A/N: Been a while. More notes at the bottom.
Dear Mr. Stark, I'd like to—
Mr. Tony, my name is—
Dear Tony, I'm Harry Potter, and I—
"Darn it!" Harry crunched the latest letter into a ball, hurling it into his wastebasket alongside the two-dozen other ones filling it. He'd been trying and trying to get what he wanted to say down on paper but he had no idea how to convey the gravity of his message without sounding like a little kid or a liar. How did you write a letter to your biological father, the richest man on Earth, and not sound like a stranger desperate for attention?
He flopped back on his bed with a loud groan, glaring up at the ceiling. He'd only been back at the Dursleys for three days and already it was driving him crazy. His relatives, thankfully, had no idea about the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery and so hadn't yet tried to make him do their chores, likely believing that such a demand would result in them being transformed into frogs or something of the like. He'd done nothing to dissuade those fears, even if the most he could've done to them was create sticky goop or make their hair change color.
The past two days had been spent at the library a few blocks away, researching everything they had on Tony Stark. The librarians, thankfully, had not heard of Harry's bad reputation—none of the Dursleys liked reading so never ventured there—and therefore left him alone while he browed the internet. It was the single thing that he lamented about the magical world; the lack of technology.
What he'd found had been both deeply interesting and incredibly useless. While it was very cool to learn about his maybe-father's forays into science and technology, such things gave no insight to the question of if he was Harry's father. All he'd managed to work out was that, if Tony Stark was his father, Harry had to have been born when the man was just a teenager, 17 or 18 roughly. He'd also searched for 'Steven Rogers' but only came up with a bunch of links to Captain America, who apparently shared the same name. More than likely the one Harry was related to was named after that guy.
The one thing he'd found while browsing the web was that, in a stroke of luck, Stark Industries was having an expo in London in just over a week, and Tony Stark himself would be speaking. It was what had prompted Harry to start writing his letter; if he got it soon enough then maybe Harry could meet him when he came to London. It was like fate was playing it in his favor!
The only thing that worried him was if Tony even read his letters. A man that important probably got hundreds of fan mail letters a day, why would he pay attention to this one specifically? And that was only if he actually got them himself.
Sighing loudly, Harry rolled over and grabbed his pen, putting it to paper once again. He wanted to get this letter out today; there was nothing more important than making sure Tony Stark knew he existed.
In the boardroom of Stark Industries, high above the teeming city of New York, Tony Stark was drunk. For him this was not an uncommon occurrence, and indeed he had perfected the art of appearing to be completely sober even when he was far from it just for events such as these. His shareholders—a group of old white men he'd once referred to as 'The Heather Squad'—were completely oblivious to the fact as the 28-year-old CEO waxed poetic about his new creation.
Obadiah Stane, however, was not. He'd pasted a bland smile on his face as he pretended to watch Tony's demonstration, his own not-inconsiderable brain whirring away on a dilemma he'd encountered all on his own.
Steven Stark. Howard's foray into bioengineering, a supposed cure for sterility and method for homosexual reproduction that just masked his own obsessive desires to return the long-dead Captain America to life. At the time Obadiah hadn't cared for the notion but had acknowledged the money to be made in it; only later did he recognize it as a sign of his old friend's descent into madness. Using Tony had been his own idea but unfortunately it had backfired rather spectacularly.
Beneath the table he crushed the letter he'd received from one of the mailroom interns that morning. Written in neat but childlike handwriting was an unfortunate hiccup in his plan to finally take the reins of the company and remove the Stark taint forever.
He had been perfectly fine with Tony's removal of the brat from his life; the last thing Obadiah needed was yet another Stark stepping up to take his crown. He'd hoped that the brat was gone forever, furthered by Tony's blatant hatred of Howard and everything the man had ever done. Unfortunately the bastard offspring hadn't caught the memo.
Much as it disgusted him, Obadiah knew that Tony was soft. He may have masked it with crude insults and enough women to fill a train but beneath it all the man was desperate for affection, the very Achilles' Heel that had allowed Obadiah to keep his seat on the Board. If this Harry Potter was indeed Steven Stark—a fact which was basically confirmed by his mention of the other genetic donor—it could ignite some ridiculous sentimentality within Tony, a shared desire for love or some such nonsense.
No, this boy would not be interrupting his plans to regain control of the company. Of that Obadiah would make sure.
Getting away from the Dursleys to go to the expo was surprisingly easy. He'd spent most of his time there in his room, and any time they came in to demand something from him he would be 'coincidentally' holding his wand and practicing spells. When he'd first gotten home Vernon had taken his trunk and put it under the stairs, but Harry had made sure to keep his wand hidden under his shirt just in case. And he'd completed his summer homework back at Hogwarts so there was no reason for him to fret; he'd even managed to get the highest scores on his exams, higher even than Hermione, largely in part due to his solo practice brewing making up for Snape's atrocious teaching.
