Teddy's dialogue was made up of my exact thought process.
Notes at end. Do not own.
The ten-minute walk to Teddy's kindergarten passed by in a daze for Harry. The conversation with Death was still taking its sweet time getting comfortable in the comprehension part of his brain. Which was also the part of his brain that liked to malfunction frequently. Which was an unfortunate dilemma.
But what made everything seem hazy, was the almost surreal way that everyone around him was acting. They were merely going about their business-like average, day to day people. The thought that there even were such ordinary people in existence just served to give him a headache. And he knew it was mostly just the fact that he didn't understand them at all. How could they not know? How could they walk around with smiles on their faces… when barely two months ago they were being attacked by another species that was trying to take over their planet? So how could they appear to not know how fragile life was?
Harry may act carefree sometimes -okay, maybe a lot of the time. But that didn't mean he was oblivious. The world was a terrifying place. And he honestly did not know how much more he could take of this nonsense. Life was hard, that was a given. But the things he had seen and done… made it a whole lot harder.
So sometimes it was nice to just joke around, and act like he wasn't just one more loss away from losing his sanity. Being in close quarters with a cheerful toddler definitely helped to give him a chance to breathe. Children were just one of the things that Harry would always have a weakness for. Teddy could ask for the world, and Harry would deliver with a smile. It was almost scary.
Just as he was thinking of his adorable godson, he found himself arriving outside of the kindergarten where the blue haired boy went to school. Harry inhaled, doing his best to concentrate on his social-public persona. He exhaled wearily, and plastered on a smile, hiding all that had happened throughout the day behind his mask. And then he made his way inside to pick up his son.
The kindergarten was a pleasant place, filled with cheery colors and patterns designed to capture the attention of small children with extremely short attention spans. Harry liked the place, the teacher and helpers were nice people, and they genuinely cared about the kids. Plus, they were actually people who liked being around children. Unlike a lot of teachers that had taught at Hogwarts while Harry was a teenager. He never quite understood why someone would become a teacher when they couldn't even stand children, it just seemed ill-considered.
"Mr. James, great to see you." A mild voice stated politely. Harry turned to spot the teacher standing to his right, piercing brown eyes watching him through silver glasses. She reminds me of what McGonagall would have been like in her younger days. Shaking his head, Harry reminded himself that he was not a wizard here, he was Hadrian James. A young, single father that worked as a pharmaceutical representative for an average sized company.
"Pleasure meeting you again, Ms. Belle, I hope you are in good health. Do you know if Teddy is finished with his after-school activities?" Harry said, his smile and pleasant British accent softening the stern face of the kindergarten teacher. Ms. Ella Belle was a nice person, but she did tend to be exceedingly formal around adults. She was the opposite when she was with kids, with them she appeared to transform into a completely different person. Ms. Belle was someone who had the heart of a child. But unfortunately, that passion didn't transfer over to socializing with people her own age.
"I'll go get him now. Please, Mr. James, have a seat while you wait." She gestured to the only chairs in the room. And then the young woman left in a rush, like being in the presence of a fellow adult was already becoming much too tiring.
"Okay… I'll do that, then." Harry sighed to himself. He stared at the child sized plastic chairs for a moment. Contemplating just standing while he waited. "Eh." The wizard shrugged and sat himself down as carefully as he could in a particularly vibrant orange colored chair, that also was stylized with creepily smiling disembodied Elmo heads. Of all the Sesame Street characters, it just had to be Elmo. At least the creepy -how is this suitable for children, anyway? - chair served to distract him from his impossibly long day.
Harry checked to make sure he was alone in the room, and after a few magical precautions, he let out a four-note whistle. Grinning as the firebird revealed itself, the young man held out his arm for his strange ally to use as a perch. The Phoenix landed as smooth as a car crash on his arm. As in, the bird tripped over its own feet and landed with its stomach draped over Harry's forearm. The bird adopted a dopy grin aimed at the wizard, wheezing slightly from just knocking the wind out of its lungs.
