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He casts his spell, sees the burst of blue light, and goes under.

*

The only thing he knows is that it’s cold.

*

When he wakes, it’s like a gasp. For a fraction of a second, there’s light, air and noise. Then the ice closes back in.

*

The next time it melts, he catches a glimpse of a room. It’s too much effort to stay, so he takes the sound of the wind rattling the windows and the smell of burning wood with him when he submerges once more into oblivion.

*

He loses track of how many times this happens, until one day – is he still counting in days? – he manages to remain awake for more than a few seconds.

He’s in the room again, the one with the crackling fire and the four-poster beds covered in blue silk eiderdowns. His first impulse is to look out the window, to anchor himself somewhere in time: autumn, late afternoon, the dark underbellies of clouds jostling each other across the sky. Steve reaches out a hand to touch the window glass, but a sound stops him.

There is enough time to classify it as a human sound and a sound of quiet desperation that rends at Steve’s heart. But when he turns, the pull is too strong, and he succumbs.

*

The first time he sees the boy, it’s night in the blue room and the fire is out.

All the beds are occupied, but Steve is drawn to the one beside the window. There is a gap in the curtains, facing away from the other beds, and Steve moves over to it.

The boy is curled up on his side in a mess of blankets. A wand and a book lie on the pillow next to his head and Steve resists the temptation to put them on the bedside table. For a while, he just stands there and looks at the boy. He’s all dark curls, awkward angles and purple smudges underneath his eyes, yet he looks handsome. The only photograph on his bedside table shows the same person, laughing with abandon, his arms tight around a smiling girl. The image has been taken with a Muggle camera.

Steve stays as long as he can last, watching the boy toss and turn in his sleep. In a last effort, he kneels down to look at the name tag on the open suitcase next to the bed.

It says Anthony E. Stark, and that’s what he hangs on to.

*

He feels disoriented when he isn’t in the room the next time. It takes a while to piece together his surroundings, as if his head is still encased in ice. And he is cold, still so cold, even though the mirror in the bathroom is fogged up with steam. Because that’s what it is, he can see it now, wet tiles and yellow lights and a row of toothbrushes lined up along the sinks. The sound of running water stops, and someone comes out of the adjacent showers.

What was his name again?

The boy has a blue towel wrapped around his waist. Frowning, he wipes at the condensation on the mirror with the heel of his hand. There are tiny scars on his fingers, and Steve follows them as they trace something on the boy’s chest.

The headache intensifies when he sees it: more scars, angry pink, forming letters he can’t make out. They begin somewhere to the right of his ribcage, cross through the left nipple, and end above his heart.

Steve watches, desperate, as the boy takes up a razor and turns it between his fingers, contemplating the blade.

Don’t.

For the first time, he opens his mouth, and no sound comes out.

*

He’s relieved, almost giddy, when he wakes again and sees the boy sitting cross-legged on his bed with a girl. She looks familiar, strawberry blond and tender-eyed, and Steve finds himself counting the freckles on her face.

“Tony, are you listening to me?”

Her voice reaches deep inside him and strikes him like a bell. It’s almost more than he can take, but he hangs on, determined.

Tony.

Still no sound, even though his lips are moving. Tony, Anthony, Anthony E. Stark. That’s what he was looking for all this time, more important than anything. He repeats it like a mantra. Tony Stark. Something about Tony Stark that pulls him out of the ice again and again.

Tony looks up from where he’s fiddling with something – a wristwatch, delicate and expensive-looking.

“Of course I am, Pep. Here, all fixed.”

He hands her the watch, and the girl slips it on her slender wrist. It clicks softly against her perfectly painted nails.

“Can I borrow your Charms notes again?” Tony asks, leaning back against the headboard.

“You really should come to class more often, you know.”

Tony grins, his face lighting up, and reaches out a hand to brush a loose strand of her hair behind her ear. She sighs. Steve tries to mimic Tony’s motion, but his own fingers can’t seem to go near her head, like two magnets repelling each other.

And just like that, he’s gone again.

*

Steve watches Tony for what feels like an eternity, but it’s still autumn outside and the look of the room doesn’t change. There are many things he sees, and even more he forgets.

The scars are there every time Steve wakes up in the bathroom, comforted by the sound of the shower and the smell of soap. He can read them now, but what is the term fag is supposed to mean when carved into a man’s chest?

Often, when distracted, Tony rubs at the scars underneath his shirt. He clutches at his chest at night when he wakes from a bad dream. Still traces the word in front of the mirror. Steve wants to ask him so badly what it means, but he still doesn’t exist in Tony’s world, though he can sometimes touch objects now. Just small things, like a fallen leaf in the courtyard, or the fabric of Tony’s pillow, which is sometimes damp with sweat.

Like when he opens his eyes and Tony is spread out on the bed in front of him, both hands in his trousers, flushed and tousled, and Steve wants to look away but doesn’t want to look away.

(It happens once, twice, three times. Steve always stays, watching, yearning for something he can’t yet identify.)

There are moments when it’s almost as if Tony can feel his presence. Those are the worst, because Tony keeps looking up from his work, or a game of chess with another Ravenclaw boy called Bruce, and once, even from a bottle of butterbeer in the Three Broomsticks with Pepper – and Steve can’t help shouting his name at the top of his lungs, but it’s never enough. He has to watch as the shutters come down over Tony’s hopeful face again, and whenever he reaches out to touch him, it drains him so much he doesn’t wake up again for a long time.

He’s not a ghost, that much is for sure.

He seems to be stuck, for lack of a better word, in a different plane of existence, and for some reason, part of him keeps bursting through to the other side and latches on to this boy. This lonely, brilliant, manic, desperate, miserable boy.

Once, he finds a letter on Tony’s bed. It’s not dated, but it looks old. The signature says Howard Stark, and Steve’s insides freeze up even more as he reads it.

Steve learns to identify the different types of happiness in Tony. There is the hard, shining happiness of Tony Stark in public, who always looks like he is on top of things and doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks of him. Then there is the soft-shelled happiness of Tony with Pepper, the one with the small nugget of disbelief and gratefulness inside.

And then, very rarely, there is real, unbridled, joyful happiness, the kind that Tony only grants himself when no one is watching.

Steve likes that last kind the most.

*

Steve is embarrassed that it keeps happening. It must be nearing midnight, and Tony has put up Silencing spells around his bed, like he does every night. Only this time they don’t keep in the sounds of his nightmares. Steve almost turns away, but something catches his eye. Tony is lying there with his silk pyjama bottoms pushed down haphazardly, one hand wrapped around his cock, head turned to the side and biting his pillow. It’s the other hand that has Steve mesmerized, though, the way it grasps at the air, as if waiting for someone to take it.

So Steve pours all his effort into it and laces his fingers into Tony’s, not quite feeling the contact, just a distant pressure. He holds his hand as Tony rides out his orgasm, shreds of whispered words escaping from his mouth, and afterward, too, as he shakes and cries softly into his pillow.

When he finally lets go, he feels a bone-deep exhaustion, and it must be weeks before he wakes again, because when he does, it’s snowing.

*

It drains him, but Steve is able to touch more objects every time he comes to. His mind seems to hold on to more details as well, and he is starting to see a pattern in the few people he meets apart from Tony.

There is the red-haired Slytherin girl, who softly talks a dodgy-looking boy down from where he’s hiding in the rafters of the owlery. The two of them are always together, talking in low voices and sometimes sign language, casting tricky little spells when no one is looking.

Steve particularly likes Thor, a boisterous, cheerful Gryffindor, the only one in the school who actually manages to have a decent conversation with Tony Stark, apart from Pepper and Bruce. He has a brother in Slytherin, who says he isn’t his brother, but looks like he wants to be.

Peggy doesn’t seem to be there, but it’s clear from the surroundings that some time has passed since Steve – disappeared? Died? – and he tries not to worry. And Bucky… He’s seen Bucky fall from the top of the Astronomy Tower and hit the ground below, not even all the time in the world would have changed that.

Most of the time, though, Steve still appears where Tony is, which is usually either in the Ravenclaw dormitory or in the library. Sometimes, he finds Tony in the Great Hall at breakfast, bleary-eyed and grumpy, sipping something dark and strong and nibbling on a piece of toast.

And one of those days, Steve’s gaze snags on a discarded newspaper on the table, and his world shatters around him.

*

Not long after that, Steve trips over an empty inkwell on the floor and scrapes his hands in the process.

He beams down at his bleeding palms and for a moment, forgets that it is 2012.

*

He gets distracted from his misery as he watches Tony half-carrying Bruce inside the castle in the wee hours of the morning.

Bruce is limping badly and clutching at his stomach, skin looking papery white and ill-fitting. Steve walks with them, keeping a look out for professors and Prefects patrolling the corridors, but all remains silent save for Bruce’s little coughs and groans.

“Almost there,” Tony whispers. “Come on, big guy, just a few more steps.”

His voice is trembling slightly. Bruce seems to be slipping away, so he shifts his weight and drags him around the next corner, gritting his teeth – usually, in daylight, Tony’s ego compensates for his lack of height, but here in the blue dawn it is painfully obvious.

Tony shoulders open the door to the hospital wing without bothering to knock. He takes a look around at the empty beds, then says, gently:

“Another full moon over and done with, Bruce. You can sleep now.”

*

“Daddy’s home! Did you miss me?”

Tony stretches out his arms as if expecting a hug, and three squealing house-elves detach from the sinks where dishes are rinsing themselves to run at him.

Steve looks around. The kitchens, at least, haven’t changed since his day. Bucky used to sneak down here regularly to wheedle extra food out of the elves, but the memory stings like iodine on an open wound, and Steve shuts it up tightly in the back of his mind. He turns back to Tony, who is still being accosted by house-elves.

“Okay, okay, that’s enough now. Down, Butterfingers. I need some soup and toast for Bruce, he’s only just woken up.”

Immediately, the house-elves scurry off to prepare the food, and probably some of the cider doughnuts that Tony eats by the dozen. Tony watches them fondly, stealing bits of the freshly made fudge that is cooling on a counter nearby.

“I’m not planning a party, you know. And Bruce is probably going to throw up half of your wonderful soup later, anyway. Can’t keep anything down after a full moon, the poor sod.”