Hermione had been a bit put-off when he'd spoken to her, likely annoyed that he'd surpassed her even if he missed a lot of the homework, but clearly attempted to hide it in an attempt to reconcile. Though he'd shared the fact that it was Quirrel down in the Third Floor Corridor he hadn't told them that Voldemort was the one truly behind it; his grudge against them hadn't faded enough for that.
When the day of the expo came he woke up before even the sunrise, getting dressed and ready as quickly as he could. He'd grown a few inches over the school year so Dudley's clothes from last year—while still far too baggy—didn't hang to his knees like they used to, almost making him look normal.
Harry had struggled for a while to figure out a ride, even considering using his broom, before he had the idea to just take the bus. And while he lacked any muggle money he did have an Invisibility Cloak. He felt a small surge of guilt for using it like this but told himself that what he was doing was definitely worth a pound or so.
Donning the Cloak, he crept out the kitchen window and through the backyard, making his way around the front. The street was empty—it was just after six after all—so there was no one to notice the disembodied sound of footsteps or the occasional hand appearing from nowhere. The bus stop near the library was his goal, as it would be the one most likely to have people for him to follow inconspicuously after.
Feeling like a spy from one of Dudley's movies Harry waited in the bushes behind the bus stop, ignoring the few people chatting on their phones and glancing at their watches. After roughly fifteen minutes, right on cue, the bus arrived and he seamlessly followed them onto the bus.
He hit his first issue when he realized that, though getting on invisibly was a cinch, he couldn't stay invisible lest someone sit on him, especially since the bus was likely to fill up. He dithered for several seconds in the aisle before the answer hit him and he ducked into a seat in the back, pulling off his Cloak and appearing, for all intents and purposes, to be another paying rider.
This turned out to be a very wise choice as the bus quickly filled up on its way into the city. A few people seemed curious about a child alone but he tried to look casual, even going so far as to pretend he was asleep. Unfortunately he ended up actually falling asleep and nearly missing his stop, barely making it out of the bus before it began its route back.
The expo was massive, though supposedly only a fraction of the size of the New York one. Banners hung from lampposts and there were dozens of people going in and out, the morning rush just starting as the clock struck seven. He had no doubt that it would fill very quickly so forced himself to stop staring and start moving.
However, no matter how hard he tried, Harry kept getting caught off-track. He spent ten minutes listening to a description of the new StarkPhone only to get drawn into a display about the Worthington Haz-Tek Exoskeleton. The best part was that, for the first time since he'd started Hogwarts, he got to engage the scientific part of his brain that was so rarely used thanks to the Dursleys' dislike of his intelligence.
Yet another hour passed before he remembered his purpose, catching sight of Tony Stark's image displayed on a holographic—Holographic!—display. It was then that he dug into his pocket and pulled out the letter, making his way to the nearest security guard.
Since obviously he couldn't use Hedwig Harry had sent his letter using the mailbox of the abandoned Number 7 Privet Drive, whose owners had recently moved out. Every morning and afternoon he'd gone down to check for a reply, and lo and behold he'd received one. Not from Tony Stark himself but still.
Dear Mr. Potter, it said, my name is Obadiah Stane, member of the Stark Industries Board of Directors, former CEO, and good friend of Tony Stark. Though many have claimed relation to Tony, you are the first that has any proof, and as such I would like to meet with you. I extend an offer of a VIP pass to the Stark Expo in London; simply show it to any security official and they will direct you to me, and I can introduce you to Tony himself.
The letter was sealed in a Stark Industries envelope and included a laminated VIP pass. He'd looked up Obadiah Stane and found that everything the man had listed himself was true, and that he was Tony's good friend. Harry wasn't sure why Stane had written instead of Stark but reasoned that maybe his claim needed to be approved or something before he could speak to him.
The security guard eyed him warily as he drew near. "Can I help you?" he asked in a sharp voice.
Intimidating as he was, the man had nothing on Snape. "I was told to give this to you?" he said hopefully, holding up the pass.
The guard examined it for several seconds and Harry had a sudden fear that it would be fake; or worse, it would be fake and he'd be arrested or something for faking it. Or that it was all a mean prank by the Dursleys. Or—
"Alright," the guard cut his thoughts off, "you're good." He handed Harry the pass back. "Follow me please." With that he turned and started walking, leaving the boy to hurry after as he was led past several displays. He almost lost the man twice in the crowd but eventually they left the main viewing area and the crowds receded. Harry's heartbeat was pounding in his ears as the guard stopped in front of a door. "In here."
