Author's Notes:

And thus I plunge fearlessly into the world of Spider-Man fanfiction. I simply cannot find enough fanfiction on Harry Osborn, so I decided to take up the challenge myself. Harry Osborn is my favorite character from the Spidey-verse, so I may just turn this one vignette into a series of character exploration concerning his childhood, his teenage years, his marriage, and what have you. Be sure to let me know if you'd be interested in something of the sort. Feedback is all I ask for, dear readers.

Disclaimer: Unless otherwise specified, all characters are the property of Marvel Comics. Or Sony Pictures. I don't know, but they aren't mine, and I'm not pretending they are, so please don't sue me. However, Danny Dearman, Madame Merriweather, and David Rogers are the property of the author, myself, J. M. Powell.

The Foundation of Tarnished Gold

Written by J. M. Powell

Madame Merriweather replaced the phone into its holder with a definitive click. "Your father is on his way," she informed the ten-year-old boy that sat before her desk, much to the lad's obvious dismay. The cheerful sound of laughing children wafted from the schoolyard outside the open window. "You will wait here."

"Yes, Madame," the youth murmured defeatedly. He watched as she stood and walked to the door, her crisp skirt and blazer falling promptly into place as if even they were intimidated by the severe elder. She paused and gazed upon the young pupil before exiting.

"I expected so much more from you," she lamented thoughtfully. "Your father, after all, was a model student." Harry glared at the prim headmistress's back as she sharply turned and swished out of the office.

Harry Osborn had never known a time in which he wasn't compared to his father. His successes and failures were measured against the formidable standard that was Norman Osborn, and he never could seem to reach what was deemed the required mark, much less excel past it. And that, of course, was simply unacceptable. "You're an Osborn, Harry," Norman had pointed out countless times before. "You have a name to live up to."

His father would be disappointed in him, Harry knew. He gazed forlornly upon the ripped knee of his gray uniform pants. The sounds of playing children still danced teasingly on the breeze, and Harry walked over to the window to look down upon the playground that lay three stories below. His classmates were running about, laughing, talking animatedly in small groups here and there. One small boy was leaning against the fence that faced the street, his head tucked as if he longed to be invisible to those around him. And, for the most part, he was.

Harry had only wanted to help him. And where had it gotten him?

"Harold," growled a distinctly angered voice from the doorway.

It had gotten him right in the middle of Norman Osborn's wrath, that's where. Not a good place to be. "Coming, Dad," Harry whispered weakly as he hurried to the door. Norman seized his arm and Harry hastened to keep pace with the man's wide strides.

"I want you to explain something to me," Norman growled, stomping down the hallways and staircases as Harry stumbled along in his wake. Students and teachers paused to stare at the two as they passed, and Harry felt color creep into his face. His father was bordering on a rampage.

"…Sir?" Harry prompted carefully when Norman failed to elaborate exactly what needed explaining. Norman angrily jostled him in reply.

"I want you to just picture this, Harry," he seethed, never missing a step as they reached the lowest floor. "There I am, in a meeting with clients that could send Oscorp through the roof if we closed a deal. I just about had them signed-- and then my secretary marches in and announces that my son is in trouble at school! Needs to be picked up right away! The principal herself is on the phone for me!" Norman released Harry at last so that he could illustrate the scenario with an irate flailing of his arms.

"I'm sorry--" Harry began, but his father sharply cut him off. They had reached the sidewalk outside the school, and Norman stopped to face him. The children on the playground beside the building began to gravitate toward the fence where the small boy had been hiding. They took no notice of their lonely peer, but instead stared intently at the sight of Harry being scolded.

"I'm tired of your apologies!" Norman snapped fiercely enough to make Harry recoil. "What the hell is wrong with you? You can't go one day without failing a test or starting a fight?"

"Dad…" Harry began pleadingly, his eyes trailing toward the playground. All of the children were watching now, their faces keen with scandalous interest.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Norman mockingly apologized. "Is this embarrassing you? Well, you aren't as embarrassed as you're going to be." With that, he leaned Harry over the crook of his left arm and issued a few sound swats to the boy's backside with his right hand.

Harry felt hot tears of humiliation streaming down his cheeks as his classmates laughed appreciatively. Their jeering followed him as he squirmed out of his father's grasp and bolted toward the waiting car. "Look at him cry! What a baby!" one of the boys sang out.

Harry, lunging into the car and sinking into the farthest seat, didn't see the bully jump back as Norman turned a steel glare upon him, daring him to further mock his son.

Norman and Harry sat in silence for several minutes, save for an occasional choked sob from the younger. Norman regarded the boy with critical eyes. Harry was staying as far away from his father as he could manage in the car's backseat, nearly pressing himself against the door. His tear-streaked face had a bruise on the left cheek and the right knee of his pants was ripped amidst a stain of blood and dirt. The driver glanced at the two Osborns in the rearview mirror, his wizened eyes slightly reproachful. "Don't lean against the door," Norman finally growled.

