No-one who knew Harry Potter would recognize him now. His hair was long, tied up in a messy ponytail and his scar was covered beneath a sweatband. The round, thickly rimmed black glasses had been replaced by a more subtle oval counterpart and his usual oversized muggle wear thrown away. Instead of cast-offs he wore comfortable well-fitting black slacks and a muggle t-shirt with a picture of a cartoonish roaring lion.
After many years of shared adventures, the Golden Trio had decided to take a little breather from each other and went their separate ways. Oh, they still kept in touch and visited often and they could still understand each other better than anyone else but for now they were each of them trying to discover things on their own.
For Harry this meant taking a step away from the Wizarding World altogether. He had never enjoyed his fame and right now, in the aftermath of the war, it was worse - or better, if you're into that sort of thing - than ever.
So he decided to take a vacation.
For the first time in his life he was completely free to go where he wanted to go and to do whatever he felt like. It was liberating to explore the world, muggle and wizarding, on his own. It was wonderful to be able to make his own decisions about completely mundane stuff, for example about what he wanted to eat, or about going to a muggle amusement park for the first time in his life or lazing on the beach for days on end.
He had never been so free, not at the Dursleys - obviously - , not at Hogwarts, not while the three of them where on the run, chasing Horcruxes, and not even in the Wizarding World after the war, with everyone watching him.
He had never been so free. And now, after the initial glow of the first few months had worn off, he had never been so bored.
Harry supposed that this utter boredom was what caused him to end up in a muggle bar in New York City in the first place. With a sigh he nursed a drink and observed those around him.
The muscled blond caught his attention immediately.
The man stood out like a wizard amongst muggles. But Harry had spent enough time both in and out of the wizarding world that he could tell the blond wasn't a wizard at all. His curiosity awoke immediately and brighter than ever, fuelled further by his utter boredom.
Everyone else was avoiding the strange man but Harry felt himself drawn to him. His loud, archaic speech and enthusiastic drinking seemed to be off-putting to most people but to the Gryffindor it felt comfortingly familiar how different the man was.
Harry blinked and realised that this probably made him a little odd. Not that he cared to be normal. He nearly shuddered at the thought of becoming like the Dursleys and shook off these thoughts, instead focussing on the strange man again.
So when the man raised his large tankard of liquor and started an enthusiastic speech about bravery that hit a little close to home, Harry couldn't help but raise his glass as well; "I'll drink to that."
"Ah, my friend! So you also have a true warrior's spirit?" For a moment the man looked a tinge sceptical and Harry could understand why. Physically he was the blonde's complete opposite: small and lean, a Seeker's build. Even so, after a moment, the man smiled warmly at him, welcoming him to his table with a grand gesture.
The wizard shrugged at the overly dramatic speech and manners of the man and joined the bloke at his table. Harry got along fine with Luna, Professor Dumbledore, the Weasley twins, Hagrid and Dobby. So why not this man?
Anyone else in this bar was probably too normal for him to feel comfortable speaking to, anyway.
"Once I would not have believed that one of such a small stature could be a true warrior, but I have learned since that it is not only strength of body that makes one a warrior. 'T was a harsh lesson to learn, but a true one."
Harry gazed thoughtfully at the big guy and figured that there was a story there. The higher you go, the more painful the fall. And this man struck him as someone very confident in his own prowess.
He must have stood very high before his fall.
The Gryffindor nodded; "And yet, the harshest lessons are often the most important ones to learn. Even if the process is somewhat painful."
Harry thought back to Voldemort who, for all his power, still managed to lose to a kid every single time because of his own overconfidence. "And those who do not learn them and begin to believe that they are better than anyone else will only set themselves up for failure. Everyone falls. But not everyone is strong enough to get back up again."
The blond stared at him for a moment before a smile formed on his lips; "Indeed! 'T was humility I was sent here to learn, and I have learned it. And here you are to remind me once more. It seems that humans are surely the best teachers in this regard."
The wizard didn't even blink at the oblique reference to the man not being human at all. "You fell, then." he stated matter-of-factly, "and managed to regain your feet and struck back at your foe. Did you defeat him, in the end?"
The man laughed; "Yes! You read me well, my friend, in the end I felled my enemy." the smile turned to a frown as a sorrowful glint entered his eye "but it was not without loss."
"It never is." Harry agreed with a sigh, thinking of Sirius falling away from him into the Veil, his own hopes for the future falling with him. A moment of silence settled between them before the man by his side spoke up again.
"Would you grant me your name, young warrior?" The serious look in the man's eyes stopped Harry from smiling at the odd way of asking who he was.
"Harry Potter" was his quiet answer, giving the man the unadorned truth, no more and no less.