So, taking a deep breath, he opened the door.
"It's nice to see you again Harry," said Obadiah Stane, taking a seat. The man was nowhere near as intimidating as his photos made him look; he almost looked like a fit version of Santa Claus.
Harry sat down opposite him, nervously fingering the VIP tag. "Again?"
"Oh yes," the man answered, leaning back in his chair and pulling a cigar from his coat. "We've met before, though you were much smaller then." He eyed Harry for a moment. "Thought the blond would've stuck, but ah well." He took a puff of the cigar as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a split of paper, holding it out to Harry.
He took it, eyes widening when he realized what it was; front and center was Howard Stark, original creator of Stark Industries, recognizable by his moustache and suit. In the background was a young man who was clearly Tony Stark, albeit minus his trademark goatee and looking strangely angry. But the thing—or rather person—that drew his gaze was the baby in Howard's arms. Blond hair, brown eyes, a perfect match for the one in his pictures of James and Lily, the discolored features now blindingly visible. "But then," he started, looking back up, "Tony knows about me?"
"Knows about you?" Stane chuckled. "Kid, Tony's known about you since the day you were born; he was there after all."
Harry looked back down at the picture, the young man's angered expression seeming even more so. "But why—"
"Why aren't you living it up in a mansion by the beach?" Stane smirked, and there was something about that smirk that was a lot less nice than the smile he'd given earlier. "Who do you think sent you away, kid?"
His eyes widened. "Tony?"
Stane gestured to the photo. "Tony's always been a wreck of a person long as I've known him. Brilliant, sure, but that's about his only good quality. Wasn't surprising when he ended up with a kid at seventeen. Of course Howard was the responsible one, the family guy; he loved kids you see. But Tony preferred a life without responsibilities." He took a long drag of the cigar. "Then Howard died and Tony was free to do whatever he wanted; all he had to do was get rid of you."
Harry's heart grew heavier with every word, seeming to sink right through the floor. Stane delivered the words with utter apathy, uncaring as to the effect they were having. "He sent me away?" Harry whispered, looking back down at the picture.
"Mhmm. Day after his father died, if you can believe it. Never looked back. It's why I didn't give him your letter, see; I didn't want you to have to deal with him saying that to your face." Though it was said like he cared the man had lost all trace of goodwill, as if he was more concerned with his cigar than Harry. "Tony wants nothing to do with you. Not now, not ever. Trust me; you're better off without him."
The pictures slid from Harry's limp fingers, fluttering to the floor, forgotten.
That night found Obadiah in the bathroom of the hotel's Presidential Suite, watching in disgust as Tony emptied his stomach into the toilet for the third time that night. Like always the man's self-destructive behaviors had nearly ruined his reputation, only for Obadiah to save him—for the umpteenth time.
It was a travesty that a man-child like Tony was the one presiding over one of the greatest corporations on the planet. Men like Tony should be locked up in a lab, their time spent creating things that men like Obi could profit from. Even Howard had lacked the foresight to see beyond his inventions, too focused on his never-ending search for Captain America and a brighter future. Neither of which he ever got close to succeeding in.
Tony's stomach finally ran dry and he collapsed on the bathroom rug, passing out instantly. Obadiah took the opportunity to give the man a light kick to the face; hard enough to bruise but not enough to do any real damage, tempting as it was. He couldn't have his golden goose damaged.
He removed himself from the room, digging into his pocket for his phone but pulling out the crumpled letter from the boy instead. Scowling, he tossed it into the nearest garbage can; it wouldn't do to leave evidence lying around.
Perhaps he'd been a bit too harsh on the kid but that was life and the boy would have to learn to deal with it. And really it was better that any chance of reconciliation be cut off now; had Harry been any older and smarter he might've thought to ask questions that Obadiah had neglected to address, or worse try to get to Tony himself. Had that happened he would've been forced to remove the boy from the picture completely like he had that troublesome intern who'd found the letter.
Regardless it was just bad blood, no matter if one added Steve Rogers to the mix. The Stark family was better left as a forgotten stain on history; far more important was the name of Obadiah Stane, the one who would end the Middle-Eastern terrorist threat and make peace with the Ten Rings. Tony was the single domino left to fall.
Now if only he could figure out how to unite those purposes…
"Harry Potter must not go back to Hogwarts!"
Harry stared at the ugly little creature on his bed in shock, barely able to comprehend what he was hearing. Not only did the dirty little thing show up uninvited, nearly getting him caught by Vernon, but now it was telling him he couldn't go back to the one place in the world that he loved most?
