ehem. Sorry for the late update (one year and three months, whaaaat). And the saddest thing is, this chapter was half-written already. I don't blame you if most of you have dropped the story. My life really has gotten complicated. Studying for a year abroad, applying for internships. I'm getting my bachelor next year, so life is slowly becoming pretty important. Gone are the days when I could read until four am with no consequences. Gosh, soon I'll be paying full taxes like an adult. Anyway, thanks to those who have stuck with me...!
I haven't spoken English for maybe two months, and haven't written for about half a year, so please excuse the weird grammar and sentence structure haha.
It was the first Monday of the month; a day when prospective parents had a chance to see the children in the orphanage, get to know them a little and perhaps choose one to adopt. Harry had been asked just a few days ago by the matron, to attend, in his 'best attire', he mimicked her voice to himself.
"Mr. Potter, what was that?" Mrs. Burt, the orphanage's matron had loomed up from behind him. Harry coughed awkwardly and tried to swerve into another direction, but she easily pushed him into the main living room, where most of the prospective parents had assembled. It was noisy, everyone was speaking at once, and cradling napkins with cheap canapés.
Harry's gaze met with a few of the other friends he'd managed to make here, and they all, almost at once, rolled their eyes. Of course, all the kids his age were too old to be considered 'cute' or 'adaptable' to another living situation; it was rare for a child over ten to be adopted.
Everyone seemed entertained, and if couples weren't kneeling down to talk to a five year old, then they were chatting amongst themselves, pointing at a child every now and then, debating the pros and cons. There was one single man, alone, huddled in the corner. He was eyeing everyone with a slight disgust, and his eyes were narrowed. To Harry's surprise, Mrs. Burt pushed him in the man's direction.
"Harry, allow me to introduce Mr. Barton. This gentleman was interested in you."
The man's features relaxed into a neutral expression, cold, unfeeling. Harry instantly felt weary of him. There was no way in hell he was going to be adopted by him. Harry suddenly had the feeling he'd seen this man before, his presence seemed all too familiar. His air was slightly threatening, as though he was a military man of some sort.
"Nice to meet you, Harry," the man said in a wooden sort of voice. Stiff and unwelcoming. Harry realised very suddenly that he had absolutely no idea how to deal with children. They shook hands and Harry felt a cold void of nothingness coming from the man; he was shielding himself very well.
"I'll let you to get to know each other," Mrs. Burt said with a clipped tone before disappearing into the crowd.
"You can call me Clint," the man said stiffly. His right arm, Harry noticed was stuck to his body, something he remember he'd seen in aurors. Mainly because they knew they had to be ready to unsheathe their weapons at any moment. Definitely a military man.
"Harry!" The wizard in question turned upon hearing his name being called by a familiar voice. It was Strange approaching them. He was holding a folder. And most oddly, he was dressed in completely normal clothes, albeit, what could be considered 'normal' for a snobby, ex-successful surgeon. His suit was pressed neatly and cut specifically for him. It was jarring to see him without his cape, making Harry wonder how he'd convinced that insane piece of cloth to leave him alone for at least one morning.
"Stephen!" Harry greeted him with a hearty hug.
"Good morning," the man said pleasantly. Once they separated his critical gaze turned on Barton.
"Doctor Stephen Strange," he said, shaking Barton's hand.
"The surgeon?" Barton asked with a raised eyebrow. Strange gave a strange sort of lopsided smile; they were both very aware that one and the other knew him from another, ah, career.
"The very same."
"The Olympic archer?"
"The very same," Barton echoed Strange's answer. There was an icy sort of tension between them. It maintained for a few beats more until Strange's gaze dropped on Harry again and he gave the wizard a smile.
"You ready to be adopted?"
Harry glanced at Barton in confusion, until it dawned on him why Strange was here, and why he was holding a pack of papers. His mouth fell open into a small 'o'. He had never though someone would be willing to adopt him… Him! He'd even told Strange most of his life story, why anyone would want to adopt someone around whom everyone seemed to die was a mystery to him. And usually he'd be selfless and try to talk him out of it, Harry somehow felt that sacrificing himself to Barton would not be a good idea.
"Very much! Yes."
"Pleasure to meet you." Strange gave a nod to Barton, then spun on his heel and marched off to find Mrs. Burt. Harry blinked rapidly at the dramatic and rapid exit, and rushed after his mentor, leaving Barton alone in the corner, slightly dumfounded at how quickly fortunes had turned.
"I'm here to see Peter Parker," Harry said to the receptionist on the hospital floor. He'd been trying to get in to see his friend for the past few days, but he'd been in intensive care, and only familial visits had been allowed.
