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The Unspecificity of Fears (As Shown By Boggarts)

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Tony knows it's probably not healthy to be sat in front of the mirror again, but this isn't a part of the vanity people claim he must possess because of his stupid surname.

No, the mirror is, like everything at Hogwarts, magical, and it shows him what he wants. The inscription across the top told him as much – a backwards phrase “I show not your face but your heart's desire”. He wishes, feebly, that it might be the future, but why would Steve ever be interested in Tony like that? Once, Tony had thought it might be the case, but the incident had been brushed away with a “well, you're my friend aren't you?”

Steve had punched Justin Hammer (a Ravenclaw, year above) in the nose for, presumably, what he'd just said to Tony. “Why are you in Gryffindor, anyway? You're selfish and a coward. So desperate to get out from under Daddy's shadow-”

The crunch of his nose had been immensely satisfying, and hearing Steve – the once small and scrawny and cute, the now tall and built and hot, the still bully-hating Steve – tell Hammer that Tony was twice the person he could ever hope to be had only added to the glory of the moment.

Well, Tony hadn't been crushing on him since day one for no reason.

Hammer's words had had some truth to them though: he was Gryffindor because Howard Stark was a Slytherin, and Tony had never, ever wanted to be anything remotely like his father. He should've let the Hat put him in Ravenclaw, but Steve had been sorted just before him – after what looked like a five minute argument with the Hat – and, well, Tony had met Steve on the train, they could be friends right? So the Hat had smugly put him in Gryffindor, and Tony had shakily gone to sit next to Steve amidst the silence of the hall – Howard Stark's son, a Gryffindor? Tony didn't like to think what his father was going to say.

Surprisingly though, it was now the beginning of sixth year, and while Steve and Tony were friends, they weren't joined at the hip or anything like you might expect from five years of living together in close quarters. Tony still marveled that Steve could put up with him and his “melodrama”, let alone anybody else. Rhodey and Clint put up with him, dragging him around, and there was Thor in Hufflepuff, Bruce and Pepper in Ravenclaw, and Bucky and Natasha in Slytherin. Natasha had been his absolute saving grace in the summer holidays: but Tony Stark was still a Stark, and Starks didn't do feelings.

So if, when Professor Coulson had told him that the first DADA lesson on Friday would involve boggarts again in a back-to-basics manoeuvre, Tony had come back to the mirror for the first time in over a year, well, he needed a reason to smile today okay?

He was barefoot and sat cross-legged in front of it, blanket hunched up around his shoulders in the room, but in the mirror, he was in his school shirt and tie, and Steve was in his, and had his head in Tony's lap. Tony didn't know what they were talking about, but knew it wouldn't matter. When it came to Steve, if Tony got through the conversation without knocking something over or accidentally insulting someone, he counted it as a win (although that stood for nearly every conversation Tony had).

Tony had given up denying it a year ago: the crush on the Steve that was slowly becoming A Problem.

With one last glance at mirror-Steve – beautiful, wonderful Steve – he carefully got up. He walked back up to the Gryffindor Common Room, slumped into an armchair and wished that the morning wouldn't come.

 

 

The beginning of the lesson had been easy enough – tested upon the incantation, the general theory of boggarts and such, earning points for every house as they remembered their original third year lesson. There was a knot in Tony's stomach, but he was ignoring it, smirking across the classroom at Rhodey who rolled his eyes at him.

Professor Coulson had been surprisingly good to Tony over the years – his Head of House, handler, and shoulder-to-cry-on more often than most – and was a damn good Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. He had them all stand in a circle around the chest in the centre of the room and he chose now to open it.

The boggart went for Coulson first, but instead of allowing it to fully form a shape, his stepped aside neatly and left it to the person behind him. For a moment it looked like the kid would bolt at the sight of the snake suddenly advancing on her, but she let out a shrill riddikulus and the snake was gone. Tasha next, and the ballet dancer in front of her was unbalanced on roller skates with her trademark smirk. The boggart rounded on Thor who gave the spell in his naturally booming voice before it had settled on a shape-

The boggart turned to Tony then, and Tony froze – he was good in this class, usually, quick with both his mouth and his wand – but today he couldn't move a muscle. The boggart didn't change instantly like it had before, and there was one terrifying moment where Tony was certain he was going to have his father appear in the classroom, again – god, wouldn't that give Hammer something to laugh at him for? – but the boggart wouldn't even give him that.

