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Smaller Than Expected, but Still Terrifying

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Things had been going to hell before the crazy people in green dusters showed up. 

They had finally picked up a signal from the scepter, which apparently had been missing since 2015 - fuck you very much for your inability to communicate anything of importance, Fury - and so here they were, in the middle of nowhere, working together for the first time since The Big Reveal.

Steve called out instructions to them and Tony had to grit his teeth against saying something scathing. Okay, maybe the reason Fury hadn’t called them in on the scepter sooner was because of the gaping, bleeding tear in the fabric of their team. 

“Winter Soldier, do you have eyes on the enhanced? He’s fast,” Steve barked.

Tony shot a missile at one of the bunkers that ended in what some might call an overzealous explosion. The only reason he was even here was that he didn’t trust his old team to deal with alien tech properly. He hadn’t seen any of them except Clint and Bruce in almost a year and it was much more difficult to keep his temper in check than he’d thought it would be. And Bruce wasn't even there, he'd gone AWOL somewhere in South America a few months ago.

“Just blurs. He’s a damn roadrunner.”

There was a gasp over the line and then Natasha said, voice strained, “I’m hit.”

“On my way,” Clint said. 

“You need me to circle back, Hawkeye?” Tony asked, breaking the silence he’d been keeping over the comms up until that point.

“Nah, Iron Man, you’re good. Just get to that scepter.” 

It was an unspoken agreement that Steve and Tony didn’t interact directly unless absolutely necessary. Nobody wanted a repeat of the last time they’d spoken. It had involved them screaming horrible, awful things at each other, a stay in the hospital for Tony and, eventually, the loss of Iron Man from the team. He’d grudgingly allowed them to stay at the compound (for a hefty monthly fee from SHIELD) but they no longer enjoyed the perks of having a billionaire funding their exploits.

Fury had tried to calm him down and ended up dangled off the side of Stark tower (Tony had done a thorough job of decimating any indication the Avengers had once been there) by an empty Legion suit. 

“Right now you still have Iron Man’s cooperation in the face of global emergencies. But I know you knew, Fury. Keep your people away from me or you won't find me so cooperative in the future. Got it?”

Other than terse conversations about threats to humanity nobody from SHIELD had bothered him since. Well, until now, when they’d found the scepter much later than they would have with his help and asked for him to back up the Avengers.

He blasted his way through the walls of the old fort, taking down the soldiers there with ease. Two suits piloted by JARVIS flanked him, the other three he’d brought with him headed towards the village nearby to protect civilians from the battle.

Once the enemies were all down he retracted the suit and stepped out into the cold air. “Sentry mode,” he said before moving forward. 

He could see the scepter now, glowing brightly on a dingy table across the room. He took three steps towards it, mesmerized by the way the light played across the gem set into the end. How had he not noticed how beautiful it was when Loki attacked New York? 

Tony was supposed to turn it into the World Security Council. But, really, should he trust them with it again? Shouldn’t he take it back with him, discover its secrets, use its power against what he knew was coming?

“Tony?” 

He blinked down at the scepter which was somehow right in front of him now, his hand inches from the handle. The Avengers were standing in the doorway, Natasha leaning up against Clint, a bandage wrapped around her thigh and another around her torso.

Tony glared at Steve, annoyance at being interrupted flaring into rage. “I’m taking this with me,” he said, voice sounding too detached for how angry he was. A thought formed at the back of his mind, a small bout of anxiety that insisted something was wrong, but it was quickly drowned out by logic. Tony was simply the best person to take the scepter.

They all exchanged looks and of course, they were conspiring against him. He was the odd one out, the annoyance, he’d been useful for his money and his brain but in the end, he wasn’t one of them. Someone to be lied to, someone to be used, someone to be ignored. He would take up the scepter and he would show them what it meant to underestimate Tony Stark.

“Tony, come on, it’s got ahold of you, man. You know what that thing does.” Clint stepped forward after handing Natasha off to Sam. “Why don’t you come over here, huh?”

Tony’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t pretend like you care about me. You chose him. Even after what he did, you all chose him!”

Clint took a step back and his eyes went wide. “What? You know that’s not true, Tony, we talked about this, you wanted to go solo and SHIELD has too much power over me -”

Tony was shaking his head, though. It was suddenly all so clear. He just needed to pick up the scepter and he would be able to protect this planet without relying on backstabbers and liars. He reached for the handle. 

Chaos erupted. Steve threw his shield at Tony, though his face was twisted in what looked like regret. Hawkeye was notching an arrow, Sam was taking to the air, and Natasha was aiming her widow’s bites at him. Of course, they’d use his own creations against him. Only Barnes didn’t move to attack, which was actually pretty ironic.

There was a loud sound, like a whip cracking through the air, and six figures in dark green dusters appeared between them in defensive positions. A tall man with red hair slashed the air with a stick held loosely in his hand and the weapons bounced off an invisible shield harmlessly. Tony was already lifting his gauntleted fist to attack - someone, everyone, maybe - when a slim woman with a wild braid spun around, brown eyes lighting on him. There was a stick in her hand, too, and she moved it in a strange pattern.

“Accio scepter!” she yelled and Tony let out a cry of rage when it zipped off the table and into her gloved hand. Another woman, this one with black hair that was falling down her back in messy waves turned towards the sound, studying him with a shrewd expression from under a pair of gold-rimmed glasses.

“His eyes - they’re glowing blue, just like Mabel said. Make sure your occlumency shields are holding!” she barked out even as she pulled the woman with the braid out of the path of his gauntlet blast. 

He was vaguely aware that the Avengers were stuck in combat with his three suits on the other side of the room. JARVIS must have reacted as soon as they attacked, though he couldn’t hear his voice now...where was his earpiece? He couldn’t remember removing it.

A few of the green-clad figures had joined in the melee, streaks of light flying from the sticks they were all holding in their hands. He grimaced when one of his Legion was hit and exploded in a shower of sparks before falling to the floor with a clatter. 

“Arjun, we need you here! Iron Man’s been compromised by the scepter,” the black-haired woman said.

“Coming, boss!” a man with dark hair yelled, disengaging from the fight behind them with ease, the other newcomers moving in to fill in the gap he left behind. Natasha fell under a beam of red light and Clint’s cry made something in Tony twinge. It was quickly covered by the maelstrom of anger still spinning through him, though.

The woman with glasses turned to face him again. “Hermione, I’ll cover you. Get that thing contained.”

Tony’s eyes narrowed but he didn’t bother saying anything and neither did she. He dodged a flash of light that came from her stick but was so focused on getting to the scepter that he’d forgotten about the man she’d called over.

Petrificus Totalus,” someone said and all of Tony’s muscles locked just before he fell, hitting the dusty floor in a way that would leave bruises for sure.

He attempted to struggle against the invisible bindings, fear overcoming his anger when he realized he couldn’t move at all. Wait, why was he on the floor again? How - 

A man’s face appeared over his own, dark eyes apologetic. “I am sorry about this. I’m actually a big fan, you know.” He put his hands on either side of Tony’s face and looked into his eyes. “Legillimens,” he whispered.

A deep pain spread from his eyes to the rest of his head and Tony knew that he wasn’t alone in his own mind anymore. Or, no, that wasn’t right. He hadn’t been alone before this man had done whatever it was he was doing. There was something else in there and it was fighting against the new presence. They were having a knock-down-drag-out and Tony’s brain was the battlefield.

He wanted to scream and thrash but he was still frozen in place. Tears ran down his temples into his hair and he wondered if they’d let him drown in his own vomit if he threw up. The man’s face was twisted and a bit of blood was starting to leak from his nose but he remained resolute.