The tiniest of the house-elves hefts a nevertheless large basket into Tony’s arms and beams at him proudly.

“Thank you, Dummy. I’m sure he’ll stop by soon as he’s up and about again.”

He brushes a hand across the little house-elf’s head, smiling, and gets up to carry his bounty toward the hospital wing.

Steve doesn’t like to admit it, but instead of going with Tony, he stays in the kitchen that day, curled up in a corner and watching the friendly bustle around him, drinking it all in. He silently toasts Bucky Barnes, whose name is still scratched on the underside of the wooden table that matches the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall above.

*

Bruce is still looking tired and ill when Steve wakes up under the Ravenclaw table the next time. He crawls out, feeling rather sleepy himself, and stands next to him and Tony as they both pick at their meagre breakfasts.

“You need to eat,” Tony says, voice muffled under his hand.

“So do you,” Bruce replies quietly.

They sit like that for a while, Tony scribbling idly on a piece of parchment, Bruce visibly fighting to keep his eyes open. It would almost look comical if it weren’t so horrifying.

The owl post arrives in a flurry of feathers and shrieks. A plain brown envelope lands neatly next to Tony’s barely touched porridge, and he brightens up.

“Letter from Rhodey,” he says, pleased. In his haste to open it, he spills half of his orange juice down his robes and swears. Wordlessly, Bruce waves his wand, and the liquid vanishes, leaving behind only a faint citrusy smell on Tony’s clothes.

“What’s it say?” Bruce mumbles around a piece of toast.

Tony rolls his eyes.

“Blah blah Auror training… blah blah Nick Fury… the usual. Oh, hey, he says the Department of Mysteries is actually interested in my magic-proof alloy.”

“You discovered a magic-proof alloy?” Bruce asks, disbelieving.

“No, I did not just happen upon a magic-proof alloy,” Tony says waspishly. “I made a magic-proof alloy. Well, almost magic-proof. Far as I know, it repels all minor and some advanced spells.”

Bruce stares at him and shakes his head.

“I have the worst headache of my life, I can’t take this in right now. But feel free to blow my mind again this afternoon in History of Magic.”

Steve smiles, feeling oddly proud, and fades away.

*

He runs into Tony in the library.

There’s an impact, and Tony’s books go flying.

“Watch it, hotshot!”

Steve has to steady himself on a bookcase – he can actually feel the grainy wood beneath his fingertips, has to cough from the dust he whirls up with the sudden motion – and stares. He wants to say something, needs to say something, but he’s too scared he still won’t be able to make a sound.

So instead he fumbles his Head Boy badge from his robes, enjoying the pull of the polished metal on his sweaty skin, and thrusts it at Tony, who takes it reflexively and scowls.

“What…”

Tony makes the mistake of looking down at the name embossed on the badge, and Steve can actually feel the transition from this world into another this time, the familiar coldness creeping up his spine and blacking out his vision.

*

The next time he emerges, he finds Tony in the small, stuffy chamber where Hogwarts keeps its old school records. It’s dark in the room, and Tony has his wand clamped between his teeth, tip ignited. He is bent over an old, dusty folder, and Steve quietly sits down beside him on the floor.

“Knew you’d show up again,” Tony says around his wand.

Steve is silent.

“Says here you went missing in battle in… oh, 1940.”

Tony closes the folder, takes his wand out of his mouth and looks at him. After all this time of playing hidden observer, it’s an oddly intense sensation, like a very intimate touch, or a secret told only to him.

“What’s going on here?” Tony asks softly, arching his eyebrows. Steve can tell there are a million more questions brewing under his calm surface.

He gets up, takes a piece of parchment and a quill from the abandoned desk and writes, painstakingly, feeling weaker with every word:

I don’t know.

Tony considers the shaky handwriting for a moment, brows knit together. The light from his wand casts crazy shadows across the walls when he gets up. Standing, he’s nearly a whole head smaller than Steve.

“Did you die?”

Tony flinches after he’s said it, but stands his ground. Steve shakes his head, then shrugs. Rubbing his chest and looking intent, Tony starts to walk in a circle around him. Back at the starting point, he steps up close to him and touches his arm. Steve holds his breath at the shockwave that goes through him.

“You’re not a ghost. I can touch you.”

Steve bites his lip, nods.

“So what, then? Did you hang around here all this time or…? No? Okay, then. You… Something happened, back in 1940. You were at Hogwarts when the Red Skull attacked, right? You fought in the battle.”

Steve nods again. A sneering face, an unfamiliar incantation, blue light… and the coldness. Steve shivers.

“Was it some kind of spell? Some kind of… time-travel spell? But that doesn’t make sense… But it was a spell? I’m taking that as a yes. Good. A spell. We can work with that.”

Once again, Steve hunches over the parchment and writes: I, hesitates, because how can he describe this, in only a few words? I’m only sometimes here.

“You’re only sometimes here… what does that mean? You’re somewhere else most of the time? No… You’re just not here most of the time. Yes. Alright. That means you sort of… fade in and out of existence, right?”

Steve nods fervently. He’s exhausted again, this little conversation won’t go on for much longer. Tired, fighting against the strain, he picks up the quill again.

Peggy Carter, he writes, and is gone.

*

“Woah,” Tony says. “How did you get in here?”

Steve shrugs and holds up his hands apologetically. They’re in the dormitory again, Tony is sitting on his bed, surrounded by old newspaper articles and files and sucking on a sugar quill. He waves him over, making room on the bed for him to sit on, and Steve gingerly lowers himself onto the duvet. He inhales deeply – the bed still smells like always, like Tony and loneliness and magic.

Tony runs a hand across his face.

“So, Peggy Carter,” he says. “You probably won’t like this. Or you will, I don’t know. Here.”

He hands him a newspaper clipping, Merlin knows where he got it, with a picture of her. Not her, of course, not the Peggy he knew back then, but an older version, looking proud and happy and accomplished, still wearing that dark red lipstick she loved so much.

He reads the article, which is her obituary, and barely feels the tears that trickle down his cheeks.

Happy. At least she was happy.

Something wrenches at his heart, and he has to stop, has to pull himself together now. She would have wanted him to live, wanted him to return to the world where he belonged. When he turns back, wiping the tears away without shame, Tony looks grim and pale and like he has no idea what to do with him now. Steve can’t blame him.

“I’m sorry,” he finally says, and Steve is grateful he didn’t ask about Peggy.

There’s parchment and a quill on the bedside table, and Steve takes a long while to write: Thank you. Tony reads it and swallows. Then he takes a deep breath, and tugs a heavy and very battered-looking book towards him.

“I’ve been looking up spells,” he says, business-like. “There are loads of spells that can make someone disappear, but only for a few hours max, and the victims always show up again properly. So either it’s some really dark, really secret curse, or it’s a side-effect of a completely different spell. Which, you know, basically means we’ll have to start over.”

Steve writes: Strange curse, blue light, countered with Freezing charm.

“Well, that gives us something to work with, at least,” Tony sighs. “Imagine what’ll happen if I manage to bring you back, though… The press will be all over us.”

He seems to notice Steve’s pained look and backpedals.

“Or maybe we should just go to the Headmistress now…”

I think it has to be you, Steve writes, hastily, and watches as Tony’s eyes widen.

“Why? Why me?”

Steve shrugs.

I only wake up where you are.

Tony doesn’t say anything to that for a while. Steve sees that his hands are trembling, but doesn’t say anything about it.

“No, it can’t be… But that’s the only… How on Earth…”

Curious, Steve nudges Tony and shoots him a questioning look. Tony squirms, jumps up and starts to pace the room.

“I kind of… I do this research in my spare time, kind of like a Muggle science approach to magic… Anyway, sometimes I try out interesting spells I come across, just to, you know… See if they do anything, see if I can use them somehow. Say, when did you start, uh, appearing?”

Autumn, Steve writes, grimacing in apology because it’s so imprecise. Then, a sudden idea: You read a book on Sleeping potions.

Tony stares at him, face carefully blank.

“September?” he asks, weakly. “That long? And… how do you even know that?”

You couldn’t see me, Steve writes, tiredness creeping in around the edges now. Tony frowns down at the scrawled words and clears his throat.

“Brilliant,” he mutters, “awesome. So you’ve been hanging around this place all the time, and I couldn’t see you, but you could see me?”

Steve feels his mind slipping, like the moment just before falling asleep. He half-shrugs at Tony, who is still pacing and talking, but Steve doesn’t register the words anymore.

Tony turns his back and Steve allows himself to close his eyes.

*

They sit down by the lake, Tony bundled up in scarves and sweaters and eating cold pumpkin lasagna from a paper plate. Tony is talking, and Steve is content just to listen to his idle chatter, enjoying the wind in his hair. He still can’t feel the warmth of Tony’s Heating spell or make himself heard, but this is actually alright, it means he doesn’t have to deal with the fall-out of Peggy’s obituary just yet.

 “…so I sent an owl to Jarvis and told him which books I need, shouldn’t be long until they get here, and then I thought we should just re-cast the spells I experimented with back around the time when you first, you know.”

Tony gestures with his fork and scowls when the wind blows stray curls into his eyes. His cheeks are flushed and his eyes look bright in the pale November sun. Steve smiles and tears his eyes away from him again.

“You’re really not hungry? I’m done with this anyway.”

Shaking his head, Steve pushes the plate of lasagna back at Tony. He doesn’t eat nearly enough, Steve’s seen his ribs stick out the last time he was still invisible and saw Tony undressing in front of him. He never does that now, not even to change his shirt, even though the periods where Steve is awake are getting longer and sometimes last well into the night.

Tony sighs and wraps his arms around himself.

“This Heating spell sucks,” he mutters, darkly.

I wish I could talk to you, Steve mouths, sadly, when Tony isn’t looking.

“Tony!”

A group of students is approaching them, and Steve curses himself for not seeing them earlier. Usually, he’s not comfortable being seen in public with Tony. Someone might recognize him, and technically, he’s not even a student of this school anymore, which could get them both in trouble. No, Steve is fine just sticking with Tony for now.

“Oh, hi, Pep.”

Tony doesn’t sound too enthusiastic about the new company, either. Feeling slightly comforted by this, Steve steels himself and looks up to see who they are.