He meant it protectively; he didn't want the door popping open and sending his son flying out of it. Harry, of course, didn't take it as that. "I'm sorry," the child whimpered, clearly thinking he'd yet again done something wrong. He reluctantly scooted a bit closer to his father, but not much. Norman frowned inwardly. He was not a man that often had to raise his voice or his hand to anyone; his presence alone was usually enough to ensure that his commands were carried out. Harry, however, was often the one exception.

A small part of Norman was beginning to feel guilty about embarrassing the boy in front of his classmates, but his anger still burned all the same. Here he was, a man with countless subordinates rushing to meet his every whim, and yet he couldn't control a ten-year-old boy? What did he have to do to get through to this stubborn child? "Why did you get into a fight today, son?" Norman forced patience into his voice. Harry braved a glance at his father, dark eyes still swimming with tears. "Stop crying," Norman added gruffly. Harry winced and wiped an arm across his face.

"I… well… there was…" Harry wrung his hands and spoke to his knees. Norman's short-lived patience was already waning.

"Out with it!" he snapped. "I asked you why you got into a fight and I expect an answer!"

"These guys were picking on Danny," Harry expelled hastily, his words running together. "So I told them to stop and--"

"Who's Danny?" Norman interrupted.

"He's this boy in my class," Harry's voice took on growing strength. "He's… well, he's different. He gets teased a lot, on account of he's pretty small and scrawny and has these huge glasses and he's…"

"Weak." Norman interjected again. He spat the word like a bad taste on his lips. "Harry, don't waste your time on the small, the helpless. You're an--"

"--an Osborn," Harry glumly finished for him. "I know, Dad, I know--"

"Then start behaving like it," Norman all but snarled. "You think I became who I am by letting every sniveling mongrel ride on my coattails? Those who aren't strong enough to make it on their own deserve what they get," he finished lowly. Harry's brown eyes were wide and slightly apprehensive.

"I thought I should treat people the same way that I want to be treated," the boy mused softly, his tone full of confusion.

Norman scoffed. "That might work in grade school for awhile," he conceded bitterly. "One day you'll find yourself in the real world, Harry. Tell me, son, what do you want to be when you're older?"

"I want to be you," Harry answered without a moment's thought. Norman gave him a satisfied smile, and Harry smiled back, tentative but seemingly encouraged by the rare gesture.

"Of course you do." Norman ran a large hand over Harry's already rumpled hair. "In that case, however, your grades have to come up and the fighting has to stop. Do I make myself clear? Let this Danny look after himself, grow stronger from it, or he'll just have to take what he deserves."

Harry nodded, eager for Norman's ever-elusive approval. "Yes, sir," he agreed. The car stopped and the door periodically swung open, held patiently by the driver. Father and son exited the car and entered their luxurious townhouse, further conversation abated in favor of the elder's ringing cell phone.

"Max? Yes, hello! How's your wife?" Harry listened to the false, polite laughter as Norman strode off toward his office, leaving the boy to ponder his father's advice.

"Got into a scuffle, did we?" Edmund the houseman gave a tsk tsk as he moved around Harry's room, gathering the boy's uniform into a laundry basket. "You do realize that I have an awful time getting grass stains out, young sir?"

"Sorry," Harry mumbled around a mouthful of chocolate chip cookie. Edmund always did seem to know just when he needed his favorite after school snack. "It won't happen again, I promise. Dad explained it all to me."

Edmund waited patiently until his young charge finished laughing over the antics of the cartoon that played on the television. "Oh?"

Harry spoke without taking his eyes off of the program. "Yeah," came the absent reply. "He said I should just let Danny take care of himself cuz' I shouldn't waste time on weak people." Another fit of laughter; whatever nonsense Harry was watching, it was at least lifting his spirits, Edmund had to admit.

The gentleman folded his hands for a moment, his brow knit with concerned thought. He did not know who this 'Danny' fellow was, and he only had an idea of how the fight had transpired, but the elder Osborn's advice did not resonate well. Norman loved his son, as Edmund knew, but he was not always the most sound contributor to the boy's moral growth. Years as a jaded businessman could take its toll upon one's view on loving thy neighbor, as it were.

"I see," Edmund mused once Harry had quieted again. "What do you think about that advice, Harry?"

Harry pulled his eyes away from the television at this question. It was rare that an adult ever asked for his input. He regarded Edmund carefully, as if unsure of whether he could trust him-- or anyone-- with his thoughts that were so often locked away.

Edmund smiled reassuringly and Harry's face relaxed. "I'm not sure," the boy admitted. Edmund didn't answer, and the child eventually plowed on. "My teachers have always said you should treat people the way you want to be treated."

"The golden rule," Edmund nodded in approval.

"But it didn't work, Edmund." Harry frowned, a bitter memory surfacing. "I tried to help Danny, but it just got me into a fight with some bullies. And then, I got in trouble with Madame Merriweather… and then Dad came…" the boy sighed and hung his head. "I'll never be able to show my face at school again. The golden rule didn't work!" Harry peered at Edmund almost accusingly, as if the houseman held all the secrets of life's dealings along with that laundry basket under his right arm.

"So you only helped this young man under the premises of what you could personally gain from it?"

"Well, no," Harry conceded. "It's just… right, isn't it?"