"As elegant as ever, I see." Harry deadpanned. The Phoenix pecked his ear, making the wizard yelp. "Okay, okay!" He rubbed the side of his head in irritation, glaring at the smug burnt chicken. "I won't insult your flights of fancy anymore, oh wise and genteel pigeon of ineptitude." Bob preened at the compliment, until abruptly startling and sending a fierce glare at the wizard. Harry blinked back innocently. "What? Luna never said anything to you sarcastically? I can hardly believe that."
The bird glared and huffed in disdain, turning away from the wizard before hopping onto an equally as disturbing Mickey Mouse chair, just beside the exasperatedly sighing man. The Phoenix fluffed up his feathers and laid his head under a wing, but Harry knew the avian wasn't really asleep, just sulking. How Luna managed to befriend one of the rarest mythical creatures is beyond me, not to mention one whose attitude is as unique as this one's, Harry thought with a fond smile.
"So, what do you suppose I should make of this new life, my feathered friend?" The young man asked the bird. There was no reason not to ask for advice, and it wasn't like Harry was expecting an answer. Phoenixes rarely cared to communicate unnecessarily, and when they did decide to accept a penny for their thoughts, it would be done with a technique formed by eye contact to deliver a message or image directly to the mind of the recipient. But that rarely happened because phoenixes mostly didn't have a need to talk to anyone. They were a bit of an introverted species.
Bob merely stared unblinkingly at him. Harry sighed. "Don't suppose you have any idea what I should be doing? Any wise words? Since you would know at least some, being that you are fairly old- I mean aged. Fairly well-aged." The wizard corrected himself when the bird glared once again. Harry frowned contemplatively. "Well, going by that train of thought, all phoenixes would be ancient. So, you really shouldn't get too offended by me correctly identifying your antiqueness."
The bird puffed up his feathers and turned away from the amused man, feet perched on the top of the disconcerting Mickey Mouse chair. "Aw, come on now. Don't be like that, emo doesn't suit your reddish coloring." When the Phoenix only huffed, Harry decided to drop the completely and totally constructive comments.
He stared off into space, wondering what everyone else was doing back on his own world. Harry thought of Ron and Hermione, he hoped that their marriage was doing alright, and caught himself thinking about the other two thirds of the Golden Trio having children of their own. He wondered if everyone had already forgotten him. But it would only be expected, why would they remember me? It's not like I really did any good while I was there. I bet that everyone is happier to think that I had died the day I disappeared-
Harry suddenly yelped and cradled his hand to his chest as a very pecky phoenix glared into his face. "What?" He asked, confused. Then he blinked, and Harry remembered that phoenixes could read thoughts through eye contact. The wizard pushed the large bird off of him and crossed his arms, glaring at the blinking avian. "I would rather you not bite me when I'm thinking. And don't read my mind like that, just ask like a normal person, um, bird. Whatever." The bird warbled soothingly and leaned his small, feathered head against Harry's arm in comfort.
Harry huffed in annoyance. But after just a few more seconds of the bird apparently attempting to cheer him up, he relinquished his hold over his angst.
Some things were just not worth arguing about with a frustrated uncooked bucket of KFC.
The wizard sighed, shuffling in the nearly suffocating small chair as he went back to waiting for the temporary magical wards to inform him of his godson's approach.
Then Harry blinked, contracting a feeling of doom residing in the room. Bob was acting way too silent, which was a most suspicious behavior for the troublesome phoenix who was usually constantly in motion. The bird normally acted like a five-year-old with ADHD who had just had a mocha. And five bunches of cotton candy. So, to find the avian supposedly acting civil for once sent the freak-the-frell-out part of his brain into overdrive.
Harry's worst fears were realized when the Phoenix seemed to smirk at him before disappearing into red flames. The wizard just stared at the spot the grilled dodo had vanished from. He wondered not for the first time why it was so hard for people to verbally explain things. But no, he guessed that the tendency to do as many things as overly dramatic as physically possible was just part of being human. Not that that had anything to do with Luna's special-needs phoenix, that bird was most likely hatched from a slightly cracked egg.
