Holly pulled at the ugly pink smock, she still wasn’t used to the uniform for her job even after three months. Three months of work that reminded her of the Dursleys in a way that was much more annoying than it was terrifying. The only reason she didn’t quit this job was really because it was the only one she could get in the muggle world. As it turned out having to stop a muggle education at age 11 did not qualify her for much more than being a cleaning lady.
It wasn’t even bad work. She worked for a reputable company based in New York City. They were hired by companies who needed buildings cleaned by people who had spotless backgrounds and some kind of security clearance. Which, at the very least, made the work interesting. She helped clean government buildings, research and development departments, and CEO offices. All of her coworkers had gone through rigorous background checks and everyone was randomly tested to make sure they weren’t taking anything they weren’t supposed to.
To make sure that no one stole any classified stock information, the cleaning crew was paid very very well. Much better than any other job of a similar type would dream of paying. Holly didn’t necessarily need the money, she had plenty of it in Gringotts, but there was something satisfying about living on money she earned rather than money she’d inherited. The pay was enough to cover her tiny apartment in New York that was way more expensive than it had to be as well as all of her other expenses. She wasn’t able to eat out every night but magic made cooking rather easy anyway.
In all within three months she’d grown used to the work and the lifestyle she’d set up for herself in the muggle world. One might ask why Holly Potter of all people was working as a cleaning lady. She’d been offered lucrative positions all over the world. She could have been an auror for the British, on the wizengamot, hell she could have even just sat on her laurels and been praised for the rest of her life. After nearly 10 years of dedicated service to the wizarding world she could have been anything she wanted.
That was the problem, the 28 year old witch didn’t know what she wanted. Her entire childhood and adolescence had been shaped by Voldemort and the war. If Dumbledore’s plan had gone through completely she would have died at the end of the war and it wouldn’t have mattered what career aspirations she had. But it hadn’t. When the war ended when she was 17, Holly did the only thing she knew how to do. She kept fighting.
She and her friends started capturing Death Eaters, rebuilding Hogwarts, and reclaiming the corrupt ministry. Holly made it her life mission to remove the taint of Voldemort from the world. She had all of her friends from the DA to help at first but as the years went on many of them gotten married and settled down. She didn’t begrudge them that. Ron and Hermione stuck with her the longest but eventually the siren call of domesticity pulled them away.
The wedding had been beautiful. Traveling to the United States right after to start Death Eater hunting there by herself had been less so. But she managed. She got really really good at it. By the time she was done the British Ministry had been completely cleaned up and dozens of laws rewritten to ensure corruption didn’t return so easily. All Death Eaters were convicted and punished depending on the severity of their crimes. She did all of this and the world loved her for it.
But now that it was done she didn’t know what she was meant to do. She had no passions other than quidditch to speak of. Playing professionally was out of the question. She didn’t want to get on a team because of her fame and she didn’t want to increase her fame by adding professional seeker to her long list of accomplishments. She’d considered teaching, she knew if she applied Hogwarts would take her on in a heartbeat for the defense position. There would be a certain delicious irony if she got the job that Voldemort never managed too.
But she didn’t feel ready to teach. Of course, she knew the stuff front and back. Yet there was still a question of having life experience outside of a war. Holly only knew magic that was useful in fighting Death Eaters and cleaning out corrupt governments. Did she really want to live out the rest of her life surrounding by just that? Wasn’t there more to life? Was there more?
She’d talked with plenty of people about the issue. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley suggested a vacation. Hermione thought Holly should go back to school and finally graduate from Hogwarts. Fred and George told her that there was always a place for her in their joke shop. Ginny kept owling her the dates for try-outs for various quidditch teams. Ron was of the opinion that Holly didn’t need to do anything at all if she didn’t want to. Except perhaps go to therapy.
In the end it was Teddy who gave her the best idea. The nearly 11 year old boy with turquoise hair had looked at her seriously before saying what the real problem.
“You don’t know who you are outside of Voldemort. That’d be like me not knowing what I look like without all the shape shifting.”
To prove his point, he shapeshifted back till he was a blonde haired boy that was almost a near replica of Remus Lupin, aside from the nose and chin that was all Tonks. Holly smiled at him as he slowly shifted back to his preferred look.
“I guess you’re right Teddy. But what am I supposed to do about it?”
“Well if you were smart.” Teddy started, leaning forward with a grin. “You’d go someplace that Voldemort never was.”
“Voldemort and his forces invaded the entire magical world.”
