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Because the Car is Sentient

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Chapter One - Nighttime Essays and Bathroom Friends

The radio was playing softly in the background, some new band reached top of the charts. What were they called again? Misplaced Essence? Desperate Blur? Swish and Flick? Tony pondered for a moment more before mentally shrugging. It didn’t overly matter. The song playing was just maudlin enough that he left it on. It was close to midnight and the only source of light was coming from the flickering candle on the desk next to him. It cast long shadows across the floor and up the wall. He pushed his finished Arithmancy essay away from him, pulling the Muggle Studies exercise closer.

Muggles have learnt to travel without the use of magical means. Describe and explain three methods of muggle transport, paying particular attention to how each mode of transportation functions.

This was going to be a long night. He explained flight, and the use of air resistance and pressure on the wings. The aluminium oxide shell. The internal engines. Cars were next, internal combustion engine. Burning of fuel. Bicycle and standard man power. Etcetera. Once that essay was finally complete, he pulled the transfiguration work forward. Pulling out his wand he easily turned the small mouse plush into an actual mouse. He decided to name it Squeakers. Hey, no one said he was imaginative with names. Footsteps echoed down the corridor outside, along with dark chuckles. Silently Tony huffed out his candle, flicked his wand to silence the radio, and gathered his papers and textbooks in the dark. Shoving them roughly into his schoolbag, a canvas messenger bag he purchased from Hogsmeade when his last bag was mysteriously thrown into the lake, he tucked himself in the corner of the room just behind the door. He made it just in time too. The door swung open, three figures walking into the dark room. Their faces looked expectant, glowing silver in the moonlight. Tony crept out of the door, not making a sound as he hastened down the corridor. He could have sworn he heard Hammer bite out “I saw light in here, check the room.”

As soon as he was out of their earshot he broke into a run, bag swinging against his hip and thighs. He skidded across the marble floors and jumped the stairs several at a time. But of course, his luck sucked. The staircase shifted when he was feet from the floor he needed. It spun and lowered, sending him to the first floor. And he could see wand light above him. Barely having a chance to jump off the staircase before he heard shouts of “there he goes!” He peeled down the corridor, pushing open a door and closing it swiftly behind him.

“Hi Tony,” a soft voice called.

Tony grinned as his friend greeted him softly, “Hi Myrtle. How’s things?”

She smiled a little, readjusting her glasses as she beamed at him. Forgoing an answer, she simply asked her own question.

“One of those nights?”

Tony sighed and moved to perch on a sink. He scuffed his foot back and forth across the tiles, ignoring the taps digging into his back. He nodded and pulled out his wand and a book. Least he could do is study ancient runes while he waited for the usual crew to disappear. Reason number one for hating sharing a dorm room with Justin Hammer: he always knew when Tony was out of bed. Tony pulled a flask of strong coffee from his bag and poured a cup. He held the cup up and allowed Myrtle to float through it for a taste. She smiled in thanks and settled on the sink next to him. She peered curiously over his shoulder. When she saw the ancient runes she slumped back against the mirror.

“You could take more interesting classes,” she moaned quietly.

Tony rolled his eyes at her, “I take every class. But what one do you want to read?”

“Muggle Studies,” Myrtle answered instantly, eyes lighting up.

Tony smiled indulgingly and pulled out the Muggle Studies book. It detailed everything from Computers to Newspapers to Culture. Myrtle loved hearing about it. Tony guessed she missed her connection with the muggle world. He thought she would have hated him, what with him being pure blood and all, but that first time he skidded in and pressed his back to the door as he listened to raging feet stampede outside, she had simply watched and kept quiet.

 

Tony’s hands were shaking and he cursed himself a little. He almost jumped out of his skin when he heard a voice.

“You know this is a girls’ bathroom, right?”

He shook his head, but once his breath had caught up with him, he finally had the mental ability to take in his surroundings. White marble was covered it what was easily decades old grime. No one had cleaned for a while. The floor was damp, and several mirrors were chipped or cracked. Hovering above the sink was a translucent girl, hair pulled into pigtails. Her fringe just touched the rim of her round glasses. She swayed back and forth as she took in the eleven year old in front of her.

