Harry is not nervous, exactly. Apprehensive might be the better word. She’s heard a lot of things about the CEO of Stark Industries— none of it was particularly flattering.
It seems silly to be worried. She’s faced down Dark Lords (two of them, to be precise) and defeated both handily, she’s held her own against an army of Dementors, and that’s to say nothing of the gigantic spider from second year (she hates spiders), the werewolf in her third, or the homicidal tournament in her fourth. An eccentric billionaire philanthropist playboy is nothing in comparison. So Harry decides she’s just going to ignore what she’s heard, and focus in on what she’s actually here to do: work. Anyway it’s not as if she has time or energy to spare on such thoughts; even with Tom at Hogwarts it’s difficult not to give the boy most of her attention, and then there’s all her friends and family in this dimension that occupy her time.
In the end she sort of forgets about him. It should be impossible, since everything from her phone to her new laptop has his name emblazoned on it somewhere, but he’s rarely in the office in person and if he is he’s in the California offices, so Harry is far removed from the maelstrom of his life in her office in New York. Stark Industries only recently acquired her previous company, so there’s enough going on with the whole integration process that it’s sort of easy to forget who he is and who she works for.
And then a lot of things happen. Namely, Tony Stark comes out as Iron Man, Pepper Potts takes over as CEO, and New York is almost blown up (fortunately Harry was not in this dimension for that particular mess) and somewhere in the interim Stark Tower has become Avengers Tower and now he’s here all the damn time, superhero pals included.
Even then, encased in her cubicle on the thirtieth floor, it’s somehow easy enough to ignore. Aside from the occasional tremors from mysterious science experiments on the higher floors, there’s no real confirmation of their existence in her general vicinity at all. And anyway, she doesn’t buy into all this Avengers hype. She likes them, and she even bought Tom a Captain America shirt because she thought it was cute, but she’s not about to start gossiping about them in the break room with the rest of the people on her floor.
So Harry works for Stark Industries, and it is decidedly less interesting than she had imagined it to be but that is a good thing.
Harry likes Pepper.
She thinks Pepper likes her too, probably because Harry is wholly unmoved and disinterested by Pepper and everything about her life (aside from the shoes, which she adores) and Pepper seems to need that in her life right now. Dating— or rather, not dating— a superhero and running an international publicly traded company probably leaves one extremely short on people to talk to.
Pepper and Harry work together a lot, probably because Pepper likes her. Harry is the de facto liaison for her division and general management due to it. Harry’s boss is convinced that Harry giving the weekly reports has drastically changed management’s opinion on their division, even though Harry is doing nothing but presenting information that would have been presented either way. Harry doesn’t bother to argue the point. It’s not that difficult for her, and if he thinks she’s working some kind of magic (ha ha) the better for her.
So Harry and Pepper meet, fairly often. At least once a week at the business ops meetings, and then once a month if Harry’s division needs to present in front of the board. And Pepper likes her, so it’s not uncommon for the two of them to be seen in a closed off conference room, heads ducked together.
But this time Pepper slides a manila folder her way, a consternated and resigned expression on her face.
“Harry, I really need a favor from you,” she says, gravely.
Harry looks up from her eye-bleeding spreadsheets. “Sure, what is it?”
Pepper taps the folder with a perfectly manicured finger. They had already discussed nail polish trends earlier; the color is sand tropez, a favorite of them both. Harry and Pepper have a lot in common, actually, from favored nail polish colors, to handbags, to shoes, to— “You’re a redhead,” Pepper comments; yet another thing they have in common.
Harry nods slowly. Yes, this is plainly obvious.
“I need you to take this to Tony,” she adds afterwards. “He’s on the penthouse floor. Jarvis will give you access. Do not leave until you get him to sign this. Even if you have to blackmail him. I don’t care. Just tell him I’ll tweet about the Osaka incident if he doesn’t.”
Harry blinks rapidly. She’s not entirely sure how they went from Harry’s hair color to Tony Stark, but Pepper is very smart and Harry doesn’t think it’s necessary to clarify. Pepper is her boss, after all. Her boss’s boss, actually, and if she needs a brief errand Harry is happy to help.
“Sure, okay.” Harry agrees easily.
Pepper gives her what she thinks is a sympathetic and somewhat guilty look. “Thank you very much. Just get him to sign his god damn name on the dotted line, and don’t let him con you into anything!”
Harry leans back in her chair, blinking again at the interesting advice. Then Pepper is clicking away at her keyboard while using her other hand to go through her phone, and is then off like a whirlwind to her next appointment. That is a normal occurrence, however, so Harry isn’t surprised when she takes off like a shot down the hall, far faster in those heels than Harry would every expect her to be.
Harry shrugs, takes the manila folder and her laptop, and heads to the elevator.
As Pepper had stated earlier, Jarvis gives her access to the penthouse floor. The elevator lurches dramatically, before it rockets upwards.
Harry is vaguely ill from it all when she stumbles out of the elevator, disoriented and feeling like she’d just side-apparated five times in a row. She actually has to close her eyes for a moment.
“Jarvis, did you break her?”
Harry opens her eyes at the familiar voice. It’s not Mr. Stark, though— a man without a shirt and an amused expression is standing in front of her with a bow in hand. Ah. That sounds familiar.
“I apologize. Perhaps I pulled the elevator too quickly, but Miss Potts explained time was of the essence—
“It’s alright, um, Jarvis,” Harry assures. Talking to a faceless voice isn’t any stranger than talking to a portrait, or a headless ghost, she notices. “I’m just very sensitive to motion, I guess.”
“I will remember that in the future, Miss Potter.”
“Miss Potter?” The man repeats. “And what are you here for, Miss Potter?”
“Miss Potts asked me to get these to Mr. Stark—
The man— Barton, if she recalls correctly— starts to laugh loudly. “Stark!” He calls over his shoulder. “You’ve got a visitor here for you!” He ushers Harry down the hall.
“Already?” There’s cursing from down the immaculate minimalist hallway. “Damn it Pepper, I thought I had more time—
Mr. Stark straightens up from where he appears to have been working on some kind of robot, blinking at her strangely. Harry blinks back, awkward.
“Pep’s gotten smarter.” He says, with dismay.
Harry isn’t entirely sure how to take that.
He gives a long sigh, throwing his wrench down and running a hand through his hair. Harry smiles nervously. “Hi, Mr. Stark. Miss Potts was very adamant about strong-arming you into signing these.”
Mr. Stark gives her a vaguely amused look. Despite this, he still looks a bit sad. As if he had been hoping Miss Potts would have come up here to deliver these herself. Harry very tactfully does not comment on that.
“Strongarm?” Mr. Stark repeats, smirking, but it is a fascimile thing, more of a pretense than anything. “Do you want to arm wrestle for it, then?”
“I’d rather not,” Harry replies, promptly. “I was told to blackmail you if you don’t willingly comply.”
This brings forth a bark of laughter, and a genuine smile this time. “Well this just got interesting. And what sort of blackmail are you suggesting?”