No recognition bloomed on the man's face, but then, Harry hadn't expected it to. Instead the muscled giant offered his own name in return as simply as Harry had given his own. "I am Thor Odinson."
A firm handshake sealed an undefined understanding between them.
This is how the saviour of the wizarding world and the Norse god of thunder ended up swapping war stories in a muggle bar, both staggeringly drunk and being given a wide berth by any other patron.
Not that any of them would put any credit in their fantastical stories.
I like Thor. I don't think the other Avengers give him enough credit because of his archaic speech and action oriented mentality. I think Harry would get along with him and just get him, better than most.
Harry woke up with a staggering headache, feeling as if he had just been hit in the head with a bludger. With a groan he dragged himself into consciousness, wondering what sort of mess he had gotten himself into this time.
When he finally opened his eyes he realised that he was lying in a bed in a spacious room. A sound drew his attention to the right and he squinted at the sleeping man whom he was sharing a large, comfortable bed with.
Ah. No attacks then, just a hangover, Harry figured when he realised that this was the muscled blond from the night before – he vaguely remembered taking up the bloke's offer to sleep it off at his place. At least, that's what he had assumed the guy had meant, in between the loud laughter and references to warrior bounds and the like. Considering that he still had all his clothes on, save his shoes and glasses, Harry must have assumed right and it hadn't been a reference to having it off.
A cursory examination of the rest of the room revealed his shoes, and as he groped for them, he also managed to find his missing glasses poking out of one of them.
A hallow victory, because the glasses didn't make the pounding in his head any easier. Mentally he cursed the fact that he had never been a normal teenager – and so never bothered to learn any anti-hangover spells.
"Ghgh…" he groaned, sounding remarkably like a newly risen zombie – he certainly felt like one of the living dead.
"Good morning, sir" a British voice greeted him – thankfully in a carefully modulated voice.
That was not Thor's voice, and there wasn't anyone else in the room. But then, coming from a world filled with talking portraits and ghosts, that wasn't such an odd thing. As long as the disembodied voice didn't start talking about killing and being hungry he figured he would be fine.
"Good morning," he answered as best as he could, despite feeling like a sheep had died in his mouth. Because, although Harry considered his Aunt and Uncle poor excuses for parental figures (and human beings), they had raised him to be polite, if nothing else.
"I am JARVIS – the Artificial Intelligence that runs this building. Welcome to Avengers Tower, sir."
"Err – thanks." Harry answered, his mind still rather sluggish – wasn't an Artificial Intelligence some sort of living computer from science-fiction films?
Then he finally remembered the manners that had been stamped into him throughout his childhood. "Oh. Uh, my name is Harry Potter. Pleased to meet you."
"And you as well, sir." The voice, JARVIS, replied pleasantly. "If I may, sir. Should you so desire, you will find water and Advil on either nightstand."
Advil? Some sort of muggle headache medicine, wasn't it? In absence of a magical hangover cure that would have to do. "Thank you, sir." He managed to answer as he found said pills.
For a moment he looked at the tiny letters and contemplated making an attempt to read it. Hermione had always lectured about the importance of stuff like that. But his head hurt and the letters were just about swimming in front of his eyes and he was a bloody Gryffindor anyway.
Carefully he took out one of the pills, stared at it for a moment and shrugged, tossing it in his mouth – shortly followed by a generous gulp of water.
Then he blinked, wondering if he should be feeling better.
A silent moment later he gave up, maybe muggle medicine took a bit longer to kick in?, and decided to go for door number two.
"Erm, excuse me, JARVIS?"
"Do you think it might be possible for me to take a shower here?"
"Indeed, sir". The polite computer told him obligingly where he could find the bathroom and necessities. So, with a quick thanks, Harry was off to attempt to regain his humanity by way off a shower.
Through it all, the blond warrior still in the bed snored happily.
When he returned, refreshed and with no more than a little dull throb behind his eyes, Thor had woken up. Apparently without a hangover.
"Friend!" The booming voice greeted him, "Good morrow to you!"
With a sigh, Harry resigned himself to his fate. He had survived worse things than a hangover, he told himself firmly - hoping that that would make this situation feel more bearable.
"Good morning." He replied, even though it wasn't really. "Thanks for letting me sleep here."
"No, my friend. No thanks are necessary, for we are warriors, you and I! We have both faced mighty challenges and cunning foes and come out of it the wiser. Between brothers in battle there need be no thanks for such trifles."
"Right…" Harry finally said, feeling sort of awkward in the face of Thor's enthusiasm so shortly after waking up. "Well, I should probably go. Thank you for the hospitality, Thor. And JARVIS."
"You are quite welcome, sir."
"Ah! But after a night of drinking surely I cannot let you take your leave without breaking your fast! Warriors such as us need our strength." The blond insisted with a chuckle.