To his surprise, Pepper is trailed by the two Slytherins he has seen around a few times now, along with Thor and Bruce.

“We just had a Prefect’s meeting,” Pepper says. “You know Thor, and these are Clint and Natasha.”

Tony nods at them, carefully putting on his mask.

“I know Barton,” he says. “Who made you Prefect, though? Your Head of House must’ve been very drunk that night.”

There’s silence for a moment, then the Slytherin boy grins.

“Must’ve been,” he says. “Thankfully, we’ve got Tasha to keep a lid on things. Ow!”

Natasha, the red-haired girl, steps on his foot with her nasty-looking heel, and Steve winces in sympathy. Tony salutes her.

“This is, uh, Steve… He got hit by a Silencing spell earlier, so, yeah. Hello from Steve.”

The lie is delivered without so much as a blink, and Steve waves at the group nervously, glad he’s still wearing his Gryffindor robes, even though Thor looks like he’s trying to place him and failing. Pepper raises an eyebrow at Tony, but obviously decides not to comment on Steve’s presence.

“Well, anyway, we were going to do an inventory check on the Quidditch supplies, so… See you at dinner?” Pepper says, fondly ruffling Tony’s hair, much to Tony’s obvious dismay.

“Sure,” he grumbles. “Don’t let Barton nick a Snitch.”

“Try and see if you can stop me,” Clint says, grinning, and mimics Pepper’s gesture before making a quick retreat outside the reach of Tony’s flailing arms.

“Nice to meet you,” Natasha says, but her smile is stony and her eerie eyes are fixed on Steve.

They watch the group disappear in the direction of the Quidditch pitch, and Tony lets out a breath.

“Phew. That wasn’t good. We should stick to the dorms next time…”

*

“This isn’t working… We tried everything from advanced Summoning charms to making a set of stairs appear out of nowhere, I think it’s safe to say none of these spells made you come back from the dead.”

Tony drops onto his bed, stretching like a cat. His wand is discarded on the floor, along with a pile of books, papers and notes. Steve sits down next to Tony and draws his legs up to his chest morosely.

“Hey, chin up, there’s still a ton of things we haven’t tried yet… Maybe it’s something I did when I was drunk. Almost all of my most brilliant discoveries were made under the influence of Firewhiskey, so who knows.”

There’s silence for a while, only the sound of the crackling fire in the background. Steve looks at Tony, yearning, suddenly, for all the things he can’t have.

Wish I could touch you, he says, still soundless, but Tony catches the motion of his lips. Eyes intent, he pulls himself up on his elbows.

“What? What did you just say?”

Sheepishly, Steve shakes his head and stares down at his socks. Of all things, he had to be hexed into this limbo state with his ugliest, most worn pair of socks that have been darned in several places. If only he could change out of these clothes… take a long, hot bath. Crawl into bed with Tony and share body warmth. But he mustn’t think like that, especially not right now.

He risks another glance at Tony, who hesitates.

“What if I… what if I touch you?” Tony asks, voice hoarse, eyes not quite meeting Steve’s. “Is it still exhausting for you then?”

Steve can feel his heart beat faster, if he even has a heart to speak of. He’s not quite flesh and bone yet, after all. Interacting with the corporeal world still makes him dizzy and tired. Not standing on the floor, though, or sitting on Tony’s bed like he is now. So maybe…?

Try, he mouths, making sure Tony can see.

A slightly trembling hand reaches out to him and grabs hold of his tie. From there, it makes its way up to his collar, where fingertips brush against skin for the first time. Steve draws in a breath and holds it while Tony feels his pulse.

“Definitely alive,” he finally says, laughing nervously, and lets his hand drop again.

Steve smiles, not quite as drained as skin-to-skin contact usually makes him, and slides down to lie on the bed next to Tony. Together, they stare at the ceiling, which is painted with star constellations. They comfort Steve, because they, at least, haven’t changed between 1940 and 2012.

“Are you going to disappear on me again?” Tony asks, sounding as sleepy as Steve feels. “Because if you do, don’t you wait until I turn my back again. I want to see it this time.”

So Steve doesn’t bother, and Tony’s wide, dark eyes follow him deep into the ice.

*

Tony takes him to see a Quidditch match.

It’s quite ingenious, really, because it’s so dark and stormy outside that everyone is basically unrecognisable, bundled up in their infinite layers. Steve tries wearing one of Bruce’s coats, hood up to hide his face, and it seems to work, so they hurry down to the pitch and slip onto a crowded bench just before the whistle sounds.

Gryffindor are playing Slytherin, whose star players, it becomes clear very soon, are Seeker Clint Barton and Chaser Natasha Romanov. On the Gryffindor side, Thor is pelting Bludger after Bludger across the pitch, and a girl named Maria Hill wins back most of the points Natasha scores for Slytherin. The game doesn’t last long, however, and even though he is rooting for his own house, Steve has to admit that the way Clint plucks the Snitch out of the Gryffindor Keeper’s robes is superb.

I used to be Chaser, Steve tells Tony, later, when they are back in the dorms and Tony comes out of the shower, rubbing at his hair with a towel. Tony snorts.

“You used to be team captain, Steve. It’s all over your files. Won the Cup three times in a row. No false modesty.”

He drops down on the bed beside Steve, the towel draped across his neck, hair sticking up in all directions.

You don’t play? Steve writes.

“Nah, not me. Don’t get me wrong, I love flying, but Bludgers and me don’t mix well. I’m very attached to my pretty face.”

Tony scrunches up his nose and laughs. Before Steve can answer, though, there’s a knock on the door, and Tony scrambles to wipe the parchment blank of Steve’s writing.

“Yeah?”

The door opens, admitting Pepper in her spotless Hufflepuff robes and Head Girl badge. She, too, looks freshly bathed, and her damp hair is wound into a complicated plait down her back. Her smile wavers when she sees Steve.

“Oh, hello… Steve, was it?”

She clearly expects a reply, but Tony hastily interrupts.

“Yes, yes, enough small talk, what do you want? We’re busy.”

Pepper’s expression turns dark, but only for a moment, before she deconstructs it into a blank smile again. Steve mouths Sorry behind Tony’s back, and she sighs.

“Professor Coulson is getting a little impatient waiting for your essay on dark artefacts, Tony. He says he expects you to hand it in first thing Monday morning, and if you don’t, you’ll have to stay after class for an extra lesson on Stunning spells.”

Tony visibly shudders.

“Fine, whatever. That all?”

“No,” Pepper says with the patience of a saint. “I volunteered you to tutor the first years in Charms next Friday, two p.m. in the small Arithmancy classroom, make sure you show up. And if I find out you keep selling the password to the Prefects’ bathroom to the fifth years, I’m going to make personally sure you’re on the receiving end of an errant Bat-Bogey Hex.”

Tony grins.

“Aw, harsh. I thought you loved me, Pep.”

“Don’t make me threaten you with nail polish again, Tony Stark. I know my permanent Sticking charms and I’m not afraid to use them,” Pepper sings, leaning against the doorframe. For once, Steve is actually glad he’s still on mute, because otherwise, he would have snorted loudly.

“Alright, alright, I get it. Now scram. No girls allowed in here. Especially not Hufflepuffs.”

Pepper sticks out her tongue at him and closes the door behind her gently as she leaves. Steve is staring after her, strangely distracted by the damp spot on her back made by the plait, and the sound of her patent-leather shoes clicking away on the stone floor. Tony’s hand waves in front of his eyes.

“Don’t even think about it,” Tony snarls. “Pepper is off-limits, even to you, Mr Dream Guy.”

Steve looks up, startled and amused, and Tony winks at him.

What about you? Steve scrawls on the newly blank parchment.

“What about me?” Tony asks lightly, though his eyes are dark and endless.

Steve nods at the door and points a slightly unsteady finger at Tony’s heart. Tony looks away.

“She’s my best friend,” Tony says, after a moment. “Don’t get me wrong, she’s… yeah. But we’re not. It just wouldn’t work, you know. She deserves someone better.”

That last line is cast into sharp relief by a bitter little smile. Steve loses himself in memories of Peggy for a while, Peggy, who was always too good for him, but who never failed to see a better man in Steve than he saw in himself.

Finally, Steve makes a question mark in the air and points at Tony, the sign that has become their shorthand for Can I ask you a question?

“Knock yourself out,” Tony says.

Steve hesitates.

Word meaning, he writes with trembling hands. Tony nods and starts to fiddle with a piece of wire from his bedside table. Steve takes a deep breath.

‘Fag’ ?

Tony looks over at the word and Steve can see his shoulders stiffen. The wire slips out of his hands. He clears his throat. When he speaks, his voice adopts the flat, wary tone that means his shields are coming up.

“Where did you see… hear that?”

Seconds tick by. Finally, Steve lifts his hand and spreads his fingers in front of Tony’s chest. He’s wearing a thick hooded sweater against the cold and Steve wishes he could pull it up and expose the scars on Tony’s chest, trace them with his fingertips until they become smooth skin once more.

Tony swallows. One of his hands automatically moves toward his heart, but he catches himself and drops it back into his lap.

“I think… I think I’m going to call it a night, actually,” he says hoarsely, avoiding Steve’s gaze. “Got to finish Coulson’s essay tomorrow, and all that. And you, you must be exhausted…”

He looks pleadingly at Steve, who relents and nods. Tony locks himself in the bathroom to brush his teeth, and Steve leaves a message for Tony on the bed (Sorry, good night) and goes to sit on the windowsill, looking out across the Forbidden Forest and listening to the dim sounds of Saturday night drifting up from the common room downstairs.

Tony slips into bed without a word and pulls the curtains closed tight around him.

*

It’s snowing again when Steve steps out onto the platform of the Astronomy tower. Slow, thick flakes bat at the air like cats’ paws, settling on Tony’s shoulders in the imitation of a pale, comforting arm. Steve steps up to him, and Tony twitches, as if he’s been expecting him, but unsure whether he would come.

“It’s an offensive slur used against homosexual men,” Tony says. His voice sounds strained and low. “They wrote it on my chest to remind me that I’m nothing more than a second-class human being whenever I dare to feel remotely good about myself, and to entertain themselves until the time ran out for my father to pay the ransom and they’d be allowed to dispose of me.”