“The Osaka Incident. ” Harry deadpans, and Mr. Stark all but leaps over the table to grab the files.
“Wow, Pep’s not messing around today huh?” He laughs nervously, flipping right towards the back where Pepper has earmarked all the places he needs to sign. He dutifully scrawls his positively illegible signature onto every one.
“No, I guess she isn’t.” Harry agrees, smiling. When he’s done she takes the files from him. “Thank you very much, Mr. Stark. Have a pleasant evening.”
And with that she pivots on one heel and smartly walks out the door. Barton gives her a somewhat fearful wave, as if he expects her to start blackmailing him as well. Harry hides a smile. As far as her first time meeting her boss, she thinks it went very well.
As far as Pepper is concerned, if it worked once it will work again, so she begins to send Harry up to the penthouse every time she has some need of Tony, in the same way Harry’s supervisor sends her to the board meetings. Harry thinks this is a good thing. At the very least, her superiors appear to have found good use of her. Neither of the extra jobs are particularly difficult so she doesn’t mind.
Actually, she kind of likes the extra work. It’s much better than returning home to her empty house in a dimension where no one really knows her, listless and lonely. It was quite enjoyable when Tom was still living at home, but now that he’s off at Hogwarts for most of the year Harry has found the silence a bit unbearable. It’s much easier to just whittle away her hours here at the office, in the city that never sleeps.
Usually she tries to meet up with Hermione or Ron (or preferably both, but that’s a lost cause these days) for drinks or dinner, and if they are unavailable, goes to visit Teddy and Andromeda.
But Hermione is working late, Ron is in a mood, and Andromeda has taken Teddy for a visit to the seashore and Harry doesn’t want to intrude upon that. She sends a message to Ginny, who replies promptly with a : ‘ :( working the night shift’ followed by the skull emoji. Harry is impressed Ginny knows how to work emojis at all. Mr. Weasley must be over the moon. All this just means Harry has nothing to do and nowhere to be; a happenstance that’s become far too common for her tastes. Ginny’s been going on and on about ‘spin class’, whatever that is. Maybe Harry should try it out. It would shave off a few lonely hours after work, at the very least.
Harry needs a hobby, she decides. She’s beginning to worry about herself.
The big city is out in full by the time she leaves, office cool and dark against a backdrop of glittering lights. There is something so cold and comforting about the sight, loneliness and longing all wrapped up in a neon dream. She’s so entranced by it she doesn’t even notice who else is in the elevator until the doors have slid shut behind her.
Mr. Stark stares at her in surprise. Harry stares back.
“I swear, I don’t have any documents for you to sign or expense reports to hound you over this time.” Harry jokes, once she’s recovered herself.
He laughs, but also looks terribly relieved. “Oh, good. At this rate, the shareholders are going to start expecting punctuality out of me, and then what am I going to do?”
“Oh, I don’t know, Mr. Stark. Iron Man sounds like a fairly good alternative.”
It’s the first time she’s mentioned his alter ego to him, and it appears they’ve both realized it. Harry wonders if she crossed a line.
“You can just call me Tony, you know.” The man says, after a beat. “Mr. Stark makes me sound like my old man.”
Harry smiles slightly. “Well, Miss Potter makes me sound like an old and mean-spirited cat hoarder. You can just call me Harry.”
“Harry?” He repeats, surprised. It appears they’ve crossed another line.
Her smile turns a bit wry. “What? Does it not suit me?”
“No, actually. It suits you far too well.” He quips back immediately, recovering himself with the sort of quick cleverness she’s come to expect from him. He squints at her. “Hmmm, let me guess: Leo.”
Harry leans back against the elevator glass. “Now that is impressive.”
He grins cheekily. “Don’t want to guess mine?”
“That’d be a bit unfair. Your birthday is listed on the internet.” She deadpans.
He raises a brow. “Oh, so you’ve looked it up then? What is it?”
Harry pauses. She hadn’t actually looked him up. She’d figured with his level of publicity that was probably a horrible idea. She thinks quickly.
Then she smirks. “Jarvis, when is Tony’s birthday?”
Harry only grins wider.
“May 29th, 1970, Miss Potter.” Jarvis returns promptly. “He is a Gemini.”
“Traitor,” Tony complains.
“You told me to assist Miss Potter in any way I can, sir.” Jarvis replies, wholly unapologetic. Harry loves how the AI has such an incredible and robust personality. Not to mention, such a great sense of humor. He’s far better than any of those batty old portraits at Hogwarts.
This does just serve to remind Harry that the man in front of her creates a magic wholly of his own. Jarvis, and all of Tony’s creations, really are magic. They are just as amazing and impressive as any spell she’s ever managed— maybe even more so, because they are so uniquely alive. Magic has never managed to make life, after all; not like Tony does with his bots.
Harry stifles a smile, as she watches Tony argue exasperatedly with his unrepentant AI.
“The train to the Woolworth Building is currently delayed, Miss Potter. Might I suggest walking, or perhaps a cab?”
Harry startles at that. “O— Oh.” She hadn’t realized Jarvis knew her commute. “Thank you, Jarvis. It’s a good thing I was planning on walking anyway.”
“It is quite a nice night for a stroll,” Jarvis agrees. “It will be raining for the rest of the week.”
Harry smiles up at the ceiling. “Walking it is, then.”
The elevator slows gently to a stop— it appears Jarvis had taken her words on motion sickness quite seriously. The doors slide open, and the AI gives what she thinks is a discreet cough. Tony startles into action.
“Uh, you’re walking? Alone? At this time of night?” He asks, quickly.
Harry turns to him, frowning in confusion. “Yes? It’s only seven.”
“This is a bad part of town.”
Harry frowns further. “Downtown Manhattan?”
“You’d be surprised!” He quips back. “Anyway, don’t worry. I’ll walk with you.”
Harry reels back in surprise, almost tripping backwards on her heel if it wasn’t for Tony’s hand secured on her shoulder. “That’s— that’s really not necessary.” She protests, even as he steers her out the front door. The security guards have very strange grins on their faces as they open the doors for them. “I promise, I can get home safely, and you must have so many other things to do—
“Nonsense, you heard Jarvis.” Tony laughs, as the crisp night air meets them on the opposite side of the door. “This is the best weather we’ll have all week.”
Harry still feels quite terrible about it. Tony might not be the acting CEO anymore, but it’s still his company. He’s still the head of the R&D department, and basically every one of their products is his brainchild. And that’s to say nothing of his work for the Avengers and SHIELD. He’s probably the busiest person Harry knows.
“Still…” Harry continues, brow furrowing. “I know how busy you are, you really don’t have to go out of your way for me.”
“Yes, I’m very busy, so busy in fact that people rarely let me have any time to take a quick breather. But walking a young lady home safely is very important you know. I don’t think anyone could protest against it.” He winks at her, and Harry’s mouth opens with dawning understanding.
“Oh, I see.” She smiles playfully. “Well, if it’s really no trouble for you, the company would be nice.”