“I’m- I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

Tony ducked his head, still listening to the cries outside the door.

“We’ll pound that pureblood to a pulp,” came Fisk’s deep booming voice.

The ghost cocked her head, listening to the violent threats on the other side of the door. She floated past Tony and disappeared through the door. He had no idea what she did but fearful screams soon followed and the sound of fleeing footsteps made Tony chuckle. She floated back through the door, right through Tony. He shuddered as the feeling of numbing cold flooded him.

“They were bullying you.”

More of a statement than a question but Tony nodded nonetheless. She smiled grimly.

“My name’s Myrtle. Myrtle Warren. What’s yours?”

“Tony, Tony Stark.”

Myrtle held out her hand to shake and Tony moved to grip it. His hand went straight through, Myrtle cackling in amusement. Tony grinned back at her but glanced at his watch. He would be late to Potions if he didn’t hurry.

“I’ve got to run,” he muttered forlornly.

She was the first person to treat him with any semblance of friendliness and he would be sad to leave her behind.

“Will you come visit?” She asked, trying to mask her excitement with disinterested indifference.

“It’s a girls’ bathroom.”

“No one comes here.”

“Why not?” Tony asked curiously.

The girl – Myrtle, he reminded himself – grinned. And it was a grin that spoke of mischief.

“Moaning Myrtle.”

Tony matched the evil little smile, “You got it. I’ll come visit whenever I can.”

 

And soon they became set into a little routine. Tony would visit his perpetually fourteen year old friend most nights. He had to cut the visits down a little after third year when he took up every subject Hogwarts offered. He was so glad his mother gave him her time turner. He was so buried in homework that nights like tonight weren’t uncommon. He’d skip dinner, find an abandoned classroom far away from the Great Hall and work his way through the night. Usually around three a.m. he’d call it a night and visit Myrtle for half an hour or so. If he went long enough without visiting Myrtle took it upon herself to… remind him. The most notorious reminder was when he was in the shower and she whispered “boo” in his ear. It took him weeks to stop bringing his wand into the showers with him. Of course the memory still made Myrtle giggle. He’d stayed later than he’d intended to tonight but Myrtle was enjoying the textbook and he couldn’t begrudge her that. He dozed off for a bit. But was rudely awakened by a sensation of someone putting ice cubes down his neck. He jumped up and realised it had been Myrtle trying to shake him awake.

“Come on, you have Transfiguration and Alchemy now. Which are you going to first?”

“Transfig,” Tony yawned, stretching his neck until he heard a click.

He grabbed his bag and was out the door, waving a goodbye to his friend.

 

He was five minutes late to class. The teacher, Professor… he really sucked with names. She’d taught him for six years and he still couldn’t remember. But she chewed him out for his tardiness and then let him sit down. He sunk into his seat next to… blond and plays Quidditch. He could get this. Rogers. Captain Rogers, played Keeper for Gryffindor. Steve, that was it. And no it didn’t take Tony a glance at Steve’s essay to get his first name (it totally did). He pulled Squeakers out of his bag, cage and all, to present to the professor. He flicked open the cage with his thumb, allowing Squeakers to climb onto his palm and up his arm. Squeakers perched on his shoulder, curling up and falling asleep. Steve gave Squeakers a look of disdain, and pulled out his own work. A small black rat. He needed practise. Squeakers was perfect, a small light grey fuzzy mouse. The teacher’s tone was droning and Tony felt his eyelids drooping. He couldn’t help it. The teacher taught straight from the textbook which Tony had already read three times by the time the Hogwarts express had pulled into the station on their journey to school. Plus he had all of thirty minutes sleep last night, and only a combined five hours in the week preceding. Stupid Hammer, alerting Killian and Fisk. He pillowed his head in his arms and fell into a doze.