Last night Harry had already found that arguing with Thor was like going against a force of nature at the best of times. Now, with the hint of his hangover still pressing down on him, it seemed far too impossible a task.
So Harry just smiled and gave in: "That sounds great."
The kitchen looked like something out of a futuristic film that Dudley used to watch. Had he really missed this much about how muggle technology had developed?
He stared at the space-shuttle coffeemaker and wondered if there was any way he could find a simple cup of tea in this kitchen.
"I don't know you. Do I? I don't think I know you." A somewhat abrasive voice startled him out of his thoughts.
Harry turned at the sound of the voice and found himself facing a dark-haired man, taller than himself. Before Harry could formulate a reply, Thor happily jumped in to introduce him.
"This is Harry Potter, who joined me in a night of drinking! He is a wizard, a stout warrior, and a good man. But cannot hold his liquor as well as I, so I escorted him here to recover from a night of revelry!"
Harry gave a wry smile and a nod at the rather frank introduction, hoping that Thor wouldn't mention anything else that muggles weren't supposed to know about.
"Friend! This is Anthony Stark - a warrior in his own right, with an armour and weapons most cunning!"
"Tony," the man cut in, "and he's talking about me being Iron Man."
The wizard blinked - wondering what this man going on about?. "Err... right," he said agreeably, even if it was obvious from his confused face that he had no idea just why anyone would refer to this person as being a Man made of Iron. Maybe it was some sort of a joke?
The man pursed his lips and looked at him with such a scrutinizing look that it made Harry feel a bit exposed. "Do you even know what I'm talking about?" Tony Stark asked him, voice dubious.
"Ah, I'm sorry, but Thor didn't mention you last night. Mr, uh, Stark?" Harry said carefully, wondering what this was all about. "Granted, he might have - things are a bit fuzzy at the end."
Tony Stark's eyes widened and his voice was completely incredulous; "You seriously don't know who I am?"
Harry looked between his blond acquaintance and this new man and didn't have enough control of his mouth to stop the words before they escaped, "Are you two... together, then? Is that why he should have mentioned you?"
Thor boomed in laughter; "Nay, my friend. Though the man of Iron and I are brothers on the field of battle, my heart is spoken for by the Lady Jane."
"Ah... Errr..." Harry said, blushing from embarrassment, "Sorry about that."
Thor didn't seem to mind Harry's assumption and happily blathered on about his Lady, so Harry turned to the other man to see if he was offended. Tony Stark was staring at him, with a cold steely look that was almost a glare for the merciless strength of it - and Harry stared back, refusing to back down from the man's unwavering gaze.
Moments went by and their little staring contest was turning slightly ridiculous. Especially since Thor, who neither man was paying attention to, was still expounding on his girl's virtues in the background.
Slowly Tony Stark's deep frown melted away into a thoughtful one, before any hint of steel disappeared as if it had never been there. "No problem" he told Harry, with a smirk and a dismissive wave of his hand.
"Thor, buddy," the strange muggle said happily, lightly slapping the blond man on the arm to draw his attention, "you are absolutely right. Dr. Foster is a terrific lady. A lot smarter than most of the idiots out there - and easy on the eyes, win-win."
"Indeed! She is the loveliest vision I have ever seen on Midgard, and yet, her mind is as admirable as any of her physical traits. But ah! Her heart goes beyond either, for it is warm and good and brave."
"Yes, yes." Tony interrupted before Thor could get going again. "You know, you should call her. You don't want her to think you've forgotten about her, do you?"
"Ah! I should." The muscled blond answered, obviously quite taken with the idea. But before he could run of he remembered Harry. "But first, I should sit with my fellow warrior for breakfast." He smiled at the wizard; "For though the mead on Midgard is not as strong as I am used to, I well know the feeling of waking up in the morning after a good night's drinking! And wizard or no, I do think you will need to strengthen yourself with food."
Before Harry could muster any kind of reply to that, Stark forced himself not only into the conversation, but physically between the two. "Don't worry about that, Thor. I'm sure JARVIS and I can fix Harry here up with a nice and filling breakfast. Right, JARVIS?"
Thor stared at the two for a moment before nodding enthusiastically. "I shall take my leave then, for the moment, to call upon my fair Lady Jane."
A blink of the eye later and Harry was left behind with a muggle who managed to easily steer a force of nature like Thor into leaving them alone. Although he was slightly apprehensive about what the other man wanted, he couldn't help but admire the man for that.
"So..." Harry spoke into the blissful silence, "would it be possible to find some tea in this kitchen?"
Apparently it was possible to find some tea. And it was a decent cup too. Harry sighed happily, the remnant of his headache eased away in the face of the warm comfort and cleansing scent.
His moment was interrupted by the man across from him, who didn't even bother with polite conversation and jumped right in to the last thing Harry wanted him to ask about.