“No trouble at all.” He assures, as they fall into step.
It’s rather nice, actually. Even though she’s walking home with her boss in tow, it’s not nearly as awkward as she would have imagined it to be. Probably because Tony is not what she would have imagined him to be. He’s very affable and gregarious in real life, and not at all like the clever and cutting man people talk about. Oh, she’s sure he has words so sharp they could cut a lesser man, but he doesn’t seem like the type to do so without reason. He’s a very complicated person, Harry thinks, fondly. And she’s never been one to judge a book by its cover anyway.
“So, do you live in the building?”
Harry is torn abruptly from her thoughts. “Sorry?” It’s rare she finds people she can enjoy an amiable silence with, so she’s surprised to find she’d fallen into one.
“The Woolworth Building,” he clarifies. “It’s got quite a bit of history, you know.”
“I’ve heard,” she nods, smiling. “But, err, no, I don’t live there.”
“No?” He looks confused. “So, where do you live?”
Fifty years and a whole separate dimension away.
Harry laughs nervously. “U— Um. Well, I guess you could say I live in the Woolworth Building. Just for now, though!” She lies hastily. But how is she supposed to explain that that’s the nearest floo to the office?
“Did you just move here? From Britain, I mean.”
“How did you know I was from Britain?” She asks absently, still flustered and caught left-footed.
He gives her a long look. “The accent gives it away— just a bit.”
Oh. Harry wants to melt into the floor and die there. “Oh. Right. Yes, I suppose it would. Just a bit.” She replies, embarrassed.
He laughs. “Are you new to the States, then?”
“Yes, kind of.” She answers vaguely, feeling a bit trapped. She should have known these sort of questions would come up eventually. Really she ought to have been more prepared, but she hadn’t expected this level of curiosity from someone like Tony Stark! Surely he knew far more interesting people than her.
“I see. And, how do you like Stark Industries?”
Harry’s eyes flitter about the glowing streets like a caught rabbit, suddenly wishing she hadn’t agreed to this. Her anxiety is probably obvious from miles off, so it’s no surprise Tony cuts her off before she can answer. “Sorry, you don’t have to answer that.” He assures, sounding truly apologetic. “I didn’t mean to make you feel like you’re under an interrogation. And I guess that's probably a really loaded question coming from your boss’s boss, huh?” He laughs, a bit self-deprecatingly.
“It’s not that,” Harry is quick to say, biting her lip. “Rather, I just wish I had better answers for you.”
Or could answer him, at all.
“Um, yes I’m from Britain.” She answers then, searching frantically for something to say. “I grew up in the suburbs of London, but went to school in Scotland for most of my life. After I graduated I came here to work for a finance company— that was recently acquired by Stark Industries. I like working here; the people are very nice and the office is truly top notch. And I’m quite fond of Pepper.”
There. That works, right? That’s— that’s good. Safe.
This draws out a warm chuckle from him. “Yeah, Pep’s great, isn’t she?”
“We have an impressive amount in common.” Harry laughs. “I like her a lot, even though our hair tends to clash.”
Harry is just a half-shade closer to strawberry blonde than she is, and it’s actually amusing how terribly that slight color difference can clash. Pepper often jokes about dying her hair platinum blonde, just to freak people out.
“I think you both have beautiful hair.” Tony remarks. There’s an off beat, as if he just realized what he said, before he adds quickly; “I tell Pepper all the time I’ll cry if she cuts it all off or dyes it something else. She used to threaten me with dying her hair jet black if I didn’t come out of the workshop and sign papers.”
Harry doesn’t even bother to hide her smile. “Always brutally efficient, that Miss Potts.”
“Yes, she is.” The smile on his face is fond, but sad. Harry wants to slap herself for being so obtuse; Pepper was probably not a great topic right now, what with their recent split.
“Sorry,” Harry apologizes, blushing. “I didn’t mean to—
“No, no, it’s fine.” Tony cuts her off. He lets out a long breath, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “Really, it’s fine.” He insists.
Harry turns to give him a long, empathetic look.
He returns it with a wan smile. “Pep and I have been friends far longer than we’ve been— well, whatever you want to call it. I think it’ll take a while to get back to what we were, but she’s still and always will be one of my closest friends.”
Harry thinks it’s rather sweet. Now if only Hermione and Ron could as mature about their on and off again relationship as Pepper and Tony were.
“I’m sure she knows.” Harry says idly, as she stares out into the city lights. Something about New York at night seems so timeless, as if the night will never end. “She speaks very highly of you, you know. Well, when she’s not complaining.”
Tony barks out a laugh.
It’s almost impressive, how difficult this one operation was to pull off. All the Avengers had some kind of part to play, even if that was just moral support for when Tony gets back. Bruce and Jarvis mapped out her usual route, and the time she normally left work for the evening. Clint was perfectly happy to watch from the skies, ostensibly to make sure no ill-timed supervillains decided to crash their party, but mostly just to tease Tony about it later. He also conspired with the tower guards to make sure Tony would have an easy exit and wouldn't be waylaid by any fans on the way out. Natasha was happy to switch shifts with him and go out on patrol with Thor to give him the night off, and Thor himself had well-meaning but terrible advice on ‘wooing the women’. Steve was thrilled that he seemed to finally be getting out of his funk over Pepper.
Anyway, it was nice that his team had his back, but all the same it was a little ridiculous how much effort something as innocuous and simple as a walk was to pull off.
(Tony may or may not be making all of this far more difficult than strictly warranted.)
But it was just— he had a terrible track record with women. God awful. And that was to say nothing of his— well warranted— reputation as a womanizer. And the few times he tried to hold a serious relationship, he only ever managed to ruin it terribly.
He knew from the moment he’d laid eyes on her that Harry was far too good for him. Charming and clever and kind-hearted, with a quiet, knowing smile and hair as breathtaking as Pepper’s with a fashion sense to match, she was exactly his type. Impressively put together, independent and smart and amazing— and absolutely, unequivocally way too good for him .
Tony sighs. Yeah, he’s digging himself his own grave here.
And yet, he can’t manage to stop.
He knows what Pepper’s doing here, too. Not only is thrusting Harry between them giving them some much needed space, she knows damn well he can never say no to a beautiful redhead asking him to sign paperwork— as clearly evidenced by Natalie Rushman, and now Harry Potter. Harry was not quite a redhead though, not in the way the fiery ex-KGB spy and his CEO were. Her hair was just a few shades more strawberry than Steve’s, actually, causing more than a few jokes of secret love children to their resident man-out-of-time. It didn’t help that Harry seemed oddly drawn to Steve, always asking him questions about his childhood whenever he wandered into the kitchen when she was there bullying Tony into signing papers.