Just as the young man let out an exasperated sigh, Ms. Belle came into the room with an averagely excited Teddy, who was chattering about inane little kid things to his favorite teacher. When the little boy noticed his father, he immediately stopped talking and ran over to Harry, nearly dropping his unzipped backpack on the floor.
"Daddy!" The three-year-old squealed in delight, launching himself into his father's arms.
"You're here to pick me up kinda on time, which is weird, but okay. Miss Belle is very pretty, you know? Did you have fun at work? Was there donuts to eat? I found out today that I like peaches, but I don't like tomatoes. I like ketchup, though. What do you like? Oh! What are we eating for dinner? Can I have ketchup and peaches?" He finished his rapid-fire questioning-statements, and looked at his father with wide, expectant eyes.
Harry blinked, his comprehension-machine apparently still out of order. He would've thought that he'd get better at understanding things with a hyperactive toddler around. Inhaling deeply, he gathered his thoughts into order.
"I am not that late, most of the time- and yes I have eyes, but don't you play matchmaker with me, this ain't Fiddler on the Roof. I always have fun at work, yet sadly enough, there were no donuts. Peaches are healthy, but not with ketchup. I like anything that contains caffeine. And we are going out to eat tonight." Harry responded, all in one breath. He didn't miss the amused expression on Ms. Belle's face.
Teddy grinned at his answers and giggled as Harry poked him in the stomach. Grabbing his hand, the child asked in curiosity, "who are we going to see at lunch?"
"What makes you think we are meeting someone?" Harry winked.
"'Cause you don't like eating out if you don't need to on weekdays. You like making food back home. But I don't think cooking crepes is a very manly thing." Teddy puffed out his cheeks and smirked at his father's mock glare at the insult to his very masculine and artistic hobbies. And the little guy should not be complaining, Harry had let him eat crepes for dinner on more than one occasion.
"Aww," Ms. Belle cooed, patting the boy's head. "You have such an adorable vocabulary, and at such a young age!" The auburn-haired young woman bent down to give a proud smile at one of her most outstanding students, "I expect great things from you, young man." Her brown eyes appeared to sparkle with the knowledge that they held, showing her personality at last.
Harry saw the kindness in the woman in front of him. She was completely different from what he'd seen before; nothing at all like the steely mask he had seen on her face during previous meetings, she's most definitely working in the right place. But he couldn't help the strange feeling at the back of his mind. Like the feeling you get, right before everything goes devastatingly wrong. The calm before the storm. If only I could find out just what was setting my senses off.
She looked up at him and blinked, her smile slipping from her face. Ms. Belle quickly gathered herself up, "S-sorry, it was nice talking to you, Mr. James. I hope you two have a good day," she gave one more timid smile to Teddy. And hesitated, before walking away with measured steps; like she was consciously trying to blend into the background. The door closed behind her with a silent thump.
"Daddy, don't scare her away like that! How are you ever going to get a woman, acting like that?" Teddy glared at him. He still took Harry's hand when the wizard offered it to him, though. And together, they walked down the sidewalks of the busy city.
"What did I do?" Harry asked, frowning. "She was the one acting strange! I didn't even do anything to upset her!" At Teddy's nonplussed look, Harry grumbled to himself. "Not my fault women are so odd."
"You're acting like a little kid." Teddy sighed dramatically, puffing out air that blew on his bangs. He frowned, thinking. "Hey, Daddy?"
"Yeah, bean sprout?" Harry answered, grinning at the twitch of annoyance the nickname brought. Before Teddy, he had no idea how fun it was to call a small child cute nicknames just to exasperate them. One of the perks of fatherhood, he supposed.
"Why don't I…" here, the Metamorphmagus hesitated.
Harry gave an encouraging grin, nodding gently for the boy to continue, squeezing his small hand a little bit to comfort. He was sure that this was all just some little kid question, similar to many others his toddler asked each day.
"Why don't I have a mommy?" Teddy asked quietly, tugging at the hem of his shirt nervously with the one not being held gently by the adult. The blue haired child then missed the painful grimace that briefly flashed on Harry's face.