 

Steve looked at the boy in very evident disgust. He was late, and now he was asleep. Just because he was pureblood, did he think he was better than everybody? Steve rolled his eyes, and began working through the textbook. He ignored the projectiles that seemed to be being thrown at the classmate next to him. Balls of paper, the odd frog’s eye. Steve assumed it was somebody trying to wake the idiot up. He heard snickers behind him and shushed Brock and Ivan behind him. They tried to keep a straight face at Steve but as soon as he turned back a toad’s foot landed in Tony’s hair. He turned to his book and began trying to figure out where he went wrong on his homework. Class was dull and the minutes seemed to tick by slower than normal. Steve managed to turn his rat into a mouse, but he still couldn’t make the fur the right colour. Right at the end of the lesson, Tony woke with a jolt that dislodged the toad’s foot. It fell with a wet thump on the wooden floor.

“How nice of you to join us Mister Stark,” came the droll response from Professor Darkholme.

Tony didn’t even seem phased, “It takes a lot of beauty sleep for this masterpiece Professor.”

“Is everything a joke to you, Stark?” Steve hissed under his breath as the Professor looked on, unimpressed.

“Funny things are,” Tony replied with a smirk, “Blueberry?” he offered the pack to Steve.

It was all the Gryffindor could do, not to knock that pack of fruit from the boy’s hand. How he could sleep through lessons and still maintain straight O’s Steve would never know.

“Oi Steve,” Bucky yelled as he poked his head round the door, “We’re going to the lake.”

“Mister Barnes, if you could kindly not interrupt my class,” the Professor scolded.

At least Bucky had the decency to look sheepish. Class finished swiftly, mainly due to Bucky’s pestering presence at the back of the room. Steve walked down to the lake with Bucky, his yellow and black robes having seen better days. Not that Steve’s red and black were better, more stitching and patches than actual cloth. Taking their favourite spot under a tree, they enjoyed the last warmth the autumn weather had to offer. Soon Natasha and Clint joined them on their free period. Natasha sat down gracefully, Slytherin robes pooling at her feet, while Clint began climbing the tree. Once he found a suitable perch he swung upside down.

“What do you think of that Stark kid?” Clint asked out of the blue.

“He’s an asshole,” Bucky immediately growled.

“He’s not so bad,” Natasha commented idly, “he helps me with potion work from time to time. And Pepper likes him.”

“What is it with Slytherin and killer red heads?” Bucky jibed.

“We stain our hair with the blood of those who stand in our way,” Natasha replied without looking up from her essay she was finishing. Her tone was flat and impossible to read. For all they knew she was lying.

“Steve, what do you think?” Clint asked, twisting in the tree to face the Gryffindor.

“I think we should never turn our backs on the red heads.”

Natasha grinned at him, with a gleam in her eyes that spoke of pain soon to come. Clint did a somersault as he dropped down next to her, dropping a kiss on her cheek as he did so. He peered over her shoulder at her answers and began copying them into his own essay.

“No I meant about Stark.”

“Lazy, arrogant, pompous.”

Natasha just raised her eyebrows at him. It was rare to see Steve say a bad word against anyone, let alone someone who had actually done him no harm.

“I dunno, he seems alright to me,” Clint shrugged, “I mean look at him. Completely harmless.”

They followed Clint’s gaze to where Tony was lying fast asleep, half under a bush some ten, fifteen feet away. Easily within earshot. Steve muttered another comment about him being lazy and continued plotting out plays for his Quidditch team. Not five minutes later, Tony jolted awake with a wild look in his eyes. He scanned the area and settled quickly after. But he still got to his feet at a fast pace and began walking briskly away, fiddling with something around his neck.

“Be right back,” Natasha muttered and disappeared in the next moment.

She reappeared on Tony’s left side, Clint bracketing his right.

“Do you ever get the feeling they know something we don’t?” Steve asked his lifetime friend.

“All the time, I learned to tune it out,” Bucky replied, closing his eyes against the sun.

 

By the time he heard Clint’s footsteps, Natasha was already at his side. They both looked at him with worry and something like pity. Sympathy maybe.

“You are burning yourself out Stark,” Natasha said softly.