"Thor called you a wizard." Tony Stark didn't even have the decency to phrase that as a question.
Harry stayed silent for a moment, before answering as neutrally as he could. "Well, Thor refers to humans as if he isn't one himself."
"Well, he's Thor." The man replied, moving his hands as if he were trying to wave his remark away as irrelevant, "God of Thunder and all that."
"Hmm.. Really?" Harry hummed thoughtfully.
The wizard nodded, "Ah, ok then."
Tony Stark narrowed his eyes at him, scrutinizing him in an overly dramatic way. Harry just raised an eyebrow and waited until the man was finished.
"You know, for someone who supposedly didn't know that, you seem to believe this pretty easily." Stark pointed out, sarcasm infusing every word.
The wizard smiled, "Well, like I said, he already implied he wasn't human. It was just a question of what he was instead. And now I know. Should have been obvious really, So are those Frost Giants he mentioned fighting Gods as well?"
"He talked about fighting Frost Giants?"
"Yes, we exchanged battle stories. Seems like it's the thing to do over drinks for Thor and his people. Who are Gods, apparently."
"You… exchanged battle stories?" The man's utter scepticism would have offended anyone else.
But Harry Potter just nodded; "Yes. He had some good ones."
The enthusiastic blond in question chose that very moment to bound back into the room like an overgrown puppy. "Ah, my friend! Your words are kind, but you are too modest. Your small stature hides a fierce warrior as well, as your many trials have brought to light!"
Harry didn't blink twice, even as the god slung a powerful arm around his shoulders and started sprouting off about honour and bravery and cunning foes. With his headache now gone, and feeling a lot more awake than before after his cup of tea Harry had no trouble engaging the enthusiastic man in conversation. So he asked about Thor's lady friend and smiled at Thor's overwhelming joy when he spoke of Jane, this time actually listening to the man as he went on and on about her.
Right then and there, Tony Stark decided he liked the guy – just for putting up with them.
There weren't many people who could take a full dose of him or Thor without resorting to violence, screaming, or running away. Let alone the both of them. Not to mention that the so-called wizard was unfailingly polite to JARVIS.
Harry was something else.
And Tony Stark would damn well find out what. So he snuck out, leaving the slight form of a far too nonchalant Harry Potter with the overly muscled, enthusiastic Asgardian. And he ordered JARVIS to do a search on 'Harry Potter', and to look up any information about wizards that seemed even remotely plausible.
Then he returned, bottle of scotch in his hand despite the early hour, and ready to exchange some battle stories of his own.
...So it seems that I never uploaded the second part of this story to AO3.
Yeah. Well... um, ok. Better late then never?
Three hours later, Harry still hadn’t managed to slip away.
He didn’t even feel embarrassed about his utter failure in making his excuses and leaving, because, Defeater of the Dark Lord or not, he had since learned that while Thor was a force of nature - it was Tony Stark who was truly a force to be reckoned with.
He should really dislike the man, actually, now that Harry thought about it.
Because Tony Stark wasn’t just stubborn (a trait that Harry could understand and maybe even admire in a person), he was also unrepentantly manipulative and even more spoiled than Malfoy. The dark-haired man seemed to be completely incapable of taking ‘no’ for an answer.
He also had no scruples whatsoever in using the British man’s politeness against him.
“Ah. Well, thank you. For breakfast, and letting me sleep it off here. But I really should get going,” Harry had quickly uttered into a rare moment of silence when breakfast was well and truly finished.
Thor nodded. “Then, my young warrior, I will say goodbye to you for now. But I trust that you will come to seek me out again, at this building. For there are tales we have not yet shared, and we are bonded as fellow warriors now – such a bond should not be easily lay aside!”
“Right,” Harry agreed with a nod, because saying no to someone like Thor would be a cruel thing to do. To him – and to yourself, because he had no doubt the man, well, God, wouldn’t take a refusal like that easily. There would either be loud protests or some sort of puppy dog eyes, Harry was sure. “Then I will be honored to meet with you again, Thor Odinson.”
Thor smiled and with a regal nod the large man left him at the table. Harry smiled too, a real smile, because he liked the God of Thunder and wouldn’t actually mind spending more time with him at all.
“So, I’ll be off then,” he informed the other man who had joined them for breakfast while stood up, ready to leave.
“Why? What do you need to do?” Tony Stark asked him bluntly.
“You didn’t seem to be in a hurry at all when we ordered in breakfast and haven’t once looked at your phone or watch or any other sort of timepiece – so you obviously don’t have any appointments or prior engagements. That means you want to leave because you don’t want to be here. I wonder if I should feel offended. Actually, I think I do.”