This summer had been, by far, the worst of his entire life. No letters, no magic, and worst of all the truth of Tony Stark's relation to him. The man was his father alright, but far from wanting Harry, he'd been the very one to send him away. Stane's words hadn't left his thoughts for even a single day, the brutal honesty shattering any hopes he'd once fostered for a relationship with the man.
Tony—Stark, as Harry had taken to calling him—hated him. Didn't want a kid, didn't want anything to do with him, and, according to Stane, would make his life hell if he tried to tell anyone. At first Harry had been torn between extremes, grief and rage colliding constantly. But after a month of utter loneliness it had faded away to a burning, lingering resentment equal only to that which he felt for the Dursleys.
Those emotions were made more poignant by the fact that his friends hadn't sent him a single letter. His grudge against them seemed ridiculous in light of Stark's rejection but it was clear that they didn't feel the same, leaving him to his own devices for two months straight. Apparently they didn't care as much as he'd thought they did.
"I'm going back to Hogwarts," he told the elf firmly, crossing his arms. "The hell I'm staying here with the Dursleys for any longer than I have to."
The elf—Dobby it said its name was—whined and pulled sharply on its ears. "Harry Potter is in danger! Harry Potter must not—"
"I don't care!" he cut across the creature sharply, Dobby's eyes growing huge at the tone. "I hate it here, I hate them, and I am not going to stay here!"
"Then Dobby has no choice," the elf declared sadly, leaping from the bed and running for the door. But—in a show of agility that surprised Harry as much as it did Dobby—the boy snagged the ratty pillowcase it was wrapped in and flung it back, sending it sprawling to the floor.
"You listen," Harry hissed, hands clenching almost painfully as he loomed over the elf, "I'd rather die than stay here. So just leave. Me. Alone!" The last word was shouted as he grabbed a book from the dresser and flung it at Dobby. The elf yelped and vanished instantly, the book hitting the wall with a loud thud that elicited a pause in the conversation downstairs.
Harry glared at the empty spot for several seconds longer. Whatever danger was lurking at Hogwarts didn't matter. What he'd told Dobby was true; death was better than staying here with the Dursleys. No matter what awaited him at Hogwarts, anything was better than this.
The shriek of the Hogwarts Express' whistle greeted him as he pushed his trolley through the barrier, swarms of parents flooding the platform and making it difficult to work his way towards the train. It was ten minutes before the train left; he'd have preferred to get here earlier but not even the promise of getting rid of his troublesome nephew could prompt Vernon Dursley to get out of bed before ten on a Saturday.
Harry counted himself lucky that his uncle's deal with the Masons had gone through, putting him in a good enough mood to warrant driving Harry to London to pick up his school supplies. Even Petunia and Dudley were sharing in the uncommon goodwill, though that was more likely than not due to Vernon's promise of presents for the both of them.
He managed to make it onto the train just in time, dragging his trunk behind him as he headed for the back, the same place he'd sat on his first trip here. But he was surprised to see, when he got there, that it was already occupied.
"Harry!" Hermione exclaimed in surprise, closing the book on her lap. Ron looked up from a face-full of corned beef with a small frown, Scabbers snoozing on the seat beside him. In the corner by the window was a young girl with the same flamingly orange hair commonplace among the Weasleys, though she only turned bright red and looked away upon seeing him.
Harry's hand curled tighter around his trunk handle as he gave the muggleborn girl a stiff nod. "Hello Hermione. Did you have a good summer?"
"Yes." She shifted slightly, looking uncomfortable as the tense atmosphere became apparent. "You?"
"No." he answered tersely.
Ron swallowed his mouthful of food before huffing loudly. "You didn't respond to our letters," he stated accusingly.
"I didn't get any letters," Harry answered with a frown. Hermione's expression morphed into a similar one. "I thought you didn't send any."
She shook her head. "I sent a bunch but you never answered so I thought you were still… angry." She swallowed and looked down.
Annoyance bled into anger as Harry suddenly realized what it meant. "That elf!" he yelled, making the other two jump as he dropped the handle of his trunk with a loud thump. "He stole my letters!"
He gave them a quick run-down about Dobby's invasion of his home and attempt to prevent him from returning to Hogwarts. Surprisingly Hermione, for all her obscure and pointless knowledge, hadn't heard about House-Elves. But Harry was far less concerned with them than with the one who'd tried to keep him from returning to school.
"House-Elves have a really hard time disobeying their masters," the redhead informed him, taking another bite of his sandwich. "Only the really old wizarding families still have them nowadays. He was probably sent as a prank to keep you from coming back by one of the Slytherins. I bet Malfoy has loads of House-Elves." He shook his head in disgust.