Tony’s eyes turned dark, his easy-going façade cracking instantly, “Like you care.”

“I do, so does Clint. Pepper worries about you, and I know Rhodes does too.”

His eyes were still smoldering like burning coals but his shoulders slumped in defeat, “there’s nothing they can do. Nothing any of you can do.”

“We can protect you,” Clint offered.

“And what about in my dorm? Hammer just lets them in. There isn’t anywhere I’d be safe.”

“None of them are Hufflepuffs,” Clint offered.

“Barnes is. And you heard him. I’m an asshole,” the people at his sides flinched.

“You heard that?”

“Well he wasn’t exactly quiet.”

Clint scuffed his foot back and forth, hands sunk deep into his robe’s pockets.

“Look Tony, I just feel bad. It’s my fault, I announced your blood status to the Great Hall.”

Tony waved off the apology, feeling Clint deflate next to him, “would have got out sooner or later,” he said casually, “not your fault. And let’s face it. I don’t exactly hide it.”

“But-“

“No Clint. Why should I be ashamed of who I am? Not every pureblood is affiliated to he-who-must-not-be-named. The Weasley’s helped bring him down for fucks sake. But now I’m persecuted just like the muggle-borns. And no one seems to see the irony but me. You don’t get it.”

But Clint was getting desperate, the quiet guilt eating at him. He was the cause of Tony’s bullying problem, and he was going to kill himself if that’s what it took to find a solution.

“Banner told us you haven’t slept in the dorm in over three weeks.”

“Would you if you shared with Hammer?” Tony raised an eyebrow.

Both shook their heads as they followed Tony up the lawn. They made it to the castle steps before he stopped. He was one step above them, turned to face them both.

“Look, I know what I’m doing seems crazy but it works.”

“Yes, because taking every possible class and extra-curricular activity this school offers and working yourself to exhaustion that makes you fall asleep in class seems like it is definitely working,” came Natasha’s sardonic reply.

“Yep, it’s working. And you don’t know about that remember?”

Natasha nodded. There was an unspoken agreement, reinforced by a frankly terrifying Pepper, that the three of them did not discuss Tony’s workload.

“T-T-F-N guys.”

Tony’s cheerful farewell was all they were left with before he was gone, a swing of his messenger bag all he left in his wake.

“Well that could have gone better,” Clint sighed.

“He’s never going to open up to us if we keep harassing him. We aren’t his friends. He certainly doesn’t consider us as friends. Just because we know, doesn’t mean we get to lecture him.”

“I want to be his friend,” Clint sulked.

Natasha ruffled his hair with a fond grin, “I know you do, you damn Hufflepuff.”

 

Although from there things only got worse for Tony. Fisk had found him hidden in one of the dungeons just before dinner. And well… Tony had a bloody nose, a severely bruised abdomen, and a lot of difficulty walking after that incursion. He staggered to his usual first floor girls’ bathroom, casting a quick look down the corridor to make sure it was indeed empty. He opened the door and slid in with silent practiced ease. Myrtle floated over and quickly took in the damage.

“Again?”

“Again,” Tony confirmed.

He slid down the wall and sunk to the floor, allowing the cold of the tiles to soak into him and numb the pain. Myrtle reached a hand through his body, the shocking cold halting his breath and easing the pain.

“Have you ever told anyone?” she asked, hovering cross legged in front of him.

Tony shook his head, the motion making the room spin. With a groan he tilted his head back against the wall, breathing deep until he felt less dizzy.

“No, I never told anyone. But Thing One and Thing Two know, and I think Pepper and Rhodey know too. No one else though.”

Myrtle moved to stroke his arm sympathetically but halted herself with a bitter chuckle.

“Sorry, I forget I’m dead sometimes,” she said with a wry grin.