Harry shook his head wondering where that had come from, why would the man think he disliked them? That’s just barmy. “No. Of course not. But I’m sure you have things to do today, and I’ve already imposed enough…”
“No imposition whatsoever!” Stark interrupted him – and the dark-haired man wasn’t even the slightest bit polite about it. Instead of a courteous reassurance it sounded like a challenge.
The wizard blinked. Oh.
“Besides, Thor got to hear all your battle stories – it would be really rude of you to leave me out. I’m your host after all. I even brought the good stuff.” The man put a bottle of scotch on the table.
Huh. So this place belonged to Tony Stark? Well, it made sense, the high-tech surroundings didn’t seem to match his image of Thor at all. “I’ve only just gotten over my hangover. It’s a bit early to start drinking again, don’t you think?”
“You’re absolutely right,” the man agreed with a charming grin that made a feeling of doom start to rise from the pit of his stomach.
Harry trusted his instincts - honed not only by war but also by going to school with the Weasely twins - so he knew that the grin and that sudden agreement meant nothing good. “I am?” he asked, full of dread.
His grin widened; “Of course you are. It’s far too early to drink – people keep telling me that all the time, so I should know. No, we should save the drinking for a little later. In the meantime, let me show you around – this is the most awesome place you will ever have the privilege of entering, so you should be feeling really honored by now.”
Harry, who spent his school years in a magical castle, felt somewhat dubious about that claim. Unfortunately, his expression showed his thoughts quite clearly.
He saw the dramatic indignation form on Starks’ face. “You don’t believe me? This is the Avengers Tower, formerly Stark Tower and contains the most high-tech advanced technology in the world. And let me tell you. It. Is. Mindboggling. For you, that is. I’m a genius, my mind isn’t that easily boggled. Come along!”
Obediently, he trailed after the narcissistic man, understanding less than half of what the man preceded to inform him of. Obviously Harry had thoroughly neglected his muggle education – Hermione would be so disappointed in him. The wizard felt a tinge ashamed about it too.
Ruefully, he thought that maybe he should go and find Thor again. The man was big, muscled and far stronger than Harry and, well, a God. So maybe he felt a little bit small in comparison there as well. But at least he didn’t feel like a complete ignorant idiot around him, so that was probably still preferable than walking around with a self-proclaimed genius sprouting stuff about who knows what.
He, Harry Potter, Saviour of Wizarding Britian, possibly the richest man of said country (with the Black vault added to his own and the Order of Merlin and its accompanying money award that was very likely), and adored and admired by pretty much anyone aware of his existence - was feeling rather outclassed.
He snorted, amused at the thought and Tony Stark turned around, raising an eyebrow in his direction.
Harry shrugged his shoulders and answered the unspoken question honestly, “I don’t know a thing about technology and my M- my education didn’t progress much further than primary school. I don’t understand even half of what you’re saying.”
There was a frown on the man’s face now and something that might be akin to pity.
Harry shook his head at the man and smiled contently, “It’s actually rather refreshing.”
“Refreshing?” Stark asked – and Harry realized that no, it hadn’t been pity exactly - there had been a tinge of concern in the man’s eyes and voice, and Harry was a complete stranger so really, this man shouldn’t care about him and his education levels at all… And suddenly he couldn’t refer to the man as ‘Stark’ anymore, not even in his own mind. Tony. Tony asked him – with biting sarcasm covering the fact that he cared.
And Harry thought that maybe, now, he understood this man after all. All flash and drama and loud and bold to hide the parts of him that were so much more quiet.
“Hmm… it’s been a while since I felt… small. Insignificant. It’s somewhat. Nice.”
Now the man blinked and stared at his serene smile for a long moment – as if it was the strangest thing in the world for Harry to actually enjoy this.
Then Tony shook his head; “You’re all sorts of weird, Harry. And don’t think I've forgotten about the whole ‘wizard’ thing. We will have words about that. Questions and answers, possibly booze, and I will not let you slip away before all that. Just so you know.”
Then the man turned around again and started walking, motioning with his hands and saying ‘Come along then, Wizard-boy.’ His monologue started up again – he was talking about clean energy sources and technological advances and Harry listened with half an ear, letting the words flow over him and reveling in the feeling of not being the centre of attention, of not being the important, smart or powerful one.
Just the weird one.
It wasn’t exactly ‘just Harry’, but it was better than that whole ‘Boy-Who-Lived-and-Saved-Us-All-Just-Like-We-Always-Said-He-Would’ bovine dung pile.
And that was good enough for him.
So, this has been on my computer for literally years now. I never uploaded this (and the next) chapter because I wasn't sure if I liked them (seems like I suddenly went in an entirely different direction somehow).