It had taken a while to get the others to understand her decision. Why would she want to live in the muggle world and so far away? Eventually they accepted her decision and threw her a going away party at the Burrow. That party had been four months ago, and Holly was already feeling…more positive about her future. Even if she still had no actual plans.
A sound broke Holly out of her thoughts, it sounded like thump. She turned and out of the corner of her eyes she saw the one figure in this building that wasn’t wearing an ugly pink smock with black trousers. The man instead was wearing a gray suit, his hair was in disarray. Holly closed her locker that contained a bag that held her regular day clothing, her cellphone, and the book she was reading on the commute here. The lock automatically engaged and Holly quickly slipped on her slip-safe shoes and made her way out of the locker room. When she exited, she saw her boss, Mitch Reed, slowly banging his head against the outer wall of the locker room.
“You know sir, banging your head against the one room you’re not allowed inside of looks rather suspicious.”
“Miss Potter!” The man straightened up, looking rather bewildered. “I…I didn’t know anyone else was still in.”
“The building I was working today had a bit of a staining issue, getting everything to rights took a bit longer than expected.”
“Right. Right…Sorry I’m just not…There’s a client that is going to give me ulcers.”
Holly leaned against the wall and folded her arms. The man did look rather stressed. His normally crisp suit was crumpled, there was a line of sweat on his forehead and bags under his brown eyes. She gave him a look and the man sighed, crumpling in one himself.
“You just moved here what? Four months ago?”
“But you still know about the invasion and the Avengers.”
Holly had of course heard about the invasion, there had even been talk of sending her to go help but before she could be dispatched the muggles had taken care of it. She nodded and the man continued.
“Well after the invasion all of the Avengers moved into Stark Tower, which most people call Avengers Tower.” He explained. “The top six floors of that building are where the Avengers live when they aren’t saving the world that is. The lower floors are office spaces for Stark Industries as well as a few other companies.”
“Well I can get regulars cleaners for 87 floors without issues, guess which six floors I’m having problems with.”
“Oh I don’t know, the first six? Those would get the most traffic.”
“Very funny. If you can’t take this seriously then I don’t see why…”
“No. No.” Holly said. “Are the cleaners taking things, asking for autographs? Or are they creepily staring at Earth’s mightiest heroes?”
“Why not all three?” Mitch scoffed and started to pace. Holly watched with lifted eyebrows as the man listed out the problems he’d been having. “The first group I set over made the Avengers uncomfortable by thanking them constantly and asking for autographs. The next group stole things to sell on ebay. The group after that didn’t even get through the front door because Stark’s security system found something in their background that we missed. The fourth group left traumatized after cleaning out Thor’s room, apparently the god had some beheaded poultry dripping blood into a bowl in there. Then after that every group I’ve left hasn’t lasted more than three days because of some problem or another. I’m pretty sure one of those assholes has made it a game to scare my workers away.”
“I don’t think you’re supposed to call the heroes of New York assholes.”
“I’ll stop calling them that when they stop giving me gray hairs.”
“Fair enough. How big is the job, those six floors?”
“I like to send a group of three to tackle it, it’s not that there’s a lot to do but rather every day there’s a new weird thing to clean up. Never the same thing twice. Honestly if the Avengers weren’t so great at making unique messes one person could keep those six floors clean since Stark has little robots that do a lot of the smaller tasks.”
“So, it sounds like to me you just need to find one person under your employ that can do their job without making things weird.”
“Yes, but I don’t think it’s possible. I don’t want to keep traumatizing my workers but I don’t see any other…”
Mitch froze in the middle of his pacing, then he turned on his heels to look at her, his eyes wide and his eyebrows nearly up to his hair line.
“You can’t be. I literally told you that anyone who gets sent there is tormented by demented superheroes.”
“At least I’m aware. I know I can handle anything they throw at me, sir. I can handle six floors in a day no problem.”
“Are…are you sure? Because honestly you’d be saving me a lot of grief.”
“Okay. Okay. I’ll get you reassigned, and you’ll get your new assignment and ID card tomorrow morning. Thank you, Miss Potter.”
“Anytime sir. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
The next morning Holly got a new ID card and directions to Avengers Tower. The group of cleaners who had previously assigned gave her looks that were both grateful and full of pity. Holly ignored it. She’d learnt to clean after Dudley Dursley, nothing the Avengers did could be as vile. Beyond that potions class had long since made her immune to disgusting things.
Getting to Avengers Tower required getting into a nondescript black van, plenty of other people went with her to work on the lower levels. When she entered the van there was a scanner she had to wave her ID on. Once the scanner beeped and turned green she climbed inside. She sat down next to a handsome man in the same ugly smock she was wearing.
