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My Dad, the Boy (*Man) Who Lives

Chapter Text

1979


“I’m sorry Mr. Potter, but we weren’t able to save your wife,” said the doctor when she got out of the operating room. "There was a complication. The...”

 

The next words coming out of the doctor's mouth were white noise to him as he prosessed the grave news.  


Oh, Mia.


Harry couldn’t help but blamed himself for her death. He knew about her untimely death, yet…


There’s nothing you can do Harry. If it is my fate, then it is what it is. I’m just glad that I’ve met you and I got to have this little baby growing inside of me. It’s been a great life, you know?


After the war and the devastating death of his two best friends, Harry couldn’t handle the pressure of being famous and alone; thus, he took the time off of England to explore the world. He always wanted to go to America, so that’s where he met his wife.


Mia Antonia Russo was his first friend in America. They met under unfortunate circumstance, where she was going to jump off a bridge when he met her and saved her from making her biggest mistake.


And under emotional grieve, one thing let to another, which meant they had a one night stand where an 18 year old Harry impregnated the 18 year old recently orphan girl, whom was suicidal. His intention to console a mourning girl led into both of them being young parents. Fortunately, the pregnancy led to an unexpected occasion for the both of them.


Of course, when they found out about the pregnancy, Harry immediately pursued Mia to marry him. There was no way he would let Mia be a single mother at such a young age. And by marrying to him, Harry could tell Mia about the wizarding world and ensured her and their child’s life with Potter and Black inheritance.


This pregnancy has helped Mia got her spirit to live back. She smiled more than before and bought many baby clothes. She read stories to her tummy at night and cooed at her big bump. The girl turned woman couldn’t be happier when the baby kicked in response.


This baby brought hope of having a family of his own back to Harry. He couldn’t help but be amazed and excited at the thought of being a father. After Death claimed him as her master, he dismissed his dream of having a family. Of having a little girl or a boy who would call him Dad.


Then, death whispered to him one night, that Mia was going to die if their baby was to be born. Devastated could not even be compared to what he felt that moment. It’s cruel to have to choose between the child that he loved and the wife he was hoping to have a long future with. The woman whom, not only he saved but in turn saved him from sadness and wandering aimlessly.


Still, the choice was taken off of his hands the moment Mia pestered him about what’s bothering him.


I’ve just got an extended time when I met you, Harry. You and our baby save me. Now, at least when I die, I get to save you from loneliness and bring ‘Anthony’ into this world.


His wife has been prepared to sacrifice her life when even the thought of sacrificing one life he cherished for another he loved couldn’t be processed by Harry’s mind. Mia was always the strongest of them both, even when her mental health was delicate.


As the doctor brought him to see their baby, Harry was in the state of denial. The young father felt the moment his wife took her last breath because of his control over death itself; yet, he wasn’t able to grasp the fact that his friend and dear wife has left the world.


The thought circling his mind right now was what would he tell Anthony when he grew up? That his mum chose death to bring him into this world? That Harry let his mum died because he loved him more than her? That even though his da was the master of Death, he couldn’t mess with fate? That he was glad that his mum had chosen Anthony over herself? Letting her fragile mind controlled her choices?


“There you are, Mr. Potter.” A nurse called him when he entered a white plain room where the hospital put the babies to rest in their tiny private boxes. She was holding a blue bundle of baby with a little tuff of black hair appearing from under it in her arms. “Here is you daddy, little boy.”


His focus broke the moment the nurse hand the bundle of joy onto him. He was met with the most intelligent brown eyes in the world. The eyes that he inherited from his mum. The grieve and self-hatred was tucked into the deepest part of his mind the moment those pair of beautiful eyes looked at him curiously.


I have a feeling that you and Anthony will do great things in the future.


For the first time in his life, Harry felt in love.


***

Three hours later…


It was…


Nobody would have imagined that something soo stupid as the press could ever exist in the world.


Not in a million years would Harry thought that by letting Anthony be held for a moment by a woman, would let the press go wild. Turned out, the sad mother whom just lost her baby was none other than Maria Stark herself.


No one could predict that one of the press would sneak up into the well guarded hospital and took a photo of her holding his darling Anthony.


In under an hour, the whole city knew about his baby. And under a couple of hours so did the whole United States of America. And soon the whole world would know. The worst thing was that they thought Anthony was the Stark heir.

He never wanted this for his son. Never wanted him to be under everybody's gaze and microscope. It was uncomfortable for him, he couldn't imagine his son being brought up under the keen eyes of strangers and the whole world.


But, there was nothing he could possibly have done to prevent this. He could not just obliviate the whole world. He was a grieving father and husband, and this mess wasn’t supposed to happen.


His plan was to have a quiet service and cremation for Mia, then go home and think of the ways to take care of his baby and be a single parent. Not having to deal with Mr. Stark (whom soo old, he thought the man was Mrs. Stark’s father, not her HUSBAND) or the heartbroken Mrs. Stark (whom in her 40’s and had a miscarriage in the last stages of pregnancy, or so he was told).


They were a prominent strong couple. This misunderstanding could blow their company’s stocks if the truth were to get out. Yet, Harry couldn’t care less for what’s happening to the Starks. He just wanted to be alone with his Anthony and grieved for his wife’s passing.

 

The idea of running back to England passed his mind for a second, but the nightmares of war and death kept haunting him. England has always been his home, but since the death of Sirius and later everybody he loved, Harry couldn't stay there without seeing and remembering what he had lost in that country. Even though he had a godson there, it wouldn't be enough reason for him to step back into the land of his birth. 

 

Harry thought to himself, he could have gone travelling. He and Anthony could have just do the whole sightseeing of the world. 

 

But then, Harry put those thoughts away. A child needed stability. His son needed a home. A permanent home would be better. A place where he could grow up, learn and have friends, like what Hogwarts was to him. 

 

Harry himself was only 19 and it's not like he hasn't had confident in himself to raise a child, but he himself has always dreamt of having a family, particularly a big family. Like when he had Sirius, Lupin, Ron and Hermione with him. 

 

When he looked at Mr. And Mrs. stark, the way they really mourned for their baby and the love they have for their baby if only he lived, shown through their sadness and it helped ease Harry's mind.

 

This old couple wasn't only thinking of their reputation, they genuinely wanted to help (even if the arrogant husband still tried to keep his true feelings to himself), especially Mrs. stark. The hesitation yet loving look she had as she held Anthony. The lady just wanted a baby, but didn't want to monopolized him.

 

Then he made up his mind.

 

After a long discussion, he coincided with the Stark couple. He would let his son be named Stark as long as the boy knew who his real father was and Harry got to stay with him no matter what happened. The only one who knew the truth would be the Stark couple, Harry and The Jarvis couple. (mr. stark had assured him that they were loyal and trustworthy)


The Brit would be a protégé to the Stark’s family butler, to hide his real identity as the boy’s birth father and as reason for having Harry around Anthony. He could teach his boy about his heritage and secretly tutored him from a child since sending Anthony to a wizarding school would jeopardize his identity as Anthony Stark and put a target on his back as Harry’s son. (Not all Voldemort’s followers have been captured by the ministry)


Anthony would be treated well and loved by them; therefore, the second Harry see Anthony got treated badly whether they were verbal or physical abuse, Harry promised that the couple would never see them again. After living in an abusive household for a decade and a half, Harry would never let his son go through what he went through.


In return, Harry got to have help in raising his boy. The perks of not being a single father or lonely also allured Harry. He felt hope blooming inside of him. This was his second chance at gaining a family. For himself and his boy.


Thus, the birth of one Harry James Evans and Anthony Edward Stark to the world.


***

Chapter Text

1979

Since before the lady of the house got her third pregnancy, the mansion was always appeared to be almost deserted. The old Jarvis’ couple were always there to take care of the house after the housemaids went home after dinner time and usually sooner since the lady of the house have many days booked with her fundraising and charities. Moreover, the master of the mansion was busy with his inventions, company and his yearly expedition in search of the body of Captain America.

It was a cold house, they said. No warmth or the comfortness of what a lived in house should be.

But, then It all changed when the madam got pregnant. After a couple of miscarriages, Mr. Stark whose eyes always looked cold and hard except when he gazed upon his friends and wife, kissed her upon her forehead and just said three words,’Let’s stop trying.’

After all the tears she shed and all the sadness he felt every time he saw her hope shattered, they agreed to move on. He started working more and she focused her time more with important matters in the world, like raising money for poverty.

As time passed, Maria Carbonell Stark’s years grew in number and the white in her husband’s hair covered his head, the news, the employees, their friends and the people in the world began to think that the Stark’s line would end with Howard.

No one could have imagined that at the age of 42 that Mrs. Stark would be pregnant yet again and this time the baby inside the womb grew passed the first trimester. The power couple was very excited in sharing their happy news to the world.

Howard Stark stayed at home almost every day, loving every second he got with his wife. Listening to her talked to the fetus. Rubbing the womb as he told it about Captain America. Kissing each other and just be the happy couple they were before life hit them with the reality of losing their previous babies.

Before he saw the baby or feel the baby in his hands, Howard loved it. It didn’t matter if his child would be a boy or a girl. It would be his child. He would love the baby no matter what.

When the first contraction hit, it was the most nervous and scary time in the inventor’s life. Still, his wife needed him to be calm and he hid it under his collected feature and calming reassurances.

‘We're almost there’, he told her. ‘We would be able to see our child soon’, he said.

The moment to deliver the baby couldn’t come fast enough as they wait in the hospital room. The miracle time was coming and he was beyond excited. They both were.

As he accompanied her into the delivery room, the monitor suddenly spiked up. The man could feel his heart stop. The time seemed to slow down. He was numb with concern over his wife and baby.

The millionaire didn’t even realized that he was being ushered out of the room until he felt a hand grasping his elbow. He jerked in shock. It was his old friend, Edwin. The butler looked calm but he was eyeing him with worried gaze. He was opening his mouth, trying to ask him about something.

Yet, the businessman’s mind was blank and his ears were buzzing as the fast beeping of the heart monitor kept repeating on and on in his mind.

In the end, Edwin managed to bring him down to sit on the chair. His wife, Anna brought him a cup of hot tea. Howard held the paper cup in his tremble hands. Though drinking the hot beverage wasn’t on his mind since all of his thoughts went to his family inside the room.

It was minutes, that felt like dreadful long hours before the doctor went out to tell them that they have lost their son and his wife was sleeping and recuperating. Howard felt his heart burned out, but he got no energy to be furious or launching himself at the cruel fate. His chest felt heavy when he thought of how he would tell Maria.

His wife… Oh God, his poor wife.

She’s been so happy this year. Maria was glowing and…

It would kill her.

Howard couldn’t even feel the hot tears welling down on his eyes. He was just… drained and…

His poor wife.

***

The hospital staff had moved his wife to a new clean sheet and a bigger bed. Nobody knew about their loss besides Edwin and Anna, along with the doctor and a couple of the nurses. Edwin made sure to have them signed an NDA and gave them money to buy their silence for a short while. It wouldn’t be long, but Howard couldn’t sic the pers on his family.

He would be able to handle them, but Maria… he wouldn’t let them near his wife until she was ready. Or whenever she’s ready

Howard didn’t know what time he dragged himself to sleep next to Maria on the big bed. But the slight jolt to his left woke him up immediately. Then he knew Maria has woken up.

Darkness still crept around their surroundings because Howard couldn’t feel the sting of the sun rays before his eyelids.

The moment he opened his eyes, their eyes met. He saw her smile, so delicate and beautiful, like the first time he saw her on the beach. Not a second sooner, the smile disappeared. Something on his face must have pronounced the horrible news. Her lips trembled, brows creased in distress.

“Howie…” She choked on her words as the water from her eyes felt upon her cheeks.

Grief and sudden realization marred her pretty aging face and he couldn’t stand it anymore.

He pulled his wife closer. Her chin rested on his shoulder as he sniffed the smell of jasmine upon his wife’s hair before starting to caress her gently.

“I’m sorry, honey.” He whispered brokenly. “I’m so sorry.”

As he kept mumbling the words of apology, he could feel her tears dampening his shirt. Together they cried in each other’s arm as they mourned for their loss.

***

It was morning when he woke up again. He was frantic for a moment when his hand was searching for the warm body next to him and yet couldn’t find any. Before he could panic, Edwin knocked on the door and escorted him to the nursery room.

There she was, standing next to a young lanky man with a pair of glasses and dark hair in blue shirt. What stunned him was the look on his wife’s face. Sadness still pasted on her feature, but there was a sudden beauty upon her smile as her gaze focused on something below her. In her arms, there lay a blue bundle.

A glimmer of warmth and hope filled his mind as he thought,’that’s my wife and our child.’ Then darkness crept back into him when he recalled what they’ve just lost.

But his thought was broken when he saw a flash from the corner of his eye, later loud footsteps running away not far from here echoed in the hallway. And then he thought…

DAMN IT

***

After a long discussion, the young man, might as well called him Harry, agreed to their deal and let them adopted his son. As a businessman, Howard thought that this contract (he and Harry agreed to have it on a paper and legalized immediately by their discreet lawyers) was easy and cheap on his part.

From the second he looked unamused at Howard offering him some financial exchange, he could tell that the young man was well off or wealthy as he can be.

Another trait he must have as a businessman was observation, so he was quite good at judging character. (like how he knew that Obie was two faced but sadly he couldn’t proved he was doing any harmful things to the company; nevertheless, Howard would kept a watchful eye on his business partner)

When he talked to the young Brit, he noticed the man kept stealing glances at his wife, whom was holding and cooing at the little baby. It wasn’t the look of unrest at having his baby handled by a stranger after just recently losing his wife or the pity look at a woman whom just lost a baby. Surprisingly, it was a look of envy and longing at the baby, not Maria.

There’s a possibility that Harry was an orphan, maybe lost his mother at a young age. And the way he agreed in the end to the deal could possibly mean that the Englishman was in fact had no other family besides his son.

 

Probably he longed to have a family, a big family he dreamt to have which was lost when his wife died. He felt for the young man. A bit, since he knew what it's like to have a cold father and an absent mother. Dreams of having a family was a lost dream in his past when war happened. Then he recalled that old dream again when he met Maria. 

 

When his wife got permission from Harry to try to breastfeed Anthony, she left both men alone in the white empty room. The atmosphere felt heavy all of a sudden.

Possibly because the young man felt awkward sitting in a room with a stranger and the stranger, himself still mourning over his own loss.

Howard felt envious.
Envy at this young man, whom got to have his baby.
Envy at his wife, whom appeared to forget about their own deceased son.
Envy at young Anthony’s survival when his own son died.

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

He looked up suddenly when the young man addressed him and it hit him when he saw him fidgeting on his seat. The way he saw his own expression mirrored on the other father’s face.

Their situation were not that different.

He grieved for his son.
This man grieved for his wife.
His wife grieved but was probably trying to make the best of the situation.
Young as he was, Anthony would never got to know his mother.

Their loss might not be the same, but they were in the same boat.

The inventor curled up a tiny smile. An understanding, yet sad smile.

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

Yesterday, Harry was a stranger. Today, Howard might have gained himself a new friend.

***

Chapter Text

Beginning of July, 1979

With only three people, actually two grown-ups and a little boy, the people whom knew Howard and Maria (Peggy and Obie), thought that their long-time butler and housekeeper would be enough to serve their needs 24/7 even with the presence of a baby such as young master Tony. And, as one of the founder of SHIELD, Howard was known to be paranoid.

Imagined Peggy's surprise when she met one Harry James Evans.

The hiring of an unknown British citizen to the household was quite baffling to mostly the housemaids at first, since they met the young adult right after the couple brought their baby boy home.

As Howard’s partner, Obadiah Stane’s only thought was about securing the future of the company and hoped that the heir would grow up to be a genius like his dad, or even more. Thus the presence of a stranger to the mansion was another pair of eye he could pay to spy on the Starks. Although, in the weeks to come he will later find out that Harold or Henry’s (Obie didn’t think it was important to remember the name of the help) loyalty to the Starks was forestalling his plan. But, whatever. What can an under-butler do anyway.

Tony’s godmother and Howard’s oldest friend, Peggy Carter was undoubtably suspicious and curious of the new under-butler. She knew the Jarvises since when she worked as an SSR agent, so she knew how capable they were.

This prompted her to have young Harry’s background thoroughly check. It was difficult and which surprisingly considering SHIELD’s rep with 084 and out of the world oddity, it was hard to get this information by. But in the end, she discovered a famous someone whose whereabouts was currently unknown to Great Britain Magical World with the name of Harry James Potter.

Confronted with the truth, Howard was certainly surprised and unsurprised when he was informed. Taking the element of magic away, Howard observed the man a few times and thought that Harry’s eyes seemed older and sorrowful when he thought nobody was looking.

At first, the genius thought that Harry was a soldier, but he didn’t have the tell tale signs of military training. Then he thought that the man was abused, yet he seemed to be the type of person who was confident and not afraid to stand up for himself. Though he flinched that one time when Howard raised his arm in frustration in the time they talked about adopting Tony, which led the millionaire to think that the young man was probably abused as a child.

Despite being young, the young savior couldn’t hide his jittery or the way he was wary of his surrounding as if he expect someone will jump out to attack him. Before he knew of the man’s past history from Peg, he was puzzled at how young Harry looked but seemed old in presence.

So yeah, Howard was paranoid but he respected Harry’s privacy, after all, the man has helped him tremendously although reluctant at first. But when his best friend came, telling him about the man’s identity and past, he genuinely felt angry on Harry’s behalf for his horrible childhood and things that happened to him at his boarding school that no kid should have gone through.

To appease Peg, the inventor arranged a meeting between Harry and Peg and himself, since the statute of secrecy of magic would not be apply to them as the heads of a secret government agency.

To not scare Harry away, Howard invited the young man to help him fix the car in the garage. They’ve done this several times since Harry came to live with him and it was always fun to have a young mind, whom was attentive. As they fixed the car, he confronted Harry slowly and nonchalantly that he came to an information about the young father from a trustworthy colleague.

Harry was skittish at first but with a few nudge, the three of them met and talked. It was a great painful deal for Harry to discuss his reasons to stay away from the magical world and lived in the muggle world (the term for non magic people, he said?) and later this of course prompted both fathers to tell her how Harry came to be hired, and after, Tony’s biological parents.

“Oh, Howard…,” the woman grabbed his hand and clasped it firmly in her hand. The wrinkles on his friend’s face were more defined with her sudden downturned mouth. Peggy looked so old in that moment with the whole unsaid condolences on her face.

Pasting a strong front, Howard tried to smile and put his hand on top of her hand. “We’re not fine, but we’re getting there. Maria and I.”

“Harry and Tony’s presence help. Maria is starting to move on since her hands are full with the baby. She’s in her 40’s but now she’s as frisky as the day we met.”

“I bet you’d love that.” Peggy chuckled throatily at this. “And you must have been wonderful too with the baby.”

“I don’t know, Peg,” he shrugged. “Don’t get me wrong. I like baby Tony, he makes Maria happy and he is cute, never doubt that,” then he pointed his thumb at Harry’s direction. “But I’m so old, I felt Harry is more my son than the baby.”

There was a low chocking sound coming from Harry, replaced by a sudden coughing sound. From his peripheral vision, he noticed blush on Harry’s face and a hopeful look behind those pair of glasses. The old inventor recalled the excitement on Harry’s face every time he helped him in the garage.

Howard was a workaholic and the thought of being a father only came to him because his wife wanted a child. He wanted to be a parent but couldn’t picture himself as a dad until he was forced to interact with this young person, who seemed so sad at times yet there was fire burning behind those pair of green eyes.

So when he admitted to Peggy that Harry felt like a son to him, he was being truthful.

“Young man, you do know that people my age have a baby for a grandson and not a son,” he cocked an eyebrow, trying to hide his smile. “For example, if we go to a zoo with a 5 year old Tony, the ticket girl will say, one ticket for the child, one adult ticket for the daddy and one senior citizen ticket for the grandpa.”

The dark-haired man burst out laughing and after that, they were all laughing. So yes, the Stark senior liked having one Harry Potter Evans in his home. Having one Anthony Edward Stark and getting to help in raising the boy was a privilege. But having both of them at his home was the greatest gift to the old man.

***

Without him knowing, Peggy was secretly smiling at her friend. She was proud of how mature her friend was now and glad that old Howie was able to move on slowly from his loss. The young father and son weren’t a substitute for her best friend’s loss but the boys seemed to help heal the wound, one tiny step at a time.

***

Chapter Text

1983

It was a quiet night when all of the housemaids have gone home from casa de Stark. The only people resided in the Stark’s mansion were the Starks, the butler and his wife along with the young under butler.

“Dad! Dad!” A little boy with black hair ran upstairs from the basement, clutching a board of mechanical complex in his hands. Flushing with excitement, the child accidentally tripped on the last stair and fell down.

Though at the last second, he managed to angle his body, so instead of colliding with his head first, he hit the top of the stairs with his side. Luckily, this action helped in saving his project.

For a second he was filled with a sense of relieved but then a blooming pain surged through him. The pain was sharp and it hurt him so much so that the little child started to grit his teeth to stop himself from letting out a sob. He didn’t want to alert anyone to his sudden accident.

Usually, Anthony Edward Stark or better known to his parents as Tony or young master to the house assistants, was a ‘tough’ boy. He liked to study and learn with his hands. So there’s no wonder when he got scraps and tiny cuts from trying to take things apart every time he got home from school.

But some of his times were spent to watch his father and dad working on cars in the garage, which was rare, like once a week or the least once a month. They didn’t feel annoyed at his little interruption and they even welcomed him.

The rattle sound of screwdrivers and smell of oil was heaven to him. There were times when the boy’s mom had to pull him out of the garage to eat. Tony loved the times he spent in the garage because it was one of the only places where little Tony could call Harry ‘dad’.

From the moment he could talk, Tony understood that he wasn’t allowed to call Harry ‘Dad’ in daytime (he’s a genius even when he was a baby, *huff) after his dad told him occasionally. As time went by, he figured out why he wasn’t allowed to call him Dad in front of other people besides Father, mom, Jarvis and Anna.

At night, mom would read bedtime stories to him. There were the turtle and the hare, the red riding hood and so on. But his most favorite story would always be ‘The Queen’s Little Prince’. It was a wonderful story about the birth of a young prince and the Queen always reminded him of his mom.

Once upon a time, in a great kingdom, there lived a king and a queen. The king was very smart and he ruled his people wisely. The queen was kind and she loved helping her people and enjoyed watching everybody happy.

A time went by, they grew older and older. The King was happy in their kingdom with their people, but the queen grew sadder every day. Since she was a little girl, she always dreamt to be a mom.

Then the king granted her wish. Finally the queen was pregnant.

“What’s pregnant, mom?”

“Pregnant is when a woman has a baby inside her tummy,” she tickled the Little boy on his tummy as Tony gave out tiny giggles out of his mouth.

Sadly, when it’s time for the baby to come out, the baby went to Heaven.

The Queen was sad when she found out about this. The king was also sad.

But then, a wizard came to the kingdom. He wasn’t alone. He has a little baby boy with him. The wizard was young and sad because his wife has gone to Heaven as well.

Even sad, the wizard let the queen held his baby boy. But the people of the kingdom thought that the little baby was the Queen’s little prince. People was happy for the queen and they made a big celebration.

The wizard loved his baby, but he also felt sorry for the queen. So the wizard stayed in the kingdom. His baby became the prince, and the wizard always stayed with him. The little prince grew up with two fathers and one mother. They were a happy family.

The queen was never sad anymore because her wish came true.

The queen would always missed her baby whom went to Heaven, but the wizard’s son would always be the Queen’s Little Prince.

That story was different from the other stories that he had heard before. It wasn’t all about happy ending (happy ending is booooooring). The story taught the little boy about sadness and happiness. That it’s okay to be happy when you are sad.

Moreover, something about the story always brought about his curiosity. Every time his mom read ‘The Queen’s little prince’ to him, his mom would always have this ‘weird’ expression on her face. It was weird because she looked sad but happy at the same time when she was telling this story.

It wasn’t hard to figure out that the story was about him. Tony was the Queen’s Little Prince and his real dad is dad. And Tony couldn’t help but wonder if his mom was afraid to tell him about this.

The little boy couldn’t care less. Maria was always going to be his mom and Howard was his father and Harry, his dad. Tony loved them. They were his parents.

One night, he told them that he knew and he was scared when his mom started to cry after she squeezed him in a hug. Father clapped his shoulder, looked fondly at him as he said ‘Thank you’ while Dad ruffled his hair, eyes a bit teary, saying ‘ we love you, too Tony’.

The little boy was baffled, but he was just happy that mom wasn’t crying because she was sad. Apparently, you can cry too when you’re happy.

*Anyway…

One of his favorite time was also watching his father worked on complicated projects. It was exhilarating (he just learnt that word from dad) and fun to watch. When his father started to let him help around in the workshop (after dad and mom said okay), he felt like he was on cloud nine. He felt happy when his father trusted him to help him in his beloved workshop.

Father was proud of him but also telling him to be careful.

It’s okay to have fun with your experiment, but try not to get hurt okay, my boy?

But then he got hurt because he tried to run up the stairs. His parents and the Jarvises always told him to watch his steps. The boy could get too excited sometimes and hurt himself in the process. He didn’t want to disappoint or worry them when he did get hurt.

Tony only wanted to show his creation to his Dad. Father said he could and he looked so happy and proud when Tony finished the circuit board. He wanted to see that expression on Dad’s face as well but…

He couldn’t stop the first tear from falling down on his cheek. His side was hurting badly and he couldn’t help but let out a tiny sob.

“Tony? Where are you, pumpkin?”

He heard his dad called him. The voice sounded closer and Tony couldn’t help but curled into a ball from all the pain he suffered right now. Before long, his dad found him on the last step of the stairs. He was being pulled carefully onto his lap and held gently.

“Tony, what…Are you alright?” The under-butler sounded frantic, rubbing his back tenderly with care, but stopped when Tony groaned in pain. “It’s alright, son. Don’t cry. Dad is here.”

Slowly, his dad brought him to the living room and sat him on the couch, still holding him. Gently, he stroked the young boy’s hair and shushed him and tried calming the little boy.

“Oh, Tony. It’s alright. Stop crying, my little genius.” He kissed him on the side of his head. “Tell Dad what’s wrong.”

“Do… Don’t tell fa… Father, dad,” Tony sobbed into his dad’s shirt. “He told me to be careful and I…I fell… It’s my fault. I pro… Promised… I…”

“Sssh, sssh, ssh. Your father is not going to be angry, Tony.” Harry gently pulled himself back from Tony to look into his eyes. “He will be worried, like me. But, yes, you do need to be careful. We love you and we don’t want you to get hurt. But accidents do happen all the time and it’s alright, pumpkin. We’re not angry at you. Now tell me, where does it hurt?”

Between sobs, the little genius told him and with magic (his dad is a wizard, but only father and him knew that, so… Sssh) his dad healed him. The pain was gone and Tony was glad.

“Thank you dad,” Tony grinned happily as Harry wiped his tears away with a handkerchief.

The young father smiled warmly at his son. “You’re welcome, Tony. Now, tell me why are you in such a rush?”

Tony opened his hands and showed Harry what he was clutching in his hands. The mechanical board was fine and Tony couldn’t have been elated to show his creation to Harry.

“Oh, what is this?” The young father looked interested, smiling as he indulged his excited son.

“It’s a circuit board, da,” Tony pulled his mouth into a pout with an unimpressed expression on his face. “You know this. Father told you he was teaching me how to make it.”

“Oh my little genius,” Harry cupped his cheek, caressing his son’s face lovingly. “It’s brilliant. I’m so proud of you. You know that right?”

He nodded nervously, looking down on his lap.

“Tony,” the young wizard put his fingers under the boy’s chin to tilt his face up towards him. “Look at me, Tony.”

Anxiously, the boy obeyed.

“You don’t have to be smart all the time, pumpkin.” He reprimanded his son gently. “Even if you’re not smart, we, me, your father and mom, your mama in heaven, Mr. and Mrs. Jarvis will always love you. No matter what.”

Tony’s heart lighted up a little at his dad’s reassurance. He nodded slowly. “I love you, da.”

“Love you, too son.”

***

As he put his son to bed with a kiss good night, Maria came and sat on the bed. It’s time for the bedtime story.

“Good night, Mrs. Stark,” Harry took a bow, but she stopped him.

“None of that, Harry,” she smiled adoringly at him, scolding him gingerly. “You’re family, my dear. Never call me anything but Maria when there are only us around.”

Brimming with smile, Harry kissed her cheek and let her start her nightly routine with their son.

It’s been four years and Harry couldn’t be happier with his decision. Harry wanted Tony to have everything he wanted in life but still be humble. And his son was one. Tony learnt about engineering and sassiness from Howard. Kindness and humility from Maria. Manners from Mr. Jarvis (hopefully he still remember it until he’s a grownup). Independence from Anna Jarvis. And love of magic from Harry.

Yet, behind all of his confidence, Tony still need assurance at times that he was loved. He hated disappointing the people that he loved and Harry hoped his son would grow out of it and know that he did not need approval that he’s a good boy. He already is one.

With the three of them as his parents, Harry believed It would be sooner rather than later.

***

Chapter Text

1985

“You did so well, Tony,” Howard placed a hand on his son’s shoulder. “They will praise your intelligence, my boy.”

They were in Howard’s workshop at the mansion, where the reporter and his crews, whom wanted to interview the Starks, prepared their equipment. The star of today was Tony, their son. Howard was very proud of the young boy’s achievement.

At the tender age of 6, his boy has managed to build his own engine without any help from himself or Harry, his other parent. Tony truly was a marvelous young genius. He believed their boy would do great things in the future.

Magic or no magic.

As a man of science, the inventor always relied on hard facts, theories and tangible things. In his opinion, things like unidentified beings (ghost, alien’s and demons, etc) or magic was not logical. He could not comprehend such a thing.

Therefore, imagined his surprise to see Harry did magic for the first time right in front of his eyes (he knew the young brit was a wizard, but magic seemed to become an unimportant info about Harry at the time) when Tony turned 2. It was an accident, not on Harry’s part, when he did the hocus pocus.

4 years ago

Anthony, that sneaky boy was sneaking into the garage, where he was teaching Harry how to build an engine. They were wearing goggles and as many protections as they could to protect themselves from getting mild burns. Sparks of flames were flying around them and the noise was quite loud; furthermore, they were so focused on their tinkering that they didn’t notice the toddler tiptoeing from the garage entrance from inside the house.

Before either of them could do anything, the young kid surprised them from behind with a shout. Harry who was welding the torch, accidentally dropped the welding torch.

For an excruciating second, Howard was scared for Tony’s well-being. The image of Tony’s face in tears, red cheeks while holding his sensitive burnt skin was invading his mind. It was a horrible picture.

The father was standing on the other side of the engine when it happened, so all that he could do was... cried out his son’s name,” Tony!”

He wasn’t shouting in anger or surprised. His tone was filled with fear for his little boy. Howard wasn’t afraid to admit that he was holding his breath and prayed to God for nothing bad to happen to Anthony, even though he’s an atheist.

However, there was no sound of screaming or painful wailing followed the accidental dropping. There was not even a clinking sound of the tool hitting the floor.

Suddenly the quiet moment was broken by the sound of merry clapping and giggles from the boy. That prompted Howard to notice the welding torch floating in the air next to Harry’s right side. There was a shimmering gold light containing the torch.

It was suspended in the air, right above their boy, whom was currently bouncing around in excitement. “Dada, magic! Do it again, do it again!”

Reklieved, both fathers were choking on their breath in unison. The young man immediately took the torch and put it back in its place before turning back around to look at his boy.

Calmly, he kneeled in front of Tony, encircling his arms around their boy tightly.

Tony held his hands to his daddy’s back, accepting the hug. “Dada, magic wow. Do it again.”

When Harry didn’t reply back, that’s when Tony’s exhilaration slowly diminished and started to sound frantic. “Dada? Awe (are) you angry? Dada?”

Nervously, Tony fidgeted inside his dad’s embrace and looked towards Howard in panic. Howard could see Harry’s body shaking. As if he was scared that he had hurt his boy, somehow.

The inventor knew how the wizard felt since he himself could still feel his fingers trembling. He clenched his fingers into a fist and calmed his own heartbeats. He needed to step up. His boys needed him right now.

He felt his feet moving on their own and before he knew it, he was standing in front of his son and his co-parents. The old man crouched, then decided to cross-legged near them since he was too old for the first position. Gently, he placed his hand on top of Tony’s head.

“Tony, you scared us just now.” He reprimanded the boy gently, without a hint of anger.

“I’m bowed (bored). Want to suwpwise.” The child mumbled with pouted lips.

“I know, dearest.” Howard smiled a little. “But, you shouldn’t do that. Your dad and I were doing dangerous things in here. You could have gotten hurt, you know.”

“Bu… But magic… Dad’s magic good,” his voice started to get shaky and his mouth was trembling slightly.

“I know. We know.” He explained in a firm tone yet soft voice. “But, we’re worried. Worried means sad and scared if something bad happens to our favorite son. Your dad is sad that you almost get boo-boo.”

“Dad is sad?” Howard didn’t even know that the boy’s eyes could get that huge. Those pair of brown eyes looked so big and guilty as he realized that what he’d done just made the people that he loved anxious and scared.

Big droplets of tear started coming out of his eyes as the Stark heir began to sob. “ ’M sowwy. Don’t wanna… Make da.. Dad… Fa… Father sad. So… Sowwy. ‘M sowwy…”

“Stop crying, Tony. It’s okay, we’re not angry. Just promise not to do it again, okay? And don’t run from your mama or Anna and Jarvis, okay?”

His only reply was a serious expression and a quick nod of the little head. “Pwo… Pwomise, father.”

“Thank you for apologizing, Tony.” He said in an attempt to soothe the boy. “I bet your dad will also forgive you.”

The moment he said that, Harry slowly pulled his head from Tony’s tiny shoulder, where he had plastered his face this whole time. He looked into Tony’s face and started peppering the little boy with tiny kisses. “I forgive you, pumpkin. Just never do that again, okay. I don’t want to accidentally hurt you again.”

“ ‘m sowwy, dad.” The kid pouted his lips, trying to stop his tears. “Pwomise, no suw… suwpwise.”

“It’s alright. You’re alright.” Stroking his son’s hair, as he put a last kiss on Tony’s temple.

The Wizard’s eyes met Howard’s for a moment. He smiled reassuringly when the young man mouthed a thank you at him. It’s okay. Everything’s fine. Tony would be careful in the future.

Howard was relieved at that time, so he wasn’t really thinking about the Magic until he did hours after Jarvis took Harry upstairs, where he was safe. When he told Harry that, The wizard just smiled with a look on his face that said ‘really? You thought I was a fake? You already knew about me being a wizard two years ago.’

He admitted that the fact that Harry was a life breathing person who wielded magic, never really crossed his mind as an ‘actual thing’. There were more pressing issues to think of like his wife, new son (more like grandson?), Harry (much older son?), the company and SHIELD. The expedition to find Steve was no longer his primary objective in life. It was no doubt still an ongoing journey, but Howard had stopped going on it himself when Tony came into his life.

Back to the magic thing…

The moment the realization hit him that he had a true wizard in his home, Howard started firing questions after questions about magic. Harry in turn, tried to answer as best as he could, amusement clear on his face. And he even promised that he would bring Howard to the American magic hidden town if Tony manifested a talent in it. Howard was ashamed to say that he could still squeal at the age of 68.

Strong lungs and great vocal cords, conveyed his inner voice which sounded so much like Maria’s voice.

Anyway, at least his boy would grow up to have an engineering degree on his belt, with or without magic.

“Are you sure, father?” Tony fidgeted nervously as he looked up at Howard with his big brown puppy eyes. “I… I mean you teach me how to build it. You are a great teacher, but… But are you sure I don’t need to add something? I don’t think it’s as good as yours, father.”

Howard smiled at his son’s ramblings. None of the mansion’s occupants had a habit to ramble, and yet their son was a rambler. Maybe it was just his nature, because it definitely didn’t come from their nurture.

He was such a cute rambler, too.

“You’re going to be marvelous at it, young master,” Harry said. Howard couldn’t help noticing Tony flinched at the way his dad was addressing him.

The Brit showed up from behind the reporter’s crews, smiling apologetically at his son. He was in his former under-butler suit and worn his hair up neatly. The wizard kneeled in front of their son and began to fix the boy’s clothes, while whispering encouraging speeches.

“I believe you will be great at public-speaking like your father, pumpkin.” He whispered and smiled fondly at the little boy. “Just trust yourself.”

Shyly, their son gave a little nod.

As the crew finished their preparation, the reporter began his questions. Time flew and slowly, Tony became more confident in answering the questions fired at him. The self-consciousness was gone as the boy got more comfortable and excited with more elaborate questions from the man.

Then the time came for them to take pictures of both father and son.

Tony looked hesitant as the reporter ushered them to stand beside the engine. He seemed reluctant and distant until Howard looked at the direction of the boy’s gaze.

Tony was looking at Harry, whom was standing by in the corner where he could watch them, without disturbing the crews.

The millionaire immediately understood his son’s predicament. “Uhm, before we start… Harry?”

The young man took a step forward when his name was called. “Yes, sir?”

He gestured his hand in the universal hand of ‘come here’. When the wizard was standing closer to them, Howard urged him to stand next to Tony so that the boy was standing between both of his parents. A bright smile lighted up Tony’s face.

“Uhm, mister Stark…”

Before the reporter could protest, Howard held his finger up and expressed himself firmly. “Please take the photos.”

He just used his ‘no argument’ voice along with the sharp indisputable stare. If it worked in board meeting and SHIELD, it would work with one reporter. Not a second later, the man coughed nervously and pictures were taken.

A week later, the front cover of the TIME Magazine was of Tony’s engineering achievement. The photo itself was of Howard Stark smiling with a hand on his son’s shoulder, while the Stark’s heir was grinning happily at the camera and surprisingly there was an unidentified impeccably dressed man whose face was forgettable next to the boy, smiling a gentlemanly smile.

There was no doubt in everybody’s mind that the boy was happy of his achievement and being in the cover of a prestigious magazine at such a young age. Nobody knew that the boy’s joy came from having both of his fathers in a photo that would be seen by the whole world.

***

Chapter Text

1987

Tony had just graduated from high school (he’s an A-class genius and high school was overrated) and his mom was preparing a special celebration for him. It was a small party with only his parents, Aunt Peg and the Jarvises.

The boy was glad that Obie wasn’t invited to the party. He felt guilty for thinking like that, but since the first time he could remember and interact with his godfather, he felt an intense need to get away from the man. Yet, he still needed to socialize with the man if he didn’t want to have Jarvis ‘I’m disappointed in you. I teach you better manner, young master’ look directed at him.

The boy couldn’t wait for the night to begin. Jarvis and Anna were cooking his favorite meal in the kitchen and mom was baking her famous chocolate blueberry three-layered cake. Aunt Peg even promised to teach him self-defense lessons. Father presented him with the newest set of tools for engineering. Overall, Tony was happy with all the gifts and presents. The most exciting presents of all were the candies Dad bought from honey dukes store at Hogsmeade.

The wizard promised the little genius that if he studied well and behaved nicely until he graduated from high school, he would be given sweets from the magic world.

Since he could ever remember, Tony had heard many stories about his dad and his friends. Most of them were the adventures he had with his two best friends at the magical boarding school and they always sounded exciting and adventurous for the little boy. Tony loved the stories about the school itself. The ceiling with the animated sky on it in the great hall. The ghosts haunting the school. The books with furs, monster’s teeth and wings in Hogwarts’ library.

He knew he couldn’t ever be able to go to that school if he didn’t show any manifestation towards magic and the fact that the school brought sadness to his dad’s face. He didn’t really talk about the sad stuff. All he said was that there was a war and people died. It was a simple explanation, same as the one he got when Harry let it slipped that as a child he rarely gotten candies.

“…Everybody was so excited about Hogsmeade. There were stories about the Three Broomsticks, a pub where they served the most delicious Butterbeer. Zonko’s Joke Shop, where you can buy toys or potions to prank your friends. But the place that I really want to visit was the Honeydukes. It’s a candy stores, they said they sell the most succulent-looking sweets imaginable and…”

“What is succulent, dad?” Tony cut him in.

“It means yummy, Tony.” He smiled gently at him. The man looked happy when he talked about the wizarding village, that Tony felt a tiny bit guilty for interrupting the story. “So, where was I?”

“Honeydukes, da,” he chimed in.

“Yes, Honeydukes.” Harry cleared his throat as he continued about the chocolates and sweets filling the shelves in the store. There was an indescribable child-like joy when his dad talked about those wonderful candies that Tony couldn’t help but asked.

“You really likes sweets, don’t you dad?”

The wizard looked startled at his son’s proclamation that he accidentally blurted out, “I didn’t really have a chance to eat candies when I was your age, pumpkin.”

The moment he said that his da looked regretful and shameful almost immediately.

Curious at his dad’s weird reaction, Tony pried on,” Why? Kids get candies all the time, at least my friends were.”

Scratching the back of his ear slowly, the wizard forced himself to smile at Tony. “You know that my mom and dad died when I was young, right?”

Satisfied with a short nod from Tony, Harry continued. “I was raised by my mom’s sister, my aunt, and his husband. Well, they don’t really like me. So I don’t really ever get to eat candies or chocolate from them.”

Soon, Tony moved as fast as lightning and held his arms around his dad, planted his face under the man’s chin. “I’m sorry da.”

Right at that moment, Anthony Edward Stark, or legally in magical world (Not many people knew his existence as Harry Potter’s son) known as Anthony Orion Potter (Orion, his dad’s god dad’s middle name and the name he sometimes called Tony in private) felt like he wanted to kick his dad’s relatives in their bottoms. Even at the cost of getting Jarvis’ ‘I’m most disappointed in you, young master and I disapprove of your recent actions’ look.

“What for, my little genius?”

“For making you sad,” Tony regretted being a nosy boy when he saw the sorrow expression on the man’s face. He hated seeing his dad like that.

“I’m fine, Tony.” He pulled Tony away within arms’ reach. “It was a long time ago.”

The little boy didn’t appear to believe his dad, but he gave the wizard a nod assuring him that he would cease over the subject.

“So, about the shop.” He cleared his throat before moving onward with the story. “ As I was saying. The way the other students talked about those sweets, made me want to go and buy them with my own money.” His dad has that nostalgic look on his face as he described the first sweet that he ate. “The first bite was heavenly. I can’t even stop eating until I felt the pain in my stomach and the sound of it grumbled in protest from eating too much sugar.”

Harry chuckled as he said it, which prompted Tony to giggle as well.

The boy was just happy to see his dad back to his usual self that time. And the story about those Godlike sweets made Tony’s mouth watery just from imagining how tasty those sugary snacks were.

So imagined his excitement when his dad told him quietly about the graduation present that he had prepared under Tony’s bed.

In exhilaration, Tony ran upstairs into his bedroom. There, under the bed, as promised, he found a shoe-box-like package. At opening the package, he found two boxes of delectable fragrant chocolate truffles and a few handful of sweets in different kinds of packaging.

It wasn’t dinner yet, but the little boy felt that he had waited long enough to taste the interesting sweets that came from his dad’s other world.

He regretted it immediately and even cursed himself when he felt the weird taste of… Stinking socks? Maybe… No. Definitely shouldn’t have tried those jelly beans first.

His dad warned him about Bertie Bott’s beans, but did he listen (remember)? Nooooo.

And now he couldn’t get off the taste of smelling stinky (sweaty? Bleh) feet from his tongue.

So, when his dad went upstairs to bring him down for dinner, he got a full-on laughter from the wizard (coz Tony kept saying,” ugh, feet… Yuck, yuck, yuck…so stinky, Bleh, bleh…”)

He pouted his lips and crossed his arms. He did not like dad, at all. Even if he’s happy hearing his dad’s laughter since it was rare for the young man to full blown out laugh his heart out.

Well, at least there was something good happening from his little ‘accident’. Having his poor tastebud ‘damaged’ for a little while was a-okay if he got to see his dad’s joy.

***

It was an accident when his magic suddenly revealed itself. Get it. Accidental magic. 

They were eating together as a family in the dining room, something that the Jarvises usually reluctant to do since they were the caretakers of the mansion. But for Tony, they agreed to celebrate his graduation by eating together with them in the dining room.

It was all and all a great day for Tony.

After dinner was over, he volunteered to take his mom’s specialty cake out from the kitchen to the dining room. As they have cooked and baked for him, Tony also wanted to be useful.

It was a good thing that the kitchen was a separated room from the dining room because what happened next was something that Tony only saw his Dad do with his wandless magic.

The kitchen door had just closed behind him and his eyes immediately zeroed in on the platter of a whole yummy delicious cake on the counter. Slowly he walked towards it and held the platter with both hands carefully. As he walked to the door, his mom’s voice kept repeating in his mind.

Be careful, Anthony. If you want a slice, watch your steps carefully.

“Slowly, slowly, slowly…” He muttered to himself. The boy could feel sweat rolling down his forehead. The genius was almost to the door when he accidentally stepped on his own toes and slipped.

He cried out in surprise and his heart was beating loudly inside his chest. He shut his eyes on reflex. Tony waited for the crash, but nothing happened.

Consequently, he opened his eyes and…

The little boy was amazed. His body still looked as if he was falling in a diagonal position, yet, he was also suspended in the air. As if something has paused the VCR on a particular scene.

“Tony, what…?”

In the middle of his amusement, he forgot that his shout must have alerted his family of something happening to him. Fortunately, his dad was the one who showed up to check on him. The wizard immediately closed the door behind him.

There was a look of pure joy, wonder, and surprise on his face. Before his dad could react to the sudden bout of accidental magic, his mom’s voice travelled through the door.

“Harry, how is Anthony?” His mom sounded worried from behind the door. “Maybe I should…”

“Maria, I…” His dad opened his mouth and then closed it again with a constipated look, probably searching for a reason to stop his mom from coming in.

The door was about to be opened before another voice intercepted her. “Honey, I think Tony is okay and Harry can help Tony carry the cake just fine. Let’s go back to our seats, okay? I think Edwin was getting to the good part of the story.”

Way to go, Father!

They both sighed in relieve at the same time with the same way. At a time like this, Tony could see the likeness between the two of them. Beside the same color of hair, they didn’t really look alike. The Brit always told him that he got his mom’s feature and his dad’s temper. As much as he loved his Stark’s parents and even somehow turned up to be as intelligent as his father and compassionate liked his mom, the young boy felt guilty that he didn’t share that much of similarities with his dad.

It was what it was, but he just couldn’t help himself. Tony was hoping that his magic would show up one day, and then his dad would be proud of him. Happy that his son turned out to be just like him, a wizard. Not a squib.

“Oh, I’m so happy for you, my little genius.” His dad’s musing broke him out of his thoughts.

With a flick of his fingers, the cake floated in the air heading towards his dad, who held the platter like a pro on one hand; furthermore, Tony was back to a standing position once more on the floor without having to worry about his weird unusual position before.

“Yeah, I’m so excited dad. Finally, I have magic, just like you,” he smiled widely at his dad.

“Oh, Tony,” Harry looked a little disappointed at him. “I will always love you, Orion, magic or no magic.”

Sheepishly, Tony looked down on his feet. “I know dad. I… I just want to be more like you.”

“I understand, Tony.”

He felt his dad’s finger under his chin, pushing him to look up so that he could look at the boy’s face. “Look at me, son.”

When he finally met his eyes, Harry emphasized,” I do. I was like you once. People always told me that I look exactly like my dad but I have my mom’s eyes. My parents were… great heroes. I was just a baby when they died protecting me from the enemy. And I wanted to make them proud.”

The young father paused for a second, licking his lips nervously before continuing. He looked serious as he looked deeply into Tony’s eyes. “But, the thing is, Tony. Living up to your parents’ image is a burden. I never felt worthy enough of their sacrifice. In the end, I let myself free from those expectations and it felt great.”

He quietly chuckled before solemnly stressed his next words. “I don’t want you to ever feel like that. All I want for you is to grow up healthy and happy. You don’t need to make me proud, Orion. I already am proud of what you’ve become. Do you understand?”

The boy sniffed slowly, wiping the tears from his eyes before they had a chance to stain his face with it’s tracks. He gave his dad a tiny nod.

“Good. Now I think we have another thing to celebrate,” the wizard stood up, looking elated. “Let’s tell your father and Aunt Peg about it. I bet your Father would be thrilled.”

The mood has lightened considerably up at the mention of his father’s reaction. After all, dad did promise Father that he would be able to accompany Harry and Tony to Trinity Alley, New York’s version of Diagon Alley.

"Thrilled?! Father is going to be super excited."

“And I will give you the honor to tell him, My little genius,” Harry winked at him.

Oh, it’s going to be fun seeing Father bounced like a five years old with his creaking knees.

***

Chapter Text

1988

“Honey, I think you already look beautiful,” her aged, yet dashing husband complimented her while sitting on their bed.

She wasn’t falling for her husband’s act for a second. The tapping of his foot was telling enough that her husband has been impatiently waiting for her to finish. She’s hardly Sherlock, but even she knew that that was a sure sign of her taking too long in picking her dress.

There were clothes, dresses, skirts strewn around their king-sized bed, even on Howard’s lap. Even right at this moment, she’s trying on a peach blouse with a long length black velvet bow tie and a matching black velvet knee-length skirt.

“Darling, you know how much I like to dress for the occasion,” she replied. Maria was putting on one of her favorite pearl bracelets. It felt liked it was just yesterday when her husband gave it to her as a first-anniversary present.

The inventor grumbled under his breath, which she couldn’t see at the moment because she was looking at her appearance on the mirror. Then again, she’s not deaf.

“Oh hush, you.” She fixed her make up and winked at her brooding husband from the mirror. “I thought you knew who you were saying ‘I do’ to all those years ago.”

“Yes, and I love every second of it,” Howard frowned and mumbled what he said next. “And yet I was always being punished around this sea of rainbow fabrics.”

Chuckling, she put a black blazer on before putting her handsome millionaire out of his misery. “I’ll tell you what. Come here and help me put this necklace on and then we go meet the boys downstairs.”

It was like the sun just rose from the east or in Howie’s case, he has just been lifted out of the punishment of waiting on his wife. It’s like the boutique all over again.

The older Stark sauntered (almost skipping) across the bedroom to take the pearl necklace from his wife’s hand. He stood behind her and kissed her behind her ear to show her of his fondness for her. “I wasn’t lying when I said you were beautiful. The prettiest woman in the whole world.”

The philanthropist raised her eyebrow in amusement. “You can stop with the compliments. I’ve already finished torturing you with my taste in fashion.”

After clasping the necklace around her neck, he held her close around her waist and whispered,” I will never get tired of worshiping the very ground you walked on, Marie.”

Even in her 50’s, she couldn’t stop the blush from creeping onto her face.