Harry took a seat on the bench beside Hermione, levitating his trunk up to the rack above the seats. She scooted over slightly, still very aware of the uncomfortable atmosphere hanging around them.
Things just weren't the same as they were last year. His conspicuous absences, their accidental destruction of his book, the lack of letters, and of course the truth about his parentage. But he had no intention of telling anyone that secret—not now, not ever. If there was one thing he had learned last year it was that people are fickle, and you never knew when they'd turn on you.
A knock came at the door and he looked up, eyebrows rising in surprise at the girl standing there. She was already dressed in her robes, though not in the manner that most wore them; her tie was untied, her sleeves rolled up, and the hem stained with mud. Her hair was a messy bun of blonde almost as bright as Malfoy's, and hanging from her ears were two radishes.
"Hello there," she greeted them in a whimsical tone, her large grey eyes fixed in a permanent expression of surprise as she examined each of them. Harry was ready for her to comment on his scar but she didn't seem to pay it any mind, far more interested in staring down Hedwig.
"Harry, this is Luna Lovegood," Ron introduced with an absent hand-wave. "She's Ginny's friend."
Harry glanced over at Ginny, who flushed brightly once his eyes met hers, the redness clashing horribly with her hair. She jumped to her feet and hurried past him, grabbing Luna and pulling her out the door.
"What was that about?"
Ron snorted loudly as he said, "Ginny's had a crush on you forever, mate. When she was little she read all those stories about 'the great Harry Potter' and now she thinks you're the greatest thing since flying."
Harry rolled his eyes and sighed. Then he paused, noticing something on Ginny's seat. "Hey," he pointed out, grabbing the slim black notebook, "I think she dropped this."
Ron leaned forward. "It's her diary," he noted, "she almost forgot it this morning." He reached out a hand. "I bet it's full of love stories with you!"
Harry pulled it out of the boy's reach, rolling his eyes in annoyance. "Knock it off," he said, standing. "I'm going to go give this back to her. Try not to eat the carriage while I'm gone."
The redhead flushed like his sister, quickly rewrapping his sandwich and stuffing it into his pocket. A trace of a frown appeared on Hermione's face, likely at his less than friendly response, but luckily she didn't say anything.
Harry made his way out the compartment and down the hall, diary in hand. Ginny and her friend were nowhere to be seen, forcing him to stop and glance into every compartment he passed in hopes of finding them.
As he walked he looked down at the diary in his hand, pausing momentarily to read the name on the back. Tom Marvolo Riddle. It was a funny sort of name, almost sounding like a wizarding one except for the 'Tom' part. But if Ginny had been the one to have it then where did she get it?
"Hey, Potter!" called a voice, forcing Harry to lift his head. He scowled at the sight of Draco Malfoy heading his way, the boy having grown snootier and his face pointier over the summer holidays. "So they let you back in, did they?" he asked, head tilted so far back that Harry could see up his nostrils. "Always knew Hogwarts was for scum."
"Then what does that say about you?" the other boy retorted, sneering at the blond. "Believe me, we'd all be happier if you were… well, anywhere else."
Malfoy bared his teeth angrily. "Think you're clever, do you Potter? Well you aren't."
"Last year's final scores say otherwise."
Malfoy's eyes slid downward, fixating on the diary. "What's this then?" He reached out, making a grab for the book. "Keep a diary, do you?"
Harry yanked it out of his reach. "It's not mine."
"Sure it isn't," the blond scoffed. "Got any love letters to Granger in there, Potty? Merlin you're pathetic, the lot of you. With your dirty blood and your second-hand robes. You're no better than a muggle."
Anger, hotter and fiercer than Harry expected, surged through him at the word. Before he even realized what he was doing his fast slammed forward, smashing into Malfoy's smug little face with a satisfying crunch.
Malfoy let out a horrid yell as his nose broke, blood immediately gushing forth as he cradled his face. "You filthy little mudblood!" he screamed, grabbing his wand. "Everte Statum!"
The orange spell shot straight towards Harry and on instinct he raised the diary, holding it out like a shield. The magic should have ripped right through it, however, to both boys' shock it simply ricocheted off the cover and back the way it came.
The Slytherin didn't even have time to yell before he was hurled off his feet, flying through the air and slamming into the wall behind him. He slumped to the floor, groaning in pain as the blood from his nose gathered in a puddle beneath him.
Harry dropped his hands, diary still clenched tightly in them, his eyes wide in awe as he walked over to the now-unconscious blond. He looked down at the book, surprised to see no damage done, and then down at Malfoy. "Who's a muggle now you prick?"