"What brought this up, pumpkin?" He was careful to keep the tension out of his voice and face. And if Occlumency training taught him one thing, it was that you kept what needed to be hidden in a back room of your mind, only keeping what needed to be seen to the public in your surface thoughts.
"All the other kids in class have a mom… and I never had one." Teddy breathed in shakily but glanced up with a watery smile at the older wizard. "And I… never mind." He shook his head and stared ahead resolutely, only paying attention to where his small feet were taking him.
Harry stopped walking for a few heartbeats, remembering to separate off to the sidelines this time. He wasn't in the mood to get yelled at by any more weirdos. Still holding the small and delicate hand of his adopted son, Harry sighed. He really hadn't thought all that much on someone who could be considered a mother-figure for Teddy. His life had just been so incredibly busy lately, and he just didn't know when he could start looking for a companion again. Life was so unbelievably complicated, after all.
Harry sighed, staring down at a very still Teddy. The three-year-old should be bouncing around, his energy as endless as the stars. But through the blue hair frozen with a hidden rune to veil the boy's unique ability in public, Teddy had an expression of sadness that no parent wished to see.
And Harry didn't know what to do. He didn't know what he could do. As much as he knew he was willing to do for his godson, starting a relationship with someone just for the purpose of helping a three-year-old would not be fair for anyone involved.
Well, time for the Ultimate Backup Plan, Harry thought with a small grin. He scooped the small child into his arms and started walking in the direction that would be the closest way to accomplish his newfound goal.
"Wh-where are we going?" Teddy said, startled. He was still sniffling a little but was already looking brighter eyed. Which was a good sign.
Harry smiled and nodded his head in a playfully patronizing way towards their destination; which they had nearly reached. "See for yourself." The wizard hoped he would never forget the look of delight on his Teddy's face as the kid spotted the ice cream stand.
Short attention spans, indeed. Harry stared at his little light as Teddy began to chat animatedly with the middle-aged ice cream vendor, who smiled and laughed at the little kid jokes that made next to no sense to anyone who was not also a little kid. And Teddy was rewarded for being overly social, or just plain darn cute, with an extra scoop of cookie dough ice cream for free.
Harry got a mocha-flavored waffle cone, and was sorely disappointed that it didn't, in fact, contain any caffeine.
They barely got three meters away before an annoyance made itself known.
The two of them had left the stand, the ice cream vendor smiling and exchanging cheerful waves with Teddy as they walked. Harry held Teddy's hand as the boy walked on the ground once again to ensure they had a free hand to hold their ice cream with. And also, so Harry didn't get chilled cookie dough down his front.
But just as they walked a bit down the sidewalk, Harry had to pause and quint his eyes at the nonsense of what he appeared to be seeing.
Thor -thankfully in casual clothing- was standing near a row of benches, staring mournfully at a glob of fallen mint ice cream laying nonchalantly on the pavement by his feet. Mint ice cream that had apparently originated from the unfortunately empty cone in the Æsir's hand. Harry decided to back away quietly and leave the somewhat comically grieving man there, because he had already seen enough weirdness in one day to last several months, if not years. There was only so much a man could take without going insane. Or more insane.
Too late. The buff blonde had already spotted him. Dangit. Harry turned back around fully and attempted to force his left eye to stay still from its irritated twitching. The wizard patiently watched Thor toss the empty ice cream cone into a garbage can behind himself as he walked toward the father-son duo. And if Harry had not been annoyed at a certain member of his present company, he would have been impressed that the Æsir had thrown the soggy ice cream cone nearly twenty feet into the garbage can, without even looking.
But he was very irritated at the blonde. And with good reasons. "Hello, Thor. What a… pleasant surprise, seeing you here." Harry said through gritted teeth. He was most definitely not happy about seeing the Prince of Asgard again. And Thor, just by coincidence, happened to be in the same area as where he and Teddy had been walking? Sure, and the Pope's Jewish.