Finding Steve stood in front of him where the boggart had been was more than a shock. The logical thing would have been to raise his wand, say the stupid incantation, and let someone else tackle the boggart, but boggart-Steve had started to move, hatred on every feature of his face, and no one in the classroom was making a sound-

Boggart-Steve took another step before Tony's brain kicked into gear. He didn't raise his wand, didn't say the word, simply turned around and walked out of the classroom. Someone was shouting for him to come back, but Tony kept walking.

 

 

Typically, it was Steve who found Tony.

Tony was sat in front of the mirror, again, anger on his face and tears down his checks, his robes and his tie and his shoes and his socks discarded in a path from the door to where he was sat now. Tony didn't look around when the door opened, didn't want to know who'd found him, come to laugh at him, and he concentrated on the image in front of him.

He didn't understand it – nothing had changed from this morning: mirror-Steve was still there, still laughing at something Tony had said, adoration on every feature of his face, and yet boggart-Steve had been nothing but real.

“Are you frightened of me?”

Tony had to turn around then, wiping his eyes and looking up at Steve who had come in and shut the door and taken off his shoes. Steve wasn't looking at him, instead choosing to stare at the floor as if he might be able to disappear into it. Tony didn't answer him, didn't know how to. Steve looked up at the lack of a reply.

Tony was always caught off-guard by how shockingly blue Steve's eyes were, but today Tony realised how red they were, too.

“No,” he said after a while. “I'm not... I'm not afraid of you, Rogers.” Steve gave him a small smile, but it didn't last long.

“Not what- I was expecting.” Steve replied, and he came closer – how can he stand to be in the same room as me? - sitting down not far away from Tony. Tony sighed, and turned back to the mirror, but not fully, too aware of Steve in the room to get lost in it.

“Boggarts aren't specific in their fears: imagine someone who was scared of being alone going up against a boggart, what would the boggart become then?” Tony told him, as if he was merely helping Steve with his homework like he did so often in the library, or the common room when the weather got cold. He'd said it as a deflection though, but it was slowly sinking in what Tony was scared of. “A person who is scared of drowning might find themselves staring at a creature from the deep: just because my boggart was you, doesn't mean it's you I'm scared of.” Steve didn't reply to that, simply carried on looking at Tony.

Even now, when Steve was the last person Tony wanted to see, he was beautiful. The light of sunset streamed in from the window, illuminating them both sat cross-legged on the floor, and Steve's hair looked golden for it.

“Everyone's been looking for you, you know.” Steve spoke eventually. “Rhodey is fit to kill you when he finds you. Natasha might also want to help, and Clint has spent the day skiving off and searching the grounds with Thor and Bucky.” Tony grimaced – trust those idiots to try and find him when he clearly didn't want to be found.

“What about you?” the question slipped out before Tony could stop it.

“Me? After you left and ignored both Rhodey and Professor Coulson and I yelling for you, I finished the class, went to lunch – which I spent telling Bruce when you wanted to be found you would be – and then I went to the rest of my classes.” Tony knew he shouldn't have asked – Steve hadn't even looked for him, and he was smiling as he said it, and fuck if that didn't hurt like hell. Steve carried on. “I knew you needed time. I also knew you'd be here, this place you think no one else has found yet, and I knew that if you hadn't come back by dinner it'd be time to come and find you.” Steve was still smiling, but Tony couldn't focus on it, because Steve had known he'd be here.

Steve didn't say anything else for awhile, but he shuffled closer, sitting next to Tony so that he could look in the mirror too. He glanced sideways at it and smiled, a faint blush colouring his cheeks, and Tony wanted more than anything to know what Steve saw.

“You knew I'd be here.” Tony broke the silence this time, and Steve looked back at him.