But someone recently reminded me of this story and when I reread the whole thing including the two newer chapters I didn't think they were that bad. I can't come up with anything else anyway since I already wrote this and it is therefore stuck in my mind. So, have a very delayed update. The last chapter should follow soon as well.
Chapter 4: Part Four
A ring of Tony Stark’s mobile phone gave rise to what might be his salvation.
Harry hadn’t forgotten the whole ‘wizard thing’ either and was not looking forward to having words about it – and even if he didn’t actually dislike the man, he’d rather not stick around for that, thank you very much.
The older man looked at his phone and then stared sternly at him; “Stay here,” he ordered, as if Harry was a particularly dense child, or even a dog. Then the man turned away, answering his phone.
Well, polite or not, Harry Potter was never very good at obeying the rules, or authority figures for that matter – he always made his own way and used his own judgment.
And right now he judged it was high time to leg it.
So he did.
He snuck around and searched for the lift - and when he finally found it he pressed the button for the lowest floor because he knew he was quite high up (Tony Stark was right about one thing at least, the view truly was worthwhile).
The lift stopped and its doors opened. What he saw didn’t look too promising.
“Err… I don’t suppose this will be the exit?” Harry asked out loud.
JARVIS answered him, at least, “You have reached the floor containing Sir’s private labs.”
“Ah. Well, let’s keep his private labs private, shall we?” the wizard offered agreeably, “Instead, might it be possible for you to order this lift to take me to ground level?”
“I apologize, sir. I have been ordered to lock out the other floors – you may either get out here or go back to the floor you were on earlier.”
Which would be the floor Tony Stark was currently on.
Harry leaned back for a moment – if he hadn’t been a wizard and fully capable at Apparating out at any moment, he might be feeling a tad peeved. As it was… he stepped out of the lift. “Right then,” he said. “Thank you, JARVIS.”
It wasn’t the AI’s fault, after all.
“You are most welcome, sir.” JARVIS answered warmly.
With a sigh, Harry resigned himself to exploring another floor until Tony inescapably found him.
The whole place seemed to be pretty much deserted, and the wizard wondered why anyone would need all of this space for their own private use.
He wandered around until he found, to his surprise, that there was a man in one of the labs. This man was obviously busy with… something. There were tons of notes lying about with all sorts of formulas and notations that didn’t make the slightest bit of sense to him.
“Err… excuse me?” he ventured, hoping he wasn’t interrupting anything too important.
The man looked up. And then just stared at him for a moment. Harry was quite used to people staring at him but as this man was a muggle he couldn’t help but wonder what he had done to warrant it.
“What are you doing here?” the scientist finally asked. The words were not actually accusatory, in fact, the man sounded more baffled than anything else, so Harry hoped he hadn’t ended up somewhere he really wasn’t supposed to be.
Then again, if he had, it was all Tony’s fault anyway. And wouldn’t JARVIS have stopped him?
“I apologize for the interruption,” Harry offered politely, “I’m just a bit… lost.”
“You’re lost,” the man stated. “In Stark Tower, in the private labs.”
Harry grimaced and explained: “I went drinking with Thor last night and ended up here. And now, for some reason, Tony Stark is forcing me into a rather unfair game of hide and seek. JARVIS won’t let me leave.”
“Again, my apologies, sir.”
The wizard smiled up at the ceiling, for lack of any other place to look, “No apology necessary, JARVIS, I am quite certain you are not at fault.”
“Ok…” the dark-haired man said tiredly, “So you’re saying that Tony is keeping you inside his tower against your will?”
Well, maybe that sounded a little bit worse than it was – after all, Harry could leave whenever he wanted to. “Err… well… yes? Although… I did sneak off while he was on the phone, so that might have been a tad impolite of me. And he did arrange for breakfast - there was even a decent cup of tea.”
He wasn’t even sure why he added that last part – as if that somehow made this entire situation alright. Harry hoped he didn’t sound completely barmy, because really, after saying it out loud it all sounded rather off.
The scientist just shook his head, accepting his words easily, so maybe he didn’t sound like a daft person after all. That was always a plus. “I feel like I should apologize for Tony – he’s really not that bad. He’s just very used to getting his way.”
“I noticed,” Harry answered drily, mostly amused himself. “I’m Harry, by the way. Harry Potter.”
He held out his hand and was surprised when the man wouldn’t take it. He cocked his head, but kept his hand dangling in the air.
“You don’t know who I am.” It was a statement and it was filled with something rough and sad.
“Ah. Well, no. But that’s what introductions are for,” the wizard replied with a frown, wondering what the problem was – and what put that cavern of bleakness into the unassuming man’s eyes.
The man just shook his head and told him quietly, “Bruce Banner.”
But Harry was stubborn too, so he stepped forward and ever so carefully reached out and gently took the man’s hand, giving it a soft but sure shake.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Banner,” he said, with a kind smile, because he could sense that there was something rather fragile about this man.