Tony nodded, acknowledgement that he heard more than anything else. He still felt like he was about to throw up, and he had to miss dinner again. That was the… eighteenth day in a row. Thank god he knew where the kitchens were. The house elves were always so kind to him, presenting him with his favourite foods. Myrtle just began chatting, trying to distract Tony from the pain. Once it grew late enough Tony nodded his thanks for her company and made his way to the library. With a lantern in hand and an affinity with animals that meant Mrs Norris II wound around his ankles and purred, he found the book he wanted and sat on a bench. He worked his way through all his homework, please when early dawn light was rising. Another sleepless night but that was fine. He got up and headed straight for the kitchens to grab breakfast. The painting swung open after the pear giggled. Tony stepped inside, enjoying the warm sweet smells that beckoned him. Instantly he was presented with a stack of pancakes and chocolate syrup. He thanked all the house elves profusely before sitting at a wooden table to eat. He watched them work. The tiny elves seemed giddy with excitement. One brought him a glass of cranberry juice, giving him a manic grin when he thanked her for it. He waited until half seven before he rose and left for his first class of the day. Not before the house elves forced a chicken sandwich and three apples on him. One even managed to refill his flask with coffee and sneak in a second full of pineapple juice. He ran to class, skidding through the door just in time. And so began his day.

 

Last lesson for the day. Defence against the dark arts was one of his favourite subjects. And today they were practicing duelling in groups. It was the Gryffindor’s versus the Ravenclaws. Tony watched with interest as Leo and Jemma fought valiantly against Melinda and Kamala. Although the latter were clearly more used to actual duelling, FitzSimmons were coming up with some very creative uses for spells. Next up were Jessica and the blind wizard Matt against Daisy and Bruce. Realistically Daisy and Bruce were a good team but no match for the sheer ferocity of Jessica Jones at the end of the day. She was tired and wanted to sit down, obliterating them in seconds. As soon as she was finished she slumped against a desk and began to doodle. Matt undid the curse Jess had left on Bruce, stopping his hair being a shocking green. Then it was Tony’s turn. He was partnered with Angela Odinsdottir, a girl with a blank face and a dangerous level of unpredictability. But hey, unpredictable was Tony’s middle name. An insanely tall blond climbed to his feet, grinning from ear to ear.

“I’ll go easy on you, sister.”

Angela’s face twitched into a snarl, “and why would you do that Odinson?”

“There is no honour in taking down kin.”

“Empty words, brother.”

Tony watched as the apparent siblings began to quarrel. It seemed pretty standard amongst the Odinkin, Loki having caused a room to explode in feathers last time Thor and him talked for longer than five minutes.

“I will fight with honour,” the blond declared loudly, stifled giggles from the audience.

“Nothing-words. And you receive nothing for it. I shall attain victory here.”

“Can we just start?” Steve asked wearily, Tony having just now realised he climbed on the little dais set up for the sixth year’s duel.

At the teacher’s signal, they began to fight. Spells and incantations were sounded between them, yelled like war cries.

Bombarda,” Angela screeched.

Thor deflected the spell neatly, the resulting hit caused the room to shake as it struck against the wall behind him.

Colloshoo,” Steve hissed.

Tony ducked and rolled from the spell, casting a protego in his wake for good measure.

Confringo,” Angela cried out, aiming for Steve.

Aqua Eructo,” Steve retorted, neutralising the exploding spell with a jet of water.

Steam billowed around them, filling the room.

Stupefy,” Tony launched with a flick of his wand.

It hit a target as he heard a groan, Thor was doubled over. Angela growled at him, something along the lines of “he was mine,” but Tony ignored her entirely.

Mucus ad Nauseum,” Steve bellowed.

A silent incantation of protego once more, and Tony cleanly deflected the spell away. Another silent incantation of ducklifors which Steve rebounded, sending the bolt of yellow light straight into Angela. There was a quack and suddenly the girl stood next to him was gone. In her place stood a yellow duck with an orange bill. The professor hurriedly pulled her from stage and reversed the charm. The duel was growing evermore violent with each passing minute. 

Everte Statum

And suddenly Steve was flipped backward, landing on his feet, but skidding several paces backwards. Tony saw the look in Steve’s eyes. He was out for blood now, white hot loathing burning there.

Expulso.”