It sounds like a rehearsed speech, as if Tony has been standing up here in the cold for hours, whispering it under his breath. By the amount of snow that has piled up around him, this might actually be true.

Steve is angry, desperate, but quiet, mostly because he doesn’t have anything to write on, which is probably what Tony intended. He forces himself to unclench his fists and catches a snowflake in his palm. It doesn’t melt. Just when he is about to wipe it off, Tony grabs his wrist.

“Hang on,” he whispers, “I have an idea…”

*

Bruce Banner doesn’t look up from where he’s counting out drops of Acromantula venom into a simmering cauldron when they enter. Carefully, he puts down the tiny flask and stirs his potion with quick, practised strokes. Then he adjusts his glasses and turns, arms crossed, eyes honed to the by now familiar expression of mild disappointment in the world around him.

“What do you know about inter-dimensional travel and Freezing charms?” Tony wastes no time by asking. Bruce’s eyes flick to Steve and back again.

“What?”

“Inter. Dimensional. Travel. And Freezing charms,” Tony repeats.

“I don’t really see the connection,” Bruce starts, but Tony makes an impatient noise and waves him off.

“Okay, fine. Say… Let’s assume for a moment here that someone, possibly a wizard involved with the dark arts, happened upon this ancient and very much illegal curse which causes people or objects to be transported to another dimension, or, or plane of existence, or whatever you want to call it. Say this wizard was cornered by someone else in a fight, and for some reason, he tries to cast the curse on his opponent instead of outright killing him. Are you following?”

Bruce nods, frowning.

“So at that very moment, his opponent, because he doesn’t want to kill anyone, you see, he’s just defending himself – so his opponent uses a Freezing charm, designed to temporarily freeze the dark wizard so he can’t attack or escape. What would happen?”

“Depends on the nature of the curse,” Bruce says and shrugs. “Why?”

Tony is pacing the dungeon, so fidgety Steve is afraid he might just unravel his sweater in his agitation.

Because,” Tony says, “because I think I know what happened to Steve Rogers in the battle against the Red Skull, and I might have… accidentally brought him back. To Hogwarts. Only he’s still, I don’t know, stuck between dimensions or something, and I… need your help.”

Bruce stares at him, the words slowly sinking in, and slips off his glasses to wipe a hand across his eyes. After what feels like an eternity, Bruce groans into his palm and looks up again.

“Let me get this straight. You, Tony Stark, want to tell me that you’ve been hanging out with a long-lost war hero who’s stuck between dimensions thanks to an ancient curse gone wrong, and you need me to help you get out of this colossal mess you’ve got yourself into, again…”

“I know! Brilliant, isn’t it?”

Tony grins happily, bouncing on the balls of his feet, and drags Steve forward.

“Say hello to Steve.”

*

“We need their help, Tony.”

Bruce is pressing his index fingers into the space between his eyebrows. The tables he and Tony pushed together in the back of the library are covered with books, notes and diagrams, and Steve’s head is spinning. He feels useless, has taken to wandering the aisles while Tony and Bruce try to keep their heated discussions on inter-dimensional travel at an appropriate volume.

“I am not going to confide in Clint Barton that I pulled a wizard out of the middle of literally fucking nowhere with a stupid…,” Tony hisses. He pauses, then lowers his voice even further, possibly so Steve won’t hear.

“…a silly little charm meant to dispel loneliness.”

 He says it with absolute distaste, as if it’s been torn from him against his will. Bruce chuckles.

“Oh, shut up! I told you, it was for testing purposes!”

“Tony, you don’t have to tell Barton that. We’re not even sure that was really what brought him back. I’m sorry, but Clint and Natasha are the authorities on curses and dark rituals, so unless you feel like going to Professor Coulson after all, it’s the best shot we have. Besides, they can keep a secret better than anyone in this school.”

Now it’s Tony’s time to chuckle.

“Sneaky bastards… They probably know more about the inhabitants of this castle than all the portraits put together. Yeah, alright, fine. But if you so much as mention the word lonely and my name in one sentence, I’m going to burn your underwear. And Barton with it.”

Bruce holds up his hands defensively, and they go back to bickering over whether they should ask a professor for permission to go inside the Restricted Section (Bruce) or just sneak in at night (Tony). Steve sighs and leans against the bookcase.

It’s going to be a long day.

*

The curtains around Tony’s bed are drawn. Snow has piled up on the window ledges outside over night, and it is the Thursday before Christmas Eve, according to the calendar Tony has put up on the wall for Steve’s benefit. Steve steps over to the bed and raps his knuckles lightly on the night table to let Tony know he’s here. There is a muffled sound and a cough, then a hand darts out to open a gap in the curtains.

“Hey, soldier.”

Tony’s face peers out from a mound of pillows, possibly snuck from his roommates’ beds, and grins at him. Steve frowns. Tony’s face is flushed, his hair all over the place, and his eyes look glazed and watery.

“Sorry, ‘m a bit under the weather,” Tony mumbles. “Bruce threw me out of the library and took away my notebook, so no research today. Seriously, where’s the internet when you need it? Though if you don’t mind the,” Tony gestures at himself, “the general ickiness and the germs and all that, you can sit with me a bit.”

He scoots over and pats the bed next to him. A particularly violent coughing fit racks through his body. Steve slips through the gap in the curtains and folds himself awkwardly on top of Tony’s pillows, where he can lean against the headboard and replace the wet flannel on Tony’s forehead from time to time.

“Bruce is talking to Clint and Natasha today,” Tony confides. “Which is a good thing, because he says I don’t make much sense on a good day, and I can’t just assume that all people are geniuses like me and Bruce and understand the Tony-speak.”

Humming, he wriggles around under the covers until he finds a comfortable position.

“You missed the last Hogsmeade weekend, you know. I got you a Christmas present. A really marvellous one. Just wait, it’ll blow your mind. But I’m not telling you what it is. And you won’t get to try it out until we get your ass back to this dimension properly. Which, I just noticed, makes it sound like it’s something dirty, which it’s not. I think.”

A pause, then Tony whispers: “It’s a racing broom. A Nimbus 2013, not officially on the market yet, but I have connections with the shop owner.”

He looks pleased with himself. Steve stares, torn between outrage and amusement, and crosses his arms. He tries to look stern, but Tony waves him off.

“I have a shitload of money, remember? I could buy the whole Nimbus brand and it wouldn’t even make a teensy little dent in my fortune.”

Still. Steve pokes him, for good measure, enjoying the little snort he elicits from Tony. He’s never owned so much as a Quaffle, let alone a brand new racing broom. He and Bucky used to spend their afternoons with their noses pressed up against the window glass of Quality Quidditch Supplies, squabbling over the merits of different models. He sighs. There’s no way he’s going to be able to keep Tony’s present – it’s just too much, even though it might seem like nothing to Tony.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Tony chides. “If you don’t take it, I’ll strip it down and use the parts for my experiments.”

Steve looks suitably horrified, and Tony has to laugh and sneeze at the same time.

“Ugh, my head feels like cotton candy.”

Tony pushes himself up laboriously on his elbows and reaches across Steve for the goblet of medicinal potion. His t-shirt is damp and he smells like thyme and mint. When he wobbles, Steve automatically puts a hand on his chest to steady him as he downs his potion with a disgusted noise.

“This stuff is vile,” he grumbles. “By the way…”

He trails off, looking down at Steve’s stomach.

“Has anyone ever told you that you’re really fit? I mean… look at those abs.”

To emphasize his words, Tony pokes a finger into Steve’s belly and giggles. Steve shoos his hands away from where they are creeping up his ribcage, trying to find a ticklish spot. Pouting, Tony wraps himself in his covers again.

“Spoilsport.”

He stays quiet for a while, curling up as close to Steve as he can without actually touching him. It’s a good sign, because it means he wants Steve to remain in this state for as long as possible, seeing as prolonged contact with another person still fatigues him. Smiling gently, Steve places the flannel back on Tony’s forehead. Just when it seems that Tony is asleep, his eyes crack open again.

“Do you ever, you know, get any… bodily urges? Like having to take a wee or something?”

Steve shakes his head, and Tony looks disappointed.

“What about when you think of a really hot girl naked? Does that do anything for you?”

Feeling awkward, Steve glances out of the window and shrugs. It’s a complicated question to answer on a good day. If he can’t even put it into words, how is he supposed to discuss these things with Tony while his options are still limited to body language?

“Write it down for me?” Tony urges, oblivious to Steve’s discomfort. “Come on, I can’t sleep and I’m bored. It’s impossible to talk about these things with Pepper or Bruce, and Rhodey is far too busy hunting dark wizards for pillow talk with Tony Stark. Ha, that rhymed. Almost.”

A smile tugs at Steve’s lips as he takes up the crumpled piece of parchment Tony has dug out from somewhere between his pillows. One of Tony’s quills, expensive and exotic-looking, is tucked inside a Muggle magazine beside his bed, and Steve runs his fingers along the spine reverently before dipping it into Tony’s inkwell.

He looks expectantly at Tony.

“Tell me about Peggy,” Tony says, making himself comfortable once more.

Steve lets his gaze drift out of the window again, where snowflakes are silently tiptoeing through the air.

She used to sneak a stick of bright red lipstick into the school every year even though it wasn’t allowed, he writes. She was the best duellist in our year. Stunned me once. I was out for two hours.

Tony laughs out loud when he reads it and pushes the parchment back into his hands.

“Sounds like Pepper,” he says. And then, because that’s what Tony is like: “Did you ever sleep with her?”

Steve doesn’t want to deign that with an answer, so he drops the newly moistened flannel down over Tony’s eyes and pretends not to listen when Tony immediately starts prying.

“Please please please pleeeaase. Please, Steve, I need to know. Steeeeeeve. I’m going to die if you don’t tell me. Pretty please?”

None of your business, Steve scrawls, but he’s smiling when he lets Tony read it. Tony huffs. And coughs, sounding like a rusty suit of armour, so hard it must hurt his lungs. He grimaces and rubs at his chest.

“I thought you promised me pillow talk, Rogers.”

I did?

“Yeah. You were going to write me a naughty bedtime story about your girlfriend. Ex-girlfriend. Sorry. Though I’m not picky. From what I could see on those ancient newspaper photos, your friend Bucky Barnes was quite the looker as well. Lucky you.”