Even after 25 years of marriage, he was still a romantic. Before she met him, she always heard all sort of unappetizing things about the womanizer. Her parents told her to watch out for the self-proclaimed genius. Her friends giggled at the gossip about the playboy. Her friends’ husbands whispered about their envies of the millionaire.

Maria… Well, she has no opinion of the man yet, since they haven’t interacted with each other, even when they were in the same circle.

Then, at the age of 23, the former ms. Carbonell met the infamous Mr. Stark. It was definitely not love at first sight. He hit on her and she slapped him for being rather handsy. He apologized, rather adorably and wooed her charmingly with his older gentlemanly way, then like they said, the rest was history.

He has been devoted to her since he proclaimed his love and said I do on their wedding day. Maria never looked back and she’s been happy ever since. Even when she lost her babies, the lady Of Stark never regretted marrying her husband.

“I love you too, Howie.” She lifted her hand up to stroke her husband’s face gently. “But it doesn’t mean I’m not still upset at you for keeping the boys’ unique heritage from me.”

Maria was a proper woman, ever since she was a little girl with her pretty pink dress. But since she became a mother, she discovered another side to herself. A lady leonessa whose main goal in life was to protect her cubs. Therefore, when it came to her children, she could hold a grudge like a soldier dying of thirst. When it came to her family, she disliked secrets or lying by omission.

But since it was his husband, she would just held a little grudge.

It was a couple of months ago when Maria accidentally found out about her sons’ (Harry didn’t know this, but they have officially adopted him into the family 4 years ago, incase of rainy day) unusual talents.

A couple of months ago…

It was a lovely Sunday morning, so she decided to celebrate Tony’s 9th birthday in the garden under the gazebo. It’s wonderful to be surrounded by so many green and colorful flowers. Anna and she had organized a wonderful picnic lunch for the boys, savory and sweet with a pitcher of sweet iced tea.

They were going to celebrate Tony’s birthday just like last year, with Peggy, Howie, Anna, Jarvis, and Harry. There’s no way she would invite Obadiah. Personally, she has no problem with the man. He was always a gentleman around her and never once acted bawdy or arrogant.

What made her hesitant to have the man in her home was the way his family acted when he’s around. Her husband would put on his professional face around and that cold smile on his face. Both Harry and Tony would paste a courteous smile, but Maria couldn’t help noticing their wary eyes around Obadiah. Peggy acted courteous towards him, but once in awhile she caught her looking distasteful at the man. Even Anna and Jarvis were disinclined to be near the man.

The Italian woman never once felt uncomfortable around Howie’s business partner, yet the way her family acted around him made her leonessa heart bared her figurative teeth and protective streak.

Tony’s birthday party should be a day where the people that he loved could feel relax and unwind their troubles for a day in the companies of family. Thus, inviting Obadiah was out of the question. She learnt her lessons since Tony’s 4th birthday.

Unfortunately, this year, Peggy couldn’t make it since there’s a problem at SHIELD. Even Howard got dragged along and reluctantly got up from their bed, kissed her apologetically at her before he went to their son’s room to deliver the bad news.

Anthony was disappointed but Howie promised him a 6-hours-tinkering in the workshop instead of the usual 4 with Maria’s blessing. The boy was trembling a full-teeth smile that grew wider in seconds before he finally bounced up and down, crying his excitement in the air.

And now, under the gazebo, Maria looked at her son making kites together with Harry and Jarvis.

“They grew up so fast, don’t they?” Anna asked her as she held her glass of cold ice tea. It’s always nice talking to the older woman. She and her husband have been loyal trusted companions to her husband for decades, so it’s hardly odd for her to confide many things to her.

“They do.”

It always brought sadness to her when she remembered that her son was going to a boarding school soon. She didn’t know which school Howie send him to, but he assured her that their son needed to go to this school and that Harry would be going along with him and stay in this school.

It saddened her that she would lose both her children for three-quarter of the year. It worried her that she couldn’t inspect the school, even if her husband and even Harry had ensured her of this school’s reputation. The fact that she never even heard of a school called Ilvermony before, agitated her greatly.

“Mom, mom! Look!”

Tony’s delighted cheer brought her concern to a temporary stop. She saw a red, black and gold kite flying in the sky and her son running holding the kite’s thread between his fingers.

Oh, that intelligent boy.

He might be a genius, but Tony never ceased to amaze her with his delight joy of the simplest thing in life.

“Be careful, darling!” She shouted at her youngest son when she saw him heading towards an oak tree.

But, she was too late and her sweet boy ran into… A white sheet?... What…?!

Before she could react, there were the sound of loud pops not too far away from them. A couple of men dressed in black and dark blue suits showed out of nowhere. One of them was heading towards Anna and her while the other walked straight to Harry and Jarvis.

Maria wasn’t watching the man in the dark blue suit since she was watching the other man in a black suit raised something that looked like a black stick in his hands towards Jarvis. “Obliviate.”

A faint green light appeared from the wand and it stroke Jarvis in the head. Before he collapsed on the ground, the stranger said,” Spongify.”

She clutched onto her long skirt in fear as she watched the horrible scene unveiled in front of her, so it was too late for her to notice the man in the dark blue suit standing in front of her. He had just spoken the same word said by his colleague towards Anna, whom immediately felt on her seated position on the soft gazebo bench.

“Please…”

The moment the stranger raised his stick, she heard Harry shouted,” No.”

Instantly, the man lost his hold on his stick. The thin wood flew away as if it has been thrown away.

Maria could feel her heart sighed in relieved; on the other hand, there was no doubt in her mind that the event just now was still making her head dizzy with fear and anxiety. She felt light- headed and before she knew it, everything went blackheads..

She regained her consciousness to an assault from a strong smell of bitter minty. The mother of two felt the incoming fatigue. Her hearing hasn’t returned fully to her, but faintly she could hear her name being called.

“…Mrs. Stark? …Maria?”

“Mom… Mommy… Wake up… Mom…”

The voices sounded frantic; nevertheless, Maria recognized the owners as Harry and Tony. Her mother’s instinct pushed her to calm her cubs. Slowly, she opened her eyes. Her sight was still hazy, but she could make out Harry’s face and a small bottle closed to her nose.

Is that where the bitter minty smell came from? She sneered in her mind. The lady always hated strong minty smell.

“Harry sweetie, could you move that smelly thing away from my nose?” She asked in a croaky voice.

Immediately, she was held close to Harry’s body. Not a second away, her younger son also held her closely from the side. She could imagine that they looked like a tangle of a mess.

At the same time, her sons were crying out their relief.

“Thank God.”

“You scared us, mom.”

Chuckling, she pulled herself out of their embrace to reassure them. She didn’t remember why she fainted, until she heard loud pops sound.

The sudden appearance of two well-dressed men, brought the memories back to her. Slowly, it’s all coming back to her and she couldn’t help herself from putting herself in front of her sons.

Fearlessly, she peered at the men with scrutiny. She would not let those strangers hurt her precious boys. “I won’t let you hurt my sons.”

The dark blue suited man came forward. He has a dark brown hair and bright blue eyes behind a pair of glasses. “I apologized for scaring you, ma’am. It’s our procedure to obliviate no-maj when magic occurs near their vicinity.”

“So, I assumed you have spoken to Mr. Arthurian Graves?”

She never heard Harry sounded so cold before. Harry moved away from behind her to stand up and watched the man intently with hidden distaste.

“Yes, Mr. potter,” the man answered sheepishly. “Once more, we apologized for the inconveniences. Since the president and the director of MACUSA had conceded to your requests to conceal your whereabouts in the United States, the knowledge of your family is very classified. We would be debriefed later about your family and for the foreseeable future, we will be your liaison to MACUSA.”

“Alright,” her young man answered after an uncomfortable silence. “I’m very protective of my family. And since you did not know about my circumstances, I apologized as well for my sudden outburst.”

When Harry lifted his hand up to shake the man’s hand, Maria noticed an awed look on the man’s face as he received the hand shake. “It’s no matter, sir. We are grateful you didn’t hold grudge at us. Let me introduce myself, I’m Everett Williams and this is my colleague, Leonard Cox.”

The other suited man, a black African American with lighter skin color and deep grey eyes, moved forward to shake Harry’s hand. “It’s an honor to meet you, sir. You might know my cousin, Blaise Zabini?”

Harry’s eyes lighted up at the name and his lips pulled up into a small smile. “Oh, Zabini?”

“Yes,” Mr. Cox smiled as he unclasped his hand. “He reached out to us not long after the Battle of Hogwarts. He said it was thanks to you that… I mean, I didn’t even know he existed. His family has disconnected my mom when she married my no-maj wizard dad. So yeah, thank you Mr. Potter.”

“I didn’t do anything.” His boy shrugged, trying to dismiss his wonderful deed. “We’ve met before I travelled to the States and we’ve got into talking. That’s all.”

It was a surprising day all and all. She still felt wary towards the two strangers but his son assured her that they were the equivalent of policemen in the magical world. Harry also explained to her that there were procedures in place regarding no-maj (non-magic people) finding out about magic. Anna and Jarvis was given a false memory after the Aurors (magic Policemen) erased their memories of Harry performing magic. 

And the reason why Maria didn't get her memory erased was because she was Harry's mom. Apparently, Harry had found out about his adoption into the family, not a week after Howie legalized the papers. And because of this, Howard and Maria were recognized as his family in the wizarding world.

It also answered the hug she and Howie received after they came back from that charity, several years ago. Harry showed affection, mostly with a tap on the shoulder or a warm smile. So it came as a surprise when he embraced them tightly the second they walked inside.

Maria could still remembered the way Jarvis’ nose scrunched up at the improper way Harry acted since he was an under-butler under his guidance. Their trustee butler reprimanded him about his manners and how he should have done what he did after the master and the lady of the house well-rested.

Maria remembered that night fondly in her mind. She saw the affection and gratefulness shone on Harry’s face and felt them through his embrace. And when she asked him why he didn’t tell them sooner, he just shrugged and smiled secretively.

“Well I didn’t know it was okay for you to know about ‘it’,” Howard flicked a lock of her hair playfully. “It hasn’t even been two decades since they even had an open communication with the US government.”

The lady of the mansion just huffed at her husband’s reasoning.

“Well, now you know,” Howard smiled widely in excitement, trailing his words along. “ And in 5 minutes we’re going to a wizarding district to see all kinds of magic. Can you imagine seeing things out of logic and science perspective? Right in front of our eyes?”

One surprising thing she discovered about his husband was his curiosity and passion of all things magic. She always thought her husband to be one of those people who loved science and experiment so much so that he would be driven to find the logic behind anything fantasy and supernatural.

“Yes, darling,” she patted her husband’s cheek tenderly.

Five minutes later…

Maria Carbonell Stark never had a problem with any transportation. Put her in ship, car, limo, and airplane. No problem.

But this Porky or Portkey… La Madezione!

“Are you alright, mom?” Harry asked her, helping her stand with his arm around her shoulder.

Rarely she’s been called mom by his oldest son for this past couple of months and when he did, she cherished it so much.

“I’m fine, sweetie,” she looked at him and smiled.

While she was feeling a bit light-headed from the blasphemous ride, her husband and Anthony seemed almost fine. Probably the thrill of going anywhere using magic transportation had won over the stirring inside their stomachs.

“Look at them, they’re wearing robes! Tony, that man is levitating in the air!” Howard exclaimed in wonder. At the same time, Anthony bounced and looked around him at the amazing magic world. “Look, father! That’s the magic book store!”

She put her arms around his son’s arm and lied her head on his shoulder. They watched their two family members’ pure enjoyment shown and shouted for all people to hear.

Before they came into this enchanted world, Harry had put some sort of spell on them to make them seemed forgettable. This way, nobody would recognize them. With this spell, they were able to come as a family of four.

Her husband could shed his professional side. Her son could behave as a child should be without being under the scrutiny of reporters. She was allowed to show her affection towards her older son without being judged under a microscope.

“I’m so happy we came here together,”Maria sighed, fondness cleared in her voice as she watched Howard and Tony acted like a couple of kids at a candy store.

“Yes, mom. You are absolutely right.”

***

Chapter Text

1989

For the past few years of living in America, Harry realized that his popularity in the wizarding community wasn’t as elevated as in Britain (mostly just among scholars, government officials and the MACUSA’s staffs). It was rather late in the making, but Merlin’s beard... Britain wizarding didn’t even reached out to the other wizarding community in the world to ask for help about Voldemort. So much for the so called Ministry of magic.

Moving on…

What was wonderful about Americans’ magic community was their cultures. Contrast to their neighboring country from across the pond, the American wizards accepted the changes made around them and blended in with their mugg... no-maj society, in terms of fashion and techs.

It’s quite rare seeing wizards in robes and the use of typewriter or pens were more accepted in the United States. Finishing his bank papers were so much easier done with pens rather than the old quills and ink pots.

And not just the society, even the wizarding school have certain differences, even if one of the founders, Isolt Sayre of the North-American wizarding school was the descendant of Salazar Slytherin.

It was interesting to find out that Ilvermony was a democratic wizarding school. Apparently, one of the founders was a mug… no-maj named James Steward and none other than Isolt Sayre’s husband.

Therefore, there were not many discrimination between pure-blooded, half-blooded or muggle-born wizards in this school. Even their four houses presented more unity than Hogwarts’.

Then again, Harry has been finishing his seventh year in the school (probably, three days a week for the past two years), so he knew what it was like studying in there. The Brit enjoyed the anonymity of being a regular wizard since none of his classmates knew about his fame. The professors and headmaster, whom knew, did not show any favoritism or worshiping towards him. It was sort of refreshing to say the least.

Fame was probably one of Harry’s biggest concern when his son pestered him about going to a wizarding school. But after attending the school himself, it gave him the courage to put Anthony’s real name upon registering him in Ilvermony.

There was a sense of joy mixed with pride when he was able to acknowledge Tony as his son, Anthony Orion Potter.

On the other hand, the part where registering his son’s name before he was eleven wasn’t entirely his idea (blimey, he’s too young). Since founding about his magic inheritance, Harry has been letting Tony read all of his old school books. His excitement reminded him so much of Hermione that he couldn’t help but encouraged him by buying books about the magical community in America.

That was how he found out about Ilvermony.

Once he knew about Hogwart’s counterpart in America, he wouldn’t stop talking about it with Harry. Then his son rooted Howard (Harry’s father figure and best friend in America) towards his cause. Still, Harry couldn’t be relented.

And of course, mom (Maria) has to find out about magic, just a few months before the start of the new school year. The wizard has always had a soft spot for the woman he dubbed his American mom in his mind.

The three of them succeeded in making Harry pulled some of his connections to have Tony entered the school younger than the appropriate age. Combined together, Harry would rather face Voldemort one more time.

Naturally, his fame was not exactly unappreciated at his second alma mater, along with his being an unofficial advisor to both the President and the Director of MACUSA on a few occasions. Combined with his recent completion in healer’s training (as the American saying, he worked his ass off to get an E on Potions’ NEWT), the headmaster agreed to have Tony into their school for certain terms and conditions.

Firstly, the school wanted him to help madam Geller ran the hospital wing of the school as a healer. Secondly, he would also be given a position to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts to seventh year students. Lastly, they wanted Tony to do a special admission test prepared by the professors at Ilvermony.

It’s a good thing that Tony was a very intelligent boy and a full year of absence from schooling to read and study magic. His efforts let him passed the test with flying colors.

On the matter of his identity as Anthony Edward Stark, Tony was staggeringly well-known in the community because of the blending cultures. He was as popular as the royal family. Luckily, Harry found a solution for that by lending his ring.

His ring has been created and charmed with some of the most complicated spells. It helped the user not to be noticed by most people and alternate their appearance in their eyes. This ring was given to him by the director of MACUSA after he helped him on a delicate classified case.

But even with this ring, Tony still stood out among his peers. For the past year, his loud personality coupled with his intelligent and smart mouth had most students his age distancing themselves from him. On the other hand, all the professors couldn’t stop praising him. This made it hard for him to make friends.

Thankfully, Harry has managed to convince Andromeda to move to America the previous year. He never lost touch with Andromeda and little Teddy ever since he left his home country 10 years ago. They’ve been in contact through letters and when Tony caught him writing letters to them, he found out about Teddy as well. Since then, the boy tried to send his letters to his godson every chance he could.

Harry was happy that his son and godson got along so well, that he invited Tony to join him in his annual visit to England for a few days. Let’s just said that they were like quill and ink. Unfortunately, they couldn’t stay for long because of Tony’s school. Though, Andromeda wasn’t blind enough to see that being in England too long was uncomfortable for Harry.

Thank Merlin, Andromeda finally moved to America. He could still remember Tony’s excitement each time he had a play date or sleepover with the metamorphogus boy. And this year, Tony would be reunited with his best friend.

Overall, it was a great start to a new school term.

***

As might be expected of a school part-founded by a No-Maj, Ilvermorny has the reputation of being one of the most democratic, least elitist of all the great wizarding schools.

Marble statues of Isolt and James flanked the front doors of Ilvermorny Castle. The doors opened onto a circular room topped by a glass cupola. A wooden balcony ran around the room one floor above. Otherwise the space was empty except for four enormous wooden carvings representing the houses: the Horned Serpent, the panther Wampus, the Thunderbird and the Pukwudgie.

It is sometimes said of the Ilvermorny houses that they represented the whole witch or wizard: the mind is represented by Horned Serpent; the body, Wampus; the heart, Pukwudgie and the soul, Thunderbird. Others said that Horned Serpent favours scholars, Wampus, warriors, Pukwudgie, healers and Thunderbird, adventurers.

While the rest of the school watched from the circular balcony overhead, new students would file into the round entrance hall. They stood around the walls and, one by one, were called to stand on the symbol of the Gordian Knot set into the middle of the stone floor. In silence the school then waited for the enchanted carvings to react. If the Horned Serpent wanted the student, the crystal set into its forehead will light up. If the Wampus wanted the student, it roars. The Thunderbird signified its approval by beating its wings, and the Pukwudgie would raise its arrow into the air. (excerpts of Ilvermony from Pottermore)

That was the tradition in Ilvermony each year.

Harry had volunteered to guide the first-year students to the round entrance hall, where they would be sorted into their houses. At the moment, they were all waiting for the rest of the older students, including Tony whom was a second-year now, to gather at the balcony.

The man who was once dubbed the boy who lived, was suddenly pulled aside, away from the rest of the first year students. It was his godson, Teddy Lupin. His hair was grey at the moment with matching eye color.

“Harry, what if I were to be sorted to the Horned Serpent house?” Teddy asked nervously.

A year ago…

“What if I am put in Horned Serpent?”

The question startled Harry for a second before he kneeled on one knee in front of his son and smiled. “Anthony Orion Potter. I knew for a fact that you have read the history of Ilvermony.”

“Yeah, dad,” he gave him an eye roll. “The horned-serpent is the house of scholars, like Ravenclaw in Hogwarts. But, Isolt was a descendant of Salazar Slytherin and…”

“Isolt is a great witch.” Harry cut in his argument. “She was kind and she was married to a mugg… No-maj.” He put his hand on top of Tony’s shoulder and gave it a light squeeze. “And you do remember Professor Severus Snape, don’t you?”

Tony gave a nod in answer.

“He was a Slytherin and was probably the bravest man I ever knew.” The healer smiled warmly at his son. “And Tony, whichever house you get into, they will be lucky to have you."

A brilliant smile came into his face and after, he gave Harry a fast hug. “Thank you, Da.”

“Teddy,” he paused, searching for the right words. “Anthony is in Horned-Serpent. Have you ever think less of him?”

“No.” The now red-haired boy refuted loudly. “Tony is the greatest. Even though he is younger than me by a year, he is a second-year now. He is kind, brave and smart. That’s why he was picked by both Wampus and Horned-Serpent.”

“And as I said before. Tony chose to be a Horned-Serpent.”

The boy came to a dead stop and Harry could see it all came back to him. His neck was reddened with embarrassment, even his hair color changes into pink because of the impact on his mood. “Oh.”

“It’s alright that you forgot.” Harry said softly, his eyes focused on the boy. “And if you were sorted into the same house, you could always see Tony.”

His hair turned bright yellow for a second before changing into black, Harry sighed. “What if I’m sorted into a different house?”

“Teddy, you and Tony have been like brothers for years.” Harry soothed the boy while glancing towards the other new students, who were pretending not to eavesdrop on them or watched the different colors changing on his godson’s hair. “He wouldn’t let anything, even a different dormitory or class schedule from being with you.”

The boy slowly grinned at him under his shiny gold bangs. Six colors in two minutes, that’s a new record, mused Harry. “Thank you Harry. You’re the best.”

“Anytime, Teddy.” He patted his head gently. “Anytime.”

They had just walked back to the front of the line when the doors opened. Harry took a minor glanced down at Teddy. The boy was calm now and happiness shone through him (or maybe it was just the golden colored hair?)

“Alright students,” he instructed them clearly in a loud voice. “Follow me.”

The second they passed the doors, he heard his son shouting from the balcony. “Teddy!” he even waved his hand in glee with a wide grin. “I’m here!”

Harry was relieved when to see Professor Holloway, the head of Horned-Serpent pulled him by the back of his robe. “Quiet down, Potter!”

Harry could feel his lips pulling into a tiny smile. Somethings just never changed.

***

Chapter Text

December 14th 1991

The school had announced their three weeks holidays since a month ago. Now it was 11 days before Christmas and many students were queueing for the Ilvermony buses. The buses would bring them down the mountain through an invisible path to a hidden bus station closed to the foot of the mountain, where only the students’ parents and legal guardians were permitted to see by the powerful ancient enchantments, whether they were magic or no-maj.

Many kids, young and old were entering the buses, excited to get home for the holidays. But one student has glued himself to one of the tall pillar with a small backpack hanging on his left shoulder. At first, he was rather invisible and unnoticed, probably because of a certain ring that he has.

The young Horned serpent has traded his blue and cranberry uniform with a simple cream sweater covered with a beautifully crafted black winter coat and dark grey pants. His mom always told him that it was the person who wore the clothes, not the other way around. The little wizard didn’t get it, but his mom just looked at him with that mysterious smile and said that he would understand when he became a grown up.

The pre-teen brunette was tapping his foot on the floor impatiently. He was waiting for his dad to come to him. The man told him to wait, since he had a last staff meeting.

His good friend Teddy had left just earlier with his grandmother. They were visiting relatives and old friends in England for the whole holidays. Tony missed his best friend already, but he didn’t mind.

Teddy lost both his parents when he was a baby. Even if Tony’s dad was his Godfather, Teddy still has other family awaiting him in England. And Christmas was a holiday that should be spent with family. He wished Teddy a great Merry Christmas and fun times with his relatives. Maybe not as fun as being with Tony and Harry though, he thought grudgingly.

“Sorry, Tony.”

His dad startled him for a sec when his hand came upon his head. The man had a duffle bag clutched on his hand. “I hope you didn’t wait that long.”

“Nah,” the boy smiled. “Teddy and aunt Andromeda was waiting with me. But they were in a hurry, so.” He shrugged, in a universal sign of ‘what to do’.

“Alright then, should we enter the bus now?”

“Do we have to?” Tony gave his dad a long face.

Harry urged his son to walk with him side by side. “You know that while we’re within the school’s boundaries, there is such a thing as a no apparition zone, don’t you?”

Tony grumbled in protest but didn’t have any response to that. He didn’t exactly not like the bus. It was just so booooooring.

Apparition was interesting and fast, even brooms seemed particularly inviting at the moment. After knowing magic, normal things like car, train, airplane and bus… Ugh bus, seemed so mundane.

“Now, now Tony. After we got off the mountain, we’re going to apparate to three different apparition zone. “his dad tried to cheer him up a little. “It’s only a half an hour ride. Bare with it.”

Tony pouted.

“Smile Tony. We’re going to see mom and Howard soon. I don’t think they deserve seeing you acting like a spoiled prat, young man,” Harry admonished him with his parent’s voice.

The thought of seeing his other parents reminded him of his excitement. He immediately apologized to his dad and sheepishly said,“Sorry, dad.”

With a sigh, the healer amended him, “It’s fine, Orion. I was a teenager too, once. All those hormones and urges pent up could made oneself had an emotional ride and…”

Tony could feel his face reddening and he covered his Dad’s mouth with both hands to shut him up before letting out a whine, “Daaaaaaad.”

Having a healer as a dad just sucked some time.

At least he would be home soon and have his family whole again for the next three weeks. Tony couldn’t wait.

***

December 16th 1991

They were in the dining room when he received the call. It wasn’t a good news. But it wasn’t exactly unwelcome.

Peggy was just informing him that a few classified information has been leaked somewhere within the organization. Among them was his latest project pertaining the super soldier serum, his creation. They weren’t as successful as Steve’s, but they were the next best thing. He needed to get his project moved immediately. If they knew that he’s been keeping them at home, his family would be in danger.

It’s a good chance to rid off the serum.

Peggy told him that he had scheduled a meeting with Pentagon’s representative. They would take his project and safekeeping it for a certain unknown time, at least until he could decide what to do with them. He couldn’t trust the military with the serum, but he also didn’t have the heart to destroy his invention.

Thank Peggy that she took account of Howard’s fear and hid the news of the completion of the serum from the military knowledge. The military wouldn’t know what they’re helping him to hide. For all they knew, Howard Stark was in their debt.

Right now, the important thing was that the serum would be moved soon. He couldn’t risked having them here at home where his sons and old friends lived. So it has to be tonight.


It’s a good thing Maria was invited to that gala in DC tomorrow. It wouldn’t raised any suspicion if they were to drop by DC tonight. Then the Millionaire remembered that the party was also the one that he and his wife have vetoed so that they could spend three whole weeks of holidays with their sons. Damn.

“But you promise not to go anywhere when I’m home,” his son said, in that crushing voice. “You promise.”

“We did Tony, and we wouldn’t have gone if it weren’t extremely important,” Howard tried to reason with his youngest son. “It’s only for two nights. We’re going to be here the day after tomorrow. You wouldn’t even notice that we were gone.”

He put on his most charming smile at his son, which of course didn’t work. Not at all.

“Your father is right Tony,” Maria backed him up. She cupped their son’s cheek and kissed him gently on his cheek. “It will only be for two nights.”

Tony still looked unhappy, but before he could storm out, Harry, who was standing not too far away, blocked his way and turned the boy around. “Tony, don’t forget to say your farewell.”

Reluctantly, the boy hugged them both and whispered slowly. “See you soon. I love you mom. I love you father.”

Soon, Jarvis came to take the boy upstairs. Tony looked back at them with a devastated look for the last time before Edwin ushered him up. Before Harry could take his leave, Howard stopped him. “Harry, could you wait for a moment?”

The young man looked puzzled but conceded nonetheless.

“Howard, is it necessary to…?”

Before Maria could interrupt him further, Howard held his hand up before his wife. “I think so dear. It’s very crucial and I think an extra protection will be needed.” He looked back towards his oldest son with a serious face. “What do you say Harry? Would you be willing to accompany us to DC?”

The wizard didn’t say anything for a minute. “Is it dangerous?”

Something on his face must have answered his question because Harry looked frustrated for a moment before he resigned himself. “It seemed that the three of us are destined to disappoint our boy for a couple of nights.”

Maria stroke her son’s arm with hidden mirth. “I think this time you can put the blame on your father, dear.”

Howard grimaced. “Hell hath no fury like Tony’s pair of disappointed doe eyes.”

***

Two hours later, on the way to Pentagon…

Harry was driving on an empty road with his parents on the back of the car. He still felt guilty when he remembered the look on his son’s face. The young genius seemed to understand the reasoning and made his dad promised to take care of their parents; still, he couldn’t hide his crestfallen face.

The wizard needed to find something BIG to make up for it.

“Harry, could you turn off the music?” Howard asked from the back passenger seats.

Turning it off, Harry noticed that Howard has his hand around Maria’s. Her head laying between the man’s shoulder and neck. Even sleeping, his mom’s hair was as neat as when she first styled them. The strains of white was visible beneath her blond hair.

“If only I could leave her at home,” the businessman gently rested his fingers on his wife’s chin. He shook his head dejectedly. “I would have.”

“Without her, it would look suspicious if I went to DC by myself. But by doing so, did I just sign a death sentence for my own wife?” The question was directed at himself rather than at Harry.

“Howard, is this trip has anything to do with SHIELD?”

“Sadly, it’s the military rather than SHIELD,” he sighed in defeat. “I regret taking this cursed project.”

“You meant to say…” The Brit gripped the steering wheel rather strongly as the realization struck him.

“I was foolish.”

The harshness and contempt behind those words made Harry flinched. Even Maria stirred a bit at her husband’s loud voice.

Howard then lowered his voice and caressed Maria’s hair. “It’s been a long time since I thought about trying to recreate the super soldier serum. It was one of my biggest regret after Arno’s death (biological son) and Steve’s missing.”

“It’s your kryptonite?” Harry joked lightly, trying to dissipate the knot in the pit of his stomach.

When Howard told him, that it was dangerous, he didn’t think it was this dangerous. His family was in danger. Thank God, he has put as many protective charms as he could and a giant ward around the mansion when he and his son began living there. The protection there could almost rival the fidelius charm.

It was a wise decision on Howard’s part to ask Harry to come along. He could better protect them this way. The British wizarding hero had even casted some protection charms over his adoptive parents. As a precaution.

Running and hiding away from death eaters and Voldemort had made him one paranoid arse. Living with Howard just made his senses heightened up especially in a situation like this.

“I’m sorry Harry,” he looked at him from the rearview mirror with a sad look on his face. “I promised you that Tony would have a good life. And now because of my ambition, he could be in danger. We all could be in danger.”

Harry felt loss when he saw the charismatic Howard Stark looked as defeated and hopeless at the situation.

“Howard,” he said quietly. “Accepting your offer twelve years ago was the best decision I have ever taken.

“But…”

“I don’t regret it,” he pushed, “Neither does Tony. He’s the happiest boy in the world, Mr. stark.”

“And today I made him sad,” Howard sighed heavily.

“Our son is brilliant,” he said. “But he’s a kid, a pre-teen. He will bounce back, Howard. So don’t worry about it. After all, we raised him well.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” the old man admitted. “Tony will…”

BANG! It was the sound of something hitting the car’s tire before it all went to shite. Harry lost control of the car but he managed to activate a protective charm enough to cushion himself and his parents when the car hit the tree.

The car was busted; unfortunately, the shock of being in a crash was short-listed when he heard the groan of his father and his mom’s moaning in pain.

“Howard… Howie, what happened? Harry. Harry! Are you okay?!” Maria sounded frantic.

“Maria, we’re okay,” Howard held her in his arms, rubbing her back in a calming gesture before looking in Harry’s direction. “You did this, Har. Thank you. Thank you so much.”

Before he could reply, suddenly a bullet stopped just a few inches in front of his head and bounced away from his shield. “Don’t thank me, yet. Get down!”

After his warning, a few rounds of bullets flying towards him and where Howard and Maria were sitting down before.

It wasn’t long before the shooter ran out of bullet and appeared from the bushes. The shooter appeared to be a strong man with long black hair and a metalic left arm (wicked!). He had a blank expression on his face.

The assassin was almost within their distance and the wizard made up his mind. Harry immediately whispered a spell that immediately knocked the man unconscious. It’s one of those spell Healer’s learned to have their patients in a state of comatose to heal or find a counter-jinx for their ailments.

Or for this sort of occasion.

“Sergeant Barnes?” Howard got out of the car and kneeled in front of the unconscious man. He sounded perplexed.

“Howie?” Mom crawled out of the car, still looking fearful.

“Can you see him?” The man sounded obscure.

Harry opened the busted car door and stepped out to stand near his adopted father. “Howard? Do you know him?”

“Yeah, yes.” His voice was trembling. “It’s almost 50 years, but I recognize that face anywhere.”

The inventor turned around and Harry noticed how white his face was. “His name is James Buchanan Barnes, best friend of Captain America. And he died 46 years ago.”

***

Chapter Text

December 25th 1994

Winter was a wonderful season, especially when it was time for Christmas. Families were bound to be together and celebrate the holy night a day before, picking and decorating the tree while sharing their fond memories of the previous Christmas days. Moreover, none other was more excited about Christmas than the kids. It was after all the kind of day that all children have been waiting for every year.

Talking about Christmas and children always reminded the parents of the tradition and story about Santa Claus. Who wouldn’t love an old man who brought them presents every year?

The kids would leave a plate of cookies and a glass of milk for the Father of Christmas, closed to the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Trying to catch him by camping out in front of the tree or sneaking out of their bedroom passed bedtime to catch Santa. In the end, they would get tired and fell asleep, then they would wake up to find many kinds of sparkling presents wrapped nicely with bows under the tree.

Course they didn’t know that their parents have been placing the gifts while they were sleeping. Santa Claus might not exist, but it was the happiest moment in everybody’s childhood to believe that there was a grandpa dressed in red carrying a giant bag full of presents for well-behaved children.

Most children believed in Santa and it wasn’t a complete wonder that Tony was a believer as well before he went to Ilvermony. And it wasn’t a surprise when he found out about the truth about Father Christmas.

It was quite a disaster when Harry picked him up from his dorm room that first year. The boy was pouting and Harry was given a silent treatment the whole apparition home. The Savior of British Wizarding world never dreamt of seeing his son this quiet before. It was quite amusing.

He didn’t know whether to worry if Tony was sick or something or to commemorate the day as the first day the chatty boy held his tongue for more than 10minutes, not including sleeping.

When they arrived home, the boy immediately rushed over to his mom and pulled her to his bedroom on the second floor. None of the occupants of the mansion found out about what had upset their little firecracker until Mo… Maria told them about Tony’s friends making fun of him about the existence of Santa Claus.

The week following towards Christmas was hell for everybody, though. Consoling the child about the non-existent of Santa Claus was… bugger, bugger, bugger!

It’s like consoling and treating a kicked puppy. Even a kicked puppy was better than a kicked Tony.

It was quite some time for the boy to come back to his usual enthusiastic puppy joy when Christmas came along. And somehow he still believe in Santa Claus. In his words, “if magic is real. Why not Santa Claus?”

Anyhow…

He was mostly alright now when Christmas arrived. And he stopped providing a plate of cookies and warm milk in front of the fireplace (after a very long discussion of Santa Claus having diabetic, * it’s not a completely bogus reason). It was such a waste of Mr. Jarvis’ perfectly warm big chocolate chip cookies.

Well, the tradition came back quite strongly when Sergeant James Buchanan Barnes came to live with them 3 years ago.

3 years ago…

December 1991

It’s been three days since Harry took James Buchanan Barnes aka Captain America’s best friend Bucky, aka the winter soldier to St Agnes’ Hospital in New York, the equivalent of St Mungo’s Hospital of Magical Maladies and injuries, where Harry studied to be a healer.

That night, after disabling the street camera nearby of its memory of the attempted plot of assassination, Harry immediately shrunk the car before pocketing it and transported (side-apparated) his parents along with their assailant slash his adopted father’s old friend to the nearest motel. (the perks of being the master of Death was he had quite an abundance of magic supplies in his core)

The wizard was very reluctant in bringing the unconscious man along, but the sheer guilty look on Howard’s face and the way he used to tell him and Tony of the two men he couldn’t save (even if he wasn’t there to help them if he could) was enough to weigh on Harry’s conscience.

While His father tried his hardest to get mom to calm her nerve and rest, Harry got a task to do. He did the job he vowed to do as a healer to cure and save as many people as he could whether they were evil or good; thus, he came across some (a lot) concerns in his magical check up, mostly involving his patient’s mind.

The man’s mind seemed to have been corrupted and in the car’s language, his wires have been fried and physically he wasn’t doing well seeing the length of injuries he had previously healed or scarred. It’s like the man has been imperio, crucio and tortured for a long time or 5 decades from the time he was pronounced dead in WWII. It was disheartening and Harry felt sick all at once.

Soon, Harry contacted his mentor at the hospital to consult and check the man into a room, since he wasn’t a mind healer. Now, the man has been transferred back to Harry’s care.

He looked well but reserved and quiet with that blank face. At least now, he has two real arms attached to him, making him looked almost normal. The wizard couldn’t decide whether the man was lucky or unfortunate that his arm was cut using mug… No-maj’s tools (Harry threw up when he found out that the man’s arm was sawed off) and not dark magic, making it easy to grow back.

The mind healer, his mentor suggested told him that she had healed Barnes’ mind as best as she could. Ridding him of the so-called trigger words as well. To maximize her effort, she needed to heal the scars and fixed the damaged brain cells and seeing the damages, the time needed to be wasn’t short either. It helped that the man somehow has an amazing healing factor (Harry suspected he had a super soldier serum in him).

The healer told him that she had restarted his mind, instead of resetting them altogether because erasing the whole memories were illegal and it would be disrespectful to the patient. At the moment Barnes has no recollection of who he was, whether as Bucky, sergeant Barnes or as the winter soldier. She told him that the memories would come around slowly in bits and pieces so as not too damning for the patient’s mind. The woman warned him that it could probably take years.

The best way to heal the man’s mind right now was time, acceptance and a monthly visit to St Agnes for check up. The poor man would never be the man he was before the torture. But in time, he would be able to move towards a better future.

After checking out his recent patient, Harry didn’t forget to visit the wizarding bank for a moment. After a quiet discussion, Howard told Peggy that he had destroyed the serum but the truth was, he has Harry safekeeping it. The case full of Howard’s super soldier serum has now been stored in Harry’s Gringotts vault, where it was safe untouched by thieves and a much safer than the military base.

Even with the history of torture and mind-controlled, Harry couldn’t help but put more spells on the man, just to prevent him from acting violent towards others. The former soldier has been through enough and Harry knew it’s wrong, but as a father and with the permission from both Starks, they decided that it was okay. At least until the former soldier regained his memories and former self.

That noon, when they arrived home, he brought Mr. Barnes to a room in the west wing, where the latter locked himself in and refused to come out at all. There’s a bathroom in the room where Barnes could clean himself and tracking spell on the man incase he decided to run away. So far, the food he has taken to him and put in front of his room has been eaten, so no problem on that part.

It’s already Christmas Eve and the man still refused to get out of the room. As his caretaker and healer, Harry was worried. Then again, sergeant Barnes’ choices has been taken off of his hands for half a century, so he felt wrong in forcing the man to do anything he didn’t want to.

The brit encouraged him to go outside, but his words weren’t being heard. Howard told him stories from Barnes’ past and tried to bait him with old photo albums and Steve’s memorabilia stuffs, but no reaction as well. Even the lady of the house had talked to him, but nothing could get through the man.

To his surprise, and everybody else, when Christmas morning arrived, they found the red single comfy chair in front of the fireplace to be occupied. It was none other than by their residence hermit inside a bundle of blankets up to cover half of his face.

“I knew it!” Tony’s voice came from behind them loudly.

Mom glared at him for disrupting the man’s sleep. “Lower your voice, honey. The poor man is sleeping.”

Merlin’s beard, the man was sound asleep still. For a former brainwashed killer, Harry thought at least he would be alerted with the noise Tony had made.

“What…?” Howard shook his head in disbelief. “What did you say to make him come out here, Tony?”

“Well, I…”

The Jarvis’ and Tony knew about their guest minus the assassination attempt, but the former tried not to interrupt the man while the latter apparently did the opposite of what his parents told him not to do.

“Well, I couldn’t sleep,” the boy looked at the ground and digging his toes on to the floor, looking a bit guilty for disobeying his parents. “So, I kind of sat in front of his room and told him about all kinds of things. Just for an hour though.” He added immediately. “Mostly inventions and stuff and then I got into talking about Santa Claus and candies and chocolates.”

Their son looked pleased and proud at this part. “I was surprised when he said something. I mean, I talked and he would only listen to me like the days before. Did you know that he’s a good listener? I mean I know he didn’t really say anything and that doesn’t mean that he…”

“Tony,” Harry said quietly, stopping his son from rambling and got off the topic.

“Oh, right.” His cheeks grew red. “He told me that his ma used to make these amazing chocolate chip cookies when Christmas came. They didn’t have much money, so his mom only made sweets on birthdays and Christmas. Then I remembered that Jarvis just made a bunch of chocolate chip cookies. I asked him if he wanted to come out and wait for Santa with me. He said no, but I said that I’m going to leave a plate of cookies and a glass of warm milk for Santa in front of the fireplace.”

They all looked towards the small table between the chair and the Christmas tree and there it was a white plate with cookie’s crumbs and an empty glass.

Tony has a smirk on his face like a cat that got the cream. That look of mischief always reminded Harry of the Weasley twins. The little boy whispered conspiratorially. “He didn’t know that Santa has a diabetic or that the cookies were for him.”

That was the day he learned that when the mind healer advised him to be patient, she really meant it. The memories started to come back from the time the sergeant was a kid and gradually towards his adulthood and unfortunately also the memories of his time being tortured and used as an assassin.

Three years ago, he has a mind of a 5-year-old and in a house full of strangers. That should have clued Harry in, but in his defense, this was his first time handling a patient with mind sickness. Being a kid himself, Tony was more trustworthy than the rest of the adults.

Thank Merlin, that time of him as a toddler has passed. His self as a teenager and soldier has been spent quite well in Stark’s Mansion. Unfortunately when he started remembering his time being tortured and enslaved, he needed to be confined to St Agnes. Harry visited as much as he could and now three years in the future, Barnes has mostly regained his memories, the good and the worst.

Usually Barnes or ‘called me James’ was a lot quieter and shows little to no emotion most of the time. Occasionally he had this faraway gaze and often stopped in the middle of a conversation as if he was remembering something or thinking about something.

However, when it came to Tony, he rarely zoned out and put most of his focus onto the teen. The former Winter soldier was very fond of his boy. The man even asked Madam Guthrie, his mind healer to turn off his memory tap every time Tony came home for holidays. With Teddy being more in control of his metamorphagus, he and Andromeda visited the Stark mansion whenever they could on their free time. James enjoyed the boys’ company so much.

They called him uncle James and ‘till today Harry always teased the man about his ‘It’s manly cry’ moment. Furthermore, they kept their memorable traditions of a plate of cookies and warm milk.

And instead of one glass, they put three glasses because Teddy liked the idea and included himself in the tradition. Moreover, they even made a blanket fort in front of the Christmas tree. The three of them would talked while enjoying their midnight snack before sleeping in the fort.

Christmas was like the only time Mr. Jarvis, Andromeda and mom would allow midnight sweets. Harry, Howard and Anna weren’t that strict and sometimes slipped more cookies to the boys. James was freer around the young ones, so he didn’t count as a responsible adult.

Just a week before Harry and his son came back for Christmas holiday, madam Guthrie had proclaimed that James had no more blank spots on his mind and even sad not to see the man again. Yet, she threatened him with bodily harm if the man came back there again with his mind being tempered. The medi-wizard sure knew how to say her farewell.

After this announcement, Harry could see a change in the brunette. It wasn’t subtle for the other grown-ups and kids to notice; on the contrary, as his personal healer and friend, Harry couldn’t help but notice that the sergeant has been having more of his spacing out moments.

So when he caught James sitting on the rug staring into the fireplace alone before sunrise, he thought to confront him about it. The wizard deliberately put more sound onto his footsteps as not to spook the vigilant man.

Harry sat next to the man and put a silencing spell around them to have a quiet undisturbed talk. He assumed the boys were still sleeping inside the fort, but the silencio was just a precaution.

“So, how are you sergeant?”

The man shrugged shortly after.

Ah, it’s one of those moments when he didn’t feel like talking. “I noticed you were distant these days.”

Without turning his head around, James took a short glance at him but didn’t say anything. Sometimes he admired and at the same time hated the easy way the man could put up an expressionless face. He was very difficult to read.

“Is there something on your mind? Maybe I could help you search for a solution.” He added at the last second. “And don’t worry, nobody can hear us.”

That got a reaction out of him in a form of a raised eyebrow. “You have a spell to have a private conversation?”

Never once had James questioned about the magic that he saw Harry and the healers at St Agnes did. When being asked, he told him that his grandaunt has magic and asked him to keep it a secret since his parents didn’t know and would likely had heebie-jeebies at her for using them. That confirmed that James came from a line of squib.

The healer’s lips twitched into a smile a little at the comment. “Silencing spell. So, whatever you want to talk about will be for our ears only.”

“What if I don’t want to talk about it?” He retorted back quietly, but not in a harsh way and more like a simple question.

“Then we don’t have to.” The sound of the fire crackling sounded soothing. “But I bet you will feel better after speaking about it.”

It was a long minute before James spoke. “I’m thinking about accepting Peggy’s offer.”

“Offer?”

“She asked me if I want to help her and Howard to clean up the ‘house’.”

In the years of James being treated at the wizarding hospital, certain nasty information came to light. They found out about Hydra and how they have latched themselves inside SHIELD.

With this information, ms. Peggy and Howard began gathering intel and put a team of trusted people to quietly snuff out the agents of Hydra. It will be a long time before they could flush out all the bugs, but both directors wouldn’t rest until they exterminate all the pest.

“Well, in my opinion, you could use more time to deal with your PTSD or what they called shell-shock in your days,” Harry informed him.

“I don’t know you specialize in psychology as well.” The man commented nonchalantly, but tensing nonetheless.

“Well, having you as a patient required me to read new methods. Anyhow, after a discussion with madam Guthrie, I learned that the healing magic did heal your mind from most of the symptoms.”

From his peripheral vision, he saw his friend turned to face him with an intense almost penetrating gaze.

“But you’re not the type of person who will let a sinister organization like HYDRA to recruit more people and continued to actualize their motto.”

“Cut of one head, two more shall take its place,” James said out of reflex. Both men flinched at the statement.

The Brit cleared his throat to break the unpleasant silence. “So, I guess you’re going to accept the offer, then.”

It was more of a statement rather than a question, but even if it was the latter, the silence was as good as an answer.

“At least, wait until we go back to school before you say your goodbyes to the boys.” Then he added with a pointed glare and a non-negotiable promise. “And you have to keep contact with ms. Peggy and Howard. And see the boys in summer and Christmas. At least a few days each.”

His eyebrow twitch a bit and a small smile arose on his face. “Deal.”

Harry knew he couldn’t stop the man, but at least he’s going to try his best in providing his friend with as much protection as he could before the man left with his missions slash revenge plots.

***

Chapter Text

February 1995

Anthony Orion Potter or better known as Anthony Edward Stark was not an overachiever, no matter what everybody said. Sure he did get accepted to MIT before he graduated from Ilvermony, but that’s just because he was bored out of his mind.

In his defense, everybody he knew was crazily studying for NEWT, even Teddy, his best friend, whom he needed to point out was in fact a six year student. He didn’t understand what’s so scary about the exam. Of course most of his serpent’s friends snapped at him when he bluntly told them about it. Touchy much.

His dad was busy preparing the exam and since he’s the DADA professor for seventh year, Tony felt reluctant to go to him to talk about his feelings and stuff. Having a smart mouth and brilliant mind didn’t exactly make him the most likable kid in the school but he wasn’t also disliked. Most of the younger students worshiped him and even some of his peers admired him. But for others, the uptight and studious kids, they disdained him, especially because he was a bit of a prankster as well.

Tony wasn’t bothered by people disliking him or even jealous of him. But when they started mocking or gossiping about his dad or Teddy, then, Tony felt annoyed. Every time he was annoyed, he would start doing mischievous things. Usually this landed him on detentions and when he did, his dad’s disapproving, yet understanding look made Tony felt small. Pity and anger he could handle. Disappointment and sadness were his bane.

And since his dad taught in his class, Tony didn’t want his peers saying something bad about his dad giving him a cheat sheet or something; thus, he decided to cut some of his visit time to the infirmary, where Harry usually waited on injured kids.

So, mostly he ranted a lot about his boredom to his father and mother. And that’s where the topic of universities came from.

He was in the Ilvermony hall, where the eating area resided when Malcolm, his brownish great horned owl landed in front of his bowl of hidden treasures.

The teen dropped his spoon into his bowl and accidentally choked on his cereal. His coughing fit prompted Teddy to stand up from his Wampus table and took a little sprint towards Tony. Soon he was helping the genius by patting him on the back and pushing a glass of OJ to his mouth.

“Drink slowly, Ant,” Teddy said with an anxious look on his face and grey on his hair, literary grey hair because of his metamorphogus. Teddy’s British accent wasn’t as discernible as Tony’s dad’s but every time he felt in distress or worried, his accent would sound so clear.

“Thank you so much, Teddy bear. You’re the best,” Tony curled an arm around his best friend’s shoulder, before looking back at the bird whom almost gave him a heart attack. “Malcolm, you surprised me. How many times did I say, not to scare the shit out of me, you pesky bird?”

The owl was giving him a raised eyebrow of reproachful at his choice of words.

The young wizard shuddered at the similarity of the owl to Jarvis, one of his favorite people in the world. “You looked more and more like Jarvis, boy. You should never be allowed to copy Jarvis.”

The big bird puffed his chest in pride. Since his mom bought him three years ago, Malcolm has become more of a family pet rather than his familiar. Jarvis and Anna didn’t even bat an eyelash at the presence of the bird in the house. From his father’s story, he has flamingos as pets when the inventor was in his 20’s, no wonder nothing surprised the butler and his wife anymore.

The winged-animal was a proud bird, and rarely came when being called. But, surprisingly, the giant owl was closer to Jarvis than anyone else. The fondness was returned by Jarvis as he used some of his spare times to pet the bird and fed him rodents and pieces of meat.

“That’s not a compliment, you giant coot,” Tony said dryly.

Malcolm ignored him by thrusting his foot, the one that has 2 letters tied to it. One thin and one thick. Tony immediately took it off of the big coot and fed him with a piece of bacon he got from Teddy.

One of the letters was from his father. Tony was excited to find out that the other one was from uncle James. The genius decided to open the letter from uncle James first.

Since before he came back to school at the beginning of January, uncle James delivered them a not so good news. He has decided to help Aunt Peggy on some secret missions. The man was always honest to them and never tried to sugarcoat his words.

A month ago…

It was the night before he, his dad and Teddy had to go back to school. He and his best friend decided to build the fort again in the living room and slept there for the last holiday. It’s a bit childish to build a fort but his mom and Aunt Andy (he decided that Andromeda was too long and the lady herself said it was okay to shorten her name, so… *shrugged) said that fort basically was a tent inside the house, so it’s not childish at all if it made you happy.

That night just after mom and father went to sleep, his dad nudged uncle James towards them with a sharp look before smiling at them and said his good night.

Uncle James just stood with his back against the wall across from them looking a bit undecided. It was weird for several minutes and after that, the man sat in front of them on the rug. Then it was another awkward minutes to go.

The boys looked at each other in confusion before finally the man in question opened his mouth to speak.

“I’m here to say goodbye,” the man looked at them with a look of determination.

“It’s late, uncle James. Are you sure you don’t want to say it tomorrow?” Tony asked, brows furrowed.

“Tony’s right. We’re not going back until tomorrow,” Teddy pasted a small smile at their adopted uncle.

“I don’t know if I have time to say it tomorrow,” the older man looked a bit saddened. “I will be going somewhere helping your aunt Peggy on some missions.”