Thor walked up beside Harry -who had decided to continue strolling, he didn't want to be too late to dinner with Fitz and Simmons, after all- and gave a fist bump to a giggling Teddy, before grinning at the wizard. "Greetings, maker of clay objects, it is most fortuitous that I happened to have met up with you on this fine day in Midgard." Thor said, still smiling despite the increasingly fastening pace that Harry was able to manage with a small child beside him.
Harry scowled. Yeah, totally just a coincidence. Except I don't believe in coincidences.
"What do you want?" Harry asked. Ignoring how the smile on Thor's face fell, and how Teddy sent him a look that said he disapproved of his father's rude behavior.
The Prince of Asgard looked torn. But quickly brightened and smiled again at Harry. "I'm just here to ask if you will have any free time soon, and if you would like to come for a visit." At Harry's dead-eyed stare, he elaborated. "To Asgard."
Harry wasn't able to stop the eye twitch that time. "I know what you are referring to." He said, glancing down at a curious Teddy. "And the answer stays the same; no."
Harry narrowed his eyes when the other man looked like he wanted to say something more. Thor closed his mouth with a sigh, shook his head, and turned to leave.
Only to pause. "You are in a very precarious position, Mr. Potter. And without more information, you may find yourself somewhere you did not wish to be." Thor looked back over his shoulder, and Harry noticed a look of sadness in his eyes. "You are aware that you can trust me, correct?"
Harry stared back, trying to hold back the whirlwind of memories he'd stored away. All the empty promises from those he had once believed would always have his back, that turned out to be groundless in the end. I can't trust anyone. Not now. Maybe not for a long time.
Harry looked away. He continued walking again -never realizing that he had stopped- and he knew that Thor had left. He didn't regret not taking up the offer to go to Asgard. It was just, he felt… sad. In a way. He knew that it wasn't fair to Thor, but he just didn't trust the reasons behind the request. And the person who ordered it.
They finally arrived outside of the restaurant, just after they finished their ice cream, and Harry breathed a sigh of relief. Now he could finally do something that normal people -that weren't crapped on by life in general- did. Dinner with friends, sounds so ordinary. He feels lighter and free of unwanted duties already.
He and Teddy walked inside. The place was nice, and homey. With a feel of controlled chaos from what he could see of the kitchen as he walked in the front door. Pans flipping in and out of gas-fed flames, razor-sharp knives chopping up vegetables faster than Harry could whip out a wand. Oh, how he missed cooking. It was a very calming hobby. Or the opposite of calming, really. But that was strangely relaxing to Harry.
He glanced at his watch. Five forty-five, only fifteen minutes late. Not too bad. Not good, but not life-endingly horrible.
Teddy stared at the mints innocently laying in a bowl on the counter where Harry had stopped at to ask what table his friends were at. The boy's eyes got really big, and he stopped blinking.
"Daddy?" He kid-whispered. "Can I have a mint?" Teddy turned his head to look pleadingly at Harry.
Harry hummed distractedly for a moment, looking around for the attendant of the front desk as he glanced at his watch again. Blinking, he looked down at a frowning toddler as the boy tugged on his sleeve.
"Can I have a mint, please?" Teddy said, trying to be quiet.
Harry sighed. "Not right now, Teddy." He patted the boy on the head briefly and smiled as an employee starting walking up to the desk. "Maybe after we eat, okay?"
"Hello, how can I help you?" The woman said in a voice that was somewhere between polite and robotic. She was sporting a nose ring and several ear piercings in one ear, with none in the other ear. Dark hair cropped short with highlights of light purple and teal streaking through. Something was familiar about her, like a ghost of a memory from before the Battle of Hogwarts. Tonks. She reminded him of Tonks.
Harry mentally shook his head, now was no time to reminisce over ghosts and their alternate dimensional similarities to restaurant staff. "I'm looking for two friends of mine, I'm not sure where they're sitting, but I'm sure they got a table for four, at least."
The college-aged girl blinked for a moment. Her bored expression changed into one of dawning recognition. "Yo, Harry. What's the haps?" She didn't wait for an answer and looked down over the edge of the counter and grinned at the shy boy whose fingertips barely touched the worn wood. "Ted-bean! How're we today?"