Steve sighs and rakes a hand through his hair.

Bucky and I were just friends.

“Pity.”

A pause.

“But did you want him to be more or…?”

Tony peers out from underneath his flannel, grinning cheekily, and Steve has to look away again to hide his chuckle.

“Tell meeee,” Tony whines.

While Tony is distracted trying to Summon a box of paper tissues, Steve spreads out the parchment again. Instead of writing, though, he starts to draw – a simple sketch of Bucky, winking at a very dishevelled-looking cartoon of Tony in the corner. Then he draws a speech bubble that says We both like asking Steve inappropriate questions about his love life; clearly, we should become best friends! and connects it to both of their mouths.

Tony pitches right into a fit of giggles when he sees it.

“You know the best counter-strategy is to just ask inappropriate questions back, right?” he says after he’s calmed down again. Steve rolls his eyes.

You try making Bucky Barnes uncomfortable, he writes. It’s not that easy.

“Try me, then,” Tony says, wryly.

Steve shakes his head, and – yes – there is that image again, of Tony half-naked on this very bed, hiding his pleasure behind curtains and Silencing spells. He gulps. He’s definitely succeeded at making himself uncomfortable this time.

“What?” Tony asks. “You just thought of something, didn’t you? Spill it, Rogers!”

Steve doesn’t feel the warmth, but he really is blushing now. Tony sort of deserves to know, though, and it’s not like Steve deliberately spied on him… And if he didn’t exactly look away, well, he doesn’t have to tell Tony that, right?

I saw you, he writes, but can’t quite bring himself to spell it out. Tony latches onto his hesitation with relish.

“Saw me doing what? This?”

He raises his eyebrows, then fumbles his hand out of the blankets and curls his fingers to make an unmistakeable gesture. Steve ducks his head, mortified, but nods, and Tony snorts.

“I kind of figured,” he says. “No big deal. Most natural thing in the world, right? It’s called masturbating, by the way.”

He’s obviously trying to sound nonchalant, though Steve can tell he actually is embarrassed this time. Bucky would have been proud of him, after all.

Got you, he writes serenely.

“Sod off,” Tony says, grinning.

*

“I knew it,” is Natasha’s way of greeting him when Bruce and Tony introduce him to the Slytherins a few days before Christmas. She shakes his hand with a firm grip and looks him up and down as if she’s making a copy for her mental files. Steve squirms a little.

“Actually, she didn’t,” Clint stage-whispers. “It was me who first said you might be a time-traveller, she just ran with the idea.”

Natasha sticks her tongue out at him and reaches out to stop Tony in front of a blank stretch of wall.

“We’re here,” she says, then starts walking past the wall three times at a fast pace, trailing her fingertips along the smooth stone. Steve gasps inaudibly as a door appears in the wall and the group is lead down a flight of stairs into a beautifully furnished, dimly lit room. Inside, bookcases are fitted into the walls, miniature chandeliers dot the vaulted ceiling and a large round table is laid out with parchment, quills and ink.

“Nice one, Nat,” Clint says.

“This is the Room of Requirement,” Natasha explains to the others. “We found it in our third year. It caters to the needs of the person opening it, as long as you specify exactly what you want and don’t ask for food.”

“Yeah, it doesn’t do food,” Clint says wistfully. “It connects to the water pipes, though, so we can make tea.”

He fumbles out a bunch of tea bags from one of the many pockets in his robes and walks over to the fireplace, where a large, dented kettle sits on the mantelpiece.

Even Tony looks impressed at the place. While he and Bruce start debating on the magical mechanics behind the room, Steve is content just walking around, amazed and delighted at all the little details Natasha (or the room) has come up with. He takes a chipped mug from Clint, mostly just to wrap his hands around it and pretend he’s feeling the warmth, and takes a seat on the squashy purple sofa in the corner.

It doesn’t take long for the room to become a mess. Steve picks up piles of discarded books and returns them to the shelves, throws away crumpled pieces of parchment, empty chocolate wrappers and forgotten tea bags, anything to feel like he’s contributing at least a little bit. He reads over Tony’s shoulder, but the text swims in front of his eyes and he doesn’t understand half of the words. In the end, he takes a roll of parchment and settles back down on the sofa to draw.

By the time the group packs up their things to head down for dinner, Steve has finished three portraits of Tony. When no one is looking, he tucks them gently between the pages of a book on houseplants, which must have been put there for exactly this purpose, because all the other books discuss highly advanced and sometimes dark magic.

“Steve, you coming?”

He hurries to catch up with the others, and the door clicks shut behind him, fading once more into a blank expanse of wall.

*

The next time he returns, Tony is in the Ravenclaw common room, draped across one of the blue sofas. This in itself is unusual, because Tony always retreats to the boys’ dormitory in the evenings, but what is even more remarkable is that most of his personal belongings seem to have migrated with him. Stacks of books and magazines and piles of sweet wrappers litter the handsome wooden coffee table next to the sofa along with his robes, Ravenclaw scarf and a pair of cashmere gloves. His handsome fur-lined boots have been placed in front of the fire to dry.

Tony looks up when he hears Steve and cheerfully makes a pair of parchment aeroplanes zoom in his direction. Steve dodges them easily, raising an eyebrow at the mess.

“Merry Christmas, Steve,” Tony says, his lip curled up in distaste. His speech is slurred – Steve nearly trips on the bottle of Firewhiskey on the floor. “Bruce banned me from the dorms, haha. Banned, get it? Because his name’s… nevermind. Just because I threw up on his bed that one time in fourth year. Was it fourth year? Anyway, everyone’s gone home for the holidays.”

He pushes himself into a somewhat lopsided sitting position and gestures for Steve to come closer.

“Here, I was just… Now, will you look at that?”

He points at something above Steve’s head, and Steve glances up. A sprig of mistletoe floats in the air, looking innocent enough, until Steve tries to duck out from under it and the mistletoe just drifts after him.

“Clint charmed them,” Tony explains. “They don’t go away until you… until you kiss someone. Woah. Stop it, you’re making me dizzy.”

He waves his hand at the room as if to scold it, accidentally catches one of his aeroplanes and frowns at it before tossing it away.

“Over here, Captain Rogers,” he says, sternly.

Steve steps up to the sofa somewhat apprehensively and Tony reaches up to grab a hold of his tie. With a soundless yelp, Steve gets pulled down until his face is only a hair’s breadth away from Tony’s. The sprig of mistletoe bobs gleefully above their heads.

“Close your eyes,” Tony orders.

Steve complies, wetting his lips nervously. He can smell the Firewhiskey on Tony, and the woodsy scent of an open fire, layered like tree bark atop something uniquely Tony. It won’t be his first kiss, and yet his hands are clammy behind his back…

Tony pecks his cheek and lets go of his tie, chuckling.

“Gotcha, you big old virgin,” he murmurs.

Steve straightens up again and turns away, unable to look at Tony, so he wanders around the room aimlessly and stops at an armchair full of wrapping paper. In the midst of it, there’s a note from Pepper, attached to a box of luscious Belgian chocolates, and a shiny new Potions book, which must have been a present from Bruce. Steve spots another card, signed James Rhodes, lying on the floor next to the Firewhiskey.

From under the mess on the table, he digs out a piece of parchment and writes: I have something for you, too. Tony looks at it lazily, and his eyes crinkle at the corners in amusement.

“Aw, you didn’t have to,” he mutters, one arm trailing to the floor, fingers tiptoeing around the Firewhiskey.

Steve holds up a finger, then turns around and leaves the common room without waiting for a reply. After a few wrong turns, he finds the Room of Requirement again and picks up the book on household plants before making his way back to the Ravenclaw tower. Tony opens the door for him, ushering him in with a few mumbled curses about the cold, and Steve shoves the book at him, nervous all over again.

“What’s this?”

Tony thumbs open the book where the sketches peek out, and his eyes widen. He stares at the portraits for a very long time, not saying anything, expression unreadable. Steve bites his lip. Finally, Tony looks up, a strange glint in his eyes like coins at the bottom of a well, and hugs him.

“Thank you,” he murmurs into Steve’s ear.

He lets go again quickly, but Steve is grinning. Merry Christmas, he mouths, and Tony smiles.

“Merry Christmas, Steve.”

This time, he means it.

*

On New Year’s Eve, Steve and Tony are facing each other in an empty classroom. Tony has his coat buttoned up to his chin, breathing out chips of ice, chewing on the tips of his fingers. He doesn’t admit it, but he’s nervous. He takes a step forward.

“Ready?”

Steve nods, steeling himself.

They’re doing this without Bruce, Clint and Natasha, because Tony wants them to stay out of the picture if things go wrong.

Tony raises his wand and starts uttering a string of complicated incantations. The room comes aglow around them and Steve feels a rush of warmth, then a tug somewhere in his head, getting stronger, pulsing, like a headache. Tony’s teeth are chattering. He skates along the outside of a word, stutters out two more syllables, and Steve can feel the deafening bang long before he hears it, long before his vision blacks out.

*

He casts his spell, sees the burst of blue light, and goes under.

*

Steve Rogers wakes up in the hospital wing, and everything looks different.

There is a boy next to his bed who looks like Steve feels – as if someone knocked him out with a giant icicle – who is shaking from the cold, who is staring at Steve with an aching, thundering happiness in his dark eyes.

“Steve,” he whispers. “You made it. I’m so sorry, I thought I could do it alone… But you’re here now, right? You really exist.”

His words don’t make sense, though his voice sounds vaguely familiar. Steve opens his mouth to reply, but what comes out instead is:

“Who are you?”

And the boy’s expression melts down, like a single ice crystal in the palm of a feverish hand.

*

Steve spends the first days of 2013 in St. Mungo’s.

He endures the repeated examinations, the various tests, the never ending barrage of questions he can’t answer. In the end, he gets declared a miracle, and the dam finally breaks – the flash of cameras going off becomes his constant companion in the hallways, even though reporters are barred from the hospital. He doesn’t receive any owl post, because it all gets intercepted by the staff first, so he grabs a discarded copy of the Daily Prophet now and then, feeling disoriented at the sight of his own face staring back from the front page.