For a moment he was struck with the urge to literally kick Malfoy while he was down. The Slytherin was vulnerable, his bodyguards absent, and it would be very easy to add a few bruises or cracked ribs for good measure.
But then the moment passed and Harry shook his head, mentally reprimanding himself for even thinking that. He wasn't like Malfoy or Snape; he didn't hurt people just for the sake of it. But the temptation was still there, lurking just under the surface, so instead of letting it fester he turned and walked away, knowing that someone would happen upon the unconscious boy soon.
As he passed one compartment he hesitated as he caught a glimpse of Ginny inside, sitting with her friend with the strange earrings. He looked down at the diary, then back to her, deliberating what to do for a moment. The book was blank, after all, and didn't even belong to her to begin with. What was the harm?
So, not saying a word, Harry tucked it into his robes and continued on his way.
That night, after everyone went to sleep, Harry pulled out the diary once again. He sat on his bed for several minutes, just examining it. The pages were blank, as he already knew, the yellow paper clearly quite old and muggle in origin. The book was worn, its surface marked by scuffs and scratches that come from natural wear and tear, even the name slightly faded. There was absolutely nothing to suggest that the book was bewitched, no reason for anyone to think it special, yet he knew without a doubt that it was.
Pulling aside the curtains, Harry stood, making his way to the bathroom, diary in hand. Once the door was closed behind him he turned on the light, allowing himself a closer view of the book.
The name Tom Marvolo Riddle seemed familiar, like the name of an old friend he'd long since forgotten. It was a ridiculous notion of course; before Hogwarts Harry hadn't had any friends, yet still the feeling persisted.
He stepped up to the sink, running a small trickle of water through the tap as he held the book beneath it. For a moment it looked like it was sinking in, ruining the paper like it should've, yet when he pulled the book from beneath the stream the water immediately vanished, sliding right off and leaving the paper untouched. Harry tried it twice more, all to the same effect.
Next he spread it open on the counter, grabbing on of the pages and pulling on it with all his might. Yet, once again, the book defied the odds, the paper refusing to tear or even remain folded no matter how hard he tried.
As a final test Harry pulled out his wand, pointing it directly at the cover. "Rictusempra."
The Tickling Charm struck the exact center of the book before rebounding, smashing into a tile on the wall and shattering it like glass. Harry stiffened, ears alert for any sign of his roommates waking up, but, hearing nothing, he relaxed.
"How?" he muttered to himself, picking up the book. There were charms to make things waterproof, tear-proof, or spell-proof, but nothing he knew of could combine all three into one. Granted, he wasn't omniscient, but everything he'd read told him that multiple charms like this couldn't be used in combination. And even if that was wrong, how would Ginny have done it? She was a first year; that sort of magic was way advanced, and faded after a few days anyway.
Could it have been the previous owner, this mysterious Tom Riddle? Perhaps the man had figured out some way to protect his diary, maybe through a potion or something, but why bother to protect an empty journal anyway? And then why let it fall into Ginny's hands?
Harry turned it over a few times, wracking his brains to figure out its purpose. And then inspiration struck like a bolt of lightning, making him feel stupid for not figuring it out immediately; it was a journal. Perhaps the secret lay in writing.
He put it down, dashing out of the bathroom to grab his ink and quill from his trunk. Neville stirred in his sleep, muttering something about a toad before rolling over.
After a few seconds he was back, tools in hand. Trepidation rolled down his spine in waves, a reluctance he couldn't place making him hesitate before touching his quill to the paper. What if this was come kind of curse designed to ensnare people, like the book which made you speak in sonnets for the rest of your life? Or worse?
Be a Gryffindor, Harry told himself, remembering what the Sorting Hat told him. Sometimes you had to take great risks to get great rewards.
Touching his quill to paper, Harry began to write.
My name is Harry Potter.
For a moment the ink lingered, the messy handwriting unchanging, before suddenly the ink vanished into the paper. Harry turned the page but found nothing, just the same blankness from before. He was about to close the book, frowning to himself, before he caught sight of something new appearing before his eyes.
Hello Harry Potter. My name is Tom Riddle.
"Hey Harry, wanna play a game of Exploding Snap?"
Harry glanced up, halfway through wringing the water from his robes at Ron's question. Quidditch practice was hard enough normally without adding in pouring rain; Oliver Wood, unfortunately, did not see it that way. "Sorry Ron," he answered, brushing his damp bangs out of his eyes, "I still have to finish that essay for Flitwick."
The ginger boy wilted for a moment before perking back up. "What about after?"