“Secret missions?” Tony whispered excitedly with wide eyes.

Next to him, his childhood friend aroused his voice with the same excitement. “You meant like agent Bond?”

“Ain’t those movies too mature for you?”

“Father had cut the grown-up parts,” Tony said with a wrinkled nose. “We’re not kids anymore. We do know about the birds and the bees.”

That last sentence was said with an eye roll. Teddy added with a nod. “Ink pot and quill. The cauldron and stirrer.”

“The cauldron and stirrer?” Uncle James’ eyebrows raised a little and his lips curled up slightly.

“Anyway, how did you know about James Bond, mr. Barnes, James Barnes?” Tony chuckled at his own joke.

“Your father.”

After that short answer, the boys nodded in understanding. The old man really did love watching spy and action movies in his free time.

“My ride will arrive early tomorrow.” He put his hands in his lap. “I don’t think I will be able to say goodbye tomorrow.”

“Are you going to go away for a long time?” Teddy asked nervously.

“I dunno.”

“Is it going to be dangerous?” Tony asked in a low voice.

“Yes,” he said truthfully. “But I promise I will write to you whenever I can.”

“At least once a month,” Teddy suggested. “Promise you’ll be saved, uncle James.”

Tony added fiercely, “If you can’t write, at least tell aunt Peg and Father that you’re okay. Don’t make us worried.”

The man chuckled,” Your dad demanded the same thing, Tony.” Looking at them both, he lightly squeezed their shoulders.

“I promise.”

“What did he say?” Teddy asked curiously from beside him, trying to read the letter held between Tony’s fingers. “Is he alright? I hope there is nothing bad happening to him.”

“Naw, he’s fine.” The teen read the letter word per word and not just skimming through. “He said that he was successful at his last mission. And asked us about school.”

“Can we write a reply to him, Ant?”

“I think we should write father to tell uncle James. We don’t want the bad guys to steal the letter. Let’s tell him what we’re doing good at school and maybe also about your hysterics about NEWT?” Tony grinned mischievously.

His friend defended himself sheepishly. “I’m just preparing for the worst. I want to get at least an E in every subjects.”

Chameleon, my man, I bet you’re going to get E and O,” He cheered his friend up, trying to raise his confidence. “I’ll even give you some notes after I graduate.”

“You have notes?” Teddy asked looking hopeful as ever.

“You poor boy,” the genius mock-played his friend. “A genius never made notes, not really. I’ll pester Edwin for you.”

Edwin Johns was the second smartest kid in the school as well as the kid with the biggest enormous stick up his ass. And Tony was going to annoy the hell out of the teen for his notes. He might be uptight, but his notes were the best. At least that’s what he heard from his classmates.

After writing a short reply to father for uncle James from both him and Teddy, Tony opened his father’s letter.

Dear Tony,
I just had an idea for your problem, my boy.

Wait for it.

Universities’ entrance exams. I have talked to your mom and she thought it wasn’t a good idea. She thought you were too young for college. I’m giving her a discrete eye roll as I’m writing this letter.

As he read this part of the letter, he was eye rolling his mom’s reasoning as well. He’s young. Not an idiot.

And I said that you will be bored not even a day after you graduated from wizarding school. You are a very smart boy, Tony and we both, me and your dad know you will be bored out of your mind after finishing school. So, we vetoed your mom’s decision.

With your consent, your dad is going to ask for the headmaster’s permission to let you have an admission test at the University of your choosing (plural if you want to). I attached to you some of the brochures if you’re interested.

We found you a solution to your tedium situation. Just tell your dad after you come out with a decision. He’ll let me know.

Love,
Your father

That’s why the envelope was a bit bulky this time. He took out several pamphlets out of the envelope and spread them over the table surface. Teddy looked at them curiously while some people around the table trying to steal glances none too discreetly. Subtle much.

“What are these, Ant?” The now reddish haired boy took one of the university pamphlets from the table to inspect it.

“This, my good friend, is the solution to my boredom,” Tony informed him dramatically with arms hovering over the ads papers as if they were treasures.

One of the girls sitting not far away from him sighed loudly. “Thank Merlin.”

***

After getting Headmaster Grady’s permission, his father worked fast into registering his name for his participant in three prestigious universities of Tony’s choosing. It’s a good thing that he always read and studied science, techs and mechanical engineering books on his spare time.

The dates of the entrance exam didn’t clash with his NEWT exams, so he was relieved. He wouldn’t have to let go any chances of going to one of his chosen universities.

After a couple of months and three leave of absence to leave Ilvermony’s premises, he finally finished all the tests in Stanford, GT (Georgia Institute of Technology) and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). He felt confident that he aced them all. The question now was which college should he choose.

Right now he had just finished the test in MIT. His father was waiting for him in front of the auditorium where the test was being held. Mom had a charity to go to while his dad still has classes to teach.

When he got out of the auditorium, the CEO of SI was talking to an important person in the university. Tony assumed it was the Dean. Conversation about politics and business always made him bored so he asked to be excused to have a walk around the campus.

He refused the Dean’s assistant help to get around the campus. He wanted to see the place and ventured it by himself. Since his absence from the no-maj community (particularly the press and magazines), he became quite invisible. Rarely was his photos posted on the news, so before he went back to the world of non-wizarding, he wanted to enjoy the figurative invisibility cloak.

As he was walking out of the building, he saw a small crowd in the hallway. There were about 4-5 white tall lanky college kids with pimples and severe case of bad hairdo. As he got closer, he saw that they were trying to corner a short asian man with glasses and all the geeky dress code. It’s like he was asking to be bullied or something.

Tony didn’t feel like intruding in on the fight, but the decision was taken off of him by his blabber mouth. “Dude, bullying is so overrated. I know you guys must have been bullied when you were in high school, but seriously. Do you really need to prove your superiority now by picking someone smaller than you? And Asian? Racist much?”

Apparently there’s enough wampus and not enough rationality of a horned serpent in him at the moment. Because then he gasped dramatically with a hand on his chest. “Or do you need to make up for the small size of your…?!”

Before he could finish insulting the already red-faced college students whom were so much taller than him, somebody had clasped a hand on his mouth. That stopped him talking immediately.

Thank Morgana that somebody managed to shut him up. It’s not that he didn’t know how to fight because he knew and learnt personally from his aunt Peg. But he didn’t want to fight in the school he would probably going to attend to in the future.

“Hey guys, is there a problem?”

The person who covered his mouth sounded calm yet there’s a hint of authoritative in his voice.

“No, no Rhodes. We were just showing Wu here where the auditorium is,” one of the bullies said hurriedly before immediately walking away with his gang.

“Alright there, Wu?”

“Thanks, Rhodes.” The geek gave him a thankful smile. “Catch you later?”

“Yeah, see you in class.”

After the four eyes left, the older boy took his hand off of the half of Tony’s face. He put his hand on Tony’s shoulder and turned him around.

The little genius finally got a look at his savior from up-close. His hero was probably just older than him by a few years. Maybe about 17 or 18. He was an African American guy with dark skin and friendly face. He’s much taller and broader than Tony with a build like a football player. That’s probably why the bullies were intimidated by him.

“Kid, you shouldn’t provoke them,” the older boy chided him with a serious face. “They’re a lot bigger than you.”

Before Tony could argue and defend his actions, Rhodes (at least that’s what the geek called him) continued. “I know you just wanted to help. But, the next time these things happen, you should call a grown-up’s help.”

“I’m not a kid,” Tony crossed his hands in front of his chest, feeling a bit underestimated. “I know how to fight, you know.”

“Of course you do,” the young man smiled kindly as if trying to indulge Tony. He ruffled the teen’s hair. “But there were 5 of them and you’re alone. It doesn’t seem like a fair fight, kid.”

He felt like a child at the moment. And the feeling of somehow being protected and nagged surprisingly felt good. It’s like when Jarvis reprimanded him because he had done something to hurt himself when he was younger. The white-haired man would nag him but still treated his scraps with his gentle hands.

Tony was a bit dazed at the moment from the nostalgia that he didn’t notice Rhodes saying his goodbye to him. By the time he realized, the older teen has gone away.

Tony felt intrigued by the college student. He seemed genuine.

When he came back to find his father, he decided,” Father, I want to go to this school.”

“The result hasn’t even been released yet, sonny,” the Dean informed him looking amusingly at him.

The millionaire clasped his hand on top of Tony’s shoulder and smiled fondly at his son, ignoring the Dean. “I think MIT is a great choice.”

“But, the boy just did the test,” the university head said bewilderedly. “There’s no guarantee he will pass. Our university is one of the most prestigious schools in America. Our entrance exam is very difficult.” The dean looked towards the little genius with a bit of disdainful look. “You are an intelligent boy, but you cannot be cocky. It’s very unbecoming.”

“Wanna bet?” Tony grinned cockily at the Dean. “If I passed with the highest score, I wanna choose my roommate in the university’s dorm.”

When the new term began and he graduated from Ilvermony earlier, he greeted his new roommate in their one room two beds with a wide grin on his face. “Hiya, Rhodes. I’m Tony Stark, your new roomie. We meet again.”

***

 

Chapter Text

April 1996

There were many perks of being the Master of Death, such as easier access to magic around him and stronger magic core. Therefore, of course, certain duties and responsibilities were expected as well. One of them was to guide the souls that have been embraced by death towards their final resting place.

The first time he met Death, he thought it was a dementor. The whole tall figure in a black robe was very mysterious, eerie and quite traumatic for him after being involved in a war and reminded him of that time so long ago in the third year.

The British wizarding hero was chuffed that he managed to hold his ground. That was until he saw a creepy boneless finger appeared from the robe’s sleeve and reached out towards his temple, then it all went to pot.

Then the next thing he knew, he was consumed by a blinding white hot pain. It’s like his head has been forced to receive so many data at once, like a computer. It was probably just a few minutes but to Harry, it felt like decades. It was quite disturbing being given so many information and connection to many living beings through a single touch from Death. And when it was over, the pain disappeared as if it wasn’t there, to begin with.

Let’s just say that he was still wary of the mistress of Death (his subordinate? Co-worker? Partner? Servant?), because of the incursion.

Harry was given a few tasks, but the major task happened once every 9 years.

There was a sacred meaning behind number 9, which also revolved around the 9 major realms in the universe, Asgard, Midgard (Earth), Alfheim, and the rest.

The first time he had to ‘ferried’ (guided?) the souls, it was a mess. There were so many souls. Mug… No-majs, wizards, werewolves, vampires and even aliens, such as Jotnars and Asgardians, and many more. The master of Death needed a couple of months to finish his duty before coming back to his family’s side. He almost missed Orion’s birthday.

As the master of Death, there were no rules prohibiting him from telling others about his title, but the need to be discreet and secretive were very important in the world nowadays. What he learned from the war was that information was very sacred and you cannot trust many people, including the people that you loved. They could be harmful because of their knowledge and will be better protected by not knowing.

On the other hand, his son was the most important and protected person in the world because of his parents and godmother. He never hid anything from his son. Most importantly, he couldn’t think of any reason to give to his little genius about his absence during that last two months.

Harry learned to lie with such an ease to many people including his foster parents, but when he was being faced with those pair of big brown eyes, his mask just broke and he quietly rattled the truth.

And now, the cycle came back to pull him out of the world. He would be out of communication with everybody besides Death and she was all about the propriety of guiding the departure to the next plane. No disruption or disturbance allowed.

Thankfully the first time he was incommunicado, there was no dire or pressing matters happening around. But the former DADA teacher still felt the butterflies on his stomach. What if something did happen to his family? That was Harry’s biggest concern so far.

“Dad, I’ll be fine.” Tony uttered from his MIT dorm room. His son was sitting down on a black swivel desk chair while tinkering on a sort of robotic hand with three claws for robotic fingers.

“Father is fine, too you know.” He raised an eyebrow, challenging him to bring out the old argument. “We had Obie in the net now. He’s going down soon for the double-dealing. We’re fine, dad.”

After almost two decades, Howard and with the help of Peggy finally found enough evidences to bring charges against Tony’s godfather. That’s one of the perks of the revolution of modern techs. It’s so much more easier to find dirts on people.

“I’m not worried about Howard, neither am I worried about Maria.” Harry took the other empty chair in the room. Appariting from New York to Massachusetts didn’t put a dent in his power, but it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park.

Tony’s whole posture went rigid and tense and his eyes were looking down on his project. “So it’s me? You’re seriously worried about me?”

Saturday, December 6th 1995

As the head of Potter and Black house, Harry had two seats and two votes in wizengamot and sometimes there were unique matters that needed the full members of wizengamot to be present.

“It’s been a while, Lord Potter-Black,” Kingsley Shacklebolt, the current minister of magic greeted him after the meeting that was overdue to finish after a couple of days.

“Just Harry, minister. After all we were both in the order of the Phoenix,” Harry shrugged and smiled. “We are not exactly strangers.”

“Then, please call me Kingsley, Harry,” the other man said. After a quiet minute, he asked. “How is Anthony? It’s been almost 5 years since we heard from you, besides the occasional letters.”

 

Every time he went to his home country, he would bring Anthony around to visit some of his old friends, not just Andromeda and Teddy. They didn’t know about their adopted parents. It’s not a secret but Harry didn’t fell like broadcasting it around.

But since Andromeda moved to America, Harry didn’t really have a reason to visit his old friends in England. The last time he visited was five years ago, and he only met with some of them.

“He has graduated from Ilvermony and he’s currently studying at a university,” Harry answered proudly. “He even aced all subjects for his NEWT. I didn’t know where he got all his intelligence from.”

He should have a get-together with the whole Weasley clan and the others. Invited Andromeda and Teddy as well. Tony would be happy to see them all again after so long.

“His thirst for knowledge reminds me so much of our own bookworm,” the older wizard immediately sealed up his mouth. “I’m sorry Harry. I didn’t mean to bring up the painful memories.”

Harry had met Hermione and Ron along with Lupin and the rest of the good people who died when he did his first guiding with Death. They didn’t blame him. It was war and there was bound to be casualties. It was just a shame that they were one of those casualties. They were happy that he continued his life and hearing about Tony and the rest of their living friends.

Death thought meeting them was an unnecessary disturbance to Harry’s job, but for Harry, it was the happiest he had been since Tony came into the world. Meeting them was like a great burden that has been lifted off of his shoulders.

Their memories no longer weighed on his mind so much, and after five years, stepping foot in England didn’t bring that sense of dread and guilt anymore. He only felt a sense of longing to go home, back to his family. England was no longer his home. America was.

“It’s alright,” the young lord (in his defense, he was the youngest lord in wizengamot) said reassurance. “I think they would want me to move on. And I think Tony would be happy if he could meet Hermione. Ron and I would have a hard time to take them away from their discussion for meal time.”

At this, Kingsley chuckled together with Harry at the depiction.

“Are you happy Harry?” the minister asked with a tranquil look on his face.

He didn’t need to think for a second. The answer was…

Suddenly, there was a commotion outside the room. They looked at each other and hurried outside. It seemed that several wizards and witches were chasing after an owl.

“How did that owl get inside? There’s a powerful ward in here to prevent things such as these from happening,” expressed Kingsley clearly upset and perplexed.

Looking closely, Harry recognized that owl. “Malcolm? Malcolm! Please step away from that owl. I know him.”

Without the mob chasing after him, the owl flew to the wizard at ease. For an Owl, Malcolm was very smart, like Hedwig. And he could be quite expressive, but only when he’s around Jarvis. However, the owl looked rather odd somehow. He was lacking a certain overbearing pompousness.

There was a letter tied to his foot with SI symbol on it. After reading the letter, Harry immediately excused himself. He apparated into the night.

‘Harry, I asked Malcolm to deliver this letter as soon as possible. I hope it reached you by now. Jeeves Edwin passed away in his sleep, this Saturday morning. One of the housemaid found his body in the bed when he didn’t come out of his bedroom. We were in shock and still are.

After I finished writing this letter, I’m going to call Tony. I don’t think our boy will be strong enough to deal with Edwin’s death. I wish we could go there but there was the funeral arrangement to think about and your mom needs me right now. She just lost Anna and with Edwin’s sudden depart not a month after Anna’s, I think Tony will need one of his parents around. The funeral will be on Monday.

Tell Tony that Edwin is in a better place now. With Anna. And that he loved  him very much. And Harry, he adored you as well. I hope you know that. He hoped you know that.’

The news wasn’t a surprise, since Jarvis hasn’t been the same since his wife passed away. And with his age, it was just a matter of time for Death to arrive by his side. Nonetheless, it was still a shock that his mentor has left this world.

Death wasn’t an emotional sort of being. She has a logical cool calculated mind of her own. Since Anna and Jarvis weren’t an immediate family, she probably didn’t feel the need to inform Harry of their immediate passing.

Harry had lost so many loved ones before; still, it didn’t numb him from the feelings of hurt. On the other hand, he learned how to take a step back from his grieve and think about others first. Harry was devastated, but he knew that his son must have been more crushed than he was.

After all, Tony was very closed to Jarvis. He was practically his honorary grandfather.

The brit used up his magic and connection to get to MIT as soon as he can. And after he slipped passed the university security guard, he went straight towards his son’s dorm room.

The second he arrived at Tony’s room, the healer was surprised that the door was slightly ajar. Harry listened carefully to a murmur of voice from inside.

“… He’s dead, Rhodey,” cried Tony quietly in the middle of sobbing. His voice sounded rough and cracked. “He’s like… He’s my teacher. My ve… Very first teacher. All that table manners shi… Shit and proper speaking was a…all him.”

The concerned father peered inside through the door. There on the bed, he saw his son being held in a hug by his roommate, James Rhodes. The young man was slowly rubbing Tony’s back in a circular motion, looking slightly upset and worried. His boy scooted closer into the embrace.

Tony has always been a tactile person, but he was very cautious in his affection. Fortunately, Rhodey was one of that lucky person. Harry had never met the young man before, but his son talked about his ‘second best friend’ so much, he felt like he knew him, himself. And now, seeing the MIT student comforted his grieving son with his own eyes and the genuine worried expression on his face, it confirmed what Tony saw in the young man. A true friend.

“I loved my parents,” he continued softly. “But Jarvis… He was discipline with me. He was ne…never harsh. Just stern and he always hugged me after… after I did something bad. He… He has the best hug.”

“Yeah?”

“When I think about not having those hugs again, I…i…” his little genius was chocking on his own voice. Harry felt a need to comfort his son so much. Yet, he felt like leaving Rhodes to it.

“I know I’m not the best hugger, little man.” He patted Tony on the head gently and with a small smile on his face. “But I can try.”

“Maybe after a few bottles of beer or something, I could pretend you’re Jarvis, Rho…”

Sternly, Rhodes rebutted. “No, Tony. I know you’re sad but alcohol is never the answer. And I’m going to introduce you to Rhodes style of hug.”

If Harry didn’t notice the strewn bottles near the bed before, now he certainly took a notice of them. He felt rather helpless, but Jarvis wouldn’t want their boy to be like this. He needed to have a talk with Tony about grievance and alcohol. Though, right now, Harry was relieved that his son has a wonderful friend to help him get through his grief.

“The beer was just one time, Dad,” Tony appealed to his dad quietly. “I’ll touch alcohol when I’m of age. Not 21, okay? That’s too long and as long as I don’t go over the top with drinking, which I’m not going to, it’s safe to say that it’s okay. And I'm half English, so my final offer is 18, which is going to be next year. But I think the occasional sip is fine right?”

His dad gave him a stern look. Tony shrugged and sighed At his reaction. “Next year then.” He put his hand on his chest mockingly. “Be still my heart.”

A tiny smile tugged on Harry’s lips.

“Anyway, Rhodey has been watching me carefully since that first time. He’s worst than you, mom, father or Jarvis, dad.” Tony complained good naturedly.

“He cares about you, Tony,” Harry smiled.

“Yeah,” his son smiled thoughtfully. “Have I ever told you how we first met?”

Harry nodded.

“There was something about him that reminded me of Jarvis.” Tony rubbed the robotic arm softly with such a care. “He emanated dependability and respect from people. He seemed like a no-nonsense type of guy, yet he seemed kind and genuine. In my head, I felt like Jarvis was telling me to hold onto this guy. Like he was telling me that Rhodey and I would be the best friend ever. Like me and Teddy.”

“So, is he?”

Tony smiled that genuine smile he reserved for the people that he loved towards Harry. “Yeah, dad. No doubt.”

“Just… He’s not Jarvis.” The healer said gingerly. “I don’t want you to substitute him for our dear friend. It wouldn’t be fair for young master Rhodes or you and Mr. Jarvis for that matter.”

“No, dad.” Tony soon rebutted, looking slightly hurt. “Jarvis is Jarvis. No one can replace him. And Rhodey, he’s like a big brother that I never had?”

“Not like Teddy?”

“Teddy is my best friend.” Tony scrunched up his nose in that cute unique way. “I do love him like a brother, but he’s my equal. We watch each other's backs,” Then he sheepishly said. “But, Rhodey. He’s different. When he is around, I don’t feel the need to be tough. I was me. I don’t need to prove myself to him. He already knows who I am and what I’m capable of. He protected me from bullies but he didn’t try to belittle me. Does it make sense?”

Harry tugged his lips up a little. “Yes. Yes, it does.”

Then Tony stood up with a hand on his hip and the other hand holding a wrench pointed at him coupled with a stern look. “Then I’m fine. Rhodey would watch over me. You don’t have to worry about me.”

The brit rubbed the back of his neck timidly. “Yes. I guess I will be counting on your roommate.”

The genius just waved his hand off, making a shooing motion. “He is so responsible, I don’t know how to corrupt him. It’s going to be a long road, but I’ll never give up.”

Harry couldn’t help himself from smiling at his son’s antics. “Alright then, I trust you to behave nicely and do you still have your satchel? The one with all those potions?”

“Yes, dad.” The teenager rolled his eyes at his father’s motherhenning.

Harry stood and embraced his son tightly, getting a surprised squawk out of Tony.

“Daaaaad,” his genius whined in embarrassment. “I’m too old for this.”

“No, you’re not.” He stroked his son’s hair softly. “Take care, Orion. I’ll try to come back earlier. Hopefully before your birthday.”

His son slowly put his hands on his back and gripped Harry’s traveling jacket. He clenched and unclenched his hands on the jacket in hesitation. “A… are you going to see them? Anna and Jarvis?”

It didn’t surprise Harry even one bit that his son was thinking about the Jarvises with Harry’s upcoming plan. “I think so.”

“Could… Could you tell them I miss them? And that I love them and it doesn’t feel the same without them here in this world?” He said with a hopeful yet sad voice.

“I will.”

“And, if you see Malcolm,” Tony whispered throatily. “Tell him that I’m glad that he’s not sad anymore and he’s with Jarvis now. I hope he’s happy now. And make sure that he will not be separated from Jarvis, okay Dad?”

Malcolm might be Tony’s pet bird, but the owl had already created a bond with the old man. Peculiar as it was, Malcolm had chosen a no-maj as his master and made a familiar of himself for the old man. In turns, Jarvis was very fond of the bird. There were times when Harry caught his mentor chatting amicably with the giant owl and the big bird would bite the man’s finger affectionately.

A familiar only has one master in their lives and since old butler died, it wasn’t long before the bird followed his human companion.

Harry chocked a little at his own memory and grief of losing his mentor and friend. “I will, Tony. I will. I promise.”

“And don’t forget to tell mom and father that you’ll be gone for a while.” His son reminded him.

“I’m planning on it,” Harry let go of his boy.

Howard and Maria’s were currently staying in Manhattan at their holiday home They didn’t know about his secretive role as the master of Death, but he would tell them there were something urgent he needed to do that required him to be out of reach for a month or two. And if later they think it was something that has to do with the wizarding world, Harry wouldn’t correct them. Less details the better.

“Since we’re talking about father, he said that he has a plan to go showcasing the newest Stark weapon in Afghanistan.” Tony informed him. “After he come back to the country, he and aunt Peg would press charges against him.”

“Hm, well then I need to hurry up and said my farewell before he go.” The older wizard stood up straight, tidying up his clothes before looking at his boy once more. His boy was as tall as he was. How time flew.

Smirking, Tony caught his dad watching him and losing some more precious time. “Go away already, dad. I’ll be fine. Don’t worry too much.”

With a tiny nod, Harry apparated away from his son’s dorm room with a hope that everything would be fine while he was away.

***

Chapter Text

April 14th 1996

“See you soon, hon.” Howard gave Maria a quick kiss on her lips, cupping her cheek before letting go. She put her hand to hold Howard’s hand upon her cheek and kept it there.

“Why can’t somebody else do it, Howie?” His wife asked with an anxious look on her face.

It’s been a planned trip since a couple of months ago. He was going to ask someone else to do the demonstration since he wasn’t exactly young anymore. Yet, the military liaison insisted the importance of him being there and so on, so on. Howard couldn’t listen to the talk about serving your country, blah, blah anymore, so he said yes.

And then again, this was going to be his last time doing the faraway business trips. He’s done with travelling and being away from his wife.

The millionaire wasn’t young anymore and he couldn’t continue with the long international trips or jingling between SI and SHIELD. Both were his legacy and its been fun doing both, but it was also exhausting at the same time. Since Tony went to magic school those years ago, the old man had been thinking about retiring.

His youngest son and heir was passionate about the company and had so many vision and changes he wanted to do over the company’s future direction. He still a bit reluctant about the things Tony wanted to do and change, mainly shutting down the arms division.

The old Stark believed that their company could still serve their country by providing and protecting US soldiers through building weapons. After they got rid of Obie, the true purpose of his company would be corrected once more.

Nonetheless, he could not give the company to Tony just yet. His boy was still just a boy, even if he’s almost 17 years old. He would put him in R&D after he finished college and if he was brilliant (no doubt) , he could head the department. Howard felt better letting him ran the company after he turned 21.

That’s left his oldest son. Harry had a knack on running things by being well-organized. He had a certain charisma to him, which probably the reason why he could lead an army of teenagers to win that wizarding war years ago. And he was smart.

The young man could probably helped run the company until Tony was of age; still, his hero of a son loved to be on the background. He hated being in the spotlight and if he had to lead the company, he would do it, but he wouldn’t be comfortable.

The father of two didn’t want to burden both of his sons and since Edwin and Anna’s funeral, Howard has been thinking. Long and hard. Quite a lot.

He wanted to live longer enough to stay with his family. He didn’t want to die and left his wife alone. He want to watch Harry get married again and watch Tony created so many marvels with his intelligence. He wanted to see his boys with their future children.

And to have that, Howard was willing to do what he always stop himself from doing. Experimented on himself.

Together with Peggy and Harry, they discussed about Howard’s super soldier serum. They decided that it would be saved to inject himself with a mild version of his creation. He didn’t want to be the next Captain America. He’s too old to be a hero, anyway.

With Harry’s help as a healer, the CEO of SI made sure that the criteria of longevity, great immune system and strong bone structures were included in the serum. The slight enhanced strength would be a bonus. He might no be able to bend an iron pipe or something, but at least he could bench press.

And it was another bonus when he managed to convince Peggy to do it as well. She’s going to retire as soon as HYDRA had been flushed from their organization. After that, she could finally see the world like she always wanted to. As a tourist and not an agent on missions. And an adventure certainly proved that strength and stamina were needed on the journey.

If their new perks got suspicious, they could always just hid from the limelight.

Tony and Harry were beyond happy when he told them about the serum. Apparently, his children have been wondering and worried themselves about their father’s mortality, since he and Edwin’s age wasn’t that far apart.

Maria was upset and full of joy at the same time. She was concerned about the serum’s side effect. Harry had to convince her that he had checked tens of time, before the chemical solutions could be administered through him and Pegs.

“The army requested me personally,” he gave her another peck on the lips, smiling reassuringly at his wife. “And don’t worry. After this, I’m going to cease going on international trips. There are other SI representative I could send to do it.”

“Why not now?”

“You know how the military is.” He sighed. “They’re going to keep hounding me until they get what they want.”

“Just be careful, okay Howie?” She put her arms around his waist and lied her head under his chin.

He sighed contentedly, nuzzling his nose on her hair, smelling the sweet fragrant of her jasmine shampoo. “I will. And I’m stronger now than I look you know.”

The philanthropist didn’t do snorting, but if she could, Howard betted his every last cent that his wife would do it.

“And I promised, I’m going to be alright. Afghanistan is going to be the last demo I went to. I promise.”

***

April 26th 1996

Tony woke up from the soft bed covers, where he laid on the bed with his mom. It’s been almost two weeks since his father’s Humvee got attacked by the terrorist in Afghanistan.

April 14th 1996

They were watching a horror movie on the VCR in their dorm room. It’s a routine they did after finishing all of their papers. Along with eating a bunch of Chinese food in those white little boxes. Having Rhodey as a roommate was a lot of fun.

“I told you don’t go inside, dude!” Tony threw a piece of chicken at the little tv screen. “You’re going to die asshole!”

“Tones, don’t waste the kung pao chicken, man.” Rhodey chided him. “You’re going to clean that up, later.”

“But I’m so comfortable here, don’t wanna.” He pouted as he leaned closer to the warm pillow that was his best friend’s shoulder.

They were sitting with their back against Tony’s bed and the tv moved onto Rhodey’s bed along with the VCR. They had a blanket surrounding them, shielding them from the cold and the younger man felt reluctant to entangle himself from the warm position.

“I have some gummy bear,” the older MIT student said, trying not to smile at his roommate’s childish acts.

“Gummy bear!” Tony threw his hands up, letting go the blanket to pick up the piece of food he thrown at the screen before.

Suddenly his cellphone rang. Tony scrambled through his bed to find it and picked it up. “You have reached Tony Stark. He is not around right now because…”

There was a sobbing noise coming from the phone, and then a familiar female voice came through. “Tony… You… Your father is missing. The… They found the remains of his convoy. To… Tony what should I do? I…”

Hearing the news, Tony staggered and fell sitting down against his bed.

“What is it, Tony?” Rhodey stood up and looked worried.

He looked up from the phone and was speechless for the first time since he met his college friend. The older man grabbed the phone from him and started talking and tried to calm his mom from the other line.

It was supposed to be Tony’s duty to comfort his own mother, but right now, he was panicking. He couldn’t think of anything else. His father was missing and there’s a possibility that he might die. His mom was worried sick ‘bout his father. And his dad was away at this horrible time.

He felt hurt all over. It’s like a punch to his gut and his heart felt like being squeezed so hard. It was too much. And before he knew it, his throat felt closed off and all the air supply was cut from him. He couldn’t breathe and started to hyperventilate.

It was a good thing that his best friend was there to comfort him and calmed him down from his situation.

Tony looked to the right, where his mom was lying down on the bed, sleeping. She was quiet now. It was different from several days ago, when she couldn’t stop moving and restless from the nightmares and worried she had. She’s scared that there hasn’t been any news from her husband.

Luckily, Tony and his mom were never alone. there were so many people looking after them in their time of needs.

Rhodey had accompanied him home and stayed for several days before going back to school. He even called him in his spare time. Mama Rhodes even sent them some of her famous cookies to comfort Tony. Teddy has been sending him letters to encourage him about his father and aunt Andy has been staying with them to look after the lady of the house. Aunt Peg has been comforting his mom whenever she could, but she’s busy trying to combat Hydra while foreseeing a mobilize search party to find his father.

He just wished his dad could go home earlier from doing his duty as the Master of Death. He wanted his dad. Not just for him, but also for his mom.

Tony might be Maria’s baby, but Harry was her son through and through. They’re both like things in order and the picture perfect of unflappable. They’re very close to each other and dad always helped mom to organize her charities. In a way, Tony was his father’s son but dad was his Mom’s son. His dad was better at comforting mom. And Tony really wanted his dad here. He always knew what to do and he was reliable. Selfishly, he just wanted his dad to comfort him.

The teen also wished to have his uncle James around. The man was a badass and Tony was sure that he could find his father soon. Unfortunately, aunt Peggy said that he was on radio silent. They could not contact him.

“Howie…” Maria muttered under her breath. Quietly, a drop of tear fell from her closed eyelid, onto her cheek.

“Ssh, ssh. It’s okay, mom.” Tony stroked his mom’s hair tenderly. “They’re going to find him.”

She whimpered at this before going back to sleep. Tony pulled the blanket until her chin and gave her a kiss upon his brow before slipping out of the room.

It was dark outside and raining. Usually it was a good time to sleep and for Tony to make a nest out of the blanket and sleep until late at noon. But thinking about his father and the sandy place he was in, he felt guilty for sleeping on the soft mattress. It was a depressing thought.

The stark heir couldn’t sleep, so might as well tinker. And inventing always need to be accompanied with cups and cups of coffee. So, he went downstairs to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee.

As he was waiting for the coffee to finish brewing, Tony rubbed his neck. It was stiff because of his sleeping position.

“Tony.” The voice startled him so much that he jumped a couple of inches from his spot. It was hoarse and sue him, but it reminded him of the serial killer’s voice from the horror movie he watched with Rhodey a couple of months ago.

A shadow suddenly emerged from the dark corridor near the opened kitchen door. Tony squeaked in fear before recognizing his uncle in black vest and uniform with his hair tied into a ponytail.

The assassin had a blank look on his face, which meant that he hasn’t taken his agent persona off. But when you put aside his expression, his eyes were brimming with emotion. Tony could read grief and guilt in them.

Basically, he mostly understood what Tony was feeling at the moment. Without realizing it, the genius teen was already running towards his uncle’s opened arms.

“Don’t cry, baixinho,” His uncle pulled away from him and started wiping his tears with his sleeves.

Tony didn’t even notice that he was crying.

“No… Not a little boy. M’ almost 17,” but he could still reprimand the older man with the nickname. The all black clothed man smiled a little.

Uncle James always created a certain nickname for the people that he like. He would call father the engineer, which was true. His mom’s nickname was beautiful, which was nice. Aunt Peg, badass since she was one. Jarvis and Anna were the lovebirds, since they were a cute old couple.

With the ‘boys’, Uncle James quoted (since his actual age was almost 80’, *rolling his eyes), his dad was doctor. Teddy was clown, honoring his metamorphogus ability, especially the way he changed his hair color like a clown. And Tony’s nickname was shorty. He resented the name but didn’t mind it so much at the same time.

The former sergeant love his terms of endearment as much as he loved calling them with them using different languages. And today, he used Portuguese for ‘little boy’.

“I was going to come home on your birthday. To surprise you. But then, I heard about Howard,” he told him, eyes mirroring sympathetic. “Then I know I have to come home earlier.”

Tony was opening and closing his mouth in hesitation. “Ye… Yeah. I worried about him. If dad was here, he could have found father immediately, but…”

“I know, Tony.” The man put his arm around his shoulder and brought him to a chair. “Before he left, your dad talked to me. He made me promise to protect you when something did happen. He was hoping for nothing bad to happen in his absence.”

Tony was relieved in a way that there was someone he could rely on. He has been on edge since Rhodey went home and with Maria being sad and frantic and Peggy being busy and Aunt Andy trying to comfort his mom, he hasn’t really had time to be sad.

“I want to find him, uncle James.” Tony looked up at the man, voice laden with determination. “Aunt Andy tried to use magic to find him, but it’s hard. The location is too far away. And I can’t exactly ask her to go to Afghanistan to use the spell to find Father.”

“Tony…”

“Aunt Pegs tried but… It’s not that I don’t trust her but I want to help. I’m a genius, so maybe if I help, we could find him faster.”

“Tony…”

“Mom is worried sick. She is devastated and I… I just don’t want to see her like this anymore. And every day that passed, there’s a chance that Father… That he…”

“Tony, I get it.” He put a hand on his shoulder. “But you’re only 17. Your parents wouldn’t want you to be in danger. And Afghanistan is not safe.”

“Dad was in the war when he was my age,” the teen threw daggers with his eyes at his uncle. “And father was born in the WW1.”

He knew he was pushing it with that last statement when the other man stared at him in that meaningful silent way.

Tony was a genius for a reason, damn it. He had thought hard about it. He knew with the underage law, he needed to wait until he was 17 to use magic, which was practically still a month away. He was hoping that if he was in Afghanistan, the law would be nulled since the violation of magic was done outside of America. But he didn’t want to cross his fingers on that alone.

“I’m not just saying it,” Tony said as he pulled his hair in frustration. “Trust me, I can handle myself. Dad even give me a bag full of healing potions of all sort. I will even bring the talisman Dad gave me last year for birthday. It could shield me from anything (beside unforgivable curses) and stir me away from danger.”

He put a finger up to stop James from replying. “And no, it doesn’t work on anybody except me. It has been specifically made for me. Not even a bullet can penetrate it. So please accompany me there.”

“Tony? What…?”

His mom’s voice surprised him, but it’s weird that it didn’t startled uncle James.

“You knew she was listening,” Tony accused him.

James just crossed his arms and threw his gaze at the wall.

“And now you’re pretending you didn’t hear anything.” The genius grumbled.

“Tony, what… what do you mean about James accompanying you there? There where?”

His mom looked nervous and probably had guessed the answer to her own question. Still, Tony felt that she wanted him to deny it, which was something that Tony couldn’t do. He couldn’t lie to his mom. Not when it’s about something dangerous but potentially could help him find his missing parent.

“I want to find Father.” He answered truthfully. Shortly, his mom staggered on her spot and Tony was a bit late to stand up to help her. “Mom!”

Fortunately, uncle James was fast enough in catching his mom. He held her by the arms gently before helping her to sit with Tony’s help.

“No, you can’t.” Maria grabbed hold onto his arm. She looked wrecked with the gaunt look and bed hair and shadows under her eyes from the lack of sleep. It saddened him that his mom ceased to taking care of herself these past few days.

“Mom...”

“No! I forbid you to go. I refused to lose another member of my family,” she shouted.

“Mom, listen to me.” He held her moms face between his hands, cupping them tenderly. “I want to do this. Magic could help find him. We can’t ask other wizards or witches. They don’t meddle with human’s problem. And I can’t asked Aunt Andy. She’s all Teddy had left for a family. And dad is in a place without any communication means. That’s only left me, mom.”

The woman had tears brimming on her eyes, waiting to flood down. She was watching her son with a deep sadness. Her lips were trembling as she whispered with her chap lips. “I don’t want to lose you.”

He kissed her mom on the forehead softly and pressed his forehead to his mom’s. “You won’t.”

“You can’t promise me that, darling.”

“Yes, I can, mom.” Tony said with as much conviction. “I have my father’s brain and my dad’s magic running through my veins. And the most important of all, I have your unwavering faith, mom.”

The tears finally fell through and marred her face. Shakily, she cupped Tony’s face and closed her eyes. “You were just a baby in my arms all those years ago. Since when did you grow this big and wise, darling?”

“Well, I do have good parents.” Tony answered cheekily.

She pinched his cheek lightly, earning a yelp from her son. “We were excellent, darling.”

“Yeah. The best.” The genius agreed, embracing his mom tightly.

**

 

*

“So, are you ready?” Uncle James asked while checking his weapons that have been hidden on his body armor under the layers of His afghan clothing.

After getting mom’s permission, it wasn’t exactly easy to persuade his uncle to bring him to Afghanistan. In the end, he came around to the idea. And not a day later, they’re already in the vast desert of the sandy country.


Tony put a piece of his father’s hair in the point-to-me potion bottle and wait for it to glow and produce several bright blue orbs. Tony grinned. “Ready.”

Looking towards the sundown, Tony opened the bottle and let one bright blue orb flew, leaving the rest inside. As they followed the orb in the dessert, Tony promised tenaciously. “Hold on Father. We’re coming to get you.”

***

 

Chapter Text

May 4th 1996

It took them a couple of days to find his father with the potion. Tony, in his haste, wanted to jump the gun figuratively and literary to rescue his old man. With super soldier serum or not, Howard Stark was still a man in his late 70’s and his kidnappers, which most likely were the terrorists by the look of the encampment, men with guns and all of those crates of STARK weapons. Damn you, Obie!

They knew Obie was double-dealing the weapons but to terrorists? You thought better of the man even with his whole ‘weapons made the most cash’, but it turned out that he didn’t even possess a sense of patriotism.

Uncle James, the experienced professional between the two of them put aside his personal feelings and held Tony from going out with gun blazing from the top of the dunes, where they were hiding.

A discussion ensued and later they came with a plan, which to the genius’ disappointment sounded safer and thought of well. And also a plan which included them to contact Peggy and got their asses handed to them over an overseas phone call.

Saying that aunt Pegs wasn’t happy was the understatement of the year, or ever. She was pissed. Mostly at James for allowing Tony to come. Didn’t mean that she wasn’t mad at her godson as well though.

But in the end, she begrudgingly admitted that she was glad Tony came. Two days searching with magic trumped over two weeks of searching with teams of SHIELD search party, even if the search party consisted of SHIELD’s most badaas agents.

Pegs and James agreed that the rescue party needed to be small and needed to be trustworthy. They’re going to meet Tony, so his identity and involvement in the mission would be a need to know only. Thus, his name wouldn’t be included in their mission reports.

The team has been informed that Tony was there in Afghanistan because he has helped found Howard using a unique tech only he knew how to use, which wasn’t exactly a lie. Moreover, the rescue mission was time-sensitive and less people knew about it would hinder their location from being discovered. Therefore, nobody could be send away to get Tony home.

Aunt Peggy sent her most elite team to them the next morning. There were three people and they were young. (the oldest one was probably Dad’s age) In Tony’s imagination, he was picturing James bond or others like him.

The oldest agent was Phil Coulson. He has brown hair and blue eyes. He was a bland man with a bland smile and looked more like a desk jockey rather than a field agent. Surprisingly he was also the leader of the team.

At first, Tony thought it was a joke. The agent was a fanboy of the Howling Commando, for goodness sake. The way  he tripped over his tongue several times at his friend mentioning his fondness over the good ol' war heroes were hilarious, especially when one of them were uncle James and agent agent has no idea about it.

The second agent was a female, Maria Hill. The brunette agent had a serious face and no nonsense attitude. She’s like a younger version of aunt Peg somehow. Even uncle James, who usually didn’t show much expressions to strangers looked amused from the little twitch of his brows.

The last agent was a sandy blonde haired man named Clint Barton. He’s definitely the youngest and the more laid-back of the three. He’s the sharpshooter in the team and probably the coolest one of the three. But that’s probably because Tony found out that his usual weapon was a bow. How cool was that?

Tony liked Clint. He’s easy to talk to and basically, he’s good at taking Tony’s mind out of his Father’s situation.

Now, it has been a week since he and James arrived in the dessert. And after watching the comings and goings of all the guards, Phil as the handler of their mission came out with a rescue plan.

Tony didn’t hear the whole plan the minute agent agent (Coulson) said that Tony would not be included. Logically speaking, he knew he wouldn’t be in this mission. He’s not even 17 yet and they were going to infiltrate a terrorist encampment. So, there’s no way they would put him in the mission. But a boy could always hope, right?

“Cheer up, man.” Clint grinned next to him, putting a hand on his shoulder. “We’re going to save your dad.”

Tony just sat on the sandy mat with his hands crossed over his chest with his bottom lip out.

“Oh, you’re so cute when you’re pouting.” The archer cooed at him and brushed his hand over Tonys hair.

He groaned in frustration and looked up to glare at the young agent.

“Stop antagonizing the puppy, agent.” Agent fanboy said blandly while checking up his holster and his guns.

“Oh, can we keep him Coulson? Can we? Can we? Can we?” The blonde agent looked at his handler with puppy eyes. “Please?”

In the background, agent femme fetale rolled her eyes and ignored them as she packed her gears and a few timer bombs to detonate as a distraction in the terrorist compound.

“Shut up Robin hood,” Tony grumbled.

The man just smirked and patted his head before walking away to the other side of the tent.

Short after, uncle James kneeled on one foot in front of him. He thrust a handgun with Stark logo to him. As a weapon manufacturer, father has taught him how to use guns in any kind of variety since he was a kid. They even had their own weapon range at home, where father usually take him to practice every week.

As much as Tony did not care about guns, he knew that practicing how to use them was a good practice, just to be on the safe side. And in this country, he would be able to put this skill to practice. For his survival.

“This is a…”

Tony stopped his uncle from continuing. He took the gun and started taking it apart and put it back together. “ This is a semi 43 made by SI last year. It has 12 rounds and easy to handle. The grip is better than what they made the year previous. One of my best invention so far.”

He opposed to the direction of the company but he couldn’t deny having a hand in inventing some of them. He did have a knack to make them.

Agent Coulson didn’t give any indication that he was surprised at the information and just went outside of the tent. Meanwhile, the girl agent cocked an eyebrow at him in amusement, while Lady Marion squirmed in excitement.

“That’s so cool, dude.” He said in wonder and awe. “I knew you are a genius, but wow, mam. You created one of my favorite handgun to use.”

Uncle James twitched a smile at him. “I know. This is a precaution. In case somebody discover you.”

Embarrassed, Tony said sheepishly. “Okay. “ Then he said quietly within James’ hearing. “Promise me you bring father safely back.”

The man gave a small nod, but before he could stand up, Tony touched his hand to stop him. “You too. Please stay safe.”

“We’re moving in 5,” Coulson informed them, picking his head in from the flap of the tent.

Quietly agent Hill walked out without saying anything. Clint followed behind her. “See ya kiddo,” Clint made a gun motion with his hand and winked, leaving the last two occupants inside the tent.

“If you’re in danger, don’t hesitate to shoot.” James gave him a one-armed hug and whispered. “And promise me you will stay here.”

The ‘don’t follow us’ was unsaid but he understood it nonetheless. “I promise, uncle James.”

With that, the assassin stood up without looking back and went outside. Tony stayed inside and fiddled with the gun. Hoping they all come back with his father still alive.

***

Almost his whole body hurt, especially the hole in the chest. It’s sore and rather painful, but nothing he couldn’t handle at the moment. Yet, he couldn’t keep taking the car battery around. It’s very inconvenience.

On the other hand, without it, he would have been dead weeks ago. Even the mild serum running through his veins wouldn’t be enough to stop the pieces of shrapnel from traveling to his heart.

Ho Yinsen was a brilliant man for coming out with this idea, using a car battery to create an electromagnet and preventing the pieces of metal from shredding his heart to pieces. Howard knew for sure that he would be dead if it was not for Yinsen.

Right now Yinsen was probably waiting for him in their room in casa de cave. It was just your daily routine in his new abode. Tortured the poor millionaire to force him to make weapons.

Howard was a patriot, damn it. There was no way in Hell, he would build weapons, especially Jericho missiles for these despicable terrorists. He knew what it could do. He and his son had made sure that it was the best weapon in the arms race. The blast radius and explosion would kill many people. If the terrorist got this weapon, he couldn’t imagine how many civilian casualties there would be.

During his stay, he realized something crucial. His son of bitch of a business partner was not only a corrupt man, he was also a traitor to the land of Liberty. And even if he had gone to jail, nobody knew how many of SI weapons have been distributed or where they were now.

He came to a shitty conclusion and admitted heavily that his son was right. His company needed a new direction. His legacy couldn’t be the countless body counts of US soldiers that he swore to protect or innocent civilians.

He didn’t want that. He wanted to protect people. He thought that’s what he had been doing this whole time, but it was wrong.

No more, he thought.

“Are you daydreaming, Stark?” His torturer pulled his hair up, jeering at him with his thick accent.

“No,” Howard coughed up, opening his good eye to look at the sweaty man. “I need a break. Do I get a break? A to… Toilet break, perhaps?”

His left ear was ringing from the hard slap against his face. He could taste the blood from where his teeth knocked the inside of his mouth and lip. God, he’s almost 80 and here he was being smacked around. As a senior citizen, the terrorist was cautious in torturing him. They didn’t used waterboarding, which he hated the most. Thank God.

Mostly they like to hit him. It was a hard hit but not any that he couldn’t handle. But when that didn’t work, they started kick him a little here and there or slap his face. They never dare to touch that particular part on his upper body since he had a literal hole on his chest, but cautious or not, they still harmed him regardless of his age.

“This is the worst room service ever,” Howard chuckled, spitting blood from his mouth. “I want refund.”

Oh the look on that man’s face was priceless. Howard guessed that the terrorist was angry by the look on his face, so the genius had just screwed himself. The smelly man raised his hand to hit the old inventor. However, before he could do it, a pair of hands reached from behind him and snapped his neck with a sickening sound. The killer dropped the body slowly to the sandy floor.

And there he was, dressed in all black and in his glorious prime time, James Buchanan Barnes. The man said to him in a deadpan manner. “And you wonder from whom Tony gets his smart mouth from.”

“O… Old friend,” Howard tried to smile with his cut lips. “What took you so long, asshole?!”

It was dark inside the cave, but he swore he saw the twinkle on his friend’s eyes. “Am I your friend or an asshole?”

“The longer you let me tied up to this chair, I swear to all that is holy I will…” the old genius groaned before having a coughing fit.

Bucky immediately cut the rope gluing him to the chair with a knife and helped him to stand up. His legs felt numb from having the rope slowing the flow of his blood circulation. He almost buckled down if not for Bucky’s help.

He clapped a hand on the man’s arm and said, “Thank God you came. And I have a friend in the VIP room on the left. If you could save him as well, that would be appreciated.”

“Anything else?” The agent asked with a little sarcasm in his voice.

“Can you destroy anything that have the Stark’s logo outside?” He asked seriously. “I don’t want the…”

Shortly, there was an explosion near them. Howard was knocked against the wall, banging his already bruised body and head at the same time. And then it was all blurry.

Faintly he felt he was being lifted and carried out. Shouting and gunfires could be heard everywhere.

“… Stark! What happened to him?” A familiar voice asked. Yinsen?

“His head hit the wall.”

“He needs medical attention. I could…”

“Later.”

Then he was being pulled into the dark depth of unconsciousness.

***

Two days later,

Howard woke up with a massive headache. The first thing he saw when he opened his eyes wasn’t the usual dark ceiling of the cave. He woke up to the white ceiling and to a beeping noise.

“Father?”

The voice came from right next to him. Suddenly, Tony appeared in his line of sight. He looked terrible. His face was pale and he got sunken eyes. “You looked horrible, son.”

His son pulled a relieved smile and wiped the tears out of his face. “Ditto.”

“What… what happened?”

“It’s been 19 days since you’ve been shanghai-ed after your weapon demo in Afghanistan, Father. I used a potion to find you and later Uncle James and the others saved you two days ago and because of your condition, we brought you to the hospital first,” Tony told him. “We’re in a military hospital now. Still in Afghanistan, though. But don’t worry, father. Tomorrow we will fly back to America.”

And the memories all came back to him. The kidnapping, the torture, the worrying about not coming home to his family and Ho Yinsen.

“Yinsen?”

His son looked sad and shook his head slowly. “Uncle said that he got shot on the way out.”

He felt like his heart has been gripped by an invisible hand. The millionaire felt sorrow at losing his only friend in the cave. They knew each other less than a month and Howard thought it was enough. He was proud to call his savior a friend.