After what could have been hours or minutes there was a popping sensation in his mind and the pain was gone. The man’s shoulders relaxed and it felt like somebody was placing a cool compress inside his skull, chasing out the lingering rage and paranoia before withdrawing, leaving him alone with his thoughts again.

“Arjun, are you okay?” someone asked, then a woman with blonde hair cropped close to her head and large glasses was helping the man - Arjun - to his feet. 

“I’m fine, Mabel, that was just...a lot. Did you deal with the Avengers?”

“Yes, Ron performed the Granger Incarcerous, they’re currently incapacitated,” Mabel glanced over at Tony with a small smile, “but fine.”

Relief moved through him but it was secondary to the lingering panic of what had just happened and the fact that he still couldn’t fucking move

As though pulled by his thoughts, and, hey, maybe he was, at this point, it wouldn’t be surprising, a rugged-looking man with skin a few shades darker than Tony’s and dark green eyes was kneeling over him, caramel-colored hair falling into his eyes. “Sorry ‘bout that, mate. You’d been taken over by the scepter, our source did mention that it tends to do that. Arjun had to push it out before it got too good a hold on you. No hard feelings, right? The boss says I can let you up as long as you behave yourself. I promise we won’t hurt you.” He had a thick Australian accent. Actually, all of them seemed to have non-American accents of some type except for Mabel - so far he’d heard Indian, Australian, and British.

Then the Australian was raising a stick and saying words in what Tony was sure was latin and then he could move again. Tony scrambled backward, breaths coming in short gasps. “What - who -”

“Hey! You gonna let us go, too, or what?” Clint yelled and Tony looked over. Blinked, narrowed his eyes to be sure he was seeing what he thought he was. And then he laughed. Then he laughed some more, knowing it sounded slightly hysterical but unable to stop.

His old team was hanging upside down, held up in the air by multiple bright, glowing ropes that moved with them, keeping their limbs firmly against their sides as they writhed, and tightened whenever they struggled too hard. A pile of their weapons was lying directly below them. Less funny was the sight of his suits, including the ones from the village, in a heap next to them, but, well, it’s not like Tony didn’t have plenty of extra time to repair them or build more these days.

He finally had to look away from the sight of the Avengers upside down and swaying gently with various expressions of outrage or risk never being able to keep a straight face again. 

Tony wiped his eyes and stood shakily. His gauntlets were gone, probably taken off while his mind was being fought over like it was a bone two dogs had laid their sights on. 

The woman with the braid, which was now springing multiple curls, was still hunched over the scepter, latin flowing from her lips, stick waving over the stone while bright bulbs of light popped from the end and moved to surround it. Blue light was flowing from the gem, lashing out at the bulbs, but they blocked each attempt while moving inexorably closer. 

The woman was sweating, only staying on her feet because she was leaning back against the tall redhead. The woman with black hair and glasses was standing over them, scanning the room for threats.

“You’ve got this, Hermione, come on, you can do it,” the redhead said.

Sweat was running down the woman - Hermione’s - face, but her voice was steady. Her chanting gained speed and volume and the bulbs were now pouring from her wand, forcing the blue light back into the gem at the center of the scepter. She fumbled in her pocket and pulled out a vial with a black substance inside. The redhead took it from her and gently popped the cork out before pushing it back into her hand.

The bulbs were coalescing now, running together to form a sphere around the gem. Hermione held the vial above it. Everyone in the room had gone silent, even the Avengers,  the air filled with tension. Tony knew he should be fighting them, trying to get the scepter back, but he was still reeling from being mind-controlled. Whoever these people were, they’d saved him from that and used non-lethal (and hilarious) methods to detain the Avengers. They were, at the very least, better than that damn scepter.

When the light-shield solidified the stone began shrieking, high and grating, though he wasn’t hearing it with his ears. It was inside his mind. He wasn’t the only one, either. A few of the green-clad strangers dropped to their knees. Tony fell too, legs unable to hold him up, curling into a ball and gritting his teeth against the agony reverberating against his skull. He could hear the Avengers making sounds of pain across the room, too.

He barely slit his eyes open enough to watch as Hermione, pale and shaking, yelled out two final lines with triumph and tipped the black, goopy substance over the sphere of light. It crept out, covering the outside of the sphere, and the scepter’s handle cracked. The crack expanded, forming lines all the way down to the metal half-moon that the gem had been placed in. 

Tony watched the bright sphere slowly disappear under the expanding black. It felt like there was a huge hand pressing down on him, keeping him on the ground even though the screaming in his head had stopped. The woman with black hair was swaying but still on her feet, but the redhead and Hermione were both on the ground now, heads bowed. 

There was only a sliver of light still visible from the sphere now and it was pulsing erratically, as though something was beating its fists against the other side. The pressure grew as the black gloop continued to cover the sphere, the light growing smaller and smaller until something that sounded like a bolt of thunder clapped in the room and the two ends of the mass of black connected. The scepter dissolved into splinters and melted metal and clattered to the ground until all that remained of it was the smooth black ball that now held the gem shining dully in the dim light of the torches on the wall. It fell to the ground with a clunk and rolled to a stop a few feet from the black-haired woman’s shoe.

“Well, damn. Guess you were right, Mabel,” someone said a few minutes later after they’d all had a chance to catch their breath. Tony pushed himself up to his hands and knees, recognizing the Australian man’s voice.

A glance showed that the Avengers were free and stumbling towards their weapons, fumbling to strap them on.

“I usually am,” Mabel said serenely and wobbled over to the sphere, crouching down to look at it. She held her hand over the top and her brow furrowed before relaxing. “Nice work, Hermione. It’s completely hidden from this world.”

Hermione lifted a hand in the air and waved it lazily. “I have been called the most intelligent witch in Britain once or twice.”

“You’re fucking brilliant is what you are,” the redhead said and kissed her thoroughly.

Tony would usually have made some quip about PDA, but his mind was stuck on the word witch. He finally made it to his feet and looked around at the strangers who had appeared out of nowhere to fuck with their mission. And saved you from being brainwashed by an alien scepter, don’t forget. He must be vulnerable to it now that the arc reactor no longer resided in his chest. Good to know.

The Avengers stepped up behind him. A warm hand landed on his shoulder and he glanced over at Clint, whose brow was turned down in concern. “You okay, Tony?”

He mustered a smile. “Fine. Sorry about the whole, you know, evil villain act earlier.”

Clint’s smile was sad. “You know I get it, man. What happens while under the influence of the evil scepter -”

“Stays under the influence of the evil scepter. Yeah, I got it.”

Steve moved to stand next to him. He reached out like he wanted to touch Tony’s arm but let it drop before it could connect. “You okay, Tony?”

“Fine, Rogers.”

He knew that Barnes was somewhere behind him, standing in what used to be Tony’s place on the team, and it made him itchy, made some residual anger from whatever the scepter had done flare up. That’s probably why he stalked towards the woman who was obviously in charge of this...group, uncaring of the consequences. 

She was kneeling next to Hermione and the redhead and had the black sphere in her hand. They were talking in quick, low whispers. The other three shifted in their spots around them but didn’t stop Tony from approaching her.

She looked over, eyes assessing from beneath her thin spectacles, and stood. She was short, no taller than five foot four, which was surprising. She held herself with the ease of someone who knew they could take care of themselves and it made her seem taller from a distance. 

“Might want to back off there, mate,” the Australian said casually and Tony turned his glare on him.

“Just who the hell are you people?” he snapped at him.

The woman stiffened and her eyes narrowed, a bit of red spotting across her pale cheeks. When she spoke it was with a crisp British accent. “We’re the people who just saved your arses. Now you can either back off and let us do our jobs or we can make you. And believe me, you would not like that.”