They locked gazes for a moment, and Harry wondered how this muggle saw him. He was used to being viewed as so much more than he felt he was – as some sort of hero or symbol, or a being of immense and undefeatable power, as if he was more than a human, more than any other wizard. But no muggle would know about any of that, so this man, Bruce Banner, would only be able to see him as the Harry that was standing right there.
It felt good to introduce himself for once.
And, of course, that was the moment Tony Stark chose to announce his presence. “Oh good! We’re all introduced,” the man called out as he swept into the room, “So, Harry Potter, do you know who he is?”
Harry frowned, because from the sound of it, the supposed genius had been standing right there during their introduction. “Bruce Banner,” he answered hesitantly, wondering what this was about.
“Yes. Doctor Bruce Banner. Brilliant scientist, one of the top geneticists in the world and also the counterpart to our friendly neighborhood Hulk.”
Hulk? As usual, half of what Tony Stark was saying went right past him. Maybe he should really start paying a bit more attention to the Muggle world. Even travelling around for a few months hadn’t been enough, apparently.
He focused on what he did understand and smiled at the brilliant scientist, “Oh, I’m sorry. Doctor Banner.”
Banner raised both of his eyebrows, full of silent surprise.
Tony Stark wasn’t one to stay silent about anything he was thinking or feeling. “Do you even know what I mean when I mention the Hulk?”
Well, no, he didn’t. “Is it important?”
“Is it… how do you not know this? How can you have missed something as big and green as the Hulk? Scratch that, how can you not know who I am!” Harry half expected a bigger rant to follow, but instead the man paused and gave him another long scrutinizing look.
“Are you from another planet?” Tony asked him quite seriously.
Harry opened his mouth. Then he closed it without answering, because even though that was an utterly barmy conclusion to take, it was still, in a way, almost true.
“Noooo….” the wizard finally answered, drawing his ‘no’ out while he thought it through. In a way.
Maybe not a different planet, but Harry was from a different world. The Muggle and Wizarding World were very, very different from each other. And apparently he hadn’t been paying enough attention to one of those two worlds.
“Oh my God, you are! I knew something was up when Thor referred to you as a wizard and you didn’t correct him. And then you didn’t even know who I am. Yes, it makes sense now - you’re not from this world. That’s the only way you wouldn’t know about me.”
“I’m not an alien,” Harry pointed out, not sure if he was amused or disturbed.
“Details,” Tony brushed it off with the wave of his hand, “So what is it then – a different planet, a different dimension, an alternate dimension where I never existed? Another time-stream, where are you from?”
Harry shrugged and answered simply; “Britain.”
The ranting genius came to a grinding halt at that. “Britain,” he repeated in a deadpan voice.
Bruce Banner let out a small cough that might have been a laugh.
“Born and raised in Britain,” Harry affirmed, “This Britain even, in this err… dimension. And time stream. And um, universe.”
The genius pursed his lips. “Nu-uh. I don’t believe that.”
“It’s the truth,” the wizard offered, because it was.
“Well, there’s still something up with you – you won’t fool me! Even people in Britain have heard about the Hulk and there’s nobody in this world who wouldn’t at least recognize my name. And you, wizard-boy, are going nowhere until I find out exactly what the hell is wrong with you.”
“That’s… a little bit rude. Nothing’s wrong with me just because I’ve never heard of you. Are you really that egocentric?” Harry wasn’t even sure why he asked, because obviously the answer was yes.
Of course, the man was also right. But that didn’t change the fact that he had a bigger ego than anyone Harry had ever met. And that was quite a feat.
“Tony, you can’t kidnap people,” Doctor Banner informed the man, as if it was something that needed to be said.
“I didn’t kidnap him, he followed Thor home. I just decided that I’m keeping him.” He turned to Harry, “You should feel flattered, I don’t keep a lot of people around after the morning after. Usually I let Pepper deal with them, actually. Granted you were here with Thor instead of me and I assume that you didn’t actually engage in any of the really fun activities, though, who knows what actually falls under those warrior bonds he keeps raving about,” Tony looked thoughtful, like he was considering it and Harry decided to stop him before it got any worse.
“I didn’t have sex with the bloke, alright? He sounded perfectly happy with his Lady Jane.” He didn’t add that he’d been somewhat apprehensive about the whole ‘warrior bonds’ thing too when he let the muscled blond take him somewhere for the night.
“Sir,” JARVIS called out, “Agent Coulson is on his way to your current location.”
“What? You mean this floor? He couldn’t wait in the lobby or something like a normal person? Block the elevator – Agent can wait.”
“If I stayed in the lobby, Mr. Stark. I would not be able to speak with you so promptly,” a bland voice replied instead of JARVIS.