Steve was absolutely thrilled with her, mainly because he had no one else to talk to about popular culture from the 1930s. For some unfathomable reason, Harry knew a truly mind-boggling amount of references from that time. When asked, she bashfully stuttered out that she was a fan of that era. She and Steve could talk for hours about Glenn Miller’s music, their favorite jazz and big bands, Gone with the Wind and The Rules of the Game, and Steve had almost cried when Harry confessed to knowing quite a bit of personal information about Daisy Buchanan, one of the biggest ‘moving picture’ stars of the era. Apparently, Steve had been a huge fan growing up— he looked close to tears when he’d mentioned that he and Bucky had tried to sneak into one of her showings of Love me Tonight when it was on Broadway.
Tony tried not to be jealous. Steve didn’t mean anything by it; he insisted up and down that Harry was ‘Tony’s girl’ and he had no interest in her like that, but all the same they seemed to have far more in common than Tony and Harry did.
Even now, after walking her home the other day, she was up in the penthouse speaking avidly with Steve, even as she sat beside him and shoved manila folders full of paperwork at him. He pouted as he narrowed his eyes at the fine print in front of him, knowing he should be giving his full attention to scanning through the document, but finding it difficult when Harry was right beside him.
“She was amazing in Strike up the Band, ” Steve enthuses, his baby blue eyes big and warm with a fond nostalgia. “I did get to see that one, actually, in Times Square. It was the first Broadway musical I ever saw.”
“I forgot she did that,” Harry replies, brows rising. “That’s right— she started on Broadway before she moved to films. It was such a shame when her husband moved the family up to New England, and she had to stop. It wasn’t alright for a married woman to live so far away from her husband at the time.”
Steve makes a noise of commiseration. “Yeah, gosh, lots has changed since then, huh? I can only imagine what her career would have been like if she’d been born now.”
Harry nods. “Yes, but she did so much good for feminism at the time. Personally I thought she was a bit shallow, but that’s how she grew up you can’t really blame her for that! She always got so much flack for wearing pants,” Harry looks down at her own pantsuits, “but I’m thankful for her, because otherwise I might still be confined to wearing skirts myself!”
Steve hums in agreement. “I always thought that was more of a Katherine Hepburn thing, though.”
Harry laughs. “Yes, she was certainly part of the movement. Wow, the way people would talk about her back then… I don’t think there are any stars right now that can compare!”
“I just don’t think the talent is the same anymore,” Steve shakes his head.
“Hey now,” Tony decides now is as good as any time to cut in. “I happen to be a huge closet fan of the Kardashians, okay? Their level of uninspired narcissism is almost avant-garde. ”
This successfully draws a laugh out of Harry. “Yes, but I don’t think their depressing commentary on the materialistic twenty-first century is intentional.”
Tony rolls his eyes. “So, what? You’re saying the 30’s were far less materialistic?”
“Yes absolutely— “ Steve begins immediately.
“I wouldn’t say that,” is Harry’s smooth response. Steve blinks at her. She shrugs, tucking a loose curl behind her ear in a maddeningly mesmerizing gesture. “But it was a different kind of materialism. Actual possessions were difficult to come by, so people put such an emphasis on societal norms and rigid gender and class structures. There was still a staggering level of emphasis put on appearances, and how one came across and acted within society, but the significance was on you, not necessarily what you owned.”
Both Steve and Tony— and Bruce and Natasha in the kitchen behind them— stare at her.
Harry blushes, scratching her cheek. “Well, I mean. It’s just personal preference I suppose; neither is good, but I almost prefer the obsession with ownership of materialistic objects. You’re free to be and do what you want, and you don’t have to subscribe to that superficial lifestyle if you don’t want to. In the 30’s though, there was no option. You were part of that culture whether you wanted to be or not. Nowadays, sure a dame can be interested in owning the nicest pair of shoes or handbags, but it’s okay if she’s not. But in the 30’s, she had to get married by twenty-five or be labeled a social pariah.”
They’re all still staring at her. She feels embarrassed about her Hermione-level rant, but won’t take it back, so she just shrugs unrepentantly. “That’s what I think, at least.”
“Did you just say dame in a sentence?” Tony guffaws. “Good god, Steve’s really rubbing off on you.”
Steve looks sheepish as he ducks his head. “You’ve got a good point Harry— I guess I didn’t really see it that way. Being a dame back then was really hard, especially if you were like Peggy and wanted to do something besides housework or clerking.”
Harry smiles and nods. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” she adds hastily. “But yes, having the choice is something I don’t take for granted.”
Steve tilts his head, consideringly. Then he smiles ruefully. “You know Harry, sometimes when I talk to you it really seems like you lived through all of that back then.” He muses aloud.
Harry fidgets nervously, giving a strained laugh. “I’m… ah, very thorough when it comes to my interests.”
Steve smiles softly at her. “Sorry— I didn’t mean it in a bad way. It’s… really nice. I haven’t met anyone else who knows so much about that time period like you do.”
Probably because no one else is currently living through it, Harry thinks, amused.
When Tony sees the small, sad smile he gives her, he feels his annoyance and jealousy drain away like shifting sand falling through his fingers. Steve is just… so alone, lost in time as he is. Tony and the Avengers try their best to be there for him, surround him with companionship and help him adjust, but they’ll never really understand. They’ll never really be able to understand him when he talks about the past, when he reminisces about little things like going to the corner store with a nickel in his pocket, or the simple novelty of watching new and shiny automobiles drive down the street. Harry seems to though, somehow, and it’s nice that Steve has at least someone to talk to.
Even if that means he has to share Harry, and he’s never been very good at sharing.
Stark Industries’ namesake and former-CEO walking into an unsuspecting office floor of his tower was enough to make any day into an interesting one. Hearing that Stark had personally come to ask about an account manager in the investing department was even more curious. But the real drama came when the investing department head regretfully informed the man that Miss Potter had taken the day off, and would not be coming in today. Seeing the man’s crestfallen look was bewildering for all of them, to say the least. But it was gone so quickly that by the time the story had spread through the water cooler gossip, no one even believed the validity of it.
That was probably for the best, since the story was actually one hundred percent true.
“I told you, you should have asked her earlier.” Bruce reminds, unsympathetic, when Tony slinks back into the lab like a sad and kicked puppy.
“This isn’t usually this difficult for me.” Tony admits, as he gently pushes Dum-E away from him once he’s given the bot a few fond pats. He hops onto the stool across from where Bruce has taken over all the lab table space with a mess of papers and ballpoint pens. “And would it kill you to move into the twenty-first century and take notes on a tablet?”
Bruce makes a disgruntled noise. “I collect my thoughts better when I write it out on paper.” He refuses, as he once again tries to reach for a pen and can’t manage to find any of them.
Tony sighs, fishing out a blue Stark Industries branded pen from beneath a stack of physics notes. Bruce takes it gratefully.
“And anyway,” Bruce segues smoothly, before he can continue to nag him. “It’s not the end of the world. Just ask her tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow is Saturday.”
“Alright, then Monday.”
“What if she’s not in on Monday?”
“Why wouldn’t she be in on a Monday?”
“What if we get sucked into yet another rescue mission involving deep sea space creatures invading Central Park?”
Bruce blinks, leaning back. “I would argue your point, but our odds have been terrible lately.” These days it seems like Dr. Richards has been causing way more problems and property damage to the city of New York with his ‘science’ than Dr. Doom has all year.