There were a few gasps from his old team behind him but Tony barely noticed. His jaw dropped and he stared down at the woman who had just spoken the words that had been scrawled across his inner thigh in messy writing for almost twenty-six years. Now that he wasn’t so distracted with mind control and what he was hoping wasn’t actually magic, he could see that she was quite attractive. 

Bright green eyes, messy black hair, petite features, full lips. He couldn’t see much of her body under that ridiculous duster, but yeah. His soulmate was hot. And a witch, maybe?

“You know,” he said slowly, “you’re a lot smaller than I expected.” The woman stiffened and her eyes went wide, her lips parting slightly. “Still terrifying, of course, but you’re kind of pint-sized, aren’t you?”

Hermione gasped and the redhead made a sort of choking sound. “Holy shit, Tony’s soulmate is magic,” Clint said. Tony was really regretting that night he’d gotten drunk and bragged to his ex-team about how badass his soulmate would be, showing them his words as proof. 

Tony knew he probably wasn’t looking his best. He was in the tight undersuit he wore while in the armor and his head was still throbbing. His eyes were probably swollen and red and who knew what his hair looked like. But he was Tony Fucking Stark, and he was damned well going to act like it.

He put on his most charming smile and held out his hand. “Tony Stark. Nice to finally meet you.”

The woman opened her mouth to reply, her own hand extending towards him and something like a smile playing across her lips. Because the universe loved to hate him, something chose that moment to blur by her and knock her off balance. 

Tony reached out to steady her but she was already spinning, coat flaring, stick raised in front of her previously empty hand and a snarl on her face. “Someone’s taken the sphere. Formation three!”

“Shit,” Tony said when he saw that the sphere was no longer in her left hand. He’d completely forgotten about the fast guy that had injured Natasha earlier.

“Truce while we deal with them?” Steve called out towards Tony’s soulmate. Seriously, they couldn’t have attacked just 10 seconds later, after he’d gotten her name?

The team of, yeah, Tony was going to go ahead and call them witches, were spreading out. The Australian and Mabel were chanting something under their breaths, sending jets of lights at the doorways and windows that spread out to cover them with a thin red sheen.

Tony’s soulmate glanced over at Steve and shrugged. “Deal.”

“One of them has supersonic speed. Not sure what the woman does, we haven’t encountered her yet,” Clint supplied.

Tony followed his gaze and blinked at the two people standing next to the door, faces twisted in frustration as they tried to break through the sheen of what Tony had to assume was magic (science unexplained!) preventing their escape. The woman was glowing red and sending wave after wave of energy at it, though it was holding firm. The man had the sphere clutched in his hand and Tony turned to Clint.

“You see it?” he asked. 

Clint glanced over his shoulder at him and nodded. “On it.”

He knocked an arrow to his bow and let it fly. The man grabbed his sister and took off so fast Tony could barely follow the blur of his body. Something struck Tony from behind and he gasped and stumbled forward. Red lit up in his peripheral vision and Clint swore and reached for him.

He was already being yanked up into the air, though, high above his team, and turned to face the two strangers who had come to a stop at the top of the stairs at the far end of the room. The woman’s hands were glowing the same red as the energy holding him aloft and her face was twisted with hatred. He had no armor to call on, no gauntlets on his wrists. This just wasn’t his day.

“Tony Stark! I have waited so long to make you pay for the deaths of my parents.”

He blinked rapidly. “I...don’t even know who you are, kid,” he said then gasped when the energy pulled his limbs out and kept tugging, making his joints pop and creak.

“We are Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, and your bombs killed our parents. Now you will die slowly - painfully.”

Tony’s soulmate appeared behind them with a crack. Tony fleetingly wondered if they were creating wormholes with their ‘magic.’ Pietro was already moving to scoop up Wanda, whose gaze was still riveted on Tony. He let out a short cry of pain when the red wrapped around his limbs started to pull them apart, tearing at muscles and joints. He inhaled sharply but didn’t scream. This woman would have to try harder than that - Tony was no newbie to torture.

His soulmate raised her wand and said, “Aresto Momentum.” The building shook with the force of the words and Pietro’s movements slowed. He was still fast but it was easy to see his trajectory now, the way his eyes widened when Steve’s shield flew toward him, thrown with his usual unerring accuracy. He tried to duck but whatever Tony’s soulmate had done was effective. It bounced off his head and sent him sprawling to the ground, unconscious. Or maybe dead, that shield was no joke.

Wanda fell hilariously slowly, gasping when she hit the flagstones. Then his soulmate pointed her stick at her and a red light flew from the end and hit the woman, who promptly fell to the ground, limp.

The energy holding Tony disappeared and he dropped through the air with a yelp. “Got you!” Sam yelled and a moment later two strong arms were around him and they were gliding to the stone floor. 

He heard his soulmate say, “Hermione, dose them with Draught of the Living Death until we can get them contained.”

“Thanks,” Tony muttered to Sam and took a step back.

“Of course, man,” Sam said softly. “Any time.”

Tony could practically feel the sincerity oozing from him and something in him softened. Sam hadn’t known the full story about Bucky and they really hadn’t been close when everything had gone down, so the betrayal didn't feel as deep. 

His thoughts were interrupted when his soulmate stepped in front of him and looked him over with a small frown. He watched the sphere disappear into her pocket but didn’t say anything about it. As far as he was concerned they were welcome to it. “You’re alright?” she asked.

Well, this was an embarrassing first impression to make on his soulmate. Since they’d met she’d done nothing but pull his helpless ass out of the fire. It was a bit of a blow to his ego. “Yep, totally fine. A little dalliance in being drawn and quartered is just another day for Iron Man.”

He smiled in what he hoped was a winning manner and her lips quirked into a small smile. What he assumed was her team had moved up behind her, Hermione still pale and shaking but standing on her own. Tony heard the Avengers come to stand at his back. His soulmate held out her hand. “Harriet Potter, Head of the ICW Alien Magical Threat Task Force.”

His smile widened and he slipped his palm into hers. The softness of her palm was a heady contrast to the callouses on her fingers and knuckles. Warmth spread up his arm from the point of contact, soothing some of the residual panic and tension still thrumming through him after his brush with mind control. “Magic, huh?”

She hesitated and her gaze went to the Avengers before she cleared her throat. “Yes. It’s a bit of a secret, though, so maybe don’t go spreading that around.”

Hermione stepped forward and narrowed her eyes at Tony. “By ‘bit of a secret,’ she means it’s an extremely well-maintained conspiracy designed to keep the magical and mundane worlds separate. Our government has and will step in to make sure it remains that way. You aren’t to tell anyone. Not your superiors, and not your -”

“Yes, Hermione, thank you,” Harriet hissed and Tony wholeheartedly approved of the way her cheeks reddened. “Maybe wait a day before threatening my soulmate and all his friends?”

Hermione sniffed and lifted her chin. She still looked pretty sickly and the redhead had a firm hold on her bicep, so it was less than intimidating.

“Did you say soulmate?” Tony flinched when the man who had entered his mind stepped forward. His expression softened. “Sorry about earlier, my friend. I would usually ask first but your mind was not your own. I acted only to save you, I promise you that.”

Tony studied the hand being held out to him, then grasped it. “I suppose I should be thanking you.”

He shook his head. “It is not something that is easy to feel grateful for, please do not force yourself.”

Steve, never able to keep quiet for long, stepped forward. Tony casually shifted to the side as though making space for him and angled his body so he could see all his movements. Steve’s jaw tightened but he didn’t otherwise react to the display of distrust. There had been a time when Tony wouldn’t have thought twice about Steve standing in one of his blind spots, but that was before he’d been lied to, before his father’s shield had been used to break bones and leave him bleeding on the floor. Yeah, okay, so they had issues.

