thor still isn’t over the shock. Nor has he recovered from the fact that Loki has shunned him ever since.
“Now you listen to me, the both of you,” Fury says sternly when they reach their marks. “I’ve heard the whole sad story and I am telling you right now: you need to get over it. You could have been something great for the Houses, together, and instead you let all that petty bullshit get in the way, just like the rest of them. That’s very disappointing. I don’t like disappointments. I’ll say it one more time: get over it.” He gestures between them. “Gentlemen.”
Straightening from a deep, respectful bow, Thor says quietly, “I don’t wish to harm you, brother.”
Loki spares him only a cursory nod before raising his wand. “Then it would seem I have you at a disadvantage.”
Fury barely has time to yell “disarming only!” before Loki strikes, a tremendous bolt of green and silver light exploding from the tip of his wand and slamming into his brother’s chest with enough force to send him flying. Thor loses his grip on his wand but manages to keep his feet under him when he lands, although the momentum sends him staggering backwards until he collides with his Quidditch Captain, who rushed out to catch him before he could fall. Between Loki’s ominous words and the green light of the spell, Steve had almost feared the worst--- but Thor’s only had the wind knocked out of him, and after he regains his balance he’s able to stand on his own.
Unperturbed by his own display of power, Loki merely raises an eyebrow.
“As my opponent’s wand is now halfway across the room,” he observes coolly, “I would say that counts as disarming, wouldn’t you?”
“Works for me,” Fury deadpans, and Steve can’t tell if he’s denying Loki the satisfaction of an angry reaction or if he just genuinely doesn’t care that his students are being thrown around the room by overzealous classmates.
But if the duel between the brothers is over, then that means...
“Last but certainly not least,” Fury beckons. “Rogers and Stark, you’re on deck.”
Steve takes a deep breath. He needs to focus. He can’t let himself be distracted by the fact that it’s Tony Stark. Tony Stark, who doesn’t take anything seriously. Tony Stark, who thinks that any problem can be solved by throwing enough galleons at it. Tony Stark the showoff. Tony Stark the loudmouth. Tony Stark, that smug, insufferable, arrogant, vain---
“Rogers!” Fury barks. “Sometime today!”
And Steve ends up scurrying to his spot with a lot less dignity than he’d originally intended. Tony’s already waiting for him. He’s smirking. Unlike the other Quidditch players in the class, Tony doesn’t have to put his game face on. He never takes it off.
“Didn’t think I’d get to kick your ass till the season started, Rogers,” he taunts gleefully. “This’ll be a nice warm-up.”
“That’s some big talk,” Steve snarls. “How about you put your magic where your mouth is?”
“How about you both shut up?” Fury interjects. “We’re practicing nonverbal spells, get it? That means no talking required. I don’t care how witty your next comeback was, Stark, you better keep it to yourself.”
“Aww,” Tony mock-whines. “But it was hilarious.”
“One more word and I’m gonna Silencio your ass,” Fury threatens, his wand rising. “Then you’ll really need to practice nonverbally.” When Tony offers no further resistance, the professor gives a curt nod. “All right, you know the drill. Let’s see what you can do.”
As much as it pains Steve to bow to this jerk, it gives him a few more precious seconds to gather himself. He’s sure that Tony is going to hit him with everything he’s got, and as far as intent goes, there’s probably no one in the school with more of it. He could try to strike back, but in the best-case scenario that only disarms them both simultaneously. That doesn’t count. Steve wants to win. And as he rises back up to his full height and falls into a dueling stance, he suddenly realizes what he has to do.
As Tony lashes out, Steve throws up his wand and thinks as fiercely as he can, Protego! He envisions a shield before him, a shield that nothing can break, and he pours every ounce of concentration he has into making it real. Stark’s wand makes a snap like the crack of a whip. Focus focus focus.
And in the next instant, Tony’s spell rebounds and hits him so hard that he’s knocked flat onto his back.
“Tony!” Banner yelps, hurrying towards him.
“Yes!” Clint pumps a fist into the air and then immediately hides it with a sheepish laugh. “I mean, uh, nice work, team!”
“It was nice work,” Fury agrees, watching as Bruce helps the indignant Tony to his feet. “But what did it accomplish?”
Even as he says it, everyone checks Tony’s hands. Empty. Bruce finds his wand a few yards away, thrown by the force and intent of his own spell. Stark accepts it without a word. He doesn’t need to say anything. His furious glare says it all.
“Everyone take note,” Fury says. “Both of them were able to cast on their first try. That’s pretty damn impressive on its own, but as you all just saw, being able to cast isn’t enough. You have to know what to cast as well.” He nods at Steve. “Good strategy, Rogers.”
Somehow Steve manages to keep the dopey grin off his face. It’s not easy. He wants to say something clever to Tony, but before he can think of anything halfway decent the professor calls them all to order.
“Okay, people, move in, let me see you front and center. I’ve only got the one good eye, don’t make me overwork it.”
As the students all congregate in the middle of the room, Thor wisely keeps his distance from Loki, while Tony and Bruce stand almost as close as Clint and Natasha. Steve ends up next to Phil, who gives him a tiny, congratulatory smile before giving his attention over to the professor. Fury watches them with an unreadable look on his face. Steve wonders what he sees. Does he see the foundation of his new elite team? Or does he just see a bunch of kids who don’t know how to get along with each other?
“Lady and gentlemen,” Fury begins. “You are at the start of a very important year. It’s one of the last you’ll have in this place. Right now it might seem like school is going to go on forever, but let me tell you something: it’s not. And when you get out in the real world, no one’s gonna give a damn whether you wore a green scarf or a red one when you were twelve years old. You’re gonna learn that it doesn’t really matter which House you were in. What matters is that you were here. Your House is not your home. Hogwarts is your home, and that means each and every student here is a part of your family. That’s never gonna change. I just want to make sure you figure it out sooner rather than later.”
And Steve finds himself unexpectedly moved, not only by the speech but by the way Fury looks at them all now--- with the proud, anticipatory gaze of a sergeant admiring his new recruits. After a moment of savoring the view, he offers them a candid shrug.
“Now you all know that this school loves nothing more than a ridiculous name for something ridiculously simple. As you might have expected, they’ve decided to call this project the Strategic House Initiative Encouraging Loyalty Despite Differences.”
“I just call it S.H.I.E.L.D.D.”