"We'll see," Harry said, already making his way towards the dorms. He waited until his friend turned back to the game before hurrying up the steps, his damp shoes smacking loudly on the stone. The Second Year Boys dorm was thankfully empty when he arrived, the others all downstairs chatting with their friends. Harry was a bit surprised that Ron bought his excuse since they'd only been back for a few days and none of the teachers had yet to assign anything.
He pulled his wet robes over his head, tossing them into the hamper as he headed towards his bed. After checking to make sure no one was coming in he reached under the mattress, digging around for a few seconds before pulling out the diary. He was still trying to think of a better hiding spot for it but, for now, this was the best he had.
I'm back, he scribbled, putting on a clean pair of robes as the words faded.
A heartbeat late Tom's response appeared. That took a while.
Yea, sorry, Wood kept us late today because he says practicing in the rain is good for stamina or something. I don't know why he makes me stay since my job is just to find the Snitch.
I don't know why you waste your time with such a meaningless activity, Tom answered, his neat and spindly handwriting making Harry's look positively crude. There are far more lucrative pastimes than sitting on a broom for hours on end.
I just love flying. This way I can fly all the time.
A longer pause followed his words, a sign Harry had taken to mean that Tom was 'thinking'—if such a thing were possible. Broom-based flight has never interested me, the Diary answered finally, each word slow and deliberate. There is no joy to be had in sitting on a narrow shaft of wood for hours on end. I have always envisioned flight to be unrestricted, requiring no aid other than magic to keep you aloft. A broomstick is far from ideal.
But it's still fun, the boy argued. And I looked it up, the book says that flying without a broomstick or magic carpet is impossible.
Impossible is a word for muggles. Now Tom's writing was jagged and sharp, its neatness colored by emotion. We have magic; why should anything be impossible for us?
Magic isn't all-powerful. There's still stuff that we can't do.
Harry shivered at the words, pulling his quill from the paper. Sometimes Tom would say things like that, little phrases which somehow held power and influence even from the pages of a book. It was clear that he was smart, commanding, and ambitious, and not for the first time Harry wondered how he'd never heard of Tom Riddle. Surely the man who made this Diary would have become someone great.
What happened to you, Tom? The real you. Why did he give away his Diary?
The words sank in, no response coming for almost a minute, and he was about to ask again when a response finally appeared.
I don't know. I suppose he must have died a long time ago. After all, where else could he be?
By the time Halloween rolled around Harry had taken to spending every evening writing to Tom. His friendship with Ron and Hermione hadn't yet healed and a part of him wondered if it ever would. He cared about them, really, but it was difficult to spend time with them when Tom was so much more understanding and empathetic then they could ever hope to be. Such as when he had decided not to attend the Halloween feast, to the confusion of both the ginger and the muggleborn.
"But why?" Ron asked, wide-eyed in bewilderment. "They've got all kinds of stuff; cakes, candy, ice cream, treacle tart. Candy. Lots of candy."
Harry had just rolled his eyes and shooed the boy out, waiting until the sounds of footsteps on the stairs faded before he pulled the Diary out from beneath the mattress. He also grabbed his photo album from his trunk, sitting cross-legged on his bed as he opened both. His parents waved up at him from the photos and he found a smile appearing on his face as he watched their magically-recreated images laugh and talk.
You didn't go to the feast, I take it?
Harry's eyebrows shot up at the words scrawling themselves across the paper. Tom had been getting better at recognizing things like night and day, a far cry from how he was originally, and although part of Harry was unnerved it wasn't enough to make him outright wary. He hadn't found anything about Animated objects being dangerous, even if none of the books talked about one as advanced as Tom, so until something truly worrying happened he'd trust the book-boy.
No, Harry scribbled. It doesn't seem right. This was the day my parents died and everyone seems to have forgotten that.
The public's memory is short and their temperaments fickle, Tom pointed out wisely. I doubt that many of your classmates even understand the significance of the Dark Lord's defeat.
The boy looked back at the picture, watching them kiss baby-Harry on the cheek. I wish I remembered them.
Sometimes memories are more harmful than good.
Harry frowned, resisting the urge to get angry. Tom was always like that, fiercely practical and logical. He couldn't imagine Tom sitting in the dark moping over his dead parents. What were your parents like? He found himself writing.
Tom's answer was instant and short. I would rather not speak of them.
My mum and dad loved me. Everyone says so, although I suppose that could be a lie. But I don't think it is. They died to save me even when I wasn't theirs and that has to be love.
He'd barely finished when the words vanished, Tom's reply a bit more jagged and rushed than it usually was. What do you mean you weren't theirs?
Harry nibbled on the end of his quill for a moment, a droplet of ink dripping from the tip as he contemplated what to say. He hadn't told anyone else about his adoption. It felt private, secret, and even if a few adults knew they never talked about it. Tom could be the first person he told; question was did he want to?