It’s not until the healers finally release him and an enigmatic but friendly looking Professor comes to floo back to Hogwarts with him that he gets to hear part of the story.

“It was one of our students,” Professor Coulson explains, sighing deeply. “We are currently keeping his identity a secret, as well as the details of how you came to reappear in this school, but word gets out very quickly around here. I must ask you not to speak of this to anyone except the Headmistress and me for now, Mr Rogers. I hope you understand.”

Steve nods, numbly, and lets Coulson lead him to a makeshift bedroom just off to his office, a steady, reassuring hand on his shoulder.

“You will find everything you need in the drawers. Someone… insisted on making sure you were provided for,” Coulson says, a slightly pained smile cracking his lips. “I suggest you spend some time with the reading material on your night table. A house-elf will bring you breakfast in the morning. Good night, Mr Rogers.”

“Sir?” Steve croaks. Coulson stops in his tracks, but doesn’t look at him.

“This student… Is he alright?”

“He left the hospital wing some days prior to your release from St. Mungo’s,” Coulson says quietly. “He performed some extraordinary magic to bring you back and needed some time to recuperate. Please refrain from asking any more questions about him from now on.”

The door closes, and Steve wanders over to the drawers, feeling lost. He finds clothes in them, more expensive than any of his have ever been, and is surprised when they fit much better, too, as if someone had them tailor-made especially for him. Other drawers are neatly laid out with school and bathroom supplies, his favourite tea and biscuits, even a small bottle of cologne that smells oddly familiar.

Head spinning, one of the fluffy blue towels still in his hand, Steve lies down on the bed and inhales deeply. He shivers. 2013 is pressing down hard on him, squeezing his mind like a sponge until everything he thought he knew comes oozing out. Images of what he saw when he first opened his eyes in the hospital wing on New Year’s day swim in front of his eyes.

The unrelenting whiteness of the ceiling. The clock on the wall with the broken hand. Frost patterns on the window.

A boy, wringing his hands around the pieces of what used to be a phoenix feather wand, apologizing again and again until the professors have to drag him back to his own bed, where he disappears behind a wall of curtains, and someone murmurs a Sedating spell.

Steve closes his eyes and lets go. Sleep is kinder to him than these memories.

*

The sound of voices wakes him.

He scrambles to get out of bed and only just manages to slip into a bathrobe and a pair of slippers when there is a knock on the door.

“Come in.”

He clears his throat, his voice still hoarse from sleep. The door opens. To his surprise, it’s not Professor Coulson, but a pair of Slytherin students with Prefect badges pinned to their robes and wary looks on their faces.

The girl steps forward. She has red hair and piercing green eyes that look like cracked glass. Something itches at the back of Steve’s mind.

“Hello, Steve,” the girl says, tentatively. “Coulson only gave us a couple of minutes, so I can’t really explain anything. Bruce told me to give this to you.”

Delicately, she picks something out of her breast pocket and holds it out to Steve. It’s a small vial, filled with a liquid that looks like mother of pearl. A note is attached to it, rolled up tightly and bound with a piece of twine. Steve takes the vial and opens his mouth to say something, but the girl speaks first.

“It’s a Mnemonic potion,” she says. “Consider it a gift. You don’t have to take it. But it might clear things up a bit.”

She nods to the boy lingering in the doorframe, and the two of them start to leave.

“Wait,” Steve calls, mouth dry.

The door closes quietly behind them. Left alone with this strange offering, Steve sits back down on the bed and puts his head in his hands.

*

The vial sits on his drawer for days.

*

The note contains nothing more than hand-written instructions on how to take the potion, signed, simply, Bruce.

*

Steve takes the first half of the potion at the end of January, downing it with a glass of water as per instructions and going to bed immediately after. That night, his dreams are cast in ice, and when he wakes in the morning, he feels less muddled than he has ever since he woke up, but he’s disappointed when there are no new memories.

He takes the second half of the potion on the next day, sucking sugar cubes and emptying jug after jug of water all day long, until he collapses into bed at eight, wired and restless and yet bone-deep exhausted. Sleep steals over him quickly.

*

“Steve?”

A hand ghosts across his feverish forehead, combing away a few strands of hair.

“I don’t think he’s awake yet, Tony.”

“But he just moved… and his fever’s gone down.”

“Let him rest, Tony. I’ll keep watch, okay? You need to get some sleep as well, you’ve been up all night.”

The hand moves away from his forehead and curls into Steve’s palm. It’s a comforting feeling, and it tides him over gently into the next dream.

*

“Hey, soldier.”

Steve opens his eyes. He’s in the hospital wing again, with a pounding headache, feeling ravenous. His stomach growls, and someone laughs.

“It’s okay, I already sent Bruce down to the kitchen to get you some chicken soup. You had us pretty worried there for a bit.”

Tony leans forward to peer into his eyes, feel his forehead and take his pulse. Weakly, Steve tries to protest, but the feeling of Tony’s hand on his skin is far too good, and he holds on to Tony’s wrist when he pulls away.

“Tony…”

“Shush, you. Nothing you could say that I haven’t imagined a hundred times already this past month. Took you long enough to drink the damn potion.”

Steve stares at him, drinking him in, overcome with relief and gratitude.

“Thank you,” he finally croaks. Tony’s fingers slip into his own and squeeze lightly.

“You’re welcome.”

*

Once the fever is gone, Steve gets relocated to Gryffindor tower. There, he is greeted warmly by Thor, who offers to share Head Boy duties for the rest of the year and shows him where his emergency stash of Honeydukes sweets is hidden. Together, they put away Steve’s meagre belongings – Tony hasn’t yet admitted to ordering them for him, but his signature is written all over the choice of clothes and books. Steve spends the rest of the afternoon poring over mail-order catalogues, recounting old Quidditch matches for Thor and writing thank-you notes for various people.

Around five, there’s a knock on the door.

“Come in!” Thor booms from where he’s doing push-ups on the floor. The door opens and Tony steps in, Pepper in tow.

“Afternoon, gentlemen,” he says and holds out a long, wrapped parcel to Steve. “Thought you might want to try it out some of these days.”

Steve carefully pries away the paper to reveal Tony’s Christmas present, the brand new Nimbus. He holds the gleaming shaft in his hands, strokes two fingers along the bristles, and can’t breathe for a moment.

“It’s beautiful,” he whispers.

Tony laughs.

“I still can’t believe you didn’t tell me about him,” Pepper pouts, scowling at Tony, then she comes forward to shake Steve’s hand. “Virginia Potts, it’s an honour to meet you. Again, I mean.”

Steve grins.

The two of them get along instantly, discussing Steve’s timetable for the rest of the year and sharing anecdotes about Tony while Thor has a look at the new broom. They all decide to head down to the pitch and try it out before dinner. When Steve’s feet touch back down on the ground after his second go, he feels elated, windswept and thoroughly messed up by how luxurious the Nimbus is. Tony takes one look at him and laughs out loud.

“You alright there, gramps?”

Still catching his breath, Steve hands the broom over to Pepper, who pulls back her hair in a ponytail and angles the Nimbus upward in an elegant spiral. She plays Keeper for the Hufflepuff team, and Steve is told that she’s the best strategist Hogwarts has ever seen.

“Not used to the speed,” Steve pants, happily. “Feels really good, though.”

Tony waggles his eyebrows and opens his mouth to speak, but is interrupted by the appearance of Clint and Natasha.

“No lewd comments about riding someone else’s broom, Stark,” Clint says, bumping into Tony’s shoulder. “You’ll make Rogers blush.”

“Oh, he’s used to it,” Tony waves him off. “I take it you’re here because you want a go on Steve’s broom yourself?”

He leers, earning himself a double Trip Jinx from Clint and Natasha. Laughing, Steve helps him up again, and the faint scent of Tony’s cologne makes his insides squirm a little. Clint wolf-whistles, a sound that startles Steve because it’s so reminiscent of Bucky.

“Guess you have first claim to anything related to Steve’s broom,” Clint grins. “Anyway, we’re actually here to tell you that Coulson expects you at his office after dinner tonight so you can start on your detention.”

Tony groans.

“Why do I still get detention? Okay, I blew up that classroom, but Coulson fixed that in, like, a second,” he grumbles. “I think I deserve an Order of Merlin, at the very least.”

Pepper chooses that moment to float down next to him and ruffle his hair affectionately.

“Poor deluded soul,” she says. “Anyway, should we go to dinner? I’m starving.”

They all troop back to the castle, chatting comfortably in the fading light, and Steve can’t help but feel a twinge of disappointment that Tony will be busy that night. Ever since New Year’s Eve, the two of them haven’t had more than a few moments to themselves, and Steve is starting to miss their afternoons in the Ravenclaw dormitory.

*

Weeks pass. It’s frightening how quickly Steve settles back into a daily routine. There are classes to go to, afternoons to be spent with new friends, Quidditch teams to be cheered for, history lessons to catch up on, and all of a sudden, the Easter holidays are rolling around. Steve asks Professor Coulson for permission to go and see Peggy’s grave. When he returns to the castle that night, rain-soaked, sombre and weary, Tony is waiting for him in front of the portrait hole.

“Hey, soldier.”

Tony’s smile looks doubtful and hesitant, but Steve is grateful for his presence. They spend the evening playing chess in the Gryffindor common room, and for once, even Tony doesn’t talk much. Around midnight, Tony falls asleep, wedged awkwardly between Steve and the armrest of the sofa, and Steve stares into the dying embers of the fire, not sure what he’s supposed to feel.

*

“Can I ask you something?”

Steve looks up from his mortar. The only thing he ever wanted to do after school was join the Aurors, so he needs to pass his Potions NEWT, and Bruce has been an invaluable help. Still, curricula change, and he’s so very far behind.

“Sure, what is it?”

Bruce gazes at him over the top of his glasses and pushes them up the bridge of his nose. He reduces the heat on his cauldron, wipes his hands on a towel and straightens up.

“What exactly are your feelings toward Tony?”

Wrong-footed, Steve needs a long while until he comes up with a halfway decent reply.

“I don’t know… he’s… whenever I’m around him, it’s like… like I’m home, even though I know I’m… not. Does that make any sense?”