“Ma’am. I’m Captain Steve Rogers and I believe you have something that belongs to us.”

Tony closed his eyes and shook his head. “Wow, Rogers, way to break the ice. Maybe you should just whip out your dick and try to prove it’s the biggest, huh?”

Steve pressed his lips together and breathed in deeply through his nose. Harriet was looking between them with a small frown line between her eyes. “We should introduce ourselves,” a light voice said then Mabel stepped forward, blue eyes magnified beneath her glasses.

Harriet exchanged a look with Ron before clearing her throat. “Captain Rogers. I’m Agent Harriet Potter. This is my team.” She pointed at the Australian. “Agent Nigel Walker,” next was the man who had been in Tony’s head, “Agent Arjun Khatri, Agent Mabel Trelawney, Agent Hermione Weasley, and Agent Ron Weasley, my second in command.” The redhead grinned and waved. “My team was created by the International Confederation of Wizards to find, research, contain and when needed, fight magical alien threats. I’m afraid the gem we’ve just contained needs to come with us. What just happened with,” she hesitated and looked over at him, “Mr. Stark proves that mug - mundanes can’t constrain its power.”

“I’m Tony Stark. I’m sure I could figure something out. And call me Tony, sweetheart.”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “You can call me Harry. No pet names.”

Ron grinned and opened his mouth, then promptly shut it when Hermione elbowed him before speaking. “Tony, I understand your hesitation. You don’t know us, don’t know anything about our world. But I assure you -”

“Your world? What does that mean?” Natasha asked, coming forward to stand at Steve’s other side, hand pressed against the bandages wrapped around her torso. They had obviously been hastily applied and Tony could see red starting to bleed through them.

Harriet pressed her lips together and glanced at Ron. “Obliviate?” she asked, then rushed to add, “Not Tony.” 

All of the carefree ease Ron had been exuding was gone, leaving in its wake a calculating gaze. “Probably should.”

Steve and Natasha took a step back, sensing the change in the air, the kind that promised violence. “Now, wait a second,” Tony said and held up his hands. “Whatever you’re thinking, we can talk through it.”

Harry sent him an apologetic look. “Sorry, but we’ve read up on the Avengers. We can’t trust them to keep our secret and the last thing we need is Nick Fury getting wind of this.”

Tony heard the click of a gun being prepped to fire and panic bloomed in his chest. He might not be happy with them at the moment, but at one point they had been his team, his family. “I can’t let you kill them,” he choked out. “Please, don’t make me fight you.”

“We aren’t going to kill them,” Harry said, stricken. “We wouldn’t. We just need to keep them from revealing our secrets.”

Tony stepped between the two teams, hoping that he’d be enough incentive not to start shooting for both sides. “I’ll talk to them.”

“Can you guarantee they won’t tell anyone?”

Tony hesitated because, no, he couldn’t. He didn’t trust Steve and Natasha, and this was their team, not his. “I -”

“Tony, move out of the way,” Natasha said in a low voice. 

“I can’t let you attack my soulmate, Romanoff,” he said, exasperated despite himself. “I’d think Rogers, at least, could understand that drive.”

“Tony, this isn’t about what happened with Bucky -”

Tony spun on his heel and glared at Steve. “Oh, so it’s okay to lie to, steal from, and attempt to murder your own teammate when it’s Steve’s soulmate in trouble, but when it's mine, all bets are off, right?” 

Natasha looked away and Clint lowered his bow with a sigh. “Tony, man, come on. You know I don’t want to fight your soulmate. Get her to back off and I won’t make a move against her, I promise.”

Bucky’s eyes, as always, were cold and assessing but he nodded once at Clint’s words. Knowing that having Bucky’s approval would keep Steve at bay for the moment he turned back around. To his surprise, Harry was glaring at his team behind him, wand raised. 

“What did you mean, Rogers attempted to murder his teammate? Are you talking about yourself?”

Tony opened his mouth, then closed it. He cleared his throat. “It was...complicated.”

Hermione put a hand over her eyes and sighed. “Well, there goes diplomacy.”

“Right,” Harry said. “Formation -”

Mabel gasped and went rigid, cutting Harry off. Her eyes began to glow gold and her body trembled all over. Nigel stepped forward with a frown but didn’t touch her. “Aw, hell, not again,” he muttered.

Mabel took a painful sounding breath as though her throat was contracting and she had to force oxygen through her airways. Then she opened her mouth and spoke in a voice that was worlds different from the airy voice she’d been using earlier. It was as though multiple sound bites of her speaking had been taken and then layered over each other, filling the space around them, echoing off the walls and making Tony’s teeth ache. It was fucking creepy.

They will meet in snow and ice, Earth’s mightiest heroes and the golden three. Only together can they save us from the Mad Titan who seeks all six stones. If the stones unite the Universe will be covered in the ashes of the dead. Only they can destroy them and save us. They will meet in snow and ice...

Mabel took in one last wheezing breath and collapsed. Nigel caught her and lowered her to the ground. For a long few seconds, everyone just stared at her.

“Does that, uh, happen often?” Tony finally said and jumped when Harry let out an incoherent scream.

“Bloody buggering hell! Seriously, how many prophecies does one girl have to live through!” She tilted her head back to yell the question at the ceiling.

“Harry -” Hermoine said and stepped forward, hand extended and face pale.

Harry spun on her, eyes wild. “The golden three? Really? That stupid fucking nickname the Prophet came up with? That’s what the fates went with when composing their awful prophecy? And now we have to, what, run around destroying powerful objects before a madman can use them to destroy the universe? Well that doesn’t sound familiar at all, does it? This is really bloody unfair.” She stomped her foot and tugged at her hair with the hand not holding her magic stick.

Tony watched helplessly as his soulmate apparently had a mental break right in front of him. Well, he supposed expecting stability from his soulmate would be silly.

“If there’s a - a stone stuck in one of our foreheads or something that requires great sacrifice to remove I swear I’m going to -”

Harry cut off when Hermione giggled. She slapped a hand over her mouth and looked at Harry with wide eyes. Harry stared at her, then jolted when Ron let out a loud guffaw. Soon all three of them were laughing until tears formed at the corners of their eyes. 

“They’re fucking barmy, why did I accept this post, again?” Nigel muttered.

“Because it doesn’t get any more elite than Harriet Potter’s ICW strike team?” Arjun said with a sigh. “We were all blinded by the sparkly bits. How is Mabel?”

Clint sent Tony a look that clearly said what the hell is wrong with your soulmate. Tony just shrugged helplessly and shuffled a little closer to her, though he didn’t try to touch her. 

Finally, the three wound down, wiping at their eyes, and when Harry looked over she was smiling, all signs that she’d been having a mental break two minutes ago gone. “Well, looks like we’ll be working together, then.”

“How do you figure that?” Natasha asked.

Harriet sighed and pushed her hair out of her face. “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. That’s what the press calls you, right?”

“Sometimes,” Natasha said warily.

Harry smiled, though it was small and bitter and it made Tony want to blow things up. “Well, the press at home like to call Ron, Hermione and I the Golden Trio.”

“So?" Clint said. “Just because your teammate yells nonsense while she has seizures -”

Hermione rolled her eyes from where she was sticking her hand into a small bag all the way to her shoulder. Well, that was...disconcerting. “Honestly, it’s a prophecy, not a seizure.”

“Yeah, she likes to spout those off like a drunken amateur rapper at least once a week. Last week she prophesied I would get food poisoning. I avoided eating for two days until I got so hungry that I ate bad leftover Chinese while sleepwalking. Fucking prophesies,” Nigel said and tossed his head to dislodge a bit of hair that had fallen into his eyes.

“Prophesies,” Sam said flatly and drew out the next word. “Right.”