Teddy frowned and pushed his bottom lip out in a pout. "Daddy won't let me have a mint, Miss Miranda."
Harry pinched the bridge of his nose. And sighed for what felt like the millionth time that day. He was being told on by his own kid. The little snitch. And that made him think about Quidditch.
"It's Mira, sweetheart." She said with a grin at Teddy, that turned into a smirk aimed at Harry as she gave out an entire handful of mints to the suddenly gob smacked child.
Harry glared half-heartedly at the girl. Feeling completely outmatched. "You do know that he's going to be bouncing off of walls from all the candy, right?" He said in an unamused voice.
Mira shrugged carelessly, and her expression said that she didn't honestly give a crap. "Whatever, you're already a regular here at Mirror Image, no escape now."
"Right… thanks. I'll go look for Fitz and Simmons myself, then, your Royal Sassiness." Harry rolled his eyes and turned around, taking the hand of a still awed toddler holding his handful of mints like they were diamonds.
"Your nerd friends are at table seven." Mira said with a dismissive 'shoo' of her hand. "Oh, and there's some new guy with them, just a heads up." She looked up to see him still standing there. "What you doing, Har'? Off with ya, I spy more future victims coming in our doors." She smirked. "Oh, yes. Here they come, oblivious to their imminent demise." Mira rubbed her hands together mischievously.
Harry raised an eyebrow and hurried off in the direction of table seven before he doubted the sanity of the front desk worker any more than he already had.
"Thank you, Mira! You're the bestest!" Teddy said, a bit loud, as they walked away. The girl waved overly dramatically in farewell.
Harry noticed a bracelet on her wrist as she waved. In plain, black lettering it spelled two words, Rising Tide. Shaking his head, Harry turned around the corner. What does that mean? Rising Tide. Sounds suspicious -but maybe I'm overthinking things. It's probably nothing, Harry nodded in conclusion to his thoughts.
He heard laughter just as he made it to table seven. And he managed to catch the end of an apparently hilarious story.
"-and then the guy set up this whole operation with hacking the video cameras just to not get caught on tape pranking his superior officer with flaming dog poop!" The unfamiliar third person sitting down said as an ending to the tale, making Fitz and Simmons burst into laughter and giggles.
"Having fun?" Harry said with a small smile. Jemma and Leo turned to look at him in surprise. The other man, with muscles and a look about him that said he was a trained – and dangerous - agent, didn't look startled at all.
"Harry! We're glad to see you, what held you up? Or did you get lost on the road of life again?" Simmons said with a smile, and she motioned for him to sit down at their table.
"Oh, nothing, just got some ice cream on our way over." Harry replied. He got Teddy settled before turning to the stranger. "I'm Harry Potter, nice to meet you." The wizard held out is hand for the other man to shake. The agent accepted and his grip was firm and impersonal. Every detail of his physical expression seemed calculated to Harry. It was unnerving.
"Grant Ward." The man said, And Harry had a feeling that this person was not to be trusted.
Yeesh, It's been like three years. Sorry about that. Honestly, I had this chapter written for years but I never worked out an ending and I lost interest due to, well, mainly personal problems and nasty reviews.
So! Here we are. I don't know where I was going with the plot, but from what I can remember I have decided I will not do that as it is too sad. I'm going to read through my previous chapters and figure out a new plot. I do know that I will have Harry make his way through the Marvel cinematic universe and turn it on its head. Also, I gotta say that Agents of SHIELD has gotten weird and I will not be following their later seasons at all (also because I haven't seen them and don't plan to.) Also, ENDGAME! What the hecky? I loved and hated it.
Thank you so much to my past reviewers and all my followers and favoritors. You're amazing! Hopefully my writing for future chapters will improve, and I have some exciting stuff planned for Sirious and Harry's meeting. :)
Just one last note, I am not trying to squeeze for reviews here, but I am doing this for free and it takes a lot of time, so if you like this and want me to continue; you need to let me know. Don't let me let this story die for another three years. Please.