Tony has been his anchor in this strange new world. As devastated as he still feels by the loss of his own time, with Tony, he always feels like he’s going to be alright. Bruce just looks at him long and hard, then cracks a little smile and nods.

“He’s much happier since you’re here, you know,” Bruce says and grimaces. “And he’s going to kill me when he finds out I said that.”

“My lips are sealed,” Steve offers.

They go back to work, preparing ingredients and stirring their potions from time to time. Steve is poring over his book when Bruce extinguishes the fire underneath his cauldron, tugs down his shirt sleeves and stretches.

“Are you done?”

“Yes, all done. It’s a tricky little potion, took me three attempts to get it right.”

Steve leans over to take a look inside his cauldron. The smell is subtle, but intense in a way he can’t put into words. It’s an overall pleasing mixture of scents, and now and again, a single, distinct smell bobs up out of the undercurrent like a fish leaping out of the water. Steve closes his eyes and inhales deeply: apple pie, bonfires, petrichor, leather. Something so heady and intimate, like chestnut trees in full bloom, that it makes his neck flush in arousal.

“Amortentia,” Bruce mutters knowingly.

“Impressive,” Steve says, because he knows it’s a wickedly difficult potion to brew – Bucky tried it once, in their fifth year, and failed miserably. “I bet a lot of laboratories are going to want to recruit you after school.”

Bruce smiles thinly and lowers his eyes.

“Not really,” he says.

And then it sinks in, and Steve claps a hand over his mouth to keep from swearing. Of course, there are things that haven’t changed, and werewolves aren’t particularly high in demand by employers even now.

“I’m so sorry,” he manages. Bruce raises an eyebrow.

“What for?”

“I… I saw you and Tony once, when you were… on your way to the hospital wing. After. I mean.”

Bruce’s eyes widen for a fraction of a second, but his hands are steady when he starts putting away his things.

“Funny, the things you can forget,” is all he says.

*

The seventh years organize a ball toward the end of term. On the last Hogsmeade weekend, Tony manages to extricate Steve from the group to go and pick out dress robes for him, which quickly turns into an afternoon of window-shopping, sampling new products at Honeydukes and trying on the most ridiculous clothes they can find just to crack each other up.

Tony sneaks a pair of dress robes into Steve’s pile when he’s not looking, and even Steve has to admit that they look stunning on him, until he sees the price tag. He pretends not to have noticed them when he comes out of the changing cubicle and browses through a rack of rather dull, but ultimately much more affordable dress robes, waiting for Tony to be done paying for his own.

“Found anything?” Tony asks nonchalantly as they make their way back toward the Three Broomsticks to meet up with the others. Steve shrugs.

“Not really,” he sighs. “I might just order something from Diagon Alley.”

Tony snorts.

“You know I’m not gonna let you do that, Steve.”

“Well, what else am I supposed to do?” Steve says, somewhat irritated by Tony’s careless tone. He’s lucky the Goblins of Gringotts have kept his vault intact all this time – apparently there’s a policy on mysteriously disappearing customers – otherwise he wouldn’t even have been able to complete his last year at Hogwarts.

“Why,” Tony grins, “wear this, of course.”

He hands Steve one of his many paper bags and Steve warily peeks inside.

“You didn’t… when did you… how did you even know I liked them?” Steve splutters, flushing, torn between anger and excitement at owning something so nice. Tony preens.

“You should’ve seen the look on your face when you came out,” Tony says. “I know that look. Lots of people get it when they go shopping with me. Now come on, don’t go all mopey and Tony I can’t possibly accept this on me, it’s starting to get boring. Besides, you look hot in those dress robes, it’s a win-win situation.”

Steve sighs, already defeated.

“Race you to the Three Broomsticks?” he says instead, taking Tony by surprise.

“What – you – not even a tiny little pout? Hey, where are you going? Stop laughing! That’s unfair!”

*

Thor and Steve head down to the Great Hall together, freshly showered and decked out in their dress robes. Thor’s black, gold and burgundy ensemble looks almost like armour. Steve borrows a pair of dress shoes from him and combs his hair six times before they leave, feeling uncharacteristically nervous. Most of the students have grown accustomed to having him around by now, but Steve still feels as if he’s under observation in the Great Hall.

They join Clint and Natasha in the entrance hall. Both of them are getting appreciative looks in their all-black outfits, especially Natasha with her low neckline and her hair woven through with green ribbons. Pepper extracts herself from a gaggle of Hufflepuffs and walks over, looking lovely in a pale yellow dress.

“Someone went shopping with Tony,” she says, arching an appraising eyebrow at Steve. “Good choice.”

Steve blushes.

“Thank you. Where is he, anyway? We were supposed to meet him and Bruce here at eight.”

Pepper shrugs, gazing around the entrance hall.

“He’s always late… Come on, let’s go inside, I need to check on the band.”

Bruce and Tony don’t show up until long after the welcome speech, when everyone’s had at least one serving from the buffet and the band is halfway through its repertoire. Tony is wearing a set of sleek, light grey and black dress robes which, as far as Steve can tell, look like a cross-over between Muggle and wizarding fashion. His hair is thoroughly tousled, though, and there is a strange, far-away shine in his eyes that Steve has seen before.

“Where were you?” he asks, surprising himself by how sharp it sounds.

“Oh, you know,” Tony says, vaguely, and looks around at the dancing couples. Clint is engaged in a champagne drinking competition with some of the other Slytherin boys at the far side of the hall. Thor himself has gone off to fetch drinks for his girlfriend, Jane, and her best friend Darcy, who are deep in discussion with Pepper, Maria Hill and Natasha about something Steve isn’t sure he’s supposed to hear – he slipped away to the dessert table somewhere between cervix and uterus and has stayed there ever since.

Steve looks at Bruce, who shrugs apologetically and wanders off to rescue the last piece of treacle tart before Clint gets his hands on it.

“Tony?”

Tony turns around, frowns when he sees that the two of them are alone suddenly, and downs the last of Steve’s butterbeer.

“What?”

“Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, sure, peachy. Why? Do I have lipstick on my face?”

Steve freezes. Looking annoyed, Tony starts wiping at his face with his sleeve, then simply Summons a small pocket mirror from the nearest girl and peers inside.

“Nope, all clean. Hey, what’s up with the Mr Grumpypants face? Someone kicked a puppy or…?”

“Nothing. I just don’t understand why you make Bruce wait until you’re done… canoodling with some girl, even though you knew perfectly well that we were all waiting for you…”

“Oh, come on, as if anyone still bothers to wait for me! I’m always late, didn’t Pepper tell you that?”

Steve crosses his arms and glares.

“Anyways, it was actually Bruce’s fault this time, because…”

“Oh, Bruce’s fault, was it? He just begged you to, to…”

“To what, Steve? To go and have some fun, get out of his hair while he finished brewing his goddamn Wolfsbane so he doesn’t completely lose his shit at the next full moon?”

There’s heat in Tony’s eyes, but he is still careful not to let anyone overhear them talking about Bruce’s condition. Steve relents, looking away. He feels as if a giant hand is squeezing his insides, and suddenly his apple pie doesn’t look so appetizing anymore.

“What is this really about, Steve? Because if this is… if this is you, being jealous…”

“I’m not jealous,” Steve immediately hisses, but stops when he sees the vulnerable look in Tony’s eyes, and the shutters coming down over it a second later.

“Fine,” Tony snaps, “whatever. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go have some fun now. You can sit in the corner and mope for all I care, just please don’t tell me what I can and can’t do, I’ve managed fine without you so far.”

And with that, Tony stalks off, barging right into the girls’ conversation and somehow managing to get Maria to dance with him, and then Pepper, and then Natasha, and then some Ravenclaw girl, and then… Steve leaves the Great Hall. He sits outside on the steps to clear his head until he hears Thor and Natasha dragging a loudly singing Clint in the direction of the Slytherin dungeons.

*

“Tony?”

There’s no answer from Tony, but Bruce looks up from his magazine and wisely suggests playing a game of chess with the other Ravenclaw boy currently occupying the dormitory. Once the two of them have gone down to the common room, Steve steps over to where Tony is examining the helmet of a suit of armour.

He clears his throat. Tony doesn’t show any sign of having heard him at all.

“Tony, I… I’m sorry for what I said at the ball. It was out of line.”

If possible, Tony’s shoulders tense up even further. He puts down the helmet unceremoniously and straightens up, but doesn’t turn around.

“Okay,” he says, staring ahead.

Steve frowns.

“Well, you’re busy, so… I’ll just leave you alone then. See you.”

Deflated, he turns to go, but just when he reaches the door, Tony speaks up again.

“Wait.”

Steve stops, heart thudding in his chest.

“I’m sorry, too. It wasn’t what you said that made me angry.”

“What was it, then?”

Tony turns his head to the side then and smiles without humour.

“Can’t you guess? Come on, Steve, I know I’m an emotional wreck, you don’t have to go easy on me.”

A pause. Steve draws breath to speak, stops himself again. Tony chuckles.

“Alright, then. Tony Stark 101. If it’s that obvious I just shagged some random person, I probably want you to notice it. But, Tony, you say, why would you possibly want that? Because, I answer, maybe I want you to be jealous, instead of just calling me out for my overall shitty behaviour, which I can get from Pepper any day, thank you very much.”

The silence rings through the room like a gun shot. Steve just stands there, one hand on the doorknob, the other clenching and unclenching uselessly at his side. He feels hot and itchy under his shirt, like when Peggy first laid eyes on him, only worse.

“I was that wrong, huh? Well, I guess I never really asked you…”

Tony’s voice cracks, and Steve lets go of the door. He takes a deep breath, then walks over to Tony, bends down awkwardly in front of his chair and kisses him square on the mouth.

It’s not a special kiss in any way, just the slightly lopsided pressure of lips on dry lips, over before Tony can even react. They stand facing each other, both at a loss for words, and it’s almost hilarious to see Tony Stark so utterly gobsmacked that he even forgets to comment on Steve’s blush.

“I was jealous,” Steve finally croaks out. “I was so jealous I wanted to smack your head against the wall, so I shouted at you instead.”

The spell breaks, and they both start laughing at the same time.

“Wanker,” Tony says, eyes twinkling with mirth.

“Speak for yourself.”