“He saved me. He put a…”

Then he remembered the hole in his chest. When he tried to look at it, Tony informed him. “Relax father. I figured it out. You won’t need the car battery anymore.”

When he finally managed to look at his chest with Tony’s help to sit up, he was startled and said in a dry throat. “Is this what… What I think it is?”

“It is,” Tony grinned widely from side to side. “Tada, I miniaturized an arc reactor. And uncle James said he had made sure that the other agents didn’t know about this.” His hand waved over the older man’s chest. “I had also made sure that the doctor had signed an NDA after checking up on you.”

“Okay,” Howard said calmly, reassuring himself even though the thought of having a reactor in his chest freaked him out. “We can deal with this.”

“Don’t worry, I have an idea for this.” Tony reassured him. “After dad come back, I would work together with him to heal you. I’ll deal with the tech part and dad will deal with growing your bones and all the icky part.”

Howard sighed in relieve and laughed coarsely. “So, I guess your dad is not going to be happy with us, then.”

Tony laughed nervously. “Definitely. But he isn’t back yet, so let’s come out with an excuse.”

Howard tried to shrug with his stiff shoulders and threw a ‘meh’ attitude. “I was kidnapped. What’s your excuse?”

His little boy genius threw his hands in the air and groaned loudly. “And that’s the thanks I got?! Rude!”

***

Chapter Text

October 28th 2000

Tony has been working at SI in Research and Development (R&D) since he received his master from MIT in 1997. He’s been coming up with so many new ideas and profitable ones at that and not a year later he was promoted to Head of R&D. His most surprising and brilliant invention was STARK phone. It was so sophisticated and easy to use that he received so many invites to guest lecture in ivy league colleges.

After his 21st birthday, Howard gladly passed the reign of CEO of Stark Industries to Tony. Even when he got even busier with his work, he still tried to have a life outside of work and hung out with his friends through a weekly dinner with his closest friend, Teddy, Clint Barton (surprisingly), a couple of brilliant scientists such as Dr. Bruce Banner and Dr. jane Foster with Rhodey, whenever he wasn’t deployed overseas.

As for Howard, he former Head of Stark Industries could finally have a quiet retirement in their Manhattan mansion with his wife. Right now, Howard and mom were in Italy, having their long-awaited second honeymoon. And they will be staying there for a year in their country home, enjoying the cuisine and their time together.

Harry and Tony missed them, but the Stark couple had been through enough. After Afghanistan, Howard wasn’t able to take long days off to relax. After getting back from his outer wordly trip, he and his little genius came out with a way to safely take the homemade pacemaker out and pull the pieces of shrapnel out before growing Howard's ribcage back.

In their discussion, they realized that it’s better to get the arc reactor out of him sooner rather than later. The longer the thing was inside the older man, the worst it could be for Howard. The palladium core would poison the billionaire and even the serum wouldn’t be able to hold off the palladium poisoning.

After they got the mini-arc reactor out of his body, he and his son could finally breath freely. While the older Stark was healing, Ms. Peggy investigated the terrorist who kidnapped her friend and discovered that Obadiah was the mastermind behind his kidnapping. Ms. Peggy was furious and the moment Howard was fully healed, Obadiah was already behind bars.

Later, his adoptive father shut down the company’s weapons division, which prompted a lot of protests from the board of director. He started branching out towards technology and clean energy with Tony’s help. Therefore, he didn’t have to fire his employees and began to transfer them to these new divisions.

He also searched deeply into his company and started firing Obadiah’s associates, whom helped and turned a blind eye to what he has been doing to the company this whole time.

Maria wasn’t exactly happy with this, but after what happened to Howard, she didn’t want there to be the next Obadiah Stane to happen to his baby boy. Her husband even retired from SHIELD to clean up the house.

The whole finding betrayers in his company were weighing on his mind. Adding to the trauma of being kidnapped and tortured that finally hit him in waves on one memorable night (traumatic dream and screaming… It was nightmarish, pun not intended), he wasn’t fine at all. Thank Merlin, he and Maria were able to persuade the man to talk to a psychiatrist, which was not easy.

And now 4 years later, he was better mentally and still talking to a psychiatrist, albeit not his current doctor, Dr. Morgan whom resided in New York. While he’s in Italy, he would be talking to Dr. Esposito, an associate of his current psychiatrist.

“Good morning, Mr. Evans,” said a young woman in navy blue business attire, looking impacable as always with a minor confusion on her face. She has her red strawberry hair in a pony tail and currently standing up from her desk, next to the CEO’s office.

Her name was Virginia Potts, aka Pepper. She was Tony’s latest PA and the longest one so far who was able to deal with Tony’s uniqueness. Before she came along, Tony has 5 assistants quitting on him in the span of two months. No one could handle his crazy schedule or his cockiness.

Because of that, Harry volunteered to assist him at work, and became his new PA temporarily, just until the next person to fill in the position came around. It was interesting to work with his own flesh and blood, but it was also uncomfortable for the both of them. Tony wasn’t used to bossing him around and Harry wasn’t used to have Tony being so undisciplined with his schedule.

It was only for three weeks, but they were quite miserable. The line between professional and family was blurred. It wasn’t like what they were doing at home when the Jarvises were around and he was still the under-butler to the servants around the house.

For a while there, he thought no one would come to take the position from him. And then came along, one Virginia Potts. Apparently in his busy time, Tony had made an error in his recent calculation. It would have caused a serious damage to the company if not for Ms. Potts.

She came to the elevator door like an avenging angel and pepper sprayed Happy (Tony’s personal bodyguard/chauffeur) when he stopped her from confronting Tony about it. She barged into his office and that’s when Tony offered her the job and nicknamed her Pepper. 

 

Pepper was good for Tony. She wasn't afraid to reprimand him and ushered him to his meetings. She's even patient with him when he was being Tony. In conclusion, Pepper was an Angel. 

 

“Mr. Stark didn’t inform me that you will be coming,” Pepper had her brows furrowed and looked a bit annoyed.

The look and the way she said the last sentence sounded like she was accusing Tony of forgetting to tell her. Well for a genius, Tony has a terrible time-management and misplacing his appointments, so it was partially right for her to put the blame on Tony.

“Good morning, Pepper,” Harry smiled, and immediately defended his son. “It’s a surprise visit. I brought him brunch. And please, call me Harry.”

The young woman smiled softly,” I will call you Harry if you will stop calling me Pepper.”

“I’m so sorry. But the name suits you too much,” Harry chuckled. “I was there when you pepper sprayed Happy, you know.”

He said this while stealing a glance at Happy, who sighed and muttered something under his breath about being caught off guard.

“In my defense, I was trying to save him from losing money.” The young lady didn’t rolled her eyes, but Harry knew she wanted to.

“Yes, of course, ms. Potts,” said Harry. “So, did he have another appointment at this hour?”

Checking her notes, Pepper answered,”No. He’s free.” She looked up from her notebook to look at Harry with an amused expression. “Every time you came to surprise him, you always managed to come when he wasn’t busy. Are you a psychic?”

If Pepper wasn’t a no-maj, the healer would have been alarmed. Because a witch or a squib would have guessed that Harry had enchanted Pepper’s notebook with a copino exulco. The spell would continuously copied everything in pepper’s notebook to his book, which allowed him to check on Tony’s schedule.

Harry wasn’t stalking his son. He was not. He’s only checking on him. That’s all. That’s what parents do.

“You’re stalking me again.”

The moment Pepper closed the door behind him, Tony turned his smile into a frown in a complete 180. His son was currently pouting at him and had his arms crossed over his chest. He didn’t look amused at all at the surprise visit.

“I didn’t stalk you. I only…”

He frowned and put his palm up to stop Harry from talking. The young CEO started to count with his hand. “Two surprise lunches, one surprise dinner and now… One surprise brunch.” He sighed deeply as if tired. “There’s only so much of “surprise visit” (he quoted with his fingers) until I figure out you were using a spell to find out about my schedule.”

“I’m…” Harry let himself fell onto the comfy chair in front of Tony’s desk and looked anywhere besides at his son. He knew it was silly and predictable. Harry wasn’t an idiot. He knew his son would discover the spell sooner or later. After all, he was a genius who was also the first wizard to incorporate magic and tech.

But Harry couldn’t help himself. He’s been trying to curb his anxiety over his only child’s safety since he came back from his master of Death’s duty 4 years ago.

His mother-henning and worried came in full-blown since that time he came home to a tired-looking Maria and a Howard with a hole in his chest. After hearing the story and a face to face apology from James about bringing his son to an active war zone, Harry was agitated and bordering hysteria.

The memory of losing his family in Britain suffocated him so much, that the thought that he almost lost both his father and son terrified him beyond his wildest imagination. Picturing his mom getting depressed and worried sick over Howard’s disappearance brought the memory of him worrying about Hermione getting tortured in the Malfoy Manor back in full-blown. The feeling of being helpless was the worst.

The wizard got so worked up that he basically put a tracking spell on his family. He made ms. Peggy promised to watch over his adoptive parents through placing several agents around their house and the company.

With Tony, he basically stalked him around with his invisibility cloak. And when he couldn’t, he would ask one of Death’s servant in a form of a Grim to watch him and inform him if something happened to Tony.

This went on until Tony had enough when Harry barged in into Tony’s dorm room when there was little smoke coming out of the door. Apparently Tony had a little accident with his project and it started to spark a little fire. Rhodey was spraying the fire extinguisher when Harry busted the door.

Tony was furious and he drew a line over Harry’s overprotectiveness. After some time, Harry managed to only let a Grim followed him and not doing the job himself.

It’s safe to say that one of the reasons Tony hired Harold Hogan or more known as Happy wasn’t just because the man had helped him from being mugged, but it also because of Harry’s constant worry over his son. By having a personal bodyguard, Harry ceased to let a Grim followed his son. But of course he still put a tracking spell on him. That’s non-negotiable.

“So, when did you find out?” He looked back to watch his son’s expression.

Tony raised his eyebrow. “The first time was suspicious enough. The chances of you coming with lunch at a time when I had a free schedule was slim to none. And this sunglasses,” he tapped on the pair of dark spectacles on his desk,” can detect signs of magic.”

“So, basically you were letting your old man have his fun?” Harry pulled a fond smile at his son.

“Well, I’ve been busy,” Tony answered sheepishly. “And after that disastrous time of us working professionally…”

They both shuddered at the reminder of how awkward those weeks were.

His boy cleared his throat and continued,” Anyway, it was fun just eating and talking with you, Dad.”

He let his hand fall and sat down straighter. “It was fun for me as well, Orion.”

“But, you knoooooow,” Tony trailed his words. “You could always just call me and ask me to eat with you like a normal person would do.”

Harry gave his son an innocent smile while fixing his glasses. “Well, where’s the fun in that?”

Tony smirked at his dad’s response. “Well, you got that right. So what’s for brunch today?”

As they ate their meals, they got into talking about Peggy, who was sightseeing in Indonesia right now.

Fighting HYDRA has been tiring and time-consuming. Having the serum injected to her has been a huge help for her to keep her energy to fight in the war against HYDRA; yet, considering her age, it would be suspicious if she continued to head the organization.

Thus, after she finished cleansing SHIELD out of HYDRA, she retired last year and decided to start her adventure to travel around the world. But, she still received updates from her sucessor regarding HYDRA, whose still have agents everywhere in the world.

“Did she tell you when she will be back?” Harry asked curiously.

“Nope. Aunt Pegs said she’ll be back when she’s needed.” Tony said as he chewed on a piece of beef. “Her sucessor…mm… Angry, Merry…”

“Fury,” Harry corrected.

“Yeah, Fury.” Tony shook his head. “I have no idea how someone could survive being called Fury at school. I mean the names and jokes I could come out with. Oh dad, check this…”

“Tony,” the older man reprimanded his son.

“Okay, okay. So, Clint said that Fury has been intense on the HYDRA hunting. He’s been busting their asses on this sudden intel they got from uncle James.”

Since that first time his son met with agent Barton in Afghanistan, they have been keeping in contact. Just chatting and joking, no leaking out sensitive information or mission. Harry was happy that at least there was something good coming out of that terrible event.

“And?”

“So, it’s been almost 7 years and this HYDRA thing kept on growing its head back, over and over,” Tony said, waving his hand frustratedly. “Maybe with this Fury guy, they could finally be eradicated, dad. And then aunt Pegs would stop stressing out over them and uncle James could stop with his missions.”

“Tony,” Harry smiled tiredly at his son. “HYDRA is a massive organization. They are parasites that have been planting their seeds everywhere, not just in SHIELD. I know your are miffed about them. But Orion, this thing takes time to be flushed out of the society. You just have to be patient.”

The head of SI huffed before taking a deep breath and smiled. “Okay, change of topic. So where’s the ring?”

Harry couldn’t help but smile at the new topic. Finding the ring wasn’t easy. Harry scoured everywhere to search for it, but he finally found it. He took a velvety box out and opened it in front of Tony. In it was a plain silver band with several diamonds decorated it. Harry had put some powerful magic in it. Mostly protective spells and the likes. It would protect its wearer from harm.

Tony took it out and fiddled with it between his fingers in awe. “Oh wow, dad. Did you put your core in it? This is one powerful ring. Sadly, it’s not gold.”

“Why?”

Tony coughed softly and started to recite dramatically. “One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one…”

“I fall for that, didn’t I?” Harry groaned and put his fingers on the bridge of his nose.

His son chuckled. “Well with the upcoming movie, how could I resist? Anyway, I’m glad you found this ring, Dad. I think she would appreciate you giving her Grandmother’s ring.”

“Yes, I think she would love it.”

“Funny thing was, when I introduced you to her, I didn’t think that you would have a relationship with her. I mean, she was okay, but I didn’t think she was your type, dad. And now 38 months later, you’re going to ask her to marry you,” Tony smirked. “I’m a badass matchmaker.”

Tony gave the ring back to him and Harry cradled it gently in his hand. “Is she the right one, though?”

He knew he sounded doubtful but it has only been 3 years. Harry loved his soon to be fiancé, no doubt. What he had with her couldn’t be compared to what he had with Ginny or Mia. With Ginny, it was mostly puppy love. With Mia, it was because they had a child together. But with his current girlfriend, it was a relationship that lasted for more than a couple years. It was a relationship that build on the foundation of hard work, compromise and compassion.

“Dad,” tony tried to reason with him. “When I saw you with her, it’s like I’m seeing father with mom. The way you guys act around each other was giving me hibies jivies. It’s so sweet, I feel my tooth aches from all the sweetness and cutesy.”

“Really?”

“Toothache, dad. Toothache,” Tony said dryly. “So, when will it be?”

“What?”

“When will you tell her?”

Before he could answer, Tony cut him. “Not her. I mean mom. When will you tell her?”

“I’ve told her and Howard weeks ago.” Harry took a swig out of water bottle. “Your mom would kill me if I proposed to my girl before telling her about it.”

“You tell them before me?” His son put his hand on his chest, pretending to look shocked and hurt. “But I’m your son.”

“And she’s our mother. She’s much scarier than you, son. And Howard was there, so he knew too,” Harry shrugged.

“Hmph.” Tony huffed again. “Moving on. So when will you ask her?”

***

October 31st 2000

Harry’s girlfriend has been living in DC and with her unconventional schedule, it was rather hard to guess when she would be in town. So far they have been making it work by talking on the phone and seeing each other whenever they were free. Every time she’s back in DC, harry would come to stay with her. And the other way around, whenever she was in New York, she would be staying in Harry's apartment. The apartment was a present from Howard and Maria when they found out that he was seeing someone. They were meddlesome but in a good way. And Harry did love his apartment.

Their long-distance relationship worked and the distance did bring them closer together. With the blessing from his family, Harry felt confident to ask her hand in marriage. And then, when she agreed to marry him, Harry would be able tell her about his family.

It's not like he hasn’t bring her home to meet his son and parents before. They have met and ate together. She like them enough and they adored her as well. She just didn’t know that Tony was his biological son and that he was adopted by the Starks.

Then he would petition the American wizarding’s government to give him permission to tell her about the magical world before the actual wedding. He trusted her with his family, so there’s no doubt he trust her with his other world.

And finally, the time came for his girlfriend to have some times off. She would be staying and celebrating Halloween with him in New York.

Harry was dressing up as Gandalf, the irony. While his girl dressed as Lady Galadriel. It was after all in the spirit of the upcoming Lord of the Ring movie.

“Honey, could you bring me the candies?” Harry stood close to his apartment door with a staff on his hand.

His beautiful black haired girlfriend, whose wearing a blonde wig and long white dress, took the bowl of candies in her hand. She gave him a sweet peck in the lips before handing the bowl to him.

“Here you go. It’s not even 7 yet. I’m not sure the kids will start banging on our door, you know,” she teased him.

Harry wasnt embarased to say that he was smittened when she said the word our. He could just hear his son's voice saying,"You got it bad, Dad."

“I’m not sure either, but…” Harry started to fish out something out of the bowl of trick or treating candies. “I was hoping to ask you about something first.”

She put her hands on her hips and cooked her head to the side. “And what would that be?”

He put the bowl on top of the drawer closest to him and started to kneel in front of her. He brandished the open box of ring in his hand, looking up lovingly towards his girlfriend and asked softly. “Maria Hill, would you give me the honor of being your husband?”

***

Chapter Text

August 24th 2001

Having a full body length mirror brought to the room was a great idea. This way, he could see himself wearing the suit dashingly from up to bottom. The old man wore a three piece charcoal suit paired with a ruby red tie.

“So, what do you think?” Howard asked, fixing his tie before smoothing the lapel of his suit.

When he didn’t get an answer from the other occupant, he turned around and pulled an eyebrow up at his sole audience.

“You looked excellent, mister Stark,” Harry stood up from the couch he was sitting on while waiting for his adopted dad. He has the exact same suit but in black with a golden-colored tie.

“Well, I have to,” he grinned, smoothing the Red rose and baby breath on his suit pocket. “After all I’m going to be in the second most important wedding picture in my life.”

The wizard cocked an eyebrow and put both of his hands on his black pocket pants. “Really?”

“Of course, son,” the billionaire (no longer millionaire) clasped his hand upon Harry’s shoulder. “It’s a wedding photo taken with a magical camera. For science, I need to dress up.”

“I’m rather hurt,” Harry said dryly. “I thought you looked nice because it’s my wedding day.”

“Your second wedding day,” Howard put his hands on his hips. “But with magic camera.”

Even if he said that, it was one of seventh most important and happiest day in Howard’s life. First, of course, was the day he launched Stark Industries. The second was the day he realized he was falling in love with the most beautiful girl he had ever met. The third was the day Tony said his first word, which was ‘bewbewwy’ (his favorite fruit and the cutest thing he has ever said). The fourth was when he celebrated Christmas together with his close friends and family.

It was the only Christmas where he had his wife and sons with his good friends, Peggy (‘no rest for the wicked, Howard’), Edwin and his wife and Bucky there. Even Teddy and Andromeda, his sons’ link to the magic world were there. Overall, it was a wonderful holiday.

The fifth was definitely waking up in the hospital room after that horrible Humvee ride and the worst hotel service ever in Afghanistan. The sixth was when he finally got to pass the reign of the company to his heir and retired.

And now, the seventh was now. Harry’s second wedding day, where they got to celebrate with people who knew the Starks as Harry’s true family.

After Howard finished buttoning his cufflinks, he walked out of the room to the hallway with his son behind him. They were heading towards the back door where it would led them to the mansion’s garden. Harry stopped him before he opened the door with a hand clasped on his arm.

“Before we go out there, I just wanted to say,” he curled up his lips. “Thank you. For making this all happen.”

“This,” the billionaire opened his arms,” Is all Maria and Andromeda. I’m just voicing the idea.”

“I’m still thankful for it, Howard,” the wizard patted his arm slowly. “It was a pleasant surprise.”

The sincerity behind his son’s expression warmed his heart but at the same time, it made him felt like ants crawling all over his arms. Howard loved his family but it would never become easier when people showed their gratefulness genuinely at him, especially from his family. He always felt embarrassed and slightly uncomfortable.

He cleared his throat. “So, I guess we should hurry up. After all, it’s rare for a groom to get married twice to the same bride just a week apart.”

A week ago…

“I never think that a wedding could be so..” he twirled his wife on the dance floor. When she came back into his embrace, he continued,” dull.”

That comment gave him a light slap on his hand. “Howie, be nice.”

He chuckled then looked around the dance floor at the other guests dancing to the band.

It was a long hard battle to discuss about where to do the wedding reception. The happy couple wanted a simple wedding but as Harry’s parents, he and Maria wanted it to be in a castle, in Italy or somewhere grand. Sue him, he wanted his son to have the best wedding party possible.

But in the end, they conceded to the lovebirds’ decision. They compromised to do the wedding and reception in one of the Stark’s hotel in DC. It’s closer to Hill’s office for her co-workers to attend the party.

This meant that most of the guests were SHIELD people. And since Harry’s adoption wasn’t a common knowledge, Howard and Maria were just wedding guests, honorable ones at that, along with Tony. Peggy, Teddy and Andromeda were also somewhere in the crowd. Even Bucky was here somewhere.

Since SHIELD was free from HYDRA clutches, Bucky has been able to come out of the shadows. He didn’t shouted his name so that everybody could hear, but with Tony’s AI, JARVIS or Just A Rather Very Intelligent System (Howard smiled fondly when his son introduced the AI to him) Bucky has been able to live somewhat freely.

The ex-soldier was given a new name (James B Evans) and credit card and the whole thing. Furthermore, JARVIS was able to monitor him and changed his face on every face recognition in the world. And since Bucky always used a voice changer and never opened his mask in front of any SHIELD’S operatives, except Peggy, he could come to the wedding and reception freely As Harry’s cousin.

And since Tony invited his best friend, Rhodey, whom with Tony’s pull managed to get a time off, basically they were the only people from Harry’s side of the marriage to come to the party. It’s a fourth of the number of SHIELD agents crawling in the party.

Even though his daughter in law was an orphan, she had quite a lot of co-workers and several close friends.

The loud laughter from the other side of the ballroom prompted him out of his musings. The laughter was coming from his youngest son, who was talking to Rhodey, Agent Barton, and Agent Coulson. The older agent seemed to relax, probably since he was surrounded by friends.

Looking at Phil Coulson, he was reminded by Marian Kowalski-Coulson, the agent’s mother whom was the liaison between Peggy and Howard to the American magical community. They have the same bland smile and both were a badass whose making an art at being underestimated.

He was Hill’s best friend and he was a squib or people who came from magical community but didn’t have magic of their own. And since most of his family were all working for the MACUSA, he decided not to let his status as a squib from hindering him to serve his country. Thus, he joined the US Army Ranger and later was recruited by SHIELD all those years ago with his friend, Marcus Johnson or more well-known as Nick Fury.

“Howie, do you mind if we sit down?” Maria pressed her cheek against his chest. “I could use a glass of refreshment.”

“Sure, darling,” He kissed her on the top of her head. “Let’s find a table.”

While enjoying their drinks, they were visited by Andromeda whom immediately taken a seat next to Maria and began talking. They weren’t close to begin with but also not distant. But with Howard’s being MIA, they grew close and became quite the friends.

With Harry part-timing at the wizarding hospital and Tony handling SI, Maria was a bit lonely at home. She has Howard and her charities to organize, but there’s no doubt she missed Anna. Her wife missed a female companion. Since Teddy himself was working as an auror at MACUSA, so did Andromeda.

That’s why, Howard encouraged Maria to meet up more with Andromeda for lunch or tea several times a week rather than the occasional once a week meeting. His encouragement paid off as both women seemed to look happier with their budding friendship that filled with smiles and laughter.

“I’m going to take another drink. Do you ladies want anything?” Howard started to stand up.

“No for me,” Teddy’s grandmother, whose much younger than him but already a grandmother (the irony) said.

“No darling, but promise me only one more drink, okay?” She hooked her fingers through his hand.

“Whatever my Queen commands,” he pulled her hand up and kissed the back of it gently while looking at her beautiful eyes. “I shall obey.”

“Oh you,” she giggled. Next to her, Andromeda politely covered her lips to hide her snickering. He just winked and strolled away.

After ordering his drink on the open bar, he faced the dance floor once more as the slow song began to end. He watched Harry and his wife slow danced. Her hands around his neck and their foreheads touching together. With the serum, he could see through the dim lights that they looked so in love and comfortable in each other’s arms.

“Here’s your drink, Mr. Stark.”

The former CEO took the glass and threw a grateful smile at the bartender just as the song ended. He looked back to the dance floor and saw Hill was taken by her best friend and after kissing her sweetly on the lips, Harry slipped away. He started to walk towards Howard whom was taking a sip of his drink.

“One club soda, please,” Harry ordered after taking a spot beside the billionaire.

“So, how is married life?”

“It’s only been 5 hours, Howard.”

There was a slight pause before Harry began to talk.

“My first marriage was spontaneous. The baby was all that we could think about. I thought that after Tony was born, we could start fresh. Getting to know better as we raise our son. Mia and I… We never really got to that part,” the wizard talked softly with a sad look on his face. “I wish I could give her that. I wish I could feel that for her. She’s… the mother of my son and I…”

He pulled his glasses off of his face and looked up. Howard pretended not to see the slight wetness under his son’s eyes.

“I hope…” Harry smiled through watery eyes and said in conviction. “I know that she would have given her blessings for me and Aria. (Hill) She was always kind, Tony’s mother. My first friend in the States.”

“To Mia Potter,” Howard raised his glass.

“To Mia,” Harry agreed quietly.

After a few quiet moment, the man dubbed ‘the boy who lived’ said,”Have I ever told you Aria’s reaction when I told her about you, mom, Tony and the wizarding world?”

“Well, knowing Hill after you brought her to the monthly bbq, I said she was surprised but not that surprised. Do you understand what I mean?”

His son chuckled, taking another sip of his club soda. “True. She was surprised but she took it well. Aria told me that she discovered that the world is stranger than it seems since she worked for SHIELD. So, she wasn’t surprise that she fell in love with me.” He laughed softly. “She’s more surprise that I’m Tony’s biological father. More than that I was a widower with a 22 year old son.”

“Well, he is a genius just like his old man,” Howard smirked. “But he loves to help people just like you and Maria.”

“Hm… That’s…”

Before he could voiced his opinion, someone accidentally knocked his drink all over Harry’s suit. Thank science, the agent (Howard assumed he was an agent because he saw him talking to agent Barton before) only spilled a little of his drink.

After apologizing, the man scurried away under Howard’s intense gaze. The bartender passed some tissues to Harry. He started wiping his shirt when Howard said,”With a snap of your finger, you could have just cleaned up your suit.”

“Yes, but not when there are…” the healer whispered. “Mu… No-maj around.”

“Hm,” Howard smiled to himself as an idea appeared in his mind.

Since Hill has had the ceremony and party filled with her guests, Howard thought it would be fair to have another ceremony with Harry’s friends and guests to witness their happiness.

“Yes, I guess we should go out now,” Harry agreed.

Howard opened the door to let the two of them walk out to the garden. The place has been filled with at least 30 beautifully decorated chairs and guests sitting on them. A big light cloud was hanging above them acting as an umbrella, courtesy of Teddy, Harry’s godson. The guests were mostly wizards and witches that came from England and a few from America, like the president and the director of MACUSA, along with a couple of people from Ilvermony and St. Agnes.

Harry grinned and waved at his friends whom were cheering for him from their seats. Tony woohoo-ed from where he was standing near the altar under the gazebo. He was the best man for two times.

Both fathers shook their heads at their son’s antics. One sat on the front chair with his wife and the other took his place next to his son.

The older Stark could hear Mr. Weasley senior asking Harry if he was sure he didn’t want the American wizarding president to officiate his bond in the wizarding tradition.

“Ron was the brother I never have, Mr. Weasley and you always treated me just like a son,” he answered with a smile. “I want you to officiate me and my wife.”

There was a mix of sadness and pride in the man’s face as he nodded and gave Harry a crushing hug. Not long after, the door opened once more and the music started.

All guests looked towards the door and saw the bride in simple white dress walking down the arrangement of rose petals that has been scattered like a long red carpet from the door towards the gazebo.

Holding the bride’s arm was agent Phil J Coulson, who was surprised to find out that Harry James Evans was Harry James Potter and that Tony was Harry’s son from his first marriage.

When they finally reached the gazebo, Phil kissed his best friend’s cheek (the only SHIELD agent present in this second wedding) before taking a seat on the front row.

“Dearly beloved…”

Howard stopped listening when Mr. Weasley began his speech, and just watched his son with his partner. Behind that pair of glasses, Howard swore he saw his eyes sparkling with love and happiness. The smile pasted on his face wasn’t the widest he ever produced, but it was the most affectionate he had ever seen.

He felt Maria’s hand tightened around his arm. “I’m glad you talked me into planning this wedding. They both look radiant.”

Howard couldn’t help the smile from growing upon his face. “It was an awesome idea.”

***

 

 

 

Chapter Text

After having the photographer (the one with a magical camera, not the normal boring camera that produced 2D’s pics) took many wedding pictures of the couple with their family and guests, Howard immediately cornered the man.

“So, tell me all about the camera.” He asked, sounded more demanding rather than requesting. He got to know how it worked. It’s intriguing and interesting.

There were so many things he wanted to know about the magical world of wizards and witches since the first time he went shopping for Tony’s Ilvermony’s list with his family all those years ago. Too many things and subjects to choose, made him confused. So simple things such as magical camera and wizarding chess were things he thought were too general and normal (boring stuff).

Since he still had SHIELD and his company to think about, he couldn’t indulge himself with all things magic and satisfy his curiosity. But with his retirement, he had more spare time to learn about what’s ordinary in the wizarding world but extraordinary or what he dubbed ‘Holy shit, it could do that’ stuffs in the real world.

And when he found out about moving photos and painting, his inner little girl voice squealed in excitement. He even pouted at his sons when their only reaction was ‘Oh yeah, we have that. Here, I even have a photo of me and my friends back at school. Do you want to see?’ (Harry) and ‘Pst, old news. I thought you knew about it, father. It was one of the first thing I found out when I started at Ilvermony’ (Tony).

In his defense, there were too many things to learn about wizards and their culture. He pushed the whole knowledge regarding mundane things in wizarding culture away to the back of his mind and started with something more intriguing like potions and magical beasts.

And since the camera was a mundane stuff to the wizarding world (normal for Harry and Tony), he felt rather embarrassed to ask his sons about how it worked. There were no specific things said in the books either about the workings of the camera. So, when Andromeda hired a wizard photographer to come to the wedding to commemorate the wedding in pictures, Howard was so happy that he threw a fist in the air.

“Excuse me?” The photographer looked at him nervously with wide eyes.

“I just want to know how…”

“It’s simple. To make the photos move, we only need to use a specific potion when we create the pictures, “ the old red-headed man Howard knew as Mr. Weasley answered.

The photographer took that as a cue to slowly removed himself from his spot and thus, away from Howard.

“Oh?” the billionaire looked intrigued.

“Yes, it’s very simple, I tell you, “ He smiled. “Oh, where are my manners?! I’m Arthur Weasley, Harry’s friend from England.”

“I’m…”

“I know who you are, “ The wizard smiled.

Ugh, everybody knew him. For once, it would be nice to find someone who didn’t know him. Or recognized his face.

“You’re Howard Stark, Harry’s adopted father, “ the redhead took Howard’s hand and shook it. “I’m thankful to you and your wife. Since being in your care, Harry seems happier. That boy has been through a lot. “

Arthur’s eyes were shining with unshed tears. “He and Ron, one of my boys were like brothers and losing him broke all of our hearts, especially Harry. That boy felt guilty for not being able to save my son. We, me and my family never blamed him, but Harry always had that weight of the world on his shoulders. But since moving to America, he has been… Lighter?” It sounded more like a statement than a question. “I’m grateful. So grateful for you and your wife, Mr. Stark.”

“Hm, thank you,“ Howard fidgeted, uncomfortable with the gratitude. “So I guess you don’t know me in England?”

The man looked confused.

“No matter, “ Howard shook his head, not disappointed at all for not being recognized by his fame.

Then Weasley looked serious all of a sudden. “I heard from Harry that you’re an inventor like Tony.”

“Um, yes.”

“Since I have answered your question about the camera, “ he took a step closer to Howard and whispered secretively. “Can you tell me what is the function of play-doh?”

***

“Oh no, I think Arthur is bothering your father with his questions of muggle things, “ Molly Weasley, wife of Arthur said nervously. “I should drag him by the ear for bothering that good man on such a happy occasion.”

Before the witch could go straight to his husband, Harry put his arm around her shoulder and stopped her. “It’s alright, Molly. He’s not bothering Howard at all.”

“Are you sure, dear?” Molly looked up at Harry, still looking concerned.

“Yes.”

Looking at the two men, Harry was sure that leaving them to their discussion would be a wonderful choice. The two men looked so excited with their discussion and they were both grinning from ear to ear like schoolboys getting a bag full of chocolates from Honeydukes. Harry couldn't help but smiled fondly at those two. 

The wizard who had twice defeated Voldemort answered with a mysterious smile. “I think they have more things in common than we know.”

After all, Howard did love to know all things magic as much as Arthur loved all things muggle.

***

Chapter Text

Phillip J Coulson was the youngest child in his family and adding to the fact that he was a squib, his parents and siblings were very protective of him. If others so much as giving him a look, they would come to defend his honor.

While they meant well, Phil could take care of himself, thank you. He didn’t need any protection. To prove it, he learned every kinds of martial arts he could find and practice on his agility. If he was fast enough in disarming a magic user of their wand, he could defend himself and come on top.

It will be tricky when it came to a wandless magic user, which thankfully was rare. As far as he knew, there weren’t many wizards or witches who mastered it and most of them could only do simple magic spells. The best wandless user that he knew was Harry James Potter, the hero of British Wizarding War.

It’s not exactly a common knowledge that the man resided in America right now, or that he was the most powerful wizard in the world at the moment. But since his mom was one of the highest ranking auror in MACUSA, she knew about this information.

Of course it was a classified information, but Phil was curious and sneaky. He stumbled upon this information when his mom had a guest over the house and somehow talked about his idol. And that’s how he knew that Harry Potter was in America but his whereabouts and current identity weren’t being discussed at that time.

It was a damn shame. He really want to meet the hero who was only 4 years older than him.

Since he was a young boy, he has idolized both Captain America and Harry Potter. The first was because he was an underdog who became America’s greatest hero and the latter was because he became a hero since he was a baby and continued being a hero when he was a teenager.

They were his heroes, so when one of his closest friend told him that she was going to marry Tony Stark’s butler, Harry James Evans, Phil was happy for her. His friend deserved happiness and Phil like Harry. He was a down to earth kind of guy. A good person.

Then just five days later after the wedding, he was approached by Tony Stark, whom has become somewhat of a close acquaintance of his, maybe even a friend, a very-annoying-no-brain-to-mouth-filter kind of friend.

At first he thought that Stark showed up at his favorite spot for lunch just to annoy him and pestered him to go to one of his parties. But, surprisingly he just sat on his booth and whispered something that usually he heard whispered by his siblings and parents at home when they didn’t want Phil to listen in on them.

Muffliato

There’s not a lot of people or events that could surprise Phil but Tony Stark, the Da Vinci of Our Time, the genius tech and engineering, CEO of a Fortune 500 company being a wizard?! That almost made it to Phil’s number 1 in his top ten ‘That shit is real?!’ list.

He felt the incoming headache when he found out that Tony Stark’s wizarding name was Anthony Orion Potter, aka his hero’s only son, aka the husband of his closest friend, whom he had lunches and dinners with for several times before he became his best friend’s spouse.

That information was labeled as a big number 1 in his list. Coming second was Tony Stark, the tech maestro being a wizard. Believe it or not, he was dumbstruck speechless. And that’s the only time that words failed him and to his dismay and disbelieve, it was by none other than Tony Stark, the most open-book person in the world. The word was literary invented for him.

After the second wedding (Tony invited him to once again gave Maria's hand to... Harry Potter *inner fanboy squeeled), Phil was holding a flute of champagne in his hand and observed the father and son from the buffet table. They were laughing about something and even the way they laughed was different.

While Stark was one of those people that has belly laugh, Mr. Potter was more dignified in his laughter and only chuckled softly. They were so different, people would never in a million years guess they were related, let alone as a parent and his son.

But, after one knew the truth, one could find a certain similarity between the two. They have the same habit of wrinkling their noses when something or someone didn’t agree with them or the fact that they had an affinity for anything with pumpkin and blueberry in them.

Phil shook his head and took a whole swig of his drink, “ Father and son? Seeing is truly believing.”

***

Chapter Text

New Year’s Eve 2001
December 31st 2001

“Before we start the countdown, I just want to say something that I haven’t said as best man. Since having moi, dad never once go on a date. Not once, “ Tony said incredulously. “I thought if he can’t find a date, maybe I should find him one. He might be in his mid 30’s but people still mistaken him for 27 or something. How hard could it be to find him a date?” He shrugged. “Then my brilliant mind came out with Hill. At the time, I don’t know if she was single or not, but I thought whatever, let’s just try.”

“Thanks for that, “ Hill cocked an eyebrow and raised her glass at him. His dad chuckled behind him, putting his arm around her waist.

Ignoring her comment, Tony continued, “It was a trial run. Not saying that you were a guinea pig or anything, Hill. I don’t have a death wish, “ he was welcomed with bouts of laughter. “I thought that maybe my dad would like you and you both will have a great date and that would be all.”

“I think they did more than have a great date, son, “ His father snickered behind his wine glass on the couch where he was sitting with his mom. His lovely mom hit him gently in the arm, reprimanded him. “Howie.”

At the same time, Tony put on a disgusted face at the image. “Eew, that’s one more image I cannot scrap from my brain.”

In an instance, the whole room was once again filled with laughter.

“Okay, moving on, “ Tony waved his hand to shoo the image away. “So, I introduced them. But, I never thought that when I introduced her to dad, that I would stand here almost 5 years later in their living room, celebrating New Year’s Eve with them as a married couple.”

The CEO raised his glass. “To the happy couple. May your life be filled with joy and happiness and more years to come. And hopefully I got a little brother or sister next year,” then he looked at his watch,” in the next 5 minutes.”

All raised their drinks and cheered for the happy couple, Hill cleared her throat, “Uhm, since you bring it up, we have an announcement to make.”

“Dad?” Tony felt a little confused but the way his step-mom worded it, there’s only one answer to that.

While his father looked wide-eyed with his mouth opening and closing like a fish, his mom gasped with a hand on her mouth as she looked up at the her daughter in law. “Are you…?”

The older Potter answered with a simple nod and a happy smile on his face. “We just found out a couple of days ago.”

“Oh my God! Honey, I’m so happy for you,” His mom stood up to hug her daughter in law and son before peppering them both with kisses. “How far along?”

“7 weeks, “ Hill answered with a certain glow on her face. “I was busy until after Christmas, so I didn’t notice it until I started feeling a bit nauseous. So I took a test and another test and another one, just to make sure. We’re pregnant.”

The woman showed a little smile on her face, but even that tiny loop of smile was radiant enough to blinded the whole room with her happiness.

His father shook his dad’s hand with a giant smile on his face, “ Congratulation, son. I’m happy for you. I’m going to be a grandfather. Finally.”

The young wizard finally managed to move his legs towards his family. Believe it or not, he was able to stretch his arms around (not really around, just partially) all of his parents.

“I’m going to be a big brother!” He shouted in excitement.

Aunt Peg looked surprised, but nodded with a smile. “Oh my. Congratulation Harry, agent Hill.”

Their short of list guests, Agent-agent, Teddy, Rhodey and uncle James (Aunt Andy was invited by her bingo friends to a party) congratulated his dad and his wife.

And after, they began counting the seconds. The couples kissed each other and the singles embraced one another in a friendly hug. Eating the finger food and just enjoying their time talking with friends and family in his dad and Hill’s new apartment in DC.

Tony went to the kitchen to take a new bottle of red, where he saw Coulson drank a cup of black coffee.

“Agent-agent,” He tilted his head and smirked. “No rest for the wicked?”

“Stark,” the agent’s upper lip twitched a little when he was being addressed. It just showed that he was used to Tony’s penchant to nickname people he liked.

That twitch was practically a smile in his book, so Tony just smiled even wider. “Oh, you’re warming up to me now. When will you admit that we’re friends?”

“I think we’re going to keep agreeing to disagree,” the older man put his coffee mug on his mouth, enjoying his drink.

“Oh, you’re going to crack sooner or later, secret agent,” Tony winked mischievously at him.

The inventor pulled out a new bottle from the upper cupboard and popped the cork with a loud pop. He began pouring the wine when he caught agent tapping his fingers on the counter a few times while sipping his nectar of life.

The unflappable agent rarely showed indication of his true feelings. So even the minute movements couldn’t be ignored as something he normally do. This was agent Coulson, so it could mean that he has something on his mind or whatever a high ranking agent stressing about.

“Your uncle.” He said and stopped himself from continuing. Tony caught him frowning but the frown was smoothed in a second.

He wondered as he raised his glass to his lips.

“What about uncle James?” He cocked an eyebrow, feeling intrigued.

“Is he… is your family somewhat related to Bucky Barnes?”

Tony chocked on his wine. He could feel his throat burned from the liquid going into the wrong pipe. He put his glass and started thumping on his chest to lessen the coughing fit.

Coulson handed him an opened water bottle. The young man didn’t notice when the guy took the water but he was thankful nonetheless.

“Thanks, “ Tony took a big gulp of the water and gave a pleased sigh. He immediately put on a nonchalant air before looking back at the man, “ But, what makes you say that? I mean, I know who he was. My father used to tell me stories about Captain America and his MIA BFF.”

“It’s just that your uncle looks so much like Bucky Barnes.”

“Huh, really?” He pretended to sound curious. “Are you a fan boy or something?

His ears turned a shade of red. It was just a little but it was enough to make Tony teased the hell out of the man. The agent looked a tiny bit embarrassed and finally let go of the topic.

Tony sighed, crisis averted. Uncle James’ identity was a sensitive matter. Even Hill didn’t know about him. Tony and his family decided that it would be best to give the man a choice to whom he want his secrets reveal to. It’s not exactly their place.

“I think your friend needs you, Mr. Stark, “ the agent told him before passing him to speak to Hill.

“Surprises, “ Rhodey muttered under his breath, taking his champagne in one shot. His best friend was standing next to the curtain with his glass, shaking his head in disbelief. “So many surprises today.”

Tony walked to him and patted his shoulder emphatically. “There, there platypus. There, there.”

His brother from another mother glared at him. “While I’m happy you told me the truth about your adoption and about your dad, Harry…” he looked constipated. “I can’t believe that he is your dad and that you have a stepmom who is young enough to be your sister. And again, your dad! I mean… He is so nice and polite and you…”

The air force man looked at Tony from head to toe and back up again to look at his face and snorted.

“Hey, “ Tony faked being hurt with his bottom lip pulled out into a pout.

“I’m not trying to insult you, man, “ Rhodey rolled his eyes. “But, you practically just told me a couple hours ago when you picked me up at the airport. You told me in the parking lot in fucking DCA.”

“But, honey-bear, “ Tony whined. “I kept this secret for so long. I really want to share it with you. You are my big brother. We’re practically family, putting aside the different mother and all the shebang.”

“Yeah, yeah, “ the man gave him a fond look. “A little brother I never wish to have, but one that I’m grateful to have anyway. I’ve never dreamt of having an imp whining drama queen as a roommate.”

“But you wouldn’t have me any other way, “ Tony smirked at his first true no-maj friend. “Your college life would be boring if I wasn’t your roomie.”

“Yeah, “ he punched Tony’s arm affectionately. “I would kill myself out of boredom.”

“See, “ the young billionaire opened his palm and looked cocky.

“Yeah, yeah, “ Rhodey admitted. “Forgive me, but I’m still trying to process this. This is a little way over my head at the moment, “ Rhodey sighed, before pulling up his signature ‘I’m happy for you anyway, even though you just dropped a bombshell at me’ kind of smile. “But you’re going to be a big brother at 23. I hope and pray that you know how I felt when your brother or sister reach their puberty.”

Whatever appeared on Tony’s expression made Rhodey laughed very hard. But it wasn’t long before his face turned serious.

“I did what you ask me to do,” He spoke quietly, so that the others couldn’t hear. Whispering would work if only his father, Peggy and uncle James weren’t here. With their enhanced hearing, this secretive conversation wouldn’t work.

Thankfully they were talking to other people, but you never know with spies, especially veterans like aunt Peg and uncle James.

Tony immediately grabbed his friend’s arm and said his farewell,” So it’s been fun dad, Hill. I love to stay and chat but Rhodey will have to go back to the air force base soon at 1200 for his shift and I want to take him bar-hopping before he has to go back and served Uncle Sam.”

“Tony,” His mom said scandalously. “I raised you better than that. No bar hopping. Your poor friend needs to work. He needs his sleep.”

“But mooooom.” The genius wasn’t embarrassed to say that he still whined at his mom at this age.

“Alright, just one bar. And no more than 3 drinks,” the philanthropist reluctantly consented. He knew his mom always has a soft spot for him. He thanked his mom with a too sweet smile and caught Hill mouthing ‘mama’s boy’.

Tony just pulled his tongue out at his step-mom. Hill rolled her eyes at Tony’s antics.

He gave hugs and farewell to his family and godparents (to him, uncle James was his true godfather, never Obie) and nodded at the SHIELD agent.

Then he turned to Teddy, his oldest and first best friend. He was very proud when the man passed his examination and became the second youngest auror (the first has still being held by former director of MACUSA, Percival Graves) ever to pass with flying colors.

“Teddy bear, I will talk to you later, kay?” Tony hugged his oldest friend, who was downing his hair dark brown right now with a pair of blue eyes behind a pair of glasses. (magic spectacles to help him see through any hidden magic, Tony’s invention)

“Alright mate,” the wizard whispered in his ear. “Do what you have to do. Just be careful, yeah?”

Tony pulled away from the hug and nodded.

“Um thank you for inviting me, Mr and Mrs Evans,” Rhodey smiled stiffly, feeling a bit out of place. Tony felt a bit guilty for just springing up the truth about his family in a short time.

“We’re glad Tony finally told you,” Harry clasped his hand upon his shoulder. “You’re always welcome to this family, Rhodey.”

“Both Starks and Evans,” Howard smiled. Their wives nodded in acknowledgment.

The black African American smiled and relaxed at the admission from Tony’s family. Tony hoped that with his family’s assurance, Rhodey would cease from being an outsider in this special occasion. He was after all his brother in anything but blood.

Fifteen minutes later, they’re sitting in a farthest booth in the corner of a diner, the only diner he could find open at New Year. After their milkshakes arrived, Rhodey thanked the waitress and cocked an eyebrow at Tony. “I thought we’re going to a bar.”

“Well, bar is too crowded for what we’re going to talk about and are you crazy or something?! There’s no way we could get to a bar on New Year, even using my name. Can you imagine the traffic?” Tony plucked the cherry from on top of the whipped cream on his milkshake into his mouth with a pop. He left the stem on the table and took a quick glance around to make sure that nobody were listening on them.

Talk,” he made a gesture with his hand.

Rolling his eyes, Rhodey sighed and began to speak. The airman confirmed that the information were true. Since Stark Industries stopped producing guns and bargained to provide the military with high-quality defense tools, such as bullet-proof vest and better gear for soldier’s protection, the leftover from SI weapons have been treasured by everyone. Everyone. That included terrorists and possibly HYDRA.

For all these years, Tony never thought about SI’s guns anymore. It has been shut down, thus he thought that now their company’s legacy wouldn’t be drenched in blood anymore.

Apparently, he has been living in a cocoon, a byproduct of his sheltered life as a genius who has been loved and protected by his family.

Through a grapevine in his social circle at a charity a month ago, he found out some whispering about how valuable SI weapons were, the remains from before his father left the gun racing. He was shocked and furious, but he managed to control his rage and tried to coax the info out of the discussion nonchalantly, a trick he learnt from aunt Peg.

Tony could be so subtle if he wanted to. After all, he has been taught well by Jarvis to not act rash even when he was overwhelmed by negative emotion.

He found out more about the weapons and he confirmed it with Clint when they met in one of their foodie outings with Teddy, whenever the metamorphogus got a day off. He didn’t want to ask more since even though the man was his friend, he still worked under SHIELD, whom to Tony’s delight still thought that Tony was clueless about the organization. Hill’s guests were trying to act as nothing more than her civilian co-workers, which was hilarious to Tony at the time because some of them were so oblivious.

Teddy who could see the tiny hint of turmoil in Tony’s eyes behind Clint’s confirmation, was worried. After Clint went home, they apparated to Stark Tower. (the building has been operating for a month since the beginning of summer and Tony’s penthouse was on the top, where he lived alone)

The billionaire told him everything, about how furious he was at how Stark weapons still being used and how he needed to do something about it. As an auror, Teddy didn’t condone vigilantism, but as his friend, he told him to be careful and discreet, and not to use magic to do it. The auror didn’t want to have to arrest his childhood friend.

This gave him the courage to tell Rhodey a couple of weeks ago, whom also telling Tony the same thing.

“Thank you for the info, honey bear, “ Tony said, grateful of his best friend’s confirmation.

“ I know you want to do something about it, but the less I know the better, Tones, “ Rhodey looked at him seriously. “I will try to help you as much as I could but please, please try not to get caught.”

Tony really have the best friends ever. It’s true what they said, ‘ a friend will help you move a couch, but a best friend (s) will help you move a body.’

“Your parents, especially your mom would be devastated if they found out that I or Teddy didn’t try to stop you. I can’t handle her ‘You’re disappointing me’ look.” His former roommate said apprehensively. “It’s unbearable.”

At that, Tony chuckled. His mom rarely pulled those looks, but they were truly fiercer than Jarvis’ look. It’s horrible.

***

March 8th 2002


Tony was working in his workshop in the tower on a fine Sunday morning. (you should be asleep at 2 AM, Tony, not working *inner Pepper voice lectured him)

What would he do without Pepper? She was the fiercest woman he knew, beside his aunt and mom. Not many could handle Tony or even stood up to him. He knew he was charismatic, chatty and often too smart that people didn’t often understand what he was saying.

But Pepper, oh dear Pepper wasn’t afraid to speak up and asked Tony to, in her words ‘Dial it down, Mr. Stark. We’re not all geniuses, here.’ And she said it without a hint of criticism or mocking, but more in an exasperated annoyance and a statement of fact.

Tony felt loved. This woman has been working for him for two years and Tony considered her more than just an assistant. She was for a better word, his friend. Even if Tony was a friend who was also her boss and signed her paychecks.

“Incoming call from Dr. Banner, sir,” JARVIS chirped in, snapping Tony out of his thoughts.

“At this ungodly hour?!” He asked incredulously, then added sarcastically. “Didn’t he know I need my beauty sleep?!”

“Should I tell him that you were occupied at the moment, sir?” His AI asked, unsure. He’s probably confused since Dr. Banner was one of his creator’s good friends. It seemed rather rude to reject the man’s call.