Harry shrugged, that bitter twist still on her lips. “Yeah. This one was pretty straightforward, for a prophecy.  We team up to destroy some stones before some crazy guy - presumably strong by the use of the word Titan - kills a bunch of people. Damn, I wish Mabel’s great-aunt’s prophecies were as clear.”

“To be fair, Mabel is much stronger than she was,” Hermione said before making a little a-ha sound and pulling out two vials full of liquid. Tony eyed them suspiciously.

She popped the cork off one and drank the liquid inside. “What the hell!” Sam yelped when smoke poured out of her ears. 

She sighed as color returned to her cheeks. “Much better. Here, Nigel, give Mabel one when she wakes.” She handed it over and he took it grudgingly.

“There hasn’t been a prophet as strong as Mabel for centuries,” Hermione explained. “This whole team was built around her visions, in fact. She insisted it was the only way to prevent a universal catastrophe.”

“And you all just...believed her?” Steve said, incredulous, and Bucky grunted his agreement. 

Behind them, Arjun was pointing his stick at the still-unconscious twins, who were bobbing through the air towards them. Tony tried not to stare too obviously at the display of magic. 

“The last time there was a prophet of her caliber nobody listened. Then the Roman Empire fell,” Hermione said.

“Damn,” Tony muttered.

“Yeah. The wizarding world takes its prophesizing seriously,” Harry said and looked away. She took a deep breath and visibly gathered herself. “Ron, take Mabel and Hermoine and report in. Bring the prisoners and this with you.” 

Steve stepped forward when Harry handed the sphere to Ron. “Now wait a minute -”

Harry ignored him. Tony was already a little bit in love. “Nigel and Arjun, are you both good for a bit?”

“I’m good, boss.”

“I'm recovered.”

“Alright. You’ll stay here with me until Ron returns with our marching orders. Secure the perimeter.”

“Natasha, Clint,” Steve barked out.

Tony may not have his armor but that didn’t mean he was completely helpless. He spun in place so that he was between Harry and the Avengers. Something cold lodged in his chest when he saw they were ready to attack his soulmate in a way they were never willing to turn on Bucky. 

He met Steve’s gaze and hoped everything he was thinking was clear. Nobody fucked with the people Tony Stark cared about, not even the Avengers. Steve Rogers had just gone from ex-friend that he kind of hated, to enemy that he definitely hated. 

Steve faltered and lowered his shield, which he’d already lifted to aim at Harry. There was the sound of cracks around them and when he turned around Hermione, Ron, Mabel, and the prisoners were gone.

“What -”

“Sorry about this,” Harry said with a grimace. Then she, Nigel, and Arjun tossed handfuls of what looked like pearlescent pink marbles on the ground. They exploded into clouds of powder when they hit, rising too quickly to avoid. Tony met Harry’s gaze just before the world went black around him.

When he woke up he was, surprisingly enough, lying in a soft bed and not the hard ground or a cold cell. Somebody was in the room with him, light breathing and the rustling of paperwork giving them away. Tony held still while all the details of how he’d ended up in this position came back to him.

He’d gone on his first mission with the Avengers since he’d left the team. His mind had been taken over by an alien stone, he’d met a bunch of witches, his soulmate was magic, Steve and his team had tried to attack her, and then...she’d knocked him out. Yeah, it had been a doozy of a day. 

Tony opened his eyes. The walls had that whole white on white thing going on that was usually indicative of a hospital but there were no annoying beeps, tubes, or wires anywhere. Instead of plastic, bleach, and stale body odors it smelled kind of like those yuppie stores where the incense and soaps were out next to the bulk foods.

Sitting next to him scribbling away at a partially unrolled scroll with a quill (seriously. A quill and scroll) was Harriet. Her hair was messy as though she’d run her fingers through it more than once and she was wearing a large, extremely ugly knitted sweater and jeans instead of that ridiculous coat-thing.

“Why does nothing hurt?” 

She looked up at his words. “You’re awake!” She stood, bumping her knee on the tray she’d been using as a desk and sending a small clay pot rolling across the surface, ink splattering out across her scroll and table.

“Bullocks,” she muttered. She took out her stick and waved it over the mess and Tony’s jaw dropped when it siphoned off the paper and back into its pot. 

She turned to him and bit her lip. “Er, hi.”

He slowly sat up, blinking when there wasn’t even a twinge from the ribs he’d cracked last week helping Peter fight off some octopus guy. She jolted forward and put her arm around his back while she adjusted his pillows. 

Usually he’d push somebody away when they got into his space but she smelled nice and her touch sent a pleasant heat rolling down his spine. The room was silent outside of their breathing and the rustling of sheets, the other three beds empty. 

“Um, I went ahead and had the medi-wizard heal, well, everything,” Harry said once he was laying back down. She was fussing with a pitcher of water and a glass, keeping her gaze firmly away from him. 

Tony tilted his head to the side. “What do you mean, everything?” 

She glanced over at him before quickly looking back at the pitcher. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have. Since you’re my soulmate they let me make some medical decisions. I guess I got a little upset when they told me about the damage to your heart and your ribs and your knee -”

Tony held up a hand and swallowed. “Wait a minute. You’re saying that your people healed all that with their freaky voodoo?”

“Um. Yes?” She held out the cup of water like a peace offering and he glared at it.

“So just to get this straight. You knocked me unconscious, dragged me to god-knows-where, and performed medical procedures on me without my consent?”

Her mouth opened and shut a few times. “That...makes it sound pretty awful.”

Tony crossed his arms over his chest. “Yeah. It sure does.”

She sat down and set the cup aside before dropping her face into her hands. “I’ve really messed this up. I’m sorry.” She raised her head, eyes bright and sincere and Tony could already feel his anger fading. “I really did just panic. I mean, I’d just found you and already watched you get hurt twice and then the Avengers were threatening you and...sometimes I act without thinking. I didn’t want the situation to escalate. I tried to get you with the counter-charm to the Pink Sleep Powder before you inhaled it but I wasn’t fast enough. Then Healer Hanton was going on and on about your heart and all these other injuries that never healed all the way since muggle medicine is, well, a bit archaic, isn’t it? So I just said, yes, heal him, and it wasn’t until Hermione pointed anything out that I realized that I shouldn’t have without talking to you first. Sorry.”

“So you’re saying my heart is suddenly fixed?” That sounded too good to be true, which probably meant there was a catch somewhere.

Harry rubbed the back of her neck and shrugged. Her sweater really was atrocious but he could make out the gentle curve of her shoulder under the thick weave and a hint of pale collar bone was visible through a gap in the collar. “Well, they dealt with the internal scarring around it - said it looked like there had been foreign objects sort of moving about in there for a bit? And it had been weakened by poison. So they fixed all that.”

“That’s...huh.” He’d table that revelation for later. Maybe after he’d confirmed it with his own doctors he’d let it sink in that he wasn’t doomed to die via heart attack before the age of sixty if he managed not to be killed by aliens or supervillains first.

“You’ll feel a bit tired for a few days. Magical healing takes it out of no-ma - uh, non-magicals.”

“Right.”

She scooted herself back on her chair and looked down at her fingers, which were fiddling with the edges of a hole in the knee of her faded jeans. “I am sorry.”

Tony slowly let out a breath before reaching over and placing his hand over hers, stopping the motion of her fingers. Being his usual asshole self with his soulmate immediately after meeting her wasn’t going to do him any favors.

“Hey. It’s fine. If it were the other way around I’d have done the same thing.”

She looked up at him, her eyes bright and hopeful. Yep, his soulmate was adorable, even if she didn’t know how to dress herself. He rubbed his thumb across the skin of her knuckles and grinned when her cheeks flushed. Her eyes narrowed and she turned her hand in his own, interlacing their fingers, the soft, hesitant movement of her palm against his a stark contrast of her challenging expression.