“Well, now aren’t you a sight for sore eyes, I don’t think I’ve seen you round here before.” The man said in a very thick American accent.
“Oh. Well I’ve only worked here for three months.” She answered. “I just got assigned to Stark Tower today.”
“If it ain’t my lucky day then. I’m George and I must say you’ve got a very pretty voice. What’s that British?”
“Thank you. Yes, I’m from Britain.”
Another woman slid, into the van, she had bright blue hair and a nose piercing.
“Already flirting with the new chick then Georgie?”
“We’re just having a nice conversation. I’m sure someone from Britain would appreciate my southern charm, unlike you.”
“You’re British?” The woman asked.
“Yes, I’m Holly Potter.”
“Wow, you sound proper. Be careful, Miss Proper, flirting with Georgie here only makes him more of an ass.”
“Now I think I might just be offended.”
Holly listened as the two friends, and it was obvious that’s exactly what they were, bicker. The two had obviously decided she needed to be mentored. Which Holly could have found offensive. She might have a deceptively young face, but she was a war general. Not these muggles knew that. So she let them give her advice. Apparently, she wasn’t supposed to do anything suspicious outside of the bathroom because the AI security system would call you out for smoking indoors.
When she told them that she’d been assigned to work the top six floors, Cathy the woman with the blue hair, sang her a funeral dirge. It was so well done that Holly smiled and clapped politely.
“You’re not supposed to clap, you’re going to die.”
“And what a beautiful song to go out on.”
Cathy rolled her eyes as the van rolled to a stop.
“It was nice knowing you Miss Proper.”
“I said what I said.”
Getting into the tower was simple too. She just had to walk through three detectors, none of which could pick up the magical energy coming off of the wand she was using as a hair stick. Then she had to have her ID scanned. Once she was through security she was directed by a calm British voice coming out of the scanner to please head to the elevators and go up to the 88th floor. Apparently, her cleaning cart was up there and where she could begin her job. Holly thanked the man and got to work.
“Once more into the fray.”
It really wasn’t that bad all things considered. Granted it was bad, but not all that bad. The first floor she cleaned contained two apartments with a common area between them. It was in a large closet in said common area that her cleaning cart had been stuffed.
“Miss Potter.” A voice said from nowhere as Holly pulled the cart out of the closet.
“Yes Jarvis?” Holly asked without missing a beat.
“You are aware of who I am?”
“Who wouldn’t be? You’re the first AI of your kind!” She had actually heard of Jarvis before thanks to Hermione who still kept up with all the muggle technology that she’d had to give up for magic. It hadn’t occurred to her that by taking his job she’d meet the AI, she wasn’t even really sure what an AI was other than a very complicated computer program.
“I had not realized that my fame had reached so far as to reach Britain.”
“Oh, you’re very popular there, us brits have to stick together right?”
There was a pause, Holly looked up from her perusal of the cleaning cart which had a very interesting array of chemicals in it. Before she could second guess herself too much Jarvis returned.
“Yes, of course we do. Although I have to admit I was programmed by an American and you are the first British person I’ve met.”
“Not a problem. There’s just three things you’ve got to do if you’re going to be fully British.” Holly told the air as she picked up different bottles to see what they were. “First you’ve got to call Soccer, Football and call American Football, American Football.”
“Of course.” Jarvis agreed sounding a little amused.
“Then you’ve got to prefer tea over any other liquid. If you were on a desert, dying of thirst you wouldn’t crave water, it’d be a good cuppa.”
“As an AI I don’t have the need to drink.”
“You can still have preferences.”
“I…I suppose I can. What is the third requirement?”
“How sassy can you be? Because every British person needs to be at least a little sassy.”
“I am an adequate amount of sassy.”
“Then congrats, you’re British. Now would you mind telling me if there are rooms I’m not meant to go into for cleaning?”
“If a room is locked then you are not to clean it.”
“Efficient.” With that she got to work.
She cleaned the common area first. She picked up a bright red cape and placed it in the basket that had been labeled ‘laundry’ with a sharpie and put away the art supplies that had been scattered all over the table. Whoever was the artist among the group was actually quite good. Holly spared a moment to look at the sketch of the New York City skyline, before carefully putting the sketchbook with the other art supplies, art unmolested.
Cleaning the kitchen took some doing, she found what appeared to be rotting shark flesh in the fridge. It was an…interesting smell to be certain. After asking Jarvis about it he told her it belonged to Thor and that he had likely forgotten it was there. So Holly through it away and sanitized the fridge.
