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It was an unusually somber day for the Avengers. Harry had died once again and today is when they thought he might come back. It was taking longer than it should but Death warned them that Harry was fighting this time. Harry didn't want to come back.
It was taking longer each time Harry took that extra step and saved someone at the cost of his own life. And the instances were happening closer and closer together. Almost if Harry was looking forward to it.
Only when Harry's body took in its first breath of new life and his eyes opened, did the Avengers breath their own sigh of relief.
Harry was quiet and would not look them in the eye for very long. He got up from his bed and walked through his balcony windows into the sunshine.
Only Tony followed. The others stayed behind and watched with barely concealed worry.
Tony and Harry stood at the balcony together in comfortable silence. Harry was leaning his thin frame against the railing, supporting himself on his forearms. Tony mirrored his posture and together they looked over the city.
How long they stood like that, neither was certain. "Where do you go when you die?" Tony's question seemed to come out of his mouth without a single thought beyond curiosity.
If Harry was surprised by the inquiry he didn't show it. He only answered. "A train station. But everyone is different. It might be a garden path or a road or a tunnel. Mine is a train station."
Tony nodded at that. They were silent for a moment longer before another question slipped from Tony's lips.
"Why are you fighting coming back?"
Harry looked at him, startled before a look of guilty pain filled his eyes. He quickly looked away but not quick enough for Tony not to notice.
"If we just knew why, we wouldn't be so worried when you take some extra time to come back," Tony quietly pointed out, "I know we haven't been the closest but we are friends here. For some of us, this is the closest we have to family. It can be part of yours too, if you would just let us in."
Harry was silent for a long time staring out over the skyline as if it held all the answers to life's mysteries. His emerald eyes were shrouded and hidden from Tony. His voice was soft at first. Barely above the noise of the city rushing by below.
"When I died the first time, I was given a choice. Stay or move on. Stay in this world, come back to save my people, my friends, the family that had embraced one not of their blood, and get my revenge on the vilest man my world had ever known. The man who killed my parents and eventually killed me. Or move on. Forget all the worldly troubles that stalked my entire childhood and made it a living hell and follow my parents and godfather into the afterlife. I decided on this life and came back to fulfil my role as the prophesied savior. Now, there is no choice. Only this life. When I get on the train that brings me back here, the only train in that whole damn station, I look out the window only to see my entire family, my oldest and dearest friends, everyone, waving goodbye to me. No matter how hard I pound on that window or how fast I run to find an exit. I can never reach them. I can never get off. Then I wake up. Alive and alone once again. As far from my loved ones as I can ever be. With no hope of seeing them until I die again and get on that train again, and look out that window again only to see them waving once again. Everytime, waving goodbye." Harry's voice trailed off and he dropped his head into his hands, attempting to block the image of his loved ones waving farewell out of his mind. But they stay and torment him by being forever out of reach. Forever on the other side of a barrier he can't get through.
Tony didn't know how to comfort his friend beyond what Pepper did when things became just too much. He wrapped his friend in a gentle hug. Harry stiffened at first, unused to nonviolent human contact even after all these years. Eventually, he settled into the embrace and felt something he had not felt in years, not even after Ginny had died. He felt a sob bubble into his chest and tears burn his eyes. All of a sudden he was collapsed against Tony, unable to hold himself up under all the grief that had finally come to bear on his thin shoulders. Tony just kept his arms around Harry, even as he clung to Tony, fingers clutching the man's shirt like it was a lifeline. Together they sank to the floor of the balcony, Tony leaning back against the wrought iron railings and Harry leaning against him. Sobs wracked his body so hard that he shook from the force of it. Tony just quietly held him as gut wrenching cries emanated from the strongest and fiercest man he had ever met. A man who fought the mightiest of enemies without a single thought of fear or defeat. A man brought down by the strength of his own despair.
Tony finally understood why Harry kept his distance and why he tried to avoid human interaction. All that made up this world was just a reminder of what he lost and was going to lose without being able to do a single thing about it.
When Tony had met Steve for the first time and got over the petty jealousy, he had pitied the man for losing everything he had ever loved while he slept. He couldn't think of a worse fate than to wake up to a world completely changed and loved ones long dead.
Now, he could think of a worse fate. The fate that caused a man who wanted nothing but family and friends to constantly be forced to watch as the years took everything and everyone away from him, as naturally as the changing of the seasons. Leaving him alone and clinging to shadows of what was once the sun to him. Tony couldn't even imagine watching Pepper die much less all his friends as well.
It seemed only a matter of time before the shadows began to swallow Harry whole without the source of light he once possessed to keep them at bay.
Slowly, Harry's sobs quieted and the shaking subsided, leaving Harry exhausted. "I'm sorry. That was ...um ...unexpected." Harry's face was red with embarrassment but his eyes reflected his exhaustion both physically and emotionally.
Tony just gave him a gentle squeeze before letting him go. "Never underestimate the power of a good cry and a hug from a friend. Pepper taught me that."
"Smart woman, your Pepper," Harry said quietly, standing and offering his hand to Tony to help him up.
"The best and brightest," Tony agreed cheerfully, taking Harry's outstretched palm and standing as well.
"Why don't we go down with the others to the living room, order takeout, and watch a manly movie?" Tony asked giving Harry a smirk.
Harry could only grin back and nod, willing to let all that had transpired be forgotten.
Harry might not be completely alright but he was beginning to see that although, to him, these strange people he had become fond of will be gone in the blink of an eye leaving him with only memories, that it might be best to face it all with open eyes. Even if for nothing else than to ensure that he had memories to remember them by.
Once they were downstairs where the others had gathered to give Tony and Harry some privacy, food was ordered and eaten and a horrible B level action movie was being played on Tony's big screen TV. During the film, Tony glanced over to where Harry had claimed one of the sofas only to find him deeply asleep, one arm resting across his abdomen and the other dangling from the edge of the couch. His dark hair contrasting sharply from his light skin. His features finally relaxed, giving him a much more youthful look than they had been seeing from him since the Battle for New York. His face truly looked like that of a relatively innocent seventeen year old boy.
"Should we wake him?" Natasha asked softly, after glancing over to where Tony was looking.
"Nah...Let him sleep. He's earned it," Tony whispered back, getting up and spreading a blanket over the slumbering sorcerer before returning to his seat.
They watched the rest of the film and put in another, just to be near the wizard should he awaken. After all, no one truly wants to be alone when they open their eyes for the first time.
And much, much later, Harry would admit that he had never slept better than the evening he was surrounded by his odd new family.
This is just a scene I had playing in my head. I thought you might enjoy. It is part of the Grim Trilogy but doesn't really fit in anywhere. Thanks for sticking with me!