The sound of his short laugh almost startled him when it echoed across the room. Laughter wasn’t something he’d had a lot of the past year. It wasn’t the crazed laughter from earlier that day (or was it yesterday?), or the forced smiles he’d been putting on his face for the public lately.

Tony was about to ask her how long he’d been wherever they were when her bangs shifted to the side and his attention was pulled to a thin lightning-bolt shaped mark on her forehead. “That’s an interesting scar.”

Her jaw tensed and she reached up to tug her hair back over it. “I don’t really want to talk about that.”

“Hey, no problem. I’ve got a few of those myself.” He tried to smirk but knew it had fallen flat when she gave him a steady, grateful look. 

“Yeah. I’ll tell you soon, just not right now.”

“Fair enough. So. You’re a witch.”

Harry huffed and rested her weight back in the chair, arching her back and stretching her legs forward until one of her joints popped. Tony let his eyes wander across the pale expanse of her throat until she tipped her head back down with a sigh. A pulsing sort of warmth was building between them where their hands were still connected. There was no empirical evidence that touching your soulmate was any different than touching anybody else on a metaphysical level, but some people had reported mild feelings of warmth and comfort while in contact with their soulmates. Since it wasn’t measurable in any way it’d been dismissed as psychosomatic but Tony was sure that the tingling running up his arm wasn’t just in his head.

Her fingers tightened around his, drawing his attention back to her face. She was chewing on her lower lip and staring at the wall behind him. “Is that...I mean, do you mind?”

He opened his mouth to answer with something flippant, then closed it, gave the question real thought. “I don’t know.”

She flinched and tried to pull her hand away and he tightened his grip just enough to make her pause. “I have no idea what being a witch even means. If it involves human sacrifice on the full moon, then no, I’m not okay with it. If you’re just dancing around naked with your coven a few times a month under the stars, then, hell yes, I’m fine with it, also where do I sign up?”

When she finally looked back at him he ticked his eyebrows up twice and she grinned, relaxing back against her chair. After a moment she cleared her throat and pulled out the same stick he’d seen her with at the fort from what he assumed was her back pocket. “This is my wand.” 

She flipped it around and held it out to him handle first. “Go ahead, it won’t hurt you,” she said when he hesitated. He wrapped his fingers around the smooth handle and took it from her. 

“It feels normal.” A small wave produced no magical wind or bursts of flame.

“It would, to you. Witches and wizards are born with magic and our wands act as conduits. No sacrifice or naked dancing necessary. I mean, there are rituals that require both, but human sacrifice is considered dark magic and is illegal. The other is considered, er, private.”

He turned the wand this way and that, taking in the small nicks in the wood that spoke of hard use despite how polished and obviously well-loved it was. “Did you make it?” He held it back out to her and she took it and tucked it away again.

“No, there are wandmakers for that. I bought it when I was eleven, like most witches and wizards in Great Britain. That’s when we start our formal education.”

“Wait, you have schools? How do I not know this?”

“You don’t know about it, Mr. Stark, because it is a well-kept secret,” a clipped voice said from the doorway.

The woman who had just stepped into the room towered over the two men flanking her sides. They were wearing the same green coats Harry’s team had been but had crests on the right breast with the letters ICW displayed prominently against what looked like the outline of a raven. He assumed they were the woman’s guards, from the wary way they took in the room.

She was wearing long white robes with golden trim and a matching pointed hat. Her dark skin was lightly wrinkled and she walked with a kind of grace that told Tony that guards or no, she could take care of herself.

Harry shot to her feet, releasing Tony’s hand. “Supreme Mugwump Dialo!”

Yeah, he wasn’t going to remain lying down for whatever this conversation was going to be. Even though nothing hurt, his muscles were aching and unresponsive, making his struggle to sit up less than graceful. Harry turned back to him and though her lips thinned she didn’t argue, just stepped forward to help him swing his legs over the edge of the bed so he was sitting with a modicum of dignity.

Somebody had put him into a pair of flannel red pajamas. Not his preferred power suit for these sorts of meetings but worlds better than a hospital gown.

The severe expression on the woman’s face softened just a bit. When she spoke it was with a South African accent. “Agent Potter. I wanted to come meet your soulmate for myself. I knew that your other half would have to be impressive, but even I did not expect one of the strongest no-maj’s in the world. Always full of surprises, aren’t you?”

Harry looked down and scratched the back of her head. “Tony, this is the leader of the International Confederation of Wizards, Supreme Mugwump Kesia Dialo. Ma’am, this is Tony Stark.”

He smiled and held out his hand. “I’d stand, but my legs are doing an incredible impression of undercooked spaghetti noodles at the moment.”

She smiled and her stern countenance lightened when she extended her hand to shake. Not that she wasn’t still intimidating as hell, because she definitely was. “Yes, you underwent quite a lot of magical healing for a no-maj - that is, someone without magic.” Yeah, Tony was able to figure that one out all on his own, thanks. “I’m afraid you’ll take a day or two to recover.”

“All part of the job. So, since you’re the bigwig around here, I suppose you wouldn’t mind telling me what, exactly, is going on? Maybe return my stuff to me?”

Harry and Dialo exchanged meaningful looks before the woman pulled out a long, white wand and drew a complicated pattern in the air. Tony yelped when his bed reformed around him into a large, comfortable chair with an ottoman that his feet were now resting on.

“Warn a guy! I have a heart condition, you know. Well, had.”

Dialo simply smiled and with another swish an identical chair without the footrest appeared, along with a small table. Harry pulled the chair she’d been in earlier closer to him and sat down. She glanced at him before reaching slowly towards his hand, which was gripping the arm of his chair like a lifeline. Halfway there she bit her lip and pulled back.

He reached out and snagged her hand, dragging it to rest his magic chair so he could interlace their fingers together again. He’d waited twenty-six years to find the person who was ballsy enough to threaten Tony Stark on their first meeting. Just because she had powers that bent the rules of science didn’t mean he was going to reject her in any way, shape, or form.

The bones of her hand felt fragile in his large, calloused palm, but he remembered the way she’d strode into a clusterfuck of a battle situation without flinching and knew that her delicate appearance was deceiving. Tony was pretty sure his soulmate kicked ass on a regular basis.

Dialo watched the interaction with a small smile before saying, “Tea, please, Mippy.” 

Tony pressed his back firmly against his chair when a tea tray stacked high with finger sandwiches appeared in front of them. He ran a hand down his face, wincing at the feel of his stubble and unkempt goatee. None of this is how he imagined meeting his soulmate. Usually, he was the one making flashy gestures and wowing people with his money, intellect, looks, and superhero status. So far their first meeting had been him being rescued, him looking a mess, him being awed by what his soulmate could do. He had his work cut out for him, making up for this lame first impression.

“Don’t suppose you could magic up some coffee, instead?” he asked after giving the teapot a distrustful glance. A moment later a large, steaming mug of coffee appeared on the table along with cream and sugar. 

Before he could reach for it Harry was leaning forward to get it for him. “How do you take it?”

“Ah - black.”

She smiled at him over her shoulder and all thoughts of sulking about how his first meeting with his soulmate was going faded. A moment later he had a coffee mug in hand and a small plate piled high with sandwiches on his leg. Food was the last thing on his mind but Harry’s hopeful look when she set it there had him reaching for a cucumber sandwich anyway.

“As for your questions,” Dialo said after Tony had finished the sandwich and downed half the coffee and was feeling about a hundred times more human. “Your equipment will be returned to you when you leave. I’m afraid it won’t work at our headquarters due to the amount of ambient magic here.”