The words lingered for over a minute, far longer than they'd ever done before, and Harry watched the ink slowly dry before his eyes. Then, almost tentatively, they faded and were replaced by a single word.
James and Lily adopted me, Harry repeated, and like a dam breaking it all came pouring out. My father was a muggle, a famous muggle named Tony Stark, and he didn't want me so he sent me away as a baby. I tried to find him last year and that's how I found out. He didn't want me or love me and I was too stupid to realize that. Burning wetness gathered in his eyes and he saw a droplet of water splash against the page, blurring the ink. I hate him. I hate him more than anything.
The ink ran down the parchment, nearly reaching the bottom before it was sucked into the book like a sponge. This time Tom's reply was slow, measured, each word carefully drawn. My father was a muggle as well.
Harry found himself going very still, his shaky breaths pausing in his throat. For some reason the revelation was surprising, shocking, as if the very idea of it was ridiculous. He didn't know why but the notion of perfect Tom Riddle having a muggle father seemed absurd.
My mother was a witch, Tom continued, barely a witch at that. She was a pureblood, born of an all-magic family, yet she only had eyes for the handsome muggle Tom Riddle. He was rude, arrogant, and an all-around bastard but my dear mother didn't care. Even after he left her pregnant and alone she continued to love him, her obsession lingering until the day she died, holding me in her arms, naming me after the filth who'd impregnated her.
Tom's writing had grown less and less neat, the final words slashed out with such vitriol that they were barely legible. Harry found himself forgetting his own grief, too caught-up in the story of the mysterious Tom Riddle. What happened to you? Harry asked.
I was raised in an orphanage, the Diary answered. Me, a wizard, a superior being, forced to dwell amongst the worthless muggles. I knew I was different, of course, even as a child, but I never had a name for what I could do. I never knew what it was that set me apart from them, I just knew that I was better. No matter what happened—not the constant summertime torment I faced while away from Hogwarts, nor the fear of the London Blitz—could make me forget what I was. I was better than them. I was a wizard. And they were just filthy muggles.
The final word was pressed into the page with such strength that the words began to bleed, streaming down the page.
Not all muggles are bad, Harry replied, unable to keep quiet. Wizards aren't perfect either.
Tom went silent and for a moment the boy worried he'd offended his friend. I apologize, the Diary answered, the words suddenly returned to their earlier neatness. I did not mean to anger you. You are right, of course; it is foolish of me to blame them all for crimes that they did not commit.
Harry sat back, a relieved breath escaping him as he stared down at the words. For a moment there, with the way he'd spoken, Tom had sounded just like Malfoy. But that was stupid; Tom wasn't anything like Malfoy, right? Malfoy was a bigot and an idiot. Tom was just speaking from experience. It wasn't his fault that muggles had been mean to him.
Don't worry about it, Tom. You're my friend; I could never be angry with you.
I can't tell you how happy it makes me to hear that, Harry.
A tingle sparked at Harry's fingers and he jerked them back from the page, suddenly becoming aware of how very tired he was. His head felt like it weighed a hundred pounds, too heavy to hold up, and sleep was the only thing he could think of. The quill slipped from his hands as he let his eyes fall shut, the last thing he saw before he fell asleep being a pair of glittering red eyes in the shadows of his canopy.
A/N:I know this chapter doesn't have a ton of Marvel stuff - and the next one doesn't either - but it will pick up at some point. I write fast and loose with this story.
So I just finished my first semester of college. Woo! I love school but it is nice to be moving along. Hopefully I will get some more writing done now. I don't know how often I will update this story since, as I've said, I mainly write on it while taking a break from other stuff. From Fire has been a bit of a butt lately but I think I am figuring it out. I also have another HP/Avengers in the works, although a much grander one than this. Not sure if I can get it off the ground now. I tend to prefer X-Men.
Also Disney just bought Fox which means the X-Men and Fantastic Four are coming back to Marvel, which means Marvel gets all their A-List heroes back! Could be good, could be very bad. (For those of you who don't know, the X-Men are Marvel's biggest creation and the movie rights were bought by Fox in the 90's. The fact that Marvel made a massive franchise off their B and C-List heroes like the Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy shows how much the X-Men will add.) At the very least Marvel can stop pushing the crappy Inhumans stuff.
Let me know what you think in the comments, both about the chapter and about Marvel getting back the X-Men. Will they do the characters justice? Will we finally see a quality villain? Will they turn them into another bland comedy like Ragnarok? Also if I did an HP/Fantastic Four story (not based on the movies) would anyone be interested?