“Was that supposed to be dirty? Why, Rogers, I think I’m starting to rub off on you. Speaking of dirty…”

Tony laughs again when he sees Steve’s face.

“I love it when you get all flustered,” he mutters, shaking his head. Then he gets up. “So where were we? I believe you were trying to kiss me…?”

Steve smiles and leans down again, now almost face to face with Tony, whose tongue darts out to wet his lips before Steve presses their mouths together once more. This time, the kiss is slow, soft, viscous, like fudge and lazy Sunday afternoons. Tony hums his appreciation when Steve parts his lips to meet Tony’s tongue with his. Feeling slightly dizzy, Steve doesn’t regain control over his body until one of Tony’s hands starts fiddling with his belt, and he breaks away.

“Um…”

Tony holds his hands up, glancing longingly down at the half-opened belt.

“Okay, just kissing, then. I can do that. No big deal. Tony Stark can do kissing.”

“That’s not…” Steve takes a deep, shuddering breath. “I do want to. Sleep with you. I just… this is all pretty new to me. And it’s late, this is your dormitory…”

Tony lets out a defeated chuckle and nods.

“You’re right. We’ll take it slow. Don’t bother your pretty little head with it, alright? Just… give me a minute and I’ll join you downstairs. We can challenge Bruce together.”

Steve nods, head still spinning, but somehow manages to make it out of the door and into the darkened staircase, where he stops to catch his breath. Peggy smiles at him, knowingly, out of the depth of his mind, and tells him he’s a coward and a disgrace to Gryffindor house. Steve snorts, feeling a little better.

When Tony comes out of the dormitory some time later, looking flushed but infinitely more put together than before, Steve flashes him a wide grin.

“Oh, shut up,” Tony mutters, embarrassed. “I told you, most natural thing in the world.”

*

And it’s not like Steve doesn’t do it, too, now that he can actually get aroused in a physical way again and he and Tony are doing a lot of kissing in hidden alcoves and deserted classrooms to pass the time between study sessions.

*

The NEWTs put a temporary stop to these activities, and all too soon, they are facing their last few days at Hogwarts. The group spends them down at the lake, lounging in the sun, watching Thor battle the Giant Squid and sharing the combined remains of their stockpiled sweets and snacks. They’re all happy, happy in that stabbing, constricted, painful way that sometimes makes Pepper wipe away an errant tear when no one is looking, because these days will be gone soon, scattered across their lives by the summer breeze.

On the last night, when everything is packed up and the end-of-term feast has come and gone, Tony tugs at Steve’s robes on the way back to their dormitories. They slip off, quietly, unnoticed by the group, and Tony leads him through the darkened corridors until they arrive at a familiar place.

It’s Tony who opens the Room of Requirement this time, and he presents it to Steve with a mixture of pride and nervousness.

“I practised,” he admits as Steve stares around in wonder at the cosy little bedroom, complete with adjacent bathroom and even a fresh set of clothes for both of them.

“It’s nice,” Steve says, and it comes out as a whisper. He clears his throat.

Tony steps up and slips his arms around him from behind.

“Tony?”

“Yes?”

“I want to sleep with you.”

A small moan, then Tony turns him around and peers into his eyes.

“Are you sure?” he asks. “I mean it, if… if you tell me you are, right now, I…”

Steve smiles. Instead of answering, he slips out of his robes, socks and shoes and starts unbuttoning Tony’s shirt. Tony simply watches him with amazement and tenderness, and Steve can feel his heart beating against his palm.

Standing naked in front of Tony doesn’t feel weird at all. Steve lets his eyes trail down Tony’s body, even the scars that he hasn’t seen for months, and is overcome with gratefulness again. He swipes a fingertip along the F on Tony’s chest, eliciting a shudder.

“I’ve wanted to do this ever since I first saw them,” Steve confesses, a little too fiercely, maybe. Tony swallows.

“Can we not talk about my scars when we’re about to fuck?” Tony says nervously. “Shit, I’m sorry. Just… let’s lie down, okay?”

They move over to the bed and lie down, facing each other.

“So… how do we do this?” Steve asks, cringing at the sound of his own voice. They are both half-hard, and he just wants to touch Tony, go back to kissing like all those times when they were supposed to be studying and take it from there. Tony smiles.

“Depends on what you want to do.”

Steve shrugs to mask his utter inability to put any of his admittedly rather vague fantasies into words. He leans over to kiss Tony again, slowly, deliberately. Tony makes a pleased noise, but pulls away after a while.

“Turn on your back,” he instructs, smiling. “I’ll give you a blowjob.”

Steve shifts around on the bed, now fully hard just from the way Tony said it, so bluntly and matter-of-factly that it almost sounds like an order.

He watches as Tony pushes himself up on his hands and moves down the bed, placing feathery kisses along his chest and stomach on the way, lingering a little on his nipples, which makes Steve gasp.

“Already so hard,” Tony says, “I bet you’ve been thinking about it all day. Have you ever had a blowjob, Steve?”

Biting his lip to keep a groan in, Steve shakes his head. It’s something Bucky told him about, but he would never have asked Peggy to do it. He gasps again, louder this time, when Tony grips his cock and swipes his tongue lavishly across the tip.

 “You taste so good,” Tony purrs against him, and Steve whimpers. “I think about this every time I jerk off, you know. The way you’d arch your hips off the bed – yeah, like that – and try not to let out all those little sounds… Just you wait, I’m going to make you moan, Steve, by the end of the night I’m going to make you call my name over and over and over.”

By the time he takes Steve’s cock all the way into his mouth, Steve is already far too close to just coming then and there, and Tony makes another delighted little noise in the back of his throat when he notices. Steve does arch his hips off the bed then, needy, dazed, and he doesn’t even care that he’s already moaning Tony’s name, which makes Tony pick up his pace.

His hands clench in the sheets, he thrusts up into Tony’s mouth one last time, and his orgasm still takes him by surprise, lasting even longer than he’s used to.

Tony actually swallows around his cock.

“There, your first blowjob. What do you think?” He moves to curl up next to Steve, grinning giddily at him. “God, you’re so hot when you come. I really just want to do it all over again.”

Steve flushes, still trying to catch his breath, feeling drained in a good way and yearning for Tony to come closer again. He laces his fingers into Tony’s and gathers up some dignity.

“I want to… Can I do that to you?” he asks.

Tony laughs, but his pupils are blown and his breathing is going faster than before. Steve glances down to see that Tony is still painfully hard.

“Sure,” Tony mutters. “Just don’t use your teeth and you’ll be fine.”

Steve kisses him again and scoots down the bed like Tony did before, but instead of taking him in his mouth, gives his cock a few tentative strokes in his fist first. Tony groans. Experimentally, he licks along the underside, making Tony hum in encouragement. It’s an odd sensation when he finally closes his mouth around the head, and the salty taste is unfamiliar, but not in a bad way. Without planning it, Steve sucks on it a little, and Tony gasps.

“Yeah, just… do that a bit more,” Tony pants and snakes a hand down to wrap around the base of his own cock, pulling. Steve has seen him do that before, when he was close to orgasm, and he swirls his tongue around the tip, sucking harder, until Tony pulls Steve’s head away, pumps his fist a few more times, and comes messily over his hand and stomach.

“So,” Steve says, lightly. “Did I pass Tony Stark 101, Professor?”

Tony groans, tugging at his own hair.

“Don’t just do that,” he grumbles. “Far too early for teacher-student roleplay. And you just made me come, so yeah, of course you passed, silly. Though that particular class is probably called Tony Stark’s Dick 101. ”

“There’s a whole class on that?”

“Cheeky, I like that.”

They are silent for a while, lying side by side on the mattress, sleepy and content.

“Hey, Steve?”

“Hmm?”

“I know you have that room in London all sorted out, but… You can come live with me any time, if you want. I have plenty of space.”

Steve smiles, fumbling the blanket out from underneath him and covering them both with it. Tony’s warmth surrounds him, like a shield to ward off memories of the ice, and Steve nearly falls asleep there and then.

“I know,” he mutters, and Tony squeezes his hand under the blanket.

*

“Surprise!”

Steve slips the towel from his head and looks up. Before he can process the sight of Tony and Bruce standing in the doorway, wearing the dark purple robes of the Unspeakables, there’s a whoop and a bellow and Clint and Thor run past him to greet their old friends.

“Guess who’s the new Head of the Experimental Potions section in the Department of Mysteries?” Tony says proudly, making a show of pointing both index fingers at Bruce, who looks equal parts happy and uncomfortable when Thor gives him a mighty pat on the back.

“Congratulations, my friend!”

“Awesome, man!”

“I didn’t know they even had potioneers down there.”

“Natasha! You’re not supposed to be in our locker room!”

Natasha shrugs, tosses her hair and turns back to Bruce.

“Well, they didn’t, actually,” Tony says. “I invented the job. Told my boss I would quit if they didn’t at least let him come in for the interview.”

“What’s all this commotion about?”

Maria comes out of the women’s changing rooms, still in her trainee Auror robes. She smiles when she sees Bruce and shakes his hand.

“Hello, Bruce. Nick Fury mentioned you’re with the DoM now, congratulations.”

“Anyway, I’m taking Bruce out for lunch, to celebrate. He wants to try out that shawarma place on the corner, Pepper’s coming, too. Anyone hungry?”

“You mean you wanted to try out that shawarma place,” Bruce mutters, good-naturedly.

Tony shrugs. There’s some frantic scramble to locate any missing shirts, wands and shoes, and within minutes, the group is set to go. Steve is the last one to leave the changing room and is startled to find Tony waiting for him outside.

“Hey, soldier.”

“That’s a really nice thing you did for Bruce,” Steve says.

Tony’s face falls a little, but he recovers quickly.

“Well, actually they pretty much told me to get lost when I threatened to resign, so… It was Pepper vouching from him that did it, I think. After all, she got promoted to senior assistant to the Minister, did you hear?”

“Still.”

They walk in comfortable silence along the empty corridors of the Auror training quarters, following the sound of the others’ voices. As they are nearing the entrance doors, Tony pulls him aside and whispers something in his ear.

Steve swallows thickly and leans his forehead against Tony’s for a brief moment.

Then they straighten up again, wipe their expressions clean, and step out into the pale November sunlight together, not looking back.