He opened his mouth to ask for clarification but Harry was already elaborating. “Technology doesn’t do well in places with high concentrations of magic. Something about it disrupts the power source. You’d have to ask Hermione for more information.”

“Does that mean I need to worry about my systems whenever you’re staying at my tower?” 

Harry inhaled sharply before pressing her lips together in an obvious attempt to stop a smile. Okay, maybe it was presumptuous to assume she’d ever stay in his tower, but Tony had never been one to deny what he wanted to himself or others. It wasn’t like he planned on tossing her in a sack and dragging her there. It's not like she looked upset over his assumption that they’d have some sort of close relationship moving forward in either case.

“No. The magic of one witch, or even a dozen witches or wizards, isn’t enough to disrupt technology. It’s in places of power, where magic has been layered upon itself multiple times, that it won’t work.”

“Right.” He took a sip of his coffee and kept his posture relaxed, not wanting to give away how uncomfortable he felt without his weapons on hand, or any technology at all, really.

Dialo cleared her throat. “The ICW has made their decision on what to do about the Avengers.”

Tony grimaced. He probably should have asked about them earlier, but in his defense, he was a little distracted by discovering a secret magical society and his soulmate. “They’re here?”

“Yes. We put them in one of our more comfortable holding rooms and treated their wounds, which were superficial.”

Tony just hummed and took another drink of coffee, waiting for her to get to the point. 

“After Agent Trelawney’s revelation, we feel it would be best to let them retain their memories of everything that transpired.”

“But what about SHIELD? There’s no way they’ll keep our secret,” Harry said. She was sitting with her back straight, now, all of her former nervousness gone or hidden.

Dialo sighed. “Our secret is not as well-kept as we would have most believe. Nick Fury already has his suspicions about us and many other information-gathering agencies around the world do as well, outside of the few that we have already purposefully brought in. I’m afraid that no-maj technology has become too advanced to remain hidden for much longer.”

Harry’s brow furrowed. “Are you saying the Statute of Secrecy is broken?”

“No. Not on a public level. But over the past few years, it has become apparent that it will be. Before your team formed, Mabel Trelawney made a prophecy.”

Harry snickered and Dialo smiled. “Yes, not an unusual occurrence. But it was one of her first, made before we realized just how powerful her Sight is. She predicted that if the Wizarding World did not band together with the No-majes, that we would be outed violently after a great disaster and our way of life would end.”

Harry had gone very pale, her hand limp in his own. “You mean...just completely dismantle the Statute? Come out to the mu - no-majes?”

“The world has changed in the past ten years. There are superheroes now, people who have used extraordinary abilities for good. If we were to reveal ourselves while offering aide to them...”

“Then you control the narrative,” Tony said. “PR 101.”

“Exactly.”

Harry’s nose scrunched up and she looked between the two of them. He had a feeling she was one of those types that preferred action to careful strategic planning and politics. “But what about when they discover everything else we can do? Healing, conjuration...they’ll expect us to solve all their problems, but we can’t, not without destroying our own society to fix theirs.”

“It is a complex problem and one that has been debated with no small amount of heat. Right now we have settled on continuing to keep a high degree of separation and secrecy. Most of the international laws regarding performing magic on or around those without magic will remain in place. We will probably exaggerate how small our communities are and we will continue to keep them hidden until we see how the world reacts to us.”

“If we make it public knowledge that Earth has been targeted by some crazy intergalactic threat and that’s why magical people have decided to come out, the whole ‘Gandalf is real’ reveal will be overshadowed by the ‘we’re all gonna die’ panic that’s sure to come with it.” Tony kept his tone casual, but he was reeling from the realization that he had true allies, people who believed him about what was coming. That were willing to work to prevent it. The weight that he’d carried around with him for years wasn’t quite as heady, now.

“There is that, as well. Though we would need to convince your governments first.”

Tony waved a hand in the air. “Leave that to me. Even if they refuse to cooperate, we can do it without them. With Tony Stark and his Iron Legion backing you up, we can get the message out. Then everyone will be forced to pay attention instead of burying their heads in the sand.” If the last was said a little bitterly, well. 

“As much as I appreciate that, I would rather work with non-magical governments than against them. World leaders are generally made aware of our existence upon taking office, so they at least know of magic.”

“As much as I hate to admit it, if you get Nick Fury on your side things will go a lot smoother. He’s got a frankly terrifying network of contacts in all levels of government across the world. You’ll need to step lightly around him,” Tony warned. “Give him too much information and he’ll hold it over your head for life. In his defense he’s completely focused on the protection of Earth, he just doesn’t mind stepping on people on his way there.”

Harry’s hand tightened around his. “I know the type,” she said softly.

“So do I. Do not worry, Mr. Stark. I am well-versed in the art of politics. Any assistance you could offer on that front would be appreciated, of course.” Dialo stood and her guards moved to flank her again. “Would you like to see your team, now?”

“They aren’t my team,” Tony said, more harshly than he’d meant to, then took a moment to steady himself and give the official line he'd been repeating to press and government officials for months. “I’m no longer a part of the Avengers, though I’m willing to collaborate with them on important missions.”

“Well. Since I plan on offering Agent Potter along with Agents Hermoine and Ron Weasley as new members, you may want to get used to working with them again.”

Harry stood up, eyes wide. “What? But - what about my team?”

“They will still be yours, and they will be assisting you where needed. I doubt the Avengers will need you full time.”

Something heavy and cold had settled directly on Tony’s chest, making it difficult to breathe. “Not Harry.”

Harry turned to look at him, a small furrow between her brows. “You think I can’t do it?”

And, oh, Tony recognized that tone, had heard it from Pepper more than once. The tread lightly, Tony was loud and clear. He gritted his teeth against the words that wanted to fall from his mouth. Not you, too, or, they’ll hurt you, or maybe even, you’re mine, which, yes, he knew was not an okay thing to say out loud or probably even think but just once in his life he’d like a person to look at just Tony and prefer him over everyone else.

Harry stared at him and after a moment her expression cleared of annoyance. “Well. I suppose we could be on Tony’s team, right? He counts as one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and he already said he was willing to work with the Avengers. Plus, he can probably help us keep a bit of a wall between ourselves and SHIELD.”

She had turned back to Dialo, so she missed the way he stiffened and stared at her back, the words, we could be on Tony’s team on repeat in his mind. Dialo was watching him, though, a calculating expression on her face.

“And how would you feel about Agent Potter and her friends joining your team, Tony?”

He licked his lips and forced himself to relax and lean back nonchalantly. Neither woman seemed fooled, which was fair. “I don’t really have a team. I have the Iron Legion, but I think that’s not the slant you’re looking for when you go public. Besides, Harry already has a team. Why don’t I just join that? What’s it called, again?”

“Er. The ICW Alien Magical Threat Task Force?” She looked over at Dialo then back at him, expression a bit lost, but there was a small smile on her lips and Tony knew that for once he’d done something right in a relationship.

“Take out the Magical and we’ve got our team. I’m still technically a contractor for the Avengers, so I could be the liaison.” 

Harry was grinning now and leaning towards him. “That would be fantastic. Hermione usually does that part, I’m pants at it. She’s also our magical theory specialist. Ron is our strategy guy, Mabel’s role is obvious, though she’s surprisingly brilliant at combat, Arjun has Masteries in the Mind Arts and Ancient Runes, Nigel is our curse breaker and magical historian, and I...” she trailed off.

“Ms. Potter is the leader and powerhouse,” Dialo said with a small smile. “All of them are combat specialists in their own right, as well. I will bring up your proposal to the rest of the Council this evening and let you know. Come, Ms. Potter, I need you to give the Avengers the news that they’re free to go and that they need to keep the revelation of magic within the upper echelons of their leadership. Mr. Stark seems like he could use some rest.”