“Oh, J,” the engineer remarked in pity. “I was joking. I will make an insolent out of you just yet. And this is a homework for you, young sir. Sarcasm. Learn it and study it. I’ll give you a pop quiz later after lunch.”

He programed JARVIS a little over three years ago when he was having one of his melancholy time and missing his old butler so much. J was a learning program but he was much more intelligent and sophisticated than his predecessors, DUM-E, U and Butterfinger. He didn’t have a physical form but his voice came from speakers and his sight came from the cameras around the house.

Furthermore, JARVIS has been integrated to every branch of SI in the world. Mostly they thought J was just a voice assistant. The young Stark-Potter couldn’t just come out and said that he had created a fully-functioning AI. People were already scared shitless by SKYNET and HAL and they weren’t even real.

If they knew about JARVIS’ existence as an Artificial Intelligence and that he has eyes and ears everywhere through Stark’s satellites, Tony was afraid that the government would prosecute his baby. Therefore, J being who he was, was only wide-known by his family and closest friends, like Rhodey, Teddy and Bruce (his trio of bears). Not even Pepper know. He liked her but he can’t trust her yet with his brain child.

“Of course, sir,” J answered. “Do you want to take Dr. Banner’s call, sir?”

“Um, what?” Tony was ashamed that he almost forgot about Bruce. “Yeah, yeah, put him on.”

“Brucie bear, what’s up? You never called me this late before. Did you need me to bail you out of jail or something? Coz I’m the only billionaire friend you have. Got the money to proof it here,” Tony grinned at his science bro from his lab.

He met Dr. Robert Bruce Banner in a science convention in Georgia 4 years ago, when the man did a presentation there. The doctor was 23 years old and he already had a doctorate in nuclear physics and just 6 credits shy from getting another one on his belt. Talking about genius! He was the man he needed to befriend. Finally someone he could talk science with.

“You know I never befriended you for your money, Tony,” sighed the genius from the other line.

“You just befriended me for my brain, “ Tony waggled his eyebrows. The engineer could picture his friend rolling his eyes at his comment.

“Sure. You’re the only genius friend I have, “ he said flatly. “It’s not like I have a genius girlfriend and a genius co-worker to hang out with.”

Tony laughed so hard that a drop of tear fell from his eye before he addressed his AI. “That J, is what we called sarcasm. Dry sarcasm, the best one in it’s category. And Brucie here is the best at it. Take a note from him.”

“Of course, sir, “ his AI replied obediently.

“Oh, hi JARVIS. How are you?” Bruce sounded friendly over the phone call. “And how are the bots?”

And that’s why he adored his science bro, well not just because he had three PhDs on his name. The man was always kind to his creations. To him, his helper bots and J weren’t just things. He treated them like people, or in his bots’ case, Bruce considered him like little children with their limited learning ability.

Tony knew he could always upgrade their systems, bug if he did that, he could risk his bots’ personalities and he loved them just as they were. Childish, love to play catch and prompt to spray him with the extinguisher (DUM-E) without being asked to. He would not change a thing.

“I’m fine, Dr., “ J answered amiably. “And the bots are fine as well.”

From behind him, the bots began chirping at being addressed. Tony looked back for a second and smiled warmly at his creations.

“Hey, you didn’t ask about me, “ Tony protested without a bite in his voice.

“I figure you’re fine if you can still whine,” He said dryly. “Anyway, I want to tell you about the good news.”

“Do you get the job?” Tony was excited for the job interview his friend got from Oscorp. He has been trying to offer the doctor a job at SI since he knew him; nevertheless, Bruce refused to receive the offer out of his friendship with Tony.

“No,” Bruce replied. “I got another offer. An interesting one. But guess the best part.”

Tony smiled fondly at the excitement he heard in his friend’s voice. “What?”

“I could do this project at Culver. I don’t need to move away,” he said happily.

“Oh wow. Congrats, Bruce,” Tony felt happy for his friend. One of his cons to work for Oscorp was leaving Betty. He loved that woman so much, Tony was sure he was going to be asked to be his best man soon. “What is it about?”

“Um, well,” the doctor sounded hesitant at this. “It’s a project funded by the government, but I can’t tell you the details. I wasn’t even supposed to tell you about it.”

Secret government project, you say” Tony grinned.

“Tony, promise me you won’t hack the government’s computer,” Bruce told him exasperatedly.

“For you, Brucie-bear, I promise,” Tony conceded. “Scout’s honor.”

“You were never in a scout,” the man accused.

“You don’t know that,” the inventor defended himself. “I could have been one for… Shit.”

“Tony, what is it?” His science bro asked in concerned.

“Nothing, Brucie-kin,” he answered in a hurry. “It’s late. You should sleep. I should sleep, toodle-oo.”

“Tony…”

With that he let JARVIS hang up the call. At least the AI had a lot of practice of Tony trying to dismiss someone on the phone.

He put a hand on his chest, feeling the rapid sound of his heartbeats as he looked at the man standing behind the project he was working on. “Uncle Jamie, you surprised me.”

“What is this, Niño Pequeño (Spanish)?" The ex-assassin asked calmly, motioning his hand at his project.

“It’s my new hobby, “ Tony shrugged. “Can’t a guy have a new hobby?”

“You’re stalling, petit garçon (French), “ he walked closer and touched his project. “To me, this looks like an armor. A weapon by the looks of the things sticking out of it, lille dreng (Danish).”

Oh oh. He had used Tony’s nickname in three different languages. That’s not good. The last time he did that was when he caught Tony joining a street racing, and even that he only used 2 languages.

“Okay, you got me, “ Tony raised his hands up in surrender. “It’s a suit.”

His uncle looked at him with an expression that said ‘Elaborate.’

So, he explained. His project was a suit of armor made of gold-titanium alloy. It has all the latest toys created by Tony and it could fly. The suit was powered by the Starkium, the new element he and his father created for the arc reactor’s core. The biggest one has been used to power his tower in New York, making it the first self-sustaining building in the world. And he created a mini one to power the suit.

“So, are you going to use this red and gold suit to do the things that you secretly talk to Rhodey about? The thing yuh coun’t tawhk back at Harry’s place wo months ago?”

There’s came the Brooklyn’s accent.

“Why are yuh makin’ weapons again?” The brunette demanded, glaring at his godson.

“Um…”

“Tony.” The way his uncle called his name was what he dubbed the deadly silent voice. It’s a warning before he dug the info out of a person and that person wouldn’t like what uncle James would do to have the information.

“Okay, “ Tony took a deep breath before vomiting his next words. “I heard about SI’s weapons still being used around and sold on the black market. Most of the buyers are terrorists, like the one who destroyed Gulmira, Dad’s friend’s village. Rhodey told me the air force has been deployed to find a terrorist nest in the middle east. There were signs of Stark’s weapons being used. I don’t want those weapons to be used by criminals.”

Petit garcon…” His godfather tried to say in sympathy.

“After I confirm with both Clint and Rhodey, I started hacking everywhere. CIA, SHIELD, MI5, NDS, ASIS, CIB, MOSSAD. I covered my traces well, so don’t worry. You know what pisses me the most? I found out that HYDRA was also using our weapons. They have these secret bases all over the world.”

Uncle James cocked an eyebrow, letting tony know that he was surprised about that new information.

“When I want to, I could find all HYDRA agents in the world with a snap of my finger, “ he snapped his ginger, trying to control his rage. “But all this time, I left this job to SHIELD because I trust this organization that was built using the sweat and time of my father and godmother. I trusted them to do what’s right.”

The genius turned around and hit the table with his palms. “But they’ve been taking too long. And finding out that the leftover of SI weapons have been sold to HYDRA and terrorists… That’s the last straw. This suit was supposed to be my side project and hobby. I wasn’t lying. But when I found out about all of these, I decided to finish it and used it for one purpose. I’m going to use the suit to destroy every weapons being produced by SI and then I’m going to obliterate HYDRA to the ground. That I promise.”

Tony could feel the fire of vengeance burning inside him. The need to right what’s wrong and brought havoc to the organization that have wronged his family and the world.

“Tony, you have a job, “ James tried to reason with him. “You are the CEO of SI. When will you have time to run the company and going around the world to destroy your weapons and HYDRA?”

“If father could run SI and SHIELD at the same time, I could do it too. It’s called multitasking, “ he turned around and countered with a smug look on his face.

“Okay you cocky boy, “ uncle James put a hand on his hip. “He ran SHIELD with your aunt Peg. It’s called having a partner.”

“You can’t stop me.”

He sighed and smiled a little bit sadly at Tony. “Doan I know it?”

“I know I can’t stop you, but at least you could give half of the HYDRA’s list to SHIELD and I can help you take care the other half. That’s what I call divide and conquer.”

“No, “ Tony shot down the suggestion immediately. “You’re retired! You can’t just come out of your retirement to deal with the same people who have tortured you. That is insane.”

“You see, Tony. People like me weren’t meant to retire, “ the former victim of brainwashing pulled away his bangs from covering his eyes. “We’ve been through too much to stop. I can try to live normal again, but I’m tired for always looking behind my shoulders, even with J’s help. I can’t move on before HYDRA has been erased from the face of the earth.”

“So you see, Tony, “ He looked Tony in the eye, dead serious. “I don’t want to help you. I need to help you.”

“Are you sure, uncle James?” Tony didn’t feel right having James back in the field. The man deserved a long break after being the world’s longer victim of war and another 5 years cleaning HYDRA out of SHIELD.

“Yes, I’m sure But before we do this, you have to promise that you will always choose your family and day job before these missions.”

“Okay. That’s easy.”

“And…”

“There’s more?” Tony’s brows furrowed in annoyance.

“And, “ he patted the suit with a hint of dismay. “Change de colawh. Your suit should say discreet, not obvious. I doan want yuh tuh die becawze of your atrocious choice in colawh. It’s like seeing a fat-head (bald-headed man) in the crowd, yuh ‘know?”

Tony swore he hasn’t laughed as hard as that since the start of the year. Thank you, uncle James. For that wonderful Brooklyn accent and 40’s slang.

“Okay, black it is,” Tony grinned. “ So what’s our codenames? When we do missions. Agents always used codenames.”

“I don’t like the name, but HYDRA is still scared with the name winter soldier.”

“Winter it is,” Tony looked up at his armor. “Hm. My code name. How about Robocop? Titanium guy? Damn, why is it so hard?”

“Iron man.”

“What?”

“Your father always said, Stark men are made of iron. Iron man.”

“Iron Man." Tony scratched his beard. He started growing them a year ago and it has become his trademark so far. “That's kind of catchy. It's got a nice ring to it. I mean, it's not technically accurate. The suit's a gold-titanium alloy, but it's kind of evocative, the imagery, anyway.” (excerpt from iron man 1)

Uncle James cocked an eyebrow at his chattiness.

“Okay, Iron man it is then,” the billionaire grinned evilly. “HYDRA should watch their backs. We’re bringing in the fight to them.”

***

Chapter Text

June, 2003

“Honey, you said you need to work, “ Maria smiled at the way his son cradled his daughter to his chest lovingly.

“Just a minute, mom, “ Harry answered, not letting his eyes stray away from his sleeping daughter.

“You said that 10 minutes ago, darling, “ she chuckled, opening her hands to receive her granddaughter. “And three more times before that.”

The wizard looked rather dejected at letting go of his child. He kissed his daughter on the top of her head and several more times before giving her to Maria. The old woman looked at her heavy granddaughter, Lily Hill-Evans or Lily Hermione Potter fondly.

She couldn’t believe it. In a month, her baby girl would turn a year old. She has his daddy’s black hair and green eyes, but her feature, that’s all her mommy’s for sure.

July 29th 2002

After getting back from Italy, Howard and Maria moved to a penthouse in New York. Since Harry started seeing Aria, he decided to live in his new apartment and Tony began to move out of the house for privacy reason. (‘I love you guys, but I can’t exactly bring a girl home.’)

After that, the mansion felt so empty. When her husband brought her home to his mansion decades ago, Maria dreamt of filling the house with their children. Not just the parties and how many guests the place could hold, but she wanted to fill it with laughter and family.

But with their best friends gone and their sons, they were both reluctant to go home. It didn’t feel like home anymore. It’s too big for the old couple. Thus, Maria suggested for them to find a new place to stay, smaller one.

Then they found this penthouse overlooking the Central Park and with Stark Tower being located not far away from their living space, Maria could visit her son for their lunch dates while Howie golfed or tinkered.

As for the mansion, they left it as it was. There were housemaids and gardeners came weekly to clean the place. The security of the mansion has been monitored by JARVIS since Tony installed him there. Now, it’s more of a vacation house rather than anything else. When the whole family visited, they would open the mansion back and relocated everybody there.

“Mia bellissima moglie (my beautiful wife), “ she felt her husband’ warmth lips between her shoulder blade and neck. “Here’s your tea, sweetheart.”

He handed her a cup of warm lemon tea before sitting on the chair next to her on their balcony. The moon was bright in the sky and it wasn’t exactly quiet but from where they were enjoying the view, the noises were muffled.

“Thank you for the tea, Howie, “ Maria thanked her husband. “It’s exactly what I need right now.”

“Anything for my Marie, “ he held his palm out on the chair’s arm for Maria to lace their fingers together. He pulled up their hands and kissed the back of her hand. “ I love you.”

“Ti amo, “ she smiled at him sweetly. “Mio Caro. 85 E angora cos I sorprendente.”
(My darling. 85 and still so stunning)

His eyes looked a bit darkened and suddenly she was being lifted off of her seat with a pair of strong hands. Mrs. Stark was on her husband’s lap in a second and instinctively put her arm around her husband’s neck. Maria cocked an eyebrow at this display of strength her husband rarely showed.

“I can’t help myself. You looked delicious, “ the billionaire purred in her ear.

She put her hands on Howard’s face and pulled him for a passionate kiss.

Suddenly there was loud footsteps with soles comings rom the penthouse. “Mom! Father! I need to…”

“Ignore him,” Howard mumbled and startled trailing kisses down her nape.

Then they heard a screech noise of shoes soles skidded to a stop. “My eyes! I cannot undo that! Merlin! For the love of Isolt! How could you guys do this to me?! This is child abuse! You know what, I lie! This is one of the reason why I moved out! I do not want to walk in on my parents doing…! God I can’t even say it! Aren’t you guys too old for this?!”

The moment was completely utterly broken now.

“We’re old, son. Not dead,” Howard sighed as Maria put her head on his chest, muffling the voice of her laughter.

Maria tried to wipe the smile out of her face but it’s too hard. She stood up, smoothing her robe. “Smettila cara. Risparmia il nostro povero ragazzo.” (Stop it, darling. Spare our poor boy)

“E i suoi occhi! (And his eyes!)” Tony shouted from inside the penthouse.

“Alright boy,” Howard threw a smile, took a glance at the back. “Why do you think it’s a good idea to visit your old folks this late?”

“Oh, that,” Tony came to the balcony, smiling. “Yeah, I was going to say that I came here to pick you up. The baby’s coming.”

Tony looked so calm that what he said didn’t register in her mind until the next few seconds. “The baby is coming?! Why didn’t you say so?!”

“It’s your fault, mom!” Her son defended himself. “I was going to tell you guys, but you just had to put on a show!”

Disregarding the mom son duo, Howard jumped out of his chair and pump his fist on the air,” My granddaughter is coming!”

10 minutes later…

After putting on some appropriate clothes, Tony transport them with his uncomfortable magic transportation (Portkey, mom. It’s a portkey, *eyeroll) to the hospital. A normal hospital in DC since some of Aria’s good friends would be there waiting on her as well despite their busy schedule. Aria was an orphan and her co-workers were always there for her. They’re her family.

They arrived at a secluded spot in the hospital and hurried up with Tony leading the way to the room. When they got to the VIP room, there were already several familiar people in the room.

“Stark, you’re late,” said agent Coulson, whom was sitting on the sofa with an excited looking Teddy,” Tony.”

Even Andromeda was there, putting a cool wet cloth on her daughter in law’s forehead. Harry was holding his wife’s hand, looking like a worried father while Maria looked as calm as a cat.

“Teddy bunny, you’re here. Hi dad, Hill, Aunt Andy,” Tony smiled before responding to the agent’s comment. “I do need to pick up my parents first, agent agent.”

The agent immediately stood up, looking a bit nervous and stiff. “Mr and Mrs Stark, I…”

“Good to see you again agent Coulson,” her husband greeted him with a handshake. “Stop calling me Mr Stark, you helped save me from Afghanistan.”

“It was an honor, sir,” the agent looked nervous.

“It’s nice to see you here agent Coulson, for Aria,” she smiled gratefully.

“Ye, yes Mrs Stark. She is my best friend and I would never miss this for the world,” he stuttered.

“Wow Phil.” Said Aria in surprise at the same time Tony said,” Agent agent is tongue tied by my mom. Wow.”

Ignoring them, Maria immediately went to Aria. “ How are you, darling?”

“I’m fine, Marie,” she smiled, looking delighted and a bit of fatigue.

With the same name, they agreed to call each other with their husband’s nickname for them. It took some time for them to get used to having each other being called by other name besides Maria. Nowadays, they were more comfortable with the names and even joked about how Harry fell in love with a woman with the same name as his mom.

“That’s good to hear, honey.”

“Take a sit, Maria,” Andromeda pulled a chair for her.

She thanked her but her good friend just pulled her in a friendly embrace, telling her,” Congratulation, dear. You’re going to be grandmother soon.”

“I can finally catch up to you,” she teased her.

“I wish my Teddy could turn into a baby once more. He was such a cute darling,” said Andromeda in reminiscent before pulling away. “I’m so jealous of you.”

“Stop pressuring me to marry and give you an offspring to dote on, grandmama.” Teddy’s protest filled the whole room with laughter.

“So, where’s the rest of the gang, agent?” Tony squished a seat between The agent and Teddy.

“Agent Barton and Agent May are on a classified mission. They sent their regards for agent Hill and expressed their regret for not being able to come. Where’s sergeant Rhodes?”

“Oh, he can’t take a day off. But he congratulate us.” Tony asked another question. “And uncle James?”

“He went looking for beverages to bring to us,” Teddy scrunched his nose in disgust. “The cafeteria didn’t serve coffee. They served bean water. Bean water, Tony!”

Tony pulled the exact same expression as his best friend. “Eew. I hope uncle James come back soon with the real thing.”

Even agent Coulson and Aria agreed. The male agent expressed a deep sadness. “Even the coffee from the vending machine tasted better.”

Howard who has taken the empty arm chair next to the sofa nodded. “I feel your sadness. When the captain was alive, the army provided us with some dirt water they called coffee at the war room. It looked like coffee but it was no coffee. It’s a good thing I show them the real deal. I have their gratitude for life.”

“All coffee taste the same to me,” Harry stated truthfully.

Came burst of exclamations from half of the occupants in the room.

“Harry, how could you?!” Teddy faintly put a hand on his chest in shock.

“Daaaad, don’t say that. They could hear you.” Tony whispered conspiratorially.

Howard had a stormy look on his face. “You insulted a great name of good coffee, son.”

“I’m having your child,” Aria hit her husband’s chest none too gently. “The least you could do is respect the ‘coffee’.”

And Coulson just looked like a kicked puppy at his hero’s comment.

“It’s not my fault that I’m more of a tea drinker,” Harry rubbed his chest, looking a bit sorry at his blunt statement.

The drama in this family about coffee was truly spectacular.

Five hours later…

They were allowed back into the room after what seemed like hours of delivering. Maria was the first one to come inside, passing Tony. She couldn’t wait to see her granddaughter.

When they entered the room, Aria was resting her back against a pile of pillows looking tired but positively glowing. Harry was standing next to the hospital bed, smiling happily.

“This is Lily Hill-Evans and also known as Lily Hermione Potter,” he showed the baby to them with proud expression. “Say hello everybody.”

“Daddy loved you, honey,” Harry kissed his daughter again on her head before giving a peck on Maria’s cheek. “Thank you mom for coming.”

Her daughter in law loved being a mom but at the same time she loved being a part of something greater through SHIELD. Aria loved her daughter very much but she was a prominent figure in the organization. And since Harry has more free time with his work, he told his wife that he would take care of their daughter. Aria knew that it didn’t mean that she doesn’t love Lily, though.

And with most of their family and free babysitters living in New York, they agreed to moved back to the city and stayed in Harry’s apartment. When it’s time to go home, Harry would picked Aria up with his magic. They made it work, just like the time when they were dating.

If Harry didn’t have magic, the grandmother would have disagreed with the way they lived and how they raised their daughter. But since there’s magic, their compromise worked. And with Tony, Teddy, James, Andromeda, and her and Howard, they have many babysitters to choose and dote on their daughter whenever they’re busy with their job.

“I didn’t come alone,” She stroked Lily’s hair. “Your father is outside, taking a phone call.”

“Oh,” Harry said. “ I’ll tell him goodbye on my way out then.”

“You don’t have to, honey,” Maria stopped him. “Just go already. You’re late.”

After that, her son went and disappear… Apparated. She could practically hear her youngest son’s whine at her lack knowledge of magic.

“I love you, little one,” She cooed at the not so little bundle of joy.

The sound of door opening and shutting indicating that Howard has finished with his phone call. When he came in front of her view, he looked rather pale and anxious.

“Maria,” he drew a deep breathe before letting the air out of his mouth.

“What is it Howie? You’re scaring me. Is it Tony? Did something happen to my baby?” She asked frantically in a low voice, trying not to wake Lily up.

“It’s… it’s Dr. Banner,” Howard finally answered apprehensively. “I think something happen to him at Culvert.”

***

Chapter Text

Vienna, March 2005

“Damn, this is too easy,” Tony complained. “They didn’t even know we were coming.”

He blasted another HYDRA agent on the face. Currently he was raiding the HYDRA compound in a secluded land in Vienna. On the thermal images, JARVIS counted 47 people resided, including 3 HYDRA scientists.

“Perhaps they didn’t get your invitation email, sir,” JARVIS remarked dryly from the com.

Since his AI studied sarcasm a few years ago, he has been trying his hands on it. And every time his effort failed short, the computer program tried and tried again. Tony was proud of his creation for trying to understand the simplicity yet complicated social norm of dry sarcasm. He was a learning program and he never tired to try to impress Tony with his wits.

When he finally succeeded in accomplishing his first act of humor, Tony celebrated it together with his Kid Bots with a glass of DUM-E’s strawberry juice (his oldest AI has been obsessed with his gift juicer) and oil for the bots.

“Oh Merlin,” the genius laughed so hard, he chocked on his tongue. “Good one, JARV.”

“I’m here to please you, sir,” the AI uttered drier as the dessert.

Tony’s cackles just got louder on the com

“Should I be threatened here or something? You talked to JARVIS more than with your uncle. I thought we were partners in crime, “ James’ amused voice shattered through Tony’s musing on the other line of the com. Currently he was cleaning up the West side of the place while James was in the opposite direction.

It’s been 2 years since they, he and James started their crusade on destroying STARK’s weapons and HYDRA. With practice, came experience; therefore, the self-proclaimed Iron Man was able to invent more stuff to help on the Iron Winter missions. Iron Man and Winter Soldier equaled Iron Winter, got it? It sounded less cheesy in his mind.

With his intelligence and input from James, Tony has come out with a lot of useful interesting life-saving gadgets for them to use. For Tony, his black suit has been equipped with cloaking device to make him invisible to the eyes. Combined with a powerful notice-me-not spell, his suit was stealthy as Hell. It wasn’t arrogant if he managed to do the impossible, like combining magic with techs.

He even designed and developed a new costume for James made of black turtleneck covered with navy blue jacket and black leather pants. The color was a personal request from his uncle and a full face black metal mask with mini JARVIS installed on it. The costume was made from dragon hide (except the turtleneck, which was a kevlar) which can endure all magic, fire and most important of all it was bullet-proof. The suit was useful as well as menacing.

Like the suit, the right sleeve has many useful pockets on it to hide small knives and garrote wire. While the left sleeve has been designed with a retractable iron man gauntlet and full metal arm in silver and gold. Father had created one for him to disguise the full growth of his real arm from HYDRA and now Tony just elevated it. The metal arm has a function just like the old Russian metal arm, but lighter and stronger. Tony loved magic and tech so much! Especially combining them, which made the impossible seemed possible. Again, it’s alright to be arrogant if you have the brain for it. Unlike Hammer and his techs. Bleh.

Adding to the ex-spy suit was a magic-imbued necklace that looked like normal wooden beads than could only be taken off by uncle James himself. It was Tony’s gift to him, to protect his mind and to ward him of dangers. He wore it under the turtleneck.

Besides that, Tony was back to inventing weapons, but for James use only. His uncle so loved his guns, knives and sniper rifles.

“You’re the best uncle in the world and I love you, but J is my favorite kid, “ Tony cooed. “Aren’t you J?”

“U would be sad to hear that sir. She thought she was your favorite, “ replied the AI, sorry not sorry tone.

“You’re my favorite, “ Tony gasped dramatically. “But don’t tell her that. We don’t want to shatter her illusion of grandeur.”

“I bet you said that to all of your creations, sir, “ J deadpanned.

“See, you ignored me again, “ James said in a monotone voice. “Oh how did I go wrong in raising this boy.”

“Let’s see. You weren’t in the picture for almost 13 years and when you came back, you were all over the place. It didn’t really raise your case, “ Tony sassed him.

“Rude, “ he sassed back.

J chirped in from the other lines, “ Sirs, it seems that one of the HYDRA agents has self-destructed the place. The count down is 1 minute.”

“Shit. Those paranoid bastards, “ Tony cursed.

There’s no more need for stealth so he forewent his cloaking mode and started coordinating with J to help him map the main control room was.

“It’s okay, eolin sonyeon (korean), I’m in the main control room, “ he told him calmly. In the background there were a few shouting followed by gunshots. “I’m stopping the clock. Currently downloading the files from the computer right now.”

“How long is the download?”

“45%, sir, “ J answered.

“Uncle James, I..”

“I’ll meet you up at the jet after this finish, “ he cut in.

“Okay, then I’ll take the rest of the living bad guys out and tied em’ up to the trees. Don’t forget to call the police, J, “ Tony piled some of the unconscious HYDRA goons on his arms before finding an exit and flew a couple of miles away.

The billionaire threw them onto the ground and began stripping them of their clothes one by one, leaving them with only their tighty whities and undershirts. As he began the process of tying them to the trees, he struck a conversation he has been delaying since he found out about it on the 4th of July.

“ So, are you ever gonna tell me about it?”

“About?”

“I’m a genius for a reason you know, James, “ he huffed. “Don’t think that I don’t know that you’ve been having a secret project of yourself that involves my baby boy J. And I know a couple of files have been missing from the files we plundered from those HYDRA bases before.”

There was silence from the other end of the line.

“You know you can tell me, right? I mean, we’ve been having these secret rendezvous meetings for the cause of annihilating HYDRA for some time now. We don’t exactly have secrets to hide from each other.”

“… I know, little boy, “ there was a quiet hesitance in his godfather’s voice.

“And I mean, “ he stopped talking when he heard one of the men groaned and knocked him back to the land of dream and nazi. “I told you about trying to find Bruce, that genius SOB friend of mine who was always a step ahead of me.”

“I know who Dr. Banner is, Tony, “ the ex-assassin (not so much an ex) said flatly.

But Tony continued his rambled and marched on, “ I got a brain-gasm every time he managed to avoid my detection. His brain is one of a kind, I tell you. It fueled me on to create a better search perimeter with J, you know.”

“And besides that, I need to get General Ross off his trails while at the same time consoling his daughter for having her dad took the shovel talk way off the grid at her fiancé, “ Tony moaned in frustration. “Why is this my life? I finally found someone who can compete with me in the intelligence area and he had to have a life worth of a tv’s soap opera.”

“Tony, “ James sighed. “The download is finish. I’m setting the self-destruct countdown to 5mins. See you at the jet.”

“Uncle James, wait! We haven’t finished talking…”

“Sir, Mr. James has turned off his com, “ the brit computer told him.

“Well, turn it back on, “ Tony frowned, finishing tying up the bad guys.

“He has initiated the protocol, sir, “ J informed him.

“Oh Isolt, “ Tony cursed before resignedly sighed. “I’m in the dog house now, huh J.”

It’s rare for James to initiate this particular protocol. Remembering his previous trauma and sudden moodiness, Tony suggested it to him. And ironically, the protocol itself was named ‘Dog House’.

This protocol gave James the control to stop any communication means to him when he didn’t feel like talking or socializing with anyone, while JARVIS was still allowed to monitor him physically and mentally. It could only be initiated and undone by James himself. He had given JARVIS the permission to undo it if he had been compromised.

“Yes, sir, “ his AI agreed in a flat tone. “In your words, you are screwed.”

“Shit, “ he groaned. “I’m even too guilty to laugh at your choice of words right now.”

“Might I suggest you buy him dinner and a couple boxes of apple strudel, sir?”

“J, you’re a genius.”

***

An hour later…
In Stark’s jet at Vienna International Airport

“Welcome back. Mr. Stark, “ Elise, the french flight attendance welcomed him in front of the jet’s stairs. “I hope you have a pleasant time at the science conference.”

Elise Mullins was a professional 30 something years old widow with a son. Her pretty white blonde hair has been styled neatly and her blue eyes looked at him warmly. The CEO liked how she was friendly but not overly friendly.

A year ago, Tony accidentally met her when she bumped into him outside the airport café. She was quite frazzled and sad at the time, so she was quite taken aback when she spilled her coffee at him. She apologized frantically and Tony got into talking with her until she spilled her beans. Apparently, her babysitter has just quit and it’s difficult to find good help to look after her 5 years old son.

She and her husband were both without family, so after he died, she needed to go back working as a stewardess, but the working time didn’t agree with her. She was reluctant to leave her son and they were both unhappy.

So, since one of Tony’s flight crew has retired, he offered her the job, but after Pepper screened and interviewed her of course. Short story, she got more free time to be with her kid and Tony got another loyal happy staff.

And talking ‘bout Happy, he was smitten for her since that first time he picked him up at the airport. Tony could just see them trying to work it out somehow, maybe like his dad and Hill.

“It was great, the last three days were interesting, “ Tony grinned with his hands full of doggie bags.

“Let me carry those for you sir, “ she smiled.

“Thanks Elise, “ he gave her the two big doggie bags full of dinners, taking the pastry boxes out of the inside of one of the bags. “That one for you, Denise, Ricky and Doug to share. The other one for me and James. You know how big his appetite is, “ he waggled his eyebrows. “He always ate for two.”

The woman also said the last sentence at the same time as Tony.

“You know it, “ he winked and snapped his finger, before walking up with two boxes of fresh pastries for his uncle. After he taken a seat, he asked, “ Is James back yet?”

“Yes, sir. He arrived half an hour earlier and currently resting in his room, “ Denise Hooligan, the 40 year’s old flight attendant with dark brown hair answered, while Elise put the doggie bags on the plane ’s kitchen. She brought Tony a water bottle to drink. “He showed a few pictures he’s been taking. The view was breathtaking. Is he going to be putting another exhibition? Me and my husband quite enjoyed his photos. They were well-taken.”

After HYDRA has been flushed out of SHIELD, uncle James filled his idle time with taking pictures and even taking a few photography classes. Turned out, he had a knack for photography, probably because he was a trained sniper and used to look through scopes.

Mom showed his pictures to a friend who’s a gallery owner and he was intrigued to show his works. And since James enjoyed his status as an ordinary civilian, mom proposed to become his middleman. And his photos did sell quite a lot, which he didn’t need the money anyway with the money he got from SHIELD while working as a high level agent operative. He donated the money from his pictures to the vets and his remaining living relatives, anonymously.

“I don’t know about that, “ Tony said, eyes wondering out to the window.

“It’s quite unfortunate he decided to use an alias for his works, “ she sighed sadly. “He is handsome and I bet many people would enjoy his works if he decided to show his face at his shows.”

“Ah, “ he fidgeted awkwardly. “He is quite reclusive, so I didn’t see that going to happen. You do know how much he enjoy his anonymous identity.”

“Yes. You’re right, “ she shook her head. “If he happened to open another exhibition, please tell us. We’re big fans of his.”

“I’ll make sure the invitation delivers to your house, “ Tony held his bottle like he’s going to cheer for champagne.

“Thank you Mr. Stark, “ she looked delightful. “You’re a dear.”

“But be sure to keep his real identity hush hush, okay, “ he warned her softly.

“Don’t worry, sir, “ She looked gravely serious. “Only me and my husband knew. We honor his privacy so much. He did give us a great favor of taking our daughter’s graduation photos. They were so lovely, the whole family kept asking us who taken them.”

“Denise, I think Mr. Stark is tired enough from his trip, “ Elise came from behind her. “Lets let him rest.”

“Oh dear, I’m so sorry, “ she frowned apologetically, putting her hand on her cheek.

“Nah, it’s fine ladies, “ he waved them off. “It’s late anyway, so I let you girls have your dinner and beauty rest as well at your rooms. (Stark jets even provided a couple of small cabins for sleeping for its crews, *take that commercial airlines) Could you help me tell Doug to take off?”

“Of course, Mr. Stark, “ they chirped in together.

Not 10 minutes later, Doug informed from the speaker that they have permission to take off. After the jet was on air, Elise and Denise came bringing their dinners on plates and a couple of water bottles before saying their goodnight.

Tony was mulling over apologizing to his uncle for prying over his business. It was his choice and Tony’s curiosity put him in a tough spot. He hated fighting with people he cared about and after what James has been through, he deserved the choice to keep his secret.

“Brave up, Stark, “ he marched on to the door and rapped his knuckles on it. “Uncle James? I’m sorry for earlier. I shouldn’t have pried. But you know me. I’m like a cat. A cute cat. Curiosity kills a cat, right?“ He rambled on nervously. “But, it’s not an excuse for my behavior. Mom will kill me if she knew. Please don’t tell her. I’m sorry. Truce? I bought you some apple strudel. We can eat them after our late dinner.”

A few minutes later, the door opened and his uncle peaked out from behind it with his five o’clock shadow and an exhausted look on his face. “As long as we can eat in the room.”

“Deal, “ he grinned happily like when he managed to bring his uncle out of his room that first time on Christmas years ago.

It was later after dinner when the older man opened up to him over dessert.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, “ he said slowly and quietly.

“Uncle James, it’s not…”

“Hey, I never kept a secret from you lille dreng, “ he smiled apologetically. “So it wasn’t entirely your fault that you want to know. But when I find it, you’re going to be the first one I tell. Okay?”

“Okay, “ he patted his arm. “You don’t need to make it a promise. It’s your choice.”

“Yes, and I want you to see my secret after I found it, “ he continued.

“Okay, “ Tony chewed on his dessert nonchalantly, but inside, he was pleased that his uncle trusted him this much with whatever this secret was.

Suddenly, J told him of an incoming call from the speaker. Yeah, he even installed his AI on the jet.

“There’s a call for you, sir. It’s from an unregistered number in Budapest, sir,” he told him. “Should I look over the caller through our satellite, sir?”

With his permission, JARVIS pinpointed the caller to be agent Barton in Budapest.

“Huh, “ Tony said casually. “I thought he was on some secret mission or something. Put him on J.”

When the call came through, Tony began rattling. “I thought you’re on a mission or something, birdbrain. How is the wifey and the little tyke? I still reserved my name for your next spawn’s godfather, right?”

“Yes. They’re fine. And for the hundredth time yes, “ he grumbled under his breath. “And for the other hundredth time, I’m not sorry I picked Phil to be Cooper’s godfather.”

“You said that, but for the other another one hundredth time you kept saying the exact same ‘sorry, I’m not sorry’,” he singsonged. “So we both know you’re sorry.”

“I’m sorry for telling you that Laura was even pregnant,” he hissed.

“Yeah, yeah,” he grinned. James rolled his eyes and resumed eating his apple strudel. “So what’s up robin hood?”

“I need your help.”

“Wait a sec.”

He looked towards his uncle and silently mouthed ‘Music James. Loud’.

After the man put on his headset reluctantly and Tony made sure to turned the highest volume on the Starkpod, he turned around, so that James couldn’t read his lips and answered the phone again, “ Sorry. James is with me but he can’t hear us now. I’m listening.”

“This is classified information, so don’t even think about hacking SHIELD for it, man,” he warned him, tone dangerously serious. “So, Sitwell, me and a bunch of other agents were…”

“Where’s agent agent?” He interrupted.

“Phil has been assigned by Fury to do something else. Cla.si.fied. Don’t even think about it Stark, “ Clint grunted. “Anyway, we’ve been assigned to eliminate this person, shoot to kill order. She is extremely dangerous. I’m talking ‘bout pretty on legs kind of Russian gal but batshit lethal and skillful like May. She's an A level actress and the best in her field of infiltration. She’s like a girl version of the winter soldier, before he turned a new leaf.”

Tony turned slightly around to look at his uncle and looking quite alarmed at Clint’s description, which alerted James. The billionaire shrugged and smiled before turning around again, but not before catching the photographer looking at him unconvinced.

“About 4 hours ago, I was watching her through my scope. Sitwell was on my ear, telling me to shoot, “ he paused. “But then I noticed something else about her. She looked tired. Still dangerous and alert, but exhausted. She was sitting on a table in front of a café. She was a sitting duck on an open space. Practically begging to be killed. I mean, she’s a professional, you know. That’s just suicide.”

“You didn’t kill her, did you?” His question came out more as a fact rather than a question. He knew Barton. The man might be a trained killer but he loved strays as much as his best friend, the bland agent.

“Bingo.”

“Let me guess,” Tony rattled in monotone. “You went rogue, kind off. And you saved her and then got the Hell away from SHIELD. Evaded captures and probably causing some property damages worth millions of dollars. After you were save, you stayed somewhere save and tried to pitch her in about working for SHIELD. Am I right?”

“Almost, “ he said hesitantly. “She started fighting me back when we got to a safe place. I managed to tranquilize her before this phone call, but that’s just because she didn’t fight hard enough.”

“Ooookay, “ Tony blowed up his cheeks before breathing it all out. “You should included the free dental insurance in your pitch. That part probably will help you. So what exactly do you need me for? Extraction?”

“Yeah, “ he told him from the other line. “And probably convinced your dad and godmother to put in some good word to Fury. If Coulson was here, I could have convinced him easier then Sitwell. He’s cool but the man was a by the book kind of man. Shame, he’s almost as good a handler as Phil.”

“I’ll made you a deal Barton, “ he sighed. “I’m on board jet Stark right now and almost crossing the border of France on the way to New York. It would take me two hours to get to Budapest airport, so use those time to convince the crazy assassin chick, yeah? When she said yes, call me back and I’ll make it happen with my father and godmother.”

“You won’t regret it, Tony.”

Tony could practically see the smirk on that smug face in his mind. “Yeah, yeah. My uncle is with me, so don’t let her out of her leash in my jet.”

Aye aye Capitan.”

Tony grumbled, “ I hope I don’t regret this. What’s the name of your guest anyway? Anna Kournikova?”

“Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a the black widow.”

***

Chapter Text

2 and half an hour later…
Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport

Tony was pacing on the floor back and forth for the last 5 minutes in the passengers row. His uncle came and peaked his head out of the room, shooting him with an annoyed look. “Tony, why don’t you sit down? I can hear you from a mile away.”

“It’s not my fault you have an enhanced hearing, “ he snapped.

He knew it was the wrong thing to say the second the words came out of his mouth, but by then, James had put on his mask.

“I’m sorry if I was worried about my godson, “ he replied coolly.

Tony sighed, combing his hair with a hand. “’m sorry James. I’m just worried about Robin Hood. It’s not like him to be late.”

He knew Birdbrain and he knew how punctual the man was in regards to missions. The spy might be the worst person ever when it came to be in time but he took his job very seriously. And since the man had been like 20 minutes late, Tony reserved the rights to be worry about his safety.

“Then call him, “ the ex-assassin took a seat and patted the seat in front of him, motioning for the billionaire to sit down as well.

“I have, “ he sat down, tapping his fingers on his knuckles. “It was disconnected. He didn’t even check in with me yet.”

“Okay, maybe I can help you if you tell me about it?”

“No, I can’t, “ Tony sighed. “This is a SHIELD problem and I can’t involve you back into SHIELD’s shit.”

“I literary signed up to help you do what I helped SHIELD to do for half a decade, kleiner junge (Germany), “ he deadpanned.

“Yeah, but…”

“Just tell me and maybe I can help you, my dear boy, “ he put his hand on Tony’s knee, giving him a ‘I’m the grown up here. Let me help you’ look.

Physically, Uncle James might looked like he was in his 30’s, just like his dad, but his godfather was 88 years old and since he was brought home by Tony’s family in 1991, he would be around 45 years old now, not excluding the times he was unfrozen to do HYDRA’s bidding.

Sometimes, people forgot how old he was with the way he look, but at times like this, his expression and eyes really mirrored how old his soul was and how much he had been through in life.

“Okay, “ he said reluctantly. “But I didn’t break my promise to him because I wanted to, okay? He was late and as a good friend, I’m worried. Especially with his tendency to pick up strays and see the best in people, even if it was some Russian spy chick. Dear Isolt, I talked too much.”

Uncle James just watched him with an amused expression on his face and motioned for him to continue.

After that he told his uncle about the minim information he received from Clint about his mission and his target (ex-target) and how he helped the Russian chick ran away from SHIELD to do something as crazy as trying to recruit the dangerous assassin.

“Well, then you should find any information about this Romanoff, “ James suggested.

“Yeah, but I promise him not to hack SHIELD…” then an idea struck him. “But Laura would be more pissed if I didn’t try to do anything at all if somehow her husband was really in danger. And between those two, I’m more scared of Laura.”

“I’ll make coffee while you find his location, “ James stood up before walking away to the jet’s kitchen.

The CEO didn’t care who Black Widow was but if she did anything to his friend, he would wipe her digitally and physically. Nobody would ever find her body or the traces of her existence. No one.

He walked to his holographic computer on the desk in his bedroom. When he sat down, J immediately welcomed him and as fast as his fingers could tap on the keyboard, Tony hacked into SHIELD and searched for the mission file.

“Ah, here it is. Mission handler Jasper Sitwell. Team members Clint Barton aka Hawkeye, blah blah blah… Ah, there’s the last sighting of their location,” he murmured.

With his hologram desktop, Tony was able to open another screen with a swift of his hand. With J’s help, he was able to trace Clint’s current location and found out that the safe house was on fire and surrounded by fire department as about 15 minutes ago.

“That’s not good, “ James vocally sounded Tony’s own concern behind him, slowly putting a cup of black coffee on his desk.

“Yeah, “ Tony frowned, thinking hard and started hacking the CCTV in the city and let J opened a search perimeter of where they could possibly ran to and who has been chasing after them.

As much as he didn’t like Fury, he knew from agent agent that the director wasn’t one for big shebang. He upheld the same standard in his organization. Subtle and quiet as a church mouse, that’s how he wanted his agents to act. And after what Barton did, Fury must have ranted this agent Sitwell a lot about being discreet and unassuming.

And on the account of Fury’s conversation transcript to Sitwell, Tony knew this wasn’t them. It must have been somebody else. Somebody who wanted the Black Widow as well. And as if the answer wasn’t clear enough, J pinged on HYDRA activities in the city.

Apparently, SHIELD wasn’t the only one looking for her. While his father’s organization made an order to eliminate her, the enemy wanted to recruit and brainwash her to be the replacement of their HYDRA first.

“Seriously?!” Tony groaned, narrowing his eyes at the screen. “We just dealt with these goons a few hours ago.”

“Are those HYDRA?” James asked with a hint of amusement.

“Yeah, they’re chasing after Robin Hood and the spider, “ Tony tried to find the breadcrumbs Clint possibly left for him to find. “

“Spider?”

“Yeah, Natasha Romanoff. Her spy name name is black widow, like the spider, “ Tony huffed. “Shit, I think they found them. “Seriously, could they be anymore cliché with the whole black SUV. It was such a typical bad guy transportation.”

The genius furiously typing on his holographic keyboard, searching for the destination of that HYDRA SUV. “Hah! Found them. We’re going to save Lady Marian.”

It might not be a wise decision to save his friend with the suit, but he could obliviate him later and put a false memory charm on him. It’s best to save the man’s ass first from Nazi ordo.

“Appertum, “ with a swift of his hand, a dimensional hole appeared, “ accio suit, “ and produced his iron man suit into his bedroom.

When he was working as SI’s head of R and D, Tony found a way to transfer the workings of his wand into another thing. At first he used a ring as a channel of his magic until he realized that he looked a bit girly in it especially with his short stature, so he used a watch.

He needed to tinker a little bit with it since he had to fuse it with a wristwatch, which was a tech, but it worked. His watch didn’t just work as a smart watch and wand but it also could be activated into a gauntlet. It was also unbreakable and removable only by him with an addition that his magic could only be activated with his voice.

“Since it’s HYDRA, do you want to join in, uncle James?” Tony turned around to look at the man.

James was frozen and looked as white as sheet.

“Black Widow,” he said with a blank expression on his face. His eyes though, they were stormy with emotions.

“Uncle James, what is it?” Tony asked, worried filled his voice. “Did you know her?”

The older man shook his head minutely and quietly told him,” Did you remember the secret that I told you before?”

“Does she has something to do wit ‘it’?”

“A little,” the photographer stood up, turning away from Tony to avoid looking at him. “It’s about… I missed a year worth of memory from my time as the winter soldier. From 89-90.”

“What?” He jumped from his seat at the news. “But I thought the healer at St. Agnes have undo everything HYDRA did to you.”

“I know. At first, I didn’t think much about it. But ever since I retired from SHIELD, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. There was a hole in my memory, so I tried to find out about Winter Soldier’s missions, “ James sat down on the bed. “It wasn’t easy so I asked JARVIS to help. And we found out something about the Red Room half a year ago when we raided that HYDRA base in Colombia.”

“Red Room?”

“It’s like HYDRA but they didn’t digitized their files, so there’s not many things JARVIS could find on them.”

Tony made a disgusting face at that. “It’s the era of tech, people. Be more respectful.”

Ignoring his godson, he continued. “The winter soldier was being rented to Red Room for a year but there was no further information about the organization. But I found new intel on today’s HYDRA data. There were something about the Black Widow program. It’s connected to the Red Room.”

“Let’s go then, “ Tony put his suit on. “We found Clint and the lady assassin and then you can interrogate the black widow and found out about what you were doing in Red Room and how did you miss your memory for a year. Then I will obliviate her.”

As an answer, Uncle James unpacked his suit case.

***

Outside an abandoned brick warehouse somewhere in Budapest…

J had put the video vid outside the warehouse on loop so that James could take out the guards quietly. Tony helped carry the guards somewhere and hid them.

“So, I’m going to…”

Before Tony could finish his sentences, his uncle said, “ I will watch from the roof.”

The ex-spy took out a pair of knives before running towards the warehouse, stepping his foot on the wall to walk, jabbing both knives on the bricks and began climbing the walls like… ironically Climbing wall, the sport.

Tony mumbled inside his iron man helmet, “ Show-off.”

After turning the cloaking device on, he charmed the door to open and quietly closing it behind him. Inside the warehouse, there were HYDRA agents in black body armors aiming their machine guns at the two people standing on guard in the middle of the big room.

One of them was Clint and he didn’t look so good. His face was black blue and even his left cheek has started to swollen. His right arm has been shot and leaving a flesh wound behind but his left leg has been shot through and through.

Next to him was a red-headed woman in her early 20’s. She looked quite fine besides from the obvious swollen on her cheek and a cut on her upper lip. She was wearing a catsuit that showed her figure nicely… Shut up, Tony! Not now, he ranted himself.

Then one by one the nazi agents started falling with bullet holes in their heads and now all the guns were directed towards the roof. They began firing at the glass rooftop. While they were distracted, Tony started firing with his gauntlets.

He got three of them before some of them began firing in his direction. Thank Merlin, Clint and the spider used the distraction to run away. One of bad guys saw the two of them getting away and aimed his gun at the red head.

Out of nowhere, James appeared and grabbed the gun. He hit him with it before sweeping the man’s feet in a matter of second. Then he moved his head to avoid the knife coming at him from the back. James grabbed his opponent’s elbow and flipped the man until his back hit the concrete. And after, he elbowed the man on his face and used his gun to shoot another man in front of him.

Tony knew that his uncle could handle himself, but he still worried sometimes. Then more bullets hit his armor, so he charged those men with his suit and sent the to the land of unconsciousness.

After all the men were down, as per usual, J called the authorities and Tony asked him to clue the SHIELD team in on the location of the HYDRA goons as well. It would throw their chase over Clint and his chick friend.

Iron man hoped they went to the airport immediately. And thinking about them arriving first put Tony into a panicked mode. “Winter, come on. Hurry up, we need to be there before the assassin duo.”

He pushed James outside and apparated with him into the jet’s bedroom. Tony immediately got out of his suit and kept it in his dimensional pocket hole. When he turned around, his uncle has finished packing his costume into his carry-on.

“Look good?” He asked his uncle, fingering his hair and tidied up his shirt.

“I think I am, “ the older man tied up his hair into a bun.

Tony cocked an eyebrow, giving him a look. “I mean me.”

His answer was a shrug; thus, Tony rolled his eyes at him. After checking that everything was fine and that nothing looked out of place, the wizard took his coffee and sip it. It was a bad decision since he cringed at the taste of cold coffee. From behind him, James looked over and commented, “ Cold?”

“Good coffee is hot black coffee. Hot, “ he emphasized and squinted at the coffee, like it had mocked him with its existence.

“Good coffee is drinkable coffee. Whether it’s hot or cold, “ James sat on the bed and shrugged. “I learnt that at war. You have to accept what you have because that’s the only luxury you can get.”

“Maybe it was like that at war in the past, uncle James, “ he sighed. “The future is filled with great wonderful stuff, like hot black coffee. Hot.”

Then he put his cup down and asked him, “ So how do we play this?”

The wheels on James’ brain started to turn around, “ I’ll come out after the jet is on air.”

“Genius, “ Tony snapped his finger. “By then, she can’t run away from the plane because we’ll be on the air. Okay then. You just stay here and let me wait for them outside.”

Tony closed the door behind him then taken a seat while sipping his bitter cold coffee. Maybe I had time to warm the coffee back, he thought to himself.

As he casted a warming charm on his coffee, Robin Hood and his friend sat down in front of him. And as if this was the first time he saw his friend looking terrible today, he immediately asked his pilots to fly the jet after door was closed.

When they were up in the sky safe and sound fifteen minutes later, Tony suddenly stood up which prompted the widow to tense up.

Feeling offended, Tony said, “ I have a first aid kit box here somewhere. I’m just going to take it.”

“You didn’t look surprised, “ the woman commented. Tony noted that there was no Russian accent in her English. “At his injuries.”

“Being friends with him, I tend to not be surprised at the scrapes or wounds of the day, “ he lifted both his shoulders nonchalantly.

“Forgive my friend, Stark. We’ve just been kidnapped by HYDRA, “ Clint answered in a mumble. “I think I lose a tooth.”