"Family?" Asked the receptionist. She was new, Harry noticed. It took him less then a second to come to a decision.
"Yes, my cousin," he replied silkily. The woman's eyes narrowed slightly and he gave his most innocent expression. "I flew in from England just to visit him, my parents are still in the hotel room, they'll be here soon. You see my dad is his godfather. And to us the godfather relationship is really sacred, you know—"
"Hmm, fine. He's in room 506."
"Right, thank you."
Harry rushed off, looking for this particular room. Knowing Stark, he would have probably paid for the bills and put his friend in some sort of specific health plan. Finally arriving at room 506, Harry's assumptions were confirmed; through the small, vertical window he could see Peter's frail body lying in a hospital bed. The room was ridiculously nicer than the ones on other floors that he'd managed to peek in when looking for him.
Harry slowly pushed the door open, and then quietly made his way over to Peter's bedside. He looked frail, laying there, mouth open slightly as he slept quietly. For someone who always had infinite amounts of energy — positive energy — it was jarring to see him like this.
He sat down at the uncomfortable bedside chair. There was a bouquet of flowers on the windowsill, and the two bedside tables were covered with get well wishes and cards. Harry wondered if he was ever in a similar situation how many people from his muggle life would send him the same sort of letters of comfort. In the Wizarding world he had the Weasley clan to back him up. This thought simultaneously sent a pang of melancholy and warmth through his body. Not for the first time this week, he wondered whether he'd ever go back to his old world, and although he hated to admit it, he had begun thinking about this less and less.
"Harry?" asked a groggy voice. Said wizard glanced up; Peter's eyes had cracked open and he was making an effort to sit up. Harry instantly grabbed poured him a glass of water from a pitched on the bedside table. His friend accepted it with gratitude, closing his eyes as the water ran down his coarse throat.
"God, you look terrible, how long you've been here?"
"Thanks," Harry replied dryly. "Actually I've only just arrived. But you've been in a coma for a year, mate. Gosh, so much to catch you up on. There's this guy, Trump, who's president. The economy is shit, but that's always been a fact. Hmm… hover boards are now commercially made, let's see, it snowed in July, climate change and all…"
Peter's eyes widened in shock and he winced instantly when his eyes reacted to the brutal fluorescent hospital lighting. Then seeing Harry's sorrowful expression crack slightly and a sudden smile break through, he rolled his eyes. What troubled Harry though, was that zombie-like stare, which had been very present when the other boy had first opened his eyes, it was slowly dissipating now.
"How long really?"
"Just under two days. I think May's just gone for a change of clothes, maybe the nurse finally convinced her to leave your side for a few moments," Harry said. "Speaking of, I should probably call the nurse, tell her you're awake."
The next two hours were a flurry of movement, nurses and doctors came by to check on Peter's state. Tests were done, May was called, as was Stark, although perhaps somewhat more secretly. It seemed the doctor was on his payroll after all. Eventually, it was declared that everything seemed more or less fine with Peter, and that he'd be under observation for the next 24 hours. after that he'd be released. Harry, along with Ned, managed to then finally convince May to go home until the next morning, she truly needed a shower, a hot meal, and some sleep. It was nearly at visitation hours' end when Peter fell into another light sleep and Harry was joined by the last visitor of the day.
Tony Stark pompously stalked into the room, alone, which was unusual for him. Normally, there was an entire posse of people around him. At first he didn't seem to notice Harry, who was sitting in the corner, near the open window, trying to get the last rays of sunlight. Regardless of his neutral reaction, Harry was sure his magical glasses told him everything about the room.
Seeing that Peter was asleep, Stark quietly picked up the boy's chart, reviewing all of the facts and research that had been done. He pursed his lips upon reading the statement that everything seemed fine. Placing the clipboard back in its correct place, the Iron Man turned on Harry, who had been observing him like a hawk the entire time.
"Shh, you'll wake him," Harry murmured, and slithered out of the room, knowing that Stark's curious mind would force him to follow the wizard. Once in the corridor, Harry slipped into the next empty room that he could find, then let Stark in, and then closed the door behind him.
"So who the hell are you?" Stark said somewhat too directly the moment the door had closed. This room wasn't lit very brightly; Harry could only just see his features as the man stood directly next to the vertical window in the door.
"I'm Harry. We met in the alley when you picked Peter up for the wedding," Harry replied dryly. Stark's eyes narrowed.
"I've already told you, if you do anything to hurt Peter…"
"Yes you already threatened me last time… sir." There was so little respect in the way he delivered his response, that even Harry surprised himself. There was unresolved animosity between them, and it took Harry only a few moments to realise why.