Past the burning hope and excitement building in his chest, he could feel exhaustion pulling at him. Still, he doubted he would sleep and staring up at the ceiling didn’t sound like much fun. He yelped when the chair reformed around him again until he was laying in bed, propped up on pillows and gripping at the covers. He was never going to get used to magic.

“Here,” Harry said. She was holding out a small messenger bag and once he was sure the bed wouldn’t move again he reached out to take it from her. “Hermione lent me some books from her library. She said they’re a good primer on magical government, theory, and history. I...will you be okay? Until I get back?”

She kept glancing back towards the door, where Dialo was waiting patiently, then back to him, obviously torn. He waved her away despite the urge to keep her close. He knew what it was like to have a duty that came before everything else. “I’ll be fine.”

After a short hesitation, she leaned over to kiss his cheek before hurrying out of the room. Tony did his best not to touch the spot her lips had brushed like a lovestruck teen. He failed.

He’d made it most of the way through An Introduction to the Magical World, with a small nap in between, when Harry came back hours later, face twisted into a grimace.

“I know that look. It’s the ‘I just dealt with Righteous Rogers look.”

She shook her head and sat down on the edge of the seat next to him. “Bit violent, aren’t they?”

He frowned at where she was rubbing her arm. “Did they attack you?”

Harry shrugged. “In their defense, I crashed their mission and then kidnapped them. They were also upset that you weren’t there. Think I’m keeping you locked up as my love slave, I expect.”

Her lips twitched and he laughed. “I could only be so lucky." He let himself enjoy her speechless, flustered reaction to that before saying, "I’m guessing they’re home, safe and sound?”

“We dropped them about a mile from that fort where we met. SHIELD was already bearing down on us with helicopters when we left, so they’re fine. They’re quite intimidating, aren’t they?” She said it thoughtfully, not at all like she was actually intimidated.

“They can be.”

She hesitated before continuing. “You really don’t like them.”

Tony sighed and closed his book. “It’s not that. Most of them I’m fine with, and Steve...” he cleared his throat. “We were good friends, once.”

She tilted her head to the side but didn’t press, which somehow made it easier to continue. “His soulmate. What do you know of him?”

Harry shrugged. “We looked into all the Avengers and their allies since we knew we might run into you on a mission at some point. Where there are aliens you all tend to follow. James Barnes was thought dead in the forties, but it turned out he was a POW, tortured and brainwashed by HYDRA and turned into a weapon. A year ago Steve Rogers brought him in and SHIELD, er, unbrainwashed him. Now he’s an Avenger.”

“He killed my parents,” Tony said bluntly, wanting the conversation to be over.

Harry twitched and stared at him with wide eyes. “I thought -”

“Not a car crash. Assassinated by HYDRA with Barnes in the unlucky role of the weapon. Steve knew and didn’t tell me, used my resources to find him, brought him on the team. I found out on my own at a bad time. We fought. It was bloody. Nobody took my side, though the others pulled them off me when it got out of control. I left.”

There was a long silence in the room and when Tony finally looked over he did a double-take. Harry’s hair was sparking and her eyes were wide, cheeks a deep, mottled red, and her wand was in her hand. “I’m going to -”

“No! Nope, no you aren’t, no trying to kill people you need as allies. Aliens? Weird prophecy ladies saying we all have to hold hands and sing kumbaya? Any of this sound familiar to you?”

Harry looked about three seconds away from storming the Avengers compound and punching Steve Rogers in the face. Which would be awesome but mostly counterproductive, so Tony reached out and put a hand on her bicep, relishing the warmth that zinged up his arm. “Hey. It’s okay. It’s over. And Barnes...he didn’t have a choice. Not really.”

She wrinkled her nose, then let out a sigh and sat down, her wand disappearing up the sleeve of her coat. Tony kinda missed the sweater, honestly. He’d grown a soft spot for it sometime in the past few hours. 

Harry reached over and put her hand over his. “My relatives told me my parents died in a car crash, too. That they were drunks, useless.”

Tony swallowed and resisted the urge to crack a joke and destroy the closeness that had sprung up between them. Tony didn’t do emotional moments, they made him want to drink. But there was a voice in the back of his head telling him not to screw this up, so he kept his mouth shut.

“When I was eleven I found out it was a lie. That they were killed fighting a Dark Wizard. They died heroes.” Harry’s lips twisted into a sad smile. “I’m not mad at Barnes, Tony. I’m mad at Rogers. There’s no excuse for what he did. I would know.”

Tony cleared his throat. “A Dark Wizard, huh? So those are a thing?”

Harry huffed and the tension left the room. He had a feeling she hated talking about gross feelings just as much as he did, from how eagerly she latched onto the subject. “Sure. That’s what I started out as, a Dark Wizard hunter for the British Ministry of Magic. Dialo recruited me for this team a year ago.”

“Dark Wizard hunter? Knew my soulmate was going to be a badass,” he said smugly and she grinned.

“Well, with the words I gave you...sorry about that, by the way. Probably not the most pleasant thing to have written on your body. And in my terrible handwriting, too. Though I’d feel worse about it if you hadn’t completely crushed my hopes as a child.”

“First of all, I’ve always loved my words. Not many people are willing to stand up to Tony Stark. Secondly, how did I crush your hopes?”

She smiled again and he wished she’d stop, it was distracting. “I was always a small child. Part of me hoped I’d hit a growth spurt at some point, but my words said otherwise.”

Tony frowned. “What did I say, exactly? My brain was still a bit scrambled from,” he waved his hands in the air and tried to pretend just the memory of having two entities fighting for control of his mind didn’t made him break out in a cold sweat.

She squeezed his hand and he assumed he’d failed to hide his discomfort. Like the angel he was beginning to suspect she was, she didn’t comment on it. Then she recited the first words he’d ever said to her by rote. “You know, you’re smaller than I expected you to be. Still terrifying, of course, but you’re kind of pint-sized, aren’t you?”

He burst into laughter. “Okay, that does sound like me.”

“And threatening to kick your arse sounds like me,” she said wryly. “I do have a bit of a temper. It’s why Hermione does a lot of the collab work for our team.” She sighed. “It’s getting late, and you need some rest.”

He tightened his hand around hers when she went to stand. “Stay.” She hesitated and he sent her a charming smile that had her lips twitching. “Just to sleep. I’ve just found you. Also, I have some questions about goblins.”

That surprised a laugh out of her. She reached for the clasps on her coat and he let out a breath of relief. “Goblins? Really?”

“Apparently they hold your economy in their hands, and also, Goblins exist?”

She shrugged off the coat, then waved her wand and the leather pants and knit shirt she was wearing turned into a pair of thick pajamas. “Sure. So do dragons, centaurs, mermaids -”

She smiled at his gobsmacked expression. “I know, it’s a lot. Don’t worry, I’ll ease you into it.”

This time his smile was more wicked. “Will you?” he purred and her whole face turned bright red. 

“I - you -”

He toned it down and held out a hand. “Come on, then, beautiful. Don’t leave me hanging.” 

Despite her fluster, she didn’t hesitate to crawl into bed with him. He scooted over and waited while she slowly slid across the sheets. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and tugged her in until she was snuggled into his side, her head on his shoulder. His whole right side hummed with energy where they touched and she let out a small sigh, sending warm air across his collarbone.

It took a while but eventually, she fully relaxed against him. He opened the book to where he’d been reading about Gringotts. “Please tell me wizards have credit cards, at least.”

Her surprised laughter filled the room. For a day that had kicked off with him being mind-controlled and attacked by his old team, things had turned out surprisingly alright.