And Tony was almost crushed when the ceiling above him exploded, dropping hard stone, breaking apart the wooden stage. The students around them screamed and ran for the door. Their professor was trying to repair the damage and get the other students to safety before he focused on stopping the two boys who seemed intent on killing each other.

Flipendo Tria!”

Finite Incantatum,” Tony rolled backwards, dodging the spell and stopping it hitting anything else.

Every part of his body was hurting now, his stomach in complete pain. He felt light headed and more than anything he just wanted this to stop.

Fumos Duo,” Tony declared with vehement fury.

Smoke streamed out his wand and filled the room in moments. He could hear Steve coughing and breathing in hacking breathes as he fled to the door. Once outside Tony breathed in clear oxygen, each breath sparking new waves of pain from every ache in his body. Steve stormed out of the room, tendrils of smoke clinging to him.

“You think you fight a good fight but you don’t,” Steve’s wand sparked red as he clenched it tightly, “who do you think you are?”

“Tony Stark,” he grinned back, shark toothed and completely insincere, “genius, billionaire, pure blood, philanthropist.”

“I know guys who are none of that, worth ten of you,” Steve snarled, “you always think you have a way out. Never one to take the hit and let the other guy cast the spell.”

Tony flicked his wand, a silver glow emanating from the tip, “I think I’d just use protego,” he replied with a dark grin.

Steve smirked back, before leaning away slightly. Then he swung, punching Tony squarely across the jaw. Tony fell to the ground, jolting his elbow, sending another roll of agony up his arm.

Immobulus,” came a shout from down the corridor.

The headmistress stalked towards them, eyes sharp and wand spitting out green sparks.

“In my office, now.”

The spell released them and Steve muttered by his side.

“Now you’ve done it, genius.”

 

He had detention. With Steve. Great. At least it was an evening away from the usual bullies. They were in the headmistress’ office, sat at desks across the room from each other. Tony just pulled out his usual stack of homework and set to work. Steve appeared to do the same if the rustle of papers was anything to go by. Quiet settled amongst them, Steve muttering under his breath as he filled in his work. Half an hour passed before the door flew open, an ancient professor with wispy white hair stumbled in.

“Professor Grey, we need your assistance.”

The headmistress stood with graceful fury and walked out. Tony managed to catch mutters about a firework prank made of Weasley’s Wizard Weezes merchandise. The silence stretched out once more, Tony flicked back and forth between textbooks. He heard Steve breathe a disgruntled sigh.

“Page 97.”

Steve glanced up at him, brow furrowing in confusion. Tony didn’t even look up from his books, just continued. The sound of his quill scratching against the parchment felt rough in the silence.

“What?”

“Page 97. The answer you’re looking for.”

“Thanks,” Steve replied puzzled, “how’d you know?”

“I did that essay this morning.”

“No I mean- wait this morning? But we only got this essay the period before last.”

Tony rolled his eyes and didn’t answer. Steve didn’t know about the time turner. Only four people knew. Pepper his best friend who he hardly saw because she was a Slytherin. Her timetable was completely different to his. Rhodey who he hardly saw because the Gryffindor was the year above him. Natasha and Clint who he hardly saw because they were friends with his latest arch enemy. Yet another one to add to the list. 

“Page 97, paragraph three,” Tony replied as he flipped his page, “you want the ingredients for the Angel Trumpets draught. The antidote is on page 98, paragraph two, once the method is finished. Although I’ll save you time. It’s a bezoar, stone found in the stomach of a goat.”

Steve remained silent but flicked to the page and breathe another sigh, only this time of relief. Scuffing his foot back and forth, Tony continued writing. He finished his essay and dropped the textbooks he no longer needed onto the floor with a thud. Steve jumped at the noise and glared at Tony.

“Could you not,” he grumbled.

“Of course, Cap. I live to please.”

Tony’s smile was sarcastic and pained but they both didn’t respond any further. More time passed in silence, only a grumble as Tony smudged black ink across his hand. Another finished essay which he rolled up and stowed away in his bag. By the time Steve finally finished his potions essay Tony had finished three separate essays and seemed to be reviewing another.