Tony flops over the table, sighing again. “And who knows, by Tuesday, I’ll probably have to work up the nerve all over again.”
Bruce shakes his head with a fond smile. “You’re not in high school, Tony. She’s an adult.”
“I feel like I’m in high school.” Tony whines. “What’s wrong with me? Seriously, I’m getting worried.”
“Sir, if I may,” Jarvis cuts in smoothly. “You appear to be suffering from a common mortal illness referred to as, ‘love sickness’.”
“I’m not in love with her!” Tony protests, sitting upright abruptly, looking scandalized at the thought. “I barely even know her!”
“I am merely observing your symptoms and making an informed hypothesis.” His AI replies, dry as a bone.
“Great. Even my AI knows.” He grouses. “At this rate it won’t even matter if I ask her out, the whole damn company will know I like her.”
“You’re not exactly subtle.” Bruce remarks, mildly.
“I’m not trying to be!” He really doesn’t understand himself right now. He’s never like this! He’s never had any problem going up to women and charming them within five minutes. He’s not entirely sure what about Harry is so damn different.
There’s a long pause as Tony silently sulks, Dum-E tries to use the blender behind them, and Bruce frowns down at his equations.
Then the scientist looks up. “Maybe you should, though.”
Tony turns to him, confused. “Huh?”
“Be a bit subtle, I mean,” Bruce adds. “It’s just, you know, I really like Harry. She reminds me of, well, me. In a way. She’s very diligent at her work and likes to keep her head down. She’s not all that fond of attention. If people found out you had an interest in her she’d never get a moment of rest; she’d be the subject of the company gossip for months, and not really in a good way. They’ll say all sorts of things about her.”
A serious look dawns on Tony’s face, as he frowns faintly. Bruce is right. He hadn’t even given it a thought when he’d waltzed into her department like he owned the place (which he did) and asked to see her. He was lucky people didn’t immediately assume his interest in her was romantic. It spoke volumes about her professional accomplishments that everyone first assumed he was there for business reasons. If he ever gave an indication otherwise, he would be leaving her open to all sorts of accusations.
“You’re right,” he admits, not at all feeling like the genius he supposedly is. “That was reckless of me.”
Bruce nods. “Asking her out for lunch during the work week might be a bad idea. Why don’t you try the weekend?”
Tony shakes his head. “Yeah, but a working lunch is casual. We can talk about technology or new businesses like we do anyway. Asking her out over the weekend just seems so much more… serious.”
The scientist’s brows furrow. “So?” Isn’t that what Tony wants here? “That’s what you want, right?”
The billionaire turned philanthropist turned superhero gives him a wan smile in response. “What, rejection, you mean?” He snorts derisively, shaking his head. “The more it sounds like a date, the more likely it is she’ll reject it out of hand.”
Bruce puts his pen down, not even bothering with the pretense of his work any longer. “Why do you think she’ll reject you?” From what Bruce has seen, Harry seems rather fond of Tony.
“I just know it.” Tony insists, in that fatalistic way of his. For someone with so much bravado and arrogance, he was actually an extremely insecure man.
An insecure, self-deprecating, and stubborn man. Bruce could reassure him all he likes that Tony is a great catch and everything will be fine, but it was in Tony’s nature to worry and assume the worst.
But Harry would be good for that, he thinks.
As much as he liked Pepper, it was easy to see how quickly she could get annoyed at Tony for things that weren’t necessarily worth the effort. It was probably a result of their long professional relationship, but Pepper tended to treat Tony’s ridiculous and excessive antics the same, big or small, be that buying out an entire collection from the MoMA for her, or building a not-entirely-kid-friendly robot for Coulson’s niece. Those sort of events were probably so common for them that Pepper had begun to just overlook or ignore the good-natured intentions of the act, and focus on all the havoc they caused as a result.
Only time would tell if Harry would eventually end up the same, if Tony’s antics would wear her down into exhaustion and exasperation. Bruce didn’t think it likely, though. Harry seemed rather fond of Tony’s extravagant nature.
And okay, maybe Bruce was biased. He liked Harry. Pepper was one smart lady, to send Harry up instead of herself. Bruce had to wonder if Pepper had just been playing to Tony’s type because she wanted to get him to sign paperwork as efficiently as possible, or if she’d done it so the two would have a chance to meet and maybe hit it off. Either way it was intentional on her part, and Bruce was thankful for her intervention. It had been really difficult to see the normally gregarious and energetic inventor so listless and introspective once the couple had split up after the battle of New York.
Not to mention, Bruce was not the only one of the Avengers who approved.
“Well, you won’t know until you try.” He points out, sensibly, after a long moment of silence had passed.
Tony nods, but doesn’t necessarily look convinced.
It was still a bit bewildering, how this unassuming and easy-going redhead had managed to fit so easily into their unbelievably eclectic group. They were a bunch of superheroes who came from all across the world (and galaxy) and yet none of this ever seemed to phase Harry.
They were an eclectic group, but Harry seemed to have a truly eclectic collection of hobbies, interests, and life experiences that fit right in.
Steve and Harry had hit it off ever since she’d asked him about his favorite films from the 30’s. Aside from Tony, Steve was definitely the first of the Avengers to truly bond with her, and now Steve could wholeheartedly say he and Harry were friends in their own right, not just peripherally. They’d even exchanged numbers, although Steve had yet to try texting of any kind, so he wasn’t sure what to do with it. They’d even gone off on their own to see a showing of the original Gone with the Wind. Steve may have teared up a little bit. He was stunned to see Harry had teared up a bit too.
She and Bruce had always been cordial to each other, whenever she came up to the penthouse to bug Tony into doing his day job (which had become more and more often these days). Harry had been up at the kitchen table highlighting areas she needed Tony to read, and Bruce had been in there making himself a cup of tea. Tony had to leave abruptly to take a phone call, leaving the two of them alone. Bruce would have expected it to be awkward, but as it turned out Harry was very good at avoiding awkwardness. She’d noticed immediately that he was a fan of Harrods tea, and it was so easy to converse with the woman it didn’t even matter what they were talking about. But as it turned out, they were not only both big tea enthusiasts, but also big on meditation too.
Harry glossed over what she called a really unfortunate period in her teenage years where she had felt her mind, ‘wasn’t her own anymore’. Her words had resonated with him in a way he was reluctant to voice aloud. He knew exactly what it was like to have his own mind stolen from him. She said she had a teacher who had tried to help her but had only made the situation worse, and eventually she’d had to take matters into her own hand. At any rate, her advice was rather invaluable. Bruce was already very good at controlling his mind and emotions out of pure necessity, but Harry’s ideas and methodology were so novel he learned more from her than he’d had over the entire duration he’d been with ‘the other guy’. She had a curious way of explaining it. She talked about defending the mind, putting up literal mental barriers, burying bad memories into what she called ‘lagoons’ and drawing forward calmer thoughts. Everything about her teachings seemed to focus around the idea of the mind being attacked by literal outside forces, like Loki’s mind control sort of weirdness, which Bruce had found strange but didn’t detract from its effectiveness. In a way, the mind was always under attack by outside forces. Little thoughts building up from daily life, moments in the day that were particularly trying or angering, chipping away at his defenses.