“Please let the Avengers know that if they leave something in the fridge I’ll throw it away when it begins to rot if they don’t leave some sort of a note.”
“I will do that, Miss Potter.”
Once the kitchen and common area was clean she tried the first apartment. The door was unlocked so she knocked lightly, when there was no answer, even when she said ‘Housekeeping!’, she pushed the door open. It was an odd mess that reminded her vividly of Hogwarts. Animal skins and furs were laid along the floor and hung on the walls. Different parts of magical creatures were also hung like trophies. There was an overall smell of male musk in the room.
Holly quickly moved through the apartment, dirty clothing was placed in the laundry basket and everything was shaken out for dirt or vacuumed. She knew this was probably Thor’s bedroom based on the bleeding bird she found dripping blood into a bowl in the bedroom. Holly recognized preparations for a potion when she saw one. Holly gathered all the various plants and animal pieces that Thor had put together and organized them by type on the table he had in the corner of the bedroom. That ought to help. The last thing she did was spray the room down with some air freshener and ask Jarvis to open a window to air out the stench.
The other apartment was much quicker to clean. There weren’t many personal affects and it seemed to have been cleaned recently. Holly had a feeling that the previous cleaners had just not gone into Thor’s rooms. Based on what little Holly could discern in the room, mostly the fact it was so sterile and that there were grainy black and white photos of people she didn’t know, it was probably Captain America’s room. She cleaned it quickly and felt tempted to add a few homey touches. She didn’t but knew she’d probably do it eventually.
She placed the laundry basket in the elevator and Jarvis told her that there were robots that would take care of the washing. Then she took the same elevator up to the next floor. This floor had the same layout as the previous one. Except for the fact that it looked like a scene out of a horror movie. The common room was a mess, there were knives and other small easy to hide weapons scattered about. Not to mention arrows in the walls and what looked like beheaded ceramic doll heads everywhere. Some with weapons embedded in them keeping them on the ceiling or on the walls.
“Do the Avengers who live here like the décor or am I allowed to clean up from their party?” She didn’t sound impressed. Honestly she’d expected more based on Mitch’s description.
“Please feel free, Miss Potter.”
Holly quickly gathered all of the weapons up and carefully organized them on the table. She threw away the baby doll heads and removed the arrows in the walls. She refilled the walls with that caulk that was in her cart, now she knew why it had been there in the first place. It took close to an hour to get the entire common area and kitchen set to rights. The kitchen was mostly full of half empty take-away containers which were easy enough to throw out. Both of the doors to the apartments were locked which…honestly she appreciated because she didn’t want anything else to do with this floor.
She’d already filled a garbage bag, which Jarvis instructed her to place in the service elevator, which was the one she’d been using this whole time. There was a main, fancy elevator for the people who actually lived here. The next floor was a gym, just a huge giant gym. There were wrestling mats, weights, machines, dumbells, and punching bags. It took a while to clean, long enough that by the time she was finished with it, it was lunch time.
After a quick lunch break in the Stark Tower cafeteria, in which was given a nice free lunch, she went up to the next floor. This turned out to be by far one of the more interesting floors she’d been on. It contained an apartment that was decorated in calm neutral tones. There was a visible speaker system with lines of CDs that were mostly classical or relaxing in nature. It also had, instead of a second apartment, a giant steel lined room with large fist sized dents in it. So this must be where Dr. Banner called home.
Cleaning it took almost no time at all. Dr. Banner kept a clean space so Holly really only had to pick up a few things, clean a window or two, and vacuum up some of the areas that the little robots couldn’t get too. Holly thought she rather liked Dr. Banner, if only because he kept his floor clean.
The last two floors took the rest of her day. The first was what appeared to be the Avengers hang out spot. Lots of places to sit and evidence of movie nights and video game tournaments. There was also a very dirty kitchen that needed to be cleaned and a bar that had to be reorganized.
The top floor was a penthouse and based on the overly expensive suits she found in the closet, it was Tony Stark’s place. Other than the grease stained jeans and shirts it was mostly clean and so she had no problems cleaning that up before her work day ended. Mitch hadn’t been lying when she said it could be done by one person if they were quick. That’s not to say she wasn’t exhausted, she was, but it was done.
She met up with George and Cathy on the way out, her pink smock now containing a few questionable stains but overall no worse for the wear.
“Holy shit you’re alive!”
“It really wasn’t that awful.” She told them. “Besides it’ll be easier tomorrow.”
Famous last words.