“Leaving all your work to the last minute?”

Tony smiled, a tiny smile like he was in on some private joke, “yeah, something like that.”

“What?” Steve demanded.

“What?” Tony replied defensively.

“What do you know that I don’t?”

Tony yawned and bit down his standard “there’s a lot of things I know that you don’t.” Instead he answered with a mildly mocking set of facts.
“My middle name is Edward. A person bitten by a vampire won’t assume a vampiric form unless the vampire gives them their blood. My birthday is in May, making me older than you. Lycanthropy cannot be passed through genetics, it is a long-living virus however no cure has been found. Venomous tentacula juice can mimic the effects of poison but won’t kill you unless you allow yourself to get dehydrated. Lumos has several forms, the most powerful being-“

“Stop, just stop. Forget I asked.”

Tony smirked and turned back to reading through his essay. The methods of identifying a werewolf and correct procedure for helping manage the condition. Tony sneezed, the noise once more causing Steve to jump. He looked at Tony with a weird glare, almost anger or annoyance.

“How’d you do that?” he asked accusingly.

“Do what?”

“That,” Steve waved his hand at Tony, gesturing vaguely at his head.

Tony reached up, groping for the thing that offended Steve so. Finding nothing, he chalked it up to Steve just being annoyed by his existence. The dust from the books was seriously making his nose itch. He tried to ignore Steve’s stink-eye. Eventually the captain settled down and went back to ignoring Tony. But his nose was really tickling. He sneezed again, wiping his nose from the back of his hand. Steve looked up at him and glared.

“What?” Tony asked, starting to get pissed.

“Seriously, how are you doing that? Have you mastered non-verbal spells?”

“I don’t know what you are on about. Did I give you a concussion during that duel? Maybe we should take you to see Madame Hunter.”

“I’m fine, maybe you should see-“

The door swung open and Head Mistress Grey walked in briskly, “no talking please. You still have half an hour left. And Mister Stark, kindly return your hair to normal.”
Tony glanced up and caught a glimpse of his currently bright red hair. He grinned, looking a tad embarrassed.

“Sorry, I sneezed.”

“Understood Mister Stark, now if you could-“

“Of course,” Tony gave a look of minor concentration and closed his eyes. He opened one eye and cast a cautious glance at the Professor, “better?”

“Better,” she agreed, “now since you have some time I expect an essay on the differences between Animagi and Metamorphagi.”

Tony sighed and pulled out a fresh roll of parchment. Yet more work to do. Sometimes he felt like he was drowning in it. He had another sleepless night to look forward to, since he still had Herbology work to complete, and Charms. And he had astronomy the night after. With Gryffindor. He groaned internally, not looking forward to more time with Steve.

“Okay times up. Let’s see this essay.”

Tony handed it over and she tutted thoughtfully as she read through it. She nodded and smiled, handing it back to him.

“Outstanding work, though I expect nothing less from you.”
Tony nodded his head solemnly, turning to find Steve waiting politely by the door. Tony walked past and Steve moved to follow.

 

It wasn’t until they were halfway down the corridor and approaching the staircase that Steve spoke up.

“What are you?”

Tony really wanted to punch him in his jaw, see how he liked it. Ignorant bastard.

“I’m not a ‘what’, asshole.”

Steve at least had the good grace to look sheepish, but hadn’t even managed to stutter out an apology before Tony was jogging down the stairs to the second floor. Steve knew the Ravenclaw common room was up, not down so he followed Tony curiously. Finally Tony ducked onto the first floor, with a quick glance behind him. Steve ducked into a doorway to avoid being seen. When he peeked out, Tony was gone. Steve ran down the stairs to the ground floor, expecting Tony to be sneaking out. But he couldn’t see Tony anywhere. Resigned, he headed outside to get the idiot before he got in more trouble. Though Steve didn’t know why he cared.

 

“Today’s a blue day huh?”

He smiled wanly at Myrtle. With a shrug he set his bag down on the thankfully dry bathroom floor. He slid down to the ground with a wince, brushing his now turquoise hair from his eyes.