Her way of thinking about things was certainly quirky, as evidenced by not only her meditation practices, but her conversations with Thor.
Thor was a great guy. Amicable, funny (although not always intentionally) and generally in good spirits, he was easy to get along with and hang around. But unfortunately, cultural barriers and his alien heritage meant it was sometimes difficult to really understand him. He’d say things that just really made no sense, or reference physics-defying events as if they were happenstance. Magic and the arcane played a prolific role in all aspects of Asgardian life, even if Thor didn’t necessarily partake in them personally. But his entire life was surrounded by it, from the rainbow bridge to his own hammer to the enchanted apples he loved so much. It drove Tony and Bruce up the wall, honestly. But at this point they’d given up on trying to theorize how Thor’s ‘magic’ translated into science.
Harry though, never seemed to have any trouble understanding the workings of Thor’s magic. Mjolnir didn’t surprise her at all. Whenever Thor spoke of cursed objects, objects transforming into animals, wards and runes and esoteric spells, Harry just nodded along as if she heard it all everyday. At first, Bruce had just thought she was being nice and humoring Thor. But after they’d held a deep conversation on Loki’s ability to turn into various animals and the properties of human transfiguration, Bruce had realized she wasn’t just playing along. She genuinely seemed to like their conversations, and seemed interested in the arcane arts.
Harry had laughed in a nervous and embarrassed manner when he’d voiced his observations aloud, blushing as she confessed to being very interested in all sorts of magic. Ever since she was eleven, she said, she’d always believed in a certain kind of magic. That wasn’t to say she also didn’t believe in science; she just didn’t know how the two could come together quite yet.
And just like Steve, bonding over a piece of himself that no one else seemed to understand, Thor had grown close to the young redhead through their conversations on magic.
In a lot of ways, Bruce shouldn’t have been surprised that Harry and Natasha also got along very well too.
He felt a bit dense for not realizing it earlier, but Natasha was effectively the only woman living in a house full of men. She never made much fanfare about it, so it was sort of easy to overlook the fact she was a different gender. Nat was a friend and team member first and foremost, so he didn’t look at her and think, female, he looked at her and thought, friend. But her being his friend didn’t change her gender.
Pepper had never come around often to begin with, but now that she didn’t come around at all Nat was the only girl in the tower.
But now there was Harry, who came around fairly often these days. Harry, who was close enough in age to Nat, with a fantastically fabulous fashion sense (Nat’s words), great hair (and hair advice) and was fully and emphatically understanding of all the small annoyances that men just didn’t understand. At least two or three times a week, often after work hours, and often for a few hours at time, Harry would be up in the penthouse. Tony had even finally badgered her into just having dinner with them when their work ran late. The two girls could easily dive into all sorts of bewildering topics, like the realities of curling hair in bad weather (that was a thing, apparently?), runny mascara when in the middle of intense physical exercise, the fallacy of wanting long manicured nails but needing the practical applications of her hands, and the different impact levels of sports bras, which really made no sense to him.
For Nat though, Harry was like a breath of fresh air in the penthouse. It was subtle, in the way all of Natasha’s emotions tended to be, but she did seem much more relaxed and open with Harry. Almost as if there was some kind of silent solidarity that all women shared with each other whenever they were vastly outnumbered by men.
They didn’t need to talk about austere and intense subjects like magic theory or the psychology of mental wellness. Apparently there was some simple pleasure to be had in cooing over various iterations of the new white boots trend and houndstooth clothing. He hadn’t even realized Nat cared about things like that, but that was probably because Natasha never had anyone to talk to about it so she never brought it up.
Clint had taken the longest to warm up to her, but that was mainly because it was Clint’s nature to be wary of others who tried to breach the tight knit circle of their team. Clint was an intensely private person, a trait easily overlooked by his outwardly confident and roguish persona. In fact, it wasn’t until Nat had unanimously accepted her that Clint had started coming around when she was in the penthouse, and even then it was to observe her from a distance.
Bruce still didn’t really understand what had changed, but one day they seemed to share some kind of secret that had Harry meeting Clint’s eyes in what he thinks is almost a sad and forlorn look, full of some unidentified emotion that only they knew of.
(At first Harry had thought it was cute that Clint thought he could hide fatherhood from a fellow parent. Harry had known immediately that the man had kids, from having to raise one of her own, and all her time with Teddy. There were just so many little telltale signs; automatically placing dangerous items higher up where curious hands couldn’t find them; cutting the crust off of sandwiches and slicing them in two; the instinctive urge to immediately clean up spills before little feet can slip in them. When she’d called him out on it though, he’d gotten stony and quiet. It was a secret, apparently, and one not even his team knew. They wouldn’t be able to recognize such arbitrary signs unless they’d lived through parenting themselves, so they’d never noticed. After that she felt bad. And sympathetic. She knew exactly how it felt to keep such an important part of your life a secret.
Harry assured him his secret was safe with her, and even admitted that her own trials in parenting were also her own personal secret. She’d revealed that no one in her life even knew of her raising a boy as her own, aside from her two best friends. She’d had to keep it from everyone in her life.
Clint didn’t ask for details as to why, and likewise she didn't ask him for any either, but they deeply bonded over the sense of loss and regret that they had whenever they wanted to talk about their children, but then realized that they couldn’t. Every time Harry wanted to brag about Tom’s accomplishments to her family, only to realize she absolutely could not say anything. Every time Lila reached a new milestone— her first words, her first steps, the first time she called him ‘daddy’— and Clint just wanted to share it with the world but couldn’t even speak her name aloud. It was maudlin to think about all that they’d missed as parents, but at least now they had each other to speak to.)
So at some point, Harry goes from barely even recognizing Tony Stark’s existence— despite working for a company with half his name in the title— to spending a great deal of her time with him.
More time than she’d realized, actually.
In fact… they were spending a lot of time together. So much so that when she realizes it’s a Friday evening and she has no plans she’s stunned to find Tony hasn’t messaged her at all. Usually he texts multiple times in a day, usually with some pop culture reference she has to look up on google later, assorted gifs, links to ridiculous personality tests, or even just emojis. And if the hour is approaching evening, they’ve usually penciled in a time for dinner or at the very least scheduled one for the following day— they’ve also ventured into lunch territory more often than not. Pepper is positively thrilled with how timely Tony’s been with his CEO deadlines lately, always congratulating Harry with a smile she thinks is both gratified and yet oddly regretful. Harry isn’t entirely sure how to take it usually, so just accepts it as a job well done and goes back to wrangling Tony into following his schedule and guilt-tripping him into going to meetings on time.