“Is that why you and your friend were late?” The genius came back with the box and put it on the seat next to him. He asked calmly, “So what happened?”

“We were ambushed, “ he grumbled. “But we managed to escape though.”

Clint’s lady friend’s informed him, “The winter soldier and ghost came. They were a good distraction.”

“The who now?” Tony didn’t need to pretend to be surprised, since he was surprised. Not at the rescuing, but at the alias that came after winter soldier. His alias, apparently.

“The winter soldier and the ghost… You didn’t hack SHIELD?” He looked at Tony incredulously. “They were quite famous these past two years.”

“I have other important things to do, like being a CEO and inventing new things, “ the genius raised an eyebrow at his friend.

“The winter soldier, well you met him before. But the ghost, he was a new guy. At first, we thought that the soldier was back working with his old employer after his retirement from SHIELD and with new costume, but apparently, he was continuing his vengeance towards his old employer and even got a new partner… Ouch,“ the archer gave him the stink eye.

“Big baby, “ Tony smirked at him and kept cleaning his friend’s leg. “So this new partner. Ghost? Why do you call him that?”

“He’s invisible, packed big punches and not many alive have seen his solid form, “ he said in conspiratorial tone. “And the ones who did, said that the ghost was a robot made of black metal.”

“Huh. Interesting.”

“You would have loved that, “ Hawkeye snickered. “Checking on the workings of the robot or something. I wonder where the soldier find his new partner. The man was formidable, but with his new partner, they were unstoppable.”

“The real winter soldier is dead. That soldier was a fake, “ Romanoff spat out.

“I told you, he’s the real deal. He worked with us good guys for 5 years. And you saw him just now, “ Clint huffed. “He’s very much alive and well.”

“He might fight like him, but the real soldier is dead. I know, “ she looked up from her hands and narrowed her eyes at Tony with so much hatred. “because he was killed by your parents.”

Then the assassin chick suddenly put a small knife onto Tony’s jugular. “You don’t want to do this, ms. Romanoff.”

Clint tensed up. There was a warning in his voice when he said, “ Don’t think about it, widow. If you do this, I will do what I was ordered to do. And you don’t want to make an enemy of the Starks and SHIELD.”

“Your parents killed him, “ she growled.

“No, they didn’t, “ he said calmly. Tony trusted his dad’s talisman to protect him from mortal dangers such as this. “They saved him.”

“You lied, “ she hissed. “ I read the file mission. I knew how the mighty soldat failed to assassinate the Starks 14 years ago. He never came back.”

“Because my parents saved him, “ Tony repeated peevishly. “He was saved. By my parents. Now stop making me feel like a broken record.”

Then suddenly she changed the subject.

“Someone is behind that door, “ the woman hissed in suspicion at the door, which were located two seats behind Tony. “Come out.”

“It’s just Stark’s uncle, widow. He’s harmless. A civilian, “ the agent told her calmly, as if talking to a spook animal. A spook widow…spider.

“Come out, “ she said, almost to the point of yelling.

The door to the bedroom opened. His uncle has his hands up in surrender. “Please put down your knife. I don’t want you to hurt…”

“Yasha?”

***

 

Chapter Text

A couple of hours later…

On air in the jet

 

Tony had called his father and aunt Pegs about Hawkeye possibly bringing the super dangerous femme-fetal, and asked them to delay SHIELD.

 

They weren’t happy about it, so there was a lot of shouting coming from him and aunt Pegs through the video call on the holographic screen. His father mostly listened and in the end, he trusted Tony to do what he thought was right. With 2 against 1, Aunt Pegs reluctantly conceded to Tony’s demands.

 

But she also gave an ultimatum. If in one hour after he landed that Tony didn’t ring her, she would come to the jet and busted him out off it herself. Even though Tony has tried to appease her worry by telling her that uncle James was with him.

 

There’s still a matter concerning the spider that put Tony on edge. And until it was resolved, he wouldn’t let the widow out of his jet and into the land of freedom. Thus, he immediately contacted his dad to meet him in the airplane after he landed. Yeah, in the airplane, not hangar.

 

The genius was asking his dad to apparate into the airplane in front of a no-maj. Or a person who looked like a no-maj but possibly magic.

 

9 hours earlier…

 

“Yasha?”

 

James’ looked taken aback before he completely shut down, no emotion could be decipherfrom his face. He has turned on his winter soldier look on. And in front of guests.

 

The widow slowly stood up from her spot and walked languidly towards his uncle. In panic, Tony lifted his hand. But before he could cast a spell, his uncle stopped him with his palm up and shook his head a little while saying, “Don’t.”

 

It took a minute for the Russian chick to get in front of James with his hypnotic hesitant walk. And seconds ticked by before her fisted hand opened up, and to his surprise, her hand was trembling.

 

Tony was nervous at the close proximity between his uncle and the red-head. “Uncle James, I don’t think…”

 

He put another stop to his words with his hand. It shut Tony up real good but it didn’t stop him from feeling nervous about his uncle’s safety, even if his uncle was the number 1 assassin in the world.

 

On the other hand, the fugitive didn’t seem to notice the tension in the space. Little by little, she reached out her hand. At first Tony thought that she was going to grab his godfather by the arm and possibly pinning him to the wall.

 

To his surprise, the young woman put her palm on James’ shirt. Soothingly, she stroked the fabric and seemingly tried to convince herself that the man in front of her was real. Tony could see that her whole body started shaking, as if she was overwhelmed by something. Something he couldn’t put his fingers on.

 

She took a hold of James’ shirt and grasping it tightly in her petit hand before looking up at him. Quietly, she said something in Russian,”я думал, ты умер. я увидел отчет, Яша.”(I thought you were dead. I saw the report, Yasha)

 

Slowly, James put his hand on top of the girlie assassin, tenderly moved his thumb back to front on her stiff knuckle andwhispered. “ я был спасен.“(I was saved)

 

“я пропустил тебя. (I missed you)

 

Я здесь сейчас, милая . (I’m here now, sweetie),” James put his other hand on the woman’s head gently. “ Я больше не оставлю тебя .” (I’m not going to leave you again)  

“The f*ck,” Clint said not too quietly.  

Tony choked on his laugh, “Subtle, Lady Marian, subtle.”  

Their comments kind of ruined their somewhat touching moment. Tony didn’t know what they were saying, but he knew how to read the moment.  

“Mer… damn,” Tony cursed, putting his hands on his hips and looked at his uncle. “Do you want birdbrain to know? I mean, about you. Because this,” he flailed his hand from his uncle and the female assassin to Clint back and forth. “needs a further and much complicated explanation.”

 

James opened his mouth to say something, but closed it and shook his head when the woman tensed up. “Not yet.”

 

“Okay,” the wizard inhaled deeply and exhaled, watching his uncle seriously. “But if I do this, I need to do it to the both of them.”

 

He could see the hardened look on his godfather’s face. Tony emphasized on the need to do it again. “The statute of secrecy is very important, Uncle James. You and I both know, if they found out, they would come here and do it themselves. And we don’t want that, do we?”

 

If the aurors noticed Tony using magic in front of the no-majs, there would be hell for Tony, especially since not many know about his status as a wizard or as Harry Potter’s son.

 

“What are you talking about, man?” Clint asked confusedly from beside him.

 

Ignoring his friend, Tony waited for James’ respond. The ex-assassin closed his eyes for a second before opening them again to stare at Tony. That’s enough of an answer to Tony.

 

He flicked his hand towards Clint and whispered,” obliviate.”

 

After that, he put a false memory charm on the man before putting him to sleep with his dad’s potion. He always brought some and put it in his dimensional hole.

 

Tony turned to face the red-head, who has in turn looked back at Tony wide-eyed in fear. “This is just a simple memory charm, ms. Murder. It will erase your memory of seeing me do magic. That’s it. I promise.”

 

Все в порядке, ребенок. Тони хорошо. обещаю. ” (It’s okay, child. Tony is good. I promise) James murmured on her ear.

 

But even with his godfather’s assurances, the lady looked suspicious and scared. Tony was fast though, so before she could run away, Tony casted the spell.

 

To everybody’s shock, the light from the spell bounced off of her. The young Potter took off his wand wrist-watch and inspected it carefully. “Well, that shouldn’t have happened, “he looked at her in wonder. “What are you?”

 

James managed to convince the Russian lady to take a rest in his bedroom and they have been in there for more than one hour. They seemed to have a history together, possibly in Red Room because of the black widow program. Maybe he remembered her somehow.

 

Maybe they’re catching up on old times or something. Tony hoped and prayed it wasn’t something romantic, bleh *fake vomiting. Cause thinking about his cool uncle, pun unintended, having a relationship that didn’t involve family stuff and taking out of the bad guys, was just eww. And the spy girl was literary just a young woman much younger than his uncle. There’s just no way.

 

Thinking about what the both of them were doing in the room just made Tony wanted to scrub his mind. Dirty thoughts, shoo, shoo.

 

In the meantime, Tony occupied his time with something else, like levitating Clint’s body to his bed and sat back on his seat in the passenger’s seat. He calculated that Barton would be up about ten hours from now with brand new false memories and well-time spent on sleeping. The man looked like he really needed the rest.

 

Tony was sipping on his cup of coffee when James came out of the room. He looked exhausted but there’s a new atmosphere around him. He appeared lighter and freer than before. Less stressful.

 

The older man took a seat opposite Tony’s and smiled at him. “Ask away, bachgenbach (Welsh).”

 

“Who is she? Where did you know her? Is it in Red Room? Have you remembered your time in that place? How about…?”

 

“I take it back, “the man cut him off. “I will tell you everything.”

 

The CEO motioned with his hand as if saying ‘be my guest’.

 

“I remember,” James told him quietly. “About what happened from 89-90 when HYDRA lent the winter soldier to the Red Room.”

 

“How? What happened?”

 

“When she called me, Yasha,” he sighed deeply. “Suddenly it all came back to me. They called me Yasha there and I was tasked to train a group of young girls how to fight and kill. I couldn’t even call them girls. They were only 4 to 6 years old girls. So young and fragile and they asked me to hurt and forced them to fight.”

 

James laughed but there was no humor in it. “That’s what the Black Widow program was all about. That’s what Red Room does, or did. She told me that she destroyed them all before escaping. There’s no more Red Room.”

 

“Wait, wait,” Tony looked confused. “I don’t understand one thing though. How did you just suddenly remember about it? I mean, the healer from st. Agnes wasn’t able to uncover it with magic, but when the assassin chick called your Russian name, the memory was suddenly unlock? It’s just too weird, you know.”

 

“I think it’s her,” the photographer made a quiet allegation. “I was there for one year and for that whole time, I started regaining my memories slowly as Bucky. Without the torture, cryogenic or the chair, I felt healed, even just a little. But I couldn’t up and ran away from there. “

 

James looked a bit starry-eyed for a moment. “I’ve grown attached to this one girl. She was fierce but sweet. And she was the best candidate in the program. When I remembered what they and I did to her to deprive her off of her innocence and childhood, I…”

 

Tony patted his uncle on his shoulder. “You had no choice. You were brainwashed, James.”

 

“But I…”

 

“Not really your fault. And if it wasn’t you, they would let others do it,” he squeezed the man’s shoulder reassuringly.

 

“She was…,” there’s a tear ran down on his cheek. “From all those girls and she…  She was only 5, my Natalie. I loved… love her. She was the reason why I stayed. I couldn’t just leave her.”

 

The look on James’ face wrenched Tony’s heart. He never see his uncle this broken with guilt. The guilt that’s eating him from having to hurt someone that he loved. He assumed Natalie was Natasha Romanoff. It explained their closeness.

 

“Then, one day,” he suddenly looked blank. “I heard her screaming. It was the most painful horrible voice I’ve ever heard. So I barged into the room where they held her and killed all those people who were torturing her,” he smiled viciously. “Putting those bastards down, satisfied something in me. No one messed with my girl.”

 

“She was hurt badly and when I held her in my arms,” he stretched his arms wide, as if relieving the painful memory. “I was so afraid I’d made her injuries worse, but she… my ребенок, she was strong. She said she knew I would come and save her. At that moment, I promised her that we would run together. Then they came in and tried to separate us. Then the last thing I remembered was Natalie telling them not to hurt me. She said,’ Я заставлю его забыть обо мне. Только не делай ему больно. Пожалуйста.’” 

“I don’t speak Russian, uncle James,” Tony remarked. 

“She said,’I'll make him forget about me. Just don't hurt him. Please’,” James told him.  

“That’s a very weird thing to say,” the wizard cocked an eyebrow.  

“And Natalie didn’t have a red hair before,” said the brunette. “Her hair used to be fair. Silvery blonde.”

 

***

 

March 2005

10 o’clock

La Guardia Airport, New York

 

The airplane has landed in New York and currently parked in Stark’s private hangar. He had let his flight crews home to have this private meeting. Tony’s dad arrived not a moment too soon inside the Stark’s jet with a loud pop.

After greeting and hugging his dad tightly, he asked,” Where is my dear sister?”

 

“She’s with Andromeda and she can spell her name now,” Harry boasted proudly.

 

“Genius runs on our bloodlines after all,” Tony bragged. “I brought her a present from Vienna. I bet she’ll love it.”

 

“She will love everything her favorite brother gives to her, Orion,” he smiled.

 

Tony called for James and the Russian girl to come out of the room. They all sat down on 4 different seats, minus Barton who was still sleeping soundly in the bedroom.

 

“Hello, my name is Harry James Evans,” Harry extended his hand out towards Romanoff. “What’s your name?”

 

The young woman had her fingers fisted on James’white casual button down shirt and sat still on her seat, glaring suspiciously at his dad. Rude.

“ведьма.” (witch) 

“волшебник, котенок” (wizard) Uncle James corrected. 

"He’s one of the people who saved me. He’s a good friend.”

“My name is Natasha Romanoff.” 

“Hello, ms. Romanoff,” his dad took out a note book and a needle from his jacket pocket. “In my community, I’m what people called a healer, or doctor in no-maj’s world. No-maj is people who lack any magical ability or aren’t born in a magical family.” 

“Like me?” She asked quietly. 

“That’s what we’re going to find out, ms. Romanoff,” the healer said calmly. “I only need a drop of your blood on this paper. I’m going to do a lineage spell. That’s it.” 

When the young lady still looked hesitant, James grabbed the needle,” Let me try it first, okay?” He put his hand on her head reassuringly and pricked his finger before letting a single drop of blood fell onto the paper. 

Harry swift his hand over the notebook and suddenly words and lines started to appear, producing a family tree of one James Buchanan Barnes. And next to his grandmother was his grandmother’s sister who has a word witch next to her name. 

“Your grandaunt certainly was a witch, James,” Harry stated the obvious.  

“I told you,” he remarked before looking at his… (daughter? Kid? Protégé?) Romanoff.

“Do you want to try?” She gave a short nod and held her hand out for the needle. 

She did the same thing James did and his dad casted his spell.  Like with Uncle James’ blood, the lineage started to appear. As Tony had thought, there were wizard and witch in Romanoff’s lineage, her great grandmother and grandfather. But what made him gasped in shock was her grandmother. He wasn’t familiar with her name but her designation was a magical species.  

When he looked up from the notebook, he could his dad looking quite taken aback before he regained his composure and said,” Interesting.” 

“What’s interesting?” James asked, trying to hide his perplexed look. Romanoff was doing the same thing, but the slight trembled on her lips was a telling of her nervousness.   

That’s when Tony gave out the baffling details his uncle told him a few hours ago,” This,” he pointed to Romanoff’s grandmother’s name,” might be the reason why her hair changed color from blonde to red.” 

His dad looked at him,” She was blonde?” 

“Yes,” he confirmed. “Her hair color was fair the last time I saw her. Before today, I didn’t even remember her.  I lost my memory from 89 to 90. That was the year that I knew her.” 

“Tony has put a light onto that front,” Harry nodded and reprimanded his friend. “You should have informed me about it before. I could have helped you.” 

James looked uncomfortable at being scolded and tried to change the topic. “Anyway. What is her grandmother had to do with Natalie being immune from magic?"

Harry sighed before smiling. “I think I can explain this anomaly of hers. She has magic or had. A wizard or witch manifested their magic in early age, but when the magic is being forced to manifest before its time, it usually could go in two directions. Either it will manifest or it will not. But in Ms. Romanoff’s case, the magic is gone. Not depleted, but it just cease to exist.” 

“Ho… how?” She voiced herself. 

“Depends on what you were forced to do or what you felt you must do when you were a child,” he looked at her gravely.  

“She was trying to help me, I think,” James trailed off, looking open-eyed at the young woman. “You said you made me forget.”

Her mask broke a little as she smiled sadly at James. “You told me if they found out that you have remembered, they will hurt you and made you forget about me. If you forget, they wouldn’t hurt you.” 

“Memory charm is a powerful magic,” Harry tapped on the book. “It’s impossible for a child to cast it. But in your case, the blood running through your veins is magic and with your core, it helped made the spell happened. And when you met again, the spell broke somehow." 

“Blood?” James asked. 

“Yes,” his dad pointed at the name Tony pointed out before. “Your grandmother’s species and their descendants have a certain characteristics to their appearance like their fair-colored hair. That explained the spell working and why your hair turned its color.  

“You might not have magic anymore but your grandmother’s blood strengthening itself inside you to pay for the loss of magic,” Harry smiled at her. “Your immunity against magic? Well there are a lot of things we don’t know about her species yet with their secrecy. Maybe that’s one of their characteristics.” 

“So, what creature was she?” 

“Veela. You’re a squib and a quarter veela” 

***

Chapter Text

April 2005

Since agent Barton brought ms. Romanoff back, SHIELD has been in chaos. The procedure and politic involving what the agent has done when he disobeyed a direct order and evaded capture were complicated. But when he succeeded in recruiting the most wanted female spy ever, it become more complicated.

His primary handler (not the handler on the Budapest mission), Agent Coulson tried to defend him. But even with Phil’s affinity and precision towards paperwork and SHIELD’s regulation, Barton had still almost been branded a traitor. It was a wonderful thing that he got Aria, whom was Fury’s own Deputy Director and SHIELD’s former Directors, Howard and Ms. Peggy to back him up on Barton’s case and Ms. Romanoff’s trustworthiness.

In the end, Hawkeye managed to dodge a bullet, literary and figuratively. The agent only got demoted into a probationary agent and responsible for the Russian ex-spy. If ms. Romanoff broke any rules or acted suspicious, it would be on Barton’s head.

As for Ms. Romanoff, she would be allowed to train and used some facilities in the building, exempting the restriction areas. She wasn’t allowed to leave the building for any reasons and if she as much as step foot outside the door, there a shoot to kill order on her head. SHIELD, especially its director took his job very seriously in protecting his agents and the people of America.

After she stayed, trained and followed SHIELD rules for a year, there would a review on her performance and whether or not she would like to continue to work with SHIELD and would be given a contract if she accepted the offer.

And there’s what Aria called ‘or else’ if she didn’t accept SHIELD’s offer but Harry was sure that ms. Romanoff would not do anything to jeopardize her second chance at family. She would not do anything that would separate her from James, her father-figure.

Ever since James got his daughter back, he looked more settle down than ever. In his contentment and worry over his daughter’s safety, he opened up to Harry’s wife about him being the Winter Soldier and his relationship with the ex-spy. At first, she felt wary after knowing the truth, not about James because she knew him for years now, but about Ms. Romanoff. But, in the end, she threw her chip in because she trusted Harry, her step son and James.

With the Russian’s confinement to SHIELD’s building, James also asked Tony for a way to communicate with her. But in the end, Harry just lent him his invisibility cloak. How he got passed the security into the building to find Ms. Romanoff to have a chat, Harry has no idea. He’s just glad he could help his friend out.

Harry was also relieved that his son and James’ names would not be included in Clint’s report about how he and the red-headed woman got out of Budapest or that Orion did such a good job on his false memory charm that Hawkeye didn’t even question his memory. The archer also made up some stories about his familiarity with the former directors from his good relationship with Maria Hill-Evans, his wife.

Even though the matter of Ms. Romanoff’s existence and dwelling on SHIELD has been resolved, Aria told him that many agents still walked on eggshells around Ms. Romanoff. They were waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Harry didn’t blame them since they were working for a spy organization. It’s logical to have doubts and suspicions over new recruits, especially one that was as dangerous as the infamous black widow. Right now, the only people who tried to communicate with the ex-spy and tried to build a foundation of trust were Clint, Phil and his we’re, even if the latter two still felt guarded around her.

It’s been a week since then, and with everything that has been happening, it wasn’t odd if Harry forgot that the new cycle would begin next week. The funny thing was, Tony was the one who reminded him about it.

An hour ago…

“Come on muffin, it’s time to go,” Harry called out from outside of his daughter’s bedroom. It’s date night and Lily was going to spent a night over at Tony’s.

Lily was on the phase of being independent, so even though Harry was the one who packed her bag, Lily insisted on him leaving the bag on her bed. She also told him that she wanted to get ready (‘I wanna bush my head’) by herself. Harry had to bite the inside of his cheeks to stop himself from cooing at his toddler, but it would only upset her and Harry couldn’t stand her pouting. It was cuter than Tony’s bambi eyes, which he thought wasn’t even possible.

And that was 5 minutes ago, so the former Ilvermony teacher knocked on the door, “Daddy’s coming in.”

And he found his daughter sitting in front of her tiny dressing table trying to put a hairpin on her hair. Her eyes were a bit watery. Harry guessed that she was struggling to open the hairpin.

“Oh, muffin,” he said. “Do you want me to help you?”

And there’s come the pout. She nodded a little and Harry kneeled next to her, taking the hairpin between his fingers. He carefully put it on his daughter’s soft shoulder-length chestnut colored hair.

“There you go,” he kissed her cheek and wiped her tears with his thumb. “All better. You brushed your hair very nicely, sweetie. Good job.”

“Weally?” She asked quietly. She hasn’t been able to pronounce her R sound, but Harry wasn’t worried in the least. She would overcome it when she’s older.

“Yes,” he stood up and smiled at his youngest. “Now, grabbed your backpack. Let’s wait for your brother outside.”

Lily smiled widely before taking her Powerpuff girls’ bag and held Harry’s hand. The doorbell rang when he closed Lily’s door behind her. They could hear Tony’ s voice calling from behind the door. “Silly Lily, your favorite brother is here.”

Harry chuckled at his son’s antics. “I bet that’s your brother. Go open the door, muffin.”

Lily started skipping and stopped when Harry reprimanded him. She walked and opened the door for her brother. The younger wizard grinned before closing the door and bowing. “I come to pick you up in my red chariot, Princess Lily.”

She pounced on her brother and looked up at her brother, giggling,” It’s a wed car, silly.”

Tony guffawed and pulled her up into his arms. “I guess you know better than me, then.”

“I’m smawt, like you Tony,” she booped her brother on the nose with her finger.

“Yes you are. The smawtest,” Tony cooed.”The smawtest girl in the whole weld.”

“Tony, we’re trying to let her get used to using r,” Harry rolled his eyes at his son. “It wouldn’t work if you encouraged her by copying the way she talked.”

Tony grinned,” Sorry dad. Buts she’s just soooooo cute,” he smooched her forehead.

“Tony eew,” she giggled. “Daddy make him stwop.”

He couldn’t help the wide tug on his lips from rising up. When he found out that Aria was pregnant, Harry was beyond joy, but he also felt worried about his son. He didn’t want his son to feel that since he had a new family now, that he wouldn’t have time for Tony anymore. He knew that Tony was already a grownup, but he was anxious to find out his reaction.

Turned out, Tony was happy and he loved his little sister so much that he volunteered to babysit her. Sometimes, they had Tony or his adopted parents to babysit Lily so that he and Aria could go on date nights.

He loved his wife so much, but with her busy job and parenthood, Harry put his foot down on date night once a week to rekindle their romance, which thankfully Aria agreed to. They didn’t just go to restaurants on these dates. Sometimes they just go to see a movie or eat takeouts in front of the tv and cuddled on the sofa while Lily had a sleepover with her grandparents or her big brother, which Tony liked to call their brosis time. This only happened three times since they began their dating nights on Last Valentine.

Lily loved spending time with his parents and son. Howard and Maria loved having her around, and his mom would asked Lily to help her baked some cookies and desert in the kitchen. His daughter loved bringing her baking results home for her parents to try.

When she’s with Tony, she would learn new things like numbers and his son was a great teacher. He was able to make simple math interesting to the 2 and half year old girl. He was a doting brother and he liked to invent new tech and fun-learning apps for Lily to use. Tony even brought Lily to work sometimes and Ms. Potts set up a kiddie table for her on the corner of Tony’s office with crayons, color pencils, play dohs and coloring books.

Whenever Tony was roped into a sudden meeting, the PA would look after Lily and played with her. The rest of the family really liked the young woman. And he knew that the family wasn’t the only one who liked her every time Harry caught his son with that softened look on his face when Ms. Potts’ back was turned away.

Harry wondered when his not so little genius would ask the girl out on a date because Pepper seemed to be smitten over him as well if the fond look she threw at Tony when he was being eccentric was any indication. The older wizard hoped that it would be soon. Or not, he would ask Rhodey and Teddy to talk some sense into his son. The look they gave one another was sweet but it was quite frustrating for him to watch.

“So Dad,” Tony called his name. “I think the cycle will start soon. Next week, right? Do you want me to babysit Lily for you? Mom and father would be happy to help you babysit her as well. At least until you come back.”

That pulled Harry out of his musings. “Um, from where?”

“You know,” Tony waved his hand around. “From your ‘trip’.”

“What trip?”

“The trip,” Tony looked amused. “The one you took every 9 years in April. It’s happening soon.”

For a sec, he looked dumbfounded at his son. Tony’s brows creased in confusion. “Did you forget?”

Harry swallowed and fidgeted. “I guess… I did.”

“Wow,” Tony remarked. “I guess we should go now, Princess. Say bye-bye to dad.”

“Bye-bye Daddy,” she waved sweetly at Harry before Tony turned around with her towards the door.

“Wait, why the hurry, Orion?” He asked in confusion.

“Let’s just say,” he turned around and trailed off. “I don’t want to be here when you tell Hill about your ‘trip’, which I’m 100% sure you haven’t told her about.”

He grinned and said,” Ciao, Dad.” Before walking out off the front door, leaving harry with his mouth slightly open in fear.

Harry had worked up the courage to tell his wife about the cycle. She would be home soon and coming through the decoration chimney that they had put in the living room. The chimney itself was a personal floo network that connected their home in New York with their home in DC.

And instead of using floo powder, Tony had upgraded it by putting the powder inside his handmade iron bracelets, which used by both Harry and Aria. Lily didn’t need the bracelet if she went through the chimney with his parent. This would prevent her from wondering through it herself, especially with her curiosity.

When he heard the rustled sound coming from the chimney, Harry wasn’t ashamed to say that he was nervous. When he married Aria, he knew that one day he would have to tell her about his side job. She would be the second person he told and he wasn’t ready for this.

The green fire burst out of the fireplace and came out his wife. No matter how fatigue she looked, in his eyes she still looked as beautiful as the day she met her.
He welcomed her with opened arms, put his lips on hers and brought her to the sofa to sit down.

Aria let herself be cuddled by her husband, putting her head on his chest and sighed contentedly. “Have I told you how much I love date nights?”

“I think you have mentioned it for several times, “ he chuckled. The wizard summoned the hot cocoa on his hand. He had left it on the kitchen counter with a warming spell. “Cocoa?”

“I love magic, “ Aria received the warm cup with both hands and a bliss look on her face. “I have the best husband in the whole world.”

“I’m here to please, “ he kissed her on the top of her head. “How was work?”

Harry was not ready to open up with ‘I’m the master of Death and once every 9 years I have to do my job as the master, which was going to be a week from now’.

“It was the usual. Fury was going to make me stay overtime, “ she nuzzled her head on his chest, finding a comfortable position. “But Phil owed me. I’m not going to miss our date night, honey.”

“Mm, “ he put his arm around his wife, stroking it over and over.

Aria sat straight up, turned her head around to look at her husband with a cocked eyebrow. “What is it? You’ve been looking rather distracted since I’ve gone home.”

“I guess you knew me too well then, “ the healer put a couple of his wife’s strain hair behind her ear.

“Don’t prolong it, “ she hit his shoulder with the back of his hand. “Spit it out.”

“Okay, “ he smiled nervously, lifting his wife off of his lap and placed her next to him. She looked at him attentively, waiting on him. With all her focus on him, it just made him grew more agitated.

She put her hand upon his and gave him that smile that smitten him after 6 months of dating each other. “I love you. You can tell me anything.”

She was so understanding sometimes.

“Just remember one thing. I have had to clean up some mess the new recruits done today. So, whatever you’re saying ,” she took out her gun from her side pocket holster onto the coffee table. “I hope it’s not bad news. If it was, I have to warn you that I might be upset,” taking out the other gun onto the table,” and I hope you’re okay with it.” She looked at him with a too sweet and too tight smile.

Aria was the love of his life. The mother of his daughter and the friend of his son. But she has a certain temper, which rarely happened. She didn’t like to be caught off guard with surprised news when she has bad days. A few years ago when he told her about the wizarding world, she took it quite well because he broke the news after a nice date. But then, he forgot telling her about his son.

When Tony slipped it up on a conversation and gave him a terrible step-mother joke, Let’s just say she was giving him a silent treatment for almost a week. But that wasn’t the temper that he was talking about. It was the way she came home after work and sat on the sofa, cleaning her guns while glaring at him quietly. It didn’t scare him, but he felt bad.

Although, he had to admit that he felt slightly uncomfortable and aroused at the same time when Aria was sharpening her knives on the Whetstone.

Maybe you should tell her next time. Probably after a wonderful date, his inner voice that sounded like Tony said.

He put the thought away. It’s better now rather than later, he thought.

“So, what is it?”

“Just remember that I love you very much, “ he lifted his hand to touch her hand when she suddenly crossed her hands across her chest with a bland look upon her face.

Well, that’s a bust, said his inner Tony voice.

So, he braced himself and told her everything. She seemed to take it very well.

“So my husband for almost 4 years are telling me that he is not just the hero of the British wizarding world, but he’s also the most powerful and dangerous person in the world, “ she recapped. “And being the master of Death, he would be out of the world incommunicado for a month every 9 years.”

“Are you upset?” Harry asked with heart pounding inside his chest.

The SHIELD agent curled a small smile, putting her hand to play with a strand of his hair. “I’m not.”

Harry breathed a little bit easier. Maybe she… “ouch, “ he said more in surprise rather than hurt.

“I’m furious, “ she pulled a lock of his hair, still smiling. “I’m not angry about the secrets or how long you kept it from me, “ she pulled his hair harder, making him bit his lip to stop himself from yelping. “Just the timing you chose to tell me.”

Harry could feel himself started to sweat.

“I gave you clues about my day, “ she patted Harry’s cheek. Little too hard. “I told you ‘Fury wanted me to stay overtime’ then I said ‘I have had to clean up some mess the new recruits done today’ and ‘I hope it’s not bad news’ while pulling out my guns from the holsters.”

“But you told me to tell you, “ he whispered, trying to defend himself.

“I was being nice, Harry, “ she hissed. “You should have said, ‘I’ll tell you tomorrow’, “ she stood up with her hands on her hips, smiling with her lips but not with her eyes. “You could have just planned a nice picnic tomorrow on Sunday in the park with all my favorite food and strawberry macarons as dessert, but no. You have to rip the band-aid tonight. On date night.”

“I…”

“You’re my husband and I will always love you but I’m going to be angry for a while, “ she walked to the living room drawer, pulling something out. “But do what you gotta do. I will be staying with Tony or your parents with Lily because I couldn’t be away from my baby.”

“So, are you going to be mad at me for more than a week? Even after I came back from the trip?” Harry asked with the last courage that he has.

Aria came back to the sofa and sat beside him with her cleaning kit for her guns while glaring daggers at him.

Yeah, you probably should have gone with the date, his inner voice said with an ‘I told you so’ voice.

Oh shut up, he cursed his own inner voice in his head.

***

 

Chapter Text

June 2006

“Sir, incoming video call from Ms. Jane Foster,” JARVIS chimed in from the speaker on the upper corner of the ceiling.

Tony was in the office when he got a phone call from one of his science acquaintance, Jane Foster. The woman was Tony’s a genius in her field and on her way to complete her Ph.D. as an astrophysicist.

It was weird of her to call him since she never did that before. Sure they had each other’s numbers but she and Tony weren’t exactly on good terms but they have moved from being on worse terms to acquaintances with bad terms and not enough credits to be friends.

He met Foster 8 years ago on a double date. Bruce was smitten with Betty, a girl at the university where he worked at and it was adorable how nervous he was to have his first date with her. So he rooted Tony to accompany him on the date.

In turn, Betty also brought a friend for Tony, making it into a double date. To Tony’s amusement, she brought a stranger, literary. Her name was Jane Foster and she was a College student in the university where, Bruce and Betty worked.

In her defence, she panicked when she saw Bruce brought him from in front of the cafe. So, she pulled Foster, whom was sitting behind her with her coffee and told her she would pay for her to be Tony’s blind date.

Silly couldn’t even begin to cover it. It was a disaster waiting to happen. The date go well for the intended couple, but for Tony and Foster, it was the worst date ever. They didn’t really get along with each other. The opposites attract didn’t apply to them. They had a pretty bad first impression of each other. She thought he was a spoiled Richie rich, while he considered her as a crazy stargazing b*tch.

Yeah, it wasn’t a very good first meeting. Without Rhodey, Bruce has to try his best to separate him from the younger female from going face to face with each other. Betty was Switzerland, so she managed to take Foster away for a walk.

Tony didn’t even remember what started the whole fight, but he just didn’t like her very much. Bruce was quite disappointed in him, possibly for cutting his date short.

To Tony’s dread, in their walk, Betty and Foster befriended each other, even with the obvious age difference between the two women. She told them that she was a genius and knowledgeable about her chosen field of study.

So, once more they tried this double date thing. Betty insisted on it and Bruce, the infatuated bastard agreed readily. He and Foster almost killed each other on the second date.

The couple thought their friends would get along well since they were both almost the same age with good looks coupled with good brains.

Very wrong, BB. (Bruce Betty, not BB gun or B&B)

It took quite some time for them to be in the same room. Tony had to admit that she was as smart as Betty Beth promoted to him. And with BB nudging here and there, they could finally be in the same room together without biting each other head’s off.

Usually they gathered around to talk about science, old and modern. It was fun and Foster did bring insights to her field. It was an interesting subject, not lame liked he once thought and she was brilliant. They got along nicely when they talked science together with other people in a group.

After the fourth time they had a disagreement that included her storming from the room looking red in the face and him drinking a bottle of scotch looking pissed, their friends have learnt their lessons well not to leave them alone.

In conclusion, their relationship was like water and oil. They may be both liquid, but they would never mix with each other, without their detergent molecules. Coz detergent attracts both oil and water, so… Anyway, in this case, the detergent was their friends.

“Put her on, J,” he answered, curious at the reason behind her call. Her face was projected from his holographic desk. She looked casual as always with unkept hair and t-shirt with a pair of glasses. The background looked like a bedroom, which has seen better days.

“Friend of my friend, acquaintance of mine, to what do I owe this unpleasantness of your call?”

“ Stark,” she greeted not too warmly.

He clicked his tongue in annoyance and grimaced. “Attitude, young lady. I see your manner is still lacking.”

She looked a bit red in the face,” I knew this was a mistake.”

“What are you talking about banana foster?” He cocked an eyebrow.

“This,” she flailed her arms around. “Calling you was a mistake.”

“Buuuuuut, since you already call me,” he put his elbows on the surface, and his hands holding his chin, grinning. “You might as well tell me why you rang moi.”

“Or I could just hang up and do us both a favor of not killing each other verbally,” she stared at him coldly.

“Or I could hack your phone and computer, pestering you to tell me the reason for this unpleasant call, or you could do us both a favor by telling me anyway,” the CEO grinned, baring his teeth to challenge her.

The woman glared at him, crossing her arms in front of her chest.

“You know how per.su.a.sive I can get, twinkle-twinkle little star,” he singsonged.

The scientist spat out,” Fine! Betty needs you. Call her.”

And the line was cut off.

“I think she still don’t like you, sir, “ J informed his creator.

“The feeling is mutual,” he sighed. “J, call Betty. If Foster feel deigned to call me, then it’s serious.”

“Calling Dr. Ross,” J replied.

When the call went in, he heard the woman’s voice. “ Hello?” Her voice was breaking, as if she has been crying. “Bruce? Is it you?”

“Sorry, sweety,” he called softly. “It’s Tony. How are you?”

“Oh, hi Tony,” she sounded devastated. “I… I’m fine.”

“No offense, Betty tweety, but I don’t think you are fine, “ he bit his lower lip. “Foster called me to check on you and you know how much she loathes me. She wouldn’t contacted me if you were fine, Beth.”

“… She doesn’t loathe you, “ she whispered, changing the subject. “She dislikes you.”

“Understatement of the year, “ Tony muttered mockingly. “And don’t change the subject. Now, could you turn on your video call? I will feel much better if I can see you, sweety.”

“I don’t want to, “ she said petulantly.

“Come on, honey, “ he coaxed her gently. “I’m worried. Foster worries. Don’t make me come there. Or do you need me there?”

“No?”

She sounded unsure and not for the first time Tony felt his heart clenched. The genius felt sorry for Betty and furious at her fiancé for leaving without asking for Tonys help. He knew about the military project after hacking the government or how the experiment turned Bruce into a jolly green giant when his emotion ran high.

If only he came to him for help or if only Bruce wasn’t so good at staying under the radar, Tony could help him with magic. It would be difficult and expensive, but he could have made him a talisman to control Bruce’s transformation. After all, Tony had invented such thing as werewolf talisman for the wizarding world, had even patented it and sold it cheap. He invented the talisman to honor Teddy’s father, who’s also Tony’s grandfather’s best friend.

“No. No, you don’t have to come, “ she answered with much more conviction and her face suddenly appeared on his holographic desk. Her eyes were blotchy and there were tear stains on her face. She looked worn out and rather miserable, but her eyes still radiated with the fighting spirit and kindness to forgive that Bruce loved so much.

“Oh Betty, “ Tony said with a sad tone. “You wanna talk about it?”

Her lips trembled a little and she sniffed a bit before wiping her eyes with a tissue. “I just missed him, Tony. So much, it hurts.”

“I know, honey, “ he answered calmly. “I bet he misses you too. I’m not defending him, but he is scared he’ll hurt you. You know how he is.”

“Yes,” she snuffled. “I know he’ll never hurt me. When he turned into that big green giant, he listened to me. He protected me. But my dad…”

The scientist sobbed again.

“Oh, Betty Beth, don’t cry,” Tony begged. “You know I can’t handle a crying woman.”

“ ‘m sorry Tony,” she wiped her tears. “Today would be three years since he ran away.”

“Left you,” he corrected. “It’s okay to say it like that. He didn’t mean to, but he did leave you.”

“Yeah, yeah he did,” Betty said, a little angrily. “I’m angry at him for leaving me. I know he didn’t trust himself not to hurt me, but I trust him. He should have trusted me. I know him better than he know himself.”

“That’s the spirit,” Tony woo-hoed. “And I promise you, sweety. I will find him and I will drag him by the ear until he kneels in front of you and begs for your forgiveness. He’s my science bro, but you’re my science sista, girl.”

She chuckled with her hoarse voice.

“And if you still love him, “ he continued earnestly. “I will do anything in my power to stop your father’s influence in the military from charging Bruce. I have stopped him so far, but he is…”

“Obsessed with Bruce? Wanting to recreate his formula? Doesn’t approve of our engagement?” She said quietly with the kind of tone that hid how pissed she was.

“All of the above, “ he agreed. “But don’t you worry. I have dirt on daddy dearest, and I’m willing to blackmail the general just so that he would back off.”

“Thank you, Tony, “ her eyes were watery once more, but this time she looked grateful and relieved. “You’re a good friend.”

“Hey, that’s what friends are for, “ he winked. “After all, what kind of best man I am, if there’s no groom, right?”

“Seriously, Tony, “ she curled up a tremble smile. “I don’t know what I’ll do if we don’t have you. You helped us so much. So much.”

“I don’t doubt you’ll figure something out, “ he felt embarrassed at the praise, but gave his friend a small smile nevertheless. “I just speed things up.”

After, they talked some more and by the end of the call, Tony felt convinced that he had left Betty feeling much better and less depressed. Oh, Bruce, you have a lot of things to make up for your fiancé, he thought.

There’s a knock on Tony’s door before it was opened a little. He couldn’t help but smiled when a certain red-headed woman peeked her head in from the opened door.

“JARVIS said you need me?” She said hesitantly, darting her eyes around.

He glared at the ceiling, where he knew J’s camera was installed. Meddling AI, he cursed in his mind.

Since he introduced him to Pepper a few months ago, J took great length to try to push him together with her. His boy was trying to play Cupid, somehow.

Tony wasn’t oblivious, no matter what his parents or AI thought. He lo… Liked Pepper, but she’s his PA. It’s not professional and he didn’t want to use his position to seduce her, except from the occasional harmless flirting. He has boundaries and lines that he wouldn’t cross, however much the media tried to expose his love life.

The genius dated, but he only had 1 serious relationship so far and that only lasted for half a year. With his busy schedule, time spend with his family and friends along with his secret missions, he didn’t really have time for romantic relationship.

And Pepper… he wanted to be with Pepper, but he’s afraid that she wouldn’t return his feelings. After all, in her eyes, he’s just her childish boss whom she had to drag from inventing binge to board meetings and babysat to do paper works and documents.

And even if she did return his feelings, he was afraid that if they broke up, he would lose Pepper. Tony was afraid that he would lose their friendship, which he cherries more than anything, after his family.

He knew how cowardly he sounded for someone who was very innovative and inventive in both no-maj and wizarding world, but feelings wasn’t something that he could calculate or measure. It was intangible and it could either crush you with miserableness or reward you with the chance of happiness.

Tony just didn’t want to take any chances.

The CEO was awakened from his contemplating by Pepper clearing her throat. Without his notice, she has come in and stood in front of him, looking worried.

“Tony?” She asked, sounded a tad apprehensive. “J sounded worried when he asked for me. What happened?”

Pepper treated J like a person, which was a plus on Tony’s list. Could she get any more perfect, he asked himself in amaze.

“Nothing,” he waved nonchalantly. “Just Betty. I was consoling her about her fiancé.”

“ You mean Dr. Banner?” She took a seat in front of Tony.

“Yeah,” he rubbed his stiff neck with his left hand. “He’s still missing and today is like the anniversary of him running away 3 years ago. I promised her I would find him, “ sighing in defeat, he muttered,” Sometimes I think, she’ll be better off if she moved on, you know? But, I know Bruce. I watched them romancing each other out and they were perfect for each other, you know.”

“I don’t know them very well, except when you mentioned their names, “ she slipped her hand slowly on top of his stretched hand on the desk. “But some people are worth waiting for. Right?”

Tony was mesmerized by Pepper’s eyes. He was fixated by her eyelashes, and how nice it was being watched by those eyes. And her smile was sweet and understanding. He could just looked at her all day and all night and never be bored.

Unconsciously, he flipped over his hand so that their palms were touching and slowly stroke her slender fingers with his thumb.

“Right,” he agreed, still gazing at Pepper's beautiful face. “Pepper.”

“Yes?” She smiled softly, as soft as her voice.

“I…”

Then the ringtone broke them from their hypnotizing moment. Pepper pulled her hand off of Tony and took her phone out of her blazer, looking at the caller id. She looked at Tony apologetically,” I have to take this.”

“Okay,” he said quietly.

“Will that be all, mr. Stark?” She asked with a tender yet shy smile on her face.

He answered their usual courtesy Q and A with a warm smile. “That will be all, ms. Potts.”

Maybe someday, he would have the courage to tell her. The courage to say how much gone he was for her. Someday.

***

Chapter Text

December 2006

“That apple pie smelled delicious, honey,” Howard said, hand wandering towards the wonderful cinnamon smelling warm apple deliciousness dessert on the pie cooling rack.

But his hand was batted by a wooden spoon by his wife, whom was looking at him sternly. “Howard Anthony Walter Stark, don’t you dare.”

While at the same time, Andromeda hissed,” Get your hands off of that pie, Mr. Stark,” and Hill growled, “I will cut your fingers, father-in-law be damned, “ while Pegs threatened him something in Croatian.

“But it smells so divine,” he whined, making grabby hands as Maria pushed his body away from her dessert.

“You just have to wait until after dinner,” she pushed him out of the kitchen, into the living room.

The Stark’s Penthouse has its living room and dining room connected to each other in one big room, so they could commute after dinner towards the living room faster. Especially on Christmas where the whole family came to celebrate the biggest holiday by eating dinner together, which were cooked by Maria, Andromeda, Pegs and their badass daughter-in-law.

“But…”

With a hand on her hip, his usually sweet-loving wife glared at him. There’s several strain of blond and white hair in front of her eye, making her looked endearing in his eyes. It’s wonderful to see Maria looking her best, but the way she looked a bit messy and didn’t afraid to get her hands dirty in the kitchen, could still make his old heart fluttered in his chest.

She blew her runaway bang from in front of her face and huffed with another pointed look. “After dinner.”

Then the door was closed in front of his face. Thankfully, it didn’t hit his face. Behind him, he heard soft laughter coming from his oldest son. Turning around, he saw Harry sitting on the love seat in the living room, bouncing his granddaughter on his leg.

Lily, his darling granddaughter looked so cute with her hair tied up into pigtails and the pretty purple dress, white bolero and pink tight complemented her sweetness perfectly. She’s the cutest and sweetest little girl in the world and he’s one sappy grandpa.

“Oh, don’t you start, mister,” he took a sit on the couch next to the love seat.

“I know when to hold my battle,” he shrugged. “Especially when Aria was in the kitchen.”

“Mommy no like Daddy in kitten,” Lily giggled with her hands on her mouth. “Mommy’s eyes like this,” she pulled the side of her eyes into lines.

“Kitchen, sweetheart,” Harry corrected his daughter’s speech.

Howard made a whipping motion and sounds, the universal language for ‘whipped by one’s spouse’.

“Touché,” the wizard’s lips tugged a little, before he blew raspberries at his daughter and tickled her. “And now here’s come the tickle machine.”

“Hahaha, Daddy nooooo,” she giggled. “Grandpa, help! Hahaha.”

The old man joined the fray by taking the little girl out of his oldest son’s hands and sat back on the sofa to tickle her in his arms.

“Grandpa, noooo,” she giggled, arms waggling around.

“I’m not grandpa. I’m the tickling machine’s friend, the tickling monster,” he growled playfully.

A loud pop sounded from behind them, “ What are you doing, uncle Howard?”

Having sons and friends from wizardry world that liked to popped in and out of their living place had trained Howard and Maria from being surprised when they arrived out of nowhere with a loud sound.

At first, it sounded so much like a gunshot sound, but in time, they managed to distinguish the noise. He would not lie about still being a bit nervous every time he heard the sound, even after Tony gifted him and Maria with magic rings. (‘Infused with protective charms and a compilation of counter-spells. Can’t believe I invent them with these hands’)

Turning his head around, he looked at the brunette and greeted him,”Hi Teddy. Just tickling this cutie-pie.”

“Teddy!” Lily stood up from the couch, hair a bit messy. “I miss you!”

“Lily, I miss you too honey. How is my favorite girl?” He bend a little to talk to the girl.

“I’m gweeeeat,” she stretched her arms as wide as her mouth when she answered her much older friend.

“It’s rude not to address your godfather, boy, “ the older wizard smiled at his godson from the love seat.

“I didn’t see you there, Harry,” he stood up; walking around with his arms wide and was received by the older wizard in a bear hug.

“I want Teddy,” Lily pouted before the old man pulled her and smothered the 4-year-old with kisses. “Grandpa, noooo.”

While the child laughed her heart out and has all of her attention on her grandpa, Teddy could take his time by talking with Harry.

“Been a while, Ted,” Harry squeezed his godson’s shoulder fondly.

Teddy pulled himself away from the hug. “Sorry, Har. Work kept me busy these days.”

“Well, don’t work too hard. You still have a life outside of work, “ he patted his shoulder, motioned him to take a seat on the other couch. “Maybe a special someone?”

The brunette took his glasses off, cleaned them with the end of his robe. Without looking at his godfather, he calmly asked, “Did grandmama put you up to this?”

“Well, I wouldn’t lie, “ the healer shrugged. “ But she did confide in me about it a couple of weeks ago.”

“I told her already, “ he put his glasses back and frowned. “I just haven’t found someone, yet. She pestered me too much about this. I mean Tony is still single and you or uncle Howard and aunt Maria never push him to find a wife.”

“Andromeda is just worried, “ he tried to defend the old woman. “You aren’t even trying to look or date someone. And you know Tony has someone he set his heart at.”

“I know, “ Teddy sighed, rolling his eyes dramatically. “I still didn’t understand why he didn’t just date Pepper. I mean even a blind man can listen to how cute they are when they’re talking about anything besides work and just know that they like each other. It’s ridiculous how adorable and obvious they were into one another.”

“It is ridiculous, “ he nodded in agreement. “But not as ridiculous as you trying to change the direction of this conversation from you to my son.”

The auror suddenly sprawled on the sofa, head thrown back and groaned, “ I almost succeed.”

“Not even a little, “ his upper lip twitched a bit. “At least tell me this. Is there anyone that you like? Even a little? Maybe a co-worker?”

The younger man looked at him blandly. “If I had someone, would we be here sitting down and talking about it right now?”

“Well, no, “his son amended. “But…”

“I’m still young. Only 28 years old, “his fingers carded through his hair. “10 years younger than my dad when he had me. In my opinion, I still had a decade before I need to settle down with a wife and kids.”

“Your father was a werewolf, “ he explained, adding quickly with, “and he was afraid of having a relationship with anyone lest he hurt them. And your mother, Nymphadora, “ he smiled, “ she was relentless and hopelessly in love with Remus. She chased after him and convinced him to let her in.”

Harry sighed deeply, “What I’m saying is, you don’t have an excuse not trying to find someone.”

When Howard looked at the displeasure arisen from Teddy’s face, he immediately cut into the conversation. He pulled the little girl on his lap and looked toward Harry. “Harry, the boy’s still young and a workaholic. Maybe he just wants to have time to himself at this moment in his life. After a while, he could take his time to think about raising a family.”

This prompted Teddy to smile winningly, but then the billionaire looked toward the younger wizard. “And you, Teddy, my boy. You should at least try dating someone. Your grandma will not push you to try to marry every lady you date. At least tried seeing someone, anyone you feel attracted to. Ease her mind. She’s not getting any younger if she kept worrying over you.”

Both men grudgingly nodded, in Harry’s case, he mouthed a ‘thank you’ at him. He gave his son a quick wink before there was a buzz on the door. He put Lily on Harry’s lap and walked down the hallway to answer the door.