“Yeah, blue. Normally I stick with brown, don’t want to give people any more reason.”

Myrtle clucked her tongue sympathetically, perching on top of the sinks to observe him. She swung her feet back and forth, shoes sliding through the marble.

“How are the bruises?”

“Fine,” Tony smiled.

“Liar,” Myrtle grinned back.

Tony shrugged and pulled up his shirt beneath the layers and layers of cloaks. It was the first time he even looked at the damage. The bruises were purple at the centre and fading to a fainter yellowy green around the edges. Tony got up with a groan as the muscles pulled. His arm hurt like a bitch but there wasn’t anything he could do. He stumbled to the only mirror that was both clean and undamaged. His jaw was swollen and bruised, moving it hurt. He knew that from talking but not even a langlock spell would stop him talking. But he was tired. Tired of work, tired of fighting, tired of hiding. He was so sick of distancing himself.

“Myrtle, how would you feel about me joining you here? More permanently?”

She floated up behind him and met his eyes in the mirror. Her smile was gone and her face was blank. She drifted back and forth, maintaining constant eye contact.

“You don’t want to stay here forever. Because nothing changes here. Trust me, I know.”

Tony sighed and rested his head against the mirror.

“You’re right. You’re fourteen, how’d you get so wise?”

Myrtle smiled again, “I’m over eighty years old.”

“Huh, I always forget that because you’re so childish.”

She poked her silvery tongue out at him, and he pulled a face back. She giggled softly and drifted down next to him. Laying her head on his shoulder she closed her eyes and hummed softly. Tony smiled in the mirror.

“Thanks Myrtle.”

“Don’t worry, it’s nice to have a friend sometimes.”

Tony shuffled from foot to foot, and eventually settled. His stomach growled and rumbled. He’d missed dinner again. He wished he hadn’t eaten the chicken sandwich for lunch. He’d eaten one of the apples and given the other two to Pepper and Natasha (you had to make offerings to the Red Headed deities to protect your mortal soul). He apologised to Myrtle and tried to creep down to the kitchens. Only of course his luck – oh who was he kidding he had no luck. Aldrich Killian and Grant Ward, all round bullies in green. Wilson Fisk and Brock Rumlow, the muscle in red. Justin Hammer and Ivan Vanko, lack of brains in Blue. They cornered him outside the Great Hall as he tried to sneak into the dungeons to reach the kitchens.

“Hey, hey, hey. The gang's all here. To what do I owe the pleasure.”

“Shut it Stark.”

Rumlow swung and punched him square in the stomach. Everything seized and Tony felt himself throw up a bit in his mouth. The acid burned his throat. Fisk punched Tony hard in the face, Tony biting his lip and spitting blood. Justin sneered at him, and Ivan pulled his head back by his hair. Tony rolled his eyes over to the Slytherins.

“You just here to look pretty?”

And he regretted speaking almost instantly. Killian, the oily git, just laughed. Ward on the other hand, swung his leg. It landed hard on his hip, causing Tony to stumble and smack his head on the wall. Ward, Brock, Fisk, and Ivan grabbed an appendage each. Holding Tony up, they began carrying out of the castle. Hammer lead the procession with Killian watching their backs. Tony was squirming, writhing, and desperately trying to break free of their iron grasp. But it was pointless. They carried him down towards the lake and Tony’s breath caught in his chest.

“We are so sorry for touching you, soiling your pureblood with our muddy hands. How about a nice bath to make you clean again?”

They shoved his head under the frigid water, his whole body going stiff from the cold. He suddenly felt his whole body lurch out of the water, flipping upside down. His ankles were stuck together and he was swinging wildly back and forth, rivulets of water and blood trailing over his neck with his head still below surface. He was pushed further out into the lake. Shit. He couldn’t swim. He’d never learnt. They dropped his body. He landed stomach first, with a sickening thwack. All the air was pushed out of his lungs on impact. He was already submerged as he tried to draw in oxygen. The only light he had was the moon, and that seemed to be fading out rapidly.