At any rate, the city that never sleeps is living up to its name, patterns of light dotting the skyline as far as the eye can see out Harry’s office window. She spares it a small, dreamy smile, before returning her attention to her phone, and her as of yet decided plans for the evening. It’s a long shot, but maybe she’ll reach out to Hermione and see what Ron’s up to. The time difference means Hermione is either dead asleep or pulling an all-nighter researching, so either way she’ll be annoyed with the interruption, but she’s the only way to get in contact with Ron and there’s a good chance Ron will still be out at the pubs with Dean and Seamus. She might be able to make it in time for last call if she leaves now. Alternatively she could go to the opposite side of the world and bug Ginny into grabbing a light breakfast with her before she heads off to her shift.
These plans fall to the wayside before they even have time to grow to fruition, as a jet of light streaks past her window.
Harry stands and peers up through the glass, seeing the last fiery line of light careen through the night sky, before the Iron Man armor lands on the penthouse balcony.
Her phone lights up with a message.
You still in the office?
Contrary to what you might think, those expense reports don’t do themselves, she jokes back.
Harry has never seen the Iron Man armor up close. It’s her first time seeing it in person, and she can see why people are so obsessed with it. The intricate locking plates and joints, all moving in tandem; the whirl of electricity and powerful energy coursing through its wired veins, the impressive centerpiece to this magic bright and center in the chestplate… how could anyone think this wasn’t magic? Even to someone like Harry, who had seen the splendor of the magical world in a way only an outsider could, this was a masterpiece beyond spellcraft.
“So, what do you think?” Tony spreads his arms and makes a show of using the repulsors to levitate himself for a few moments, before dropping back onto the balcony beside her. “Too flashy? It’s the gold, isn’t it.”
“It’s absolutely fantastic.” Harry replies, breathlessly, still mesmerized by how smoothly all the pieces work together.
She knew Tony was a genius creator, but for the most part his creations that she used and saw in her day to day life were intangible. Software. Back-end processes, interfaces, automation and applications. Those were impressive in their own right, but there was something so breathtaking about seeing it in physical form. Abstract computing concepts and precise metalwork combined together into a deadly work of art.
“No need to flatter me.” He jokes, as he pops the faceplate.
Harry shakes her head in wonder. “It’s just... I thought your bots were impressive. I mean, they are, don’t get me wrong, but just… this is a technological novel all onto its own. I’ve never seen something so amazing.”
“Okay, now you’re really making me blush.”
“Sorry,” she says, dazedly, still only half paying attention to their usual banter. Right now, it’s taking all of her effort to refrain from reaching out and touching the finger joints, just to watch them move. Can Tony feel that, through the armor? She wouldn’t put it past him to create a way to mimic the sensation of touch.
“What? Don’t apologize! I’m Tony Stark, there’s nothing I love more than shameless compliments.”
“You deserve all of that and then some, for this.” Harry replies, honestly. “And this— all this is powered by the arc reactor?”
He gives it a fond tap with his knuckles. “Yep, this little beauty right here.”
“And you can’t tell me what it’s made of,” Harry assumes, blinking at it curiously. Magic and science are two sides of the same coin, of course, so Harry can’t help but wonder how it works.
“Trade secret, sorry.”
Harry makes a valiant effort to pull herself out of her musings, reminded that there’s more than just a suit of armor standing in front of her, but a very real human man who is probably getting a bit uncomfortable with her unabashed staring. She shakes her head again, and takes a step back.
“And what about taking it all off? Is that a trade secret too?” She asks with a raised brow.
“Why, Miss Potter, are you asking to see me undress?”
Harry rolls her eyes. “I just can’t imagine taking off something as complicated and heavy as this could be anything approaching graceful.”
“Oh, is that what you think?” Tony grins widely, and motions for her to step back further. “Well then, you’ve come to the right show.”
Harry watches with delight as Tony walks purposefully down a strip of the landing balcony, and metal arms rise out of the floor to dismantle the armor. To her shock, it is rather graceful. Well, there is a part where Tony’s tie almost gets nabbed along with the chest plate, but he manages to catch it before he gets strangled.
Harry applauds. “Alright, now I’m impressed.”
The man gives a gregarious bow, before standing upright in front of her, not a hair out of place or a wrinkle in his suit.
“Thank you, thank you. The dismantling mechanism took me nearly as long as the armor itself did.”
“I was talking about the suit, but that too.” Harry quips back. “Is there any particular reason you decided to wear a suit of battle armor on top of your already uncomfortable suit of office armor?”
“Supervillains wait for no one.” Tony shrugs with a wink.
“Oh, I see. So it wasn’t that you wanted to make an entrance to the SoftBank meeting by flying in with your suit of armor?”
“I keep forgetting you have access to my calendar now.” Tony laments with a sigh. “There’s no keeping secrets from you, is there?”
“Well, I would hate to pry.” Harry returns calmly, with a smirk. “But Pepper does tend to rant when you show up to meetings twenty minutes late wearing your Iron Man suit.”
“She just doesn’t appreciate good showmanship.” Tony complains loudly. “The crowd loved it.”
“Honestly, I can’t see how anyone wouldn’t. ” Harry admits truthfully. “Joking aside, it really is impressive Tony. You’ve done an amazing job.”
Tony coughs awkwardly. “Ah, well, necessity is the mother of invention, and all that.”
It’s so fascinating, how such an open and gregarious person can have such a hard time accepting compliments. All the same Harry doesn’t call him out on it, well aware she’s cut from the same cloth. Harry usually accepts them with her most awkward smile and a clammy handshake; Tony either brushes them off with a joke or a callous remark. Neither of them handle it with grace, but all the same she thinks it’s important for Tony to know just how amazing he really is.
“Not just with the suit— with everything I mean.” Harry adds, quietly. “This company, the Avengers, all your inventions. The technology, the bots, the sentient AI that runs the place. It’s amazing. You’re amazing.”
He shrugs. “You wouldn’t say that if you’d met me two years ago.” Tony returns, caustically.
Harry shrugs in return. “Who’s to say, really? People change. That’s amazing too.”
Tony looks at a loss for words— rare form, from a man like Tony Stark. He clears his throat, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “Well, it seems I’ve taken up most of your evening with that garish display of mine. I’m making ruining your Friday evenings into habit, aren’t I?” He notices, with a self-deprecating smile. “I’ll make it up to you— I’ll give you a raise for it, how about that. This much overtime is definitely not in your contract.”
“It’s not, but I would hardly consider this overtime.” Harry notes with a wry smile. “And you most certainly have not ruined my Friday evening— not that I had anything planned anyway— but if you insist on making it up to me you can take me to that Iranian restaurant in Soho. I have a feeling if I tried to walk in there without you on a Friday night I’d have no chance of getting a table.”
Tony looks as if she’d just made his night, and not the other way around. “Happy to be of service!”
He’d taken her once before, and the food was just as good as she remembered it to be. The company was, too. Tony could be sullen and difficult when he wanted, but he could also be lovely and positively charming. He was always such a wonderful dinner companion, Harry wondered how she’d ever go back to dining without him once he… well, once he grew tired of her, she supposed. She was an employee at his company, and not a particularly impressive one either. Sooner or later they’d find someone more qualified to work with him, and she’d return to the job she’d actually been hired to do.