Edmund smiled conspiratorially. "Is it?"

"You're a grown-up," the boy frankly replied. "You tell me."

Edmund frowned. It was a sad reflection on the fact that Harry so often allowed himself to be dictated by his father, to the point that he was just a small extension of Norman's will. The houseman knew that his young charge could grow to be a man of great nobility and honor, however, if only he could find the courage to listen to himself. "Don't underestimate your own heart, Harry," he advised seriously. "Therein lies a strength greater than the minds of a hundred grown men."

"Dad says that's just silly movie stuff," Harry countered, but without true conviction. His eyes were bright and curious. "And besides, how do I know what my heart tells me? It doesn't talk or anything. Does it?" he added suspiciously.

Edmund laughed. "No, no, not in the way that you or I talk." Harry seemed relieved. "You'll know what your heart is saying, Harry, because it hurts if you try to ignore it."

Harry frowned. "You're a weird guy, Edmund. You make good cookies though," he admitted, approvingly holding aloft the last cookie on his plate.

"I try, young sir." The houseman moved to the door, glancing back once at the youngest Osborn. Harry was watching his television again, his laughter ringing merrily throughout the halls that had too seldom heard such a pure and unpretentious sound.

It hadn't been a pleasant few weeks at Delaney Prescott Academy for Harry Osborn. His classmates took vicious pleasure in joking about and even reenacting his father's ill-timed punishment. Even his teacher cashed in on his situation by commenting, "You don't want me to call your father up here to deal with you, do you, Mr. Osborn? I would hate for you to be embarrassed in front of your friends again!" Harry took most of it with silent dignity, but the feral grins delivered by the selfsame bullies who had started this ordeal had nearly sent him over the top.

As these things go, however, the novelty of the situation faded. The children gradually grew disinterested and moved on to new scenes of vindictive delight (Ron Smelting had dropped his tray a few days ago in the lunchroom and it was the current favorite), and Harry was allotted some well-deserved peace, for the most part.

It was a cheerfully sunny Friday afternoon, and school had just released for the week. While most of his classmates bolted for the doors that would provide temporary escape, Harry took a detour down a hallway that cornered off of the main corridor to get a drink of water. His dad was going to personally pick him up today, and while that made Harry pleased, it also made his throat oddly dry. He had nearly reached the water fountain…

"And when I talk to you, you listen, four-eyes. Got that?"

Harry cringed. He knew that voice all too well. The bulking form of David Rogers, along with two of his goons, was steadily enclosing Danny Dearman between himself and the wall. "I just want to go home," Danny pleaded in a strangled tone. Harry could turn and walk away and no one would ever know he was there.

Except that, at that moment, the wide eyes behind Danny's oversized glasses fell upon Harry Osborn. David Rogers must have noticed his victim's averted gaze, because he also turned to gaze upon the onlooker. "Osborn," the bully glowered. "You have a problem?"

"Uh…" Harry's mind was racing. His dad was probably waiting for him outside; he needed to be on his way. He owed nothing to Danny. He had tried to help him before but to no avail. He cringed, recalling his humiliation at his father's hand. He didn't want that to happen again. What could he do against David Rogers and his cronies anyway?

Some force, unknown to Harry, was battling against this line of desperate rationalization, however. It was vehement in its protest that Danny had always been kind to Harry, and that no one deserved this sort of treatment anyway. It pointed out that had the situation been reversed, Harry would have been praying for intervention. Harry nearly felt sick with confusion.

"You'll know what your heart is saying, Harry, because it hurts if you try to ignore it."

Maybe Edmund wasn't so crazy after all. Could Harry let Danny be subjected to whatever torment David Rogers had in store? Could he live with his own conscience if he just walked away? Rogers was staring at him impatiently. "Well, Osborn?" he snarled. "I asked if you had a problem."

"Don't underestimate your own heart, Harry. Therein lies a strength greater than the minds of a hundred grown men."

Danny was staring at him, his expression terrified. His hands were white-knuckled where he was shakily gripping his folded arms, as if he were trying to sink away into himself. His eyes were wide and tearful; his mouth was parted as if undecided of whether or not to unleash a scream. He looked so vulnerable, so pitiful, so…

Weak. So sickeningly weak…

"You think I became who I am by letting every sniveling mongrel ride on my coattails? Those who aren't strong enough to make it on their own deserve what they get."

Harry made his decision.

"No. No problem here."

As Harry walked away, hearing Rogers and his gang whooping as they heaved Danny over their shoulders and carted him away, he felt vindication in the knowledge that his choice stemmed from his father's advice. His dad would be proud of him. He had done the reasonable thing, the sensible thing, the right thing.

So why, he wondered, did he feel like a piece of his heart had chipped away?

He glanced over his shoulder before Danny was out of sight, his eyes locking with those of the whimpering boy. Their gazes remained locked until Danny was hauled from view, his protests and the bullies' laughter growing dimmer as their distance increased. Harry bowed his head and continued on his way. His decision had been made, and there was no turning back, but Harry Osborn would never forget the day that he denied his fellow man.

Little did he know that Danny Dearman would never forget it, either.