“Yeah, I did,” but he offered no explanation. After a long moment, Steve hesitantly reached out and took Tony's hand in his, letting them both rest in Tony's lap. Tony stared down at them, only able to comprehend how warm Steve's hand was. “When I look in this mirror now, do you want to know what I see?” Steve asked. Tony wanted to shake his head, didn't want to hear how Steve saw himself and Peggy from Slytherin, or maybe even Bucky, but because he was apparently some form of sadist he found himself nodding. “I see us.” And now Tony was fairly certain his heart had just stopped.

“W-what the fuck?!” he spluttered out, looking up at Steve, embarrassingly aware of how high his voice had just gone and how tight he was now holding Steve's hand.

“I see us, and right now, I see us exactly as we are.” Steve was positively grinning now, and oh god oh my god he- he- he-. “So tell me Tony, if you've not scared of me, what are you scared of?”

“My father.” Tony blurted out, because that was what his boggart had been before, what he'd expected it to be this time. The confusion to flick across Steve's face was adorable, but Tony was talking now and he couldn't stop. “Of not being good enough for him. Of hurting my friends. Of the war that is totally on its way because the world sucks and-” he paused, trying to breathe and to calm down and to speak slowly but when had that happened when he needed it to “-of the fact that you can't possibly...” he trailed off, staring at Steve like he was trying to commit his face his memory as if he hadn't a hundred times already, “-lovemeback.”

The last words came out as a jumble, but the grin spreading across Steve's face implied he'd heard them. Tony looked away, closing his eyes, couldn't take knowing that any second Steve was going to take his hand away and-

Tony's eyes flew open to confirm: Steve was kissing him.

Steve pulled back with a grin. “You don't need to be scared of that, Tony.” he told him, and Tony realised that Steve put up with his melodrama because he wanted to. Put up with him whining over the subjects he found boring, wincing whenever he received a letter from home, and could calm him down better than Rhodey ever could when a nightmare reared its ugly head. Steve had known he'd be here, because Steve knew him like no one else could ever and Tony hadn't noticed. “Tony?” Steve asked, uncertainty growing on his face and wups, probably should've said something.

Yet Tony wasn't good with words when it came to Steve – ask Rhodey or Pep or Tasha – so he did one thing he did know how to do: he closed the gap between them again, kissing Steve like his life depending on it.

Steve let go of his hand then, but only to bring it up to rest on Tony's cheek. When they separated with a need to breathe, there was no small amount of wonder on Tony's face that Steve had let him do that.

“You're an idiot.” Steve told him, grinning that stupid grin of his, like the one he'd had on the train here a week ago as he'd announced his Quidditch Captaincy, “and I love you.”

Tony had to kiss him then, if only so Steve wouldn't notice the blush on his face. “I love you too.” He mumbled the words into the kiss, but Steve didn't mind.

 

 

It was late when they made it back to the common room, and nobody else was down there, the fire dwindling in the grate. Steve had dragged Tony over to the larger of the chairs by the fire, dropping down next to him with a kiss to his forehead and they'd promptly fallen asleep. It felt like Tony had merely blinked though, because suddenly Rhodey and Clint were yelling at him, at them, for disappearing and what the hell was he thinking?

Steve sat up then, muttering something about how people were too loud and both Rhodey and Clint shut up. Tony was surprisingly awake for not having yet exploited the caffeine in the Great Hall, but it seemed that neither of them had noticed Steve when they'd started yelling.

Steve hadn't noticed them either apparently, because he smiled at Tony like he'd hung the moon and kissed him, if only because he could now.

“Morning, Rhodey.” Steve finally looked up at the two stunned teens, and Clint's face split into a grin. Steve had not only noticed them, but seemed to find their lack of observation hilarious if his face told Tony anything, but then he rested his head on Tony's shoulder, pulled him just that bit closer and damn, Tony didn't care what the world thought of him today, he had Steve.

“Yeah, Rhodey – it is a good morning, isn't it?” Clint was on the verge of laughter, and Rhodey seemed to shake himself at that, grinning at Tony and whacking Clint on the arm.

“Shut up.” Rhodey muttered. “You alright Tones?” he asked, but Tony only nodded in answer, trying his hardest not to laugh at the mock outrage on Clint's face.

“Not when you owe me – is it four galleons from you?” Clint told Rhodey, smirking at the pained look on his face. Steve looked up sharply at that, and Tony tried not to laugh.

“Did you- did you fuckers bet on us?”