"Why don't you begin telling me what happened. Happy only had a vague idea when I spoke to him."
"Ned needed some help to rescue Peter from a life-threatening situation, I obliged."
"And how exactly could you help him?"
"I have certain talents," Harry said slowly. He bit the inside of his cheek as he considered what to say next. He chose his words very carefully.
"Peter was investigating a tannery, I think. There was some sort of gang holed up inside their warehouse with more weapons then I've ever even seen in one place. Peter ran into some trouble. I went in and found him tied up, bleeding. The leader… he was weird, looked weird. There was this odd shine to him, as though all the colours on his body had been inverted. Where white should have been, it was black, where he should've been blue, he was orange or yellow. And his henchmen, they were dazed, as if brainwashed. I untied him and dragged him out. Happy was there and he drove us to the hospital."
Stark exhaled, as though he had been expecting something worse. Then again, Peter couldn't remember anything from this ordeal, so Harry couldn't exactly see how it could be much worse. Well, he supposed death, or a dementor's kiss were… worse. Or perhaps even being expelled from Hogwarts, he thought with amusement, recalling Hermione's words.
"I blame you," Harry said suddenly, his mouth working before his brain could catch up to it.
Stark floundered for a moment.
"You heard me, sir. You've fed Peter these ideas that he's a hero, that it is his selfless duty to save the world. That's shite. We're sixteen, for Mer— err, God's sake! Do you understand that the only option for him is to become obsessed with self-sacrifice? And deny his humanity? It is inertly human to be selfish and look for your own survival. You're literally sending him to death every time you hand him a mission! Why don't you actually make the Stark Internship into some sort of educational programme and not a suicide mission?!" Harry broke off suddenly.
His monologue had brought him to a striking realisation about himself. And Dumbledore. And how he had viewed the worth of his life until now.
Stark took this moment of silence as an opportunity to cut in. "You really care about the kid, don't you?"
Harry was surprised by this sudden deviation of topic. Stark seemed wounded though, as though he too had come to some sort of epiphany.
"I've never had a family, Mr. Stark, and the family I did have, were not happy to have me there. Peter's one of the only people who has ever, without interest in gaining something from me, befriended me."
"You're definitely not Loki," Stark muttered to himself. This statement caused Harry to splutter and furrow his eyebrows in confusion.
"Oh never mind," Stark waved his hand dismissively.
"Look, Mr. Stark, Peter's going to continue being Spiderman. Of course he will, but maybe at least, you could help him out, get him to understand the grey areas, understand limits."
"Pepper's been saying the same…" Stark again mumbled, then in a louder voice, continued. "Look, I don't know what your deal is, and I can't find any information on you—"
"You're threatening me again?"
Stark's lip curled downwards in a frown.
"SHIELD has been following you."
"SHIELD?" Harry blinked. Was he destined to become the centrepiece of occasional dramas?
"They're a military organisation, I hacked their system, found this video," Stark said.
He pulled out a transparent device, which upon settling in his palm, lit up with blue letters. He seemed to tap on various hologram letters, until a hologram screen, also in the same blue light, popped up between them. It looked much like a patronus. But all thoughts of this revolutionary technology flew out of Harry's mind faster than a firebolt when he saw a recording from a rooftop of himself, sitting in his room, practicing making fire out of the palm of his hand.
"Okay. I did say I have special abilities," Harry said slowly, once the recording ended. He came to a sudden thought. "Is Clint Barton somehow part of SHIELD?"
This time, Stark looked confused.
"How do you know him? The world knows him as Hawkeye only…"
Harry remembered researching the Avengers — well now it made sense why Barton had seemed sort of familiar when he had met him at that monthly adoption fair at the orphanage.
"He tried to adopt me," Harry said matter-of-factly. Stark actually laughed at this comment.
"Clint? Adopt a kid? God, Fury must be more desperate than I thought."
"Why did you tell me SHIELD was following me?"
"Everyone has a right to know that they're being stalked," Stark replied sardonically. Harry considered that statement, then slowly nodded.
"Thank you." It was an earnest thanks. He relaxed slightly.
"Look, kid, I don't trust you… much. Here's my direct line. Next time anything happens to Peter, I want you to call me directly."
Harry smiled for the first time, accepting the slip of paper and placing it in a jacket pocket.
"Thank you, Mr. Stark."
Face off with Stark - finally! He's really exhausting to write, because he really, really doesn't fit my style of conversing. The vocabulary is just completely different. It's like translating a Euripides text vs Plato text. You just have to learn a whole new textbook of vocabulary and grammar to be able to understand each one of them.
Well in any case, Mr. Negative will soon be having an effect on our dear Mr. Peter Parker :)