The thought was enough to make anyone maudlin, so Harry put it out of mind, at least for the time being. She’d have a lonely weekend of solitude with Spot to dwell on it. Well, at least she’d have a letter from Tom to read waiting for her. Hopefully. He was very punctual about writing her once a week, but it was a Hogsmeade weekend if she recalled correctly, so there was a good chance he’d wait to mail until Monday.
“Penny for your thoughts?”
Harry blinks back into the present, staring up from where she’d been contemplating the meaning of life from the depths of her cocktail. “... Penny?”
“Do they seriously not have that saying over in Britain?” Tony guffaws. Harry merely stares at him, bewildered; even if they did, her abnormal muggle upbringing probably wouldn’t help her much.
“I’ve probably just never heard of it.” Harry answers with a shrug, fully tugging herself out of her own thoughts. The Manhattan skyline from their after-dinner bar is positively glorious, and she shouldn’t waste the view— or the company— on her own depressing thoughts.
“That boarding school in Scotland must have really been out in the boonies, huh?”
“Very much so.” Harry nods vehemently. “There was one small village nearby, and nothing else for miles.”
“Village?” Tony repeats with an incredulously raised brow. “It sounds like you went to school in the stone ages or something. Or would that technically be the 1930’s? From the way Steve describes it, I’ve got to wonder sometimes.”
“Time is a strange thing.” Harry answers with a weak laugh, wisely refraining from making a remark on that. It hit a little too close to home, so she carefully segues; “And you can keep your penny. I was just thinking that… this is fun.”
It’s a rare sight, to see her boss so obviously at a loss for words. Harry hides her growing smile behind her martini. “Fun.” he repeats, finally, leaning back. He smiles at her, tentatively. “That’s… that’s good, right?”
Harry looks at him with confusion. “Well… yes, isn’t it?” Now she’s worried. Is Tony not enjoying this? She didn’t mean to think he needed to come with her. If she overstepped her boundaries…
“Yes, yes it is.” Tony agrees hastily. “Fun is a great thing. A really, really great thing. I think this is fun, too.”
Harry is still very confused, but smiles slightly. “... Yeah.” Then she clears her throat. “I’ll be honest though, maybe I did really grow up in the stone ages. I feel like I have no idea what constitutes as fun for most people.”
“Hey now, there’s nothing wrong with that.” Tony is quick to point out. “Your definition of fun can be as boring as seeing a movie that came out seventy years ago and balling your eyes out anyway— or going race car driving with me next Sunday. Totally up to you.”
“Race car driving?” Harry repeats, setting her fork down. “Is that a thing?”
“Oh, that’s definitely a thing. It’s very fun, I assure you.”
“I don’t know how to drive a car.” Harry admits, after a beat.
Tony squints at her. “... Maybe you are a time traveller from the stone ages.” He jokes, and Harry nervously chuckles with him.
“It would explain a lot, wouldn’t it?” She hedges, vaguely.
“I’ll say.” Fortunately, Tony drops it after that with a shrug. “No race cars then. Art museums? They had those in the stone ages, didn’t they? Or how about a trip out west to see the Rocky Mountains? I know for a fact they had those back then. We can go see rock paintings or something.”
Harry laughs. “Why, Mr. Stark, maybe I am a time traveler, but even time travelers can tell when a secret serial killer tries to lure them into the Rocky Mountains with prospects of cave paintings.”
Tony shakes his head fondly. “You and Coulson watch too much Criminal Minds.” He seems to hesitate, then. “What about a getaway to a luxury spa in Jackson Hole?”
“I think that might be in season four.” Harry grins.
“Hot springs in Utah?”
“... season five?”
“Skiing in Vail.”
“Is that a mountain town? That episode in season six was one of my favorites!” She gushes.
Tony’s brow twitches. “Surf lessons in Malibu.”
“There’s a California episode in every season.” Harry laughs.
“Fine, I give up.” He throws his hands up in defeat. “I swear I’m not trying to kill you,” Tony rolls his eyes, hard. “Is it really this hard to ask you out on a date?”
“I’ve been told everyone is dangerous in the twenty-first century.” Harry quotes with a smug look; it’s the exact same thing they’ve been telling Steve every time he makes interested noises about online dating.
“Fine yeah, there are a lot of creepy cat fishers out there as modern television will forever remind you, but do you really think I’m one of them?”
“Of course not!” Harry assures him, grinning.
“Good,” he says, leaning back in his chair with twinkling eyes. “So that’s a yes then?”
Harry blinks, confused. “Yes to what?”
“A date, with me. It doesn’t have to be rock paintings in the middle of nowhere, or surfing in Malibu, or skiing in a mountain town.” His smile looks confident and full of his usual bravado on the surface— it’s the kind of smile he flashes at board members over next year’s earnings projections, at the adoring crowds in engineering expos and technology conferences, at reporters who ask invasive questions. Full of all the arrogance warranted of the greatest inventor of their time. But beneath that veneer Harry could see all his hesitation; she could see the real Tony. The Tony that was not nearly as full of bluster and overconfidence as he wants people to think. The Tony that has a very real fear of rejection.
Harry blinks at him, again. And then again. Then the dots finally connect in her head. Oh. Oh. Hold on now…
Tony’s smile fades. “Please don’t feel obligated to say yes. I know I’m putting you in a difficult position, what with technically being your boss and all, and I wasn’t going to ask but then it just sort of came out and—
“Yes, I’d love to go somewhere.” She cuts him off, because she knows if she doesn’t he’ll just ramble his way into a downward spiral of progressively weirder and disjointed sentences. “Maybe just not race car driving, though? Or crazy trips?”
She hesitates, “I mean, an art museum would be nice.”
It takes Tony a moment to recover. His expression turns from flabbergasted vague disbelief into a poor effort to smother down contagious excitement. “Really? Art museum it is then. Which one? You have your pick of them in this city.”
“Well, Steve is always talking about the MoMa— I’ve always thought it might be neat to go.”
Tony stares at her like she’s an alien— or a time traveler from the stone ages. “How long have you been in New York, and you haven’t gone to see the MoMa?”
Harry laughs sheepishly. “Ah, well, if we want to talk about all the things in New York I haven’t done— I haven’t been to Central Park, or the Empire State Building, or the State of Liberty… I don’t think I’ve been to any of the other boroughs either…”
Tony’s mouth drops open. He quickly recovers himself, shaking his head. “Well, this is preposterous and absurd, and I am disappointed in both myself and everyone who knows us both. This situation needs to be rectified immediately.”
Harry takes a bite out of one of her blue cheese olives, raising a brow. “It’s that dire, huh?”
“It is beyond dire, it’s an outrage.” Tony nods solemnly. “If you’re not doing anything tomorrow, I suggest we resolve this immediately.”
Harry can’t help but laugh. “Sure, alright then. Tomorrow it is.”