It was Bucky, with a dark brown leather jacket and scarf, hair tied up into a pony tail with several locks ran away around between the side of his face and thin beard over half of his face as usual. Next to him was a beautiful young woman in her early 20’s, short wavy red-haired and red lipstick. She wore white coat and black scarf around her neck with black jeans. As confident as she tried to portray herself, Howard could see her lips trembled a bit, and definitely not from the cold.

The woman has a wooden box of chateaux margaux that he and Maria loved to indulge themselves on certain occasions. The oldest Stark guessed it was probably the good year’s one, since James liked to splurge on gifts for people that he liked and he knew well about Howard’s taste for good wine.

“Hi, Ingenieur (German), “the former soldier curled up a little smile at his old friend. “Are we late?”

Bucky so fond of calling him engineer in every language that he knew.

“You know you’re not, Bu… James, “he cocked an eyebrow. “The ladies are in the kitchen. They’re quite busy.”

Bellissimo (Italian) kicked you out of her kitchen, didn’t she?” He teased him lightly.

“Let’s not talk about how my wife kicked me out of my own kitchen, shall we?” He rolled his eyes at his friend, motioning them to get inside. He opened the closet door, next to the front door where coat rack was.

As the two of them finished hanging their jacket and coat on the coat rack, Howard opened with, “I’m Howard Stark and you must be ms. Romanoff.”

She stiffened immediately and seemed to try very hard not to clench too hard onto the wine box, but her eyes were on him, bravely watching him under her eyelashes, daring him to kick her out for her infamous past.

“My sons didn’t tell me anything about you. They respected James too much to gossip about you. But I was one of the people who saved you, you know. I hear things from James about you, Ms. Romanoff, “his smile softened a little. “It’s not much but he told me that you’re his daughter. The one that he loved and lost more than a decade ago.”

She didn’t loosen up until Bucky’s shoulder touched hers. She looked more relaxed after that. His father nudged her a bit, prompted her to slowly hand the box of wine to him.

“папочка…Yasha said you like this brand of wine,” she said politely. “It’s 1945.”

“Really? 1945?”

“I was trying to be funny,” he shrugged nonchalantly.

“By choosing the year when you went missing?” He cocked an eyebrow, feeling slightly amused.

The man shrugged yet again.

Howard couldn’t help but laughed. “Considered myself amused.”

Howard still couldn’t believe that in his state of mind years ago, Bucky still managed to attach himself to a child, let alone adopted the said ‘child’ who was legally a young woman as his child 15 years later.

The official knowledge about the adoption papers was secretly known to a few people only, since being a Russian ex-spy alone could put her on the government radar. The risk of being deported or put in prison were too big. The information about the adoption was so well-hidden that even SHIELD didn’t know how Howard was able to speed up the process of Romanoff becoming a US citizen.

As Howard received the box, he looked at the packaging. It was still nice and solid. James probably bought it on his travel abroad. As he inspected the box, James talked to his daughter.

“все в порядке, котенок. (It's alright),“ James reassured her. ”You can call me anything you want in front of him. I trust him.”

“если он предаeт нас, я могу убить его?” (If he betrays us, can I kill him?)

She was smiling serenely as she said this. Howard wasn’t a talented businessman for nothing. To be great at negotiating deals and contacts overseas, one has to be able to understand more than one language. It’s a good thing; he understood Russian and could speak the language fluently, even if he had a sucky Russian accent.

“Твой отец - мой друг. если я предаю тебя, тогда я предаю свой собственный принцип.” (Your dad is my friend. If I betray you, then I betray my own principle)
He said solemnly. It’s not out of ordinary for him to receive threats, even if it came from one of the best assassin known present.

“Каков ваш принцип?” (What is your principle?) Romanoff seemed delighted at being spoken to with Russian.

“Мой друг - моя семья.” (My friend is my family) Then he added,” Пока они не окажутся надежными, как Баки здесь.” (Until they prove themselves trustworthy, like Bucky here)

“Я люблю его лучше, чем его болтливый сын. Но его удар ужасен.” (I like him better than his chatty son. But his accent is horrible)

“может быть, вы можете научить меня.” (Maybe you can teach me) He grinned.

“когда рак на горе свистнет.” (*equivalent of ‘when pigs fly’) She smiled sharply with all teeth.

“Наталия,” Bucky grunted softly.

“I’m not that good with Russian idioms, but the one you just said was said to me more than once by my business partners in Russia. I understand the message clearly, Ms. Black Widow,” he raised an eyebrow amusingly. “Come on. Come meet the rest of the guests.”

When they entered the living room, Howard immediately put the box on the dining table and looked towards the drawer for something to open the box. It will go great with the roasted beef and surely it would be wonderful to enjoy the whole bottle with the family.

“James, how was France?” Harry asked while Lily made grabby hands at the man. “Uncaw James, uncaw James.”

“It was beautiful. Hello, princesa (Spanish),” James swooped the little girl up in his arms. “I want to introduce you to my daughter.”

“She small like me?” She whispered in his ear, shyly.

“No,” he rubbed his nose on her hair lovingly. “She’s big. Like Tony.”

“Aw,” she looked disappointed for a moment before her face lighted up again and she clapped her hands cheerfully. “It’s okay. She’s gewl. I have gewl fwend now.”

Bucky turned towards his daughter. “Lily, meet Natalia. Котенок, this is Lily, Harry’s daughter and Tony’s baby sister.”

“No baby,” she pouted, arms crossed. “ ‘m 4,” she pulled four fingers out from her fist, showing them to the young woman. “Big gewl now.”

Howard had managed to open the box and now was watching the interaction between his Lily and newcomer. He knew he should feel nervous of having his granddaughter in close proximity with an infamous assassin, but her anxiousness around the toddler made him felt more at ease. No killer could hurt that cute face. Not even the black widow.

She smiled a little,” Hi, Lily.”

“Hi,” she waved merrily. For a little girl, she was a feisty child. Very brave and outgoing like Tony when he’s still a little boy. “How aw you?”

“I’m fine, thank you.”

“I have big fwend. He’s Tony’s fwend,” she informed her with her child-like speech. “His name’s Teddy.” She turned her head around, looking for her friend. “Teddy! I have new fwend!”

“Alright bossy Lily, wait,” Teddy’s voice came from behind the balcony door. He stepped back inside with his hands inside his slack.

“What were you doing there, payaso (*clown, Spanish),” Bucky sounded perplexed, turning around to look at the younger man. “It’s freezing out there.”

Teddy smiled, walking towards his uncle James. “Uncle James, it’s been a while,” he hugged the man, with Lily in the middle. “Work stuff. I don’t understand how anyone could still work on Christmas. I love my work, but family time is still number one in my calendar.”

“Teddy, can’t bweath,” the little princess huffed.

“Sorry, sorry,” he grinned, letting go of the man so that Lily has room to breathe.

“It’s okay,” she accepted his apology graciously before pointing at Ms. Romanoff. “Meet my new fwend. Natalia.”

Teddy could be oblivious sometimes, but even Howard could appreciate a beautiful lady (James would kill him if he say this, but his daughter is hot, *Maria would help carry the shovel for him) standing not too far away from him.

The brunette looked towards the red-headed woman, whom he seriously didn’t notice was there before and the billionaire swore he heard his breath caught in his throat. He looked nervous all of a sudden, “ He… hello.”

“I’m Natalia,” she told him with a small courteous smile.

“Lupin… I mean my name is Lupin,” Teddy ‘s eyes looked around in panic. “I mean you can call me Teddy. Teddy Lupin or just Teddy. Just call me Teddy or Ted. Or whatever you like.”

As soon as he said that, Teddy’s face turned red; moreover, his hair turned as pink as Maria’s favorite soft pink roses. It’s been a while since he lost control of his metamorpmagus. Curious, Howard thought.

In turn, the young woman chuckled, but she put a finger to refrain from further laughing. Black widow put up a serene expression, although, her eyes still showed some mirth in them. “Hi, Teddy.”

“Hello,” the auror squeaked embarrassedly. He tried to smile, but it came out weird and his hair color turned into neon pink. “Hi. I mean hello again.”

James looked uncomfortable all of a sudden and his body language turned rigid. He watched the interaction sharply with narrowed eyes.

Oh, oh.

Interestingly, maybe Andromeda didn’t have to wait long until Teddy tried to date again. But Romanoff was a wild card. It could be nothing, yet it could also be something. Howard couldn’t wait to see how this pan out. 

***

Chapter Text

May 29th 2007

“Yes, I will need the contract ASAP. Tomorrow the latest, capiche?” Tony talked to the man in the video call.

The man seemed broody on the video, but he coincided to Tony’s demand. The CEO cut the video off and called his PA to the room. His beautiful PA, Pepper Potts came in with her stark pad. She has her beautiful hair tied into a bun and she smiled warmly at him when she arrived at his desk.

“Mr. Stark.”

“Ms. Potts,” he clasped his hands together, smirking. “So, I’ve got no more appointments for today, right?”

“Yes,” she checked Tony’s schedule on her pad. “No more for this evening. You have finished all your duties for today, Mr. Stark.”

The billionaire stood and stepped out of his desk to circle around it until he was standing in front of his secretary. “So I have no more work stuff to do for today?”

She took her eyes off the stark pad, holding it to her bosom and looked at her boss from behind her slightly longer bangs. “No.”

The younger Stark leaned his back against his glass desk, arms winded in front of his chest. “So, office work is over?”

“It is as it was 30 minutes ago,” She cocked her head slightly to the left.

Before long he stretched his arms wide and enveloped the woman in his arms, surrounded her with his scent, a mix between his cologne and natural scent. Tony quietly kissed her nape and quietly said,” I miss you.”

“Tony,” she said exasperatedly, tried to push him away, but not too hard. “We’re still at work.”

“Don’t you miss me?” He peppered (haha, Peppered) her ear and neck with kisses. “We’ve been sooooo busy today and you did say, you will let me off after I’ve finished all of my homeworks.”

Then he pulled his face to look at the red-head with a pout and puppy eyes. “It’s my birthday.”

Pepper’s face turned pinkish a bit. She could never resist his puppy eyes, but she bit her lower lip to reinforce her resolution. “Not here. We worked here.”

Tony dramatically sighed. “There’s nobody, Pep. Everybody has gone home. There are only us, unless you count JARVIS, though.”

“I am forever your loyal invisible servant, sir,” JARVIS deadpanned from the ceiling.

“See,” Tony pointed out. “I can’t kick him out. He’s practically my own limb.”

“Wherever you go, I go,” the AI drawled.

A few seconds passed before Pepper looked up and asked,” Are you sure there’s nobody around JARVIS?”

“Yes, ms. Potts,” the computer answered. “There are only a handful of security personnel and cleaning crews in the building. And none in this floor, yet.”

Pepper sighed and smiled sheepishly at the billionaire. “Okay then. After all, it is your birthday.”

She put her hands behind his neck while Tony adjusted his arms around her waist. “Now, give me a kiss.”

She chuckled,” Bossy.”

“You know it,” he smiled when she pressed her lips to his and gave him the sweetest, most gentle and passionate kiss he ever had in his life.

It’s been a blissful 5 months for Tony and Pepper. It was everything he ever hoped and dreamt of a relationship with pepper. She was wonderful, they were good… no, they were great together. At work, they stayed professional, she insisted on it. Pepper didn’t want people, press or her co-workers to think that she was using him to climb the social and work ladder by climbing him, pun unintended.

Thus, nobody knew about their new budding relationship, except of course his family and her parents. They were happy. He could totally picture her in his life for a long time. Maybe it was the honeymoon phase talking and when it went away he would laugh at it, but Tony wanted Pepper in his life forever. Not as friend or subordinate, but as his spouse.

She was his best friend, female one and he has loved her for quite sometime. She was an amazing woman and Tony was the luckiest son of a b*tch to have her chose him. He knew it was too fast to plan their whole life ahead (two kids and a bunch of baby robots), but he wanted it all with her. Maybe in two years, he would pop out the big ‘M’ question.

It was the best thing ever when he thought about what happened a few months ago. He didn’t know why he was so scared about telling her about his affection or that he was madly in love with her after a few years working together.

Tony still remembered it like it was yesterday, when he finally confessed to her. Even if, the witnesses of his confession would disagreed with him strongly since it was his little sister who actually blurted his feeling about Pepper.

Christmas, 2006

“So, you’re telling me that Mr. Evans, your butler, ex-butler is your biological father? Which means that Mrs. Hill-Evans who is 10 years older than you is your step-mom…” Pepper laid down the fact.

“I never call her that,” Tony who sat next to her in the limo scrunched his nose in disgust. “It’s too weird. Even now I still had a hard time hearing my sweety Lily calls her mom. I was like, should I call her mom as well? And I was like no way. If I called her that, it would mean she was pregnant with me when she was only like 10 or something. Eew! The thought was so disturbing that I…”

“As I was saying,” she glared daggers at him for interrupting her while Rhodey, who sat on the opposite seat from them snickered at his best friend being reprimanded. “It also means that Lily, who is young enough to be your kid, is actually your little sister. And so far, only your immediate family and close friends knew about this information. Right?”

Tony nodded enthusiastically.

This Christmas, Tony felt that it was time to tell Pepper the truth about his family. After all, she was his most trusted employee slash best female friend. So, he invited her to Stark’s Christmas dinner.

Pepper was reluctant to come since it was Christmas and the holiday was all about family. She didn’t want to intrude on Tony’s family time and she felt bad leaving her own family dinner; still, the billionaire managed to sweet-talk his way when he came unannounced to Pepper’s home.

Pepper’s family understood and they knew that they weren’t just employer and employee. They’re also close friends. The splurge on gifts for Christmas helped as well. He felt guilty for guilt-tripping Pepper by giving her family presents to bribe them to lend her to him.

She was furious and slightly embarrassed, but she wasn’t that angry at him because Tony brought Rhodey with him. He knew her well enough to know that she didn’t like to show her emotional outburst around witnesses.

“Oh, Tony,” she looked at him disappointedly. “You have the worst timing.”

“If it makes you feel any better, he told me on New Year’s Eve,” the lieutenant of the US Air Force shrugged.

Pepper gave him a look that said,’so?’

“The New Year’s Eve when he invited me to meet his whole family,” without an expression, he added dryly. “The party where his step mommy told us ‘there’s a bun in the oven’.” He put an air quote over the last statement.

Pepper gasped and hit Tony on his arm. “How could you?!” then she gave Rhodey a ‘sorry’ look. “That is so awkward.”

“Right?” He shook his head. “When he picked me up at the base, I thought that we were going to have some fun at the clubs. On the ride there, he started talking about his real parents and how the Starks adopted him. Oh my God, I was still in shock when he brought me to the Evans’ party.”

“I said I was sorry. What do you want from me?” Tony pouted at him.

“It’s been a while man,” he looked pointedly at his best friend. “I need chicks and booze. And you broke the news on my one day out of the base after a few months of dry spell. Screw you. You ain’t got the right to get an apology from me.

“I’m SORRY, Rhodey-bear,” Tony switched seat and clung his hands to his friend’s arm like a panda on a bamboo tree. “Forgive meeeeeeeeeeeee.”

“Nope,” he puffed his breath out.

“Pleeeeeeease”

“No way. I haven’t done ‘it’ for almost half a year. You ruined my fun.”

“Oh God, you boys are so childish,” Pepper couldn’t help but giggled at their antics.

In the end, Rhodey forgave him. His platypus could never resist his pleading (‘Don’t you mean pestering?’ * Rhodey) and they finally arrived and rode the private elevator to his parents’ penthouse.

When Tony rang the door, his dad and Lily opened the door. Lily smiled and threw herself at Tony. “Tony!”

“How is my little princess?” he kissed the girl on the forehead, making her giggled. “Did you miss your favorite brother in the whole world?”

“One bwothe. You,” she kept giggling.

“Hi, Tony,” his dad greeted him.

“Hi dad,” he grinned. “Where is everyone?”

“Oh, the ladies are in the kitchen. Your father is talking to James about something,” then Harry smiled mysteriously. “And Ms. Romanoff is here.”

“Oh,” the younger wizard looked surprised, but it was a pleasant surprise. “Bet uncle James was happy to parade her around to the family, huh.”

His uncle finally had his daughter back after the probation. Of course they still have to meet secretly. It’s going to raise a lot of unwanted questions from SHIELD if they got found out hanging out together. That’s why there’s an inside man to help them have these meetings.

James told Coulson the truth to help him concealed their meetings. Phil has been a great help to dissuade them. Tony wasn’t there when James told him the truth about him being the actual James ‘Bucky’ Buchanan Barnes, but he would pay a lot to see his reaction. The man is such a nerd for all Captain America and the Howling Commando stuffs.

“Her? Did your uncle get a girlfriend or something?” Rhodey asked.

Pepper shushed him. “Rhodey. It’s rude to interrupt a conversation.”

“Yes, mam,” he drawled while rolling his eyes.

Tony almost forgot about his friends. Oh wow, he was a really shitty friend.

“Rhodey, Ms. Potts,” his dad smiled warmly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t notice the two of there.”

“It’s okay, Mr. Evans,” they both said at the same time.

“Peppaw!” Lily squealed, making grabby hands at her.

“Hi Lily,” the strawberry blonde woman smiled fondly at her, before taking her into her arms.

“I’m so happy,” she grinned.

“Why’s that, honey?”

“ ‘Coz you will be my sista,” she looked excited. “Teddy said Tony love you. And you love him. If you get mawwy, we will be sista!”

Say whaaaaaaat… Tony looked dumbfounded at his cute sister.

The silence was broke by Rhodey who immediately said,” So, Mr. Evans, is Teddy in? It’s been a while since we hang out together.”

Harry immediately nodded, too fast to be normal. “Yes, yes. He’s inside. He will be happy to see you too. Let’s go inside. Lily, you too, darling.”

“Aaaaw, but I wanna stay with peppaw,” she pouted.

The older wizard took her in his arm, despite her protest, “Tony and Pepper need to talk, honey,” before smiling fondly at them. “After you finish, you should go inside. Dinner will be ready any minute.”

As the door closed, Tony felt the impending warmth rising through his face. He was frightened, but he looked at Pepper nonetheless. Surprisingly, she was looking red in the cheeks and flustered as well.

As his heart pounded inside his heart, he braved himself. “So. Now you know.”

Pepper looked him up from under her eyelashes, clearing her throat,” Yes. Now I know.”

“Should we… talk about it?”

She gave him a little smile. “I don’t know. I know how much you hate talking about feelings, Mr. Stark.”

He pulled her hand and held it gently between his fingers, feeling how soft it was. Tony felt his nervousness died down a bit as he quietly said,” I’ll try,” he licked his lip anxiously, looking at her in the eyes. “I’ll try talking about it. For us.”

“Us?” She laced her fingers with his and gave him a smile that filled his chest with hope.

“Yeah, for us.”

They talked about it and it was the best talk about feelings he had. He had to admit he didn’t hate it that much, but Tony would never ever tell Pepper that or else his girl friend (girlfriend, *squealed) would want to do it every chance she got. Once a month was enough, thank you. He has his limit about pouring his heart out.

“We need to go, “ Pepper smiled in between kisses. “I bet they’re already upstairs, “ a kiss, “ waiting for you, “ and another kiss, “ with a cake.”

Tony groaned, biting his lover’s lower lip in between kissing. “Do we have to? We’re only just starting to the good part.”

Pepper pulled herself away from him and started smoothing her clothes before tidying up Tony’s suit.
She pulled her tie down, so that his ear was beside her mouth. The woman whispered on his ear, “I’ll let you open your present after everybody went home.”

Tony’s imagination was running wild by then that he didn’t notice that Pepper had ushered him to his personal elevator and up to the penthouse. They were greeted by his father and mom, along with uncle James who apologized profusely about Natashalie’s absence due to ‘work’. The work itself of course was classified mission, but he couldn’t say that in front of Rhodey and Pepper who were clueless about SHIELD.

Rhodey has invited himself to Tony’s open bar with Teddy there. There has been tension between Teddy and uncle James for the past couple of months. At the last Christmas, Tony didn’t notice anything weird. Though, it was because he and Pepper have just started their relationship so he only had eyes for her.

But just last week, he finally figured out why they were at odds with each other. Apparently, Teddy, the ‘work is my life’ auror fancied uncle James’ daughter. That’s the reason why the older man has been suspicious at Teddy, whom he knew since he was a teenager. Tony thought he was just being silly.

Uncle James should have known better that Teddy was a good man and a respectable wizard. He wouldn’t do anything bad like taking advantage of his recently adopted daughter. In his opinion, he was more afraid that Natashalie would break his best friend’s heart.

After all, the woman was the black widow. She was a great actress and has been trained to seduce men more powerful in terms of politic and social status.

But Tony raised both hands at this matter. He would let them figure this out. But they took too long to figure this thing, he would try to nudge them in the right direction until they talked about the elephant in the room.

At that moment, the elevator opened and his dad with his wife and Lily showed up. He greeted them with hugs. His mom came to talk to Hill and took Lily with her in her arms. Before he could go with them, his dad suddenly pulled his arm and pushed him towards the master bedroom.

The older wizard casted mufliato around the room. He looked so excited. It’s rare to see his dad this excited.

“Dad, what is it?” Tony asked him.

“I just got an information from my contact in China, “ he smiled widely.

“And?” Tony pressed on.

“There was a sighting of a giant there, “ Harry continued. “He was saving a couple of wizarding children from drowning before he suddenly disappeared. There was little chance for giants to just disappear into the woods without wizards being able to track them.”

Suddenly Tony understood why his dad sounded and looked so elated.

“And what’s more interesting is that this giant is not normal. His skin color isn’t the usual color of a human skin,” he informed him and clasped his hand on Tony’s shoulder, giving him a warm smile. “The giant has green skin, Tony.”

***

Chapter Text

February 12th 2008

Teddy was just finishing his last paperwork for the co-joint mission with MAEN (Magical Alliance of European Nations) in Rome. He with a group of his aurors were going on a little sightseeing before going home through the international floo network.

Teddy found a great restaurant for dinner with marvelous review that he was dying to try. After main course, they enjoyed their dessert and started talking and laughing until they come onto the topic of Valentine’s Day.

“So, it’s almost Valentine and I have a question for you, sir…”

“Enough with the ‘sir’, Maverick, “ he waved off. “We’re off the clock right now.”

“Mm, okay sir… I mean Lupin, “ the woman blushed. “Do you have a girlfriend?”

The others laughter could be heard from around the table where they dined. Garcia, one of his auror barked, “ You know well how much our supervisor is married to his job, Linda. His lady love is paperwork and missions.”

The whole table were filled with laughters. The metamormagus felt his cheek reddened by the second. It’s been three years since he last dated. Of course until two Chistmases ago, it was still true that he was married to his work.

And surely that’s when his memory supplied him with a certain pretty red-headed with short curly hair. In his imagination, she was wearing a pair of blue jeans that plastered to her thighs and a black V-neck behind a brown leather jacket. She looked so beautiful, Teddy could almost pictured her being here in the restaurant standing not too far away from him in front of the cashier with a familiar sandy blonde-haired man.

Wait, he knew the man who was holding doggy bags next to her. That’s Clint, his foodie mate. After being introduced to Natasha, he tried to subtly find out about her. Subtlety by using JARVIS, who informed him that she’s mostly on reckon mission and milk-run right now with Clint and Phil Coulson (Teddy barely knew the guy, but they knew each other from the holiday meetings when he could make it) as their handler.

The gears in his head started to turned around. She’s really here. Clint being here was enough of a proof that they really were here. The man could not say no to good food same as him. They probably read the same review on this restaurant.

Teddy was torn between approaching her or not. On the other hand, he still remember the last few times they met, not that they met quite a lot with their busy schedule. They have met 5 times in total for birthday and holiday dinners since that first Christmas.

All those meetings always ended with him being jittery and barfing all kinds of weird thing and finally ending with him being tongue-tied. It was always embarrassing and Natalia (he always called her that in his head) would always looked amusingly at him.

The last time they met was the worst but also the most hopeful.

New Year’s Eve 2007

As usual, Teddy put his foot down on not working on Christmas but New Year’s eve was up for his grab. But Tony suddenly showed up in his office at MACUSA. Of course people only saw him as Anthony Orion Potter, courtesy of his magic wristwatch that worked as well as the ring lent to him by Harry when he’s at Ilvermony.

He was dragged by his best mate to the party at his home, where he met Natalia yet again.

“Oh, you’re here already Nathashalie, “ Tony stole glances at Teddy knowingly. “Did you see Pepper?”

“I saw her in the kitchen with your mom, Antoshka, “ she informed him, a flute of champagne in her hand and while her free arm rested under her breast. She worn a classic black sleeveless dress that fit her body nicely.

Tony scrunched his nose in annoyance. “Stop calling me that. It’s Tony.”

She just smiled serenely.

Then his best friend shook his head and wandered around to find his girlfriend. Teddy was happy when Tony and Pepper finally got together. The look they’ve given each other has started getting on his nerves. It was ridiculous.

“How are you, Teddy?”

Teddy felt his heart started racing up when the owner of that beauty silky voice talked to him. He took a gulp of air before sputtering, “ Fine. How wouldn’t I be fine? Always fine. Very fine. I felt fine. How, how are you?”

Her lips twitched a little before she hid them by taking a sip of his champagne. “I’m fine. Work has been keeping me busy.”

“Yeah, me too. Been busy like busy bee. Busy, busy like a bee,” he laughed awkwardly.

“It’s been a while since we saw each other,” Natalia ignored his nervousness. “Was it last Thanksgiving?”

“Yes. The turkey was nice. We had a very wonderful dinner,” he trailed off. “Whe… Where were you on last Christmas?”

When the question came out, Teddy could feel his face heating up. It was rare for him to be so forward in his approach in conversation, especially in front of Natalia. It’s just that he was quite disappointed when uncle James came alone on Christmas.

“It’s classified,” she said solemnly.

“Oh, yes. Your work. With SHIELD, right?” He asked. “Missions, missions, missions. Me too. It’s all hush-hush if you know what I mean.”

She just smiled when he started spouting nonsense uncontrollably. Overall, the wizard spent the whole night making a fool of himself. It was five minute to New Year when he swore to keep his mouth closed and hid behind the bar counters from embarrassing himself further. But not before the woman of his dream cornered him behind the bar.

“Hello, kind sir. Could you pour me some more of that delightful champagne?”

Her smile was so enticing as she took a seat across from him in the bar, away from the crowd. Afraid of saying anything wrong, he smiled and pour the alcoholic beverage into her flute. She thanked him before sipping her drink.

As she played with her flute, she talked to fill in the quietness. “I’ve met a lot of people in my life. Most of them died in my hands. Even when I’m working with SHIELD, I still need to use my hands to take a life. I want to be good, but it’s not easy.”

“You felt remorse,” he wiped the counter just to do something with his hand. “Only a good person felt that. And the world is not exactly black and white. People like us walked in the grey line. Sometimes we have to dirty our hands and take a risk to save many by sacrificing a few. It’s just life.”

For the first time in the night, he looked at her without feeling like a wrecked ship in a stormy night. She curled up a small thankful smile.

“I met this man a year ago in Christmas,” she put her flute down and put her free hand under her chin. “He wasn’t like anyone I’ve ever met before.”

Teddy felt himself blushing so hard he could melt on the floor.

“He’s a simple man at first sight, yet he surprised me by making me laughed,” Natalia uttered gently. “He could be anything that he wanted to be, yet he chose to serve the law. A genuine good man and a realist at that.”

“I… Mm, you’re… Mm… “ tongue tied as always got to him.

The countdown started behind them at the same time the ex-spy walked around the bar to meet him. She slowly leaned over him. Teddy couldn’t help but smell her alluring perfume.

Their face were so closed to each other, he could feel her breath on his skin. She slid her hand to take the bottle of champagne. “My flute is empty.”

“Oh.”

As much as it was cliché, he felt he could stare into those pair of green eyes forever. They were mesmerizing.

Then she gave him a peck on the lips when the countdown was over.Teddy felt his heart stopped when her lips met his and he couldn’t stop himself from kissing back until he realized what he had done and he apparated away in shock.

Though, as a gentleman, embarrassing as it was, he apparated back a minute after. Nobody noticed he had even disappeared. Nobody except, Natalia and uncle James, who looked like he could threw an ‘Avada Kedavra’ with his eyes from across the room.

He smiled sheepishly at her. “Sorry. You surprised me.”

“Good surprise?”

She chuckled quietly. Teddy guessed his hair changed into an embarrassing color yet again.

“You’re a wonder, Teddy Lupin.”

“Good wonder?” He couldn’t help but asked.

“We’ll see,” she smiled again as she stood back and turned away from the counter to join her dad.

After the party, Teddy was getting ready for bed when uncle James appeared out of nowhere in his bedroom. He was just sitting down on the armchair in his room, glaring with a serious look on his face.

Teddy, who still had his wand in his grip managed to calm his heart down. “Uncle James, you scared me.”

“She is my daughter, the most precious person in my life,” James said quietly, cutting him off. “She didn’t have the best childhood and I want her to have a lot of happiness in the future.”

“And if she chose you, then I felt relieved,” his gaze softened a bit. “I know you for a long time and you’re a good man, Teddy. I’m glad I could entrust my daughter to you.”

“Um, thank you. I…it’s amazing, but…,” he spluttered. “But I thought you didn’t like me having feelings for her.”

The older man frowned and looked rather sour. “It’s not like I don’t like the thought of you two together. Put yourself in my position, boy. I’ve just got my daughter back and then I saw the way she looked at you. I felt insecure.”

“What do you mean ‘the way she looked at me’? And insecure? Why were you insecure?” He gave uncle James a puzzled look.

“I was afraid that you’re going to steal her, alright?” He answered grudgingly. “It’s every father’s worst nightmare. And the way she looked at you like you were a marvel. You made her laughed and that was the first time I’ve ever seen her laughed.”

“Oh,” his face reddened. “That didn’t mean she likes me or anything.”

Uncle James snorted. “Subtlety is Natalia’s speciality. But every time she came to our small gatherings, her eyes always stray away towards a certain missing someone. Every time she spotted you, she seemed to lighten up. She was subtle but a father just knew.”

“She likes me,” Teddy whispered to himself with a smile.

“And if you hurt her, badut (Indonesian) just remember, I was the winter soldier,” uncle James gave him a blank look with murderous intense gaze.

The author has faced many dark wizards in his career, but even he knew magic wasn’t enough to safe him from uncle James’ wrath.

“I gave Natalia the same warning.”

“Why?”

He looked at him as if Teddy was stupid. “Because I care about you. So if either of you hurt the other, you will have to face me. Daughter or not, I will be very angry if he break your heart, błazen (polish).”

He was touched by James’ words, but since that time, he has been bombarded with works and had no time to meet with his friends. This would be a good time as ever to let say ‘let the cat out of the bag’.

Before the decision was made whether to approach her now or not, he felt a shadow intruding his space.

“Teddy,” Natalia’s voice caught him off guard. “What a pleasant surprise.”

The auror stood immediately and accidentally toppled his chair over. He put it back up, smoothed his hair and greeted her nervously. “H, hi. It’s a surprise. A good surprise. Very good one. Hi Na… Ms. Romanoff.”

“Natalia,” she squeezed his arm lightly.

“Yes, Natalia. This is a surprise. I didn’t know you were in town. Well not that I should have known or something,” he couldn’t stop talking. “And I was in town as well. So it’s a coincidence. And somehow we met in the same restaurant at the same day and time. What a coincidence. Excellent coincidence.”

Her giggles softly ran through his ears, tickling them nicely. “Yes. It’s a wonderful coincidence.”

“Did you just giggle, Nat? Oh my God, who … Teddy? ‘S that you?” Clint’s coming from behind Natalia.

“Hi Clint,” he greeted him sheepishly.

“Wait, how did you know each other?” The archer asked with a perplexed look on his face.

“I met him in Antoshka’s office,” she lied smoothly.

“Oh yeah, I forgot you’re friends with his girlfriend,” Clint said with a frown on his face before he suddenly had a ‘lightbulb’ moment. “Wait is he the guy… ,” then he suddenly yelped in pain from Natalia stepping on his foot. “I’ll wait outside.”

After the man stepped out of the restaurant, Natalia cocked her head to the side. “What are you going to do two days from now?”

“I… I think I’m free,” he answered shyly, knowing where this was going. “Just going to do some paper works. No field work for the next couple of weeks.”

“Then, I’ll pick you up from work at 6,” she gave him a small smile before turning around to walk away.

“Wait, how did you know where I work?” Teddy asked her in confusion.

She turned her head around a little and winked. “I have my way.”

When she was out of sight, Teddy fell onto his chair looking dazed. And then, he was bombarded with questions by his subordinates but all he could think of was he had a date with the woman of his dream on Valentine’s Day.

He could just die happily right now.

***

Chapter Text


November 2008
Hunan, People’s Republic of China

Since his dad informed him about Bruce’s sightings in a China wizarding village, Tony has been thrilled to find his science bro. Rhodey and Teddy were happy for him since they knew how much Tony missed talking science with his best partner about the topic.

And as much as he didn’t want to raise Betty’s hopes up, he didn’t feel it was right to keep Bruce’s location from her; hence, he called her right after his birthday party was over. Pepper warned her to inform the female scientist calmly. She insisted he made sure to Betty that he would try to find her fiancé but the time would be indefinite.

Of course, Pepper was right, but Tony was too excited that he forgot to warn her not to be hopeful. Thank Merlin for his girlfriend, who took the phone from him and talked to Betty, making sure she was being realistic about Tony’s ability in finding the ever-on-the-run-scientist.

After the call, Pepper looked at him exasperatedly and gave him a peck on the cheek. She informed him that the scientist was just happy that her fiancé was alive and the woman was relieved Tony told her. She promised not to get her hopes up.

But, Tony being Tony, he didn’t want to let Betty down; so, he has been taking business trips back and forth to China for eight times since last year. Pepper has been very understanding, which could be seen from the way she has scheduled him more trips to China more than necessary in a year and a half.

His red-headed angel even went along on half of the trips with him, even if she had stayed in the hotel most of the times. It was quite hard to convince her to stay and enjoy the hotel’s facility while Tony continued on the search in China’s wizarding areas.

The inventor couldn’t wait for them to be married, so that Pepper could enjoy the marvels of the world of magic. The billionaire didn’t enjoy keeping this particular secret from the woman he loved. Some laws were made to be broken; sadly this one was a necessity for the safety of the world of magic.

He wished she could come along more times because when he’s not hunting for Bruce, he could spend his time together with Pepper, either professionally or personally he didn’t care as long as he could be with her. He’s so sappy, it’s quite embarrassing.

On the other hand, the CEO did need his girlfriend to represent him in the company. Pepper has been more of his representative rather than just his PA since before they started dating. He trusted her intakes and opinions on the business since she has more knowledge and experience in that area. Tony was a great businessman but he excelled more in the science and tech department, while Pepper, his wonderful lover was born for the cut-throat world of business and corporation.

When Pepper couldn’t accompany him on the business trips, uncle James or even Teddy on one occasion went with him. For the past year, he has been searching for the man in more than 1 area. He has been sighted 3 times already in the past 18 months as his mean green giant self and twice as himself, which was a lot more than the few years he has been on hiding somewhere.

Tony speculated that the physicist had accidentally stumbled upon more magical beings since he first appeared as the big guy in China. There’s a possibility of it happened since China has the largest population of magical beings and second largest wizard-populated country in the world with America being number 1 of course. This could especially happen if his friend stayed as far away from the city and kept to the villages and forest.

He also discussed this with his dad. The billionaire has a suspicion that his friend has a little help from magic. He suspected that whatever Bruce has experimented on himself had made him somewhat of a half giant when he transformed since he’s not as big as full-grown giant but stronger than a full-grown one.

It would explain how he was able to penetrate the wizarding village’s ward. Or why the spells didn’t work on him when the Chinese aurors were sent to hunt him. Besides, they wouldn’t know how to find him if they kept looking for a certain green giant after Bruce had transformed back to his human self.

This November, it would be the ninth time he’s going to search for Brucie-kin in China. After he conducted his last inspection at his tech facility in Hunan yesterday, he and Uncle James could finally go and search for Bruce in the earliest morning at Zhangjiajie.

“Are you ready for this?” Tony asked his uncle, who looked as sour as he could be in this very nice morning.

The photographer showed no expression whatsoever, besides disapproval and disgust. Even without looking, Tony could sense his annoyance for their mode of transport of the day.

“This thing should be banned. It’s an atrocity, “the former brainwashed assassin spat.

“We had this argument before and I’ll tell you again, “Tony smirked. “It’s easier to use portkey to transport us close to the wizarding village in Zhangjiajie. It’s fast and it gives us almost two whole days to search for him before we have to fly back to New York at night.”

Uncle James grunted intelligibly, but since he didn’t make anymore protests towards using the magical item, Tony considered this as a win. He opened the black box that has been lying down on the desk in the bedroom. Inside it, laid a normal looking ink brush with bamboo handle and the typical white hair, possibly from goat’s hair.

“Ready?”

The older man grunted before giving a quick nod of his head. Tony counted slowly from 3 to 1 before they touched the portkey at the same time. The genius immediately felt a quick uncomfortable tuck around his lower abdoment and he felt the whole world turning upside down before he felt the ground beneath his feet once more.

After heaving a breath, he looked at his godfather. For a man who hated wizarding mode of transport so much, he never once looked uncomfortable or sick after arriving at their destination. He just looked downright unamused.

It was a little rainy at the moment, thus Tony charmed their clothes to be water-resistance and casted an invisible umbrella above them.

“Where to first?” the ex-assassin grunted, patting his pants and jacket from the invisible wrinkle.

Tony quickly held his wrist watch up and clicked a button that brought up a holographic map of Zhangjiajie. He started walking southeast of the area. “If the coordinates was right, the village should be around here.”

The wizard took his spare wand out of his jacket. While around other wizards beside his family friends, Tony always took a great measure to hide the ability of his tech to function as a wand.

He loved all of his creations that he found a way to combine magic with tech, which invention he had shared with the wizarding world, such as making electricity worked in wizarding buildings and produced computer and such for wizard’s use that wouldn’t short-circuited around magic.

But when it came to infusing his tech to act as a replacement for a wand, Tony came to a sudden grave realization. This type of invention was dangerous. Tony refused to make this public to the wizard’s community since this type of thing could be a double-edge sword. In the hands of wizards and witches with dark intentions, his founding could be used in so many nefarious ways. The billionaire couldn’t risk it.

Therefore, he made it a secret. Of course he could just make people think that he used wandless magic. But wizards and witches that could use wandless magic were quite rare and easily known and famed for around the world, like his dad. Everybody loved and worshipped his dad, but the other few people of the world feared him for his power since he’s the strongest wizard after the deceased Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.

The reason why people didn’t try to touch or defeat his dad was because liked his former headmaster, dad was a pacifist and he was greatly respected by everybody, socially and politically. Attacking him would be a political suicide and literal one as well. Just asked Bronx Bellamy, who dared to attack Tony when he was in his fourth year.

As the son of one of the greatest duelist in the world, the 12-year-old genius managed to hold his own battle against the proclaimed new dark lord. He’s quite stupid for going alone against the son of the boy who lived alone. If Tony was him, he would try Grindelwald or Voldemort’s strategy of building a secret army first.

Rushing towards a battle without thinking was such a Wampus thing to do, no offense towards Teddy bear though.

In the end, dad came and in his daddy bear way, he destroyed the man. Literary obliterated the man. There were no body parts available to collect, except dust. Tony and his dad had to supply a memory for the pensieve for the MACUSA as a proof that Harry had killed the most wanted criminal in America’s wizarding world (only wanted for a year) and not just some bystander.

Usually, his dad was a calm and collected person, the sort of person who thrived under pressure. But when it came to the people that he loved, he could be the most dangerous person in the world. Nobody wanted to cross path with his dad when he’s pissed. So, as long as people didn’t touch what’s his to care, his dad would be the most laid back person in the world.

Anyway, being known to have an ability to do wandless magic was a pain in the ass. He’s already had a famous dad and he didn’t feel the need to be more famous than he already was for being a metal-charmer as well as spell creator. Apparently, being able to infuse tech and magic, which was made of metal had categorized him into one of the sought out master for the occupation.

It’s a good thing he wasn’t easy to recognize since he was after all a so-called hermit in the wizarding world.

Tony found a big gray rock in front of one of the sandstone columns. He tapped his wand onto the top of the rock twice and the left side thrice before a great big metal gate appeared in front of the tall column. The gate opened to a great big meadow with wooden houses. It looked like a normal Chinese village except for the kids flying with brooms on the open fields, racing after one another.

Even the weather was nice again and not raining. Tony dispelled his charm and put his wand back inside his holster, inside his jacket.

“Well, that was unexpected, “Uncle James said in awe.

“Chinese or not, wizard community are still dramatic as ever, “Tony rolled his eyes.

As they entered, the photographer asked him, “Wait, ragazzino (Italian). Don’t you need to camouflage the gate? I don’t think the Chinese Magical government would be happy if normal people could see a big door on one of their big column.”

“Don’t worry Uncle James, “Tony waved off his concern. “The gate is designed to disappear after we went through it.”

As a matter of fact, it disappeared, leaving only an ordinary dark brown tall column behind them.

His godfather looked surprised for a sec before pinching the bridge of his nose and shook his head. “Magic.”

***

By the end of the day, they managed to interview everybody in the village with a universal language charm and found out that none has seen Bruce’s alter-ego. On the other hand, they have seen a bespectacled young western man with dark messy curly hair. This was the third time he had received such information in his trips to China.

Most villages that Tony encountered had called Bruce yīnshēng(doctor) with his tendency to use no-maj’s medicine when wizarding medicine didn’t work. They mostly considered him as a squib but couldn’t explained why a squib could come and go from one wizarding village to another.

Tony didn’t want to get his hope up, since Bruce was always a flight-risk. But this time, there’s a clue. It seemed that the neighboring village was in need of his work. Thus the village head recommended him to the village in need.

The CEO was pleased with this new direction in his search. The village head was quite reluctant to lend his floo network to be use. He was quite protective of Bruce as well and even tried to use legilimen against him to look for malicious intent against Bruce.

Let’s just say, his occlument barrier was as tight as his iron man suit. It frustrated the old man, but nonetheless impressed him. After a considerable amount of time used to reassure the wizened shaman (Chinese wizard), he told them that he needed to discuss this with the other elders.

As he apparated away, Tony and James were left sitting in the village head’s home.

“I guess all we can do is wait for the verdict, “uncle James said calmly, clasping his hands on his lap.

“Or we could talk about your daughter’s love life, “Tony waggled his eyebrows.

“Please don’t, “he let out a suffering sigh.

“Oh come on, “the genius whined. “ They’ve been dating for a year. I wanna talk about it. Let’s gossip.”

10 months, “he muttered under his breath. “Not a year.”

“Potato, potahto, “Tony drawled out. “Let me tell you. Every time we met, all he could talk about is Nat this and Nat that. Teddy has been so besotted with her. Now I know how he felt when I crooned over Pepper.”

His uncle humph in agreement.

“I didn’t know how he could still be in that lovey dovey state with their busy schedule. I mean, they only met like in between missions, probably…” he counted in one hand and looked incredulously. “only five dates so far.”

“Your gadgets certainly help them a lot, “the former SHIELD operative grunted.

“You mean the bobby pin?”

A month into dating, Teddy requested Tony to make a communication device that would allow him and Natashalie to talk to each other. It needed to be inconspicuous and discreet for them not to be notice while they’re on their ‘day’ jobs. It took some time (a week) for the inventor to come up with the charm. Mostly he struggled with choosing the metal items.

Eventually, he came up with a couple of ideas. For the black widow, he charmed a simple black bobby pin and for his best friend, he presented him with a simple black tie clip. They only need to brush the metals when they wanted to talk to each other. It designed to grow warm when one of them wanted to chat and cold as ice when the other one was currently unavailable to accept the call.

The devices were specifically designed for them so they could only work with the brush of their thumbs, in case the items were lost and strangers found them. They also had a mufliato charm to ward against nosy people or spy bugs.

“Yes, the one you charm to be a magic undistinguished earpiece,” he grumbled.

“Wait, did they talk every night or something?”

Uncle James huffed and gave a quick short nod. “At least once a day. Break time, lunch time, sleep time, you guess it.”

“Wow,” Tony looked dumbstruck. “That’s what I call devotion.”

“At least she was discreet not to confide in me about the details,” James sighed.

Then the American wizard grinned. “I know someone that’s more miserable than us.”

James looked intrigue.

“Bird brain,” Tony smirked. “He had to listen to Teddy raved over her on our foodie outings. And who do you thing Nat talked to about her boyfriend?”

“No,” his godfather frowned in disbelief. “She wouldn’t do that. She’s very discreet.”

Subtly, Tony held his phone and he played a voice recording from it. Barton’s voice came through the speaker, complaining and ranting in low volume. “You! I blamed you for introducing them to each other. It was enough that I have to hear teddy gushed about my best friend, but now I have to listen to Nat bashfully talking about him?! Do you know how scary it is to see black widow in love? It’s so out of this world, damn it. And it’s your entire fault!”

With that, Tony ended the recording looking smug as he could be.

“I felt sorry for him,” Uncle James said in a daze. “But somehow, it made me feel better. So much better.“

***

When the head of the village came back, the sky has turned dark. After a long discussion with the elders and discussing it with the neighboring village leader using Chinese version of Patronus charm, the decision was made to let them used the floo network.

The Americans arrived at the neighboring village in the home of the leader shortly. The leader was an old wise shaman, whom seemed to be more accepting towards outsiders and pointed out that Bruce lived in the hut near the edge of the village.

The old shaman offered them a place to stay for the night, but Tony refused gently.

“I need to find my friend, elder, “he smiled, trying to curb his enthusiasm. “His fiancé has been worried sick.”

“Ah, you need to stop him from running away?” The elder asked.

“Something like that, “he grinned. “But thanks for the offer.”

“I think I’m going to stay here, “Uncle James said, sitting across from the village head, accepting the offered tea.

“Are you sure, James?” Tony looked from him to the door, eager to walk out and find his friend but at the same time he was reluctant to leave his godfather.

“Yeah, I’m fine here, “the man motioned his hand to shoo Tony. “Go. Find your friend. I will stay here and enjoy my tea.”

“It’s a very good tea, “the oldest man in the room offered his opinion while resting his hands on the clay cup and smiled serenely. “It helped to repel fatigues.”

“You heard the man, “James shrugged. “I’m tired and old. Need to rest my feet and etcetera.”

“But you’re a super soldier, “Tony frowned in confusion. “You didn’t need…”

Lille dreng (danish), I’m trying to give you an excuse to have a private reunion with your long lost friend, “he cocked an eyebrow.

“Oh, oh, “the genius looked at his uncle with sudden clarity. “Okay then. Bye.”

“And be careful, Érzi (son). Yīnshēng lived near the Guàiwù sēnlín (Monster forest),” the old shaman sipped his tea carefully. “He’s a good man. Drink too many calming drought though, but still a very good man. Good guàiwù. He protected us from the forest.”

Tony was quite shocked at what the old man was saying. He knew about Bruce’s alter-ego, so that meant that the villagers knew too. Bruce needed more people who were as understanding as these wizarding villagers. The genius was relieved that these people accepted his friend.

“Thank you,” Tony thanked the old man with a genuine smile on his face. “Thank you for accepting him. Both of them.”

The old shaman just gave a simple nod and continued with drinking his tea. Without further ado, he walked out of the house and looked for Bruce’s hut. In the end, it was quite easy to find his friend’s living place.

As he stood in front of the door of the hut, Tony took a long deep breath. After a long time he’s been searching for his friend, in between missions and business, he finally arrived at this moment. His palms were sweating out of nervousness and he wiped them on his pants before he knocked on the door.

When there was no one answering from behind the wooden door, Tony began knocking once more and he patiently waited. Then again, patient was not one of his main traits; hence, he pushed the door slowly and found that nobody was inside.

Before he could look around the hut, he heard a scream. The billionaire hurriedly went outside and searched for the direction of the scream. Once more he heard the shouting and he immediately ran towards it, which unfortunately was in the direction of the dangerous forest.

He ran into the dark forest and casted lumos with his wand. There were so many trees and protruding roots from the ground he had to jump on to get to the source of the shout. Finally, Tony arrived in a grassy land with broken trees around.

There, in the middle of the big space sat a young man with his wand up, casting spell to attack what appeared to be a mountain troll several feet away from him. Tony heard about some mountain trolls migrated towards this side of the pond after Voldemort has been defeated, but seriously, he never seen a live one in China until now.

Red sparks of spell kept flying towards the troll with no avail. But since mountain trolls were known to be tolerant against magic, the young shaman’s spells resist to work.

It was hard to see, but under the moonlight, Tony saw a blur running towards the young shaman to cover him when the troll decided that it had enough and swung his club up to smash.

“Expecto Patronum,” Tony shouted. A bright light in the form of beaver shot out of his wand and running in a circle around the troll’s head, drawing its attention away from its victims.

As fast as lightning, Tony ran towards the pair and animated the trees around them to constrict the giant being and held it there. He stood in front of the pair and began to levitate the troll’s club. As the troll tried to break itself out of its restraint, he transfigured the club into a big blade sharp enough to cut its head off. Blood gushing out of its cut-off neck as its head fell off.

The head rolled towards the American wizard where he stepped on it to stop its roll.

“Hope I didn’t get into too much trouble for this,” he muttered under his breath.

“Tony?” A familiar voice called his name from behind him. “Is that you?”

Tony held his breath when he heard his friend’s voice. He could feel his heart beat a mile per second. He took a deep breath to calm himself before turning around to face his long lost friend.

Tony curled up a smile at him and casted lumos so that he could confront the scientist’s face to face for the first time in five years. “Hiya Brucie bear. You don’t call, you don’t write. You’re a horrible horrible friend.

Before he could continue to incense his 5 years worth of frustration out, Bruce stood and embraced him tightly.

“Oh Tony,” the scientist’s voice sounded watery. “I miss you, old friend.”

“Miss you too, Brucie-kin,” he hid his face on his friend’s shoulder. “Damn Bruce. You need to make it up to us, especially Betty. Betty Lou is worried. We all are.”

“Yeah,” he mumbled, still holding onto Tony. “I bet she’s angry.”

“Oh, she’s furious, alright,” Tony choked on his laughter. “But she mostly worried. You need to come home, green bean.”

At the nickname, Bruce tensed up.

“I will help you figured out your green problem, ‘kay?” Tony pulled away from his friend and gripped his shoulder tightly. “There’s no need to keep drinking the calming draught.”

The billionaire still couldn’t believe that he had found his science-bro. It all felt so surreal after all these years.

“Does the solution have to do with your glowing stick?” The fugitive lips twitched a little.

Tony grinned, relieved at the light comment thrown by his friend. “Oh, Brucie-kin. I’m so full of surprises; you will be dizzy by the end of this discussion.”