“JARVIS!” the man in question called out, “You couldn’t have warned me sooner?”
“My apologies, sir,” the AI said with a deferential tone that was almost certainly sarcastic, “you seemed quite involved in your current discussion – I did not wish to interfere in your kidnapping.”
“Kidnapping?” the man in the suit inquired pleasantly.
Doctor Banner cleared his throat. “Ah. We were just discussing this. I’m sure Tony understands by now that it’s not alright to keep people in his Tower against their will.”
“Does he?” Harry asked dubiously, because somehow he doubted that.
“Hey! It was not a kidnapping!”
“I see, sir. Shall I allow Mr. Potter access to the elevator then?”
“What? No! He’s not going anywhere! Besides, we were going to get drunk and exchange battle stories, remember? He agreed to that, so he can’t leave yet.”
“No I didn’t,” Harry interposed.
“Well, you didn’t protest when I agreed to that, so that’s pretty much the same thing.”
Well, fair enough, that was true. “I was just too polite to tell you to bugger off.”
“Exactly – you didn’t, ergo you agreed, ergo you cannot leave.”
Luckily Agent Coulson chose that moment to interrupt their increasingly childish argument, “Mr. Stark. I am really not that interested in what you do in your own time. Though I do hope that those activities do not include kidnapping either foreign or domestic civilians. I just need to give you these files to read over – do read them and remember that they are classified. I will contact you again soon.”
Tony seemed rather insulted by the mild scolding he received from the utterly inoffensive Agent.
“He’s a wizard!” Stark informed the man, as if that gave him permission to hold a person against their will, “And possibly from a different world, slash, dimension, slash, alternate universe, even if he won’t admit it. So really, I’m doing you a favor, keeping an eye on such an individual. That’s what SHIELD’s all about isn’t it? Meddling with people who can do stuff? ‘Neutralizing’ threats? I don’t think you of all people have any right to judge.”
Agent Coulson didn’t seem offended by Tony’s rant. Nor did he seem surprised. In fact, it was rather hard to discern anything at all from his expressionless face. Even so, the wizard tried, because the man was staring right at him. Did this bloke actually believe Tony’s outrageous claims?
“You are a wizard?” the man asked him, calm as can be.
Apparently he did believe Stark. These muggles were a very strange group of people. Then again, if they all hung around the God he had spent time with last night that might not be too surprising.
“You know,” Harry observed, “I really should have decided against sticking around for breakfast, ‘warrior bonds’ or not. Thor wouldn’t have minded that much. Well, he might have. But he would have gotten over it, I’m sure.”
“But then you never would have met me!”
The look that Harry shot the dark-haired man perfectly conveyed the thought ‘exactly’.
Tony Stark was unrepentant and smirked at him.
“Right. Well, since we all agree-” the wizard shot a look at the loudmouthed genius, “that kidnapping is not considered a viable course of action. I’ll be taking my leave now.”
“I will escort you out,” the Agent stated, managing to sound both agreeable and firm.
He frowned at the man, “Just how much of Tony’s ranting was true? No offense, Agent Coulson, but I have no desire to be neutralized in any way.”
“Well, you’re welcome to stay,” Stark generously offered.
Harry looked at Doctor Banner, because he was the only other person in the room and seemed rather reasonable.
“I’m not that fond of SHIELD either,” Bruce offered with a small shrug, studiously avoiding the agent’s gaze.
So his choices were the unquenchable muggle or the shady government official. He wasn’t too fond of either of those choices at the moment.
Well… they already ‘knew’ he was a wizard. And considering everything he vaguely remembered Thor last night and making some educated guesses as to things he might have said that he doesn’t remember.
The secret was pretty much out, wasn’t it? Well, the Ministry might not agree entirely with that assessment, but since a God was involved… even if that didn’t give him some leeway, the fact that he was Harry Potter probably would – might as well make use of that for once, because he wasn’t picking either of these options.
“You are the strangest group of muggles I have ever met,” the wizard informed them, because that was most certainly true, “I’m not quite sure whether that’s a good or a bad thing.”
Though, considering his idea of ‘normal’ muggles are the Dursleys he was leaning towards Tony Stark’s personal brand of odd.
“JARVIS, it was a pleasure to meet you.”
“And you as well, Mr. Potter,” the AI assured him.
Then, with a quick nod to Dr. Banner followed by a loud crack, Harry Potter disappeared.
He appeared in the hotel room he had been staying in and vowed to avoid bars for the foreseeable future. He had quite enough of drinking to last him a while.
Perhaps he should avoid the entirety of New York for a while too, while he was at it.
Although… he had made Thor a promise to return at some point. Well, the man was a God, he could wait a while – because Harry was not returning to that Tower any time soon.
Not unless he got really bored, that is.