***

Chapter Text

February 2009

It was Saturday evening when Harry came home from his work at St. Agnes. He expected to find Andromeda with his daughter in the living room when he came out from the fireplace, through floo network. But instead, he also found Aria sitting on the couch with them.

His wife was wearing a casual blue t-shirt, brown blazer and a pair of black jeans. She pulled her hair up into a ponytail and her lips were the color of pomegranate red. She was talking to Andromeda while subtly keeping an eye on their daughter.

“Daddy!” His little girl immediately jumped up and ran to him with her arms stretched up. He pulled her up onto his arm and kissed her on the forehead. “Mommy’s home, Daddy!”

“She is, isn’t she?” Harry looked at his wife, still surprise.

“Surprise,” his wife smiled. “I finished my paper work early.”

The wizard sauntered to his wife to lean down and gave her a peck on the lips. “Brilliant. We could go have dinner together. It’s been a while.”

“Harry, we still have a guest,” the SHIELD agent chuckled.

The man who once dubbed ‘the boy who lived’ almost forgot about his oldest friend slashed babysitter. He smiled sheepishly at her,” Sorry Andromeda. Thank you for looking after Lily.”

Lily’s grandparents were usually available, but they were vacationing in Tahiti for the next two weeks. Tony was in Rome and would arrive back in New York in the afternoon, which was an hour ago. Teddy was on a date with Natasha, which was a rare occasion with how their schedules almost always clashed with each other, so Harry didn’t want to touch that with a ten foot pole, lest he wanted to face the wrath of the infamous Black Widow.

As much as he didn’t want to bother Andromeda on her bingo day, he didn’t have any other choice.

The older woman waved him off,” It’s alright, my dear boy. Taking care of Lily is hardly worked.”

“Still, it was last minute this morning. So, ta,” he said gratefully.

Andromeda just patted his arm before saying goodbye and stood up to apparate home. Then the sound of his wife clearing her throat turned his head back towards her.

“So,” she drawled. “I was wondering about something.”

Harry cocked his head, motioning for his spouse to continue. “It’s been a while since I had a girl’s night with Lily. So, I was thinking about having a pajama party with my 6 year old daughter.”

“Well, of course we could order in,” the wizard took out his Stark phone out of his pocket. “What would you like? Pizza, Chinese or Indian?”

“Maybe just order in for two tonight.”

“Two?” The 48 years old had a puzzled look on his face for a second. “But there are three of us. Have you girls eaten already?”

Aria sighed exasperatingly, taking Lily from him. “Girl’s night, Har.”

“Yes, and?”

His princess giggled,” Daddy, you’re silly,” while Aria shook her head, smiling, “Oh, Harry. You’re so oblivious sometimes.”

Harry just gave them a perplexed look. “I don’t understand.”

“It’s a girl’s night, Daddy,” the little girl closed her mouth to stop herself from laughing too much. “You’re a boy.”

When the realization came to him, his girls laughed harder at him.

“You never do hints very well,” she put Lily back on the couch and kissed Harry fondly. “But that’s your charm.”

“So, you’re kicking me out?” Harry smiled amusingly at his wife.

“I knew you’ll get it,” she winked before leaving the living room to go to the master bedroom.

“Lily, do you want Daddy to go too?” Harry pouted and kneeled in front of his pretty daughter.

Lily put her hands on his shoulders, giving him a calm serene look, which eerily similar to Aria’s expression when she tried to give him an explanation. ” It’s only one night, daddy. We’ll see you again tomorrow.”

Harry could feel his jaw dropped a little from hearing his little girl being mature.

“Now I need to poopie,” she smiled her toothy smile before kissing his cheek. “Bye Daddy.”

The little girl got up from the couch and skipped to the toilet. If that didn’t ruined the precious moment, Harry didn’t know what would.

Chuckles came from the master bedroom, where Aria stood in front of the door with his satchel packed.

“You packed for me?”

“I have it on good authority that Pepper has a business trip in California,” she crossed the room towards the couch and sat. “So, maybe you could have a boy’s night with Tony. You can gossip about us behind our backs for once in a while.”

The wizard sat next to his wife and cocked an eyebrow at her.

She rolled her eyes, “Okay. I don’t know what father-son talks you boys usually had, but I’m just guessing that one of the topics would be about Pepper and me. Admit it.”

Harry admitted softly,” Only sometimes. Mostly Orion likes to wax about Pepper and the perfect time to,”he tapped on his left ring finger.

Aria put her hands on her hip and huffed. “They haven’t even come out to people that they’re in a relationship and he’s planning to propose? I don’t understand that son of yours sometimes.”

“Yes,” Harry sighed. “My concern is the same. I’m afraid Pepper will get all the brunt if their relationship came out in the open, without any input from them.”

“Exactly,” she agreed. “It will be best if they do an interview with New York Times or other famous megazine. After all, they’re a power couple. And pardon me for saying this, but Pepper should be the one to handle it. Tony loves to go too big. Big event, fireworks and all. And sometimes, he forgot to do some precautions and think about the consequences.”

Before he could defend his son, his wife added softly,” But that’s why their relationship work. Pepper is the planner and Tony is the doer. Pepper isn’t easy to rattle and very thick-skinned. She seemed like the type of woman with a mean streak and would viciously protect the people she loves.”

“Don’t forget Orion, honey,” he smiled. “You remember what he did to Ross when he crashed Bruce’s wedding last week.”

“How could I forget?” She snorted. “That old geezer was destroyed. Fortunate for him, he was forced to retire early instead of being discharged. I wouldn’t want your son as my enemy.”

“He’s technically your son as well, “ Harry reminded her.

She scrunched up her nose in disgust. “Don’t remind me. Having a stepson 10 years younger than me makes me feel so old.”

“Having a younger independent strong wife makes me the luckiest man in the world, “ he nosed her neck a bit.

“Oh stop it, “ the brunette smiled bashfully.

“I really, “ he whispered in her ear, “ really, “ a kiss on the ear, “ really want to snog you right now.”

“Harry, “ she turned her head slightly to him until their nose almost touched, “ I, “ she trailed her finger playfully down his dress robe, where his chest located, “ really, “ slowly and carefully touched his pecks behind his clothes, “ really, “ and slowly put her hand on his waist and gave him a hard pinch that made him yipped, “ really want to have a girl’s night.”

“Aria darling, could you…” Harry tried to hold the pain at bay, “ please stop?” then the pain was doubled, “ Now, “ he immediately said,” I’ll go now.”

The Deputy Director of SHIELD kissed him on the lips briefly, “ I love you. See you tomorrow, hon.”

It’s odd, but this side of Aria always endeared her to him and petrified him at the same time. He really have an unusual taste in woman. Ginny and Mia would have laughed at him from up there in their final resting place.

After kissing his wife once more and saying goodbye to his daughter from behind the toilet door, he grabbed his satchel and apparated to Tony’s penthouse at Stark tower with a soft pop.

“One of these days, Harry, “ he scolded himself, still rubbing his painful side. “You’re going to be better at taking a hint.”

He arrived at Orion’s modern-looking living room, but he wasn’t around. His boy was probably in his workshop, which was located a couple of floor below the penthouse.

Harry took a quick look around the room. There were more feminine things around the place since the last time he visited and more sophisticated things than his son’s taste like the abstract painting on the wall.

Probably Pepper’s stuffs. It’s a wonder she didn’t live here since years ago with how much time he spent working for his boy. Nobody was more patient than Pepper when handling Tony. One time, he even called her the ‘Tony whisperer’. The affectionate look she thrown at his son when he’s not looking was probably helping her resolve to stay by his side.

A week after Bruce was back, Harry and Lily stayed at Tony’s home. Aria was busy with a new SHIELD project; thus, he decided to spend the weekend with both of his children. He left Lily with Pepper in front of the tv to watch Beauty and the Beast while he went down to Tony’s workshop.

“What’s he doing, JARVIS?” He asked the AI after he entered the elevator.

“Sir is currently doing some magic, Mr. Potter, “ the computer answered.

“He is?” The healer looked surprised. “In the workshop? That’s very unlike Orion.”

“Sir has a certain puzzle he needed to solve. Perhaps you can help sir solve the matter, Mr. Potter, “ the AI suggested.

“I guess I should help him then, “ he smiled at the ceiling. “Thank you for telling me J.”

“Sir’s happiness and health is my main priority, “ JARVIS informed him.

“Mine as well, “ Harry pushed his glasses to his nose and winked before stepping outside of the opened the moving compartment.

There were glass walls separating him and the workshop. He could see his son with his back against him, scratching his head. It’s a rare occasion when his genius son got confused about something.

The last time he got this confused was when he tried so hard to learn how to be an animagus. Of course in the end he succeeded and his animal transformation was very Tony-like.

The door to the workshop has a panel for passwords and retina scan, but it also recognized magic signature. The door would open for Harry and Teddy without them having to do the previous two.

“So, J told me you have magic type of problem, “ Harry announced his presence and walked inside when the door opened up for him.

The older wizard took a seat on the beat-up couch that Tony loved so much. It was an early birthday gift from Rhodey when he took him on a garage sale spree a month before his son’s birthday. It was the air force man’s way at the time to cheer Orion up after Jarvis, his mentor’s death a few months before.

“Hi Dad.”

Tony turned around to address his dad looking unsurprised. Harry guessed JARVIS had informed him of his arrival.

Then something caught his attention. Harry saw a piece of lettuce hovering in front of his son. It could simply be a levitating magic, but what made him couldn’t keep his eyes from straying away was how the levitated green leaf kept disappearing bit by bit as if it was being eaten by an invisible being.

“Mia, stop it,” Tony reprimanded, staring at the empty space where his arm stretched out a little as if he was holding something. “You’re scaring my dad.”

The name put a stutter to his heart. It’s been a long time since he heard the name of his first wife being called out.

“Come on girl. Let me see your face,” his son cooed at the invisible being. “I want to introduce you to someone important to me.”

A being as small as a one year old suddenly appeared with its arms around Tony’s neck. It looked like a baby ape with long grey silvery hair and brown eyes.

“A demiguise?”

“Yeah, dad,” Orion smiled. “I found her near the location where I killed the troll. Her mom was killed and she attached herself to me. I know they’re rare and protected, but the head of the village told me that once they’re attached to human, they couldn’t be separated.”

His son stroke the demiguise’s hair lovingly. “I’ve registered her as mine with the Chinese wizarding government and just got the permission to have her as my familiar with MACUSA.”

“Why named her Mia?”

“Her eyes,” Tony smiled tenderly. “It reminded me of the color of mom’s hair. The name … It just feels right.”

His son looked at him nervously as if asking for approval. Harry smiled with a sad frown on his face. “I think… I think she would approve of it.”

“Thank you,” the younger wizard swallowed the lump inside his throat.

“So is this your magic emergency?”

“What?! No,” he denied it immediately. “It’s my patronus. It changed and I don’t know how, “ the billionaire sounded truly puzzled. “I casted it last week in China and instead of a fox, this came out.”

He casted a patronus in front of Harry. Instead of the form of a red fox, an American beaver shot out of Tony’s watch. It ran around the room before settling itself on top of his son’s work desk, rubbing it’s head against Orion’s hand.

“It’s a beaver, “ Harry frowned.

“Thank you for stating the obvious, dad, “ his son patronized him slightly.

He ignored it with a chuckle. “I mean, it’s a beaver.”

“Yes, I…”

“Beavers are famous for being hard workers, “ Harry cut in. “Impeccably organized little buggers they are. And they take their responsibility very seriously too, “ he smiled, tilting his head towards Tony. “Kind of reminded me of Pepper.”

The CEO did a double take.

The hero of British wizarding curled up a smile. “Teddy’s mom used to have a penguin for her patronus. But after he fell in love with her future husband, her patronus turns into a wolf.”

Orion blinked a couple more times at his explanation.

“So you see, son,” he pointed his finger at him. “Somehow your patronus changed in the span of time when you started developing feelings for her until you started dating her. After all, it is a known fact that some patronus can change depends on the animals that portrayed their life partners the best.”

At the last statement, Tony’s face turned as red as a beet root.

The healer had a mixed feeling when he recalled that particular memory back. He shook his head and walked to the elevator. It was unusual for J not to open the door for him. Maybe Tony was doing some updates on the AI. Harry shrugged and opened the door before pushing the button for the workshop floor.

When he arrived there, he expected to see his son’s clutters all over the place. But when he walked out of the elevator, he saw something unimaginable and a marvel of wonder behind the glass walls.

He stepped into the workshop door, which was automatically opened for him inspite of JARVIS being somewhat absent.

Without further ado, he exclaimed,” Orion, what is this?!”

His brilliant inventor son was in a some sort of mechanic contraption, suspended in the air with a few mechanical arms surrounding him trying to pull and remove the black metallic armor off of him. Mia was waving a screwdriver at Tony, looking a bit frantic.

“Let’s face it, dad,” he grinned nonchalantly, trying to hide his nervousness.This is not the worst thing you’ve caught me doing. “ (excerpt from Ironman 1)

***

 

Chapter Text

April 2010

It’s been a long time coming in Tony’s book. If he had his way, he would have moved Pepper to his penthouse from the first three months into their relationship. He would have asked, if only others weren’t being very reasonable with their arguments.

Then again, he was Tony ‘for Merlin sake’ Edward Stark. He’s the most amazing boyfriend in the world, so he asked Pepper to move in with him 6 months into their relationship.

To his utter lack of judgment and over the top confident, pepper refused. Her reasoning was mostly similar to everyone’s arguments.

It was too fast. Our relationship is still new and we see each other every day. I don’t want our relationship to sour because we spent too much time together than it already is. And we haven’t even gone public.

He knew she and his friends were right, but emotionally he was caught off guard. As gentle as she tried to let him down gently, it still made him pouted in the workshop for three full days. He even refused to come out even with Pepper pestering and bribing him.

Instead of being discouraged, he was relentless and tenacious about the matter. Every 6 months he would propose the red-head to move in together. And finally after 3 years together, Pepper finally conceded.

At this moment, they were in the penthouse on Sunday with Happy and the moving crews. Pepper decided to leave her furniture to her new apartment owner.

It wasn’t surprising that Pepper got a lot of money from selling her old apartment since being Tony’s girlfriend raised the market price on her old living place. After only four days, her real estate agent succeeded in selling it. Everybody wanted a scoop about Pepper since they came out at Ellen last October.

Ellen was nice enough not to pry too much into their relationship and made sure that this relationship wasn’t recent but already blooming for almost three years. It was also a result of spending a lot time with each other professionally and in turn it let to them growing some feeling for one another.

The show led to many offers of interview from many famous and well-known magazines, but with their work schedule and time management, they only chose the most promising ones.

The journalist who interviewed them was recommended by SI’s PR and she was very smart with her questions. She asked simple interesting questions like ‘when did they realized they have feelings for each other?’ and ‘when did they officially get together?’ and some other questions like that.

The woman was so great at elaborating the story that it made Tony and Pepper’s relationship seemed cute and fairy tale-like. Sure some people still send hate mail to his girlfriend, saying that she was with him just for the money and so on. But Pepper was pepper.

His lover was the most thick-skinned woman he ever known and he loved her for it.It didn’t hurt that he also bought her shoes and told her how proud he was at her for handling it professionally.

She just looked at him funny, pressed her lips to his and nuzzled their nose together. ” I know what I’m getting into when I fell in love with you, Tony.”

He was for sure the luckiest son of a b*tch in the world.

“Where do you want these, Pepper?” Happy asked.

The man was his most loyal employee, besides Pepper of course. He was Tony’s chauffeur slash bodyguard before the billionaire promoted him as SI’s Head Chief of Security. Today he was in charge of managing the moving crew for Pepper’s moving in to the penthouse.

“Over there, Happy,” Pepper pointed towards the front of the master’s bedroom. “I will sort them out later.”

The big burly man directed the crews to move three big boxes to the spot Pepper wanted. After the moving crews finished moving Pepper’s stuffs and left, they all sat at the long couch where Tony has been sitting and watching with a glass of scotch for the past one hour.

Tony poured him a glass and offered it to Happy, who took it greatfully. Happy shook his head slightly,” What’s in those big boxes anyway? They’re bigger than your other boxes.”

Smiling serenely, Pepper answered,” My shoes. And you must have known how much we girl love our shoes, Hap.”

Scratching his head, Happy retorted,” Elise would beat me with her shoe if I tried to comment about the amount she had. The woman is obsessed with shoes.”

“Oh Happy, Happy, Happy,” Tony tutted. “I bet a grand, my girlfriend is more obsessed about shoes than your wife.”

Happy smirked,” No way. Not going to take that bet even for a million dollar, boss.”

Ignoring both men, Pepper asked, hands clasped in front of her,” How is your wife and the boys?”

Happy got married a year ago and finally tied the knot with his girlfriend of two years, Elise Mullins, a French widow with one son. She was one of Tony’s flight attendant at Stark Jet and has been working for almost 5 years before she got pregnant with her second son.

Tony being the wonderful boss that he was, told her to take her time with raising little Jack and when she’s ready, the position in his jet would still be open to her. Since Tony was the one who somewhat the reason behind them meeting each other, the CEO of Stark tower became the best man at their wedding and also the godfather of Happy’s second son.

Immediately, Happy showed his Starkphone to Pepper and Tony. It was the picture of Gabriel, his step-son. He was wearing a baseball uniform with a helmet and a bat on one hand, grinned at the camera.

“Gabriel joined the little league,” he smiled like the proud papa that he was. “You know how shy he was. Elise and I have been worried about him, but since joining the baseball team, he has come out of his shell.”

He continued with another photo of Elise and baby Jack with his red chubby cheek face, ” And Jack said his first word yesterday.”

“What did the little munchkin said?” Tony asked curiously, feeling a bit dejected that he wasn’t there to see the little baby boy said his first word.

Sheepishly, Happy answered,” He said fire…”

“What?” Tony raised an eyebrow.

The married man sighed deeply and embarrassedly said,” Fire f***.”

Pepper blinked a few time before asking,” Did he say what I think you just said?”

Happy nodded shamefacedly and Tony couldn’t hold back his laughter anymore before he burst out with a loud guffawed laugh. “Mer… Damn! That’s just the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. My godson has a po…”

His girlfriend elbowed him on the stomach until he was pushed onto the side of the couch, still laughing his heart out. “Sorry, Happy. Tony didn’t mean it.”

“It’s alright,” he put his phone back. “We were teaching him new words with toys and one of it was fire truck. Imagine our surprise when he said fire f***. At first it was funny, but after the tenth time, it was just passed that funny stage, you know,” he sighed,” We’re teaching him to say fire car instead now.”

“Please, don’t,” Tony chortled, trying to keep himself in check. “Don’t let him say fire cu*.”

Pepper’s body convulsed with her hand covering her mouth, trying very hard not to laugh, while Happy looking wide-eyed and pale. Soon he pulled his phone back out from his suit pocket, dialing his wife, telling her not to teach their son that word.

The genius finally calmed down enough to suggest,” Said fire engine.”

The Head of Security finished his call and thanked Tony,” Thanks, boss. That was a close call.”

Pepper chuckled,” It was a disaster in the making. Thank God.”

Tony clasped Happy’s shoulder,” Anytime, Hap. As a father myself, I don’t want my children to say that too. At least until they’re 21, which thankfully going to be 15 years from now.”

Pepper snorted femininely at that. The billionaire frowned when she did that. She answered with a huff,” How old were you when you said your first swear word?”

After a few seconds, Tony groaned,” You have a point.”

Happy looked at him amusingly,” I still can’t believe that you adopted them boss. I mean, yeah, you were good with Gabriel and Jack, but I thought you would want one of your own with Pepper.”

Pepper blushed and Tony grinned.

“Of course I do. I want to have a boy or girl with Pepper’s hair and my eyes. And we’re going to have beautiful-looking babies together, babe. You can count on it. My genes, your genes. Beautiful babies, I tell you,” he declared, making Pepper blushed even harder. “But when I found the twins, it’s like seeing at a picture of our future children.”

He smiled fondly as he remembered the first time he saw the twins.

December 2009
Sokovia, Eastern European

“Iron Man, what’s your position?” Winter Soldier voice chirped from the inside of his helmet.

After almost 9 years secretly helping SHIELD trying to eradicate HYDRA internationally, they finally came to the last main base and stronghold of the rotten organization. There were few small bases left, but SHIELD has a good handle on them, so the billionaire wasn’t exactly worried.

The base was stationed as an asylum, which was basically a fortress, but in truth it was a research facility intended for human experimentation. It was commanded by the last HYDRA leader, Wolfgang Von Strucker. According to JARVIS through hacking, it was found that Winter Soldier was once been trained and facilitated there, which why its location was the most secluded, hidden and guarded.

This new information made Uncle James most eager to destroy it; on the other hand, since it was a very big place with a HYDRA army of itself to guard it, Tony decided to share the information with his father’s old organization.

He planned to storm the place with his godfather covertly. It wouldn’t do to do it with a big bang, even if he wanted to do it after a long time of doing it secretively. He wanted to show HYDRA of who have been hunting them surreptitiously this whole time besides SHIELD and laughed at their faces at their final glory.

But, he had promised his dad to stay under the radar and kept himself safe. After the former British savior found out about what his oldest child has been doing on his spare time, let’s just say, he wasn’t happy about it. Even after Tony told him about all the precaution he had taken to create and put into the armor.

His dad could be such a Morgana sometimes. Of course Uncle James wasn’t out of the woods. He still remembered the coldness and eerie heavy pressure he felt when Harry reprimanded his godfather in simple sentence. The healer was blasting his magic aura in full flare, making the air around them uncomfortable like when you entered the scariest haunted place.

There were a few visible droplets of cold sweat on Uncle James’ face. Tiny droplets, you almost couldn’t see them if you didn’t look closely, but to make the bamf former assassin like that itself was a great fit. It was a telling of how furious the Master of Death was.

Recalling that memory still gave him the chill.

In the end he managed to convince his dad that they were stealth and careful in their missions; furthermore, their missions were almost over, since they only have three main bases unknown to destroy. The older wizard was forced to give in, but he didn’t forget to put his own touch of protection on Tony and James.

And even told Hill about it, so that she could watch their backs, if she saw them on field. As if they needed the help.

“I’m still in stealth mode and flying,” he replied. “There’s some sort of invisible shield around the fortress. Amazing how they were able to create this. It’s like magic, but not. It’s a shame they’re evil. Well they did work for HYDRA, so I guess…”

Below him, he scanned dozens of SHIELD agents whom were busy firing and fighting HYDRA agents. He could even pinpoint where the spider and birdbrain located. Hill was probably somewhere commanding with agent-agent but knowing him, he would be on the field beside his men. SHIELD really put their all to this final fight. Ending the so-called war.

“Can you shut it down?” James cut in before suddenly cursed quietly. “Shit.”

Iron Man could hear shots firing in the background from his ear-com.

“Winter, do you need help?”

“Coulson’s team is under fire,” he grunted.

“Your cover will be blown if you show up and save them,” Tony told him.

“I can’t leave them.”

“I didn’t tell you to,” Tony informed him cheekily. “Just stating the fact.”

“Just take down the shield.”

He could practically see his uncle rolling his eyes at him. The billionaire grinned toothily,” With pleasure.”

The genius directed his gauntlet and fired a powerful bluish-white bolt towards the shield. It looked exactly like the force beam from his repulsor, but in fact it was shield penetration spell.

Shortly after the spell hit the shield, the whole invisible barrier shut down. It even short-circuited the power source, which could be seen from the way a part of the smaller building went boom and on fire with sparks of electricity.

Still undetectable with the cloaking device, Tony immediately flew into the window, breaking the glass. He stood up and looked around. The wizard was in the hallway and JARVIS detected several heat signatures running towards him from the other sides.

He fired his repulsors at them before informing James,” I’m in.”

In the background he heard Coulson’s voice thanking his godfather followed by his voice saying,”On my way there,” then Winter soldier responded with a cold collected voice, “Destroy every weapons and data. I’ll destroy the chair.”

Tony knew James was keen on destroying the last ‘chair’ used to brainwash him; thus, he began scanning for the computers and after a few obstacles, mainly HYDRA foot soldiers, he found what he was looking for and came out of his suit.

“Sentry mode,” he commanded quietly and immediately his suit turned on and moved to guard his back.

The genius began typing on the computers,” Damn, HYDRA scums,” he sneered in disgust as he found the pictures and videos of the torture and experimentations.

“Bad word,” someone said from behind him with a Slavic accent.

It was the voice of a small child, which shouldn’t be possible. Even Tony wouldn’t peck HYDRA for child experimentation. He turned around and was faced with a boy, no older than Lily with curly dark and tuffs of white hair on top. He wore an old grey shirt and pants, which looked more like rags holding together by threads rather than clothes.

“J, proceed with the data transfer and destroy the computers after you finish,” he said before squatting in front of the boy, smiling reassuringly. “I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to say it. What’s your name?”

When Tony reached his hand out to hold the boy’s shoulder, the child suddenly disappeared in a blur and his voice appeared next to him. “My sister said it’s bad talking to stranger.”

The billionaire was surprised, but he managed to recover and looked at the boy, who was standing beside him with a suspicious look.

“My name is Tony, what’s yours?”

“Pietro,” then the kid slapped his hand upon his mouth.

“Now we’re not strangers anymore,” Tony smirked. “So, where’s your sister?”

Pietro’s lips trembled and he looked like he was about to cry,” With bad man.”

Worried, Tony put a hand on his shoulder. The boy stiffened up before suddenly he threw his arms around Tony’s neck and cried.

“There, there,” Tony engulfed the child’s body in his arms and slowly stood up. Having a child cried his heart out, pained Tony so much.

“She said run, so I run,” he hid his face on Tony’s shoulder and sobbed. “The bad man said we have to go. He want to put us in box. In big car. Wanda hit the man and said run. The bad man hit her too.”

Listening to the boy’s story between snivels, Tony felt anger risen up through his chest. HYDRA was evil, but he thought they would at least leave off torturing women and children. He wanted to annihilate them for raising their hands on these innocent children.

Curbing his own anger and frustration, Tony used his calmest voice and asked the boy,” Is Wanda your sister?”

The boy lifted his face and nodded, snots running from his nose.

“You see this,” he pointed to his black armor suit, which has been standing guard after finishing his tasks and destroyed the computers.

“It’s a knight,” Pietro whispered. “Like King Arthur and knights. The good lady told us the story about the ro…rou…”

“Round table knights?”

“Yes,” he said eagerly, but soon was replaced by sadness. “Then bad man come and good lady never come again.”

“Well, my suit makes me into a knight, Pietro,” Tony uttered. “And I can save you and your sister. You will never have to see this place again.”

“Never? We get food? New,” the boy blushed in embarrassment as he looked down at his dirty grey clothes.

“Yes, even new clothes,” the CEO smiled.

Pietro nodded excitedly and jumped off of Tony’s arms,” Follow me,” then he blurred away.

Tony was watching in confusion at the… he guessed the boy was very fast. The man was just starting to stand up when the boy came back with his hands on his hips, scolding him,” Come on.”

Keeping up with the boy, Tony maneuvered his suit to fly and follow the boy’s signature. It wasn’t long before they arrived in a large room that Tony contemplated to operate as a garage.

There were big trucks, cars and tanks. As soon as he entered the room, Tony disabled any bugs and security cameras. He listened to a man shouting to a group of soldiers,” Find that boy. I want him. Now.”

Pietro trembled in fear and hid behind the door slight. “Bad man.”

Before the group could disperse to find Pietro, Tony shot multiple tranquilizers shots at them. The bodies started to drop limply to the ground with loud thumps. After seeing this, Pietro immediately blurred out to the back door of the truck, trying to open it.

“Move away, Pietro,” Iron Man held his repulsor to the door and shot after Pietro moved away as fast as lightning.

The door was blasted open. It was dark, but Tony could make out a glass box the size of a cardboard box for a mini fridge. In it was a figure of a little girl with long hair, sitting with her head lying on her knees.

The boy was soon standing before the box, shouting for Tony to open it. Tony didn’t want to hurt the girl, so he walked inside the truck and with his suit, he tried to pry open the glass box.

“No, no,” looking closer, the girl has long red hair and she looked up at Tony with an anxious expression.

“Wanda, he’s good,” Pietro told her, trying to calm his sister down. “He help.”

“No,” the girl kept saying when the billionaire managed to break the glass without shattering it.

Suddenly a burst of red light blasted, hitting Tony squared in the reactor. He landed a few feet outside of the truck. It was a good thing Tony has imbued the Arc reactor with protective charms, so it didn’t crack when hit by magic or powerful blast.

The truck itself has been pushed back away, leaving Wanda, Pietro’s sister levitating on air in a red mist looking energy. Her brother was standing closed to her outside the most, looking wide-eyed and tried his best to talk to her.

“It’s ok, Wanda,” Pietro pleaded. “I’m here. I’m okay. The knight is here. He saved us. We’re okay.”

But the more he tried to calm her down, the more she cried out and the red mist grew larger. He needed to do something.

Tony got out of his suit and started walking towards the kids. He took Pietro and casted a protego charm when red energy began to fly everywhere.

Pietro looked at him in awe. “You can save her. Please knight Tony!”

“I will save her,” he said to the boy. “But you have to hide. It’s dangerous here.”

He nodded before blurring away. Tony turned to face the little girl. This much power inside a tiny girl. She must have been hurting, Tony thought to himself.

The wizard began casting,” Bubllipus, Immobulus. Mobilicorpus.”

Soon the little girl was encased in a giant protective bubble and have ceased to move but still levitating on the air and with the red energy dispersed.

Thank Merlin, his spells worked to stop Wanda’s energy.

Tony immediately put his hands through the bubbles. He was ready to catch the girl when the bubble popped. He took off his wristwatch, which released his spells from Wanda and woke her up. Before the girl lost control of her power again, Tony put the watch on the girl’s wrist. It resized immediately to the width of Wanda’s wrist. Pietro appeared next to him, looking anxious.

“She’s alright now, “he let the boy know.

“It don’t hurt anymore, “ the girl whispered in surprise. “Thank you. Are you like me?”

“Not… Exactly, “ Tony gave her a smile, before taking out his wand. He always brought it on mission, just in case something unwanted happened. That’s how paranoid he was.

He pointed the wand at the children clothes, “Scourgify.”

Both kids looked awed at the used of magic. “You have magic, “ while the boy exclaimed, “ you’re Merlin from the story.”

Tony felt embarrassed at their aah and ooh. He recalled what Pietro said about feeding and clothing them and he felt rage once more. There was also a tremendous amount of protectiveness towards both kids from the treatment they have been through here.

Moreover, these kids have developed certain ability from being experimented. It wouldn’t be wise to surrender them to SHIELD. It would be wise to help them control these power and probably being from the wizarding world, he would be more equipped to raise them.

The need to take care of them and feed them were so great that Tony offered them something he never think he would have done in his life.

“Do you want to… Come home with me?”

He would deal with the statute of secrecy after he bring these kids home. The important thing was to bring these kids… His kids back home.

After coming back to New York, Tony immediately talked to Pepper about wanting to adopt the siblings, who in fact were fraternal twins. At first he was afraid of Pepper rejecting the idea of putting kids into their relationship, but his worry was unreasonable.

His girlfriend fell in love with the twins, all the more when they talked about being hit and abused. He should have known that Pepper would love the kids. He forgot that she adored Lily so much, which proved that she has a soft spot for little children.

Before going to see Pepper, Tony had the twins promised not to tell anybody about their power or their time in Strucker’s stronghold. He told them, people would try to take them from him if they found out, which wasn’t exactly a lie. The kids complied because they liked their savior and suspicious of other grownups. Only James knew about their origin and later his dad and Hill.

With Pepper and SI’s legal team’s help, Tony managed to secure the adoption quickly, even after Sokovia has been recently cleaned off of HYDRA, which was quite a political disaster. It even expedited the matter of the statute of secrecy.

Then the news of him adopting got out, but he refused to object the twins to the media. He stated for the media to be respectful of his need to protect his kids from watchful eyes. He didn’t want Pietro or Wanda to feel frightened and more paranoid than they already were.

The genius also found a way to help the children control their power with the help of his dad. To prevent them from accidentally use their power, Tony created two magical metal bracelets to gently suppress their power. They didn’t object using it, since with the bracelets they would be able to play with Lily without harming her.

Now almost 4 months staying with him, they have regained some more trust in adult. They still have nightmares about their time with HYDRA, but with the help of the mind healer and some potions, they have started their journey onto living as normal kids.

“I can see that, “ Happy said. “Pietro was excited and curious just like you boss while Wanda despite being shy always wrangled his brother when he got too excited about something. She’s like the mini version of Pepper, especially with the whole red hair.”

“That reminded me, “ Pepper suddenly straightened up. “I promised the twins I would pick them up from Harry’s.”

“Where to?”

“Shopping, “ she kissed Tony on the lips and then stood up.

“Maybe I should come with you, “ Tony offered. “I doubt Pietro enjoy following you girls looking at dresses.”

“And shoes, “ Pepper gave him a wink.

Happy burst out in laughter when Tony looked incredulously at her and said, “ You just bought three pairs yesterday.”

***

Chapter Text

Jötunheim, March 26th 2011

It was the land of winter, home realm to the frost giants of the nine realms. This morning, he never would have imagined that he would have to step his foot upon this land; yet, here he was, landing on this desolate icy realm to prevent Thor from inciting a war, again.

He lost count of how many wars he had thwarted from his brother laughable diplomatic efforts. All the great big oaf knew was battle, adventure and anything to do with his brawn and not a sense of wit. The eldest son of house of Odin was clueless when it came to talking and avoiding casualties, even with how much effort Loki put to advise him to do so.

The great God of Thunder wanted glory and victory and fame so his name would be sung throughout the whole nine realms. It was frustrating how much the people of Asgard and their Father encouraged him of his deeds by praises and songs of valor.

The younger Prince of Asgard felt that his older brother would be a great king, who would bring Asgard to its grandeur time. As much as he loathed saying it, his brother was charismatic and a people-person. None could resist how bright he shone with his prowess and magnificent charm. People just drawn to him liked moths.

There’s no likelihood he would be chosen as heir and Loki had been joyous and satisfied to be Thor’s right-hand person. He was the black sheep of the family because of his mischief.

Although, Loki applauded himself as a very cold-headed advisor and as much as he loved to see Asgard throve, he knew he would never be a good ruler. He liked to strategize from behind the scene instead of charging towards battle and danger, which was Thor’s main characteristic.

Therefore, it’s infuriating how much the magnificent great giant goat didn’t listen to his wonderfully crafted plans and advises. Decades and decades of talking to make him listen to reason and in the end, Loki has always had to be the better Asgardian by swallowing his pride and saved him and his companions, the Lady Sif and the the Warriors Three, Fandral the Dashing, Volstagg the Voluminous, and Hogun the Grim. More like Overbearing Wench and the Buffoons Three.

It’s not the sorcerer’s fault that he despised Thor’s so-called friends, well Hogun was alright most of the time with his quietness. The God of Trickster didn’t have the best past experiences with them, with the wench as the head of goons. She always tried to undermine Loki’s position and worth in Thor’s eyes and ears.

It’s as if she’s jealous that even with Loki’s infamous mischief and love of playing pranks on others, he was still the one Thor searched for advice, with however minimum he followed the brunette’s counsels. Mostly, Thor usually just did what he almost always done, used his fists, brute force and hammer, mjölnir.

The only Aesir the giant buffoon listened to the most were his mentor, the most beloved Queen in Asgard, their mother, Queen Frigga. Even the great Allfather, Odin Borson, their father listened to her; nevertheless, Thor usually half-listened and half-not; furthermore, with their mother’s duties of overseeing the household matters and diplomatic dignitary matters, she did not have time to watch over Thor’s behaviors.

Again, Loki believed his brother would be a great king someday, emphasized on the word someday. But, right now, he would not be one. Not yet.

The Blond god was still too in love with the idea of brute force for peace. Loki adored his shallow-minded of a brother, but the Asgardian prince was reckless and he feared for the fate of the nine realms. He loathed admitting that his brother would bathe their realm with blood to appease his need for battle.

A day before the coronation…

“Mother, please,” Loki pleaded to the Allmother in one of her rooms. “He’s not ready.”

“Loki, my dear son,” Frigga sighed, in her seat. “The decision has been made. The ambassadors and the guests have all been invited to the ceremony. It’s only a day away my son.”

As frustrated as he was, he respected his mother too much to argue with her, but he felt the weight of the fate of the nine realms resting on his shoulders right now. He needed to reason with his mother and it would be easier to deal with her through reasoning and compromising.

“It’s unbecoming of you to want to delay your own brother’s crowning, my dear,” she smiled tiredly at him. “Your father has grown too weary for the throne, Loki. He’s not getting younger with time.”

He felt a squeeze in his heart at his mother’s accusation. Lowering his eyes to the floor, he said quietly, “I know mother that Father has outgrown his years in ruling and as much as I love Thor,” he looked up at his mother from where he was sitting,” He is not ready. He’s still too immature and he enjoyed flirting with battle too much for the good of the Aesirs. His temper is a terrifying thing.”

“In due time, your brother will learn from his mistakes,” Frigga informed him wisely. “And with you by his side, Asgard will prevail.”

“But until when, mother?” He asked none too loudly. “As of this moment, he only partially listened to my counsel during our journeys. I’m frightened; he would not listen to the counsel from the advisors when he became King. He’s not ready.”

Suddenly, Loki felt drained out from this battle of words. “I’m frightened of the fate of Asgard if he were to be put in this position when he’s not yet at that point of his life to be sensible. He will be a great king. I believe that in my heart, and I will follow his lead. All I asked for is time. He needs time to grow into the great king we all want and trust him to be.”

“Loki, I don’t think…”

“I can show you, mother,” Loki begged her. “I can show you that he’s not ready.”

“How?” His mother said wearily.

“Just a little misdirection and mischief,” Loki’s smile grew slowly. “I promise you, this plan wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

“Loki,” the Allmother spoke with a warning tone.

“Nobody would be hurt,” the God of Mischief put his hand upon his mother’s hand. “You shall see.”

Nobody was supposed to be hurt. But Loki yet again underestimated how much his brother would react.

The plan was simple. Frigga would talk to Odin about letting Thor down slowly from being coronate with a reason that his oath to destroy Jotunheim and all Jotnars would break his oath as the ruler of nine realms, to protect all nine, when Jotunheim was one of the nine.

It was a reasonable reasoning, but he miscalculated the fact that his great big oaf of a brother was a very temperamental person. He threw tantrums and as childish as he could be, he vowed to do what he promised to do, bring the war to the Jotnars.

Simple to say, their parents were not very happy Asgardians when their eldest son shouted at them and portrayed such irresponsibility character. Allfather was furious and canceled the real coronation stating to Thor that he had displayed lack of leadership, diplomatic and volatility; thus, very unbefitting for a king.

As retaliation, Thor complained to his companions while drinking in the empty banquet hall due to the coronation being cancelled and Loki, disgusted with his whining, left the premises to go to the horse stable.

It’s been a while since he visited Sleipnir, the eight-legged war horse he raised and presented to the Allfather as a gift. The brunette was quite happy that their parents were able to see the real Thor that he had been have to deal with this whole time.

It was enough. Asgard shall live in peace for another day.

That was until he forgot he had left his book in his haste to flee his brother’s company. He debated whether to go and retrieve his book or stay here for a while. The second option seemed more appealing since he didn’t want to be near Thor when he’s being an unpleasant company.

Then his decision was made when a group of attendants came to usher the stable boy to hurry up and prepare the horses for Thor and his friends. It didn’t pick his interest at first even as the attendants leave with the horses, as it wasn’t a common occurrence for Thor to venture and seek for a way to release his anger and tension by traveling to other realms to hunt and kill some beasts. Or even anger the population of the other realms when his demand wasn’t fulfilled. Thor’s temper was a dangerous thing.

Anxiety suddenly crept towards Loki’s spine. What if Thor decided to be a petulant boy and started a war by misspoken to the other dignitaries from the other realms he chose to visit to appease his anger? That would be a disaster; thus, Loki shifted into a crow and flew to search for the company.

As a shapeshifter, Loki was proficient in changing into many kinds of forms but whenever he turned into a form of animal, his mind would be clouded with the instinct of the form of which he had taken.

But even as a bird, Loki could see that Thor was arguing with his friends about something when the attendants brought them their horses. He felt intrigued and yet, more troubled than before. It’s a very rare and almost unheard of occasion for the four bilgesnipes to have a quarrel with his older brother. Moreover, if the four felt the need to argue with his brother then whatever Thor was planning to do couldn’t be anything good.

The God of Trickster prediction was correct when they rode pass through the massive gate on horsebacks, leaving Asgard behind. The group of five rode along towards the most astounding path in this realm or any other called Bifrost, which was the famed Rainbow Bridge.

In the distance far ahead , the Bridge continued on until it reached Heimdall’s Observatory. Heimdall, the Gatekeeper of Asgard stood at his post on the Bridge before them, blocking their way when the company arrived there. (Excerpt. Thor1 script)

Loki watched from a distance in his bird form. Heimdall conversed with them, still holding onto his massive sword, sternly and disapprovingly at them. When the dark-skinned God tilted his head a little towards Loki’s location, prompted the group to look at where the god has been looking at, he knew his location has been found out.

Loki transformed back into his original shape and before long, he found out that the argument was about Thor going to Jötunheim to slay the frost giants.

“This is madness, Thor,” Loki disputed, with a disapproving look on his face. “Father would never allow it. Gatekeeper please reason with the oaf.”

“Hold your tongue, Loki,” Thor hissed, looking coldly at him.

Loki couldn’t help but flinch at his brother’s cold words and expression. Didn’t he know that Loki is trying to prevent him from being throttled by their father? Or worse, be thrown from being the heir and future king? Trying to slaughter the Jotnars would be a political suicide with how thin of an ice they were with the peace treaty.

“It would be unwise to start a battle with the Jotnars, milord,” Heimdall said gracefully. “Allfather would not approve of it.”

“Heimdall, the safety of our realm is no jest,” Thor argued. “And if I conquer Jötunheim, Father will resume my coronation and I shall get us rid off the filthy beasts. You heard what the old warriors are saying. They are savages and menace. All the realms shall be better without them and all shall hail my name for these heroic deeds.”

“Thor, listen to me I…”

“Silent, brother!” He shouted at the brunette before ordering Heimdall,” As the future King of Asgard, I will not be disobeyed by a mere Gatekeeper.”

The tall God threw a sharp look towards Thor with his eerie golden eyes and to Loki despair, he climbed into the large control apparatus at the centre of the room and readied the Observatory.

Before he opened the Bifrost, the Gatekeeper warned the godling,” Be warned. I will honor my sworn oath to protect this realm as its Gatekeper. If you return threatens the safety of Asgrad, Bifrost will remain closed to you. You’ll be left to die in the cold wastes of Jötunheim.” (Excerpt. Thor1 script)

When they stepped onto the platform, Loki argued again,” Heimdall, this is foolishness.”

But he already opened the bridge and off to the realm of forever winter they went.

“I cannot disobey the order from the crown Prince, but I have alerted the king to this act of obedience,” Heimdall answered calmly. “I suggest you try to stop your brother, my Prince.”

Disgruntled, Loki gave a sharp nod before he himself surrounded by the bright light of the bridge and immediately arrived at Jötunheim. For Odin sake, Thor has gone mad with fury if he thought that starting a war and breaking the peace treaty would get him on Father’s good gracious.

He cared about his brother so much, but sometimes… a lot of times he wished Thor would just use his brain instead of brute force. Idiotic oaf.

The blizzard whence he arrived was freezing and almost unbearable. It prompted Loki to use a warming charm on himself and before long; he arrived at the ensuing battle.

He didn’t get a chance to speak to his brother with the snowstorm brewing but he had to fight a Jotun warrior. Then another one and another one and so on.

It wasn’t easy and they were prominent opponents, not just because of their physique and size but also because of their agility. The Aesir blood inside of him thrummed with the joy of battle and it wasn’t an easy task to try to put his foes down without ending their lives.

Loki could already see the expression on the Allmother’s face if she found out that he had used violence and not his words. She would be most disapproving; hence, the use of lethal not deadly spells and mostly hit them on their limbs.

Vaguely, he heard Thor’s voice near him, trying to call for Heimdall’s help. Loki could already guess that this battle was too much and exhausting for him. It wouldn’t be a wonder if one of them were to be hurt for the oldest prince to call for the Gatekeeper.

“Fool! Heimdall would not be opening the bridge when there’s a battle on this side,”Loki shouted in the middle of the white storm.

Then suddenly his opponent got a handle on his fight and managed to reach his frosty hand towards Loki, but in a quick movement, Loki managed to dance around the stretched arm. If Thor ever found out that he used dance moves to avoid their opponents, he would never hear the end of it, Loki sneered annoyingly in his mind.

Out of nowhere, the light from the bifrost appeared and Odin Allfather appeared with gungnir on his hand and clad in battle armor, riding his royal steed, Sleipnir. It was an imposing sight.

The ensuing fight ended as well as the blizzard. Finally he could see where the great big oaf and his companions were and the march of frost giants parted to allow another giant through to whom Loki assumed was King Laufey.

Both leaders walked until they faced each other and started talking and compromising. Laufey didn’t look very happy, but Odin proposed to give them back their most powerful weapon, the Casket of Winter to amend what the treaty Thor and his friends have broken and how many jotnars they’d slaughtered.

With a binding vow not to misuse the Casket from the king of Jötunheim and its future kings, except to fix the realm, Laufey accepted, looking none happily but also not discontented.

As the Jotnars let them part ways, Loki sighed in relief and kneeled in front of his father,” Thank you Father. I did not know what I would have to do to stop this bloodshed. I apologized for being unable to stop my brother.”

Odin smiled and inclined his head up for Loki to stand up,” You have tried my son,” before looking quite heatedly at Thor and his friends who still tried to defend their actions.

“Father, with you we will be able to defeat them!” Thor bellowed. “How could you let them have the Casket of Winter?! We should destroy them while we have the chance!”

“Silent! I am talking to your brother.”

With that, his brother was silenced immediately.

“You did well, Loki,” Odin put his hand upon Loki’s shoulder and shooting disapproval look at Thor. “We will discuss your punishment, Thor. Heimdall.”

Just a second before the Bifrost appeared, one of the Frost giant ran towards Thor with his ice spear raised in the air. They were all transported back to the Observatory, including the Frost Giant that tried to attack Thor.

Odin put a stop to it with his magic, stopping the Jotnar from stabbing his eldest son. “Stop. You are attempting to harm my son when the new treaty has already been enacted.”

“He killed my child!” The jotnar hissed in his language.

“And we have given what your realm needed the most back,” Odin warned him. “You are hereby will be a prisoner of Asgard. Guards, seize him.”

The guards produced the special cuff that would allow them to bring down any kinds of beings from nine realms and put them on the jotnar. But the size of the giant made him difficult to be taken away. He managed to run with cuffs on him away from the Observatory.

“Let me handle him father,” Thor exclaimed, preparing Mjolnir.

“You have done enough,” Allfather said with thunder in his voice. “Loki.”

“Yes, father,” Loki disappeared and transported away to stand in front of the frost giant who has ran away towards the rainbow bridge outside the Observatory.

With his magic, Loki tried to apprehend the giant but desperate as he was, the jotnar used his body to push against the sorcerer. He held his hands out to prepare for the impact with magic and he knew it’s not enough to shield him from the cold. But instead of feeling the burnt, he saw the ice slowly creeping up his body from where the jotnar’s body touched his hands.

Horrified, he pushed the frost giant away with a spell and staggered before falling on his behind. The moment they disconnected from each other, the blue sipped out of him and Loki held his hands in front of him looking bewildered. “What is this?”

“Loki, it’s not…” Father hurried towards him, looking pinched.

“Father, what is this?!” He exclaimed, looking frightened at his own skin. “What am I?”

Thor followed by his companions and the few guards have arrived behind his father, looking puzzled.

“Loki?” Thor asked, looking confused. “You turned blue for a second. What magic have you used?”

“What am I, father?!” he demanded in dismay, ignoring his brother in favor for his father’s explanations.

“You’re my son,” Odin said carefully.

“Am I cursed?”

Looking weary and in front of audiences, Odin answered, “I found you after the war. You were just a babe abandoned in the temple. I did not have the heart to leave you.”

Loki heard gasps, but he ignored it. “Why didn’t you tell me? All this time and you hid this from me.”

At the accusation, Odin kneeled in front of his son trying to reach his hand towards him, but Loki flinched and dragged himself away from the person who have raised him since childhood. His father… no, king of Asgard looked in pain and sad, but he stomped down the guilt raising in his chest.

“You are my son,” he admitted, putting his hands on his lap. “Whatever you look like, blood or no blood, you are our son, Loki.”

Before he could ask for another explanation, suddenly he felt an excruciating pain blooming on his abdomen. Slowly he looked down to where the pain pulsating. It wasn’t unexpected why he felt so much pain at the same time. There was an amount of thin ice stalagmites protruding from that injured part of his body. Loki had almost forgot about the ran away frost giant.

“I want you to feel my pain God of Thunder,” the frost giant cackled madly.

At the moment of his demish, he noticed a few things. He could hear his brother calling his name in that heart-broken exclamation. His father devastated shock face. Thor’s idiot friends looking horrified at him and the guards bringing the jotnar, his killer down.

Loki felt light-headed from the blood loss and it was hard to stay awake when he started to feel numb from the pain. He knew he wasn’t going to last when he felt himself started to fall backwards.

It was a shock when he didn’t feel the surface behind him and kept falling.

The last thing he saw was the look on his family’s face. Allfather looked ashen and old. Looking ever bit his age and Thor looked guilty and disbelieve with his jaw hanging in a silent scream.

Maybe him dying and falling was for the best. There’s no body to mourn.

As much as he was a great ambassador and diplomat, he was not a leader. The people of Asgard respected him but they didn’t exactly know him with how bright and popular his older brother was. His fellow noblemen envied and despised him for his position and being arrogant, whence Loki thought himself as self-important and thinking of the good of Asgard and all the nine Realms. The soldiers and old warriors and generals detested him for his used of combat magic, even when he was the best at throwing knives and close combat with his speed among the Aesirs and even the other beings in the nine realms.

The only people he loved were his family and before this, he truly believed that they loved him too. Yet, as much as Allfather tried to explain it, he didn’t feel like he could trust the man he called father since he was a little babe. These days Thor only talked to him when he needed Loki’s help. Mother has always been mother but could he trust her? She also kept the secret about his true birth. At least, he was relieved that mother was not here to see him died.

The pain has numbed the shock of the truth of his true heritage. He felt quite betrayed at his father and horrified of the thought that he was the monsters that Thor sworn to slay all these time.

It was all too much for Loki. He embraced death that awaited him as he closed his eyes and accepted the void as he kept falling and falling to the deep unending darkness.

***

Somewhere in the void, Loki opened his eyes, hoping that it would be the last time he wake up. For a second he faintly heard someone said amiably ,” Death is not ready for you yet, little godling.”

***